Members Profile: Sub-Surface Detection NZ Ltd.

In our latest feature, we had the pleasure of interviewing Justin from Sub-Surface Detection! With over 20 years of experience in the underground utility industry, Justin has a wealth of knowledge to share with the industry. We dived deep into his journey, insights, and the cutting-edge techniques that keep our utilities safe and efficient.

  • How long have you been working in the industry?

We started avoiding underground utilities in 1996 when contracting to Eneco Gas, Directional Drilling and Grundomat installing live gas services from the gas main, to the meter on the house. Back then, with minimal training, we learnt the hard way and had some lucky escapes, from gas igniting in front of me, to striking HV power and then a 4 inch watermain within 15 minutes of each other. Sub Surface Detection (SSD) was established in 2010.

  • Would you like to share one of your company’s memorable stories or achievements from the industry?

 Come on, ones not enough!

SSD was one of the first businesses in NZ to combine EM and GPR, I remember the gamble of investing in our first GPR unit, when back then we were still struggling to convince even the largest Civil companies the benefits of precision locates and the GPR; at the time everyone still believed it was an unnecessary extra cost.

We were globally one of the first companies to overlay our findings on Drone imagery 2017.

We have completed many deliverable mapping projects (including Drone Imagery) for the design of very large Watercare Pipeline Projects, along with clients aiding their design.

Along with Innes Fisher, I am one of the two only Kiwi’s to achieve the Australian DBYD Certified Locator. To date 9 x technicians have been trained and achieved beforeUdig Certified Locator qualification through our in-house training, and this will be 11 very soon, watch this space.

Over the past 4-5 years, and still ongoing, SSD has been the main locating company to provide utility mark-outs in the Auckland CBD for the Inner City Rail (Link Alliance) Project. This has provided our team with the opportunity to apply our skills within a very challenging complex environment on which is New Zealand’s largest underground infrastructure project.

  • How has utility detection technology evolved or improved since you first started using it, and how has it impacted your operations?

We started on the analogue RD400 Pipe and Cable Locator and still have a Fisher Research TW6 Pipe and Cable locator on the shelf (google that one), now EM units include accurate RTK GPS units built in and so many more features. The first time we trialled a GPR unit (GSSI), it had a digital print out and a big thick fibre optic cable connecting the antenna, now we have available wireless connections and instant 3d imagery, and every brand pushing forward with multiarray and rapid data collection and interpretation is soon to be at our finger tips. But we still need to apply both methods, EM and GPR for best practice results.

  • What regions does your company service for utility locations?

With our current 10 Utility Locating Technicians, including our 8 beforeUdig Certified Locators, SSD covers the Wider Auckland Region, Waikato, BOP and Northland.

  • What do you enjoy most about working in the industry?

Every day and job is different, including your environment and the job scope, plus you never stop leaning, and relationships built with our clients over the years.

  • Does your company have any upcoming projects you’re excited about and would like to share some information on?

We have completed a range of interesting projects, and you never know what’s around the corner.

  • What are your company’s future goals in the industry?

The industry and technologies are always evolving, we are always on the look out to keep at the forefront. We will continue to support our team members to learn and achieve skills, and to be proud to be part of our team and of the quality service that we provide to our clients.

  • Is there any extra you would like to add?

Unfortunately, there are still some clients that are only using our services as a “tick the box”. We recently had an incident in which a client did not provide the required preparation documents, including site plans and background information, on a very complex site. Their approach was always a time bomb, and it will happen again.

And completing a utility locate is not the final step to enable excavations, any mark-out is still a guideline only which requires visual confirmations and a “Pre-Dig Permit”, or sensibility check process prior to excavations. This message is still difficult to get through at times, and there is still plenty of educating required.


Breaking ground? Know what’s under your feet!


If you are a practising Locator, a locating company, an asset owner, or have an interest in underground service location and damage prevention in New Zealand,  join NULCA NZ!!!

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