For Halikos Group Managing Director Shane Dignan, a career in the construction industry has proven to be a ticket to locations all around Australia. “I travelled from Mount Gambier to the West Coast,” he recalls.
“From Perth to Paraburdoo, then to Broome and Darwin, working in various construction jobs.” It was in Darwin that Shane was introduced to his now business partner John Halikos, founder of Halikos Group. “The opportunity for me to become managing director with a 49% shareholding came in 2000 and from then on, we’ve really driven the business to where it is today.”
From its beginnings as a small construction and roofing business in 1987, Halikos Group has grown exponentially. It now undertakes major development projects and has diversified its offerings into hospitality, real estate, construction supplies and manufacturing. Operating in the Northern Territory, the company has nearly 400 workers including consultants and subcontractors.
As Halikos Group has evolved, Shane highlights that it’s vertically integrated, which has proved beneficial for the business in many ways. “We’re the developer, builder and operator and we maintain the asset as well,” he explains.
“We can be working as quickly as we can rather than ‘build, stop, hand over; build, stop, hand over’. There are now efficiencies regarding how quickly projects can be completed, ensuring they are within the margin and still get the best-quality outcome at the end.”
Construction becomes more professional
Shane remembers a time when the construction industry was vastly different from what it is today. “It has become a lot more professional,” he reflects. “There are more systems in place and we focus more on safety. Safety is at the forefront of everything we do now, from design right through to completion of any project.
“Our biggest assets are our employees and we want to make sure they go home safe to their families every day.” Worker safety has indeed improved over the years across all industries in Australia.
Our biggest assets are our employees and we want to make sure they go home safe to their families every day.
Research from Safe Work Australia found that between 2003 and 2016, the worker fatality rate reduced by a massive 49% from its peak in 2007. In terms of construction, there was a 36% decrease in the number of fatalities between 2002 and 2014.
A string of accomplishments
According to the annual government-issued Australian Industry Report, the construction industry is the second largest sector in Australia. Between 2015 and 2016 it accounted for 8.1% of Australia’s GDP – producing A$134.2 billion worth of output – and employed approximately 1.1 million workers.
During that same period, the industry experienced a 2.8% output growth, which was bolstered predominantly by building construction. Halikos Group has been involved in a number of significant developments across the Northern Territory.
Some of its more notable works include: One30 Esplanade; the seven-level NAB House – complete with a glass facade that has anodised aluminium sun shading; the 17-level H on Mitchell Apartment Hotel complex with 183 rooms; and the C2 Esplanade in the Darwin CBD.
Then, through its construction division it has worked on such projects as the Larrakeyah Residential Redevelopment, which involved the removal of 61 houses to create 98 new ones; the Henbury School for students with special needs; and the new Mother Teresa Catholic Primary School in Zuccoli.
Roofing continues to be one of its specialties, where it has worked on the Palmerston Regional Hospital, which involved the installation of more than 16,000 square metres of roofing as well as insulation boards, cladding, gutters and rain pipes, and recently finished work on the major Ichthys project.
Halikos Group’s hospitality arm
Next there is Halikos Hospitality, which has been thriving since its inception in 2000. The business manages several properties including the H on Smith Hotel, H on Mitchell Apartment Hotel, Frontier Hotel, Novotel Darwin Atrium and Lizards Bar and Restaurant.
Shane attributes the prosperity of the hospitality arm to its ability to adapt to the needs of the community. “We started with 91 rooms and we now have more than 1,100,” he says.
“It’s about identifying the opportunity and being able to act on it as quickly as possible.” As a reflection of its success thus far, Halikos Hospitality recently entered a partnership with the Department of Education to provide training and employment opportunities in the hospitality space for high school students.
The real estate branch of Halikos Group is also doing well, having gone through significant expansion since its establishment in 2003. The division, which was renamed Solis Real Estate in 2017, handles both commercial and residential property management. It is responsible for selling properties in the Northen Territory’s Akoya development, which is located in Fannie Bay.
Then there’s the Group’s construction supplies division, NT Fasteners, specialising in fastening systems, cutting and framing tools, paints and electrical tools. Finally, there’s the manufacturing business, Steeline GRP, which develops a variety of products, from fencing and roofing to steel framing and patios.
The Berrimah Farm project
Halikos Group’s most significant contract win in recent years has been the 168-hectare Berrimah Farm project in the centre of Darwin. Secured in 2016 after a tough tender process, Shane says the project will provide work for the next 12 years. “This will create 3,000 employment opportunities and, once the land’s developed, will be worth more than A$1 billion to the economy.”
Following the contract win, the project was renamed the Northcrest development. The land will be used for residential housing, a primary school, retail shops, restaurants, parklands, additional commercial and community space as well as an area for retirement living.
In addition to Northcrest, Halikos is on track with its development of the A$16.7 million Marrara Tennis Centre. The centre will include 16 International Tennis Federation-compliant courts, 500 fixed seats, a clubhouse, an office and a car park. It will also have the option of installing 3,500 additional seats for potential Davis or Federation Cup tournaments in the future.
Once complete, the tennis centre is expected to deliver A$4 million each year to the Northern Territory. Further, it is tipped to have ties with the Oceania Championships, junior and senior International Tennis Federation events, the National Indigenous Tennis Carnival and the Darwin International.
For the locals
Being a Northern Territory-based and operated business, Halikos Group highly values its staff and its ability to support the Territory. “Our ethos is to employ locally, buy locally and reinvest in the Territory,” Shane asserts. Part of this is through strong investment in its incoming employees. “Our company is big on training,” Shane says.
Our ethos is to employ locally, buy locally and reinvest back into
“We have traineeships, apprenticeships and scholarships. With graduates, we bring them back and mentor them.”
Shane adds that he’s impressed by the quality of new workers who have joined the business. “They’ve come through at such a high level that they’ve just jumped ahead in leaps and bounds compared with the past.”
Halikos Group constantly rewards its workers for the hard work they put in. “We do lots of different things with our staff,” Shane says. “Whether its management trips, sporting or cultural events, family fun days or boat cruises, as acknowledgment of a job well done.”
Celebrating a milestone anniversary
In 2017, the Group celebrated its 30-year anniversary and Shane attributes its survival over the years to its workers. “We have people who have been with the business for more than 25 years,” he says. “And it comes down to our executive managers and our key staff. We let them take on their own challenges and instil in them the confidence that we trust them to move ahead with each of their divisions.”
Shane also mentions the Group’s relationship with its suppliers. “It’s important in a regional area like this that our relationship with key consultants, subcontractors and suppliers is strong, and this has been the case for a long time,” he adds.
“When we need to move on something, we need their support to make sure it happens, and happens quickly. The best outcome for the Territory, if it needs a hospital, or school or sporting facility, is if we have the ability to move fast.”
As part of its thirtieth anniversary celebrations in 2017, Halikos Group began a rebranding process which saw it change its logo. “Like everything, it’s important to move with the times,” Shane comments. “We want to refresh and keep that going through all of our businesses all the time. We don’t want to sit on our hands.”
Giving a helping hand
With a commitment to giving back, Halikos Group supports charities and groups such as Autism NT, the Leukaemia Foundation and the Salvation Army. “We’re a small community here and it’s important that we keep that key value,” Shane says.
“I have an autistic son myself so we certainly understand, and we have the opportunity to help some of those families who might be struggling. We’ve given millions of dollars over the years to various charities in the region.
“We also help sporting groups and not-for-profit organisations – whatever we can do to help out anyone in need in the community we will do it.”
The company has a volunteer group called Helping Hands which raises funds for three charities each year. The amount raised is matched by the Group’s directors at the end-of-year Christmas party.
“We know the importance of our staff’s commitment to raise these funds, it enhances the business environment and enables team spirit,” Shane notes. In 2017, a total of A$15,000 was raised by Helping Hands and the funds went to Autism NT, Riding for the Disabled, and Alzheimer’s Australia NT.
For Halikos Group, 2017 proved to be an all-round stellar year. The company received 11 Master Builders Association (MBA) NT awards and two national awards for its projects. The MBA supports the interests of the construction industry through a broad range of services including industrial relations, legal work and training.
The Group’s Henbury School project reaped the most awards on the night for building design, landscape design, workplace health and safety, and environment and energy efficiency.
Halikos’s Akoya site won the metal and roofing award while its refurbishment of the Royal Darwin Hospital’s lobby won for a commercial and retail fitout of more than A$1 million and a public building over A$10 million. These are just a few of the many awards granted to the company by the MBA.
The future awaits
While the firm will continue its work on the Northcrest project, it is looking forward to many more opportunities in the future. “We’ll be looking at working with the Northern Territory Government on any projects they have,” Shane says. “Defence is also a major one. We’re tendering for several different defence projects which will be a driver over the next 20 years.” The Northern Territory is a key defence hub for Australia, holding 8.2% of the country’s permanent defence force.
Another focus area will be the tourism industry. “We’ll probably see a transition from contractual workers to tourists coming back, so that’ll be good,” he notes. With the many milestones the firm has hit over the years, Shane says he’s glad to have joined Halikos Group some 27 years ago.
He relates his decision to his favourite piece of advice: “Don’t wait for the opportunity, just go and create your own,” he recalls. “We started off with one business and were able to develop our manufacturing, building supplies, hospitality and property management divisions into key businesses on their own. It’s been a fantastic journey.”