By Co-founder, Cameron McLean
Matt and I met on a project in Sydney at the start of 1998. It was the remediation of Dulux’s paint factory site at Cabarita.
We went our separate ways after that project but remained good mates. After catching up on many of an occasion, we hatched a plan to set up a remediation contracting business and landed on the name ‘Enviropacific’. Enviro – for the environmental work we intended on undertaking and Pacific – the area we envisaged working in. The colour theme was blue for water and a red ochre for soil.
There was no real ‘business plan’ per se, we used our personal credit cards and life savings to cashflow the first few projects and went from there. We knew there was a niche in the market between Thiess Services, who only did the large remediation projects, and it was either plant hire companies doing remediation with a civil works mentality that didn’t understand the environmental objectives, or it was environmental consultants doing remediation who didn’t have the ‘blue collar’ employees to help run projects. So, the business plan was essentially to build a team of people that could manage ‘earthworks’ type projects, that had an environmental/remediation purpose, with all the correct health, safety and environmental systems and processes in place.
We registered the company in 2001 and started with a series on of contracts with Meriton, initially doing basement excavation projects and then getting more and more exposure in the remediation sector with organisations like Councils and Energy Australia. By then, Matt had established the Newcastle office and I was based in Sydney.
In 2004, we signed a contract with AGL to remediate a small gasworks site in Abbotsford, which operated in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s before about a dozen houses were built on it, un-remediated. The houses were waterfront properties and had to be remediated individually, which proved extremely challenging when the gasworks’ infrastructure was spread across all of them. The project took more than 18 months to complete and is still one of the most unique remediation projects that the business has undertaken.
By 2005 we were undertaking some larger contracts like the Armidale Gasworks remediation and were building a team and developing a culture that would put the company in good stead for growth. In 2006/2007, the company decided to expand geographically and fulfil the ‘Pacific’ part of its name by setting up offices in Brisbane and Melbourne.
From there we continued to expand to be a truly national-based company with over 250 employees by 2020. The growth has been predominantly organic, with several acquisitions made along the way. One of the key acquisitions was JFTA in 2012 which gave us more exposure to the petroleum and energy companies and expanded our service offering in fuel management. The water treatment side of the business was always a bit of a sleeping giant. We undertook small water treatment work, predominantly on our own projects, but it wasn’t until we started landing ‘pure’ water treatment projects that this side of the business started to develop, culminating in the ~$25M water treatment designed and constructed for the Barangaroo Remediation Project. The water treatment side of the business has now grown to be over a quarter of the business, with acquisition opportunities to grow it further.
The business has had several investors over the years. The Mingay family, who own Daracon, invested in the business in the early days and gave us the opportunity to focus on growing the business, rather than getting ‘bogged down’ in functional requirements. Private equity firm, Adexum Management, took a ~50% stake in the business and injected capital into the business in 2014, which allowed us to grow the business more inorganically, with some small acquisitions, but predominantly help fund the development of the SOLVE hazardous waste facility in Melbourne.
SOLVE allowed Enviropacific to announce its presence in the waste market with a fixed facility that could accept and treat contaminated soils and wastes to service, not only for the Victorian market, but also waste streams from other states.
The emergence of PFAS as a significant contaminant of concern, and the company’s capability to treat PFAS contaminated soils, coupled with the remediation of the Fitzroy Gasworks site in Melbourne, really put Solve on the map as the benchmark contaminated soil treatment facility in Australia. We see Solve as a huge opportunity for expansion in waste treatment and management.
The most recent investment in the company came from Next Capital, who took a ~54% stake in the business in early 2021, with a view to further expand the business’s growth aspirations.
Looking back, there are a couple of aspects of the business that have stood out as the keys to its success, and this is simply the people and the culture that they create. Enviropacific has always had a ‘can do’ approach to developing and implementing challenging solutions for its clients. These solutions are developed with strong teamwork and myriad competencies of people, coming together to formulate them. There has always been a sense of comradery amongst the people of Enviropacific, often forged through social gatherings and then through the belief of backing others around them to deliver their respective tasks.
Without doubt, it is that belief in our own ability, the understanding of everyone’s capabilities and willingness to back each other, which has been the key to successfully delivering our projects.
We are extremely positive about the future of the business. As we continue to grow it will be important to glance back periodically to see where we have come from. A business like Enviropacific needs to have dedicated teams working together to deliver their objectives, from senior management to the branches, projects and facilities. The culture created by those people will be integral to the continued success of the company.