Introducing Chris French

Chris French is somewhat of a legend in the public sector consulting industry, so we were delighted to bring him into the Rationale whanau in January this year.

Based out of our Wellington office, ‘Frenchy’ as he’s affectionately known has been working in the industry for over 20 years, holding a range of roles across the infrastructure sectors with a focus in the waters space.

We thought the best way to tell Frenchy’s story is to ask him and let him tell us, so below is an introduction to Chris French, Principal Advisor at Rationale.

What attracted you to Rationale?

About five years ago, I was on holiday in Arrowtown with my family. One evening we walked along Arrow Lane, and came across the offices of Rationale. A conversation ensued on the type of work that Rationale did, and the outcomes they achieve for communities around Aotearoa. With that, my wife noted that “you should work for them one day, they sound like your kind of people”. It’s something that’s stuck with me ever since.

While Rationale has evolved and matured over time, one thing has remained constant – their focus on balance. It’s something I’ve been putting a lot of thought and reflection into over the last year, so it’s great to be part of a whanau where this value is central to how we do things. I believe that in our high-paced world that balance is ever more important – we take pride in taking a considered, structured approach which is so important to ensure that the right strategic decisions are made with our clients.

How do you believe you can make an impact?

In recent years, I’ve really enjoyed working with or within client organisations in a way that leaves a legacy by creating greater understanding of our client’s own challenges and opportunities, and supporting the development and maturing of skills within their organisation through the work. It’s a journey I’m really keen to continue as it gives me a real sense of fulfilment.

With so much pressure to deliver more with less, our clients are so busy juggling multiple priorities. It’s great to be able to support them to create the space for the strategic decisions that have such a profound positive impact on the communities they serve.

Where do you whakapapa from?

I came to New Zealand as an infant and grew up in Otago, where I lived and studied until my early 20’s. Owing to my dad’s profession in the shipping sector, I grew up in and around port towns, and I guess that’s where I got my strong affiliation to nurturing our natural water bodies.

As a first generation New Zealander, with most of my extended family living overseas, it’s become really important to me to put down some roots. After my OE in the UK and work in Auckland and Christchurch, I finally settled in Taranaki about 10 years ago where I have been ever since. It’s a wonderful place to raise my two children (Abby and Austen) with my wife (Holly). She has strong ties to Taranaki and it’s been wonderful to become part of her whanau too.

Can you tell us about your technical background?

I’ve been working in the water sector for over 20 years now, starting as a fresh-faced graduate at Fonterra, and moving into municipal three waters engineering in the UK, before returning to New Zealand.

It’s been a real privilege to contribute to some of New Zealand’s greatest engineering challenges in three waters. Particular highlights have been the Gisborne Wastewater Scheme, recovering the Christchurch Wastewater Treatment Plant after the earthquakes, and delivering more productive outcomes in the agricultural sector through more efficient water use.

Over time my focus has become far more on using my technical background to support strategic infrastructure investment decisions. I love engagement and communicating, so I guess it’s a great fit for me and I get a real thrill watching these decisions come to life through built infrastructure. I get a real buzz from providing opportunities to planners, engineers, construction workers, operators and the wider economy from decisions I’ve been involved in.

How do you spend your spare time?

Raising two small people has been a real focus of late, but when I do get time for myself I really enjoy anything outdoors – mountain biking, bike packing, tramping and fly fishing. As a family we really enjoy camping and take all the opportunities we can get to enjoy everything that Taranaki and the wider motu has to offer. You could say that this probably drives me to do even more for our environment through the work I do.

It's great to work with a bunch of likeminded people at Rationale, we’ve got a great team and a genuine belief that we’re helping communities across the country – I’m stoked to be a part of it!