BEACONS at the End of the World – An Introduction

This is the story of a small country at the end of the world. When the first immigrants arrived in New Zealand after a voyage of 20,000 kilometres and four months at sea they found a country whose landscape was virtually untouched.

The first engineering structures were lighthouses to guide the way for those that followed. From then until today civil engineers have set their stamp on New Zealand in steel and stone, concrete and timber. Their innovation and skill has been responsible for much of the prosperity this country enjoys today.

This is the story of Civil Engineering in New Zealand. It is told as a six part video series written and presented by Ian Gunn, Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Auckland, and produced and directed by Kerry Fowler, Pandora Productions.

The video series is presented in the six posts following this Introduction.
Part 1: Timber Stone and Water
Part 2: Gold – Yellow and Black
Part 3: The Way Through
Part 4: Against the Elements
Part 5: Designs for Probabilities
Part 6: The Environment, Engineering and the Community

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Part 1: Timber, Stone and Water

In Victorian England engineering was the new technology. The industrial revolution was at its peak. In New Zealand immigrant engineers were faced with the initial problem of communications, shelter and food using the raw materials at hand.

INTERVIEWEES
• Stephen Lane, Sawmiller, Lane & Sons, Totara North, Whangaroa Harbour
[Milling of kauri for ship building and 19th century building construction]
• Pat Simperingham, Engineer, Carter Holt
[Production of glue laminated structural timber for bridge and building construction.]

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Part 2: Gold – Yellow and Black

With the initial period of survival over, colonial New Zealand set about exploiting the resources of the country. Early Engineers played a vital role on the goldfields of Otago and Coromandel, coal mines provided the great source of energy, and ironsands now provide a source of steel.

INTERVIEWEES
• Roger Blakeley, Engineer, State Coal NZ
[Modern coal mining methods]
• Sir John Ingram, Engineer, NZ Steel
[Development of steel production from NZ ironsands.]
• Jim Dowell, Engineer, McConnell Dowell
[Pumping ironsands from the Waikato river mouth mine to NZ Steel at Waiuku.]

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Part 3: The Way Through

New Zealand had internal as well as geographic isolation. One of the major achievements of NZ Civil Engineers has been the development of the lines of communication. Despite the difficult terrain they surveyed and built the country’s network of roads and railways.

INTERVIEWEES
• Vernon Swan, Tunneller
[Tunnel construction for the Tongariro Power Scheme.]
• Alex Gray, Engineer, Ministry of Works & Development
[Terrace Motorway Tunnel construction, Wellington]
• Ray Ryan, Engineer, NZ Railways
[Construction of the Rangitikei railway deviation and viaducts, Mangaweka.]

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Part 4: Against the Elements

New Zealand has unique weather and landscape. The control of water is a major engineering problem – getting over it, sending it somewhere and containing it as a source of energy.

INTERVIEWEE
• Alex Gray, Engineer, Ministry of Works & Development
[Ngaranga incrementally launched pre-stressed concrete bridges, Wellington]

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Part 5: Designs for Probabilities

The risk factor in engineering, and developing new techniques. Getting it right and what happens when things go wrong. Act of God or technology out of control?

INTERVIEWEES
• Alex Stirrat, Engineer, Ministry of Works & Development
[Newmarket Motorway Viaduct construction and temperature stress “failure”.]
• Professor Bob Park, Engineer, University of Canterbury
[NZ Earthquake resistant design and research.]
• Professor Peter Taylor, Engineer, The University of Auckland
[Geotechnical failure of the headrace canal, Tauranga electric power scheme.]

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Part 6: The Environment, Engineering and Community

Society has become more involved with engineering. Civil Engineers are becoming more aware of the social aspects of their work. Taranaki has some important examples of engineering responding to the environment. Reflections on the new engineer.

INTERVIEWEES
• David Thom, Engineer, Kingston Reynolds Thom & Allardice
[Engineering, engineers, and the environment]
• Ray Ryan, Engineer, NZ Railways
[Managing the potential impacts of modern railway construction on the environment.]
• Elena Trout, Engineer, Motunui Gas to Gasoline Project
[Addressing Maori cultural concerns re industrial effluent disposal.]
• Dr Brian Foster, Marine Biologist, The University of Auckland
[Impacts of shellfish growth on structural stability of the Maui Gas Platform.]
• Professor Alan Titchener, Engineer, The University of Auckland
[Engineers for Social Responsibility.]
• Professor Lloyd Geering, Theologian
[Engineering ethics and the engineer’s responsibility to the community.]

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