Tuesday, 31 October 2006

What is New Zealand’s all time greatest engineering feat?

The Faculty of Engineering at The University of Auckland is celebrating its centennial year in 2006, and with it they're looking to pay tribute by running a competition amongst alumni to help identify New Zealand's greatest engineering feat by selecting ONE of the options below. The overall winner will be announced in November.

What's your pick?

Grafton Bridge (1910):
When it was built, Grafton Bridge was reputed to be the biggest span, reinforced concrete arch bridge in the world. It was pioneering in its use of reinforced concrete.

Auckland Harbour Bridge (1959):
New Zealand’s longest bridge with the largest span. ‘Clip-on’ extensions, doubling the traffic lanes, were added in 1969.

The Raurimu Railway Spiral (1908):
The famed spiral loop on the railway line between Auckland and Wellington overcomes an abrupt 132m rise in the topography.

Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World (1985):
Built in disused sewerage holding tanks, the 110m long transparent acrylic tunnel under Auckland’s waterfront was a world first.

The Skytower (1997):
At 328m it is New Zealand’s tallest structure. A feature of its design is its ability to safely withstand an earthquake, severe wind storms or fire.

Black Magic NZL32 (1995):
The yacht Sir Peter Blake and Team New Zealand sailed to glory in the 1995 America’s Cup race. Black Magic used cutting edge engineering and design technology to beat out the competition.

High-voltage DC link between the North and South Islands (1965):
The under-sea cable in Cook Strait was the world’s largest and longest submarine cable when it was built. The 600MW, 500kV HVDC transmission link integrates power supply between North and South Islands.

World’s first base isolated building (1982):
The William Clayton Building in Wellington was the world’s first base isolated building, designed to withstand earthquakes using a lead/rubber bearing as an isolator and energy absorber.

Manapouri Power Station:
The largest hydro power station in New Zealand. The majority of the station, including the machine hall and two 10km tunnels, was built under a mountain.

Wairakei Geothermal Power Station (1963):
The first in the world to utilise super-heated geothermal water as a steam source for the turbines, and the first to utilise flash steam from geothermal water as an energy source.

McLaren F1 Supercar (1994):
The McLaren F1 was the fastest production car ever built (top speed 386.5 km/h). Most of the McLaren designers were New Zealanders and Team McLaren was founded by Bruce McLaren, a legendary New Zealand F1 driver.

World’s first flying machine (1903):
A claim open to interpretation, Richard Pearse flew a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903, some nine months before the Wright brothers.

The electric fence (1936):
In 1936, New Zealand inventor William "Bill" Gallagher Snr built one of the world’s first electric fences from a car's ignition coil and a Meccano set. The Gallagher Group of companies is still involved in electric fencing.

The Modern Jet Boat (1950s):
Bill Hamilton developed the modern jetboat in the 1950s to navigate the shallow fast flowing rivers where he lived. In 1960 a Hamilton jet boat was the first boat to travel up the Grand Canyon.

The Taranaki Gate:
A ‘Taranaki Gate’ is made from battens strung together and connected to a fence by loops of wire. The phrase has come to mean a practical approach to a common problem.

John Britten Motorcycles (1990s):
John Britten designed a world-record-setting motorcycle that was years ahead of contemporary design. In 1994 it broke four world speed records in its class.

I understand the current leader is the Manapouri Power Station, with a narrow lead over NZL 32. What's your own pick?

LINK: Celebrate Engineering: 1906-2006 - Auckland Engineering School

RELATED: New Zealand, Heroes


  1. Yes, I'd go for the Manapouri power station too.I worked on the second tailrace tunnel and that experience gave me a new respect for the those who designed and build the original power station.

    As a close second, I would have Benmore Dam and the HVDC link.


  2. I have to go for the Britten. Watching this man literally use his wife's kiln to bake parts of his engine was just awe-inspiring. If any of these achievements sum up NZ and how we see ourselves it would have to be the Britten Motorcycle.

  3. Jet boat or the electric Fence.

    The sheer widespread use of these things wins them over for me.

  4. From an engineering perspective, the SkyTower does have one world-beating feature: Fletcher Construction pioneered the use of concrete jacking in the building - they actually built it from the top down, by pouring the top sections first, then jacking them up.

  5. "...the SkyTower does have one world-beating feature: Fletcher Construction pioneered the use of concrete jacking in the building - they actually built it from the top down, by pouring the top sections first, then jacking them up."

    Ah, I didn't know that. I assumed it had been slip-formed.

    I guess the concrete jacking saved trying to pump concrete up to that height? What an ingenious solution.

  6. Possibly not the most spectacular but my pick would be electric fence. It sure beat Crazy Joe Davola's idea of removing all fences from farms, letting animals roam free, and making all farmers became hunters. I guess he wanted his meat to be more gamey but really...

  7. Wairakei was very much a team effort involving metallurgists, chemists, physicists and engineers; the latter had to develop a technique for drilling into a pressurised steamfield. See Techhistory

  8. I'm not so sure about the concrete jacking on the Sky Tower - I was sure it was slip-formed.

    The William Clayton Building gets my vote for the impact it has had on building design around the world.

  9. from http://www.cee.auckland.ac.nz/Case_Studies/case_studies_sky_tower.aspx

    "Civil and Mechanical Engineers working for Fletcher Construction designed a climbing jumpform to make the tower. The jumpform had room for workers while they installed all the steel and then poured the concrete. After every few days the hydraulic jacks on the jumpform were extended to slide it up and pour the next level."

  10. Sky tower or the Harbor bridge definitely

  11. As a note on the Auckland Harbour Bridge: Sure it may have the longest span in New Zealand, but the claim that it is the longest bridge in New Zealand is incorrect. The Rakaia River Bridge is almost twice as long at 1.8km

  12. No mention of the Otira Tunnel crossing the Southern Alps? That was a miracle; thought it would be #1!


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