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Wellington Expertise On Show In San Francisco


Wellington Expertise On Show At San Francisco Earthquake Centenary

Several of Wellington’s leading earthquake engineers and scientists presented today at the 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference, in San Francisco.

The Conference, which has attracted 2,000 attendees from the United States, New Zealand, and around the world, has enabled earthquake professionals to share their ideas and establish new connections. It marks exactly 100 years since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

“I’m proud to be here with leading Wellington-based companies and organisations such as Beca Carter and GNS Science,” said Positively Wellington Business (PWB) CEO Philip Lewin today from San Francisco.

“Together we were able to emphasise not only the impressive international track record of New Zealand earthquake engineers, but also the value of bringing them together as members of PWB’s Earthquake Engineering and Natural Hazards clusters.

“More broadly, the links between the Wellington region and San Francisco are already warm, and I have been doing my best while here to promote some new business and city connections,” said Mr Lewin.

Some outstanding work has already been done between engineering and architecture companies from the two centres.

One example is Wellington-based Holmes Consulting Group who are presenting their earthquake structural analysis software product at the Conference.

”The analysis is particularly valuable for investigating heritage buildings and we have chosen a well-known heritage building in San Francisco as an example of its use,” says Holmes Consulting Group technical director Jason Milburn.

Positively Wellington Business cluster facilitator Graeme Carroll says Holmes Consulting Group is one of the few New Zealand companies to successfully break into this specialist engineering market in America, and establish an American subsidiary to grow the business. Much of the intensive analysis work is done in New Zealand and transmitted via the internet.

The Wellington contingent’s presentation was called New Zealand: Earthquake Engineering Highlights From Middle Earth.

Speakers were Richard Sharpe of Beca Carter Hollings and Ferner, on New Zealand earthquake engineering expertise in the international arena; Russ Van Dissen and Robert Langridge of GNS Science, on earthquake geology research in New Zealand; Andrew King of GNS Science, on the development of the New Zealand Loadings Standard; Michael Pender of Auckland University, on site and effects and soil-structure interaction in the New Zealand Loadings Standard and comparison with other codes; and Hans Brounts of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, on earthquake engineering and emergency management in New Zealand.

Philip Lewin’s address at the San Francisco Earthquake Centenary Convention:

Presentation to San Francisco Earthquake Centenary conference
Tuesday 18 April 2006

Almost family….? Wellington Region and the Bay area as research, trade and investment partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Wellington and San Francisco have a great deal in common – a great deal more than earthquake propensity. There is a strong relationship already in place. This goes far beyond the seismological events we both experienced over the last 100 years, or the physical resemblance of our two cities, to encompass investment linkages and many different business areas.

I’m CEO of the Wellington region’s economic development agency, Positively Wellington Business. My objective, in ten minutes, is to delight and enthuse you with the commercial attractiveness of the Wellington region – a great place in which to employ smart and talented professionals, and the Knowledge Capital of New Zealand!

I’m proud to be here at your EERI Conference today with several leading members of the New Zealand Earthquake Engineering Cluster, which PWB has assisted for several years now.

Relationships between California and Wellington have been important to the development of earthquake engineering. Famous innovations such as the lead rubber bearings designed by Bill Robinson of Robinson Seismic, have come out of Wellington and are used extensively in California.

In Wellington, the base isolation of Parliament was one of the largest seismic refurbishment projects globally. Another is the US$200m base isolation project for the new Wellington Hospital.

John Hollings, who recently passed away, was the pioneer of earthquake engineering in New Zealand, some of his peers considered him the most innovative Kiwi Engineer of his generation. In 1968, Hollings firm merged with an Auckland-based consultancy to become Beca Carter Hollings and Ferner, now New Zealand's largest consulting engineering company. Beca now has a branch in California.

With collaborative projects, the benefits go both ways. Wellington's Lifelines Project focused on how to make Wellington a safer place. This was picked up by Californians for use in their market. Californians and New Zealanders worked together on a toolkit and a guidelines manual to upgrade earthquake standards. They had competitive commercial interests but shared commercial IP in order to get value from the toolkit. There is further potential to do more professional sharing. More investment would be great too!

Ladies and gentlemen, in the field of earthquake engineering as in many others, there is indeed a long history of personal and professional links between Wellington and California. For example, GNS Science and its Californian research counterparts have a growing relationship. Technical experts from California are used in NZ tenders.

Holmes Culley, a San Francisco based New Zealand company, was awarded the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC) Award for Best Retrofit Project Using Conventional Technology for the San Francisco Piers strengthening.

And our Cluster has pursued a long-term strategy to build relationships into the universities. Ian Brown a member of the Earthquake Engineering NZ Cluster is a graduate of Berkeley University of California; and Richard Sharpe's daughter has recently won a scholarship there. These relationships are important, as are closer linkages between our Victoria University of Wellington and Berkeley.

Other New Zealand –focused earthquake engineers who are wired into West Coast universities include Jeffery Martin - University of Southern California, Robin Shepherd - University of California at Irvine, James Beck at Caltech, and Nigel Priestley and Jose Restrepo at University of California San Diego.

But wait, there’s more! Graham Powell, Neville Donovan, David Williams, Ron Mayes, Robin Shepherd, Ian Buckle, Nigel Priestley, Martin Button, John Mander and Greg MacRae are some of the New Zealand engineers that have landed in West Coast of the United States and have become well known for their work.
So at the Conference today you’ve heard from some highly qualified New Zealand earthquake engineers.

I am relatively innocent of any scientific knowledge myself, and so I shall not attempt to add to their contributions in this sense.

But many of them are part of the marvellous achievements coming out of the knowledge economy in Wellington in recent years.

Ladies and gentlemen, Wellington is a vibrant, dynamic, diverse city. We are the events and arts and cultural capital of New Zealand. We are, of course, situated on the edge of a magnificent harbour and we are surrounded by lush green hills. A lot like San Francisco!

Wellington leads New Zealand in the proportion of the workforce employed in the creative sector and compares well with the top three creative US cities – San Francisco, Austin and Boston.

We’re looking for businesses to replace those which have decided Wellington is no longer the centre of their universe and left to go on their Big OE. Those businesses, I have to say, usually have problems taking staff with them.

Once they’ve experienced Wellington, most people find it hard to leave. And it doesn’t have anything to do with salary, it’s usually about lifestyle.

Knowing that lifestyle is one of the key factors for our citizens helps us determine what we should preserve in our city and what we should build on.

We have done research on this to find out what our citizens liked most about the city. What gave it its sense of place, what makes Wellington different from other cities.

Our research showed there was a whole raft of things that our people loved about their city, from the quirky and whimsical to the sense of community, innovative architecture, the village atmosphere, the bars and cafes.

The characteristic that featured most strongly in the minds of Wellingtonians and defined their sense of place however was Wellington’s compactness… how easy it is to get from one place to another within the City.

Wellington is experiencing huge growth in tourism. In fact since 1997, international visitor nights have grown by 18 percent a year and last year more than half a million visitors came to see us.

Wellington now has more than 3.8 million visitor nights a year, generating more than $900 million a year for the local economy. As you can tell Wellington is on the up … and if you like San Francisco, you’ll love Wellington. After all, there is no place quite like home!.

New Zealand is a source of not only wonderful wines and foodstuffs and marvellous scenery but also clever technological applications, often in the creative space. Wellington has recently acquired a stellar reputation as a film making centre. Much of the expertise developed by Peter Jackson and his collaborators has been influenced by people, production techniques and technology from California.

There are many other strong investment and human linkages across the two regions. Improved direct air linkages can only heighten this positive relationship further. In a family sense, San Francisco and Wellington are ideally suited to becoming sister cities.

New Zealand in general, and Wellington particular, have a great amount in common with the Bay area. The commonalities were highlighted last August when our Mayor, Kerry Prendergast helped to open the Toi Maori exhibition here in the Bay City. Let me say it again, just in case you missed it the first time round - if ever two cities were meant to become sisters, it would be our two!

The close San Francisco-Wellington relationship is a great exemplar of what our two nations New Zealand and the United States have in common. As a member of the NZ / US Business Council, later this week I will be participating in a New Zealand-US partnership forum meeting in Washington DC. The aim of this high-level confab is to lift our bilateral relationship onto a still higher and more enduring plane, and to ensure that New Zealand and the United States take every opportunity to formalise an even closer economic partnership.

Many American companies are already successfully investing in New Zealand. We offer some great competitive advantages. For starters, we’re less heavily regulated than most – and US companies find New Zealand’s political and economic stability very attractive. We maintain stringent IP protection, state-of-the-art broadband and telecommunications facilities (thanks in part to some of these US companies!), and our costs for energy, accommodation, and technology are low by world standards.

On top of that, Wellington has great lifestyle opportunities; a vibrant CBD set among breathtaking landscape; easy access to national and international markets with excellent distribution links by rail, road, sea and air; cutting-edge research and development capabilities; and most importantly of all – a highly skilled, educated and internationally adept workforce.

I’ve already talked about film-making in Wellington. We have an ongoing convergence between communications, film, television, and entertainment and other multimedia technologies. In many cases, just like the movies, these industry players rely on high quality computer-generated animation. Computer game development companies such as Sidhe Interactive are among many well-known examples. Exciting new opportunities are likely to arise in these areas.

The Wellington region also has some core strengths in the biotechnology area. Industrial Research Limited is a leader in high temperature superconductor technology, and Victoria University’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences has a world-class reputation.

Likewise, industrial design is strong, both in application by some leading manufacturers such as Formway (office furniture), and the availability of specialist consultants and education.

Now to end with a quick word on my organisation, Positively Wellington Business (PWB). We’re the economic development agency, jointly funded by the Wellington region’s five local government councils. As a public agency, our services are free to client businesses. Among our many other capabilities, we assist business-people to take maximum advantage of the investment opportunities in the region.

PWB can provide economic data, investment opportunity listings and specialist contacts for one-to-one assistance.

We have good contacts in the commercial property field and can prepare a detailed proposal on the space options available within the region.

And we’d love to hear from y'all! So if you’d like to learn more about business opportunities here in the Wellington region, you now know where to find us – www.pwb.co.nz or me personally at philip@pwb.co.nz!


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