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Reunion of the Codelfa Cogefar Workers

Reunion of the Codelfa Cogefar Workers in Wellington (4 December)

Construction company Codelfa Cogefar, a famous name in the annals of New Zealand engineering, played a major role in the development and construction of the Tongariro Hydroelectric Scheme. The company, which was based in Turangi, operated from 1967 to 1984. Of the 350 Italians employed on the Tongariro project, many Italians married New Zealanders and remained in the country.

Former Codelfa Cogefar’s Tongariro workers will come from around the country to reunite at a church service of special significance held on Sunday 4 December – the feast day of Santa Barbara*

A statue of Santa Barbara (or Saint Barbara), protector of artillerymen and miners was prominently placed at the entrance of the tunnels under construction by the Italian miners on the Tongariro Hydroelectric Scheme. One of these original statues is currently on display in Te Papa’s Community Gallery exhibition Qui Tutto Bene: the Italians in New Zealand.

Italian engineer Sandro Aduso said, “I remember looking at her and asking her for her protection each time I ventured several kilometres into the depths of the ranges a couple of kilometres away from the still active volcanoes on the Tongariro National Park”.

Not a single death occurred inside the tunnels over the 17 years that Codelfa Cogefar were working on this project.
Reunion Programme for 4 December

12 noon: A special celebratory mass (in Italian) will be held at Saint Frances de Sales Catholic Church, 178 Clyde St. Island Bay.
Leading the service is Archbishop Charles Balvo, Apostolic Nuncio to the Holy See, and two other prominent church ministers will also be presiding.
1.15pm: Lunch, hosted by the Wellington Italian Community. Long Room, Basin Reserve
3.15pm: The group will move to visit Santa Barbara at exhibition Qui Tutte Bene: the Italians in New Zealand, Te Papa, Community Gallery, Level 4.

Note: This is a private event. At least 100 ex-miners are expected to be in attendance, coming from around the country. Italian Ambassador Mrs Liana Marolla will also be attending.

*Saint Barbara lived about the year 300AD. She was the extremely beautiful daughter of a wealthy atheist. Because of her beauty, and fearful that she be demanded in marriage and taken away from him, he jealously shut her up in a tower to protect her from the outside world. Gradually she came to accept the Christian faith.

When Barbara acknowledged that she was a Christian. Her father, infuriated by this, dragged her before the head of the province, who decreed that she be tortured and put to death by beheading. Her father carried out the death sentence himself. On his way home he was struck by lightening and his body consumed.

The legend of the lightning bolt that struck down her father caused her to be regarded as the patron saint in time of danger from thunderstorms and fire. When gunpowder made its appearance in the Western world, Saint Barbara was invoked for aid against accidents resulting from explosions, and therefore regarded as the protector of artillerymen and miners.


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