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50 Year Reunion of Codelfa-Cogefar (NZ) Ltd

11 December 2017

Italians and locals gather in Turangi for 50 Year Reunion of Codelfa-Cogefar (NZ) Ltd

More than 20 former workers of Codelfa-Cogefar (NZ) Ltd gathered from Italy, Australia, Samoa and around New Zealand to attend the Codelfa-Cogefar (NZ) Ltd Workers 50 Year Reunion in Turangi during 1-3 December, along with ex-colleagues, family and friends. The attendees included some of the original Italian tunnellers who first came to Turangi in 1967 to work on the Tongariro Hydro-Electric Scheme, with several travelling all the way from Italy to Turangi to join together for this special occasion.

The local organising committee – comprised of a small group of past workers from Codelfa-Cogefar (NZ) Ltd - spent the past year organising the three-day gathering to recognise the 50th anniversary of the Codelfa-Cogefar company in New Zealand.

Chairperson Elsie Valle was pleased that so many were able to celebrate together, with 160 people attending the reunion, held at the former Tongariro Chartered Club in Turangi. “It’s been a highlight to see the happiness on people’s faces, for the ex-workers to see each other again and to reminisce about the past - the working conditions, the camps where they lived, and the early reactions of the Italian men when they arrived and experienced such a different landscape.”

The reunion programme featured visits to Moawhango and Tongariro on Saturday 2 December, which was a nostalgic experience for ex-tunnellers to revisit the landscape that was their home for so many years. Although the workers’ camps are long gone – memories still remained fresh for the retired tunnellers. For some family members, it was a chance to realise the enormity of the government’s projects that were worked on by Codelfa-Cogefar over a 20-year period, and that still supply power to many of New Zealand’s cities and towns today.

The timing of the reunion was planned to coincide with the Feast of Santa Barbara, marked each year on 4 December. To acknowledge Santa Barbara and to pay respect to those ex-tunnellers that have passed away, a special ceremony was held at Tongariro, overlooking the Rangipo Dam. Over the rushing sound of the water, the group gathered for a prayer to Santa Barbara, Patron Saint of Artillerymen and Miners, and to acknowledge the water that was such a big presence in the tunnellers’ everyday working environment, and literally, the life-force behind the power supply. Thanks was given to the bush and volcanic plateau environment that hundreds of young Italian men, along with their young families, called home.

Locally-produced wine and Italian-style catering was provided by ex-tunnellers Ettore Colle, Pietro Valle and Giovanni Salvador to mark the Saturday evening function in style, complete with a celebration cake to recognise the efforts of all the men and workers so many years ago. Special guests included Vincenzo Scocozza and Atillio Uliana who travelled from Italy, Te Ariki Sir Tumu and Lady Sue TeHeuheu and Taupō Mayor David Trewavas. Many stories were shared and connections made – between Italians and New Zealanders, locals and visitors alike.

The Codelfa-Cogefar (NZ) Limited company had construction work in Auckland, Mangaweka and other parts of New Zealand during the 1960s to the 1980s but the biggest construction job was the Tongariro Hydro-Electric Scheme in the central North Island.


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