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New Zealand's greatest engineering feat

Media Release
16 November 2006


New Zealand's greatest engineering feat

New Zealand's greatest engineering feat has been voted the Manapouri Power Station in Fiordland. Close behind are 1995 America's Cup winning yacht Black Magic NZL32 and Auckland's Grafton Bridge, which take second and third place respectively.

This is the result of a survey of University of Auckland engineering graduates to mark the centenary of the University's Faculty of Engineering. It asked 600 graduates from the Faculty (one of New Zealand's two engineering schools) to name the greatest engineering feat in New Zealand during the past 100 years.

The Manapouri Power Station is the country's largest hydro power station, located deep underground in Fiordland National Park. Built between 1964 and 1972, it is a massive feat of civil engineering with most of the station, including the machine hall and the first 10-kilometre tailrace tunnel built underground. Excavating a large-scale project under a mountain was hard and dangerous work, requiring prodigious engineering skill to carve through the hard Fiordland gneiss and granite rock. It took eight years to complete.

"The Manapouri Power Station is an excellent example of how the vision and ingenuity of engineering underpins much of our essential infrastructure," Engineering Dean Professor Peter Brothers says. "It was such an unusual job because it was so remote and very clever technical solutions were required to get through the difficult terrain."

The Manapouri Power Station received 12% of votes in the survey. Black Magic took 11% and Grafton Bridge received 9%.

Age had a big impact on how the engineers voted. Those who graduated before 1970 rated Grafton Bridge highly, while those graduating after 1990 named Black Magic the overall winner. The America's Cup yacht also received the most votes from respondents living overseas.

Other high-polling achievements were Wairakei Geothermal Power Station (9%) and the Modern Jet Boat (8%). The Skytower polled at 5% and Auckland Harbour Bridge 3%.

Professor Brothers says he was not surprised Grafton Bridge polled well, particularly with the older generation. He says, "At the time Grafton Bridge had the largest span bridge of a concrete bridge in the world and it solved a major transport problem in Auckland."

The Faculty of Engineering marks its centenary this weekend by throwing its doors open to the public. The Centenary Open Day is on Saturday, November 18 from 9am to 3pm at the Engineering Building, 20 Symonds Street, Auckland.

The Faculty has produced more than 12,000 engineers since it was founded in 1906, who have underpinned the growth of dozens of industries from construction and mining to biomedicine and software.

ENDS

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