The winners of the 2010 New Zealand Engineering Excellence Awards were announced in Wellington on Thursday 24 November at a gala dinner hosted by MC Linda Clark and attended by more than 350 people which was held at the Duxton Hotel.
The Winner of the 2010 Supreme Award for Engineering Excellence is the Coronet Peak Ski Area Snow-making Infrastructure and Reservoirs by Hadley Consultants Ltd, NZSki Ltd and TechnoAlpin.
The Queenstown economy has been significantly strengthened through this collaborative project which enhances the ability of the Coronet ski field to open and remain open as planned for a lengthened and more predictable ski season. The flow-on benefits are evidenced by significant increases in incoming international flights.
Whilst conceptually simple – capturing and using as much as necessary of the water that naturally falls as snow or rain on the ski field region, or is available through groundwater springs – the practical complexities to be overcome were considerable.
The mathematical modelling of the water harvesting, storage and use was very detailed. The scale of the pipework and reservoirs necessary, and the need to provide reliable services across a rugged, steep and sometimes unstable landscape and in a highly variable mountain climate were significant.
The challenge of storing large volumes of water safely at high altitude was successfully addressed through detailed geotechnical analysis of the land geology. Narrow windows of available construction time demanded a well-planned work programme. This included detailed protocols in regard to vegetation re-location or reinstatement.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Rob Fyfe took the premier individual title, The William Pickering Award for Engineering Leadership.
Rob Fyfe completed his studies in mechanical engineering whilst with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He entered the commercial world in 1987 and held a number of management roles in New Zealand before moving to senior management roles with ITV Digital PLC in London in 2000.
On his return to New Zealand he joined Air New Zealand, becoming Chief Executive in 2005.
In 2010, Air New Zealand was awarded the title of Airline of the Year at the Air Transport World Global Airline Awards, testimony to the reputation it enjoys as an innovative industry leader despite its relatively small size. This is in large part due to the transformational leadership and vision of Rob Fyfe.
The application of an engineering mindset as a core part of Air New Zealand’s business is very evident in increasing the fuel efficiency of the fleet, including trialling bio-fuels; improving the fleet through well-timed replacement purchases; humanising the interface at terminals; and rewriting cabin design – initially in business class and more recently in the lie-down economy seat.
As well as creating the environment in which so many technical successes occurred, Rob has transformed the face of the airline – through working directly with staff one day a month, his visibility to customers, and by empowering staff to adopt new business approaches embracing technology and social media.
The dignified manner in which the tragic events at Perpignan were managed, and his willingness to step up in response to the earlier Erebus tragedy are the mark of a great leader.