Dreams to Reality

Ashley Harper
District Services Manager, Timaru District Council
Timaru, New Zealand
INGENIUM President

I have just returned from the 2007 INGENIUM Conference held in Invercargill from the 7th-10th June 2007. (INGENIUM is the brand name of the Association of Local Government Engineering New Zealand Inc.)

Invercargill is the southern-most city in the world and lived up to its reputation as a friendly and welcoming city.

The conference organizing committee developed the theme "Dreams to Reality" based on the famous Burt Munro story.

By way of background, Burt Munro (1899-1978) was a motorcycle land-speed record holder of the 1960s. One of his dreams was to run his homebuilt 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle, dubbed the Munro Special, on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. He saved for years despite limited means to make the trip to the United States of America.

He finally made it on a shoestring budget in 1962. Munro was 63 at the time with a bad heart, yet he still managed to overcome numerous obstacles to set world records, even as a muffler was burning the flesh on his leg. In 1967, Munro coaxed his beloved streamlined Indian to 183.58 mph. That set a record in the category of "streamlined motorcycles under 1,000cc." To qualify, he made a one-way run of 190.07 mph, the fastest ever officially recorded speed on an Indian motorcycle. After 40 years Munro's world record speed of 183.58 mph still stands in 2007.

Munro's inspirational story was made into the movie The World's Fastest Indian in 2005. The movie, starring Anthony Hopkins and directed by Roger Donaldson, was met with favorable reviews. Many in the motorcycling community called The World's Fastest Indian the best motorcycle movie since the legendary documentary On Any Sunday made in the early 1970s.

INGENIUM Conference Organising Committee Chair Tom Greenwood astride an Indian motorcycle, with INGENIUM Otago/Southland Branch Chair Alan Ballinger. Entering the spirit of the "1950s and 1960s Night" event.

The conference also became a reality and was a dream to attend. The theme was very appropriate and all presenters related their content to this theme.

Keynote speakers included the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Jim Soorley; futurist Richard Neville; Peter Sheahan (a Generation Y guru); and Tim Mulholland, a General Practitioner, adventurer and expert presenter.

For me the highlight was the presentation by Peter Sheahan. In 2006 Peter was voted Australia's top speaker and his presentation was received with a huge amount of enthusiasm.

Peter has researched the trends in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions and can clearly show that the gap between the availability of human resources and vacancies will grow dramatically over the next five to ten years as baby boomers start to exit the workforce.

Peter went on to enlighten the audience on the style, aspirations and needs of Generation Y. For those of us who need to recruit from Generation Y it was a very timely wake-up call.

The mix of Technical Sessions and Site Tours was strategically interlaced with networking opportunities and social events.

INGENIUM Excellence Awards winners for the over $1 million category, Colin Cranfield of Harrison Grierson Consultants Ltd (centre left) and Alex Shaw of South Waikato District Council (centre right), flanked by outgoing INGENIUM President Richard Kirby (left) and INGENIUM CEO Ross Vincent (right). The winning project was the Tirau Sewage Treatment Plant Upgrade.

The Formal Conference dinner on Saturday evening was again sponsored by Fulton Hogan Ltd. The General Manager of Fulton Hogan Ltd, Mr Lindsay Crossen, was presented with the INGENIUM President's Award for 2007 in recognition of 17 years of continuous support for INGENIUM.

There were also awards made to the presenters of the best technical paper, the best technical presenter, and to two members who achieved sponsorship to attend senior management training.

The INGENIUM Engineering Excellence awards received 15 very commendable entries in three categories.

The INGENIUM Annual Conference is the single largest event on the INGENIUM calendar and will be held in the North Island's most eastern city, Gisborne, in 2008. Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun each day and the theme for 2008 is "First Light: Inspiring Innovation."

The 2007 Conference was an excellent example of turning a dream into a reality and certainly maintained INGENIUM's standing within the public works sector in New Zealand.

Ashley Harper can be reached at