Help needed to get power plant run­ning

Central Leader - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABA­DIA

A lot of people spend time in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries be­cause they want to help those less for­tu­nate than them­selves.

That’s cer­tainly the case for Jack Wood­ward but what he achieved was any­thing but the norm.

The en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor moved to Pa­pua New Guinea with his fam­ily in 1972.

He’d taught in Can­ter­bury and Ade­laide uni­ver­si­ties but was look­ing for a new chal­lenge.

He spent seven years as the head of the newly es­tab­lished elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing depart­ment at the Pa­pua New Guinea Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in Lae, the sec­ond largest city in the coun­try.

His stu­dents were the first from the vil­lages and set­tle­ments who had grad­u­ated from high school.

About 90 per cent didn’t have elec­tric­ity, he says.

Wood­ward and some of his col­leagues were keen to change that.

In 1975 he helped build a small hy­dro­elec­tric­ity plant in the moun­tain­ous vil­lage of Bain­doang.

Then Wood­ward planned and su­per­vised the con­struc­tion of a an­other plant at the vil­lage of Faseu, in the Morobe Prov­ince be­tween 2002 and 2005.

By then he was re­tired and liv­ing in Auck­land, but he made sev­eral trips back to Pa­pua New Guinea dur­ing the project.

When lights fi­nally went on in Faseu in De­cem­ber 2005 it was very sig­nif­i­cant, he says.

‘‘It gave the vil­lagers light and the abil­ity to use power tools for con­struc­tion. Other­wise all the work they did was man­ual,’’ Wood­ward says.

It worked well un­til Au­gust 2007 when se­vere flood­ing dam­aged the plant and it’s been out of ac­tion ever since.

Wood­ward, 87, is a mem­ber of the Friends of Faseu group which is rais­ing money to have the plant re­paired at a cost of around $25,000.

Build­ing it in the first place was quite a feat, he says.

Ac­cess to the vil­lage is limited so many ma­te­ri­als were flown to a nearby airstrip and car­ried the rest of the way. Some were shipped then driven be­fore be­ing car­ried the last six kilo­me­tres.

The im­por­tance of what they were do­ing was made clear from the be­gin­ning.

On the first con­struc­tion trip Wood­ward was chat­ting to the vil­lage leader when an old lady ap­proached.

‘‘She said that when she’d gone into the meet­ing house and seen the con­crete and ce­ment she cried be­cause they’d been promised so much by ev­ery­body and noth­ing had ever hap­pened.

‘‘It was very mov­ing but I felt a ter­ri­ble weight of ex­pec­ta­tion sit­ting on my shoul­ders as well,’’ he says.

Hear­ing that the plant had been de­stroyed less than two years later was dev­as­tat­ing, he says.

‘‘It was a tremen­dous amount of work. People re­ally prized the plant and what it did for the vil­lage.’’

Col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort: Jack Wood­ward with vil­lagers who vol­un­teered to help cre­ate a hy­dro­elec­tric­ity plant in Faseu, Pa­pua New Guinea.

PHOTO: KA­RINA ABA­DIA

Sup­port needed: Ep­som res­i­dent Jack Wood­ward is fundrais­ing to re­pair a hy­dro­elec­tric­ity plant he helped build in Papa New Guinea.

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