Engineer behind major civil projects
A man who headed initial plans for the Kaimai Tunnel died before he could see it constructed. Lawrence Gullery reports.
John Pollock dedicated his working life to the construction of the Kaimai Tunnel.
The engineer wanted it to stand as a ‘‘tremendous national asset’’ for New Zealand when he began working on the project.
His full name was John Eric Curlett Pollock. He was born in Londonderry, North Ireland but arrived in New Zealand in 1951, where he handled several major national projects of the time.
He moved to Matamata and his first contact with the tunnel project was in 1965 when he was assigned to investigate its feasibility. When it was approved, he was appointed Engineer in Charge of the project.
The tunnel was constructed between 1969 and 1978 but unfortunately Pollock would not live to see it completed.
‘‘Kaimai Tunnel Engineer Dies Suddenly’’ is the headline of the lead story in the Monday, December 4, 1967 issue of the Matamata District Chronicle.
The story said Pollock died ‘‘suddenly at his home on Smith Street’’ the previous Saturday night. He was 46.
There were no details reported on the circumstances of his death but the story gave a detailed account of Pollock’s previous work history and his involvement with the Waikato community.
‘‘He was also resident engineer at Paeroa, his district covering the Thames Valley, Waihi, Coromandel, Whitianga and Hauraki Plains.’’
He found time to become involved in many community groups outside of his job for the Ministry of Works.
Pollock was a member of Mata- mata Rotary, Waikato Rose Society, Cambridge RSA, Cambridge Skating Club and Matamata Scout Committee. For many years he was also a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Royal Arch Chapter of Wairoa.
‘‘He had virtually dedicated himself to the construction of the Kaimai Tunnel, not only for his own satisfaction, but as a tremendous national asset in which he had the greatest confidence and belief,’’ the story reported.
In background notes printed with the story, it said Pollock was educated in England where he achieved the unusual qualification combination of a B.A. and a B.E. He was captain of the Royal Engineers during World War II and served in Italy, Burma and West Africa.
After the war he worked in Kuwait when the oil fields were being developed. He emigrated to New Zealand and settled at Tekapo in the South Island, where he was construction engineer on the hydro-electric dam there.
He worked on a similar scheme at Lake Hawea and then moved north to Wairoa.
Some years later Pollock was appointed construction engineer in charge of the lowering of the railway at Hamilton, Cobham Drive and ‘‘the new bridge of the Waikato River’’.
The story reported he was survived by his wife Jan, two daughters and a son.
The December 4, 1967, issue of the Matamata District Chronicle leads with a story about the death of John Pollock, instrumental in planning for the Kaimai Tunnel and serveral other public projects around New Zealand.