Modest engineer powered changes
Jack James Chesterman. Engineer; born Hamilton, November 26, 1925; died Tauranga, January 13, 2008.
One of Jack Chesterman’s first engineering projects was to assemble a bicycle from bits scavenged at a Hamilton tip. By the time the boy-turnedengineer retired in 1986, he had been an influential figure in the continuum of public service engineers responsible for building multimillion dollar power projects that quadrupled New Zealand’s generating capacity.
Jack Chesterman, and the colleagues who worked with him, or for him, spent 37 years investigating, designing and constructing hydro dams. Ultimately, he became the state’s commissioner of works from 1981 until early in 1983, when he was appointed secretary of energy.
Chesterman made his name in the ministry’s power division, not that anyone turning on their toaster each morning would give him a moment’s thought.
In any case, that was the way he preferred it. He was modest to a fault.
The ministry constructed not only the nation’s major hydro-electricity stations and the dams that fed them, but geo-thermal stations and, to a lesser extent, coal-fired plants.
As a project boss on dam sites he had had to deal with unions, fractious land owners, dilatory suppliers and the occasional MP who could adopt a proprietorial interest about a project in their bailiwick. As commissioner, he was punctilious in his presentations.
Chesterman began his public service career as a lowly clerk at the Public Trust in Hamilton in 194.3
In 1967 he moved to Wellington, becoming chief construction engineer and in 1973 the power division’s chief engineer. He was responsible for advancing the New Plymouth, Huntly and Clyde dam projects, and ensured the Tongariro and Upper Waitaki projects were finished. In 1983, when he was appointed secretary of energy, he was involved in the planning for the reform of the whole of the energy industry.