Reunion renews tunnellers' sense of pride
Dave Bock remembers leaving for work at 6.30am and getting home at 9pm.
He remembers the remoteness, the frigid Southland weather, and drilling through hard rock.
Bock was one of the people responsible for constructing the second Manapouri tailrace tunnel, and his memories, along with those of 115 others, were shared at a reunion in Te Anau at the weekend.
Work on the tunnel began in 1997 and was completed in 2002.
Hailing from the United States, Bock was project manager for the tunnel.
The 10km by 10m project, which involved "literally" drilling under a mountain, was "challenging", he said.
The remoteness of the location and the long commute, via boat, to the work site were among some of the more significant challenges workers faced, he said.
"They were long days, hard days," he said.
Bock travelled from California to attend the reunion.
He and his wife Carol return to New Zealand every two years and often returned to Te Anau. "We always come to Te Anau for at least a week during our holidays . . . I take friends over [to the site] to show it to them," he said.
About 250 people were on site at any one time during construction, but the duration of the project meant between 500 and 600 people were involved. On Saturday, some of those travelled to West Arm and Deep Cove to see their former construction zone and look at how it had been revegetated. A formal dinner and speeches were held at the Te Anau Hotel and Villas that night.
Te Anau woman Beth Masser, who was environmental manager for Fletcher Dillingham Illbau, the contracting company that worked on the tunnel, said there had been a sense of pride among the workers and management at the reunion, with those who gathered reminiscing about the high and low lights of construction, engineering challenges and hurdles they had to overcome, as well as the successes.
The major success was that the project was completed without loss of life, she said.
The Southland Times