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Brief History

[Originally published in the introduction to the June 1998 Membership List]

The inaugural meeting of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering under the chairmanship of Latham Andrews and following activity by an interim committee of Wilf Edwards, Doug Mackenzie and Robin Shepherd, was held in NZIE rooms at 8 p.m. on 8 April 1968. It attracted an audience of 40, most of whom were prominent in the science of earthquake engineering even then. Several were later to become Presidents of the Society – Andrews, Butcher, Glogau, Mackenzie and Shepherd – and others who now feature in Life Membership and Fellowship lists also assisted in the fledgling Society’s considerations. They adopted Rules and, elected a management committee; at its first meeting held immediately afterwards, Wilf Edwards was elected the first Chairman.

Some aspects of that interim committee’s report presented to the inaugural meeting make interesting reading now, twenty years later. The Society’s formation, its necessity and objectives, originated from the Third World Conference on Earthquake Engineering; it was promoted by an earthquake group of the Consulting Engineers’ Division of NZIE, supported by the Royal Society. The Earthquake & War Damage Commission made the first of its grants at this time. The Management Committee introduced the Bulletin and set the first subscription.

By 1 November 1968 membership totalled 158. The first overseas names were starting to appear on the list – distinguished names like Brady and Degenkolb, Housner and Steinbrugge, Hudson and Jennings. And shades of things to come? The Society’s first study group, on prestressed concrete under seismic loadings, was convened by Latham Andrews. Mr F D Tonkin was appointed first administrative secretary of the Society. A report on the Inangahua earthquake of 1968 was commissioned.

By the date of the first Annual General Meeting held 27 March 1969, there were 172 local and 11 overseas members plus one student. Twenty-eight members attended and there were 18 apologies – not a bad record. Otto Glogau was elected a Director of IAEE. Will Edwards retired as Chairman and was replaced by Robin Shepherd. Until that stage, a sub-committee had handled production of the Bulletin, but on 27 March 1969, Dr B H Falconer was appointed the first editor. And already there was research and study; on High Risk Earthquake Buildings, Instrumentation of Buildings, Earthquake Resistant Chimneys and Reconnaissance Teams.

The year 1971 was a landmark one for the growing Society. The first National Conference on Earthquake Engineering was held in Wellington with guest speakers Prof Housner, President IAEE, and Prof Rosenblueth, Coordinator of Research at the National University of Mexico. The registration fee was $35. Registrations totalled 130 (including a number from overseas) and 24 papers were presented. The E & WD Commission assisted in sponsoring the attendance of these speakers and was then again called on to assist when a meeting in October with NZIE showed a substantial deficit.

In those early years there were two separate bodies operating in the area of earthquake engineering: the NZ National Committee for Earthquake Engineering, a national body affiliated only to IAEE; and the NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering, a technical group of NZIE, also affiliated to IAEE. Merger discussions had carried on for some time and, in 1973 at a joint meeting of the two bodies, the terms were agreed. At the Annual General Meeting on 7 May 1973 the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering came into being and new rules were adopted. It had 253 local and 42 overseas members plus thirteen students. Latham Andrews was elected President of the Society.

Those early days set the pattern for the future Society: gradually increasing membership; a quarterly magazine with a deserved worldwide reputation put together by a succession of dedicated and able editors; continuing support from IPENZ and the E & WD Commission in financial and other fields; one or two further financial crises which hopefully are now a thing of the past; a hard working and innovative Management Committee, prepared to donate time and energy to the Society, and conveners and other members of study and related groups, giving the same; a number of successful international conferences; and, providing leadership and guidance, a series of top class Presidents.

The Management Committee trusts that this brief history will prove useful to all members. [Originally published in the introduction to the June 1998 Membership List]