John Hare

Citation on the award of Life Membership, April 2021

John Hare is one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent structural engineers, making an enormous contribution to earthquake engineering through project leadership, and through his ongoing commitment to the betterment of our profession and industry.

John grew up in rural Manawatu, and studied Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury. He began his career as a consultant structural engineer in 1985 in New Zealand, before spending time working in the UK in the late 1980s. Returning to New Zealand, John took up a leadership role in Holmes Consulting’s Auckland office, before moving to the West Coast of the United States to establish a Holmes office in San Francisco. In 2006, John moved back and settled in Christchurch—which he now calls home.

John’s career has seen him take on a variety of design and leadership roles. He has carved out a distinct expertise in the evaluation, management, seismic improvement, and refurbishment of existing buildings, particularly in Christchurch. Early in his career, John worked on several buildings in The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, and through the mid-1990s, he led the restoration and redevelopment of the Old Government Buildings adjacent to Cathedral Square. This building was virtually undamaged during the Canterbury earthquakes.

John also led a programme of strengthening work on the Christ Church Cathedral, balancing the need to create a resilient structure with maintaining the heritage character that makes the building so special. While the Cathedral suffered considerable damage through the earthquakes that struck Christchurch, the fact that anything remained standing, and the structure can be rebuilt, owes much to the work of John and his team. John is still involved with this incredible building, and he is currently assisting with the Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Project.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, surrounded by a hard-working team, John displayed the importance of calm guidance and trusted expert leadership. John really listens—he offers advice and counsel firmly founded on competence, skill and know-how—moderated by practicality, sensibility, compassion and empathy. He also has the rare ability to distil complex challenges and concepts into simple terms, and there are a great many engineers, young and old, who continue to appreciate his calm, rational and intelligent approach. He is widely respected, but he is also very well liked.

Following the Canterbury earthquakes, John was seconded as Principal Engineering Adviser, first to Civil Defence and subsequently to the Canterbury Earthquakes Recovery Authority (CERA). John was also SESOC President during this time. He took a lead role in providing advice on building safety and the evaluation of damaged buildings, and chaired the Commercial Group of Engineering Advisory Group to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). John sat on the Steering Group for the development of the latest set of Guidelines for the Earthquake Assessment of Existing Buildings, and he is a QuakeCoRE Board Member.

John also sits on the Ministry of Education (MoE) Engineering Strategy Group, established in 2012, and has played an important role in the development of the Structural and Geotechnical Requirements for Designing Schools in New Zealand. This holistic and collaborative design framework was in response to the MoE’s relatively unique circumstance of holding one of the largest property portfolios in New Zealand, mainly held in perpetual ownership. However, what was produced is a collaborative roadmap for sensible, holistic, resilient design in any context, schools or otherwise.

In December 2017, John was appointed by MBIE to the expert panel for the investigation of the performance of Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake, and also assisted the Wellington City Council with the Targeted Damage Evaluation procedures following this earthquake.

John has also provided important thought leadership in other key areas, notably unreinforced masonry solutions for provincial towns—a process which took him back to his central North Island roots. He has also been at the forefront of the discussion and challenge around the way the industry approaches seismic risk, and the sorts of outcomes we want to achieve. John currently sits on the MBIE Seismic Risk Working Group, a recently-formed group tasked with guiding preparations for the way in which we might use and apply the outputs of the largest coordinated effort on our underlying seismic hazard models in over two decades—a project GNS Science is leading.

At the same time as serving in these leadership roles, John has continued to inject his passion, creativity, and innovation into an impressive portfolio of projects. Continuing a longstanding involvement with The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora and Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, he has played an ongoing role in the award-wining Arts Centre Redevelopment project. He has also been involved with the recently completed rehabilitation and strengthening of the Christchurch Town Hall. All these commitments sit alongside his job as Chief Executive of Holmes Group, with more than 500 people across four Holmes subsidiaries (Holmes Consulting, Holmes Fire, Holmes Solutions, and Holmes Structures), located across New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, and the USA.

John’s achievements and contributions have achieved widespread recognition. He’s a Fellow of both Engineering New Zealand and NZSEE, and a Life Member of SESOC. In 2019, John was awarded the SESOC President’s Award. We admire him for his intellect, know-how and strong work ethic, and we celebrate him as a role model—always conducting himself in a way that he, his family, and his colleagues can be very proud of.

It is fitting that, on the year of the tenth anniversary of the Canterbury earthquakes, we are here in Christchurch celebrating John’s awarding of a Life Membership of the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering. Thank you, John.