paul campbell

4 June 2019 Kate Palmer

One of New Zealand’s leading structural experts has been recognised for his significant contribution to the engineering industry and communities after the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes.

Engineering NZ has awarded Paul Campbell, WSP Opus National Technical Leader Structures, the highly coveted MacLean Citation, which acknowledges exceptional and distinguished service to the engineering profession.

Not all heroes wear capes

Following the devastating Christchurch earthquakes Paul provided technical and leadership advice to Christchurch City Council and Civil Defence. He was responsible for establishing safety procedures in the Red Zone, in conjunction with CERA and the Christchurch City Council, as his team carried out building safety assessments. Despite thousands of aftershocks, there were no further casualties in the city.

“Nothing prepares you for something like that. Responding to the Christchurch earthquake is something I never want to do again but would in a heartbeat. Our profession has the skills to help New Zealand when it needs it the most. In times of adversity it is amazing to be part of something where everyone is pulling in the same direction and genuinely wants to do what is right.”

Paul also provided guidance following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. Between the two events he’s seen the consequences of some of the most destructive natural disasters in recent New Zealand history.

Stewardship of the built environment

“As engineers and community members we have a moral duty to practice the craft and science to the best of our abilities. Further we must always try and do better. It’s all about people. Sure, the built environment might be beat up, but it’s the people that really matter. I’ve learnt that we must respect our built environment, learning from the lessons these events teach us and acting on them. That means we can’t be complacent or arrogant about the state of our knowledge, and need to continue to learn and improve.”

When it comes to international knowledge about seismic engineering, Paul says New Zealand is leading the way.

“We’ve pretty much been the laboratory for the rest of the world to learn from. That said, we don’t have all the answers, and probably never will. Papatūānuku (earth mother) and Rūaumoko (atua of earthquakes) will always find our vulnerabilities – we need to keep improving and learning lessons.”

This constant upgrading of knowledge is what Paul says makes it so exciting to work in a learning profession.

Image courtesy of Engineering NZ.