Water for Survival

Now amalgamated with Oxfam NZ and operating as the Oxfam Water for Survival Programme, Water for Survival operated as a completely separate organisation growing out of ESR in 1984 when a group called Technical Aid Consultancy was established. The intention of this group was to provide engineering and other specialist help to New Zealand aid organisations working in third world countries. Although a good register of people with a wide range of skills was compiled, there was no call for the services offered and the organisation was wound up in 1988 with the assets being transferred to Water for Survival and most members choosing to support this new organisation.

When Water for Survival was first formed, Auckland ESR Chairman, Professor Jack Woodward became Chairman of Trustees, with Professor Alan Titchener (ESR President), Don Stuart (ESR Treasurer) and Jane Lenting also as Trustees and John La Roche as Secretary/Treasurer. Water for Survival had established a very high reputation amongst aid agencies and New Zealand Aid. During 15 years of operation to July 2003 when it amalgamated with Oxfam NZ, Water for Survival provided assistance to approximately 585,730 people in 17 of the world’s poorest countries. The total money sent away was NZ$3.056 million (including NZ Government subsidies). $1.14 million was raised in donations mostly from professional engineers, including a substantial proportion from ESR members. Most continue to support the Oxfam-Water for Survival programme.

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As a result of concerns about the human suffering in many parts of the world from landmines, Major John Armstrong of the NZ Army was invited to speak to ESR Auckland on 18 August 1994. Major Armstrong emphasised that mechanised methods of using bulldozers and rakes to clear landmines did not work, and with plastic mines metal detectors were of limited value. He felt that the greatest need was for a viable method for detecting landmines with minimal metal content. Such a method would save many lives and alleviate great suffering.

Lawrence Carter, Senior Lecturer in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Auckland took up the challenge and formed the Landmine Research Group, University of Auckland. With the help of research students, Lawrence produced a method for detecting plastic landmines based on microwave energy and thermal imaging.

Neil Mander, became Convener of the New Zealand Campaign Against Landmines (CALM), following on from CALM founder John Head. He represented New Zealand at a number of international conferences and meetings including the Ottawa signing in December 1997 of the Convention to Ban Landmines, and the Maputo Conference of States Parties in May 1999 where he was accredited as part of the NZ Government delegation. Later, he was a regular contributor to Landmine Monitor, the annual global review of progress to full implementation of the Convention.

Cluster Munitions

Cluster munitions are another dispersed and indiscriminate munition that has a long-lasting effect on innocent communities and people, usually being designed to be lethal rather than just maiming. In 2007 – 2008 there was a developing campaign among governments and NGOs to ban these weapons.

Groups in many countries joined in the Cluster Munitions Coalition and its campaign to ban cluster munitions. In New Zealand the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munitions Coalition (ANZCMC) represented 22 separate organisations, including Engineers for Social Responsibility.

The Convention to Ban Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1 August 2010 and at the date of writing has been ratified by 66 countries.

Transition Towns

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Susan Krumdieck at Canterbury University, and a member of the Canterbury ESR Committee, has been doing some excellent work on the project of transition of communities so they can be prepared for the future when oil supplies are greatly limited and expensive. Environmentally sustainable transport networks, production capabilities, and markets will replace cheap fossil fuel systems and provide new opportunities for local enterprise. Susan ran an active research workshop in March 2008 called Transitioning Oamaru. Go to the website to see the Transition Systems Engineering project and the results of this workshop.

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