Kids get chance to name tunnel munch machine

By Mathew Dearnaley

The Waterview machine in China before being disassembled. It is due here next month. Photo / Supplied
The Waterview machine in China before being disassembled. It is due here next month. Photo / Supplied

Dora the Bora drilled a sewage outfall for Christchurch, but now it is up to Auckland's schoolchildren to name a far larger burrowing machine for the Waterview motorway tunnels.

The $54 million machine will spend two years drilling a parallel pair of tunnels 2.4 kilometres each way between Owairaka and Waterview as the centrepiece of the $1.4 billion motorway project.

It will arrive in parts from China next month.

But first it needs a name for good luck, which is where the children of Auckland come in.

That has spurred the Transport Agency to sponsor a competition between now and the end of the month in primary classrooms around the region, with the lure of prizes for both the winning pupil and his or her school.

"Tradition says that Waterview's tunnel boring machine is given a name before it starts work - as a sign of good luck for the project," said northern region highways manager Tommy Parker.

He understood the same tradition, possibly inherited from Italian tunnellers such as those who came here in the 1960s for the Tongariro hydro power project, also dictated that boring machines - like ships - had to be named after women.

"Waterview is going to make a huge difference to travel in Auckland and we'd like children to come up with suggestions that recognise a woman from Auckland's past whose big contribution to the city in the fields of heritage, the community, nature, culture, transportation or engineering continues to this day."

Project officials and school principals alike were cagey yesterday about suggesting names to the Herald, keen to leave the field clear for youngsters' imagination. The prizes at stake include an iPad, a model of the tunnelling machine and a chance to take part in a launch ceremony for the winner, and $1000 for his or her school.

But two big machines used to complete road tunnels to Brisbane's airport last year were dubbed Roxy and Sandy, and the largest ever built has arrived in Seattle from Japan with a 17.45m diameter ground-gobbling head under the name of Bertha - after the city's first female mayor.

Waterview's machine will be 90m long, with a 14.46m head, and will be re-assembled over several months in a deep trench already dug in Owairaka's Alan Wood Reserve before heading north in October.

It has been built in China by German manufacturer Herrenknecht which supplied a small one for a Christchurch sewer outfall in 2008.

Ground-breaking monsters

* Bertha, world's largest tunnel boring machine with a 17.45m head due to start work soon near Seattle. Named after city's first female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes, and also arguably after a Grateful Dead song.
* Roxy and Sandy - twin machines with 12.45m heads, completed Brisbane's east-west airport link last year.
* Thelma and Louise - two machines which dug Los Angeles subway tunnels
* Dora the Bora - dug Christchurch ocean sewage outfall.
* Waterview ground-eater, 14.46m head, yet to be named.

To enter competition

nzta.govt.nz/waterviewconnection

- NZ Herald

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