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Source: University of Waikato

Erza Dunlop has been lucky to work on New Zealand’s largest concrete bridge. Bridge 20 is part of the huge Transmission Gully roading project near Porirua where he grew up. Now Erza, 22, (Ngāti Toa and Te Aupōuri iwi) is graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Hons) from the University of Waikato.

The bridge-building opportunity arose when he did his internships with CPB, an infrastructure and construction company. “I primarily focused on concrete inspections, checks, column rebar inspections and inspection of formwork.”

He also got to work in the earthwork and drainage team, inspecting drains before and after concrete pours, ensuring preparation work was complete and managing permits in different zones.

His capstone project, in his last year of study, was titled Engineering with Communities with a specific focus on indigenous communities. He focussed on identifying important Māori cultural values and translating them into measurable design indicators for engineers.

Erza attended Tawa College in years 9-11, then Scots College in Wellington for years 12 and 13. A talented rugby player, he played for the University Club when he moved to Hamilton to do his engineering degree and made the Waikato U19 representative team.

Eventually, Erza hopes to return to complete his masters and PhD. However, rugby is his primary focus, and he would eventually like to get into coaching. “With my degree, I am looking to use my capstone project as a means to enter into consultancy and help Māori protect their values with infrastructure projects.”

“Often the complexities of the design combined with the lack of technical understanding of Māori means their values can be lost within the design.”

Erza says it is exciting to be part of an intake of the first group of civil engineers to complete their degrees from year one. “The University encourages non-linear thinking and doesn’t constrain thinking in a certain way but rather derive solutions from a variety of perspectives and views.”

Erza has enjoyed his time on campus. “Moving away from home and making new friends was a major challenge, especially being an introvert by nature.”

“But involvement within a variety of activities held by the halls of residence and the University itself was key to making connections with people.

“Although your purpose for studying is primarily to obtain a degree, soaking up the experience and atmosphere of the University is key to not only enjoying your degree but from what I have found it’s the key that will help you complete your degree.”

He enjoyed the uniqueness of the University of Waikato campus. “There is a diverse group of students and the campus is open and spaced out. This added to the cool vibes and life of the University.”

He says the atmosphere and environment of the campus seemed ‘very free.’ “This culture and atmosphere all filtered on to the students, which made attending classes that much easier.

“My involvement in the University Club rugby team was also a key success for me in making friends and becoming comfortable in my new home. Continuing to do what I have always done, but in a new environment, meant I could call Hamilton my home away from home.”