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FURKERT, Frederick William, (1876 - 1949)

FW FurkertBorn in 1876, educated at Ross Public School, Hokitika High School, Wellington and Dunedin Technical Schools, and Otago University. Mr Furkert joined the Public Works Department as an engineering cadet in 1894 and, in 1905, he became resident engineer-in-chief of the province of Taranaki; in 1906 engineer-in-charge of construction, North Island Main Trunk Railway; and from 1908 to 1912, district engineer of the provinces of Otago and Southland. In 1912 he was appointed inspecting engineer to the Public Works Department, Wellington, and, in 1914 acted for several months as Engineer-in-Chief. He became assistant-engineer-in-chief in 1919 and Engineer-in-Chief and Under-Secretary of the Public Works Department, New Zealand, in 1920. From 1924 to 1932, he was also chairman of the Main Highways Board. In 1920 Mr Furkert became a member of New Zealand's first Air Board and also served as the Government's chief adviser on marine engineering.

Mr Furkert became an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1909, a member in 1921, and was elected to the Council in 1932. His membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers dated from 1913. He was a foundation member of the New Zealand Institution of Engineers, then the Society of Civil Engineers, at its constitution in 1914; he had long service on the Council and was elected vice-president in 1921 and president in 1923. He contributed several technical papers to the Institution, his interest in which was also displayed by his gift, not long before his death, of a sum of £500 to maintain an annual award for the best technical paper in a field relating to water. He was also keenly interested in the establishment of the Engineers Registration Board.

During World War I Mr Furkert volunteered for active service, and was instructed to take up the command of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company. The Government, however, refused to grant him leave of absence from the Department and he was placed in charge of the construction of the military camps at Trentham, Maymorn and Featherston.

He served overseas during World War II, however. Arriving in Fiji in mid 1941 with the rank of Colonel, to advise on breakwater construction for the flying-boat base, Mr Furkert remained in Fiji for two years, as New Zealand Government Agent for defence construction and purchasing.

During his last years he practically completed Early New Zealand Engineers, a history, largely biographical, of pioneer engineering in the early days of New Zealand.  In recognition of his outstanding service to the Dominion Mr Furkert was, in 1926, the recipient of the C.M.G.

He died on 26 September 1949.
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Extract from:
Newnham, W L,  “Learning Service Achievement”, New Zealand Institution of Engineers.  1971, pp 347-8

Refer also to:
Furkert, F W: “Early New Zealand Engineers”, A H & A W Reed. 1953.  pp 17 - 19;
Aspden, R J: “Furkert, Frederick William 1876 - 1949”  Essay F24, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography – Vol 4  (www.dnzb.govt.nz)