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John Built

John Built. Image courtesy of the Howick Historical Society.

John William Built (1927-2013)

John Built was born in the small Welsh town of Mountain Ash. He did well at school and was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Judd School in Tonbridge, Kent.  However, as a result of the World War Two bombing of London, in 1940 John and his sister Joyce, along with 120 other children aged between four and 14 years old, were evacuated to the United States of America. John spent four years there thanks to the generous sponsorship of Noel and Marion Morss of Needham, Massachusetts. 

Returning to United Kingdom at the age of 17, he joined the Army Officer Cadet Training Unit learning about building bridges, as well as blowing them up, before completing a Bachelor of Science in engineering at London University and becoming a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

In 1955 John decided to immigrate to Canada. Travelling via New Zealand on board the RMS Rangitoto,John met Dawn Garner from Palmerston North. John never made it as far as Canada, and he and Dawn were married in 1957.

In New Zealand John had an interesting and productive career in the Ministry of Works and Development (MOWD). From 1959 he was involved in building the Ellerslie to Symonds Street section of Auckland’s Southern Motorway. A key part of this was the Newmarket Viaduct constructed between 1962 and 1966. At the time it was the largest prestressed concrete bridge built by the MOWD. John was partially responsible for its design and supervising construction. It was a significant achievement and a great source of personal pride for John. In retirement he often took visitors to view inside the bridge’s box sections.

Later, as Auckland’s Resident Engineer Southern he was involved in the Khyber Pass Motorway Bridge, Mangere Bridge and the building of the Otahuhu Gas Turbine Power Station. Other projects included the Drury to Bombay Motorway, Mangere Airport extensions and the Mangere to Queenstown Road motorway. He was responsible for the development of ten major secondary school sites around Auckland and for up-grading many state highways. After many years as Resident Engineer Southern, he then became the District Highways Engineer for Auckland and Northland.

Apart from his continuing work on major civil engineering projects, John had an interest in landscape design, putting this into practice on the Southern Motorway. He also had an important role in the development of an old disused MOWD quarry at the base of Mount Eden into Eden Gardens.

As a committee member of the Howick and Districts Historical Society for many years, John did a great deal of work on their buildings, making items, and donating equipment. John also gave his time to many other local organisations. These included Pakuranga Rugby Club, the Howick and Auckland Kindergarten Associations, Mellons Bay School Board, the Parents Association of St Kentergern College and the Panmure Squash Club where he was awarded a life membership. For over 40 years John was an active member of Howick’s Rotary Club and in 1999 he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship for services to the community. 

John Built died on 18 February 2013.

By John La Roche

‘John Built, 1927-2013,’ Engineering Dimension, Iss.126 (June 2013), p.8

John W. Built, ‘Newmarket Viaduct,’ New Zealand Engineering, Vol.20:12 (December 1965)   

Mike Lancaster, ‘Obituary,’ unpublished manuscript, Auckland, 2013

Judy Wilson, ‘Members Profile John Built,’ Howick and Districts Historical Society Newsletter (November 2008)