Search starts in schools to name Waterview's mega-machine


The giant tunnel boring machine (tbm) for the NZ Transport Agency's Waterview tunnel project stretches almost the length of a rugby field, is heavier than five Airbus A380 jumbo jets, and will move enough spoil to fill 320 Olympic-sized swimming pools to create twin traffic tunnels in west Auckland. But the one thing a complex machine of this size is missing is a name.

“Tradition says that Waterview’s tbm is given a name before it starts work boring the tunnels later this year as a sign of good luck for the project,” says the NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker.  “It’s an engineering tradition carried on throughout the world for machinery of this size.”

That search for a suitable name starts today (Monday, 10 June) in the classrooms of Auckland’s primary schools, with pupils being asked to find a suitable one for the tbm. 

Mr Parker says tradition also says that the tbm, like ships, has to be named after a woman.

“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.”

Entries close on Friday 28 June and can be submitted via the Waterview Connection website at link). Four finalists will be announced a week later, on 5 July, after which the public at large will be invited to vote for the name they like best.

The prize for the successful pupil includes the chance to take part in the official launch of the Waterview tbm in late October and a model of a tbm.  There’s also an ipad and, for the winner’s school, $1000 cash. 

The Waterview Connection Project is New Zealand’s largest roading project at a cost of $1.4b.  It will connect the Northwestern (State Highway 16) and Southwestern (SH20) motorways and is part of the Government’s Western Ring Route national road of significance to provide a 47km-long motorway alternative to SH1.  The tunnels are due to open to traffic by early 2017, after fitting out with mechanical and electrical services.

The tbm is the 10th largest in the world with a cutting head diameter of over 14 metres.  It is due to arrive in pieces from China in mid-July. It will be assembled in the motorway trench at the southern end of the tunnel route between Owairaka and Waterview.

Mr Parker says it will be assembled facing north, ready to start its year-long journey north to Waterview in late October boring the first of the two 2.4km-long tunnels. It will then be turned to work its way back to Owairaka, where it is due to arrive by the end of 2015.

TBM quick facts

  • At 14.5m, the tbm’s shield or head diameter is the 10th largest ever built.  Its total length is 97m.
  • The 12 metre-long shield will arrive in NZ in 8 pieces, collectively weighing 2300 tonnes
  • The tbm will have a top speed of 80mm a minute, or 0.0005km/h
  • Approximately 800,000 cubic metres of earth will  be removed from both tunnels – enough to full 320 Olympic-sized swimming pools.