Joe Hollander has over 40 years experience in building and construction, engineering, design, planning and development, operations, logistics and deployment management and governance, management and mentoring in New Zealand and overseas, within the NZ Defence Force (NZDF - Regular Army/Corps of Royal NZ Engineers - 1969-1991), Electricity Corporation of New Zealand (ECNZ - Marketing -1991-1993), Massey University (1993-2008), the wider building and construction sector and allied professional and community organisations. Interviewed by Leanne Hickman for the Ian Matheson City Archives.
Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
ABSTRACT: Start: Early education and interest in engineering such as water, drainage and building. Grew up in Christchurch and went to Christchurch Boys High School, Christchurch Polytechnic and at Canterbury University studying earth sciences and engineering along with a Diploma of Management. 1:45: In the late ‘60s Joe was conscripted for National Service, which interrupted formal education but was able to continue later. After the Second World War there was a process of Compulsory Military Training and that continued into the ’60 when it changed to National Service by ballot rather than compulsory. On the 21st birthday the marble went into a box and if you were chosen you were conscripted. After psychiatric tests and aptitude tests the military identified what path people would follow and which corps people would end up in. At that time, it was only Army. 4:30: Early military training. In high school they had School Cadets and many teachers were ex-WW2 veterans, which had an impact. In the first few weeks of the New Year were ‘barrack weeks’ in high school. At senior high school they could go through the ranks, Joe was a corporal then a sergeant. Was sent to a Warrant Officers course in Papakura which was an experience for a teenager. He returned as the training Warrant Officer for the school battalion. During school holidays could pick up an instructional job out at Burnham and was paid pocket money. 7:19: Before Joe left high school the Army was recruiting, and a number of the regular Army individuals tried to convince them to sign up for the regular forces. But Joe wanted to get into work experience. 8:32: After being conscripted, reported to King Edward Barracks in Christchurch. Would be away from home for about three months. The firm Joe had been working for had gone bust, so being conscripted was good timing. Although it interrupted education Joe was ready for adventure. Happy to join the Territorial force and serve for another three years. 9:50: Basic training in Burnham. Drill, field craft, weapon training. Initially put down as going into the Royal New Zealand Engineers as a storeman. Was put on an officer selection board and went away for a week to do other testing. Was then sent from Burnham to Waiouru. 11:36: Spent six weeks at Waiouru on an officer training course. Then went to Linton to the School of Military Engineering to do a basic combat engineering course. Learnt about bridging, demolition, mine warfare, watermanship. Back to Waiouru to finish officer training and then returned to home, now 1970. 12:54: Posted as the Troop Commander for the Dunedin Troop the 3 Independent Field Squadron, which was based out of Christchurch. Began working almost full-time in the headquarters as a Training Officer. Operating out of Addington Barracks. Interesting, varied work. 14:55: Engaged in a number of projects along with local authorities. For example, surveying a new drive for Cracroft House in Christchurch for the Guides Association as a community project. Lots of little practical projects and also running training weekends in Dunedin such as boating, watermanship of the Otago Peninsula or mine warfare in the paddocks. Fun because it was varied. 16:14: Eventually signed up for the Regular Force. A bit complicated because they weren’t transferring territorial commissions to regular commissions. Went back Waiouru on the Officer Cadet Training Unit and continued doing the Officer Training. 17:17: Went back to Linton to do more advanced Engineer training in specific subject areas. In his early 20s at that stage. Became a 4-star advanced Engineer instructor. Began looking after National Service in Linton. Worked between Waiouru and Linton doing courses. 20:00: In late ’71 Joe was recommissioned and then posted as Training Officer to Petone to 6 Independent Field Squadron. Army going through reorganisation at that time. A lot of the units were re-rolled into different functions such as Engineers changing from a construction focus to a field focus. At Petone until early 1973. Had a goat mascot named Truby King who ate everything. 23:15: Posted to 1 Construction Squadron in Papakura. The Squadron was being changed to a field squadron. Transitioned to a combat engineering role rather and a construction role. Training Officer and the Liaison and Reconnaissance Officer. Stayed with them until 1976. 24:30: Also required to continue training themselves. Training across five streams: basic all-arms training; corps stream – combat or military engineering; instructional stream, became more specialised; officer stream, including administration staff work; professional stream, opportunity where Joe did professional engineering through the US Army Corps of Engineers in State in Fort Belvoir which was just south of Washington at that time. Correspondence initially and then went over to do advanced course. Then went to Virginia Tech University which gave professional engineering status. Rare for someone outside of the States to end up with professional engineering registration. 30:42: 1976 ended up in command of 1 Field Squadron and then was posted to Wellington to Defence Headquarters. A bit of a shock to go from a field unit to a desk job in the Defence Works. Looked after the infrastructure and the camps and bases. Good opportunity to make connections with higher command. Projects such as new barrack construction and mechanical engineering projects such as a medium temperature hot water system throughout Waiouru. New facilities at Papakura Camp which was built on a swamp. During the three years there was able to see some project through to the end. 34:03: Spent several months on secondment with the Australian Army in 1978. In 1979 went on secondment with the Royal Engineers in Germany. Involved in NATO exercises. With the Australian Army, was stationed in Townsville with the 3 Taskforce – the Ready Reaction Force. Attached to a Field Squadron who were on exercise. Also, joined a Diving Survey Team from Innisfail up to Cairns. 36:45: On secondment with the Royal Engineers. Possibly first kiwi posted to a Divisional Headquarters. Based in Lubeka in the North Rhine Germany with the Second Armoured Division Headquarters in the Engineers Division. Had a major NATO exercise where they put 165 000 troops in the field. Joe was responsible for Engineer logistics. Several months preparation, ran the exercise for a month and then the aftermath such as engineer assessments of damage caused by the exercise. 40:25: Also attached to an Engineer Unit in Berlin for a time. Then the Swedish Engineers asked for assistance and went to the Swedish Engineers School. Also, the representative for the various Engineer Regiments for the UK. Often back in UK on training conferences. 41:15. First met the Queen through work and the Engineer Training Brigade who came to visit in 1979 in England. Also escorted the Queen in 1990 as her Escort Officer. 43:20: Had some difficulty coming home due to conflict in Rhodesia in 1979. All the RAF were tied up so took a long time to get back to New Zealand. 43:50: Posted to Army Headquarters into the Chief Engineers Office as Staff Officer – Engineers in Wellington. Responsible for doctrine and Engineer equipment. 45:30: Also supervised the rebuild of Scots Base in Antarctica, which was an Engineer project. Engineers had been there in 1956-7 for the building of Scots Base, and then again 30 years later to replace Scots Base. 47:20: Posted as Force Engineer – South East Asia to Singapore with the family. Officer commanding the New Zealand Works Services Unit. Tri-service so had Navy and Airforce people amongst the staff plus 300 locally employed civilians. Responsible for all the Defence assets on the northern end of Singapore. Also had some responsibility for Foreign Affairs/Embassy stuff from Hong Kong down to Indonesia. Sometimes lectured at the Malaysian School of Engineering. There for 2 and a bit years: 1982-84. 49:42: Posted to Takapuna to Land Force Headquarters in Byron Ave as a Senior Planner and the Engineer Staff Officer for the Force Engineer Southwest Pacific. Meant he had responsibility right across the Pacific for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief. Engaged with Pacific Island to discuss needs for infrastructure assistance. Did that for a couple of years. 51:03: Posted to Linton to the School of Engineering as Principal. Staff of 70 plus and 400 students including from the Pacific Islands. Nowadays about a third of the staff size. Did that for three years and then spent several months in Gisborne/East Coast during Cyclone Bola in 1988. 52:13: Posted to town to the Defence Headquarters that used to be in Main Street, Palmerston North. Support Command Headquarters. Became the Principal Staff Officer for Personnel and Logistics but also did operations and plans. 1990 became Commanding Officer of the Headquarters and Director of Army Land Works and Engineering. 54:03: While Joe was at Takapuna Land Force Headquarters, he commanded the contingent that went into Samoa in 1985, which was the first time since 1929 that New Zealand had gone into Samoa. A lot of aid work: built wells, rebuilt the hospital, sorted the cemeteries. Had a medical and dental team working in the villages. Also, a large Airforce contingent to give mobility. 56:50: Worked on a harbour project in Atiu in the Cook Island in ’74-75 for about five or six months building a harbour. Farmed pineapples but needed to get goods out to a ship. Blasted a harbour in the reef. 1:02:01: Opportunities to work with Airforce and Navy such as in Petone exercised with the HMNZS Alfort which was the Naval Volunteer Reserve Unit in Wellington and go across Cook Strait to the Queen Charlotte Sounds for exercises. 1:04:45: Building projects such as the Officer’s Mess in Waiouru. Projects could take a long time from conception to fruition. 1:05:19: In Singapore, New Zealand had responsibility for the Base. A few thousand people living there. Including the Naval Base. Responsible for refuelling and resupplying, power supply and water supply. A lot of that is gone now. 1:06:58: Cyclone Bola on the East Coast in March 1988. Joe got a call from Support Command Headquarters in Main Street to say that a Defence Coordinator would be needed to support Civil Defence on the East Coast. From memory about 1022 mm of rain in 36 hours. By Wednesday Joe was called to go with Ricki Lucas in a helicopter to Gisborne. Doors off chopper and had to flow ‘nap of the earth’, very close to the ground through gale winds. 1:11:37: Lived under his desk for about two weeks. Established a major logistic base in the Drill Hall for all of the supplies e.g. bottled water, nappies, sanitary pads, bread, blankets etc. The whole Drill Hall was packed. Loaded up supplied into trucks to get them to people on the coast when they could get through the roads. Civil Defence Headquarters across the road and developed a good operation established. Engineer required for roads, bridges, problems with industries like Watties, McWilliams, the vineyards, Sidenco, one of the big fisheries. They had no water, problems with silt. The main water pipe had been destroyed. Engineers established water solutions, such as getting water into milk cartons for distribution. Problems at Gisborne airport with damage. 1:17:15: Massive land slips/erosion and scars in the hills after the cyclone. Ground was like a moonscape with the grass wiped out, new water courses. 1:17:55: End of the disaster phase and Cook Country Council asked if the Engineers could help with opening up the roads and re-establishing the water supply into the water catchment area. In addition, activity in Wairoa as the bridge had gone. Reconstruction phase took about three months. Camped at Waikanae Beach. So were there from Day 3 right to the end of reconstruction. 1:20:25: While working in Wellington in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s for Defence Works there was a bit push for energy efficiency and sustainability. One of the hats that Joe wore as the Defence Energy Engineer responsible for energy efficiency in Defence. In 1990 Joe was invited as part of a UN delegation to go to the Soviet Union. Other delegates pulled out due to the Gulf War and ended up being Joe and four Americans. They spent four months in the Soviet Union. 1:22:27: Initial briefings in New York and then additional briefings in Moscow, in the Kremlin in their major energy control set up. Was attached to Institute for High Temperatures in Moscow. Went to Volgograd (previously Stalingrad). All energy based, looking at energy for such a large country. Including a huge hydro-station and thermal power stations and a nuclear power station on the outskirts of St Petersburg. 1:29:29: Engineer History. Took 39 years to get the history written and raise the $250 000 needed for the project. Covered all the oral history interviews and the research Peter Cooke did. Museum opened in January 1982. Sent Peter to the UK as there were gaps in New Zealand archives. He was able to fill those gaps. Book called ‘One by the spade’. 1:33:50: Lived/worked on just about all the New Zealand military bases. Lists almost all of them. 1:37:25: Starting at Linton, the only new thing was the water tower the rest was still from the 1942/3 mobilisation camp. A lot of the tents had been converted to huts. Had to run to the loo through sheep. Operation Kupe in the 1980s, return of battalion from Singapore and had to accommodate them at Linton with building work. Interesting to see development over a 50-year period. 1:40:00: Remembers nightlife in Palmerston North and some of the trouble they got up to.