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: First part: Start: In the 1970s Corps of Royal New Zealand Engineers had facilities at Linton surrounding the school of military engineering including a library and a basic museum. Engineer Corps Memorial Association was set up in 1969 by ex-WW2 engineers for the purpose of establishing the Corps Memorial Centre comprising a museum, a library and a technical information centre but not hard facility had been created. 2:57: Took a 99-year lease of a piece of land at Linton and in 1972 a church in the central Hawkes Bay at the settlement of Makatuku was offered to the army. Over a couple of years the church was dismantled and brought over to Linton. Opened in July 1974, no known as St Martin RNZE and Garrison Chapel and still used extensively. 122 years old. 5:27: Ex WW2 architect Dudley Roy designed the Corps Memorial Centre. Built the centre about 1978 and the construction was used as an engineer trade training facility. Fundraised for materials. Joe became treasurer of the Engineer Corps Memorial Association in 1978. Finished in 1981 and then opened in January 1982. 8:50: Also, during the late 1970s the Corps was involved in building the Army Museum at Waiouru. Stone laying ceremony in about 1976. Therefore, juggling projects and materials. 10:21: Engineer Corps Memorial Association declared defunct in late 1989. It was decided it had done its job and now the centre needed to be managed by the Corps Committee. 11:20: The Sapper’s Association established in the middle of 1960. Levin became the central reunion location after the establishment of Linton Camp as it was easy to be supported. The Sappers Association originally based out of Auckland as the Auckland Sapper’s Association with branches at Linton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. A sapper was essentially a digger of trenches and became a nickname for engineers. 14:25: Joe joined the Sapper’s Association in early 1970s. Became part of the executive as a Corresponding Officer which meant that he had to report on activities. Stayed on executive until 1984. They then formed a New Zealand Association rather than be an Auckland Association which then became the Sapper’s Association New Zealand Incorporated. In 1999 the base in Auckland moved to Palmerston North and Joe became president in 2000, until 2015. 19:50: In 1984-85 the Sapper’s Association produced a book called ‘Your Heritage, Your History.’ About the first 25 years of the Sapper’s Association. Association still in place. 24:50: Set up the RNZE Charitable Trust, needed to get the Corps history going and fund work in Linton. The Corps Memorial Centre at Linton had issues with the old lease and the roof failed and the contents urgently needed protecting. Setting up the Trust meant the contents became assets of the Trust rather than the Defence Force and could be protected easier. Joe administered the Trust and was a trustee and Chairperson of the Trust Board. Focused on re-establishing the museum and re-establishing the Corp Memorial Centre. Trust formed in May 2011 to raise funds for various projects. Raised $300 000 in the last few years. 34:39: Engineer Corps Memorial Centre. Roof failed about 12 years ago and the contents were removed and taken to another part of the camp and not stored appropriately. Some items were damaged and some were stolen. Joe and Clas Chamberlain would go to the store every week and load up their cars with the contents and bring it back to the display cabinets that had been installed. Took about 5 or 6 years to create displays for the museum. However, it enabled them to re-photograph everything and create a chronology to the display. Some of the photographs were enlarged for displays. About 80 to 85% complete. Some displays need redoing and some new topics need to be displayed. Centre opened every Thursday between 8:30am and 5pm. A number of volunteers cataloguing books and digitising photos. 43:10: The Trust have established a website: nzsappers.org.nz. Raised funds to keep scanning and digitising going and uploaded to website for public access. Website initially put in place in 2002 for the Corps centenary and has been built on and expanded. 45:53. RNZE Corps Committee in place since the 1950s with a focus on the serving sappers and their regimental engineer responsibilities. Joe serves on the Corps Committee as the Chair of the RNZE Charitable Trust. 48:30: RNZE Corps history. The official engineer histories were up to date until 1946 but there was nothing written from 1946 onwards. The Chief Engineer Dennis O’Brien in 1980, asked Joe to research the history and try to create the history. Asked a Waikato history student to work on a practical project. The student became a sergeant so he could be paid and stay at the camps. He went off on a tangent and produced a manuscript that was quite a dry documentary and was disappointing. From 1984 until 2011 a number of attempts were made to try to get a Corps history written but nothing happened. 53:15: One of the main objects of setting up the RNZE Charitable trust was to raise the funds to get the history written professionally. Back in 2001 for the Corps centenary they asked Ian McGibbon to write a brief history of the engineers as a table book. “Kiwi Sappers” was written but didn’t tell the full story, but it served its purpose for the centenary. All the material for it came it out of the museum. The Trust put a project plan together and Lottery Grants supplied a grant for the writing. Peter Cooke was keen to write it and appointed for a couple of years under contract to do the research. Budget of $220 000 which included an oral history project of about 60 interviews. Sadly a lot of engineers had since died. 57:03: A number of financial contributors for the history to be written. 59:25: Peter Cooke found that there was a major gap in the research in Archives New Zealand and Alexander Turnbull Library, so he travelled to the UK to the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham in Kent to Archives UK and found the required material. 2017 they had a manuscript and chased a publisher. No one particularly keen. Massey University Press thought it would only be useful for about 500 copies. Ian McGibbon and Glynn Harper recommended trying Exile Publishers based out of Dunedin. Came and visited the museum and chapel and they agreed to take it on. Wouldn’t print anything less that 1000 copies and the Trust had to take a third of them. Went back to Lottery Grants for publishing which was approved. Out of the 1000 copies there are only 5 left. Within the Corps they sold about 400. 1:03:50: The Mayor Grant Smith was impressed with the book and he did a mayoral launch in Palmerston North in May 2019. Got Ron Mark who was Minister of Defence at the time to do a parliamentary launch in Wellington in June 2019. Took from 1980 to 2019 to finally get the history finished. Second part: Start: Palmerston North RSA formed in May 1916. Originally based in the Soldier’s Club on the corner of Cuba Street and George Street, then it moved to 200 Broadway Avenue in about the mid 1960s until 2012. Then the whole organisation went into liquidation. All the records from 1916 onwards were sent to the rubbish dump and were lost. Joe joined the RSA in the mid 1970s and retained membership in various places right through to the present day. In 2013 there was support for rebuilding the Palmerston North RSA with Joe’s help. Other people became sick and Joe had to take over the rebuild himself. Lots of outstanding debts. Went back to scratch and rewrote the rules and reapply for everything which tool about 12 months. By the end of 2014 they were in a position to re-establish the organisation under the title of Palmerston North RSA (2014) inc. Gathered a small team and announced resumption of the RSA at ANZAC Day in 2015. 8:11: Officially reformed in July 2015 and was offered the back end of Club 175 in Cuba Street by the Distinction Hotel which had been their old gaming room. Converted that into the RSA office and there was a nice bar and function area. Ran it there for a couple of years but it didn’t feel right. 9:10: Suggested to look at the Cosmopolitan Club for a new site but that didn’t work. Looked at Palmerston North Squash Club or Bowls Palmerston North. Settled on Bowls Palmerston North where they are today. Have been there for about three years. Run administration out of an office there. Have club nights on a Wednesday night and other functions. 10:35: The Palmerston North RSA once had just under 5000 members (although only about 5% active). But that membership went in 2012 to some of the smaller regional places. Back up to about 220 at the moment. There is value particularly for veterans welfare. Joe been on the executive since 2014 and is currently vice-President and also looks after heritage. 12:40: Grant Smith the mayor wanted co-ordination of Defence heritage between Ohakea and Linton and provides advice to the City Council on military heritage matters. In Feb 2016 went to council with a proposal to establish the Defence Heritage Advisory Group which was agreed. Representation from Linton, Ohakea, Massey University, Heritage Team from the City Library, the Event Team from the Council, Maori Battalion Hall, Manawatu Chamber of Commerce, Manawatu Defence Hub, Ceda and also the CBD Business area, Poppy Places Trust. Meet monthly covering a range of topics such as: major events (ANZAC, Armistice) and a dynamic programme of activities including the monthly midday public presentations and evening public lectures three times a year. Also look after military memorials, trails and signage. 18:50: Centenary History Project is still working with Glynn Harper running it and Peter Meihana also taking over. Working on last three books including as ‘War at Sea’. 19:45: WHAM project: War History Heritage Art and Memory. Professor Kingsley Baird looks after and overseas some of the centenary projects. 21:20: District planning activities with Victoria Edwards and Dave Murphy and the City Council which Joe as the representative from Defence Heritage Advisory Group meets with four times a year. Any time they do a redevelopment project, military history must be considered. Also liaising with the Heritage Team at the Library. Also report to Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee. 23:50: Some projects are to get a military heritage into their geographic information system. It includes all of the Poppy Places material and the App sites around the city. Good for Council officials as they can access that information easily. 25:30: Memorial Park is an example of the military history becoming accessible and visually interesting. Plan to bring the poppy theme into the park as a specific WW2 memorial site. Creating a heroes trail for about 8 or 10 people from Palmerston North from WW2 who were instrumental to the history, such as Charlotte Warburton, Rangi Mawhete and Mark Briggs. 27:44: Concerns around Anzac Park that they may take the name off as then there is would be no specific WW1 memorial. 29:48: Anzac and Armistice Day Organising Committee formally formed in 2016 as a progression from the Advisory Group. Joe appointed as the Chair by the Mayor. The committee gets together planning Armistice Day in September for November. At the debrief for Armistice Day in late November the initial planning begins for Anzac Day, then fully begins in late February for Anzac in April, then debrief in May. 33:20: Problems with changes in Council with planning events. In recent times there have been about seven changes which is challenging. Also almost had to start from scratch with missing a year due to Covid 19. Joe has emceed Anzac and Armistice Day services for about five years. 37:00: Issues about who will succeed looking after the activities that Joe is involved in.