Civil Engineering

Can an oil spill reveal the world’s inner workings? Read Joel’s account of studying an environmental disaster’s social, economic and cultural impact.

Joel Kavenga

“In high school I enjoyed maths and physics, and I realised engineering would be a good career for implementing those two subjects. I wanted to do civil engineering – specifically structural engineering – and there were really only two universities in New Zealand that did it to Engineers New Zealand accreditation standard. That was important to me.

“One of my projects this year was about the MV Rena and her grounding on Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty. Our challenge was to analyse the economic, cultural, environmental and  social impacts that the collision, spillage of oil and cargo, and resulting wreckage had and will have. The affected parameters included health of marine life, tourism/local business and Māori customs. Analysing these parameters allowed us to understand the problem more and gives us better knowledge to implement a more effective solution for the future.

“The most valuable thing I’m getting out of my studies is a broader knowledge of how the world works; in the first year you get a taste of nine engineering disciplines, so you get an appreciation for how everything works. Another highlight is being independent and learning about things I enjoy, plus meeting a range of people – it’s such a diverse community here.”