Peter started his career with the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) after completing a DCE Civil Engineering at Monash University in 1977, later followed by a Graduate Diploma of Business Management at the Swinburne Institute of Technology in 1986
After working for MMBW, Peter went overseas and was employed over the phone by Bristol Engineers for civil works at Gatwick Airport. Peter then took the opportunity to travel around Europe before returning to work as a Project Engineer with Gas & Fuel Corporation of Victoria on the low, medium and high pressure distribution system.
Peter then moved into project managing the construction of transmission pipelines for Gas & Fuel. He worked on pipelines taking gas to Bendigo, Tatura, Kyabram, Ballan, Ballarat and Dromana.
Peter recalls that Gas & Fuel’s Pipelines Engineer Graham Witty sent him out on his first transmission pipeline in 1975 to work with Peter England on a 750 mm gas pipeline being built in Dandenong. Peter said “I walked into the site office and Peter England, with his feet up on the desk, said to me ‘So you’re the engineer that Witty has sent me to teach to take over my job.’ But I found Peter England was a very nice bloke and he looked after me.Article continues below…
“I always remember taking the minutes, with Tom Hoffman who was running the job for Newham’s relating his experiences as a World War II pilot and Peter England telling stories of his fire fighting experiences in London during the blitz.”
Val Fabien was on that job and Graham Tait was a surveyor for Newhams. Bernie Newcombe was the spread boss.
Peter also project managed the Yellingbo to Yarra Glen Section of the 750 mm outer ring main for Gas & Fuel. “This was a very interesting job through the beautiful Yarra Valley with about four open cut crossings of the Yarra River. Something that you would have to directionally drill these days,” Peter said.
Talking about the pipeline job highlights, Peter said “The Darwin Pipeline was a really great job as I was the Senior Pipeline Engineer and perhaps the only one in the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy that really knew anything about pipelines. I got a lot of help from people like John Barker and Peter England. I employed Peter England to come up and help me manage it. Merv Campbell and Phil Barker were also involved. It was a really interesting job. CMPS did the design and Pipetech helped me out with the regulatory functions.”
Peter recalled “Probably the hardest job I ever did was the Public Utilities Board Transmission Pipeline in Singapore where we started off with two years of design with David Vink and others, then three years of construction and litigation after that. So it went for a long time. I spent over five and a half years on a 70 km pipeline.”
McConnell Dowell was the contractor and had to work around the Island of Singapore in all sorts of conditions and regulations that, if flouted, could mean jail. Peter completed a large project in Thailand previous to this and was a pioneer for the Australian pipeline industry in South East Asia.
“When I got back from Singapore, they had built the Koonoomoo pipeline in the Murray Valley area in Victoria and I looked after all the branches coming off it. We put gas into all the little towns along the Murray. It was good as I could get home to my property in Porepunkah near Bright where I had a hazelnut orchard,” said Peter. Peter ended up being the largest hazelnut farmer in Victoria starting off with virgin land and building up to 4,000 trees. He recently sold the property and moved to coastal climes in northern New South Wales.
“After that, due to the Longford Plant gas explosion, I was employed as a construction manager by GPU/GasNet now APA Group, and we had to quickly build the South West pipeline to transport Otway Basin gas from Port Campbell to Lara. This was to ensure that Victoria had an alternate source of gas other than from the Esso-BHP Bass Strait fields. Tom Caroll, who is now with APA, was on that job, which was back in 1998-99,” Peter said.
“It was about that time that I went out on my own as a contractor and worked for National Australian Pipelines and later Delco with Keith Potter in Western Australia on the Kambalda to Esperance pipeline, Bruce McDonough was second in command on that job and did a terrific job on the survey and all other work.”
Also in Western Australia Peter worked as the construction manager on the 420 km Telfer gas pipeline and the 45 km and Nifty Copper mine gas pipeline for GasNet.
Peter’s last major pipeline was the Brooklyn to Lara duplication of the original pipeline built by Carter Johnson’s company in 1968. This duplication was built by AJ Lucas through the western rock plains, with trenching through basalt for most of the way.
“The emphasise on health and safety is so big these days that you spend so much time managing those aspects together with the environmental aspects.” Peter said “I think that is one of the biggest changes I have seen over the time I have been in the industry.”
Peter now works as a consultant and is presently building a new house on “a very steep block of land”. Peter and his partner Sarah have fostered a young girl for several years and have now officially adopted her. Peter says she is the joy of his life. She is just starting secondary school this year.
Peter has certainly had an interesting and varied career in the pipeline industry. He has always been one to stick to his guns and although making himself unpopular at times has proved himself a man of principle.