Sir Colin Maiden

Winner
2014

Sir Colin Maiden, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland, has made a long contribution to the energy sector both as a director and in the field of research.

He served as a director on the board of the New Zealand Refining Company for 16 years. He also spent 10 years on the board of Transpower and chaired the SOE board for seven years from 1997.

He chaired the New Zealand Synthetic Fuels Corporation from its formation in 1980, through the commissioning of the US$1.22 billion synthetic fuels plant at Motunui in 1985 and the eventual sale of the facilities by the Crown in 1990.

Energy News Editor Gavin Evans says Sir Colin’s longest-lasting contribution to the sector was probably in the area of research.

Sir Colin, a Rhodes scholar, spent much of his early career in defence research in North America. He returned in 1971 and was soon asked by the government of the day to lead New Zealand’s contribution to a science  cooperation initiative with the US.

That took the form of the New Zealand Energy Research and Development Committee, which was formed in 1974, and was followed by the Liquid Fuels Trust Board in 1978, which Sir Colin also chaired.

Evans says the development projects that flowed from the trust board’s recommendations introduced world-leading process technologies and construction techniques to the hundreds of New Zealand engineers that worked on them.

But the research effort that Sir Colin led also underpinned this country’s science and engineering capability during that period and produced a solid body of work that continues to be drawn on today.

Over 13 years the NZERDC contracted more than 460 pieces of research from the country’s universities and consultancies. That work resulted in more than 300 reports. The Liquid Fuels Trust Board, over nine years, would publish more than 400 reports.

Evans says the investment would be worth about $100 million in today’s dollars but has been worth immeasurably more to the country in terms of the knowledge gained, the careers started and the training provided.

The Editor's Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Sector is sponsored by MB Century.