Engineering New Zealand’s Otago Heritage Chapter presents the Australasian Engineering Heritage Conference – The Future of the Past.

The theme – The Future of the Past– focuses on heritage engineering and technology that has endured, been redeveloped, undergone restoration or repurposing to claim a place in the future.

Pre-conference tour: 11-14 November 2021
Conference: 14-17 November 2021
Location: Dunedin


This conference was originally scheduled for November 2020. In light of the developing coronavirus situation, we have postponed the conference to November 2021. Registration will open in 2021.

Programme details and pricing may be subject to change.

Call for Papers 

Open until 5 April 2021

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Conference early bird (before 31 May 2021) $600 
Conference (after 31 May 2021) $700

Pre-conference tour 
Twin share $1,100 
Single $1,500 

Partners' Programme 
Partner Registration - Includes Conference opening and Conference dinner $150 
Partners' City and Peninsula day tour $160

What's in store?

Join us for an action-packed four days of engineering heritage, including two full days of inspiring sessions and keynote speakers, and a post-conference half-day tour of Dunedin’s most interesting engineering heritage sites.

Pre-conference tour

To whet your appetite ahead of the conference, experience a three-day pre-conference tour taking in the best of Southland’s engineering heritage across Queenstown, Milford Sound, the South Coast and Invercargill.

Find out more about the pre-conference tour

Download the full pre-conference tour programme


The Conference opens on the evening of 14 November at Toitū, Otago Settlers Museum, where delegates and partners will be welcomed by Mana Whenua.

Conference proceedings on 15 and 16 November will be based at the Dunedin Centre, part of the Dunedin Town Hall complex, located in the central city. It is within 10 to 15 minutes’ walk from the University, museums, the thriving warehouse precinct and a range of hotel and motel accommodation. 

See the full conference programme

Partners' programme

We've got a fascinating partners' programme lined up over the four days – so there's something for everyone.

We're delighted to announce our keynote speakers: 

Takerei Norton, a Ngāi Tahu historian talking about New Zealand’s pre-European transport infrastructure. 

Keith Paterson, Project Director for the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral which was severely damaged and closed by the 2011 earthquakes. 

Matthew Churchward, Curator for Museums Victoria and closely associated with the restoration of the Great Melbourne Telescope. 

Glen Hazelton, Director Organisational Development, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Find out more about our keynote speakers

The Conference Dinner will be held after the first day of proceedings, featuring Ian Taylor CNZM as the after dinner speaker. He has had a varied career as a rock musician, a children’s television presenter and an entrepreneur, and is the CEO of Animation Research Ltd which works at the cutting edge of sports television coverage 

A half-day guided Engineering Heritage tour of Dunedin is planned for the morning of 17 November, which includes the Gasworks Museum, harbour reclamation, the cable car and the warehouse precinct.

Pre-conference tour 

The pre-conference tour will start in Queenstown on 11 November with a twilight cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, the 108-year-old, Dunedin-built “Lady of the lake”. 

The route for the next two days starts in Queenstown, travelling to Milford Sound then looping round the south coast to Invercargill and through central Southland to Dunedin. Tour highlights will include engineering heritage sites ranging from a state of the art alpine highway avalanche protection programme for a heritage tourist highway, to a restored and working flax mill. In Invercargill there will be an opportunity to visit Bill Richardson Transport World, a comprehensive road transport collection. On the way to Dunedin, highlights will include a visit to the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre with its collection of de Havilland vintage aircraft. The tour will then travel via the Tuapeka punt over the Clutha river and arrive in Dunedin on the afternoon of Sunday 14 November.

Find out more about the pre-conference tour

Call for Papers

The conference organisers invite submissions of abstracts and will accept them along with formal conference papers and proposals for presentations until 5 April 2021.
Papers will be published in the Conference Proceedings. Presentations will be programmed into 30-minute increments including a 5-minute allowance for Q&A sessions. Papers selected for keynote presentations will be allotted longer time slots. 

Conference themes include (but are not limited to):

  • Transportation
  • Information Technology 
  • Industries 
  • Energy 
  • Agriculture
  • Water
  • Natural Hazards
  • Regulations
  • Resource Management
  • Recreation/Entertainment
  • Engineering of Heritage
  • People, businesses, communities
  • Outer Space
  • Hazards
  • Climate Change
  • Education

Submission guidelines

  • Provide sufficient evidence of alignment to the conference’s theme.
  • Include the paper’s title, your full name, and your position or affiliation (or a brief bio).
  • Don’t exceed 300 words.

Send inquiries, submissions and presentation ideas to 

This year's theme: Engineering in a 2020 world: the future of the past

The conference will focus on heritage engineering or technology which has endured, undergone development, restoration and repurposing to claim its place in the future. 

It’s a theme that aligns well with the story of the Otago region of New Zealand.

Situated at the southern end of New Zealand, Otago is bordered in the west by the Southern Alps and in the east by the Pacific Ocean. Abundant natural resources supported a population of Māori who were joined by small numbers of European sealers and whalers through the early 19th century. Scottish settlers founded the city of Dunedin in the 1840s, and in 1861, gold was discovered in Central Otago, fuelling a further influx of migrants, supercharging the region’s economy and creating a demand for engineering infrastructure which has not been seen since. Our distance from other manufacturing and industrial centres necessitated both local ingenuity and industrial capacity. 

Times change, but some things endure. Much of our past has a future. 

Three of New Zealand’s largest construction companies were incorporated in Dunedin – two of these well over 100 years ago. The entirely Dunedin-built steamer TSS Earnslaw still plies Lake Wakatipu after 106 years of service. A vast network of water races built to provide water for gold mining now carry the water which irrigates much of the Central Otago farmland, while Dunedin City has just finished the overhaul of a 151-year-old water supply dam.

Dunedin’s economy is increasingly underpinned by its considerable information and communications technology (ICT) resource and even this has strong links to the past. A 105-year-old engineering company has become a world leader in assembly line, meat processing and robotics technology. Once a staging post for exported wool and grain or imported goods, the city’s re-purposed warehouse precinct now houses companies creating real-time animations for globally televised sports events such as the America’s Cup or Masters golf, building fine instrumentation for the life sciences or creating genetics management software for farmers. 

The Future of the Past: This conference theme not only fits our region, it provides a platform for a wide range of papers across the full spectrum of engineering and technological endeavour in what promises to be an engaging and enlightening event.

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