David Hegarty

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In this interview we pay tribute to an outstanding local named David Hegarty, who passed away recently. We talk to his wife Lorraine, who describes his working life  as Armidale’s town engineer.

> When and how did you and David first meet?

David and I met in 1962 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church Fellowship in Newcastle – it was love at first sight.

> When and why did you move to Armidale?

David moved to Armidale around two years after we met to take up the position of Assistant Engineer. We were married 6 months after that in Stockton, and I joined David in Armidale.

> Tell us about your family …

In 1970 our son David Gould was born and in 1973 our daughter Fleur Emma was born. Both of them have been the joy of our lives. Fleur has given us three beautiful grandchildren: Nicholas (6), Charlotte (4) and Olivia (14 months). David loved being both a father and then a grandfather.

> Describe David’s remarkable career with our local Council …

David began his engineering career with BHP in Newcastle on 20 February 1956 and commenced duties as Assistant Engineer with Armidale City Council on 16 July 1962.
He was promoted to the position of Deputy City Engineer on the 6th August 1968, and on the 17th January 1972 was appointed as City Engineer. David also held the concurrent position of Chief Town Planner from January 1972 to September 1976 and again between February 1985 and June 1992.
David left the Council on the 20th January 1995 after thirty years of service, with twenty three years as City Engineer.
After leaving Armidale, David consulted and worked part-time at Bellingen Shire Council for another 10 years. He retired on 20 February 2006, 50 years to the day after he began his engineering career with BHP.
As City Engineer, David was responsible for the development and operation of the city’s infrastructure services. This included the city’s roads and drainage, parks and sporting fields, water supply, sewerage and for some of that time, town planning.

> What are the highlights of his career?

  • Construction of Madgwick Avenue as the second access road to the University.
  • Upgrading of the numerous creek crossings of Dumaresq Creek including Donnelley St. and Markham St. bridges and increasing the capacity of low level crossings to provide either flood free or flood reduced crossings throughout the city.
  • Kerbing and sealing of local roads, including the development of inner lanes to provide the urban environment of Armidale that is today.
  • Construction of the Armidale Aquatic Centre, at its time, one of the best swimming centres in the state.
  • Construction of the Armidale Mall in 1974 (the second mall in Australia), and its redevelopment in 1988.
  • Development of the Arboretum and Dumaresq Creeklands recreation areas, including the John Failes cycleway linking the City and University and improvements to Harris Park and Wicklow Oval.
  • Upgrading of the city’s water supply to provide clean filtered water with new pumping stations, reservoirs and water mains to supply adequate water pressure and flow for consumers. Armidale’s high quality and reliable water supply was the envy of many other centres.
  • Upgrading of the sewerage system to provide for population growth, reduce sewage overflows and improve the environmental quality of treated effluent.
  • Introduction of a new Armidale Planning Scheme, including the preservation of the tree line on the northern and southern skyline of the city.
Photo by Kate Black

Andreas' sculpture 'The Citizens'

David’s work is used on a daily basis by the Armidale community, who have no idea of the work required to construct and operate the infrastructure at a reasonable cost.
David was an expert at doing things for low cost and requiring that everything looked good. His insistence that aesthetics be considered in all design and construction work has paid off in the appearance of the city’s infrastructure at the time. Examples I can recall include the footbridge in Dangar St., the rock lining of Dumaresq Creek and the alignment of every section of kerb and gutter constructed under his control.
David was very innovative and at the leading edge of local government engineering expertise. He was a leader in managing algal blooms in Malpas Dam and in recycling of urban road pavements at half the cost of conventional reconstruction. He did considerable investigation work on the heating of the aquatic centre to make it more usable, using the heat in nearby sewage mains. David’s work in the 1970s on heat exchangers was pioneering. We now take this for granted with our domestic heat pump heaters and hot water services.
David was a member of the Local Government Engineers Association and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia for over forty years. He was also a founding member of Engineers Australia’s former National Committee on Local Government Engineering.

> What awards did David receive during his career?

David’s service to the engineering profession and the community was formally recognised in two areas.
Firstly, the award of a Public Service Medal on 12 June 1995. The Public Service Medal recognises outstanding service by employees of Australian, state and local governments. The public Service Medal is engraved “For Outstanding Service”, which can include:

  • “service excellence to the public, or to external or internal clients
  • innovation in program, project or policy development
  • leadership, including as a member of a team
  • the achievement of more efficient processes, improved productivity or better service delivery”.

David Hegarty is a perfect example of someone who provided outstanding service to the community. He would score 100% in each of the outstanding service criteria.
And secondly, as Armidale City Engineer, David William Gould Hegarty PSM was recognised by the Armidale Dumaresq Council with the name of Donnelley St. Bridge the ‘DWG Hegarty’ Bridge on 7 November 2008 by Mayor Peter Ducat. The naming ceremony was attended by over 80 people, including five previous Mayors of the city and former staff members.
The ‘DWG Hegarty’ Bridge was constructed in 1973 under David’s directorship.
It is a critical piece of Armidale’s infrastructure, as it provides direct all weather access between the northern half of the city and the city’s major employer, the University of New England.
In naming the bridge, Mayor Peter Ducat said, “In these positions, David had made an outstanding contribution to effective strategic planning and control, town and environmental planning, traffic and infrastructure management, sustainable development policies, wastewater management, development of a highly reliable water supply, energy management and sustainability, environmental amenity, recreational development and occupational health and safety. David displayed outstanding commitment and loyalty to Council and his responsibilities for more than three decades.”
The Mayor’s words are a perfect summary of David’s wide contribution to his engineering profession and his beloved Armidale. David was a great engineer, a great boss and a great person. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

> Thank you Lorraine for sharing David’s story with our readers.

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