Company History

SMEC has operated for more than 40 years, although not in its current form. SMEC’s origins date back to the Snowy Mountains Scheme – Australia’s largest infrastructure project. The scheme was a massive multi-purpose project undertaken between 1949 and 1974, which involved hydropower, roads and bridges.

The objective of the Snowy Mountains Scheme was to divert the rivers from south-east Australia to the west to provide water for irrigation and generate peak load electricity for the states of New South Wales and Victoria. The A$820 million scheme became an iconic symbol of nation building. It was financed by the Australian Government and an A$100 million loan from the World Bank. The project brought together over 100,000 workers from 30 countries who constructed 16 major dams, seven power stations, one pumping station, 145km of tunnels, 80km of aqueducts and 2,000km of roads. Management of the scheme was overseen by the Snowy Mountains Authority (SMA).

In 1960, the Department of Foreign Affairs requested that SMA provide technical assistance for Australian Aid projects in Australia and overseas. International projects included geological investigations along the Mekong River, road construction in northern Thailand and hydropower developments in Cambodia and Malaysia. Among the Australian portfolio, early projects included Fairbairn Dam in Queensland, Ord Dam in Western Australia, the Eastern Suburbs Railway in Sydney and the Shoalhaven Water Project in New South Wales.

In 1967, the Snowy Mountains Scheme was rated one of civil engineering’s ‘Wonders of the Modern World’. As the scheme neared completion, the Australian Government passed an Act of Parliament which recognised SMEC as an agency of the Commonwealth Government. SMEC was established on 24 June 1970. Four years later, the Snowy Mountains Scheme was completed in 1974. During the 1970s, SMEC opened a number of offices including: Canberra, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney in 1972, Dhaka in 1978 and Jakarta in 1979. SMEC carried out projects for the first time in 22 new countries including: Indonesia and Vietnam in 1970, Ghana and Uganda in 1976 and Bangladesh in 1977.

In the 1980s, new projects were undertaken in a further 20 countries including: China (1982), Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia (1985) and Egypt (1988). In 1989, SMEC became a Commonwealth Government owned public company under the Companies Act and a new office was opened in Brisbane.

During the 1990s, SMEC was sold to staff as part of a government asset sale in 1993. In 1997, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognised the Snowy Mountains Scheme with a plaque: ‘International Historical Civil Engineering Landmark’, joining the Panama Canal and the Eiffel Tower. Nine more offices were opened in the 1990s, including: Delhi (1992), Hong Kong and Manila (1993), Lahore (1997) and Almaty (1999).

SMEC’s growth continued into the millennium with a number of new offices including: Accra and Townsville (2000), Addis Ababa (2001), Dar es Salaam and Kuwait City (2002), Doha (2004), Traralgon (2007), Adelaide, Geelong, Gold Coast, Ho Chi Minh City and Nairobi (2008), Ulaanbaatar (2010), Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast (2011) and Auckland and Perth in 2012. SMEC also commenced work on projects in a number of new countries, including: East Timor and Kazakhstan (2000), Kosovo (2001), Chile (2003), Marshall Islands and Taiwan (2005), Greenland (2007), Burkina Faso, Mali and Spain (2009) and Rwanda, and Sierra Leone (2013).

The new millennium brought about a number of acquisitions to complement SMEC’s existing profile including: Brisbane City Enterprises (2005), EGC Pakistan (2007), Dare Sutton Clark (2008), CEIS Pakistan (2009), Lean and Hayward (2011), GMC Global (2012) and Vela VKE (2012). SMEC also established subsidiaries including Perenia in 2008 (as a Joint Venture) to provide carbon services to clients looking to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Through organic growth and acquisition, SMEC is well positioned for further growth and success in the coming years.

The Spirit of SMEC (SMEC Book) is an Australian story that explores the life and times of the people who have made SMEC the company it is today. Seen through the eyes of SMEC’s multicultural heritage, the book is more than a history of events; it portrays the pioneering spirit of SMEC and its people, and explores the Company’s origins in the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme (Australia’s largest infrastructure project). 

Email to receive your complimentary copy of The Spirit of SMEC book.