Trevor Ferris knows better than most what it means to come full circle. He is currently employed with SMEC as Technical Principal, Road Design and is actively involved in the expansion of the iconic Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, also known as Snowy 2.0.
However, Trevor’s first encounter with this nation-building project began when he was only four years old. His father, Ray Ferris, started working with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority (SMHEA, now SMEC) as a photographer in the early 1950s.
“I joined Dad in Cooma with my mother and sister Kerry in 1952 as a four-year-old.
“Dad’s job was to turn up anywhere on the works area to take photographic records of all phases of construction; from geological trenches, diamond drill bores and hard rock tunnelling through dam and power station construction to the finished development.
“In those days, getting to a remote site was difficult. It often required long-distance walking, riding a horse, skiing or getting a lift on whatever machine was close to the site.”
Trevor muses that much has changed since 1952, with advancements in technology meaning that today, photographic records can be captured on a mobile phone or a drone.
“Seeing first hand all these changes in engineering practices heralded in over the years has sometimes been daunting, but the experience has also been interesting and exciting.
“I was able to accompany Dad on assignments during weekends and school holidays. We visited a variety of construction sites including Guthega Dam and Power Station, Eucumbene Dam, Island Bend and Tumut Dams, Cabramurra and the Murray and Tumut Power Stations.
“It was different and exciting for a young boy, and it was also a great family experience. Our recreation consisted of skiing on some rather elementary ski fields with rope tows at Guthega, Smiggins Holes and Perisher, bushwalking in the mountains (now Kosciusko National Park) and picnicking with local family groups around the project locations.”
Trevor adds that school in Cooma North, where the Snowy Hydro Project is located, was a multi-cultural experience.
“I attended Cooma North Primary School from the first year it opened and went on to Monaro High School.
“A major proportion of each class was made up of refugees and immigrants from war-torn countries, and I learnt so much more than my lessons. Everyone got along great; were all just children in a classroom learning about each other and where we came from.”
When Trevor left school, he joined the Sydney Water Board as a survey draftsman.
“Following my stint at the Water Board, I joined an engineering consulting firm working on the design for the Darling Harbour road viaduct running from the harbour bridge to Pyrmont.
“From there, I made a career working on road design varying from motorways and interchanges through to urban developments and the occasional airport development or rail line. This lead me to SMEC; I joined the Canberra office in 1990 and have remained with them ever since.
“SMEC has had an exciting journey through the years, from SMHEA, to SMEC and now part of the Surbana Jurong Group.
“Throughout all the changes, what has always stood out is the positive can-do attitude of the people who work here.
First hand, I saw people’s positive attitude again and again, from the early days through my own parents’ positive approach and teamwork, right through to today, where I’ve been a part of the SMEC family for almost 30 years.
“I’ve always felt connected to the Snowy Mountains and took every opportunity to work on projects there. Thus far, my contribution has included Ski Tube access, parking areas and surface rail alignment, upgrading roads in the ski villages and finally Snowy 2.0.”
Trevor reminisces on a recent site visit to inspect Ravine Road for the Snowy 2.0 project, saying while much has changed, some things reassuringly stay the same.
“We stopped at Lobbs Hole near the top end of Talbingo Dam, an area I used to visit with my parents in the mid-1950s.
There’s no doubt that the Snowy Mountains Scheme has had a huge impact on me, my childhood and career journey. I realised that I had come full circle.”