Grafton Bridge: Walter Ernest Bush

Walter Ernest Bush

Walter Ernest Bush City Engineer 1875-1950

W.E.Bush was born at Kingston, Surrey, England on 8 September 1875.

Bush had been Borough and Waterworks Engineer at Sudbury in Suffolk before being appointed City Engineer for Auckland in 1906.

As City Engineer, Bush recommended the choice of a ferro-concrete bridge over a metal bridge.

This was on the grounds that long term maintainence costs would be lower.

Following the Bankruptcy of the Ferro-Concrete Co of Australasia Ltd the task fell to him to complete the unfinished bridge helped by his assistant James Tyler.

For the duration of the build Bush moved into the house directly next to it on the Grafton side, now known as the Basley-Bush House.

He and his family worshipped at the baptist Tabernacle on Queen St.

The 1910 Grafton Bridge was probably the single biggest and most prestigious of the projects he was involved with but probably the most far reaching in its effect was the 1908 Map

In 1906 he proposed, “the desirability of having a Plan or Map prepared of the City, on which shall be shown not only all the lines and boundaries of streets, but also the position of all buildings, boundary fences, etc. as far as can be ascertained, the exact positions of all existing sewers, gas and water mains”

Used until 1919 it was the first extensive record of the physical characteristics of the city.

1908 Auckland Map

For over 20 years, Walter Ernest Bush played a leading part in modernising the physical infrastructure of Auckland.

This included several structures which remain vital parts of that infrastructure to this day; such as Grafton Bridge and the Waitakere Dams.

Bush was also involved in the design and creation of the 1913 Auckland Exhibition.

Bush was actively associated with the Rotary Club of Auckland and the YMCA. He staunchly advocated a school of engineering for Auckland University College and saw its establishment in 1927.

From 1927 Bush was one target of an economising campaign by two maverick councillors and by early 1929 he had resigned, announcing that he had been appointed engineer for the water supply and sewerage

department of the Brisbane City Council.

His departure in April 1929 was preceded by a series of gatherings at which warm tribute was paid to his work in New Zealand.

At a packed public meeting Bush was especially commended for the confidence he had engendered in the business community.

After his contract expired in 1934 he worked as a consulting engineer in private practice in Brisbane until his retirement.

Walter Ernest Bush died in Brisbane on 29 Jan 1950.

His wife Margaret Louisa Allwood and one child had predeceased him; he was survived by four children.

The Basley-Bush House 123 Grafton Road.

In the 19th century Grafton was considered a very desirable location with lovely views of the harbour.

123 Grafton Road is a fine example of a wooden gentleman’s residence.

Once typical of this area, it is one of the only suvivors of it’s type.

Grafton before the motorway

This house was built for George Basley probably around 1900.

G. W Basley (c. 1846-1919) initially worked for the Bank of New Zealand, then joined the Justice Department by 1882, serving for several years as deputy-registrar of the Supreme Court at Auckland. He was admitted to the Bar in 1891, and specialised in patent attorney work.

He was elected to the office of Mayor of Parnell in 1906 and retired from that position in 1909. He died in 1919, in Mt. Eden. During the construction of Grafton Bridge between 1908 & 1910 this house was the residence of the City Engineer Walter Ernest Bush while he oversaw completion of the project.

Several photographs of the construction of the bridge were taken from the house. Once in danger of demolition this house has been recently renovated.