Tribute Hon. Member David Dash April 2021






Words delivered by Peter Tamsett

I expect most of you are aware that David Dash passed away on Saturday 7 August 2021 and I was asked by Jamie Egan to prepare this short video tribute. To put it briefly, David’s achievements have been enormous but time constraints mean that I can only briefly summarise the highlights and I thank all those who have provided material to help me.

Many of you won’t know me but I have worked with David with the DMR, RTA, Hyder Consulting and Arcadis at numerous locations throughout New South Wales since 1978. During this period our families have shared social activities such as weekend visits, camping, bushwalking, rogaining and all our children’s weddings.

David was a university cadet engineer with the DMR and after graduation he was posted progressively to DMR Works Offices at Bega, Windsor and Annandale.

David then took a position as a Structural Engineer in Vancouver Canada where he met his lifelong wife Willemina. On their return to Australia in 1970, David was appointed as a DMR Bridge Maintenance Engineer at Grafton and then Port Macquarie before being appointed as the Resident Engineer for construction of major bridges at Telegraph Point, Smithtown, Nymboida and Swan Creek at Grafton.

In 1977 David was transferred to the Broken Hill Divisional Office, then to Bega and then to the Blacktown office in 1983 where he was responsible for planning groundwork for future projects such as the M2, the extension of the F3 to Wahroonga and the Sydney Orbital together with supervision of widening projects on Pennant Hills Road, the Great Western Highway and Old Windsor Road.

In 1985, David replaced Arvo Tinni in Goulburn as the Divisional Engineer for Southern Region and in this role he was responsible for maintaining the Hume Highway while instituting a major upgrading and duplication effort.

In 1989 David was appointed as Manager Major Contracts at Newcastle where he established a group of Project Managers to deliver major works from conception through to contract construction. These works included projects on the F3 Freeway, the Newcastle Link Road and numerous other projects within Hunter Region and the Pacific Highway duplication up to the Macksville region.

In 1994 David was appointed to the position of General Manager of the Pavements and Geotechnical Branch, a position he held until his retirement from the RTA in 2003.

In this position he co-ordinated technical documentation and assessment of pavements and geotechnical aspects on all major contracts within New South Wales and he oversaw the development and progressive refinement of QA model specifications and drawings in those fields.

He led a strong team of geotechnical and pavement specialists who were also responsible for providing technical advice and industry training. One of David’s special interests was the refinement of low noise concrete surfacings. His geotechnical team provided responses to emergency situations such as landslips at Thredbo, Bulli Pass and the Waterfall Valley Way.

Throughout this period, David was also a dedicated member of the Austroads Pavement Research Group where his substantial contributions established him as a nationally acknowledged authority in all pavement types. He was the Project Manager for the AUSTROADS Pavement Rehabilitation Guide and he personally organised and managed the Accelerated Loading Facility (ALF) testing of concrete pavements near Goulburn in the late 1990s.

Following his retirement from the RTA, David became a Consultant with SMEC and worked for short periods in Vietnam and Khazakhstan on road projects. He then joined Hyder Consulting (which later became Arcadis) as a casual employee. During that time he was Pavement Design Lead for two M1 Pacific Highway Upgrades. He was a great source of knowledge to younger engineers in the organisation.

In the early 2000s, David contributed to an RTA recorded oral history of concrete pavements which included his following statement.

“The quality of construction is even more important than the design …. so vigilance right across the board, surveillance and independent testing are critical. The technology, both from the contractor and the RTA needs to be of the highest order and continual to ensure a product that performs.”

I believe that this statement epitomises David’s commitment to the highest possible quality standards in our infrastructure projects.

When David retired in 2003, Gavin Donald took over his role as Pavements Manager. In Gavin’s remarks to me he expressed admiration for David’s work especially in the development with Gavin and Geoff Youdale of the RTA Slope Risk Management Guidelines in the wake of the Thredbo Disaster.

Peter Carson has provided the following comments: David was a brilliant, singular and dedicated engineer whose impact on our industry is impossible to overstate. His tireless and abundant work on roads in Australia, technical specifications, test procedures, policy and culture made him one of, if not the most influential roads engineers in our history. Equally effective at both the detailed design, construction processes and broad policy setting there is hardly a major road in NSW he did not contribute to during his career which spanned over 50 years.”

With respect to David I always said “Dash by name, dash by nature”. Often when out bushwalking with our families, David would charge ahead as I am sure that he could not endure the slow speed of the young children. On one such occasion, we did catch up with him to find that he had lit a fire and had the billy on for a cup of tea.

David had a habit of asking you to do something without any advice of urgency. Five minutes later he would be standing behind you and asking if you had finished the task.
Car trips with David were like travelling with an encyclopaedia. David could identify all surrounding major geographic features as well as the history and pavement composition of individual sections of road.

David displayed a lot of nervous energy. To put it bluntly he was often like a cat on a hot tin roof. If David came too your desk for a conversation, he would often pick up an object while he was talking and fiddle with it. Paper clips would be bent to failure and pencils were susceptible to snapping.

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