Winston Hiliau

Master of Engineering

After completing his Bachelor of Engineering and working in the industry for 20 years, Winston Hiliau didn’t see the point in returning to higher education for postgraduate study.

“It was not until I was in a mentoring role for Pacific students that I realised there were not many Pacific students in postgraduate studies in technology disciplines, especially engineering.”

Winston presented to year 12 and 13 secondary school students on a trip home for an academic conference in Tonga. When he asked the students if they had heard of civil engineering before, no-one raised their hand.

“I thought, this reminds me of myself. I was born and brought up here, and didn’t have a clue about civil engineering, but I ended up being good at it.”

Winston says since he has begun his Master of Engineering, many of his students are striving to get into postgraduate study, which is what motivates him.

“I just want to them that it is possible for someone outside the 'norm' to achieve whatever they want to achieve.”

Road to research

Winston’s research looks at the construction of roads in Tonga, examining the suitability of limestone material and exploring the use of aggregate.

“The roads in Tonga are full of potholes - some as big as a small car! I suspected it might have had to be something to do with the rock they were using," he says.

"I found that limestone aggregate was the only rock they were using, although there is limited research on it. When we tested the rock we found that it failed to meet New Zealand and Australian standard expectations, confirming indirect references made by geologists in the past. Newly-built roads were only lasting up to five years maximum, instead of the expected 15-20 years."

Winston hopes to provide better alternatives and solutions for road construction in Tonga with minimal environmental impact. A solution that uses a quarrying process and that doesn't impact the health of Tongan people may be something that Winston looks to for further research.

“There needs to be more Pacific people doing postgraduate study in engineering so we have a base to build from for future research.”