02 March 2015

William Hobbard Morton (1866–1923)

As City Engineer from 1904 until his death in 1923, William Morton had a hand in making modern Wellington.

He was born 26 July 1866 in Melbourne, Australia and started his engineering career in Victoria’s Public Works department between 1883 and 1888. Morton then worked under Melbourne’s City Surveyor until he moved to New Zealand to start work as Wellington’s City Engineer.

In Wellington, Morton spent his career working on municipal projects. Some of Morton’s notable achievements were the refinement of transport infrastructure such as tramways and roads, and developing waterworks systems which supplied the city and growing suburbs. Among these were the Upper Karori Dam, one of New Zealand’s earliest large scale concrete gravity dams, and the Morton Buttress Dam on the opposite side of the harbour at Wainuiomata which is named in his honour. 

Morton was an early member of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers (now IPENZ), established in 1914, and became one of its Council members and Honorary Secretary.

His funeral was described as impressive and the respect Wellingtonians had for him was demonstrated by the cortege being the longest seen in the city for many years. Wellington’s Mayor at the time described Morton as “a personal friend, wise counsellor and a fearless associate” (Evening Post, 27 June 1923).