Dr Victor Luca
I am a product of our community having been born in Whakatāne in 1961. I attended Saint Joseph’s primary and intermediate school and then Whakatāne High School between 1971 and 1979. I was one of Whakatane High's top graduates. I subsequently obtained a BSc, BSc(hons) and PhD in Chemistry from Victoria University of Wellington.
My Dad and uncles used to own and operate the Lyric Restaurant located in the middle of The Strand, Whakatāne from 1957 - 1993. When the Lyric closed in January of 1993 it had served the community for 36 years. In the days when The Strand used to be a hive of activity on Friday late nights it was a virtual icon.
During my time growing up in Whakatāne I had the privilege to experience and appreciate our pristine environment and enjoy what it had to offer. I relished in the excellent fishing and scuba diving, the splendid beaches and coastline, the beautiful New Zealand native bush and the culture.
Despite having moved to Wellington to attend University I used to spend summer holidays working in Whakatāne. My first holiday job at the end of 1980 was with the Whakatāne District Council performing tasks such fencing council land and scrub clearing on the Tarawera River. At the time the river was extremely polluted and was being choked by lupin that had to be removed. I spent two subsequent summers working as part of the Recreation Center team headed by Graham Thomas, the then council recreation officer. The team provided activities and entertainment for local children and teenagers during the holiday period. This was considered a valuable community service at the time. Here I am at one of the barbecues we held.
However, I had a calling and as was customary at the time for anyone wanting to pursue a science research career in our country I left Aotearoa to further my training overseas and broaden my horizons. I spent two years as a researcher at the University of Houston in the United States. I then moved to Australia where I conducted research in chemistry at two of Australia’s most prestigious research institutions.
From 1997 to 2009 I was a Research Leader at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization where I managed projects on radioactive waste management and the development of materials for decontaminating water, the production of medical radioisotopes, Li-ion batteries, and the production of hydrogen from water using the suns light.
I had the vision to see climate change coming a long way off and the conviction to steer my research toward the environment and energy areas. For instance, I was a pioneer in the development of energy storage technologies, more specifically, Li-ion batteries, at UNSW from the mid nineties.
In 2009 I moved to Argentina for family reasons and have been conducting and managing similar research at the Argentine Atomic Energy Commission in Buenos Aires.
I have worked in the public service for 30 years and for more than 20 of those years I have been managing science research projects in some of the southern hemisphere's most prestigious publicly-funded research institutions. I have had to make persuasive arguments to convince public-funding agencies to invest in my research and have been very successful. I have been awarded tens of millions of dollars worth of funding over the years.
My experiences have given me a unique perspective and emphasized the need for vision, careful planning and organization and the importance of good communications and honesty in public service and administration.
I have always believed that science knowledge is the best knowledge we have and during my career I have been driven by an obsession to use this knowledge to do good. The wellbeing of much of our community has in large measure been driven by the science and technological advancement that has been achieved by the sacrifices of like-minded people.
Like many scientists, I was driven to do what I did because it is an extremely rewarding, intellectually challenging and creative profession that also allows one to make a contribution to society at large. You do not do science for financial rewards!
Having had the privilege to enjoy our region as a young man, I have always had a hankering to return and make a contribution to the society that created me. I believe that I can achieve that objective by becoming mayor of the district that nurtured me as a young man.
I am married to Cristina and have two children Stefano and Agostina