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Meet Mike Harkness


Hydrologist at Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Job description: 

My job as hydrologist involves two types of work. The first is out in the field where I help out with collecting environmental information and data about rainfall, river flow, lake levels and groundwater levels. The second part (which is the main part of my job) is in the office to analyse the data we have collected and help make decisions like how much water can be used for drinking water supply and how much needs to be kept in our rivers so that people can enjoy it and fish can live happily. I also do a lot of work investigating, modelling and monitoring flood events. 

Work background: 

I work in the Environmental Science Department which is made up of four teams that monitor many things such as hydrology, water quality, aquatic ecosystems, climate, air quality, wetlands and biodiversity. I am in the hydrology team which has 10 people in it and we monitor rainfall, river flows and groundwater levels at over 150 monitoring stations across the region.

Favourite part of job: 

I enjoy getting outside and interacting with the environment. A great part of the job is working with like-minded people who also care for the environment.

Least favourite part of job: 


What I am working on now: 

I am writing the annual hydrology monitoring report that summarises all the hydrological data collected through the past year and focuses on any major events that occurred such as storms, floods or even droughts.

A quick story about a job well done: 

Over the last year I have been working on building a flood forecasting model for the Hutt River. This computer model uses the rainfall data that has just occurred at rain gauges high in the Tararua Ranges and estimates what the river flow and level will be at Lower Hutt four to six hours later. This is a very useful tool in trying to predict if a major flood will occur and allows us extra time to prepare for it.

A (humorous) story about a job that went badly and what you learned: 

I once went to a farm in Otaki to measure groundwater level in a well and got surrounded by a pack of hungry cows! They were very curious and were giving me the evil eye. I had to make a run for safety, but luckily no-one saw it!


Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography from Victoria University in Wellington.

Interests outside work: 

Fishing, DIY, and spending time with my two young kids.

Mike is a hydrologist at the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Image: LEARNZ.