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Published: 2007-12-11 00:00:00

He’s not one for the limelight, but Environment Waikato staff member Jim Price was thrust firmly into it at a recent New Zealand Hydrological Society (NZHS) conference in Rotorua.

After 46 years of “unstinting service” to field hydrology, Jim was awarded the society’s prestigious medal for achievement in operational hydrology.

Jim is Environment Waikato’s environmental monitoring manager, and runs the team that collects data on the region’s rivers, lakes and streams at Environment Waikato. Recently he has helped develop the council’s electronic mapping and spatial analysis tools, which assist with the management and protection of waterways and natural resources.
A New Zealand Hydrological Society citation describes Jim as “the perennial field hydrologist, vastly experienced and ever patient with the newly employed and eager to pass on his hard won experience”.
He began his career with the Hawkes Bay Catchment Board in 1961, starting the way many young hydrologists do at the “coalface” collecting and processing data and looking after field equipment.

“A common theme of those early days was being chased off railway bridges by trains while trying to measure the flow of water and forever flying around in helicopters that had the doors removed so we could jump out on ridge tops,” he said.

“I’m not sure what OSH would have said about those antics.”
In 1966 he joined the Ministry of Works and Development as a senior hydrological technician, back in the days before personal computers existed, when information was processed on large, card-driven IBM mainframes.
He progressed to the Christchurch Water and Soil Science Centre in 1979, where he worked on the lower Rakaia Irrigation Scheme, and joined the Waikato Valley Authority in 1983.  Here he led a team of technical staff charged with supporting water resource and flood management work.
Jim joined Environment Waikato following 1989’s local government restructure, gradually advancing his career from hands on field hydrology to a senior management role.
He was also instrumental in forming the Local Authority Environmental Monitoring Advisory Group in 1992, after catchment boards and the Ministry of Works Water and Soil Division ceased to exist.
With council hydrology staff isolated and struggling to come up to speed with their expanded requirements, he invited hydrologists from across the country to a workshop in Hamilton in 1992.  The first meeting of the advisory group was convened at this meeting.
The group, which he chaired for 10 years, has helped councils across the country work together to improve efficiency and consistencies and allowed them to share new software and technologies.
“Jim not only unified council hydrology staff but also set in motion the framework for the formation of other special interest groups for regional council staff in other disciplines beyond hydrology,” NZHS president Dr Tim Davie said.
“We are very pleased to be able to honour his extensive commitment with the Award for Achievement in Operational Hydrology.”