Career

Meet New Zealand’s stream hunter

Hannah Klein didn't want a desk job - and that's certainly not what she got!

Meet Hannah Klein, a 27-year-old storm water specialist intern at Auckland Council. Hannah looks after Auckland’s hundreds of waterways above and below ground – and right beneath your feet. Belinda Nash spoke to this intelligent young engineer about her exciting career choice.

As an engineer, Hannah ensures that the people in New Zealand’s largest city have an abundance of healthy streams and clean waterways to enjoy, and that we don’t lose them by building over them. And if we do have to build over them, it’s important that the alternatives are just as good, such as enhancing an existing waterway with trees and plants around the edge of the water, creating walkways and cycleways, or creating a better open stream further up or down from the hidden piped stream.

“Streams are important to the environment because they convey stormwater flows, which matters if you don’t want your house to be flooded!” Hannah says. “Streams are home to species of fish, bugs and eels. If we don’t have streams, fish species that migrate up the stream to spawn will lose their habitat and ultimately whole species could die off.”

When we asked Hannah to reflect on her career choice and what is so exciting about it (and she really does love her job!), we also learned a few surprising facts from Hannah about a career in engineering.

Why engineering?

A degree in business was not quite enough for Hannah; she wanted to be part of something bigger, so she enrolled in a three-year engineering degree.

“I decided that if I was going to work for the rest of my life, I was going to enjoy what I was doing,” laughs Hannah. “So I finally decided to go into engineering, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”

Hannah is now heading towards her final semester of a Bachelor of Engineering Technology with a focus on water and environment. Her role at Auckland Council began as a summer internship, which then became a permanent three-day-a-week role, which she hopes will become full-time once she completes her degree.

“Part of the reason I came to work for the Council was because they have a vision to make Auckland the most liveable city in the world. There are a lot of hard workers here that do their very best to make it happen and I’m part of the dream!”

It’s about people

Engineers make people’s lives better – and easier.

“We’re dealing with people all the time and everything we do is for people. We’re about connecting the community with our spaces. It starts with having an idea and communicating it to the community to see what they want out of a project. In my role, we use water to connect them to the environment and reinforce how important water is.”

It’s for women

Engineering is no longer a man’s world – it’s fast becoming more gender equal.

“Females are generally creative, so that’s hugely beneficial,” says Hannah. “Women bring a different way of looking at things. If you know your stuff and you work hard, people

are going to take you seriously.”

It’s respectful

Engineers are respectful of the Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi). Hannah says this is one of the most rewarding parts of building the future Auckland.

“I have been involved with the implementation of the Mauri Model Decision Making Framework. This model helps engineers consider environmental, social and economic aspects of a project in relation to Maori values. Using the Mauri Model in decision making will help to develop infrastructure solutions that provide the most benefit to Aucklanders.”

One of Hannah’s favourite projects is Wynyard Quarter’s rain garden.

It’s creative

It takes a sensitive touch to implement the best solutions for an environment and an engineer needs to be creative to work effectively in a range of areas.

“I have chosen to work with the environment in terms of water, which allows me to be creative day-to-day,” Hannah says. “Engineers have to think creatively and problem-solve in teams to build solutions that excite the communities.

“One of my favourite projects is the rain gardens in Wynyard Quarter,” says Hannah. “As well as enhancing the area, they help with stormwater run-off, which is the water that flows off concrete and into the plants. The gardens absorb some of the run-off and slow down the velocity of the stormwater, and so decrease flooding. This is called water-sensitive design. Urban design doesn’t all have to be concrete!”

It’s adventurous

This is no desk job! To solve problems about the environment, infrastructure, buildings, roadways and more, you have to get in amongst it.

“We go stream hunting!” laughs Hannah. “We’re finding what’s called ‘intermittent streams’ and classifying them. These are the streams that flow some months but might go dry through summer months.

“I’m also doing a planting project and stormwater renewal project on the North Shore. I’m on site with the contractors, so it’s definitely not just sitting in front of a computer; I get to go outdoors and get my hands dirty. Every day is different!”

It’s making the future

“Engineers create the change we want to see. It’s about getting a problem, exploring all the different solutions and arriving at the best one that will benefit the city, the community and the fast growth that’s happening,” says Hannah.

“The coolest moment is when a project is finished – you can drive past it or ride your bike by the stream and think, ‘I had something to do with that.’ Engineers are part of the future – we’re creating the solutions.”

For more engineering stories, visit maketheworld.nz.

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