Hydrographers recognise Bay man’s 30-plus year career

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Greg Cox’s decades-long career in hydrography was acknowledged by international peers at the Australasian Hydrographic Society’s HYDRO18 Conference in November.

The Mount Maunganui-based hydrographic survey expert and director of Discovery Marine (DML) recently received the society’s Award of Merit for Career Achievement in Hydrography. The award is presented to people who have made significant contributions to the industry and related sciences.

Cox said it was “very humbling” to receive the award. But he also praised his team’s work.

“We have a great team at Discovery Marine so I really see this award as acknowledgement of the work they do and the teamwork we bring to each of our projects.”

Hydrographic surveying is the science of measuring and describing marine features. The information provides to end-users, typically those involved with marine navigation, coastal engineering, construction, and monitoring. It usually involves surveying the sea bed, lakes, rivers, shorelines, tides, currents, and submerged objects.

Naval background
Cox started DML in 1998 after 13 years in the Royal New Zealand Navy, where he was assistant hydrographer navy and achieved the rank of lieutenant commander. He has since built the company from a start-up to a team of 12 full-time staff and additional seasonal contractors.

The team works on a variety of hydrographic survey projects throughout Australasia and the Pacific Islands.

Their diverse client base includes central government, regional councils, engineers, coastal scientists, public utilities, infrastructure and port authorities.

DML is also a panel supplier to Land Information New Zealand, New Zealand’s nautical charting authority.

Cox and his team’s work in collecting bathymetry – the measurement of water depth – and other related data is used to help ensure safe ship operations in New Zealand waters.

The information also assists with coastal erosion monitoring, tsunami modelling, marine construction projects and port operations.

“The technology in this industry is always evolving, and with that we are constantly evolving and learning too,” said Cox.

“I’ve been doing this work for more than 30 years and I still don’t know everything there is to know about hydrographic surveying – this definitely isn’t a job where you stay static.”

Ongoing professional development is a priority for Cox, as is helping the next generation of hydrographic specialists come through the ranks.

“We work in a relatively small and niche industry, so one of our goals has always been about growing the skills of our staff so they’re equipped to take on whatever the job throws at them.”

We work in a relatively small and niche industry, so one of our goals has always been about growing the skills of our staff. – Greg Cox

And while there is a big technical component in the work, Cox said that soft skills were just as important.

“You’re out on the water dealing with the elements so you need a certain amount of adaptability and the ability to make decisions on your feet and that’s something we really encourage from our team.”

Recent projects for DML have included surveying the East Cape of New Zealand, including areas around White Island, for navigational safety purposes. In the past couple of years they have collaborated with NIWA in the delivery of New Zealand’s first multidisciplinary survey of Queen Charlotte Sound, and in 2017 worked with navigation solutions provider iXBlue to survey the entire Kaikoura coast post-earthquake.

Annual surveys of the Port of Tauranga and local marinas continue to keep Cox and his team busy, and they’re also considering options for a survey project of Pelorus Sound, in the Marlborough Sounds, in 2019.

Cox said New Zealand was better for private hydrographers than some countries, where the type of work DML carried out was constrained to government departments.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us and I’m looking forward to seeing what that looks like in the years to come.”

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