Media release

Work and play for a lover of the outdoors

Wednesday 22 July 2020

In 2002 when Garry LaHood picked up a temporary job at ORC, with intentions to move back to Auckland, he didn’t think he’d still be here in 2020.

The job was in the (since disestablished) pest eradication team, targeting possums around Silver Peaks and Brighton Hills. As someone who likes to get his hands dirty and embrace the outdoors, Garry had landed his dream job.

“I’m not much of a behind-the-desk guy and by working at ORC I was able to get out in the hills. When I was younger, I was two years through my Bachelor of Engineering degree when I realised I might be desk bound, so I switched to a Certificate in Engineering for my third year – focusing more on the practical side of engineering – and I’ve never looked back,” he said.

The temporary job evolved into a permanent one and, 18 years later, Garry is continuing his work, protecting our region’s environment.

“The work I do has evolved over that time; I love all things water, and coincidentally my role [along with support from other engineering colleagues], is now primarily looking after river management, flood protection and drainage schemes*.

Garry inspecting the bank along Silver Stream, near Dunedin.

Garry inspecting the bank along Silver Stream, near Dunedin.

Every day I’ll leave my base at ORC’s Taieri depot to get into the hills, or along riverbanks looking out for erosion issues, gravel build up, willow congestion and how it all affects the drainage network, and ensure the pump stations are performing. During the COVID-19 lockdown, another colleague and I walked (separately) around 115km of floodbank between us looking for rabbit and stock damage and to ensure they remain structurally sound for the next rain event.

“I love that the job combines my love for the outdoors with the need for effective engineering and maintenance,” he said.

Garry’s passion for water doesn’t stop at 5pm. A member of the local canoe club, he loves to go whitewater paddling and takes his three kids fishing and camping along the river.

“Otago is great, the environment really is a playground. We can go skiing, fishing, camping, surfing, canoeing…. I don’t know why you’d want to live anywhere else.”

*Flood protection schemes provide a level of flood protection for communities in flood-prone areas and the drainage schemes improve land productivity.