Kia ora, tēnā kotou, tēnā kotou, tēnā kotou katoa,
Ko Rehuotane te maunga kiwaho
Ko Pukearenga te maunga ki roto
Ko Ngunguru te awa
Ko Tutukaka te whenua
Ko Rangitukiwaho te tangata rongonui
Ko Ngatokimatawhaorua te waka
Ko Ngunguru te marae Ko Ngati Takapari te hapu Ko Ngatiwai te Iwi
Nō Maruawai o Murihiku au
Kei Ōtautahi e noho ana ahau inaianei He Pia au Ko Paul Holland au
Nā reira, tēnā kotou, tēnā kotou, tēnā kotou katoa.
I am Paul Holland and I started at St Peters in February 1969 in the Second Form so I am a First Day pupil, coming up from St Mary’s in Gore. My parents like many Catholic parents in Southland had donated money towards the school’s building fund. I left school at the end of the first term in May 1973 having just passed School Certificate with three subjects in 1972. No pass no drivers’ license. I worked for the National Bank in Gore until I joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in July of 1974. I was an accounts clerk in the RNZAF and had signed on for an eight year contract. In those days we had a real Air Force and I got the opportunity to do lots of activities I would never had done if I had not joined. It was most certainly a challenge in some aspects but getting the chance to be in an Iroquois helicopter sitting on the floor with your feet out the door whilst the helicopter was doing 120 knots about two metres off the deck was neat fun, or doing aerobatics and dog fight manoeuvres in a Harvard with a hangover. My eight years in the RNZAF made a very big difference to me and was one of the most formative periods of my life giving me skills and the confidence to stand up tall, straight and stare life straight in the face.
After I left the RNZAF in 1982 I worked in Auckland and then moved back to Christchurch in January 1984. I worked making corrugated cardboard until 1988 when I went to university for the first time doing a pre-entrance course at the University of Canterbury, to learn how to study etc. In 1989 I did a year’s full study to determine if I could handle a degree course which I passed, so in 1990 I started a Bachelors of Science in Geology. I also took some courses in geography which I enjoyed far more than geology, so in 1991 I changed to a Bachelor of Arts in Geography. Looking back I should have just changed the major. Also in 1990 I had joined the Royal New Zealand Navy Volunteer Reserve in Christchurch. There I learned seamanship skills as well as working with DOC doing dolphin and penguin counts. We also were tasked to do fisheries patrols off the South Island West Coast and this involved rough weather and lots of boarding of foreign and NZ fishing vessels. Could be quite interesting and sometimes had the adrenaline running.
Work commitments and family obligations intervened, but I successfully completed my degree in 2000. My studies concentrated upon coastal geomorphology which is coastal science (studying coasts, beaches, how they form and what changes happen and what causes the changes etc., climatology, some GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and natural hazards where my interest was in tsunami.
In 2001 a university colleague and I formed a company to explore shallow water echo sounding which we did using a hand held echo sounder and a RTKGPS then worth about $100K. My colleague is a cartographer and we did this for about three years whilst we both had day jobs. I worked as a night manager in a hotel and he as a cartographer. I then went to work in a hospital as an orderly.
In 2009 I returned to university and obtained a Post Graduate Diploma in Science (Geography) and a Graduate Diploma in Arts (Māori and Indigenous Studies). With the Post.Grad.Dip.Science I furthered my studies in coastal geomorphology and climatology as well as studying glaciology and remote sensing. So I have a strong natural sciences background. For the Grad.Dip.Arts I turned to the dark side and studied some social sciences. I also studied some history and philosophy with a strong emphasis in Māori background, graduating completely in December 2012. At present I have a research company where I work for myself undertaking contract work, preferably in the environmental sciences with Māori input. Last year I wrote a paper for my iwi regarding pollution of waterways from dairy farm runoff and how to prevent and mitigate the pollution. I am also writing a natural hazards report for them with specific reference to tsunami and other coastal inundation hazards.
So what can someone with a degree or two in geography do? Well to use an age old saying the world is your oyster. If you are like me and follow the science side of the discipline you could end up working anywhere from a vineyard in Marlborough (climatology), to the Great Barrier Reef (coastal geomorphology), and / or Antarctica (climatology, glaciology, coastal geomorphology, geomorphology), Africa (fluvial geomorphology – stream and waterways) and so on. One NASA geomorphologist determined that water flowed on Mars by looking at photos taken by Mars orbiting spacecraft. If you follow the human side of the discipline then even more options open up, transport geography, urban planning, population geography, economic, political, feminist, education, cultural geography etc. There are a group in Europe who make a very tidy living from the geography of wine.
Geography gives you a very wide range of skills that are applicable in many endeavours. For example, I've become involved in projects that don't involve science per se. At the moment I am involved in researching and locating aircraft drawings / plans and annuals for an aircraft restoration project; researching what a particular Māori airman did and where he served with the RNZAF during World War Two and I am researching and writing a paper for a group about a particular government policy. All of these involve skills I acquired from my study of Geography.
So that’s my profile, a wide and varied one. For a student sitting in geography class and feeling bored or thinking it is of no use, it most definitely is very useful. Sir Paul Reeves, a former Governor General was a geographer and so is the TV One weatherman, Jim Hickey. Prince William has a degree in geography and he flies helicopters for the Royal Air Force. I know what it was like sitting in class thinking like you do, but then I was also lucky too, as my geography teacher was Brother John Tedesco and he was an excellent teacher and a real character – One really neat guy. I would suggest some things. If you really want to do well, study hard, join the Armed Forces and get them to pay for your university education. Even if they don’t, join anyway, because the skills you learn in there will set you up for life. Grab every opportunity you can with both hands and never forget to have fun. The world is full of economists and lawyers, but there is always need somewhere for someone with the skills and training of a geographer.
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