New Zealand Hydrological Society

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New Zealand


1961 to present


It was at a meeting at Ardmore to discuss a "Handbook of Hydrological Procedures" for New Zealand, that the formation of a New Zealand Hydrological Society was first discussed on 25 August 1961 with eight hydrologists as the founding members: P. Grant, H. Drost, G Ridal, Ian Simmers, C. Toebes, A.C. Hopkins, W.B. Morrissey and John Speight. At further meetings that month, the eight founders determined rules on membership, and decided to publish a journal or newsletter. The first AGM was held in Christchurch on 9 December 1963 when the first set of rules was adopted; 20 members were present.

The Society was formed as a means of pulling together the various practitioners from several organisations. In this form it was intended that a specialist hydrology environment would be developed. The objectives of the new Society were simple, but the undertaking ambitious. Initially just eight people set out to build a society, hold symposia and produce a journal. All this on a voluntary basis! In his first presidential address via the journal, Kees Toebes noted that ‘Hydrology is not always considered a science’. In the years to come the Society would place a lot of emphasis on establishing a platform for creating excellence and promoting hydrology as a science.

It is often said that many things start with small beginnings. While the New Zealand Hydrological Society started with eight members, the first list published in the first issue of the Journal of Hydrology in June 1962 contained 75 names within three categories: members, affiliate members and student members. As of 31 May 1963 the number of members stood at 123. The Society was still a fledgling, but momentum was growing and membership reached the high 400’s in the 1970s. It stayed fairly steady until the late 1980s when there were major changes to New Zealand’s research organisations and catchment authorities. These changes resulted in a significant loss of jobs and a subsequent drop in Society membership. From about 2000, there has been a resurgence in membership, with numbers climbing to 580 in 2010, showing the importance of hydrology in all its facets in today’s world (Fig. 3). It is fair to say that those original members would probably be more than a little surprised to see what the small beginnings in 1961 has led to in 2011 and the range of activities undertaken in the years in between. They would also be surprised to see that three members they recruited in 1962, George Caddie, Jolyon Manning and Peter Thompson, were still members 49 years later.

Allied, and more tightly focussed, societies such as the Meteorological Society of New Zealand (MetSoc) and the New Zealand Limnological Society (LimSoc, now The New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society, NZFSS) have been formed since the New Zealand Hydrological Society started and we have cordial relationships with them, as demonstrated by joint conferences.

This proper structuring of the New Zealand Hydrological Society with an Annual General Meeting and the election of officers has ensured that the Society was not born of a whim, only to die out as the initial wave of enthusiasm passed by. The wisdom shown by original founding members has ensured that the society is as strong as it is today.

Initially, members had to be actively involved in the science of hydrology; affiliate membership covered most others. As time has gone on, this differentiation has been relaxed so that an ordinary member shall be a person with an interest in hydrology and in furthering the science thereof. The rules were later modified to allow for branches of the Society to be formed. Branches in Christchurch and Hamilton were formed in the late 1960s and operated until the mid-1970s. The rules have changed little since, just tweaked to cover changes in procedures as society has changed.

When the Society began, the President had to be a hydrologist. This was changed in 1970 to allow non-hydrologists to take office. At the same time the term of office was extended to two years, with half of the officers being replaced each year, as still happens today. In November 1976, new rules were adopted to enable the Society to become The New Zealand Hydrological Society Incorporated, this being approved on 5 January 1977. The new category of Honorary Life Membership was created in 1980, a year in which a logo was designed for the Society. The Secretary/Treasurer position was split in 1995.

As the workload of the Committee grew, there has been a progression towards paying for administrative work. 1994 was the first year in which an honorarium was paid to the secretary/treasurer’s assistant and in 1999 a part-time administrative position was established. Editorial assistance and compilation of Current have also been remunerated.

Society Officers[edit]

Kees Toebes was the first president of the New Zealand Hydrological Society, Ian Simmers the first secretary/treasurer and Pat Grant the first editor of the Journal. These three, together with Barry Morrissey, Herman Drost, A.C. (Hoppy) Hopkins, Geoff Ridall and John Speight, were the first committee of the Society (1961 to 1963). Toebes, Grant and Simmers held their positions for at least 12 years and served on the committee for more years after relinquishing their offices. A full list of presidents, editors, secretaries, treasurers and committees has been compiled from available minutes, annual reports and the Journal (Tables 1 and 2). The Society has had a stable officer base throughout its 50-year history; 12 presidents, 12 secretaries, 8 treasurers (all of whom held the secretary positions in the era to 1994 after which the roles were split) and 9 editors.  The longest serving member on the Committee has been Lindsay Rowe, 22 years with 21 as secretary/treasurer and then as treasurer. Horace Freestone (18), Ian Simmers (17), Kees Toebes (14), Pat Grant (14), Maurice Duncan (14), Andrew Fenemor (13), Jack Coulter (12), Barry Fahey (12), Paul Mosley (12), Gillian Crowcroft (11) and Charles Pearson (10) have been other long-serving members. All of the 85 committee members have contributed as unpaid voluntary workers. There has, however, been support from employers over the years and this has allowed the Society to help maintain its influence on New Zealand hydrology.

The first three presidents have passed away but their legacy is a Society that is being run today with the same enthusiasm with which it started.

Journal of Hydrology (New Zealand)[edit]

One of the aims of the Society’s founders was to publish a scientific journal. The first issue of the Journal of Hydrology (JoHNZ), Volume 1 (1), consisted of 20 pages and was published in June 1962. It contained papers from the Hydrology Symposium held as part of the Annual Conference of the Meteorological Service in November 1961. It was printed by Photolithox Printing Ltd, Hastings at a cost of £17.10. Issue 2 expanded to 58 pages and cost £33, which was of concern for a fledgling organisation with limited members and budgets. The editor, Pat Grant, also expressed concerns about material arriving late, being poorly presented with the need for severe editing, and meeting publishing deadlines. He also noted ‘that no one editor could, on his own, satisfactorily cope with more than two numbers per year – the time demanded is too great’ – views no doubt held by subsequent editors.

In 1963, the North-Holland Publishing Co. Amsterdam published the first issue of their ‘Journal of Hydrology’. Although the Society’s Journal of Hydrology was the first to be published, the Committee decided to add ‘New Zealand’ to the title from Volume 3 (1) to avoid confusion when referencing papers. This year also saw an improvement in quality, with the change from low-standard offset printing to letterpress printing on high quality paper. This was a fairly logical upgrade, given the illustrative material used in hydrological papers. Volume 3 (1) also contained the first Inter- national Hydrological Decade Bulletin. A number of special or theme issues have been produced.

Producing 100 issues of JoHNZ represents a huge effort by hardworking editors, assistant editors and, of course, the authors and the many reviewers who help maintain the quality of the Journal.


The second major aim of the Society’s founders was to hold an annual symposium. In its formative years, the Society symposia were held as part of Meteorological Service or Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Council meetings. The first meeting was convened less than three months after the Society was formed. Each symposium represents considerable effort on the part of strong local organising committees. Recent events have had 200-250 participants, which shows how significant they are in the Society calendar. At all of these events papers were presented and discussed, and abstracts were included in conference proceedings. Trade exhibitions have been held, guest speakers organised and field trips undertaken. Workshops have featured in the last 20 or so years. Above all, people of a common interest have met together each year and got to know each other better. They have in this way promoted a better understanding of hydrology in all its many facets. Cities where symposia have been held are shown in Figure 4.

Joint symposia with other organisations have featured in the last 20 years, and these meetings often have over 300 participants. We met with MetSoc in 1983, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2006, and 2008, the LimSoc/NZFSS in 2000, 2001 and 2009, and the New Zealand Association of Resource Management in 2006. The 2000 conference included a Southeast Asian meeting of the Regional Steering Committee for the International Hydrological Programme (IHP).

International meetings have also featured. A symposium held in 1970 on Results of Research on Representative and Experimental Basins is undoubtedly one of the highlights of all our symposia, especially for a Society that had not yet had its 10th birthday. It was a full international symposium and, although organised by the New Zealand Hydrological Society, it was a joint effort with the Royal Society of New Zealand and the International Association of Scientific Hydrology (IASH) and UNESCO (participants shown in Fig. 5). Of the 85 papers presented, 70 originated overseas. The majority of the papers were published as IAHS Publication No. 96, with the remaining 20 papers appearing in JoHNZ Volume 9(2).

A second IAHS Symposium was the International Symposium on Erosion and Sediment Transport in Pacific Rim Steeplands held in Christchurch in January 1981. The symposium was organised by many Society members, with John Hayward as the convenor. The Society underwrote the publication of the proceedings, published as International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication No. 132. This 644 page volume was edited by Tim Davies and Andrew Pearce. The balance of the papers appeared in JoHNZ 20(1). About 100 delegates from 16 countries attended and 37 papers were presented.

Two conferences have been held with the National Committee on Water Engineering of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. Alistair McKerchar convened the first, which was held in Christchurch in 1989 on Comparisons in Austral Hydrology. Over 150 delegates attended, with 100 coming from Australia. The second conference, convened by Bryan Bates, was in 1997 at Auckland with the theme ‘Water/Land: Wai Whenua’.

Twenty-one members of the Australian Hydrographers Association joined us in Wellington in 1996, and in 2005 we held a joint conference with the Australian Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists in Auckland with the theme ‘Where waters meet’. David Leong and Noel Merrick led the respective New Zealand and Australian teams for the latter conference with the New Zealand Society of Soil Science also taking part.


Workshops and seminars have been another avenue where the Society assists in spreading the word. While a number are held each year in conjunction with the annual symposium, many are stand-alone over one or two days, or held in conjunction with the Local Authority Environmental Monitoring Group. These workshops have covered a diverse range of topics: the Auckland ‘water crisis’, Pukekohe floods (with Meteorological Society of New Zealand), the Nelson land-use seminar, saltwater intrusion, environmental monitoring, current-meter calibration, mathematics in hydrology, water metering, water economics, climate variability and impacts on water resources, and water allocation, to name but some.


In the 1960s the Society produced a newsletter, but no copies were archived and no record of its timeline exits. The newsletter was resurrected in 1979 by Burn Hockey and Frank Scarf, but lapsed shortly thereafter through lack of support – again no copies were archived. It was not until 1992 that the Committee made another attempt to have a regular newsletter and the first edition of Current appeared in May 1993. This time we had a coordinator in Eileen McSaveney and through her efforts in soliciting copy from contributors within local authorities, universities, CRI’s and consultants, Current has continued to arrive on our desks every 6 months, all 100 odd pages of it.

Other Publications[edit]

In addition to the Journal and conference proceedings mentioned above, NZHS has published several notable books or been the prime mover in ensuring these were published. The first of these was Physical Hydrology: The New Zealand Experience. Produced in 1979 and edited by Dave Murray and P. Ackroyd, this volume of 12 invited papers from 19 authors was subtitled ‘the Toebes Memorial Volume’ in recognition of Kees’ role in establishing and promoting the Society, and furthering hydrological science in New Zealand and internationally. The volume was part funded by the New Zealand National Water and Soil Conservation Authority.

Faces of the River: New Zealand’s Living Water was produced for the Society by David Young and Bruce Foster in 1986. This book developed from a 1982 proposal by Brian Kouvelis (Knowles) and was published by TVNZ Publishing with the assistance of grants from the Society. The book tells the stories of ten rivers, the Wanganui, Hakataramea- Ahuriri, Waipaoa-Motu, Buller, Waikato, Taramakau, Manawatu, Rakaia, Rangitikei and Clutha rivers, from the points of view of the people whose lives they flow through – scientists and engineers, fishermen and farmers, canoeists and rafters, hunters and trampers, and the Maori to whom the rivers were sources of food and highways.

To spread the science of hydrology further, five textbooks (see page 42) have been produced, pitched at water scientists, engineers and managers and at senior undergraduate and postgraduate students. These books have the aim of providing for New Zealanders local information and examples instead of having to rely on material found in overseas texts. The first book, Waters of New Zealand, appeared in 1992. Edited by Paul Mosley, about 30 hydrologists, mostly members, contributed 20 chapters on New Zealand hydrology. The need for this book citing New Zealand information was demonstrated by a sell-out print run of 1000 copies.

Floods and Droughts: the New Zealand Experience (1997) Paul Mosley and Charles Pearson edited this book for the Society. Chapters were contributed by 19 hydrological scientists and water resource professionals who had worked on different aspects of floods and droughts. Chapters covered a broad range of topics, from observations of historically significant floods and droughts and their analysis, cause-and-effect relationships with land-use changes, instream uses, erosion and sedimentation processes, to the management of floods and droughts with case studies. Gravel Bed Rivers V (2001) Another volume edited by Paul Mosley, this one emanated from the 5th Gravel Bed Rivers Workshop held in Christchurch and Franz Josef in 2000 and attended by over 100 specialists. This book contains 23 papers and a description of a field workshop at the Waiho River; a CD- Rom of the 43 poster papers was compiled by T. Nolan and C. Thorne. The Society underwrote this symposium and received spare copies of the proceedings for sale.

Groundwaters of New Zealand (2001) Edited by Michael Rosen and Paul White, this book is divided into two sections, the first of which was made up of 11 chapters by 18 authors describing the science behind all aspects of groundwater – water resources, recharge, irrigation, quality, health, etc. The second section of the book addresses the groundwater resources and issues within each of the 15 regions of New Zealand.

Freshwaters of New Zealand (2004) This was a joint production with the NZFSS and was produced to fill the gap created by the out-of-print Waters of New Zealand. This mammoth production, over 700 A4 pages, 46 chapters by 95 authors, was ably pulled together by Jon Harding, Paul Mosley, Charles Pearson and Brian Sorrell. This book had a vastly expanded coverage compared to Waters of New Zealand and topics included atmospheric circulation, snow, soil water, flow regimes, water quality, stream inhabitants, birds, lakes, wetlands, groundwater, land use, dams, restoration, instream values, and health amongst others. Like Waters of New Zealand, Freshwaters will also be a sellout.

Reference Material[edit]

Horace Freestone and Lindsay Rowe, 2011, The New Zealand Hydrological Society: the first 50 years, PDF

Grant, P. 1971: Editorial: The New Zealand Hydrological Society. Journal of Hydrology (New Zealand) 10(2): 97-99.


New Zealand Hydrological Society Web Pages

Journal of Hydrology New Zealand