Sylvia Maclaren

'We can build things that our children’s grandchildren will still enjoy...'

  • Sylvia Maclaren

Bachelor of Science with Honours in Ecology

Managing Director, Storm Environmental Ltd

Co-founder and Director, Trax NZ

Land Drainage and Stormwater Programme Manager, Christchurch City Council

As a self-proclaimed outdoors enthusiast who spends most of her spare time adventure racing and mountain biking, studying towards a career in the environment was an obvious choice for Sylvia.

‘UC was close to where I grew up, and had a good international reputation for the areas of study I was interested in. The ability to live close to uni at an affordable rate and to be able to get into the outdoors easily was also a big drawcard for me,’ she says.

Sylvia was able to get amongst the environment both within and outside of classes, being Club Captain of the UC Tramping Club during her final year, and with fieldtrips a common part of her Ecology study. Her particular interest for her honours research was with estuary ecophysiology.

‘I went on two longer biology fieldtrips while at UC (Cass and Kaikōura), as well as a number of shorter daytrips. These were fantastic for getting an immersive experience in science and bonding with your classmates.’

After graduating her honours degree, Sylvia went onto a number of roles as an Environmental Scientist, Business Analyst, and Water Resources Scientist, before completing a Master of Business Administration with Massey University.

‘I work mainly with engineers and managers, but my background in science has been invaluable for understanding the wider environmental context,’ she says. ‘Consider what you enjoy and are passionate about. What you chose to do your first degree in does massively impact your whole career path. This wasn’t the advice I was given when I started! I was told just to do whatever seemed of interest, and luckily that also worked out for me.’

Now Sylvia works for Storm Environmental, a consultancy business currently contracted with the Christchurch City Council, where she manages a team of 18 project managers and technical leads working on the city’s flood prevention and stormwater management.

‘We have an annual budget of $80M which we spend investigating, designing and building so that our city is protected against flood events, but also so that we can enhance other values of importance to the city, such as ecology, landscape, recreation, culture and heritage. I plan our strategic priorities for the next 30 years and beyond to present to our Councillors. I collaborate with other teams across Council, and schedule how we will engage with the community so everyone is informed on our priorities and how we will implement them.

‘I get to see really cool ideas from just a sparkle in someone’s eye right through to commission. For instance, the 3.5ha urban forest we recently constructed in Linwood was the idea of those in my team, and together we pushed it through design to construction. We can build things that our children’s grandchildren will still enjoy.’

Sylvia has also started her own business, Trax NZ, which produces microfibre mountain bike trail maps.

‘I enjoy running my own company and so would like to continue that as long as possible,’ she says. ‘I am interested in governance and would love to be a professional director one day.’

Steve Pohe

Steve Pohe

'We are right on the doorstep of some of New Zealand’s most amazing wilderness...'

Charlotte Austin

Charlotte Austin

'Working hands-on with animals and learning new skills is definitely a highlight...'