Environmental/Public Health Officer Āpiha Hauora Taiao/Pāpori

Environmental/public health officers investigate, monitor, assess and advise on food and alcohol safety, disease prevention, disease outbreaks, and environmental hazards such as pollution.

Environmental/public health officers may do some or all of the following:

  • monitor and advise on food safety in food outlets, farms, shops, factories and schools
  • assess health risks and suggest actions to take
  • investigate infectious diseases, such as salmonella, and advise people on how to prevent their spread
  • advise on health requirements for building consents
  • investigate and advise on management of polluted land 
  • take samples from sites to test for environmental pollution
  • serve legal notices and provide evidence in court
  • work with the media to make people aware of public health issues
  • help develop health policies
  • advise and train on environmental health processes such as how to correctly take a fridge temperature
  • report on resource consent applications, liquor licences and Land Information Memorandum (LIM) applications.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for environmental/public health officers includes:

  • work in the health, food or hospitality industries
  • customer service experience
  • experience in laboratory or science work.

Personal Qualities

Environmental/public health officers need to be:

  • precise, with an eye for detail
  • analytical and able to make quick judgements
  • able to build relationships quickly
  • able to remain calm under pressure
  • able to explain information clearly
  • diplomatic and friendly
  • persuasive and firm
  • able to relate well to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds.

Skills

Environmental/public health officers need to have knowledge of:

  • relevant laws such as the Food Acts, the Health Act and the Resource Management Act 
  • environmental and health issues
  • practical applications of microbiology
  • food industry processes and technology
  • technical skills for taking water, noise, light and air samples
  • infectious diseases.

Conditions

Environmental/public health officers:

  • usually work regular business hours
  • work in offices, but may spend more than half their time visiting places such as food outlets, homes, fields, farms, waterways, shops, early childhood centres and factories
  • may work in unpleasant conditions when inspecting unclean housing, cafes or shops, or investigating smells or pollution complaints.

Subject Recommendations

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, health education, maths and physics.

Environmental/Public Health Officers can earn around $48K-$70K per year.

Pay for environmental/public health officers varies depending on experience and whether they work for a city council or district health board.

  • Graduate environmental/public health officers usually earn between $48,000 and $70,000 a year.
  • Environmental/public health officers with one to five years' experience usually earn between $55,000 and $75,000.
  • Environmental/public health officers with more than five years' experience, or team leaders and managers can earn up to $85,000.

Source: District Health Boards/PSA, 'Allied, Public Health and Technical Multi-Employer Collective Agreement', 2017; and Wellington City Council, 2018.

Environmental/public health officers may progress into management or policy analyst roles.

Environmental/public health officers may specialise in:

  • food safety
  • alcohol licensing
  • water and soil safety
  • infectious diseases.

Environmental/public health officers can specialise in the roles of:

Environmental Health Officer
Environmental health officers work for city and regional councils, the Defence Force, the Government and private agencies. They usually focus on health issues involving food and alcohol safety, hoarding, noise, land and air pollution, and health requirements for building consents.
Health Protection Officer
Health protection officers usually work for district health boards in public health units. They usually focus on disease control and disease prevention.

Years Of Training

3 years of training required.

To become an environmental/public health officer, you need to have one of the following:

  • Bachelor of Health Science (Environmental Health) from Massey University
  • Bachelor of Science (Environmental Sciences) or (Food Safety) or (Health Protection) from Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
  • Graduate Diploma in Environmental Health from Massey University
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health from Massey University.

You also need a current driver's licence.

Environmental/Public Health Officer