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If you are fascinated by the sea and its geography, you will be fascinated by the opportunity to help create the sea and coastline charts to keep our ships at sea and clear of the rocks!

  • Service
  • Specialisation
    Intelligence, IT and Communications
  • Location
  • Starting Salary
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About the role

As a Hydrographic Systems Operator you will assist with the creation of accurate sea bed and coastline charts for use by ships at sea – it could be your data that keeps a vessel off the rocks!

You will be updating information on navigational charts, conducting advanced reconnaissance activities in the Pacific regions for the landing of Defence Force personnel and equipment, and conducting general seamanship and sailing activities.

Hydrography is a technical science and as a Hydrographic System Operators you will largely use computers to collect, store and manipulate hydrographic data. You will also work towards gaining an internationally recognised civilian qualification in Hydrographic Surveying throughout your career.

Job on deployment

The majority of your time is spent away either at sea or on location conducting small boat surveys. Tasks required within this specialised position include:

  • Monitoring of bridge survey computer equipment
  • Recording data observed by the charge surveyor
  • Recording tidal observations
  • Driving 4WD vehicles
  • Preparing survey equipment for deployment
  • Cleaning and maintenance of survey instruments
  • Assisting in the set up and operation of shore surveying stations
  • Maintaining survey records

While at sea you will be required to work on the Bridge of the ship as Helmsman or Online System Operators and should expect to work in this capacity for at least 2 x 4 hour shifts in every 24-hour period, as well as completing hydrographic and other work duties as required.

At sea you will have an important role to play in the ship’s operational organisation. During times, such as “action stations”, you may be a member of a small boats crew, refuelling at sea crew, and the man overboard recovery unit. Damage Control is an important aspect onboard all HMNZ Ships, and you will be required to participate in realistic fire and flood exercises. You could also be a member of a Beach Survey Team conducting beach surveys and reconnaissance in preparation for the landing of Defence Force personnel and stores, both in New Zealand and where required in the Pacific region.

Career progression and training

Career Progression
Basic Training
Job Training
Ongoing Training

As promotion occurs, you will become more independent in your work and will be responsible for the supervision of junior hydrographic work teams.

You will also work towards gaining internationally recognised civilian qualifications in Hydrographic Surveying as well as gaining advancement through the Navy with professional leadership skills.

Initially you will complete 18 weeks of Basic Common Training. On completion of this you will begin your Basic Branch Training (13 weeks) which comprises of Phase 1 Seamanship (5 Weeks) and Phase 2 Hydrographic (8 Weeks) training. When completed you will be posted to the Maritime Survey Team to conduct ongoing training and familiarisation.

Upon successful enlistment into the Navy you’ll be posted to Devonport Navy base in Auckland. Here you will do complete your basic training. 

On completion of Basic Common Training you will begin your Basic Branch Training (13 weeks) which comprises of Phase 1 Seamanship (5 Weeks) and Phase 2 Hydrographic (8 Weeks) training. When completed you will be posted to the Maritime Survey Team to conduct ongoing training and familiarisation. Seamanship training includes:

  • Helmsman duties and bridge lookout
  • Slipping & berthing
  • Boat operations
  • Anchoring
  • Crane operations & rigging
  • Replenishment at sea
  • Towing
  • Recovery of personnel and materials from the sea
  • Upper deck maintenance & ship’s husbandry

On completion of the basic seamanship course you will complete a specialised Hydrographic course that trains Hydrographic System Operators in:

  • Hydrographic theory
  • Using survey equipment
  • Recording of hydrographic observations and data
  • Preparation and deployment of survey equipment, including tide poles, tide gauges, total stations, GPS equipment and levels.

Hydrographic System Operators complete additional specialised courses as their career progresses. The National Certificate in Surveying (Hydrographic Surveying) (Level 4) can be awarded on the successful completion of the Leading Hydrographic System Technician course and Inshore Launch masters course (at about 5-6 years in the job). Soon after which, you will be promoted from Hydrographic Survey Operator to Hydrographic Survey Technician.

On completion of a six month hydrographic course in Australia, Hydrographic System Technicians are accredited as an internationally recognised Category B Hydrographic Surveyor and on completion of a competent log gain a Diploma in Hydrographic Survey (at about 9-12 years in this job).

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Salary and benefits

Careers in the Navy are well-rewarded, as well as being diverse and exciting. As you become more experienced and move up through the ranks, gaining additional skills and qualifications, you will see your salary rise accordingly.




Starting Salary


Higher Rank

Benefits and allowances

There are many additional benefits to being in the Defence Force, that will make your money go further.

For example, on top of your basic salary you can expect ‘Military Factor’. This provides you with significant extra financial rewards because of the commitment you’ve made to serve your country.

Free medical and dental
Access to subsidised equipment on base
Subsidised food on base
Competitive superannuation, up to 4% with KiwiSaver
Sponsored tertiary study programmes at all levels

Entry requirements

Fitness and Medical
Period of Service
  • You must be at least 17 years of age.
  • Meet the citizenship and security requirements to gain SV security clearance for this trade.
  • You must be free of any criminal convictions.

You must have achieved the NCEA level 1 Literacy and Numeracy requirements.

Find out more about the NCEA levels and certificate requirements

  • You must be medically fit for service.
  • Colour perception restrictions may apply.

There are strict citizenship and security requirements to gain the required SV security clearance for this trade.

Find out if you’re eligible here.


There may be a return of service period for this trade.

Please contact our 0800 number or talk to your Candidate Experience Facilitator for more information.


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