Environmental Health Officer

Finding a rat in the kitchen might be cute in a kid’s movie but the reality is far from savoury. Environmental Health Officer Jack Heagney is working to make sure Wellington’s cuisine scene stays critter free.

A headshot of Environmental Health Officer Jack Heagney.
Environmental Health Officer, Jack Heagney.

“The formal role of an EHO is to investigate, monitor, assess and advise on food and alcohol safety, disease prevention, disease outbreaks, food-borne illnesses, insanitary homes and environmental hazards such as pollution. My role with the Wellington City Council is predominately focused on verifying (inspecting) food businesses.”

Wellington City has a vibrant food culture and boasts more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York. In 2017 alone 48 eateries were opened or changed ownership in the Capital – that’s nearly one per week for Jack to verify. But he’s not complaining.

“The best part of this kind of role is being out of the office every day. No one day is ever the same and I rarely spend more than a few hours at my desk most days. It’s nice to get out in the fresh air, travel and explore the greater city and interact with people.”

With a background in hospitality from his student days, Jack knew this role would be perfect for him, combining his passion for food with his fascination for science.

“I was working full time as a Manager in a series of Bars, Cafes and Restaurants, while studying a Bachelor of Health Science. I really love food, and care about food safety in general. The health science field really interested me, and this job was something that I knew my experience had equipped me for.”

As well as having good judgement and being able to think on your feet, Jack has learnt that people skills are vital for Environmental Health Officers.

“We put a lot of emphasis on forming a rapport with our customers. The verification/inspection process relies a lot on information given by the business operators regarding their processes, so they need to feel comfortable divulging information to us.”

Jack has only been with the Council since 2018, but since then he has learnt to expect the unexpected and gotten himself into some “furry” situations.

“The most memorable moments are always the horror stories. There’s not really any one particular story that stands out, but coming across rodent/pest infestations always sticks with me.”

“You never know what you’re going to come across or what situations you’ll find yourself in” he says.

If you would like to find out more about the role of an Environmental Health Officer see: Selling food.