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Bye to Bev after two decades of service with Standards New Zealand

This month saw the retirement after nearly 20 years of Bev Harniss, Advisor for International Standards Development and ISO/IEC administrator.

Women cutting a cake

Bev Harniss celebrates her retirement send off

When Bev joined Standards New Zealand in 2003, little did she know her ‘six month contract’ would turn into two decades. We asked Bev to reflect on her journey with us. ‘I had a one-day handover then and really, knew very little about Standards at the time. When I asked questions, I was told ‘don’t ask questions I’m training you,’ Bev says with a laugh. ‘Of course, my successor will be getting a more thorough transition.

‘My first week saw me attend five committee meetings over five days so it was very much diving in at the deep end’, says Bev. ‘It’s been a delight to work with the committee members, like Derek Johns who continues to chair committees and had been active in standards for nearly twenty years when I started working with him in 2005. John Kelly who I have worked with a good part of my time here and with whom I attended the first of many meetings in Australia. I’ve really come to value the relationship and friendship of long-standing committee members, but it’s also nice to see new ones join and pick up the mantel.'

‘Over the years I’ve managed three New Zealand led joint AS/NZS secretariats; EL-002 concerned with the safety of household and similar electrical appliances and small power transformers and power supplies; EL-036 Joint AS/NZS committee In-service testing of electrical equipment; and QR-012 Joint AS/NZS committee Conformance Marking to Regulatory Requirements. While I’m not an expert in these fields, I do know our process and kept everyone on track.'

‘One of the most useful things I will take away with me (other than the kind retirement gift of hair straighteners from my colleagues of course) is the knowledge gained on appliances and electrical safety. Some of the horror stories I’ve learned around appliances that don’t meet the standard means I always check labels of the things I buy. Some electrical appliances such as decorative toasters marketed to children can pose massive risks, or hair straighteners (not mine which are compliant to standard AS/NZS 60335) that are poorly designed and lead to burns, or toys that (before an update to standards) meant children could remove and swallow lithium batteries.'

‘When you are immersed in the world of standards, you come to realise just how much we rely on them subconsciously while never really being aware of them. There’s a saying that you only notice standards when they aren’t there.'

‘Think about the technology you use in your home and ask yourself whether you would trust using anything that hadn’t been designed with standards in mind, like a robotic lawnmower with swirling blades, or a robotic vacuum cleaner going about your home while you’re away. Microwaves ovens, or non-appliances like plumbing and wiring in your home and the food you eat or water you drink. I’m very thankful to exist in a world that has standards.'

‘As secretariat my role was to look after and support the needs of the committee members who work very hard and give their time to developing technical detail, drafting the body of standards and attending meetings. Supporting them with prompts for balloting and comments, monitoring inboxes, updating directories, and working closely with colleagues like Senior Advisor International Engagement Steve Lowes to recruit new committee members is a full-time job.'

‘It is important to manage the ballots with care. If we miss a ballot where we are Participating members of IEC or ISO committees without a justified reason, we will automatically be downgraded to Observer member for 12 months with no right of appeal. As we charge a yearly facilitation fee for Participation membership, it’s essential this doesn’t happen.'

‘Standards New Zealand has been an important part of my life and there are still some of us who have been around since before the move into MBIE in 2016. While the general public often don’t see behind the scenes of government agencies, it’s important to remember that all agencies like Standards New Zealand are made up of people who care a great deal about what we do and work hard to do it.'

‘A special thanks to all my friends, colleagues, stakeholders, committee members and pod mates that have come and gone or are still here, for the patience and support you have given me and the laughter and fun times we have shared. I will always treasure the memories – thank you so much.’