Obituary for Michael Eric Upcott Taylor (1930 – 2020)
The Royal Society of New Zealand Wellington Branch was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Dr. Michael Taylor. Dr. Taylor was born in England and took a PhD in organic chemistry from London University. After graduation, he worked as an oceanographer for the United Kingdom Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Lowestoft.
He and his wife, Eileen, moved to New Zealand in 1964 to work at the Cawthron Institute, Nelson. After a period as Research Fellow at Cawthron, looking at fungal pathogens, he moved to the Ministry of Water and Soil with the Committee on Hydrology and Water Quality. He advocated for inter-laboratory, inter-calibration programmes which led to the DSIR setting up the ChemAqua Programme and Michael becoming Acting Director of the Cawthron Institute.
He moved to the Ministry of Works and Development to establish better water quality testing procedures and set up scientific advisory services in water resources around the country. He was appointed to the World Health Organisation as short term consultant to train on water quality and monitoring for Asia, China, Japan and India.
As a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry and President of the New Zealand Water Supply and Disposal Association, he worked to set-up the Water and Soil Conservation Act. He then became Research and Survey Director of the Water and Soil Directorate at the Ministry of Works, with oversight of scientists around the country. His published papers for UNESCO proved that his Microprocessors in Operational Hydrology programme was ahead of the rest of the world. He was appointed Chairman and Director of numerous working parties in both New Zealand and abroad.
He was awarded the New Zealand Water and Waste Award and Medal, while publishing numerous government standards such as the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand and Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality Management. He created the Register of Community Drinking Water Supplies and the Annual Review of Microbiological Quality of Community Drinking Water Supplies. He received the Premier New Zealand Water and Wastes Association Award, which in the year 2000 was renamed the Michael Taylor Award.
As Senior Adviser to the Ministry of Health, he coerced Government to let him write the Health Drinking water Amendment Act, which received Royal assent in 2007 when he was invested as a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for services to the Water Industry.
In 2008 he was heavily involved with the World Health Organisation within the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for development of the Water Bill, worked to enhance aid programmes to the Pacific Islands and served as United Nations trainer for Asia. He dedicated his career to giving us clean, safe, drinking water that is carefully monitored, assessed and quality controlled.