Remembering Rein Nittim

Written by Ron Cox.

Rein Nittim, 1932-2017Away from the ski lifts and resorts several WRL staff have recently experienced the natural beauty of the main range of the Snowy Mountains.

In the 1970s Rein Nittim had previously introduced the main range and cross-country skiing to staff and students at WRL. Rein led numerous trekking and tenting expeditions into the main range from Guthega. His control and grace in executing telemark turns with a full pack in fresh snow was a joy to see.

Rein was born in 1932 in Tallinn, Estonia. His family escaped the takeover of Estonia by the Soviet Union in 1944 and migrated to Australia in November 1948. Rein completed schooling and a Civil Engineering degree at University of Technology (now UNSW) in 1955.

Rein then worked in the Bridge Section of the Department of Main Roads. During this time, he also studied at Sydney University and gained a Graduate Diploma in Town & Country Planning. Rein travelled and worked overseas (UK and Norway) for several years. On returning to Sydney, Rein worked at the Public Works Department and undertook post-graduate studies at the (by then) University of New South Wales, obtaining a Master of Technology degree in 1966 for work related to flood mitigation on the Lower Hunter River.

In the late 1960s, Rein joined the staff of UNSW (based at WRL), first as a Lecturer in Civil Engineering then as a Project Engineer. Rein concurrently carried out innovative full scale laboratory research for road design to manage intense rainfalls and minimise vehicle aquaplaning – he obtained his PhD in 1977.

Main range, Snowy Mountains - photo by Francois Flocard

Rein continued to work at WRL until his retirement in 2003 - mainly consulting on major projects involving hydrology, hydraulics and floodplain management for government and the private sector - long term projects included flood studies for Launceston, Tasmania; Hunter, Georges, Shoalhaven, Nepean, Hawkesbury and Clarence Rivers, NSW; Brisbane, Maroochy and Mooloolah Rivers, QLD. Rein solved most problems with astute use of computer and physical models coupled with reliable field data collection. He worked on numerous hydraulic models of the cooling water systems for most power stations in NSW and others in QLD, Victoria and overseas. His overseas projects included dredging at Chittagong, Bangladesh and sediment disposal issues at gold mines in Papua New Guinea.

Rein sought knowledge and pursued learning throughout his life and career – in this he set the example for all colleagues, staff and students that he worked with at WRL. He was the ultimate source of ideas and background research knowledge for most problems being undertaken at WRL.

Rein was a friend, colleague and mentor to all - Rein passed away on Christmas Day 2017.

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