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Richard Anthony Phillips (1975 – 2021)

A geoengineering and geohazards expert with a love of family, mountaineering and DIY

Richard PhillipsRichard was brought up in Weston-super-Mare in the West of England.  He spent his early years exploring the hills, valley and moors of the Mendip, Quantock and Dartmoor, and was greatly respected by his friends for his loyalty, intellect, and all-round sporting ability, especially as an endurance athlete.

Richard studied Geology at the University of Manchester and followed up with a Master in Engineering Geology at Imperial College London, completing the course just before the end of the last Millennium.

His initial technical training was with Halcrow in the South West of England, and the rugged and varied geology of the region inspired an interest in hard rock geology.

New Zealand

In 2008, Rich and his family emigrated to New Zealand where he took up a role in the geohazards team at Tonkin & Taylor.  Rich was heavily involved with investigating, modelling, and rebuilding of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake, and developed an interest in slope instability and roped access work, which juxtaposed with his love of mountaineering and climbing.

Rich was a prolific DIY enthusiast who developed his skills to become a serious self-builder, culminating in his own ‘Grand Design’ construction on heavily sloping ground around the Port Hills in Christchurch, New Zealand.  A project that was only completed a matter of weeks before his untimely death.

Testament of his DIY skills came following his rewiring of his entire house in Teignmouth, Devon, an Electrician employed to sign-off the work proclaimed that his work ‘was the most professional, ordered and tidy work he had ever seen!’


Richard was tragically killed whilst climbing on Mt Taranaki on New Zealand’s Southern Island on 4 May 2021, aged 46.

A devoted family man, Rich was happiest in the hills with Jac, Freya and Indy, and his beloved dog Betsy.

He was a loyal and loving father, son, brother, uncle and friend who would never fail to go the extra mile for anyone. He earned the respect and admiration of those he met at home, at work, on his travels and even on the side-lines of his girls' sporting events.

His colleagues will remember him for his technical expertise, his willingness to help, and his positive outlook on life.

By Dave Holley

Image credit: Dave Holley