NZ Geomechanics News

Branch reports


The Auckland branch kicked off the winter with the appointment of two new branch coordinators, Ben Francis and Jay Doddaballapur. They take over from James Johnson, who we thank for his considerable efforts in running events in Auckland. Presentations brightening up the dull and bleak weather included GIS for Geotechnical Engineers by Colin Mazengarb and Northland Allochthon by Aaron George. 

Short courses on Geotechnical Engineering in Residual Soils by Prof. Laurie Wesley, Design & Construction on Soft Soil by Dr. Richard Kelly and Nick Wharmby, Cone Penetration Testing by Geomil, and a Screw Piling Demo Day by Piletech were well attended and received by the audience.

Prof. BK Low of Nanyang, Singapore presented at the joint ASCE-NZGS event in October on Insights from Reliability-Based Design to Complement Load and Resistance Factor Design Approach. At the start of November, a presentation on Chartership for Geotechnical Engineers by Geoff Farquhar and Malcolm Stapleton, with insights from Jeremy Tan & Eli Maynard, and the 2nd YGP Symposium were organised for young professional engineers. The year will be topped off with the Christmas mini symposium in early December where we are expecting close to 100 attendees with keynote lectures by Prof Laurie Wesley and Prof Mick Pender, and several short presentations.

Auckland would like to thanks Geotechnics, Ground Investigation and Engineering NZ for their support of these events.


On 8 October, Piletech hosted a screw piling demonstration in the underground carpark below the Hamilton Kmart on the corner of Ward Street and Tristram Street, Hamilton.

The screw piles are part of a seismic retrofit to the building, which is soon to house Waikato Regional Council.

The event was well attended by NZGS members as well as structural and geotechnical engineers.

Waikato Expressway – Hamilton Section Site Visit

On 16 October the City Edge Alliance led tour of the Waikato Expressway – Hamilton Section. Raj Ramgobin (Geotechnical Engineer-CPS) and Jessica McLennan (Engineering Geologist-CPS) took us on a grand tour by ute convoy of the southern portion of the new state highway project. The first stop was the Powell’s Road large box culvert site to observe the preloads over very soft soils and full array of settlement monitoring instrumentation. The group then travelled to the Mangaonua and Mangaharakeke Bridges to check out dynamic replacement ground improvement, soil nails and contiguous and soldier pile retaining walls. The attendees obtained excellent insights into the design and construction challenges with optimised design solutions employed to successfully achieve performance criteria whilst considering practical construction and programme requirements.

Big thanks also to Dave Sullivan that organised the visit, but sadly couldn’t make it on the day.


We currently have plans for proposed GNS presenters to arrange their respective trips to HB

  • Julie Lee and John Begg are presenting updated Hawkes Bay geological, geomorphological and 3d maps/models.
  • Simone Dellow is undertaking a quantitative risk assessment on the Cape Kidnappers rockfalls which occurred at the start of the year – when it’s complete.

The Engineering NZ course “Liquefaction Assessment In Engineering Practice (MBIE/NZGS Module 3)” was very well received by attendees. Local practitioners are very familiar with the module and appreciated the discussion about anticipated future amendments.


The Wellington branch was pleased to host the NZGS AGM on 3 September at Engineering New Zealand. Marco Holtrigter opened the AGM with his presentation on “Industry best practice for CPT testing in NZ”. In his presentation, Marco described several issues that can affect the quality of CPT Test results and suggested ways that they can be mitigated. It was an interesting presentation. Marco et al. are currently working on a best practice document for New Zealand. This will raise the industry standard for CPT Testing nationwide which can only benefit us all – we look forward to seeing it.

We were also honoured to host Prof. B.K. Low on 8 October to present his paper “Insights from reliability-based design to complement load and resistance factor design” which won the ASCE 2019 Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award. We were also pleased to have Warren Ladbrook (President of the New Zealand branch of ASCE) welcome everyone and introduce Prof. Low. The presentation was attended by a small but enthusiastic group. Thanks to ENGEO for sponsoring the event and to Engineering New Zealand for provided the venue and behind the scenes help.

This year we welcomed Safia Moniz to the Wellington Branch. Already, she has made valuable contributions to the First Wellington Young Geotechnical Professionals Conference as well as other events. We look forward to working with her in the next year.

Looking forward to 2020, we have the opportunity to host a number of international speakers which is a wonderful opportunity for the branch. We are also investigating ideas for a field trip, and to have some QuakeCoRE researchers present their work. We will have the second Wellington Young Geotechnical Professionals Conference (YGP) in the second half of the year, so please start brainstorming ideas. Finally, we are working on a member survey to assess what presentations you would like to see, but in the meantime feel free to contact Shirley, Safia, Jerry or Aimee with your ideas.


Nelson had a busy September with various events in conjunction with the local EngNZ and SESoc Branches, including presentations at the QuakeCore conference, ‘things I learnt the hard way’ presentations from some of the regions experienced engineers and geologists and a visit from EngNZ representatives from Wellington to talk about the career pathways for gaining chartership and PEngGeol. These we well attended by many of our members and were great events for networking and welcoming any new geologist or engineers who have arrived in the Nelson and Marlborough regions in the recent months. 

Coming up to Christmas we have a presentation from Geo Fabrics lined up and a presentation from Paul Wopereis, Mike Johnston and Francesca Ghisetti about the revised geological map of the Nelson area. 

A Christmas event including a wee bit of competition and drinks and food is currently being organised in conjunction with EngNZ and SESoc, so keep your eyes and ears open to find out more information.


It’s been quite a busy few months for us in Christchurch!

We were very fortunate to host Professor Carlo Lai of the University of Pavia on September 12th for his talk Design vs Threshold Earthquakes at Cultural Heritage Sites. Given his Italian heritage (and the sheer number of heritage buildings in Italy) it was fascinating for us to learn about the regulations and policies surrounding repairing and assessing such historic buildings. This event was sponsored by Beca and held at the Engineering Core at the University of Canterbury and had close to 50 attendees! 

Then on October 7th we were delighted to host Prof. B.K. Low on 8 October to present his paper Insights from reliability-based design to complement load and resistance factor design which won the ASCE 2019 Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award. Thank you to Warren Ladbrook (President of the New Zealand branch of ASCE) who welcomed everyone and introduced Prof. Low. This event was held again at the Engineering Core at the University of Canterbury and attended by an intimate audience. Because of the small size of the audience we were able to have lengthy discussions and conversations with Prof Low. Thank you to Geotechnics for sponsoring the event. 

Below: The Presentation was Insights from Reliability-based Design to Complement Partial Factor Design Approach by Dr Bak Kong Low at the University of Canterbury on Monday 7th October 2019.  

Finally, on October 30th we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Dave Baska, a visiting Erskine fellow from the University of Washington, who presented his talk 

The Critical State of Geotechnical Consulting in the USA. This talk summarized they key problems in geotechnical consulting and postulated what the future may look like in geotechnical engineering in the USA. Dr. Baskin was quick witted and engaged with his 20 or so attendees (which, was once again hosted at the Engineering Core at the University of Canterbury).  The next day (on Halloween), Opus agreed to sponsor and host a talk on permafrost design with Dr. Jim Oswell, however, Dr Oswell was unable to leave Antarctica due to storms! We hope we can reschedule this talk. 

A special thank you to Prof Mark Stringer on facilitating all the talks these past few months. We look forward to the new year and hope we continue to have as many wonderful lectures and discussions.


  • Matt has joined me as a branch co-ordinator which is great. 
  • We had a presentation about Abbotsford Landslide a few months ago, which was arranged by Engineering NZ and was well received.
  • Apart from that, we have not had any presentations but we are looking to bring at least one or two down this way in the next few months. Obviously the NZGS Conference in Dunedin next year is the big one.

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NZ Geomechanics News>Issue 98 - December 2019
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