NZ Geomechanics News

Branch Reports

Auckland Branch

The Auckland Branch have had a unique latter half of 2020, electing to hold presentations via the online format with the support of Engineering New Zealand. Although this format does not present the opportunity for local Auckland Branch members to network in person, it has presented other benefits. It has provided the opportunity to involve geographically distant speakers in each presentation and to host a much larger audience, gaining a wider reach (often well beyond the Auckland Branch).

Presentations occurring since the last branch report include information and discussion around the Redi-Rock Retaining Wall system, which outlined both technical aspects of the system and local examples where the product has been used to good effect. More recently, Morgan NeSmith from Berkel & Company (Atlanta, USA) presented on ‘Drilled Displacement Piles/Elements for Liquefaction Mitigation’, which was thought provoking for an audience who design in conditions which often include seismicity and associated liquefaction hazards.

At the time of writing, the Branch Coordinators are busily organising the Auckland Branch Christmas Mini-Symposium which will be followed by a dinner, providing a long-awaited opportunity for an ‘in-person’ event. This event is one of the highlights on the Calendar each year for local geotechnical professionals and the team are hoping this is another afternoon of high-quality presentations, discussion and networking. 

The Auckland Branch Coordinator team will unfortunately be farewelling Chris Wright, who has elected to step away from the coordinator role after more than 3 years of service. Ben Francis and Jay Doddaballapur would like to express their gratitude to Chris on behalf of NZGS and the Branch. Chris has had significant input over the time he has been working in this role and his presence will be missed. We wish Chris all the best with his geotechnical endeavours and look forward to seeing him at the NZGS events going forward. 

Ben Francis, Chris Wright & Jay Doddaballapur


Waikato Branch

On 5th August David Hepburn from Duracrete Products presented an introduction to the Redi-Rock retaining system which is now being supplied in NZ for land development and infrastructure applications. This included an introduction to the suite of design resources and free software analysis for geotechnical engineers. Some case studies of local and recent projects in NZ were featured, with the challenges of the applications and the variety of solutions for them highlighted. Feedback from clients, contractors and engineers who have used have been very positive. 

Future Events 

The next Waikato Event is the CFA Piling BPC & Hawkins Site Visit & Technical Presentation at the Project Hauata site. We have several other events in planning and will be notifying branch members as soon as we have details and dates confirmed.


Bay of Plenty Branch

Along with many other organisations and branches of NZGS, the Tauranga branch has had a quiet year due to the various lockdowns.  We have been lucky recently with two presentations from Phaedra Upton (GNS) including her Hochstetter Lecture (2020).  Although a smaller group than normal attended the lectures, it was great to see a number of familiar faces eager to be back networking and listening to some fascinating research.  Our next presentation on 8 December will be from Marlena Prentice (University of Waikato PhD Candidate) and focus on the ignimbrite flows around the Bay.  We’re looking forward to getting 2021 underway and have a few people lined up to present.  We would like to acknowledge the support from our local ENZ branch which has been invaluable.


Hawkes Bay Branch 

We met on 4th August for two presentations by GNS Science. HBRC kindly hosted the group in the council chambers.

Julie Lee presented on the status of a long running project to update the geological map for the Napier-Hastings urban areas. The use of 3D software and LiDAR data allowed them to improve differentiation of Holocene units that form the Heretaunga Plains. Further maps are scheduled to be delivered over coming months.

Chris Massey described an earthquake-induced landslide (EIL) forecasting tool the GNS have developed, initially using the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake landslide dataset, but subsequently working in other EIL datasets (e.g. 1929 Murchison and 1968 Inangahua). The tool has been applied in Hawke’s Bay to understand the local rockfall hazard to tsunami evacuation paths on Bluff Hill, and where the regional landslide hazards are so this can be assessed against existing and planned
asset development. 


Wellington Branch

The highlight of this quarter for the Wellington branch is definitely the joint presentation with SESOC Emerging Structural Engineers on collaboration between Structural and Geotechnical Engineers. The event presenters were Alistair Cattanach, Director at Dunning Thornton Consultants and Stuart Palmer, Technical Director at Tonkin + Taylor. The event was initially scheduled for late March, then postponed to late August and eventually became an online-only event to accommodate restrictions imposed due to COVID pandemic. The online event was a success with 448 registered online-attendants and quality post-presentation discussion. Thanks SESOC and Geotechnics for kindly sponsor the online event. And thanks to Engineering New Zealand for the online conference coordination and support.

With the end of 2020 fast approaching, the Wellington branch has decided to postpone the 2nd Wellington YGP Symposium till mid-2021. More details will be sent out in NZGS newsletters in early 2021.

We would like to thank Jerry Spinks (Jacobs) for over three years of service to the Wellington branch. Jerry has stepped down as a branch coordinator earlier this year.

Please get in touch if you have any presentation or event ideas. As always we are looking forward to hearing from you.


Nelson Branch

The Nelson NZGS group has recently started presentations and organised events back up since the lockdown. In the last couple of weeks we have had the following:

  • A combined event with the local Engineering NZ and NZIA branch to bring 4 local speakers to give presentations about ‘What are the options for the top of the south as sea levels rise?’. The event was well attended by many disciplines from around the region and was a great networking and informative event. 
  • We had a visit from the Geo Fabrics team who along with Eric Ewe gave an insightful presentation about Passive Rockfall Protection Structures with NZ case studies. 

We are excited for the next couple of months with events in conjugation with Engineering New Zealand coming up including a site visit to the SH60 Takaka Hill repairs site and the end of year function, so watch out for the emails to register. 

Lastly we have sadly said good bye to a long standing NZGS rep Rebecca Ryder (formally from Beca), we would like to wish her well with her new adventures across the ditch, you will be missed within the region!


Christchurch Branch

The Christchurch branch had a lot of action in late 2019/2020, with evening talks scheduled for every month – largely thanks to Mark Stringer’s (UoC) ability to secure top quality lecturers. Talks included Jordi Corominas, Jonathon Stewart, and Armin Stuedlein. Unfortunately a planned lecture by Tom O’Rourke was unable to go ahead before Covid-19 put a halt to things.

The local branch reps have some new faces. Sam Burgess came on board in late 2019 and Natalie Hyland passed the baton over to Sarah Bastin in mid-2020 before welcoming a new addition in her family, baby Lyra. Thanks to Natalie for the hard work she put into this role and congratulations on the new arrival!

Like most of the country, we hibernated for Covid-19 and kicked back off in October with a Building Compliance Technical Forum presented by the Christchurch City Council Engineering Services Team at CCC. This was a really good session, and a great chance for the local industry to get some detail on how the Engineering Services Team interprets the relevant standards and codes, and what they are looking for when reviewing consent applications. It was great to see some familiar faces again.

As we look ahead to 2021, we are hoping for a more settled year with (hopefully) more lectures in the pipeline. If you are local and would like to give a presentation, or have an idea for one, we are looking for speakers and would love to hear from you.

Sam, Duncan, and Sarah


Otago Branch

The Dunedin branch had a great recent event hosted by TerraMDC, which was very well attended. As with everything else in life at the moment, Covid-19 has put a dampener on branch activities this year (including the Symposium!). The branch coordinators are planning a couple events for early next year, so stay tuned after the holiday break. And, of course, we’re all looking forward to seeing our peers and colleagues from around the country at the Symposium here in Dunedin in March!

Cheers, Matt and Nima


NZ Geomechanics News
NZ Geomechanics News>Issue 100 - December 2020
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