NZ Geomechanics News

From the Chair

We have already flown through the first half of 2022, and despite the challenges of the domestic and international environment, the geotechnical industry in New Zealand continues to do well. Investment in infrastructure remains strong and based on New Zealand’s first-ever long-term infrastructure strategy that was released by Te Waihanga / New Zealand Infrastructure Commission in May 2022, it is expected to continue to remain strong to keep up with the country’s needs. The strategy highlighted that investment needs to become smarter, better planned, adaptive to change and more focused on resilient and sustainable solutions. This is the message that we need to take as geotechnical professionals and apply these principles in our everyday practice. 

As we are gradually moving to normality with respect to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the key challenges that our industry is facing now are associated to supply chain restrictions affecting construction and the workforce shortages. The latter is aggravated by the fact that the borders have re-opened, and travel is restarting. We all have personal experiences of young colleagues resuming their plans to leave for overseas experience. This is a challenge that our industry must respond to, by providing enough support, development opportunities, and prospects for younger geotechnical professionals in order to attract them to either stay in New Zealand or plan to come back. 

Responding to the “re-opening of the community” after the softening of the COVID-19 restrictions, we are anticipating that our in-person NZGS activities will ramp up in the next few months. We will continue using the technology for some of our meetings and events, as we are now used to it, and because it provides means for efficient, and environmentally sustainable gatherings. But where in-person attendance provides more value compared to the on-line, we will encourage it, to ensure that the geotechnical community remains strongly connected and engaged. 

I have included a brief overview of some of the NZGS activities in the following sections.


Revised Geotechnical Modules 

The use of the revised Earthquake Geotechnical Guidelines issued in November 2021 is becoming well embedded into the geotechnical practice. NZGS understands that questions have been generated in the first months of use and decided to organise webinars to assist the industry. These webinars are supported by MBIE. 

Priority is the revised Module 1, which includes the interim update of the seismic hazard for six locations across New Zealand. The webinar on Module 1 will be delivered in early July 2022 and will be free to NZGS, NZSEE and SESOC members. I would like to thank the lead authors of Module 1, Misko Cubrinovski (University of Canterbury) and Kevin McManus (McManus Geotech) for offering their time for this webinar, as well as Stuart Palmer (Tonkin and Taylor) for presenting on the joint NZGS, NZSEE and SESOC advisory “Designing for Uncertainty”, expected to be issued around June 2022. I would also like to thank the NZGS Education officer Emilia Stocks (Tonkin and Taylor), for taking the lead in this important training for NZGS.  

Similar webinars will follow on the other revised Modules later this year. We would like to make them as interactive as possible and tailored to the industry needs. So please send your questions and observations in the links provided in our weekly newsletter announcements. These webinars do not intend to override or supersede any formal and more intense training; on the contrary, your feedback will guide us to target future training to the real needs. NZGS will continue collaborating with MBIE and EngNZ for developing this training. 

Other webinars

Rolando Orense (University of Auckland) continues the good work organising online lectures by international experts. In February 2022, Professor Junichi Koseki (University of Tokyo) presented on “Experimental Investigation into Multiple Occurrence of Liquefaction”; in March 2022, Professor Charles W. W. Ng (Hong Kong University and outgoing President of ISSMGE) presented on Design Analysis of debris flow barriers; in April 2022, Gennaro G. Marino (Marino Engineering Associates) presented on Mining Subsidence. 

All webinars were very well attended and so far, have covered a variety of geotechnical themes. We will continue organising webinars but seek opportunities to invite international experts for more extended and in-depth in-person workshops, as travel restrictions are lifted.  

We also had very interesting webinars from local experts, organised by the local NZGS branches, which were very well attended, such as on the Abbotsford Landslip Disaster by Nick Rogers (Tonkin and Taylor), the 3D Geological Modelling in Wellington presented by Matt Hill (GNS Science), the Hamilton Seismic Hazard, presented by Dr. Max O. Kluger (University of Waikato). I would like to thank everyone involved in organising these presentations and keeping us engaged and connected. 

NZGS Geomechanics Lecture Award

The NZ Geomechanics Lecture is the premier award of the New Zealand Geotechnical Society. It is presented by a person prominent in Geomechanics who can, in the presentation, contribute a statement of significance and value relevant to New Zealand. 

I am pleased to announce that the NZGS Management Committee has decided to present this year’s Geomechanics Lecture Award to Ann Williams, Manager Geotechnical and Technical Fellow in Beca. Ann had an inspiring career of over 30 years in engineering geology, hydrogeology and managing geotechnical risks in infrastructure projects. She is a Past Chair of the New Zealand Geotechnical Society, and a past Vice President of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment. Ann was instrumental in establishing the register of Professional Engineering Geologists (PEngGeol) in New Zealand and was recently elected as a member of the Engineering New Zealand Board. 

The choice of the Geomechanics Award winner was very difficult, and Ann was selected amongst a number of prominent names, each one having made a significant contribution to Geomechanics. The Management Committee is considering presenting this award more frequently in the future, to be able to reward the great achievement in our profession. 

Ann will present her Geomechanics Lecture in-person in a number of centres across New Zealand in the coming months, and we hope that this exceptional Lecture for our society will mark the recapture of our in-person gatherings. 

NZGS Operations 

Management Committee 

The term of our Australasian Vice President for ISMMGE, Phil Robins (Beca) has come to end, coinciding with the 20th ICSMGE in Sydney. NZGS would like to thank Phil for the excellent representation of the NZ geotechnical community in this international organisation. Alongside this demanding role in ISSMGE, Phil has also been an active member of the NZGS Management Committee. His mentorship will be missed, and we hope that he will remain involved in the NZGS activities.

Following tradition, the ISSMGE Vice Chair role will be handed over to a representative from the Australian Geomechanics Society, Graham Scholey. The role of the NZ representative, to work closely with Graham to support our interests in ISSMGE, will be filled by Rolando Orense (University of Auckland). With his Academic background and international exposure, Rolando is perfectly suited to represent NZGS in this international organisation.  

NZ Geomechanics News 

The editorial team of our magazine will be changing in the next few months. Don Macfarlane (Consultant with AECOM), who has had the Editor role since 2018, is gradually stepping back. Don has been serving Geomechanics News exceptionally for the past few years, and NZGS is grateful to him for bringing his experience and wisdom into the role.

Camilla Gibbons (Aurecon) will be stepping up to the role of Editor, and the role of co-editor was kindly taken by Robert Kamuhangire  (geotechnical engineer, KGA Geotechnical), who expressed interest in the open NZGS invitation. I would like to thank the other candidates who volunteered for the role.  

YGP Activities

The NZGS Young Geotechnical Professionals group led by Helen Hendrickson (WSP), continues to be very active. This year we are looking forward to the 14th ANZ YGP Conference, which will occur in November in Rotorua. This is an event particularly anticipated, following the cancellation of the previous ANZ YGP Conference in Cairns, after several postponing attempts. Organising for the YGP Regional Mini-Symposia has also started. Participation in these Symposia will be free to our members this year, fully subsidised by NZGS. 

The YGP Geotechnical Engineering Basics training posters project is also progressing well, with posters issued for the membership feedback and a new expression of interest published for the “Developing an Engineering Geological Model” poster. I would like to thank Miles Buob (Tonkin and Taylor), who following the issue of the draft posters is stepping down from this role. Wendy Weng (Tetra Tech Coffey) will be taking over the YGP Training Coordination role and bringing these posters from draft to final publication.

Candidacy for ISRM Congress 2027

NZGS has submitted its candidacy to host the 2027 Congress of the International Society of Rock Mechanics in Christchurch. Paul Horrey (Beca) the NZ Representative for ISRM is leading this fantastic initiative for NZGS, with Stuart Read (GNS Science and Past ISRM Vice-President), Romy Ridl (University of Canterbury) and Christoph Krauss (Beca) working alongside him. The team will support our bid by presenting in the next ISRM Council meeting in Asunción (Paraguay), the venue for the 2022 ISRM International Symposium, later in the year. This NZGS initiative has been strongly supported and sponsored by Tourism New Zealand, whose contribution provided a different weight and calibre in our proposal. 

NZGS Projects 

Climate Change Initiatives 

NZGS is developing a Climate Change Focus Group, to enable more targeted work in this area. It is beneficial for geotechnical professionals to come together, understand the current legislation in New Zealand and the different milestones and targets that need to be achieved with respect to embodied carbon reduction and other aspects of our work in relation to climate change. The focus group is aiming to develop tools, guidelines or educational material to help geotechnical practitioners adapt to the requirements related to climate change, from a geotechnical point of view.

Based on the feedback from the 2021 Climate change Symposium, there is considerable interest in the geotechnical industry across New Zealand to get involved in this topic. This focus group comes to address one of the biggest hurdles currently existing, the lack of an industry body who offers opportunities to participate and contribute. Martin Larisch (Jacobs) has taken the lead in advancing this NZGS initiative. There will be an open call from NZGS for contributors to this group. Please contact Martin to find out more about this exciting opportunity. 

Technical Documents

The Piling Specification led by Tony Fairclough (Tonkin and Taylor), which is developed in collaboration with SESOC, is progressing well. I am pleased to report that we expect to have a first issue of the document in Q2 – Q3 of 2022. 

The Anchor Specification, led by Sam Glue (Beca), is also progressing well, and a draft document is currently with the NZGS Management Committee for review. We expect that this document will also be issued by the end of this year. 

NZGS is planning to organise presentations or short seminars in the use of the two documents after they are published, aiming to collect feedback from the membership as well.

NZGS is advocating for the development of a series of guidance documents on Slope Stability, which has consistently been identified as a gap in various NZGS surveys. You will be able to find more details on the NZGS vision for these documents in an article in this issue of the magazine. Please provide your opinion and feedback to the NZGS lead for this project Richard Justice (ENGEO). 

Industry Collaboration 

NZGS and SESOC in collaboration with Engineering NZ have issued guidance for structural engineers for decision-making for residential development projects. A template geotechnical report has also been issued in conjunction with the decision-making flowchart, to be used by structural engineers. In the same collaboration scheme, we are in discussions for developing guidance for the design of warehouses, as a joint document between EngNZ, SESOC and NZGS amongst other societies and organisations. I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Martin Pratchett from EngNZ who is leading these projects and Ayoub Riman, the NZGS Management Committee representative on this work. 

Stuart Palmer (Tonkin and Taylor) is representing NZGS in the working groups for updating and maintenance of the Earthquake Prone Buildings Guidelines led by MBIE and in the development of the NZGS, NZSEE and SESOC joint advisory on “Designing for Uncertainty”, which is expected to be issued around June 2022.  

NZGS continues to be represented in the different working groups established by MBIE for the update of the Building Code, following the update of the National Seismic Hazard Model, by Rick Wentz (Wentz-Pacific) and Andreas Ginnakogiorgos (Miyamoto).

Occupational Regulation 

In March 2022, Cabinet made the decision to progress with the new regulatory regime for professional engineers that was proposed by MBIE, following the public consultation carried out in 2021. The proposed details of the scheme are currently being worked through by MBIE. We understand legislation will be introduced to Parliament later in 2022 or early 2023, and it is expected that after this legislation is passed the new regime will take up to six years to be fully implemented. 

We expect that there will be opportunity for NZGS and the wider industry to provide feedback on the draft bill later this year before it goes to the Parliament. NZGS is working closely with Engineering New Zealand to monitor the developments and provide timely updates to the proposed legislation. 

We are taking action to advocate for the inclusion of Engineering Geologists in the new registration system, which is uncertain based on current knowledge. We will provide more detailed updates to the membership through our weekly newsletter on our actions on this matter.

Engineering New Zealand Fellowship 

Several Geotechnical Engineers and members of NZGS have been recently awarded Distinguished Fellowship and Fellowship by Engineering New Zealand. A special presentation of those individuals “who have made it to the top of the engineering profession and achieved outstanding results” is included in this issue of the NZ Geomechanics News. I would like to extend my congratulations on behalf of the NZGS Management Committee to everyone awarded. 


As the disruptions and restrictions imposed by the pandemic are gradually easing, our activities are picking up. I would like to repeat the invitation included in my December 2021 Corner: There is a lot happening and the Society needs your contribution to succeed. I would like to invite all our members to participate in the NZGS activities and respond to our frequent calls for various contributions. 

Please get in touch with me or the Management Secretary or any other member of the Management Committee, if you would like to support one of the NZGS projects or if you have ideas with respect to our activities (email us at  or ).

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NZ Geomechanics News
Eleni Gkeli
NZ Geomechanics news>Issue 103 - June 2022

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