Issue 104 - December 2022

From the Chair

The end of year is that special time when the mind kicks into reflection mode, thinking about what went well and not so well in the past year, and planning for what comes next. In NZGS we do that a bit earlier, in our Annual General Meeting (AGM), which we hold every September, at the end of our financial year. This year the AGM was held on the 13th of September in Christchurch and was very special for us, as it was the first in person since 2019. We were pleased to see many of you turning up and actively participating with questions and discussion, and some of you
joining online. 

The AGM was combined with the first of the successful series of the 2022 Geomechanics Lecture, delivered by Ann Williams from BECA. Ann travelled across the country with her “Question of Risk” talk from September through to November 2022, in local branch gatherings that reminded us of the pre-pandemic period. It is great to see our members coming to in-person events in big numbers again, and Ann’s lecture flagged the reviving of these for NZGS. As I have mentioned before, we will continue to offer online professional development, but we believe that the connection occurring in the in-person events cannot be replaced. We will maintain the momentum that the Geomechanics Lecture tour initiated and organise as many local branch and national events as we can handle in the new year. 

In the September AGM we also presented the NZGS Management Committee for the financial year 22-23. We were pleased to welcome two new elected members in the Committee after the July – August election, Liam Wotherspoon from the University of Auckland, and Sam Glue from BECA Christchurch. We wish them all the best with the duties they are taking on for the Society. I am pleased to report that we have a wonderful Committee to take care of the Society matters, consisting of enthusiastic people who volunteer their time for the benefit of our profession, and I am grateful for that. 

I would also like to thank everyone who stood for the election this year. We are humbled by the enthusiasm and the calibre of the candidates in the election, and we wholeheartedly welcome everyone who wants to contribute to the Society. Those that were not elected should not be discouraged. There is so much going on, and our members do not need to be on the Management Committee to assist the Society. We take the nomination for the Committee seriously and we have proven it this year by co-opting two of the members that did not make it in the 2021 election, Jono Claridge (WSP, Christchurch) and Jordan Moll (Babbage Consultants, Auckland) to take on the website coordinator role from Olivia Gill (CMW, Auckland).
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Olivia for her service to the Society.  

In early October 2022, GNS released the National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM) for New Zealand. This is the first update of the Seismic Hazard Model since 2010, a project carried out in the past two years, commissioned by MBIE and Toka Tu ¯ Ake EQC. The regulatory settings have not changed at this stage, and engineers should continue to design using the existing law, technical standards, and guidance to demonstrate that their work complies with the Building Code. The release of the model, however, is a very significant development in understanding better the seismic hazard across the country and this latest science will be used to inform the risk settings in the building regulations and to improve the safety of buildings and infrastructure resilience across New Zealand. 

The NSHM has estimated an increased seismic hazard for most of the country. The geotechnical profession was not caught by surprise by this, as we have already adopted a revised seismic hazard in Version 1 of Module 1 (revised compared to NZS1170.5, the Bridge Manual and Version 0 of Module 1) for a number of areas across New Zealand, at levels broadly in the same direction as the NSHM. Module 1 Version 1 has been recommended to be used for geotechnical design of new buildings since November 2021. 

NZGS collaborated with MBIE, Engineering New Zealand, NZSEE, and SESOC to inform, provide interim guidance and run seminars for structural and geotechnical engineers in the light of the release of the NSHM, to assist design professionals and their clients until the New Zealand building standards and regulations are updated. The collaborating technical societies issued two advisory documents, one in August 2022 and one in October, at the same time as the release of the NSHM, which our members are strongly encouraged to follow. I would like to personally thank Michelle Grant, the President of SESOC and Geoff Rodgers, the President of NZSEE for their hard work and the good collaboration in supporting the industry at this time of change. You can find more information on this work and on other seismic risk work that NZGS participates in this issue of the magazine, in the article by Stuart Palmer (Tonkin and Taylor, Wellington), who represents us in the related collaborating working groups and committees. 

One more highlight of the last quarter of the year for NZGS was the hosting of the 14th Young Geotechnical Professionals Australia – New Zealand Conference in November 2022 in Rotorua (14th ANZ YGPC). We are particularly sentimental about this event, as it is the first occurring since the unfortunate cancellation of the 2021 event in Cairns, due to COVID. When I was writing this piece, the 14th ANZ YGPC had not occurred yet, but having worked closely to the organising committee all year, I am confident that it will be a memorable event that the YGPs from both countries will greatly enjoy and
benefit from. 

I cannot thank enough the organising committee of the 14th ANZ YGPC, Helen Loach (WSP, Nelson), Sarah Barrett (BECA, Christchurch), Christoff Kraus (BECA, Wellington), Nima Taghipouran (WSP, Dunedin), Nicola Manche (WSP Golder, Brisbane) and Hannah Hadley (Terrane Consultants, Tauranga) who have put a big number of hours bringing this event to reality. I would also like to thank the Australian Geomechanics Society for their contribution and support in organising the event.

Looking ahead, our plans for the new year are to continue providing our membership with:

  • more in-person events and national speaker tours, 
  • workshops, seminars and webinars aligned with the needs of our profession, 
  • international speakers that will bring value to the local practice, in-person or online, 
  • continuing our work on NZGS guidance and projects, with the Ground Anchor Guideline nearing completion, initiating the slope stability series, and activating the Climate Change Focus group,
  • good collaboration with the industry, Government, and local authorities,
  • advocating for the important matters of our profession, such as the occupational regulation, with another round of consultation expected around mid-2023. 

But for now, I hope you make the most of the well-deserved end-of-year break and come back refreshed in the New Year, ready to resume work and participate in our activities. 

I wish you all a safe and relaxing break with your beloved ones and a very happy and prosperous 2023!

Eleni Gkeli

Wellington, October 2022

Tags : #Chair's report

Issue 104 - December 2022
Eleni Gkeli
Issue 104 - December 2022
Society News

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