NZ Geomechanics News

From the Chair

Kia ora koutou

I am deeply honoured, and it is with great pleasure that I address the New Zealand Geotechnical Society members through this corner for the first time, as the newly elected Chair of the Management Committee. I have taken over the role from Ross Roberts, who has moved on to the immediate past Chair role from the 1st of October 2021. My term follows a busy and productive decade for the New Zealand Geotechnical Society, marked by the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence and the Kaikōura Earthquake, events that brought the geotechnical practice in New Zealand an international focus.

Past Chairs of the New Zealand Geotechnical Society, such as Gavin Alexander, Charlie Price, Tony Fairclough and Ross Roberts whom I had the pleasure to work with as a member of the management committee, and who have devoted tremendous efforts for the advancement of the profession in New Zealand, have been great mentors for me. Considering their contributions, I fully appreciate the ‘very big shoes’ I have to fill during my term.

As an NZGS Chair, I am intending to continue the work of the previous Chairs and my priorities will be:

  • to deliver training and CPD opportunities to the members, through presentations, webinars, workshops, mini-Symposia or other events,
  • to continue and progress our technical projects that include developing and supporting guidance documents and geotechnical information databases, and in particular advocate for a guidance document for Slope Stability in New Zealand,
  • to liaise and collaborate with the other Technical Societies in New Zealand and internationally through our representatives, as well as MBIE, Engineering NZ and other public Authorities and professional organisations,
  • to transfer the knowledge developed by the activities of the Society in the most appropriate, efficient and inclusive manner to all our members throughout
    New Zealand. 

In the above objectives I will be supported by a wonderful team of people forming the NZGS Management Committee, which has been renewed by the latest election in August 2021. The new composition of the Management Committee is presented in detail in this issue of NZ Geomechanics News.

Modules Finalisation Project

The beginning of my term as the NZGS Chair coincided with an exceptional moment for the geotechnical practice in New Zealand. At the time I was writing this piece, the finalisation of the Earthquake Geotechnical Guidelines, used by our profession as draft documents since 2016, was close to completion; they are probably all issued in their final form by now. 

The modules finalisation project, led and funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment in partnership with NZGS, has been carried out with the combined efforts of Engineering New Zealand and NZGS. I would like to pass the Society’s warmest appreciation to everyone involved, coordinators, authors, editors and reviewers. I would like in particular to thank Ross Roberts, for his efforts during his term as Chair overviewing most of the process, and Mike Stannard, who has been the heart and the soul of this project since the early days of conception, as Chief Engineer of MBIE. Without the funding from MBIE and the efforts of each of these people the series would not be able to be finalised, and I personally wish to express my deepest thanks to each of them.

Following the finalisation of the geotechnical modules, NZGS will collaborate with MBIE and Engineering NZ to support communication, workshops and training for our membership in the use of the guidance to maximise the benefits to our practice. 

NZGS Management Committee

Elections and new members 

Our elections for the new Management Committee of NZGS took place last August. This year we had five of the members of the previous Committee reaching the end of their term, and the same number of elected positions becoming available. We were overwhelmed with the number and the high quality of the nominations for the elections, as well as the unprecedented participation of the members in the ballot. 

The result achieved sufficient refreshing of the Committee, as well as ensured continuity. Three new very enthusiastic members were elected to the Committee for the first time, Richard Justice from ENGEO in Christchurch, Emilia Stocks from Tonkin and Taylor in Wellington, and Ayoub Riman from ENGEO in Wellington, and two of the previous members were re-elected, Jen Smith from Tonkin and Taylor in Auckland and Rolando Orense from the University of Auckland. 

The new members of the Committee did not lose any time and took over their duties straight away. Richard Justice will focus on the coordination of the local branches, and I trust he will inspire revamping their activities, as we all recover from the multiple shocks the pandemic has brought to us. He will also coordinate the Slope Stability Guideline project, which is one of the priorities of the new Committee. 

I was extremely pleased to see Emilia Stocks volunteering for the role of training coordinator; a role that I used to serve in the past and which I believe is one of the most valuable for our membership. Emilia has started by issuing a survey to the membership last November, to identify our training needs and prioritise relevant courses for the next two years. 

Ayoub Riman, who has wide experience in NZGS roles outside of the management Committee, took the demanding role of speaker coordination and will also support the training activities of the YGPs. Rolando Orense will continue his good work coordinating awards and scholarships, but he will also focus on organising webinars. Jen Smith has completed her role as the Climate Change Symposium Convenor and has taken on the Treasurer and Vice Chair roles. 

I would like to wish to the newly elected members and all other members of the Committee all the best for their terms. I am aware of their enthusiasm and passion, and I am convinced that they will do a great job! 


Sadly, we must farewell some of our hard-working committee members. Sally Hargraves and Sally Dellow have reached the end of their terms and have decided to step down from the Committee. I would like to thank them both for their efforts and contribution to the Society. Sally Hargraves in particular, who has served the Society since 2015, will continue to provide her support in some of our technical work, as she is currently representing NZGS to the foundations working group of the committee that will revise NZS 3604:2011 Timber-framed buildings.

A special farewell also to Tony Fairclough, who is leaving the Committee at the end of his term as immediate past Chair. Tony has served the Committee since 2010, in a variety of roles, including Convenor of the Geotech Symposium in 2013, and Treasurer and Chair of the NZGS Management Committee. Tony has devoted an uncountable number of hours and energy to NZGS and has brought tremendous value in the various roles he has served. Tony will continue working with NZGS to finalise the Piling Specification, and I am sure he will be volunteering his time again for any project his input will be requested. 

NZGS Climate Change Symposium

At the beginning of November, NZGS delivered the 1st Geotechnical Symposium focused on Climate Change and Sustainable practices. This Symposium was organised by NZGS, in collaboration with MBIE and Engineering NZ, and attracted very interesting presentations showcasing that our industry is already preparing and adapting to the upcoming change. The discussions that followed the presentations highlighted the high potential and unique opportunities for our profession to thrive in this field, as there is a lot more yet to be done. 

This was one more event disrupted by COVID outbreaks, and we had to change the date and format of the Symposium. This gave us one more opportunity to demonstrate how flexible and resilient we have become as an industry. I would like to warmly thank Jen Smith, our Symposium Convenor, for her efforts to make the Symposium reality, assisted by Martin Larisch, Ross Roberts, and Holly Rausch from Engineering New Zealand. They have all been instrumental for the event. 

NZ Geomechanics News 

The editorial team of our magazine has changed in the past few months. Gabrielle Chiaro who has been co-editing the magazine with Don Macfarlane since 2018, has retired from the role for personal reasons. Gabrielle has done a great job all these years, and I would like to thank him for all his hard work.

The co-editor was kindly taken over by Camilla Gibbons from Aurecon in Christchurch, who is currently assisting Don with our bulletin. Camilla has been involved with the magazine and has been a member of the Management Committee in the past, and we were delighted to welcome her again in an NZGS role.

Our bulletin distribution continues to grow and is currently being provided to more than 1,000 members nationwide, while a PDF copy is also available on our website ( I would like to take the opportunity to express the Society’s gratitude to two of our long-lasting advertisers who are both celebrating 50 years of business in this issue of NZ Geomechanics News:

  • Griffiths Drilling who has been advertising in the NZ Geomechanics News for over
    25 years now, and 
  • Grouting Services who have been advertising for over 10 years. 

The magazine and the Society owe a lot to our loyal supporters. 

Industry Collaboration 

NZGS has been working closely with our sister Societies, NZSEE and SESOC to establish a common approach to a number of matters and initiatives, including Occupational Regulation and the finalisation of the Geotechnical Engineering Modules. As the NZGS Chair, I have represented NZGS in their Management Committee meetings and their Presidents and representatives have been invited to the NZGS Committee meetings, to inform, share ideas and collaborate.

NZGS and SESOC have been working with Engineering NZ to issue guidance for Structural Engineers to assist in decision-making for when Geotechnical input is necessary for residential development projects. We are also working with Engineering NZ to issue a template geotechnical report to support and justify this decision. 

I am also representing NZGS in the MBIE Code Advisory Panel (CAP), a working group established by MBIE to replace the Building Code Technical Advisory Group (BCTRAG). In this group MBIE is encouraging open and constructive discussions between their staff and industry representatives to incorporate improvements to the Code in various aspects. The last group meeting was focused on the proposed changes to address Climate Change and the design of energy efficient residential and commercial buildings.  


I would like to extend my congratulations, and those of all our other members, to those who have been recognised by Engineering New Zealand: 

Distinguished Fellow
Dr Peter Millar, who was elected a Distinguished Fellow of Engineering New Zealand for, among his many contributions, his contribution to geotechnical engineering and industry leadership. 

Fellow – Christopher John Freer, Gregory James Saul and Philip Robins. 

  • Chris Freer has over 40 years’ specialist expertise in geotechnical engineering and has also been Chair and executive member of the NZ Pacific Business Council and Engineers Without Borders. 
  • Greg Saul is a nationally recognised geotechnical engineer with expertise in landslides, slope stability and stabilisation, as well as innovative geotechnical design of transportation projects. 
  • Phil Robins has over 30 years’ international experience in geotechnical engineering, with wide-ranging involvement across the infrastructure, buildings and industrial sectors. He has been Chair of NZGS, and is currently ISSMGE Vice President for Australasia.


Despite the disruptions and restrictions imposed by the pandemic, our industry is continuing to flourish and is busier than ever. The Society has a lot of activities that need the membership contribution to succeed. I would like to invite all those great people that stood in the August election and have not been successful, and all our members to offer assistance to NZGS. There is so much going on, that we cannot spare good volunteers, and you don’t have to be member of the Committee to contribute. 

Please get in touch with me or the Management Secretary or any other member of the 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 102 - December 2021
New Zealand
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