NZ Geomechanics News

Report on NZGS “Principles and Practice of Engineering Geology” Courses 2017

NZGS organised and carried out in late August – early September 2017 a successful two-day short course on “Principles and Practice of Engineering Geology”. The course was held in the three main centres, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and was very well attended. It was the first time an engineering geology focused course was organized by NZGS.

Course objectives

The course aimed to be practical and relevant to the day to day activities of engineering geology professionals. The objectives of the course included:

  • To provide an overview of the basic principles underpinning the practical application of engineering geology, including the geoscientific methodologies and practices required for successful interpretation of the ground conditions.
  • To achieve a greater understanding of “how to get the geology right” in the context of various ground engineering projects and of what constitutes appropriate engineering geology deliverables in the investigation, design and construction phases of those projects.
  • To develop communication skills of engineering geologists to other designer disciplines and industry clients, regarding engineering geology issues and their influence on projects.
  • The course was ideally intended for engineering geologists with three to six years’ experience, in particular those preparing for Professional Engineering Geologist (PEngGeol) registration, in the sense of understanding the skills required to be demonstrated by candidates when applying for assessment. Practitioners with different experience levels would also benefit from the course, less experienced by getting good guidance and developing confidence on how to apply theoretical knowledge into real life projects, and more experienced as a refresher.


Above: Class based Day 1 in GNS Science in Lower Hutt, Wellington


The best of the best from the local and international industry joined their efforts to organise and deliver this course. The main presenters, Fred Baynes, Stuart Read and Ann Williams, distinguished engineering geologists based in Australia and New Zealand, brought to the course more than 100 years’ professional experience altogether, in the local and international industry.

Fred in particular, conveyed his experience and expertise in organising and delivering similar courses for the Australian Geomechanics Society, which was valuable, given that there was no previous experience within NZGS in the organisation of similar courses for professionals.

The main presenters were assisted by renowned experts in each centre who organised and carried out the field exercises. These were Warwick Prebble, Susan Tisley and Ross Roberts in Auckland, Ian Brown and Nick Perrin in Wellington and Don Macfarlane, Barry McDowell, Rori Green and Scott Barnard in Christchurch.

Course content

The first day of the course included class based lectures and practical exercises, consistent for all three centres. The lectures covered a wide range of engineering geology topics, starting from refresh of basic knowledge, such as principles of geological data collection, development of geological maps and sections, use of structure contours, structural geology and stereographic projection.

Other subjects covered during the first day were ground observations and interpretation in projects, ground models, site characterisation and landslide recognition. The practical exercises asked the attendees to practice in basic and advanced geoscience skills. The attendees worked in groups to interpret the structural features of a geological map and develop geological cross sections and to develop complicated ground models by studying a range of available background information.

The second day consisted of field exercises to enhance class based knowledge and practice observational skills and engineering geology field techniques, which included a more local geology component in each centre. The field day in Auckland was at Leigh – Pakiri and Warkworth, and covered study of landforms, mapping of geomorphic and coastal erosion features, logging of rock exposures, structural geology mapping and observation of landslides, in rocks of Pakiri and Waipapa group formations.

In Wellington the group visited Owhiro Bay, where they carried out logging of quarry slopes in Wellington Greywacke rocks and Seatoun, for landslide recognition in the field based on geological and geomorphological features. In Christchurch, the field day was at Sumnervale and Avonside, for mapping of cliff exposures, study and assessment of rock fall hazard in Lyttelton volcanics and study of liquefaction land forms in liquefiable Quaternary alluvial deposits.


Top left: Auckland course Day 2 field exercise at Leigh – Pakiri Beach. Above: Mapping of rock fall hazard at Sumnervale, Christchurch.Left: Fred Baynes and Stuart Read teaching structural geology at Owhiro Bay

Industry response and feedback

The course attracted the interest of professionals following its announcement, with the spaces filling up very quickly, especially in Auckland. We had to exceed our initial maximum accepted number of 20 attendees in all centres, to 25 in Auckland, 23 in Wellington and 22 in Christchurch, to satisfy the high demand.
Most of the attendees spent time to provide detailed feedback following the course, which indicates their level of engagement and interest. The course received positive feedback comments in general, but also constructive criticism and suggestions for additions and improvement, which will help us optimise future courses.

Most of the positive feedback was about the content of the course, the value and relevance to practitioners’ work, the practical exercises both in the class and field, the expertise and knowledge of presenters. Areas of improvement consist our registration processes, course notes and handouts and some technical issues, mainly with respect to the field exercises. The duration of the course with respect to the material covered was also discussed by attendees.

Prevailing suggestions by attendees include the addition of more practical exercises and case studies and of more time in the field. The inclusion of more challenging and advanced topics was also requested by some attendees, as well as of new technologies currently used in the engineering geology practice, such as UAV, modelling related software and applications.



Above: Don Macfarlane explaining Day 2 exercise on the way to Sumnervale field exercise in Christchurch

Future courses

Due to the fact that a number of practitioners in Auckland could not attend the Engineering Geology course this year, because of the high demand, NZGS intends to repeat it in 2018 to satisfy those people. We will soon call for registration of interest through the weekly newsletter and NZGS website, to examine the number of people interested for a repetition of the course next year in other centres as well, apart from Auckland.

The positive response to this course from the industry encourages NZGS to continue its efforts to organise more similar courses in the future. This particular course is intended to be repeated at regular two to three years’ intervals, depending on ongoing interest, while more specialised engineering geology courses are examined, such as on soil & rock logging and landslides.


NZGS and the author personally would like to thank the presenters for devoting their time and efforts to make this course happen, the attendees for their enthusiastic response, participation and feedback and the course sponsors, BECA, GNS Science and Stantec for their contribution in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch respectively.




NZ Geomechanics News
Eleni Gkeli
NZ Geomechanics News>Issue 94 – December 2017
Society News

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