Proceedings of the 21st NZGS Symposium

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Published 29 July 2021
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Proceedings of the 21st NZGS Symposium

Good Grounds for the Future

The 21st New Zealand Geomechanics Symposium was held in Dunedin on 24 – 26 March 2021.

A link to the proceedings can be found here: NZGS Symposium 2021 Proceedings_

Uploading of these proceedings to the NZGS website was sponsored by Mainmark. 

A note from the Convenor:

The world is experiencing profound changes. These mark the dawning of a new era of pressing challenges that Geotechnical Engineering must deal with, internationally and in New Zealand. Climate change results in a multitude of irreversible impacts on our societies. Higher rainfall, more frequent extreme weather events, rising sea levels and higher temperatures cause a myriad of effects. Coastal erosion, flooding, intense land erosion and instability do not only affect our built environment, but the economy too.

The recent Canterbury and Kaikōura earthquakes have delivered stark lessons to the geotechnical engineering practice in New Zealand. The disruption that those events caused to our lives and infrastructure, and the time and cost required for restoration woke New Zealand up from a long event-quiet period. It is now realised that planning for a seismic event is no longer on the basis of “if it happens”, but “when and where it will happen”. Discussion, thinking and regulation is gradually shifting from safety during earthquake events to the increased resilience of our communities and lifelines.

Resilience becomes critical, considering the increased urbanism and dependency of our modern developed societies to lifeline infrastructure. The complexity of modern facilities requires a high
level of efficiency of engineering design and collaboration between all disciplines and parties involved. The consequences of a disaster and the time and cost for reinstatement can be significant if infrastructure is not designed and built to perform adequately in severe events with tolerable repair requirements.

Developing resilient communities, but also recovery from natural disasters once they have occurred, may face significant funding constraints in the future. The insurance contribution may demand more accurate predictions and more appropriate definition of risk, consequences and level of repairs.

Pressing challenges bring great opportunity for our profession. Geotechnical engineering and engineering geology are now widely perceived in New Zealand as an integral part of our modern
communities.

New technologies, such as monitoring systems, UAV, 3-D modelling and new computational methods bring tremendous new capability in understanding and assessing the natural phenomena and their effects to infrastructure, but also to make prediction and projections for the future. New regulation and guideline framework assist geotechnical engineering practice. New communication technologies enable dissemination of knowledge and collaboration, without geographical or other barriers.

Our past achievements and failures can provide invaluable learnings and assist us prepare for the future challenges and make the most of future opportunities.

Reflecting on the above, the following critical questions are looking for answers:

  • Are we using the whole range and capability of available technology in a way that benefits and develops the Geotechnical profession? What are the benefits and limitations?
  • Are there gaps in the guidelines and regulatory framework and how can we keep it up to date for the future challenges?
  • How can we enhance and develop collaboration with other engineering disciplines?
  • How can past learning and experience assist us in addressing future challenges and build a sustainable and resilient future both for the geotechnical profession and our communities?

We are delighted to invite you to the NZGS 2021 Symposium in Dunedin to explore the answers to the above questions together. Dunedin is New Zealand’s best kept secret, a city with character
architecture, steeped in history, and full of hidden gems. A unique gateway to the Symposium is planned, with a pre-Symposium workshop in spectacular Queenstown and a field study through
spectacular central Otago, where past excellence in geotechnical engineering practice can educate and inform our future development.

The side-effects of the pandemic made travel for our internationally renowned keynote speakers to Aotearoa impossible. On behalf of NZGS and the Symposium Committee I would like to warmly acknowledge the ongoing commitment and contribution of our keynote speakers Dr. Sissy Nikolaou, Professor Ross Boulanger, Emeritus Professor Dr. George Gazetas and Dr. Chris Haberfield. We value our keynote speakers for their willingness and efforts to join the Symposium and share their knowledge with us online. We renew our invitation to them for a future visit and look forward to welcoming them again in Aotearoa in person.

I also wish to acknowledge the support provided by the Symposium Sponsors. Particularly in uncertain times like the ones we were asked to organise and deliver this event, it would have been impossible without the Sponsors ongoing kind understanding, commitment, and support. The Symposium Committee has been humbled by the thrilling engagement of the Sponsors and would like to thank them for this on behalf of NZGS.

Finally, I would like to thank Philip Robins, Doug Mason, Ayoub Riman, Helen Hendrickson, Nathan Schumacher and Chris Sandoval, members of the Symposium Committee, for the incredible amount of time they have put into organising this event and their devotion and resilience. This Committee has not just organised one event, but a number of alternative concepts, trying to navigate through this unprecedent situation of the pandemic and deliver this event for you. In our efforts, we have been supported and guided by Kerry South of Conference and Events. With Kerry’s hard work, professionalism, experience, and perseverance we achieved to deliver a hopefully worthwhile and enjoyable event. Once again, welcome to Dunedin and thank you for your contribution in developing “Good grounds for the future”.

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