Keep up to date with the latest webinars from our Lessons to be learnt 2022 series.

Lessons to be learnt | 1 – The Abbotsford landslip disaster

Unlike many case studies, this is not the story of an engineering professional making a mistake. However, the Abbotsford Landslip Disaster, and the subsequent Commission of Inquiry, changed the way society now holds Councils to account for losses arising from natural hazards, in particular landslides. Presented by Nick Rogers.


Lessons to be learnt | 2 – Taming and developing the coastal margins of Aotearoa

Coastal engineering and planning in Aotearoa NZ have in the past been an art, tempered with meagre datasets and simple models (e.g., Bruun Rule). Thinking our designs over the decades would cope with the vagaries and extremes we face at the coast has resulted in some notable (and less well known) failures. Often there is a lack of appreciation of the geomorphic context and historic change we have observed.

It needs coastal practitioners to bring that wider systems perspective but often development or private property owner pressures have been difficult for decision-makers to resist, despite having a coastal policy statement . Now, we face ongoing sea-level rise that presents an emerging challenge to our existing coastal development.

Rob poses the question of whether we are learning the lessons of the past on top of the amplified response to climate change and the growing compound flood hazards in coastal lowlands? Will that suffice? Presented by New Zealand Coastal Society’s Dr. Rob Bell.

Case study - Taming and developing the coastal margins of Aotearoa


Lessons to be learnt | 3 – Major power outages – Past, present and future

An electric power outage affects almost everyone in an area that loses power, even if it happens irregularly and only lasts a few seconds. Things can get more serious when an outage lasts longer than a few seconds or minutes and continue for an hour or more. We typically read about those in the media after an extreme weather event. But what happens when the power fails and remains off for five weeks? Well, it happened in Auckland in 1998. The outage had a severe crippling effect on the CBD, including telecom infrastructure, data centres, banks (all with national repercussions), other businesses and inner-city residents.

Today we are incredibly reliant on the availability of electricity, and we are embarking on a future that will rely even more on electricity. (e.g. transportation.) Consider the consequences of such a long term failure five to ten years from now. What can we learn from the 1998 event and several subsequent power failures to avoid repeat occurrences? Presented by Electrical Engineering Group’s Daniel Muller and Geoff Hunt.

Case study - New Zealand power failures


Lessons to be learnt | 4 – Bridges and other failures

As an engineer, Alex Gray has always valued human life and thus far none of his projects have had any serious injuries or fatalities either during construction or public use. The main reason he is fascinated in investigating failures is to understand what went wrong so that other engineers and builders can learn from the mistakes and ensure they're not repeated. This presentation will cover many New Zealand and overseas failures and discuss the causes and solutions to prevent reoccurrence.

Presented by Alex Gray, a past-president of New Zealand Concrete Society (now the Concrete NZ Learned Society) who has worked as a Civil Engineer and Project Manager for over 40 years. He has been involved in the construction of major infrastructure projects including the Terrace Tunnel and Ngauranga Incrementally launched bridges.


Lessons to be learnt | 5 – Local exhaust ventilation control failures

Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is an engineering system frequently used in workplaces to protect employees from exposure to substances hazardous to health. Here we will discuss the reasons why so many LEV systems actually fail to protect workers from being exposed and the potential costs to the workers.

Presented by Derek Miller on behalf of the New Zealand Society for Safety Engineers and Health and Safety Association of New Zealand.