Experts here for conference

Friday 16 February, 2024

Australasia's leading landscape scientists were in town this week for the biennial Australia New Zealand Geomorphology Group’s (ANZGG) conference.

The five-day gathering ran from February 12-16 with around 200 people, and included presentations, discussions, workshops and field trips all focused on the theme for this year, Geomorphic Disturbance Recovery. There was also a public forum.

Gisborne District Council principal scientist Dr Murry Cave said it’s exciting to have such highly regarded experts in the region.

He was a keynote speaker at the event.

“These are the best on landslides and land management from Australia and New Zealand and include some world-class experts.

“They will learn and take their experiences away and apply it elsewhere but more importantly, I hope they will inform the decision-makers when they are considering land use changes within the Gisborne region in the future. That is a critical component for us.”

Dr Cave said it was widely recognised that changing land use is not going to be easy and will certainly take a lot of work.

Geomorphologists have long had a special interest in the landscapes of the East Coast, especially given the region has some of the highest rates of sediment generation and movement per unit area in the world. That has led to ground-breaking research and multiple field trips over decades.

While the East Coast is something of a geomorphologist's dream, to others, it is more of a nightmare scenario as the lived realities of flooding, erosion, and sedimentation issues wreak havoc.

The feedback from local groups at the community forum will highlight the local, national and international work that has been undertaken to look after the landscapes and ecosystems of the East Coast region.

“This will give them a chance to understand the bigger picture as to what actually happened in the 2023 storms.”

In the Waimata Catchment alone there were around 14,000 landslides and Dr Cave estimates the regionwide number could be as high as 100,000.

“We have been here before in Bola when we made land use changes and planted lots of pine trees. We have now learned more and it is time to reconsider what is the most appropriate land use.”

The field trips take conference attendees around the East Cape, to the Waipaoa River, Wainui Beach and Mahia, as well as into parts of Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu and Kapiti Coast.

The gathering is the first big technological conference to be hosted in Tairāwhiti since 2018 and while Cyclone Gabrielle was the trigger that saw the group head to the provinces, Dr Cave is hopeful good will come from it.