How it all went - Coastal Engineering Challenges in a Changing World

The Coastal Society event held last Thursday night in the 4Sight Offices was a great success. Thanks to Dr Steven Hughes from Colorado, who is visiting New Zealand as part of the Fulbright Specialist Program, in conjunction with the University of Auckland and NZ Coastal Society.

It was good to discuss the challenges around present-day coastal engineering, with other passionate professionals in the region. Dr Steven Hughes talk was videoed and live streamed, we will be adding a link a little later on.

The invisible challenges of urban ecological restoration projects

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A keen, engaged community.  A desire to restore their natural environment.  All of the components needed to deliver lasting and meaningful ecological and social outcomes?

We know that cities provide important biological, cultural and social values and function, despite their highly urbanised nature. They are a home we share with a wide variety of plants and animals. There is growing shift of community expectation, connection and action towards the restoration and enhancement of urban ecology to balance the impacts of past development and future growth.  

Community groups and stakeholders provide a key conduit to a wider-pool of community resource and knowledge, and can bring those additional benefits only gained by community-based projects where learning is enabled, knowledge is shared, and a community spirit and connection is grown. 

However, a lack of planning, coordination or on-going focus can lead to a loss of outcome or support. 

At this year’s New Zealand Recreational Association Conference, Senior Ecologist Tony Payne will be presenting a case study for Senior Planner Simon Karl's presentation, on the Orewa Estuary Te Ara Tahuna Community Restoration Plan. The plan was delivered for, and with the community, supported by the Auckland Council Biodiversity Team, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board and Forest and Bird.

From conception, the Plan was intended to develop lasting interactions between community groups and provide an easy to understand, and easy to implement, means of enhancing the 12km coastal margin surrounding the Orewa Estuary.

At our presentation, we will discuss our approach towards community liaison, delving into the ecological and social context of the area, and how we developed the plan, so the community could understand what ecological restoration and monitoring activities are needed, and importantly, their role in delivering them. 

Ultimately, the Plan reflects the local community’s interests, providing information, advice and the tools needed to deliver matauranga maori, animal pest control, environmental weed control, restoration planting, bird monitoring and mangrove management.

Drawing on recent project examples, Tony and Simon will explore several pitfalls and challenges associated with riparian ecological restoration works around our cities and discuss how these can be avoided or managed so that communities can continue to work together to achieve great things.


TEDxTutukākā - Tapuwae: Footprints in Our Sand

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Zoë Avery and Renée Davies were two inspiring speakers chosen to share their “great idea” to 100 delegates at the first TEDxTutukākā event held on 7 April.  The theme of the of the event was Tapuwae - Footprints in Our Sand.  Zoë and Renée spoke about designing living roofs to maximise benefits for the built environment, people and nature. Explaining a local example, Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Maori Art Gallery, where they have had the privilege of working alongside a large and dedicated group of people to champion a living roof project in Whangarei.

TEDxTutukākā later posted on their Facebook page "My favourite bit was when...."  for the 2018 event, where a delegate Kirsty responded "For me, it was when Renee & Zoë put up their beautiful slide showing what Whangarei CBD COULD look like - with a green and vibrant heart - and there was a collective quiet 'Ooooo' from the audience and someone close to me said 'That's what we need'" and another delegate responding “Same Kirsty. What a beautiful vision these 2 have”.

The Hundertwasser project is a fantastic example of how a building and it’s living roof, designed in consideration of living urbanism, can add to the vibrancy and well-being of a local community.  Living Urbanism is a set of design principles that reflect the sensory connection between humans, the built environment and nature. Design outcomes aim is to make environments more permeable for people and wildlife.

TEDxTutukākā was a huge success, the kaupapa was followed through in every aspect, creating an amazing sense of community, driving to be zero-waste and accessible to the hearing impaired. The locally handmade, plastic-free, re-useable, goodie bags just reinforced the messages around living the values discussed during the day.

To find out more you can get in touch with Zoë Avery and Renée Davies

Water quality in Coromandel streams

During the summer 2017, 4Sight investigated the water quality in four Coromandel catchments for the Waikato Regional Council (WRC), to identify potential causes of contamination. The results of the study have helped WRC to better understand contaminant sources in the area, improving responses to coastal water quality issues and highlighting opportunities to reduce contamination in these streams. The full investigation has just been published. You can find it here

Delivering the best outcomes for land, people and water

Delivering the best outcomes for land people and water demands both a depth and breadth of skills and a passion for getting the balance right. That's why we don't just look for talented people, we seek out experts who share our vision that the best approach is one that meets the needs of land, water and people.

This month we feature our Senior Ecology Consultant, Tony Payne talking about the role of an Ecology consultant and the varied projects he has on his plate.

If you're passionate about your career and want to make a real difference, take a peek at our careers page for all our latest roles on offer. Right now we are looking for an ecologist with at least 10 years’ experience, who has had a demonstrated focus on coastal and marine related projects.

Is this you? Apply now. 


A relic of the Jurassic period - Spotlight on the Kahikatea


Our Ecology Consultant Dr. Arie Spyksma shines the spotlight on New Zealands tallest forest tree this week.

Kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) grows in excess of 60 metres on occasion. Amazingly, these trees are a relic of the Jurassic period, with pollen and leaves being discovered in Jurassic rocks (160 – 180 million years old) where they were likely pollinated by pterosaurs, not birds.

Historically there were widespread kahikatea forests through New Zealand’s low lying areas, with these trees thriving in frequently damp areas such as floodplains and swamps. Unfortunately, the expansion of New Zealand’s agricultural interests and the conversion of many low lying boggy areas into uniform expanses of pasture lead to the demise of much of our kahikatea forest. The best place to still see these forests in their prime today are the extensive freshwater swamp forests in Westland.

These kahikatea made up part of a small remnant grove in South Auckland, near Pukekohe. At the time of taking this photo (March) many of the fleshy seed receptacles had ripened (changing from green to orange/red) and were being engulfed by a litany of tui and kereru, a highly effective dispersal mechanism. 

Arie’s field of expertise is extremely wide. He works largely in ecological impact assessment, which involves environmental monitoring, marine monitoring, fauna survey, report writing, scientific research, field research, conservation and ecological restoration. 

For more information on Arie view his profile here.


Sniffing out the skinks! - An initiative for our four-legged employee

In an initiative to develop a flexible, rapid, cost effective and accurate methodology for a native skink presence survey at 4Sight, we’ve turned to our four-legged employees!

It’s well known that dogs have a sense of smell far superior to our own - a human has approximately 5 million scent glands, in comparison to dogs which (depending on breed) can have anywhere from 125 million to 300 million.

The use of canine super-sniffers is not a new concept in the realm of conservation – in fact New Zealand is recognised as one of the pioneering countries in the development of dog training to support species recovery objectives. 4Sight is continually looking to develop practical solutions to help us live, work and thrive in our environment and accordingly, is supporting the training of a native skink detection dog, using one of our most widespread species – copper skink – as a proxy for native skinks. Whilst dogs have been trained to detect the presence of the invasive plague skinks, and others can detect native geckos; this initiative is (as far as we know) the first of its kind in New Zealand. Where human error and seasonal conditions can impact detection accuracy, a well-trained dog can potentially indicate presence of native skinks within minutes – and in a far less invasive manner.

Enter Molly – 4Sight’s resident chocolate labrador. With a drive to please and enthusiasm to boot, she’s got the goods to make a top notch conservation dog. Check in regularly, as we’ll update her progress on this blog, with regular posts by Molly’s handler Rachel throughout the training and assessment process. Watch this space!

Geckos in the spotlight!

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At least 39 species of gecko live in New Zealand, however only 18 of these species have been described. These species show a great variety in size and colour, and range from bright greens and yellows to camouflage greys and browns. New Zealand geckos are also unique in that they give birth to live young rather than lay eggs, something that is only shared with geckos from New Caledonia. 

Geckos are extremely cryptic and difficult to detect, especially on mainland New Zealand. They are also under threat from introduced predators and habitat destruction, which has resulted in low population densities. 

However, there is potential for geckos to be discovered in your backyard. They are attracted to large areas of dense divaricating shrubs such as coprosma species which provide safe cover, but also provides fruit and attract insects for geckos to feed on. They also enjoy kawakawa which provide fruit and flax, while mānuka and rātā offer nectar. 

This is something to consider for any site development project. Our ecology team at 4sight are often seen heading out at night to spotlight for geckos, whose eyes reflect their scanning torches enabling them to assess species presence. This enables our ecologists to monitor gecko populations for an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEEs) and evaluate the impacts and monitoring outcomes as part of mitigation requirements of the Resource Management Act. 

For more information on assessing the ecological impact of your next development, download the guide here.

Photo courtesy of Paul Caiger, who is currently a PhD student at the Leigh Marine Laboratory studying fish ecology. When the weather is too rough to go diving, Paul can be found in the bush searching for reptiles to photograph.