Home News Industry Updates Flood plains front of mind for Future Thinker

July 2024

Flood plains front of mind for Future Thinker

25 Jun 2024, Industry Updates, News

Massey University student Widi Auliagisni has been named the sixth Future Thinker of the Year by the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) for her work on community resilience to natural hazards and sustainability

The Future Thinker of the Year acknowledges a student or young professional, who demonstrates environmental knowledge and leadership and recognises their success and passion for greener, better buildings.

NZGBC chief Andrew Eagles said it’s an exciting time to be entering the industry and that those with fresh ideas on how to help New Zealand build a more resilient environment can help to develop a more sustainable future.

“There’s a huge opportunity for those joining the industry to make a real difference,” said Eagles. “Buildings account for 20% of New Zealand’s emissions, so innovation in carbon and sustainability is essential to reducing our impact and creating better futures for our tamariki and mokopuna.

“It’s great to hear the energy of our Future Thinker finalists on how we can step up and meet the challenge of a lower carbon, more resilient future. Construction emissions are going in the wrong direction, so it’s inspiring to see new, passionate ideas.”

One of the judges for 2024 was Amanda Bryna, Technical Director of Sustainability and Built Environment at Mott MacDonald. She said that large companies such as Mott MacDonald can play a crucial role in helping take innovative ideas from blueprint to completion.

“We see sponsoring Future Thinkers as being important to grow sustainability, build capacity in the industry, and provide leadership by developing career pathways for the Future Thinkers to follow by recognising and supporting the next generation of talent,” said Bryna.

Stop floodplain construction

Widi, who is a Doctoral student in Emergency and Disaster Management and an Assistant Project Manager at Beca, researched community resilience to natural hazards and sustainability, particularly in the Northland area of New Zealand.

“My research has illuminated the devastating impact of recurring floods on communities, prompting an urgent call to halt construction in floodplains. I have witnessed firsthand the resilience of communities facing adversity and advocate for collective action to build resilience from the ground up. This includes reevaluating building practices and fostering dialogue on the importance of protecting our floodplains,” said Widi.

“This also includes adapting nature-based approaches, such as developing green infrastructure and flood plain restoration, which also provides benefits such as improved water quality and enhanced biodiversity.

“It is crucial to recognise that even well-prepared communities might find their efforts insufficient when faced with the realities of climate change. Therefore, it’s imperative to continuously update and enhance flood protection measures to keep pace with the evolving environmental challenges.”

Widi said green infrastructure could include bio-retention cells, rain gardens and permeable pavements, which help manage stormwater, reduce run-off and mitigate flood risk by absorbing and slowing down water flow.

“The development of green infrastructure in New Zealand is a proactive step towards building more resilient communities that are better equipped to handle the challenges posed by flooding. It not only helps in managing the immediate risks but also contributes to the long-term sustainability and resilience of urban areas against the increasing threats of climate change.”

Future Thinker of the Year 2024 finalists included: Elizabeth Norris, Francisco Carbajal and Mike Murray. Francisco Carbajal was named as the Emerging Leader 2024 – an award handed out for the first time, which recognises work done to progress and advocate for sustainable change within the built environment.

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