Study Leave Dutch Style

Study Leave Dutch Style

Tonkin + Taylor Coastal Engineer, Peter Quilter, was recently awarded the NZ Coastal Society Professional Development Award, allowing him to attend the Delft Institute of Hydraulic Engineering (IHE) in the Netherlands for two months. T+T congratulates Peter on the completion of his studies and added capabilities within our coastal team.

Heading to Delft in the Netherlands to study coastal engineering at postgraduate level is a substantial step from my previous postgraduate coastal studies here in New Zealand, simply due to the experience of the teaching staff and research facilities which presented opportunities to push beyond the status quo. The Delft Institute of Hydraulic Engineering (IHE) Masters in Coastal and Port Development traverses a range of subjects, with some being more relevant to New Zealand than others. Fortunately two of them, namely Coastal Systems and Coastal and Port Structures followed one another in the academic calendar and I was able to be admitted into these courses independent of the wider Masters programme.

My teaching staff included Prof. van der Meer, renowned designer of coastal structures; Prof. Ranasinghe who holds the AXA Chair in Climate Change Impacts and Coastal Risk at the Department of Water Science and Engineering; Prof. Roelvink, expert in coastal hydrodynamics and numerical modelling; and Associate Prof. van der Wegen who specialises in estuarine morphodynamics.

Having fewer than 20 classmates allowed me plenty of time with the Professors. The international mix of students, many from developing countries, meant that the many challenges we face in coastal engineering were frequently discussed in context with those countries most vulnerable. Those contacts made with colleagues and teaching staff will undoubtedly benefit my continuing professional development.

A number of people have asked me how coastal management in the Netherlands differs from NZ. Of course, they face similar challenges such as sea level rise and coastal erosion, however their approach is quite different. For example, many low-lying developments susceptible to inundation are located within a network of delta systems, some of which have been protected at their seaward extent by extensive flood gates. While a reduction in flood risk has been gained, the consequence is that large areas of estuarine ecosystems have now been flooded with freshwater.

Extensive beach monitoring and nourishment programmes are ongoing along the exposed sandy dune coasts using sand dredged and transported from the North Sea. This occurs on a scale that has significant cost advantages compared to beach nourishment in NZ.

My time in the Netherlands has extended my theoretical understanding of coastal systems and breakwater design and enlarged my community of international contacts. I am extremely grateful to the New Zealand Coastal Society and Tonkin + Taylor for providing this opportunity. With this chapter of study behind me, I'm very much looking forward to applying my enhanced knowledge and experience in the future.