Keynote Speakers


Jack Thatcher | Master Navigator


Jack Thatcher lives in Tauranga Moana and is a master navigator. Since joining the Te Aurere Waka whanau in the early 90’s, he has accumulated over 50,000 nautical miles of deep-ocean and coastal voyaging experience.  Jack has been the navigator for the voyaging waka Te Aurere since 1995 and is one of only a handful across the Pacific to be recognised as a master navigator by the late Pius Mau Piailug of Micronesia (the "grandmaster" of celestial navigation).

In 2012, Jack was chief navigator of the Waka Tapu project – two waka hourua sailing over 10,000 nautical miles from Aotearoa to Rapanui (Easter Island) and Tahiti. An epic voyage which spanned nine months.

Jack has been awarded twice in recent years for his leadership and contributions to the revitalisation of Kaupapa Waka. Firstly in 2013 he was awarded “Te Tohu a Te Waka Toi” by Toi Maori Aotearoa and, in 2015 Jack was nominated for Maori of the Year and was one of four finalists, receiving the award as “Te Toa Whakaihu Waka”.

Jack is passing on his knowledge of waka voyaging and celestial navigation to young Maori. It's an education he hopes not only instills a sense of pride in what their ancestors achieved, but also an insight into their own role to help the future of the world's oceans. "Our new voyagers will need to carry messages of sustainability to the world. Our oceans cannot now sustain these levels of human neglect and greed. If our oceans die, so do we".



Professor Paul Kench

Head of School of Environment at the University of Auckland

National Science Challenge Programme Leader: Living at the Edge – Transforming the Margins (Resilience to Natures Challenges).

Paul is a coastal geomorphologist with research interests in the application of coastal science to support coastal management and is leading a national research programme called Living at the Edge – Transforming the Margins. This research programme is part of a National Science Challenge called Resilience to Natures Challenges.

Communities living on ‘The Edge’ are located in dynamic physical settings (e.g. coastal margins, flood plains), which are highly vulnerable to natural hazards. New Zealand is characterised by many of these communities, facing intensification and acceleration of risk in response to natural hazards and experiencing an amplification of conflicts over how to adapt to changing environments.

Paul will share research learnings from the programme to date and explain how future research will improve coastal management from natural hazards across New Zealand.

leigh manea

Dr Leigh Bull and Manea Sweeny

North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) – Project Ecologist

NCTIR - Environmental Manager

North Canterbury earthquake – Environmental challenges and opportunities of the coastal reinstatement programme

On 14 November 2016, an earthquake comprising a complex sequence of ruptures with a combined magnitude of 7.8 occurred approximately 60 km south-west of the Kaikoura township. Many major roads, including the coastal section of SH1, and the Main North Line railway were closed because of resulting slips and damage to bridges. Natural processes resulting from the earthquake which have contributed to a changing coastline include extensive coastal uplift (2-3m) and large ongoing debris flows. Manea Sweeney (NCTIR Environmental Manager) and Dr Leigh Bull (NCTIR Project Ecologist) will present on the environmental challenges and opportunities faced as part of the coastal reinstatement programme.

Dr Leigh Bull is a Senior Principal Ecologist with Boffa Miskell Limited. Her current role as NCTIR Project Ecologist draws on her previous experiences working on a number of major infrastructure projects, including roads of national significance (RoNS), large wind farms, dredging and reclamations. Leigh is a Certified Environmental Practitioner (Ecology Specialist) with the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, an Independent Hearings Commissioner and Editor of the scientific journal Notornis.

Manea Sweeney, Discipline Manager – Horizon Planning for Tonkin & Taylor, is currently the Environmental Manager for NCTIR. She specialises in complex, multi-disciplinary infrastructural and public works projects across New Zealand and the Pacific.  She is fluent in Te Reo Maori (Maori language) and is skilled in Maori cultural values. Her experience spans the spectrum of Resource Management Act (RMA) planning and management of resources including, RMA scoping studies, consenting strategies, Notice of Requirements, Alterations to Designations, Environmental Impact Assessments and policy analysis.