Hurricane Katrina expert to speak in Wellington

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14 September 2009 - Port of New Orleans CEO, Gary La Grange, is in Wellington to talk about the lessons New Orleans learnt from its recovery from Hurricane Katrina and how these experiences can help protect coastal and port areas worldwide. Mr La Grange is one of the keynote speakers at the Australasian Coasts and Ports Conference at Te Papa Tongarewa, from 16-18 September 2009.

The Wellington region and its coasts will be centre stage for this major conference involving engineers, planners and researchers from all over the world.

Mr La Grange will talk about how the Port of New Orleans opened within two weeks of Hurricane Katrina, even though the city itself remained closed to its residents at that time.

One of the other keynote speakers will focus on the impact of climate change on coastal regions. Most Australians, New Zealanders, and our neighbours in and around the Pacific live within 50kms of the coast. This is the area most vulnerable to predicted climate change in temperature, rainfall, sea level, and extreme weather. Professor Ron Cox from the University of New South Wales will focus on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options (including engineering, planning, social and policy) related to coastal cities and towns and ports.

"All means of travel in and out of Wellington hug the coast", says Dr Andrew Laing, the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Regional Manager and the Coasts and Ports 2009 Conference Committee Chair. He says the importance of the coastline to Wellington cannot be overestimated.

"Wellington Harbour is a crucial inter-island shipping link and regional gateway. Even the airport is located between the harbour and the volatile seas of the south coast."

Many parts of the Wellington region's coastline are already under threat. Wellington depends on being able to keep our coast and our ports open and accessible.

Four field trips will be run as part of the conference programme and highlights of these will include trips around Wellington's CentrePort, Oriental Bay's artificial sand beach and the Wellington coastline.

The three keynote speakers are Associate Professor Ron Cox from the School of Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales; Gary La Grange, President and CEO, Port of New Orleans; and Tarmo Soomere, Professor of Coastal Engineering, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia, who will speak on the complexity of processes affecting coasts and ports in times of environmental change.

More information:

To find out more about this conference including a detailed programme visit: www.coastsandports2009.com.

Contact for media comment:

Dr Andrew Laing

NIWA Regional Manager (Wellington)

04-386 0333 or 027 444 8769

Research subject: Climate changeEarthquakes