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Tom Kay on Making Room for Rivers

Registration Types

  • General Admission: Free ($0.00)
  • Eventfinda tickets no longer on sale


  • Mon 4 Dec 2023, 7:00pm–9:00pm


All Ages

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Tom Kay, Forest & Bird's freshwater advocate will be talking about the Making Room for Rivers campaign.

"Many of our stop banks and other flood mitigation infrastructure need expensive improvements to cope with this increased risk to communities. And ironically, the way these defences are currently constructed can actually increase the risk of flooding during large rainfall events." - Tom Kay, Freshwater advocate

Allowing rivers to move rather than engineering them into artificial channels is a nature-friendly way to reduce flooding.

Working with nature to avoid disasters – how ‘making room for rivers’ and other nature-based solutions can help us out of the problems we’ve engineered.

Recent extreme weather, including Cyclone Gabrielle, has highlighted the vulnerability of our communities to flooding and brought into question our approach to river management and flood protection. It has also started conversations across the country about ‘sponge cities’, ‘making room for rivers’, and other ‘nature-based solutions’ to the impacts of climate change.

In this talk, Tom will show us how the way we have managed our environment has exacerbated flooding and disaster risk, particularly discussing the impact of flood protection engineering on the health of our rivers. He’ll discuss how this is made worse by the loss of wetlands and forests and outline a ‘new’ way of thinking about building resilience to climate change in our communities.

Bio: Tom Kay grew up in Hawke’s Bay but now lives in Wellington where he works as Forest & Bird’s Freshwater Advocate. Tom developed a keen passion for rivers whitewater kayaking on the Mohaka River throughout his childhood and continues to kayak around Aotearoa.

Tom has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a Master of Science in Ecology from Massey University in Palmerston North – where his MSc research focused on measuring changes in river habitat over time. Tom has worked at Forest & Bird for the better part of six years and has also worked briefly as a Policy Advisor at an environmental consultancy, as a field team member in a predator control R&D organisation, and as a raft guide.

Tom’s current interest is figuring out how to get decision-makers and policy-writers to protect the natural character and habitat of rivers, and make ‘room for rivers’, rather than just focus on water quality, quantity, and flood protection engineering.

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