When Cyclone Gabrielle hit New Zealand in February 2023, the Riverside Motor Camp – on the banks of the Wairoa River on the east coast – was inundated with flood water and silt, leaving a thick layer of mud and debris on the severely affected site.

To urgently assess the damage to the grounds and buildings, and to develop plans to install stormwater pumps in the event of similar situations in the future, owners Wairoa District Council requested a digital 3D capture of the campground.Context’s spatial data lead Isaac Mui says: “The site was completely flooded. The water wiped out trees, small dwellings and left a trail of destruction and thick mud with mounds up to 2m tall. It looked like a disaster zone.”

The team at Context used light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scanning technology to capture precise geometric data of the site, including its shape, topography, and structural elements, and the damage left behind by the flood waters. This data was then used to create a highly accurate 3D representation of the site, or a digital twin.

Mui says: “The level of detail provided by LiDAR can far surpass traditional surveying methods, which enabled us, and Wairoa Council, to have a more comprehensive understanding of the damage and what the recovery could look like.

“Not only does the scan capture create a timestamp of the site, it also records information such as terrain, slopes, elevation changes, and potential hazards. This data can be used for safety and risk assessments in the clean-up and for future natural disaster management.”

Mui says the benefits of having the site scanned were obvious for the client once complete.

“For the first time, we could actually see in great detail the damage caused by the flood waters. Not only to the grounds of the camp site, but we could see how the flood water flowed across the site, which meant Wairoa Council could start to look at how to prevent the potential flood risk in the future.”

The digital model provided an accurate basis for a discussion with regards to consideration of future development opportunities and landscape architectural interventions on the site that could occur in conjunction with the clean-up. The opportunity for digital representations of possible interventions was also explored.

LiDAR technology can also serve as a platform for effective asset and facilities management and maintenance. By integrating additional data such as sensor readings, maintenance records, and historical performance data into the digital twin, facility managers can monitor the condition of assets and plan maintenance more efficiently. This approach can help minimise downtime, reduce costs, and extend the lifespan of infrastructure.