Dr David Wainwright

Dr David Wainwright

Conjoint Lecturer

School of Environmental and Life Sciences

Career Summary


Dr Wainwright is a Conjoint Lecturer with the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle. David has over 20 years’ experience including positions with academia state government and many years working as a consultant in coastal and environmental engineering.  He is also presently a director of Salients Pty Ltd, a consulting firm which he established in 2015.

David’s work typically covers coastal engineering design, coastal geomorphology and land use planning.  David is also broadly familiar with key aspects of coastal ecology, local government management, property law and community consultation.  

His key areas of expertise and research include risk assessment methods for planning in the face of coastal and flooding hazards and sea level rise, engineering design, numerical modelling, and coastal lagoons.  David also holds an Adjunct Research Fellowship with the coastal engineering research group at the University of Queensland.


  • PhD, University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Civil), University of Technology Sydney


  • Beach Erosion
  • Climate Change and Sea Level Rise
  • Coastal Dynamics
  • Coastal Engineering
  • Coastal Geomorphology
  • Environmental Hydraulics
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Estuaries
  • Numerical Modelling
  • Risk Assessment
  • Scientific Programming

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
050205 Environmental Management 30
020303 Fluid Physics 40
080205 Numerical Computation 30

Professional Experience

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
15/12/2015 - 1/9/2016 Part Time Researcher, Coastal Climate Change Risk Assessment

Undertaking research into methods for coastal risk assessment, considering application around Australia. Development
of “best practice” recommendations for future risk assessment by local government in Australia.

Faculty of Science and Information Technology, University of Newcastle
1/8/2011 - 15/12/2012 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

This position was with the University of Queensland’s coastal research group, undertaken during finalisation of my PhD thesis, with the following responsibilities:

• Extension of existing stochastic models of coastal erosion hazards;
• Research into methods for the probabilistic treatment of sea-level rise;
• Preparation of original research for publishing in peer reviewed journals;
• Reporting study outcomes to meet funding organisation requirements;
• Presentation of findings at community forums; and
• Presentation of findings at local, national and international conferences.

Following completion of the 18 month fellowship, David has continued as an adjunct research fellow with the University
of Queensland.

University of Queensland | School of Civil Engineering

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/12/2015 -  Director, Coastal and Environmental Engineer

David established Salients Pty. Ltd. in 2015 to provide consulting services in a range of coastal engineering, design,
planning and risk assessment studies suited to his range of professional experience.

Salients Pty Ltd


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Chapter (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Woodroffe CD, Callaghan D, Cowell PJ, Wainwright D, Rogers K, Ranasinghe R, 'A framework for modelling the risks of climate-change impacts on Australian coasts', Practical studies in climate change adaptation: Applied climate change adaptation research, John Wiley & Sons Ltd (2014)

Journal article (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2018 Tonmoy FN, Wainwright D, Verdon-Kidd DC, Rissik D, 'An investigation of coastal climate change risk assessment practice in Australia', Environmental Science and Policy, 80 9-20 (2018) [C1]

© 2017 Elsevier Ltd Local government organisations in coastal Australia have historically commissioned studies aimed at understanding risks in their locality to future sea level r... [more]

© 2017 Elsevier Ltd Local government organisations in coastal Australia have historically commissioned studies aimed at understanding risks in their locality to future sea level rise as a starting point for developing adaptation strategies to climate change. Therefore, the success of the overall adaptation activities of local government are strongly influenced by the way those initial risk studies are scoped and conducted, and how the outputs of those studies underpin subsequent adaptation planning activities within the organization. Mainstreaming of adaptation planning activities within local government is critical in terms of getting stakeholder support and required resources for its implementation. This paper analyses a sample of these coastal risk assessment studies across seven states and territories in Australia, with an aim to critically investigate the current state of practice among coastal local governments. First, we develop a typology of studies that have been undertaken by or for practitioners to understand coastal climate change risks, and discuss the applicability of the studies within the policy-making context of local government. Second, we identify a set of sample studies from the ¿grey literature¿ through a systematic process and investigate to what extent they adhere to best practice risk management guidelines and principles, such as ISO31000. Third, we interview stakeholders from top performing studies to identify how/if the risk studies helped their organization in progressing their adaptation planning. We find that there is a significant inconsistency among terminologies in the coastal climate change risk assessment unpublished literature as studies use ¿risk¿, vulnerability¿ and ¿hazard¿ concepts interchangeably despite their separate objectives and aims. Most studies perform poorly in evaluating risk against broader organizational criteria. Subsequently, it is difficult to integrate the findings of such studies into a broader organizational risk register, limiting opportunities for identified coastal climate change risks to be integrated into councils¿ long-term strategic decision making. Conversely, the follow up interviews of studies that performed well in scoping and consultation in our assessment demonstrate that these aspects were beneficial to stakeholders in terms of informing adaptation planning. Importantly, the findings presented in this paper confirm the need for a consistent risk assessment approach for local councils in the coastal zone to underpin successful adaptation planning. This is a critical issue, not only for Australia, but for local government organisations globally given that sea level rise is a projected threat for all populated coastal regions worldwide.

DOI 10.1016/j.envsci.2017.11.003
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 5
Co-authors Danielle Verdon
2015 Wainwright DJ, Baldock TE, 'Measurement and modelling of an artificial coastal lagoon breach', Coastal Engineering, 101 1-16 (2015)

© 2015 Elsevier B.V. A field data set of the artificial breaching of a coastal lagoon berm is presented, and includes a detailed analysis of the breach evolution in plan and eleva... [more]

© 2015 Elsevier B.V. A field data set of the artificial breaching of a coastal lagoon berm is presented, and includes a detailed analysis of the breach evolution in plan and elevation, together with water levels and flow velocities. A semi-coupled two-dimensional (depth averaged) numerical model describing both the shallow water hydrodynamics and morphodynamics is developed and tested against the field data. Key hydrodynamic and morphodynamic processes are discussed, and strategies to model these processes are presented and evaluated, such as accounting for modified roughness under transcritical flows and testing an improved algorithm for widening of the breach channel through side wall erosion. While further research is warranted, the processes relating to the erosion of the breach side walls and sediment transport under transcritical flow regimes were found to be essential to developing a realistic model of the overall breach process. A new channel bank erosion model is developed and implemented, which shows improved performance.

DOI 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2015.04.002
Citations Scopus - 5
2015 Wainwright DJ, Ranasinghe R, Callaghan DP, Woodroffe CD, Jongejan R, Dougherty AJ, et al., 'Moving from deterministic towards probabilistic coastal hazard and risk assessment: Development of a modelling framework and application to Narrabeen Beach, New South Wales, Australia', Coastal Engineering, 96 92-99 (2015)

© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Traditional methods for assessing coastal hazards have not typically incorporated a rigorous treatment of uncertainty. Such treatment is necessary to enable r... [more]

© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Traditional methods for assessing coastal hazards have not typically incorporated a rigorous treatment of uncertainty. Such treatment is necessary to enable risk assessments which are now required by emerging risk based coastal zone management/planning frameworks. While unresolved issues remain, relating to the availability of sufficient data for comprehensive uncertainty assessments, this will hopefully improve in coming decades. Here, we present a modelling framework which integrates geological, engineering and economic approaches for assessing the climate change driven economic risk to coastal developments. The framework incorporates means for combining results from models that focus on the decadal to century time scales at which coasts evolve, and those that focus on the short term and seasonal time scales (storm bite and recovery). This paper demonstrates the functionality of the framework in deriving probabilistic coastal hazard lines and their subsequent use to establish an economically optimal setback line for development at a case study site; the Narrabeen-Collaroy embayment in Sydney, New South Wales.

DOI 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2014.11.009
Citations Scopus - 34
2014 Wainwright DJ, Ranasinghe R, Callaghan DP, Woodroffe CD, Cowell PJ, Rogers K, 'An argument for probabilistic coastal hazard assessment: Retrospective examination of practice in New South Wales, Australia', Ocean & Coastal Management, 95 147-155 (2014)
2013 Wainwright DJ, Callaghan DP, Baldock TE, 'Statistical modelling of the barrier height fronting a coastal lagoon and the impact of sea-level rise', Coastal Engineering, 75 10-20 (2013)

A temporal stochastic modelling method for predicting exceedance probabilities of the beach barrier elevations fronting intermittently closed and open coastal lagoons is developed... [more]

A temporal stochastic modelling method for predicting exceedance probabilities of the beach barrier elevations fronting intermittently closed and open coastal lagoons is developed. The method incorporates synthetic tides generated from measured tidal harmonics, and randomly sampled values relating to rainfall, beach face slope, lake opening period, and wave height, direction and period. Samples are derived from distributions of each of these parameters formed from standard long term data records. The method is applied to Tabourie Lake, on the south coast of New South Wales. This entrance is sheltered from the dominant wave climate by an island close to shore, the impact of which is separately assessed by phase averaged wave modelling. The barrier elevation is determined from the 2% run-up level arising from constructive waves. The sensitivity of results to a variety of assumptions is tested. The methodology is applied to determine the probabilistic distribution of barrier heights for both stationary and non-stationary (i.e. sea level rise (SLR)) scenarios. Such probabilities can be adopted in a risk based assessment of catchment flooding behind an enclosing barrier for present conditions, or provide management guidelines for future climate scenario, i.e. changes in rainfall, wave climate, sea level. The model can also be used to investigate different management strategies and how these alter the barrier elevation for given probabilities of exceedance. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

DOI 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2013.01.003
Citations Scopus - 1
2013 Callaghan DP, Wainwright D, 'The impact of various methods of wave transfers from deep water to nearshore when determining extreme beach erosion', Coastal Engineering, 74 50-58 (2013)
DOI 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2012.12.001
Show 3 more journal articles

Conference (10 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2017 Wainwright DJ, Gaston T, Lord DB, MacDonald T, Brown W, 'Balancing Competing Objectives in Coastal Entrance Management', Australasian Coasts & Ports 2017: Working with Nature, Cairns, QLD (2017) [E1]
Co-authors Troy Gaston
2015 Wainwright D, Lord D, Crawley B, '40 Years of Change. Recent Evolution of the Port Stephens Flood Tide Delta' (2015)
2014 Wainwright DJ, Lord D, Watson P, Lenehan N, Ghetti I, '"Widely Accepted by Competent Scientific Opinion" Sea Level Projections for the Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla Coast' (2014)
2012 Wainwright DJ, Callaghan DP, Jongejan R, Ranasinghe R, Cowell P, 'How to weigh coastal hazard against economic consequence (Poster)' (2012)
2012 Wainwright DJ, Baldock TE, Callaghan DP, 'Coastal Lagoon Entrance Managment - What Can Models tell Us?' (2012)
2011 Wainwright DJ, Kidd LJ, Guard PA, Baldock TE, 'Morphodynamic Modelling of Entrance Breakout for a Coastal Lake' (2011)
2005 Wainwright D, Patterson D, 'Significance of Spatially and Temporally Varying Bedform in Modelling Estuarine Hydrodynamics and Morphology' (2005)
2004 Wainwright D, Vienot P, Syme B, 'Dynamic Modelling of the Impact of Entrance Scour on Flood Behaviour in Coastal Lakes and Estuaries' (2004)
Wainwright DJ, Baldock TE, 'A framework for Probabilistic Berm Height Determination - Application to ICOLL Flood Studies'
Cooke TA, Wainwright DJ, Jorissen JGL, 'Morphodynamic Modelling of Entrances and its Influence on Flood Behaviour'
Show 7 more conferences

Report (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Verdon-Kidd DC, Wainwright D, 'A local government framework for coastal risk assessment in Australia', National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, 91 (2016)
Co-authors Danielle Verdon
2012 Woodroffe CD, Cowell PJ, Callaghan DP, Ranasinghe R, Jongejan R, Wainwright DJ, et al., 'A model framework for assessing risk and adaptation to climate change on Australian coasts' (2012)

Dr David Wainwright


Conjoint Lecturer
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science

Contact Details

Email david.wainwright@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4044 0589
Fax (02) 4910 9012
Links Personal webpage
Personal webpage


Building Earth Sciences Building
Location Callaghan Campus
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308