top of page
SJNZ Logo.png
ROTORUA, New Zealand

Want to develop your skills and knowledge in practical soil description and classification for understanding and interpreting soil and land use capability? Then join us at the 2024 Moana Oceania Soil Judging Competition! This years event runs just prior to SOILS ROTORUA 2024, the joint NZ-Australia Soil Science Conference, and offers the opportunity to learn alongside students, early career and experienced soil scientists, and soil enthusiasts, from around the South Pacific and beyond.

What is Soil Judging?

Soil Judging Competitions are an opportunity to learn more about soils, soil in the landscape, soil characteristics and the story of soils in your own backyard – in this case the volcanic wonderland of Rotorua, New Zealand. Participants spend three days in the field learning how to describe and classify soils and interpret their appropriate land uses. The first two days are aimed at teaching and familiarising participants with the procedure and the third day is a competition day, where participants can put their skills to the test.

See this video of the 2023 Darwin Soil Judging Competition to learn more:


In Aotearoa New Zealand and other island nations, 'Moana' means ocean or vast space. The definitions of Oceania vary, but broadly encompass the nations of Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. By adopting the name 'Moana Oceania,' we aim to encapsulate the collective spirit of the lands, waters, and diverse cultural expressions of these nations. We extend a warm welcome to all, including newcomers, to join us in Rotorua 2024!

2024 Schedule


28 Nov 2024

Welcome BBQ dinner 


29 Nov 2024

Practice day 1 


30 Nov 2024

Practice day 2


1 DEC 2024

Competition day


2 DEC 2024

 SJC Prize Giving
SOILS ROTORUA 2024 Conference Day 1


Hear From Previous Participants 

Prize giving will be on Mon 2nd Dec 2024 at the 2024 Joint Australia & New Zealand Soil Science conference morning tea.


Entry is open to any student or professional interested in soil science. Some education institutions and companies put together teams of 3-4 people, plus a coach. If you are entering as an individual, we’ll match you with a team. No experience required.


Cost is $50 per person. This covers the cost of a participant shirt, transport between Rotorua and the soil judging sites, and morning tea and lunches for the 3 days. The registration fee does not include accommodation.


All participants are required to wear their entry shirt on competition day (Sunday 1st Dec).

Womens competition shirt
Mens competition shirt

Soil Judging Training Opportunities

Staff from Lincoln University and Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research will be providing some online training materials for competitors, targeted at competitors who are unfamiliar with New Zealand’s description & classification materials, as well as competitors new to Soil Judging, though all are welcome.

This training will run in parallel with Lincoln's own training programme and will consist of mixed delivery on a weekly basis. Material will be emailed out to competitors, with some sessions to be livestreamed, to facilitate discussion and questions, with a recording to be available afterwards.

Topics covered include hand texturing,soil structure, horizination, classification, Rotorua area geological history, competition tips and tricks, as well as photo example profiles for competitors to practise on.

Dates for the material and livestreams will be sent out closer to the time – however estimated delivery is around a 8 week period starting approximately 22nd July.

Recommended reading:

Other suggested reading:


There are many benefits to being a volunteer at the SJC. It is an opportunity to assist with the smooth running of the competition, but also a chance to network and talk to fellow students and working professionals in the field of soil science. This role would suit undergraduate and postgraduate students and working professionals alike. The team coaches and the chief judge and other mentors will be assisting the teams in the description and understanding of the pedology and landscapes. You are not expected to be an expert in soil judging or in pedology, but you may have an interest in learning more about these areas, you may be studying in this area, or you may just be curious about soils ! The benefits for the volunteers include the following as free: Welcome BBQ attendance; transport to and from the event; catering at the 3 days of the event; t-shirt; coffee cart tab. 


The volunteer tasks with include, not restricted to:

  • Assisting with the set up of the site, including pit marking and direction signage; equipment movement between pits

  • communication between the pits and the central control tent

  • Directing competitors to the different pit locations at the training and competition sites

  • Timekeeping at pit sites, and directing teams in and out of the pits according to the competition schedule

  • Looking after pool equipment  and loan equipment at the competition and training pits; ensuring any shared equipment is used equitably between teams and individuals. 

  • Cleaning of pit faces and pit areas as required (the pits will already be dug prior to the event). ensuring each pit has the required equipment and is clearly marked up prior to the start of the competition.

  • Assisting with tidying up and pack down of sites at the end of the day. 

  • Assisting with the competition marking either with data entry, marking, filing, organising paperwork.

a full driving licence is desirable, but not necessary.

Required Equipment

Equipment List

Teams are responsible for supplying their own equipment for the competition.

There will be limited amounts of spare equipment available for the individual competition pits, but please bring as much gear as you are able.

If you have any questions about required gear please contact

Suggested soil judging equipment

Some of this may be provided on a per pit basis – however supplies will be limited so please bring what you can, multiples of these will be required for the individual competition.

  • Clipboard + pens/pencils

  • Tool for picking – Niwishi, digi-digi, putty knife or similar

  • Tool for collecting -  trowel or similar

  • Water spray bottle

  • Trays for samples – muffin tray, disposable oven tray, plastic container, paper bowls or similar (Minimum of storage for 6 samples recommended)

  • 2mm sieve

  • Ruler or tape measure

  • Hand lens

  • Munsell soil colour book

  • Hand towel or cloths.

Provided equipment 

We will provide one of each of the following at each pit – however, please bring your own if you have one (With the exception of chemical kits)

  • New Zealand Soil Description Handbook (Revised Edition)

  • New Zealand Soil Classification (3rd Edition) -  This is available online as an interactive key and will be emailed out to all competitors.

  • Inclinometer 

  • Chemical Kits


Personal gear

New Zealand can have very inclement and rapidly changing weather conditions, so competitors need to be prepared to deal with a range of possible weather conditions. 

  • Sunhat + sunglasses

  • Sunscreen (some will be provided at each site)

  • Water bottle

  • Sturdy enclosed shoes eg boots/gumboots

  • Warm clothes

  • Wet weather gear


Participants are responsible for finding their own accommodation. A number of accommodation options are available in Rotorua, but we suggest you book as soon as possible. We will provide a list of recommended accommodation options here on the website – details to be made available when entries open.

Contact details

Please direct any questions on the 2024 Moana Oceania Soil Judging Competition to


Watch this space for answers to FAQ, including: How can I find sponsorship? How can I access NZ soil resources? Do I need a Visa?

Sponsorship opportunities

The 2024 Moana Oceania Soil Judging Competition offers great sponsorship opportunities. Contact us at for more information if you are interested in sponsoring this event.

bottom of page