RMLA Fellowship Winner 2007

Cushla Loomb has had a special interest in the coastal environment for many years and as a result focussed her studies in that area, obtaining a Masters of Science degree (First Class Honours) in coastal geomorphology in 2001 from the University of Waikato. Since graduating Cushla has been working as a coastal planner, first in local authority and more recently in private consultancy. During the past 7 years she has lead multi-disciplinary teams on coastal projects including resource consenting, strategic planning and policy development, preparation and review of assessments of environmental effects, resource consent applications, the preparation and presentation of hearing evidence and public and iwi consultation.

She is currently based out of the Beca Carter Hollings and Ferner office in Hamilton as a Senior Planner specialising in the coastal environment. Projects she has worked on include the Ministry for the Environment Coastal Development Guidance Note that identifies issues and best practice coastal management of rural and peri-urban coastal areas and the assessment of environmental effects of coastal projects ranging from reclamation in the Marshall Islands to existing coastal structures around the Bay of Plenty and Auckland coastlines.

Cushla has published papers in international coastal journals and presented at coastal conferences on her work. She currently sits on the national committee of the New Zealand Coastal Society (a technical interest group of IPENZ) and is a member of the Aotearoa Wave and Tidal Energy Association, the RMLA and an Associate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.

Cushla’s most recent research interest is in marine renewable energy developments.

The New Zealand Draft Energy Strategy has stated the Government’s vision of maximising the proportion of energy that comes from “our abundant renewable energy resources” and “promoting environmentally sustainable technologies”.

New Zealand has to date invested very little in marine energy but many believe our natural resource advantage could make marine energy a significant contributor to future energy supply. It is estimated that as much as 20% of New Zealand’s electricity could be generated from marine energy sources. European countries are leading the investigation and trialling of marine renewable energy as a viable energy source.

Cushla is excited to have been awarded the RMLA fellowship for 2007 which she will use to travel to the UK and Ireland in May 2008 and spend time with regulators and developers who are investing significant research and development efforts into marine energy as a sustainable and renewable form of energy generation. Cushla believes that to assist in achieving resource management processes which are legally sound, effective and efficient and which produce high quality environmental outcomes, there needs to be a better understanding on the potential impacts of wave and tidal energy devices for the NZ context and appropriate provision made in resource management planning instruments.

Cushla’s science background, coupled with her experience in coastal resource management will allow her to focus her UK research on the actual environmental effects and resource management challenges faced by countries at the leading edge of these developments. The outcome of her fellowship will be a report that provides resource management practitioners and developers information on the main resource management considerations of these developments and how to appropriately provide for them in the regularly framework. The report will therefore assist in bridging the existing gap between physical impact assessments of wave and tidal energy developments and the NZ resource planning framework.

Cushla will share the results of her research through a number of RMLA road shows around New Zealand to be held in 2009.