Centre for Environmental, Resources and Energy Law (CEREL)

The University of Waikato has launched a new Centre for Environmental, Resources and Energy Law (CEREL). It brings together the substantial specialist expertise in Te Piringa – Faculty of Law in the field. CEREL will organize its work around six themes: water; energy efficiency, petroleum and minerals, Maori and Indigenous environmental governance, coastal and marine, and international environmental law.

The launch was marked by events in November and December in Tauranga, Hamilton and Wellington. The well-known Australian environmental lawyer Professor Rob Fowler spoke at all three launches. He commented that the establishment of a new research Centre at the University of Waikato was at an exciting time. He said, “Having been involved in the establishment of a similar centre in Australia, I have seen how quickly it is possible to develop and extend linkages to the international community of legal scholars through such an initiative.” Prof Fowler was one of the founders of the Australian Centre for Environmental Law, and is presently the elected Chairperson of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law. He is involved in the IUCN Environmental Law Commission and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Three of CEREL’s members offered short talks on current issues. Professor Barry Barton (the Director of CEREL) addressed New Zealand’s legal regime for offshore oil and gas operations, particularly regulation for wellbore integrity and plugging and abandonment. He also commented on the EEZ Bill recently introduced in Parliament. Professor Alexander Gillespie considered the strengths and weaknesses of New Zealand’s law for the control of oil pollution from vessels. Both of these topics are in public debate after the Rena shipwreck. Trevor Daya-Winterbottom addressed alternative methods for environmental conflict resolution, which remains topical in the RMA Phase 2 review debate. 

At the Hamilton event, Judge Melanie Harland of the Environment Court offered her congratulations and made a number of comments about the present direction of environmental law and policy. In Wellington, Rod Oram, the financial journalist and commentator, spoke on the themes being addressed by CEREL in the context of national and international environmental and resources policy. Masters and Doctoral students in the Centre presented their work in poster sessions, so that guests could get a broader sense of the Centre’s work. Professor Bruce Clarkson spoke on behalf of the University. His presence was particularly welcome as he is Director of the new Environmental Research Institute as well as being Dean of the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering.

The research activity of members of the Centre is as follows.

Barry Barton: energy, natural resources and environmental law, specifically at present mining law and energy efficiency law. He is part of the research team for the Energy Cultures research programme, and is active in the International Bar Association.

Sadeq Bigdeli: international economic and environmental law, in particular legal frameworks for trade in biofuels and ongoing disputes at the WTO over measures affecting trade in renewable energy.

Trevor Daya-Winterbottom: environmental law, administrative law, and corporate governance. Before joining the Faculty of Law in 2003 he practised law with Chapman Tripp in Auckland.

Alexander Gillespie: international environmental law, particularly conservation and biodiversity, although he is also author of three books on climate change and the law. He was the first New Zealander to be Rapporteur for the World Heritage Convention.

Robert Joseph, of Tainui and Ngati Kahungunu, Ngai Tahu descent: Maori and Indigenous good governance and sustainable natural resource management, particularly the incorporation of Indigenous customary laws and institutions.

Bradford Morse, the Dean of the Faculty: the intersections of indigenous rights with environmental and natural resource law and governance. He is active in the Academy of Environmental Law of the IUCN.

Linda Te Aho, of Waikato-Tainui and Ngati Koroki Kahukura descent: sustainable development and management of natural resources, especially indigenous participation, and indigenous rights and responsibilities in relation to freshwater. She is a member of the Guardians Establishment Committee, under the recent Waikato River settlement legislation.