President’s Report – August 2012

Dear Members

As winter recedes it is now less than one month to go before our annual conference, this time in Queenstown. Since the last newsletter there a few matters of note to report.

The roadshow programme for the year is now well underway with two well attended events.  The first is the recently concluded Coastal Roadshow which brought together a team covering the multiple dimensions of coastal and offshore management.  Thanks to the team of presenters and to Phil Gurnsey and to Karol Helmink for the co-ordination and logistical support so critical in making these events happen.  Also of note is the current Roadshow from key members of the Minister for the Environment’s Technical Advisory Group into RMA Principles – the TAG report.  The delayed release of the report dictated the timing of this roadshow and the feedback has been very positive.  In some centres this roadshow has proved very popular and has exceeded venue capacity.  If you are in a regional center that has not yet had this roadshow, dates can be found on the Association’s website under Events.  I commend this to you as an opportunity to find out about the background to the recommendations.  So as not to miss out, diary these in now and reply to the flyers as soon as they come your way.

The last couple of months have also seen the roll out of the Expert Conferencing Workshop a joint initiative between the Association and the Environment Court.  Attendance at this event has been strong throughout the country and in most regional centres has been accompanied by an informal feedback session on views and experiences of participants appearing before the Court.  A report is being prepared on the workshop feedback sessions to assist the Court in its future practices.  This joint initiative between Acting Principle Environment Court Judge Newhook, former Association Secretary Dave Serjeant and current National Committee members has built upon the key characteristics of the Association, namely our diverse and geographically distributed membership to provide feedback on recent initiatives and to provide ideas in the development of new ones to the benefit of all – a practical example of the Association’s objectives at work.

The Salmon Lecture this year is to be held on Thursday 25 October at Russell McVeagh.  Our Auckland Chair, Rachel Devine is delighted to advise that Justice Christian Whata will be presenting on “The role of public law principles in the RMA”.  The 2013 lecture has also been confirmed for 25 July at the Northern Club and Chief Justice Sian Elias will present on a topic concerning environmental law.  Lock these dates into your diary now and note that this year’s presentation will also launch the Salmon Lectures 2nd edition.

Members of the National Committee have been considering the size and mix of the Association’s membership which at the time of writing stands at 1121.  This makes us the largest Association of its type in the Commonwealth.  There is strong representation by a group of loyal members which we want to maintain as it is this senior element that gives the Association so much talent to draw upon for roadshows, for membership of Special Interest Groups and for the preparation and delivery of high quality and well reasoned submissions on new legislative initiatives. 

We are also looking towards the future and the issue of succession planning recognizing that in tight economic times it is more difficult for young practitioners to extend beyond their respective professions and join a multi disciplinary Association like ours.  To assist with this we have heavily discounted 20 registrations for next month’s Conference.  I ask you to look around your offices and to those younger staff members that would benefit personally as well as members of your businesses through exposure to the ideas and networking opportunities that membership of the Association provides.  Attendance at this year’s conference would be a good start and a great signal to those starting out on their resource management careers.

In addition to the age / experience structure of the membership there is a perception that the ratio of members directly employed by industry has fallen or not kept up with recruitment from those firms and consultancies that represent industry.  Bal Matheson who has had a long involvement with the running of the Association, firstly as Auckland branch Chair and latterly on the National Committee in a number of roles, has decided to stand down this year.  I would like to extend my personal thanks to him for the contribution he has made and is still making to the Association as Bal is currently pulling together ideas to increase the membership from within industry sectors.  If any of you have thoughts along this line – Bal and the incoming Committee would welcome hearing from you.  An email to either Karol or directly to Bal would be the best ways of getting your ideas included.

Nominations for the National Committee closed on 24 August and 12 nominations were received for the ten positions.  This is a great position to be in as it demonstrates the depth of commitment from the membership to serve on the Committee.  It also provides an opportunity to test the new E-voting system we have subscribed to.  You will recall that this was one of the efficiency initiatives Karol Helmink has worked on during the year in an effort to find more cost effective solutions to the way the Association is managed.  I commend this system as it will not only speed up the Returning Officer’s job and save postage, but it will also save you the effort of printing and posting voting papers.

Another exciting new initiative will be the publication of “Frontiers of Resource Management law” edited by Trevor Daya-Winterbottom.  This brings together a collection of world leading environmental writing on Environmental law from academics, judges and practitioners.  It is a collection of papers originally presented as keynote addresses at our annual conferences.  It contributes to the record of the Association over its first 20 years and will be launched at the Queenstown conference.

You will no doubt be aware of the increasing interest and concern being expressed over the time and cost taken to develop and implement RMA policy statements and plans.  This issue has become known as ‘plan agility’.  The members of the National Committee consider that the debate significantly touches on the core objectives of the Association, specifically that of promoting resource management processes that produce high quality environmental outcomes and have decided to contribute to the national debate on this issue.  Martin Williams has taken the lead role in developing a position paper for the committee that builds upon the paper he penned in 2010 on this subject.  The latest position paper is in the final stages of editing and will be posted on the Association’s website very shortly.  All members of the National Committee are indebted to Martin for his work which we anticipate will be a valuable contribution to the improvement of RMA processes.

The final preparations for this year’s Conference in Queenstown, 27 – 29 September, are well underway and although the early bird registration option has now closed there are still places available.  Look out for the registration information which can be accessed through the Association’s home page at https://www.rmla.org.nz/annual-conference.  If you are able to, I recommend you get to Queenstown early because, as has become our practice, the Ministry for the Environment’s update session will start the events at the pre-conference session on the Thursday afternoon.  This will also include related topics as a session on the Minister’s TAG report on RMA principles – a great opportunity for those who didn’t manage to get to the roadshow in their region, and one on RMA plan agility, an issue that is exercising the minds of many at the moment.