Regional News – October 2012


Auckland – Rachel Devine

2012 has been an interesting and rewarding year for the Auckland branch of the RMLA, with a busy schedule of events.  I’m grateful for the high calibre of speakers who are willing to share their high level of knowledge in a range of specialist topics in both an interesting and informative manner.  We continue to observe high levels of attendance at RMLA Auckland events which we take as a sign that members find these events beneficial.

During the year Auckland’s peculiar planning issues have been examined through presentations about the Auckland Plan and the Unitary Plan.  We also had an interesting presentation by Auckland Council and Cooper & Co about “the Britomart Story”, being the successful development of a heritage area within planning constraints.

Our regular Salmon Lecture is widely regarded as being thought provoking and interesting.  I know we will have a large audience for this year’s lecture as our speaker is Auckland RMLA alumni, Justice Whata.  He will be giving the Salmon Lecture on 25 October.

Our branch has also been pleased to work with the Environment Court in its Expert Conferencing initiative which focused on the purpose and practice of expert conferencing.  Two of the TAG members presented their findings on the review of ss 6 & 7 of the RMA.  In addition, in the closing part of this year, our Young RMLA members are arranging a “meet the judiciary” evening and supporting an Environment Court mooting competition. 

In that vein we have increased benefits for young RMLA members this year.  Since my report to the RMLA AGM our Young RMLA sub-committee arranged a seminar which provided insights from those who work in-house and one regarding Waterfront Auckland.  We also promoted a mentoring scheme, aimed at providing support to new or less experienced RMLA members.  We have had a great response from mentors across a wide range of sectors and so we will open this up for further applicants to take advantage of the great support offered.  We hope this will be launched by year-end.

Our report on activities is not complete without reference to our purely social events, such as our summer drinks in February which provided a relaxing start to the year.  2011 ended with a Battle of the Bands, with contenders from across our membership sharing their talent with the rest of us.  It was so well received that we intend to do it again this year.

Finally as outgoing Chair I would like to make a special thanks to Karol Helmink for her constant support, and to all committee members, including our 2012 committee: Kitt Littlejohn, Siiri Wilkening, Marija Batistich, Francelle Lupis, Peter Hall, Kate Reid, Grant Hewison, and Christina Robertson.  I would also like to acknowledge the large law firms who have graciously provided their hospitality to RMLA events throughout the year.

Bay of Plenty – Brad Coombs

The Bay of Plenty Branch has held a number of events in 2012 based around the National Roadshows.  The Branch kicked off the year with a presentation, co-hosted by the New Zealand Planning Institute, from Phil Gurnsey reviewing spatial planning approaches across New Zealand.

Since then we have hosted the expert witness conferencing workshop, followed by Judge Newhook’s Environment Court Initiative.  We are looking forward to the ss 6 and 7 TAG Roadshow presentation in October, and a social event to round off the year.

As always thanks for the valuable input of the BOP Committee, to Karol for her expert co-ordination and to all of those presenters who make themselves available to come to our Branch.

Waikato – Lachlan Muldowney

To start the year the Branch held a local event in conjunction with the New Zealand Planning Institute. Phil Gurnsey delivered a very informative presentation on spatial planning and RMA reforms. The event was well attended by members of both organizations and an excellent networking opportunity. The Branch is looking to develop closer relationships with NZPI and other like-minded organizations to host similar events with a local flavor in the future.

The Branch has also hosted the Oceans Governance road-show delivered by Robert Makgill, Bronwyn Carruthers and Paul Beverley, and the Expert Conferencing workshop chaired by Dave Sergeant. Both events were well attended (approximately 60 members) and prompted healthy discussion and debate among those present.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Chairperson Joan Forret for all of her hard work over the last few years and her team’s assistance in ensuring that the transition to my stewardship has been as seamless as possible. I also thank Shaun Plant and my secretary, Bronwyn Thompson, for their assistance and management of the seminars.

Wellington – James Gardner-Hopkins

The Wellington Branch kicked the year off with a roar, hosting a March Launch Function of the 2012 Branch Programme that brought together longstanding RMLA members, in addition to welcoming new and prospective members to join in Branch activities for the year.  The Wellington Branch Committee was thrilled to see a diverse range of disciplines and sectors represented at the event and some of the highest attendance at a general Branch event ever, a trend which has continued in later Branch seminars and other events.

The Branch also launched Wellington’s ‘Young RMLA’ division at an informal ‘Meet the Judiciary’ evening in May this year.  As well as providing a fantastic opportunity for young RM professionals to get to know one another, the event also gave young professionals the chance to meet Environment Court Judges, Commissioners and Court staff, and to take a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the Environment Court.  The night was enjoyed by all and the Wellington Branch Committee hopes to make this an annual collaboration with the Court.

The Wellington Branch Committee has also hosted a number of successful seminars, including its April Ocean Governance seminar, which was rolled out as a national roadshow following the success of the event, a Wellington Supercity debate series in collaboration with the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI), and a recent seminar on ‘Tips and Tricks for Appearing at Council Hearings’ for its Young RMLA contingent in conjunction with NZPI’s Young Planners.

A key feature of the Branch’s 2012 programme has been collaboration with the New Zealand Planning Institute.  This multidisciplinary approach to topical resource management issues has resulted in enhanced quality of both the debate and discussion at seminars and the networks forged by each membership.  We would like to thank the NZPI’s Wellington Branch for its work this year and look forward to strengthening our relationship in 2013.

As summer approaches, the Wellington Branch Committee looks forward to a summer seminar and social event series.  Stay tuned for a big finish to a great year.

Special thanks to the Branch Committee members who give of their time to make these events happen: David Allen, Helen Anderson, Matthew Booth (Treasurer), Kevin Counsell, Lindsay Daysh, Jill Gregory, Phil Gurnsey, Richard Hills, Carolyn Hintz, Nicky McIndoe, Stewart McKenzie, Graham Miller, Jo Mooar, Angela Rego and Maia Wikaira (Secretary).

Canterbury – Andy Carr

Conditions for many members of the Canterbury Branch of the RMLA remain difficult as the rebuild process is at best sluggish, but membership numbers remain steady.  The Committee this year consisted of Andy Carr (Chairman), Daniel Murray (Secretary), Michelle Abernethy (Treasurer), David Caldwell, Gerard Cleary, Amanda Douglas, Sarah Eveleigh, Philip Maw and Jane Walsh. Once again the Committee has received considerable support from the National Committee and Karol which has been greatly appreciated.  The main event this year was the biennial Tony Hearn Memorial Lecture, which took place in October having been delayed due to snow. A full house enjoyed hearing the thoughts of Austin Forbes QC, and most took full advantage of the opportunity for socialising.

Another major event was the visit of Acting Principal Environment Judge Laurie Newhook and Dave Serjeant to discuss expert conferencing. The workshop attracted great interest from a wide range of professions in both the public and private sector, and the room was at capacity.

Mindful of the dispersed working locations, a survey was carried out of members to ascertain how the branch could best meet their needs. As a result, this year there have been closer working relationships with other professional institutes and more joint events where there are overlapping interests.  This not only included several joint seminars but also a forthcoming wine tasting evening! 

There has also been a focus on recognising that effective resource management requires interaction of a number of disciplines, with a ‘101’ series being started to provide overviews of other relevant fields. The ‘Urban Design 101’ was a sell-out with other topics lined up for the next year. Particular thanks go to Anthony Harper Lawyers for use of their Board Room.

In general terms however, branch activity is quieter than it has been previously, as it is far more difficult to find convenient and suitably-sized venues that are available at the right time of day. However this should ease as more locations open, and event planning into 2013 is well underway.