President’s Report – December 2012

Dear Members

With the end of the calendar year fast approaching it is timely to consider not only how we have fared but also what is on the horizon.  The year has been a busy one and I would like to extend a deeply felt thank you to all of you who have supported the Association with your many actions over the year. 

We have had a full year with a well attended series of Roadshows, including the release of the Minister for the Environment’s Technical Advisory Committee report on RMA principles along with the Expert conferencing workshop series.  Of note was the collaboration with the Environment Court to workshop opportunities to enhance Environment Court practice.  The feedback from these initiatives has been overwhelmingly positive.  Phil Gurnsey and Maree Baker-Galloway are working on a new series of Roadshows for the New Year, and this is an area of RMLA activity that we are keen to expand and develop further as a key focus for 2013. 

We enjoyed a stimulating, informative and financially successful conference in Queenstown this year, and which I felt was a fitting tribute to our 20 years life as an organisation.  In recognition of the great job Jan Caunter did with co-hosting this year’s conference, she has recently been elected by the Queenstown branch to chair that branch into the future.  Congratulations Jan, and I look forward to working with you again in this new role. 

The Auckland Branch hosted a very successful Salmon Lecture delivered by the Hon. Justice Christian Whata who challenged us with views on the interplay between international rights, property rights, customary rights, morality, and centralising environmental controls in times of crisis.  The Auckland Branch also has a new Chair and Kitt Littlejohn has taken over the leadership there.

I would also like to extend congratulations on your behalf to our Treasurer, Kate Barry-Piceno, for not only winning the Resource Management and Environment Awards at this year’s New Zealand Law Awards, but also being recognised as the Barrister of the Year.  Well done Kate!

The new National Committee is settling in to its tasks and is working well with good communication between members and with key portfolio contacts.  We have reviewed the expectations of portfolio holders (job descriptions) and the Association’s Strategic Plan and Objectives have also been reviewed with a minor change to the Objective to ensure it remains relevant and inspirational.  These latter two can be found on the Association’s website (https://www.rmla.org.nz/membership-information).

One very positive recent indicator of Association health has been the response to calls for input in support of next year’s conference “Black and White Gold – Does it all Glitter?”  With an increased public interest on both the quality and use of our natural resources – especially water, and increasing international  interest in development of our petroleum resource base thought the Country, this will be a timely event, so make sure you have the dates 26 – 29 September 2013 in New Plymouth in your calendars.  I am sure the Taranaki Conference Committee led by Lauren Wallace would welcome any further offers of assistance so please keep the ideas rolling in.

In response to the increasing interest in the government’s Business Growth Agenda and the relationship between economic growth and resource management reforms, we have this year started up the “Obiter” page to the Association’s website (https://www.rmla.org.nz/obiter).  This will allow those members interested in and looking for different perspectives to share ideas relating to current issues including the resource management reforms.  Please make this page the first you look to for informed commentary and updates about RMA reforms and latest issues.  I also strongly encourage you to submit contributions for the page, and this is a chance or ‘place’ for members to be provocative and stimulate debate on topical current issues, in line with a key objective of the Association.

Earlier in the month, my wife Judy and I hosted dear friends who both also happen to be in the resource management business, and during the course of their stay the conversation inevitably drifted to work matters.  This reinforced to me that although we all work with and use the RMA to some extent, the way it is interpreted around the country, not only by the various government and local government agencies, but also the many forums now set up for decision-making is variable.  It was a timely reminder to me that our experiences are all different and are all relevant and that to truly gain an Association perspective on the resource management reform proposals, we really do need to hear from you, the membership. 

The Legislation committee will be preparing a response to the recently released Resource Management Amendment Bill 2012 and would welcome your views, and benefit from your experiences as they relate to the Association’s Objectives including excellence in resource management policy and practice.  You can make your views known either directly to James Gardner-Hopkins, Maree Baker-Galloway, Rachel Devine or Phil Gurnsey as members of the Legislation Committee or to Karol Helmink (Executive Officer). 

I am delighted to advise that this year the Scholarship Committee has awarded this year’s RMLA Scholarship to Mr Timothy Soloman.  Timothy’s research seeks to fill an identified gap in the literature by examining local community experiences of intensification.  More specifically, it aims to find out more how communities have been involved in the planning system in relation to intensification and how they would like to be involved in order to reassess the nature of public participation under the RMA.

As this is the last newsletter for 2012, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas, a safe and happy holiday period with loved ones, and a very Happy New Year.

Blair Dickie