President’s Report : August 2013

Dear Members

As I pen what will be my penultimate report to you, I am reminded that we have less than a month to go before our annual conference, this time in New Plymouth.  Since the last newsletter there are a few matters of note to report.

Last month we received a clear response to the request for information on potential changes in status and function of the Environment Court.  In her response Justice Minister, Hon. Judith Collins stated that:

…. I do not intend to make the Environment Court a division of the District Court.

Minister Collins also advised of ongoing consideration of further improvements to the courts’ system as a whole.  We have responded to her that the RMLA would very much welcome the opportunity for involvement should there be further work in the area of improvements to the courts’ system, and in particular as to the place and function of the Environment Court.

The government’s legislative reform programme in the environmental and resource management space just keeps on coming.  In addition to the ongoing RMA reform process now in its third phase, we note that Environment Minister Amy Adams has advised that there will be an Environmental Monitoring Bill released before the end of the year and Conservation Minister Nick Smith has advised of a new Marine Reserves Bill.  These will both be of interest to members and there will be an opportunity to contribute to the Association’s responses through the Legislation sub-Committee and relevant Special Interest Groups.

Nominations for the National Committee have closed and less than ten were received.  As a result, there is no requirement to hold an election this year and those that have been nominated will all become members of the incoming National Committee at the AGM to be held as part of this year’s conference.

Last month the Association’s Auckland branch, once again staged a very successful Salmon Lecture this year delivered by Chief Justice Sian Elias.  A copy of her presentation Righting Environmental Justice will be made available on the website in due course.  The 2014 lecture has also been confirmed for 17 July 2014 and will be presented by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.

Also, for southern members to note or those likely to be in Christchurch on 12 September, it is the date for the biennial Tony Hearn QC Memorial Lecture this time to be delivered by Mr John Hardie, Barrister and Mediator.  Details can be found on the Association’s website by following the link https://www.rmla.org.nz/events/view/id/163.

The National Committee’s Membership and Recruitment portfolio team have been considering the size and mix of the Association’s membership which at the time of writing stands at 1127.  There continues to be a 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 need to look towards the future and the issue of succession planning by recruiting younger members.  To assist with this, the Conference committee is continuing our successful practice of discounting 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.

We have been asked by Land Information New Zealand to participate in an online survey to assist them determine the potential benefits of providing online access to central and local government’s property and building related information and services.  It is to be called ‘Better Property Services’.  The aim is that anyone seeking to buy, sell, build, renovate, develop or live on a property will be able see the rights, restrictions and responsibilities associated with the property.  Further information and a link to the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BetterPropertyServices.

The final preparations for this year’s Conference in New Plymouth, 26 – 28 September, are well underway and although the early bird registration option has now closed there are still places available.  Here is your opportunity to consider two of New Zealand’s biggest exporting industries, both with specific and significant natural resource requirements and environmental impacts.  These industries both feature prominently in the government’s economic growth agenda and are actively being promoted to other parts of the country.

The conference could not come at a better time to discuss the RMA phase three reforms as these are expected to be well under way.  So much so that the Ministry for the Environment has committed to support this year’s pre-conference facilitated workshop with a significant team presence.  It will be an opportunity to engage on the scope of the reforms and hopefully we will have the detail of the expected Bill.  The focus will include the template for plans and changes to consenting and planning under the NPS for Fresh Water using the National Objectives Framework.

This workshop will also allow engagement with the Ministry officials on how the reforms will be rolled out and progressed through to implementation.  In anticipation of a high attendance from the pre-conference enquiries we have already had on this, the Conference organising committee has secured the plenary hall as a venue.

Not only will the workshop allow consideration of the RMA reforms but the reform theme is continued into the conference in relation to the two highlighted industries and the keynote address being presented by Right Hon. Sir Geoffrey Palmer.  Look out for the registration information which can be accessed through the Association’s home page at https://www.rmla.org.nz/annual-conference.


Blair Dickie