RMLA Regional News : September/October 2013

Auckland – Kitt Littlejohn

The Auckland branch of the RMLA can look back over the last 12 months with a considerable degree of satisfaction, having achieved many of our objectives within budget (and with surplus funds for our Christmas Quiz Night!).

Membership in the Auckland region is at an all-time high (419 members).

By the end of this year we will have hosted 11 separate events.  Some of them have been planned and run co-jointly with other professional organisations, and have been hugely successful as a result.  Most recently we convened a panel discussion on the issue of Housing Affordability in Auckland.  Despite being organised at the “last minute” 84 members registered to attend and a significant number of them did so – a real indication of the topical nature of the issue in Auckland.  Last on the agenda for our year, after the annual RMLA conference will be a session in October on Environment Court advocacy.

From various reports, the young RMLA functions have been very popular with younger members this year.  This group is going from strength to strength and now has 93 on its mailing list.

The key highlight for the Auckland Branch this year would have to be the Salmon lecture, which was delivered by the Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias.

The year for resource management practitioners in Auckland has been very busy with a significant number of major projects going through the planning phase, a draft Unitary Plan released, and soon to be notified.  The opportunities for future events of interest in Auckland will continue to be many and varied as a result.

As Chair, I would like to thank all committee members for continuing to give their time and respective firms’ resources to the RMLA cause.  And for bringing good humour and gossip to meetings!  Thank you also to the national Committee for your support throughout the year.

I cannot end this report without a sincere thank you to Karol Helmink who, as always, is the organisational force behind everything that we plan and deliver.  Thank you.

Northland – Julian Dawson

Earlier this year, the NZPI suggested that we run a seminar or workshop program jointly.  After a couple of false starts and a clash of dates we are doing a combined RMLA/NZPI event on 2 October 2013 in concert with the Whangarei District Council about approaching District Plans through policy provisions rather than strict rules.  This has been a topic of discussion of late and one which the Whangarei District Council has itself approached in a series of recent plan changes.  BECA’s and Council are contributing the venue and refreshments between them.

We hope the joint approach will attract a greater level of support and other topics are being discussed for further seminar programs before the end of the year.  Topics of interest include:

  1. Enforcement and prosecution practice and approach under the RMA;
  2. Expert witness preparation, presentation and caucusing;
  3. Coastal subdivision and District Plan reform.

We were going to run the last topic earlier this year, however, notification of the Proposed Regional Policy statement by Northland Regional Council meant that the topic was sensibly delayed.

Whangarei District Council has been helpful in providing a venue at no charge and assistance with topics and attendance.  Although not RMLA functions – there have been a number of informal workshops run by Council for local practitioners and interested people.

All in all we are hopeful of a good turn out on 2 October and a couple more before the end of the year.

Waikato – Lachlan Muldowney

The past 12 months have been particularly busy for the Waikato branch of the RMLA who have hosted a full schedule of events.

Looking back, in October 2012 the Waikato branch hosted Paul Majurey and Phil Mitchell who presented the findings of the Technical Advisory Group following its review of sections 6 and 7 of the RMA.

The year 2013 kicked off with a joint RMLA/NZPI breakfast seminar ‘Nothing Fishy’ presented by Grant Eccles of AECOM, David Allen of Buddle Findlay and Kathryn Bridge of the Environmental Protection Authority. All who attended were rewarded with a valuable insight into the recent Board of Inquiry decision on the King Salmon applications to establish a new salmon farming zone and new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

In May, the Waikato branch was pleased to host the ‘Transportation 101’ national roadshow presented by Mr Tony Penny from Traffic Design Group. The breakfast event was well-attended by a cross section of professions eager to gain a better understanding of the foreign world of traffic engineering and transport planning.

More recently, in September we had the privilege of hosting Jackie St John from Anderson Lloyd. To all who braved the weather, Jackie presented an informative refresher seminar on prosecutions under the RMA. Her presentation outlined the full range of enforcement tools available under the RMA and included interactive discussion on local and regional decisions of interest.

After what has been a busy 12 months, the Waikato Branch is now looking towards the end of 2013. The next event for the diary is the Environmental Court advocacy seminar which will be held at Ferrybank Lounge on 30 October. In the meantime, the Waikato Branch members are looking forward to this year’s RMLA conference “Black & White Gold – Does it all glitter?” which will consider a number of topical and interesting environmental issues.

Bay of Plenty – Brad Coombs (now Cushla Loomb)

It has been two years since we gathered for our last AGM as a Branch.  We have had a fairly quiet couple of years – with some interesting, but well spaced presentations and gatherings, mainly from the National RMLA Roadshow series.

The BOP Branch is coming to the end of the first full Committee tenure.  After the interim Committee that helped to set up the fledgling Branch that broke away from the Waikato, the first full committee consisted of Alistair Muirhead, Vanessa Hamm, Lara Burkhardt, Bill Wasley, Russell de Luca, Buddy Mikaere, Cushla Loomb, Reuben Hansen, Matthew King and myself.  Thanks and more formal acknowledgement of the Committee’s efforts over the last two years will come later in the Agenda.

Very sadly, during the last year, one of our Committee members, Alistair Muirhead passed away.  Stories shared at Alistair’s funeral late last year prominently featured roaring laughter, a quick wit and an exuberant love for life.  Our hearts and thoughts go out to Alistair’s family and friends for their loss.  We will hear more of Alistair’s contribution to the Branch and the profession from Paul Cooney after the AGM.

Over the last couple of years the Roadshow presentations that have been highlights in my mind include the Spatial Planning presentation from Phil Gurnsey from Beca.  Thanks to Beca for hosting the event.

The Expert Conferencing workshop which was Chaired by Dave Serjeant, with input and presentations from Judge Newhook, Commissioner Ross Dunlop, Mark Apeldorn and Reuben Fraser was another highlight for me.  The Expert Witness workshop was very informative, and with the ensuing Environment Court Initiative requesting feedback on the Court’s performance and then lunch downstairs at Sierra, the Branch had a great opportunity to spend some time with members of the Court.  Thanks to Holland Beckett for hosting the event.

The other Roadshow which is worth mentioning is the TAG Roadshow, which was presented by Paul Majurey and Phil Mitchell.  The topic was keenly discussed after the presentation and both Paul and Phil earned their drinks.  Thanks to Sharp Tudhope for providing the space in their beautiful new building for the event.

Unfortunately our end of year Christmas event was initially postponed and then cancelled due to timing clashes at the end of 2012.  Let’s see if we can get a good gathering to this year’s social do and keep up the good turnouts to our other Branch events.

While there haven’t been a large number of events held by the Branch over the last year or two, it has been encouraging for me to see the Branch hosting events within our offices.  It makes it a lot easier to host events if our members have locations that we can use, and it’s good to see where our colleagues work – especially those in some of the recently finished office buildings around the CBD.

The Branch finances are in good shape and we will hear more about that from Lara soon.

As always, thanks to Karol for her ongoing support in running the Branch.  And finally, on behalf of the Branch, I extend my thanks to the Taranaki Branch for hosting the National Conference and awards in New Plymouth this year.  I know a number of our local Branch members are looking forward to a few days in the Taranaki at the end of September.

Finally: I am stepping down as the Chair of the Branch.  I have enjoyed helping to set up the Branch for the benefit of our members.  I look forward to staying on the Committee and to helping the new Chair inject some more energy into BOP chapter of the RMLA.  I hope the Branch is well established now and we can start to plan for a more regular calendar of events.

Taranaki – Lauren Wallace

It’s been a busy year for the Taranaki branch committee, with a huge amount of time and effort going into the organisation of this year’s annual conference. We are delighted and excited to host the first conference in Taranaki and we hope you will all agree, it is a conference like no other! I must record a massive thank you to the Taranaki committee, namely Sam Dixon, Lauren O’Bryne, Chris Rendall, Andrea Te Puni and Cameron Twigley, who have given so generously of their time and skills to coordinate the fantastic speakers, field trips and social functions that make up this year’s conference.

In terms of our regional events, at the end of last year, we held our annual Christmas function on 30 November and it was great to catch up with members for a relaxed evening at the Snug Lounge.

In April we held a joint RMLA / NZIS Quiz night at Peggy Gordon’s.  This was great fun and well attended and it looks as though this may become an annual event.

We thank Tony Penny of Traffic Design Group for his presentation “Transportation 101” on 14 June 2013.

We also were appreciative of Phillip Ware’s time in presenting the roadshow on NES on Contaminated Soils on 21 August.  This presentation was both interesting and informative and provoked a lot of questions from attendees.

We did have one final roadshow planned being the RMA Prosecutions, however, work commitments and conference planning saw this having to be cancelled as practitioners were otherwise occupied.

We now look forward to our end of year Christmas function and a more relaxing year for the committee in 2014.

Wellington – Jill Gregory / Stewart McKenzie (Co-Chairs)

The Wellington branch has had a fantastic year hosting a variety of seminars and social events. 

We started the year with a social function on the waterfront that was well attended and kicked off the 2013 programme.  It was pleasing that the event attracted people from many disciplines within the resource management sphere.

We managed a diverse events programme this year, with a good mixture of national road shows and Wellington organised events.  The Wellington events focused on the advantages and disadvantages of the different consenting pathways, and affordable housing issues from non-RMA specialists.  Later in 2013 we will be hosting an event on Treaty of Waitangi settlements and their relationship to environmental law.  We hosted road shows on traffic planning, the Contaminated Soils NES, RMA prosecutions and will host the Environment Court advocacy seminar in October. 

We continue to build our relationship with the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Planning Institute.  We jointly hosted the prosecutions road show, with an emphasis on Young RMLA and Young Planners.  We also held a wine tasting competition to determine whether lawyers or planners knew more about their wines, hopefully this can become an annual event. 

These events have been particularly successful in challenging RMLA members and we thank those who have presented at events and asked open and honest questions from the audience.  The events have also helped to build professional relationships across the disciplines within resource management. 

We have actively sought to involve more Wellington law firms in hosting events this year, moving beyond the offices of committee members.  We welcome all offers to host events in 2014.

I would like to thank Karol Helmink for her help and support of the Wellington branch.  Also thanks to the committee members and in particular Maia Wikaira and Matt Booth as secretary and treasurer.  Finally, to my co-chair Stewart McKenzie thanks for your support during the year.

The Wellington branch committee for 2013 is: David Allen, Helen Anderson, Matt Booth (Treasurer), Kevin Counsell, James Gardner-Hopkins, Phil Gurnsey, Richard Hills, Vivienne Holm, Stewart McKenzie (co-chair), Nicky McIndoe, Joanne Mooar, Angela Rego, and Maia Wikaira (secretary).

Canterbury – Andy Carr

In late August the Canterbury branch hosted the RMA Prosecutions roadshow and heard from Jackie St John and guest presenter Vanessa Sugrue of Environment Canterbury on a range of topical legal issues and recent case law.  The presentation was both interesting and informative, and was complemented by attendees sharing their own experiences and war stories.  Discussions with Jackie and Vanessa continued after the formal end of the presentation over drinks and nibbles.

And in September we held the biennial Tony Hearn QC Memorial Lecture, which this year was at the Christchurch Gondola.  Members not only enjoyed dinner overlooking the lights of the city and a convivial opportunity to catch up with colleagues, but also heard from John Hardie on the topic of the changing role of the Environment Court.  It probably goes without saying that networking continued well into the early hours…

Queenstown – Jan Caunter

The Branch has continued to maintain its membership numbers this year and is steadily growing its profile within the Queenstown and Central Otago communities.

The reorganisation of Queenstown Lakes District Council provided an early focus to the year, with Council’s CCO, Lakes Environmental, being disestablished. This impacted several staff at the Council, some of whom have held on to their jobs or secured new positions, others losing their positions altogether and moving away from the district. The newly structured planning division is now based wholly within Council and is moving towards the notification of a new district plan.

We have held two seminars addressing the NES on contaminated sites and transportation planning, and will host Judge Newhook and his panel in late October for their presentation on advocacy in the Environment Court.

Our email newsletter continues to be circulated quarterly and contains updates for our members on forthcoming events, recent case law and plan change updates.

Socially, we held a mid-winter function in July to catch up with colleagues over drinks and delicious winter focused tasting platters provided by one of Queenstown’s leading caterers. We will meet again on 20 September with MP, Nicky Wagner, to discuss RMA reforms.