RMLA President’s Report – December 2013

Dear Members

2013 draws to a close, and as you read this you are no doubt thinking of higher and better things than “matters resource management”.

A very busy year for the Association is behind us, relieved somewhat by the fact that the 2013 Amendment Bill foreshadowed in the Government’s February 2013 discussion document (and August 2013 summary of reform proposals update) is yet to eventuate.

Whether this is the result of the political realities of an MMP system (or otherwise) one can only speculate, similarly as to the timing and content of any further RMA reform legislation within this term of Government.

The 2012 Amendment Bill has however passed into law with major implications for planning in Auckland, and as to section 32 administration for all of us.

As I write this report there is also the imminent prospect of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the King Salmon Marlborough Sounds marine farm case. This decision may well have very significant implications for resource management planning, and in particular in terms of what is required to “give effect to” the so called avoidance imperatives of New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, and as to how we approach questions of alternatives and appropriateness in that context. Some might also savour the prospect of guidance from our highest Court as to the meaning and effect of the single resource management purpose of RMA, sustainable management, as expressed in section 5.

So, as the dust now gathers on the RMLA’s submissions to 2013 reform proposals, the phrase “watch this space” nevertheless springs to mind, in terms of what lies around the corner for us as practitioners, advisers or those implementing and applying the RMA as local and consent authorities.

We also look forward to, as an Association, a “full house” of road show seminars currently being planned for 2014. This is likely to commence with the workshop signalled in my October report regarding the enforceability, durability and security of consent condition frameworks, and be followed by road shows on urban design, subdivision, and biodiversity offsetting and compensation.

Planning is well underway for the Dunedin conference 2014 (Through the Looking Glass) with confirmed speakers including Dr Elizabeth Fisher (Reader Environmental law at Oxford), Professor Bruce Pardy (Queens University), JB Ruhl (Vanderbilt Law School), and University Professor for the Environment Nicholas Robinson (Pace University). This calibre of speaker along with other respected New Zealand speakers being approached and confirmed will be well placed to help us explore fresh perspectives on a systems based approach to resource management. Some would say this is sorely needed as we look back on years of serial reform to the now somewhat beleaguered RMA, perhaps without a broader, consistent or long term view of where we want to get to with our resource management frameworks, and applying an evidence based approach to enable an understanding of what any given policy actually achieves in the real world.

Last Friday the Executive met with the Resource Management Systems Directorate  at the Ministry for the Environment, who expressed a keen interest in being part of the conference next year, and with the Association more generally as a ‘Community of Practice” as they progress their work at the resource management system level. We have planned regular (quarterly) meetings next year with the Ministry to continue that dialogue, and enhance the relationship between the Association and the Ministry into the future.

We recently held our second meeting (by telephone conference) as a National Committee. We “debriefed” on what was overall a very successful 2013 conference (Black and White Gold) which appears to have made a small profit. More importantly, we reflected on a range of largely positive feedback as to the duration, relevance and content of the conference keynote, plenary and workshop sessions, as well as “debriefing” notes received from the Taranaki Regional Committee.

Initiatives planned for early 2014 include receipt of reports from National Committee members seeking to better promote and coordinate broader sponsorship opportunities extending beyond the conference, and to raise the profile and level of activity of the “Young RMLA” model across all regions, to make RMLA membership a more attractive proposition for less experienced resource management practitioners.

On that note, the RMLA is very pleased to announce that it has just awarded two scholarships for 2013. The first  is  to Miss Rachael Harris, with her thesis focused on the future of co-governance  in the management of natural resources in New Zealand (Masters of Law at Canterbury University). The second recipient is Ms Horiana Irwin, completing a Masters of Law at Harvard with research aimed at case studies regarding the involvement of indigenous peoples in resource management decision making within the United States (and in particular as to the interaction between large corporations and local indigenous people).

In similar vein, I invite you all to visit the RMLA website (scholarships and awards page) for a celebration of the 2013 awards conferred at the New Plymouth conference, with the citations and award recipients displayed on the site. It always strikes me how much importance recipients place on recognition by the RMLA through the award series, reflection perhaps of the respect for the Association which the resource management public has. Yet it is very much those recipients that deserve our respect and acknowledgement, as a quick visit to this part of the website to read their citations readily reveals.

There are many people I could give thanks to for their efforts over the year in sustaining the activity of the Association. The National Committee is an obvious candidate (including those that served on the previous Committee until September of this year). Obviously Karol Helmink who is the bedrock upon which all of our activities rest and depend.  Sandra Millar for her consistently diligent and professional work administering our finances (under the oversight of the treasurer of course). Again to the Taranaki Regional Committee for the “above and beyond” call of duty response and sacrifice (many hours of personal time) in putting together the 2013 conference.

But if I might also conclude by acknowledging the very significant contribution of the RMLA Editorial Board and Committee (now overseen by Jacinta Ruru). The RMLA publication suite is now quite substantial in extent and range including not just the Resource Management Journal, but the Resource Management Directory of Professional Services, Resource Management Theory & Practice, as well as special publications including the Salmon Lectures – Justice and the Environment (2012) (Second Edition) and Frontiers of Resource Management.

Might I make a quick plug for the 2014 volume of Resource Management Theory & Practice.  2014 will be the 10th year of this publication and while pre-sales are progressing reasonably well, more subscriptions are actively sought by the Editorial Committee and Board and I commend that publication to you. See elsewhere in this newsletter for more on that.

On a sadder note, we reflect upon the recent passing of Mr Peter Frawley, Planning Manager at Tauranga City Council, along with the passing of Tom Fookes earlier in the year. It is appropriate as the year ends that the RMLA acknowledges those that have made a significant contribution over many years of practice or work in the RMA arena, and whom no doubt many members have encountered or come to know in their work under RMA over the years.

Merry Christmas everyone, and have a safe and happy new year.

Martin Williams