RMLA President’s Report : June 2014

So we have it at last; the Supreme Court has spoken and issued perhaps the most significant decision yet made in the 22 or so years since the RMA was passed – expressly confronting how Part 2 plays out within subordinate legislation (the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 in particular).

Readers of this note will no doubt be aware of a number of different responses from legal commentators about what the decision means, and its implications for practitioners and local authorities alike.  I have been involved in two sets of proceedings in which the Court (or Board of Inquiry) has sought specific assistance from Counsel regarding the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling for its final deliberations. I have penned my own thoughts about this topic as a practitioner, and they are posted on the Obiter page of the RMLA website for anyone interested (https://www.rmla.org.nz/obiter). To whet your appetite, in that note I suggest that while of considerable importance, the decision does not “shift the world on its axis”, and the overall judgement approach to Part 2 of the Act remains valid, including in the resource consenting context. More contentious perhaps, is discussion of what the decision means in the context of other national policy statements (including NPSFM), as I also touch on in the note.

We invite readers to contribute their own thoughts which we are quite happy (following editorial review for quality) to upload onto the Obiter page as well.

The Government’s response will be particularly interesting, with the clearly signalled intention to make its proposed reforms of Part 2 a campaign issue for the general election.

Returning now to base, the RMLA has progressed a number of initiatives and on a range of fronts since my last report.

At our meeting in May in Tauranga we approved the Association’s new sponsorship governance/ policy framework, a copy of which can be found on the Association’s website https://www.rmla.org.nz/annual-conference. This will enable the Association to make more consistent and transparent decisions around all future sponsorship arrangements; that is both as to sponsorship received by the Association, and any sponsorship by the RMLA of other organisations that carry out activities in line with the RMLA’s objectives. Part of the intent is to expand the range of sponsorship we receive for our own activities beyond the conference opportunities, to reduce the  degree of dependence on member subscriptions in terms of overall income received.

We also scoped out the theme for the Tauranga conference in September 2015, which you will hear more about over the course of the year.

Planning is well advanced for two very important road show events.  We are working alongside the Environment Court to prepare a road show series that will travel to some 10 regions in July and August dealing with the issue of resource consent conditions.  We are delighted that Principal Environment Judge Newhook has agreed to chair and attend all sessions, alongside Environment Judges Kirkpatrick and Hassan, and Commissioner Edmonds.

You will hear from leading legal practitioners and planning consultants along with Dr Marie Brown (Senior Policy Analyst, Environmental Defence Society) about the common issues arising in terms of “challenges and pitfalls” to successful implementation of consents and compliance. The workshop will address what features underpin successful consent conditions; the role of the planner in preparing an integrated set of conditions, the use of management plans, requirements for adaptive management, and ensuring successful offset and environmental compensation delivery.

More details about the roadshow content, and dates/venues can be found on our website at https://www.rmla.org.nz/events/view/id/216

We are also well down the track, in partnership with both the Ministry for the Environment and the New Zealand Planning Institute, in promoting a roadshow training session on the new s32 requirements of the RMA.

This will be delivered in two “tranches”, the first in the main centres will also be in July and August, and the second within regional/ provincial centres in October and November.

Given my current practise base in Napier, it is with some delight that I announce the appointment of a new Branch Chair for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Committee (Scott Smith, Lawson Robinson in Napier) who will be reinvigorating local activity for the Hawke’s Bay Branch within this region.  My thanks also go to Shoshona Galbreath, the outgoing Nelson/Marlborough chair, and a welcome to Antoinette Besier who has taken on this role.

The RMLA executive has continued its initiative of promoting strategic relationships with relevant stakeholders and Government agencies in the environmental law/ resource management context, meeting most recently with Robert Forlong at the Environmental Protection Agency.

We discussed  the possibility of developing a roadshow series in 2015 looking at advancing best practice around decision making with more effective/ efficient public involvement, applying the learning’s from an overview of HSNO, EEZ and RMA (conventional and board of inquiry) procedures that the EPA is uniquely placed to oversee and provide a comparative perspective upon.

Such a road show series, providing for input from members across the regions, would be a useful adjunct to this year’s conference, looking at our resource management system more generally.

In the meantime, we have made submissions on the proposed Auckland Plan hearing procedures (at the initiation of the Hearings Panel) and to the Ministry for the Environment’s Discussion Documents on Direct Referral (Threshold) Regulations. Again, the latter can be viewed on our website.

Enjoy the newsletter, and my thanks go to all the contributors to it, to the regional branch committees, and  of course to my colleagues  on the National Committee for their continuing hard work and support over the past two months.

Martin Williams
RMLA President