RMLA President’s Report : August 2014

In calendar year terms, we may be somewhere the middle, but for National Committee we approach the end of a 12 month cycle culminating at the AGM in September.

You will all have received notice of the AGM, and calling for nominations for the National Committee.  We encourage any member with an interest in stewardship of the organisation to put themselves forward. Keeping the RMLA on track, to maintain its standing as the preeminent bipartisan multi-disciplinary organisation in the resource management sphere, is a challenge worth committing to in my view (as well as being quite a mouth full).

In addition to the general run of business at the AGM this year, we will be discussing some amendments to the Association’s rules.  As well as simply bringing some rules up to date to reflect the way the Association is actually managed in the electronic era, an important change is being proposed whereby newly elected members to the National Committee would generally hold office for an initial two year period.  We felt that a measure of ‘security of tenure’ on the committee  might encourage making the commitment, knowing there would be an opportunity to “learn the ropes” and make a contribution, without risk of losing the position after just 12 months.

Conversely we propose to ‘codify’ the current convention whereby positions on the Executive (Secretary, Treasurer and President) are for a maximum two year term of office, to ensure fresh energy and perspectives are continually brought to the task.

Looking back now over the past two months, a highlight for me was my participation in the road show series regarding resource consent conditions.  This workshop series really has been a tremendous success; well attended everywhere from Whangarei to Dunedin, with 10 sessions in all taking place over July and August.  We are extremely grateful for the significant commitment made by the Environment Court Bench to the series, and also to Dr Marie Brown (Environmental Defence Society). It was learning of her research identifying a real issue with consent compliance that prompted Principal Environment Judge Newhook to raise the case for this road show series with me last November. Dr Brown has now shared that work with us fronting all 10 road show sessions throughout the country. If you could not make one of the sessions, visit the website [https://www.rmla.org.nz/librarydoc/index/category/1] and all the material is there for you to read and use as you wish. A repeat of this road show is being held in Hawke’s Bay on 4 November, Wellington on 5 November and in Auckland on 6 November. So if you missed out, look out for registration for this in mid October.

I understand that the section 32 workshop series (being promoted in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment and NZPI) is proving very successful as well, with a high level of interest and turnout – equally raising many questions for further consideration about the new section 32 tests, and how they can and should be implemented in practice.  Registration has now opened for Hamilton on 28 August, further details on the website.

This is the time of year where we consider the many other contributions made to advancing best practice in resource management, through conferment of the suite of awards that are presented at the annual conference.  Nominations for awards in each category have been received and are currently under review by National Committee.  The presentation of these awards at each annual conference is always a highlight for me, particularly observing how much it means to the recipients. We have witnessed some quite simply outstanding contributions in terms of both practice and theory over the lifetime of the Association, and the awards this year will no doubt continue that legacy.

Our legislation committee has recently made submissions on the Environment Court’s revised practice note, which contains important new content around direct referrals and ADR processes. As a committee more generally we remain active in various initiatives aimed at sustaining a diverse membership across not only the legal, planning and other relevant consulting professions, but local authorities and those public and private companies with an interest in resource management/environmental law, policy and practice. This is where our strength lies, and we must do all we can to maintain it.

I have very much enjoyed the places that my role in serving the Association as President since last September has taken me; the opportunities it has created to have one on one discussions with the lead agencies in our area of endeavour (Ministry for the Environment, Environmental Protection Authority, New Zealand Law Society and the like), and to work with such a high calibre team on National Committee over the period.  I think many would be quite surprised to learn just how much National Committee does to keep the Association on track, up to date and to maintain its relevance.

Thanks for reading (along with my other reports this year), and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the conference in Dunedin commencing 25 September.  Just on that, early bird closes on 20 August, so be in quick, and don’t miss out!