RMLA President’s Report : April 2015

Well I never would have picked that a by-election in Northland might dictate the shape of resource management reform, or even rate mention in a report from me, but there you have it. Maybe the National Party went a ‘bridge too far’ in its campaign on these issues? (forgive me, I couldn’t resist). 

I do wonder though whether the Prime Minister was not slightly over stating things in suggesting that the Government would need to “rip up” its reform proposals (as reported by Radio New Zealand on 31 March).  

It seems clear from comments made in the media ‘across the political divide’ in response to this statement that many wish the Government would just get on with the less controversial aspects of the reforms; promoting greater national direction, simplifying our plans, and improving resource management processes to be more efficient, less litigious and focussed on the environmental issues that really matter. 

I do not now expect the long awaited Resource Management Bill any time soon. It may not be until the third quarter of this year that we finally see what emerges from the Government’s adjusted political setting.  

For its part National Committee is not letting “reform limbo” hold it back. 

The Roadshow Committee has developed a wide ranging programme that should be coming to a town near you in the near future. First off the blocks will be topics including the new Development Contributions regime, an update on recent leading case law, and an overview of the processing and timeframe reforms in the 2013 Act (that came into force in March of this year). 

In addition to that we are discussing a road show with the Ministry for the Environment around best practice in collaborative decision making (to align with implementation of Freshwater and First Schedule reforms), and working with the Environment Court that is spearheading a road show regarding “quality plan writing”.  

For later in the year, Principal Environment Judge Newhook is lining up an impressive array of leading New Zealand practitioners with experience in plan writing, motivated by the experience of the Court in grappling with some of the more poorly drafted, lengthy or even impenetrable planning instruments, and with an emphasis on (as put by the Judge to me) clarity, succinctness, good structure, relevance, simplicity and usability

The Executive met with the Ministry for the Environment just before Easter to gain an update on the resource management reform landscape, discuss its involvement in our road show series, and with the forthcoming conference in Tauranga (planning for which is now well advanced). 

More recently, James Gardner- Hopkins and I participated in a discussion with the Ministry National Direction and Template teams (along with LGNZ) about priorities for national guidance and direction. Members may wish to consider what their ‘wish list’ might be for future national policy direction, with this clearly being a key emphasis of reform and implementation for Government, and the possibility of public consultation in setting the forward agenda for such direction. 

In terms of other initiatives, members of the National Committee will attend a specifically convened workshop on 30 April in Nelson regarding sponsorship and communication, convened by an expert advisor in these areas. This will build on the work carried out in 2014 developing a new Sponsorship Policy framework, and is based on a strategic concern to broaden the range of sponsorship options and reduce our dependency on membership fees.  This project may culminate in the appointment of a specific Sponsorship Manager. 

We are also alive to the need to ensure that (as an Association) we maintain a direct and visible presence with existing and potential members, using up to date communication techniques and methods. There may be some overlap between any new sponsor management role, and progression of a broader communications strategy. 

That meeting will be followed with our next National Committee meeting where we will also meet with the Nelson/Marlborough Branch committee to get the ball rolling in preparation for the 2016 conference being hosted in that region. 

While dealing with the regions, I record the appointment of two new Branch Chairs – Andy Carr (ex-National Committee) having taken over from Gerard Cleary as Chair of the Canterbury Branch, and of Rachel Brooking who has been elected as Otago/Southland Branch Chair.  We remain ever grateful to our branch committees and chairs for the significant contribution they make, without which regional level activity which is the life and sole of the Association cannot be sustained. 

The RMLA also welcomes the appointment of a new Secretary for the Environment (Chief Executive) at the Ministry for the Environment, Ms Vicky Robertson.  I have written to Ms Robertson offering the RMLA’s full support in meeting the many significant challenges the Ministry faces in forthcoming years. 

I want, especially, to acknowledge the simply “epic” contribution that retiring Editorial Board Convenor Trevor Daya-Winterbottom has made to the Association over nearly 20 years including on the Auckland Branch Committee, National Committee, Editorial Committee and Editorial Board over that period. 

As testament to that significant contribution is the national and international standing of the Resource Management Theory and Practice series, now in 10th year of publication, as well as the calibre and success of the other publication initiatives that have emerged and flourished during his extensive tenure. 

Can I conclude with a brief membership ‘plug’.  At this time of year, a half yearly subscription rate of $77.00 is available.  If there are any members of your organisation or business that you think would benefit from membership, now is the time to join – approach Karol Helmink directly at email: karol.helmink@rmla.org.nz or mobile: 027 272 3960.