RMLA President’s Report : June 2015

Depending on your point of view, our MMP political system is either working effectively, or generating political inertia to an extent frustrating the Government’s long signalled reform intentions.

It seems clear that substantial reform of s6 and s7 has essentially been abandoned.  We await the outcome of Government negotiations with minor parties to determine the fate of the other important reforms signalled, including around First Schedule processes. An alternative plan procedure would seem likely to have cross party support in the water management context at least (implementing the National Objectives Framework/NPSFM 2014 amendments).

It occurred to me recently that, at least since 2013 when the reforms were first announced, the Courts have had a greater influence on our resource management system than the executive.

While Government grapples with reform options to improve (hasten) plan preparation and consent procedures, the Environment Court continues to demonstrate its expertise, experience and commitment to promoting efficiency and effectiveness on both fronts, as well documented in the Court’s inaugural Annual Review (posted on the RMLA website in March 2015, and available for viewing at https://www.rmla.org.nz/news/view/id/133

The implications of King Salmon have certainly been felt far and wide, and are having a profound impact across many plan reviews and consent applications.  In the absence of any contrary national direction, and as a result of this Supreme Court decision, just three policies of NZCPS 2010 may well shape significant components of the overall policy direction of the Auckland Unitary Plan.

The recent Environment Court decision in Ngati Kahangunu Iwi Incorporated v Hawke’s Bay Regional Council confronts the Minister for the Environment’s intention in introducing the word “overall” into Objective A2 of NPSFM (as evidenced by the Minister’s decision on the Board of Inquiry version of that instrument, and Ministry for the Environment implementation guidance).

Put it this way, the word ‘overall’ (as in ‘broad judgement’, and as to water quality) seems to be falling out of vogue amongst the judiciary, as a suitable term to set the direction for promoting sustainable management. Equally, there seems little chance now that it will find its way expressly into section 6!

We wait with interest to see what if any ‘counter move’ to these important decisions by the Courts from the Government will be part of the long awaited Bill, and/or reveal itself  through additional or amended national direction.

Closer to home (and ground), exciting news for the RMLA is that a new RMLA Sponsorship Strategy (to give effect to the RMLA’s Sponsorship Policy that came into force last year) was approved by National Committee at our June meeting.  This is a significant initiative that follows the workshop intensive National Committee members took part in at the end of April in Nelson, facilitated by Camille Astbury (an expert consultant in sponsorship and communication management).

Key components of the strategy are to diversify the range of sponsorship products (i.e. extending sponsorship opportunities beyond the conference, to include publications, awards, road shows and even the Salmon lecture) and to increase the benefits of each sponsorship ‘product’ by enhancing the return on sponsor investment.  National Committee is also aware from survey feedback of the need to better monitor sponsor satisfaction, and maintain strong relationships with our sponsors. The Strategy is posted on the website and can be viewed at https://www.rmla.org.nz/rmla-governance

A second significant announcement to make is that National Committee has also decided to establish a new (salaried employee) position within the Association, as its Communications and Relationships Manager.

The reality is that as a volunteer committee our time is limited, and we are constrained in our ability to engage effectively with all members, stakeholders and other organisations to the extent we would like to, in order to maximise the profile and relevance of our Association into the future.

We realise we could do more with communications generally, including better activating our website, and generating a wider range of content for it and  the various RMLA publications.

The Communications and Relationships Manager would have primary responsibility for implementation of the Sponsorship Strategy as part of the role, as would be a significant work stream in its own right, but with the role extending to wider communication and relationship management as the position description implies.

To ensure an objective and robust outcome for the appointment, we intend to procure the services of an independent professional recruitment agency to assist with the process of candidate selection. That said, and as well as strengths in communication and experience directly relevant to the role, we recognise that an understanding of the resource management sphere would be an advantage.  If you can think of anyone that might have this range of skills, please don’t hesitate to encourage that person to put themselves forward when the position is formally advertised.

Hard to believe, but you will also shortly (by month’s end or thereabouts) be receiving registration material for the Tauranga conference that commences on Thursday 24 September 2015 (theme Matauranga Maori).  At the same time, the Nelson Marlborough branch is also underway to commence planning for the 2016 conference that will be held in Nelson.

Other recent National Committee activity includes continuation of our quarterly meetings with the Ministry for the Environment (with our most recent meeting being on 5 June 2015).  Bianca Tree and I also recently fronted up to the Rules Reduction Taskforce to share our thoughts about issues and options potentially available to reduce delays and costs facing property owners, builders, tradespeople and businesses under RMA processes and planning regulation.

The RMLA roadshow series is now further developed with roadshows regarding the new development contributions regime, and an update on recent case law, and being the first in the series likely to come to a region near you. Progress continues toward development of the Quality Plan Writing road show being spearheaded by the Environment Court (refer my April report) with support from RMLA and the NZPI, which will likely roll out later in the year.

We also look forward to the first Salmon lecture to be held in Wellington (in early September).  This year’s speaker is Sir Peter David Gluckman who will address the place of science in successful environmental policy and law.

Keep well, stand by and Ka Kite!