RMLA Regional News – October 2015

Auckland – Francelle Lupis

Auckland practitioners are still feeling the pressure of the ongoing Auckland Unitary Plan process, but nevertheless we have had a successful year, with strong membership and well-attended events.  We have organised over 11 events for our Auckland members, including:

  • Special Housing Areas
  • RMLA Quiz Night Christmas Function
  • Championing the Hauraki Gulf
  • Development Contributions
  • Further North Alliance
  • RMA Consent Processing at Auckland Council
  • Summer Social Drinks
  • The Challenges of Transformative Development
  • Effective Expert Witnesses (Young RMLA)
  • RMA 101 (Young RMLA)
  • Joint 2015 project update (combined Young RMLA and Young NZPI)

We have also hosted a number of National Roadshows and the third annual Environment Court/Young RMLA Moot competition commences in October.

We have at least two more events planned before the end of the year, including our Christmas event to be held on 3 December, and we are already brainstorming for next year’s programme.  A future event I know all of our members will look forward to will be the end-of-Unitary-Plan celebration in mid-2016!

This year the Auckland RMLA Committee also said goodbye to, and acknowledged the huge contribution of, our long-standing Chair Kitt Littlejohn, who has stepped down after nine years on the Committee and three years as Chair.

I would like to thank my Committee members, Peter Hall, Jill Gregory, Rob O’Connor, Sharon Dines, Leigh Walker, Natasha Garvan, Philip Comer, departed members Deborah Riley and Natalie Hampson, and newest member Kim Hardy, for their efforts over the past year.  The willingness of the Committee to continue to offer their time and resources is greatly appreciated, particularly given the other pressures in place this year.

Thank you also to Karol Helmink, as always, and to the National Committee for their support throughout the year.

Northland – Julian Dawson

The Northland Branch is running the High Court Case Law update roadshow on 9 October 2015 in Whangarei. 

We are working on two further workshop presentations later this year; on Urban Design Guidelines and the second on the Northland Regional Policy Statement. 

Urban Design Guidelines are now a feature of the Whangarei District Plan that Council and local practitioners are coming to grips with. The RPS is expected to be made operative very shortly and of cause has particular significance. 

Hopefully each of these topics are of particular local interest. 

Thank you to Whangarei District Council for making a venue available to us for these functions. 

We will be interested to see what further Road Shows the RMLA may offer later this year and early next. 

Finally, we can report that the Branch’s finances are healthy.

Taranaki – Cam Twigley

Early in the year the Taranaki branch held a CBD walking tour in New Plymouth to look at urban design issues in the city.  This was very well attended with lots of new faces.

In September we screened the award winning Hot Air documentary at the theatre within the recently opened Len Lye Centre.  The documentary reveals how big business stopped NZ Government action on climate change.  This generated plenty of debate among our members.

In quarter four we are hoping to host the High Court Case Law and Plan Making roadshows and have a Xmas party planned at Hobson Hotel provided it meets its construction deadline!  The membership of the Taranaki Branch continues to remain steady and our financials stable.

Bay of Plenty – Paula Golsby

It has been an extremely busy year for the Bay of Plenty Branch and the Conference Organising Committee with the Annual RMLA Conference being hosted in Tauranga this year. 

The Bay of Plenty Branch had its AGM in Tauranga on 16 July, which was followed by the High Court Case Law Roadshow, presented by Bronwyn Carruthers from Russell McVeagh and Mary Hill for Cooney Lees Morgan.  The event was well-attended and the Committee is very grateful to Cooney Lees Morgan for hosting the AGM and Roadshow event (as well as other events held throughout the year). 

At the AGM we farewelled Michelle Paddison who stepped down from the Branch Committee, as well as Russell De Luca, Bill Wasley and Vanessa Hamm who stepped down during 2014.  Mary Hill and David Greaves joined the Committee and Cushla Loomb stepped down as the Chairperson, although remains a member of the Committee.  Paula Golsby now fills the Chairperson role.  The contribution of Michelle, Russell, Bill, Vanessa and Cushla has been greatly appreciated by all. 

Other events held since last year’s AGM were the Environmental Compensation Roadshow, and an end of year social function held in conjunction with the location NZPI branch.  With the organisation of the Annual Conference coming to an end, the Bay of Plenty Branch is looking forward to focussing on providing more local events for members.

The Bay of Plenty region has been busy with various plan processes and projects, which many local practitioners have been involved in.  A few examples include:

  1. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council hearing on the resource consent applications to leave the Rena on Astrolabe Reef commenced on 4 September and is expected to take around four weeks;
  2. The proposed Bay of Plenty Regional Coastal Environment Plan was notified in June 2014 and decisions were released 1 September 2015;
  3. The Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement became operative in October (with the exception of the Natural Hazard provisions which were withdrawn and are now being dealt with under a change process);
  4. Decisions were made on the proposed Rotorua District Plan in November 2014;
  5. Hearings on the proposed Whakatane District Plan continued throughout 2014;
  6. NZTA’s Tauranga Eastern Link toll road (which by-passes Te Puke) opened in August 2015. 

The Bay of Plenty Branch would like to sincerely thank Karol Helmink for her continued support.  We also thank Cushla Loomb for her contribution as chairperson, particularly recognising the busy year with conference organisation. 

Waikato – Joan Forret

The Waikato Branch has seen a growth in members during 2015 and it is good to see new faces attending events.

On behalf of the Branch I thank Lachlan Muldowney and his team for chairing the Branch over recent years and for organising and hosting seminars and functions. Our finances and membership have remained solid and we are able to hold events at prices that enable multiple attendees from many organisations.

We have held a number of events this year and continue to find that breakfast seminars are popular and enable members to attend before heading off to work.  We have experimented with venues and are balancing convenience and flexibility against cost. We hope to host at least one more seminar before Christmas and I hope that we will see a good turn-out of Waikato members at the forthcoming conference.

On behalf of the Branch I also wish to thank the national committee for its efforts in organising the various roadshows. These have been of excellent quality this year and have covered a wide range of issues. It was great to see so many members at the recent development contributions roadshow, which attracted a different audience and generated a very lively debate.  It was good to see that the presenters were willing and able to respond robustly to questions which resulted in a very worthwhile and thought provoking session for attendees.

Although the full package of RMA reforms that were previously signalled by central government have yet to proceed through the parliamentary process, there have been a number of changes to the way in which plan changes and resource consent applications are lodged, processed and heard. Those changes seem to have put more pressure on all parties to the consenting and plan change process.  For example: everyone  seems to be under pressure of time in every aspect of Board of Inquiry processes so that the road towards a decision looks more like a racetrack; the Environment Court has taken an active role in case management of appeals so that parties need to be constantly progressing all aspects of dispute resolution, often faster than any of the professionals involved would prefer; and  even at the council level of resource consent processing, timeframes which were amended to improve efficiency for applicants have resulted in consent authorities using the s 88 gateway to find themselves more time before  accepting applications as complete. The nett effect of these ‘efficiency’ changes seems to be an increased focus on quality of application, expert reports and specialist expert and legal advice. For that, all resource management professionals within the Branch must surely owe a considerable debt to central government. Hopefully the coming year will bring many more changes that benefit and nurture our chosen areas of work.

Wellington – Nicky McIndoe and Maia Waikaira

The Wellington branch of the RMLA has had an interesting and busy year hosting a variety of seminars and social events.

At the end of 2014 the Wellington branch hosted a RMLA roadshow event on RMA Emergency Management and Infrastructure and Resilience, a repeat of the Environment Court’s popular Conditions of Consent Roadshow, and then finished up with a pre-Christmas social function in December 2014.

The first function in 2015 was also a social function, designed to allow practitioners to come together and contemplate the year ahead. This wine option competition was hosted by Mark St Clair of Hill Young Cooper and was a popular evening, well attended by both RMLA and New Zealand Planning Institute members. The year continued with seminars on Planning in the Middle East, Development Contributions, and a resource management themed quiz. The Young RMLA committee members also organised a seminar on The Role of the Planner and Lawyer in hearings, which was well attended by many professionals in the early stages of their careers.

The highlight of the year was the Salmon Lecture presented by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman and hosted in Wellington for the first time. This lecture was on “The place of science in successful environmental policy and law” and was of interest to attendees from many areas of resource management practice, particularly ecologists and other scientific advisors.

Many of the events organised by the Wellington branch of the RMLA have been jointly hosted with the local branch of the New Zealand Planning Institute. These events have provided opportunities for continued development for members, but have also provided opportunities for resource management specialists to meet and discuss matters outside of the confines of a Court, council hearing, or particular file.

The committee has actively sought to include a wide range of resource management professionals, both in the committee and when hosting events. The younger members of the committee have brought a fresh and energetic approach to the year’s programme, demonstrating that the future of the profession is in good hands. The committee continues to welcome all offers from Wellington law firms, consultancies and other organisations involved in resource management to host events in 2016.

My co-chair, Maia Wikaira, and I would like to thank Karol Helmink for her help and support of the Wellington Branch. Also thanks to the committee members, in particular Lisa Bazalo and Andrew Schriiffer as Secretary and Treasurer. We would like to particularly acknowledge the contribution of Phil Gurnsey, who stepped down from the Committee this year. Phil has been a hardworking and valuable committee member for a number of years and the committee would like to thank him for his contribution over many years.

The Wellington branch committee for 2015 is: David Allen, Helen Anderson, Mark Ashby (NZPI representative), Lisa Bazalo (Secretary), Aidan Cameron, Claire Fell, James Gardner-Hopkins, Cameron Gubb, Richard Hills, Melanie Jagusch, Nicky McIndoe (Co-chair), Joanne Mooar, Evie Rainey, Angela Rego, Andrew Schriiffer (Treasurer), Katherine Viskovic, and Maia Wikaira (Co-chair). 

Nelson/Marlborough – Antoinette Besier

The Nelson-Marlborough branch has had a relatively busy year.  Three seminars have been held on the following topics:

  • Biodiversity offsets;
  • Making the most of IT technology at Court hearings. This was presented by Rachell Staunton from the Environment Court (Wellington Registry); and
  • Recent High Court decisions presented by Bronwyn Carruthers.

However since the last conference, the focus of the branch has been on the organisation of the 2016 conference in Nelson.  It is fair to say that this has occupied most branch activity since that time. 

Planning for the conference is well under way with a committed group meeting every month.

The AGM will be held next month on 2 October.

Jane Bayley and Fiona McLeod continue in their roles as treasurer and secretary respectively and their input into the local branch is greatly appreciated.

The Nelson-Marlborough branch committee is:

  • Quentin Davies
  • Jane Bayley
  • Fiona McLeod
  • Antoinette Besier
  • Mark Lile
  • Warwick Heal
  • Rachel Reese
  • Dave Petrie
  • Gerard Praat
  • Shoshona Galbreath

Karol Helmink’s support of the local branch is greatly appreciated.

Otago/Southland – Rachel Brooking

The Branch Committee is:

Chairperson – Rachel Brooking

Treasurer – Michael Garbett

Committee members – Kirsten Tebbutt, Carmen Taylor, William Jennings, Pene Williams 

Departure of Chairperson

Chris Thomsen stood down as the chair on 1 April 2015 and has subsequently left the committee because he has moved to Nelson. The local branch held a farewell function for Chris that included reflections on the role of Regional Policy Statements. 

National Conference

2014 focussed on the conference and the last quarter of 2014 was fairly quiet as the committee recovered from what was a busy and rewarding endeavour. We wish the 2015 National Conference organisers all the best. 

Other events

In 2015 we have held a workshop on the changes to the RMA timeframes and AEE; and hosted Bronwyn Carruthers on her National Roadshow on High Court Case updates. Both these workshops and discussion on RPSs have been very well attended by an engaged audience. 

North Otago and Southland

We have not held any events outside of Dunedin but have some very active members throughout Otago and Southland who travel to Dunedin. Invercargill members have been asked if they would like more done in the far South and are considering this. 

Future events

We have invited Marie Brown from EDS to speak on biodiversity at the end of October (when she is in Dunedin for a conference) and look forward to receiving any National Roadshows that come our way.