From your President

He mihi nui ki ngā mema katoa

This week we acknowledge the retirement of our first Chief Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook, who wore the new korowai for a week before passing it on to warm the shoulders of our new Chief Judge Kirkpatrick on Wednesday. The title change was the result of the passing of the Resource Management Amendment Bill which obtained Royal Assent on 30 June.

Judge Newhook has now commenced his new position as Convener of the Expert Fast-Track Consenting Panels, which he will hold for three years. The Fast-Track Consenting Bill had its third reading on 2 July. RMLA’s submission on the Bill acknowledged the importance of Environment Judges who will play a key role in appointing and chairing these Panels. This will ensure high-quality decision making and oversight, given the constraints on public participation and appeal rights under the Bill.

Minister Parker has also announced the appointment of Professor Peter Skelton as Chief Freshwater Commissioner and Judge Craig Thompson as Deputy Chief Freshwater Commissioner for the newly established Freshwater Planning Process.

RMLA has submitted on the proposal by Waikato Regional Council to transfer certain monitoring functions relating to Lake Taupō to the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board under s33 of the RMA. If implemented, this will be the first transfer of functions to an iwi authority under the Act despite the s33 transfer provisions having been in place since the Act’s inception in 1991. RMLA’s submission supports increased use of the transfer powers generally, and its ability to facilitate relationship and capacity building and collaboration between tangata whenua and local government. The National Committee has enjoyed working with our new Matauranga Knowledge Hub leaders in relation to this submission, which you can read here.

As part of our series of reform-related events leading up to the election in September, we have partnered with EDS to bring you an evening with Members of Parliament in Auckland on 17 August. This event will replace our annual conference, which was postponed due to Covid-19. The evening will feature a panel-style debate facilitated in his usual direct manner by EDS Chair Gary Taylor.

The event will be live-streamed for those who are unable to attend in person. Hot on the heels of that event will be our annual Salmon Lecture on 25 August. Simon Upton (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) will offer his thoughts on the Randerson Report, which we understand is currently with the Minister for review before release in August. We will round off these events with our “mini-conference” currently planned for early September in Wellington. This will include the presentation of our RMLA awards and the AGM. It will be live-streamed, and we encourage our regional committees to participate by planning your own local social event. Watch this space over the next few weeks for more event details, and visit our events page on the website to register for the Auckland events.

Hei konā mai

Mary Hill

President RMLA