Report on this year's Annual Conference from a New Zealand perspective

Published 12 Dec 2016 by Di Buchan FEIANZ CEnvP and Keith Calder MEIANZ

The EIANZ Annual Conference was held in Brisbane this year. Keith Calder (Acting President, NZ Chapter), Mark Bellingham (Auckland Branch and member of the Policy and Practice committee), Chris Gibbons (outgoing Student and Early Careers coordinator for NZ), Di Buchan and Bryan Jenkins (both members of the EIANZ Board) attended for the New Zealand committee.

The conference kicked off with a brilliant keynote presentation aptly titled, ‘Action is better than depression’ from Dr Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Green Party who, among many other environmental contributions, successfully campaigned for a large increase in the protected wilderness areas in Australia. Quotes from his speech included:

We live in an age of manifest absurdities – the ignorant are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. I say to the intelligent, get over yourselves.”

This profession – people ecologically qualified – are the doctors of the planet.”

“Optimism is a powerful driving force that can help to get a better outcome than we’ll get otherwise.”

He finished by summarising that “Optimism - Defiance – Caring” are the essential requirements for the future of environmental practice.

Peter Cochrane, among many other hats, is a member of the IUCN governing body. In his keynote address he described how the Australian Federal Government’s Report on the Environment 2016 is going to be digitised so that it will be possible to do searches on key findings and to cut and paste graphs and maps. This will facilitate a much higher use of the report as a reference document by practitioners, businesses, philanthropists, and decision-makers.

Two New Zealanders delivered key note addresses: Hon David Parker (Shadow Minister for the Environment) and Dr Ralph Chapman, Head of Victoria university’s Environment Studies Programme and Co-director of the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities. Some quotes from David Parker’s presentation include:

“New Zealand must be a beacon of hope in the world. If countries that can, don’t, the consequences will be dire.”

“I know of no environmental problem where there isn’t a solution. Education, regulation and pricing are the three levers to solve our environmental problems. Things are going to get worse, but we can prevent tragedy”

“NZ needs a Carbon Budgeting Agency that limits the impact of political interventions. It must be independent of Government.”

In her keynote address Hon. Penny Wensley HFEIANZ, Order of Australia (AO), former United Nations Ambassador and now Chair of Reef 2050 also provided some memorable quotes: 

“If Australia with all its resources can’t save its heritage sites (such as the Great Barrier Reef) which other countries can? In addition to the environmental risks of our failure to address the problems we also risk political fallout from the loss of face.”

“We are not saving species – rather we are just losing them at a slower rate.”

“The important factors for success are good management, strong regulations and good governance. The more equal the society, the better the protection given to the environment.”

On a session talking about CEnvP, Prof. Simon Molesworth QC, FEIANZ and a founding member of the EIANZ, issued a challenge when he said “EIANZ and CEnvP now have the standing and professionalism we have worked so hard to obtain - as members we now need to stand up and be counted on issues that are not disputed such as factors contributing to climate change.”

Prof Bryan Jenkins, FEIANZ, from Canterbury University gave an excellent presentation on the adequacy (or not) of the legislative changes adopted in New Zealand to address climate change. His presentation is available here →

Of course, a highlight of the Gala Dinner was the announcement of Dr Judith Roper-Lindsay as this year’s winner of the ‘Environmental Practitioner of the Year’ Award. Judith was not at the conference, and a presentation event is being planned for Christchurch in the New Year.

Finally, a short promotional video prepared by the Wellington Conference organising committee was shown at the conference and was very well-received and provoked significant interest. 

View the promotional video for the Wellington conference →