Roadshow promotes new Ecological Impact Assessment Guidelines

Published 3 September 2015 by Ian Boothroyd MEIANZ CEnvP, NZ Chapter President

Featuring Dr Judith Roper-Lindsay and Dr Ian Boothroyd, respectively past and present Presidents of the New Zealand Chapter, EIANZ rolled into a number of main centres of New Zealand over August as part of an Ecological Impact Assessment ‚Äč(EcIA) Roadshow. The roadshow was aimed at increasing the awareness and purpose of the Ecological Impact Assessment Guidelines and what it means to be a professional practitioner.

Five presentations were completed: one each in Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington and two in Palmerston North (a matinee presentation was provided at Massey University, prior to an evening in the city).

Collectively the presentation reached some 200 people who came along with roughly even attendance amongst the three larger centres. Each presentation had the same content with the purpose, as a national event, ‘to all learn the same things at the same time’. There was a very high level of engagement at each location, and the evenings stretched out well beyond the anticipated finish time. This was great and to see so many people discussing the evening’s content or just networking amongst themselves was well worthwhile. 

On the whole, the roadshow was presented to more non-members than actual members, so it has given the Chapter an enormous exposure across the main centres at least, that we might not get otherwise. 

So what of the response and feedback?

For the most part the feedback has been extremely positive with everyone recognising that we all have to work at improving our professional image and our professional practice. The Guidelines are seen as a significant step in the right direction to achieve these aims. The authors have always recognised that the launch was of the first edition with perhaps several iterations to come as the Guidelines are put into practice and we learn from their use and practicality.

Feedback to date has ranged from some technical matters, to the use (and absence) of specific terminology, to the more vexed issues of how to deal with situations where practitioners are asked to do something less than expected. In response to the latter there was recognition that the fact the very guidelines exist means they act as a powerful tool to ensure that the correct approach is taken where appropriate; or at the very least an explanation is given why an assessment may deviate from the guidance.

The Guidelines themselves are already in use by a number of organisations. Several organisations are planning to adopt the Guidelines as good practice for their own professional practice. And at least two councils have sought information from resource consent applicants regarding alignment of their own impact assessments with the guidelines.

The two presenters had already given some thought to what happens next. First it is recognised that the Guidelines are a work in progress and will continuously improve as practice is improved, as new tools enter the sector, and as case law and legislation changes. However there remains a desire and a need to continuously up-skill ourselves in practice and behaviours. As a consequence there was a general vote of approval for the development of informal webinars. Perhaps run over a lunchtime, the benefit of webinars is that anyone can join in for their own computer. Discussion was held on running something like three or four over the next few months; these could focus on specific chapters of the Guidelines but with greater penetration of detail and some helpful case studies.

In addition to webinars, support was also given to the idea of a series of ‘Practice Notes’; these being 8-10 page short documents on specific areas of practice. Examples raised were:

  • Adaptive Management
  • Monitoring Mitigation Success
  • Impact management and the Wildlife Act
  • Use of Regini Method of Assessment.

Each of these could also showcase suitable examples and case studies. And the marine area has not been forgotten, with a view that an Ecological Impact Assessment Guidelines for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems should follow shortly; or be incorporated into the present Guidelines.

Please send any ideas or thoughts, or indeed if you want to lead a webinar yourself, to Ian ian.boothroyd@boffamiskell.co.nz or Judith judith@roperlindsay.com

The EcIA guidelines are available here →