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Appointments to the Environment Court

Appointments to the Environment Court

Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson today announced the appointment of four new Environment Commissioners and two new Deputy Environment Commissioners.

The new Environment Commissioners are Ross Dunlop of Auckland, Robert (Bob) Priest of Hamilton, Kevin Prime MBE of Kawakawa and Sheila Watson of Hamilton.

A town planning consultant, Ross Dunlop is currently employed as Senior Planning Principal at URS New Zealand Limited. He has a post graduate qualification in town planning and extensive experience in planning and resource management as well as in mediation.

Bob Priest is Deputy Chief Executive of Environment Waikato. He has a degree in science and experience in sustainable resource management and environment issues.

Managing director of a farm and forestry company, Kevin Prime has had extensive involvement with Maori development, environmental and community organisations over many years.

Sheila Watson is Environmental Manager for Mighty River Power. She has a post-graduate qualification in planning and has specialised as an environmental planner in the management and/or development of natural resources. Sheila Watson will be based in Christchurch.

The new Deputy Commissioners are Owen Borlase of Dunedin and Bruce Gollop of Whangarei.

Owen Borlase is director of Borlase & Associates Limited, an engineering services company. He is a Registered Engineer and has expertise in hydrology, water resources and environmental engineering.

Bruce Gollop has qualifications in chemical engineering and in medicine. He combines a consultancy business in health services management with private practice as an occupational medicine specialist. Bruce Gollop is the former Chief Executive of Northland Health.
“As Minister responsible for recommending these appointments, I am required, under the Resource Management Act 1991, to ensure that the Environment Court possesses a mix of knowledge and experience in matters coming before the Court. Those matters are very wide in their scope and accordingly call for a wide variety of expertise. The new appointees bring a mix of knowledge and experience in business affairs, local government, planning, science, engineering, Treaty of Waitangi issues and kaupapa Mäori, mediation and community affairs.”

Margaret Wilson said the new appointees had been selected from a very large number of highly qualified and experienced candidates who responded when the positions were publicly advertised earlier this year.

“This is the first time these positions have been advertised and candidates formally interviewed. While interviewing does slow the process down, it ensures the process is fair and transparent. The selections have been made with a view to ensuring the Court has available to it the appropriate mix of skills and experience”.

Margaret Wilson thanked outgoing Environment Commissioners Ngaire Burley, Robert Gapes and Roger Tasker, and Deputy Environment Commissioners Frank Easdale and June Kearney.

“They have all shown a high level of dedication and professionalism in the role during the term of their appointment, and their contribution has been very much appreciated.”

Questions and Answers

What is the role of Environment Commissioners?

Commissioners preside in the Environment Court, usually with a Judge of that Court. The Environment Court considers applications and appeals under the Resource Management Act 1991 and has wide-ranging jurisdiction under the Act. It also has some powers under other legislation. There is provision for any number of Environment Commissioners or Deputy Environment Commissioners.

Environment Commissioners also conduct mediations where parties have requested Court-assisted mediation.

Environment Commissioners are appointed on a full-time or 75 per cent basis. Deputy Environment Commissioners’ time commitments vary, because they sit only during Environment Commissioners’ periods of absence. On average Deputy Environment Commissioners can expect to sit for about six weeks per year, although the work may extend to a total of 23 weeks.

What are the criteria for appointment?

Under s.253 of the Resource Management Act 1991, when considering whether a person is suitable to be appointed as an Environment Commissioner or Deputy Environment Commissioner of the Environment Court, the Minister of Justice shall have regard to the need to ensure that the Environment Court possesses a mix of knowledge and experience in matters coming before the Environment Court, including knowledge and experience in –

(a) Economic, commercial, and business affairs, local government, and community affairs (b) Planning, resource management, and heritage protection (c) Environmental science, including the physical and social sciences (d) Architecture, engineering, surveying, minerals technology, and building construction (da) Alternative dispute resolution processes Matters relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and kaupapa Mäori.

In addition to these statutory requirements, applicants for appointment need generic qualities and skills such as mental agility, knowledge of the New Zealand community and cultural issues, acceptance of public scrutiny, sound judgement, and communication skills (oral and written).


Who makes the appointment?

Under s.254 of the Resource Management Act, appointments are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, after consultation with the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Maori Affairs. Appointees may hold office for up to five years.

What did the appointment process entail?

The position was advertised in the major daily newspapers in April 2002. In accordance with Cabinet directives, nominations were invited from a range of key Ministers, members of caucuses, and a number of professional organisations. In response to the advertising and nominations process, 167 applications were received. The Associate Minister of Justice approved a shortlist for interview and made the final selection from a list of names recommended by the interview panel. The appointees were selected following consideration by Cabinet.

Who are the current Environment Commissioners and Deputy Environment Commissioners?

Commissioners:

Paul Catchpole, New Plymouth Ross Dunlop, Auckland Arthur Hackett, Mt Maunganui Russell Howie, Wellington Christopher Kerr, Christchurch Charles Manning, Christchurch Heather McConachy, Auckland Diane Menzies, Christchurch Ian McIntyre, Auckland John Mills, Wellington Robert (Bob) Priest, Hamilton Kevin Prime, Kawakawa Jennifer Rowan, Paekakariki Shelia Watson, Hamilton

Deputy Commissioners

Owen Borlase, Dunedin Bruce Gollop, Whangarei Robyn Grigg, Akaroa

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