Penny Doorman is the Geothermal Programme Leader at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council manages natural and physical resources in the Region, including 12 geothermal systems. Penny’s role at Council is working closely with geothermal staff to ensure the geothermal workstreams within Council are coordinated and focused, including across planning, community engagement, science, resource consenting and compliance. Her current focus is the review of the regional planning framework for managing the Rotorua geothermal system. This work involves considerable engagement with the community, iwi and hapū and key stakeholders, as well distilling the technical inputs into policy development. Penny has a Master’s in Environmental Science and Geography. She has worked in Local Government as a resource planner in various organisations for 30 years, initially focussing on heritage and biodiversity planning, more recently focussing on geothermal planning. She lives in Whakatane, on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
Managing geothermal – a Local Government perspective on changing relationships and responsibilities
In Aotearoa New Zealand political, societal and cultural norms regarding management and use of geothermal have evolved over generations and continue to change as we enter a period of regulatory reform. While the relationship of tangata whenua with geothermal has been continuous, colonisation led to dramatic changes as successive Governments took control of management under various statutes. Most recently, in 1991 Central Government devolved responsibility for geothermal management to Regional Councils. Councils now manage geothermal under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), and various policy documents that guide management.
Understandably, regional Councils are sometimes viewed only as a regulator. Their varied functions and responsibilities are not always well known, but include advocacy, education and outreach, relationship building, community engagement, research, and monitoring. These roles are delivered within a political structure that is open to public scrutiny, but due to requirements of the Local Government Act 2002 and the RMA, is not always as flexible or nimble as some might hope.
Particular challenges include balancing competing interests within the constraints of the law, while being accountable and responsive to our diverse communities. Our responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi are also at the forefront of our thinking, and the progression of Treaty Settlements means that management structures will continue to change.
As we transition to a new regulatory regime, Councils are mindful of the complex political, environmental and cultural climate, and of their contribution to the sustainable management of this unique taonga.