Dr Hamish Rennie, Associate Professor, a revolutionary development in environmental planning Lincoln University shares his insights about the field.
What are the disruption caused in environmental planning due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
Like most countries, the pandemic has caused our government to develop some legislation to help re-boot the economy. This provides ‘fast-track’ approaches to approve projects, primarily infrastructure, that would have taken longer to gain approval and would probably have had more environmental constraints on them. But several planning academics, including me, and the Green Party were publicly outspoken that we did not want to see the future sacrificed for a fast economic re-start (who are support partners for the current government – and the election this week looks like keeping them close to power). So I think the safeguards that we built into the Covid-19 recovery legislation should work.
What is the area of your present research study?
My main research at the moment is on policy and legal models for implementing Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) in the marine environment as part of the NZ Government funded Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. I have been involved in research and implementing integrated coastal management and marine spatial planning for a long time and while it is easy to develop theoretical models of EBM, its much harder to actually make it happen. We want to find ways to enable the dynamic change that occurs in ecosystems, and the uncertainties of climate change, to be better planned for. This research ties in with my ongoing research on freshwater planning and governance, like the personhood of rivers and collaborative management of lake catchments.
A third area of research is testing a tool we have developed to help make farmers more resilient to natural disaster events. This is an outcome of previous work with the Resilience National Science Challenge and is being trialed by colleagues at BECA on two of Lincoln University’s farms as part of the University’s Centre of Excellence in Designing Future Productive Landscapes. Finally, I am joining an initiative of two Indian planning academics, Dr Anil Roy (CEPT) and Dr Ajith Kaliyath (Ansal University’s Sushant School of Planning and Development) developing an international network of researchers working on a planning pedagogy contribution to World Planning Day.
What are the courses related to Sustainable Development?
Rather than individual courses, we think most of our degrees are fundamentally about sustainable development because we focus on applied, land-based research. Consequently, Lincoln University has a long tradition of working with developing countries in the agriculture, rural finance, tourism and environmental management. In my Faculty we have been especially involved in Planning and Policy, Environmental Management, Disaster Risk and Resilience and Water Resource Management, and Tourism.
We have had a lot of research students from Nepal and other South East Asian countries as well as from the Pacific Islands and the Masters in Environmental policy and Management, Masters in Planning, MAppSc in Disaster Risk and Resilience, Masters in Water Resource Management, Masters of Tourism Management and Masters of Applied Science (Environmental Management) have been popular.
At the undergraduate level, the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, Bachelor of Environmental Management, and Bachelor of Tourism Management are especially relevant to sustainable development, but we are in the process of mapping all of our programmes against the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
What kind of careers can students have after these courses?
A lot depends on the student and the particular degree they choose, but many return to their homes and work for governments or international organisations helping their home countries to develop sustainably. For instance, some of my students are working in climate change adaptation and planning in rural areas in countries like Nepal.
Tourism graduates often work in park management as well as tourism. Graduates of tourism, water and environmental management courses often find careers in the private sector as consultants, working on things like environmental impact assessment and in industries developing environmental management systems to reduce, recycle and reuse or manage other environmental effects of their employers.