25 July 2019
At the public session of the Regional Forum tonight (Thursday 25 July), Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell and Te Ao Marama board chairman Don Mowat announced that the elected chair of the Regional Forum is Fiona Smith. Working alongside her will be deputy chair Phil Morrison.
The Regional Forum is made up of 15 individuals, chosen for their skills, experience, knowledge and passion for Southland. The forum will advise Environment Southland on how to achieve the communities’ aspirations for freshwater. Members of the forum will consider the specific policies and rules as well as the on-ground initiatives required to make change and improve Southland’s water and land for generations to come.
Newly elected chair Fiona Smith lives in Winton with her family and works at AB Lime looking after their compliance and environmental management.
Fiona initially put her name forward for the Regional Forum because she felt that she wanted to have meaningful input into a process around water rather than criticise. “It was an opportunity for me to use the skills that I have and the interests that I have to be able to contribute to something that I believe in.”
Coming from a science background and with her previous chairmanship experience, Fiona thinks she is in a good position to understand the issues and challenges, and lead this forum. She can look at the science, the social requirements and needs of our communities, and the need for change in a particular type of way.
Fiona says she hopes her calm, balanced approached, and her ability to listen and put herself in other people’s points of view will be reflected in her ability to chair the forum.
The Invercargill workshop (25-26 July) is the fourth for the forum. It completes phase one of their journey, which focused on sharing their knowledge, learning about the region and coming together as a group. The forum will meet regularly over the next 2-3 years, and there will be opportunities for the public to engage along the way.
A videos of Fiona talking about being chair as well as some of her skills and experience are available on the Environment Southland website - www.es.govt.nz/regional-forum
Papers and presentations from the previous three workshops are available online, as well as short biographies on each of the members.
Biography - Fiona Smith
Fiona moved with her family to Southland 11 years ago, but their family links to Southland go back many generations. She has been the head of various committees including the school Board of Trustees and the local athletics club. Fiona says her family has enjoyed the lakes, coasts and rivers of Southland and it is important that this continues for her children and grandchildren. Fiona has an environmental scientist degree with a focus on freshwater and groundwater hydrology and a Master’s in soil chemistry. She currently works as an environment and compliance manager at AB Lime. She has also worked as a university tutor and has been involved in developing the Waterwatch education programme for schools. She is a member of the New Zealand Freshwater Society and New Zealand Soil Science Society. In the future, Fiona wants to see more thriving wetlands, better management of contaminants before they enter the water, an increased focus on ecological health for determining the health of water, and upgrades in technology for waste water treatment.
Biography - Phil Morrison
Phil believes the health of the community is very closely linked to the health of the environment. Raised in Eastern Southland in the farming community of Waikaka Valley, he is an active member of the community. Having spent 25 years in the New Zealand Army, Phil continues to serve as part of the Army Reserves. He’s the chairman of the Willowbank Windmill Committee, a group aiming to restore, preserve, and promote the category 1 heritage Willowbank railway windmill and water-tank at Waikaka Valley, near Gore. Phil acknowledges that Southland is somewhat unique with its heavy economic dependence upon primary industry, therefore has challenges when it comes to managing the tensions between a number of other industries and the environment. In the future, Phil wants to see a region that is prosperous, flourishing and considered an attractive region for families and progressive businesses to call their home.