Auckland, New Zealand – The voices and presence of Pacific Island Countries were highly visible and amplified at the recent 2023 Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ) Conference, held 17 -19 October, in Auckland, New Zealand.
For the first time, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and Pacific island representatives from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, and Tuvalu, participated at the EIANZ annual conference in Auckland, New Zealand. The Pacific Day, which preceded the EIANZ conference was organised by SPREP in partnership with EIANZ, New Zealand Association for Impact Assessment (NZAIA) and Stantec. The event showcased the diverse environmental challenges and innovative solutions in addressing these challenges, as well as opportunities for further collaborations with EIANZ and NZAIA. The event set the stage for the subsequent conference sessions, highlighting the Pacific's efforts and actions in achieving environmental sustainability. The Pacific Day and the EIANZ Conference were two of the initial activities implemented under SPREP’s partnership and collaboration with EIANZ. SPREP and EIANZ signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2022 for the first time marking a milestone achievement for both organisations. The EIANZ is a not-for-profit professional association for environmental practitioners from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and supports environmental practitioners and promotes independent and interdisciplinary discussion on environmental issues.
The 2023 EIANZ Conference with the theme ‘Leading the Wave of Change’ included sessions on indigenous and traditional knowledge, environmental policies and guidelines, environmental and social safeguards, including a discussion on the role of environmental regulators and environmental practitioners which were relevant to the Pacific. The Director for SPREP’s Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme and his team took part in the discussions sharing their experiences in supporting Pacific island Countries.
The EIANZ Conference provided an excellent platform bringing together environmental professionals in different sectors and roles across Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific. From the conference Talanoa and exchanges, SPREP identified several strategic opportunities that would help in strengthening its work on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Safeguards. SPREP has developed several regional guidelines on EIA, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Regional EIA Guidelines for Coastal Tourism, and Regional Guidelines for Coastal Engineering which have been used by Pacific countries and partners to guide their work. SPREP has also been working closely with the World Bank through the Pacific Learning Partnership on Environmental and Social Safeguards in delivering training to national environmental regulators, practitioners, and key stakeholders in the Pacific.
The partnership and collaboration between SPREP and EIANZ will enable access to a wider network of environmental professionals thus complementing the Pacific Network of Environmental Assessment managed and administered by SPREP. A meeting between the SPREP Team led by the Deputy Director General, Ms Easter Chu Shing and the President of EIANZ, Ms. Vicky Brady and her team including Professor Richard Morgan of NZAIA, reaffirmed the value of the partnership and the opportunities and benefits that it provides to all organisations and their respective members. Hosting a similar event for the Pacific was one of the proposals that was suggested including participation as resource people in key events among others.
The conference concluded with field trips which enabled participants to experience firsthand various environmental projects in New Zealand, gaining insights and understanding of practical environmental challenges and solutions to take back and apply in their respective Pacific Island Countries.
While reflecting on the conference, Mr. Sione Tukia, Assistant Director for the Department of Environment in Tonga, stated "the EIANZ Conference provided us Pacific nations with a valuable platform to voice our unique challenges, learn from others, and foster collaborations. I commend SPREP for supporting Pacific representation at this conference and I hope we can take the lessons learned here and apply them in our respective countries."
As curtains fell on the 2023 EIANZ Conference, the strengthened bonds between SPREP, its Member Countries, and the broader Trans-Tasman environmental practitioner community were evident. This collaborative spirit promises to usher in an era of shared knowledge, resources, networks to strengthen environmental practice and outcomes in the Pacific.
SPREP and Pacific Island participation at the EIANZ 2023 conference is supported through the European Union initiated capacity building project phase 3 titled, “Capacity Building related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries”, implemented by UN Environment programme and executed by SPREP.
For more information on the EIANZ 2023 conference, please contact Jope Davetanivalu, Director of Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme, [email protected].