Environment Waikato will lose one of the country’s most experienced resource management specialists when Policy Group Manager Dr Lex Rennes retires at the end of May.
Dr Rennes has had about 24 years experience in resource management, and has been responsible for several major environmental innovations in that time.
Born in Amsterdam, Dr Rennes was educated in Kerikeri and Auckland, and gained a doctorate in soil science from Massey University. He joined the then Waikato Valley Authority in 1978 as leader of the scientific Investigations Group and later became manager of water resources.
He set up the first water quality monitoring network for the Waikato River, on which the recent State of the Environment work was based and was involved in a number of large water consent processes, including the Ohaaki geothermal station.
“The monitoring we developed then has become the cornerstone of how we measure the state of the river today – and how we will be able to chart the ever improving quality of the river in years to come.”
He then spent two years as scientist in charge of Kerikeri Horticultural Research Station before returning to the WVA as liaison officer for energy projects.
He was director of technical services for the Waikato Catchment Board when local government reform led to the formation of the Waikato Regional Council in 1989 and became divisional manager for Resource Management.
One of the highlights of his career was cleaning up the Rotowaro phenol ponds, a major environmental project to remove toxic waste at the abandoned site.
“This was a difficult project and we were using methods that were new in fixing a major environmental hazard. The results were very satisfying and showed what could be done with a bit of ingenuity and alternative scientific thinking. It’s very pleasing to see that area looking so good now.”
Dr Rennes also managed the development of the Waikato’s Regional Policy Statement, which brings together how the Region’s land, water, air, coastal and related issues are dealt with. He has supervised the development of the Regional Plan, Regional Coastal Plan, Marine Farming Planning and other policy projects such as rules for dairy shed effluent.
He also initiated the Farm Environment Awards and the original community Environment Awards, and initiated the early Regional Waste Forums.
Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said Dr Rennes had been highly valued.
“He is a person with very high academic qualifications and the position he has occupied has been extremely exacting. It requires a great understanding of the law and the environment. Above all he has been an excellent ambassador of the Regional Council in his relationships with many stakeholders and the community.”
Chief Executive Barry Harris said advising on Resource Management Act policy was complex and contentious. Often people wanted the certainty of policy but at the same time wanted the flexibility to depart from it.
Dr Rennes intends to take early retirement to enjoy leisure interests in the Bay of Islands.
Dr Rennes’ replacement is Jeanette Black, formerly General Manager, Contracts for the New Zealand Blood Service. Ms Black has a strong background in management and strategic planning.
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