2024 EDS Conference: Integrating Insights Into RMM's Practices
  • Ashley River Mouth
  • Te Pae Christchurch Oxford Terrace
  • EDS Conferncebanner2024
Jun 24, 2024
Nikki Smetham one of RMM Ōtautahi’s senior landscape architects, recently attended the 2024 Environmental Defence Society (EDS) Conference at the Te Pae Conference Centre in Christchurch. Her experience at this event has provided valuable insights and lessons that RMM will integrate into its operational and design processes.


Nikki’s Reflections on the EDS Conference

"Recently I had the privilege of attending the EDS conference themed 'Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Us'. This local event allowed me to explore the impressive Te Pae conference facilities while achieving Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points with minimal environmental impact. The theme of the conference was highly relevant to my profession, and it prompted me to reflect deeply on the role of landscape architecture in promoting biodiversity and addressing climate change.

The conference featured a diverse array of speakers, each offering unique perspectives. Gabrielle Huria (Te Titirei Chief Executive) shared her experiences with her ancestral mahinga kai connections to the Canterbury rivers, especially the Rakahuri-Ashley River. She discussed the guardianship (kaitiakitanga) practiced by her community and expressed her concerns about the current state of these rivers. Her insights into the disconnect between New Zealand's 'clean green' image and the reality were particularly chilling.

Erina Watene (Pou Putaiao I Chief Scientist Maaori) presented the inspiring tuna initiatives on the Waikato River, and Stu Muir (Farmer and Finalist, Environmental Hero of the Year) shared his successful farm stream restoration efforts. These stories highlighted the effectiveness of quickly mobilizing whanau/iwi to achieve positive environmental outcomes, often bypassing lengthy bureaucratic processes. A recurring theme throughout the conference was the valuable contribution of kaitiakitanga and mātauranga māori (Māori knowledge) offered by manawhenua to various stakeholders. For manawhenua, their concerns are not limited to ownership but to restoring mauri (life force) to our landscapes.”

Insights and Takeaways

The conference also offered sobering technical data from various experts. This included the realities of continued mining for minerals that are essential for our everyday technology and clean energy infrastructure, as well as the need to rethink the modern perception of economic growth. It is commonplace to view growth as positive and essential to a healthy economy. However, the concept of 'degrowth' as a solution to environmental challenges was a particularly thought-provoking takeaway.

The presence of key governmental ministers with environmental portfolios added a political dimension to the discussions. Although the Hon Simon Watts’ (Minister for Climate Change) talk was interrupted by passionate student activists, and the Hon Shane Jones’ (Minister for Resources and Regional Development) pre-recorded interview left much to be desired in its concision, the Rt Hon Simon Upton’s speech as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment was rousing and insightful, and seemed to indicate a commitment from the new government to environmental conservation and preservation.

Implementing Insights into RMM’s Practice

The stories and data presented at the conference have reinforced the importance of integrating indigenous knowledge and sustainable practices into our work. At RMM, we will look to incorporate the principles of kaitiakitanga and mātauranga māori more deeply into our design processes. This means not only using native plants and sustainable materials but also co-designing with local iwi to ensure our projects respect and enhance the natural environment.

We will also focus on creating landscapes that restore mauri to the land, ensuring that our designs contribute to the health and wellbeing of the environment and the communities that depend on it. Additionally, we will be more mindful of the environmental impact of our projects and actively strive to minimize our carbon footprint through innovative design solutions and sustainable project management practices.

The 2024 EDS Conference has provided RMM with valuable insights and reinforced our commitment to sustainable landscape architecture. By integrating indigenous knowledge and modern sustainability practices, we aim to create landscapes that are not only aesthetically beautiful but also resilient and ecologically sound. Nikki’s experience at the conference will help guide our future projects, ensuring that we continue to lead the way in environmentally responsible design.


Photos sourced here, here, and here.
RMM Graphics