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Consents Officer

Consents Officer

Erin Petuha, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council

Ngāti Kahungunu

Earning: $49,000 starting salary
In a nutshell: Evaluating resource consent applications for activities that may affect the environment such as taking groundwater for irrigation or carrying out works in streams and rivers.
Why? “I like being able to find a way to allow the use of natural and physical resources while still protecting the people and the environment.”

Pathway William Colenso College, Year 13: English, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Calculus, Materials Technology (woodwork)
University of Waikato: Bachelor of Science & Technology; Master of Science, both majoring in Biology

Erin Petuha decided in Year 10 that she wanted to do a job that would help to protect our environment.

“I was lucky enough to grow up in Hawke’s Bay with summers at the beach and swimming in the rivers,” she explains. “I came to love the water, the fish and other critters, and the environment around them.”

Physics and Calculus were two of her favourite subjects at school because they were challenging and she enjoyed learning about why things work the way they do. “What I learnt at high school and during my university studies is useful because it helps me understand the technical information provided by the engineers and scientists that I work with.  English is useful as it helps in report writing, communication, and understanding the law.”

As a Consents Officer, Erin’s job is to evaluate requests from people who want to carry out some kind of activity that affects the environment, people, and resources. Most of the resource consent applications she deals with are to do works in streams and rivers or to take and use groundwater to irrigate crops.

“When I receive an application for resource consent, I consider the impact that will have on the environment and what can be done to avoid, mitigate or remedy any adverse effects. For example, for works in waterways it is important not to block the passage of fish for too long or contaminate the water.”

For each application, Erin uses engineering and/or science technical information to assess the effects of the activity. She writes a report explaining her evaluation of its environmental impact and the restrictions that need to be applied to the proposed activity in order to protect the environment, now and in the future, then writes a document for the applicant listing those restrictions they must follow.

“I get a lot of satisfaction when people are happy with the outcome of the evaluation and the decision on the resource consent application. It’s about finding a balance between allowing activities to occur while still protecting the environment.”

Another part of her job is answering people’s questions and explaining how the resource management process works. “Often people don’t understand a lot about resource consents and can be quite concerned. It’s a great feeling to be able to explain things to people so that they are not so worried and know what they need to do and why.”

She says her job would suit people who want to help protect the environment, like to find practical solutions to challenging issues, and who enjoy working with people.

“And with my qualifications and experience I could work in a number of places in New Zealand and overseas.”

Posted May 2012

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