Water key issue for country, says judge

Water is one of the most important environmental matters facing New Zealand, Environment Court judge Brian Dwyer says.

Mr Dwyer of Waikawa is one of the country's seven Environment Court judges and is the key speaker at the 2013 Marlborough Environment Awards dinner tomorrow night.

Most of the court's work involves matters relating to the Resource Management Act, usually dealing with appeals about regional and district statements and plans, and appeals arising out of applications for resource consents.

Discretion is vital in his position, but Mr Dwyer said he could talk in general terms about his experiences.

"I can speak in very broad terms about water issues, which I think is the country's most important environment issues . . . based on the observations from what I've seen as a judge."

Mr Dwyer, a former Saint Mary's School pupil and a keen athlete, has always lived in Marlborough, apart from attending Saint Bede's College and the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. He returned to Marlborough and started his career in law in 1973.

He played for Moutere Rugby Club and was a member of the Wairau Rowing Club for many years.

In later years, he was a partner in the Blenheim law firm Radich Dwyer, where he provided resource management counsel for the Marlborough District Council.

In 2006 he was appointed to the Environment Court. Based in Wellington, Mr Dwyer is responsible for matters stretching from Taranaki in the North Island, to Nelson and Tasman in the South Island.

The scope of environmental matters he presides over includes large dairy farming industries and wind-farm applications. In 2011 and 2012 he chaired the board of inquiry for the Transmission Gully route in Wellington.

Last year the board approved a raft of resource consents for the $930 million project, and imposed conditions to minimise environmental impact.

"In most arguments there are often winners and losers," he said.

"The judge's job is to make sure you understand both sides of the arguments, and even if you disagree with someone's position, to be frankly honest and impartial and make a decision according to the facts as you see them."

Mr Dwyer, 63, is still passionate about his work, and expects to remain in the role until he is 70, the age when Environment Court judges must retire. "It's the most interesting job I think. There's a range of work and you get all sorts of issues to deal with that affect the way people have to live their lives," he said.