I attended as an 'end user'. Though the terminology 'end user' was bandied about a lot over the two days, i felt the meaning was pretty fuzzy. I thought for many, the end user could be the organisation who had commissioned and funded their research, with specific purposes in mind. I felt qualified to identify as an end user, as the research and issues being discussed significantly affect me as someone living with Natural Hazards at Awatarariki Matatā.
So i was there to listen to what the best and brightest in Natural Hazards Research had to share about their work and what the implications could be to support our community at our time of need.
At the moment our community is being asked to consider managed retreat with an acquisition strategy that will be on the table for a short while (if at all - where is the money?) at the same time we are subject to a regional plan change request instigated through the Whakatane District Council that could result in our property rights being extinguished. This is 14 years since the debris flow event of 2005.
I was heartened to hear from many of the researchers that they are engaged in participatory research with high levels of community involvement and co-construction with affected communities. This was also quite sad to hear personally, because why hasn't this process happened for us?!
One of my hopes in attending was to extend my networks and identify potential experts who would be willing to look at our situation and work with us when we get to the Environment Court (i can't see where else this will go to achieve resolution). However, i wasn't brave enough to solicit this during my time there, as early responses were cagey, most worked for organisations that were already captured by our councils (meaning they had already worked with our Council, and therefore had a conflict of interest so they couldn't work with us), and some of the panel discussion about political risk highlighted the reluctance of some scientists to be bold and work with the hard issues 'this decision could be career ending.'
It was really interesting to hear of all the work going on, and be in a completely different professional space. How useful was it for me? It doesn't feel like it has been very useful at the moment, but perhaps in my notes are some gems that will make a difference when the time comes, or a connection made that will step up and be useful to us in the future.
There is a lot more work being done in this are $100 million in the Budget for this Research Stream. I will be definitely watching this space. Here is the twitter stream from conference, much more coherent than my notes.