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"True ambassador for impact assessment" receives international award

Thursday 27 May 2021 4:35pm

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Geography Emeritus Professor Richard Morgan has received a lifetime achievement award from the leading international organisation promoting and supporting impact assessment.

The prestigious award was announced last week by the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA), an organisation that draws together professionals from diverse fields to support impact assessment for informed decision-making regarding policies, programmes, plans and projects.

Noting Morgan’s significant contribution, the IAIA described him as a “true ambassador of impact assessment throughout his distinguished international career”.

“His dedication to connecting the practitioner with research and academia shows a commendable commitment to impact assessment.”

Professor Morgan was delighted to receive the award.

“The IAIA is the leading international organisation promoting/supporting the field of impact assessment. Its members include leading researchers, practitioners from the World Bank, ADB and other funding agencies, agencies such as WHO and UNEP, many government environmental agencies, major planning, engineering, environmental consultancies, and international NGOs.

“Previous award winners include many of the top names in impact assessment research and international practice, so to be included in this group of recipients is a significant honour.”

A biogeographer by training, Morgan’s desire to see forward-planning feature in decision-making drew him to impact assessment work.

“I specialised in the study of human impacts on soil and vegetation systems. But, as a problem solver, I wanted to see how we could avoid the adverse impacts before they occurred. This led me into environmental management, which became a major teaching area in later years.”

He says a key goal for impact assessment is ensuring proposed policies, plans and projects are developed to avoid future environmental, social, cultural and health problems. In addition to research, he has been involved in many projects in New Zealand, the Pacific and internationally, aimed at “transferring the outcomes of research to practitioner communities.”

International initiatives

For a number of years, Morgan was involved with a WHO/UNEP programme in the Asia/Pacific region to encourage and support more than a dozen governments to use health impact assessment to ensure development policies would not lead to environmental health problems (such as air or water pollution).

“I’ve also worked in various ways to help support and develop impact assessment capacity in the Pacific, often with the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). This has involved pilot projects on impact assessment, training courses, the development of guidance documents, and most recently (2019), through NZAIA, collaboration in a conference on the role of impact assessment in climate change adaptation and mitigation processes. With a SPREP colleague I co-edited an online publication based on the Pacific presentations at the conference, for the benefit of other practitioners across the Pacific.”

Over the past five years, Morgan has been involved in designing and implementing an international online training course in environmental impact assessment for the IAIA. The foundation course runs for 12 weeks, three times each year, and is aimed at practitioners in developing countries; trainees have been based in Mongolia, Korea, Canada, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Philippines, Samoa, and Australia. He was IAIA President between 2002 and 2005, has served on various committees and has been chair of the NZ affiliate to IAIA, the New Zealand Association for Impact Assessment since 2006. NZAIA runs annual conferences, puts out an online publication, develops resources to support IA practice, and makes submissions on proposed legislation and procedures.