“It’s like stepping through the door to Narnia. Suddenly you’re involved in a whole world that you’ve never had any experience with at all and it becomes really enjoyable once you’ve come to grips with the nuances of the job.”
Sue Simons, partner of environmental law firm Berry Simons, spoke to NZ Lawyer about her new appointment as consumer member of the Chartered Professional Engineers Council.
An environmental lawyer of over twenty five years, Simons is now looking forward to her time in this new role.
“I’ve only just been appointed so I’m still on a steep learning curve,” she said. “I do it because it’s just such a sharp contrast to the work that I’ve done professionally. I’m really enjoying it.”
Simon’s legal expertise and previous experience as member of the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board makes her especially suitable for sitting on the Engineers Council.
“There’s a huge demand for legal input,” she said. “These professional organisations involve people’s livelihoods and quite often people are in positions of conflict when they need to be involved with the Council.”
This demand ensures that organisations such as the Engineers Council have to operate legally by rigorously observing all issues of administrative law, public law and matters of natural justice, she said.
“The organisation operates in the field of public administrative law,” Simons explained. “There have to be people interpreting the empowering legislation.”
The functions of the council are prescribed in the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act. Other regulations follow from this as well.
The most difficult aspect of this role is the appeals and disciplinary measures involved, she said.
“They are always challenging because it’s a quasi-judicial role. That requires robust and rigorous application of the law and the proper balancing and weighing of evidence.”
This is especially true in a specialist area like engineering.
“I’m going to have to come to grips with the discipline in a way that normally I wouldn’t ever have to be involved in because it’s not part of my main field of expertise.”
“There is always a period where you need to go and pick the brains of other board members to try and find out how things work. But that’s part of the fun of it,” Simons said.