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First six months as Chair of NRW

Diane McCrea's latest message to staff.

Can it really be more than six months since I took over as Chair of Natural Resources Wales?

Things certainly move at a pace here so this is a good time to reflect and to think about the future.

It seems a very long time ago when, as I was about to leave the Peter Matthews’ leaving do, I was asked what size wellies I needed. Fortunately we escaped the worst of the anticipated flooding back in December, but I do now have my wellies and high-viz jacket at the ready, just in case.

The sheer breadth and complexity of our remit and responsibilities has meant a steep learning curve. At times it has felt rather like climbing Snowdon without proper walking boots – hard going! My induction will be ongoing and I am sure never-ending, since every week I learn more about the amazing and varied jobs you do to protect and sustain our natural resources. 

I really am very proud of NRW and what you have all achieved so far – yes there is more to do, and we all know there will be many challenges and fewer resources in the future – but from what I have seen, we have the best qualified and most committed people to rise to this challenge with a strong record for delivery. I have seen this myself as I have been out and about meeting you, nothing beats this and learning from your expertise and passion. The Board and I want to do more of this and better understand the complexity of what we do, and the issues we face. Visiting sites and our offices, hearing what you have to say about your work and listening to your feedback is the most interesting and illuminating part of the job. The Board and I are committed to getting out and about more to meet more of you, and more often. We will be setting up a schedule of visits to our offices and will let you know where we will be and when over the coming months. Where possible we hold Board meetings in our offices so that you can come to meet us and get a flavour of what we do in our meetings. We are in Aberystwyth today (7 July, 2016) – call in during the coffee break to meet us.

For me variety has certainly been the name of the game, including visiting and hearing more from the teams at the Pen y Cymoedd wind energy project, on Anglesey at Cors Erddreiniog to see peat restoration, joining Emyr on several of his staff sessions at the start of the year, participating in the wellbeing objectives workshop in Shrewsbury, visiting Cwmcarn forest, the Coastal Flooding Conference in Llandudno, and meeting some of you at our Board sessions. At the same time I have been getting to know our stakeholders by attending the NFU Conference, speaking about NRW at Women’s Institute Wales Conference, visiting the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and welcoming Lesley Griffiths AM our new Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs. It has been a busy time.

One of the most astounding aspects has been learning just how complex NRW is. From the outside looking in it’s difficult to appreciate the scale of that complexity, along with the amount of change, ambition and commitment needed for us to lead the way to a better future for Wales by managing the environment and natural resources sustainably. A purpose to which I am 100% committed.

I now have a better appreciation of what that truly means both for NRW, and the wider Welsh context. I appreciate where we have come from, where we are now and where we want to be, that all important journey on our Roadmap taking us through to 2020 and beyond.

I have been fascinated by what I’ve seen and heard. By far the best part of my job so far has been seeing the work of NRW coming to life first hand, something the Board and I want to continue. Your knowledge and passion is second to none and really captures the imagination. I also think it is important for me to continue to encourage those outside our organisation to get to know us and what we stand for and how we all have a role to play working together.

Our role as NRW’s Board

I see my role, and that of fellow Board members, as being part of the whole NRW team - using our personal expertise and experiences from long and varied careers to add value to this organisation. We should all be pulling together to carve out a clear path through this complex landscape in order to make a real difference to our environment and the people of Wales. I see many opportunities alongside the well documented challenges and have an enormous sense of pride in our organisation which has so much potential. We cannot realise this potential without your involvement and motivation and, after the staff survey results, I am keenly aware that we need to do more to nurture, encourage and appreciate you and your efforts.

Thank you

So, I’m going to finish with a very big ‘Diolch yn fawr’ for the very warm welcome I have received. Many of you have worked incredibly hard to bring me and incoming Board Members up to speed on very many complex matters, as well as helping us to understand the business better by hosting visits and briefings. I’m looking forward to learning much more about NRW and encouraging stakeholders to do the same, so keep an eye out for more updates from myself, and the rest of the Board, over the coming months. We also intend visiting our sites regularly so when you see us out and about wearing our name badges say hello and talk to us about your work in this unique and amazing organisation.

Finally, I want to take inspiration from our amazing Welsh football heroes and say ‘TogetherStronger’. Just look how far we have already come. We should all now begin to dream of what we can achieve for the future, for our natural resources, and for the work we are all so passionate about. I for one am determined to ensure we deliver, to improve and sustainably manage our natural resources, to make sure that Wales is a better place for us to live, and to make this is a better organisation where you our people work.

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