Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Impact 4.1: Factors (including the form of institutions) required to resolve complex environmental issues are understood, and opportunities recognised for adapting to global change and reducing vulnerability to resource scarcity

River flows & water quality are significant management issues. Image - Les Basher

River flows & water quality are significant management issues. Image - Les Basher

Key performance indicator: Industry sectors, central and local government are making strategic use of research findings, associated indicators of performance, and new economic instruments to respond to complex environmental issues, global change processes and resource scarcity.

Development is becoming increasingly complex with no one ‘right answer’ for resolving multiple viewpoints and values relating to the management of New Zealand’s natural resources. Communities can have polarised views on what constitutes acceptable development (e.g. in relation to land use intensification or mining) and on the associated impacts on natural resources (e.g. water quality and availability, biodiversity, cultural values). Our work helps develop new ways to reach consensus on natural resource management and decision-making.

2010/11 Baseline situation: Diverse stakeholders were in a variety of conflicts over the management of natural resources (e.g. water, biodiversity) with differing values and expectations.

Progress 2011/12:

Progress 2012/13:

Progress 2013/14:

The energy sector (Meridian Energy, Solid Energy and Buller Coal over this past year) is incorporating offset programmes and fit-for-purpose rehabilitation activities into the companies’ environmental management. The energy and mining sectors continued to incorporate offset programmes, land rehabilitation planning, research and advice into their environmental management. Regional and district councils, required to set limits for water quality and flows, have scientific evidence and frameworks to support decisions and improved processes for engaging stakeholders in collaborative processes for these decisions
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The New Zealand Forest and Agricultural Regional Model (NZFARM) is being used to assess policy options for improving water quality and the economic impacts for meeting environmental limits. ECan, MfE and other stakeholders used our NZFARM economic modelling tool in two Canterbury catchments as part of their collaborative process to setting water limits.  
  Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury regional councils are using our collaborative decision-making research in setting water limits; three other councils are considering adopting these processes within their regions.  


Freshwater management

Regional councils are now required under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management to set limits for water quality, environmental flows and levels in the catchments of their region. We support decision-making on these limits in a variety of ways.

Supporting plains water management

Where new land and water policy settings dictate changes to existing agricultural practices, regional councils need to provide land users with robust scientific evidence as to why these changes are required, particularly if the changes are significant. Over several years, we have worked with Tasman District Council and Environment Canterbury to improve understanding of and quantify the impact of land use intensification on water quality in aquifers and waterways. We estimated the nutrient loads resulting from various land-use-intensification scenarios specifi ed by the Canterbury Zone Committees, modelled key options for nutrient allocation and predicted the impacts on water quality. This work contributes to the scientific basis for the nutrient limits and individual nutrient discharge allowances agreed by the Zone Committees, which are being or will have been incorporated in the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

This work was supported by MBIE funding, Environment Canterbury and the Waimea Water Augmentation Committee.

Supporting national policy

This year, we also modelled the economic impacts of various nutrient allocation policies in the Selwyn-Waihora catchment in Canterbury to help inform national water policy setting. Using our economic land use model, NZFARM, we estimated that to achieve the new national ‘bottom line’ for nitrate toxicity set out in the National Objectives Framework in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2014 would require a reduction in nitrogen loads by about 14% relative to business-as-usual while increasing irrigated land by about 30,000 ha through the Central Plains Water (CPW) scheme. This could be achieved by implementing robust nutrient mitigation practices alongside the new irrigation, and result in an increase in farm profit for the average landowner in the catchment through production and efficiency improvements.

This work was supported by MBIE funding, MfE and ECan.

Wheel of Water collaborative framework

For most catchments, setting water limits means making difficult trade-offs, compounded by uncertainty about the information used in the decision-making process. We are working with Aqualinc and AgResearch to develop an institutional process based on collaborative governance and collective-action principles, and new tools to help communities make the trade-offs usually involved in limit-setting. Our ‘Wheel of Water’ tool helps stakeholders develop a common understanding of how they value their catchment and how these values might be affected under different land and water management scenarios. It was successfully tested in pilot studies in the Wairau Valley (Marlborough) and Mangaterere (Wairarapa). Findings have been shared with regional councils, research participants, MfE and MPI. A further 3 years’ funding has been awarded by MBIE, to trial the Wheel of Water process in two limit-setting case studies – in the Ruamāhanga Whaitua (zone committee) with Greater Wellington Regional Council and in the Takaka catchment with Tasman District Council.

This work is part of the Enhancing Policy Development Portfolio, and wassupported by MBIE via a subcontract from Aqualinc Research.

Technical data in collaborative processes

The nature of technical information and the way it is discussed with stakeholders in collaborative processes for freshwater planning is significantly different to any previous consultative processes in New Zealand. When designing and facilitating these sorts of collaborative processes, consideration must be given to how information is to be used, and to the uncertainties inherent in trying to predict the future.

In a review for Environment Canterbury, we provided a framework and recommendations to assist staff in designing and managing the technical information needed to set catchment limits and achieve desired community outcomes in its water management processes involving zone committees. The report draws on interviews with ECan staff and consultants involved with zone committees in limit-setting processes, and provides insights into the benefits and flaws of the collaborative water management processes currently being implemented by the regional council across 10 zones. The report will also benefit other regional councils embarking on similar processes.

This work was supported by MBIE funding and Environment Canterbury.