Collaborative planning and freshwater decision-making
Researchers in this area is developing tools and methods to identify and assess freshwater values and thereby improve the freshwater management, with a particular focus on collaborative planning processes undertaken by stakeholders and regional councils.
The collaborative model is being promoted as an alternative decision-making process for managing freshwater resources in New Zealand, by providing specific fora in which all parties can build a collective understanding of desired outcomes and how to achieve them. Our research focuses on tools, methods, and processes to enhance the effectiveness of these collaborative processes.
The Regional Council Forum is an integral pathway for involving regional councils in our research. We are working with a group of 10 regional councils and the Ministry for the Environment to explore and query historic and emerging approaches for managing freshwater and the challenges being posed by the freshwater reforms. This forum is a key mechanism to ensure our research remains relevant.
We partnered with Tasman District Council to explore how to define freshwater uses and values for the Tasman Resource Management Plan.
In 2012 we started working with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, which has convened a collaborative stakeholder group to recommend water quantity and quality limits for the Greater Heretaunga and Ahuriri catchment plan change. Through our experiences we have drawn and documented insights that have broader relevance for other collaborative processes.
We have further developed and applied the River Values Assessment System (RiVAS), a tool for ranking the rivers in a region for a given use or value.
Drawing extensively on our Tasman and Hawke’s Bay case studies, our reports for Auckland Council and the Ministry for the Environment summarise our findings about tools to identify and assess values to inform the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
To help regional councils and others make decisions for the management of freshwater resources, we have developed guidance and tools on principles for decision making, the Policy Choice Framework, using economic modelling to inform limit setting processes for freshwater resources and designing policy.
Through our research we have outlined how Māori values can inform and be integrated into all aspects of policy and planning for freshwater management.