Reaching Community Consensus on Reforms for More Sustainable Urban Water Management Systems: The Case of Kāpiti, New Zealand

Reaching Community Consensus on Reforms for More Sustainable Urban Water Management Systems: The Case of Kāpiti, New Zealand

Robyn M. Moore (Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand) and Victoria J. Mabin (Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijss.2014070102
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Addressing the problem of reaching consensus on water reforms was the motive for this operational research. Living up to its ‘clean and green' image is a significant goal for New Zealand, with high economic value derived from the effects of its globally-recognised environmental credentials on key exports like agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. A 2009 government task force (Fresh Start for Fresh Water) suggested that a ‘business as usual' approach is undesirable, and water reform should be a priority. This paper is an account of a community-focused systems study undertaken for a Master's thesis in 2008/9. It examines the challenges and opportunities facing Kapiti, a rapidly growing coastal community, with water scarcity and quality constraints that had long prevented them from meeting their sustainable development objectives. The Theory of Constraints (TOC) and a stakeholder typology were used to identify system stakeholders and examine their perspectives, while Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs) from Systems Dynamics were constructed to explore and circumvent potential negative outcomes. Thus, a case study in a community resource management setting is described that tests the effectiveness of the combined problem-structuring framework, to explicitly inform urban water management, and water reform, in New Zealand.
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Careful management of natural resources, including water, is of prime concern globally, as described in recent articles such as Bjørndal, Herrero, Newman and Romero (2011) and Udias et al. (2012). The motivation for this study was to consider how a community might take a more integrated and systematic approach to meeting the challenges of water management, and achieve healthier, more sustainable freshwater systems. New Zealand’s urban communities face several challenges, due to increasing population density and attendant competition for scarce natural resources, with urban water systems under particular pressure to meet the expectations of residents and businesses (see KCDC, 2009). Fragmented approaches to water policies and plans persist, despite ground-breaking environmental legislation like the Resource Management Act (RMA, 1991) intended to promote sustainable development and protect community interests in environmental, social, economic and cultural outcomes (for history and context see Williams, 1997; Sheppard, 2010; Young, 2001).

New Zealand has made progress in reducing point source pollution (from a single source, like a stormwater pipe) since the introduction of the RMA (1991) and also as a result of other, complementary, environmental reforms (Land and Water Forum, 2010). The signing of a Clean Streams Accord in 2003 (MfE, 2003) for example, was a collaborative effort by the rural sector aimed at decreasing pastoral runoff. Whilst success should be acknowledged in some areas, non-point discharges, from diffuse sources, like pasture or road runoff, continue to increase unsustainably and urban waterways remain polluted to an unacceptable level (Land and Water Forum, 2010).

Recent efforts in the area of water reform include New Zealand’s Fresh Start for Freshwater programme (2009), with its government task force concluding that a ‘business as usual’ approach was undesirable. The related multi-stakeholder Land and Water Forum was set up in 2009, delivering three reports containing a range of recommendations (2010; 2011; 2012). The country’s first National Water Policy Statement (2011) was released largely in response to the Forum’s recommendations. The level of participation in the Forum nationwide, suggests willingness on the part of communities of interest, to be part of water reform. However, the means to undertake widespread reform remains the subject of debate, as the overall decline in the quality of water in our rivers, lakes and streams, and related losses in indigenous biodiversity, remain disappointingly evident (Land and Water Forum, 2010).

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