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

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

Robyn M. Moore (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) and Victoria J. Mabin (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 35
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5996-2.ch003

Abstract

Reaching community consensus on water reforms was the motive—and the challenge—for this operational research. While water is comparatively abundant in New Zealand, a pattern of decline in the quality of water resources has persisted. Living up to its “clean, green” image is a significant goal for New Zealand, with high economic value derived from the effects of its globally recognized environmental credentials on key exports like tourism and agriculture. A 2009 government task force suggested that a “business as usual” approach is untenable, and water reform should be a priority. This systems study examines the challenges—and opportunities—facing Kāpiti, a rapidly growing coastal community, with water scarcity and quality constraints that had long prevented them from meeting their sustainable development objectives. The authors used a stakeholder typology to identify system stakeholders, Theory of Constraints (TOC) to examine their perspectives, causal loop diagrams to highlight potential negative outcomes, and TOC to design appropriate interventions.
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Introduction

Careful management of natural resources, including water, is of prime concern globally, as described in articles such as Bjørndal, Herrero, Newman and Romero (2011) and Udias et al. (2012). For Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, their intrinsic relationship with particular rivers (awa) and lakes (roto), is central to their identity (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), 2015a). Māori as tangata whenua, “the people of the land”, have authority in a particular place, according to their ancestors’ relationship to it (Royal, 2012). Their interest in the well-being (mauri or life force) of water and other natural systems (PCE, 2015a) is enshrined into government legislation designed to enable New Zealanders to participate in decision-making to “manage or protect” their “natural and physical resources” (Williams, 1997). As such, themes of environmental protection or guardianship (kaitiakitanga) are woven into the fabric of New Zealand’s national identity (see Young, 2001; 2004). The motivation for this study was to consider how a community might take a more integrated, systematic, and participatory approach to meeting the challenges of water management, and achieve healthier, more sustainable freshwater systems.

The New Zealand landscape, a narrow set of islands, intersected by mountain ranges subject to continual uplift and erosion, is due to a combination of tectonic plate activity and weather (PCE, 2015; Young, 2004). More than half of New Zealand's total land area is in pasture and arable land, and more than a quarter is under forest cover (NZ Treasury, 2016). New Zealand has a “highly urbanised” population, with nearly three quarters of its people living in urban environments of more than 30,000 people (NZ Treasury, 2016:5). “Nowhere in our island nation is far from water, and most of us live within a few kilometres of the sea” (PCE, 2015). Just over a third of the country’s 4.6 million people live in the Greater Auckland area, the country’s fastest growing region (NZ Treasury, 2016:5).

Primary production produces the country’s biggest export earnings, with agriculture accounting for more than half those earnings, and dairy being the predominant agricultural activity (NZ Treasury, 2016:17). Dairy farming is land use that has continued to expand rapidly, and is the primary cause of increased nutrient stress on waterways (PCE, 2015a). Of the two nutrients of main concern – nitrogen and phosphorus – nitrogen is the greater water quality challenge (PCE 2016).

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