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Water matters in New Zealand: Exploring and articulating social values

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Ann Winstanley, David Wood, Miria Lange
Dr. Ann Winstanley*, Ms Miria Lange, Dr. David Wood Institute of Environmental Science and Research 27 Creyke Road, P.O. Box 20-181 Ilam Christchurch New Zealand *lead author

Keyword(s): New Zealand water management, decision-making processes, social and cultural values of water, community values and perceptions, Maori values
Article:
AbstractIn many areas of New Zealand, councils, developers and irrigation-dependent farmers are exploring water storage options to provide reliable water supplies to offset over or full allocation (in the Tasman and Canterbury regions, in New Zealand’s South Island); to provide protection from drought events likely to be exacerbated by future climate change; and to meet the increasing global demand for high value commodity products as well as sustainability demands of global markets. This paper will outline the processes of decision-making in the Tasman and Canterbury regions, evaluating the extent to which social and cultural values of water are taken into account. It will also explore how better articulation of social and cultural values might mediate economic and environmental concerns, which tend to be polarised. The paper is based primarily on the findings of two research projects, the first that identified and documented community values and perceptions of water management options in the Waimea Basin (Tasman), and the second project that included observations (and evaluation) of a regional reference group process to evaluate potential storage options for the Canterbury region, and a pilot survey of residents’ values of Canterbury rivers. An initial commitment of decision-makers to meeting all sustainability parameters (social, cultural, environmental and cultural) rather than (but not excluding) tradeoffs and hierarchies associated with the different parameters appears to influence how decision-making groups work together and outcomes. Other factors that influence how and to what extent social and cultural values are taken into account include scale – the size and geographic variability of the region as well as population size and demographics; and issues relating to political and governance arrangements and jurisdictions. The paper will outline how the Crown’s and local governments’ commitment to partnerships with Maori (indigenous peoples of New Zealand) based on the Treaty of Waitangi provides clear imperatives for engaging with Maori on water-related issues, and subsequent articulation of Maori cultural values and needs. In contrast, many non-Maori (pakeha) struggle to articulate and integrate social, cultural and spiritual values of water, making it difficult for decision-makers to ensure that these values are taken into account in water resource management issues, such as major water storage developments to ‘future-proof’ reliability of supply. We conclude by suggesting that improved articulation and documentation of social and cultural values creates opportunities for finding common ground and reducing polarisation between different sectors, interests and rural and urban residents.
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