An exciting PROVEN way of managing our precious water resources
Just imagine – farmers, developers, life stylers, anglers, rafters, swimmers and families, who just love their lake, or river, all sitting around a table contributing their ideas about ways to overcome the most thorny issues facing our waterways – sound like a fantasy?
Well, this approach has proved successful beyond all expectations for our marine environment.
Way back in 1995, representatives of each group with an involvement in iconic Fiordland, got together with an Owaka/Aparima runanga representative, in what has since developed into our integrated iwi/community/agency approach to managing all aspects of a coastal marine area.
But back to the first meeting …. the scene was set (though the participants were not at all sure about being there), to share how everyone wanted to see the Fiordland marine area in 10 – 20 years time. That short session resulted in a vision:
“That the quality of Fiordland’s marine environment and fisheries, be maintained or improved for future generations to use and enjoy”.
Believe it or not, that vision has not changed through 23 years of rewarding work by the group – now called the Fiordland Marine Guardians. They were appointed under the Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua), Marine Management Act in 2005.
The Guardians many roles have been confirmed in the Act, together with an over-arching responsibility: “To facilitate and promote the integrated management of the Fiordland Marine Area”.
This is a fundamental change in the way most natural resources are managed.
It means the grass roots community has responsibility for ensuring the agencies with operational functions in the Fiordland Marine Area (Ministry of Fisheries, Department of Conservation, Biosecurity, Environment Southland, Southland District Council, Police and others), work in a co-operative way together with the Guardians. In real terms, it means every issue and every management decision made about the Fiordland Marine Area is made collectively and agreed between all involved.
You may be wondering how this approach has been working successfully for the past 13 years. And successes are regularly celebrated – from those on the water, to politicians in Wellington – irrespective of the parties in power.
Some basic ingredients contribute to this success:
- Representative around the table are selected by their own group – so they can report back, find out how their wider group feels and bring that back to the table.
- Key to the success are the observation, experience and understanding of those taking part – from way back – to the current situation. By sharing this information, everyone around the table has the same understanding of why the waterbody is valued, how it has changed over time and why this might have happened.
- The next step – identifying the issues/problems – is just a breeze.
- What to do about each issue can then be discussed. It’s amazing how a group like this, working together, can come up with innovative ideas and options for even the most thorny problems. The agencies involved, can help with advice about how to put these ideas into action if rules, or other mechanisms they are responsible for, are needed.
- Other key features of groups like these, are strong leadership on the part of the Chair, and a Facilitator who understands the type of waterbody, and can guide the group through the process – but does not favour any of the participating groups.
- Of course, such a process must be funded adequately and those involved, reimbursed for their efforts.
- Finally, the support of local and central politicians needs to be encouraged, so when the Plan of action is delivered, it is likely to be put in place.
This is a WIN-WIN approach – for those taking part, their wider groups, the agencies and the politicians – but most of all for our streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and coastal areas.