Programme  OS6f The human dimension of water management  abstract 465

Water matters in New Zealand: Exploring and articulating social values

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: abs465_article.pdf
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Session: OS6f The human dimension of water management
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


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


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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