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Research Builds Bridge Over Troubled Water

Landcare Research - Research Builds Bridge Over Troubled Water

Research builds bridge over troubled water New research on Canterbury's water woes has far-reaching aims: to improve cooperation on water management, and bridge rifts over managing water and other natural resources.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has awarded $1.8 million dollars in funding over 4 years for a Landcare Research-led project called 'Old problems, new solutions'. New Zealanders' livelihoods and well-being depends on sustainable use and management of water and other natural resources. Allocation of water resources in New Zealand is undertaken on a 'first-come, first-served', basis. However, this approach was developed in conditions of relative abundance.

Now there is conflict over the allocation of water, and councils find it hard to reconcile individual needs and views and find solutions acceptable to their communities. These issues are always harder when there is scientific uncertainty involved and the individual stakes are very high.

The project looks for new ways of dealing with contentious resource allocation issues, with an initial focus on Canterbury's water supply worries. Participants include Te R*nanga o Ng*i Tahu, Environment Canterbury, Hurunui District Council, Enterprise North Canterbury and Christchurch City Council.

Landcare Research scientist Dr Bob Frame says traditionally discussion on these resources has been based on multiple single perspectives, which causes confusion and conflict. 'Landcare Research is leading efforts to understand multiple stakeholder perspectives. Policy makers have to face complex and difficult questions, for which they need appropriate support. How are they to integrate what hydrologists tell them, for example, with what lawyers, economists and community groups tell them? 'In our project all these perspectives are included, and therefore the science will be much more useable for policy makers.'

Bob says researchers are tackling water supply as a timely case study. 'However, our broad aim is to develop an interdisciplinary approach that we can use for other New Zealand natural resources under stress.' Hurunui District Council Chief Executive Paddy Clifford says the project has important implications for his drought-prone district. 'The Hurunui district has the third highest economic growth in the country through viticulture, tourism and increased employment. But this growth is dependent on water.

'The collaboration will bring key stakeholder groups together. It will enhance everyone's understanding of the complex issues surrounding sustainable management of a precious resource. 'It will help council's planning, and will help council support businesses and communities in their own development and planning.'

Te R*nanga o Ng*i Tahu is leading a segment of the research that focuses on the relevance of traditional M*ori knowledge and values. Brett Ellison (Ng*i Tahu) will be studying this.

'I'll be researching the extent to which M*ori views and Ng*i Tahu views in particular are heard at a policy level. M*ori believe their spiritual and cultural values for water can play an important role in the wider discussion about sustainable water management' Brett says. 'The multi-disciplinary nature of the project will allow a frank and open discussion about these resources, and will encourage communities to work together.'

ENDS


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