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Incentives for Change

New Models of Collective Responsibility

Te Whakakotahitanga mō te Taiao

Developing new ways to strengthen the connection between people, land and water

Pourakino catchment field trip, March 2021


Challenge funding: $2,809,000

Research duration: August 2019 – January 2023

What Are We Doing?

The health of our land, water and communities are closely connected. Tōitu te whenua, tōitu te tangata. (When land and water are sustained, the people are also sustained.)

In many catchments, healing the mauri of land and waters will require neighbours to coordinate their actions. The research team will undertake two related initiatives to explore and develop new ways to strengthen the connection between people, land and water.

Pā to Plate is a social innovation project that will reconnect Māori descendants of Tai Tokerau to their ancestral land by enabling them to buy food ‘from home’. This will reconnect descendants to the mātauranga (knowledge) of food grown in their ancestral landscapes, while strengthening connections with, and employment opportunities for, those still at the marae.

The collective management project will work with community leaders in case study catchments to consolidate and accelerate collective actions to benefit water, land and people. Our learning forum will support catchment groups to diagnose and address issues, prioritise investments, and scale up to achieve their goals.

PICTURED ABOVE: George (Teoti) Jardine (Te Rūnaka o Ōraka-Aparima) and other particpants in the Catchment Forum meeting and field trip in March 2021, at the Pourakino catchment, Colac Bay, Southland

How Can The Research Be Used?

  • This research will help landholders, tangata whenua and regional councils work together to meet their community’s goals.
  • A policy advisory group will help researchers and catchment group members to produce recommendations for how government and the primary sector can support catchment collectives, extending the impact of this research around Aotearoa.
  • This research continues the Pā to Plate project begun by the Mauri Whenua Ora research programme.
  • Pā to Plate researchers will share knowledge with a new business, E Māra E, that will promote and deliver local produce from Māori growers in Tai Tokerau to Māori customers who descend from the region. It is hoped that when urban whanau are able to purchase and eat kai from home, this will build physical, emotional, cultural and economic connections between descendants and their land, contributing to a greater sense of belonging, security and identity as tangata whenua.
  • Later, the research team will help food producers in other regions consider how they can start similar initiatives to reconnect people with ancestral lands. Non-Māori producers and consumers may also have the opportunity to join these initiatives.

Research Updates

Catchment Forum, Waitangi

Sep 20 2022

Clear Targets or Continuous Improvement?

Photo above: Catchment forum hui at Waitangi, July 2022 “Would you tell me, please, which ...
Catchment Forum field trip in the Pourakino catchment, March 2021

Jun 30 2022

Catchment Groups Need Tailored Support With Fewer Strings Attached

Catchment groups are proliferating around Aotearoa New Zealand as communities seek to tackle some of ...
Swamp Florida Miami Everglades Usa Crocodile

Mar 1 2022

How Farmers Worked Together to Protect the Florida Everglades – Five Lessons for New Zealand

The United States government sued the state of Florida in 1988 for failing to manage ...
Catchment Forum discussions, March 2021

May 25 2021

Road-Testing Academic Theory with New Zealand Catchment Groups

With catchment groups forming across Aotearoa New Zealand to tackle land and water management issues, ...
Illustration of 2 farmers, one Māori , one Pākeha, shaking hands surrounded by cows, sheep, forest, wind turbines and a marae.

Mar 23 2021

Designing Effective Farm Environment Plans

New rules will require every farm in Aotearoa New Zealand to have a Farm Environment ...
Icmworkshop039 1200x800

Jan 18 2021

Can Catchment Groups Foster an Ethic of Care for our Waterways?

Over the past several years, I’ve had a growing sense that our policy approaches for ...
Pā to Plate produce in-store

Nov 30 2020

How the Pā to Plate Project is Creating Opportunities for Northland Marae Communities

Marae communities from coast to coast in the Bay of Islands through to the Hokianga ...
Graduation mortor board hats

Aug 17 2020

PhD Opportunity: Pā to Plate

Kia hiwa rā! We are providing a one-off opportunity for a student to join our ...
Replanting a Riparian Strip, image courtesy of Manaaki Whenua

Aug 11 2020

Catchment Groups are Key to Our Freshwater Future

The government’s new freshwater policies are another step toward cleaning up our rivers, lakes and ...
Kanoa Lloy returns to her whanau marae

Apr 16 2019

How Can Urban Māori Reconnect With Their Whenua?

If you watch The Project on TV, you may have been moved by Friday night’s ...
Mauri Whenua Ora researchers, producers, community leaders and Maori land trust representatives at a Pa to Plate thought leaders workshop, Waitangi, 5 October

May 31 2018

Pā to Plate Project Boosted By New Decision-Support Tool for the Bay of Islands

The Pā to Plate project aims to reconnect Māori with their marae, through enabling descendants ...
Collaboration in Mauri Whenua Ora

Jul 30 2017

How Iwi Chief Execs Are Helping Our Researchers Design New Land-Use Tools

Four hui have been held with iwi chief executives to help them access the Tai ...

In the Media

Guiding would-be institutional crafters with Jim Sinner

In Common podcast, 1 April 2022

In this podcast Jim Sinner discusses some of the codes of conduct for commons researchers based on his research, such the need to get alongside people on the ground, to engage with social identities, and to put social justice at the center of what we do.

Collective impact: Shining the light on community post Covid-19

The Spinoff, 27 August 2020

Amid a growing desire for greater food sovereignty, communities are deciding for themselves that they want to transition to low-carbon and sustainable futures.

Catchment groups key to healthy waterways

Stuff, 11 August 2020

The Government’s new freshwater policies are another step towards cleaning up our rivers, lakes and aquifers, yet it remains unclear how healthier waterways will actually be achieved.

Catchment groups key to healthy waterways with Jim Sinner

Sarah's Country, 11 August 2020

Healthy freshwater is more than a farm environment plan. New Models of Collective Responsibility project manager Jim Sinner proposes a four-step approach based on catchment groups.


Community Involvement

  • The Pā to Plate team is working with marae communities from the Bay of Islands through to the Hokianga, including Waitangi, Oromāhoe, Tautoro, Whirinaki, North Hokianga, Kaikohe and Karetu. The team is also connecting with many other growers in the Tai Tokerau region through personal visits, a Facebook page, website ( and local festivals.
  • Researchers have identified four case study catchment groups at an early stage of formation, in Southland (Pourakino Catchment Group), Marlborough (Pelorus Catchment Group), Hawkes Bay (Mangaone Catchment Group), Northland (Waitangi Catchment Group). The research programme will support them to evolve a collective management approach.
  • The collective management project will regularly bring together catchment group members to share experiences and learn how to improve collective management in their home catchments.
  • The programme will convene a biannual national forum of representatives from the case study catchment groups, including tangata whenua, and a policy advisory group to meet annually.
  • An advisory group includes representatives of Dairy NZ, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Marlborough District Council, Environment Southland, Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation, NZ Landcare Trust, NZ Beef and Lamb, Fish & Game, and Te Pōtiki National Trust. The research team is also also working closely with Northland Regional Council and have received funding from Foundation North

Research Outputs


Crafting Collective Management Institutions in Messy Real-World Settings: A Call for Action Research

Jim Sinner , Marc Tadaki, Edward Challies, Margaret Kilvington, Paratene Tane, Christina A. Robb
International Journal of the Commons (March 2022)

There is considerable interest in collective management as a potential solution to complex environmental problems, but existing research offers little guidance for the messy real-world task of creating new institutions. We report on a study from New Zealand that applies an action research orientation, involving four case study catchments where farming and indigenous leaders are in dialogue about emerging collective institutions to address declining health of freshwater systems. We show how these institutional crafters considered, challenged and stretched the general design principles as they assessed the principles’ relevance to their cases, which involve externalities from diffuse pollution and hence are a less-than-straightforward collective management problem. We argue that commons research can benefit from (i) a theoretical agenda that reorients inquiry to practical issues of crafting institutions as well as (ii) a methodological agenda involving action research as a way of recognizing and working through complexity.

System reset - Regenerating the marae economy

Merata Kawharu
MAI Journal 2020: Volume 9 Issue 4 - Covid-19 Issue

What role can marae communities play in a post-COVID-19 lockdown “reset”? This situation report looks at the opportunity of unlocking innovation within marae kin communities through developing food system enterprises. It considers the idea of regenerating gardens and associated initiatives. It argues that gardens that once fed local kin communities may not only provide kai for locally resident members but also be developed at new scales and so provide for kin members wherever they live. There is also the opportunity to re-engage with, and harness, community knowledge of growing, of gardens, of ancestral landscapes and related mātauranga, and to share all this with multi-located marae community members who have been disconnected from these foundational layers of community kōrero for one or more generations. Resetting the economic and cultural agenda from a marae community perspective is important now more than ever given the uncertainties that have emerged since the COVID-19 pandemic.



Kāinga: People, Land, Belonging

Paul Tapsell (Te Arawa, Tainui)
BWB Texts, 2022

Through his own experience and the stories of his tīpuna, Paul Tapsell (Te Arawa, Tainui) charts the impact of colonisation on his people. Alienation from kāinga and whenua becomes a wider story of environmental degradation and system collapse. It is now up to the Crown, Tapsell writes, to accept the need for radical change. The ecological costs of colonisation are clear, and yet those same extractive and exploitative models remain foundational today. Only a complete step-change, one that embraces kāinga, can transform our lands and waterways, and potentially become a source of inspiration to the world.

Team Snapshot

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