Our Land and Water researchers Ed Challies (University of Canterbury) and Marc Tadaki (Cawthron) are pleased to have had the opportunity to edit a special issue of the NZ Geographer on New Horizons in the Politics of Water Governance, published earlier this month.
The special issue showcases excellent social science by New Zealand based scholars into freshwater values, governance, and politics in Aotearoa, including 6 research papers (all led by early-career researchers, mostly women), and 4 commentaries (including two insightful Māori commentaries addressing the politics of Te Mana o Te Wai) as well as an editorial introduction. Overall, the special issue includes nine co-authors who self-identify Māori whakapapa.
“This special issue, offering rich empirical analysis of various water governance challenges in Aotearoa… offers an outsized contribution to diverse fields of knowledge and ongoing debates [by providing] in-depth analysis of the empirical cases in the specific historical and geographical context of Aotearoa… in ways that do not shy away from the ‘big questions’.”— Professor Leila Harris
The issue covers a range of topics: understanding how/why we devalue lakes and urban streams and how we can reverse this, opportunities and tensions with cultural monitoring of freshwater, managing ‘independence’ in collaborative decision making in the Waikato, and catchment group motivations and dynamics in Southland. It also looks at the Waimea dam debate through the lens of narrative, interrogating the potential for Te Mana o Te Wai to be an empowering concept for Māori, grasping the key role played by environmental NGOs in water governance, and the global significance of New Zealand experiences and research on water governance.
“This special issue, offering rich empirical analysis of various water governance challenges in Aotearoa… offers an outsized contribution to diverse fields of knowledge and ongoing debates [by providing] in-depth analysis of the empirical cases in the specific historical and geographical context of Aotearoa, but… in ways that do not shy away from the ‘big questions’,” says Professor Leila Harris.
“The case studies are also among the best available for illustrating the complex entanglements important for water governance. Of particular interest, the discussions of values of water, at times implicit, and other times more explicit, are particularly useful.”
“How is it that we come to value different watercourses (e.g. streams and lakes) differently? And how do laws, aesthetics and other socio-cultural values together affect freshwater governance and ecosystems over time? Further, what is the potential benefit of integrating Indigenous knowledges, values and concepts to shift our governance practices and, more fundamentally, our values and relationships to water?”
“The collection makes great strides on such issues, highlighting past and emergent governance and its associated challenges, as well as offering insights into how we might make progress to overcome them.”
This international commentary by Professor Leila Harris highlights the global scholarly significance of the research.
“The imperative to continue to make progress on these big questions is clear and timely. This collection provides useful guideposts to move us forward, and it does so in ways that are theoretically rich, meaningful and ethical, both for Aotearoa and elsewhere.”
New Zealand Geographer Volume 78, Issue 1 Special Issue: New Horizons in The Politics of Water Governance, edited by Edward Challies and Marc Tadaki. Research articles from the issue may be accessed through the below links: