19 April 2023, 1pm
How can catchment groups be supported and encouraged to protect and enhance local waterways?
This webinar was held on 19 April 2023, watch it below. You can find answers to the many excellent questions there wasn't time to answer here:
There are many different expectations about what catchment groups can and should do, creating a risk of misunderstanding and uncoordinated activity. The webinar will present recommendations to help bridge the different perspectives to improve alignment and increase effectiveness. It will also highlight a significant opportunity for catchment groups, land users and tangata whenua to work together on their shared goals.
The recommendations are outlined in a new Cawthron Institute report funded by Our Land and Water National Science Challenge that aims to help catchment groups achieve better outcomes from their efforts to improve freshwater health.
“For Aotearoa New Zealand’s catchment groups to realise their potential, both agencies and the groups themselves should re-focus their efforts. We see a need for more support, more targeted policy, better planning and monitoring by groups and stronger relationships with Māori,” says Sinner.
“We see a need for more support, more targeted policy, better planning and monitoring by groups and stronger relationships with Māori”Jim Sinner, social science manager at Cawthron Institute
“One of the key factors currently holding catchment groups back is the difference in understanding about what catchment groups can and should do,” Sinner says.
“This leads to mismatched expectations and government policy that fails to encourage and support the type of collective action that is needed.”
But Sinner says there is a great opportunity for everyone’s interests to converge if agencies, catchment groups and tangata whenua could better understand one another’s perspectives and expectations and support each other’s goals.
“If we could do that, there is great scope to work together through catchment groups to improve freshwater health, enable tangata whenua to exercise kaitiakitanga, and to support and recognise farmers for the hard work they have done and continue to do.”
Sinner says hundreds of catchment groups have formed around the country and many are doing good work on riparian planting and pest control. In some places, tangata whenua are working with farmers to realise aspirations such as improving habitat for mahinga kai species.
However, these efforts could be better coordinated.
“We have a lot of farmers doing good things individually, but if they aren’t coordinating their actions, if they aren’t asking what is needed across their catchment to achieve the outcomes the community expects, there is a very real risk that the outcomes will fall short.”
“Agencies tend to think about catchment groups in terms of managing farm runoff to meet water quality standards. But these groups have their own goals and want to find approaches that work on their farms, and they want to be recognised by their local communities as good farmers and good stewards of land and water. Imposing national rules about farming practices sends a message that farmers don’t care and have to be told what to do – that just creates more tension.”
“We would like to see policy that says, if a catchment group is implementing a credible plan to meet community aspirations and water standards, their members will face fewer regulations about specific farming practices”Jim Sinner, social science manager at Cawthron Institute
“We would like to see policy that says, if a catchment group is implementing a credible plan to meet community aspirations and water standards, their members will face fewer regulations about specific farming practices, because they’ve got a local solution that will work for their land and waterways.”
“We also see an opportunity for catchment groups to connect farmers and tangata whenua, as they have a lot of values in common. With time and appropriate support, there is potential to form trusting relationships that give effect to Māori aspirations and Te Tiriti and, at the same time, help farmers to regain the confidence of their communities.”
“Hapū and marae communities have a lot of demands on their time and limited resources,” Sinner said, “so it would really help if government would support local kaitiaki to work with farmers, foresters and others through catchment groups.”
The report makes 30 recommendations for catchment groups, agencies and tangata whenua.
Sinner summarises the key recommendations as follows: