Good data vital to good decision making

Water management decisions should be based on accurate data rather than gut feelings, says the newest member of Ashburton Water Zone Committee Cargill Henderson.

Environmental manager at ANZCO Foods’ Ashburton plant, Henderson was appointed as a community member of the zone committee, which is working to implement the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, in mid 2017.

Before joining ANZCO, he worked for a company that installed telemetered water and soil moisture monitoring equipment.

“We made sure good data got collected that could be turned into good information to help decision makers to manage their properties.  This was mainly around soil moisture, irrigation management and also consent compliance,” says Henderson.

He joined ANZCO 18 months ago and his main role there is making sure the company meets it resource consent obligations.  He’s also involved in a project called Journey for Good.

“That’s more about going above and beyond the bare bones, it’s about being a good corporate citizen.  We’re talking recycling, social responsibility and water saving initiatives.”

But at the heart of Henderson’s work at ANZCO are the same principles he followed in his previous job.

“I’m still doing my data collection; I’m a big proponent of evidence-based decision making and I really don’t like working with gut feel decisions.  I like having all the data in place so then we can use that accurate data to drive accurate decision making,” he says.

Henderson now considers Ashburton home and he enjoys the Mid Canterbury environment.

“I ride down by the river quite regularly – I’ve got the bruises to prove it! – and I spend a lot of time out in the hills tramping and enjoying the environment so for me, it’s a bit selfish really, I’d like the environment to be good for me and future generations.”

Joining the Ashburton Water Zone Committee

With support from his bosses at ANZCO, Henderson started attending zone committee meetings as a member of the public, before applying for a position on the committee himself when a vacancy came up. He says the new job comes with a massive learning curve.

“What are the different viewpoints?  What’s the iwi perspective, what’s the manufacturing perspective, what are the rural and urban perspectives? Those groups don’t necessarily agree so how do then do you thread the needle between all of those?  Learning how that works is just fascinating.”

Henderson says his technical, “boots-on-the-ground”, data collection skills should be valuable to the committee.

“I can boil it back to evidence-based decision making.  For me it goes, ‘There’s a lot of stakeholders here, how do we get the best data and information into their hands so then any opinion they form is based off the correct facts?’.

“The gut feeling is going to be there because at some point you are making a decision based on your cultural perspective but that decision, I always believe, needs to come back to a strong, robust data set.”