Local water management – a journey worth joining

Long-serving Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee member Michele Hawke is proud of what she and fellow members have achieved for the community.

“We have become a ‘family’ of sorts but that doesn’t stop us challenging each other’s thinking,” Hawke says.

“Our plan didn’t get everything right and brought about some unintended consequences that we now are addressing. However, these have provided opportunities for better and stronger communication and collaboration with stakeholders to find solutions to these challenges.”

A scientist with a background in geology and chemistry, Hawke joined the committee at its inception in 2010, believing her understanding of land and water related issues would be valuable.

“I had no interest group affiliations so I could represent my community with neutrality and as a woman I might bring a different perspective with regard to social and cultural values and aspirations.”

When the committee was formed, it was under pressure to come up with a plan for the Hurunui and Waiau Rivers which were then under a planning moratorium. Comprised of diverse stakeholders including environmentalists, farmers and iwi, they had an enormous task.

“We had to learn to listen to each other and to trust that we were all trying to find solutions that would optimise the outcomes for all,” says Hawke.

“This was about changing behaviours from the previous adversarial approach of fighting things out in the environment court with winners and losers to that of ‘gifts and gains’ where everyone has to give up something to some degree to get something in return.”

Hawke believes that community groups once dedicated to protecting their patch are now far more prepared to work with other stakeholders to find solutions to water management and environmental issues.

“There is a lot more effort and money being put into improving environmental outcomes within our zone than gets publicity,” she says.

“Irrigation companies have required their farmers to have farm environment plans that have made them look at what they are doing and the impacts and how they could improve their general and environmental practices.

“Seeing how fresh water related biodiversity can be improved through fencing off areas, and in some cases protecting them through QE II covenants, has been uplifting.”

“I have particularly valued gaining a greater understanding of Māori values for our natural resources and how they should be managed and appreciate our rūnanga representatives’ sharing their knowledge and stories to enhance our understanding.”

Zone committee memberships are refreshed each year to ensure new perspectives are reflected. Hawke believes the Hurunui-Waiau zone committee has been fortunate to have had a stable membership but new members bring new knowledge, ideas and approaches that are valued and valuable.

“We need to be looking for greater engagement of young people as they will be the ones who will live with the outcomes of the decisions made by today’s committee.

“I know it’s easier for self employed or retired persons to give their time to these committees but we need to look at ways to enable greater engagement of younger people. It is a journey worth joining – be there for your community.”

Find out how to apply

If you are interested in joining a water zone committee, please visit www.ecan.govt.nz/waiwecare

For more information please phone Environment Canterbury Customer Services on 0800 324 636.

For more information on how the committee operates please read the terms of reference.

If you would like to apply click here for the online form.