The application of an audited self-management approach to manage nutrient losses in the Hurunui River catchment.
Thesis DisciplineWater Resource Management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Water quality impairment is becoming an increasing problem in Canterbury, and throughout New Zealand. In North Canterbury, the Hurunui River has been associated with elevated nutrient levels. Not only are elevated nutrient levels a threat to the environmental and cultural values of the area, they also threaten the economic and social aspirations of the community. The community has aspirations to intensify land use in the catchment by increasing the area of irrigated land. To manage nutrient levels in the catchment and to ensure the goals of the community are realised the Hurunui and Waiau Regional Plan sets forth a requirement that an audited self-management (ASM) approach be applied in the region, which is identified in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy as a key tool for the management of water quality.
This study investigates the application of an ASM approach in the Hurunui River catchment and by the use of semi-structured interviews seeks to identify the ASM features and institutional arrangements key stakeholders in the catchment are willing to support. The majority of the key features of an ASM approach are supported in the catchment including governance arrangements, farm environment plans, audits, enforcement mechanisms and effective communication measures. There were areas of divergence in the stakeholders’ opinions however, with differences relating to who administers the enforcement programme, and the public reporting of audit results.
The institutional arrangements supported by the interview participants in the application of an ASM approach are compared to the design features outlined by Elinor Ostrom (1990). The majority of the institutional arrangements supported by stakeholders align with Ostrom’s features including: the freedom of resource users to make their own day-to-day choices; the desire for monitoring; the increasing severity of sanctions on those non-complying resource users; the need for conflict-resolution mechanisms; and that management collectives should retain the freedom to frame their own rules. An area which does not align with these design features was the hesitation of some organisation representatives to allow land users to have direct input into the rules governing the application of an ASM approach.
The research identifies obstacles to the effective application of ASM. Specifically the issues of scientific uncertainty, the promotion of economic over environmental values, and the feeling of lack of involvement felt by some stakeholders, are identified as significant obstacles. To overcome these issues solutions are offered including further water quality monitoring, the promotion of further stakeholder interaction and the continuation of discussions to find an equitable solution to nutrient allocation concerns. Finally, the research presents several recommendations for the consideration of those undertaking the implementation of an ASM approach in the Hurunui River catchment and elsewhere, these include agreement upon the final boundaries for management groups, further investigation into management group governance and data management systems, ensuring audits are undertaken by fully trained and accredited auditors, ensuring that audit results are reported in a manner than generates corrective action, and providing opportunities for land users to frame the rules for an ASM approach.
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