Collaborative Management: Community Engagement Process as the Decision Making Process
Planning theory identifies a step-wise process for making decisions which typically include the following steps: define the problem, develop alternatives, evaluate alternatives, and make the decision. We are seeing the growth of multi-criteria decision making frameworks that can score different factors and weight different criteria to provide overall scores for alternatives to indicate a preferred decision. Legal processes have been developed with complex submission and submission-on-submissions procedures to inform independent commissioners of the variety of viewpoints that need to be considered in their deliberations on the merits of proposals. However these technical and legal processes may not be the most effective decision making processes for the sustainable management of scarce resources involving multiple users. Ostrom has identified “collective choice arrangements” as one of the design principles for the management of common pool resources, such as water or fisheries. This paper describes the decision making process for developing the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. This process was designed to be dynamic and collaborative with stakeholder and community engagement. The steps in the community engagement process defined the decision making process. This is not to say that the technical and legal processes were not followed, rather, they were subsidiary to the community engagement process. The paper describes the activities associated with the seven milestones of the community engagement process: (1) Release and announcement (2) Definition of the process (3) Identification of the breadth of uses and benefits (4) Public reporting of uses and benefits (5) Achievement of depth and sophistication of strategies and substrategies (6) Public engagement on strategy options (7) Implementation and update. The community engagement process was successful in achieving widespread acceptance of the proposed strategy which is now being implemented.