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Factors influencing successful collaboration for freshwater management in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Nicholas A. Cradock-Henry, Landcare Research, New Zealand
Suzie Greenhalgh, Landcare Research, New Zealand
Philip Brown, Landcare Research, New Zealand
Jim Sinner, Cawthron Institute


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Public participation in freshwater management has been widely advocated as an effective way to resolve the tensions between contested values and objectives while maintaining ecological integrity. However, questions remain regarding which processes and factors contribute to successful processes and outcomes for freshwater. Using a comparative case-study methodology, we unravel the “noise of participation” to assess the factors that influence the success of participatory decision making in collaborative processes currently underway in Hawke’s Bay and Northland, Aotearoa, New Zealand. In Hawke’s Bay, participants have been periodically surveyed to solicit their perceptions of how the process is working and the likelihood of achieving desirable outcomes. In Northland, five identical processes are currently underway, one per catchment, providing the basis for an intraregional assessment of collaboration. Our results suggest that participants’ perceptions change within the process, and that those changes may involve complex, dynamic, and reciprocal interactions within the collaborative group. Results also show the strong influence of external conditions. The choice of stakeholder participants is also critical to ensuring the viability of collaboration. Key factors include participants’ previous interactions and relationships, which may help to prime them for collaboration. These factors are dynamic and evolve through different cycles. Although both collaborative processes are still underway, these insights may help focus greater attention to process design and stakeholder selection from the outset to ensure successful outcomes. Ultimately, a successful collaborative process is one that is able to incorporate feedback and adapt to changing the dynamic and often complex external environment.

Key words

case study; collaboration; collaborative process; comparison; evaluation; freshwater; New Zealand; participatory

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087