Collaboration framework: start off on the right foot

This case study is referred to in the report, Collaboration: Preserving water through partnering that works. There is one for each step of the Collaboration Framework. Click on the step you would like to find out more about to read the supporting case study.

  1. Start off on the right foot
  2. Get the system going
  3. Strengthen the glue
  4. Maintain momentum

New Zealand recognises that water is critical to its wellbeing and prosperity and that it was in the interests of all stakeholders to explore together a better way of managing this resource. It created the Land and Water Forum to address the issues and here we highlight the problem, the stakeholders involved, how they collaborated and the outcomes:

The Problem

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Find out how to ‘start off on the right foot’

A range of common and different reasons brought the Forum together: frustration with costly, time-consuming and divisive planning and consenting processes; concern over declining water quality; lack of recognition in water management of Maori aspirations about their rights and interests; an inability to enhance and get better economic value out of fresh water that was becoming increasingly scarce in places; concern at the lack of effective central government direction and guidance.

They were aware that other countries had used collaborative processes in similar circumstances to great effect. They were also aware that collaborative processes were being used in a variety of local contexts in New Zealand. The forum resolved to work together – collaboratively for the first time at the national level – to find ways to address New Zealand’s water management issues.


The Land and Water Forum brings together a range of industry groups, environmental and recreational NGOs, Maori, scientists, and other organisations with a stake in freshwater and land management. The Forum’s members are joined by active observers from local and central government. The Forum’s objective is to develop a shared vision and a common way through a stakeholder-led collaborative process.

The Government supported this process in its efforts to develop a roadmap for freshwater reform that reflected the views and had the buy-in of all main interested parties. Observers from both local and central government joined the Forum and its work programme was formally built into the Government’s freshwater policy programme.

How did they collaborate to address this challenge

With the Government’s support, over a one-year period from August 2009 to August 2010, the Forum succeeded in building a broad base of stakeholder consensus on a common direction forward for freshwater management. This was a goal that governments, following a more conventional approach to policy development had been trying but failing to address since the mid-1990s. The Forum then “toured” that consensus position around the country and found it to be generally well-received.

The release of the Forum’s first report in 2010 paved the way for the Government to take much needed and overdue action to improve freshwater management. The release of the report was swiftly followed by the release in 2011 of a National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management and the creation of two multimillion-dollar funds: one to support the development of high-quality irrigation infrastructure and the second to accelerate environmental restoration.

The Government then requested that the Forum continue its consensus-building work and, again with the support of the Government, the Forum developed the blueprint for change set out in the first report into a more detailed and thorough freshwater management framework. In 2012 the Forum released a second report that addressed the setting of objectives and limits for freshwater quality and quantity, and proposed the introduction of collaborative processes for that purpose. A third report was also produced in 2012 which considered tools, approaches and strategies for managing fresh water within limits. The Government is now considering its response to the 67 recommendations made in the Forum’s third report, as it seeks to implement its national strategy.

Outcomes of work to date

  • Brought together all key stakeholders involved in the use, management and regulation of water to collaborate as opposed to operating in silos
  • Achieved general agreement on how to deal with the two key water issues in New Zealand:
    • Too much water extraction
    • Declining water quality
  • It mapped out a collaborative vision for the future management of freshwater amongst key stakeholders
  • Provided an accessible water expert advisory forum for government
  • Drove the development of a new national policy statement on freshwater. This established the enhanced water management standards by which the regulators have to base their rules upon
  • Provided guidance on improved freshwater management practices relating to water allocation and the transfer of water use rights