Everyone is a winner
Environment Canterbury commissioner David Bedford, who sits on the CWMS Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee, believes the consensus approach has been hugely successful, given committee members’ divergent positions when they came to the table.
“I’m sure there’s no one round the table that feels completely happy about it, but I think everybody feels they’ve done their best to reach a consensus agreement where everybody has got some of their interests looked after pretty well.”
Bedford says achieving consensus was given a higher chance of success by the selection process used to choose committee members. Environment Canterbury and the district council asked for expressions of interest, and then people were put through a process aimed at identifying whether they had the ability to work together.
So far the process has worked as well or better than most people expected. “What it now means is there is a strong possibility we’ll end up with everybody being winners rather than losers. There was no possibility of that under the old system — no possibility.”
As the ECan commissioner on the committee, it was his job to remind the parties from time to time to stick to their task when things looked like breaking down.
The most controversial issue was dealing with the pre-existing plans for a large-scale irrigation scheme by the Hurunui Water Project which involves damming the south branch of the Hurunui and Lake Sumner.
To aid the process, ECan commissioners imposed a 15-month moratorium on resource consent applications on the Hurunui or its tributaries. “I think that was really important because it created some space, but also created a deadline.”
The result was a new and more widely acceptable proposal involving dams on the Waitohi River, a tributary of the Hurunui. However, the original plan is still in the background if the Waitohi option fails.
Bedford says he found a willingness by the non-Ngāi Tahu committee members to take on board what the Ngāi Tahu representatives were saying on issues like mahinga kai.
“I think they found quite quickly that they shared most of the values the Ngāi Tahu reps were bringing to the table about mahinga kai and ecological values.
“From my point of view Ngāi Tahu’s involvement has been absolutely critical, and I think everybody, including Ngāi Tahu, has gained out of it significantly.
“One of the great things for me that came from the Ngāi Tahu involvement was that we saw that within Ngāi Tahu there is exactly the same debate going on about the balance between economic outcomes and cultural and environmental outcomes.”
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