Participatory processes for marine ecosystem restoration (innovation fund)

Before re-diversion and restoration management the Ōngātoro/Maketu Estuary had limited connection to the Kaituna River. The restricted freshwater flow into the estuary led to macroalgal blooms and poor environmental health. Photo: Julian Fitter

The Kaituna River re-diversion strategy is widely regarded as an exemplary case of multi-stakeholder and multi-iwi engagement in marine ecosystem governance. We are investigating the way the strategy was developed, to identify the principles and practices that could be applied in other marine resource contexts.

Project leader: Patrick Barrett, University of Waikato

Ōngātoro/Maketu Estuary case study

In 2009, a significant agreement was made to re-divert the Kaituna River with the aim of restoring the ecological health of Ōngātoro/Maketu Estuary. The decision followed a lengthy process of consultation and engagement that involved multiple iwi and a wide range of stakeholders.

The estuary had suffered significant ecological and cultural degradation following the diversion of the Kaituna River directly to the sea at Te Tumu in 1956. ‘The cut’ led to substantial sedimentation, loss of wetlands and seagrass beds, increased nutrient loads and algal growth, and loss of mahinga kai/food gathering places and cultural materials.

The river re-diversion is now underway. It should significantly increase the volume of water flowing into the estuary by 2018. The goal is to reverse the sedimentation processes, improve ecological health, create new wetlands, and restore mahinga kai and other marine life.

The restoration project provides a unique and unfolding case of collective, or participatory, decision-making where diverse stakeholders and iwi with different worldviews and sometimes competing interests have worked together to develop a shared strategy.

While the development of the re-diversion strategy was long and complex, and the process has not been without challenges, it could be regarded as an exemplary case of multi-stakeholder and multi-iwi engagement in marine ecosystem governance and management. We are analysing the development of this rediversion strategy to identify principles and practices for collaborative processes that can be applied in other marine resource and environmental management contexts.

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