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Healthy Rivers - Wai Ora

The Waikato Regional Council (WRC) and the five River iwi (tribes) share co-governance and co-management responsibility for the Waikato River.

In 2014 they launched a process to guide the lasting care and protection of the Waikato River – the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora Plan Change. Waikato Regional Council developed the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 alongside iwi (Māori tribes including Waikato–Tainui, Te Arawa, Raukawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Maniapoto) and other key stakeholders. The plan change aims to protect the environment and ensure aspects of value to the community remain for future generations.

One of the largest proposed plan changes of its kind in New Zealand, the plan applied to about 10,000 properties and covered 1.1 million hectares within the Waikato and Waipā river catchments of New Zealand. The plan sought to lessen the contaminants entering the Waikato and Waipā catchments. The plan also sought to achieve the Vision and Strategy/Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato of making the entire river swimmable and viable for food collection. The Government adopted this Vision and Strategy as part of the Treaty Settlement legislation.

The Waikato Regional Council (WRC) and the five River iwi, as co-governors and co-managers of the Waikato and Waipā rivers, used the Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) process as the main strategy to develop the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora Plan Change.

Waikato Regional Council (WRC) contracted the Kinnect Group to undertake a multi-year developmental evaluation of the Collaborative Stakeholder Group process – to support what was a complex and highly political policy process. The evaluation combined developmental evaluation with evaluation-specific methodology. The evaluation provided an opportunity to learn about and understand the value of a new collaborative process from multiple perspectives whilst helping keep the CSG process on track. The evaluation also provided a form of accountability for the CSG process.

The project sponsor, Tracey May, Director of Science and Strategy at Waikato Regional Council said of the evaluation,

The evaluation process enabled a project of complexity to have an agility and responsiveness to project demands, ensuring a dynamism and resulting in an ownership of direction that we otherwise would not have had.

The use of the evaluation specific methodology in the Collaborative Stakeholder Group evaluation process was so successful the Council now uses this approach to guide evaluation practice across their evaluation work programme.

Kinnect Group members Kate McKegg and Judy Oakden, with our evaluation colleagues Debbie Goodwin and Jacqui Henry, received the prestigious American Evaluation Outstanding Evaluation Award in 2019 for the developmental evaluation of the Waikato Regional Council’s Collaborative Stakeholder Group process.

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