Executive Summary

This project is concerned with Wairarapa Moana, a water system located in the Wairarapa region, situated on the North Island of New Zealand. Wairarapa Moana consists of the three main water bodies, shown in Figure 1; the coastal lake is Lake Onoke, the inland lake is Lake Wairarapa, and the main river is the Ruamahanga. The system is dynamic, which means water can flow in both directions. Both tidal movements and rainfall affect the direction of flow. The area is low-lying and sits between two mountain ranges exposing much of the land to seasonal flooding. The Greater Wellington Regional Council, the governing body for the Wellington region, developed the Lower Wairarapa Valley Development Scheme (LWVDS), to control flooding in the 1960s. This scheme includes the diversion of the Ruamahanga River around Lake Wairarapa and the implementation of the Blundell Barrage Gates as shown in Figure 1.

Wairarapa Moana f1

The Wairarapa community is currently experiencing a resource management conflict regarding the flood prevention scheme. The conflict involves many different stakeholders within the region. The tensions stem from the historic difference in lifestyle between the Pakeha and the indigenous Māori.

Pakeha refers to non-Māori individuals, primarily English colonists who began settling in the Wairarapa region in the 1840s. The British Crown and the Māori signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which established British sovereignty over New Zealand. Over the years, it became clear that the Māori and the Pakeha valued the land differently. Where the Māori value the land for its intrinsic value, the Pakeha generally value the land for its economic value. In Wairarapa Moana, the land would routinely flood and drain. Conflicts arose around ownership of the lake bed and who would control the flooding of the lake. The farmers desired flood control in order to protect their assets, land and animals, and the Māori desired higher water levels for catching eels. Inevitably, pressure from the British Crown to sell, left the Māori no choice but to gift their land to the Crown in 1896. In 1975, the government formed the Waitangi Tribunal in order to hear claims of breaches in the Treaty of Waitangi. Rangitāne o Wairarapa, a local Māori tribe or iwi, initiated a settlement claim with the Office of Treaty Settlements and is currently working to settle overlapping claims with a second iwi, the Kahungunu ki Wairarapa. The outcome from this settlement may result in the Crown gifting the lake bed back to both tribes. This could lead to greater iwi involvement, affecting the scheme the Greater Wellington Regional Council currently uses to manage the lake.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) dramatically altered the landscape over the last fifty years with the implementation of the Lower Wairarapa Valley Development Scheme. The New Zealand Resource Management Act of 1991 mandates that most activities that affect the environment obtain a resource consent. The GWRC flood protection department is responsible for renewing their two resource consents for maintaining the entire scheme and operating the Blundell Barrage Gates. The resource consent that permits the usage of the barrage gates will be up for renewal in 2019 and the resource consent that permits the management of the entire Lower Wairarapa Valley Development Scheme will require renewal in 2025.

The aim of the Greater Wellington Regional Council is to utilize our team as a third party to investigate and discover the thoughts and opinions of the concerned stakeholders in the region. They tasked us with speaking to the Rangitāne o Wairarapa, the Department of Conservation, South Wairarapa District Council, landowners, and recreational water users so that they may better prepare for the resource consent renewal.

This project’s focus was to detail the points of view of each stakeholder group and improve communication within the Wairarapa Moana community regarding the management of Lake Wairarapa. In order to achieve this goal, our team developed three objectives:

  1. To observe and gain understanding of the current political, ecological, economic, and cultural situation in Wairarapa Moana
  2. To identify the perspectives and needs of each stakeholder group regarding the management of Lake Wairarapa
  3. To determine common interests, concerns, and major differences by highlighting recurring themes regarding the Blundell Barrage Gates.

To achieve our main goal of detailing the points of view of each stakeholder group, we
utilized three methods: background research, interviews, and data analysis. Through observing Lake Wairarapa, a Wairarapa Coordinating Committee meeting, and a welcoming ceremony at the Kohunui Marae, the project group developed a thorough understanding of the region and community. We interviewed David Boone, the section leader of the Flood Protection Department at the GWRC, who provided us with intricate knowledge of the flood protection scheme. These activities allowed us to align our project objectives to better match the needs of the flood protection department.

After familiarizing ourselves with the region and its people, our team identified the perspectives and needs of each stakeholder group by conducting and transcribing twenty-four semi-structured interviews with twenty-nine individuals as shown in Table 1. Semi-structured interviews allow free discussion, containing a set list of questions, while offering flexibility to ask supplemental questions. Each stakeholder group had a unique interview protocol, which inquired about the same topics but the wording of the questions varied depending on the specific interest of the group interviewed.

Wairarapa Moana t1

After we completed the interviews, we coded the information by recurring themes in the responses. Independently, three group members each coded roughly a third of the transcripts from the interviews and the last member reviewed, summarized and sorted the coded data into the respective topics. This allowed us to transform our qualitative raw data into quantitative data and draw conclusions regarding common and differing interests of each stakeholder group.

Our data and analysis highlights five key points of contention: water quality perceptions, sources of pollution, flood management, future operation of the scheme and water levels. For

stakeholder perceptions of water quality, only two respondents indicated that the current quality of the water was good. The breakdown of responses by stakeholder is shown below in Figure 2, which indicates that generally, interviewees thought that the water quality was poor or neutral.

Wairarapa Moana f2It was brought to our attention, before the start of the interviews, that the public generally considered farming practices as a main cause for the poor water quality in the region. However, the interviewees noted several other factors that affect the quality of the water. If at least fifty percent of a stakeholder group mentioned a factor of water quality, we noted it and included it in Figure 3, below. Nineteen out of the twenty-nine interviewees acknowledged the impact farming practices has, however they also noted that the natural behavior of the lake, reduced flow, and wastewater discharge have a significant impact.

Wairarapa Moana f3

The team identified flood management as another point of contention. We analyzed whether each interviewee thought the GWRC well manages the scheme or not. The breakdown of responses by stakeholder is shown below in Figure 4, which shows that generally, interviewees thought that the GWRC manages flooding well. The only stakeholder with 50% or more who thought the GWRC did not manage the flooding well was the Rangitāne.

Wairarapa Moana f4

When asked how the GWRC could improve their management of the Lower Wairarapa Valley Development Scheme, the interviewees expressed different priorities for the future. Twenty-three out of twenty-nine interviewees expressed that they wanted the GWRC to address water levels. Eighteen of the respondents mentioned that they desired some alteration in the flow of water through Wairarapa Moana. Eleven interviewees were interested in the fish passage while four stated that they would like more technological improvements.

When discussing what changes the interviewees would like to see regarding the water levels of the lake, fifteen of the twenty-nine interviewees communicated flood protection as one of their priorities. This was the dominating response and not just among landowners, the primary beneficiaries of the scheme, but among the other stakeholder groups as well. The interviewees mentioned other topics for consideration when setting the water levels, including wetlands, natural flow, recreation and fish life. The GWRC should take these ideas into account when considering water levels for the upcoming resource consent.

We asked the interviewees what changes they would like to see occur with the way the GWRC manages the lake. Overall, eleven out of the twenty-nine interviewees stated that they would like more attention towards scientific research going forward. Seven out of the twenty- nine interviewees thought that the GWRC should focus more on improving iwi relationships. The data suggests that 75% of the Rangitāne interviewees share this view, and would like the GWRC to increase Rangitāne involvement with the decision making process.

Our stakeholder study highlighted three sources of contention in the region: communication, collaboration, and education. We first experienced the communication issues during the Wairarapa Moana Coordinating Committee, when two farmers resigned due to inaccurate media representations of farming practices and water quality. Later, our interviews and results further stressed that the Wairarapa community felt there was a lack of communication between stakeholders and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Collaboration is the second source of contention. Even though relationships between the Rangitāne and management groups such as the GWRC and DOC are improving, there is little co- management involving the iwi. Additionally, both Rangitāne and farmers believe that the GWRC does not take their input into account when making decisions. Interviewees stated the need for people in management who understand the area, are passionate, and are “good people.”

The third source of contention is education. Our responses show on average 43% of the interviews did not provide a response for some of our topics. This, combined with the qualitative data we collected, suggests that many individuals are not aware of the current management practices of the Lower Wairarapa Valley Development Scheme. The GWRC should make efforts towards amending this.

An important finding from our study involves the Ruamahanga Cutoff. The cutoff is a stagnant body of water that used to connect the Ruamahanga River and Lake Wairarapa. The implementation of the Lower Wairarapa Valley Development Scheme indirectly left this body of water stagnant. This is optimal as a practice location for select interviewees of the recreational water users group. In an effort to improve water quality, one farmer plans to remove part of the barrier between the cutoff and lake. This will ultimately render the cutoff unfit for skiing, due to the fluctuating water levels. From our interviews, we found that water-skiers did not know about the farmer’s activity and that the farmer did not know the implications of activity on the water- skiers. Although the cutoff will gain a flushing effect from the lake, it is important that all concerned stakeholders have a voice in this matter before it proceeds.

Through this project’s qualitative analysis, we determined the stakeholder’s primary concerns. Rangitāne interviewees stressed the current lack of flowing water and natural processes as well as co-management of the lake. The Department of Conservation’s main focus was the protection of native wildlife. The South Wairarapa District Council tended to regard tourism as a priority. Landowners emphasized that they need the flood protection maintained. The data suggests that the recreational water user interviewees require the preservation of the barrier between the cutoff and the lake.

The Greater Wellington Regional council sponsored this two-year project that ultimately four teams will complete. Although this project does not reflect the values of all of the stakeholders in the region, we acknowledge the similarities, differences, and concerns between the stakeholders given to us. Overall the people of Wairarapa want what is best for Wairarapa Moana. Behind the differing opinions, they share the same core values in preserving and cherishing what the region has to offer. We felt that one quote by Tony Silbery nicely summarized these ideas.

“It’s a big water store in times of flood so it’s got its role as part of the lower valley and central valley’s flood protection systems… It’s got its role as a recreational asset, fishing, shooting, birdwatching. It’s got its role as a natural asset. Different people in the community will latch onto one of those. But when you talk to them, you’ll find that they recognize all of them. For Wairarapa people, Wairarapa Moana really is the heart of the whole place and if you identify with Wairarapa, one of the first things you’ll identify with is that body of water.”

– Tony Silbery

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