Part 5: Getting people with the right experience and capacity

Principles for effectively co-governing natural resources.

In this Part, we discuss the importance of having people with the right experience and capacity involved in setting up and maintaining co-governance arrangements. We discuss:

Summary of what we learned about getting people with the right experience and capacity

Involving people with the right experience, such as those with strong leadership and governance skills, and capacity is important. It is also a challenge, particularly because experienced people are in short supply and those who are experienced are busy.

Building capability and helping iwi members fit in commitments needs to be considered so that they are fully engaged partners.

Planning for succession is needed because good environmental outcomes can take a long time to achieve. As circumstances change, the needed experience and abilities of people involved will also change. Being able to adapt and bring in new people with minimal disruption is important.

Experience and capacity

The examples of co-governance that we looked at showed how important it is to have people involved who:

  • have strong leadership skills; and
  • understand the difference between, and have experience of, governance and management.

The parties identified the challenges of finding experienced members, in particular, experienced iwi members. This includes iwi members who might not be experienced in governance matters but who can bring a depth of connection and perspective and a cultural identity and experience that others might not have. One person told us:

Make sure that you're not there because uncle put me there, but having people who have qualifications and long-term experience. It's about what they bring to the bigger group. They don't have to be experts in everything, but they must have something to contribute to the combined knowledge. So iwi, when making these selections need to be strategic in who they put on boards or governance groups.

A lack of experienced, capable people means high demands are placed on the few. As one iwi leader said to us:

My favourite statement is – "Be careful what you ask for because you might get it." Have we got the capacity to be able to deliver on any responsibilities that we are given?

Other participants echoed this comment.

In most of the examples of co-governance that we looked at, capacity affected iwi, because of all the other commitments that iwi leaders have.

We experienced this when trying to organise interviews with some of the iwi participants. Sometimes, we were unable to arrange a suitable time to meet. Some local authority members also found it difficult to balance the demands on their time.

Addressing capability and capacity matters

Finding experienced people with the capacity to engage in co-governance can be challenging. Many community groups or hapū are starting from a base of low experience and capacity. Parties need to think collaboratively about how to address capacity matters, in particular for iwi. The risk of not addressing this matter is that iwi may lessen their involvement or try to be involved in too many matters. For example, some participants said that iwi might need to think about and prioritise what they need to be involved in, rather than try to be involved in everything.

No one solution can resolve capacity matters, because the circumstances of each project are different. However, some solutions can be simple, such as holding meetings on Saturdays, and on marae, to help iwi members attend outside working hours. The important point is that all parties involved in co-governance work together to agree on solutions that are appropriate to them. Again, this highlights the value of effective relationships.

Under the terms of the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010, a fund was set up to support capability and capacity building for the five Waikato River iwi. Each iwi receives $1 million a year for 30 years. The fund enables the five iwi to engage in new co-management arrangements for the river.

Some local authorities told us that they had employed iwi members to help build capability and capacity in the iwi. For example, Canterbury Regional Council employs a Ngāi Tahu person to help build his management skills, and to learn and share with the rest of the iwi how the local authority works. It has also helped the local authority to better understand the iwi and how to work with it. Canterbury Regional Council staff told us that they saw it as an opportunity to grow capability on both sides.

Succession planning

Because environmental outcomes take a long time to achieve, the parties need to think about succession planning to ensure that the people with the required experience and capacity continue to be appointed. This is especially because changes in staff of local authorities and iwi or community members can affect relationships and the project.

Parties to the Waikato River Authority told us of the importance of ensuring that the right people with the right skills continue to be appointed to the board. One participant said that the "biggest risk is that someone is appointed who is not the right person". Such an appointee might have in mind their own agenda, instead of the interests of the river, or might not be able to work with others. Members of the Waikato River Authority told us that they consult with the appointers (both the Ministers and iwi) about the right mix of skills and experience of potential board members.

One useful approach to succession management (and to build capability and capacity) was having co-chairpersons and deputy chairpersons. Co-chairpersons and deputy chairpersons learned from each other and increased the knowledge of others. This helped to raise capacity and reduce the pressure on the co-chairpersons. Appointing deputy chairpersons can provide an opportunity to prepare people for a future co-chairperson role.

Waikato River Authority members told us that, as well as helping to manage succession, having co-chairpersons sends a message that the governance is true co-governance.