Part 2: Planning for the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project

Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari: Creating a marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf

In this Part, we consider how the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project, was set up, including its governance structures and the collaborative working groups.

Summary of our findings

At the start of the project, the agencies put considerable effort into planning and putting in place the project's governance structures. They set out terms of reference for the Project Board, the Project Steering Group, and the Stakeholder Working Group. Clear governance structures, scope, resources, and considered selection of representatives of the collaborative working groups, are important.8

The trust between the representatives of the Stakeholder Working Group and the collaborative way they worked were strengths of the project. However, more clearly defined accountabilities between the Project Board, the Project Steering Group, and the Stakeholder Working Group could have helped them to work together more effectively at times.

There needs to be a balance between giving a collaborative working group a enough of a broad scope to come up with innovative solutions and having the boundaries and structures in place for the project (such as constraints to cost, scope, and legislative context) so that the final plan can be easily implemented by the agencies. This is not easy to do. In our view, the agencies could have made implementing the final plan easier by setting a more defined scope for the Stakeholder Working Group. For example, setting a more realistic time frame and implementing boundaries might have meant creating a plan that the agencies could more easily implement.9 In implementing the plan, agencies also need to consider the plan's proposals against statutory considerations and central and local government priorities as well as other stakeholders who have an important role in implementation. Stakeholder expectations need to be managed in the light of this.

Some important sectors and interest groups did not have representatives on the Stakeholder Working Group. There needs to be consideration of how the process can incorporate unrepresented sectors and interests as the work is being carried out.

How project governance structures were set up

Defining project governance roles and relationships

The structures set up for the project provided an effective basis for preparing the plan.

The agencies set up project governance structures at the beginning of the project. They also set out clear terms of reference for the Stakeholder Working Group, the Project Board, and the Project Steering Group.

The terms of reference for the Stakeholder Working Group stated that the group prepare a marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana that the agencies would adopt and implement. The terms of reference stated that the plan must be:

  • supported by the agencies;
  • able to be formally adopted by the agencies;
  • implementable by the agencies; and
  • acceptable to stakeholder groups.

However, because of their different responsibilities, more consideration was needed of how the Project Steering Group and Stakeholder Working Group would work together. This might have helped the two groups have a closer relationship and the Project Steering Group have better oversight of the plan.

As the project progressed, it became apparent that the Project Steering Group did not work with the Stakeholder Working Group as closely as expected. Several Project Steering Group representatives indicated that they did not feel they had enough opportunity to provide input into the marine spatial plan's final proposals. This affected how confident they felt in approving the plan.

When there is a Project Board as well as a Project Steering Group, it is important for them to consider how to establish clear accountabilities between the different groups. At times during the project, the responsibilities of the Project Board and the Project Steering Group in directing the project could have been clearer.

The scope of the proposed plan

The scope of the Stakeholder Working Group's work was largely unconstrained. This meant that it was not restricted to a specified budget, particular legislation, or approach to marine management.

However, if the agencies had set more constraints at the start of the project about what should be considered in the plan – for example, the need for costed options or reducing the number of topics that the Stakeholder Working Group was expected to address – it would have meant the final plan was easier for agencies to implement. This was also particularly important because of the short time frame the group had to complete the plan.

The final plan had gaps, which the Independent Review Panel noted, and did not cover several topics (such as biosecurity and infrastructure) in as much detail as others in the plan. There was also little integration of issues between the different sectors, and there was no cost–benefit nor socioeconomic analysis of the plan's proposals.

In our view, if the agencies had specified the expectations and constraints in cost, economic analysis, and legislation at the beginning of the project, the final plan might have been more straightforward for them to implement. However, there needs to be a balance – the Stakeholder Working Group needed to have enough independence and leeway to come up with innovative solutions.

Time frame for preparing the plan

The broad scope and the numerous interests that needed to be considered when preparing the plan meant that the 18-month time frame to complete it was ambitious.

In our view, it would have been better to have a longer time frame for the project from the beginning. Although a clear time frame is needed so that momentum can be maintained, there needs to be enough time allowed for the representatives of the Stakeholder Working Group to get to know each other, so that they can work together effectively and engage with their stakeholder groups. We consider three years might have been a more realistic time frame considering other international marine spatial planning projects.

With the project, the Stakeholder Working Group representatives established effective relationships that helped them to work together effectively.

Although the plan had an extended time frame, many representatives of the Stakeholder Working Group felt that the final stages of the project were rushed and that they needed more time. Other representatives also agreed that the end of the project was rushed. This affected the quality and cohesiveness of the final plan that was produced.

Others felt that the 18 month time frame would have been enough if discussions on difficult issues and negotiations between competing interests had started earlier. This would have provided more time to discuss and agree parts of the plan that were more complex and harder to resolve.

The original budget did not include funding for the extra time the project took. All funding for the extra time needed to be secured from the councils. Funding was limited at the end of the project. This meant that processes such as editing the final plan and communications for launching the final plan were not as well-resourced as they might have needed to be.

Participating in the Stakeholder Working Group required considerable time commitments from the representatives involved. The longer the process went on, the harder it was for them to remain on the project, particularly for those who were giving up their income to participate.

Choosing an independent chairperson with the right skills

The people we spoke to discussed the wide range of knowledge and skills needed by the independent chairperson. These included skills in facilitation, negotiation, and co-ordination, and an understanding of the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana, resource management, marine spatial planning, co-governance, and Treaty settlement issues. They also needed an understanding of te ao Māori and experience in working with mana whenua.

In our view, the independent chairperson for a collaborative stakeholder group needs to have a broad range of skills. Having an independent chairperson with these skills is important for the success of any collaborative project.

How representatives for the Stakeholder Working Group were selected

Selection of mana whenua representatives for the Stakeholder Working Group

The four mana whenua representatives in the Stakeholder Working Group were selected at a hui, which 26 mana whenua groups from the region were invited to attend. This meant that there was clarity for iwi on how the representatives were chosen and a clear mandate for them to represent mana whenua interests in the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana.

The mana whenua representatives told us they were mindful of not representing just their own iwi but all iwi in the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana. To ensure that information was communicated to all iwi, the mana whenua representatives also set up hui-ā-iwi for wider iwi engagement as the project progressed.

The timing of the project was not ideal because there were many Treaty negotiations still under way. This was difficult at times for mana whenua representatives and meant that they were often required to "walk a fine line" because they did not want project decisions to affect ongoing or future Treaty negotiations.

Because of this, the final plan also needed careful wording. This was led by the second independent chairperson of the Stakeholder Working Group.

Selection of other representatives for the Stakeholder Working Group

The Stakeholder Working Group selection process for the other representatives was designed to select people who could represent their particular interest groups (for example, recreational fishing) and were able to work collaboratively. The selection process used assumed that advocates find it harder to move from their fixed positions, particularly if they are paid representatives.

Rather than selecting people who have been nominated from particular interest groups, which is a common approach, representatives for the project were selected from those nominated at two public meetings. Representatives for each particular interest group were selected by those present at a third meeting.

This approach was used because it was assumed that if the people chosen were highly regarded in their community, the Stakeholder Working Group would be seen as having a broad mandate and support from the different communities or interest groups.

However, in practice, not all interest groups considered that their representative had a mandate. The selection process also meant the representative did not represent all affected groups within that interest, for example commercial fishing. This was made more difficult when discussing complex issues that affected this sector.

In our view, the process would have benefited from giving more clarity on how the Stakeholder Working Group representatives would represent all interests. This affected the credibility of the selection process.

Despite the agencies contacting a wide range of interested stakeholders about the project, the selection method used meant that any interest groups that did not come to the selection meetings could not be represented on the Stakeholder Working Group. Consequently, some interest groups, such as forestry and land development, were not involved in the project.

How did Stakeholder Working Group representatives represent their interest groups?

After being selected, the representatives of the Stakeholder Working Group were expected to provide the perspectives of the groups they were representing.

The Stakeholder Working Group representatives had differing levels of communication and support with their interest groups. The Stakeholder Working Group representatives were limited by their available time and by their connections. Some interest groups did take a more proactive role in working with their representative on the project – for example, DairyNZ helped set up meetings for the representative representing farming to talk with interested stakeholders when the plan was completed.

It was difficult for some Stakeholder Working Group representatives to represent all viewpoints of their interest, such as all aspects of commercial fishing. As a result, some groups felt that they did not have the input they would have liked into the project.

These interest groups would have liked to be able to comment on, or contribute to, the proposals being considered and the final recommendations in the plan. The lack of communication that some interest groups had with their representative, combined with their inability to be involved in the process, meant that some interested stakeholders considered that the Stakeholder Working Group representatives did not have a mandate to represent their interests. This lack of communication also contributed to some interest groups not supporting all the proposals in the marine spatial plan.

In our view, having more clarity for the Stakeholder Working Group on the expectations for engagement with their interests at the different stages of the project would have been useful. We saw little evidence of how representatives of the Stakeholder Working Group were expected to work with their interest groups, or what resources were made available for them to do this.

Costs of participation

The Stakeholder Working Group representatives came from a variety of different backgrounds. Although representatives were not compensated for a loss of earnings,10 some representatives were able to participate as part of their paid employment. Other representatives took time away from their paid employment to be involved in the project, such as the commercial fishing representative.

The project demanded a substantial time commitment. The agencies could have given more consideration to the costs of participation so that the representatives viewed the process as fair.

Some Stakeholder Working Group representatives also told us that the value of their commitment was not recognised sufficiently. In particular, some noted that they were selected because of their in-depth knowledge of their sector but were expected to donate their time, while others like agency staff and scientific experts were being paid. This appeared inequitable.

The agencies also needed to consider how best to include and support mana whenua. Because of their skills and expertise, many of the mana whenua representatives were involved in other work for their iwi as well as the project. This meant that they had to manage significant demands on their time.

How different approaches might be needed when working collaboratively

Central and local government do not often use formalised stakeholder-led collaborative approaches when preparing their plans. We heard that one of the benefits of a collaborative project led by stakeholders is that a wider range of interest groups become involved, and this provides for better support and participation than an agency-led project.

Having wide-ranging support from project representatives, including mana whenua, means that agencies can be confident of support when planning for implementation.

If the agencies are carrying out a collaborative planning project, they might need to consider different approaches to setting up and managing the project. It is also important for agencies to consider what tools might be appropriate at the start of the project.

There are many models to consider when carrying out a collaborative project. The Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project was stakeholder-led, which meant the Stakeholder Working Group worked independently from the agencies and had responsibility for preparing the plan. This was at the "collaborative" end of the International Association for Public Participation Spectrum (IAP2) framework of collaboration, which involves a greater level of public participation. The collaborative end of the IAP2 sets a goal of partnering with the public to ensure that they are involved in decision-making and identifying a preferred solution.11

There is guidance on collaborative projects on the Ministry for the Environment's website that could be helpful for agencies to consider.12

During our audit, we saw examples where different approaches were needed because it was an stakeholder-led collaborative approach rather than an agency-led approach:

  • Securing a budget can be challenging for collaborative projects when the final product is harder to define and time frames need to be flexible. Flexibility was needed when the project went over time and budget. It required a significant commitment from the agencies involved to continue to give the project the time and budget needed to finish the plan.
  • Several representatives said that the agencies were more conservative in their approach to media engagement and communication than the project might have needed. This was despite having a communications advisor on the project.
  • The types of skills that agency staff need when working on a collaborative project might be different than for other planning processes. The agencies might need to have support, guidance, and training tools for their staff working in collaborative projects. We were told that, during the project, agency staff developed collaboration, negotiation, and facilitation skills.

Learning from the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project

We encourage all public agencies setting up collaborative projects to consider the following lessons:

  • Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities between funding agencies, project governance groups, and collaborative working groups help support a project to work effectively.
  • Funding agencies need to consider the scope of work they are asking the collaborative working group to do – in particular, whether there are constraints (such as cost, breadth of scope, and legislative context) that the group should work within when preparing the plan's proposals and recommendations. This will also help with managing the expectations of a working group. Setting a realistic scope can support the quality and ease of implementing the final plan.
  • Collaborative projects take time and require the representatives to get to know each other so they can collaborate effectively. Allowing enough time for the working group to discuss, negotiate, and agree on complex issues is important.
  • The selection process for representatives of a working group needs to ensure that all main interest groups are represented. If not, there needs to be consideration of how the process can incorporate these views as the work is carried out.
  • From the outset of a project, the expectations for how and how extensively a collaborative working group will engage with interest groups at different stages of the project needs to be clear. Agencies need to consider how the wider interest groups will be kept involved in the project, particularly if there are diverse views within an interest group. The project needs to be agile enough to do this.
  • The commitment required and participation costs for representatives on a collaborative working group can be significant. When putting in place a time frame for preparing a plan, agencies need to consider how much time a representative can reasonably be expected to devote to the project, and how their participation costs might be covered. For representatives who are not earning income during their time on the project, the length of the project is important.
  • Selecting the independent chairperson is important to the success of a collaborative project. The role is a challenging one and requires a high level of skill in multiple areas.

8: Our 2016 report, Principles for effectively co-governing natural resources, identifies principles that are helpful in setting up and operating co-governance arrangements and also provides some lessons that could help to achieve successful co-governance. Another of our 2016 reports, Reflections from our audits: Governance and accountability, identifies the need for clarity of governance and management roles at a project level.

9: The need to define the scope well, and consider the costs and benefits in a plan, has also been identified as important for improving the effectiveness of a marine spatial plan by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In particular, it identifies the need to set priorities and scope to ensure that the project is achievable, to consider costs and benefits and economic valuation, and to consider from the outset how a plan's proposals are going to be put into practice. See Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2017), Issue paper Marine Spatial Planning, Assessing net benefits and improving effectiveness, 2017 GGSD Forum, page 6.

10: Costs to attend meetings, such as travel and accommodation, were paid for by the project. From late 2015, Stakeholder Working Group members who were not earning income while participating in the project were given a payment to attend and prepare for meetings.

11: The IAP2 is a spectrum of public participation with five points: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, and empower. The IAP2 is a useful framework for central and local agencies to consider when determining the appropriate level of public participation in a planning process. Through considering and selecting one of five points within the spectrum, central and local agencies can then determine what level of public participation is appropriate and the corresponding actions and tools that would support this.

12: Cawthron Institute (2015), Criteria for choosing collaboration. Report No. 2708. Prepared for the Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Cawthron Institute (2013), Collaborative processes and roles of council. Report No 2424 prepared for Landcare Research and the Freshwater Values, Monitoring and Outcomes Programme.
Ministry for the Environment (2015), Making Collaborative Groups Work: A guide for those involved in collaborative processes. Ministry for the Environment.
O'Brien, M (2010), Review of collaborative governance: Factors crucial to the internal workings of the collaborative process. Research report CR135. Prepared for the Ministry for the Environment.