Part 3: Carrying out 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 agencies managed the overall project. We also consider how the Stakeholder Working Group operated and interacted with other groups, such as the Project Steering group and the agencies, to prepare the marine spatial plan. These relationships are important in any collaborative project.

Summary of our findings

The agencies supported co-governance of the project by putting in place clear processes for selecting mana whenua representatives. This ensured support from iwi and enough flexibility in the process to create the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group.

One of the most positive benefits of the stakeholder-led aspect of the project was that the groups and individuals involved in the Stakeholder Working would not normally work together. The common goal of wanting to improve the state of the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana provided the incentive for them to work well together to complete a plan that they all could support.

Overall, the Stakeholder Working Group did not have an effective working relationship with the Project Steering Group, which affected the project.

In our view, clearer definition of how the agencies could effectively provide input into the project, while allowing the Stakeholder Working Group enough independence, would have resulted in a more productive relationship. Trust needed to be built between the agencies and the Stakeholder Working Group. The agencies also needed to be able to contribute information on their current and planned work as well as provide information on the relevant legislative and regulatory context.

One of the strengths of the project was the independent review process, which ran throughout the duration of the project. However, there was an opportunity for the Stakeholder Working Group to benefit more from the experience and expertise of the Independent Review Panel.

How the agencies supported the project after it started

The project required a substantial commitment of resources from the agencies, particularly as the project took longer than expected.

A project management structure supported the Stakeholder Working Group. For example, a technical support group had a co-ordination role to provide the technical information the Stakeholder Working Group needed. In general, the Stakeholder Working Group was well-resourced and supported.

Representatives considered that some of the agencies were more involved in the project than others. Representatives perceived an agency's level of involvement as an indication of its commitment to the project and to implementing the plan. The agencies we spoke to agreed that, while their relationship with the Stakeholder Working Group was strained at times, it was not a reflection of their commitment to the project.

Although the agencies had staff who were champions of the project, it was challenging to create and maintain awareness of the work throughout the agencies for the project's duration. This was not just about awareness of the project within the agencies but also, for example, ways they could have more actively linked the project to their own work. This was particularly challenging because of staffing changes and the project taking longer than expected to finish. A lack of detail on the plan's development from the Stakeholder Working Group also contributed to the difficulty of keeping the agencies informed.

In a stakeholder-led project, the working group developing the plan is independent of the agencies. This is in contrast to an agency-led process. This can make it difficult to keep the relevant people within the agencies informed about and, as necessary, involved in developments.

In our view, the project would have benefited from senior managers from all the agencies demonstrating commitment to the project and to implementing the plan throughout the project's duration. This would have given the Stakeholder Working Group confidence in the importance and value of its work. It would also have helped staff in the agencies get internal support and continuing commitment to the work and the plan.

How the project governance structures worked in practice

In our view, the Project Steering Group had less influence on the work of the Stakeholder Working Group than was stated in the terms of reference. The main way the Project Steering Group was informed of the work of the Stakeholder Working Group was through reports from the Independent Chairperson.

Because the two groups did not have a close working relationship, the Project Steering Group did not have enough involvement in the plan or recommendations. This affected the ability of the Project Steering Group to support the plan after it was completed. It might also have affected the quality of the final plan.

In our view, the agencies could have had more influence on the direction of the project and how the Stakeholder Working Group and the Project Steering Group worked together.

How the agencies worked with the Stakeholder Working Group

In a stakeholder-led project, the collaborative working group works independently of the agencies so that it is not restricted by current policy thinking. The collaborative working group can then come up with solutions from a new perspective. The challenge for the agencies is to support this independence while still providing appropriate input, guidance, and project governance.

The Stakeholder Working Group representatives had effective working relationships with each other and took a high level of responsibility for preparing the plan. In its first report, the Independent Review Panel said that the project was unique because of the Stakeholder Working Group's high level of responsibility.

The Independent Review Panel supported this approach but noted that, because the agencies were responsible for implementing the plan, relationships between the Stakeholder Working Group and the agencies needed to be well defined. The Independent Review Panel reiterated this message in all three of its reports.

The way the project was run meant that the agencies were kept at an "arm's length", so there was less risk that the agencies would take over the project. The Stakeholder Working Group's approach was not overly influenced by the agencies' views or by current policy.

However, this way of working meant that the agencies were not as involved in the project as they could have been. Agency staff felt frustrated that their knowledge, experience, and expertise were not used, either in discussions about specific issues or in coming up with options. At times, the management of the Stakeholder Working Group also influenced how closely the various groups worked together.

Agency staff felt that information about work already being done, and planned work that related to the issues being discussed, should have been considered by the Stakeholder Working Group in developing the plan. The agencies also felt that the Stakeholder Working Group needed to consider the current relevant legislative and regulatory context when preparing the plan's proposals. Not considering these meant that there was a risk the agencies would not be able to implement the final plan easily.

Staff from all of the agencies also commented that having a structured process for the agencies to review proposals before the plan was finalised would have strengthened the project. This would have provided an opportunity to give feedback on proposals and options being discussed at various stages of the plan's development. For example, one council commented that it would have liked to have had a wider discussion with iwi and others at the council.

There was some improvement to agency involvement after the project was put on hold for six months. The agency representatives participated more actively in Stakeholder Working Group meetings, which the agencies acknowledged was an improvement.

In our view, clearer definition of how the agencies could provide input into the project while allowing the Stakeholder Working Group the independence it needed to work would have provided a clearer role for, and more effective input from, the agencies. There also needed to be more trust between the agencies and the Stakeholder Working Group.

The agencies needed to include more structured ways for them to contribute their expertise and knowledge to the options the Stakeholder Working Group considered. This would have made the implications for implementing the plan evident to the Stakeholder Working Group. This would also have helped the agencies to manage the Stakeholder Working Group's expectations for implementation.

How technical scientific information was provided

The range of high-quality scientific information collated for the project provides a useful set of information to help look at the main issues affecting the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana.

The agencies were responsible for providing technical scientific information for the project. Representatives considered that this information was of a high quality.

The Stakeholder Working Group, in general, was satisfied with the quality of the information. However, some people felt, at times, that some of the Stakeholder Working Group representatives were overwhelmed with the information.

Instead of having scientists and technical specialists respond to requests for scientific information, project participants suggested that it might have been more effective to have them sit with the Stakeholder Working Group representatives and help frame and talk through the issues.

How the project was co-governed

The Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project was set up as a co-governance project, with half of the Project Steering Group being mana whenua representatives. This was considered an important part of the set-up of the project and a strength of the process.

The Project Board, Independent Review Panel, and the Stakeholder Working Group identified the need for more mana whenua involvement early in the project. As a result, the Mātauranga Māori Roundtable Group was set up to provide a mana whenua perspective on the issues the Stakeholder Working Group was dealing with. After the roundtable process, the group continued as the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group.

The Mātauranga Māori Reference Group's meetings enabled the mana whenua representatives on the Project Steering Group to support the four mana whenua representatives of the Stakeholder Working Group and work through critical issues. Overall, interviewees considered that the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group's input was valuable to the project.

The Project Steering Group and the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group were important in ensuring effective co-governance of the project. The marine spatial plan can be considered an example of a successful inclusive project, where co-governance has worked effectively.

Creating the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group required a change to the overall project structure but was well supported in general. Although the group's role did not seem to cause confusion, there was some ambiguity in reporting lines because the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group had representatives from both the Project Steering Group and the Stakeholder Working Group.

The Mātauranga Māori Reference Group was well resourced, with its own technical officers.

Mana whenua representatives instigated the project pause because they felt that their views and information were not being acknowledged in the plan. These concerns were amplified by the speed at which drafts of the plan were being prepared. The Mātauranga Māori Reference Group helped to work on solutions to this issue.

Participants viewed putting the project on hold and the subsequent resetting of Stakeholder Working Group, mana whenua, stakeholder, and agency relationships as a sensible and necessary step that allowed the project to resume.

Subsequently, mana whenua and interested stakeholder opinions were incorporated into the final recommendations more cohesively. For example, the mātaraunga Māori perspective was woven into, and integrated throughout, the plan.

Mātaraunga Māori was considered in decision-making alongside Western science – that is, "knowledge, culture and world views [were to be] woven throughout the process. Woven so it maintains its integrity but also blended with the other science to be a strong report." This was considered to be a strength of the project.

Some mana whenua representatives had multiple roles in the project – for example, on the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group and the Project Steering Group or the Project Board. Although some people felt that these roles needed to be more separate, people in senior roles in the project were aware of these potential conflicts of interest, and carefully managed them.

The mana whenua representatives were generous in their willingness to educate the other representatives about mātauranga Māori and its significance for the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana. The agencies also supported the process by providing adequate resources to support the Mātauranga Māori Reference Group.

How the project made effective use of the Independent Review Panel reports

One of the strengths of the project was the independent review process, which ran during the course of the project. The Independent Review Panel's role was to provide assurance to the Project Steering Group on the project's progress and to make recommendations that would support the creation of a high-quality plan.

The five-member Independent Review Panel brought together several experts, including Charles Ehler, one of the authors of UNESCO's Marine Spatial Planning – A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management.

The Independent Review Panel completed three reports for the Project Steering Group. The Independent Review Panel used the UNESCO's marine spatial planning document as the framework to assess the plan against. Each report made recommendations that were reviewed in subsequent reports.

Although the Project Steering Group and the Project Board representatives considered that the Independent Review Panel's reports were valuable, many representatives felt that the Stakeholder Working Group could have better used the Independent Review Panel's recommendations. Many representatives of the Stakeholder Working Group commented that they knew little about the Independent Review Panel process. Ensuring that the Stakeholder Working Group was more informed of the Independent Review Panel process, its reports, and its recommendations would have helped this.

In our view, there was an opportunity to ensure that the Stakeholder Working Group benefited more from the collective experience and expertise of the Independent Review Panel. It would also have been useful for the Project Steering Group to more closely review and ensure that the Independent Review Panel recommendations were considered and implemented.

Learning from the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project

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

  • In stakeholder-led collaborative projects, the agencies are not part of the working group but still need to be involved. The agencies need to ensure that the project is informing, and informed by, other related initiatives in the agencies, and their staff will have experience and expertise useful to the working group. How the agencies can comment on and review proposals also needs to be carefully considered.
  • It is important that agencies demonstrate to the working group that they are committed to the project, including implementing the plan.
  • Strong working relationships need to form between representatives on the working group. They become advocates and supporters of the plan.
  • The agencies and the working group need to trust each other. The working group needs to be confident that the agencies will not overly influence the project and provide it freedom to come up with solutions in a collaborative way.
  • Consideration needs to be given to how best to include scientific experts in the project.
  • A co-governance approach can help to ensure involvement from mana whenua, and ensure that mātauranga Māori is considered alongside other approaches.