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Local values and the promotion and restoration of wetlands and their ecosystem services in Aotearoa-New Zealand: a case study of Tauranga’s planning regime

Aligning wetlands restoration planning mechanisms with public perceptions and values can help gain support for and assistance with restoration. Using Tauranga as a case study, this thesis is an exploratory study that applies the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) framework to examine the extent to which New Zealand's planning regime incorporates local values in the promotion and restoration of wetlands and their ecosystem services. This thesis used multiple qualitative research methods in a two-pronged process. A narrative literature review and systematic statutory analysis in phase one helped identify values associated with wetland ecosystem services and how New Zealand’s, and more specifically Tauranga’s, resource management system promotes and enables the restoration of wetlands and their ecosystem services. A case study approach with analysis of primary and secondary data in phase two helped identify what Tauranga local residents value as important wetland ecosystem services and the extent to which the local policy mechanisms reflect these values. Through thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews and summaries of submissions, this thesis identifies six dimensions that represent values towards wetland ecosystem services and their restoration in Tauranga. Other than one dimension that consists of a single value on education from the cultural services category of the MEA framework, the remaining five dimensions comprise services from within and between the framework categories. These dimensions are wetlands as nutrient- and mineral-rich areas that support biodiversity and provide habitat; that regulate water, act as natural flood plains and sequester carbon to help protect against climate change and natural hazards; that maintain Māori cultural practices; that remove nutrients and contaminants in water; and provide recreational and aesthetic experiences. Therefore, identified dimensions could form the basis of educational programmes and toolkits that promote wetlands restoration. The systematic policy analysis and cross-comparison with the results of the thematic analysis found that Tauranga’s planning regime partially provides for each of the six dimensions. However, the nuances and complexities of the values, including the interconnected nature of wetlands values and services, are not captured. This means Tauranga’s planning regime does not fully incorporate local values in the promotion and restoration of wetlands and their ecosystem services. Bridging the gap between wetlands restoration provisions and wetland ecosystem service values is likely to be supported by enacting the current resource management reforms. Enacting the reforms would help reduce the number of policies and plans, implement regional spatial planning, and develop outcomes-based policy mechanisms that encompass ecological, social, cultural and spiritual values, including those associated with wetlands.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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