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Principles which help a landscape scale restoration project succeed

Te Mata1

A case study was one of the first topics to be included in the research programme of Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne. A social researcher followed the progress of the team running and governing the project. They observed through documentation and interviews how the team navigated change and growth over a five-year period. Below is a snapshot of what they found.

The team have succeeded in achieving many of their objectives, learning a lot along the way which has been shared with others to support similar initiatives being developed throughout New Zealand and other ‘predator free’ programmes.

Through six workstreams, significant achievements have been made. Tītī and kōrure are returning, toutouwai/robins, and kākā are breeding successfully. As at March 2020, just over 250,000 native plants had been planted and 38,000 ha were actively involved in predator suppression. It is encouraging that, 90% of landowners engaged positively with the projects.

Guiding principles

The project team found it useful to reflect each year on eight principles. These principles provide ingredients for success but are not a recipe.  Similar projects will need to be responsive to their existing organisational arrangements, their biophysical and cultural context plus funding commitments. Only key principles can be transferred across sites, not the whole programme.

Much of the success of Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne is because of strong leadership, collaboration, long-term thinking, clear vision and a focused work plan. Adaptation, learning-by-doing, trust, and working with many different values helped to navigate people’s world views and foster teamwork.

 

Theme

Summary

Adaptation and resilience

Accept surprises and change will occur, maintain flexibility to accommodate these by continually adjusting management and attempting to anticipate them

Collaboration and partnering

Utilising and increasing capacity of diverse organisations and diverse actors to work together at different levels in order to address complexity. Each partner organisation will change through the partnership

Responsiveness to context

Position initiative within existing socio-political context and adapt to changes; requires trend analysis

Leadership

Primarily emphasised as: visionary, entrepreneur, opinion leader, frontrunner. Also mentioned: charismatic, builds trust, mobilises support, communicates vision.

Long-term thinking

Long-term vision and thinking as a framework to help shape short term actions and policy

Reflexive insight, learning and gauging success

Learning-by doing, ongoing appraisal at multiple levels, including processes, progress, and outcomes. Measurement against established goals to determine SES-T occurrence

Trust

Building good informal and formal relationships is important to enable collaboration and legitimacy to create changes

Value pluralism

Respecting and holding different values and visions of sustainability

Three examples of these principles in action

Adaptation and resilience: The Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne programmes were designed as pilots and experiments.  A culture of learning and adaptation has been strong right from the onset. Fairly quickly, identification of risks and potential surprises became regular practice for all themes through the formal reporting and meeting procedures. By 2016, a good number of surprises had been navigated; here’s one example:

“What I like about this project is that it’s designed to try and anticipate surprises, and a good example of that is the backlash with catching domestic cats. And so, what’s been done is they’re offering a chipping service where you can chip your cat – you know, a microchip. So, if they catch a cat and they scan it and it’s got a chip, they know to release it.” [Transcript #18]

This interview shows that the team are developing ways of working that accept surprises and change will occur, and attempt to anticipate them.

Leadership: The importance of the governance was highlighted in an interview:

“One of things about the governance group is you absolutely have to have the right people on board…So, the first very strong lesson would be, right at the start, being crystal clear on the high value that they can drive in the project…we've got a really good mix of people…. Influence, ability to influence at a senior and political level, organisational and resource level. That's one thing. Political: being switched on politically. Also, depending on the context, being able to connect back into the fundamental things that drive success. So that's about farming community, because that's fundamentally – the idea doesn't work without them.” [Transcript #13]

Leadership is a core strength of Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne. The leaders have worked hard to build trust, mobilise support, and strategically communicate the vision.

Reflexive insight, learning and gauging success:  Annual reflection was enabled through the interview process and research hui.  In 2017 it was noted:

“At our last get-together down in Lincoln, we took our four hapū members down there and we had a range of people across Landcare Research and the project team there, and it was really interesting to see the penny drop in a number of researchers about the actual perspective of Māori and the value and importance of that in their research context. There were researchers there saying, "Oh, actually, I now understand a whole lot better. It's not about–" was the words one of them used. So, it's about, "How can what I do, as a Western researcher, actually contribute to what you want and your holistic view of research and the environment, mātauranga Māori”, as opposed to, "I've got something to deliver and that's where it's at”. And it was quite remarkable to sit there and look at the penny drop across four to six key people who've been involved for a number of years, and who, if you went back six years, probably were articulating, at the very least, a bit of a confusion as to how the two worlds met. So that was also both a surprise, but a really pleasant one, and a significant transition over a 5- or 6-year period for those scientists.” [Transcript #28]

As a pilot and proof of concept, the projects embraced a learning-by-doing perspective. However, it did not fully develop its capacity for ongoing appraisal at multiple levels by including monitoring of processes, progress, and outcomes.

Recommendations for other projects

Based on the experience of  the Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project management team  they recommend that similar initiatives do the following:

  • Add 30% to overall budget as preparation for the unknown.
  • Set aside 25% of the budget for Māori engagement from the start, do not proceed until this part of the programme is well developed. Where appropriate fund hapū groups to be involved guiding the relationship building process.
  • Choose the governance group very carefully. It’s not a representative group but should be chosen for specific expertise, knowledge and networks. They need to be able to work strategically and for example be able to influence key organisations at a high level. This group needs to open doors and inform conversations with iwi, landowners, chief executives, and mayors.
  • Design a structured way of reflecting regularly in the programme and provide an independent person to support this. Also meet as a large team at least once a year where you can be social and get to know each other well. Check you are on the best path, or whether you need to take a different tack.
  • Start meetings with karakia, tautoko public speakers with waiata, and support people to speak in te reo Māori in meetings.
  • Project management and communication need to be funded as separate workstreams on their own. Think through the work in detail from the start, have a strategy and action plan, then revise it regularly.
  • Develop leaders who are agile and know how to work collaboratively by prioritising people who show interest to grow with the project. Make a clear intention to build capacity and capability by creating permanent jobs and employing people with a diverse set of skills This does mean accepting that people lead in different ways.
  • Think carefully about geographical boundaries, make these relevant for all your partners (specifically hapū).
  • Look for community leadership and invest in it, e.g. people in the community around you who support your vision and already have an activity proposed that aligns with your vision. Use your project resources to support them to achieve their vision. In the end you grow community support and additional leadership.

Read the full research report

15 April 2020

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