Alternatives to consensus decision-making in New Zealand’s freshwater collaboration

Dr Nicholas Kirk1

1Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand


Consensus decision-making is an integral feature of the New Zealand model of freshwater collaboration. Prior to collaboration, New Zealand’s freshwater management was typified by adversarial interest groups seeking to influence policy through court action. Collaboration was promoted as an alternative which would reduce tensions between different interest groups through reaching consensus on difficult issues. This paper asks if consensus decision-making is the only way to do collaboration in New Zealand, and if there are forms of collaborative decision-making that can encourage productive disagreements? Consensus decision-making in the context of collaboration has been criticized for recreating status-quo policy and for favouring developmental interests over environmental interest. This paper investigates those criticisms while offering alternatives to consensus decision-making which aim for a balance between adversarial opportunism and status-quo consensus.


Nicholas Kirk is an Environmental Social Researcher at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. His research investigates alternative processes for managing natural resources.

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