In 2004, the purpose of the social research was to scope out the social context of the restoration project in the early stages of work.  More specifically, the aim of the work was to;

  • Add to the knowledge of local environmental issues as well as establish how people believe these problems arise and what should be done about them.  In other, words to understand of the issues people consider important as well as the types of solutions they are likely to suggest or expect.
  • Gain an indication of the current state of knowledge, management and use of local streams and the Tauranga harbour in general.
  • Determine if landowners make a link between land/stream management on their properties and the state of the stream and harbour (do they own the problem or is it the fault of others?). Establishing this link is critical to obtaining community ownership of environmental issues. Establish level of community interaction and networks (i.e., establish existing levels of social capital).  Improving and strengthening these networks is an important aspect of increasing community competence and capacity.

Overall, this process provided background data against which to measure changes in social capital, awareness of the effects of land/stream management practices and increased community competence and capacity resulting from association with the Te Awa o Waitao restoration plan.

As this was largely a scoping exercise the approach involved semi-structured qualitative face to face interviews using a uniform set of questions with plenty of room to explore issues as they arose.  A small number of participants (9) were selected to represent those who lived along the river and had different land use types. 

Key points from the 2004 Research

The surveys concluded that restoration of the Waitao stream and its tributaries is probably an achievable goal in the long term because participants were generally enthusiastic about riparian planting of the main stream channels. Owners of lifestyle blocks are very likely to plant stream margins but larger farmers with many small streams on their property are less willing due to the cost of fencing and the effects of many fences on stock management.

Knowledge of the environmental effects of land use and management practices is generally patchy and lacking an overall catchment perspective.  This may need to be addressed to assist landowners in realising the full benefits of planting stream margins.