Quality assurance for community-based monitoring

Work is underway to develop a proposed national quality assurance (QA) framework for community-based monitoring (CBM) of Aotearoa New Zealand’s freshwaters.

The plan is to create a tiered system of standards and measures to ensure that data relating to a suite of commonly measured freshwater variables are of a known quality and ‘fit for purpose’. This plan has been informed by a recently completed report looking at overseas approaches to QA. [See the report Quality assurance for community-based freshwater monitoring in Aotearoa New Zealand]

Throughout the country, CBM contributes a wealth of data which could inform freshwater management. This QA project, led by Juliet Milne (NIWA) and championed for the regional sector by Greater Wellington Regional Council, aims to create a framework which will help support councils, as well as government organisations and industry, to better utilise the growing volume of data collected through citizen science.

A national increase in recognition of CBM and its many potential benefits has resulted in the development of standardised sampling protocols, monitoring tool kits, websites, and other resources. These resources, together with various national freshwater guidelines and National Environmental Monitoring Standards (NEMS), provide a solid basis to inform the development of a national QA framework. Implementation of other recently released freshwater legislation including the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) could also be supported by CBM monitoring data.

Development of the framework will take two years and will be built around a selection of freshwater variables relevant to stream health. The development of the framework is a multi-agency effort being supported by a large number of organisations.

Initially the QA framework will be designed around variables of relevance to freshwater ecosystem health, recreation and mahinga kai. However, it is hoped that the basis of the framework will be transferrable to other environmental domains such as marine and terrestrial.