Kaikōura, a South Island coastal town, is world famous for its beautiful environment. Responsible stewardship of the land is critical for the town's thriving Māori-owned and -operated nature- based and cultural tourism industry, and the local community has embraced this responbisility. The Kaikōura District Council was one of the first councils in the world to adopt the globally recognised EarthCheck® benchmark. The Kaikōura area became 'zero waste' in response to this benchmark.
In 2013, CIBR researchers offered to help the council to engage with the community to explore beneficial options to reuse 1500 tonnes of stockpiled biosolids (treated sewage sludge) that was rapidly nearing the end of its permitted storage period. The aim of the CIBR Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funded research was to integrate biophysical and social science and support a shared-learning process amongst stakeholders to identify the strengths and weaknesses of possible biosolids reuse strategies. Kaikōura District Council and community took part in the engagement process and provided well-considered input to produce a range of biosolids reuse solutions appropriate for the Kaikōura community. The methodology developed provides a framework for community engagement for biosolids reuse that can potentially provide a basis for regional land use planning, national guidelines and policy directions.
The integration of social, cultural, environmental and economic considerations as part of the engagement model gave the community a mechanism to weight (prioritise) their concerns, enabling the community and the council to make a more informed robust and transparent decision.
Overall the CIBR integrated engagement process was very successful and has enhanced the level and quality of engagement and knowledge shared between council and community on biosolids and waste management.
Similar forms of collaborative community engagement could be utilised by local government to build shared knowledge and generate robust and sustainable decision-making for other environmental health issues.
Ultimately, researchers from the CIBR compiled and submitted a case study report [PDF, 1.4 MB] to the Kaikōura District Council, which has agreed to adopt the recommendations.
Looking beyond the immediate challenge of the stored biosolids, the CIBR and the Kaikōura community led a further hui under the ‘Up the Pipe’ project to help students from the local high school to investigate contaminants in everyday household products in their own homes, and to understand how decisions we make as consumers impact our environment.
The CIBR gratefully acknowledges the partnership of the Kaikōura District Council, Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura and Raewyn Solomon of Takahanga marae in this project.
For more information contact Lisa Langer.