Given that New Zealand has long been known as an innovative, effective leader in natural resource policy, the idea that a major region of the country is facing a water resource crisis will strike many as odd. Yet, much like the many areas of the world experiencing serious water resource management and allocation problems, current water use and development trends in Canterbury (South Island) since 1991 have resulted in the gradual depletion and overuse of key water resources. The regional governing authority, Environment Canterbury (ECAN), and many stakeholders recognize that the current top-down, hierarchical water resource policy and management initiatives are not working and are, in many instances, contributing to the very crisis they seek to avoid. Nor are they making headway toward their desired overarching goal of establishing a network of sustainable communities within the region. The research examines the daunting problem of water resource policy management in the Canterbury area, describes the many obstacles in the way of a collaborative approach to water resource sustainability, and uses lessons learned from the international literature on collaborative approaches to critically appraise the potential for the successful collaborative governance of water resources in the region, specifically for the purpose of engendering sustainable communities.



Institutions can be either formal rules or informal norms, customs, roles and operating practices that are so stable, structured and accepted that they can said to be ‘institutionalized’ (North, 1990; Healey, 2007).


Hatton directs Water for a Healthy Country Flagship Research Program (http://www.csiro.au/org/Healthy-Country.html) on behalf of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) (http://www.csiro.au/csiro/channel/_ca_dch2t.html).

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