Incubate meeting

Governance and Operating Model

Partnerships – With Descriptor

How is Living water managed?

Living Water operates at three levels. Strategic oversight sits with the Steering Committee, comprising senior representatives from both partners the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Fonterra. A National Programme Management Group has responsibility for delivery of national projects and maintaining consistency across catchment projects and includes Living Water officers with staff from DOC and Fonterra. Each catchment has a delivery team led by a full-time DOC Site Lead, supported by DOC and Fonterra staff. Meet our team here.

What are the responsibilities of the Steering Committee?

The Steering Committee (Committee) oversees the strategic direction of Living Water. They meet at least quarterly, ensuring the work programme is aligned with the strategic direction and objectives for Living Water, delivers accountability by receiving regular reporting, and provides guidance on strategic risks for the programme and partnership. An important aspect of the Committee’s work is for the partner representatives (DOC and Fonterra) to ensure Living Water’s direction and focus for work aligns with each partners’ strategic direction. The Committee members provide an essential conduit into the senior management teams within DOC and Fonterra. The role of the chair revolves yearly, alternating between the partners. As the ten-year partnership enters in its final phase the Committee will need to consider the future role for the relationship and issues around the wind-down of the partnership. 

Calves on farm Te Waihora

What are the responsibilities of the National Programme Management Group?

The National Programme Management Group (Group) has responsibility for annual work planning for national projects and ensuring that site specific projects are aligned with their site focus. The Group manages the tools and solutions workstream, oversees the monitoring and evaluation programme and ensures the outcomes and learnings from projects are shared through an active engagement and communications programme, to ‘tell the story of Living Water’. All of these activities are regularly reported to the Steering Committee. The Group consists of the three full-time Living Water staff, the National Manager, Programme Coordinator and Impact and Partnerships Manager, along with a DOC Freshwater Scientist, and Fonterra Sustainable Catchments and Productive Landscapes staff. Drawing staff from both organisations ensures alignment between the partners, along with collaboration and information sharing. The National Manager reports to the Steering Committee formally at quarterly intervals, and informally to the Chair as and when required. 

With the completion of the ten-year programme in 2023, the Group will manage the transfer of information to partner and stakeholder organisations. The Group will lead the sharing of learnings with the wider community through an enhanced communications programme and community events and activities. 

What are the responsibilities of the Site Teams?

DOC has responsibility for operational delivery at the site level, working in close collaboration with Fonterra staff. The Site Teams are led by a full-time Site Lead (a DOC employee) supported by a Freshwater Technical Adviser (DOC), Sustainable Dairying Advisor (Fonterra) and Sustainable Catchments Engagement Manager (Fonterra). The Site Teams run the project trials and implement restoration work alongside stakeholders, contractors and consultants. 

Robin chatting to Phil Musson on farm

How does Living Water engage with stakeholders?

Living Water prioritised engagement with Mana Whenua in each of the catchment sites, which led to the development of an engagement strategy and framework for working with iwi, see the story.

The networks and connections of the Steering Group membership enable high-level strategic inputs and collaborative opportunities within the partners and their stakeholders.

At the national level, Living Water has developed relationships with funding and research organisations with strategic objectives that align to Living Water. This has enabled Living Water’s projects to proceed and facilitated collaboration and support for other organisation’s projects, such as the Farming with Native Biodiversity project, and the Manga-o-tama Ōhaupō Peat Lakes to Waipā River Connection project.

At the site level, Living Water has identified key stakeholders and built effective relationships of trust with local iwi, environmental and community groups, involving residents in activities such as planting days in Waituna and predator control in Pūkorokoro-Miranda.

How has the operating model changed during the course of the programme?

Living Water has been responsive to the changing needs of both the work programme and stakeholders, and adjusted the operating model as required. The operating model has evolved as Living Water has progressed through its ten-year programme. In the initial stage (2013 – 2015) the emphasis was on developing relationships and identifying priorities within each catchment, along with some restoration activities to engage local stakeholders. The second stage (2016 – 2021) was based on the Living Water strategic direction and objectives, that established site teams and a programme of trials and projects within each catchment and nationally. In the third stage (2022 – 2023) as the trials and projects are completed the emphasis is shifting to the monitoring and evaluation programme to ensure learnings are successfully captured and shared with stakeholders through an active engagement and communications programme, that includes frequent web stories, media releases and social media updates. 

What lessons has Living Water learned from its choice of governance and operating model?

The project operating structure is critical, particularly for partnerships compared to sponsorships. With a sponsorship the sponsor hands over the money (with some conditions) and the receiving organisation makes all the operational decisions about how it’s spent. Living Water is a true partnership between DOC and Fonterra. That necessitated an operating structure with clear separation between governance and operational roles, and both partners involved at every level. 

Having a Steering Committee is essential for governance, accountability and oversight, for long-term planning and risk identification and mitigation. It enables partners to ensure the alignment of the joint project with their own organisation’s strategic directions and objectives. At the operational level the participation of both partners has been essential to tackle the complex environmental and social change required to improve water quality issues in New Zealand. The knowledge, experience and networks of both partners have been invaluable to forging the necessary stakeholder relationships to enable trials and projects to proceed with the support and participation of local communities. 

Waituna Creek drone image