Adaptive Governance and Policy

This investment tackles the ways in which governance and policy need to change to better protect te taiao (the environment).

At A Glance:

At the moment, there are many core issues with regional and national governance and policies that fail to protect, and sometimes directly endanger, the wellbeing of our biodiversity and the integrity of our biosecurity system.

The people closest to nature currently find it difficult to get their knowledge and values recognised. They are often not included or resourced to participate in strategic, local or national decisions that would make a difference to biological heritage. This is particularly the case for mana whenua who, as kaitiaki, are often involved with bioheritage protection and advocacy for the environment.

The Adaptive Governance & Policy team aims to ‘break the mould’ and build new systems, policies and capability that will provide much greater protection to our bioheritage. This includes embracing Treaty relationships with Māori and investigating the many opportunities for the environment that can arise when government engages in co-design of policy and co-governance of natural resources. The team will study what does and doesn’t work in Aotearoa when it comes to redistributing authority, decision-making abilities and responsibility.


Dr Maria Bargh

Te Arawa (Ngāti Kea/Ngāti Tuarā), Ngāti Awa

Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Carwyn Jones

Ngāti Kahungunu

Te Wānanga o Raukawa


This investment is still in the early stages, but the team plans to focus on three key areas:

  1. Understanding different governance models that support good environmental outcomes.
  2. Tools to inform environmentally sustainable businesses.
  3. Tools to better co-design and partner with Māori.

Upcoming Activities:

  • Take advantage of the window of opportunity in Aotearoa at present, with several Acts and policy statements under review, a national Biodiversity Strategy under development, a whole-of-Government approach mooted for the WAI262 Treaty claim, and a focus on nature-based jobs as part of the COVID reset.
  • Identify the barriers and enablers for mana whenua participation in governance. Review existing and novel funding mechanisms for participation in decision-making.
  • Co-develop legal mechanism(s) to give voice to nature (including review of effectiveness, process and implementation challenges of existing mechanisms).
  • Co-design and scenario-test alternative governance models/architecture for New Zealand’s biological heritage.
  • Identify what professional and operational roles are key for enhancing biodiversity and new governance architecture. Review capability deficiencies within these roles.
  • Update and/or design curriculum with key institutions (such as National Polytechnic) to address the capability deficits identified.
  • Monitor and evaluate progress against baseline.


How to talk about co-governance of our bioheritage. A short guide for communicators and advocates of environmental management and policy.

For a Tika Transition: strengthen rangatiratanga

He Puapua – Lands, Territories and Resources Briefing

Wai 262 – Briefing on natural resource governance and policy recommendations

Hall D & Lindsay S 2021. Scaling Climate Finance: Biodiversity Instruments. Concept Paper. Auckland: Mōhio Research

New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand

Briefing to the Incoming Ministers for the Environment & Conservation

Biodiversity Instruments Briefing Note

Skip to 9.31 minutes to hear Dr Carwyn Jones’ introduction and lecture on building social cohesion.

Click the image to listen to Maria Bargh discuss co-governance with Māni Dunlop.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Māori at Victoria University of Wellington Rāwinia Higgins opens the speaking at the launch in Wellington.
Melanie Mark Shadbolt, Kaihautū Ngātahi for the Bioheritage National Science Challenge discusses the importance of changing governance and funding systems at the launch in Wellington.
Co-Author of Concept Paper ‘Biodiversity Instruments’ David Hall speaks at the launch in Wellington.


For a Tika Transition: strengthen rangatiratanga. Maria Bargh and Ellen Tapsell 2021.

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