He Tohu Ora well received at New Zealand Impact Assessment Conference

He Tohu Ora well received at New Zealand Impact Assessment Conference

Erina Hurihanganui and Malcolm Mersham from our Wellbeing and Impact team presented at the annual NZAIA (New Zealand Association of Impact Assessment) conference in Christchurch recently where they received excellent feedback on He Rangitapu He Tohu Ora – the wellbeing framework.

“It was great to share what we are doing at the Trust with an audience of interested parties and it affirmed the value of the work we are doing,” says Trust Tairāwhiti GM, Wellbeing & Impact Erina Hurihanganui.

The theme of the conference was ‘Assessing social impacts for improved decision making’ with a diverse range of attendees from research and academic groups to industry and private sectors.

The premise behind this year’s theme was that decisions in coming years will have implications for people, whānau and communities, both intended and unintended. The adverse social impacts from policies, plans or projects can often undermine their intended outcomes and erode public support. On the other hand, positive social outcomes can help balance other environmental and economic costs.

Presentations at the conference covered a broad range of areas from ‘Impact assessment and the Treaty of Waitangi to ‘Assessing the impact of housing intensification’.

One presentation that stood out for Malcolm was by the Canada Energy Regulator who presented on their experiences assessing social impact of their linear development projects.

“It was interesting to note their move towards better assessing their impacts on communities, economies and the environment and the amount of investment they have made into better engagement and understanding of what is important to those affected,” Malcolm said.

The Trust’s presentation started by providing a background into Trust Tairāwhiti and its commercial entity Eastland Group and then outlining the origins of He Rangitapu He Tohu Ora. It went on to talk about some of the challenges now the framework is being operationalised and the learnings so far.

“People were very interested in the framework and how it is being used to assess funding applications as well as to assess ourselves as an organisation,” Erina said.

Professor of Māori and Indigenous Development at Lincoln University, Hirini Matunga said the general view of the conference seemed to be that He Rangitapu He Tohu Ora – as a framework for defining and operationalising regional wellbeing across its various dimensions was certainly very impressive. 

“Given the conference comprised many experienced and seasoned impact assessors, this was high praise indeed,” he said.

“My first response to the presentation made by Erina and Malcolm was that it provided the `total package’ for regional wellbeing where impact assessment is built into the approach as an integral part of the framework – rather than `after the fact’ - add on or after thought.  In other words, it builds impact assessment into the actual framework, rather than contracting this out to an external agency or entity.    

“It is one thing for an entity to define its aspirations and an implementation pathway to get there, but what really struck me as quite innovative about Trust Tairawhiti’s approach is its mechanism/framework for measuring change across various indices, through a series of high level, but comprehensive and measurable indicators.

“Its approach is holistic, well-integrated and interconnected, rather than piecemeal and fragmented. The fact that He Tohu Ora prescribes a quantitative method for measuring change, achievement and ultimately success through time, across various social, economic and cultural indices and against the national average makes it an excellent robust method for measuring regional development and therefore success –  other regions could well emulate,” Professor Matunga said.       

Since the conference the Trust team has had several follow-ups with people and organisations wanting them to share insights and methodology.

The New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry & Environment, a 10,000 person organisation in Australia was one of the many that reached out.

Another was Rata Muda, a PHD student focussed on forestry innovation and exploring the potential impacts of climate change policy and land-use decisions, especially for Māori as there is a lack of tools to holistically assess these impacts.

“Presenting at the conference as a member of NZAIA was an excellent opportunity for us and has led to ongoing conversations. It has also connected us with a broad network of people working in the impact assessment space, so we can share our journey and learn from one another,” Erina said.

7 July 2021