Mid-Canterbury resident Allen Lim became concerned about the state of his local river when its frequent closings due to unsafe water stopped his family enjoying swimming in their favourite swimming hole.
Lim, a market gardener, was later elected as the chair of the Selwyn Waihora water zone committee in 2013, and now works with the group to find solutions to the district's water issues.
"I came in as a concerned citizen but I am also linked to industry as a market gardener, so I could champion the cause there too," Lim says.
The Selwyn Waihora water zone committee is one of ten zone committees created to implement the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS), which launched in 2009. The joint committees have representatives from their local council, Environment Canterbury (ECan), as well as local Papatipu Rūnanga and community members.
Each committee uses a collaborative process to make decisions on their unique water issues by consensus. It is a change from the adversarial processes of the past, which often resulted in lengthy and costly court disputes over water.
"Initially we asked the community for their goals and aspirations around our water, and from that we formed our objectives. We set limits to try to meet those goals and aspirations. You can't give everyone what they want and we're not trying to create winners and losers here. It's an inclusive process. Our meetings are open to the public and completely transparent. Over time we have built up trust and engagement," Lim says.