Māori Engagement by the Engineering Profession - A Three Waters Case Study


Meaningful and effective Māori engagement in engineering infrastructure projects is essential to their success, especially within New Zealand’s water infrastructure sector. This sector currently faces significant deterioration of both above and below ground water assets across the domains of stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water, known as the three waters. As a response, the previous Labour government proposed a reform bill to revitalise the national three waters network, including a plan of shared governance between councils and iwi. Given the relationship of Māori with water, Te Mana o te Wai principles, and their rights outlined in the Treaty of Waitangi, effective engagement is crucial.

The research for this final year project used the Three Waters/Water Services reform as a case study of how the engagement process used during this time could be used as learnings for the future. A literature review was accompanied by interviews with practitioner engineers and an iwi representative. These were conducted to identify best-practice approaches and expectations of mana whenua for engagement by the engineering profession. The findings of this research highlight the need for proactive measures to address challenges within this topic, with a framework developed to recommend appropriate processes for quality engagement. Gaining Te Ao Māori knowledge, ensuring strong relationship building, and engaging at a strategic planning level are what underpin the guidance developed for practising engineers.

This study considers the critical challenges within New Zealand’s water systems and the imperative for Māori engagement to ensure the best outcomes, creating equitable and sustainable three waters infrastructure

Speakers: Alex Hynds and Lucy Gray recently graduated from the University of Canterbury, each earning a bachelor’s degree - Alex in Civil Engineering and Lucy in Natural Resources Engineering. During their final year, they collaborated on an honours project focused on Māori Engagement within the Engineering Profession, specifically examining a Three Waters Case Study. Alex and Lucy’s shared interest in this field has led them to join the Water teams at Jacobs and WSP, respectively.