New Zealand

Cement plant development

Holcim (NZ) Ltd has been examining possible locations for a new cement manufacturing plant, including at Weston, near Oamaru in North Otago. FAS assisted the company to understand the nature and make-up of the rural and urban communities that are neighbours to the various proposed facilities. Through local social research and consultation we also examined the possible social impacts of the development and advised Holcim on how to avoid and reduce unwanted effects. Our findings were incorporated into the Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). We also presented expert evidence at the local Council’s planning hearing on the project and to the Environment Court.

Canterbury irrigation development

In Canterbury, Central Plains Water (CPW) has proposed a scheme to irrigate 60,000ha of farmland. As part of its planning it was required to prepare a AEE, including an assessment of the possible effects of the scheme on local people and communities. FAS undertook this social impact assessment in collaboration with local colleagues, and provided the client with advice on avoiding and mitigating the possible negative effects.

Waitaki hydroelectricity development

Working in collaboration with Boffa Miskell Ltd, FAS assisted Meridian Energy in its planning for, and social impacts assessment of, its proposed major hydroelectric development on the Lower Waitaki River (Project Aqua).

Waterways management

The NZ Landcare Trust has been working with dairy farmers in Golden Bay to resolve problems over water quality in the Aorere River. The Trust and local community needed more information about local farmers, their views on the water quality issues, and what they are and could be doing to improve things. FAS assisted in this by designing a survey of local farmers, training the Trusts’ interviewers, and analysing the survey responses.

Urban redevelopment

In 2006, the Christchurch City Council began looking at long-term residential re-development options for the seaside suburb of New Brighton. Various types and intensities of development were proposed. To assist the consideration of the options, we looked at each in terms of their implications for population size, character, and consequent demand for social and other services. This involved using census data and comparative cases to build a series of possible scenarios and ‘models’ of the future New Brighton community.

Technologies for pest animal control

Introduced animals, such as possums, rabbits and stoats, present an ongoing threat to New Zealand’s native wildlife, forests, and farm production. Various methods (with different degrees of public acceptability and effectiveness) have been used to try to control each of these pest animals, and new more effective control technologies are needed. Among the new controls being mooted and investigated are introduced diseases and genetically modified organisms – themselves controversial. Using funds provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Conservation, and the Public Good Science Fund, between 1994 and 2003 we conducted 4 interrelated and incremental studies to assess public knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes to rabbits, possums and stoats and their effects on the environment and economy, and to assess attitudes to various pest control technologies, including GMOs. For each of our four studies we conducted a round of stakeholder and public focus groups which were followed by a national-level public telephone survey. The findings from each study were used to inform science investment decision making, pest managers, conservation managers, and a range of central government agencies about strategies for controlling these pests and the potential ‘people issues’. In addition to advice to key stakeholders, outputs included published research reports, several book chapters, and journal papers.

Science planning

The NZ Ministry of Science Research and Technology has been preparing long term ‘road-maps’ for various sciences in NZ. In 2006 we contributed to the roadmap for nanoscience & nanotechnology by examining the possible contribution of social science. We did this in three small case studies based on in-depth interviews with social and physical scientists in NZ and the UK.

Capacity assessment

As part of its programme of rununga development, in 2005 we worked with staff of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu to come up with a method and tool for assessing the management and development capacity in local rununga. This included field testing the tool.

Policy assessment methods

To assist in social policy development, a central government agency commissioned FAS to review the international literature on methods for predictive assessment and ex-post evaluation of government policies on particular sections of the population. This involved identify and reviewing over 600 papers, websites, guidebooks, and texts and preparing an analysis with recommendations on suitable approaches and methods.

Electricity transmission infrastructure

Transpower New Zealand Ltd owns and operates the national high-voltage electricity transmission network – the National Grid. The company, in thinking about possible future upgrades to sections of the grid, recognised it needed to know more about the landholders who host or live close to the power transmission lines and pylons and especially their experiences, issues, and concerns – and possible solutions to these. FAS provided this information, along with recommendations on future actions, by conducting a series of geographically selected focus groups, complemented by a comprehensive social profile of those living within or adjacent to the transmission corridor.

Biodiversity protection

AgResearch – a Crown-owned Research Institute – received Public Good Science funding to study how communities and regional councils could better manage and protect New Zealand’s land-based biodiversity. We assisted AgResearch to prepare a published guide for Regional Councils by researching and summarising what sociologists internationally have learned about appropriate and effective ways of working with communities to achieve biodiversity protection and environmental sustainability.

Urban noise and amenity

The Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, and the Christchurch Airport Company wanted to find out about Christchurch residents experiences and perceptions of environmental noise – from aircraft, traffic, industrial facilities, and neighbours. To this end, FAS designed a postal questionnaire survey of several thousand residents in selected neighbourhoods, statistically analysed the responses, and co-authored the research report to the clients. The findings were used in airport planning and for the development of initiatives tto improve noise amenity in the City.

Services for the elderly

To assist the Canterbury District Health Board in its planning for services to older residents of Canterbury, we were commissioned to learn about and report on older persons’ and health service providers’ access to health services information. To achieve this, we worked closely with Board staff to conduct a series of focus groups with older people in different situations and in-depth interviews with a range of providers of health services to older people.

Forest management certification

Since 2000, we have worked with international sustainable forest management certifiers (Smartwood, Scientific Certification Systems, and SGS Qualifor) to assess, audit, and help improve the social performance of a number of large and medium-sized New Zealand and Australian forest management companies against the Forest Stewardship Council’s internationally-recognised standard/benchmark for sustainable forest management.

Native forest management options

Between 1996 and 2004, FAS worked with the University of Canterbury to carry out a programme of ‘Public Good’ funded research into the management of Maori and privately-owned indigenous forests in New Zealand. Our contribution included facilitating participatory sustainable mangement planning exercises and focus groups, as well as national-level surveys of Maori and other forest owners’ attitudes to their forest resources, forest uses and management practices, their preferred options for forest resource management, and barriers to sustainable management. This work assisted South Island Maori forest owners in their consideration of their development options and provided valuable information to indigenous forest sector owners, planners, managers and regulators.

Rural community change

Between 1996 and 2004 FAS was also a partner in a programme of Public Good funded research looking at the condition and longer-term development of natural resource-industry dependent rural communities in New Zealand. These communities tend to be particularly vulnerable economically, and subject to rapid swings in their fortunes – with attendant social issues for the residents. The aim of the work was to identify and describe patterns of social and economic change in forestry, fishing, mining, energy production, tourism and farming communities, to identify constraints to their sustainablity, review their longer term development options, and to assist in the development of models for social impact assessment. FAS conducted sector analyses, social statisticial analyses of longitudional census data, carried out 6 of the 18 community case studies, and a survey of working life histories. The findings were made available through a series of working papers, conference papers, websites, book chapters, and workshops with regional councils and national agencies and have been used by local communities to inform their long term development planning.

Local government amalgamation

Faced with proposals for local government amalgamation, the former Banks Peninsula District Council commissioned FAS to examine the social character of the District and assess the potential social and political implications for its residents. The findings were used in the Council’s evidence to the Local Government Commission’s hearings on the proposed amalgamation with Christchurch City.

Household energy use

In the 1990s, lack of up to date information about energy use in New Zealand households was a constraint to energy companies, government energy planners, appliance makers, and the residential construction sector. Working with the Industrial Research CRI, and Southpower, between 1995 and 1999 we conducted PGSF funded research into patterns of household electricity use in Christchurch, especially how and when electricity was used and in what quantities, and the various factors that determined these. The work included investigation of the possible social factors in consumption based on detailed metering data, neighbourhood-level studies, and interviews with a panel of households. From the findings were proposed several statistical models for predicting time and quantity of electricty based on the social characteristics of the household, patterns of activity, appliance sets, and characteristics of the building. This work became known as the Household Energy End-use Project (HEEP) when the study was entended nation-wide.

Energy choices and behaviour

To assess the potential of power companies and energy conservation agencies to influence residential electricity demand, using Public Good Science funding and collaborating with the local power supply authority, in 1998 we conducted a survey of 500 Christchurch households regarding their energy saving practices and attitudes, potential for investing in energy saving, and appliance purchase decision making. The study findings were taken up by various agencies and organisations focused on energy conservation.