Introducing the Natural Resources Framework

Context

The aim of the Natural Resources Framework is to craft robust and resilient policy that leads to effective stewardship and kaitiakitanga of New Zealand’s natural resources. 

Natural Resource Sector (NRS) agency chief executives are responsible for the stewardship of their agencies and their capacity to offer free and frank advice to successive governments, which is based on rigorous analysis and robust evidence. Effective stewardship ensures the best advice is provided to decision-makers to support the wise use of New Zealand’s natural resources over the long term. To achieve this, New Zealand needs enduring solutions for managing its natural resources, and responding to approaching biophysical limits and climate change. Put simply, the capacity of NRS agencies to provide resilient policy advice is fundamental to New Zealand achieving stewardship of its natural resources. 

NRS agencies, as partners in the Treaty of Waitangi relationship, have a responsibility to support iwi and Māori in performing their kaitiakitanga functions. Kaitiakitanga is the customary practices by which iwi and Māori manage the environment and relationships with it based on a Māori world view. There is no one definition of kaitiakitanga, but it can be broadly described as an obligation, arising from a kin relationship, to nurture or care for the environment physically and spiritually. 

It is rare that a government agency on its own can address the challenges of stewardship and kaitiakitanga because natural resource issues cross portfolios and diverse community interests, affecting outcomes in different and sometimes competing ways. The framework helps NRS agencies meet these challenges by providing a common way to organise inquiry into natural resource policy issues in a strategic way. The framework builds on existing work and is an evolution, not a departure, from existing policy processes. It focuses attention on parts of the policy cycle that are often underdeveloped or underexplored, particularly for understanding systems, looking out to the longer term, and integrating competing values. The Regulatory Impact Analysis process and tools such as cost-benefit analysis will remain an important part of developing and informing policy advice.

The framework’s starting point is that social and environmental systems are interrelated, with people and institutions shaping these interrelationships in complex ways. This means placing people at the centre of the analysis when addressing natural resource issues. As such, the framework focuses analysis on how people’s behaviour affects natural resources and ecosystems.  

Natural resources are often shared in nature, yet the values and interests people hold differ. Government agencies cannot step away from confronting difficult issues. Decisions may need to be made about trade-offs. The advantages and disadvantages of different options need to be understood and the underlying analysis for them made explicit and transparent. The framework helps structure this analysis.nsparent about our trade-offs, assumptions and limitations?

Over time, use of the framework will provide a rich body of evidence that can be drawn on in other policy processes. The framework is designed to help frame good advice that supports decision-making. The role of the NRS is to provide consistent and high quality policy advice and the framework helps with this. 

Structure

The framework adopts an integrative approach by including social, economic, environmental, cultural and political perspectives over the typical time spans involved with natural resources issues. Four analytical components can be used to structure your analysis – Reveal, Establish, Assess and Integrate. Two procedural components support the analysis, Identify – to agree on the work; and Advise – to produce an agreed collective narrative.

Three tiers of inquiry are used. These include tasks and questions specific to each component that are used to prompt your inquiry. Second, a reasoning tier requires any assumptions or limitations be made explicit. Lastly, an engagement and tools tier aids analysis for each component. Care must be taken to address any uncertainties and risks in each component. 

Application

Any agency can use the framework in whole or in part. However, the primary aim is to develop collective advice and options across NRS agencies working on a common policy issue. Use of the framework is as much about how the NRS goes about doing its work as the work itself. 

The framework can be used alongside, and draws on, other tools, frameworks and approaches, such as Regulatory Impact Assessments, cost-benefit analysis and application of risk management standards. The framework is expected to evolve and change over time in response to being used and tested.

The framework is not intended to provide a prescriptive or inflexible process, but encourages critical inquiry and learning. Similarly, tools and resources are identified as possible approaches, rather than as a prescriptive list. Questions to prompt your reasoning are provided to challenge assumptions in a constructive way, by encouraging debate, discussion and deliberation of issues. 

You do not need to use the framework sequentially from the first component to the last. The framework can be used to develop policy options (Reveal to Integrate) or alternatively to understand how known outcomes may have been influenced by people’s behaviour (Assess to Reveal). You can also use a single component as part of existing policy processes. For instance, Reveal can be used to better understand the status quo and define problems.

The framework takes a people-centred approach to gain a better understanding of people’s behaviours and how these affect outcomes. Engagement within and outside of government is an important part of the analysis and approach. A short list of engagement opportunities is provided for each component. In using the framework, the purpose of engagement can be to:

  • build evidence and expand expertise to improve analytical rigour
  • ensure natural justice and due process to add legitimacy to decision- making.