Most of us are trained in a particular discipline and we can sometimes bring a somewhat narrow focus to natural resource issues. However, because of the complexity of the systems involved, natural resource policy requires a multidisciplinary approach. You will find that no single discipline can adequately capture all aspects of an issue. Accepting that different perspectives on a particular issue are valid and necessary is a skill all policy analysts need to develop. In particular, your analysis will need to focus on people, their behaviour and institutions as these aspects are important to understanding the interrelationships between environmental and social systems.


The purpose of this component is to ensure analysis is sufficiently broad so that ‘everything is on the table’. Doing this will set the context for understanding the interrelationships between environmental and social systems. At the very least you should include the understandings and interests of all relevant NRS agencies of the issues.


The aim is to reveal the interrelationships between natural resources, ecosystems and social systems, including any constraints or limitations in the analysis. This will include making the spatial and temporal scales explicit, as well as detailing any limits and irreversibilities.

Tier 1: Tasks


  • Describe the environmental system, including the embedded ecosystem and natural resource system.
  • Describe the social system and other embedded systems including the Treaty of Waitangi, norms, rules and values of people involved.
  • Analyse the interrelationships between the natural resource, ecosystem and social system.

Questions to guide analysis

  • What are the attributes of the environmental system, ecosystem, natural resources, and built environment?
  • Who is affected, what interests do they have, and what relationships exist between people and the natural resource and ecosystem, including the uses, services, impacts and management?
  • What different values, rules and norms exist?
  • What are the Treaty of Waitangi dimensions?

Tier 2: Reasoning

Look closely at the assumptions and reasons that underlie your analysis to understand them better and test their strength.

Tier 3: Engagement / tools

Engagement opportunities

  • Build an evidence base to understand different values, perspectives, rules and norms.
  • Access existing databases, reports and research that others hold or can interpret.
  • Access expertise of others and invite them to participate.
  • Build participants’ understanding of values, perspectives, rules and norms.

Useful tools

  • Systems thinking and network analysis.
  • Participatory engagement.