As the allocation and use of fresh water in New Zealand's key agricultural region of Canterbury became increasingly contentious, the government in 2010 appointed commissioners to replace the elected Canterbury Regional Council (known as ECan). As the new chair of ECan, former public servant Dame Margaret Bazley, a seasoned trouble-shooter, faced the challenge of introducing the concept of collaborative community-led water management to a highly polarised public. The Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) devolved responsibility for the management of fresh water to ten separate catchments, most with a history of hostility and legal action. This is the first of a two part case. It focuses on the leadership challenge facing Dame Margaret Bazley as she and her fellow commissioners seek to rebuild relationships and reconcile environmental and economic aims through zone committees. The case can be used to explore the complexities of, and the commitment required in, introducing a radically new approach to the governance and management of natural resources. The second part of the case switches focus to the implications of change for the staff of the organisation implementing it.
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