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2021. The Journey of Integrated Catchment Planning in Whangarei. Paper NZ Stormwater Conference.


Damian J Young, Zealandia Consulting Ltd, Northcote Point, Auckland

Shelley D Wharton, Whangarei District Council, Rust Avenue, Whangārei, Northland


Whangarei District Council (WDC) has embraced modern concepts of catchment planning, which has included a more holistic approach to the data and information collected, collated, and generated as part of otherwise discrete processes, investigations, and reports. It is the intention of this paper to tell the story of discovery and learnings which have come to light from this journey.

For too long catchment management plans have sat on shelves around the country or been stored as pdf files on the respective organisations’ networks. Once used to obtain a discharge consent, they may be referred to occasionally, but mostly they are long, complex, and difficult to interpret and put to practical everyday use. So why would we create more of the same catchment management plan documents?

With new rules coming into effect under the Northland Regional Plan which no longer specify the attachment of a catchment management plan when applying for a stormwater discharge consent, there was an opportunity to rethink the usefulness of traditional catchment management plans.

WDC asked the question: How could things be done differently? Starting with the desired outcome, a set of useful, everyday tools, that when brought together, would form the basis of an Interactive Catchment Management Plan. These tools should support and enable staff to identify issues, update and analyse data, prioritise projects and optimise programme delivery.

Integrated data solutions can be developed through disciplines of data science, business process architecture, and keen journalistic technical skill sets, focused on defining their user requirements of frontline staff and key stakeholders. It’s crucial to actually ask people what they want and how they need it. The solutions are often at hand, and front-line staff or stakeholders tend to be custodians of this knowledge.

To this end Whangarei District Council initiated a Discovery Phase, with the aim to substantially improve stormwater catchment planning and management, to define technical delivery platforms, information and data storage structures, and targeted workflow tools.

Defining the outcomes desired of a catchment planning process was key to understanding the type of data needed. A key part of this is understanding who will use the data and what they will use it for, whether external consultants and private developers, consents staff, or internal stormwater planning and operations staff.

The process of developing the data and tools is iterative and relies on all parties being open to new ideas, taking some risks around doing things differently, and importantly working in a collaborative way with many parties including the regional council.

Implementation is a critical step in any new project or system. This was carefully considered in terms of training, providing guidelines, and ongoing support to ensure the tools and data could be used to best effect.

This paper is intended to communicate and share, a story about:

● Outcomes - some insight into the ways data could be used every day by staff and customers, in turn, informs the types of interactive tools needed

● The discovery and learnings around Interactive tools and their uses

● Platform(s) used and understandings

● Steps in the process and key learnings

This approach has resulted in many benefits, integration opportunities, and scalability of defined tools, systems, and delivery mechanisms. However, as is most typically the case, the adoption and integration both technically and culturally, of new tools and systems is understandably challenging and requires prudent forethought and planning to best achieve the original intent and outcomes around data-driven catchment planning, guidance, rules, and delivery methods.

The intent is to inform other councils and utility operators across New Zealand in order to share hopefully valuable insights and strategies which could be of benefit to many, but also to engage an active dialogue with other practitioners to better serve all councils who unsurprisingly face similar issues.


Stormwater, Catchment planning, GIS, Interactive Tools, Adaptive Management, Collaboration

. Damian Young and Shelley Wharton, The Journey of Integrated Catchment Planning in Wh
Presentation SW Conference 2021 - Young Wharton.pptx
Download PDF • 6.61MB


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