Mediated Modelling Details

The mediated modelling exercise will take place from November 2010, concluding April 2011. The aim of the mediated modelling project is to understand the broad interrelationships between ecological "issues/problems" and their "causes" in Tauranga Harbour.

This will:

(1) enable all stakeholders to have a common understanding of the issues;

(2) pinpoint areas for more detailed study in subsequent years of the project. The model

should for example enable us to isolate the most critical 'leverage points' in the

system, which will be good areas to focus our research attention on.

The Mediated Modelling project is part of the broader "scoping exercise" of Year 1 of

Manaaki Taha Moana. The Mediated Modelling project will draw on and contribute to the

other elements of the "scoping exercise":

(1) Stock-take of data/information/knowledge

(2) 'State of the Ecological Health of the Harbour' report.

To help us gain a greater understanding of the key factors that are impacting on the state of the moana, and to identify the critical "leverage points" that are likely to have the greatest impact to restore things that are currently degraded, we are undertaking a series of workshops with tangata whenua. During these workshops, tangata whenua who agree to participate will share their views on the state of the moana, how the moana is changing, how this can be observed and how observed changes may be inter-connected. About 20 participants will work together during the workshops to develop a coherent and mutually agreed upon story. Parts of participants' stories will be interpreted by the facilitator and simultaneously reflected onto a projected computer screen for all to see and comment on.

A model will then be built using computer software to show how all the individual aspects of the moana interact with each other, and impact on each other. This is called a "Systems Dynamics" model, and it is a powerful way of drawing together important information about the moana to get a better picture of what is causing the problems in the moana, how the moana will look in the future if certain conditions remain, and what improvements we could bring about in the future by making certain changes now to the way we do things.

We will use all possible information, including Matauranga Maori, about the state of the moana to help us put together an accurate picture of how the moana works, from the perspective of tangata whenua. In the future, we may do a similar exercise with tauiwi participants as well; but this first exercise will only have Maori participants in the hope that a broad but coherent Maori perspective emerges. This information will be used to design two in-depth case studies for the Tauranga Harbour.

We aim to have "stakeholders" in the mediated modelling workshops from across all key sectors in Tauranga, including government, industry, farming, business interests and nongovernmental organisations, who we believe have a great interest in, and influence over, the moana.

Participants have much to gain from this process by being be part of a unique way of dialoguing and capturing complex information about Tauranga. Participants will learn: facts and perspectives from various stakeholders; how to operate the computer based simulation model that participants help develop; how to simulate future scenarios for "what-if my perspective and assumptions about the future are correct" versus "what if someone else's perspectives and assumptions about the future are correct" Depending on how well the participants work together a powerful list of recommendations for action will result. Recommendations will be used to help design in-depth research case studies within the MTM programme.

The workshops will be lead by Associate Professor Marjan van den Belt of Massey University, with the assistance of members from our Research Team here in Tauranga by people such as Aaron McCallion, Carlton Bidois and Tracey Ngatoko.

Dr van den Belt is a world leader in this type of research, having conducted similar studies in Africa, North America and Europe.

The mediated modelling approach was chosen because it can support a group of participants with different interests and perspectives to develop consensus on what to do next as well as develop the capacity to maintain an often difficult dialogue into the future.