Nathalie Kowalski is a postgraduate student who wrote this article as part of her Euroleague for Life Sciences course work at Lincoln University.
Ecological restoration is important for re-establishing ecosystems. Ecological restoration, however, it is not just about recreating habitats but also about changing the way humans act. The implementation of restoration projects often suffers as professional expertise, on its own, is not enough to solve the local problem.
Conflict management seeks to build a bridge between scientific knowledge and the needs and expectations of local society within a project of any kind (Emborg, Gamborg 2013). Conflict management supports the idea of interaction between the regulative and affected bodies.
The Waihora Ellesmere Trust (WET) in Canterbury, New Zealand, is a good example of using conflict management to better implement an ecological restoration project. During the process of planning the restoration of Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora a community strategy was established to help the Natural Resources Regional Plan be successfully implemented with the involvement of local stakeholders and inhabitants (Waihora Ellesmere Trust 2004). Collaborative learning contributes to a more successful realization of restoration as more funds can be raised and people can be motivated to help when they see that the project is a community issue where friends and family are involved. A strong emphasis on communicating with community association also allows further contributions in a more sustainable way. One outcome may be more volunteers to become involved with actions like planting native species, another may be an increase in the understanding of how to use the lake. It is important that stakeholders feel included, especially by joining in with the management and planning process (Daniels, Walker 2001).
The WET is a good role model for such an approach. Detailed action plans with long term as well as a yearly overview (Waihora Ellesmere Trust 2015a, 2015b) are very helpful in bringing available resources and knowledge to the appropriate place of action. Stakeholder mapping helps to understand the relationships and possible issues of conflict in order to organize the action in a most suitable way for all involved parties. Therefore, it is important to promote at the very beginning of each ecological restoration project the involvement of stakeholders, inhabitants and locals to allow them to contribute to the realization of the project. The example of WET for the restoration of Lake Ellesmere shows how productive such involvement can be and should be considered as an model of best practice.