Institutions for sustainable development

FRST Research Project (funded through the Ecologic Foundation) Institutions for Sustainable Development

Research Leader:
Guy Salmon and Jim Sinner
Research Team:
James Baines, Hana Crengle, Andrew Fenemor, Guy Salmon, Jim Sinner, Gail Tipa, Kim Zilliacus (Finland)
  • resolving the tensions between democracy and sustainability
  • integrating the true cost of natural resources into the market economy
Research Partners:
Since March 2004, annual meetings have been held in Wellington with the 12 research partner organisations:
  • NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development
  • Te Ohu Kai Moana
  • Solid Energy
  • Seafood Industry Council
  • Holcim
  • NZ Fish & Game Council
  • FertResearch
  • Ministry of Economic Development
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
  • Ministry of Fisheries
  • Ministry of Transport
  • Wellington City Council
Recent Research:

This research programme has been investigating the potential role of economic instruments for environmental management. Investigations over the past three years have backgrounded the sustainable development policy context in which the use of economic instruments is being considered, compared the institutional contexts between New Zealand and Nordic countries and the extent to which economic instruments have been adopted in each, examined in some detail the decision making processes surrounding the adoption or rejection of the use of economic instruments in New Zealand, and reviewed the current practice in integrated impact assessment, sometimes referred to as sustainability assessment.

The policy context of sustainable development was backgrounded by means of a collaborative literature review, covering economic, environmental and social/cultural domains This culminated in a paper published across two issues of Public Sector in 2005.

The comparative analysis of institutional context - comparing New Zealand and Nordic countries involved interviews with key informants in both jurisdictions, exploring the tensions between democracy and sustainability.

Three case studies have been conducted on recent decision making associated with the adoption of market-based instruments in New Zealand - the experience of adopting ITQ for New Zealand's inshore fisheries, the contrasting experiences in two regions of adopting and declining to adopt transferable water permits, and the rejection of resource rents for the occupation of coastal space. These case studies involved reviewing extensive bodies of official documentation as well as interviews with key participants in the decision-making process.

A review of practice in integrated impact assessment (sometimes referred to as sustainability assessment) has been carried out, canvassing international literature and a range of contacts in the international impact assessment community. The focus has been on synthesising a practical framework rather then adding to the extensive rhetoric around the need for better integrated assessment methods.


The following reports from the FRST-funded research programme on Institutions for Sustainable Development can be downloaded from the Ecologic website -

Comparison of Resource Management Frameworks in New Zealand and Nordic Countries. Ecologic Research Report No. 1. June 2005.

Key Concepts in Sustainable Development. Ecologic Research Report No. 2. July 2004.

Adoption of Market-Based Instruments: Three New Zealand Case Studies (Summary report). Ecologic Research Report No. 3. October 2005.

Adoption of ITQ for New Zealand's Inshore Fisheries. Ecologic Research Report No. 4. Nov 2005.

Implementation Failure: Resource Rents for the Occupation of Coastal Space. Ecologic Research Report No. 5. December 2005.

Institutional Inertia? Case studies of Transferable Water Permits in New Zealand. Ecologic Research Report No. 6. December 2005.

Review of Integrated Impact Assessment. Ecologic Research Report No. 7. April 2006.

Resource Rent - have you paid any lately? Jorn Scherzer and Jim Sinner. Ecologic Research Report No. 8. December 2006.

A Case Study of Water Management in the Motueka Catchment: Responses to Water Allocation Reform Proposals. Ecologic Research Report No. 9. December 2006.

The review of sustainable development concepts was published in Public Sector, Vol.28 (3) and (4) 2005.

The main concluding event of the research programme was a conference held in Wellington on Tuesday 21 August 2007 entitled "Northern Lights Conference: Democracy, markets and sustainability - resolving the tensions". Slide presentations at the conference can be downloaded from the Ecologic website -

Several other conference papers have also been delivered, as follows:

Getting on with Integrated Impact Assessment: one set of guiding principles - many methods. James Baines and Bronwyn Morgan. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, Adelaide, 18 September 2006.

Improving market-based instruments through role-playing games: Nitrate trading in New Zealand. Jim Sinner & Hana Crengle. Paper presented at Berlin Conference on Human Dimensions of Global Change. November 2006. Paper can be downloaded from

Stakeholders and Evaluative Integration: Opportunies and incentives to integrate knowledge - some converging threads James Baines, Taylor Baines & Associates, Christchurch, New Zealand and Jim Sinner, Ecologic Foundation, Nelson, New Zealand. Paper presented at the 27th Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment in Seoul, Korea. 5 June 2007.