Building engagement & social licence

Context for this research

Following the arrival of myrtle rust into New Zealand in May 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation with the help of local iwi, the nursery industry and local authorities, ran an extensive operation to attempt to contain and control myrle rust and determine the extent of its spread.

Despite the effort, the windborne nature of the disease meant that containment wasn't possible. In May 2018 management of the disease changed from intensive surveillance and the removal and destruction of host plants to long-term management.

The transition to long-term management required MPI and DOC to engage with iwi and hapū, territorial authorities, the plant and nursery industries, and communities, to support the development of regional programmes.

This research spans the changes in operational mandate and provides findings and outcomes to support future response operations as well as ongoing efforts to manage myrtle rust.  

Research overview

This report provides an overview of the research theme 'building engagement and social licence'.

It consolidates each of the stand-alone investigations and presents the high-level findings of the research strands to bring them together into a comprehensive picture of the myrtle rust short-term response and the factors that influenced communities granting or revoking SLO. It provides new knowledge and recommendations for future biosecurity incursions.

Key findings include:

  • A set of key components that underpin agency-led SLO and partnership efforts. Trust is central to these concepts, which include:
- Relationships
- Creating awareness and shared purpose
- Managing SLO across scales
- Communication and engagement
- Response to community concerns
- Procedural and distributional fairness

  • Biosecurity responses to plant diseases like myrtle rust could build stronger commitment of communities and ongoing involvement in response efforts if they focused more on social licence to operate.

  • Areas were identified for achieving and maintaining social licence before, during and after response operations.

  • A willingness to engage in partnerships for response operations and long-term management needs support, to make better use of the resources of impacted communities and stakeholders and increase response capability.

Key outcomes of this research:

  • SLO and partnership guidelines were developed as tools for self-assessment and improvement of biosecurity operations and community engagement in post-border biosecurity.

  • Five personas based on impacted and interested individuals' survey responses were created by researchers to help design and develop communication and engagement activities; a values-based scale to support myrtle rust management, communication and future research activities can also contribute to more effective public engagement.

Download the report: Building engagement and social licence: Research overview and recommendations

Stand alone investigations

1. Unpacking social licence to operate and partnerships – developing tools for guidance and assessment

Researchers developed rubrics (assessment tools) to provide a mechanism to help biosecurity teams develop clarity around the different components that underpin SLO and engagement. These tools can guide and evaluate progress in these areas.

Indicative rubrics are presented for helping agencies plan and assess their activities to strengthen and maintain both SLO and cross-sector partnership efforts with different partner and stakeholder communities.

Download the report: Unpacking social licence to operate and partnerships – developing tools for guidance and assessment


2. Understanding motivated networks

This research complements the focus on impacts of the myrtle response operations by interviewing those motivated to be involved.

Ten people were interviewed by phone for an hour each. Participants were largely motivated as professionals, working in a plant related sector or the public sector, but also in the not-for-profit sector, as private consultants or service contractors, and mana whenua.

Key finding include:

  • Several positive examples of motivated individuals and organisations working effectively as partners in the response and management efforts.

  • Examples of networks helping to share information across sectors, iwi and government.

  • Several barriers to involvement, or areas where agencies did not effectively engage with potential partners, missing out on possible expertise and response support opportunities.

  • Recommendations were made to address these issues and prepare for future biosecurity responses.
Download the report: Understanding motivated networks

3. Survey of individuals impacted by myrtle rust

This research sought to understand public experience and acceptance of response operations and management options to inform future decisions on research, management and communication of biosecurity incursions.

An online survey was conducted to gather quantitative data on perceptions of risk associated with myrtle rust, its impacts and management options to understand issues of social acceptability.

Key findings include:

  • People are concerned about biosecurity and are prepared to make sacrifices for the greater good. Many indicated a strong sense of doing everything possible to control the outbreak of the myrtle rust. However, attention needs to be paid to how response operations are run, and in particular how people are engaged throughout the response period.

  • Positively, many social licence to operate concerns raised in other strands of this theme were met according to respondents, such as respect for privacy, being treated with fairness, and being treated with respect.

  • While there was strong support for incursion response and good evidence of social licence, there were concerns that relate to the expectations and maintenance of public interest in biosecurity. 

Download the report: Survey of individuals impacted by myrtle rust

4. The lived experience of the 2017 myrtle rust biosecurity response: A Taranaki case study

This report investigated the effects on local communities and stakeholders of the response programme undertaken following the discovery of myrtle rust in Taranaki in 2017. Data was collected through interviews and focus groups (23 individuals in total).

The report provides guidance on how to build and maintain social licence where applicable, and on how to work effectively with communities impacted in future.

While many factors contribute to trust and the social licence process, the key criteria that emerged from this case study were relationships, response to community concerns, competency, communications and procedural fairness.

It was the perceived inconsistencies in the delivery of actions within these criteria that caused the most concern for participants and which influenced their granting or revoking of social licence.


Download the report: A Taranaki case study (23 individuals)