Have a clear purpose for policy and plan monitoring
Significant resources are invested into developing policy and planning documents so it is important to have a means of checking that this investment has been worthwhile. Policy and plan monitoring is more than a statutory requirement. It is a useful management tool to evaluate and review the effectiveness of policy provisions and plans.
- Have a clear purpose for policy and plan monitoring. Is it for:
- accountability to the community (to show you have provided a means of managing what you said you would manage and achieved the plan 's environmental, economic, social and cultural goals - such as required by section 32 of the Resource Management Act)? OR
- continuous improvement of your organisation? OR
- both? (which is likely to be the most useful approach).
- Consider summarising the approach in a monitoring strategy.
- Policy and plan effectiveness monitoring is systematic and involves tracking and evaluating whether and how well policy or plan implementation is resolving the issues raised in plans.
- Is the policy or plan achieving its objectives? How do you know?
- Are the implementing agencies delivering on anticipated outcomes?
- Have the environmental outcomes have been achieved? This has strong links to state of the environment monitoring and reporting.
- How effective have policy or plan preparation and implementation processes been?
- Does the policy or plan cover the most important things? Are there emerging issues that are not being addressed? (This is an extension of the section 32 process – see s.32(2)(c)) This also links closely to state of the environment monitoring.
Be systematic and apply a consistent approach
- There are few well-established systems for policy and plan monitoring and reporting, but there is a lot of monitoring and evaluation research to build on. The monitoring process includes:
- being clear about the purpose and goals
- stating what will be monitored and why
- developing indicators
- developing methodologies
- consistent collection of data
- analysing, interpreting and presenting information
- reviewing the plan or delivery of implementation programmes as a result of this process and triggering a continuous review and reporting cycle
- making policy changes and adjustments as necessary ie, taking action.
- There is no one right approach to policy and plan effectiveness monitoring. The approach taken should be flexible.
- Build on other agencies' policy and plan monitoring efforts.
- Ensure the approach used is relevant to your situation.
- Include both quantitative and qualitative assessments (use multiple methods and triangulate the results for greater confidence when making inferences).
- Include questions about WHY, HOW, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN to monitor. Thresholds are an important consideration in defining and answering these questions.
- Develop a commonly used terminology and language.
- Have a good project management process.
What and how to monitor
- Most councils monitor environmental results expected from policy statements and plans to assess outcomes. Methods are also important as they determine the implementation programme.
- It is important to monitor whether the objectives of the plan or policy statement are being met. If the environmental results expected are not clearly focused on meeting the plan's objectives, then just monitoring EREs will not give you the information, it may be necessary to rewrite the EREs in the plan.
- If your policy/plan structure is simple and clear and your provisions clear and focused, monitoring will be more manageable.
- Ensure key issues, outcomes, processes, impacts and implementation are monitored (this means you need an integrated approach with other monitoring like state of the environment and consents monitoring).
- Think about what information you need to decide whether any change in the environment is due to the effect of the policy statement/plan or to other factors beyond this.
- Think about how to monitor and review permitted activities (eg, links to complaints, state of the environment monitoring).
- Develop a system to trigger reviews of policy statements, plans and implementation programmes in response to the results of policy and plan monitoring.
- Section 79 of the RMA requires councils to undertake a review of provisions in their policy statements and plans at least every 10 years. Given the large number of provisions in each plan, it would be good practice for councils to establish a formal monitoring and recording system to assist the statutory review process.
Have a strategic and integrated approach
- Develop criteria for prioritising monitoring so it is cost-effective.
- Develop indicators to assess the means and ends of the plan, and how effective implementation of policies and methods was/is.
- Make the most of the data you already collect and supplementary information from different agencies. Consider links between:
- other policy objectives within council such as non-Resource Management Act requirements including pest management, reserve, land transport strategies, Long Term Plans and so on
- territorial local authorities, regional councils and others
- state of environment, consents, complaints, compliance monitoring
- different environmental media and other agencies' work.
- Combine your council databases to include all useful existing information (state of environment, compliance and complaints monitoring) and feedback to policy and other plan provisions.