The Manawatu River water quality improvement project : an economic policy study : a thesis submitted in partiao fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Agricultural Sciences in Resource and Environmental Economics at Massey University

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Rivers arc open access, environmental amenities from which the public derives a wide range of economic benefits. Because rivers arc public amenity resources, with public good characteristics, they arc often managed by governments. Policies that govern such public amenities should aim at allocating the resources to achieve their highest valued use. To achieve this aim resource managers need to consider the total costs and benefits that society might incur or gain as a result of implementing the policies. Some cosL'i and bencfiL<> that society incur as a result or policies an~ not observed explicitly in the market place. These costs and benefits arc often overlooked in policy formulation . The management of the Manawatu River is a responsibility of the ManawatuWanganui Regional Council. It is hoped that if the public complies with council policies affecting the river, society's needs may be met. However, if these policies arc implemented without considering society's preferences, implicit costs are likely to he imposed on society. Involvement of the public in the decision making process is one way of ensUiing that society's preferences arc considered, and upholds decision makers accountability and transparency in resource allocation. This study aimed at measuring tl1e nonmarket benefits in dollars that the public places on improved water quality in the Manawatu River using the contingent valuation method. A total or I 500 households in the Manawatu River catchment area were sent a mail questionnaire to elicit their willingness-to-pay for water improvement in the river. A return rate of 25% was obtained. The results show that 69% of the households visit the river during the summer spending their time participating in non-rigorous activities. Lack of interest in 1ivcr related activities may be one of the most important factors that hinders households' visitation to the river, rather than pollution. The lack of interest may be due to a poor general river environment. The majority of households arc unlikely to alter their visitation habits to the river even if water quality was improved. Nevertheless they place a collective value ranging from $2,002,652 - $4,084,747 per year on improved water quality in the Lower Manawatu River.
Manawatu river, Environmental management, Water quality improvement, Manawatu river water quality, River value, Community use of rivers