This paper reflects on the experiences of the authors in facilitating the involvement of small, rural, and isolated communities in the development of national drinking water standards for New Zealand. The key message we want to give in this paper is the value of involving the communities
that are expected to implement policies or plans as these are formulated, to avoid the situation of policies or plans that cannot or will not be implemented, or that result in unintentional and undesirable side effects (such as widening the gap between drinking water supplies that can and
cannot demonstrate safe drinking water). We use the Theory of Constraints' Six Layers of Resistance model (Smith 2000; Mabin et al., 2001) to show how community participants worked through natural human reaction (the layers). Participants moved from initial resentment and uncertainty
about the possible local implications of the proposed revision of the standards and proposed amendments to legislation, to contributing to shaping of standards compliance criteria that could achieve the common outcome of providing safe drinking water without imposing seemingly unnecessary
and unattainable changes in practice. We conclude by discussing how the lessons can be applied more generally to the development of regional or national policies or local action plans, and across drinking water, wastewater, and sustainable water resources management.
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