Catchment Management

Supporting Stronger Communities

Over time, Aotearoa New Zealand's population is becoming increasingly urban, with diminishing connection to rural communities. This means urban communities have less connection to where food and natural resources come from and less understanding of rural life and processes. To ensure communities remain connected, providing support and education resources that enable community-led incentives to help build climate resilient communities is necessary to ensure the growth of capability and capacity across community networks.

Senior Scientist at Cawthron Institute, Jim Sinner states that "One of the key factors currently holding catchment groups back is the difference in understanding about what catchment groups can and should do. This leads to mismatched expectations and government policy that fails to encourage and support the type of collective action that is needed."

Jim created a report called Where Next for Catchment Groups

  • Agencies should support catchment groups' relationship work e.g. by funding group coordinators and local kaitiaki.
  • Catchment groups should develop action plans that address regulatory outcomes alongside the group's own objectives and tangata whenua aspirations.
  • Agencies should design freshwater policy to recognise and reward catchment groups that coordinate members' actions to achieve catchment-scale outcomes.
  • Tangata whenua should consider hosting catchment groups at the local marae to strengthen relationships and explore ways of working together.

Read the full article here.

Catchment Planning and Prioritisation

Catchment groups, which bring together various stakeholders, play a pivotal role in improving freshwater quality. To maximise their efforts and resources, these groups can employ a combination of biophysical prioritisation, farm management priorities, and community objective setting.

Biophysical Prioritisation: Catchment managers can leverage data-driven approaches to identify areas of the catchment that are most vulnerable to degradation. By analysing factors such as land use, soil type, and hydrology, they can pinpoint hotspots where interventions will yield the greatest gains. This targeted approach ensures that resources are channelled where they can have the most substantial impact, making conservation efforts more efficient and effective.

Other biophysical approaches include understanding habitat, species, infrastructure, weather patterns and water quality data. Some catchment groups may monitor their own water quality through tools like Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit (SHMAK) or Environmental DNA (eDNA). While not the only factor required for effective catchment management, an understanding of the state of the catchments biophysical nature is crucial to help inform objective setting and prioritisation.

Farm Management Priorities: Collaboration with local people is essential in freshwater improvement. Catchment groups can work closely with the community to identify practices that have the potential to significantly reduce nutrient runoff and sedimentation. These practices, which could include riparian planting, rotational grazing, and reduced fertilizer use, can be implemented in priority areas to address specific pollution sources. By engaging farmers and aligning their management practices with freshwater goals, catchment groups can create a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to catchment improvement.

Community Objective Setting: Meaningful engagement with the community is crucial for successful freshwater management. Catchment groups can facilitate discussions to understand the community's values and objectives regarding freshwater resources. This input can guide prioritisation efforts, ensuring that actions and interventions align with the desires and needs of the local people. Community involvement also fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility, leading to more successful and enduring conservation outcomes.

Strategic Partnerships: Collaborating with governmental agencies, research institutions, and non-governmental organisations can enhance the impact of catchment groups' efforts. These partnerships can provide access to expertise, funding, and technical resources that bolster prioritisation and implementation strategies.

Catchment Context Challenges and Values (CCCV)

The best place to understand CCCV is from the MfE Website - Guidance on preparing catchment context, challenges and values information - is a useful start.

In time, NZARM will update regional CCCV resources in this section. At this stage only Environment Southland and Waikato Regional Council have produced CCCV documentation.

NZARMs Summary of CCCV

(Please refer to MfE and Councils for all guidance)

Catchment Context Challenges and Values - Environment Southland
Source: Environment Southland

Catchment context, encompassing challenges and values, serves as a cornerstone in freshwater farm planning, offering a comprehensive framework for integrating Te Mana o te Wai principles into agricultural practices. This publicly available material, curated by regional councils, is aimed at guiding farm planning efforts beyond the farm gate and underscores the critical role of tangata whenua in its development.

Biophysical Significance: The purpose of collating catchment context information is to furnish farm operators with the necessary insights to formulate effective freshwater farm plans. By using biophysical prioritisation, which factors in landforms, soil data, climate data, freshwater bodies, contaminants, and significant cultural and ecological sites, regional councils can pinpoint priority areas for interventions. This strategic approach ensures that interventions are concentrated where they yield maximal gains, thus enhancing overall water quality.

Farm Management Alignment: The interaction with farm operators plays an instrumental role. By enabling access to pertinent catchment context information, farm operators can craft farm plans that harmonize with the unique features and values of the catchment. This includes addressing cultural significance, sites of importance to tangata whenua, and ecological factors like taonga species, indigenous ecosystems, and threatened species. Such alignment optimizes the farm plan's impact on both environmental and cultural aspects, ensuring a holistic approach.

Community and Cultural Integration: The engagement of tangata whenua is pivotal. Catchment context information draws upon cultural matters of significance, including the cultural significance of the area, traditional names of water bodies, and sites important to tangata whenua. Integrating these elements not only respects cultural heritage but also enhances the efficacy of the farm plan.

CCCV Training: Prepare certifiers and auditors through tailored training, in collaboration with tangata whenua. Collaborative training for certifiers and auditors helps bridge the gap between cultural context and implementation, promoting a comprehensive and informed approach.

Operational Recommendations: To optimise the use of catchment context information, regional councils can adhere to a structured approach:

Define Catchment: Establish the spatial scope of the catchment, ensuring relatability to farm-level applications.

Compile Data: Collaborate with tangata whenua to gather relevant data, including cultural significance and local values.

Ensure Engagement: Ensure catchment context material is accessible, engaging, and practical for farm operators.

Continuous Updates: Keep the information current, incorporating new insights from regional planning and monitoring.

By prioritising the integration of catchment context, regional councils can support farm operators to align their actions with the broader ecosystem, encompassing environmental, cultural, and social dimensions. This approach honours the principles of ki uta ki tai, fostering a holistic and sustainable freshwater management strategy that spans from the mountains to the sea.

Catchment Planning

Community-Centric Catchment Management: Key Enablers for Success

The practice of community-driven catchment management in Aotearoa New Zealand is underpinned by essential factors to support successful outcomes. These key enablers serve as the foundation for projects aimed at fostering local ownership, collaboration, and positive environmental change within rural areas. Effective implementation of these enablers contributes to achieving sustainable outcomes while addressing environmental challenges in a manner that resonates with diverse stakeholders.

1. Catchment Leadership: A community champion, often a farmer with deep local connections, plays a pivotal role in guiding the project. Their commitment, community ethic, vision, and ability to bridge diverse stakeholders provide a foundation for engagement and ownership.

2. Strong Environmental Bottom Lines: Clearly defined environmental standards, whether regulatory or community-derived, provide a shared framework for actions. These bottom lines create a sense of urgency and accountability, motivating collective efforts towards desired outcomes.

3. Independent Co-ordination: Independent project co-ordinators, like NZ Landcare Trust, act as neutral intermediaries between various stakeholders. Their role includes facilitating communication, sharing technical information, organizing meetings, and ensuring effective project coordination.

4. Technical Support: Access to reliable, high-quality scientific data and technical expertise is crucial for understanding current conditions, identifying necessary changes, and building a common knowledge base. Skilled experts help interpret complex information for the community.

5. Adequate Time: Acknowledging the time required for meaningful change is vital. Communities must understand the long-term nature of environmental improvements and set realistic expectations for achieving results.

6. Communications Plan: A well-structured communications plan helps convey the project's vision, goals, and progress effectively. Engaging media and social platforms ensures broader understanding and support while highlighting positive outcomes. Storytelling is important so others can learn from the project's successes and failures.

7. Resourcing: Financial investment is essential for sustaining projects. Partnerships between stakeholders, including government and local beneficiaries, provide necessary funding for activities like coordinating, hosting events, and implementing changes.

8. Meeting Protocols: Hosting key meetings on local turf fosters respect and ownership among community members. It encourages open discussion, two-way learning, and mutual respect between community and external stakeholders.

9. Effective Information Dissemination: Tailoring information dissemination methods to suit target audiences enhances engagement. Field days, community meetings, presentations, and one-on-one interactions ensure information reaches stakeholders in a meaningful way.

Setting limits for water quantity and quality

By December 2025, councils are required to set new limits on the use of water. These limits relate to maintaining and improving water quality and deciding how much water can be used. These limits will become rules in Regional Plans.

The government has set new national bottom lines for both water quality and quantity, which are a starting point for what councils must achieve over a generation through limit-setting. Councils may decide to seek more aspirational objectives for water quality and water use than these national bottom lines.

The gap between current water quality, water use and future community aspirations can be large. Because of this, the community may be expected to make significant changes to land management practices. These changes can come with significant cost and can even threaten business viability. For this reason, limit-setting can be highly emotive and strongly debated by the community. Sensitivity needs to be used when talking to the community about limit-setting. Listening to community concerns and suggesting how they can get involved, explaining the process at a basic level, and providing links to information will help.

Regional councils will work in partnership with mana whenua and in consultation with the community to understand and make decisions on limit-setting following the process below:

Limit setting process