Robin Smith, Craig Pauling and Andy Spanton

Ararira-LII Catchment Water Network Redesign Project

Research & Monitoring – With Descriptor

About the project

Over years of agricultural development, many natural waterways have been lost or channelled into manmade drains, forcing much of our freshwater biodiversity to live in marginal habitats. The standard practice of using diggers to clear sediment and weeds from these drains is highly destructive to freshwater biodiversity, often stranding fish and destroying habitats.

Mechanical clearing of drains also releases large plumes of sediment that accumulate and and damage downstream lakes and coastal environments such as Te Waihora.

Living Water along with others in the community, identified that the Ararira-LII drainage network provides a significant opportunity to improve environmental and cultural outcomes within the Ararira-LII catchment.

On a small scale (50-500m), we have been trialling different approaches to maintaining the drains while also enhancing biodiversity and cultural values within waterways on farm and within the Selwyn District Council (SDC) drainage network.

Working with key partners, this project aims to take our small-scale trials and scale them up as solutions across a whole catchment. Specifically, Living Water wants to help SDC take a more holistic approach to waterway management by supporting the following actions:

  • Creating/facilitating a shared vision/long-term plan for the network between key stakeholders including SDC, mana whenua, community, ECAN
  • Trailing and costing potential solutions at scale

To do this, Living Water is building on existing partnerships within the catchment (particularly with Selwyn District Council, Taumutu Rūnanga, ECAN and University of Canterbury), and drawing on the extensive work we have already undertaken in Ararira-LII. This includes the Powells Road trials and on-farm work and catchment monitoring with University of Canterbury.


  • Co-designing this project with SDC, Taumutu Rūnanga and others will ensure a robust, achievable and scalable approach to waterway management
  • Potential for enhanced ecological and cultural values in the Ararira water network


  • Reach-scale trials at Powells Road and on farm started in 2017
  • Initial meeting with SDC senior leaders in August 2019 to gain support for a co-design approach to developing whole catchment solutions

What’s next?

  • Potential to enter into a formal partnership with SDC and others, and begin work on mapping the values, pressures and solutions across the catchment in 2020.