Our mission

Tā tātou Whāinga

Our mission

The challenge

Farming is central to New Zealand’s economy, but how we are farming is having an impact on our lowland freshwater ecosystems.

Our streams, lakes, rivers, lagoons and coastal estuaries are being impacted by high levels of nutrients, sediment, effluent and other contaminants. Freshwater ecosystems have been reduced and degraded.

This needs to change because healthy water is critical for our economic development and New Zealanders expect to be able to swim, fish and gather kai in our lakes, rivers and streams.

Our partnership

Fonterra and the Department of Conservation recognised that New Zealand’s economic, cultural and social wellbeing depends on healthy ecosystems. That’s why they joined forces to respond to the farming and freshwater challenge.

Living Water designed and trialled solutions to improve freshwater ecosystems and encourage sustainable farming in five catchments.

Living Water built connections that delivered better outcomes for the environment, the economy and New Zealanders.

Leading change

Living Water championed change. By changing how we think about the challenge, changing how we work together to solve problems, and changing how we implement solutions.

Living Water worked with others, co-designing the solutions, trying them out in five catchments, and sharing the results with organisations, farmers and interested individuals across Aotearoa New Zealand.

How Will This Programme Actually

Living Water helped to improve freshwater ecosystems in the five catchments over the ten-year period. The successes (and sometimes failures) from Living Water were shared continuously with farmers, catchments and other organisations to assist with accelerating freshwater improvement across New Zealand.

How long will it take to see change?

Some changes were seen immediately, such as increased natural habitats created through plantings, in-stream modifications and the protection or construction of wetlands. Other changes will take longer, like improving water quality and re-establishing species. Some rivers, lakes, streams, lagoons and coastal estuaries will take a long time to recover, but we've tracked progress and used indicators to tell us if things are getting better.

Nicki Atkinson at Waituna Lagoon

In some areas it may take 50 years to see significant changes in water quality.

Trish Kirkland-Smith

Farmers know things need to change. They need to know exactly what to do next, how much it’s going to cost and how to do it efficiently and effectively.

Sarah Yarrow
John Walter & son at Te Whangai Trust
Survey of Powells Rd Draining Silverstream

Why didn't You Just Roll Out
The Same Solution Everywhere?

Ecosystems and our land and water environments are complicated and differ greatly across New Zealand. Soil types and waterways can vary from paddock to paddock, farm to farm, and region to region so solutions have to be designed and tailored to their unique location. That’s why we designed and trialled solutions in five very different catchments, to determine what solutions will work best in which locations.

Jane & Michael Tither planning