What happens to Living Water after July 2024?


Who were we and what did we do?

The Living Water partnership between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Fonterra ended in 2024 after completing 10 years of trialling tools and approaches in five demonstration catchments around Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Our mission was to work together with farmers, scientists, councils, mana whenua and local communities to trial tools and approaches to improve freshwater quality and biodiversity.

Successful solutions are now being used by DOC, Fonterra, catchment groups, councils and others, and all our results and lessons learnt can be found here

Why is Living Water ending? 

Living Water was specifically designed as a 10-year partnership to trial tools, approaches and ways of working for freshwater and farming to thrive. We designed the programme and our relationships so that any remaining work could be taken forward in new collaborations and arrangements beyond the life of Living Water. 

Where can I find information about Living Water?

The Living Water website will remain live for at least five years and has all the information about the partnership, five demonstration catchments, tool trials and lessons learnt over the 10 years.

Living Water's social media channels will be deleted on July 31.

What are DOC and Fonterra doing now? Are they still working together? 

Although the Living Water partnership has come to an end, DOC and Fonterra will continue to work together on collaborative projects in catchments across Aotearoa New Zealand and are also working with other government departments, the primary sector and councils to progress sustainable financing solutions and explore more opportunities for wetland protection and restoration. DOC and Fonterra will also continue to work at place across the motu as part of the Fonterra on-farm sustainability programme and DOC Nga Awa river restoration programme, and through involvement in catchment initiatives like Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme, Hauraki Blue Carbon Project, Mangaotama Catchment Project, and Whakamana te Waituna. DOC and Fonterra are also both part of national initiatives such as the Aotearoa Circle (The Aotearoa Circle is a public-private partnership, whose purpose is to restore natural capital in New Zealand)

Will the partnership be renewed? 

There is no intention to renew a formal partnership at this time. The freshwater and farming landscape has changed over the 10 years of the partnership and a lot of what we learnt (along with what others were also doing) has now become BAU for organisations. DOC and Fonterra will continue to be involved in freshwater and farming initiatives, both at place in catchments through the DOC Nga Awa river restoration programme and Fonterra on-farm sustainability progamme, and through working together on national initiatives such as the Aotearoa Circle (The Aotearoa Circle is a public-private partnership, whose purpose is to restore natural capital in New Zealand).

How much did Living Water cost/spend? 

Living Water was made up of $22 million of operational funding from Fonterra and approximately $9 million of in-kind support of DOC and Fonterra staff throughout the 10 years (total $31 million). The partnership also leveraged an additional $19 million of funding through partnerships and external funding.  

Direct funding: $22 million of Fonterra funding for opex to deliver projects at place and run the programme of work.

In-kind support: $6.5 million of DOC staff time to manage project delivery over the 10 years at the five Living Water sites, provide technical and science advice, financial management, communications and operational support. $2.5 million of Fonterra staff time to provide farm systems advice, carry out farm environment plans, design solutions and provide communications and operational support.

Additional funding: $19 million additional funding leveraged through other partnerships, collaborations and support for other work (e.g. Whakamana Te Waituna - $14m project, LW contribution $2.7m; Waimā, Waitai, Wairoa - $2.4m project, Living Water contribution $500K; Farming with Native Biodiversity - $1.2m project, Living Water contribution $130K) 

Did Living Water work – what was achieved? 

Living Water completed 70 projects, 44 trials of tools and approaches and worked with more than 60 groups and organisations over the 10 years.

We were able to show through our work that restoring freshwater environments and providing habitat does lead to increases in native freshwater fish in rural waterways. Lower Waituna Creek Restoration, Ararira-LII Waterway Enhancement and that there are tools that can successfully reduce sediment and nutrients reaching waterways Detention bund trial, Northland, Peak run-off control trial, Southland. 

Living Water contributed successfully to the body of knowledge about how to work collectively at place to protect and restore the environment and increase resilience in productive landscapes. We learnt a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and we completed a full independent monitoring and evaluation programme to measure success.  All the information is available on the Living Water website.

What is happening at each site now? 

As part of the partnership wind down we implemented a comprehensive transition and close programme to ensure gains would not be lost and that work would continue where needed. 

Wairua, Northland: We were part of the wider Waimā Waitai Waiora partnership and there are plans for that partnership to continue with both Fonterra and DOC involvement. Both organisations are also continuing to support Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Wai Māori hapū collective who are working with agencies and councils to investigate alternative management options for the Hikurangi Swamp scheme.

Pūkorokoro-Miranda, Hauraki: The 19.6 hectares of farmland purchased by DOC and retired to create additional habitat for migratory seabirds is in safe hands, being under the management of the community trust Tiaki Repo ki Pūkorokoro. The Trust has secured over $300K from the DOC community fund to continue their mahi and ensure that the reserve restoration plan, and the Blue Carbon Feasibility study being carried out by the Nature Conservancy are well supported.

Waikato Peat Lakes: DOC will continue to have oversight of the management and restoration at Lake Ruatuna, where strong community interest has also been built with mana whenua and local schools, to continue 
restoration planting and maintain the pā harakeke and Rongoa garden.

Ararira-LII, Canterbury: Mahi at Yarrs Flat will continue to be supported by DOC and significant additional native planting and pest control has been achieved under the Jobs for Nature programme. Restoration work willl continue at Tārerekautuku/Yarrs Lagoon with funding support from the MfE Freshwater Improvement Fund until 2025. A strong landowner/community catchment group has been formed to guide this work supported by the Selwyn District Council (SDC). SDC has also picked up and will drive forward catchment management plans based off the Ararira-LII ‘reimagining lowland waterways’ pilot we carried out in partnership with SDC and Taumutu Rūnanga. 

Waituna, Southland: The Whakamana Te Waituna partnership will continue with both DOC and Fonterra involvement. This partnership continues to operate under a strong trust governance structure, has a work plan for 2024/25 and plans to secure additional funding in the future to continue their mahi.

Examples of solutions being used

National: Farming with Native Biodiversity produced a nationwide resource to support farmers to better understand, manage and protect native biodiversity on their farms. This is now hosted and managed by the NZ Landcare Trust.

Wairua, Northland: We trialled a mana enhancing agreement as a form of MoU within the Waimā Waitai Waiora partnership. This approach is being used within other partnerships that want to place the principle of mana at the centre of a living relationship to manage expectations, roles and responsibilities of the partners working together.

Pūkorokoro-Miranda, Hauraki: The use of catchment condition surveys in both Pūkorokoro-Miranda and Wairua demonstrated a simple and cost-effective way to gather information about a catchment to make better decisions about the right solution in the right place. A follow up survey five years later can identify the changes and showcase what has been achieved.

Waikato Peat Lakes: The Mangaotama Catchment project built on many of the trials within Living Water, bringing it all together into a catchment level project in partnership with a landowner-led catchment group – the Mangaotama Stream and Wetland Restoration Trust.

Ararira-LII, Canterbury: We developed a catchment management plan and toolbox of solutions to transform the management of lowland waterways and drains in Canterbury. This is now being used by Selwyn District Council as it looks at the management of other Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere catchments and the investment required through its Long Term Plan to improve the ecological and cultural values of these water networks.

Waituna, Southland: Through initial work in Southland to map the Waituna catchment, Living Water went on to support the development of LandscapeDNA – a mapping and landscape assessment tool that helps land stewards better understand what is happening to the water underneath their feet.  LandscapeDNA is now being used all over the country by farmers and catchment groups who want to understand their land attributes and nutrient losses so they can make better decisions about farm management.