Farmer-led projects to improve water health in Canterbury and Otago


More than $6 million will be spent on helping farmers improve the health of rivers, wetlands, and habitat biodiversity in Canterbury and Otago, as well as improving long-term land management practices, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

Four farmer-led catchment group Jobs for Nature projects have between allocated between $176,000 and $2.3 million over the next three years to fund environmental improvement work across dozens of sites in their regions. These projects will also employ between 15 and 20 people as well as specialist contractors over that period.

Damien O’Connor says most of the initiatives are being led by established catchment groups with hundreds of farmer members. The work will involve fencing and planting around water bodies, clearing of unsuitable trees, and pest control. Projects also include building a wetland board walk, and structures to protect endangered fish from predator species.

“These projects, like the WAI Wānaka project I recently announced, will build on the work farmers are already doing to nurture their environment, as well as providing crucial jobs in areas affected by COVID-19,” Damien O’Connor said.

The Jobs for Nature projects include:

  • North Otago Sustainable Land Management Riparian Project – $362,000
  • Lindis River project, Otago – $772,000
  • Pomahaka Wetland Restoration project, South Otago – $176,000
  • The Tinaku project, Ellesmere, Canterbury – $2.2 million

A further $2.9 million investment will help around 300 Hurunui farmers work towards improving the health of their land and water through applying farm environment planning and sustainable land management practices.

The Future Hurunui project will provide catchment support to the Hurunui District Landcare Group for its members to use towards developing their farm environment plans.

The funding will enable the group to partner with trusted rural professionals to provide advice and support to their catchment members. The group will employ three people to do this work.

“Hurunui farmers have had a particularly tough few years, with the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake causing thousands of landslides and significant damage to large areas of land,” Damien O’Connor said.

“This project will help farmers recover and prepare for the future through developing the farm environment plans that will help improve their farms’ productivity and sustainability.”

The farm environment planning process is the crucial step for farmers in managing their land to minimise impact on freshwater and soils. It involves recognising on-farm environmental challenges and opportunities, as well as setting out how to manage these.

“Producing food and fibre for the world with strong environmental credentials will create more value for our products, and is a core part of delivering our Fit for a Better World – Accelerating Our Economic Potential roadmap and New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

“An important component of all these projects is that they are led by farmers and the community. Farmers working directly with each other through local catchment groups means they can develop and share their knowledge about what works for them and provide a connected network for support and advice.

“Through Jobs for Nature projects they can start to make a difference that will be seen in years to come,” Damien O’Connor said.

Notes for Editors:

Future Hurunui project

Region: Canterbury

Funding: $2,893,500 over three years through Productive and Sustainable Land Use Extension services programme.

Employing three advisors.

Outcome: Will deliver up to 300 farm environment plans to improve land management for better environmental outcomes.

Jobs for Nature catchment projects

The following projects are funded as part of the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme, which is creating nature-based jobs to benefit the environment and support the economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. They were identified as ready-to-start projects for Jobs for Nature catchment funding along with the WAI Wānaka project announced during the We Are One Reset Summit in Wānaka on 30 October. 

North Otago Sustainable Land Management Riparian Project

Region: Otago

Funding: $361,776 through Jobs for Nature.

Employing 1 to 2 FTE and contractors for specialist work and ongoing maintenance work.

Funding recipient: NOSLaM (North Otago Sustainable Land Management Incorporated Society) a catchment group in the North Otago area that is focused on driving on farm change to provide an environment that they are proud of and sustainable agriculture. Their goal is to improve connectivity among the community and the wide range of other stakeholders in their catchment.

Outcome: Enhanced riparian areas on 11 streams in the North Otago area with planting, fencing, creation of sediment traps and river clearing, are expected to improve water quality, benefit ecosystems, and attract wildlife.

Lindis River project

Region: Otago

Funding: $771, 724 over three years though Jobs for Nature.

Funding recipient: The Lindis Catchment group is a community organisation that has developed a work plan, in consultation with Māori and a range of private, council, and conservation stakeholders.

Employing 14 people over nine months, with ongoing contract work for maintenance.

Outcomes: Enhanced riparian margins of Cluden Creek and Lindis River. Improved river health by mitigating erosion; improved biodiversity, including predator protection for endangered fish. The Lindis catchment is near the tourist centre of Wanaka, which has been affected by the drop in business caused by COVID-19.

Pomahaka Wetland Restoration project

Region: South Otago

Funding: $175,907 over two years, through Jobs for Nature.

Funding recipient: The Pomahaka Water Care Group is a farmer-led catchment group in Otago with 170 farmer members. Its aim is for the Pomahaka River to be recognised as having the absolute highest water quality so that future generations can enjoy the river.

This project has in-kind support and co-funding from landowners, the local community, Contact Energy, Trees that Count, farmer members and Otago Regional Council.

Employing 1.5 FTE for each year.

Outcomes: Reinstatement of the Washpool Wetland and Waipahi wetland areas, around 11ha, including fencing, planting and maintaining 21,000 plants, and a boardwalk.

The Tinaku project

Region: Canterbury

Funding: $2,200,000 over three years.

Funding recipient: Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Incorporated is a farmer-led catchment group, with over 100 members in the Ellesmere area of the Selwyn district. This project aims to improve water health, mahinga kai and cultural values.

Employing between four and eight FTE (depending on seasonal factors).

Outcomes: Improvements on more than 60 properties, around 46,000ha, including fencing and planting to protect streams, drains and wetlands, pest control, and biodiversity enhancement work. The first year will focus on large habitat restoration projects.

Funding for Jobs for Nature projects through MPI includes:

  • $10 million allocated to support catchment group projects in the Bay of Plenty, Rangitikei, Canterbury, and across Otago, to help with land restoration, wetland protection, remediation of waterways, planting, pest control, and the increased uptake of farm environment plans. This funding is distributed through MPI’s Productive and Sustainable Land Use programme.
  • In addition, the One Billion Trees Programme through Te Uru Rākau has allocated $35 million from the One Billion Trees Fund for large scale planting and catchment initiatives.
  • MPI (Biosecurity New Zealand) is also distributing $100 million over four years to expand the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, and $27.4 million for reducing the impacts of wallabies on farming, forestry and natural environments.

More information about the national Jobs for Nature programme is at the MfE website