Living Water – Seven facts for seven years


In the seven years that Fonterra and the Department of Conservation (DOC) have been working together through Living Water, important advancements have been made to help regenerate New Zealand’s precious natural resources.

Launched in 2013, the 10-year partnership is focussed on finding game-changing and scalable solutions that will enable farming, freshwater and healthy ecosystems to thrive side-by-side.

What does that look like in practise? It means working alongside communities in five selected catchments to test different tools, approaches and ways of working that will help improve water quality and freshwater environments.

Then it’s about gathering results and developing plans to implement the best solutions regionally and nationally.

The focus has been on methods and tools that not only have the biggest positive impact on waterway health but also recognise cultural values and avoid significant disruption to farm systems.

Fonterra and DOC are stewards of 40% of Aotearoa’s land, so it’s fair to say it’s a significant partnership, and it’s helping to foster the national movement to restore waterways.


Some of the highlights from the latest progress report:

Fact #1: Living Water covers 35,000 ha

The partnership covers 35,000 ha of land in five catchments across New Zealand. The five catchments are all unique in terms of their ecological and cultural significance, as well as being situated in important dairying regions. They include: Wairua, Northland; Pūkorokoro-Miranda, Hauraki; Waikato Peat Lakes; Te Waihora-Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury; and Awarua–Waituna, Southland.

Fact #2: 68% of farmers are engaged in Living Water catchments

There’s been a steady increase of Fonterra farmers engaging in Living Water catchments – 53% in 2018, 59% in 2019 and 68% in 2020. That’s the percentage of farmers within the five catchments who have attended Living Water meetings and/or implemented a Farm Environment Plan (FEP). More than a third of Fonterra farms in New Zealand now have an FEP, on the way to a target of 100% by 2025.

Fact #3: 40% of farmers are implementing freshwater actions above regulation

This means 40% of Fonterra farmers within the five catchments have implemented actions outlined within their FEP that directly relate to freshwater. Fonterra’s FEPs are sector leading and include time-bound actions to improve environmental outcomes.

Fonterra and DOC are stewards of 40% of Aotearoa’s land, so it’s fair to say it’s a significant partnership, and it’s helping to foster the national movement to restore waterways.

Fact #4: 34 different tools and approaches trialled

A total of 60 projects are either underway or have been completed, including 34 tools and approaches being trialled. They include floating wetlands, woodchip bioreactors to reduce nitrates, sediment traps, weed control using drones, peak run-off control structures, and much more. Nine solutions have been scaled or are being used by others. One example is the development of digital tools to ensure biodiversity and cultural information are now captured within Fonterra’s FEPs.


Fact #5: 52 partnerships in place

The Living Water team works closely with farmers, scientists, councils, mana whenua and communities. There are now 52 partnerships in place, and these are central to the success of the programme. One example is the ‘Good to Grow’ partnership between DOC and Department of Corrections, which provides community workers to deliver Living Water projects within the Waikato Peat Lakes.

Fact #6: 9 projects are directly building iwi and hapū capability

Collaboration with iwi and hapū is a key focus. In Northland, local hapū collective Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori have worked with Living Water staff to carry out water quality monitoring. Members of the collective recently gained their electrofishing qualifications, enabling them to supplement this monitoring by measuring the health, size and numbers of fish species living in the waterways.

Fact #7: 1,500 social media followers

The number of people following the Living Water social media accounts has almost tripled in the last year!

Here’s where you can keep up with the latest:

Twitter: @LW_DOC_Fonterra

Facebook: livingwaterDOCFonterra

Youtube: Living Water – DOC & Fonterra

Instagram: livingwater_doc_fonterra