Six of the best from Living Water


In 2013, we started our 10-year Living Water partnership with the Department of Conservation. 

Its aim? To work together with farmers, iwi, councils and other experts in five catchments throughout New Zealand to find game-changing and scalable solutions that will help farming and freshwater ecosystems to thrive side-by-side.

That’s quite a mouthful. So, what does it actually mean and how are we doing six years down the track? The answer is quite well actually. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers:
  • 5213 hectares enhanced through protection, restoration and pest control
  • 59% Fonterra farmers engaged in Living Water catchments (up from 53% in 2018)
  • 36% Fonterra farmers implementing freshwater improvement actions (above regulation) in Living Water catchments
  • 55 projects underway or completed
  • 31 trials of different tools and approaches to see what can be taken to scale to improve freshwater in New Zealand
  • 7 solutions that have been scaled or are being used by others
  • 5 case studies completed about our trials
  • All Living Water catchments have projects that build iwi capacity and capability for freshwater improvement
  • 48 partnerships in place
  • 4 Living Water projects that integrate Matauranga Maori

Each of the five key catchments is unique but they all have ecological and cultural significance, as well as being in important dairying regions:

  • Wairua, Northland: The Wairua River flows into the Kaipara Harbour which is a significant nursery ground for commercial and recreational fisheries. It’s New Zealand’s largest estuarine ecosystem and its sand dunes, seagrass, freshwater and estuarine wetland ecosystems are some of the rarest in New Zealand.
  • Pūkorokoro-Miranda, Hauraki: This coastline is internationally significant under the Ramsar Convention. It’s home to around 40 different types of birds including the godwit – a migratory bird that travels from Pūkorokoro-Miranda to Siberia each year. It also includes one of the world’s finest examples of a rare coastal land form, a chenier plain made up of a bank of shells.
  • Waikato Peat Lakes (Lake Areare, Lake Ruatuna and Lake Rotomanūka): The Waikato Peat Lakes are the largest collection of its kind in New Zealand. They’re located throughout a highly modified productive agricultural landscape and of scientific interest and important culturally and spiritually to local Iwi.
  • Te Waihora-Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury: Te Waihora is an internationally recognised wetland, New Zealand’s fifth-largest lake and its largest coastal lagoon. It has 166 species of birds, a number of wildlife reserves and a diverse range of native fish.
  • Awarua–Waituna, Southland: This area includes a coastal lagoon, extensive peat lands, swamps, freshwater streams, the Awarua Bay and New River Estuary. The focus area includes the Waituna Lagoon – a 3,500-hectare wetland that was the first site in New Zealand to be named a Ramsar site, recognising it as a wetland of international importance. 

The Waituna lagoon is considered a wetland of international importance


As well as all the tangible projects that are improving freshwater and biodiversity in our catchments, Living Water also focuses on how Fonterra and the Department of Conservation (who are stewards of 40% of New Zealand’s land) work together in partnership for nature and how they champion change within their organisations and with others.


“A lot of people think that Living Water is just another environmental restoration programme, when in fact it is way more than that” says Trish Kirkland-Smith, Fonterra’s GM Environment. “In order to transform land and water management in New Zealand and help address the biodiversity crisis we are facing here and globally, people need to collaborate and look at things differently. Living Water is doing exactly that and putting a huge emphasis on the people, institutions, and how to deliver change at scale across New Zealand."

Living Water: protecting precious resources for the next generation

I think if two organisations as different as Fonterra and DOC can find a way to work on regenerating nature together, then everyone in New Zealand can.

Trish Kirkland-Smith, Fonterra GM Environment


Living Water

Learn more about the Living Water programme here.