Working to protect and regenerate nature
Our communities and Aotearoa New Zealand farms thrive when nature thrives. So we’re working alongside our farmers, ​iwi (tribal authorities), environmental partners, not-for-profits and rural communities, to help protect and regenerate nature.

We're also aiming to reduce the environmental impact of all our manufacturing sites. By working together, we strive to achieve nature-positive outcomes, realise the full potential of sustainable dairy nutrition, and create goodness for generations to come.

Regenerating waterways on our farms

Riparian areas are where waterways and land meet. Regenerating these areas helps to reduce erosion, filter nutrient run-off, enhance eco-system health and support land and freshwater biodiversity. Fonterra farmers have fenced 99.6% of their waterways on farm. The planting of native trees and plants along waters also helps to filter out contaminants and stabilise steep banks and we have worked with farmers to encourage these activities.

Solving for better soil, better grass, better milk

Together with farmers and industry partners, we are working to improve our already fertile soils. The Farm Environment Plans that we produce for farmers include recommendations on soil health management. Actions taken on farm around riparian management also help with soil health and by participating in initiatives to plant native and restore wetlands, our farmers are working to help take care of the land, which in turn, takes care of all of us.

New Zealand farming and regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is a concept that is increasingly capturing the attention and interests of consumers and customers globally. At least for now, there is no universally accepted definition, and different organisations and interest groups refer to regenerative agriculture in different ways. 

With roots in North America, the practices that tend to underpin a regenerative agriculture offer a different approach to the typical way of farming in North America where use of feedlot systems is widespread. By comparison, New Zealand farmers are at an advantage when it comes to the use of regenerative agriculture practices.  

The style of pasture-based farming practiced in New Zealand is unlike farming in most of the world. Our temperate climate provides great conditions for cows to live outdoors on pasture all day, year-round. As world leaders in pasture-based systems, many of the practices we might consider standard practice in New Zealand are generally recognised as being part of a regenerative agriculture approach. 

Many regenerative agricultural practices are inherent to the way we farm, with our pasture-based system and focus on improving the health and wellbeing of our animals, waterways and soil. For example, New Zealand farmers are already well-versed in practices such as rotational grazing or minimum tillage. 

Against this backdrop, Fonterra has adopted a definition for regenerative agriculture.

So, when we talk about regenerative agriculture, we mean an outcome-based farming approach that protects and continuously improves soil health, biodiversity, climate, animal and water outcomes while supporting resilient intergenerational farming businesses. Our position has been supported by the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform). 

This position is designed to help Fonterra articulate and acknowledge the value of our farmer shareholders existing practices and to identify focus areas that could maximise benefits for farmers, our customers and our natural environment – so that we can collectively thrive well into the future. We believe a regenerative future for dairy is for the long-term benefit of our customers, consumers and the farming communities we work with.

Improving water stewardship at our manufacturing sites

Over $550 million NZD

To be invested to improve water quality between 2021 and 2030

To address evolving consenting standards.

6.7% reduction  

In water use at our manufacturing sites since FY18

And we're working towards a 15% reduction in absolute water use by 2030 from a FY18 base year.


Of our manufacturing sites have Water Improvement Plans

On the way to 100% by the end of FY24.

All outcomes as of 31 July 2023.

What actions are we taking on water use?
  • At Darfield, we improved the reverse osmosis plant, optimising water treatment and reuse.
  • At Wynard, Tasmania, new equipment captured and reused 42.5 million litres of water in its first year.
  • At Edendale, project COW MAX aims to reuse water and energy from milk drying processes. The project is is in commissioning and already seeing reductions in water use.

Maungatūroto wetlands help us recycle 700,000 litres of water every day. 

Our Maungatūroto manufacturing site has been working with nature to reduce its water usage by up to 25%. The water extracted from milk is directed through a natural wetland before being treated and reused on-site. By recycling up to 700,000 litres of water a day, the site has reduced its reliance on local water sources. Thanks to this success, Maungatūroto won the inaugural Environmental Sustainability Project Award at the 2021 Water NZ Awards.

Working to improve wastewater treatment

Te Awamutu

At our Te Awamutu site we installed a new DAF (Dissolved Air Floatation) unit as well as a new membrane filtration unit. This and other upgrades have improved the discharge quality of wastewater.


At our Tirau site we installed an anoxic tank, and converted a pond into a second aerobic pond. This has improved the quality of water entering the local waterway.


At Whareroa, we installed a DAF unit to remove dairy fats and protein from wastewater. 


At Clandeboye, we successfully trialled equipment and subsequently constructed a full-scale plant to remove dissolved inorganic nitrogen.

Partnering for sustainable catchments

Over the past 10 years, we have partnered with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation through the ​​Living Water programme to demonstrate how farming and freshwater can thrive together.

  • 5 demonstration catchments
  • 35,000 hectares
  • 70 projects
  • 44 tools and approaches trialled 
  • 17 solutions taken to scale

Beyond the five Living Water catchments, we support farmer and community action across Aotearoa New Zealand through our ​​Hapori Programme, helping them achieve their environmental priorities and nurturing the national movement on catchment restoration. We accelerate this mahi (work) by partnering with ​New Zealand Landcare Trust, Trees for Survival and Trees that Count.

We are also partnering with iwi, councils, central government, scientists and other primary sector organisations to ensure our productive landscapes are fit-for-the-future and adapting to the rapidly changing climatic conditions. One example is our partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Murihiku Rūnanga and Land Information New Zealand to ​Reimagine the Mataura River.