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Sustainable Catchments

We know that healthy freshwater and strong ecosystems underpin New Zealand’s sustainable future. That’s why we’re committed to the efficient use of water and working with our communities to improve the health of the country’s waterways.

Collaboration is a core part of our action plan for water and our sustainable catchments work is one example of bringing this to life.

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Our mission.

  • Connect and empower farmers and local communities to take environmental action and achieve their environmental aspirations

  • Grow the amount of environmental restoration activity

  • Build environmental restoration capability and capacity

So, where are the catchments?


North Island Catchments

Northland (4)

Awapoko, Maungaturoto, Ruakaka, Wairua River (Living Water)

Auckland (3)

Wairoa, Kaipara West, Papakura

Waikato (8)

Pūkorokoro-Miranda (Living Water), Tairua, Waitoa, Mangaone, Mangapiko, Waiomou, Whirinaki, Lakes Areare - Lake Ruatuna & Lake Rotomānuka (Living Water)

Manawatu (4)

Mangatera, Oroua, Horowhenua, Pukepuke

Bay of Plenty (3)

Pongakawa - Little Waihi, Lower Rangitaiki, Waiotahe

Taranaki (3)

Kaupokonui, Te Henui, Complete Taranaki Ringplain

Hawkes Bay (3)

Taharua/SH5 - Central Plateau, Karamu, Tukipo

Greater Wellington (3)

Otaki, Parkvale, Otakura

South Island Catchments

Tasman (1)


Canterbury (13)

Kaikoura, Hurunui (Pahau), Ashley (Saltwater Creek and Lower Ashley), Lower Selwyn, Upper Selwyn (Hororata), Mt Harding Stream, Ashburton, Hinds Drains, Otipua - Saltwater Creek, Omarama/Willow Burn, Wainono Lagoon, Waitaki (Waikakahi Tawai), Ararira-LII River (Living Water)

Otago (5)

Kakanui (Waiareka Creek), Tokomairiro, Pomohaka, Manuherikia, Taieri (Waipori)


Southland (5)

Mataura, Oreti (Waihopai), Aparima, Waiau (Orauea), Waituna Lagoon (Living Water)

Frequently asked questions.

What is a catchment?
  • A catchment can be defined as the area of land that drains rainfall to a point going into a waterway. A waterway is a stream, river, lake, estuary or the ocean. Catchments can be all different sizes and there is no set number of catchments in New Zealand.


  • The catchments we are supporting have been defined using data from the Ministry for the Environment and with input from local stakeholders such as regional councils, the Department of Conservation (DOC), Iwi and farming leaders.  These catchments are sometimes sub-catchments of larger water catchments (e.g. Maungaturoto, Waitoa).

Why have you decided to focus on catchments?
  • Healthy freshwater and healthy ecosystems underpin New Zealand’s sustainable future and Fonterra’s business, so we are committed to taking care of our waterways.


  • Collective community action is the only way we are going to restore our environment and we know based on work already underway across New Zealand that working with others at the catchment scale is how we can help achieve community environmental aspirations.

How long will this programme run for?
  • This programme doesn’t have a set timeframe, and Fonterra will always be committed to improving the environment across New Zealand.


  • We are already committed to the 10-year Living Water partnership with DOC (2013-2023), and our new catchments build on this existing momentum.


  • Our Sustainable Catchments approach is here to stay, and we’ll be sharing community and farmer learnings and successes along the way.

What’s your approach to improving catchments?
  • We are getting in behind local farmers and communities to help them achieve their environmental aspirations, and we are doing this under the guidance of councils, Iwi and farming leaders.  


  • We have started by asking councils what the environmental issues and objectives are in their local catchments and what communities are wanting to see improved.  From here we are developing action plans that clearly show what the community is trying to achieve and how farmers and Fonterra can contribute. We know that if all landowners and land kaitiaki are working towards the same goal in a catchment, that we can have a greater impact together rather than each of us taking action on our own.

How did you choose the catchments?
  • We focused on catchments that were a priority to the local councils and community, where there is good collaboration from a range of stakeholders and where there is a strong opportunity to make a tangible difference. We also wanted to ensure there was good regional coverage.


  • Through their long-term plan process, councils have identified priority catchments for water quality and biodiversity improvement. We used this as well as guidance from council staff and local stakeholders to generate a ‘longlist’ for each region.


  • By understanding the priorities, projects, and desires of communities, we have been able to look at our footprint (where we farm, where our manufacturing sites are, where our employees are) and select catchments where we can support existing or planned farmer and community action that helps improve the environment.

What are the next steps? What happens now that the catchments are identified?
  • We are now planning specific Fonterra actions to contribute to community-agreed goals and objectives.The detailed project planning is underway, involving agreeing action plans with farmers and community partners, and then starting implementation.

How will you track environmental improvement?
  • Environmental improvement will mainly be tracked by council’s water quality and biodiversity monitoring programmes. We may supplement some of this monitoring if local farmers and communities want more targeted information.


  • Fonterra also tracks on-farm environmental improvement through Farm Environment Plans and digital mapping. We will continue to do this and we will share all our learnings and successes of the community catchment work we are supporting.

What is Fonterra doing to support farmers to improve environmental performance?
  • Fonterra has the largest team of Sustainable Dairy Advisors (SDAs) in the country, reflecting how seriously the Co-op and its farmers take their environmental responsibilities.


  • SDAs advise farmers on how to meet the Co-op’s, the dairy industry’s and council’s guidelines and requirements, working one-on-one with them to assist with a broad range of sustainability-related farm matters. From on-farm nutrient management advice to helping set up a Farm Environment Plan.


  • Farm Environment Plans, delivered as part of the Farm Source TIAKI programme, are the basis for all activity and the business is committed to delivering these for all farmer shareholders by 2025.


  • There is a lot of hard work ahead. Through building strong relationships and utilising the latest technology, we’re doing everything we can to ensure our farmers continue to be leaders in sustainable farming practices.


If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved please contact our Programme Manager Hannah Urry – hannah.urry@fonterra.com

find out more

Interested in finding out more about what Fonterra is planning?

Please reach out to our Programme Manager,
Hannah Urry.