water quality sampling hutt river samwell warren and shyam morar

Why science research is needed

In 2020, the Government introduced new policies and regulations, as part of its Essential Freshwater programme, to restore and protect New Zealand's rivers, lakes, streams, aquifers and wetlands for future generations. This ongoing work will support wellbeing and a sustainable economy.

The policies and regulations include the:

  • National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management
  • National Environmental Standards for Freshwater
  • stock exclusion regulations
  • regulations for the measurement and reporting of water takes.

Identifying and prioritising areas of research

We have prioritised 21 areas where science research would further support the implementation of the freshwater policies and regulations through to 2025. 

These priority areas were developed in consultation with regional and central government representatives. Discussions were focused on water science and economics research needed to implement new water policies and regulations.

The criteria used to prioritise the research areas included:

  • attractiveness (contribution to strategic objectives, benefits)
  • affordability (demand on resources and funding confidence)
  • achievability (risk, complexity, level of support).

The priority areas are rated from very high priority to low priority.

We will be undertaking some of the research in the priority areas. We are also engaging with the research sector to determine their capacity and capability to support this research.

Priorities for science research

Science research area Priority level
Develop a system for freshwater accounting Very high
Understand the sources and effects of contaminants and sedimentation in estuaries Very high
Improve wetland mapping Very high
Improve soil mapping High
Understand the drivers and management of low dissolved oxygen in rivers and streams High
Understand the impacts of wetland drainage on water levels High
Correlate river flow and desired ecological outcomes High
Improve understanding of cyanobacteria High
Understand how to incorporate matauranga Māori in managing catchments High
Improve on-farm slope mapping Medium
Develop a wetland identification and delineation tool Medium
Improve understanding of how to manage urban stormwater quality Medium
Improve macroinvertebrate metrics for rivers and streams Medium
Develop resources to encourage and make better use of citizen science data Medium
Improve monitoring and modelling of sediment Medium
Develop a national model for the index of biotic integrity Low
Understand the impacts of freshwater policies and regulations at the farm scale Low
Understand the link between land use and groundwater health Low
Understand how place-specific activities cause water quality degradation Low
Co-develop a iwi/hapu-centric monitoring and assessment database Low
Improve digital systems for collecting, storing and retrieving water information Low