A woman and child picking up rubbish beside Clyde river Alexandra

$56 million for projects supporting waterway restoration and protection

More than $56 million of funding over three years has been committed to plug capability and capacity gaps so restoration and protection of our lakes, rivers and streams can be fully rolled out across Aotearoa.

Eleven projects funded by the Essential Freshwater Fund (EFF) will help upskill, train and provide information and tools for people in community groups, tangata whenua, regional and unitary councils, rural advisory businesses and other organisations.

The projects will help support the rollout of freshwater quality changes to stop degradation, make improvements to water quality, and reverse past damage to waterways. As part of this, water and land users including councils, farmers, horticulturalists and others are required to act by set timeframes.

James Palmer, Secretary for the Environment, says we’ve put better freshwater management systems and processes in place - now the reform work needs to focus on more people and professionals with knowledge and skills.

“Efforts of communities and others to restore the health of freshwater have started to achieve success but they’re not enough to address the scale of our freshwater challenges. More people with the right skills and knowledge ensures Aotearoa New Zealand achieves its goal of reversing past damage to bring our waterways and ecosystems to a healthy state within a generation,” says James Palmer.

We know that many New Zealand farmers and growers are leading the way in taking practical actions to clean up waterways. These new projects will provide further support to build on and accelerate this effort.

James Palmer, Secretary for the Environment

Projects include support for freshwater farm plans which begin to take effect in some regions later this year. More than $16 million will help to build capability through educational programmes, tools and resources for rural advisors and land users needed for this work.

In addition, $15 million has been allocated for additional council staff who will support catchment groups and accelerate the development of regional freshwater plans by the end of next year.

Other reforms needing support are the requirement for tangata whenua, communities and councils to work together to ensure fish can pass through waterways unheeded (fish passage). NIWA will receive $4 million in funding to develop a project which will strategically locate priority areas where fish are most at risk.

James Palmer says he recognises the important role agriculture has in improving our freshwater and the need for tailored on-farm solutions that help farmers and growers improve their local catchment areas.


The 11 projects receiving funding over a three-year period from 2022 are:

  1. Growing Change, Horticulture New Zealand
    An education and implementation programme to support the development of credible freshwater farm plans across the horticulture sector. Projects will be delivered in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Tasman, Canterbury and Otago. $5,100,000.
  2. Collective action catchments, Dairy NZ
    A pilot programme to trial the implementation of practical tools and interventions on-farm in three priority catchments to show effectiveness and increase awareness and understanding of ways to achieve freshwater improvements. Projects will be launched in Waikato, Canterbury, and Southland. $3,400,000.
  3. Catchment solutions – enhancing rural capability to achieve essential freshwater outcomes, Massey University
    A pilot programme using edge-of-field technologies to minimise contaminant losses within three catchment areas. This will inform the development of resources and educational materials for farmers. Projects will be launched in Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu, and Southland. $3,000,000.
  4. Nitrogen Management Indicator for Arable Systems, Foundation for Arable Research
    The development of a nutrient management indicator to reflect the risk of nitrogen loss from arable crops and the wider farm system. This will inform on-farm actions to manage nitrate loss. This will be piloted in Canterbury and Waikato. $330,000.
  5. Building the “ag” into the “enviro”, Lincoln University
    A professional development programme to provide non-agricultural students with knowledge of farm systems and capability so they can work with farmers to support the implementation of freshwater reform. $270,000.
  6. Capability and capacity builder for resource management, New Zealand Association of Resource Management
    Will provide access to expertise and advice needed to support freshwater farm planning and other aspects of implementation of the Essential Freshwater reforms. Will also identify gaps in capability by region and category, provide a tool to connect people for mentoring and undertake targeted training. $1,300,000.
  7. Aotearoa Catchment Extension, New Zealand Landcare Trust
    A nationwide professional development programme that will establish four learning hubs to improve the capability of those leading and working with catchment groups. The programme will run across twelve regions. $2,900,000.
  8. Wai Connection, Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust
    A programme that will promote collaboration between catchment groups, NGOs, hapū and iwi, regional councils, central government, and primary industries to help communities implement the Essential Freshwater reforms. $18,000,000.
  9. NIWA, Fish Passage Action Plans
    A project to strategically locate priority areas and deliver Fish Passage Action Plans by working alongside local government, tangata whenua, NGOs, central government, local communities, landowners and farmers. $4,000,000
  10. Regional and Unitary Councils, EFF Council Support
    Funding to increase capacity by providing additional staff that go over and above current roles within councils that traditionally work closely with catchment communities. These include land management roles and specific support to improve connections with catchment groups. $15,000,000
  11. Package of Integrated Catchment Management Plans, MFE-coordinated with community implementation
    This work will deliver integrated catchment management plans in priority areas. Will also support improvement in capability and capacity to establish and lead new catchment groups implementing the plans. $3,000,000

About the Essential Freshwater Fund

The Essential Freshwater Fund (EFF) is worth $137 million over three years and is part of the $1.219 billion Jobs for Nature funding programme. The EFF is a key enabler of the Essential Freshwater reforms. It is strategic investment in freshwater management that moves beyond fencing waterways and planting. It funds the filling of capability and capacity gaps so the Essential Freshwater reforms can be fully rolled out across the country.

The Essential Freshwater reforms were introduced by the Government in 2020 to stop further degradation of waterways, make material improvements, and restore waterways to a healthy state within a generation.

Jobs for Nature aims to boost jobs, training and environmental benefits while accelerating the recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

As of 30 June 2022, over 421 projects have received funding and more than 9,262 people have worked in or are working in Jobs for Nature-funded jobs.

Media contact
Ministry for the Environment
027 231 6930