in Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand.
Rangitoto Island in Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. © Sids1 Flickr Creative Commons

The Nature Conservancy | Our Priorities

The Future of Freshwater in New Zealand

Freshwater forms a core part of New Zealand’s national identity and 100% Pure image that drives exports and a multi-billion-dollar tourism industry. Indeed, the importance of abundant, clean water predates European settlement: Māori tribal identity is strongly linked to freshwater, with each water body having its own mauri (life force). But New Zealand’s freshwater resources are under significant strain. Runoff from the growing agricultural and dairy sectors has fouled waterways across the country—so much so that swimming is no longer advised in 60 percent of all government-monitored rivers and lakes.

Over the next four years, TNC’s New Zealand program (one of the organization’s newest country programs) will produce an investment blueprint that can help the government improve water quality in 90 percent of its rivers and lakes by 2040. This plan will be informed by our extensive experience in water investments around the world, as well as our engagement with Iwi (Māori tribes), industry stakeholders and local communities in New Zealand.

By 2022, our goal is to have measurable reductions in the intensity of freshwater use and in the contamination in priority catchments in New Zealand. We will achieve this by developing and applying sustainable, financing model blueprints for improving water management in national priority catchments and by demonstrating and advocating for a unified, whole government approach to water management in New Zealand.