Much has already been achieved through the Wānaka Water Project. In collaboration with a network of passionate individuals, regulators, scientists and community stakeholders, the Wānaka Water Project has improved understanding of the risks to our waterways and identified actions needed to manage their impacts.  The outcomes from the Wānaka Water Project will improve and maintain the long-term health of the wider Upper Clutha catchment area including Lake Wānaka, Lake Hawea and the Clutha, Hawea and Cardrona Rivers.

This work is made possible with the generous support of our funders: Ministry for the Environment, Sargood Bequest, Million Metres, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Otago Regional Council.

The project has been divided into three key streams of work:

Community Catchment Plan

This is our action plan for the Upper Clutha’s freshwater. It identifies risks to the health of the catchment and gaps in our understanding.  The plan sets out 60 actions to achieve our community’s goals for the catchment.

Riparian Planting

Native plantings to restore riparian margins, led by Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust in partnership with landowners, QLDC, ORC and other stakeholders. To find out more about how you can support riparian planting, click here.

Applied Research

Applied research focussed on Wānaka stormwater, assessing the effects of urban development on lake health.  The results of this research will help to define future management measures.

We’re thrilled at what has been achieved since the contracts were signed with the Ministry for the Environment in June 2018.

To view our current Annual Plan click here.

Detailed update

Community Catchment Plan

In December 2019 our community completed a Community Catchment Plan designed to improve and maintain the long-term environmental health of the wider Upper Clutha. Those involved with this project believe that a range of actions are needed sooner rather than later, to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy our waterways as we do today.

The plan improves understanding of the wider issues facing the Upper Clutha’s catchment and provides a roadmap for working together to ensure that we will achieve the desired outcomes for current and future generations.

Click here to view:
A CCP SUMMARY for an overview of the plan.

The two key themes that evolved from community input and national guidance are Healthy Ecosystems and Community Wellbeing. Within these two key themes, we have set out nine objectives:

Healthy ecosystems

  1. Maintain and improve water quality in lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers
  2. Ensure natural waterway habitats are maintained and improved
  3. The abundance and diversity of aquatic life is maintained and improved
  4. Ensure water quantity in lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers is managed in a way that provides for:
    • Instream flows for natural variation
    • Maintenance of natural lake levels in Lake Wānaka
    • Establishment of volume/rate allocation limits for lakes, rivers and aquifers
  5. Ensure ecological processes are functioning normally

Community wellbeing

  1. Provide for safe and effective recreation
  2. Social wellbeing provided for by enabling:
    • Engagement with Government, ORC, QLDC, local community and visitors
    • Satisfactory drinking water supply
  3. Economic wellbeing provided for through sustainable agriculture, tourism and urbanisation
  4. Cultural values provided for through:
    • Sustainable harvest of mahika kai species
    • Maintaining ease of access to all waterways
    • Maintaining connection to places of spiritual meaning
    • Maintaining excellence in all aspects of water management


75% of those who completed the Upper Clutha water survey in 2019 believe that water quality in the Upper Clutha is getting worse, with the key concerns being agricultural runoff, the use of pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals, and issues related to population growth.

Applied research

WAI Wānaka hosted a workshop in August 2018 with experts from universities, NIWA and the community. This workshop determined the following research priorities for the urban stormwater run-off into Roys Bay, Lake Wānaka:

  1. Measure the quality, quantity and variability of runoff generated by urban areas in Wanaka.
  2. Track the movement and processing of urban runoff through Lake Wanaka, using analysis of sediments, trace metals, pathogens, nutrients and organic compounds as well as introduced tracers.
  3. Assess the impacts of urban runoff on lake ecosystem health by comparing ecosystem health in impacted and non-impacted areas. Lake ecosystem health biomonitoring protocols could be developed.

Following the workshop, the Wānaka Water Project granted $15,000 each to two University of Otago students (one Masters student and one working through Wildland Consultants). A third UoO Masters project studying Lake Wanaka macroinvertebrates has proceeded alongside the two funded projects.

WAI Wānaka, Friends of Bullock Creek and community volunteers have assisted the students with water sampling and provided other support, including accommodation in Wānaka.

University of Otago Masters student Victoria Grant and freshwater ecologist Melanie Vermeulen have been undertaking research in Wānaka to better inform future water management decisions.

Victoria Grant’s research project titled: ‘Stormwater monitoring and research in the Queenstown Lakes District: Wanaka, New Zealand’, forms part of her MSc at Otago University’s Geography Department and is also supported by Chris Arbuckle from Touchstone.  Victoria’s project was designed to complement earlier citizen science work carried out by Touchstone and community volunteers.  The research focussed on contaminant concentrations in various waterways and analysed the composition of stormwater runoff generated by urban areas in Wānaka.

Melanie Vermeulen with a Bachelor of Science majoring in ecology works for Wildland Consultants Ltd, a national ecological consultancy company. Melanie’s project, ‘Understanding land use effects on the health of Wānaka’s urban streams and Lake Wanaka’  focusses on Bullock Creek, Stoney Creek and the Water Race Drain.  Melanie’s research was supported by Otago Fish and Game.

The results from both research projects will be presented to the Upper Clutha community during 2020.

The Wānaka Water Project will be supporting further scientific study of risks to rivers, streams, wetlands, aquifers and lakes in the Upper Clutha.

Literature Review

In 2019, WAI Wānaka commissioned a review of existing literature to assist with the development of the Community Catchment Plan.

The literature review includes:

  • A state of the environment summary
  • High level policy and plan direction
  • Risks to the catchment


WAI Wānaka is working with the Million Metres Stream Project to raise funds for riparian planting. Planting native trees and plants helps stabilise the banks of waterways to reduce pollution and sediment. The trees shade the water, lowering water temperatures, and provide habitat and sustenance for native birds and fish.

Planting is carried out by volunteers co-ordinated by Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust, or on private land by a contractor.  All plants are grown from locally sourced seeds.  Planting sites are assessed taking into account factors such as public amenity values, biodiversity, habitat restoration, bank stabilisation and reducing sediment runoff.

24,000 trees will be planted over a five year period.  So far we’ve planted 6,585 plants equating to over 1,000 metres along our local waterways.  Locations planted to date include:

  • Glendhu Wetland Wildlife Reserve
  • Hāwea River
  • Wishbone Falls
  • Albert Town Lagoon Outflow
  • Alpha Burn Station​
  • Spotts Creek, Cardrona Valley​
  • Hāwea Station

Over the next year, efforts will be focussed on the Cardrona Valley, helping willing land owners to plant along the Cardrona River, local streams and wetlands.  This work relies on the support of crowd funding – to find out more, click here.

Cultural Values

QLDC commissioned Aukaha to prepare a cultural values statement on behalf of Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki, Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and Hokonui Rūnanga & Te Rūnanga o Awarua, Hokonui Rūnanga, Ōraka/Aparima Rūnanga and Waihōpai Rūnanga. This document is a tremendous resource for information about ara tāwhito (traditional travel routes), wāhi mahika kai (areas traditionally significant for food gathering), pakiwaitara (legends) of tipua (strange beings) and taniwha, tikaka (customs and protocols) and many past happenings.

For more information

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