To prepare for and understand how to future-proof water and water assets to ensure the region can prosper.

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Three percent of Murihiku Southland’s land cover is surface water including six of Aotearoa New Zealand’s 25 largest lakes (by surface area). There are tens of thousands of kilometres of rivers and streams, including the Waiau, Aparima, Ōreti, and Mataura rivers. 

Water and rivers are the ‘living blood’ of Papatūānuku (earth mother) and are held in reverence. Water is a taonga and it plays a unique role in the traditional culture and economy of Māori. Without water, no living thing, plant, fish or animal can survive.

Water is a valuable natural resource, and it is vital and necessary to ensure the region continues to thrive. While we plan for new and diversified industry, we accept there are significant challenges at present with water quality and quantity of available water which is impacting our economy, our people and our environment. It is intended that regional development opportunities should not exacerbate impacts on water resources, and opportunities should be sought to positively contribute to the current situation.

A strategic and collaborative programme of action is immediately required that will identify a clear pathway for the sustainable use of water resources which includes having resilient water supplies and assets. In particular, the work of our regulators, catchment groups, mana whenua and industry should continue to be enabled and empowered for them to lead improvements across the region.

Next Steps


In Progress

"The development of a Regional Water Resilience Plan."

  • Great South and Environment Southland are currently scoping this project.


In Progress

"Environment Southland in partnership with Māori and alongside catchment groups enable, empower and lead water quality improvements across the region."

  • The Southland Water and Land Plan became operative at the end of May this year (after a number of years in the Environment Court).  This Plan provides a robust foundation for responding to Southland’s water quality challenges and is tailored to our region and communities.

In Progress

"The development of improved regulation and policy to better improve the quality and provision of water."

In Progress

"For the establishment of real time monitoring of all water abstraction consents."

  • Environment Southland has had telemetry requirements for large water takes e.g. irrigation takes for many years.  More recent national requirements require water takes above 20 litres per second to send in data by telemetry daily.  Water takes between 10 and 20 litres per second will also need to send in this data by September 2024, and takes between 5 and 10 litres a second by September 2026.

Not Yet Started

"For the completion of a regionwide Sky TEM electromagnetic survey to map regional aquifers."