Community Catchment Plan

The Community Catchment Plan is our shared roadmap to improve and maintain the long-term health of Upper Clutha’s freshwater

Especially during the warmer months of the year, there are so many ways to enjoy our lakes and rivers. What would happen if they were too polluted to be safe? Looking at what seems like pristine waters, it may be hard to imagine. But many rivers and lakes in our beautiful country are in that position right now. The threats to our freshwater are real, and they are growing. Whether from increased recreation, urban and rural development, the spread of pest flora and fauna or the impacts of climate change, every day our waterways and their delicate ecosystems are under more and more pressure.

From the mountains to the sea

The responsibility for our waterways, is especially important in the Upper Clutha catchment, given our location at the shores of two treasured South Island alpine lakes and the headwaters of the mighty Mata-au / Clutha river; the longest river in the South Island with the highest volume in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Community Catchment Plan was created in 2020 with extensive community consultation. It identifies risks to the health of our waterways, gaps in our understanding and 60 actions we need to take in order to mitigate the effects of human activity on our freshwater, improve ecosystem health and reverse biodiversity loss. 

Aerial photo of Lake Wānaka and Hāwea with overlaid map of the Upper Clutha Catchment


Waterfall with person and ecosystem icon

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:
    • 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
kids by the waterfront and community icon

Community Wellbeing

  1. Provide for safe and effective recreation
  2. Social wellbeing by enabling:
    • Engagement with Government, ORC, QLDC, local community and visitors
    • Satisfactory drinking water supply
  3. Economic wellbeing 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
    • Achieving excellence in all aspects of water management
Aerial image of Eely point - Copyright WAI Wānaka


The Community Catchment Plan assess pressures on the natural environment including water pollution, drought and flooding, biodiversity loss, soil erosion and loss of natural habitat arising from:

Rural Development

Urban Development

Tourism & Recreation

Pest Flora & Fauna

Climate Change

Gloved hand with Mānuka flowers


It identifies 60 actions that need to be taken to mitigate the effects of human activity on our ecosystems. Some of these fall within the responsibility of the Otago Regional Council and the Queenstown Lakes District Council. Other actions will be led by the community. Most of the actions fall within one of these 5 areas:

Man with plants near a lake and young trees


lake Wānaka waterfront walkway


Person with a plant ready to go in the ground


People in a room listening to someone talk


Aerial image of lake Hāwea and Wānaka at the neck


Aerial image of Mata-Au, Clutha river and Wānaka township and Mt Roy

“The collective, sustainable management of our lakes and waterways is a social, economic and environmental imperative.”

Andrew Gawith

Graphic highlighting the WHY, WHAT and HOW of WAI Wānaka


Get involved. The more hands and minds are working together towards the same goal, the greater the outcome. Become a WAI ambassador and share our stories and mahi with others. Donate today to accelerate action for our fresh water. Your donation will support education programmes, native planting, pest control, biodiversity monitoring, scientific research and community collaboration. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to stay informed about events, workshops and other opportunities or help us do the mahi by joining our team of volunteers.