Rural Initiatives

Connecting landowners, local businesses and the community to work together to protect and enhance our ecosystems for years to come

Upper Clutha aerial rural


Healthy ecosystems and community wellbeing for future generations.

We know through community consultation that the people of the Upper Clutha place a high value on the environment. With large parts of our region based in the rural sector, it is especially important to increase the pace of transition towards sustainable tourism, farming and business practices.

Securing healthy ecosystems for future generations requires purposeful action that is supported by research, monitoring and data collection to make evidence-based decisions. WAI Wānaka work with leading experts and the community to understand and protect our catchment.

Below you can find out about WAI Wānaka’s rural initiatives across the Upper Clutha.

Two people planting natives to revitalise te Taiao

Knowledge into Action for Te Taiao

This project aims to connect leading scientists, researchers, local farmers and community to develop an understanding of land-use and land management options that enhance Te Taiao – the natural world.

One of three nationwide projects funded by Our Land and Water’s National Science Challenge as part of a place based pilot project to ‘Revitalise Te Taiao’.

people in a field assessing the environment

Catchment Groups

There are many environmental demands on rural landowners and farmers that are more easily understood and tackled as a group.

WAI Wānaka are supporting local landowners and have facilitated the establishment of 6 of the 7 main catchment groups and 4 small landholder groups operating in the Upper Clutha Catchment today.

person on a tree branch in the Matukituki valley

Upper Clutha Native Biodiversity Strategy

What might native biodiversity look like in the Upper Clutha Catchment in 100 years? This strategy sets out a future where native biodiversity helps define who we are, what we do and where we enjoy ourselves.

This approach can be used to guide actions, obtain funding, and help bring all of the different groups involved with biodiversity conservation together at a strategic level.

On-Farm Environmental Support

WAI Wānaka support landowners to accelerate their efforts towards achieving their biosecurity, biodiversity and freshwater goals – as laid out in their farm environment plans. Work might include: planting, plant maintenance, biodiversity monitoring, fencing, pest plant and animal control as well as catchment group support.

This programme is funded through the Ministry of Primary Industry’s Catchment Extension Services Programme.

Embracing Te Taiao – On the Farm

This education programme connects the classroom with environmental issues and solutions on farms in the Upper Clutha catchment.

WAI Wānaka have developed in-class and in-field activities for students to explore the connections between our environment and rural land use, focused on whenua (land), tangata (people), wai māori (freshwater) and āngi (air). Funded by Otago Regional Council’s ECO Fund.

Aerial image of Upper Clutha lakes

Catchment Wide Monitoring

This is a community-led initiative to monitor the long-term impact of community efforts and guide environmental investment in the future.

WAI Wānaka, working with EAS (Environmental Accounting Services) and the local community, have developed an annual report on the ‘State of Catchment Health’ across key environmental and social indicators. Funded through the Knowledge into action for Te Taiao project.

Tech Te Taiao mesh

Tech Te Taiao

For us to take more impactful positive environmental action, we need reliable, real time data on which to base our decisions. Appropriate technologies are required to access the depth, breadth and quality of data for this to ultimately inform a programme of work that continually improves these actions.

WAI Wānaka are working with partners towards a network of technologies that are feeding environmental data back to a single portal.

Physiographic spatial map of the Upper Clutha catchment


Physiography refers to the study of physical features of the earth’s surface. The goal is to identify areas at risk, areas for resilience building, and opportunities for land use diversification. This information will guide farmers to make informed decisions about land use and management practices.

WAI Wānaka and Land & Water Science are collaborating on a physiographic classification project for the Upper Clutha catchment.

WAI Wanaka Biodiversity & Freshwater Monitoring 

Biodiversity & Freshwater Monitoring 

Biodiversity and freshwater monitoring helps landowners track changes over time to make decisions based on data to protect and improve biodiversity within their farm systems.

WAI Wānaka have developed a monitoring package to assist landowners to collect and collate this information, including visual soil assessments, bird counts, stream health assessments and vegetation photo points.

Gloved hand and Mānuka flowers

Land Use Diversification and Market Opportunities Project

WAI Wānaka are investigating land use and market opportunities in the Upper Clutha Catchment. The focus is on positive outcomes for the environment and financial sustainability.

WAI Wānaka are working with a mix of farmers, managers and small landholders, developing criteria for assessing land use options and are currently undertaking deep dive studies on 4 of the most popular enterprises.

Group of people learning about biodiversity monitoring

NZ Farm Assurance Programme Plus

The New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme Plus (NZFAP+) is a system for building better and more resilient farm businesses. It provides a framework for clear decision making on your farm’s natural resources and encourages farmers on the journey of continuous improvement to meet customer expectations in the future whilst revitalising Te Taiao.

The team at WAI Wānaka are here to support farmers through the NZFAP+ accreditation.


Newsletters & Updates

  • April Newsletter 2024
    As the cold sets in, our April newsletter is here to bring some warmth to your day. Packed with community news, upcoming initiatives and the… Read more
  • Take action for our water
    This month, we’re shaking things up!  Instead of our usual newsletter, we’ve prepared something special for you… In honour of World Water Day this Friday,… Read more
  • Our first Newsletter of 2024! 
    Whether your year kicked off with a busy or relaxing start, we hope you’ve been able to get outside and enjoy what our beautiful backyard… Read more
  • December Newsletter
    Can you believe it’s the end of December already? We welcome you to our last newsletter of 2023, your portal into some of the most… Read more
  • November Newsletter
    Did you hear the news about the Australasian crested grebe / kāmana becoming New Zealand’s ‘Bird of the Century’? Talk about going viral! Kāmana (also… Read more
  • Sampling for microplastics with the Wānaka community
    A little bit of rain, a little bit of sunshine and a whole lot of sampling for microplastics! We had so much fun hosting a… Read more
  • October Newsletter
    Spring is in the air, and so is our October newsletter  – your portal to upcoming events, initiatives, and feel-good community news. Let’s dive into it, shall we? Have… Read more
  • Microplastics research project kicks off in Wānaka
    WAI Wānaka has initiated research into microplastics in local freshwater environments following funding success from The Otago Participatory Science Platform, Curious Minds, Ten Square Games… Read more