Integrated Catchment Management

Programme Summary


The Tasman District Council, the Cawthron Institute and Landcare Research have developed a new research programme, focussed on the Motueka River, called Integrated water resource management in complex catchments, with support from the Foundation for Research, Science, & Technology

The goal of this programme is to improve the management of land, freshwater, and near-coastal environments in catchments with multiple, interacting, and potentially conflicting land uses. This ambitious goal will be accomplished through an innovative combination of historical research, biophysical experimentation, simulation modelling, and social learning. 

This combined approach has been designed specifically to improve interactions between science providers and community stakeholders and to maximise the uptake and use of new knowledge and tools developed from scientific research.

Historical development

The foundation for the Motueka River portion of this programme was created through extensive consultation with end-users and stakeholders and input from two internationally-recognised experts. 

The seeds for this new programme were sown during a workshop held in Nelson in March 1998 and co-sponsored by Landcare Research, the Cawthron Institute, and NIWA. In this workshop, a wide array of stakeholders from the Nelson and Marlborough regions, identified that holistic and sustainable management of land, river, and coastal resources -- a "ridge tops to the sea" perspective -- was a top priority. 

Subsequently there were a number of formal and informal discussions among science providers, stakeholders, and end-users, to consider how best to approach this challenge. 

Ultimately, it was decided that the Motueka River basin would provide good opportunities as a case study to begin the project. 

In January and February 2000, Dr. Thomas Dunne (Professor, University of California - Santa Barbara) and Dr. Gene Likens (Director, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York), spent three weeks with end-users, stakeholders, and collaborators in the Nelson-Motueka area, to help define a specific research strategy for this new work. 

A general framework for the research was presented to the Foundation in June 2000 and approved in early July, 2000.


The core research themes in this programme focus on biophysical and ecological processes, knowledge integration and delivery, and the human dimensions of integrated catchment management. 

Initially, the programme will focus on knowledge integration and delivery, especially regarding water availability and sediment generation. 

Over the 6-year design life of this programme, the specific research objectives will evolve to include work on nutrient and pollutant dynamics, the values and opportunities for riparian management and restoration, the impacts of gravel extraction, and the development of new models to describe land-river-coastal interactions. 

Furthermore, the focus of this programme will increasingly shift from understanding individual catchment processes to development of holistic management strategies based on a catchment perspective that includes cultural, economic, and political as well as scientific considerations. 

This emphasis on the human dimensions of managing the biophysical environment is one of the most innovative and exciting aspect of this new programme.


Community and stakeholder input has been an important factor in the establishment of this innovative new programme and will be a key factor in its future success. A Community Advisory Group that will help guide the specific research directions has been formed. 

It is anticipated that the researchers participating in the programme will report back to the community through the Tasman District Council’s "Newsline", community meetings, and through a World Wide Web site.