ORC Land and Water Regional Plan - North Otago FMU


North Otago FMU

We’re developing a new Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP), including specific rules and limits on water and land use in your freshwater management unit (FMU). 

We will be in your area in May 2022 to meet with your community. 

In this first stage of consultation, we’d love to hear what you want to achieve for land and water resources in your area, to learn what you know about your catchment, and to share what we know from the science. We will then have group discussions about options for managing freshwater and land in your area. 

You will have opportunities to give input and feedback at the meeting or online.


Next steps

There will be a follow-up meetings in September 2022 and February 2023, when ORC and Kāi Tahu will present and discuss a preferred approach to water and land management with you. Check back here for meeting details nearer the time. You will also be able to give input online. 

The preferred approach will then be drafted into the FMU and rohe chapters of the proposed Land and Water Regional Plan. Once this is notified, you can make a submission saying what they like or how it can be improved. 


Consultation timeline

Otago Regional Council Land and Water Regional Plan North Otago consultation timeline

Click to enlarge or download.



  • Confirm values and discuss their characteristics (to inform the setting of environmental outcomes).
  • Present environmental outcomes and management options to achieve these.
  • Present and discuss a preferred management option.
  • The whole LWRP will be notified and the public can make submissions.


About the area

North Otago FMU map boundaries.

Map of North Otago Freshwater Management Unit

Download map (PDF)

The North Otago FMU extends from Waitaki bridge, down through Oamaru, Moeraki, Palmerston townships and to the bottom of the southern branch of the Waikouaiti River.

There is a high natural character values in the upper catchments off the Kakanui, Waianakarua, Trotters Gorge, South Branch of Waikouaiti.

Rich, volcanic soils produced food crops for early Maori and now for farmers, despite the dry climate. Land use has tended towards more water-demanding activities including dairying since the late 1990s, with water quantity pressures faced most acutely during dry and low-flow periods.

The main urban areas are dominated by Oamaru. The semi-rural areas have a mixture of residential activities, including retirement homes and lifestyle blocks and medium sized farm holdings.  

In Kāi Tahu tradition, the creation of the Kakaunui (Kakanui) River relates in time to Te Waka o Aoraki, the shaping of the island and the stocking of the waterways and forests. Historically, this river was an important part of the coastal trails north and south. It was also a part of the seasonal trail of mahika kai and resource gathering, and hapū and whānau bonding.

The surviving rock art remnants and rock shelters associated with seasonal resource use and travel are a particular taoka of the area, providing a unique record of the lives and beliefs of tūpuna.


Science summary

Water quality reflects the nature and intensity of surrounding land use in this area. The upper reaches of the Kakanui, Wainakarua and Shag River have low producing grassland, production forestry and native cover and have good water quality. However, in the lower reaches of these rivers, the predominant land uses are wool, lamb, beef, dairy or deer production and water quality tends to degrade.

This area contains important aquifers, including alluvial gravels (i.e. the Lower Waitaki Plains), alluvial ribbon aquifers (e.g. the Kakanui and Shag) and deep confined aquifers (the NOVA and the Papakaio aquifer. Monitoring results indicate groundwater quality issues, including elevated E. coli and nutrients in many bores. The alluvial ribbon aquifers interact significantly with groundwater and surface water so may impact on water quality and ecology.

In this FMU there are endangered galaxiids in the Kauru River, and Canterbury mudfish in low-lying tributaries on the Lower Waitaki Plains.


Economic summary

Local industries include recreation and tourism, gold mining, production of food and beverages, dairy farming, and the commercial and industrial use of limestone.



How can you stay up-to-date?

We’ll be sharing project updates and information on this webpage and in our monthly newsletter On-Streamsign up here.

Contact ORC at customerservices@orc.govt.nz or 0800 474 082.

You can also contact your local ORC councillor here.

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