Media release

Media release: Action Plan for Catlins eco-systems

Monday 10 July 2023

A community meeting is being held in Ōwaka next week at the Owaka Community Hall, seeking expressions of interest to form a Catlins Integrated Catchment Group (ICG).

The community meeting on 18 July is being hosted by the Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) Working Group – made up of community, mana whenua representatives and the Otago Regional Council.

“The Working Group is set up to look at ways to support engaged communities to develop and implement plans that address all elements of a catchment in an integrated way” says Cr Lloyd McCall, chair of the Working Group.

“Forming a Catlins Integrated Catchment Group is the first step in this process.”

The Catlins ICG aims to include a diversity of communities, age, gender and geographical representation.

“Ideally, the group will be mainly local people or those with connections to the Catlins, with wide ranges of experience and knowledge,” says Cr McCall.


Catlins River at Houipapa: Photo:ORC

Catlins River at Houipapa: Photo:ORC 

That experience could be, for example in; farming, biodiversity, community networks, mātauraka Māori, environmental management and conservation, forestry, historic heritage, land and soil management or local tourism operations.


Catchment Action Plans

The Catlins ICG will be responsible for developing a Catchment Action Plan which outlines long-term goals, highlights the issues, identifies possible causes and details actions for addressing them. This plan will be the first of an intended nine Catchment Action Plans (CAPs) across Otago.

“ORC will support iwi and the community to co-develop these catchment action plans (CAPs) for their area.

Having iwi and the community at the core of the plans (CAP) development gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility for the plan” Cr McCall says.

A CAP is a long-term plan that builds on the work that iwi, communities and local government are already doing to protect and manage their place and serves as a focus for new actions and projects. These plans are built from the grassroots, working with mana whenua and community.

Catchment Action Plans are not only about freshwater, but also terrestrial, estuarine and marine ecosystems, land and soils, and human values, including livelihoods, mahika kai and wāhi tūpuna.

“It’s important all these facets, are represented locally to help plan and implement actions to manage pressures on these eco-systems and to restore the values which are most important to communities,” says Cr McCall.

The CAP will be available online with a map for anyone to view and see what progress is being made as it is implemented.


Integrated Catchment Management

ORC, in partnership with iwi and the community, is developing an integrated catchment management (ICM) programme. ICM is a proven approach for enhancing and protecting ecosystems with a focus on working with communities, mana whenua and other stakeholders. 

ICM is a whole-of-landscape approach that uses the catchment as the boundary. Managing the environment on a catchment scale looks at the landscape from the mountains or headwaters of the catchment down to the sea.

This aligns with the concept in Te Ao Māori of ki uta ki tai.

The underlying principle of ICM is based on a holistic, natural resource management philosophy which recognises that all the elements of an ecosystem, including the people, are connected. 

This sort of approach is not new, as catchment management plans have been used throughout Otago for some time, often at a smaller scale and led by community groups.

ORC Chair Gretchen Robertson is proud of what Otago communities are achieving in their catchments.

She has a history in this field herself, having coordinated New Zealand’s first large scale ICM project, The TAIERI Trust, back in 2001, a community-driven project established as a national model. 

“With both early pioneers and outstanding current community leaders, Otago is set for success as we collectively care for our outstanding waterways and catchments”. 

 “As local govt, iwi and community we all want to make a difference for Otago's outstanding waterways, biodiversity and coast, the ICM programme enables us to do that together.” Cr Robertson says.

“While ORC is there to support and facilitate, often with science, funding or technical advice, the bulk of the work will be planned and done by communities, iwi, landowners and stakeholders. Otago's communities have shown real national leadership in ICM for some time,” she says.

ICM reflects a 'Te Ao Māori' concept of inextricable connection between people and their environment, and between every element of our natural world - mountains to the sea, she says. 


Where to next?   

Expressions of interest to join the Catlins Integrated Catchment Group are due by 13 August, then appointments will be confirmed in September. Meetings and workshops can expect to start in October 2023. It is expected a Catchment Action Plan will be completed by September 2024.


Catlins community engagement

Community meeting 18 July: Owaka Community Centre, Ovenden Street, 1-3pm for presentations then 3-4pm for refreshments and a chance to chat OR attend 7.30-9:30 pm, webinar.

Please register your interest in attending either:


Boundaries of ORC’s Freshwater Management Units/rohe areas. ORC graphic

Boundaries of ORC’s Freshwater Management Units/rohe areas. ORC graphic