We are developing a Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) in partnership with Kāi Tahu whānui, and with feedback from the greater Otago community.

Join the kōrero on the proposed direction of the Plan to care for Otago's lakes, rivers and streams and guide the activities that impact them.

We have a summary of proposed new rules and regulations that we encourage you to look over:

About the area

The Dunedin & Coast Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) spans more than 1,000 square kilometres, from just south of Karitāne to the mouth of the Clutha/Mata-Au. Dunedin city is the largest urban area and has the largest population in Otago. 

Average rainfall is 738mm per year. Main catchments are the Waitati River, Leith Stream and Kaikorai Stream catchments within Dunedin city and the Tokomairaro (Tokomairiro) River in the south. Except for Tokomairaro River catchment, many are short river or stream catchments, some associated with estuaries and/or wetlands, especially where the Taieri River cuts through.  

The area has a marine-temperate climate and outstanding features, including natural coastal landscapes like the Otago Peninsula; ecological values, such as the cloud forests of the Leith and Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary; healthy estuaries like Hoopers/Papanui, Blueskin, Akatore, Pūrākaunui; wetlands like Swampy Summit Swamp; notable wildlife such as the hoiho, northern royal albatross, seals, sea lions, red-billed gulls and black-billed gulls; and healthy marine habitats. It is also home to threatened species, including lamprey in coastal streams.  

Māori settlement dates back to around 1250 AD, with moa supporting a growing population. The Otago Harbour and rivers, estuaries and lagoons in the Dunedin coastal area were significant mahika kai (gathering resources) that supported numerous Kāi Tahu settlements.  

The whaling industry, then the gold rush in the mid 1800s, attracted many Europeans (mainly Scottish) and led to the establishment of Dunedin city.   

Economic profile and snapshot

Freshwater policies for the Dunedin & Coast FMU can affect environments beyond the FMU boundary. Hence the rest of the Dunedin city area (including Mosgiel and the surrounding area up to Middlemarch, which are part of the Taieri FMU but are less than an hour’s drive from Dunedin city centre) are combined with the Dunedin & Coast FMU when presenting socio-economic information. This combined area is referred to as Dunedin and surrounds. 

In 2018, the Dunedin and surrounds area was home to around 130,000 residents (or nearly 60% of Otago’s population). In the 12 years between 2006 and 2018, the population increased by 7% (or 8,100 people). This is lower than the increase for the Otago region (+16%) and New Zealand (+17%). Most residents (nearly 80%) live in Dunedin City centre area, while the remainder are split between Mosgiel and the surrounding area (10%), and smaller towns and rural areas (10%). 

Nearly two in three Otago residents’ livelihoods directly rely on the water resources in this FMU, from domestic water consumption and discharge to commercial and industrial water use and discharge. 

The economy in Dunedin and surrounds is more diverse than other parts of the Otago region. Residents mostly work in tourism-related industries, health care and social assistance, education and training, construction, or public administration and safety. Employment in the primary sector is relatively small, providing around 2% of jobs. The large residential population and approximate two million visitors annually (pre-COVID 19) are increasing the pressure on water use (water takes and discharges of pollutants or contaminants to water) and its infrastructure. 

An understanding of Māori history and the Māori economy is essential for developing policy and assessing its impact. Pre-European Māori history shapes today’s Aotearoa, and the Māori economy is integral to the national economic system. ORC is partnering with Aukaha and Te Ao Marama to develop an overview of Kāi Tahu history and economy. 

Science profile

The Dunedin & Coast FMU has a marine-temperate climate and many outstanding features, including the natural character and form of coastal landscape (e.g., Otago Peninsula), ecological values including forests (cloud forests of the Leith and Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary), healthy estuaries (e.g., Hoopers/Papanui, Blueskin, Tokomairaro, Akatore, Purakaunui), wetlands (e.g., Swampy Summit Swamp), notable wildlife (e.g., hoiho, northern royal albatross, seals, sea lions, red-billed gulls, black-billed gulls), and healthy marine habitats. It is also home to threatened species (e.g., lamprey in coastal streams).

Proposed new rules and regulations for the Dunedin & Coast Freshwater Management Unit (FMU)


This summary provides an overview of the provisions relating to the Dunedin and Coast Freshwater Management Unit (FMU). This includes environmental outcomes, target attribute states and area-specific rules and limits. The rules and limits are in addition to those in the region-wide rules covered in the other summaries.

If you are unsure of any particular terms, there is a ​​glossary of terms.

Recent content updates:

  • 13 October 2023:
    • Amended information on cultivation in Table 2 for clarity

  • 26 September 2023:
    • Added proposed environmental flows, level and take limits for lakes, rivers and aquifers and added information regarding whether further allocation of water is available

  • 25 September 2023:
    • Added Dunedin & Coast FMU boundary map

  • 24 September 2023:
    • Added timeframe for achieving the environmental outcomes for target attribute states
    • Added information regarding 'matters of control' in table 2


A map of the Dunedin and Coast FMU boundary


Want to know more?

Contact your FMU's Catchment Advisor for advice and assistance on sustainable land management practices that protect Otago’s waterways.

Sign up to our monthly newsletter On Stream for regular updates

Email customerservices@orc.govt.nz

Tel 0800 474 082