We are developing a draft Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) in partnership with Kāi Tahu whānui and are seeking community feedback to help us.

Join the kōrero on the proposed direction of the draft 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 North Otago Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) covers about 296,000 hectares and extends from Waitaki Bridge down through Oamaru, Moeraki, and Palmerston townships to the bottom of the southern branch of the Waikouaiti River. It includes coastal margins to the north and east of Waitaki and Oamaru and the coastal strip from Glen Creek to the Waikouaiti River. Some major rivers within the FMU include the Kakanui, Shag, Waikouaiti and Pleasant. 

High natural character values exist in the upper catchments of the Kakanui and Waianakarua rivers, Trotters Gorge, and the south branch of the Waikouaiti River. 

Oamaru dominates the main urban areas. Semi-rural areas have a mixture of residential activities, including retirement homes, 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 essential part of the coastal trails north and south. It was also part of the seasonal trail of mahika kai (resource gathering) and hapū and whānau bonding. 

There are surviving rock art remnants and rock shelters associated with these activities, which are a particular taoka (treasure) of the area and provide a unique record of the lives and beliefs of tūpuna (ancestors). 

North Otago Freshwater Management Unit (FMU)

Economic profile and snapshot

This Economic summary covers an area smaller than the North Otago FMU. The reason for this is that the communities at the southern end (i.e., Buckland’s Crossing, Waikouaiti and Karitane) have closer socio-economic ties with Dunedin than Ōamaru. These areas are included in the Economic Snapshot for Dunedin and surrounds. Therefore, the analysis in the North Otago Snapshot focuses on communities located in Waitaki district who have economic ties with Ōamaru. For the purpose of this analysis, this area is referred to as Otago North.

In 2018, Otago North was home to around 20,000 residents (or around 9% of the population of Otago). In the 12 years between 2006 and 2018, there was a 10% (or 2,000 people) increase in population. Although this growth is lower than the average for Otago (+16%) or New Zealand (+17%), it is still sizable for a small population base. Most residents (nearly two in three) live in Ōamaru, while over one-quarter of the population lives in rural areas. The remaining 10% is settled in smaller rural service centres, i.e., Palmerston, Kakanui, Hampton, Maheno, Moeraki, and Herbert.

The local communities and economy in the North Otago area are especially reliant on water resources. The FMU contains the largest proportion of primary production land uses (89%) amongst all of Otago’s FMUs and both primary production and food processing require water as a necessary input. Local tourism is also dependent on water’s aesthetic value and ecosystem services (e.g., being part of the natural landscape and maintaining green spaces).

There are six main industry sectors in Otago North, providing more than two thirds of all jobs here. The Manufacturing industry and Tourism Related industries provide around 21% and 19% of all jobs respectively. Agriculture (10%), Health Care and Social Assistance (8%), Education and Training (7%), and Construction (7%) account for another one third of the employment in the area.

An understanding of Māori history and the Māori economy is essential for policy development and policy impact assessment. Not only does pre-European Māori history help shape modern day New Zealand, but the Māori economy is also integral to the New Zealand economic system. ORC is partnering with Aukaha and Te Ao Marama to develop an overview of Kāi Tahu history and economy.

Science profile

​Proposed new rules and regulations for the North Otago Freshwater Management Unit (FMU)


This summary provides an overview of the provisions relating to the North Otago 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:

  • 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 North Otago 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
  • 21 September 2023:
    • Updated environmental flow rates and take limits for the Kākaunui catchment
  • 18 September 2023:
    • Updated environmental flow rates and take limits for the Kākaunui catchment
    • Added information on environmental level and take limit regarding the North Otago Volcanic Aquifer


A map of the North Otago FMU


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

Page last updated 3 July 2024.