Waikanae river


Taking a whole catchment approach, Ngā Awa is working in partnership with others to restore 14 rivers from mountains to sea.

Ngā Awa logo saying Ngā Awa river restoration – working together from mountains to sea

Ngā Awa began in 2019 and is an extension of our existing work to slow the decline in New Zealand’s biodiversity. It focuses on a diverse range of priority river catchments across the country.

River rangers

The programme supports a river ranger position for each river. This person coordinates the restoration work and connects those who are interested in or already involved in managing the river and its catchment.

The rangers have access to science, planning and technical support from DOC’s Freshwater team and local offices.

A local partnership approach

From their source in the mountains to the coast, rivers run through many different landscapes including native vegetation, farming, horticulture, forestry and urban areas. All these activities and land use affect the river, and need to be considered in its restoration.

Local iwi, hapū and whānau are our treaty partners for Ngā Awa and are involved in all aspects of the restoration.  We are also working with regional councils, landowners, businesses, community groups, Fish & Game, the Ministry for the Environment and other agencies.

How the rivers were chosen

Rivers that met these criteria were considered to be part of the programme:

  • the headwaters were in a natural condition
  • sections of the catchment nearer the coast (lowland areas) were in good condition
  • important ecosystems were present
  • local communities were interested in or already involved in restoration work
  • catchment has some factors that could be fixed or improved.

A good representation of rivers from different regions in New Zealand that together include a range of diverse ecosystem types was an important part of the selection process.

Rivers that are already part of DOC’s existing freshwater stretch goal restoration work, like the Arawai Kākāriki wetland restoration programme and Living Water programme, were included.

Other factors such as the connection to public conservation land of different habitat types and the presence of threatened fish species were also considered.

Ngā Awa rivers

The following rivers are part of this programme:

Programme goals

The following goals guide the development and practice of this programme:

  • The diversity of New Zealand’s natural heritage is maintained and restored. There is improved ecological integrity and resilience of 14 priority river catchments.
  • Freshwater catchment restoration is delivered in partnership with others.
  • River catchments are actively managed.
  • Research plans and research findings inform planning (eg surveys of native fish identify barriers in the river and record greater numbers when the barrier is modified to allow upstream movement).

Restoration plans

The restoration work is guided by a restoration plan for each catchment. The plan is a collaborative document created by the community, partners and DOC and underpinned by sound technical and scientific advice.

These elements are part of each plan:

  • restoring ecosystem processes
  • restoring and protect ecosystem condition
  • enhancing native species diversity and protect threatened species
  • enhancing ecosystem resilience to climate impacts.


If you have any questions or want to get involved, email us.

Email: freshwaterrestoration@doc.govt.nz

Back to top