The Whatawhata Integrated Catchment Management project is led by AgResearch and NIWA and brought together researchers from the farm systems, environment and social sciences domains to investigate the impacts of pastoral farm practices on key environmental management outcomes: water quality, indigenous biodiversity and climate change mitigation. This work was undertaken in the context of low-altitude summer-dry pastoral hill country that occupies a large proportion of the landscape in the North Island of New Zealand.
The project went through three distinct phases of planning, forecasting and implementing land use change. The first critical step was the establishment of a multi-stakeholder oversight group. This comprised representatives from research, policy and practise: AgResearch (social and farm systems research), NIWA (environmental research), Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research (environmental research), Waikato Regional Council, Waikato District Council, Department of Conservation, Federated Farmers, individual farmers, foresters and local hapuu Ngaati Maahanga.
Once the multi-stakeholder group had worked collectively to establish goals and indicators, a case study block was selected. This area was approx. 300 hectares of hill country pastoral land in the upper headwaters of the Mangaotama Stream, which drains into the Waipa River below Whatawhata township. The block had been part of the Whatawhata Research Centre since the 1970s.