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Future Landscapes

Land Use Opportunities

Whitiwhiti Ora

Developing a holistic decision-making framework for evaluating land use opportunities.

Land Use Opportunities: Whitwhiti Ora - vision sketch by Yasmine El Orfi


Challenge funding: $9,000,000

Research duration: May 2020 – June 2023

What Are We Doing?

Land Use Opportunities: Whitwhiti Ora will help land stewards assess diverse land use opportunities and make decisions with confidence that both the whenua and its people will prosper.

To become better land stewards, we need to bring the right information together so we can make smarter decisions about our land use. To improve the vitality of te Taiao, we will embrace ancestral knowledge about listening to the land, and integrate this knowledge with technology and science.

Some excellent knowledge, data and tools are available to help make decisions about land use, but there are also some big gaps. Our research will bring together biophysical, cultural, social and economic information to help fill some of these gaps.

The vision for this research is to identify a much greater range of suitable land opportunities and a greater diversity of benefits for New Zealand.

ILLUSTRATION: Land Use Opportunities: Whitiwhiti Ora draft vision. Sketch by Yasmine El Orfi

How Can The Research Be Used?

  • Researchers will identify and analyse a much greater range of food and fibre than we currently grow. This research is needed because some land use change in New Zealand will be necessary to respond to our changing climate and policy.
  • The aim of this research is to help land stewards prioritise the most suitable crop options for their land, by providing a holistic understanding of the benefits and consequences of the options.
  • The programme will identify the pressures faced by land, water and people: contaminants (nitrogen, phosphorus, e.coli, sediment), greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to a changing climate.
  • The programme will give the fullest possible picture of the benefits of diverse land options, by using a broader range of indicators and data sources than has been used by Western science previously. Research will include standard indicators, such as economic returns, soil type, climate and topology, and integrate broader measures of wellbeing. These may include: biodiversity, recreation (swimming, fishing), mahinga kai, resilience to change, health benefits, surrounding communities (eg schools), intergenerational benefits.
  • The research will develop a data “engine room” that would connect into a range of external interfaces, including the interface co-developed in Pohewa Pae Tawhiti.
  • This research builds on the work completed by the Land Use Suitability programme.

In the Media

Farming for our Future

NZ Geographic, Mar-Apr 2018

The question of how best to use our land is one of the most important of all. If we treat it right, it will return the favour. If we abuse it, it will sicken and fail. And with it, businesses, communities, economies and ecosystems.

Troubled Waters

NZ Geographic, July-August 2017

“In future, you could see a mosaic of land uses in which farmers meet their economic and environmental objectives while the catchment and people outside the catchment also have their objectives met—social, cultural, recreational, and so on.” – Rich McDowell


Community Involvement

  • The research team will work with case study partners that represent specific catchments and regions. Relationships are being built with Te Arawa land entities, groups in the Wairoa catchment in the Hawke's Bay, and a catchment dominated by dairy in the South Island.
  • This research programme will partner with agencies that already have farmer-facing decision-support tools (including risk assessment tools used by the banking sector) so that the information provided from this research has a conduit to a wider audience.

Team Snapshot

Research Outputs


Have a Question?

We are happy to answer any questions about this research and how it can be used.

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