Land Use Suitability
Land use suitability tools and assessment processes for increasing land use diversity and delivering better community outcomes.
Challenge funding: $2,750,000
Research duration: June 2016 – December 2019
What Are We Doing?
Land use planning in New Zealand currently focuses on what a parcel of land is capable of producing, with the increasing use of regulatory limits. These limits will be more easily met when land use planning considers the conditions of water bodies downstream, and the economic, environmental, social and cultural values of the surrounding community. We call this broader planning perspective ‘land use suitability’.
To enable this shift in perspective, we need more detailed understanding of the land’s natural attenuation processes, which reduce levels of contaminants like nitrogen and phosphorus, and the resilience of water bodies.
Land Use Suitability research is linking these natural processes with human interventions, mitigations and land-management choices, to make the consequences of our choices clearer and more predictable.
The first phase of this research (2016–2019) developed the land-use suitability framework, focused on conveying information about the productive potential of land and the susceptibility of water bodies connected to that land. A second phase of research will expand the scope of land-use assessments to consider a broader range of constraints and pressures, including greenhouse gas emissions.
How Can The Research Be Used?
- This research will support the development of tools for land owners and investors to evaluate a range of land uses suitable for individual land parcels, and for central and local government to estimate land-use effects such as contaminant loss.
- Researchers and collaborators will trial the tools and assessment processes in real-world decision-making and verify their value by evaluating the outcome of those decisions. Hawkes Bay Regional Council has partnered with the LUS team to apply their research to real-world decision-making processes.
- A customised land use suitability (LUS) assessment to underpin every land-use decision would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, highly transferable tools are needed that evaluate and categorise land use suitability in any catchment. The first tool developed by Land Use Suitability research was a classification system based on national-scale environmental datasets.
- A prototype land use planning support tool, the Land Use Suitability Analyser, was developed and tested using data from the Southland region, bringing together multiple existing tools (digital river network, Sparrow catchment model, Overseer nitrogen model, Land Use Capability classification, and spatial data layers with physiographic zones). This tool focused on nitrogen as the land use pressure of concern, and the impact of changing land use on water quality and farm profit. A national-scale pressure layer, incorporating lakes, is being developed.
- The LUS concept has been discussed by the Land and Water Forum in advice to the Minister for the Environment about the allocation of nutrient discharge allowances on-farm and in a catchment. Scott Larned has met with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment staff to discuss applications of the LUS concept.
- Environment Southland has taken a critical role in co-developing the LUS concept and providing reality checks and guidance about real-world applications. It tested application of Land Use Suitability (LUS) in the Oreti catchment in 2018.
- 7 industry stakeholders (DairyNZ, RaboBank, Fonterra, Beef + Lamb NZ, the Foundation for Arable Research, LandCorp, IrrigationNZ) are all actively collaborating with researchers to develop land use suitability tools into industry policy or advice.
In the Media
- Land Use Suitability has liaised with 6 regional councils (Environment Southland, Envionment Canterbury, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, Environment Bay of Plenty, Horizons) on their current planning processes and the potential for application of the Land Use Suitability concept.
- In collaboration with several runanga, cultural assessments were conducted at 170 sites in Otago and Canterbury, assessing land use impacts on Māori cultural values. The results of this work and its potential applications were discussed with three runanga in a hui series.
- Land Use Suitability researchers participated in the Innovation Market hosted by the Collaboration Lab. Amy Whitehead explained and demonstrated the Land Use Suitability Analyser, and Scott Larned facilitated a discussion of land use, environmental effects and kaitiakitanga in the Te Waihora catchment. The target audience included researchers, entrepreneurs and the Next Generation Influencers.
Ross MonaghanAgResearch Profile →
Paul MudgeManaaki Whenua Profile →
Nichola HarcourtManaaki Whenua Profile →
Steve ThomasPlant & Food Research Profile →
Ton SnelderLand Water People Profile →
Anne-Gaelle AusseilManaaki Whenua Profile →
Linda LilburneManaaki Whenua Profile →
Simon HarrisLand Water People Profile →
Cecile de KleinAgResearch Profile →
Diana SelbieAgResearch Profile →
Tony Van der WeerdenAgResearch Profile →
Edmar TeixeiraPlant & Food Research Profile →
Graeme DooleDairyNZ Profile →
Craig DepreeDairyNZ Profile →
Melissa Robson WilliamsMaanaki Whenua Profile →
Jonno RauMaanaki Whenua Profile →
Helen PercyAgResearch Profile →
Scott LarnedNIWA Profile →
Amy WhiteheadNIWA Profile →
Marc SchallenbergUniversity of Otago Profile →
Doug BookerNIWA Profile →
Shannan CrowNIWA Profile →
Mike BearePlant and Food Research Profile →
Rich McDowellAgResearch Profile →
Gail TipaTipa & Associates Profile →
Have a Question?
We are happy to answer any questions about this research and how it can be used.
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