Land Use Suitability
Using resilience in receiving water bodies and soils to guide land use suitability decisions and meet community objectives
Challenge funding: $2,750,000
Research duration: June 2016 – June 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 limits such as water takes and contaminant discharges. These limits will be more easily met when land use planning considers the conditions of catchments 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 nitrogen attenuation processes, which dilute contaminants like nitrogen and phosphorus, and the resilience of downstream water bodies that receive contaminants and sediment from the land.
Land Use Suitability research is linking these natural processes with human interventions, mitigations and land-management choices, to make the consequences of our choices clear and predictable.
We will produce tools for central and local government to manage land-use effects, such as contaminant loss, and land evaluation tools for land owners and investors to assess the potential profitability of a diversified landscape.
How Can The Research Be Used?
- 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 will be a classification system based on national-scale environmental datasets. This will convert quantitative data to categorical or ordinal data and predictions. These are lower in precision than quantitative predictions, so the primary use of the LUS classification will be as a screening tool.
- A land use planning support tool, the Land Use Suitability Analyser, has been developed. The Land Use Suitability Analyser prototype, developed for the Southland region, generates maps of 3 land use indicators for all catchments in Southland: 1) the potential for production and profit; 2) the relative nitrogen contribution of a land parcel to contaminant load; and 3) the impact of these contaminants in a catchment relative to an environmental objective. This tool brings together multiple existing tools (digital river network, Sparrow catchment model, Overseer nitrogen model, Land Use Capability classification, and spatial data layers with physiographic zones).
- 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 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. Environment Southland is working on development of the Sources and Flows framework and 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 the Challenge on developing the land use suitability tools into industry policy or advice.
- Researchers in this programme are currently seeking regional council partners to apply their research to real-world decision-making processes.
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.
- 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.
- Stakeholder engagement with Māori has focused on the development of predictive relationships between land use and cultural values.
Scott LarnedNIWA Profile →
Linda LilburneManaaki Whenua Profile →
Ton SnelderLand Water People Profile →
Simon HarrisLand Water People Profile →
Marc SchallenbergUniversity of Otago Profile →
Amy WhiteheadNIWA Profile →
Doug BookerNIWA Profile →
Mike BearePlant and Food Research Profile →
Rich McDowellAgResearch Profile →
Gail TipaTipa & Associates Profile →
Shannan CrowNIWA Profile →
Tony Van der WeerdenAgResearch Profile →
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