Land Use Opportunities

Whitiwhiti Ora

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

Sketch by Yasmine El Orfi

Project Details Ngā taipitopito

Project Status:
Challenge funding:
Research duration:
May 2020 – June 2023

Collaborators Ngā haumi

AgResearch | DairyNZ | Deep South Challenge | Land Water People | Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research | NIWA | Plant & Food Research

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What are we doing?E aha ana mātou?

Land Use Opportunities: Whitiwhiti 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.

How can the research be used? Ka pēhea e whai take ai te rangahau?

  • 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.

Related research updates Ngā pānui mō te rangahau nei

Participation & engagement Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

  • 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.

Research team Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

Programme Lead
Robyn Dynes
Project Manager
Paul Mudge
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Te Ao Māori Lead
Nikki Harcourt
Manaaki Whenua
Implementation Lead
Tamara Mutu
Science Lead
Steve Thomas
Plant & Food Research
Science Lead
Anne-Gaelle Ausseil
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Science Lead
Linda Lillburne
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Science Lead
Warren King
Tony van der Weerden
Jing Guo
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Edmar Teixeira
Plant & Food Research
Ton Snelder
Land Water People
Alvaro Romera
Diana Selbie
Mitchell Donovan
Rogerio Cichota
Plant and Food Research
Simon Harris
Land Water People
Kumar Vetharaniam
Plant & Food Research
Aleise Puketapu
Plant & Food Research
Edith Khaembah
Plant and Food Research
Graeme Doole
Craig Depree
Sandy Elliot
Andrew Neverman
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Melissa Robson-Williams
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Brent Clothier
Plant & Food Research
Richard Muirhead
Helen Percy

Tools & resources Ngā utauta me ngā rauemi


Map of Surface Erosion

We developed the first national-scale map of surface erosion for New Zealand that can also be used at farm scale. The map is also the…
View Map

If the climate is changing, will land use need to change?

The earth’s surface has gradually been warming up since the beginning of the 20th century – by as much as 1C in some places. One…
View Summary

Impacts of grazing on ground cover, soil physical properties and soil loss via surface erosion: A novel geospatial modelling approach

Agricultural expansion and overgrazing are globally recognized as key contributors to accelerated soil degradation and surface erosion, with direct consequences for land productivity, and environmental…
View Model

More diverse, resilient, healthy landscapes by 2030 – webinar

Farmers, growers and all those who care for our land want to help build a resilient, healthy and thriving agri-food and fibre system. The role…
View Video

Academic outputs He whakaputanga ngaio

Journal Article

Continuous Measures of Confidence in Direction of Environmental Trends at Site and Other Spatial Scales

Managers and decision makers need to know if variables measured by environmental monitoring programs are increasing or decreasing, both at individual sites and at larger…
View Journal Article
Technical Report

National contaminant mapping of soil losses from surficial erosion: an analysis of livestock grazing pressures on soil losses across NZ

For the first time, a national-scale soil loss model of New Zealand has captured both inherent landuse properties, alongside high-resolution calculations of livestock grazing densities…
View Technical Report
Technical Report

Challenges and Opportunities for New Zealand Agriculture under Climate Change (2022 update)

Future climate is likely to have a major impact on the primary sector, and has the potential to drive major shifts in land use as…
View Technical Report
Journal Article

Supporting the design of useful and relevant holistic frameworks for land use opportunity assessment for indigenous people

Choices about how to use land are critical to efforts to manage water quality in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Māori and non-Māori communities need decision-making frameworks that…
View Journal Article
Journal Article

Modelling soil loss from surface erosion at high-resolution to better understand sources and drivers across land uses and catchments: a national-scale assessment of NZ

Soil erosion is a significant challenge for agricultural regions, with cascading impacts to waterways, land productivity, soil carbon, and ecological health. We provide the first…
View Journal Article
Journal Article

Attribution of River Water-Quality Trends to Agricultural Land Use and Climate Variability in New Zealand

Trends at 1051 river monitoring sites across New Zealand incrementing annually for time windows of 10 and 20 years over the 28-year period ending 2017…
View Journal Article

In the media Mai i te ao pāpaho

Te Ao Māori, 22 June 2022
“Harcourt and Shaun Awatere developed a Māori land use tool with land trusts and incorporations, which she said helped them to make decisions about alternative land use and opportunities that delivered on their aspirations.”
Farmers Weekly, 7 December 2021
“Working together, we can use the farm management scenarios to estimate the change in soil losses when each paddock is grazed at a specific density by a particular stock type. This goes beyond understanding the land and towards an understanding that includes the interaction between animal grazing intensity, physics and the land’s susceptibility.”
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.

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