The Government has committed $100 million over 10 years through the Freshwater Improvement Fund to support initiatives which improve the management of fresh water within quality and quantity limits. The fund focuses on projects that will make a significant and measurable improvement to rivers, lakes, streams, groundwater and wetlands, with priority on the most vulnerable catchments. A vulnerable catchment is one where the state of the water bodies within that catchment are considered under threat, but not yet degraded to a point beyond which returning them to good heath may be complex, expensive and potentially not possible. This is based on the available data we have about the physical state of the water and the land use around the water, and takes into account the significance of the water to the catchment, people and the economy. Whilst the fund gives priority to projects located in catchments identified as vulnerable, projects located in catchments not classified as vulnerable are also able to apply for funding.
Because of the availability of data at a national scale, vulnerability of water bodies has been defined at a catchment level, rather than a water body level. Data used to inform this process is described below: • The current state of water quality in the catchment: (chemical and biological properties of the water, for example, levels of, nitrogen, phosphorous, and biological indicators such as Macroinvertebrate Community Index (MCI) or E. coli present) based on the data used for the Environment Aotearoa 2015 Report. • The pressures on the catchment: including increased livestock farming activity, loss of forest or increases in grassland, or extent of urbanisation, using data sourced from Landcare Research and Statistics New Zealand. • The significance of the water within the catchment to people, the environment, and the economy: a) catchments that contain unique or good examples of important freshwater habitats around New Zealand, based on ecological significance data sourced from the Department of Conservation; b) catchments where there is significant water-dependent industry and/or communities are more dependent on water bodies within the catchment for their livelihood than the New Zealand average, based on economic analysis data compiled at a territorial authority level by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment from data originally produced by Statistics New Zealand.