Manawatu River Project

This page has information on the Manawatu River Project. It received Crown funding from the Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean-up Fund from 2012 to 2015 to address historical water quality issues.

Project details

Project cost

$30 million

Crown funding

$5.2 million


Manawatu River, Manawatu-Wanganui region.


Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council (Horizons), Tararua District Council, Manawatu District Council, Horowhenua District Council, DairyNZ, Manawatu River Leaders' Forum


Te Runanga o Raukawa, Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngāti Kauwhata, Muaūpoko Tribal Authority, Te Kauru, Taiao Ruakawa Environmental Trust, Tanenuiarangi Manawatu Incorporated, Te Rangimarie Marae, Te Kaunihera Kaumatua o Rangitane ki Manawatu, Raukawa District Māori Council, Nga Hapu o Himatangi.

Project purpose

To restore the health of the river by improving water quality, enhance habitats for native fish species and involve the community in restoration activities.

Project timeframe 2012-2015


Water quality in the Manawatu River catchment has deteriorated in the last 200 years as the population, and industrial and agricultural development have increased in the catchment.

Analysis of the river’s water quality by the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) in 2011 showed nutrient concentrations for nitrates and phosphorous were among the highest in the country and water clarity was low at many sites. This makes parts of the river unsafe for contact recreation.

The degraded water quality in the river is a major concern to local iwi as it reduces mana and kai (food) gathering opportunities.

Funded interventions

Funding was used for:

  • riparian planting and stream fencing
  • fish/whitebait habitat restoration
  • community projects including developing nutrient management plans for dairy farms
  • sewage treatment plant upgrades.

Final project update – December 2015

By end of the project in December 2015 the following had been achieved:

  • upgrading of six sewerage treatment plants that discharge to the Manawatu River
  • planting of over 66,000 native plants
  • completion of over 200 kilometres of stream fencing
  • creation of 98 environmental farm plans
  • improvement to 12 fish passages.

Dannevirke Wastewater treatment pond lining
(Photo: Horizons Regional Council)

Kimbolton wastewater upgrades – Reed beds
(Photo: Horizons Regional Council)

Completed fish pass
(Photo: Horizons Regional Council)

Source of the Manawatu - Community planting day
(Photo: Horizons Regional Council)

Find out more

Manawatu River website