Eligibility and assessment criteria for the Freshwater Improvement Fund

This page has eligibility criteria and assessment criteria for the Freshwater Improvement Fund and includes a map showing the vulnerable catchments which have been prioritised for funding. Note the 2017 funding round is now closed for applications.

Eligibility criteria

The table below provides the full set of eligibility criteria a project must meet before an application may be considered for funding. Meeting these eligibility criteria does not guarantee that your project will be funded.

Eligibility criteria for Freshwater Improvement Fund

1 The project must contribute to improving the management of New Zealand’s freshwater bodies.

The project must meet one or more of the following:

  • achieve demonstrable co-benefits such as:
    • improved fresh, estuarine or marine water quality or quantity
    • increased biodiversity
    • habitat protection
    • soil conservation
    • improved community outcomes such as to recreational opportunity or mahinga kai
    • reduction to current or future impacts of climate change 
    • reduced pressure on urban or rural infrastructure
  • increase iwi/hapū, community, local government, or industry capability and capacity in relation to freshwater management
  • establish or enhance collaborative management of fresh water
  • increase the application of mātauranga Māori in freshwater management
  • include an applied research component that contributes to improved understanding of the impacts of freshwater interventions and their outcomes.
3 The minimum request for funding is $200,000 (excluding GST).
4 The fund will cover a maximum of 50 per cent of the total project cost.
5 The project will be funded for a maximum period of up to five years after which the project objectives will have been achieved or the project will be self-funding.
6 The project must achieve benefits that would not otherwise be realised without the fund or are not more appropriately funded through other sources.
7 The effectiveness of the project and its outcomes will be monitored, evaluated and reported.
8 An appropriate governance structure in place (or one will be established as part of the project).
9 The applicant must be a legal entity.

Please note:

  • the funding provided by the applicant may include Crown funding from other sources.
  • applications for projects that meet all eligibility criteria (whether or not they fall within the vulnerable catchments) will be considered on their own merits for funding against the assessment criteria for the fund.

Assessment criteria

Applications that meet the eligibility criteria will be assessed against the assessment criteria.

Assessment criteria for the Freshwater Improvement Fund


The extent to which the project addresses the management of freshwater water bodies identified as vulnerable.

2 The project demonstrates improvement in the values and benefits derived from the freshwater body.
3 The extent to which public benefit is increased. 

The project demonstrates a high likelihood of success based on sound technical information or examples of success achieved through comparable projects undertaken elsewhere.


The extent to which the project will leverage other funding.


The project will involve the necessary partner organisations to ensure its success.

7 The project will engage personnel with the required skills and experience to successfully deliver the project.

Applications are assessed by a panel of experts. The panel makes recommendations to the Minister for the Environment who makes the final funding decision.

What are vulnerable catchments?

Vulnerable catchments are those that are under pressure but not yet at a tipping point where restoration becomes significantly more difficult or expensive.

If you consider that the catchment for your project is vulnerable but it’s not highlighted on the vulnerable catchments map, please state why you think it is a vulnerable catchment in your application.

Map of vulnerable catchments

The map below shows vulnerable catchments based on currently available data. We expect this map will be refined over time as more data becomes available.

Map of vulnerable catchments [MfE Data Service]

How vulnerable catchments were selected

These catchments have been identified as vulnerable based on the:

  • current state of water quality in the catchment based on chemical properties like levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, and biological indicators such as the Macroinvertebrate Community Index (MCI) or E. coli
  • pressures on the catchment due to (eg, increase in livestock, decrease in tree cover, increase in exotic grassland or increase in urbanisation)
  • significance of the water within the catchment to people, the environment and the economy.

For the methodology we used to identify and map these vulnerable catchments, see Summary of data used to identify vulnerable catchments [DOC, 42 KB]

Contact us

If you have a query about the Freshwater Improvement Fund, please email us and include your name, organisation, a summary of your query, and the best phone number to contact you on. We will respond to your query within five working days.

Email: fif@mfe.govt.nz