Riparian Management

Riparian ManagementRiparian Management Indicators (what we measure)

Riparian management


What Are Riparian Margins?

A riparian margin is a strip of land alongside a waterway where the water and land meet. It contributes to the natural functioning, quality and character of the waterway.


Riparian margins have the ability to prevent, correct or minimise the adverse effects of land based activities on the water quality and the aquatic environment. Improved riparian management can result in cleaner water, which can benefit stock and increase farm production. It also provides habitats for fish, birds and other animal life. Riparian management can enhance the visual attractiveness of a farm and provide more opportunities for recreational activities such as swimming.

Farming has a major influence on the quality of our rivers and streams. Stock effluent and stream bank erosion caused by grazing stock degrade our streams by adding pollutants and increasing sediment levels.

Farming is a dominant activity in our district and 2012 figures show that the Matamata-Piako district had an overall density of between 200 and 300 livestock per square kilometre, including the highest average density of dairy cattle in the country at 208 cattle per square kilometre.

Our Situation

The Waikato Regional Council is responsible for taking samples and measuring the health and bathing quality of our rivers and streams. It is important that we live in a healthy environment. Clean waterways and margins are important to flora and fauna. Unsatisfactory water quality has various negative effects, including making it difficult for aquatic animals to breathe and restricting plant growth. Water pollution can also be bad for human health.

The Waikato Regional Council monitors streams in seven locations within the Matamata-Piako District, which is part of the larger Hauraki water catchment zone. Measurements are taken for ecology with the indicators being dissolved oxygen, PH, turbidity, ammonia, temperature, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and also for bathing quality with the indicators being baseflow clarity and E-coli.

For links to the individual bathing quality and ecological measurements based on data collected between 2013 and 2017, respectively, click on the links below:

In general the graphs show that:

  • Dissolved oxygen levels in most rivers is excellent or satisfactory;
  • PH levels in most rivers is excellent;
  • Turbidity in most rivers ranges from satisfactory to unsatisfactory;
  • Ammonia in most rivers is excellent;
  • Temperature in most rivers is excellent or satisfactory;
  • Total Phosphorus in most rivers is unsatisfactory;
  • Total nitrogen in most rivers is unsatisfactory;
  • Baseflow clarity in most rivers ranges from satisfactory to unsatisfactory;
  • E-coli in most rivers ranges from satisfactory to unsatisfactory.

Mapped below are the average scores for both ecology (in green) and swimming (blue), measured from the Waihou River at Okauia in 2016/17, compared with other monitored rivers in this district.

It is noted that in 2017/18, only swimming and ecology measurements from individual monitored sites were produced, rather than a comparison of this data between monitored sites as had been done in the past.

Hauraki zone summary graph: ecology
Hauraki zone summary graph: swimming

Earlier measurements show the water quality in the district's main rivers ranged from excellent/satisfactory to unsatisfactory. From 2000-2004 nearly 38% of the samples taken from rivers within the Hauraki catchment were excellent, while 41.3% were unsatisfactory.

In the Matamata-Piako district, water quality for swimming in all the rivers and streams has worsened. E-coli data from 2006–2010 and water clarity data from 2003–2007 have indicated that a greater number of ‘unsatisfactory’ periods of water quality for swimming have occurred.

Two complaints of contaminants entering waterways were lodged with Council in 2012/13, and both were passed onto the Waikato Regional Council for investigation.In 2013/14 and 2014/15 there were no complaints received regarding water quality.  In 2015/16 one complaint was received about oil entering the stormwater system following a car accident. This was handled by the Regional Council. There were no complaints about water quality.

What Council Is Doing

Riparian Management

Council owns approximately 68.3 hectares of esplanade reserve within the Waihou and Piako River catchments. This is the land that generally extends 20 metres out from a river, and contains riparian margins. These esplanade reserves make up approximately 13% of all Council owned reserves.

Resource consent conditions are used by Council for the protection or creation of riparian margins and esplanade reserves.

From 2008/09 – 2011/12 there were 19 consents granted with conditions requiring the creation or protection of existing riparian margins. No consents have been granted in the last six years.

Council offers the Significant Natural Features Grant to landowners who protect and preserve features such as wetlands or native bush areas, by providing funding of up to 50 per cent towards fencing or legally protecting the site. In 2015/16, 5710.53 in funding was provided in Significant Natural Features Grants. $2,000 and $1250 was provided for these grants in 2016/17 and 2017/18, respectively. The Waikato Regional Council also funds up to 35 per cent of the cost of fencing and planting natural waterways on private property.

Until early 2014, landowners protecting their sites in perpetuity had applications for rates remission assessed by Council. Following a 2014 review of the Significant Natural Features Policy, the policy no longer allows for any new applications for a rate remission. However, Council has committed to an annual rate remission totalling $4,213.63 (excluding GST) to land owners who have made an application to the Significant Natural Features Grant and have protected their site in perpetuity.

In 2013/14 there was some work done in fencing off watercourses on Council-owned land on Rewi Street and Gilchrist Street in Te Aroha that is subject to grazing licences, in response to submissions that stock were entering waterways on this land. In 2016/17, a plan was being developed with local community groups to permanently fence off additional native trees and bush on Council reserve land along the eastern bank of the Waihou River in Te Aroha and to supplement this with native planting.

Landcare groups also take an active role in improving the environment. They take practical steps that benefit the whole community. Council wants to ensure we have sustainable farm production, protection and rehabilitation of sensitive environmental areas, pest and weed control, native bush monitoring, river monitoring and rehabilitation, as well as biodiversity enhancement (protection of native flora and fauna). Landcare groups help the community to achieve these aims.

Council is aware of three Landcare groups operating in Matamata-Piako that are taking measures to benefit waterways and their margins:

1. Whitehall Landcare Group

This group was formed by members of the community who became concerned with the water quality of the Upper Karapiro Stream. The group undertook fencing for over 17 properties that border the banks of the Upper Karapiro Stream. Since completing the fencing, members still carry out restoration and pest control work on their own properties with a   focus on possum control with the Waikato Regional Council.

2. Mangawara Rivercare Group

This group was formed in 1994. Their aim was to improve catchment management and flood control in the Mangawara River. They have fenced and planted natives along the river, as well as willows to stabilise eroding banks. This project has resulted in a reduced nitrate runoff and reduced erosion, benefiting the downstream river ecology.

3. Kaimai Mamaku Catchments Forum

The Kaimai Mamaku Catchments Forum has representation from iwi, recreational groups, primary industry and conservation groups and aims to restore forest biodiversity, enhance recreational activities and provide for sustainable land use. A priority is to develop a multi pest management control programme plan. In addition, the Forum intends to ensure genuine community involvement. This community theme will continue with the establishment of new Landcare groups plus further support for existing groups. 

In addition to the three groups above, there are several other initiatives in the district with a focus on waterway rehabilitation:

The Piako Catchment Forum is a community group formed in Morrinsville in 2016 with the goal of helping clean up the Piako River and to get involved in riparian plantings along the Morrinsville River Walk.

Keep Te Aroha Beautiful has a focus on riparian planting along a stream feeding into the Waihou River.

The Upper Waihou Project is a project supported by the Waikato Regional Council to clear willow and popular from the upper Waihou River and to help restore its margins.

The Regional Council is also coordinating a collaborative project between mana whenua, landowners and local government to help restore wetlands in the Waihou catchment. “Te Puna o Waihou ki Tikapa te Moana” or “Source to Sea” aims to work co-operatively to protect, enhance and restore biodiversity.

The dairy industry has introduced the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord, an initiative to improve environmental performance on dairy farms which required, by May 2017, all dairy cattle to be excluded from any lakes; significant wetlands and all permanently flowing rivers, streams, drains and springs, that are more than a metre wide and 30cm deep. 97.2% of the waterways on New Zealand dairy farms were excluded from dairy cattle by the targeted date of May 2017.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 introduced a new subsection, s360 1(hn), which allows the creation of regulations for the purpose of excluding stock from water bodies.

What You Can Do To Help

  • Get involved in a Landcare group
  • Fence river margins to prevent stock grazing and erosion
  • Plant natives to encourage animal life and increase the ecological health of a stream or river
  • Obtain technical assistance from the Waikato Regional Council's Clean Streams Project Team

How are we Doing?

Anticipated Environmental Results

Riparian Management


  • AchievingAchieving
  • Progress towards achievementProgress towards achievement
  • Not AchieveingNot Achieving
  • Not MonitoredNot Monitored
Improved environmental quality and public access along the district’s principal waterways Achieving
Maintenance and enhancement of environmental quality along waterways and margins (typical performance measure: improved water quality, habitat quality and diversity)
Not Achieveing Water Quality
Progress towards  achievement Habitat Quality
Not Monitored Diversity
Improved public perception of general amenity on and in the vicinity of waterways (typical performance measure: reduction in number of complaints to Council regarding surface water activities) Not Monitored
Maintenance and enhancement of the recreational and conservation values of waterways and access along them Achieving

Click here to learn more about District Plan Effectiveness and read the full report on Riparian Management

Useful Links

Landcare Research


Sustainable Dairying Water Accord

Environmental Health Indicators New Zealand 

Waikato Regional Council - Water Quality Monitoring Map

Waikato Regional Council - Local Indigenous Biodiversity Strategy

For More Information

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or
Customer Services
Matamata-Piako District Council
PO Box 266, Te Aroha 3342
Phone: 07 884 0060
Fax: 07 884 8865