Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project

The Ministry for Primary Industries-funded Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project (KPRP) aims to source technical advice and expertise to provide support and direction for farmers and landowners to make informed decisions about their post-quake land management issues.

Kaikoura coast line

Project purpose

To ensure all farms on the plains are in a better state than before the earthquake (financially, environmentally, and socially) and supported in their decision-making, by way of:

  • Future land management – Identification of sustainable and suitable land management options and support business development post-earthquake
  • Land remediation options - Demonstration and research to inform best practice
  • Whole catchment restoration – Scoping ecological restoration options to occur in unison with land remediation options

Project overview

The November 2016 North Canterbury earthquakes caused significant damage in the Kaikōura district, with several farms suffering extensive damage. Many farms have been subject to ground damage, drainage issues, the emergence of springs, sinkholes, localised flooding, and damage to stream banks and riparian areas.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) opened a $5 million fund to support farm recovery projects.

A successful application was made to this fund by the Kaikōura farming community with support from the Kaikōura Water Zone Committee’s Nutrient Management Working Group and project partners Environment Canterbury, Fonterra and DairyNZ.

The project was awarded the full available sum of $600,000 over three years.

The project is farmer led, with a governance group made up of local farmers, community representatives and a rūnanga representative steering the project. Find out more about the structure.

The project receives considerable in-kind commitment from Environment Canterbury, Fonterra and DairyNZ.

What is the project focusing on?

Following several community meetings, the following workstreams were agreed:


LiDAR in layman’s terms, shows the new lay of the land, in this case, post-quake.

From a post-quake farming perspective, LiDAR data could be helpful to ascertain how much the ground levels have changed and how farm management could be affected. It could possibly assist in any post-quake farm or business decision-making. For example:

  • Any future (re)development; site selection for new buildings/sheds, irrigation systems, tracks, stockwater ponds, effluent ponds, or irrigation ponds
  • Accurate information for drainage design/installation
  • Crop/irrigation planning and application
  • Identifying possible new flood hazard risk areas on farms/channel stability/increased sediment transport possibilities
  • New low areas (and much wetter) which may be better and more cost effective to retire/wetlands/filtration mechanism
  • Capturing nutrient runoff areas for farm environment planning

This information (in 1m interval steps/contours) can also be found on Canterbury Maps (see the tab near the bottom ‘Imagery & LiDAR’).

The pre and post-quake LiDAR data has been used in the planning and design stages of the drainage demonstration sites.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging.

LiDAR is fundamentally a distance technology. From an aeroplane or helicopter, LiDAR systems actively send light energy to the ground. This pulse hits the ground and returns to the sensor.

Lidar light detection and ranging

A LiDAR unit scans the ground from side to side as the plane flies to cover a larger area. When the pulse is returned to the sensor, it contains information that can be used to distinguish features on the ground. For instance, vegetation, buildings, water, and bare earth can all be determined by the characteristics of the information contained in the returning pulse. Raw LiDAR data is commonly referred to as a ‘point cloud’.

Scanning the ground

By-products of LiDAR point clouds


Digital Elevation Models (DEM) or Digital Terrain Models (DTM) are bare earth (topology) models of the Earth’s surface. You can derive DEM or DTM surfaces by using the ground hits from LiDAR. Ground hits are the last return of the LiDAR.

Often when people refer to using LiDAR for mapping purposes, they are referring to the use of DEM or DTM. Both surfaces are derived from raw LiDAR point clouds (pulse returns).

DEM or DTM example:

Digital Elevation Models or Digital Terrain Models example


Digital Surface Models (DSM) are also derived from LiDAR point clouds but they represent the first reflected surface detected by the LiDAR sensor. These first returns may be reflected by bare ground or surface features such as trees and structures.

DSM example:

Digital Surface Models example

DEM/DTM vs. DSM example:

Digital Elevation Models or Digital Terrain Models  vs. Digital Surface Models

By-products of DEM/DTM/DSM surfaces

Elevation contours

Contour lines are often generated from bare earth surfaces to display a three-dimensional surface in two dimensions.
Elevation contours

Find out more about contour lines

Canopy Height Models

Canopy heights models

A Canopy Height Model (CHM) represents the heights of features above ground. This product is usually generated for use in forest management to determine the height of vegetation.

Slope surface

Elevation surfaces are used to determine slope. A slope can be described as a percentage of relative steepness for any given area.

Elevation surfaces are used to determine slope.

Aspect surface

Elevation surfaces are used to determine the aspect. Aspect can be described as the slope direction of a surface. Where a slope is described as a percentage of relative steepness, aspect is defined as the compass direction that the slope surface is facing.

Elevation surfaces are used to determine aspect

Vertical datums

GEODETIC DATUMS are reference surfaces of zero elevation to which heights are referred to over a large geographic extent. These datums are used to measure height (altitude) and depth (depression) above and below mean sea level.

We need a consistent starting point to compare flood and ground elevations. Therefore, consistent vertical datums and mean sea level are important. Effective floodplain management depends on accurate surveying.

When conducting a survey, all measurements must use the same vertical datum throughout the survey.

LiDAR data for the Kaikōura plains

Environment Canterbury has LiDAR data for the Kaikōura plains that was acquired before and after the November 2016 earthquake. The pre-quake data was gathered in July 2012 and the post-quake data in November 2016 and January 2017. The 2012 flights used the Lyttleton Vertical Datum1937 and both the 2016 and 2017 flights used the New Zealand Vertical Datum 2016.

Caution should be used when comparing datasets with known horizontal shift and differing vertical datums. Other environmental effects may also contribute to inaccuracies in determining bare earth surfaces – winter crop, construction, build-up, silt, and general landform changes.

Even under ideal circumstances, flood modelling and detailed surveys are performed by qualified professionals.

Note: The Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project has the ability to produce farm maps for farmers in the project area. Most detail can be gained from a paddock-by-paddock approach (as opposed to a full farm map as the contour lines get too condensed and difficult to decipher). Maps could be created in colour in A4 or A3 size. Project area farmers who would like more information can contact Environment Canterbury’s Jodie Hoggard on 027 559 5902.


Are the drainage issues facing farmers from broken tile drains, new springs or increased groundwater levels? Can broken tile drains be found and repaired, and can we improve the quality of the drainage water?


In collaboration with the Ministry for Primary Industries, Kaikōura District Council, Environment Canterbury, Iwi, Fonterra, DairyNZ, and the farming community, the Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project is examining the changes and effects of the 2016 earthquakes on pastoral lands, understanding the unknown and working with it.

On-farm drainage is a major issue for landowners and farmers post-quake. Therefore, the project has drainage demonstrations underway to offer solutions.

Drainage is one important tool if the production and general health of your land and its surrounds are to be maximised, alongside following Good Management Practices

Poor drainage can lead to land management and environmental issues – nutrient runoff, streamwater quality, saturated and/or pugged soils and poor soil health, and stock health issues.

The cause of drainage problems will largely define the solution. This is often a process of elimination, rather than a single solution.

Before developing a solution, it’s important to identify exactly what the cause is.

Poor soil drainage can be caused by several possible factors, including a perched water table, rising water, seepage, spring or upthrust, surface water flow, changes in land structure, blockages/failures in existing field drains, poorly managed internal paddock drains or the unknown location of historic field drains. All of these are potentially influenced by the earthquakes.

Drainage systems designed to overcome these problems may include a combination of open and subsurface drains, combined with secondary drainage techniques, such as mole ploughing, subsoil ripping, and gravel slotting.

Two demonstration sites are showing how this works.

Examples of on-farm drainage damage

Drainage damage in paddock

A Kaikōura farm with a number of post-quake water related issues causing sinkholes,or tomos. Interestingly this farm was the most affected with this issue.

Sinkholes at farm

This paddock historically produced great hay but can no longer be cut edge to edge, following the earthquakes.

Drainage demonstration site at Maghera Farm

Drainage demonstration site No 2 at the Maghera Farm, School House Road. This shows the early stages of this demonstration site. The farmers noted that after the quake they were only able to graze about 50% of the 6ha paddock. After stage one of the demonstration being installed, there is now only 1ha they are not able to graze.

Drainage demonstration site #1 at Kowleigh Farm, Inland Road.

Drainage demonstration site No 1 at Kowleigh Farm, Inland Road. This image shows an area where excessive surface water settles and stays for much of the year. This farm is much wetter post-quake.

Related news

Find out more

Current state

When needing to find out what has changed in groundwater and surface water (quality, quantity and instream health), irrigation, water takes and land management all have implications for farmers.

  • Individual farm visits were carried out investigating who faced what issues post-quake to identify the worst affected farms for each workstream. Farms potentially involved in various demonstrations were identified.
  • The stream walk was carried out across two weeks in January 2017. Lyell Creek and its linking drains was the starting point. Letters went out to adjoining landowners, the Kaikōura Water Zone Committee, the Love the Lyell Group, and local Rūnanga
  • Environment Canterbury scientists updated information on water quality, water flows, and groundwater, post-quake, to feed into this workstream

Purpose of the stream walk

The purpose of the stream walk was to collect information on the post-quake state and health of Lyell Creek. This helped assess changes to the catchment following the earthquake and will act as a baseline for change over time – so we can see if actions undertaken to bring about stream health improvements are working.

The survey will also help identify hot spots for action (e.g. high sediment content in the bed, bank erosion, macro-invertebrate quality, and poor stream health).

The stream walk was completed with a team of two, each team covering separate sections. The team(s) included the project manager of the Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project, and staff from our project partners Environment Canterbury and Fonterra.

The survey required walking along the stream, and occasionally within the stream, looking at weeds, vegetation along the stream banks, any sign of erosion next to the stream, obvious earthquake damage, and opportunities for improvement.

How we assess stream characteristics

The stream walk consists of an assessment of stream characteristics, ecology and in-stream assets, the parameters of which are grouped into categories.

The stream reach assessment is referred to as an ‘Ecoline’. Discrete features are recorded as points or polygons as follows:

  • Natural structures - Significant natural structures that cause a sudden change in the water surface, bed level profile, or water flow that contrasts with the rest of the stream surveyed thus far. These structures should be assessed for their potential effects on fish passage
  • Artificial structures - Artificial structures are significant structures that cause a sudden change in the water surface, bed level profile, or water flow and should be assessed for their effects on fish passage and potential for impact on flows or channel stability. Because the structure may only impact particular groups of fish (e.g. swimmers as opposed to jumpers), the potential effect of the structure as a barrier to migration should be recorded at each structure
  • Trout and/or salmon redds
  • Wetlands - Wetlands are permanently or temporarily wet areas of land or shallow water, with fluctuating land-water margins that support plants and animals adapted to such habitats. Wetlands can be mapped as a polygon around their perimeter. Photographs are a helpful way to assess wetland type based on vegetation
  • Critical source areas - Critical source areas (CSAs) are points within a catchment that give rise to a disproportionately large quantity of the contaminant load, particularly sediment, to a receiving stream. They occur where a pollutant source coincides with active hydrologic transport mechanisms. Different types of CSAs include erosion hotspots such as areas of bank slumping/collapse, rill/gully erosion, and bed/bank scour, as well as overland flow paths
  • Note points - Note points are to be used to record any information that may be important, but not otherwise catered for within protocols
  • See the findings from the 2018 Lyell Creek/Waikōau stream walk (PDF File, 256.87KB).

Further research

In and alongside this work, Environment Canterbury scientists were undertaking further research to provide updates to the project, including:

It was intended that the Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project, Kaikōura Water Zone Committee, Environment Canterbury, Fonterra and landowners within the Lyell Creek/Waikōau catchment would use these plans to construct work programmes for the next 25 years.

Whole catchment recovery

‘Some of the spring-fed waterways of the area have received extensive damage including bank slumping, riparian area lateral cracks, blocked drains, and increased sediment entering catchments. These issues will probably cause ongoing problems if there is no remediation.

The Lyell Creek/Waikōau catchment recovery recommendations were put together by NIWA on behalf of the Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project. The recommendations were based on information collected by Environment Canterbury staff undertaking a stream walk, collecting catchment and habitat data. Read the recommendations (PDF File, 4.03MB).

Mahinga kai is very important to build into the picture, particularly when we talk about whole catchment recovery. The KPRP initially part-funded the employment of a Poū Matai Kō (Cultural Land Management Advisor), who is now fully employed by Environment Canterbury. His role is based around educating the farming community on mahinga kai, what it is, how it looks on farm and the benefits of having good mahinga kai practices. This role has worked with the dairy farming community incorporating mahinga kai into their Farm Environment Plans, setting some achievable targets and enabling farmers to understand that Good Management Practice and mahinga kai (PDF File, 217.64KB) go hand in hand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries-funded Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project is one of four funding streams identified to assist with implementing the Lyell Creek/Waikōau catchment recovery recommendations.’

Aims of the funding and actions to date:

1) Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project – Ministry for Primary Industries
The original intention behind this funding stream was to fund demonstration sites of key actions needed in the catchment. The focus in the 2018/19 funding year was protection of an earthquake spring and increased filtration of an overland flow path.

Earthquake spring demonstration site

Various landowners with earthquake springs have been approached in the Lyell Creek/Waikōau catchment, but no suitable sites have yet been identified.

This is due to landowners wishing to address the issues without assistance from the project or wishing to investigate other options, springs existing before the earthquake or earthquake springs recently drying up. This work is to be continued where possible.


  • Investigate beyond the Lyell Creek/Waikōau catchment for a suitable site
  • Ramp up efforts to find a suitable site
  • Postpone this to 2019/2020

Overland flow path demonstration site 

Montagues Creek Wetland

An overland flow path (OLFP) was identified on Montagues Creek on Paul Harnett’s land, working with Biddy Getz (his daughter), his project is underway. The site is fenced and willows in the area have been controlled. Planting started in June 2019.

The flow path is much larger than most OLFPs identified through the stream walk and will revert to a small wetland area in time.

With the fence up, the carex germinata is already taking off, substantially reducing the area to be planted and filtering any run-off.

Montagues Creek Wetland

2) Kaikōura Water Zone Committee funding - Funding for on-the-ground actions

Provided by Environment Canterbury in lieu of a deferred sub-regional planning process in Kaikōura for on-the-ground actions. Based on the recommendations of the Lyell/Waikōau Catchment Recovery Plan (NIWA 2018), two priorities:

Lower Lyell/Waikōau

  • Add riffles and other in-stream features to improve habitat diversity
  • Control weeds below footbridge and remove dead vegetation
  • Work with Love the Lyell
  • Work with West End businesses towards a collective vision for the stream as an asset for the township
Actions: The riffles planned for the lower Lyell have been installed, improving in-stream habitat and aesthetics. Some initial planting of sedges on the riparian margins by the village has occurred and weeds have been controlled but require ongoing attention.

Next steps: Currently investigating an access ramp downstream of the new i-SITE deck to a more natural pocket of the Lyell, which will give the public an opportunity to get up close and personal with freshwater ecosystems with oceanic influence. This is already known to some as a quiet place of contemplation, where shags and waterfowl can be viewed regularly, while informed planting and maintenance will encourage inanga spawning.

Widening buffers around overland flow paths

  • Overland flow paths or where fence setback needs extending
  • Sites where no bank battering is required
  • Fund pays for materials and for contractor to do the work, farmer/landowner to repurpose the land for filtration and assist in planting for biodiversity values while creating shade in-stream

Actions: With many overland flow paths identified and prioritised, fencing has been carried out on one farm with three more identified, currently in discussion with landowners.

3) Kaikōura Water Zone Committee funding - Immediate Steps
Assist the planting element of other projects on a case-by-case basis, as per the normal Immediate Steps process.
  • New spring wetland planting
  • Planting rebattered banks
  • Protecting areas with existing ecological values
4) Wetlands – Environment Canterbury's Long Term Plan (Zone Team)
  • To be spent in 2018/19 and 2019/20 years
  • Part of the funding will go towards a wetland flagship project
  • Part of the funding will be available to landowners to protect new springs – fence and plant


Zone Team staff are working with a number of landowners with remnant wetlands within the Lyell Creek/Waikōau catchment and at Hapuku in order to protect these areas.

  • Nagari Wetland (Warrens Creek) No 1 – This wetland has been fenced off for several years with Environment Canterbury and the landowner having enhanced it with planting and weed control. Further weed control is required
  • Nagari Wetland (Warrens Creek) No 2 – Downstream of Wetland No 1 connected through the Warrens Creek tributary of Lyell Creek, these sensitive areas have had willows removed with stream-bank repairs, stock-fencing installed, and native planting carried out through Love the Lyell community planting days to increase biodiversity values while raising awareness of wetlands. Much native regeneration is happening since the pressure of stock has been removed. Ongoing weed control will be required, prioritising willows and old man’s beard.
  • Hapuku Scarp Wetlands – Remnant wetlands with high ecological values, towering maire, matai and kahikatea trees overlook extensive wetlands of harakeke, purei sedges and ferns. With much of the area already protected under QEⅡ covenant, the three landowners are working with Environment Canterbury to control weeds. A stand of willows at the northern end has been drilled and poisoned with extensive old man’s beard and banana passionfruit cut, and stump treated to allow native vegetation to recover. More weed control will be carried out this financial year and another two QEⅡ covenants are under consideration
Government group at Nagari wetland

Governance Group members and Project Manager at a community planting day, held at Nagari Wetland – (L–R) Governance group member and landowner, Barb Woods, Desiree Bolton, Kaikōura Zone Lead, Environment Canterbury, Kevin Heays, Simon Mackle and Project Manager, Jodie Hoggard

Farming in wet conditions

Due to efficiency being reduced following the earthquake – investigate possibilities of renewal of farm infrastructure, including advanced effluent management systems, irrigation efficiency, and other infrastructure to adapt to farming in ‘wet’ conditions.

Improving practices

It is essential that the project moves to support changes in on-farm practice which are likely to lead to more efficient water use, adoption of Good Management Practice, and ultimately a lowering of unnecessary soil-moisture.

While irrigation or effluent spreading practice itself isn’t a post-quake activity or occurring because of the quakes, it is now taking place in a post-quake context (a wetter, more destabilised environment with less certainty around the impact of over-irrigating).

Improving practices with regard to soil moisture is seen as the best way of adapting to ‘farming in wetter conditions’.

Using actual data to change behaviour

A similar project was run by Fonterra in Culverden, allowing a strong gauge on what levels of support are needed for such a project to succeed.

Culverden farmers reported a strong appreciation for seeing and feeling their own data. This led to changes in behaviour because it was their own data, not an illustrative case study removed from their own enterprise.

Fonterra also learnt that adoption of technology remains a key barrier to change. Getting probes installed on a farm is a great way of getting farmers using it, understanding it and making changes that may not happen otherwise.

About the project

This project was kicked off mid-2018 with workshop No 1 titled ‘My Probe Session’, for all dairy farmers. Farmers heard from Wildeye’s director and Fonterra about the benefits of the soil-moisture probe, how it operates, and why such a piece of equipment was essential on farm.

The KPRP funded a probe for each farm, plus a year of telecommunication charges. Over two days, these were installed on each of the local dairy farms.

Where possible, installation happened with the farmer or manager. For the two farms on Inland Road without reception, Halo probes were chosen. The remaining farms all received a ‘Wildeye’ probe.

Workshop No 2 took place in January with Steve Breneger from Irrigation NZ as guest speaker. He spoke about what the soil moisture meter is saying, importance of deficit irrigation, how to get the most out of your soil moisture meter, and what best practice for irrigation looks like.

Workshop No 3 was a Dairy NZ Discussion Group, held at ‘Rockwood’ dairy farm, Red Swamp Road, in March, with a focus on autumn and winter management.

From here, the education continues:

  • Workshop No 2 – ‘Understanding your soil probe moisture data’ – Steve Breneger as a guest speaker from Irrigation NZ and Dairy NZ; What the soil moisture meter is saying, importance of deficit irrigation, how to get the most out of your soil moisture meter, what does best practice for irrigation look like? Sequoia Farm, Red Swamp Rd, January 30 2019
  • Workshop No 3 – Dairy NZ Discussion Group, held at ‘Rockwood’ dairy farm, Red Swamp Road, 20 March 2019, with a focus on autumn and winter management, particularly GMPs to reduce N loss and contaminants to water, and managing a wet winter. This fits in well with the ‘Farming in wet conditions and irrigation efficiency’ workstream.
  • Kaikōura dairy discussion groups were a feature pre-quake. However post-quake, with access issues, farmers focussing on bigger things and changes in staffing with Dairy NZ, this is the first to occur post-quake. Topics of interest were sought on behalf of Dairy NZ from the farmer-based governance group, particularly where there was a good fit for the project workstreams.
  • Workshop No 4 – Held in late 2019 and focused on ‘Improving irrigation practices’. Irrigation NZ played a big part in this day.
  • Plus a Bucket testing programme – rolled out with Environment Canterbury and Fonterra before irrigating (and effluent spreading) season 2019. This helped farmers work out where any faults may be in their systems before the season started. There is also an app (app - Irrigation NZ), which takes farmers through an annual performance assessment, for the various irrigator types in use, with instant results to their phone or email.
All with the aim of:
  • Effective use of water as a resource (consistent/effective amount of water going on) - Good irrigation helps pasture grow better, providing more feed for stock. Whatever the chosen system, it should maximise the amount of pasture grown while using as little water as possible.
  • Increased environmental understanding, including Mahinga Kai and Good Management Practices
  • Assisting in Farm Environment Plan outcomes and audit processes
  • Understanding soil deficits/saturated soils
  • Less soil damage, pugging, surface water and run off/leaching to streams/waterways
  • Putting revenue back in farmers' pockets - to reduce wasted revenue in time, effort and resources
  • Ensuring equipment is well maintained and effective
1.	Dairy Nz’s Katherine McKusker and Irrigation NZ’s Steve Breneger, and local d

Dairy NZ’s Katherine McCusker and Irrigation NZ’s Steve Breneger, and local dairy farmers at ‘Sequioa’ farm January 2019, during workshop No 2, ‘Soil moisture probes & irrigation efficiency’


Funding opportunities

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Project resources and contacts

Project contacts

Jodie Hoggard — Project Manager     027 551 5902    jodie.hoggard@ecan.govt.nz

Governance group - Your local representatives:

  • Catherine Lamb
  • Tony Blunt
  • Simon Mackle
  • Mark Hislop
  • Desiree Bolton
  • Barb Mackle-Woods
  • Elesha Dunlea
  • Deb Bailey, Chris Lawson
  • Makarini Rupene (Environment Canterbury and Rūnanga representative)

Project management (Industry partners):

  • Fonterra – Mike Hennessey, James Caygill
  • Dairy NZ – Katherine McCusker
  • Environment Canterbury – Kevin Heays