Shaping NZ’s dairy farming future: analysing ecosystem health and sustainability with DairyNZ

At a glance...

The client

DairyNZ conducts vital scientific research to help New Zealand dairy farmers become world leaders in sustainability.

The challenge

To fill knowledge gaps about NZ’s freshwater ecosystem health and the effects of dairying.

The results

We collected data from 59 sites in in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Canterbury and Southland from catchments with a range of dairying intensity. The analysis of the data is ongoing.


DairyNZ is a research and resource development organisation that represents and supports the dairy farming industry in Aotearoa. They want NZ to lead the way in sustainable farming, but to do that, they need complete datasets to measure ecosystem health. They came to us to help conduct a survey of ecosystem health at 59 sites across 4 regions over just a few weeks. Here’s how we did it.

The ask

“DairyNZ conduct scientific research to help the farming industry innovate and evolve its practices throughout the country. The goal is for New Zealand dairy farmers to be world leaders in sustainability. To achieve this ambitious goal, DairyNZ need a thorough understanding of New Zealand’s ecosystem health. Many regional councils collect data regularly through State of the Environment Monitoring – but ecological health data is not always collected from sites best suited to understanding effects from dairying. We were asked to fill the gaps.”

Nick Carter | Senior Freshwater Scientist, Ecological Solutions

“Our brief was to collect ecology data from State of the Environment Monitoring sites where only water quality data was available.”

They asked us to assess 59 sites to conduct surveys and fill the knowledge gaps for their research. They wanted to be able to compare the existing water quality data with ecological data, to gain a deeper understanding of how they are related. This would be invaluable to their continuing scientific research.

Why us?

Our client needed a team of expert, senior ecologists available at short-notice, and able to travel the country to complete an ambitious project within a tight timeframe. Our reputation for freshwater expertise, delivery and experience throughout the country made us the perfect fit.

Our solution

“Each region had its own methods for collecting ecological data, and some of it went back decades. Despite national protocols brought in to standardise things, these individual methods were still used and unique to each area. As you can imagine, this made things tricky. To add to that, much of the methodology wasn’t written down. We needed to talk to the councils in each region and make sure we understood what they had done and how, before starting our own work there.” 

DairyNZ also wanted other types of data collected across all the sites. This included eDNA and invertebrate sampling.

“The outcome was a comprehensive assessment that DairyNZ was able to use to compare within and among regions.”

The results

“What started as one project was expanded into three. Our methods had ensured that high quality data was provided to allow for meaningful analyses and conclusions that were consistent with regional methodologies of the past, present, and future. Our comprehensive report provided the value needed to make future decisions and inform DairyNZ’s critical scientific research.”

We successfully completed our surveys of 59 sites in the required timeframe. We are now assisting with the analysis of this data and helping DairyNZ to progress this important work.

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