Urban New Zealanders have a strong economic, social and cultural connection with natural water bodies, making extensive use of them for recreation, industry, transport, fishing, trade and tourism. However, there is substantial evidence that urban development is harming the water bodies beside which New Zealand’s cities were founded. Urbanisation has resulted in the expansion of the built environment along riparian and coastal margins, modification of streams and estuaries, and their use for the disposal of urban stormwater. Unless alternative forms of urban development can be found, the impacts of historic development on the resilience of urban water bodies are likely to be exacerbated by the continued growth of our cities.

Wellington harbour & city

The researchers developed an operational Decision Support System for assessing the effects of urban development scenarios on the environmental, economic, social and cultural values and resilience of urban water bodies. Building on a pilot Decision Support System developed under a predecessor programme (Urban Planning that Sustains Water bodies), they developed an expanded set of indicators, testing the system through case studies, and using the system to help assess likely future urban development scenarios. They worked closely with council staff to ensure that the Decision Support System would be fit for use in local government planning processes.

As part of the research, they investigated the contribution of alternative forms of stormwater management to building the resilience of urban water bodies. They also investigated the cost of alternative stormwater management approaches, working with local councils.


  • Jonathan Moores, NIWA
  • Christopher Batstone, Cawthron Institute
  • Malcolm Green, NIWA
  • Sharleen Harper, NIWA
  • Annette Semadeni-Davies, NIWA
  • Jennifer Gadd, NIWA
  • Gail Tipa

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