Hedgehope Makarewa Catchment Group

Hedgehope Makarewa Catchment Group covers 60,000ha of their 111,940 ha wider catchment, from just south of Mataura in the north down to Rakahouka on State Highway 98 in the south.  Its southern boundary (between Rakahouka and Edendale), runs north of State Highway 98 almost across to State Highway 1, where the eastern boundary cuts up between Edendale and Mataura. To the west, the area extends across to Ryal Bush and down to Wallacetown where the Oreti River forms the western boundary. 

The main surface waters found in this area are the Oreti River, the Makarewa River, and the Dunsdale, Hedgehope and Waikiwi Streams.

Watch this video to learn more about the Catchment Group

Thanks to Ballance Farm Environment Awards for creating this

Watch the video above to learn about the Understanding the Land to Drive Change project

Number of members in the CG

The group has 12 core members that form a Steering Group, and a wider group of 90 people that attend events and are kept up to date with what the group is doing. All have a passion for strong thriving communities.

Types of people in the group

The group is made up of dairy, sheep & beef, deer and crop farmers, Rural Professionals, Contractors, local school representatives and community members.  It is all about working together to connect, inspire and support our community to be well informed, and make great decisions that look after and benefit our land, water and people.  All are welcome to come and join us.

How we work

The group meets regularly (3 or 4 times) throughout the year at the Thriving Southland offices. We avoid having meetings in the busy farm seasons.

We run events to bring people together to share knowledge and skills, access expert advice and information, and work on projects that are useful to our catchment and community. All our events and projects involve community and/or individual wellbeing aspect too.

We have a Facebook page to advertise our events and share information on our projects and their results.

The group also sends members to the twice yearly Southland Catchment Group Forum meetings, Catchment Group training opportunities, Oreti Catchment Group Leaders Get Togethers and supports other Southland Catchment Group initiatives.

Date the Catchment Group started

  • 2014 – The Hedgehope Dunsdale Catchment Group was started in 2014 when a couple of farmers had a "farmer meeting" as they passed each other on a gravel road in vehicles.  They were the fourth Catchment Group to start in Southland. 
  • March 2020 – The Hedgehope Dunsdale Catchment Group expanded into the Ryal Bush and Makarewa areas and became the Hedgehope Makarewa Catchment Group. 

Projects completed

Our two big projects – the Winter Crop Establishment Trial & Understanding Our Land to Drive Change have been a huge part of over lives over the last few years.

The Winter Crop Establishment Project was a cross sector pilot study to gain real, practical on farm information about different aspects of winter grazing (e.g., cultivation, crop, soil condition and animal welfare), to support farmers in Southland and across New Zealand meet the Essential Freshwater Regulations.

Working with the Southern Dairy Hub, the group extended the Hub’s Winter Crop Cultivation Pilot Study onto ten commercial farms across Southland. They tested whether utilising alternative crop establishment methods vs conventional cultivation (e.g., direct drilling, strip tillage, air seeding, precision drilling etc) for fodder beet, swedes and kale, improved soil structure and strength, thereby reducing pugging and improving animal welfare during winter grazing.

With the help of farmers and volunteers (and the wonderful Independent Agronomist Natalie Sutton (nee Stocker)), they gathered a huge amount of data, and gained real practical on-farm information in Southland conditions.

The learnings from the project can be found here on their Project webpage, including a short video, easy to read Project Summary, Technical Summary and Project Reports. The group hope that this work will be expanded and become part of a fully controlled scientific study.

Special thanks to go to Natalie Sutton for all her hard work and leadership on the commercial farm element of the study, and also to the army of volunteers, rural businesses and Southern Dairy Hub Technicians who helped make this project possible.

Our second project Understanding Our Land to Drive Change saw us work closely with Environmental Consultancy Land & Water Science, to help people better understand our catchment and how variations in landscape can impact water quality and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

By helping landowners understand their properties landscape susceptibility and resilience, it helps them work out what mitigation options to invest in and where they should be put on their property to get the most out of them.

We used state of the art technology to map the landscape and its interactions with water quality and GHG emissions, including airbourne radiometric data to improve and refine existing soil maps, drone survey data to create high-resolution hydrological layers, ground truthing to validate the accuracy of the radiometric data, and studying four case study farms to show how this information can be used at a property scale. These farms were a cross reference of the land-use and elevation/location within the whole catchment.

To help people access the information in a really easy to understand way, an online platform was created displaying the information in seven sub catchments, and linking to information on possible mitigations  - Online Mapping Platform

We also ran a field day on two of the case study farms so they could share how they had used this information to benefit their properties, spoke about the project and its findings at two Southern Dairy Hub field days, and ran three workshops for landowners and rural professionals to help people learn how to use the online platform and turn the maps into action. Making the data accessible, relevant, easy to view and understand has been a very important part of our project.

This was a really exciting and cutting edge project. It gives powerful information to local landowners to help them make great decisions on future mitigations for their properties and where to target them, and ultimately helps make great outcomes for our land, water and community.

More information on our project can be found here, including a short video, case study summaries and the link to the online mapping platform.

Alongside these projects, the group worked with Hedgehope School and Hokonui Runanga to have a community hangi and planting session at the school. Meat and veg was kindly donated by the Alliance Group Limited, So Sweet and local Catchment Group members.

We hosted a pre-lambing and calving community pot luck lunch catch up, which was a great chance to get together before things got super busy on farm, and included very quick updates on our two big projects. We also took part in a nationwide eDNA (environmental DNA) water quality monitoring programme (along with the other Southland Catchment Groups), to provide valuable information on the plants and animals found in and around New Zealand’s waterways. Our sample was taken from the confluence of the Hedgehope and Makarewa Rivers.

In 2022 we ran a Grow Your Own Native Trees From Seed Field day at Sherwood Forest supported by Jesse Bythell from QEII, and have supported Hedgehope School with the stream health aspects of their study on Sherwood Forest. And in 2023 we teamed up with the other six Oreti catchment Groups to host a Mid & Lower Oreti bus trip to help understand our catchment better and all the great work that is being done to look after it.

All this work came together in 2023 when we won some awards for our work.  Southern Cross Produce (SO Sweet) won the Horticulture New Zealand 2023 Environmental Award for their work as a case study farm on the Understanding Our Land to Drive Change project.  We were showcased at the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and won the Environmental Improvement in Water Quality Award at the Environment Southland Community Awards for our work on helping locals better understand their catchment and how to make great decisions to look after its land, water and people.

Projects underway

Currenting investigating getting funding for a potential project looking at soil carbon sequestration in a farming system.

Projects planned

  1. Spreading Good Management Practice through local field days

  2. Exploring local communication and engagement ideas

  3. Looking at how we can help our community to develop and use their Farm and Property Environmental Management Plans, to meet the latest standards and legal requirements

Hosted events / meetings

  1. Community hangi with Hedgehope School, Hokonui Runanga and the Catchment Group – 19 March 2021

  2. Spoke at the Southern Dairy Hub’s July Field Day on the winter crop cultivation trial – 7 July 2021

  3. Spoke at the Makarewa Catchment Group Meeting on the Understanding Our Catchment Project – 13 July 2021

  4. Pre-lambing and calving community catch up & pot luck lunch – 1 August 2021

  5. Grow Your Own Native Trees From Seed Field Day at Sherwood Forest- Monday 28 February 2022

  6. Speaking about the Winter Crop Establishment Trial and the Understanding our Landscape to Drive Change Project at Southern Dairy Hub Field days – July 2021 and 2 March 2023

  7. Understanding our Land to Drive Change field day – 17 March 2023

  8. Mid & Lower Oreti Bus Trip (co-organised by all the Oreti Catchment Groups) – 22 March 2023

  9. Oreti Catchment Group Leaders Annual Get Together – 3 July 2023

  10. Maps into Action - First Farmer Session – 3 August 2023

  11. Maps into Action - Rural Professional event – 15 August 2023

  12. Maps into Action - Second Farmer Session – 10 October 2023

Find us on Facebook

Find us on our Facebook Page - Hedgehope Makarewa Catchment Group

One of our members set up the awesome #paintabetter picture Facebook page which is fantastic to follow - Paint a Better Picture

A bit about our original Catchment Group & all that they achieved

The original Hedgehope Dunsdale Catchment Group was all about: sharing & informing; educating & raising awareness; supporting and creating solutions, and accessing information & experts.  They wanted to understand and learn about the water quality in the Dunsdale and Hedgehope Rivers, and ensure their community was fully informed of any regulations from the Council and Government, and its implications on their area and community.  They also wanted to understand Iwi values in their area, especially with regard to water quality.


  • Advocated for our community and brought farm sectors and community together
  • Formed a strong relationship with staff and Council members at Environment Southland, so could be a positive part and have a say in the regulatory changes that were coming 
  • Worked with Environment Southland to get a permanent water quality monitoring station at the confluence of the Hedgehope and Makarewa Rivers
  • Worked alongside other Catchment Groups to understand implications of issues such as forestry and share knowledge  
  • Speakers on current issues, such as Clint Rissmann (physiographics), Deane Carson (water testing and E. Coli)
  • Various workshops on the Land & Water 2020, Farm Environment Plans, on water sampling, Rapid Habitat Assessment, critical source areas (identifying environment risks), and how to submit to Government on policies and regulations
  • Raised the profile of Catchment Groups, and supported newly emerging Catchment Groups 
  • Created mutual respect and understanding between Catchment Groups and local, regional and national regulatory bodies
  • Increased personal knowledge, understanding and skills to represent our community and farming sectors

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