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 the video above to learn about the online tool

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 that attend events and are kept up to date with what the group is doing.  All have a passion for strong thriving communities. 

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. 

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.

Projects completed

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 meet regularly throughout the year when we need to, avoiding having meetings in the busy farm seasons.  We have a Facebook page to advertise our events and share information on our projects and their results. 

Over the last two years we have 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, and lots was learnt by Catchment Group Members and students. We also hosted a pre-lambing and calving community pot luck lunch catch up. It 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. We continue to strongly support Southland wide Catchment Group initiatives like the Catchment Group Forum, Oreti Leaders get togethers, Thriving Southland Ladies Enviro series and Southern Women NZ initiative.

Projects underway

Our two big projects – Understanding Our Land to Drive Change and the Winter Crop Establishment Trial have been a huge part of over lives over the last few years. We have worked closely with Environmental Consultancy Land & Water Science on the Understanding our Catchment Project, and with the Southern Dairy Hub and 10 commercial farms for the Winter Crop Establishment Trial.

  1. The Winter Crop Establishment Trial 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), and to support farmers in Southland, and across New Zealand, meet the upcoming Essential Freshwater Regulations. The study tested whether utilising alternative crop establishment methods vs conventional cultivation improves soil structure and strength, thereby reducing pugging and improving animal welfare during winter grazing.

    We are now sharing the learnings from the Winter Crop Establishment Trial through a short video, easy to read Project Summary, Technical Summary and Project Reports – please follow this link to find out more: Winter Crop Establishment Trial Project Info. To download the report, click the button below.

    Special thanks needs to go to Independent Agronomist 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.

    The next steps for the Hedgehope Makarewa Catchment Group and DairyNZ are to find funders to expand the work of this pilot study and get a fully controlled scientific study underway.

2. The Understanding Our Land to Drive Change project has seen us work very closely alongside Land & Water Science, to use science and local knowledge to understand how variation in landscape characteristics drives water quality outcomes for our catchment.

Radiometrics have been used to create high-resolution hydrological layers to help landowners understand their catchment and help them develop practical solutions to meet upcoming regulatory changes.

An online platform has been developed and tested to help share the data with the catchment’s landowners in an easy to understand and view way. Making the data accessible, relevant and easy to view and understand has been a very important facet of our project, and we have divided our area into 7 sub catchments to help with this.

Four case study farms have been selected for additional focus to give insights on their landscape susceptibility or resilience. These farms are a cross reference of the land-use and elevation/location within the whole catchment, and we hope to hold field days on each farm to look at the findings in the future.

This is a very exciting and cutting edge project, that will give some pretty powerful information into the hands of our farmers, so they can make more accurate decisions about their farming practises. Managing data privacy is an important aspect of this project, and the information being gathered can only be accessed and seen by the landowner.

More information about this project can be found on the Thriving Southland Project webpage Hedgehope Makarewa Project Page.

3. Exploring local communication and engagement ideas

Projects planned

  1. Spreading Good Management Practice through local field days
  2. 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 requirement

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 at Southern Dairy Hub Field days and other events

    The Hedgehope Makarewa Catchment Group Steering Committee meet regularly throughout the year, and representatives from this group also regularly attend twice yearly Southland Catchment Group Forum meetings, training opportunities, such as communication and running effective and fun meetings, and the annual Oreti Catchment Group Leaders get together. They are also very supportive of attending other Southland Catchment Groups events and initiatives, and always include farmer and community wellbeing in their events and projects. 

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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