Kei te ora te wai, kei te ora te whenua, kei te ora te tangata.

If the water is healthy, the land and the people are nourished.

The Manawatū River is a beacon for challenges facing freshwater quality in New Zealand. That is why, in August 2010, iwi/hapū, local and central government, farming, and industry leaders along with Massey University and environmental and recreational advocacy groups from around the Manawatū Catchment formed the Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum.

Pledging to work together to improve the health of the Manawatū River and its Catchment, Forum members signed the Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord. The Accord document set out a focus, vision, and goals for the river. Accord members firmly believe that by working together we can achieve more than working alone, for the benefit of all. We are all kaitiaki (guardians) of the river, so if we step up and protect our taonga, its mauri (lifeforce) will return and thrive for future mātātahi (generations).

The main goal of the Accord is to improve the Manawatū River, such that it sustains fish species, and is suitable for contact recreation, in balance with the social, cultural and economic activities of the catchment community. Specific goals set out in the Accord are:

  • The Manawatū River becomes a source of regional pride and mana.
  • Waterways in the Manawatū Catchment are safe, accessible, swimmable, and provide good recreation and food resources.
  • The Manawatū Catchment and waterways are returned to a healthy condition.
  • Sustainable use of the land and water resources of the Manawatū Catchment continues to underpin the economic prosperity of the region.

The Accord brought us together and set a vision and goals for improving the health of the awa. The next step was to identify priority areas and understand where the most impact could be made. The Action Plan (2011-2015) was developed and launched in July 2011. Accord members were committed to making change with six priorities and over 130 tasks identified in a huge collaborative effort. Progress on the Action Plan (2011-2015) was reported on in the 2012 and 2014 Progress Reports. Alongside the Action Plan (2011-2015) the Accord Forum utilised opportunities as they arose, delivering on a $46million work programme through the Manawatū Clean-up fund project in partnership with Central Government.

A lot has been accomplished but there is still plenty more work to be done. A second iteration of the Action Plan (2016-21) was launched in March 2016 to incorporate new actions and tasks, and a range of new forum members including DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, Environment Network Manawatū, and the Save Our River Trust. Within this Action Plan, 34 diverse signatories agreed to over 100 tasks to improve the health of the Manawatū River. As part of the second Action Plan the Accord Forum again partnered with Central Government, gaining $534,000 funding through the Te Mana o te Wai fund, towards the $814,000 Tū Te Manawa project. This enabled the iwi led project, which coordinated and supported efforts to share histories and stories of the awa with the community while enhancing and protecting sites of significance. In 2017 $2.9million was secured from Central Government through the Freshwater Improvement Fund. Supplementing $4.3million contributed by councils and landowners to support a range of projects over five years.

Learn about some of the tasks underway or completed in the Activities pages.

Progress Report 2018

Progress on the Action Plan 2016-2018, released in November 2018.

Action Plan 2016-2021

The Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord Action Plan, released in 2016.


Have you got a environmental project in mind that will help protect or enhance our awa and involve the community? We might be able to help, find out about our available funding.


Progress Report 2018
Progress on the Action Plan 2016-2018, released in November 2018.

Manawatū-Whanganui Regional water quality state and trends 2018
In 2018 Accord member Horizons Regional Council and Land Water People conducted a study of the state of water quality in the Manawatū-Whanganui Region.

River Accord Milestone Timeline 2017
A snapshot look at the key milestones achieved by 2017.

Action Plan Summary
This is a summarised document of the full 2016 Action Plan.

Action Plan 2016-2021
The Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord Action Plan, released in 2016.

Science and Mātauranga Maori Advisory Panel Statement 2015
A science and Mātauranga Māori panel was convened in 2015 to discuss the current state of the river, key issues and possible solutions to help inform development of a revised Action Plan for 2016.

Progress Update November 2014
Progress on the Action Plan 2016-2018.

Progress Update April 2014
Progress on the Action Plan 2016-2018.

State and Trends of Water Quality in the Manawatū Catchment 2014
A scientific report of the state and trends within the Manawatū Catchment.

Progress Update 2012
Progress on the Action Plan 2016-2018.

Action Plan 2011-2015
The Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord Action Plan, released in 2011.