River and drainage management

We help communities reduce the risk of flooding and erosion to their properties by carrying out river and drainage works within river catchment rating districts.

Our land drainage and river catchment programmes focus on providing physical works, services, advice and assistance to landowners. We aim to:

  • reduce the risk of flooding and soil erosion
  • reduce the amount of sediment entering waterways
  • improve water quality
  • improve river stability
  • improve river environments, for example creating a better habitat for a wide variety of animals and plants.

Working closely with communities and catchment liaison committees means that issues of concern are identified, and sustainable solutions are agreed and actioned.

Our river engineering staff currently maintain an extensive range of river management, erosion control, flood control and land drainage works in seven major river catchments and ten special land drainage districts.

For many of the smaller streams, this may simply involve maintaining a clear channel, and managing vegetation along the river banks. For larger rivers, works also may involve constructing and maintaining flood banks, river training structures, flood gutters, bed load management and gravel extraction.

The annual programme of works is determined by River Engineering staff in conjunction with river rating district liaison committees. These committees assist Council in representing the needs of the people within each rating district. People within each rating district pay for the work through a targeted rate, and the remaining amount is funded from the general rate to reflect the wider benefits to the community at large.

Our services include:


Information, advice and co-ordination

​We provide advice and information to landowners on good river management practices, and can co-ordinate activities of contracted work.

Funding assistance

​We have a number of land drainage, river and catchment scheme rating districts, which provide works programmes and funding assistance.

Erosion control

We undertake the control of significant erosion in the region where it involves a number of landowners and stakeholders and a rating district funding commitment.

Free advice and information is also available to help landowners manage river bank erosion on individual properties.

Gravel management

We are responsible for the management of commercial gravel resources on behalf of the Crown and river management functions as part of our legislative responsibilities to manage the effects of erosion and damage to properties by flooding.

We also deliver the Council's regional gravel management function and provide an advisory service to the public.

Maintaining our drains

Environment Southland is responsible for the maintenance of particular drains within its Drainage Rating Districts. The cost of this work is met by a targeted rate on properties in each district.

If you are unsure who is responsible for a particular drain, please contact us.

Working together

Environment Southland​We are responsible for the overall river and catchment management in Southland.
Landowners​Landowners are responsible for normal maintenance of rivers and streams on and around their property.

By working together, Environment Southland and landowners can ensure all responsibilities are met and our rivers and streams are healthy and well managed.

How you can help

Improve drain access on your property

Environment Southland needs access beside the drains it maintains. This includes gates in boundary and internal fences, ensuring fences are an appropriate distance from the drain; and that trees and other vegetation do not impede access or the ability of people or machinery to enter the drain.

Landowners may not plant trees or erect structures within the bed of a water course without resource consent from Environment Southland. This preserves access for drain maintenance.

Environment Southland staff make contact with property owners prior to entering property for inspections or carrying out works.

Find out tips on how to maintain your drains.

We provide the following factsheets on drainage maintenance:

Join a River Liaison Committee

Environment Southland has established seven River Liaison Committees comprised of representatives evenly spread throughout each river catchment and elected annually by their communities.

Their role is to advise and assist Council in the development of annual maintenance works programmes and budgets, and provide an important local contact for each river community regarding special river and land drainage management issues.

For more information and chairman contact details, see our community groups page.

More information

For more help or information about roles and responsibilities, or for any queries on river management and land drainage matters, contact us on 0800 76 88 45.

Page reviewed: 05 Dec 2016 3:23pm