Tributary of Break Creek, Westland
Image: Nixie Boddy | DOC


The CRESP research programme addresses four pressures on New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems.

Pressures on New Zealand freshwater ecosystems

CRESP logo

Pressures on New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems have had significant consequences for our freshwater species.

However, we have incomplete knowledge of how these pressures are affecting our freshwater ecosystems and their associated biodiversity and cultural values. This limits our ability to effectively advocate for and manage our freshwater systems.

The four key pressures CRESP is addressing are: 

Water levels and flows

This includes any alteration to natural river flow regimes, such as changes in seasonal patterns of flow and water levels in rivers, lakes and wetlands. The primary pressures that influence water levels and flows include water abstraction, diversion, augmentation and drainage.

Critical habitat loss

This includes the total loss of habitat, habitat deterioration and habitat modification in rivers, lakes and wetlands through activities such as piping and draining streams and wetlands, removing aquatic plants, and channelisation.

Sediment and nutrients

This includes the effects of deposited and suspended sediment on freshwater ecosystems and species, and the direct and indirect effects of nutrient enrichment, focussing specifically on nitrogen and phosphorus.

Fish passage

This includes the effects of instream structures that alter freshwater habitats or block fish movements upstream and/or downstream. It encompasses the removal and modification of barriers, as well as the installation of barriers to protect native species.

Research programme objectives

The CRESP research programme began in 2019. It has three key objectives.

  • To deliver research that produces new evidence and data on the ecological responses of freshwater systems to changes in critical ecosystem pressures 
  • To contribute knowledge to improving freshwater advocacy and management in New Zealand.
  • To work in partnership with Māori and regional, national and international organisations.

CRESP four-year research strategy

This research strategy has been developed to provide strategic direction and inform annual investment priorities for research under DOC’s CRESP programme for 2020–2023. 

CRESP 4-year research strategy (PDF, 754K)

A collaborative approach

Through the CRESP research programme, DOC is keen to work in partnership with Māori and regional, national and international organisations to collectively build evidence that supports ecologically sustainable approaches to managing the effects of land and water use on freshwater biodiversity.

Collaborative research will particularly be sought with iwi and hapū, councils, CRIs, universities, and other research agencies. This includes partnerships with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)-funded freshwater research programmes and National Science Challenges. Opportunities for supporting postgraduate and postdoctoral study will also be targeted.

Research project summaries



If you have any questions or want to collaborate or fund a project, email us:

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