The geo-database provides an independent, national representation of the biodiversity values and pressures on New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands.

The Freshwater Ecosystems of New Zealand (FENZ) database is part of a package of multiple-agency projects which are helping to build a robust, objective picture of New Zealand’s freshwater to inform decisions around its use and conservation. This is a significant step forward for an emerging whole-of-government approach to the management of New Zealand’s freshwater resources.

FENZ is the result of several years work by central and local government agencies and Crown Research Institutes, led by DOC . It had its origins in the Waters of National Importance component of the Ministry for the Environment’s Sustainable Development Programme of Action.

What is FENZ?

FENZ consists of a large set of spatial data layers and supporting information on New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands. It contains data gathered from a wide variety of sources. It can be used to objectively map and quantify various aspects of New Zealand's freshwater, providing:

  • Comprehensive descriptions of the physical environment and biological character.
  • Classifications that group together rivers and streams, lakes and wetlands having similar ecological character. 
  • Estimates of human pressures and impacts on biodiversity status.
  • Rankings of biodiversity value that indicate a minimum set of sites that would provide representative protection of a full range of freshwater ecosystems while taking account of both human pressures and connectivity.

What can FENZ be used for?

FENZ is designed as a support tool to provide a background context for informed decision making. Various parts of FENZ are already being used both by DOC and by other agencies in the management of freshwater resources. For example: 

  • Data describing the distribution and condition of wetlands has been invaluable in helping DOC staff identify significant wetland values on the South Island's West Coast as part of their broader input to a new Regional Plan.
  • Staff from the Greater Wellington Regional Council are exploring use of the river and stream classification as a framework for regional-scale management. 
  • Environment Waikato staff are using both the ecosystem classification and predictions of the distributions of freshwater species to guide the identification of sites requiring remedial action.

FENZ availability and training

FENZ requires specialist GIS knowledge for its technical operation and biodiversity knowledge for understanding the content. Because of FENZ’s complexity, DOC is providing advice, briefings and training (where possible) to ensure users understand its strengths, limitations and appropriate applications.

Further information

If you would like more information about FENZ or access to any FENZ data sets, email

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