Motuvated motu catchment group logo

Mōtū Catchment Group

Protecting New Zealand's biodiversity basket.

The Mōtū Catchment Group is a farmer led catchment group situated in the upper Mōtū Catchment between Opotiki and Gisborne.

Focused on protecting the crystal clear waters of the Mōtū River and its strong surrounding biodiversity through  fencing, establishment of riparian planting and continued conservation efforts.

Our Taonga

Treasured species present in our area

How MotuVated?

We are focused on the stabilisation of the banks of the Mōtū River and it’s tributaries through fencing, establishment of riparian planting and weed control. This is a continuation of the work funded by MPI’s erosion control fund and here is what we have achieved so far.

Kms Fencing
Trees Planted
motu river

Protecting the Mōtū River

The groups major focus is supporting the Mōtū River of which 35km flows within the catchment group boundaries. The Mōtū is a comparatively clean upland river with a strong cobbled bed, crystal clear side creeks and healthy aquatic life. Unlike most rivers in Aotearoa, agriculture occurs predominantly in the headwaters with the remainder of the catchment being forested in the native vegetation of the Raukumara Range. This creates a unique opportunity for the Mōtū Catchment Group and a traceability that many other catchments lack.

For this reason the Mōtū Catchment is the most achievable river restoration project in the country and in a scientifically unique scenario.


* pictured here the lower Mōtū below the catchment area

Mōtū River Biodiversity

The Mōtū Catchment exhibits an incredible array of biodiversity due both to its unique ecosystems and also the conservation work being undertaken by the catchment groups partners Whinray Ecological Trust and the Eastern Whio Link.

The Mōtū Catchment is the last remaining stronghold of the North Island Weka. These Weka were once widespread, but on the mainland they are now only found in the hills between Matawai and Opotiki where a few thousand survive. The catchment is also the only place where North Island Weka and Kiwi coexist.

The upper Mōtū catchment is home to one of the few healthy populations of Eastern Brown Kiwi which are at the fastest rate of decline of any Kiwi species in the country and the most critically at risk. Whinray Reserve and the surrounding farmland boasts one of the last significant populations of Eastern Brown Kiwi in the country.



Risks to the Mōtū River


River bank erosion is the major threat to the Mōtū River and water quality throughout the catchment. The Mōtū catchment group have already undertaken an extensive erosion control project with the support of MPI’s Erosion Control Fund.

The impacts of river bank erosion in the Mōtū Catchment is sedimentation clogging up the naturally cobbled riverbed with silt and degrading important habitat for Whio, trout, native fish and invertebrates.

Excluding stock from riparian areas by fencing dramatically reduces destabilising of river banks. The root structure of riparian planting offers further structural stability reducing further erosion.

Predator Control

Given the unique biodiversity of the Mōtū Catchment and the abundance of suitable habitat the major threat to this biodiversity is predators. Stoats, Dogs and Cats are the major threat to Weka, Kiwi and Whio with pigs, possums and rats having a lesser impact.

Lack of available cover has been identified as an issue for Whio in the upper catchment with the riparian planting project set to resolve this in coming years as it matures.

Roadkill is a significant threat to Weka as these birds tend to use the roadside vegetation as habitat and cover darting from one side of the road to the other ultimately resulting in many fatalities. The riparian planting project also hopes to mitigate this issue by offering a ‘weka walkway’ along the rivers edge and a biodiversity corridor between conservation areas as it matures.


The upper Mōtū catchment is home to two small rural villages, Mōtū and Matawai. Each of these villages have their own school and both schools have environmental projects set to deliver water monitoring, tree planting days and a science project around tuna (eel) health and abundance.

The upper Mōtū is the rohe of Te Aitanga a Mahaki with the local Marae being Matawai Marae. The Mōtū Catchment Group is working towards stronger engagement with the Marae in future and is actively seeking to deliver on Tangata Whenua aspirations for the Awa and Whenua.

Tourism is a strong element of the Mōtū community with the Motu Trails cycling destination and the Mōtū community house being at the center of it all.

Trout fishing and hunting is also a large tourism drawcard with the Mōtū fishery being one of the best in the region for trophy Brown and Rainbow Trout. The pig hunting is  well renowned in the surrounding Raukumara Range and some of the lower tributaries of the Mōtū such as the Te Kahika and Mangatutara are very popular with pig hunters.

Working together

MotuVated is the upper Mōtū catchment group, which includes approximately 20,000ha of predominantly sheep and beef country with two dairy farms  as well as mixed age forestry and a large amount of native bush cover both in private and public ownership. We work together with local iwi, farmers, schools, conservation groups, volunteers and stakeholders.

Bordering the Mōtū Catchment Group are three significant biodiversity projects

Help Us Reach Our Future Goals


Our aim is to continue to build on the work funded by MPI’s erosion control fund and carried out by the Mōtū Catchment group.

The vision for the group is that the entirety of the main Mōtū River is fenced and riparian planted with prioritised tributaries also stabilised. The overall outcome will be the continuation of the crystal clear waters of the Mōtū River and the strong, cobbled bed of the river which is ideal habitat for Whio, Trout native fish and invertebrates. We are protecting NZ’s biodiversity basket.

Weka Walkway

The upper Mōtū River connects State Forest 93 and the Waioeka Gorge with the Whinray Reserve and the Raukumura Ranges.  There are pockets of native bush on each farm along the way. The Mōtū Catchment Group sees a unique opportunity to create a biodiversity corridor along the Mōtū River to provide safe passage for weka and other species.

This corridor would offer riparian shelter, protection and food  for  taonga species including Weka, Whio, Kiwi, Kereru, Tui, Korimako as well as Karearea and Pekapeka. Predator control in the form of stoat, possum and cat traps will ensure the species utilising the corridor are protected. The ‘Weka Walkway’ will reduce the reliance of Weka on roadside habitat and therefore reduce the number of roadkill deaths sustained by this unique and underrepresented species.

Kiwi on Every Farm

Given the unique nature of the Mōtū Catchment as one of the key strongholds for Eastern Brown Kiwi with Whinray Reserve being at the heart of this sub species continued existence. The Mōtū Catchment Group wishes to build upon the success of this project. There are currently Eastern Brown Kiwi living in low numbers across many of the catchments farms. The bush fragments, forested hilltops and scrub gullies lend themselves to being ideal Kiwi habitat.

The Mōtū Catchment Group will support both Whinray Ecological Trust and Eastern Brown Kiwi by extending the available Kiwi habitat and providing pest control protection.