CLUES - Catchment Land Use for Environmental Sustainability

MPI, in association with MfE, has worked with the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and other agencies (AgResearch, Landcare Research, Plant and Food Research, and Harris Consulting) to develop a GIS-based modelling system for assessing the effects of land-use changes on water quality and socio-economic indicators. A number of existing modelling and mapping procedures, developed by various research organisations, have been amalgamated to produce CLUES. The impetus for development of the system came from MPI, who wanted 'what if' scenarios to be modelled at large scales.

CLUES currently models annual average Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, E. coli and sediment loads in streams nationally (576,000 stream reaches, subcatchments of 0.5 km2 on average) and predicts a range of socio economic indicators such as farm employment and associated GDP, based largely on MPI monitor farm information. CLUES also predicts concentrations of Total Nitrogen and Total Phosphorus. Land-use maps are provided with CLUES, but the user can create new land use scenarios by modifying the land use interactively or importing a new land-use. Mitigation factors and stock intensification can also be specified to create new scenarios.

The CLUES project included creating national maps of land use, soils databases predicting nitrogen leaching for horticultural and cropping land, and links to simplified versions of OVERSEER®. Land-use types which can be analysed include several sheep, beef, dairy, and deer farming variations.along with arable, horticulture, and forestry land uses.

The first stage of development was funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) as part of the Cross Departmental Research Pool, which produced two reports:

Further work funded by EnviroLink (MSI-funded applied environmental research on behalf of regional councils) and Pastoral 21 (pastoral industry research funding in partnership with MSI) improved the system more suitable for use by regional councils - for example, by predicted microbe and sediment changes in water courses, local calibrations of the underlying water quality prediction model, routines to calculate concentrations, addition of further socio-economic indicators, addition of mitigation measures, and programme maintenance and user training. This work has been presented in a range of publications, and summary information is provided in the CLUES manual (available from

Examples of projects applying CLUES to water management issues are shown in the table below.

Region / Catchments Who Comments
National, Various Dairy Best Practice Catchments NIWA for P21 Testing the model. Identified additional sources required for P, and role of groundwater in some catchments
Waikato (Waipapa, whole catchment) Environment Waikato Effect of conversions in Waipapa, tailored land-use approach in the Waikato catchment
Waikato Independent Scoping Study Effects of land use change and interventions on E. Coli
Manawatu NIWA for Envirolink Comparison with measurements, identification of contribution from different sources
Southland / OretiRiver AgResearch and NIWA for ES Mitigation measure effectiveness
Waikato NIWA for P21 Identified hot-spots, reaches that exceed concentration standards under various land-uses.
Canterbury / Hurunui Catchment NIWA for P21 Current work identifying loadings
National / NZ estuaries NIWA Linking catchment model to estuary model
Bay of Plenty / Lake Rotorua NIWA for Environment Bay of Plenty University of Waikato
Southland /Mataura River Environment Southland Land use change scenarios (irrigation) and mitigation measures
National DOC Nutrient loadings to lakes, fish habitat stressor, FWENZ

The latest version of the CLUES is available free from NIWA. ArcGIS is required to run the program, but default input data files are provided for each region in New Zealand. The software, user manual and User Licence can be downloaded from To be placed on a list of users, and for information regarding training or to report problems, please contact NIWA - CLUES


Last Updated: 01 May 2012

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