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Te Whāriki Subdivision Phases 1 and 2

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Manages an estimated 6 acre-ft per year or 5% of total runoff from the site in the sites swales and vegetated areas.
  • Improves water quality downstream, with on-site sourced total nitrogen reduced by an estimated 10%, total phosphorus by 19%, total suspended solids by 8%, and fecal coliforms by 8% per year.
  • Increased the number of observed bird species by 400% (fivefold) and the number of observed mollusk, arachnid, and insect species by 165%, as compared to a nearby dairy farm similar to the site's pre-construction condition. The average number of observed species doubled annually from 2017 to 2020.
  • Lowers air temperatures of the residential developments around the wetlands during warm, sunny weather. Air temperatures of residential zones around the wetlands are 3.0ºF (1.8ºC) cooler on average than an adjacent conventional residential zone as measured during a typical sunny day in April.
  • Sequesters 239 tons of atmospheric carbon annually in newly-planted vegetation in the wetland areas. The amount of carbon sequestered annually is equivalent to $6,327 USD (8,952 NZD) of carbon credits on the New Zealand carbon market in April 2021.


  • Encourages physical activity, with 74% of 81 surveyed residents who previously lived in similar residential zones reporting that they have engaged more frequently in physical exercise in and around their neighborhood since they moved to Te Whāriki. On-site observations indicated residents engaged in physical exercise at similar levels to comparable, more traditional, subdivisions.
  • Improves mood and quality of life, with 76% of 79 surveyed residents who previously lived in similar residential zones reporting that they experienced this after they moved to Te Whāriki.
  • Provides educational opportunities such as plant identification walks and field trips to learn about stormwater systems for various user groups, including students at Lincoln University and Lincoln Primary School.
  • Produces fruits and herbs for resident consumption, with 30% of 100 surveyed residents reporting that they have harvested from the public areas. 9% report that they harvest more than 3 times per year on average.
  • Offers improved aesthetic and amenity value according to 53% of 81 surveyed residents who previously lived in similar residential zones.
  • Promotes alternative transportation modes, with 55% of 78 surveyed residents who previously lived in similar residential zones reporting that they make fewer trips by car since they moved to Te Whāriki.


  • Supports a growing number of businesses adjacent to the site, with 15 more businesses established within 150 ft (46 meters) of Te Whāriki from when the first phase was completed in 2017 through July 2021. 73% of 100 surveyed residents report that they visit adjacent businesses more than twice per week.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Earthwork Landscape Architects

  • Project Type

    Wetland creation/restoration

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    176 Southfield Drive
    Lincoln, 7608, New Zealand
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  • Climate Zone


  • Size

    144 acres (58.4 ha)

  • Budget

    $1,190,000 USD (1,654,000 NZD) (Phase 2)

  • Completion Date

    Phase 1: 2017; Phase 2: 2019

Te Whāriki is a residential subdivision adjacent to Lincoln University in Canterbury, New Zealand. By integrating the unique bicultural history of indigenous Māori and European cultures along with the ecological characteristics of the area into its framework, the project transformed a dairy farm owned by Lincoln University into a performance-focused residential landscape with high amenity value that creates a link between the university and its neighbouring township. Its ecological, educational, and cultural functions are supported by a series of interconnected wetlands, circulation networks, stormwater systems, and green spaces. The first phases of the project are complete, and the fourth phase, which is an expansion with more housing units, is ongoing as of 2021. Some of the site’s historic waterways were restored, and a new stormwater treatment system was created to help improve water quality 8 km downstream in Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere), a culturally significant lake for local Māori and one of New Zealand’s most polluted lakes as a consequence of agricultural runoff. Native plants from the time predating the dairy farm were reestablished to create wildlife habitat. The site is used by residents, including Lincoln University students and faculty who reside there, for physical activities, gathering, entertainment, and fruit and herb provision. University staff and students as well as local schools use the site for education including plant identification walks and field trips to learn about stormwater systems. 


  • Create a residential community that encourages the use of alternate transportation including walking, cycling, and scooting, thereby curtailing noise and emissions from personal vehicle use.
  • Provide opportunities for food collection and harvesting.
  • Support indigenous flora and fauna.
  • Clean stormwater runoff from roads, gardens and other land surfaces while managing flooding. 
  • Create a link between the township (northeast of the site) and Lincoln University (west of the site).
  • Express  the Māori value of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) throughout the landscape elements, including caring for the health of water and land.
  • Reflect the history of a productive agricultural and horticultural landscape.


  • The stormwater system collects and detains stormwater runoff from roads, gardens, and other land surfaces and is made up of a series of rain gardens, street center swales, and 16 wetlands.
  • The 16 interconnected wetlands, which make up 14% of the total area of the subdivision (20.5 acres or 8.3 ha in total), provide habitat for a range of bird, mollusk, arachnid, and insect species including Australian swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus ssp.) and New Zealand mantis (Orthodera novaezealandiae).
  • A series of paths around and through the wetlands provide residents and visitors with a range of recreational opportunities including wildlife observation, cycling, and walking.
  • The site’s fruiting plants including Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia), rabbit-eye blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum), and redcurrant (Ribes rubrum); along with herbs including rosemary (Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and sage (Salvia officinalis); and a flax garden (Phormium spp.) support the food and fiber provisioning function of the landscape. Residents and visitors are encouraged to freely harvest food and fiber from the landscape. New Zealand has many species of flax, or harakeke in Māori, which is traditionally used in weaving. Harakeke is a completely different species to European flax (Linum sp.) and represents a uniquely native resource.
  • The demonstration features like the stormwater system, wetlands, and flax garden provide students from adjacent Lincoln University and nearby schools with a variety of educational opportunities. There are a range of informational signs adjacent to the demonstration features, which help the broader community to gain a deeper understanding of the value of the landscape features and the cultural significance of the site. 
  • A series of green spaces including a playground, herb and flax gardens, and seating spaces are distributed throughout the subdivision. These spaces are used by residents for physical exercise and play, harvesting food and fiber, gathering, and socializing. 
  • Local geology is expressed through features like gabion baskets, which interpret the underlying geomorphogy of alluvial and volcanic stone overlaying each other in different sequences across the site.


The landscape design contributes a cultural narrative to the residential area. The wetlands and flax plantings make a tangible connection to the wider context of nearby Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere). The lake has a rich history for local Māori, for whom it was a source for the production, procurement, and protection of mahinga kai or food resources. Since European settlement of the area in the mid-nineteenth century, agriculture has dramatically transformed the surrounding landscape and resulted in significant deterioration of the environmental quality of land and water. While water quality is important for the health and well-being of the community, it is particularly important for Māori, as water (wai) is intimately connected with mahinga kai, as well as more spiritual aspects of well-being such as wairua, which is the spirit or soul.

Te Whāriki means ‘floor mat’, traditionally a mat woven from flax, and the design of the subdivision conceptualises the lake bed as a floor mat, recalling that Te Waihora historically extended as far as the subdivision and expressing it through the wetlands and design. Some areas have paving designs that reflect whāriki mats. This recollection and expression of continuity between the mat of the land and the lakebed symbolises how environmental stewardship at Te Whāriki has positive consequences for the lake.

One of the common spaces in the community is themed as Mahi Toi (arts and crafts), and it incorporates a raranga (weaving) pattern. The play mounds present in the area echo the fortifications of the nearby Ngāti Moki marae (complex of buildings).

Te Whāriki’s proximity to Lincoln University means that a number of faculty and students live there, and some of the street names commemorate the University’s history with the names of well-known staff such as Crowder Street named for organic farming pioneer Bob Crowder, and Goh Street after Emeritus Professor of Soil Science, Kuan Goh. 

The design, consenting (acquiring legal permission), and construction of the wetlands was estimated to cost approximately $18 million USD in total ($21 USD per sf), while its maintenance is estimated to cost between $174,382 to $309,057 USD per year. Although the cost of acquiring (i.e. designing, consenting, and constructing) and maintaining the wetlands is expected to be higher than other stormwater facilities, the wetlands are considered to have multiple benefits as illustrated above. Also, approximately 52% of survey respondents who previously lived in similar environments (subdivisions) report that the wetlands are one of the reasons they chose to live in Te Whāriki. The presence of the wetlands is the second most commonly cited reason for them to move to Te Whāriki. Besides the tangible benefits outlined above, the wetlands are also closely related to other intangible aspects of sustainability such as cultural value. 

  • In 2021, the Canterbury area in which Te Whāriki is located experienced a 100-year flooding event, with up to double one month’s rainfall falling within three days from May 30 to June1. Prior to Te Whāriki’s development, the dairy farm was frequently flooded in significant rain events. However, during  the 2021 flood, while surrounding farmland was inundated with water and experienced stock losses and scouring from shifting river beds, Te Whāriki’s stormwater system performed well. The wetlands gradually filled but the roads and residences remained free from surface flooding. The Lincoln community page on Facebook included some commentary on the performance of the stormwater system during the rain event. Nearly 20 posts and comments on the community page affirmed that the wetlands were performing well, including “They’re fine⁠ — no flooding. Doing what they’re designed to do,” and “They are handling it well! They did a great job of all of the drainage around here.” Residents posted photos and videos of the wetlands during the event, which are not only evidence of Te Whāriki’s performance during an extreme flooding event, but also of the residents’ engagement with their landscape. The sense that there is a collective interest in how the wetlands respond to flooding reflects how landscapes that are eco-revelatory can motivate users to better understand landscape processes and contribute to a heightened sense of connection to place.
  • In a survey of residents, some reported that they do not know whether it is permissible to pick the fruit or herbs from public areas. Residents commented on their reluctance to pick the fruit and herbs, even indicating that the survey had alerted them to the fact that these resources are available. Comments included: “No signs to say it’s ok. It seems a bit selfish to take the fruit,” and “Cool! Didn’t know about this.” Others reported that they have never picked fruits and herbs because they do not know what kind of spray has been used, and they perceive that fruits and herbs may be contaminated: “Not identified as free and available + open to dog pee and cat faeces.” This lack of awareness and concern over safety indicate that it would be useful to have interpretive signs adjacent to plantings, specifically invitations to use the resources, advisory signage suggesting washing produce, and messages regarding not over-picking. 
  • The survey unexpectedly revealed a range of concerns regarding maintenance and suggested that residents welcomed the opportunity to comment on aspects of the care of the neighborhood’s landscape. This includes comments such as: “Unkept streetscapes,” and “I would like to see public landscape features (e.g. plantings) better maintained.” This highlights the need for residents to be able to alert authorities to maintenance issues. The local authority (Selwyn District Council) utilizes a “Snap Send Solve” app which allows for problems to be reported using GPS and photographs, but it seems residents may not be aware of this.  

Street Furniture: Fel Group Ltd
Playground Furniture: Playground People Ltd
Playground Furniture: Playground Centre Ltd
Playground Surface: Multisport Surfaces Ltd
Playground Surface: Playbases Ltd
Plant Material: Wai-Ora Forest Landscapes Ltd
Concrete: Peter Fell Ltd


Project Team

Landscape architect: Earthwork Landscape Architects (SI) Ltd
Client: Lincoln University and Ngāi Tahu Property Joint Venture
General contractor: BG Contracting Ltd
Engineering and surveying consultant (Phases 1 and 2): Aurecon New Zealand Ltd
Engineering and surveying consultant (Phase 3): Fraser Thomas Ltd


Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect developed the cultural and historical narrative for the site including liaising with with mana whenua (literally ‘people of the land’ — Māori who have territorial and historical rights to a particular area). Subsequent phases included the design and planning of broad-scale landscape connections including the development of pedestrian and cycle connections, establishment of recreation opportunities, and linkages related to cultural and historical narratives. The landscape architect was responsible for conceptual design, detail design, planting design, and construction documentation. Further involvement included coordination of civil engineering and wetland system design, and an assessment of the wetland system by the landscape architect with the engineers for phases 1 and 2.


Stormwater management, Water quality, Populations & species richness, Temperature & urban heat island, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Health & well-being, Educational value, Food production, Scenic quality & views, Transportation, Economic development, Wetland, Bioretention, Biodiversity, Green communities, Resilience, Restoration

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