Our Research


Motu’s environmental research looks at why and how humans benefit from, depend on, use and affect the environment. This includes climate change, water, agriculture, forestry and horticulture. We provide insight into the drivers of human behaviour to understand how we can effectively change that behaviour. 


Motu researchers also work closely with natural scientists and other experts in this arena. We have worked with the World Bank, the OECD, most of New Zealand's Crown Research Institutes, Fonterra, Z Energy, Meridian Energy, the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment among many others.


Within our environmental work, Motu does a combination of theoretical and conceptual work that informs effective policies and action in Government and private companies. We also provide:

  • Environmental modelling (particularly our Land Use in Rural New Zealand or LURNZ model)
  • Integrated simulation modelling
  • Evaluation of existing programmes
  • Dialogues with stakeholders
  • Teaching (including short films and games)
  • Public information (using our Low Emissions Future blog).

Our research focus

Motu’s current and recent environment and agricultural research focus includes:


The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through:

  • Emissions pricing
  • Sequestering carbon in trees
  • Understanding the linkages between freshwater quality and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Working with people in developing countries to reduce their emissions
  • The design of international cooperative agreements
  • Understanding barriers to uptake of environmentally friendly, and profitable, farming practices.

The impacts of climate change through:

  • Understanding the implications of climate change for the agricultural sector and rural land values
  • Understanding how climate change will affect New Zealand's public disaster insurance.

Previous work

In the past Motu has completed extensive programmes on:

  • Understanding how different farmers are likely to be affected by climate change.
  • Managing water quality - focusing on agricultural sources in catchments for Lake Rotorua and Lake Taupo.
  • Nitrogen market design to protect lakes and improve political flexibility, including the implications of the different choices for allocation of permits to leach nitrogen.
  • Implications of natural science complexity for the design of regulation, e.g. the role of groundwater.
  • Fisheries management, including a history and evaluation of the New Zealand Individual Transferrable Quota System. 


Related Websites

New Zealand's low emissions future blog asks what are Aotearoa New Zealand’s possible pathways toward a global low-emission future and what important choices lie ahead?  It creates a forum for sharing information and perspectives about the mitigation challenges Aotearoa New Zealand faces, the assets that we have, the solutions we might develop or adapt, the lessons we can learn from overseas and the experience we can offer to other countries.