River Values Assessment System (RiVAS)


RiVAS is designed to provide an explicit and standardised method to develop assessment criteria and significance thresholds for multiple in and out of river values. The method can be applied to national and regional planning under the Resource Management Act as well as being used for other purposes such as advocacy activities.


The RiVAS tool (and its underlying method) uses a multi-criteria analysis (MCA) approach and aims to:

  1. Establish criteria to assess the river value;
  2. Identify significance thresholds for these criteria (to identify their importance) and additional factors pertinent to rating the significance of the river value;
  3. Outline a means to determine the significance of a river for a specific river value;
  4. Define terms in order to provide a common language for practitioners and decision-makers.

The intention was to define a method that has applicability for all river values. The method, while operating under a standard framework has the capacity to facilitate variation in its implementation to accommodate the particular characteristics of each river value.

However, once applied for a specific river value (e.g., whitewater kayaking), the expectation is that the method developed for that river value will become the standard approach to significance assessment for New Zealand rivers with respect to that value. The eight river values tested as part of method development should now be considered to have a reasonably standard approach for assessment.

The method is intended to provide a means to inform decision-makers as to the significance of particular values, using a consistent approach. It does not (without further development and evaluation) extend to the exercise of prioritising between different river values.

State of Development Unknown

Development Contact

Ken Hughey
+64 3 325 2811
Lincoln University
Ellesmere Junction Road/Springs Road
Lincoln, Canterbury

PO Box 84
Lincoln University
Lincoln 7647
New Zealand

Main Developers

  • Lincoln University


Outcome Areas Economic, Environmental, Social, Cultural
Management Domains Biodiversity, Community, Freshwater
Subdomains Native biodiversity & Biodiversity Loss, Engagements
Intended End Users
  • Researcher
  • Policy Analyst
Spatial Resolutions Unknown
Spatial Extents Unknown
Steady State or Dynamic Unknown
Level of Integration Economic, Environmental, Social, Cultural

Input & Output Data


Open/Closed Source Open Source

User Information

Software Needed ArcView
User Interface Unknown
Ease of Use Please Select
Use in Policy Process Plan (Policy Formulation), Review (Issue Identification)

The River Values Assessment System - Envirolink Tools Project The River Values Assessment System Volume 1: Overview of the method, guidelines for use and application to recreational values.

The River Values Assessment System Volume 2: Application to cultural, production and environmental values

Technical Considerations

Analytical Techniques Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis
Model Structure

The method comprises three parts consisting of different steps:
Part 1 - applies the assessment criteria
Step 1: Define river value categories and river segments
Step 2: Identify attributes
Step 3: Select and describe primary attributes
Step 4: Identify indicators
Part 2 - assesses significance
Step 5: Determine indicator thresholds
Step 6: Apply indicators and their thresholds
Step 7: Weighting the primary attributes
Step 8: Determine river significance
Step 9: Outline other factors relevant to the assessment of significance
Part 3 - considers future data.
Step 10: Review assessment process and identify future information needs

Keywords river, values, planning, significance
Linkages to other Models

Prioritising River Values: http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/Research/Research-Centres/Centre-for-Land-Environment-and-People/Natural-Resource-Management/Research-Projects/#PrioritisingRiverValues

Key References

Kenneth F.D. Hughey, Mary-Anne Baker (2010): The River Values Assessment System: Volume 1: Overview of the Method, Guidelines for Use and Application to Recreational Values LEaP Research Report No. 24

Kenneth F.D. Hughey, Mary-Anne Baker (2010): The River Values Assessment System: Volume 2: Application to cultural, production and environmental values. LEaP Research Report No. 24B