Mediated Modeling (MM) refers to “model building with stakeholders,” enabling collaborative learning and decision support. This article presents results from the Integrated Freshwater Solutions (IFS — www.ifs.org.nz) action research project in the Manawatū River watershed, New Zealand. Water quality in the watershed often rates poorly, with the key issues being sedimentation, eutrophication, and habitat destruction. IFS is to develop and test MM to support collaborative and adaptive freshwater management. The project team was presented with the opportunity to collaborate with the Manawatū River Leaders' Forum (MRLF), an initiative driven by the Regional Council to improve water quality. This article describes the process of MM and how it was adapted to meet the needs of MRLF stakeholders. This highlights some important conditions for collaborative and adaptive capacity building. The MM/MRLF stakeholders, represented: industry, farming, local and regional authorities, environmental groups, and indigenous Māori iwi/hapū (tribe/sub-tribe). This article describes how MM assisted early in the collaborative process to develop the following: (1) a shared and more integrated understanding of causes and effects and (2) a sense of the order of magnitude of the problems and the impact proposed solutions might have. It also describes how the context of politics, time, and resource constraints played an important role reverting to a more traditional planning approach part way through the process.