Agrichemical spray

Agrichemicals are chemicals used in farming to kill insects and other pests, weeds or plant diseases. Spraying agrichemicals is a permitted activity provided you follow the rules laid out in the Proposed Regional Plan for Northland.

Spray drift occurs when agrichemical spray drifts away from the target area. We want to prevent spray drift.

Spraying agrichemicals

Weather, the lie of the land (hills, shelterbelts, etc) and the way the person carries out the spraying can cause spray drift.

Agrichemical spraying may seem like the easiest way to beat pests, but it’s not always the best choice. Agrichemicals can be harmful to people and pets, and can harm other crops and plants. If used a lot, pests can become resistant to an agrichemical and it will no longer kill them. You need to take a careful approach if you choose to spray agrichemicals.

Good rotation of crops and biological control methods can minimise the amount of agrichemicals required and produce more sustainable results in the long run.

If you cause spray drift on someone else's land, you may face legal action and be required to pay for damages. Spray drift is preventable and can be costly and stressful for the person responsible.

Why is spray drift a problem?

  • it can harm the environment
  • it can damage valuable crops
  • it can harm humans and other animals
  • spray applicators can affect their own health and safety
  • property owners and spray applicators can face legal action
  • property owners and spray applicators can be liable for damages
  • wasted spray is wasted money.

Preventing spray drift - for sprayers

  • Think about other ways of dealing with the pest such as mechanical means, grubbing, biological control and pasture management systems.
  • Look for products that have the lowest risk of affecting your neighbours, crops or animals.
  • Read the package carefully. Follow the directions and all safety precautions from the manufacturer closely. The instructions are there to protect you, your family, your neighbours and the environment.
  • Stick to the amounts directed, always use the suggested equipment and only mix agrichemicals if the manufacturer says to. Larger quantities will not be more effective and can harm your crops, other plants, the environment and you. Even ‘safe’ and ‘bio-degradable’ agrichemicals can be toxic if you use too much.
  • Rivers, streams and drains are sensitive to agrichemicals. Mix or dilute agrichemicals more than 10 metres away from rivers, streams or drains.
  • Remember to allow for buffer zones around spray-sensitive areas. The Proposed Regional Plan tells you about buffer zone requirements.
  • For machine and aerial spraying, you must have an annual spray plan and risk assessment and follow the spray rules outlined in the Proposed Regional Plan.
  • Have telephone numbers of neighbours handy in case of an emergency.

Check the rules

Before spraying check the rules

For all machine and aerial agrichemical spray applications, there must be an annual spray plan for the property and a risk assessment carried out on the day of spraying. These must be provided to council and/or neighbouring properties upon request. You are required to notify people in surrounding spray-sensitive areas and observe buffer zones depending on the wind speed and direction.

Detailed rules for applying agrichemicals and avoiding spray drift can be found in C.6.5 of the Proposed Regional Plan.    


Talk to your neighbours before you spray. For example, discuss:

  • when you plan to spray
  • what you will be spraying
  • how you will be spraying - from the air, with a machine, or using a backpack
  • what you will be doing to prevent spray drift.

Choose times when your neighbours can be inside, stock can be moved and (if possible) when crops are less sensitive. If your neighbours collect rainwater from their roof, they may want to disconnect their pipes. You might want to plant a shelter belt for long term protection. Unless you are spraying by hand, you must notify neighbours at least 24 hours in advance. The Proposed Regional Plan tells you which neighbours you need to notify.

Regardless of how you are spraying, just talking to your neighbours can build trust and understanding.


Make sure you, or your contractor, is GROWSAFE trained. GROWSAFE training teaches you to apply agricultural chemicals safely and accurately. It also helps you choose the right chemical for the job, to reduce the chance of negatively affecting the environment, your neighbours, your crops and animals.

If you cause spray drift on someone else's land, you can face legal action and be required to pay for damages. Spray drift is preventable and can be costly and stressful for the person responsible.

Preventing spray drift - for you

Many people grow crops that can be damaged by agrichemical spray drift or live in an environment where spray could affect their health or the health of their animals.

The best way to avoid spray drift is through good communication. Ask your neighbours if they plan to spray and if so, discuss:

  • when they plan to spray
  • what they will be spraying
  • how they will be spraying - for example by helicopter or with a machine or using a backpack
  • who will be spraying and whether they are GROWSAFE trained
  • alternatives to spraying
  • the effects that spray drift could have on you.

Agreements between neighbours about when and how spraying will take place can stop spray drift from becoming a problem. If an agrichemical is applied in any way other than by a hand-held sprayer, neighbours are entitled to ask for a copy of the annual spray plan and must be notified 24 hours in advance of any spray events.

What can you do?

There are several things you can do to help prevent contact with spray drift:

  • stop any outdoor activity - for example, children and pets playing outside
  • close windows
  • bring in washing from the line
  • store some water in clean containers. (To keep it clean, add ½ a teaspoon of household bleach per 10 litres.)
  • disconnect the pipes to any water tanks collecting rainwater from a roof
  • cover fishponds.

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to spray drift, if possible you should:

  • Approach or phone the person on whose property the spraying is taking place and let them know of your concerns. Make a note of any such conversations.
  • Phone our 24/7 Incident Hotline on 0800 504 639.
  • Collect as much information as you can. Take photos or videos if it is safe to do so.
  • Write down your observations at the time, and then you know you’ve got it right.
  • Disconnect the roof supply if you use tank water and are concerned that your roof may be contaminated. Leave it disconnected until there have been several hours of heavy rain.
  • Consider leaving your property until the spraying is finished.
  • Seek medical attention if you are worried about symptoms of illness.

Help us help you.  Please note:

  • Who is doing the spraying?
  • When the spraying took place - date, time.
  • Where the spraying is taking place.
  • What is being sprayed - e.g. pasture, fruit trees, plantation forest.
  • The method of spraying being used e.g. helicopter, tractor. Where possible, note down any identifying features of the plane/helicopter, such as registration number and colour.
  • Weather conditions such as wind direction, wind speed, rain, and temperature. Look at any trees in the area or washing on the line to help you describe the wind direction and speed.
  • Name of agrichemical if you know it.
  • If spray drift is visible, take a picture or video if it is safe to do so.
  • It can be useful to call in another person to witness the spraying and to corroborate your information.

Medical tests

If you think you have been affected by spray drift you may wish to see your doctor. The sooner you see your doctor, the more useful any tests will be.

In most cases urine or blood tests are required and you may have to pay for these tests.

Current laws and regulation

Northland Regional Council

We are concerned with environmental effects of spray drift. Section C.6.5 of the Proposed Regional Plan has rules and guidelines to help mitigate the risk of spray drift. Northland Regional Council investigates spray complaints and can issue abatement notices and fines if the rules are breached.

Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand

Health Protection Officers, who work for Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand, are concerned with human health. The officers investigate spray drift complaints when there is a concern about health issues. They can also provide information on the health effects of agrichemicals and tell you ways to lessen the risk of exposure.

Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand 24/7 contact details are: (09) 430 4100.