Agrichemical spray

Agrichemicals are chemicals used in farming, often sprayed, to kill insects and other pests, weeds or plant diseases.

Spraydrift is when spray drifts away from the target crop or area.   We want to prevent spraydrift.

Spraying agrichemicals

Wind and rain, the lie of the land (hills, shelterbelts, etc) and the way the person carries out the spraying can cause spraydrift.

Agrichemical spraying may seem like the easiest, cheapest way to beat pests, but it’s not always the best choice. Some agrichemicals can be harmful to people and pets, or can harm other crops and plants. If used a lot pests can become resistant to an agrichemical and it won’t kill them. It is best 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 spraydrift on someone else's land, you can face legal action and have to pay for damages. Spraydrift is preventable and the cost of spray drift can be stressful and expensive.

Why is spraydrift a problem?

It's a problem because:

  • it could harm the environment
  • it may damage valuable crops
  • it may damage human or animal health
  • spray applicators can affect their own health and safety
  • spray applicators can face legal action
  • spray applicators can be liable for damages
  • wasted spray is wasted money

Preventing spraydrift - 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 and follow 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 it says on the packaging, always use the suggested equipment and only mix agrichemicals if the manufacturer says to. Larger quantities usually do not have more effect and can damage your crops or plants, the environment and can harm you. Even ‘safe’ and ‘bio-degradable’ agrichemicals can become toxic if you use too much.
  • Rivers, stream and drains are really sensitive to agrichemicals. Mix or dilute agrichemicals more than 10 metres away from rivers, streams or drains.
  • Remember to allow for buffer zones for the area you are spraying.  The Code of Practice for the Management of Agrichemicals tells you about buffer zones.
  • Have telephone numbers of neighbours handy in case of an emergency.

Check the rules

Before spraying check the rules. 

Detailed rules for spraydrift 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 - for example from the air or using a backpack
  • what you will be doing to prevent spraydrift

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, you may need to ask them to disconnect their pipes. You might want to talk about putting up a shelter belt for long term protection. Give them reasonable notice of spraying if they request it.

Often, just talking to your neighbours builds 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 your environment, so effects on your neighbours, crops and animals are as little as possible.

If you cause spraydrift on someone else's land, you can face legal action and have to pay for any damages. Spraydrift is preventable and the consequences of spray drift can be stressful and costly.

Preventing spraydrift - for you

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

The best way to prevent spraydrift 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 from the air or using a backpack
  • who will be spraying and whether they are GROWSAFE trained
  • alternatives to spraying
  • the effects that spraydrift could have on you

Agreements between neighbours about when and how spraying will take place can stop spraydrift from becoming a problem.

What can you do?

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent contact with spraydrift:

  • 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 Environmental Hotline on 0800 504 639.
  • Collect as much information as you can. 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 down:

  • 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.
  • 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 details such as wind direction, wind speed, any rain, air temperature. Look at any trees in the area or washing on the line to help you describe the wind direction and speed.
  • Take photo of washing and trees if you can.
  • Name of agrichemical if you know it.
  • If the machine doing the spraying is visible, take a photograph if you are able.
  • 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.

Medical tests are available for the herbicide 2.4D and also for organophosphates. In most cases urine or blood tests are required and you may have to pay for these tests.

Current laws and regulation

A number of organisations are involved in the control of spray drift.

Northland Regional Council
We are concerned with environmental damage or the pollution effects of spray drift. The Proposed Regional Plan has rules and guidelines for the control of spray drift. 

Northland Health
Health Protection Officers, who work for Northland Health, are concerned with human health. The officers investigate spray drift complaints where there is a concern about bad effects on health. They can also provide information on the health effects of agrichemicals and tell you ways to lessen the risk of exposure.

Northland Health contact details are:

  • Far North - phone (09) 408 3425
  • Mid-North - phone (09) 407 7033
  • Whangarei/Kaipara - phone (09) 430 4100
  • After hours for all of Northland - phone (09) 430 4100  

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
The Ministry of Agriculture is concerned with damage to property, particularly damage to plants or crops. The Ministry may be able to prosecute sprayers who damage crops, but a prosecution can only take place if there is well documented evidence, including the name of the suspected sprayer. Immediately after the suspected incident, samples of broad leafed plants should be collected and placed in clean double plastic bags in the freezer.

Civil Aviation Authority
The Civil Aviation Authority is concerned with the use of aircraft in New Zealand. It licenses pilots to apply agrichemicals from the air and in certain situations can get involved in agrichemical investigations.