Freshwater Farm Plans

As part of the Essential Freshwater package, farms over a certain size will require a certified Freshwater Farm Plan (FWFP).

All farms with the following land uses will require an FWFP:

  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use
  • Five hectares or more in horticultural use
  • 20 hectares or more of combined use.

The new FWFP Regulations (June 2023) are being implemented gradually across New Zealand. Northland is not in the first tranche of rollout, so the regulations don’t yet apply to Northland farms.

We will keep farm operators informed about the rollout schedule for Northland well before it happens.

Visit the Ministry for the Environment’s website to find out more about freshwater farm plans.

What is a Freshwater Farm Plan?

Freshwater farm plans are a tool designed to stop further decline in freshwater quality, make water quality improvements within five years, and begin to reverse past damage to our waterways. Freshwater farm plans will identify practical on-farm actions to help improve local waterways. These will depend on the farm’s location, catchment, and local environment, and will provide a more flexible alternative to consents and one-size-fits-all approaches.

Freshwater farm plans build on the work that many farmers are already doing to identify and reduce the risks of farming activities to freshwater and ecosystems and they will complement council resource management rules and tools.

When farmers need to have their Freshwater Farm Plans in place

Ministry for the Environment’s new FWFP regulations were gazette in June 2023; however, the regulations don’t yet apply in Northland.

Implementation of the new regulations is phased, and Northland is not in the first tranche of the rollout (August 2023). The Ministry for the Environment has indicated that the regulations will be fully operative across the whole country by the end of 2025.

We will keep farm operators informed about when rollout is scheduled for Northland. In the meantime, you can stay up to date on the Ministry for the Environment website.

Freshwater Farm Plans vs Farm Environment Plans

The new requirement for freshwater farm plan means the Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) that Northland Regional Council has worked with landowners to create will be superseded – so even if you have an FEP from Northland Regional Council, you will still need to have a freshwater farm plan under the new government rules once they take effect.

We will also continue to support projects that protect Northland’s environment through our Environment Fund.

What will I need to include in my Freshwater Farm Plan?

Your freshwater farm plan will need to include information on:

  • your catchment – including values, ecosystem and community outcomes
  • risk identification and impact assessment – including the identification of critical source areas, plans for the management of wetlands
  • actions to mitigate risks – including plans to strategically fence waterways, restore wetlands, and intensive winter grazing plans
  • how you will meet all the regulatory requirements including meeting the synthetic nitrogen cap, stock holding and wetland rules
  • how you will exclude stock from waterways and meet the new stock exclusion regulations and Regional Plan rules (refer section C.8.1)

Writing and certifying freshwater farm plans

While freshwater farm plans can be developed by individual farmers, we expect the creation of a FWFP plan will need the support of a specialist adviser.

The freshwater farm plan will need to be certified by a qualified certifier who then advises the regional council when the plan is fit for purpose.

The full costs won’t be able to be accurately determined until the freshwater farm plan system is in place.

What is the regional council’s role in Freshwater Farm Plans?

Regional councils will provide the relevant catchment information (context, challenges, and values) that farm plan producers will need for farms in their region.

When FWFP are introduced to a region, the regional council will provide information to guide affected farmers through the process to get their first FWFP prepared and certified.

Cost of freshwater farm plans

The Ministry for the Environment estimates costs could range between $1,500 – $10,000 per farm, with an average of $5,000. The audit process may cost between $1,200 to $1,500 per assessment.

We’re not sure how often audits will need to be done, but the original idea was that it be 18 months after freshwater fam plan is in place, and then after that the frequency will depend on the level of compliance (ranging from 6 months to 3 years).