Freshwater farm plans

The Resource Management Act (Part 9A) requires farms over a certain size to have a certified freshwater farm plan (FWFP).

Under the current regulations, 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 rollout of FWFPs began in August 2023, taking a phased approach, with the regulations rolling out in different regions across the country at different times. The regulations don’t yet apply to Northland farms.

New Zealand had a change of government in October 2023, and the new government has announced that it intends to revamp freshwater farm plans to make them more cost-effective and practical for farmers. The national rollout is on hold while this work takes place.

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.

Unique to each farm, freshwater farm plans require farm operators to identify:

  • the risks of adverse effects of farming activities on freshwater ecosystems
  • actions that avoid, remedy or mitigate those risks.

The risks and actions identified will depend on the farm’s location, catchment, and local environment.

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.

Why do we need freshwater farm plans?

Freshwater farm plans are needed to help stop further decline in the health of our freshwater, improve water quality, and reverse past damage. In Northland, our biggest problems with freshwater quality are high levels of sediment and E. coli in our waterways.

What can I do to prepare my farm?

Continuing with your environmental works, or getting them underway, is useful preparation to make things easier when freshwater farm plans arrive in Northland.

It’s useful to start identifying areas on your farm that might be a problem. In Northland, our biggest problems with freshwater quality are high levels of sediment and E. coli in our waterways, so consider what you might need to do on your farm to address these issues. For example, have you excluded stock from your waterways? National fencing rules require this to be done by 2025.

You can also consider whether you’re making the most of funding and support offered by Northland Regional Council. For example, the council’s Hill Country Erosion Fund is available to help you plant steep marginal areas in native trees. Poplars and willows are also supplied at subsidised rates from our nursery.

For more information about the Hill Country Erosion Fund or NRC poplars and willows, please contact our Land Management team on 0800 002 004 or email: [email protected]