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 regulations are still under development but are expected to be in effect before the end of 2022. A requirement for FWFPs to be certified will then be phased in.

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.

When farmers need to have their Freshwater Farm Plans in place

  • Freshwater farm plan regulations are expected to take effect by the end of 2022.
  • The requirement for certified freshwater farm plans will be phased in from early 2023 region by region.
  • Ministry for the Environment will provide detailed guidance by the end of 2022.

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means the Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) that Northland Regional Council has worked with landowners to create will be superseded – so even if you have an FEP from Northland Regional Council, you will still need to have a freshwater farm plan under the new government rules once they take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

Cost of freshwater farm plans

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

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).