Healthy waterways rules

What does it mean for Northland?

The May 2020 announcement from central government on its ‘Action for healthy waterways’ package has provided us all with a bit more clarity about impending national rules for agriculture.

While there’s still lots of detail needed, we do know that government will expect regional councils to put more effort into maintaining or improving existing wetlands. Now is a good time to look at any swamps or wetlands on your property with new eyes – they are valuable environmental resources.

There will be minimum riparian buffer widths required on new stock exclusion fencing. If you’re contemplating any new riparian fencing required by the new regulations, remember to set your fence back at least three metres from the streambed (i.e. where the water runs at bank full flow).

What new rules are coming?

These are some of the key areas will impact on Northland’s rules – final details are still being worked out and we’ll keep you updated as we can.

  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Culverts, weirs and flood gates
  • Stock exclusion (3m buffer – see below)
  • Requirements for feedlots and other stockholding areas
  • Intensive winter grazing of forage crops, soil pugging and re-sowing winter grazing bare ground
  • Consent required for further agricultural intensification
  • Limit fertiliser application (synthetic nitrogen)
  • Farm Environment Plans

You can find out more on the Ministry for the Environment’s website:

Mandatory Farm Environment Plans

Over the next 12 -18 months, government will be working with industry and regional councils to develop standards for new mandatory freshwater farm plans with enforceable actions, for pastoral properties over 20ha.

The farm environment plans that Northland Regional Council’s land management advisors have been providing to landowners since 2012 are not regulation-ready; however, they still provide a good planning tool for improving environmental sustainability for your property.

Over the next year, there will be a lot of change for landowners and our council’s land management staff. This is a very dynamic space and we will update our farming community as early as we can – watch this space.

3m buffers for stock exclusion

Our current regional plan rules for stock exclusion don’t regulate how wide the buffer strip needs to be. The photos below illustrate where the three-metre buffer strip would be measured from.

Diagram displaying 3 metre buffer zone for stock exclusion.

Diagram displaying 3 metre buffer zone for stock exclusion.