Have your say: Stock setbacks around waterways

As part of Northland Regional Council’s consultation on our draft Freshwater Plan Change, we’re asking for public input on managing stock access to waterways.

One of the most effective tools for improving freshwater health is to keep stock away from waterways.

Stock animals increase sediment in waterways because they erode the banks and disturb waterway beds.

Keeping stock away from streams, rivers, and lakes also reduces bacteria and viruses in our waterways. Alongside high sediment levels, this is one of the biggest problems in Northland’s waterways. Faecal contamination by stock is one of the chief contributors.

We have looked at three setback distances – 3 metres, 5 metres, and 10 metres – and the scientific evidence tells us that the further stock are kept from waterways, the greater the environmental benefits. This is especially so where wider setbacks are planted with riparian vegetation.

Although riparian buffers of 3 to 5 metres effectively filter sediment, vegetated buffers of 10 metres or more can achieve wider ecosystem health and climate change resilience benefits for waterbodies as many of our native freshwater species are adapted to waterways with vegetated margins that provide shade and cooler water temperatures.

However, the wider the setbacks and stock exclusion rules, the higher the financial cost for landowners who are currently running stock near waterways.

We can provide lead-in time, but we need to balance the costs to individual landowners against the benefits for our environment and future generations of cleaning up our water … and against the costs to them if we fail to act. We also need to consider benefits that are hard to put a price on – biodiversity, human health, and recreational use of our waterways. These have intrinsic value, but they can also support economic opportunities for our region, such as tourism and outdoor sports.

Please tell us what you think. We know there will be many different views on this. The more feedback we get, the better informed our decisions will be.

For more information, including cost estimates, read our discussion document The draft Freshwater Plan Change: Have your say on stock exclusion or visit

Farmer standing by fenced stream.

Have your say on managing stock access to waterways.