National environmental standards for freshwater

The standards regulate activities that pose risks to the health of freshwater and freshwater ecosystems.

Official title

Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020

Lead agency

Cross-government water taskforce

In force from

The standards came into force on 3 September 2020, however:

  • subpart 3 of Part 2 (intensive winter grazing) came into force on 1 May 2022
  • regulations 12 to 14 (stockholding areas other than feedlots) and subpart 4 of Part 2 (application of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser to pastoral land) came into force on 1 July 2021.
  • the amendment regulations will come into effect on 5 January 2023. They will be incorporated into the NES within 15 days of this date.

What the Freshwater NES does

The Freshwater NES set requirements for carrying out certain activities that pose risks to freshwater and freshwater ecosystems. Anyone carrying out these activities will need to comply with the standards.

The standards are designed to:

  • protect natural inland wetlands
  • protect urban and rural streams from in-filling
  • ensure connectivity of fish habitat (fish passage)
  • set minimum requirements for feedlots and other stockholding areas
  • improve poor practice intensive winter grazing of forage crops
  • restrict further agricultural intensification until the end of 2024
  • limit the discharge of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser to land, and require reporting of fertiliser use.

In many cases, people will need to apply for a resource consent from their regional council to continue carrying out regulated activities.