Regulations for freshwater farm plans

Under development
This regulation is not finalised or in effect.

The Government is introducing mandatory and enforceable freshwater modules of farm plans. They are an  important part of the Essential Freshwater policy package.

Lead agency



As part of the Essential Freshwater new rules and regulations the Government is introducing:

  • regulations for freshwater farm plans
  • regulations requiring fertiliser companies to report on the sales of nitrogenous fertiliser.

Essential Freshwater new rules and regulations 

Consultation on freshwater farm plans

We sought feedback on the implementation and transition of all farmers to the freshwater farm plan system including:

  • content of freshwater farm plans
  • what outcomes could be achieved
  • how plans could be certified, audited and amended.

Find out about the consultation (The consultation closed on 7 October 2021)

When freshwater farm plans are required to be in place

Freshwater farm plan regulations are expected to take effect in 2022.

The requirement for certified freshwater farm plans will be phased in from mid-2022.

Requirements will be set out

The new regulations will set out requirements for freshwater farm plans and timeframes for when these plans are required.

It is likely that the freshwater farm plan modules will need to include a:

  • farm map identifying features such as waterways, critical source (discharge of contaminant) areas, high erosion-prone areas and other risks to the health of the freshwater ecosystem
  • risk assessment across specific activities including irrigation, application of nutrients and effluent, winter grazing, stock-holding areas, stock exclusion, offal pits, and farm rubbish pits
  • schedule of actions to manage identified features and address identified risks.

Freshwater farm plans will need to be:

  • approved by a suitably qualified and experienced person
  • audited by independent auditors
  • enforced by regional councils.

Freshwater farm plans will likely be required on farms with 20 or more hectares in arable or pastoral land use, or five or more hectares in horticultural land use.

Phasing in of farm plans

Farm plans will be phased in over time with roll-out prioritised in areas where waterways are less healthy (eg, high nitrogen-impacted catchments). Other obligations on farmers (eg, commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under He Waka Eke Noa) will also be taken into account when prioritising roll-out of freshwater farm plans.

Many farmers and growers are already implementing good farm practices and achieving improved environmental outcomes. Mandatory freshwater farm plans will lift all farmers and growers (over the specified size threshold) to achieve the same standards of environmental stewardship.