Stock exclusion regulations

The stock exclusion regulations prohibit the access of cattle, pigs and deer to wetlands, lakes and rivers. These regulations were developed as part of the Essential Freshwater reforms.

Official title

Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020

Lead agency


Full text

Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020 [New Zealand Legislation website]

In force from

3 September 2020

Purpose of the regulations

Reducing the impact of damage to our waterways from livestock

When livestock enter water bodies they can contaminate the water and damage the banks and aquatic habitats. This compromises New Zealanders’ ability to use waterbodies for recreation and mahinga kai (food gathering).

Heavy livestock (cattle and deer) and pigs have the greatest impact.

Livestock can carry disease-causing organisms like campylobacter, which can make people sick when they come into contact with water contaminated with livestock dung.

Dung and urine also contain nutrients that promote weed growth and reduce the water body’s ability to support a healthy ecosystem.

When stock trample banks and beds of water bodies they increase streambank erosion and sediment runoff, adversely affecting habitats like those used for fish spawning.

About the regulations

  • These regulations, in force from 3 September 2020, apply to a person who owns or controls beef cattle, dairy cattle, dairy support cattle, deer or pigs (stock). The regulations require the person to exclude stock from specified wetlands, lakes and rivers more than one metre wide.
  • Dairy cattle, dairy support cattle and pigs must be excluded from the water bodies, regardless of the terrain.
  • Beef cattle and deer must be excluded from the water bodies regardless of terrain if they are break-feeding or grazing annual forage crops or irrigated pasture. Otherwise, the requirements apply to beef cattle and deer only on mapped low slope land, unless other restrictions apply.
  • Stock must be excluded from the beds of lakes, rivers and wetlands and must not be on land closer than three metres to the bed of rivers and lakes.
  • Stock, except deer, may only cross a river or lake by using a dedicated bridge or culvert, unless they cross no more than twice in any month. The regulation sets out circumstances when cattle and pigs can cross without a dedicated culvert or bridge. Deer are not subject to restrictions for crossing rivers and lakes.

Changes to the Regulations

In July 2023, we consulted on changes to the regulations aimed at addressing issues for lower intensity farming. The public submission period for this matter ran from 19 June to 16 July 2023.

Find out more about this public consultation

Changes to the Regulations include:

  • An exception from the map of low slope land for any land that is subject to the following arrangements, if that arrangement limits the number of stock used for grazing that land:
    • a concession document granted under Part 3B of the Conservation Act 1987 for the purpose of grazing stock on public conservation land
    • a pastoral lease, occupation licence, special lease, a discretionary pastoral activity, or an exemption from any stock limitation, within the meaning of the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998
  • An exception from regulations 14 to 18 for the Upper Taieri Scroll Plain
  • An updated definition for permanent fences and clarification that low slope land does not include any land that exceeds 10 degrees in slope, despite being included in the map of low slope land.

These changes come into effect on Thursday 5 October 2023.

Read the updated Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Amendment Regulations 2023 [New Zealand Legislation website]

Feedback received during consultation highlighted support for regulations that provide flexibility while still achieving desired outcomes. Further advice is being developed about transitioning the regulations into another legislative instrument to provide greater flexibility in future.

Map of low slope land

The low slope land map shows areas of low slope where beef cattle and deer must be excluded from lakes and rivers over one metre wide and natural wetlands with an area more than 500 square metres, from 1 July 2025.

Changes to the Regulations have clarified that low slope land does not include any land that exceeds 10 degrees in slope, despite it being included in the map of low slope land.

Stock Exclusion in the Upper Taieri Scroll Plain, Otago

From 5 October 2023, the following requirements will no longer apply to the geographic area identified as the Upper Taieri Scroll Plain:

  • excluding non-intensively grazed beef cattle and deer from lakes and wide rivers on low slope land (regulations 14 and 15); and
  • excluding all stock from natural wetlands (regulations 16, 17 and 18). 

The Upper Taieri Scroll Plain is a meander system where the Taieri River meanders across vast flood plains and, due to variable water flows, has created diverse wetland habitats and oxbow lakes. It comprises of the Styx, the Maniototo Basins and the old Taieri Lake bed, which contain diverse wildlife and habitats that reflect the age, isolation, sediment regime and frequency of water flows and impoundments. The size and complexity of these wetlands mean they are unique and particularly challenging to exclude stock from.

The above exception has been provided on the basis Otago Regional Council implements suitable provisions in its regional plan for managing grazing within the wetlands, as soon as reasonably practical and no later than 1 July 2025.

Other requirements to exclude stock and manage wetlands will continue to apply in respect of the wetlands. This includes existing direction in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 and National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 (see wetlands implementation guidance).