New rules to protect and restore New Zealand's fresh water came into effect on 3 September 2020. This included the new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F), stock exclusion regulations, and updates to the regulations which cover the measurement and reporting of water takes. These regulations deliver on the Government's commitment to stop further degradation, show material improvements within 5 years, and restore our waterways to health within a generation.
The package was the culmination of a major work programme over 18 months, including the Action for Healthy Waterways consultation in 2019
The Ministry for the Environment website has more information about how the package will achieve its objectives, how it was developed, and who was involved.
Actions to be taken
The package will achieve its objectives through a range of actions. Further degradation will be stopped through:
- controlling works affecting wetlands, streams, and fish passage
- ensuring good practice where intensive winter grazing is needed
- minimum standards for feedlots and stock holding areas
- limiting farm intensification.
Within 5 years (from 2020) we will see improvements in our rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands. This will be achieved through:
- stock exclusion in low-slope areas with minimum setbacks from rivers and streams
- a cap on synthetic fertiliser to reduce nitrogen use
- the at-risk catchment programme
- support for farmers and catchment groups.
Information sheets about the freshwater regulations
Fact sheets explaining the details of the full Essential Freshwater package of regulations are on the Ministry for the Environment website.
Stock exclusion regulations: Low slope map
Stock exclusion regulations require certain livestock to be kept out of lakes, rivers, and natural wetlands in a range of situations.
The purpose of the regulations is to reduce the impact of damage to waterways from cattle, pigs, and deer.
As part of the Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020, a map was introduced that identifies low slope land.
However, feedback showed the map included some low intensity farms not intended to be captured by the regulations.
Regulations were changed after consultation
In mid-2023, options to address the issue were released for consultation.
As a result, the stock exclusion regulations have been updated to incorporate changes. They take effect on 5 October 2023.
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.
Other changes to the regulations are:
- 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.
Further details about the updated regulations are available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.
How the package was developed
A multi-agency water taskforce worked with the Ministry for the Environment on developing the package, with 4 specialist groups also advising. During consultation in 2019, the Ministry for the Environment received 17,500 submissions. Specialist expert agencies were also asked to analyse the economic, scientific, and social impacts of the package.
Freshwater policy advice briefings and related information
The following documents are the policy advice briefings provided on the Essential Freshwater package to the Minister of Agriculture between 27 June 2019 and 22 May 2020.
This covers the period between when the package was publicly consulted on and when the final decisions were announced on 28 May 2020.
- [PDF, 1.1 MB]
- [PDF, 1.9 MB]
- [PDF, 1.5 MB]
- [PDF, 623 KB]
- [PDF, 792 KB]
- [PDF, 1.1 MB]
- [PDF, 992 KB]
- [PDF, 1 MB]
- [PDF, 763 KB]
- [PDF, 1.2 MB]
Other freshwater briefings
Action for healthy waterways
The MfE website has further information on the Action for healthy waterways package, including:
- Cabinet papers
- impact analysis reports
- submissions related to the final policy decisions
- information sheets for different groups.
Good farm practices
Industry bodies also have information and guidance on good farm practice: