Protecting freshwater health
Fresh water matters to all New Zealanders. It's vital we look after it, using it in ways that provide the best environmental, social, cultural, and economic outcomes. Find out about freshwater reform and other programmes improving freshwater management.
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.
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.
- AM19-0497, Meeting with Productive and Sustainable Land Use ministers on the Essential Freshwater Programme, 28 June 2019 [PDF, 1.1 MB]
- AM19-0526, Impacts of the Essential Freshwater Programme on the primary industries, 27 June 2019 [PDF, 1.9 MB]
- AM19-0548, Meeting with Doug Leeder, Chair of Local Government New Zealand's regional sector, on the Essential Freshwater package, 25 July 2019 [PDF, 1.5 MB]
- AM19-0740, Amuri Irrigation Scheme farm environment plans, 18 September 2019 [PDF, 623 KB]
- AM19-0780, Update on freshwater consultation, 11 September 2019 [PDF, 792 KB]
- AM19-0795, Freshwater consultation meetings in Timaru, Greymouth and Whangarei, 16 September 2019 [PDF, 1.1 MB]
- AM19-0831, LAWA national river water quality 10-year trends, 23 September 2019 [PDF, 988 KB]
- AM19-0868, Meeting with Fonterra to discuss 'Action for healthy waterways', 17 October 2019 [PDF, 1 MB]
- AM19-0955, Analysis of DairyNZ's economic modelling of Essential Freshwater, 4 November 2019 [PDF, 763 KB]
- AM20-0376, DairyNZ's response to modelling questions, 26 May 2020 [PDF, 1.2 MB]
Other freshwater briefings
- B19-0596, Essential Freshwater: Interim advice, 6 November 2019 [PDF, 708 KB]
- B19-0601, Supporting material for the Prime Minister's meeting with the Farming Leaders Group excerpt, 4 November 2019 [PDF, 708 KB]
- B19-0657, Essential Freshwater: Exploring an alternative approach to achieving the Government's objectives, 28 November 2019 [PDF, 908 KB]
- B20-0225, Differences between DairyNZ's and officials' modelling of the costs of the 'Action for healthy waterways' package, 1 May 2020 [PDF, 1.3 MB]
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:
Find out more
Who to contact
If you have questions about freshwater or related programmes, email firstname.lastname@example.org