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Action for healthy waterways

Background to this consultation

The health of our waterways needs to be a priority for all New Zealanders, rural and urban.

This consultation, Action for Healthy Waterways, is one part of the government’s plan to build a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

Many farmers have spent decades looking after their land and water, addressing degradation and improving their environmental footprint. As a result, some waterways have improved in recent years.

However freshwater quality has deteriorated. This consultation is about shifting the trends towards  better freshwater quality. There is a lot to consider and it’s important we get your feedback.

A summary of what's being proposed

The purpose of the proposals relating to the farming sector is to see the trend change towards water quality improving, as part of a broader aim towards a more sustainable future.

The proposed policies aim to ensure resources in both rural and urban catchments are managed in a way that prioritises:

  • the health and wellbeing of waterbodies and freshwater ecosystems;
  • the essential health needs of people; and
  • the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being, now and in the future.

Find out more about the proposals – MfE

What do the proposals mean for farmers and growers?

The on-farm changes required will differ depending on the catchment area and what farming or growing operation is being undertaken. Many farmers and growers already follow good practice and manage their impact on freshwater.

The proposals will mostly affect farmers or growers who:

  • do not already have freshwater management as a priority in their farm planning, or who do not have a Farm Environment Plan that meets required standards; and/or
  • are in catchments identified as having problems such as high pollutants or increasing degradation, and where there is not already a council plan in place to improve water quality.

Some of the  proposed requirements for farms are:

  • developing a Farm Environment Plan with a freshwater module
  • avoiding further intensification of land use, or a resource consent for intensification will be required, until the new National Policy Statement becomes operational through regional plans
  • reducing excessive nitrogen leaching into waterways
  • excluding stock from waterways, including crossings in some cases
  • ensuring that intensive winter grazing, if used, is managed within minimum standards, or a resource consent will be required
  • reducing pollution from stock holding areas.

Have your say

We encourage all New Zealanders to have their say on Action for Healthy Waterways.

The proposals aim to take the necessary short-term and longer-term action on freshwater, while sustaining a viable primary sector.

These proposals will build on the good work already being done by farmers, growers, and councils around the country, and some proposals will focus on catchments where the risk of further damage is greatest.

Full details are in the consultation document – MfE website

Public meetings are being held around New Zealand during the consultation period.

Check the public meeting schedule – MfE

Making your submission

This consultation runs from 5 September until 5pm on 17 October 2019.

When the consultation period has ended, feedback will be collated and reviewed by officials and an independent advisory panel. Cabinet will then consider final regulations for freshwater.

You can make a submission in 3 ways:


By email

You can write your own submission and email it to

We ask that you send your submission attached as a document. Either a:

  • PDF
  • Microsoft Word document (2003 or later version).

By post

You can write your own submission and mail it to:

Freshwater submissions
Ministry for the Environment
PO Box 10362
Wellington 6143.

What to include

  • The title of the consultation (Action for healthy waterways).
  • Your name or organisation.
  • Your postal address.
  • Your telephone number.
  • Your email address.

Submissions close at 5 pm on Thursday 17 October 2019.

Submissions are public information

Submissions will be held by MfE.  Note, that any submission you make becomes public information. People can ask for copies of submissions under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). The OIA says we have to make submissions available unless we have good reasons for withholding them.  That is explained in sections 6 and 9 of the OIA.

Tell us if you think there are grounds to withhold specific information in your submission. Reasons might include that it's commercially sensitive or it's personal information. However, any decision to withhold information can be reviewed by the Ombudsman, who may require it to be released.

MPI and / or MfE may post all or parts of any written submission on its websites. We'll consider that you have consented to its publication, unless clearly stated otherwise in your submission.