Waikato region kicks off freshwater farm plan rollout rural news

A new requirement for farms over a certain size to have a freshwater farm plan is now in effect in parts of the Waikato and Southland, with other regions to follow over the next two years

Freshwater Farm Plan Map of submission dates

In the Waikato region, the requirement is being phased in by catchment, starting with the Waipā to align as best as possible with the pending implementation of Proposed Plan Change 1.

Once the regulations are activated in their catchment, farm operators will have 18 months to develop and submit their first freshwater farm plan for certification, meaning farmers in the Waipā catchment will need to submit theirs by 1 February 2025.

“Our region’s food production is highly valued and it’s highly reliant on freshwater,” says Waikato Regional Council chair Pamela Storey.

“Farmers in our region have made great strides over the years to clean up our waterways and revive wetlands, but there’s still some way to go.

“That’s where freshwater farm plans come in. The new system introduces a more tailored and risk-based approach to farm planning that recognises every farm is different and moves away from one-size-fits-all solutions.”

Freshwater farm plans will be required for:

  • all pastoral or arable land use of more than 20 hectares
  • all horticultural land use of five hectares or more
  • or any combination of these land uses equal to or greater than 20 hectares.

“We’re working closely with the farming sector, Ministry for the Environment, our iwi partners, and other key stakeholders to support the transition to the new system,” says regional council resource use director Brent Sinclair.

“One of our key roles is to work with our partners to make sure farmers have the information they need to navigate the new system and to make available the catchment-specific information to reflect in their farm plans.

“Over time, freshwater farm plans are expected to become the central tool for farmers and growers to manage all their freshwater regulatory requirements.”

A freshwater farm plan must identify the risks of adverse effects from farming activities on freshwater or freshwater ecosystems and set out actions that avoid, remedy, or mitigate those risks. Farm plans will also need to be certified and audited. “Freshwater farm plans will build on the great work that many farmers in the Waipā and across our region are already doing to identify and reduce the risks of farming activities to freshwater and ecosystems,” says Waipā-King Country councillor and farmer Stu Kneebone.

“Both the Waikato and Southland opted for a phased rollout within the parameters set by the Ministry for the Environment. This enables us to better support farmers and reflects a range of important factors, including the strength of local support networks and different catchments’ familiarity with farm planning concepts.

It’s also intended to help simplify things for farmers where possible, with areas that are more likely to undertake intensive winter grazing, for example, going earlier so that winter grazing can be factored into farm plans rather than requiring consent.”

For more information on the freshwater farm plan rollout in the Waikato, including submission dates for all catchments in the region, visit

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