Essential Freshwater new rules and regulations

The Government is taking action to restore and protect the health of New Zealand's waterways. 

Why action is neededNew Zealand waterway

The health of our freshwater is vital for the health of our people, environment, and economy. However freshwater quality is declining. It is being impacted by urban development, agriculture, horticulture, forestry and other activities. Current regulation has not been able to halt the decline in too many of our catchments.

We need to take action to restore and protect our wai. 

Read the latest national environmental report on the state of our freshwater 

The action we are taking

The Essential Freshwater package introduces new rules and regulations to: 

  • stop further degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater resources and improve water quality within five years
  • reverse past damage and bring New Zealand’s freshwater resources, waterways and ecosystems to a healthy state within a generation.

New National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management will prevent further loss and degradation of freshwater habitats and introduce controls on some high risk activities. These will come into force on 3 September 2020.

See also information on new Stock exclusion regulations and on regulations that will require real-time reporting for water-takes data

Read the Minister's release: New rules in place to restore healthy rivers 5 August 2020 [Beehive website]

What the Essential Freshwater new rules and regulations might mean for you

Find out what the Essential Freshwater new rules and regulations might mean for you and what support is available.

For iwi/Māori    

For horticultural growers 

For farmers and communities

Other useful information 

How public consultation informed the policy decisions

Following public consultation on this policy package in September and October 2019, the Government received approximately 17,500 submissions. We have prepared a summary of submissions document. After consideration, we have decided not to publish individual submissions because of the size of the task involved in redacting identifying information from each submission.

Read the summary of submissions 

The policies changed significantly in light of the public submissions and recommendations from the Independent Advisory Panel. The package was also amended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in light of new implementation challenges. 

Find out about the Action for healthy waterways consultation

You can also find here a report setting out the Minister's decisions following recommendations from the Independent Advisory Panel. 

Next steps

See guidance on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (Freshwater NPS 2020). Further guidance is being developed with our Treaty partners and stakeholders and will be provided as it is finalised.

Find out more 


Essential Freshwater Report of the Freshwater Independent Advisory Panel

Supporting evidence for action for healthy waterways (Advisory group and consultant reports)

Action for healthy waterways: Section 32 evaluation report

Cabinet paper and regulatory impact statements

Cabinet paper: Action for healthy waterways – Decisions on national direction and regulations for freshwater management 

Regulatory impact statement: Action for healthy waterways – Part I: Summary and overall impacts

Regulatory impact statement: Action for healthy waterways – Part II: Detailed analysis

Departmental disclosure statement

Freshwater farm plan supplementary departmental disclosure statement