Regulations for freshwater farm plans and reporting of sales of fertiliser containing nitrogen

The Government is to regulate freshwater farm plans and the reporting of sales of nitrogen fertiliser by fertiliser companies.

Why the regulations are being introduced

There is a need to improve freshwater outcomes and respond to climate change in New Zealand.

Read the latest National Environment Reports on Freshwater and Climate Change to find out more.

As part of the Essential Freshwater new rules and regulations the Government is introducing:

  • regulations for freshwater farm plans
  • regulations requiring fertiliser companies to report on the sales of nitrogenous fertiliser. 

The regulations will be made under the Resource Management Amendment Act 2020 [New Zealand Legislation website].

About the upcoming regulations for freshwater farm plans

    Mandatory and enforceable freshwater modules of farm plans are an important part of the Essential Freshwater policy package.

    Freshwater farm plans are not required immediately. Over the next 12-plus months, the Government will engage with primary sector representatives, iwi Māori, regional councils, environmental organisations and other interested groups to develop new regulations. The new regulations will set out requirements for freshwater farm plans and timeframes for when these plans are required.

    It is likely that the freshwater farm plan modules will need to include a:

    • farm map identifying features such as waterways, critical source (discharge of contaminant) areas, high erosion-prone areas and other risks to the health of the freshwater ecosystem
    • risk assessment across specific activities including irrigation, application of nutrients and effluent, winter grazing, stock-holding areas, stock exclusion, offal pits, and farm rubbish pits
    • schedule of actions to manage identified features and address identified risks. 

    Freshwater farm plans will need to be:

    • approved by a suitably qualified and experienced person
    • audited by independent auditors
    • enforced by regional councils.

    Freshwater farm plans will likely be required on farms with 20 or more hectares in arable or pastoral land use, or five or more hectares in horticultural land use.

    Farm plans will be phased in over time with roll-out prioritised in areas where waterways are less healthy (eg, high nitrogen-impacted catchments). Other obligations on farmers (eg, commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under He Waka Eke Noa) will also be taken into account when prioritising roll-out of freshwater farm plans.

    Many farmers and growers are already implementing good farm practices and achieving improved environmental outcomes. Mandatory freshwater farm plans will lift all farmers and growers (over the specified size threshold) to achieve the same standards of environmental stewardship.

      About the upcoming regulations requiring fertiliser companies to report on sales of fertiliser containing nitrogen

      The regulations are part of a package of changes necessary to mitigate the effect of nitrogen on our waterways. High nitrogen-levels in rivers are associated with adverse effects on the ecological health of waterways.

      The main purpose of the regulations will be to help understand if new rules for fertiliser use are having an impact, so that we can make changes in the future if needed.

      Officials will work with fertiliser companies and sector groups to ensure the regulations provide the information required to identify trends in fertiliser use while respecting the privacy of those involved.

      The regulations are additional to the requirement for dairy farmers to report synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use, announced as part of the Essential Freshwater policy package.

      Related information

      Reducing excessively high nitrogen leaching – Addendum to Chapter 15 of Action for healthy waterways regulatory impact analysis [PDF, 1.07 MB]