Freshwater Farms Plans – A new regime

Our rural clients should be aware of the Resource Management (Freshwater Farm Plans) Regulations 2023 which come into force
on 1 August 2023.

These regulations aim to address the increasing concerns over the quality and quantity of freshwater resources, as well as the impact
of farming practices on water ecosystems. Under the Regulations, the Farm Operator (defined as the person with ultimate
responsibility for the operation of a farm) will need to make and adhere to a Freshwater Farm Plan to improve waterways and
better control the adverse effects of their farming on freshwater.

The Waikato will be one of the first regions required to give effect to these new provisions. A Freshwater Farm Plan is not the same
as a Farm Environment Plan, but the two may be linked to avoid unnecessary confusion and administration.

The new Regulations introduce a range of Implications as well as Penalties for non-compliance.


The Regulations apply to a farm (and the whole of the farm) with:

  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use; or
  • 5 hectares or more in horticultural use; or
  • 20 hectares or more of combined use; or
  • An area of the farm designated for another agricultural land use prescribed in regulations made under section 217M(1) (b) of the RMA.


Farm Planning Requirements: The Regulations require farmers to develop – and put into action – Freshwater Farm Plans that show how, with mapping, they will mitigate negative impacts on water quality and quantity. This involves assessment of nutrient management, irrigation systems, stock exclusion from waterways, and other relevant factors. Compliance with these requirements
may necessitate changes in farming practices, leading to additional costs and resource allocation.

Increased Monitoring and Reporting: The Regulations emphasise robust monitoring and reporting of water usage and environmental impacts. Farmers will need to invest in systems and technologies to accurately measure and record their water use, nutrient application rates, and other relevant data. Compliance with these reporting requirements may require time, training, and
financial resources.


A Farm Operator must submit the Freshwater Farm Plan to a qualified certifier nominated by a Regional Council not more than
18 months after the later of:

  • The date specified by the Governor-General for a district; or
  • The date when the farm meets certain land use and size thresholds.

There are ongoing audit requirements also.


Fines and Prosecution: Non-compliance with the regulations may result in significant penalties, including fines and prosecution. The severity of penalties may vary depending on the scale and nature of the violation. Repeat offenders may face more severe consequences, potentially leading to higher fines or even imprisonment in extreme cases.

Consent and Resource Allocation Restrictions: Noncompliant farmers may face limitations or restrictions on resource consents, such as water allocation or land-use consents. This can have a substantial impact on farm operations and productivity, potentially leading to financial losses and reduced competitiveness.


We know many in our rural communities are already feeling the pinch of regulations and costs. However non compliance may not only incur penalties, but possible reputational damage in the heightened environmental awareness era we now occupy.

Please contact us if you would like guidance on your obligations and how to minimise the costs and impact on you.

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