Farm Plans Overview


4 min read

Everything in one place How to get started Linking Farm Environment Plan Agreed National Good Farming

A Farm Environment Plan (FEP) is a tool that outlines how a farm's resources, environment, and management system can harmonise to guard and protect the land for future generations. By 2025, all farms must have an FEP. The page guides you on how to create an effective FEP by collaborating with your dairy company or a trusted farm advisor. It includes gathering specific information about your farm, understanding and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, following Good Management Practices (GMPs), and other national principles that focus on improving water quality, nutrients, waterways, land, soil, effluent, and irrigation management.

Dairy farmers have already shown their dedication to reducing environmental footprint by completing thousands of Farm Environment Plans (FEP).

All farms need to have a Farm Environment Plan by 2025. To create a FEP for your farm, you can work with your dairy company or a trusted farm advisor to develop a plan. The most effective FEP is the one with the most input from you, the farmer. In future, these plans will be referred to regularly by you.

A FEP is a tool that shows how a farm’s natural resources, environment and farm management system can best work together to deliver aspirations of kaitiakitanga (guardianship and stewardship of our land) and dedication to protecting our natural environment for future generations.

Everything in one place

A FEP is a valuable action plan for future activities, and a record of the changes you have made. It can assist with understanding and demonstrating environmental compliance, record progress towards achieving good management, and demonstrate that you are working towards balancing farm productivity while reducing your farm’s environmental footprint.

How to get started

Getting the following information together is the first step to any farm plan:

  • locational data – address, title numbers, supply number, farm boundaries.
  • Farm maps identifying all significant infrastructure (e.g, tracks, bridges, stock-yards etc) and natural features (e.g., waterways)
  • seasonal stocking rates
  • nutrient management and budgets
  • effluent pond volumes
  • relevant resource consents
  • irrigation structures, rates and schemes
  • seasonal fertiliser applications and methods
  • pest control records
  • crop types, times and harvesting methods
  • cultivation methods

The Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership - He Wake Eke Noa has released updated guidance to help farmers measure, manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – this update can replace previous versions.  Farmers and farm consultants can use this guidance to incorporate the management of greenhouse gases into farm planning by:

  • understanding your farm’s emissions profile
  • identifying activities that contribute to your farm’s emissions profile
  • identifying opportunities that can be explored to reduce emissions, and
  • how to keep good farm records

Linking Farm Environment Plans with Good Management Practice

There are 21 Good Management Practices (GMPs) that form the basis of a FEP. They are centred around the improvement of water quality (nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and faecal contaminants). Often the on-farm changes made to reach these practices have co-benefits for other environmental focus areas, such as biodiversity and mahinga kai. Regional councils may also have additional requirements, above the GMP principles, that should be included in the FEP. Your dairy company or advisor will be aware of any confirmed regional requirements.

Agreed National Good Farming Practice principles

General principles

  • Identify the physical and biophysical characteristics of the farm system, assess the risk factors to water quality associated with the farm system, and manage appropriately.
  • Maintain accurate and auditable records of annual farm inputs, outputs, and management practices.
  • Manage farming operations to minimise direct and indirect losses of sediment and nutrients to water, and maintain or enhance soil structure, where agronomically appropriate.


  • Monitor soil phosphorus levels and maintain them at or below the agronomic optimum for the farm system.
  • Manage the amount and timing of fertiliser inputs, taking account of all sources of nutrients, to match plant requirements and minimise risk of losses.
  • Store and load fertiliser to minimise risk of spillage, leaching, and loss into water bodies.
  • Ensure equipment for spreading fertilisers is well maintained and calibrated.
  • Store, transport and distribute feed to minimise wastage, leachate, and soil damage.


  • Identify risk of overland flow of sediment and faecal bacteria on the property and implement measures to minimise transport of these to water bodies.
  • Locate and manage farm tracks, gateways, water troughs, self-feeding areas, stock camps, wallows, and other sources of run-off to minimise risks to water quality.
  • Exclude stock from water bodies to the extent that is compatible with land form, stock class and stock intensity. Where exclusion is not possible, mitigate impacts on waterways.

Land and soil

  • Manage periods of exposed soil between crops/ pasture to reduce risk of erosion, overland flow and leaching.
  • Manage or retire erosion prone land through appropriate measures and practices to minimise soil losses. (Implementing this principle may mean that Class 8 land is not actively farmed for arable, pastoral or commercial forestry land uses. This land is generally unsuitable for these uses as described in the Land Use Capability Handbook.)
  • Select appropriate paddocks for intensive grazing, recognising and mitigating possible nutrient and sediment loss from critical source areas.
  • Manage grazing to minimise losses from critical source areas.


  • Ensure the effluent system meets industry specific Code of Practice or equivalent standard.
  • Have sufficient, suitable storage available for farm effluent and wastewater.
  • Ensure equipment for spreading effluent and other organic manures is well maintained and calibrated.
  • Apply effluent to pasture and crops at depths, rates, and times to match plant requirements and minimise risk to water bodies.

Water and irrigation

  • Manage the amount and timing of irrigation inputs to meet plant demands and minimise risk of leaching and runoff.
  • Design, check and operate irrigation systems to minimise the amount of water needed to meet production objectives.

FEPs have different names, including Farm Environment Management Plan, Farm Plan, Farm Management Plan and, most recently, Fresh Water Farm Plans. The government have announced consultation around Fresh Water Farm Plan (FWFP) requirements and processes. DairyNZ have made a strong submission to reduce duplication for dairy farmers who already have a Farm Environment Plan (which includes a strong focus on freshwater) so that an update only, not a rewrite, will be needed. DairyNZ continues to work on this.

To get started with your FEP, ask your dairy company or trusted farm advisor to work together to develop a plan.

Last updated: Aug 2023