Agricultural Intensification


2 min read

Timeframes Reference preriod Permitted activities Gaining resource consent

Agricultural intensification rules dictate how you can expand or modify certain land uses, like dairy farm land, dairy support land, and irrigated areas. These rules began on 3 September 2020 and will end on 1 January 2025. The page also defines 'dairy cattle' and 'dairy support cattle'. Permitted activities have set standards, like a limit on how much you can expand land uses. If you wish to go beyond these limits, you need a resource consent granted only if it won't harm the environment more than it did on 2 September 2020. Always consult your regional council if unsure.

The agricultural intensification rules apply where you want to increase or change some types of land use including dairy farm land, irrigated land and dairy support land.

Agricultural intensification rules cover:

  • Increases in the amount of a farm used for dairy farming
  • Increases in the amount of a farm used for dairy support
  • Increases in irrigation area

Note rules around changing forestry land to dairy are not fully covered here – see the full regulations.

Timeframes – when do these rules apply?

3 September 2020 - for all intensification activities.

Intensification rules are temporary and will be revoked on 01 January 2025.

Reference period

The regulations introduce a reference period which is the period which started 01 July 2014 and ended 30 June 2019.  The reference period is relevant to some intensification activities.


Dairy cattle = cattle farmed for producing milk and includes any bull on farm for the purposes of mating and any unweaned calves.

Dairy support cattle = cattle that are used for milk production but are currently dry (i.e., because they have been dried off, or they are heifers)

Permitted activities

Land use Change to Permitted Activity Standards
Plantation forestry Pastoral land use (use of land for the grazing of livestock) If the land is part of a farm that included pastoral land use on 2 Sep 2020, the area of the farm in pastoral land use must not be greater than: -the area in pastoral land use on 2 Sep 2020 plus 10 ha.
Land on farm Dairy farm land (grazing of dairy cattle, excluding dairy support cattle) If the farm included dairy farm land on 2 Sep 2020, the area of the farm in dairy farm land must not be greater than: -the area in dairy farm land on 2 Sep 2020 plus 10 ha
Irrigation of dairy farm land Irrigation of dairy farm land (grazing of dairy cattle, excluding dairy support cattle) If the farm included irrigated dairy farm land in the 12 months before 2 Sept 2020, the irrigated area of the dairy farm must not be greater than: -the maximum area irrigated in the 12 months period prior to 2 Sept 2020 plus 10 ha.
Dairy support land Dairy support land (land on farm used for grazing of dairy support cattle and outside the milking platform) Land on the farm must have been used as dairy support land in the reference period 2014-2019 and the area used as dairy support land must not be greater than the maximum area used within the reference period 2014-2019.

Note: Any increases outside of the permitted activity standards in the table above require a resource consent.

Gaining resource consent

Resource consents are only able to be granted for intensification activities (where consent is required) if the consent authority (i.e., the council) is satisfied that granting the consent will not result in increases in contaminant loads in the catchment or concentrations of contaminants in freshwater or other receiving environments, when compared to 02 September 2020. Talk to your regional council if you think you may require resource consent.

Last updated: Aug 2023

Related content

Climate change legislation


2 min read

Genetic technologies


4 min read

Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord


3 min read

Intensive Winter Grazing


3 min read

Feedlots and stockholding areas


2 min read