Freshwater Farm Plans

Thresholds Questions and answers

Freshwater Farm Plans are a new tool for freshwater regulation. These require a farm plan tailored to mitigate risks to land and water on farm. Many farmers already have a farm environment plan or are part of an industry programme. Freshwater Farm Plans will build on the work that has already been done.

DairyNZ supports Freshwater Farm Plan regulations as a farm-specific and practical alternative to rules or resource consents. Our Regional Policy Team is working with regional councils to encourage the utilisation of Freshwater Farm Plans in their regional planning approaches in place of new rules or resource consent requirements.

Farmers can work with trusted advisors to develop a plan for their farm. The plan is then certified by an appointed official and audited after one year to ensure actions are being carried out. After that audits will take place between 6 months to 3 years, depending on implementation of the plan on farm. The results of certification and auditing will be reported to the regional council.

All farms above these thresholds will be required to develop a Freshwater Farm Plan:

  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use
  • 5 hectares or more in horticultural use
  • 20 hectares or more of combined use.

The regulations will be implemented by regional councils and will be applied by region or sub-region. Dairy farmers will have 18 months from the rollout date in their region to submit a Freshwater Farm Plan for certification.

Each Freshwater Farm Plan will include administrative details, a risk assessment, and an action plan. On-farm actions to manage risks to freshwater will be tailored within the plan for each farm based on the biophysical features of the land, management practices, and the local catchment context.

For more information visit Ministry for the Environment website - Freshwater farm plans.

What is DairyNZ’s view on Freshwater Farm Plans?

  • DairyNZ supports Freshwater Farm Plan regulations as a farm-specific and practical alternative to rules or resource consents.
  • Most dairy farmers are already using some form of farm planning for farm decision making. Freshwater Farm Plans allow formal recognition of previous investment in on-farm mitigations to improve freshwater outcome.
  • Implementation pathways and guidance for farmers and regional councils will continue to be important to ensure a smooth transition from existing farm planning efforts.
  • Regional councils will need a Freshwater Farm Plan implementation approach which makes plans easy to develop and regulations that ensure the plans are a valid, cost-effective and farm-specific alternative to resource consents.
  • The information farmers are required to provide through Freshwater Farm Plans needs to be justified and farmer privacy respected.

What was DairyNZ’s involvement in the Freshwater Farm Plan regulations development?

  • DairyNZ submitted on the FWFP consultation in August 2021 and was asked to submit on a confidential exposure draft in Feb 2023.
  • We formed part of an ‘active collaborators’ group and met with MFE and MPI multiple times to over last few years to provide practical feedback on both the regulations and guidance.
  • We worked closely with Fonterra and the other dairy companies to ensure an aligned approach.
  • The final regulations directly reflect some of our feedback.

What’s the difference between an existing FEP and a Freshwater Farm Plan?

  • Farmers can use information from their existing plan in their FWFP or provide it to a plan developer as a starting point.
  • FEPs may need information added, amended, or updated in the following areas:
    • catchment context information (provided by the regional councils)
    • an on-farm risk assessment
    • selected actions to manage identified risks which will be audited.
  • Many existing farm environment plan providers, such as dairy companies, will update, or have already updated, their programmes to meet Freshwater Farm Plan certification requirements.

Where else can I find information on Freshwater Farm Plans?

  • Ministry for the Environment guidance on developing a freshwater farm plan.
  • Your local regional council will have more information on how Freshwater Farm Plans will be implemented in your region.
Last updated: Nov 2023
Tags related to “Freshwater Farm Plans”

Related content

Climate change legislation


2 min read

Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord


3 min read

Agricultural Intensification


2 min read

Intensive Winter Grazing


3 min read

Feedlots and stockholding areas


2 min read