Intensive Winter Grazing


3 min read

Intensive Winter Grazing rules cover Pathways to intensive winter grazing Permitted activity requirements Resource consent

Intensive winter grazing is the practice of grazing livestock on an annual forage crop between 1 May and 30 September each year. The national regulations for intensive winter grazing address aspects such as the farm area, slope, proximity to water bodies, pugging, and more. If you use crops for winter grazing, there are three compliance pathways: 1) meeting specific conditions, or 2) obtaining a Freshwater Farm Plan with equal or better environmental outcomes, or 3) obtain a resource consent. Some regional councils may also have additional rules to manage the effects of intensive winter grazing.

What do the intensive winter grazing regulations cover?

Intensive winter grazing means the grazing of livestock on an annual forage crop at any time in the period that begins 1 May and ends 30 September. Generally, winter crops (where fed in situ) come under the intensive winter grazing regulations which cover:

  • Farm area used for IWG
  • Slope
  • Distance from water bodies
  • Critical source areas (CSAs)
  • Pugging
  • Resowing
  • Expansion of IWG activity

Three pathways to undertake intensive winter grazing

The national regulations provide three regulatory pathways for farmers to undertake intensive winter grazing.

Pathway 1: Intensive winter grazing is permitted if a farmer complies with the default conditions set out in the National Environmental Standard for Freshwater, or,

Pathway 2: Intensive winter grazing is permitted once a farmer obtains a certified Freshwater Farm Plan that specifically details intensive winter grazing practices.

Pathway 3: If pathway 1 or 2 can’t be followed, resource consent is needed.

Permitted activity requirements

If you can achieve the following requirements, you do not need a resource consent:

Farm area

The area of the farm used for intensive winter grazing must be no greater than 50ha or 10 percent of the area of the farm, whichever is greater.


The slope of the paddock used for intensive winter grazing must be 10 degrees or less, determined by measuring the slope over any 20m distance of the paddock.

Fencing waterways

Livestock must be kept at least 5m away from the bed of any river, lake, wetland, or drain (regardless of whether there is any water in it at the time).

Critical source areas

On and from 1 May to 30 September of any year, in relation to any critical source area that is within, or adjacent to, any area of land that is used for intensive winter grazing on a farm:

  • The critical source area must not be grazed.
  • Vegetation must be maintained as ground cover over all the critical source area.
  • Maintaining that vegetation must not include any cultivation or harvesting of annual forage crops.
Pugging and resowing

There are also requirements relating to pugging and re-sowing of paddocks, these include:

  1. Take all reasonably practicable steps to minimise the effects of pugging on freshwater.
  2. Establish vegetation as ground-cover as soon as practicable after grazing.

Farmers must follow all the permitted activity requirements and provide information required by a regional council for the purpose of monitoring compliance upon request.

What if I cannot achieve the permitted activity requirements?

If you cannot achieve all the permitted activity requirements, you will either need to obtain a certified Freshwater Farm Plan or a resource consent. If you require one of these, contact your Regional Council.

Expanding or new intensive winter grazing

Resource consent is required for new intensive winter grazing activity or if you expand the area above the maximum used in the reference period 2014-2019. From the 1st of January 2025, this requirement will be revoked. You will no longer be required to gain a consent for expanding the intensive winter grazing area or for new areas, unless there are regional rules in place covering this.

If you think you need a resource consent for expanding your intensive winter grazing activity and have not already applied, contact your regional council.

Last updated: Mar 2024

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