River structures and wetlands


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Timeframes Permitted activities Resource consent Prohibited activities Structures in rivers

If you're planning work in or around natural wetlands, or if you need to place structures in rivers and streams, certain rules apply. This page outlines these regulations. Any activities within, or within 100 metres of wetlands, and structures in rivers like culverts and dams fall under these guidelines. Some actions might need a resource consent, while others might be prohibited. For instance, working near wetlands requires caution, and you should consult your regional council. Additionally, there are specifications for when and where these rules apply, and what constitutes as permitted, prohibited, and activities requiring resource consent. If uncertain, always refer to the National environmental standards for freshwater (NES-F) or speak to your regional council.

These rules cover works within, or within 100 metres of wetlands, as well as structures in rivers (culverts, fords, dams, weirs, flap gates).

Have you got natural wetlands you want to work in or around, or rivers and streams you need to put structures in? You may need resource consent, or some works are prohibited.

The rules are broadly covered on this page. For detailed information see the National environmental standards for freshwater (NES-F) or contact your regional council.

Note that rules relating to stock exclusion from rivers, lakes and streams is covered separately on the Stock exclusion page.

Timeframes – when these rules apply

03 September 2020 - for all wetland and river works activities.


The rules apply to all natural inland wetlands – there is no minimum size. Note that the definition of natural inland wetlands excludes;

  • Areas of pasture used for grazing, or which have vegetation comprising of at least 50% exotic pasture species (unless the wetland area includes the habitat of threatened species)
  • Deliberately constructed wetlands (other than those used to offset wetland loss or those constructed to restore a former wetland) and wetlands around a deliberately constructed water body.

This must have been the state of the land at the time the regulations commenced (03 September 2020).

Note: The rules around wetlands are stringent and you should contact your regional council prior to undertaking any work in or near to wetlands.

Farmers are most likely to be affected by rules if they are undertaking earthworks or other disturbance within or within 100 metres of a wetland or are undertaking wetland restoration activities.

Permitted activities

There are permitted activities relating to the restoration of natural wetlands, scientific research, construction and maintenance of wetland utility structures and specified infrastructure (things like power lines and public flood control works), sphagnum moss harvesting, arable and horticultural land use and natural hazards works.

The permitted activity regulations only permit minor activities and also require information to be submitted to council.

If you are planning to do any of the above works in wetlands, see the NES-F for detail or contact your regional council

Resource consent

The following activities require resource consent:

  • Any restoration, scientific research, wetland utility structure/specified infrastructure works, sphagnum moss harvesting, arable/horticultural land use or natural hazards works that breach the permitted activity rules require resource consent – see the NES-F or contact your regional council.

The following activities require resource consent and have non-complying status under the Resource Management Act, which means the tests that have to be met to be able to gain resource consent are higher.

Note there is an exclusion which permits the installation of fence posts and clearance of vegetation for the purposes of excluding stock or fencing land boundaries.

Prohibited activities

The following activities are prohibited:

  • Earthworks or the taking, use, damming, diversion or discharge of water, within a wetland if it will, or is likely to, result in any drainage (full or partial) or all or part of the wetland.

This means the activity cannot be undertaken and resource consent cannot be sought for the activity.

Structures in rivers

The placement, use, alteration, extension, or reconstruction of any of the following in, on over or under the bed of a river is likely to either require the provision of information to the regional council or a resource consent:

  • Culvert
  • Weir
  • Dam
  • Ford
  • Passive flap gate
  • Associated aprons or ramps

The requirements only apply to these activities in rivers (including smaller streams and creeks), which includes modified natural watercourses but not artificial channels like farm drains.

If you are planning to do any of the above works in rivers, see the NES Freshwater for detail or contact your regional council.

Last updated: Aug 2023

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