Meat & Livestock News

Farmers Call for Streamlined Freshwater Regulations


  • New Zealand farmers are advocating for the government to simplify the freshwater farm plan process, aiming for a more practical and cost-effective approach.
  • Federated Farmers highlights the current system’s inefficiencies, including excessive costs and duplication, and proposes a tiered, risk-based system tailored to local needs.
  • The proposed changes seek to replace the need for resource consents for certain farming activities, reducing regulatory burdens and focusing on meaningful environmental improvements.

In New Zealand, the agricultural community is pressing the government for an overhaul of the current freshwater farm plan regulations, seeking a system that is both simpler and more economically viable for farmers.

Under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Resource Management (Freshwater Farm Plans) Regulations 2023, farmers are required to conduct on-farm freshwater risk assessments and devise strategies to manage or mitigate identified risks. These plans must undergo certification and auditing, with results reported to regional councils.

Colin Hurst, the national vice president of Federated Farmers, criticises the existing framework as overly complex and costly, failing to recognize existing industry or council farm plans and requiring all properties over 20 hectares to comply. This has led to a significant regulatory and financial burden on farmers, many of whom still need to obtain resource consents in addition to their farm plans.

Federated Farmers is advocating for a more pragmatic system that would enhance environmental outcomes without imposing unnecessary costs or administrative hurdles on farmers. They propose a tiered, risk-based approach where the required level of planning is determined by the specific farming activity and catchment area.

This system would eliminate the need for resource consents for activities like winter grazing and stock exclusion, and address the issue of one-size-fits-all regulations that fail to consider local conditions.

The call for reform comes amid concerns that the current approach amounts to an expensive “box-ticking” exercise that offers little environmental benefit. By tailoring farm plans to local needs and reducing the reliance on resource consents, Federated Farmers believe they can achieve more meaningful environmental improvements while easing the regulatory load on the agricultural sector.