River Watch Logo
River Watch Logo

Farming Water Quality Standards

National Environmental Standards (NES) are rules that apply to freshwater and farming. The National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F) follow NES. Still, they relate specifically to minimising activities that are posing risks to the health of freshwater and freshwater ecosystems due to farming activities.

The updated standards over the years are to prevent further degradation of New Zealand Waterways. Over the past years, new rules have been implemented while additional rules are being discussed and coming into play in the coming years.

Freshwater Regulation

Freshwater farming regulations and rules relate more specifically to dairy farming. DairyNZ, dairy companies, regional councils, environmental consultants and other professionals can help those in the farming industry understand and follow new laws.

Action for Healthy Waterway

The Action for Healthy Waterway package was previously known as the Essential Freshwater package. It covers regulations and rules for protecting New Zealand waterways and keeping them healthy.

NES: National Environmental Standards are rules that apply to freshwater and farming, set by the National Government, and Regional Councils are in charge of implementing such rules.

NES-F: The National Environmental Standards for Freshwater include guidelines around minimising activities that are posing risks to the health of freshwater and freshwater ecosystems.

NPS-FM: The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 has been further developed, introducing compulsory values that must be met to improve and maintain the state of New Zealand freshwater.

Farming Water Quality Standards Compliance New Zealand

Permitted Activity means that when set standards are met, farming can undertake activity without required resource consent. Permitted Activity follows farming guidelines and regulations, ensuring that such activity does not do added harm to the environment.

Resource Consent refers to where set standards cannot be met. Consent is required for certain activities or procedures. Some activity resource consents can be readily obtained if the activity is well managed and effects are mitigated. Other activities with higher tests can be more difficult to obtain consent.

Suppose an activity that a farm is already undertaking (Use Rights) and now requires resource consent under the NES-F. In that case, the farm has six months from the date of the new rule enforcement to apply to the Regional Council for resource consent, given it was legal before the NES-F and does not change in nature of scale.

Nitrate Sensors Water Monitor New Zealand Farming Water

National Environmental Standards

National Environmental Standards (NES) include legal regulations related to farming and the freshwater environment. Introduced regulations touch on Intensive Winter Grazing (IWG), synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use, land use, stocking holding and wetlands protection. Fish passage and river standards are also touched on.

The National Environmental Standards for Freshwater

The Ministry for the Environment claims the NES-F is designed to protect natural inland and coastal wetlands, and urban and rural streams. It is also designed to ensure fish habitat connectivity, provide minimum requirements for stock holding areas, improve poor intensive winter grazing practices, restrict agricultural intensification until 2024, and limit the discharge of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.

Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilisers

The maximum amount of synthetic Nitrogen fertiliser applied to land in pastoral use is 190kg/N/ha/year from 1 July 2021. The nitrogen cap rules are related to applying synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and calculated based on contiguous landholdings. Farmers that exceed the nitrogen cap will need to apply for resource consent.

Intensive Winter Grazing

Intensive winter grazing (IWG) refers to livestock grazing on an annual forage crop at any time between 1 May and 30 September of the same year. New requirements for IWG have been deferred until May 2022. Potential changes could include pugging and resowing requirements. With such changes deferred, the focus of the IWG is to ensure good wintering practices are being used on-farm.

Stock Holding and Feedlots

The new regulations set rules that apply to feedlots and stockholding areas like feed pads, stand-off pads, winter pads and loafing pads. Feedlot use is permitted for young stock, where 90% of the cattle are held for no more than four months and weigh under 120kg. The use of feedlots for other cattle requires resource consent. Feedpad, standoff pad, wintering pad and loading pad must meet minimum standards or consent must be applied for.

Stock Exclusion Rules

Stock is to be excluded from rivers, lakes and wetlands. The certain timeframes to do so depends on the type of stock, slope and grazing intensity. Stock must be kept at least 3m from the edge of the waterway with a waterway greater than 1m wide at any point on the land, including intermittent streams and excluding drains. All stock must be excluded from natural wetlands. The new rules are legislated under the Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020.

New Zealand Environmental Water Quality Monitoring with Real Time Io T Artificial Intelligence Water Monitor RW

Farming Activities and Freshwater Standards News

Stay up to date with New Zealand farming and freshwater-related news. As freshwater standards change, we’re committed to ever-developing new, innovative technology to help monitor water quality which can be used to abide by government farming water regulations.