The Essential Freshwater package is a new set of standards and regulations designed to achieve genuine freshwater improvements for New Zealand’s lakes, rivers, wetlands and other freshwater waterways within a generation.

The new rules apply to all farmers, in addition to the existing regional rules in the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan. They are being introduced in phases so you’ll be able to prepare and adapt to them over a period of time. Below you'll find a timeline that gives an overview of the dates the different regulations come into effect, and information about specific regulations.

Key dates for new regulations
3 September 2020: 
  • Temporary agricultural intensification
  • Feedlots
  • Wetlands
  • River reclamation
  • Fish passage
  • Stock exclusion from new pastoral systems
1 July 2021:
  • Stockholding (other than feedlots)
  • Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use
3 September 2022:
  • Measuring of water takes over 20 l/sec
1 November 2022:
  • Intensive winter grazing
1 July 2023:
  • Stock exclusion of dairy cattle and pigs, and intensively-grazed beef cattle and deer not in a new pastoral system
  • Stock exclusion from wetlands identified in Council plans
3 September 2024:
  • Measuring of water takes from 10 l/sec to 20 l/sec
1 July 2025:
  • Stock exclusion from natural wetlands that are larger than 0.05 ha, on a low slope and which support a population of threatened species
  • Stock exclusion of beef cattle, deer and dairy support cattle on low slope land
3 September 2026:
  • Measuring of water takes from
    5 l/sec to 10 l/sec

Essential Freshwater regulations

fertiliser bag

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser cap

On grazed land, you can no longer apply more than 190 kg of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser per hectare per year without resource consent. You must also record your fertiliser use and report it back to us each year.

Find out how the new rules might affect synthetic nitrogen caps on your farm.

cow grazing

Intensive winter grazing

If the land area used for intensive winter grazing has increased and you don't meet the requirements of the new essential freshwater regulations you'll require resource consent.

Find out how the new rules might affect intensive winter grazing on your farm.

laptop with farm map

Freshwater Farm Plans

All farms with 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use, 5 hectares or more in horticultural use and/or 20 hectares or more of combined use will require a certified Freshwater Farm Plan.

Find out about the new requirement for a Freshwater Farm Plan for your farm.

wetland, grass with bird

Wetland management

Any activity which disturbs wetlands can only be carried out for certain reasons, such as restoration, clearing debris or scientific research, and may require consent.

Find out how the new rules might affect wetland management on your farm.


Keeping stock out of waterways

Stock can damage the bed and banks of our waterways. Their manure, urine and sediment can also seriously impact water quality, the lives of animals, and the mahinga kai values of our waterways.

Find out how the new rules might affect stock exclusion on your farm.

irrigator and plants

Agricultural intensification

Resource consent is required for various land use conversions over 10 hectares.

Find out more about the new agricultural intensification rules.

cow behind fence

Feedlots and stockholding areas

Using land for feedlots and stockholding areas is allowed and doesn’t require consent if at least 90% of the cattle are under 4 months old or weigh less than 120kg. Otherwise, you'll require consent.

Find out how the new rules might affect your feedlots and stockholding areas.

water meter

Water metering

If you take more than five litres of water per second you need resource consent. You must also measure and record how much water you take in each 15-minute period and report this data back to us daily.

Find out how the new rules might affect water metering on your farm.

fish in river

Farming around rivers and streams

Streams and rivers provide important habitat for plants, invertebrates, fish and wildlife. They also provide many other ecological, cultural, recreational and economic values.

Learn more about permitted activities around riverbeds.