Freshwater Farm Plans

As part of the Essential Freshwater package, farms over a certain size will require a certified Freshwater Farm Plan (FWFP).

All farms with the following land uses will require an FWFP:

  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use
  • Five hectares or more in horticultural use
  • 20 hectares or more of combined use.

These regulations are expected to take effect in 2022, and a requirement for FWFPs to be certified will be phased in beginning mid-2022.

What is a Freshwater Farm Plan?

FWFPs are a tool designed to stop further decline in freshwater quality, make water quality improvements within five years, and begin to reverse past damage to our waterways. FWFPs will identify practical on-farm actions to help improve local waterways. These will depend on the farm’s location, catchment, and local environment, and will provide a more flexible alternative to consents and one-size-fits-all approaches.


farming landscape

Freshwater Farm Plans and Farm Environment Plans

Canterbury farms that don’t meet permitted activity rules are already required to have a Farm Environment Plan (FEP). However, FWFPs will be required for all farms with more than 20 hectares in arable or pastoral use or five hectares in horticultural use. This means many more farms than currently have FEPs will need an FWFP.

FWFPs are similar to FEPs, but individual farm plans will need to be linked to the specific freshwater objectives for their catchment.

We are currently working with other regional councils on a process for introducing FWFPs. While we await decisions on how exactly FWFPs will be implemented, it is important that farmers with FEPs continue to follow that plan and focus on their next audit.

What will I need to include in my Freshwater Farm Plan?

Your FWFP will need to include information on:

  • your catchment – including values, ecosystem and community outcomes
  • risk identification and impact assessment – including the identification of critical source areas, plans for the management of fodder crops and wetlands
  • actions to mitigate risks – including plans to strategically fence waterways, restore wetlands, and intensive winter grazing plans
  • how you will meet the NES-F – including meeting the synthetic nitrogen cap, intensive winter grazing, stock holding and wetland rules
  • how you will exclude stock from waterways and meet the new stock exclusion regulations.

How will we implement Freshwater Farm Plans?

In 2020, the government brought in legislation that requires regional councils to implement FWFPs. In 2021, it undertook a major consultation exercise to seek views on the details of how FWFPs should be implemented. The results of the consultation are now being evaluated and the detailed implementing rules and requirements for FWFPs are expected to be published mid-2022.

Once these new rules and requirements for FWFPs are published, we will design and roll out a programme to implement FWFPs across Canterbury. This will involve requesting FWFPs for farms that are not currently required to have a FEP, as well as transitioning those farms with FEPs into the new FWFP framework. 

We expect it will take several years to phase in FWFPs on all farms that need to have one, and we will be working closely with the farming industry, as we have with the current FEP programme, to help farms navigate and implement the legal requirements of a FWFP.

Need help? 

If you have any questions about the new Essential Freshwater regulations contact your zone’s Land Management Advisor. 

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