Freshwater Farm Plans

A Freshwater Farm Plan (FW-FP) is a new tool introduced in the Government’s Essential Freshwater package, which can operate as alternative to requiring resource consent.

However, the Government is rolling out FW-FPs region by region, and it’s likely that they are still some years away for Canterbury.

What is a Freshwater Farm Plan?

FW-FPs 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. They 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.

All farms with the following land uses will require an FW-FP:

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


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, FW-FPs 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 FW-FP.

FW-FPs are similar to FEPs, but individual farm plans will need to be linked to the specific freshwater objectives for their catchment through a risk assessment. The Ministry for the Environment is planning a progressive roll-out approach of FW-FP, initially focussing on Southland, Gisborne and Waikato. As FW-FPs are not yet a reality for Canterbury, 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 FW-FP 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.

What do I need to do now?

Right now, you don’t need to take any action. FW-FPs will be rolled out region by region, and Canterbury is expected to be one of the last regions to require them.

However, you may already need to have a lot of the information outlined above as part of your Farm Environment Plan, Intensive Winter Grazing plan or other documentation.

While FW-FPs may still be some time away, it’s never too early to plan how you will manage risk and meet regulations on your farm.

If you have any questions about FW-FPs, talk to your industry contacts or your local land management advisor. 


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