Keeping stock out of waterways

Cows behind fenceStock 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.

The risks of keeping stock near waterways will vary depending on the species, type of waterbody, slope of land, type of crop or pasture, soil type, and other factors.

That’s why the practices of how stock should be kept from waterways will differ across Canterbury.

Stock exclusion rules

There are two documents that regulate stock access in waterways: the Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020 which applies at a national level, and the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) – as well as its associated plan changes that introduce subregional rules – which apply to Canterbury.

Where the two regulations are different, the more stringent rule must be followed. These rules do not apply to feral animals.

Download the brochure (PDF File, 88KB)

Download the brochure (PDF File, 88KB)

Waterways wider than one metre

All dairy cows, beef cattle, dairy support, pigs and deer must be kept away from lakes and rivers with a bed wider than one metre, by maintaining a three metre minimum setback.

If a permanent fence was already in place on 3 September 2020, the three metre minimum setback doesn’t apply.

For beef cattle and deer on low-slope land, as well as dairy support cows on existing systems, these rules will apply from 1 July 2025. Until then, the additional waterways rules below still apply.

Additional stock exclusion rules apply within the Waimakariri, Banks Peninsula, Selwyn, Hinds, Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora and South Coastal Canterbury regions.


All farmed animals should be excluded from wetlands. For more information on what constitutes a wetland and how stock should be kept out, see our wetlands page.

Additional waterways rules

The following rules apply to:

  • waterways not covered by the above rule as they are less than one metre wide
  • types of grazing and stock not covered by the above rule, and
  • areas identified for special protections under subregional rules.

Stock is permitted only if all of the following criteria can be met:

  1. The use or disturbance of the bed and banks of the waterway does not result in pugging or de-vegetation that exposes bare earth in the bed and banks of a lake or river.
  2. There is no conspicuous change in colour or clarity of the water.
  3. Cattle are not permitted to stand in any lake located in a lake zone, classified as a high naturalness waterbody, or any lake outside of the hill and high-country area (other than any farm pond specifically constructed to provide stock water and that has no outlet to a lake, river, artificial watercourse or wetland).
  4. They are not in a Cultural Land Values Management Area.

These rules apply to not only rivers and lakes less than one metre wide, but the following specific waterways, in which additional subregional rules apply:

  • The main or secondary Hinds drain (whether water is present not); or any other Hinds/Hekeao surface drain containing water.
  • A drain (excluding sub-surface drains, stormwater swales, other artificial watercourse or ephemeral waterways) in the South Coastal Canterbury area.
  • Springs or artificial watercourses that feed into waterways in the Waimakariri and Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora regions, when water is present.
  • Surface drains in the Selwyn Te Waihora region, when water is present.

Additional stock prohibition rules

Farmed cattle, deer and pigs are prohibited from entering the following:

  • Salmon spawning sites, inanga (whitebait) spawning habitats, or critical habitats.
  • Waterways less than 1000 metres upstream from a bathing site in a river, or 500 metres from a bathing site in a lake.
  • Spring-fed plains rivers.
  • Waterways located within a Cultural Landscape/Values Management Area.
  • Waterways located within a community drinking-water protection zone.
  • The Ashley/Waimakariri Plains area.
  • The Mātaitai and Waipuna protection zone.

If you’re unsure whether one of these protection rules applies across part of your land, call our Customer Advisory team to check.

Te Roto ō Wairewa/Lake Forsyth

All farmed animals including sheep are prohibited from entering the beds, banks and riparian margins of the Ōkana, Ōkuti, and Takiritawai rivers and their tributaries, as well as Te Roto ō Wairewa/Lake Forsyth, unless a permanent and maintained barrier was established before 20 April 2016.

Contact us to check how these rules apply to you, as there are some inclusions or exceptions to these rules.

Exceptions for stock crossings

There are two exceptions to the three metre setback rule for stock crossing waterways:

  • If stock need to access the area in order to enter or exit a dedicated bridge or culvert.
  • If stock are supervised and actively driven across a lake or wide river, and do not cross it more than twice in any month.

However, these crossing points must be less than 20 metres wide, perpendicular to the direction of water flow (except where this is impractical due to the natural contours of the bed), and align with a constructed track or raceway on either side of the crossing point.

Where stock will be crossing a river or lake more than twice in any month, a dedicated bridge or culvert may need to be installed. Call our Customer Advisory team for more information.