Rural community update - flooding

We’ve pulled together information for farmers to help recover from the region’s flooding. Please check out the support page for contact details for various support groups. 

Updated on 1 October, 2021

It’s important that you look after yourself and your families at all times. Please take extra care when on farm and inspecting infrastructure. Be especially careful around ponds, dams, culverts and stopbanks and around water and infrastructure that may have been compromised.

Please ensure you maintain contact with staff and family on farm. Raise an alert if you have any concerns in relation to safety of family and staff.

Please see information below on:

River works

Immediately following the flooding of 31 May-2 June 2021 we undertook an assessment of all damaged flood infrastructure across Canterbury.

This resulted in a coprehensive list of sites needing repairs. These jobs have now been scheduled and prioritised according to a risk assessment.

View a live map of all the flood repair jobs currently identified by priority.

Synthetic nitrogen use

We understand that the soil nutrient status of properties is likely to have changed significantly due to flood and silt deposition on to land. However, good management practices remain relevant and should still be followed. If your land has been affected, the first step should be to undertake a soil fertility test to understand the deficiencies and to work with a nutrient management advisor to develop a new nutrient management plan.

Applications of soluble fertilisers should be done in accordance with good management practices to avoid adverse effects on the surrounding environment. For information on good management practices, see the GMP section of the Farmers’ Hub.

The nitrogen cap of 190 kg N/ha/yr to pastoral land still applies following the recent flood event, but if you feel you cannot meet this target for this year (1 July 2021-30 June 2022), applying for a resource consent to exceed the nitrogen cap is an option.

Diverting rivers

Key advice for farmers wanting to redivert rivers off their farmland

  1. The river has changed course and is running through my farm. Can I undertake my own work to divert the river back into its bed without a resource consent?

    Yes, if the following situation applies:

    • the action is to protect life or property (including stock) and;
    • it is reasonable in the circumstances and;
    • the actions don’t result in lasting environmental harm and/or the negative impacts of the work can be adequately mitigated and;
    • your works do not adversely impact on a neighbour or someone downstream.
  2. Do I need to contact Environment Canterbury before undertaking work to divert a river?

    Yes. We want to document your situation and record where works have been undertaken. This can be done over the phone. We will request that you keep a record of the work you undertake. Please call Customer Services at 0800 324 636 to speak to one of our staff.

  3. Can I get reimbursement from Environment Canterbury or a rating district for work I undertake on my farm?

    At this time we cannot commit to reimbursing landowners for work. We are completing assessments on the work to repair and restore flood protection assets and to return flows into rivers. We have access to funding via rating districts and other sources for this work.  

Caution when excavating

Bridge outages have compromised the fibre optic network in Canterbury. Any further damage would be extremely serious. If farmers or their contractors are undertaking earthworks in the vicinity of fibre optic networks, then it is critical that utility providers are contacted.

If your property is adjacent to a waterway and you need to do some remedial work following the floods, please call the Customer Services team on 0800 324 636 prior to starting. Let the team know what the issue is and what you want to do and they can help figure out the best way forward.

Environmental compliance

  • The significant weather event will have compromised the systems and infrastructure that farmers rely on to ensure environmental requirements are met.
  • Environment Canterbury wants farmers to note:
    • Only when it is safe to do so, and people and stock have been cared for, should landowners try and mitigate adverse environmental impacts arising from the weather. 
    • Any scheduled farm audits, consenting or compliance activity impacted by the weather event can be deferred for the time being. Environment Canterbury will work with consent holders and auditors to reschedule to an appropriate time, once the emergency and recovery have passed.
    • There are three tests farmers need to consider when undertaking actions that would otherwise require a consent and/or breach the Resource Management Act. These tests are:
      1. Actions are required to protect life and property;
      2. Actions are reasonable in the circumstances; and
      3. Actions are taken to fix/remedy the situation as soon as possible.
  • For farmers winter milking, milking cows needs to continue for animal welfare reasons. This may result in milk that may need to be dumped (see notes below). Farms may have effluent infrastructure that is damaged or compromised (e.g. effluent ponds with torn/damaged liners). Where there is no other option, farmers can use compromised infrastructure – but need to pay attention to the considerations above (e.g. ensuring that actions are taken to address as soon as possible – through repair, or modified operations to minimise the impact).

Removing flood debris

As floodwaters have receded, many residents, farmers and lifestyle block owners dealt with debris left on their property as well as with their own possessions damaged by the flood.

To aid with disposal, sort your waste into separate piles for removal – one for domestic / household waste and others for material such as fenceposts, trees and other green waste, and plastic baleage wrap.

Please check with your local council if they have special arrangements for collection and disposal of debris from the flood or any future flood events..

Rules for burning greenwaste

You can burn trees and other greenwaste, provided you meet these requirements:


Properties under 2 ha in size outside of clean air zones would not normally be able to have outdoor burns.

However, Environment Canterbury will allow flood-related greenwaste to be burned as an exemption to the rules, provided that:

Any properties under 2 ha in size within a clean air zone should contact Environment Canterbury, so staff can assist in planning how flood debris might be burned as an exception.

Do not burn:

  • Treated fenceposts and baleage wrap should not be burned.
  • Fencing materials that cannot be reused or recycled can be buried on-farm or taken to your local council’s transfer station.
  • Silage wrap should be collected for recycling (e.g. Plasback) or taken to your local council’s transfer station disposal.