Some of the information on this page as well as linked documents may be out of date as a result of the Essential Freshwater Package introduced in September 2020.

Environment Canterbury is currently in the process of updating all relevant documentation. If you have any queries please contact Customer Services on 0800 324 636.

Below you can find information and rules in relation to farming in the Ashburton zone.

To see if you need a land use consent to farm:

What's happening in your zone?
Find out what the Zone Committee of Ashburton is discussing.

Ashburton water zone    Farming events

Farming land use consents
When do I need a consent?

Find out what zone your farm is in

Hinds/Hekeao Plains area only

You will need a consent if:

  • Your farm is not covered by an irrigation scheme that has a resource consent that manages nutrients, and;
  • If your farm is larger than 5 ha and your nitrogen loss calculation exceeds 15 kg/ha/yr.

Ashburton other than Hinds/Hekeao Plains Area

You will not need consent if:

  • You already have a farming land use consent; or
  • Your farm is part of an irrigation scheme that has a resource consent that manages nutrients; or
  • You have a water permit for irrigation, granted before 18 January 2014, with conditions that limit the amount of nitrogen that may be leached and requires the preparation of a plan to mitigate the effects of nutrient loss to water.

If none of these apply, then you will need a consent if:

Red Zone

  • Your farm has 50ha or more of authorised irrigation; or
  • After 13 February 2016, your irrigated area has increased by more than 10ha; or
  • You have an area of winter grazing* that exceeds the limits in the table below:
On a property Winter grazing
 Less than 100 ha  10ha or more
 Between 100 and 1000ha  10% of the property or more

 More than a 1000ha

 100ha or more

Orange and Green Zone

  • Your farm has 50ha or more of irrigation; or
  • You have an area of winter grazing* that exceeds the limits in the table below:
On a property Winter grazing
 Less than 100 ha  10ha or more
 Between 100 and 1000ha  10% of the property or more

 More than a 1000ha

 100ha or more

*Winter grazing is the grazing of cattle within the period of 1 May to 30 September, where the cattle are contained for break-feeding of in-situ brassica and root vegetable forage crops or for consuming supplementary feed that has been brought onto the property.

If you do need a land use consent to farm:

Download your application form and planning assessment or contact an industry support partner for help.

Consents and Supporting Tools

Nutrient Modelling

Get your Nutrient Budgets done, or at least be on the list.

Find yourself a trusted nutrient management advisor that will help you understand how to make your budget work for you.

Talk to your industry sector representative, fertilizer representative or a Certified Nutrient Management Advisor.

Hinds/Hekeao Plains area only

You will need:

  • A Nitrogen Baseline

Ashburton other than Hinds/Hekeao Plains Area

You will need:

  • A Nitrogen Baseline
  • A Baseline GMP Loss Rate as calculated by the Farm Portal

Talk to you Nutrient Management Advisor to confirm what you will need to include in your specific application.


NCheck helps you determine your farm's nitrogen loss rate and whether consent is required. It can also be used in the consent process for some land uses.

NCheck    User guide


Overseer is required for most resource consent applications, where NCheck is not an option.

Farm Environment Plans

You will need to prepare a Farm Environment Plan (FEP).

There are lots of approved Farm Environment Plan templates to choose from. Talk to your Industry sector representative about your options and find out how they can help.

FEP Templates and Info

Good Management Practices

Farm Map

You can access lots of useful information to build your Farm Environment Plan and for your consent application by accessing Canterbury Maps.

Canterbury Maps  

Resource Consents

If you require a resource consent:

You can get a free one hour pre-application consultation.

To arrange this please contact our customer services team.

Calling from Christchurch (03) 353-9007

Calling from any other area 0800 324 636

Resource consents

Download your Application Form, and Rule and Planning Assessments.

Key Dates

Hinds/Hekeao Plains Area Only


If you require a consent, apply now.

Fill in the consent application form found on this webpage, and ensure your Farm Environment Plan and Nutrient Budgets are in order.

Contact customer services to arrange an appointment.

Farm Environment Plan Audit

Within one year of getting your consent you will be required to get an audit of your Farm Environment Plan.

You can find out more about the audits and a list of certified Auditors here.


Further Reductions

All farms (with losses over 20 kg/ha/yr) will need to make further reductions beyond what can be expected by implementing Good Management Practices on farm. Use your Farm Environment Plan and Nutrient Budgets to help you plan those reductions.

Ashburton other than Hinds/Hekeao Plains Area


If you require a consent, apply now.

Fill in the consent application form found on this webpage, and ensure your Farm Environment Plan and Nutrient Budgets are in order.

Contact customer services to arrange an appointment.

Farm Environment Plan Audit

Within one year of getting your consent you will be required to get an audit of your Farm Environment Plan.

You can find out more about the audits and a list of certified Auditors here.


Your farm should be operating at or below its Baseline GMP Loss Rate

This is the nitrogen loss rate if you were operating at good management practice in the baseline period (2009-2013). Find out more about how to calculate this loss rate.

Good management practices
Hinds good management and nitrogen loss rates
In accordance with Policy 13.4.15 in the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP), in the Hinds / Hekeao Plains Area a farm's good management practice nitrogen loss rate is determined by:
  1. The type of farming activity; and
  2. The drainage characteristics of the soil; and
  3. The climatic conditions and topography of the property; and
  4. The type of irrigation system used (if any); and
  5. Whether the practices set out in Schedule 24a have been fully adopted.

This level of practice is applied to the farm's baseline land use (2009-13).

When is the good management practice nitrogen loss rate required to be met?
The good management practice nitrogen loss rate for a farm's baseline land use is to be met from 1 January 2017.
What is the threshold from which further reductions are required?
Further reductions for farms with a nitrogen loss greater than 20kgN/ha/yr in the Hinds Area are made from the good management practice nitrogen loss rate for a farm's baseline land use.
Why are the good management practice nitrogen loss rates for Hinds not the same as in Plan Change 5?
While Plan Change 5 (PC5) introduced a definition of the term “Good Management Practice” (GMP) it does not apply in the Hinds area. The architecture of the LWRP means sub-regional rules prevail over region-wide rules. The rules for the Hinds area (PC2) require compliance with Schedule 24a and the other factors in Policy 13.4.15 respectively, not compliance with the GMPs definition introduced by PC5.
The definition of “Good Management Practice” introduced by Plan Change 5 also has each word capitalised to indicate a difference, in PC2 the phrase is in lower case. The introductory text of the notified version of PC5 also stated submissions lodged on Plan Change 5 could not seek to amend the provisions in PC2. If the intent of Plan Change 5 had been to change the PC2 thresholds from which reductions were to be made, then the catchment load and percentage reductions would have been recalculated and changes made to the PC2 policies accordingly.
How is a good management practice nitrogen loss rate for baseline land use to be determined?
A Nitrogen Baseline (2009–13) OVERSEER® file for a farm is to be prepared. This will, however, need to reflect the minimum level of farm practices as contained in Policy 13.4.15.
This means the modelling of a farms nitrogen baseline needs to reflect the type of farming activity, the drainage characteristics of soil, climatic considerations and topography, the type of irrigation system used and the practices in Schedule 24a.
The information below outlines the minimum standard to be reflected in Nitrogen Baseline (2009–13) files and provides advice on how files can be adjusted to reflect the minimum.
Schedule 24a states: irrigation application[1] needs to reflect use of soil moisture monitoring[2], a soil water budget, or an irrigation scheduling calculator. The data inputted into OVERSEER® will therefore need to reflect one of these irrigation management techniques while also reflecting the type of irrigation system used[3].

The minimum practice for irrigation management accepted by the Council is outlined here (PDF File, 245.42KB). This reflects an irrigation scheduling calculator approach with further refinements in accordance with Policies 4.65, 4.66, 11.4.15 and 13.4.15 to reflect:

  1. the monthly and annual amount of water required based on the irrigation system used; and
  2. the annual amount of water that was available as detailed in the relevant water permit(s).

Overseer file adjustment

As set out in the process for inputting irrigation management into Overseer (PDF File, 245.42KB).

Fertiliser and Effluent Management - All Systems


Schedule 24 states: Fertiliser is applied in accordance with the Code of Practice for Nutrient Management [2007]; and either:

(a) the Spreadmark Code of Practice [Feb 2014]; or
(b) With spreading equipment that is maintained and user-calibrated to Spreadmark Code of Practice [Feb 2014] standards.

Collected Animal Effluent:

(i) All collection, storage and treatment systems for animal effluent installed or replaced after 1 January 2014 meet the Dairy NZ Farm Dairy Effluent Design Standard and Code of Practice [2013].
(ii) The animal effluent disposal system application's separation distances, depth, uniformity and intensity are self-checked annually in accordance with Section 4 ‘Land Application’ in the Dairy NZ guideline ‘A Farmer’s Guide To Managing Farm Dairy Effluent – A Good Practice Guide For Land Application Systems, Version 1 – Feb 2013’.

The minimum practice Fertiliser and Effluent Management accepted by the Council shall therefore reflect the practices above and relevant effluent consent conditions at the time.

[1] Clause b(iii).
[2] Soil moisture monitoring is defined in Schedule 24 as meaning “methods of monitoring soil moisture that uses volumetric or tension based methodology.
[3] Consistent with policies 11.4.15 and 13.4.13

Other rules on farm
View the Farmers Guide to Permitted Activities in Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (PDF File, 3.71MB). Please note, that for some activities, sub-regional rules apply.
Stock Exclusion

Water quality in our rivers, streams and coastal areas is important to all of us. By keeping your stock out of our waterways, you make an important contribution to the improvement of water quality in Canterbury. 

 On 3 September 2020 new requirements under the Essential Freshwater package came into effect. Find out more about how this affects stock exclusion rules.

What’s prohibited?

Access by farmed cattle, deer or pigs to the following areas within the bed (including the banks) of lakes and rivers is not allowed (see Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (PDF file, 19.6MB), rule 5.71): 

  • in an īnanga spawning habitat or a salmon spawning site 
  • within a community drinking water protection zone 
  • the bed of a lake or river within 1000 metres upstream of a freshwater bathing site 
  • within 1000 metres upstream of a freshwater bathing site 
  • within a spring-fed plains river.

View this map to find out if your property is within any of the restricted areas.

Contact customer services or your local zone team if you think you might have these features on your farm. 

Within the Hinds/Hekeao Plains Area, any reference to the bed of a lake, river or wetland also includes a drain but does not include any sub-surface drain, stormwater swale, other artificial watercourse or ephemeral waterway.

Consenting rules about stock exclusion

Do I need to apply for consent? 

The first step is to consider whether resource consent is needed for what you wish to do. Contact customer services to find out more. 

What kind of stock access requires resource consent?

A resource consent is required if the permitted access conditions are not met, or for access of intensively farmed stock to any river over one metre wide or 10 centimetres deep, or to a lake or wetland. 

Intensively farmed stock are considered to be:

  • cattle or deer grazed on irrigated land or contained for break-feeding of winter feed crops
  • dairy cattle, of any class, including cows, whether dry or milking, and whether on irrigated land or not or
  • farmed pigs.

What can be done without a resource consent?

Conditions for permitted access

Except for areas where stock access is prohibited, access by stock to a lake, river or wetland may happen, provided the access is by non-intensively farmed stock and does not result in:

  • pugging or de-vegetation that exposes bare earth in the bed or banks 
  • a conspicuous change in clarity or colour of the water outside the mixing zone 
  • for lakes, cattle standing in a lake located within a Lake Zone, classified as a High Naturalness Waterbody, or located outside the Hill and High Country Area (as defined in the Land & Water Regional Plan). 

Different conditions apply to stock crossing points. Please contact customer services for more information. 


  Download a copy of the Stock Exclusion Fact Sheet  (PDF File, 1.97MB).

Further information 

How is the bed of a braided river defined for stock exclusion?

A river is defined as a continually or intermittently flowing body of fresh water; and includes a stream and modified watercourse; but does not include any artificial watercourse (including an irrigation canal, water supply race, canal for the supply of water for electricity power generation, and farm drainage canal). 

A braided river is a river that at some point in its length flows in multiple, mobile channels across a gravel floodplain. For the purposes of Environment Canterbury’s stock exclusion rules, the bed (including the banks) of a braided river is limited to the wetted channels, any gravel islands, the gravel margins, and the outer edge of any flood protection vegetation or where no flood protection vegetation exists, the lesser of:

  • The distance from the outer gravel margin to land that was cultivated or was in crop or pasture prior to 5 September 2015; or
  • 10m landward of the outer gravel margin as measured at any time, except that if a stopbank exists then the stopbank does not form part of the bed.

There is an exception to these conditions for stock crossing points (please contact Customer Services for more information).

Find out more about what is and what is not a ‘riverbed’ in Canterbury for the purposes of the Resource Management Act (RMA) and our plans. 

What is a wetland?

Wetlands are defined in the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan as coastal wetlands, wetlands that are part of a river, stream or lake; and natural ponds, swamps, marshes, fens, bogs, seeps, brackish areas, mountain wetlands, and other naturally wet areas that support an indigenous ecosystem of plants and animals specifically adapted to living in wet conditions and provide a habitat for wildlife. It excludes:

  • wet pasture or where water temporarily ponds after rainfall;
  • artificial wetlands used for wastewater or storm water treatment;
  • artificial farm dams, drainage canals and detention dams; and
  • reservoirs for firefighting, domestic or community water supply. 

Find out more about how we protect, maintain and enhance wetlands in Canterbury. 

What is wet pasture?

The dictionary (Merriam-Webster) defines pasture as “plants (such as grass) grown for feeding especially of grazing animals / land or a plot used for grazing / the feeding of livestock”.

This definition links the purpose for which the grass is grown, with the feeding of grazing animals. This draws a distinction between grass that has been grown (introduced) for the purpose of feeding, to that which is not being grown but nevertheless, would be suitable for grazing animals to feed on.

Essentially, wet pasture is grass being grown for the purpose of feeding grazing animals.

The following factors, either individually or in combination, can be used as a starting point for on-site discussions:

  • Is the grass being actively grazed by farm animals?
  • Is the land being deliberately managed and actively maintained (includes fertiliser use, cultivation, mowing etc.) for the purpose of growing grass for grazing by farm animals?
  • Is there a predominance of exotic or introduced grass? (Pockets of wetland plant species may occur throughout areas of wet pasture and will need to be managed appropriately).
  • The grass has been (and is still being) actively maintained for grazing by farm animals since September 2015? (This is the operative date of the LWRP).
What are the rules in relation to stock exclusion and water races?

Our rules require the exclusion of livestock from the beds of rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

The rules do not require the exclusion of livestock from water races, as water races are considered an ‘artificial watercourse’ which is specified as not coming under the definition of ‘river’.

However, the water within these water races is considered ‘surface water’ and as such is required to meet all regional rules relating to water quality (for example, rules relating to effluent, nutrient run-off, sediment etc).

Good Management Practices (GMP) suggest that stock be excluded from water races. In instances where access is required for drinking water purposes, this access should be restricted to a defined area for this purpose.

Consideration should be given to why this area is the optimal location for drinking water access.

Areas susceptible to pugging and with higher risk of sediment, nutrient, and microbial run-off into the water race should not be selected as drinking water areas.

Furthermore, physical access should not go beyond what is needed for the purpose of accessing drinking water.


Silage Pits

What silage pits do not require a resource consent?

The use of a silage pit or stockpiling decaying matter such as composting, as long as:

  • The stockpile/pit is less than 20m³ volume
  • Any liquid that drains from stockpile does not enter a surface water body
  • Any decaying organic matter does not originate from an industrial or trade process.

Or, if larger than 20m³:

  • The stockpile is not within 50m of a surface water body, bore, property boundary, the Coastal Marine Area, or a Community Drinking-water Protection Zone
  • Any liquid that drains from the stockpile does not enter a surface water body
  • The decaying organic matter doesn’t originate from an industrial or trade process

What silage pits need a resource consent?

A silage pit which cannot meet the conditions above will require a resource consent.

Note: These rules do not apply to bailed silage.

Offal Pits

What kind of offal pit requires a resource consent?

Any offal pit which cannot meet the conditions below.

What can be done without requiring a resource consent?

Conditions for permitted activity:

The pit is:

  • 50m³ or smaller
  • is designed to prevent surface runoff from entering the pit
  • is designed to prevent animals from entering the pit

And the pit must not be located:

  • within 100m of a surface water body, a bore used for water abstraction, the boundary of the site, or the Coastal Marine Area
  • within a Community Drinking-water Protection Zone as set out in Schedule 1
  • within the Christchurch Groundwater Protection Zone
  • onto or into land listed as an archaeological site
  • outside of a rural area


  • The dead animals or animal parts were produced on the property
  • Must have at least 3m of soil or sand between the offal and the seasonal high water table
  • Only 1 pit per 100 hectares per year
  • When the pit is filled to within 0.5m of surface or no longer used, the contents must be covered with at least 0.5m of soil, or the pit is covered with an impermeable lid
  • The pit does not cause an offensive or objectionable odour beyond the boundary of the property
  • Offal not completely covered with impermeable material or soil is located more than 150m from any sensitive activity not located on the property i.e. homes, sports ground, churches, beaches.

Alternatively, where a dead animal cannot be disposed of in accordance with the above, the use of land to bury a single dead animal is permitted as long as:

  • the dead animal was produced on the property
  • the burial pit does not contain water, and the dead animal is immediately covered by enough soil or plant material to prevent odour or other nuisance
  • the burial site is at least 50m from any surface water body, bore or property boundary
Outdoor Burning
Looking to burn some waste or crop stubble on your property? Find out more about how to make sure you comply with our regional rules.
Domestic and Stock Water Use on Farms and Lifestyle Blocks
See the factsheets below for information on taking water for domestic or stock drinking water purposes and for water use on lifestyle blocks.
Biodiversity Tool

There is a new prototype tool for on-farm biodiversity assessments.

Use the online tool to find out how biodiversity-friendly your farm actions are.

You can use the tool to:

  • assess the effectiveness of your current farm actions; and
  • explore the likely impact of changing those actions.

The tool includes 43 actions considered important for New Zealand farmland biodiversity management and reports on the impact for 10 biodiversity groups plus overall farmland biodiversity.

Responsibilities for water consent holders

Water taken from ground water and surface water sources enables our economy to thrive year-round. To ensure that water is used responsibly and that it continues to be a plentiful resource, consent holders have several responsibilities to be aware of.

Download the Irrigation responsibilities brochure (PDF File, 152.1KB) or read the information under the tabs below. 

Consent Responsibilities
Careful use of the water resource is something that Environment Canterbury takes very seriously. It is your responsibility to meet the terms of your consent.
You can do this by ensuring you supply your water data when it is due and by avoiding taking more water than is allowed under your resource consent (including taking water when rivers are on restriction).
What do I have to do?
As a consent holder, you are responsible for:
  • Compliance with all your consent conditions.
  • Ensuring all water takes over 5 litres per second have a verified water meter and data logger installed which is continuously recording actual daily water use.
  • Only taking water according to the specified volumes of your consent, including maximum flow rates, annual volumes and changes in permitted levels during periods of restriction.
  • Submitting actual water use data daily via telemetry, or annually by 31 July each year.
Monitoring your water use

Your water takes are monitored through automated systems as well as proactive desktop monitoring, and site inspections. During the irrigation season you’re likely to see Resource Management Officers out and about checking on water takes.

Minimum flow restrictions
Many resource consents contain a condition limiting the taking of water when a river or waterway is on restriction. As the consent holder, it is your responsibility to understand your minimum flow conditions by checking online.
If minimum flows have been reached, you must restrict your water take in accordance with your consent condition. You must also report any errors or any breaches that you observe.
Manual shut off?
If you have an irrigation device that requires a manual shut off, and a water restriction starts at midnight, you no longer have to get up at midnight to turn off your irrigator.
Instead, you can continue to irrigate until as late as 9am even though technically your water take is on restriction from midnight. This enables you to safely get out and turn off the device anytime between midnight and 9am.
If you choose to do this, then when the irrigation restriction ceases, you must not turn your irrigation on again until the time you turned it off.
For example, if you turned your device off at 6am on a restriction day, you must wait until 6am on a non-restriction day to turn it on.
Information on irrigation restrictions
Environment Canterbury’s website and customer service centre are the only places to find irrigation restriction information.
The Irrigation Restriction webpage contains up to date irrigation restrictions for your area, and relating to your consent (search for ‘irrigation’ at
This website is updated between 4pm and 7pm each day, with the restrictions being effective from 9am the following day.
You can also call Customer Services.
Fish screens
A fish screen is a structure intended to harmlessly divert fish away from water takes used for irrigation, stock-water, community supplies or hydro-electric power generation.
If you have a water take that requires a fish screen, find out more about their efficiency, and how they are monitored.
Weather - planning ahead
Plan your water use for the coming months by using NIWA’s useful Seasonal Climate Outlook. Careful planning can ensure that your water take doesn’t run out in the hot dry months.
To see the latest Seasonal Climate Outlook, go to NIWA.
Water use groups
Working with your neighbours year-round can provide benefits when water is restricted. As part of a water user group, consent holders can share water during times of restriction.
Members of water user groups each have existing consents to take water, and collectively manage the water resource allocated to them, during times of restriction.

Find out more about the Ashburton Water use group.

Backflow prevention
Many farmers use their irrigation systems for fertigation. If you do so, you must have a backflow preventer so that contaminants cannot enter the groundwater.
Your backflow preventer must be tested annually, and a copy of the test certificate sent to Environment Canterbury. Any backflow preventer which fails the test must be repaired or replaced and then re-tested.

Find out which backflow preventers are recommended, and read all about the requirements by searching for ‘backflow prevention’.


Key Contacts 

Zone Manager

Johannes Welsch  027 512 3158

Talk to your zone

Gina Slee — Southern Zone Lead  03 687 7876

Peter Burt — Southern Zone Lead  027 688 2013

Talk to your scheme

Acton Irrigation — Eva Harris  027 5500 129

Greenstreet Irrigation — Eva Harris  027 5500 129

MHV Water Ltd — Melanie Brooks  027 435 6882

South Rakaia — Gary Rooney  03 689 7881

Barrhill Chertsey —  Eva Harris  027 5500 129

Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation Ltd — Rebecca Whillans  027 458 1978

Connect to your primary industry body

They may be able to support and advise you on how to meet Good Management Practice, prepare a Farm Environment Plan, and calculate nutrient budgets. There may also be events being held in your area.

Get help