Q & A on Essential Freshwater
Below you'll answers to questions we've received around our approach to the Government's Essential Freshwater regulations.
If you can't find what you're looking for and you'd like to submit a question, please email email@example.com and put EFW Question in the subject line. We'll do our best to get back to you and add it onto this page.
Both the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan and the new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater have a list of permitted activity criteria for intensive winter grazing. This means in some instances a resource consent will be required for intensive winter grazing in 2023. Find out if you will need a resource consent here.
The National Environmental Standards require any person operating a dairy farm to report to Council each year on their nitrogen fertiliser use. This reporting includes information on the types of fertiliser used, the rate of application and the location and date of application. This reporting requirement starts on 30 June 2021 with the first reports due in by 31 July 2022.
I use more than 190 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year. What sort of consent do I need to apply for and what will be needed?
From July 2021 if you use 190 kg/ha/year of nitrogen fertiliser then a non-complying consent will be required. Please note that this cap does not apply to arable or horticultural land use.
Chat to our consents team before making your application to ensure you have all the right information and forms.
To apply you will need to show that:
- through a synthetic nitrogen reduction plan you will reduce your fertiliser use each year so by July 2023 it is no longer exceeding the cap; or
- by ensuring the rate at which nitrogen may enter water does not exceed the baseline rate (the rate of nitrogen entering water if the nitrogen cap is met).
The National Environmental Standards are in addition to the permitted activity criteria in the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan and any discharge of fertiliser still needs to meet the conditions in Rule 14.
Environment Southland has developed a temporary online tool to enable consent holders to submit their data to Council while the Ministry for the Environment central portal is in development. This can be found here.
If you don’t have access to, or can’t use the online form, information can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
There are some key pieces of information which must be provided, those can be found here.
The regulations within the Essential Freshwater package were gazetted on 3 September 2020, however some have specific dates for when they take effect. The regulations sit alongside the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan rules. Give our team a call on 0800 76 88 45 to chat about your specific situation.
Te Mana o te Wai is an important concept for how water is managed and utilised in New Zealand and refers to the vital importance of water. Te Mana o te Wai is a concept that encompasses several different aspects of the integrated and holistic health and well-being of a water body. It was introduced to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater (NPS-FM) in 2014, and strengthened in the 2017 and 2020 updates to the national policy statement.
Te Mana o te Wai recognises the fundamental importance of water in that protecting the health of freshwater protects the health and well-being of the wider environment. It is an approach that protects the Mauri (life-force) of the water.
When Te Mana o te Wai is given effect, the water body will sustain the full range of environmental, social, cultural and economic values held by iwi and the community. The concept is expressed in te reo Maori, but applies to freshwater management for and on behalf of the whole community.
The meaning of Te Mana o te Wai is different for each community, being based on their unique relationship with freshwater in their area or rohe. Te Mana o te Wai is a concept that regional councils must give effect to in their regional plans in relation to water, in consultation with their communities.
Resource consent applications to regional councils must demonstrate how the application will ensure that freshwater is managed in a way that prioritises (in this order):
(a) first, the health and well-being of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems
(b) second, the health needs of people (such as drinking water)
(c) third, the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being, now and in the future.
People making decisions on consents must now have regard to the relevant provisions of the NPS-FM and the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020. The decision-maker must weigh up several factors. Considerable weight must be given to the principles of Te Mana o te Wai, and the requirement to put the health and well-being of freshwater first, then human health, and finally the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being.
To appropriately incorporate this new direction into the decisions we make on resource consents, we need people applying for consent, or with consents in process, to assess the relevant provisions of these documents, and particularly how their proposed activities give effect to Te Mana o te Wai and the hierarchy of obligations.
We know there are new regulations introduced by central government to manage intensive winter grazing and they are creating concern.
Intensive winter grazing is a permitted activity, providing you can meet the criteria in both the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan and the National Environmental Standard for Freshwater.
For now, one of the best things to do is create a plan that will allow you to prepare for next season. The following are some key steps to guide you in creating your winter grazing plan.
- Start by printing an aerial photograph and use a pen to identify the risks of each winter grazing paddock you’ve chosen e.g critical source areas, waterways, slopes, soil types. Know your average winter rainfall statistics.
- On the same map, show the position of plough-lines that ensure adequate buffers (5m or more from waterways or wetlands). It’s good practice to plough across slopes and around critical source areas to leave them in pasture. Try minimum tillage techniques when cultivating to maintain soil structure and prevent nutrient loss.
- Get soil tests done to determine soil fertility so that fertiliser application can match your soil needs.
- Mark on your map where baleage will be placed in the winter grazing paddock to minimise soil compaction by machinery and minimise camping/nutrient enrichment areas by animals. Place bales in the paddock before it gets too wet, again to minimise vehicle compaction.
- Another strategy you might want to consider is to plant a sequence (or catch) crop like oats after the paddock has been grazed and as soon as conditions allow. Once oats become established they begin to remove nutrient from the soil, hold the soil together and produce feed for stock.
Section 360 is a part of the Resource Management Act. It has been updated in the latest round of regulatory changes to include provisions on stock exclusion and water takes.
We’re currently working through the analysis of these two areas and will have more information on what these changes mean soon.
Freshwater farm plan (FWFP) regulations are expected to take effect in 2022. Your plan will need to include information such as:
- a farm map identifying features such as waterways, critical source (discharge of contaminant) areas, high erosion-prone areas and other risks to the health of the freshwater ecosystem
- risk assessment across specific activities including irrigation, application of nutrients and effluent, winter grazing, stock-holding areas, stock exclusion, offal pits, and farm rubbish pits
- schedule of actions to manage identified features and address identified risks.
Freshwater farm plans will need to be:
- approved by a suitably qualified and experienced person
- audited by independent auditors
- enforced by regional councils.
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.
New regulations under the Essential Freshwater package mean that stock must be kept at least three metres from our waterways. This is being applied in a phased approach up to 1 July 2025. The stock exclusion rules apply to beef cattle, dairy cows, dairy support cows, pigs and deer, and are slightly different for each. More information on when each stock type must exclude from waterways are available here.
Agricultural intensification can lead to higher levels of nutrients, sediment and microbial contamination in our rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater.
The Essential Freshwater package aims to limit this contamination by requiring resource consent for various land use conversions over 10 hectares.
If you want to intensify your farming operation, you need to consider the rules under the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F) as well as those in the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan.
If you have an existing Farming Land Use Consent, you must still comply with the Essential Freshwater regulations.
Under the proposed Southland Water and Land plan, you can now have more than one feed pad/lot on your property without needing a consent as long as you meet the criteria outlined in the rule.
• It does not have more than 120 adult cattle or 250 adult deer that remain on the feed pad/lot longer than three continuous months ( or equivalent numbers of young stock)
The pad/lot is not located within:
- 50 metres of a watercourse, dwelling on the same landholding, road or subsurface drain
- 200 metres of any dwelling not on the same landholding
- 100 metres from a water abstraction point
- 250 metres of a microbial health protection zone. These areas are outlined in Appendix J of the pSWLP.
- It has a sealed and impermeable base and any liquid effluent or stormwater is directed to an effluent system; or it has minimum 500mm base of woodbased material
- Material from the feed pad/ lot is collected and applied in accordance with Rule 38 (Spreading of Animal and Vegetative Waste)
- Overland flow or stormwater is prevented from entering the feed pad/lot If you can’t meet these criteria you will need to apply for a consent. You’ll also need to look at Rule 38, which covers the discharge of sludge from feed pad/lots.
Under the new Essential Freshwater regulations, if you take more than five litres of water per second (l/s), you must measure and record how much water you take in each 15-minute period and report this data back to us daily.
Changes to water metering rules
The Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes Amendment Regulations 2020 introduced new rules on how water users need to report back to regional government.
Under our current regional rules, many resource consent holders already submit water use data to us. For some, the new regulations will mean they have to measure and report this data more frequently.
The dates the new rules come into effect varies based on how much water you take:
- 3 September 2022 - If your rate of take is 20 l/s or greater.
- 3 September 2024 - If your rate of take is 10 l/s or greater, but less than 20 l/s.
- 3 September 2026 - If your rate of take is 5 l/s or greater, but less than 10 l/s.
New Zealand has more than 50 species of native freshwater and sports fish. It’s important that instream structures such as culverts and weirs are designed to allow for fish passage, so that fish can move upstream and downstream between different river and stream habitats and complete their lifecycle.
Culverts, weirs, flap gates, fords and dams installed after 3 September 2020 must meet minimum reporting requirements such as height, width and location under the Essential Freshwater regulations. Culverts, weirs and flap gates must meet minimum environmental conditions for fish passage and may need a resource consent.
While the new regulations do not apply to instream structures installed before 3 September 2020, it is still important to ensure those structures provide for fish passage. There are options for remediating or retrofitting structures to help fish passage.
The New Zealand Fish Passage Guidelines (PDF file 8.7 MB) set out how to design instream structures that allow for fish passage.
Environment Southland is currently undertaking a fish passage remediation project, which has a target of restoring fish passage by removing 250 barriers in streams and tributaries across the region by mid-2025. You can read more about the project here.