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Freshwater Farm Plans

The new Freshwater Farm Plan (FWFP) regulations came into force from 1 August 2023, with Waikato and Southland regions being the first two regions in New Zealand to be phased in. The Bay of Plenty region will be phased in before the end of 2025.

The FWFP’s are mandatory for all farms with 20 or more hectares of land in arable or pastoral use, or five or more hectares of the farm in horticultural land use, or if the property has a combined arable/pastoral/horticultural land use in excess of 20 hectares.

The regulations introduce a requirement for farms over a certain size to have a freshwater farm plan that covers on-farm actions that will be tailored to the individual farming or growing enterprise and the farm’s unique surrounding environment. This will then be certified and audited.

A full copy of the Freshwater Farm Plan Regulation can be read on the New Zealand Legislation website.

As a regional council with responsibilities under the new regulations, we will be working with rural communities, tangata whenua, industry, and central government to support farmers and growers in this.

We have anticipated what Freshwater Farm Plans will mean in our region for our people and a lot of preparation work has already happened. Now that the regulations have been released, we will be taking some time to work through them and further consider and engage on how best to implement them in our unique region.

Freshwater Farm Plans are a key part of the New Zealand Government’s wider Essential Freshwater package, which aims to protect and improve freshwater quality and ecosystems, as per the principles of Te Mana o Te Wai. Regional specific additional Farm Plan requirements are also being considered for sensitive catchments under the Regional Natural Resources Plan change in 2024.



  • Review the guide: How to create your Freshwater Farm Plan
  • Identify the risk areas on a farm such as waterways, taking catchment context and cultural values into consideration
  • Create a Freshwater Farm Map. This guide to Freshwater Farm Plan mapping outlines what information you are required to show on your map to meet freshwater farm plan certification requirements  
  • Identify any adverse freshwater environmental effects from farming activities
  • Identify existing actions that mitigate the risks, look for any gaps and list additional actions
  • Prioritise mitigating actions
  • Produce an action plan to cover several years
  • Engage a certifier to confirm the FW-FP identifies the risks to freshwater and that the actions are appropriate
  • The action plan will become the enforceable freshwater farm plan
  • Some time later (TBC) engage an auditor to complete the auditing process

Farm plan regulations will be rolled out a few regions at a time. Within a region there will be some capacity for Councils to phase the roll-out within their regions. BOPRC and MfE have not confirmed the roll-out dates for the BOP yet, but it will be by the end of 2025 (regulations are ‘switched on’ by the Minister through an Order in Council process). Once regulations are switched on in a catchment, farmers and growers will have 18 months to submit their farm plan for certification.

No action is currently required by farmers. It is worth farming or growing enterprises looking into whether they are going to need to get a FWFP once they are introduced in their area. In the meantime, farmers should keep doing what they’re doing to manage on-farm environmental effects, including continuing with existing farm environment management plans.

It is expected by MfE that existing farm plan providers will update programmes to include the compulsory elements (minimum content requirements) of freshwater farm plans to minimise duplication. MfE are working with sector Farm Environment Plan providers to develop an effective approach.

For a farm plan to be a freshwater farm plan it must include the minimum content requirements as certified by a regional council appointed FWFP Certifier.

BOPRC and MfE are also considering how Nutrient Management Plans in the Rotorua Lake PC10 area align with freshwater farm plan requirements.

AsureQuality have been contracted to facilitate the certifier and auditor appointment process roll-out and processes. There will be a campaign to encourage rural professionals to become recognised certifiers and auditors.

Recent feedback from a handful of councils is that this is going be a challenge in their region. MfE carried out a regional analysis to measure how many certifiers will be required for the successful implementation of the FWFP system and early indications were that this the number is achievable. Work between councils coordinated by Te Uru Kahika, AQ, and MfE will be ongoing as it’s essential the work-force is available to support the system when farmers are expected to participate.

Details about how to lodge a complaint regarding a certifier or auditor can be found in Schedule 2, Part 2, clauses 8, 9, 16 and 17 of the FWFP Regulations (see link above to full FWFP Regulations).

Farm operators are welcome to produce their own FWFP for certification. Guidance will be available to support farmers to do this. However, we expect that many farm operators will engage a rural professional to create the bulk of their first freshwater farm plan to ensure it meets the minimum requirements.

There are a number of factors that will influence the cost in preparing, certifying and auditing your FWFP. These include the size of the farming/growing enterprise, regional variability, and demand/supply. We know this is an important question for farmers/growers, so we will update this FAQ once we have a better indication of the costs.

It is expected that with the rollout of the FWFP Regulations in Waikato and Southland from August 2023 we should start to get a true indication of the costs by the end of 2023/early 2024.

Every farm is part of a wider catchment and linking on-farm actions to the catchment is critical to delivering improved environmental and cultural outcomes for freshwater and in putting water at the centre of the freshwater farm plan. Considering your catchment context will help you to create an action plan that protects your catchment’s unique cultural practices and recreational sites for future generations, as well as the environment. Farmers do not need to gather this information; it will be provided by the local regional or unitary council after engagement with tangata whenua and then presented in a way that farmers can consider and integrate as part of their risk assessment.

As the implementation and CME agencies, regional and unitary councils will be responsible for monitoring environmental outcomes associated with freshwater, freshwater ecosystems, and freshwater farm plans in the relevant catchments. The data from the FWFP themselves will be submitted to the INFDP and used for reporting.

MfE will continue to report on freshwater environmental indicators and outcomes through the Our Freshwater Reporting series (every three years).

Freshwater farm plans, in some cases, will be able to be used instead of obtaining a resource consent. The farm operator will need to show, however, that any adverse effects caused by winter grazing are no greater that those allowed for under the permitted activity (default) conditions. This will differ across regions however and farmers should check with their regional council.

The FWFP Regulations set out the minimum content requirements for a plan to be certified. The minimum content requirements contain the key information/ processes FWFP developers must complete to produce the tailored action plan. MfE will provide supporting material on how to apply the minimum content requirements to produce a FWFP. Regional Councils are going to work together to provide further resources on how to develop a FWFP including a step-by-step guide.

Council is working to develop catchment’s context, challenges and values (CCCV) information to inform farm plans. We are engaging with communities, and along with tangata whenua must work out what regional knowledge and understanding certifiers and auditors will be required to have, and where necessary ensure training in these aspects is provided.

While we compile this information you may like to check out the Freshwater Management Unit story/information book for your catchment for a high level summary of CCCV.


It is expected that FWFP’s will be phased in at different times across the country, and within the region i.e. different FMU’s (catchments) will come into effect at different times. We have taken a pragmatic national approach to this so as to avoid the need for two individual farm plans to be produced.

Read more about how the Regional sector is proposing to manage cross boundary properties.

For more information see the information on the Ministry for the Environment website. You can also find more information on the Freshwater Farm Plans Systems factsheet.

If you would like to speak to someone please contact your industry representatives or email the BOPRC Farm Plan team