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Pongakawa Waitahanui River Pongakawa Waitahanui River

New national freshwater rules

In August 2020, and since then, the Government has released new national rules that regulated activities that can affect the health of freshwater and freshwater ecosystems. Some of the rules came in to effect in September 2020 while others are phasing in over time.

At the end of 2023, the new Government signalled that they intend to make changes to these rules in the next couple of years. For now though, national rules are still in effect and they override any regional rules that are less stringent.  Council is in the process of updating regional rules as outlined here.

We’ve grouped these new rules by topic:

Nitrogen can cause excessive growth of aquatic plants and algae if it’s carried into our waterways. To help protect our waterways, new rules limit the volume of synthetic nitrogen (N) fertiliser pastoral farmers can use. Under these new rules dairy farmers will be required to record and report where and how much synthetic nitrogen has been applied and to submit records for the previous year to Council annually starting 1 July 2022 (records for the 2021 year).

From 1 July 2021, all pastoral farmers will have to keep synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use below 190 kg N/ha/year or apply for resource consent. Resource consent applications for this activity must be received by 31 December 2021. The cap does not apply to arable or horticultural land use.

Dairy NZ have provided a summary of this rule.

Stockholding areas can pose high environmental risks to freshwater if not managed well.

From 1 July 2021, if you operate (or plan to operate) a stockholding area, then the following standards will apply.

  • Manage the permeability of the base area so that it’s sealed to a minimum permeability standard of 10-9 metres per second; and
  • Collect, store and dispose of effluent in accordance with BOPRC rules or a current discharge permit (such as a dairy shed effluent consent); and
  • Situate the stockholding area at least 50m away from waterbodies, bores, drains and coastal marine areas.

If your stockholding areas (feedpads, wintering pads, standoff pads) cannot comply with the above standards then you will need to apply for resource consent or upgrade your stockholding area to comply.  Applications for resource consent for existing stockholding areas should be received by 31 December 2021. 

In the future there is a pathway planned to manage stockholding areas as a permitted activity through certified freshwater farm plans. This is currently being investigated by central government and regional councils across the country. To find out if you need to apply for a resource consent contact our Duty Planner on 0800 884 881 or email

At present there are no feedlots in the Bay of Plenty. If you are thinking to establish one, national regulations apply.

For more information, please read the MfE factsheet.

New rules to regulate existing areas of intensive winter grazing have been delayed until November 2022. However a cap on the areas that can be used for intensive winter grazing is already in force.  This means that the land used for intensive winter grazing (IWG) must have been used for this purpose during the period 1 July 2014 - 30 June 2019. The area of the farm used for intensive winter grazing must be no greater than the maximum area of the farm used for that purpose during that period. 

An online tool has been developed to help improve practices to benefit freshwater quality and animal welfare. The 2021/22 Intensive Winter Grazing Module highlights practical solutions farmers can take to mitigate the effects of grazing livestock on fodder crops during the winter months.  Such actions include:

  • using portable water troughs
  • back fencing
  • avoiding critical source areas
  • grazing down the slope
  • replanting as soon as possible.

The New Zealand Association of Resource Management is now leading the IWG coordination and roll out of support tools. You can learn more on their website. You can also learn more about animal welfare needs over the winter period and what you can do to avoid mud problems on the Ministry for Primary Industries website.

Wetlands provide critical habitat to many of our native species but also improve water quality and help to control flooding. Despite this, New Zealand has lost 90% of its natural wetlands. New rules have been introduced to better protect the remaining wetlands and promote their restoration. From 3 September 2020, you will need to:

  • Avoid clearing vegetation or undertaking earthworks within 10m of a natural wetland unless in limited circumstances;
  • Avoid drainage or taking, damming, diverting or discharging water within 100m of a natural wetland unless in limited circumstances;
  • You can do some work in a natural wetland for restoration, or scientific or cultural purposes if this complies with the general wetland conditions (below).
  • In most cases, if you want to put in new structures (such as maimai or boardwalks), or make other changes that affect the drainage of a natural wetland, you will need to get a resource consent from BOPRC.
  • Vegetation clearance, land disturbance and earthworks can be undertaken within 10m of a natural wetland if for the purpose of arable or horticultural land use and the land was used for that purpose during the period 1 January 2010 and 2 September 2020 (conditions apply);
  • Report information to BOPRC if you undertake a permitted activity (except arable and horticultural land uses) under the NES-Freshwater natural wetland rules.

General wetland conditions

(1) This regulation applies if a regulation in this subpart refers to the compliance of an activity with the general conditions in this regulation.

General condition for permitted activities: prior notice of activity

(2) If this regulation applies in relation to a permitted activity, the 1 or more persons responsible for undertaking the activity must, at least 10 working days before starting the activity, provide the relevant regional council with the following information in writing:

  • a description of the activity to be undertaken; and
  • a description of, and map showing, where the activity will be undertaken; and
  • a statement of when the activity will start and when it is expected to end; and
  • a description of the extent of the activity; and
  • their contact details.

General conditions: water quality and movement

(3) The general conditions relating to water quality and movement are as follows:

  • the activity must not result in the discharge of a contaminant if the receiving environment includes any natural wetland in which the contaminant, after reasonable mixing, causes, or may cause, 1 or more of the following effects:
    • the production of conspicuous oil or grease films, scums or foams, or floatable or suspended materials:
    • a conspicuous change in colour or visual clarity:
    • an emission of objectionable odour:
    • the contamination of freshwater to the extent that it is not suitable for farm animals to drink:
    • adverse effects on aquatic life that are more than minor; and
  • the activity must not increase the level of flood waters that would, in any flood event (regardless of probability), inundate all or any part of the 1% AEP floodplain (but see subclause (4)); and
  • the activity must not alter the natural movement of water into, within, or from any natural wetland (but see subclause (5)); and
  • the activity must not involve taking or discharging water to or from any natural wetland (but see subclause (5)); and (e) debris and sediment must not—
    • be placed within a setback of 10 m from any natural wetland; or
    • be allowed to enter any natural wetland.

(4) Subclause (3)(b) does not apply if the person undertaking the activity—

  • owns or controls the only land or structures that would be affected by a flood in all or any part of the 1% AEP floodplain; or
  • has—
    • obtained written consent to undertaking the activity from each person who owns or controls the land or structures that would be affected by a flood in all or part of the 1% AEP floodplain, after informing them of the expected increase in the level of flood waters; and
    • satisfied the relevant regional council that they have complied with subparagraph (i).

(5) Despite subclause (3)(c) and (d), the temporary taking, use, damming, or diversion of water around a work site, or discharges of water into the water around a work site, may be undertaken if the following conditions are complied with:

  • the activity must be undertaken during a period when there is a low risk of flooding; and
  • the activity must be undertaken only for as long as necessary to achieve its purpose; and
  • before the activity starts, a record must be made (for example, by taking photographs) of the original condition of any affected natural wetland’s bed profile and hydrological regime that is sufficiently detailed to enable compliance with paragraph (d) to be verified; and
  • the bed profile and hydrological regime of the natural wetland must be returned to their original condition no later than 14 days after the start of the activity; and
  • if the activity is damming, the dam must be no higher than 600 mm; and
  • if the activity is a diversion that uses a pump, a fish screen with mesh spacing no greater than 3 mm must be used on the intake.

(6) In subclauses (3) and (4), 1% AEP floodplain means the area that would be inundated in a flood event of a size that has a 1% or greater probability of occurring in any one year.

General condition: earth stability and drainage

(7) The general condition relating to earth stability and drainage is that the activity must not create or contribute to—

  • the instability or subsidence of a slope or another land surface; or
  • the erosion of the bed or bank of any natural wetland; or
  • a change in the points at which water flows into or out of any natural wetland; or
  • a constriction on the flow of water within, into, or out of any natural wetland; or
  • the flooding or overland flow of water within, or flowing into or out of, any natural wetland.

General conditions: earthworks, land disturbance, and vegetation clearance

(8) The general conditions on earthworks, land disturbance, and vegetation clearance are as follows:

  • during and after the activity, erosion and sediment control measures must be applied and maintained at the site of the activity to minimise adverse effects of sediment on natural wetlands; and
  • the measures must include stabilising or containing soil that is exposed or disturbed by the activity as soon as practicable after the activity ends; and
  • the measures referred to in paragraph (b) must remain in place until vegetation covers more than 80% of the site; and
  • if the activity is vegetation clearance, it must not result in earth remaining bare for longer than 3 months.

General conditions: vegetation and bird and fish habitats

(9) The general conditions relating to vegetation and bird and fish habitats are as follows:

  • only indigenous species that are appropriate to a natural wetland (given the location and type of the natural wetland) may be planted in it; and
  • the activity must not result in the smothering of indigenous vegetation by debris and sediment; and
  • the activity must not disturb the roosting or nesting of indigenous birds during their breeding season; and
  • the activity must not disturb an area that is listed in a regional plan or water conservation order as a habitat for threatened indigenous fish; and
  • the activity must not, during a spawning season, disturb an area that is listed in a regional plan or water conservation order as a fish spawning area.

General condition: historic heritage

(10) The general condition relating to historic heritage is that the activity must not destroy, damage, or modify a site that is protected by an enactment because of the site’s historic heritage (including, to avoid doubt, because of its significance to Māori), except in accordance with that enactment.

(11) In subclause (10), enactment includes any kind of instrument made under an enactment.

General conditions: machinery, vehicles, equipment, and construction materials

(12) The general conditions on the use of vehicles, machinery, equipment, and materials are as follows:

  • machinery, vehicles, and equipment used for the activity must be cleaned before entering any natural wetland (to avoid introducing pests, unwanted organisms, or exotic plants); and
  • machinery that is used for the activity must sit outside a natural wetland, unless it is necessary for the machinery to enter the natural wetland to achieve the purpose of the activity; and
  • if machinery or vehicles enter any natural wetland, they must be modified or supported to prevent them from damaging the natural wetland (for example, by widening the tracks of track-driven vehicles or using platforms for machinery to sit on); and
  • the mixing of construction materials, and the refuelling and maintenance of vehicles, machinery, and equipment, must be done outside a 10 m setback from any natural wetland.

General conditions: miscellaneous

(13) The other general conditions are as follows:

  • the activity must be undertaken only to the extent necessary to achieve its purpose; and
  • the activity must not involve the use of fire or explosives; and
  • if there is existing public access to a natural wetland, the activity must not prevent the public from continuing to access the natural wetland (unless that is required to protect the health and safety of the public or the persons undertaking the activity); and
  • no later than 5 days after the activity ends,—
    • debris, materials, and equipment relating to the activity must be removed from the site; and
    • the site must be free from litter.

Many of our indigenous fish need to move between freshwater and saltwater habitats, and up and down rivers, to access feeding and spawning environments or complete their lifecycle. From 3 September 2020, new rules have been introduced for instream structures that aim to protect fish passage. If they are not designed, maintained and installed correctly, these instream structures can stop fish moving up and downstream and to the sea.

If you are planning to install a new culvert(s), dam(s), weir, ford or flap gates - you must now provide specific information about the structure to regional council within 20 days of completion.

Resource consents

If your proposed structure meets minimum design requirements of both the permitted activity rules in our regional plan and the NESF regulations, you will not need a consent. If the proposed structure is not able to meet these conditions, or is a passive flap gate, you will need to apply for consent. If you are unsure if your structure complies with these regulations, please call 0800 884 880 and ask to speak with our duty consents officer.

Information requirements

To provide this information to Regional Council we recommend you install the NIWA fish passage assessment tool on your phone, and fill in the subsequent form.

Design Requirements 

  • the culvert must provide for the same passage of fish upstream and downstream as would exist without the culvert, except as required to carry out the works to place, alter, extend, or reconstruct the culvert; and
  • the culvert must be laid parallel to the slope of the bed of the river or connected area; and
  • the mean cross-sectional water velocity in the culvert must be no greater than that in all immediately adjoining river reaches; and
  • the culvert’s width where it intersects with the bed of the river or connected area (s) and the width of the bed at that location (w), both measured in metres, must compare as follows:
    • where w ≤ 3, s ≥ 1.3 × w:
    • where w > 3, s ≥ (1.2 × w) + 0.6; and
  • the culvert must be open-bottomed or its invert must be placed so that at least 25% of the culvert’s diameter is below the level of the bed; and
  • the bed substrate must be present over the full length of the culvert and stable at the flow rate at or below which the water flows for 80% of the time; and
  • the culvert provides for continuity of geomorphic processes (such as the movement of sediment and debris).

To talk to regional council about your proposed structure contact our Duty Consents Officer on 0800 884 880.  

Agricultural intensification can result in higher levels of nutrients, sediment and microbial contamination of our rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater. From 3 September 2020, if you want to do any of the following you will have to obtain a resource consent from BOPRC. Activities that require consent include:

  • Increase your existing dairy farm water irrigation system by more than 10 hectares or install or resurrect more than 10 hectares of dairy farm irrigation that wasn’t in place or used in the 12 months prior to 3 September 2020
  • Change any pre-existing land use (above 10 hectares) to dairy farm land use
  • Convert more than 10 hectares of plantation forestry to pastoral farming land
  • Increase the area of land used for dairy support above the highest annual amount used for this purpose within any previous farm year between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2019.

Note, all new resource consents relating to agricultural intensification will expire in 2024. This ensures that all activities beyond this point will be considered under the future regional rules.

For more information, please read the MfE factsheet.

Changing the lay of a river or stream can lead to erosion, water pollution and the loss of habitat for our indigenous species. From 3 September 2020, a resource consent will be required for any river reclamation.

For more information, please read the MfE factsheet.

When livestock enter water bodies they contaminate the water and damage the banks. Heavy livestock (cattle and deer) and pigs have the greatest impact.

The new stock exclusion regulations introduce nation-wide requirements for excluding certain stock types from waterways such as lakes, wetlands and rivers that are more than one meter wide.  The regulations do not apply for sheep. The timeframe for stock exclusion varies depending on the slope of the land and type of stock.

For more information, please read the MfE factsheet and the MfE page on the regulations.



From 2023, water users who take more than 5 litres of water per second from a bore or surface water body (river, lake or wetland) must:

  • Measure water use every 15 minutes
  • Electronically submit records to council every day.

For more information, please read the Mfe factsheet.

Freshwater Farm Plans aim to ensure freshwater and ecosystems are protected and improved. They identify solutions to improve waterways that are tailored to a particular farm’s circumstances, physical environment and what is important in the catchment that farm sits in.

These Plans will be 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. They are expected to come into effect from mid-2022. You can learn more about Freshwater Farm Plans on the Ministry for the Environment (Mfe) website, Mfe Freshwater consultation 2021: questions and answers sheet or by watching this Mfe webinar.

If you would like to get a head-start please contact your industry representatives or local Land Management Officer.