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Freshwater Farm Plans

As part of the Essential Freshwater package, farms over a certain size will require a certified Freshwater Farm Plan (FW-FP).

Latest updates

The Coalition Government has said they plan to improve Freshwater Farm Plans to ensure they are cost effective and pragmatic for farmers.

In the meantime, The Government has advised we continue with work as per the current system, taking a “light touch and pragmatic” approach to implementation until they make a further announcement. We expect to have more information by April 2024.

What is a Freshwater Farm Plan?

A Freshwater Farm Plan (FW-FP) is a new tool introduced in the Government's Essential Freshwater package.

FW-FPs are tools designed to stop further decline in freshwater quality, make water quality improvements within five years, and begin to reverse past damage to our waterways.

FW-FPs will identify practical on-farm actions to help improve the health of the water and land. These will depend on the farm’s location, catchment, and local environment, and will provide a more flexible alternative to consents and one-size-fits-all approaches.

These regulations were formally announced on 8 June 2023 and take effect from 1 August 2023, with Waikato and Southland regions the first to begin the rollout of plans.

For Hawke’s Bay, it is estimated at this stage Freshwater Farm Plans will begin to be rolled out in 2025, so no action is needed yet.

 All farms with the following land uses will require an FW-FP:

  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use
  • Five hectares or more in horticultural use
  • 20 hectares or more of combined use.

This page will be updated as more information becomes available. You can also find information on the Ministry for the Environment's website.

Your FW-FP will need to include information on:

  • Your catchment – including values, ecosystem and community outcomes;
  • Risk identification and impact assessment – including the identification of critical source areas, plans for the management of fodder crops and wetlands;
  • Actions to mitigate risks – including plans to strategically fence waterways, restore wetlands, and intensive winter grazing plans;
  • How you will meet the Freshwater National Environmental Standards (NES-FW) – including:
  • How you will exclude stock from waterways and meet the new stock exclusion regulations.

Each freshwater farm plan will look different, as on-farm actions will be tailored to consider each farm’s unique landscape and activities, as well as the local catchment.
The Ministry for the Environment's has created a factsheet to help farmers and growers develop freshwater farm plans. The Regional Council is working with the Ministry and other sector groups to provide additional resources for farmers and growers our region.

Each plan will then need to be certified before being submitted to the Regional Council. Farmers and growers will have 18 months from regulations applying in their area to have plans submitted to a certifier. Plans must then be audited within 12 months of certification. In the future the Regional Council will be appointing certifiers and auditors for our region.

Tukituki Catchment farms are already required to have a Farm Environment Management Plan (FEMP), and to update these on a three-yearly basis. However, in the future FW-FPs will be required for all farms in the region with more than 20 hectares in arable or pastoral use or 5 hectares in horticultural use instead of a Tukituki FEMP.

Because of the new FW-FP requirements, the Regional Council determined it was over onerous for Tukituki FEMP holders to renew their FEMPs again in May 2024. Once FW-FPs are rolled out in Hawke's Bay in 2025, Tukituki landowners will be required to have these instead.

FW-FPs are similar to Tukituki FEMPs, but individual farm plans will need to be linked to the specific freshwater objectives for their catchment. In the meantime it is important that farmers with Tukituki FEMPs continue to follow that plan and continue to record the actions taken until 2025.

The Regional Council will design and roll out a programme to implement FW-FPs across Hawke’s Bay in collaboration with industry and community. The rollout of these plans will begin in 2025. This will involve requesting FW-FPs for farms that are not currently required to have a Tukituki FEMP, as well as transitioning those farms with Tukituki FEMPs into the new FW-FP framework.

We expected that it will take several years to phase in FW-FPs on all farms that need to have one, and we will be working closely with industry, to help all eligible properties navigate and implement the legal requirements of a FW-FP.

Right now, you don’t need to take any action. Freshwater Farm Plans are being rolled out in Waikato and Southland first.

Hawke's Bay farmers won’t need one until 2025. However, you may already need to have a lot of the information outlined above as part of your existing farm plan program, winter grazing management plan or other documentation.

While FW-FPs may still be some time away, it’s never too early to plan how you will manage risk and meet regulations on your farm. If you have any further questions about FW-FPs, talk to your industry contacts or Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

If you have any questions about the new Essential Freshwater regulations, contact the Regulatory Policy Implementation team on 06 835 9200 or 0800 108 838.


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