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Wetland Management

Wetlands are crucial to our environment. They form a boundary between land and water, filter out sediment and nutrients, and support a greater concentration of wildlife than any other habitat in New Zealand.

Latest update

The 2023 exclusion deadlines for deer, cattle and pigs from natural wetlands identified in Council plans have been extended to 1 July 2025 under the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery (Resource Management – Time Extensions) Order 2023.

Amendments to the NPS-FM (December 2022)

Having considered submissions and the Ministry’s recommendations, the Minister has:

  • amended the NPS-FM and NES-F to:
    • clarify the definition of a natural inland wetland;
    • provide consent pathways for certain activities;
    • make restoration and wetland maintenance easier to undertake;
    • improve the clarity of policies, reduce the complexity of drafting and, in some cases correct errors.
  • amended the NES-F so its wetland provisions no longer apply to wetlands in the coastal marine area:
  • revised the low slope map for stock exclusion to address some inaccuracies and better capture land that was intended to be included.

The Government’s Essential Freshwater package aims to stop the ongoing loss of wetlands and protect their value by regulating the types of activities that are allowed in and around wetlands.

If you have a wetland on your property, you now have responsibilities to protect it under the new regulations.

What is a wetland?

‘Wetland’ is the collective term for the wet margins of streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, estuaries, bogs, swamps and lagoons. Wetlands aren’t always 'wet'. They provide a habitat for wildlife and support an indigenous ecosystem of plants and animals that have adapted to living in wet conditions.

The new Essential Freshwater regulations apply to natural wetlands as defined in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM). Artificially made wetlands, dams and drainage canals are not classed as wetlands under the new regulations.

If an area doesn’t meet the definition of a wetland under the NPS-FM, it may meet the wetland definition under either the Hawke’s Bay Regional Resource Management Plan (RRMP) or Regional Coastal Environment Plan (RCEP). If so, these rules apply to the wetland.

PDF download: What is a wetland?


Key dates:

3 September 2020

New regulations on wetland management came into effect

1 July 2025

All stock must be excluded from natural wetlands identified in Council plans, and wetlands that support threatened species

1 July 2025

All stock must be excluded from wetlands over 0.05 ha and on low slope land.

Wetland rules

Activities that are allowed in or around wetlands are detailed in the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 (NES-F).

Any activity which disturbs wetlands can only be carried out for certain reasons, such as restoration, clearing debris or scientific research, and may require consent.

There are limited exemptions to these activities, for example, the customary harvest of food or resources undertaken in accordance with tikanga Māori. Any other activity that may be exempt is subject to the Effects Management Hierarchy.

You must alert the Council in writing at least 10 working days before the activity takes place.

Any activity in and around wetlands must comply with both the Hawke’s Bay RRMP, RCEP and the NES-F.

More Information

The amended NPS-FM refers to a "natural wetland" as meaning a wetland that is not:

a)      in the coastal marine area; or
b)     a deliberately constructed wetland, other than a wetland constructed to offset impacts on, or to restore, an existing or former natural inland wetland; or
c)     a wetland that has developed in or around a deliberately constructed water body, since the construction of the water body; or
d)     a geothermal wetland; or
e)     a wetland that:

(i) is within an area of pasture used for grazing; and
(ii) has vegetation cover comprising more than 50% exotic pasture species (as identified in the National List of Exotic Pasture Species using the Pasture Exclusion Assessment Methodology (see clause 1.8)); unless
(iii) the wetland is a location of a habitat of a threatened species identified under clause 3.8 of this National Policy Statement, in which case the exclusion in (e) does not apply

The Hawkes’s Bay Regional Policy Statement (only) includes:

(a) permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions; and
(b) those areas mapped in Schedule 24 (a to d) and commonly known as:
i) Lake Whatuma (previously known as Hatuma);
ii) Atua Road north swamp;
iii) Wanstead Swamp;
iv) Lake Poukawa

See the National Policy Statement for Freshwater management 2020 for more information on defining wetlands under the Essential Freshwater package.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Resource Management Plan (only) includes;

permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions, except for:
(a) wet pasture or cropping land;
(b) artificial wetlands specifically designed, installed and maintained for any of the following purposes:
i) wastewater or stormwater treatment;
ii) farm stock water dams, irrigation dams, and flood detention dams;
iii) reservoirs, dams and other areas specifically designed and established for the construction and/or operation of a hydro-electric power scheme;
iv) land drainage canals and drains; v) reservoirs for fire fighting, domestic or municipal supply; vi) beautification or recreation purposes.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Coastal Environment Plan (only) includes:

permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions. It does not include wet pasture; artificial wetlands used for wastewater or stormwater treatment; farm dams and detention dams; land drainage canals and drains; reservoirs for firefighting, domestic or municipal water supply; temporary ponded rainfall; or artificial wetlands created for beautification purposes.


Our threatened wetlands

Indigenous biodiversity in New Zealand is in decline with around 4000 species currently threatened, or at risk of extinction. In Hawke’s Bay, only 34% of the indigenous ecosystems covering the region before human occupation remain.

One of these ecosystem types, wetlands, plays an important role in keeping our environment healthy.  They regulate water flow by storing water and slowly releasing it, they take up nutrients and capture sediment and so are important for water quality, they store carbon and are home to many species of indigenous plants and animals that aren’t found in other systems.

Only 4% of original wetland extent remains in Hawke’s Bay, largely driven by drainage and modification of these habitats. Wetlands are one of the rarest and most threatened ecosystem types in the region.

Government policy and rules around wetlands

To halt any further decline in wetland extent, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM 2020) has direction for Regional Councils.  This includes ‘the loss in extent of natural wetlands is avoided, their values are protected, and their restoration is promoted’.

As part of this direction, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is required to ‘identify and map’ all natural inland wetlands in the region that are:

-        0.05 hectares or greater in extent; or

-        of a type of wetland that is naturally less that 0.05 hectares and known to contain threatened species.

Wetland mapping

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has undertaken wetland mapping throughout the region, and while it is not possible to visit every wetland in the region, Regional Council has taken every care to provide the best, most accurate information. As part of the process, an external expert was engaged to provide a level of rigour over areas identified as wetlands, and associated levels of confidence have been obtained.

The following map shows areas of wetland that are either known to exist (have been visited and ground-truthed) or probable wetlands, those that are at least 90% likely to be a wetland.

Disclaimer around mapping tool

Wetland areas will exist outside what has been delineated in this map. Boundaries of identified wetlands are subject to change. The information shown on these maps is compiled from numerous sources, with limited associated ground-truthing. This information is made available in good faith using the best information available to the Council, with the understanding that wetland areas subject to all relevant regulations will exist outside of what is delineated in this map. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and it should not be used as a substitute for legal or other professional advice. This map should not be relied upon as the sole basis for making any decision and cannot be substituted for a site-specific investigation by a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner. Hawke’s Bay Regional Council reserves the right to change the content and/or presentation of any of the data at its sole discretion, including this disclaimer and attached notes, and does not accept responsibility or liability for any loss or damage incurred by a user in reliance on the information.



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