DairyNZ: National freshwater regulations
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DairyNZ: National freshwater regulations

6 August 2020 DairyNZ

Central Government’s new freshwater regulations have been finalised and start coming into law from September 3, 2020. Here is a summary of those regulations and what they may mean for you.

In August 2020 Government announced its final decision on new freshwater regulations (known as Action for Healthy Waterways/Essential Freshwater package). These new and updated regulations are aimed at improving freshwater quality and management in New Zealand.

Essential Freshwater timeline

Download timeline (pdf)

What does it mean for me now?

This table outlines the key elements of the policies, and what you may need to consider. We will also provide you with regional tables by mid-August.

The new regulations will include conditions that must be met in addition to those currently required by your regional council. These new rules supersede existing regional council requirements, although council still has the option for a more stringent approach.

DairyNZ recognises that for some dairy farmers, the new regulations will require significant changes to the way you farm. Help is available from

What’s next?

Regional councils are charged with implementing and monitoring the rules. The details on how they plan to do that will become clearer in the second half of 2020 as they work their way through the changes.

Once we know how and when rules will be implemented DairyNZ will continue to provide you with tailored information to help you make decisions. For more information, contact your local Environmental Change Specialist.

DairyNZ’s position on DIN and nitrate toxicity

In its consultation package, Government proposed the addition of a dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) attribute. They have parked this for now based on strong feedback from DairyNZ and others that the measure was not scientifically robust and would not drive the ecosystem health outcomes it sought to deliver.

However, the nitrate toxicity attribute remains and has been tightened, and given DIN comprises of 99% nitrate, the new rules in effect see the old nitrate toxicity values reduce from 6.9 g/m3 to 2.4g/m3. Whilst advocating for no DIN attribute, and updated nitrogen toxicity values, we believe 2.4 g/m3 is too conservative for the productive catchments it aims to protect.

New attributes and management approach

Additional attributes introduced through the new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) will affect dairy farmers as they become operative in 2025-2026. These include catchment limits on things like suspended sediment and the requirement for councils to develop adaptive management plans to protect and improve ecosystem health and higher health standards at swimming spots. All regional councils are required to notify new regional plans that incorporate the attributes by December 31,  2024, and set timeframes for meeting limits over a generation.

DairyNZ will continue to advocate strongly on these issues, on farmers’ behalf with a particular focus on ensuring the timeframes for meeting targets and limits are based on scientific understanding and give adequate time for pasture, animal and people management changes. Farmer involvement in these processes will also be critical.

Farmers making progress

Healthy waterways are important to dairy farmers. We share the same aspirations to protect our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. As the spotlight goes on policy development, it is important to remember the progress that dairy farmers have made and will continue to make.

As well as providing you clarity on new rules, and having your back in policy development, DairyNZ will continue to share your good stories including through the Vision is Clear campaign.