The National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F) regulate activities that pose risks to the health of freshwater and freshwater ecosystems. Each of New Zealand’s regional councils are responsible for the consenting and consent monitoring associated with these regulations.
New rules and regulations
On 3 August 2020 the Government released the ‘Essential Freshwater’ package (previously known as the ‘Action for Healthy Waterways’ package). This followed public consultation in late 2019, with changes being announced in May 2020 as a result of this process.
The ‘Essential Freshwater’ package introduces new rules and regulations which are designed to:
- stop further degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater resources and improve water quality within five years
- reverse past damage and bring New Zealand’s freshwater resources, waterways and ecosystems to a healthy state within a generation.
What does this all mean for Marlborough
Marlborough District Council is currently working through the requirements and implications for monitoring and enforcement. We encourage all landowners to become familiar with what is required.
The Essential Freshwater changes, while not limited to farming, may cause confusion for some in this community.
So our immediate priority is to better understand where and how the new requirements interact with our existing rules. This task is not straight forward and may take some time, but once completed we will make this information widely available so those affected by the new provisions are clear what is required.
What is in the ‘Essential Freshwater’ package?
The package includes the following policy documents:
- National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 (NES-F)
- Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020
- Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2020
- National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM)
National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020
There are a number of rules in the NES-F that come into force from 3 September 2020.
- feedlots (excludes stock hold areas, e.g. standoff and feed pads)
- restrictions on agricultural intensification (temporary), for the following activities:
- increases in the area of land used for dairy farming, from any other type of farming, by more than 10ha
- conversion of more than 10ha of forestry to any form of pastoral farming
- increases in the area of land used for irrigated pasture for dairy farming by more than 10ha
- increases in the area of land used for dairy support activities above the annual highest amount between 2014/15 and 2018/19
- river and wetland protection, includes restrictions on:
- vegetation removal, earthworks/land disturbance, drainage or taking, damming or diverting water from in or around a natural wetland
- sphagnum moss harvestingo
- arable and horticultural land use
- natural hazards works
- reclamation of rivers
- passage of fish affected by structures
- information requirements for all activities relating to
information about structures including
- flap gates
- dam activities
- ford activities
- ramps and aprons
The remaining rules in the NES-F apply from 2021.
- intensive winter grazing (from 1 May 2021) commencement date extended to May 2022
- stock holding areas (from 1 July 2021)
- synthetic nitrogen-fertiliser cap of 190 kg N/yr for pastoral land (from 1 July 2021).
Stock exclusion regulations
Cattle (beef and dairy), deer and pigs are required to be excluded from wetlands, lakes and rivers with a bed width over 1m. The minimum setback of stock exclusion from the bed is 3m, except where existing permanent fencing is in place.
The timeframes for these requirements vary from 1 July 2023 to 1 July 2025 depending on stock type and slope classification, except where the farm is established after 3 September in which case the requirements apply immediately.
Measurement and reporting of water takes regulations
The amendment strengthens the existing 2010 regulations to meter flows and provide records to council by requiring those over 5 litres of water per second to telemeter water use. The dates for meeting this requirement depend on the rate of take, with those larger takes being earlier.
National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020
Some key changes introduced through the NPS-FM 2020 include:
- the strengthening of the Te Mana o te Wai framework with a change to the hierarchy of obligations. The new hierarchy places the health and wellbeing of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems first
- strengthened expectations and direction about involving Māori in freshwater decision-making
- new compulsory values and attributes
- the requirement for regional councils to map, monitor and manage wetlands and obstacles to fish passage.
Our planning framework will need to be updated to give effect to these changes.
The Ministry for the Environment has a number of resources on is website that provide further information.
Information can be found about the regulations on the Ministry for the Environment's website.
Key documents from the Ministry for the Environment
The Ministry for the Environment provides additional information in these key documents.
For advice and support from farming industry groups visit their websites.