Healthy Rivers Legislation

Paula Grant recently attended the ‘Healthy Rivers Wai Ora’ Consultation meeting in Hamilton and has prepared the following summary of the meeting.

There are legislation changes that will affect the Waikato and Waipa river catchments from April 2016. After these changes have been implemented the legislation will be extended to the wider Waikato region.

The ‘Collaborative Stakeholder Group’ (CSG), are a group of individuals from the community and rural sectors that are responsible for developing the solutions, which will then be used to form this legislation.

The initial phase of legislation was to control ‘Point Discharges’ these are the contaminants associated with sewage, industry waste etc. This legislation is in place and it is considered that these discharges are coming under control. The emphasis is now turning to ‘Diffuse Discharges’, these are the contaminants associated largely with farming, namely Nitrogen, Phosphorous, E.Coli and Sediment.

The controls will be in two groups. Firstly there are ‘Catchment Wide Rules’ which will apply to everyone, and secondly they propose to have ‘Tailored Property Plans’, individually created for each farm.

Catchment wide rules: Rules being proposed to apply to everyone.

Exclusion of cattle and deer (sheep exempt): There are a number of proposals including decreasing stocking density, afforestation and increasing sheep:cow ratio.

5 metre set backs: Modelling has been based on 5 metre set backs from water courses. Sheep will be exempt as per the stock exclusion rule above. Feedback from famers has been that it needs to be able to be adjusted via a property plan. A water course is defined at present as any water that runs year round, irrespective of size.

Sediment traps in farm drains: It is probably easier to fence off a farm drain from cattle and deer with no set backs than to have a sediment trap as a policy rule. There will be revision of what farmers can do with diggers in waterways: this will also include control of earthworks, tracking, forestry harvesting, and cultivation.

Intensification: Interim requirement for a resource consent for any further intensification of 10% above benchmarked N figures from ‘Overseer’.

‘Overseer’ is the software that has been designed to try to calculate the N leaching from farms, with respect to farm type, stocking density, fertiliser history, cropping, terrain etc. This is the only tool available and it will be used to make calculations for ‘Tailored Property Plans’.
There is support for restricting intensification from the wider community (to halt the pine to dairy conversions in upper catchment). It is likely that this will be implemented at least as an interim measure, to prevent intensification in the short term, until individual farm plans are in place. However as this ’intensification’ is based on N leaching, headroom may be able to be created through innovations such as wetland development.

Tailored Property Plans
At present this is a proposal to try to ensure that there is legislation relevant to each farm (i.e. any property over 4Ha). It has not been clearly defined as to how these will be created, or who will administer, control or pay for this. The plans will probably involve a map of the property with areas divided up depending on their ‘Land Use Capability’. There will be a series of actions required to reduce the nutrient leaching, and timeframes defined.

Whilst not everyone will be affected by this legislation immediately, now is the time to inform yourself about future legislative changes so that you can make any major farm decisions with this in mind.

More information can be found at

Date Added: Wednesday, 2nd December 2015