Freshwater Farm Plans

Horizons acknowledges announcements made by central government throughout 2024 about potential changes to the freshwater farm plan system. We continue to operate as per current legislation and roll out the freshwater farm plan system across the region. We are working with central government to ensure the freshwater farm plan system is most cost effective and pragmatic while supporting our communities' aspirations for improved freshwater quality.

Freshwater farm plan regulations came into effect in parts of the Horizons Region on 1 April 2024. The plans are a practical way for farmers and growers to identify, manage and reduce the impact of farming on wai māori (freshwater).

Farmers and growers in the Horizons Region are already making good progres in improving wai māori (freshwater). Many belong to catchment groups, have farm plans, and are working to mitigate the impact of farming activities on wai māori (freshwater). Freshwater farm plans will build on the good mahi (work) farmers and growers have done and continue to do.

Head to the Freshwater Farm Plan Support page to get more detailed information, including a link to our map tool which will help you gather maps to be included with your freshwater farm plan. You should also look at the Catchment Context, Challenges and Values page - that contains key information you need to ensure you can link your plan to the catchment you operate in.

We've also created a two-page printable flyer which has key information about how freshwater farm plans are being implemented in the Horizons Region. Horizons staff will also have copies at events like Central Districts Field Days for you to take away.

Download the freshwater farm plan flyer

You can also download this document for a printable generic introduction to freshwater farm plans, or find information on the Ministry for the Environment's website.

This webpage and associated links will continue to be updated as more information is available.

What is a freshwater farm plan?

Freshwater farm plans have been introduced as part of central government’s Essential Freshwater package and are part of a regulated farm planning system for farmers and growers.

A freshwater farm plan must identify:

  • the risks of adverse effects of farming activities on freshwater or freshwater ecosystems
  • actions that avoid, remedy or mitigate those risks.

The plan must also set a timeframe for each action to be implemented.

Over time, freshwater farm plans are expected to become the central tool for farmers and growers to manage all of their freshwater regulatory requirements.

More information can be found in the Ministry for the Environment's guidance document Developing a Freshwater Farm Plan.

Who needs a freshwater farm plan?

Any farmer or grower with:

  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use
  • 5 hectares or more in horticultural (including viticulture) use
  • 20 hectares or more of combined use.

Not every farmer and grower needs to have a plan ready at the same time. Plans are being rolled out across the Horizons Region by freshwater management unit (FMU). You have 18 months from the commencement date in your FMU to have a plan submitted for certification.
Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) Commencement Date* Plans Submitted By*
Rangitīkei-Turakina 1 April 2024 1 October 2025
Kai Iwi and Waiopehu 1 August 2024 1 February 2026
Manawatū 1 February 2025 1 August 2026
Whanganui and Whangaehu  1 August 2025 1 February 2027
Puketoi ki Tai 1 December 2025 1 June 2027

You can find out more about freshwater management units in the Horizons Region here.

*We know central government is looking to make improvements to the freshwater farm planning system. While these timelines are currently correct and you should work towards them, they could be subject to change once central government confirms any changes to the freshwater farm planning system.

What are the benefits of a freshwater farm plan?

  • Provides a record of past, present and future environmental actions
  • Can support the development of an integrated farm plan
  • Links your farm to community or catchment group priorities
  • May provide assurance to suppliers and customers
  • May eliminate the need for some resource consents
  • Can list your existing resource consents and conditions.

What about my current farm plan (e.g. Whole Farm Plan under SLUI)?

A lot of farmers and growers will already have an industry plan in place. Those can form the basis of a freshwater farm plan, but will need to be modified to ensure they meet freshwater farm plan requirements. Some industry groups are already preparing for this by adding additional items into industry plan platforms, and doing other things to help farmers and growers get current plans closer to freshwater farm plan standard.

How is Horizons helping?

Horizons is pulling together catchment contexts (aka CCCVs) to provide you with the context, challenges and values of the catchment you operate in. The context is the key piece of information about your catchment, as each freshwater farm plan needs a description of the catchment the property is in.

These will enable you to meet the requirement of tailoring your plans to identify the best actions possible to achieve the desired environmental outcomes for the wai māori (freshwater) of your catchment. The first set for Rangitīkei-Turakina is ready now. The remaining catchments will be available on or before their go-live dates.

Click here for catchment context, challenges and values information

We are also providing a range of maps which will help to identify environmental risks - things required in freshwater farm plans. You can find these on the Freshwater Farm Plan Support Information page.

Click here for maps and other important information

Horizons is here to support the implementation of freshwater farm plans. Staff are talking directly to tangata whenua, industry groups, catchment groups, rural professionals, and other organisations that will also play a role in the development of freshwater farm plans. We highly recommend you connect with your local catchment care groups and rural professionals for this process.

You can also call freephone 0508 800 800 or email if you need any information on these webpages clarified.