Freshwater Farm Plan FAQs

Who needs a freshwater farm plan?

Any farm or grower with:
  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use
  • 5 hectares or more in horticulutral (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

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

Do I need resource consents if I have a freshwater farm plan?

Yes, you will still require resource consents for certain activities if you have a freshwater farm plan. However, there will be activities you may be able to include in your farm plan and have certified instead of needing a resource consent.
This can happen where a piece of ture (legislation) says you can have it included in your farm plan instead of a consent for that activity. For example, you may want to use this for your intensive winter grazing activity.
We are investigating options for integrating freshwater farm plans into the One Plan. We will provide more information about this when it is available.
If either pathway is available, your certifier will then need to confirm that your activity meets the test to be considered part of a farm plan and not a consent.
Using the farm plan pathway instead of consents can only be used once freshwater farm plans have turned on in your part of the Horizons Region. It is recommended you contact Horizons’ Consents Team on freephone 0508 800 800 or by emailing before using this option.

What needs to be in a freshwater farm plan? 

  • Administrative details about the farm 
  • Maps 
  • Catchment context, challenges and values 
  • Identification and assessment of risks to wai māori (freshwater) and associated ecosystems
  • Identifying actions with timeframes to avoid, remedy or mitigate effects on wai māori and associated ecosystems.  


I already have a farm plan – can I just use that?

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.

Others might not have an industry farm plan in place, and they need to be aware that this is a new requirement to consider. There's help and assistance available across the motu (country)­­­ for farmers starting out on their farm plan journey. 

How much time will this take?

We understand this is going to take time, and farmers have 18 months from when the system goes live in their area to prepare and submit their first plan. Horizons is committed to making the process as simple as possible while still adhering to regulations and legislation.

How much will a freshwater farm plan cost?

The cost will depend on a range of things, including the size of your farm, if you use a consultant, and if you already have a farm plan in place (e.g. a Whole Farm Plan as part of SLUI).

No matter how a plan is put together, the farmer/grower will need to pay for the certifier and an auditor at their standard professional rates. We do not currently know how much this will cost, but will post more information here when we know it.

Central government is making changes to freshwater rules and regulations. How does this impact freshwater farm plans?

Central government has confirmed it will replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM) and, alongside that, has extended the time for councils to notify changes to freshwater regional policy statements and plans to 2027.

Please note that these changes relate to the NPS-FM, not the freshwater farm plan regulations which were introduced as a separate piece of legislation in 2023. The Ministry for the Environment and councils, including Horizons, are continuing to implement the freshwater farm plan system as previously advised.

We know central government is looking to make improvements to the freshwater farm planning system. While the timelines on our webpages are currently correct, they could be subject to change once central government confirms any changes to the freshwater farm planning system.

How do freshwater farm plans work for very small/very large farms? Have they been designed with different farm sizes in mind?

The freshwater farm plan system is built on the idea every operation and every catchment is different. Freshwater farm plans will be tailored to the size of the operation, so farmers and growers will be able to identify and manage their individual risks. 
Different operations’ plans will need to consider what is relevant in their catchment and what they need to do to address these issues over time. Freshwater farm plans enable farmers and growers to plan, over a number of years, the risks they need to manage and the investments they need to make. Irrespective of whether a farm is large or small, people will be able to develop a tailored plan.

If my farm straddles two different regions or freshwater management units, when do I need my plan submitted by?

The latest date will apply.

What is a farm operation?

A farm operation is a farm where all or part of the farm is in arable, horticultural, pastoral or other agricultural land use, and may include multiple titles, run-off blocks, lease land and other land that contributes to the farm operation, whether physically contiguous or separate.

What happens if I sell part of my farm?

The freshwater farm plan will need to be recertified for any parts of the farm affected, if any of the following applies within 12 months of the plan being certified:
  • The new farm operator undertakes significant changes in farming activities (see Ministry for the Enviroment guidance for definition of ‘significant change’)
  • The farm changes farm operator and the new operator does not adopt the existing certified freshwater farm plan.

The farm operator may submit the relevant part of the certified freshwater farm plan that has been amended.

Will the data provided as part of my farm plan be private and secure?

Absolutely. It's farmers' and growers’ data, and the material passed to councils will be the action plans and some administrative information. Councils will need this information to ensure compliance with the regulations as well as for monitoring the effectiveness of the system.

How will Horizons know people are carrying out the actions in their freshwater farm plans?

Regional council Compliance teams are required to monitor farm operators and their freshwater farm plans under these regulations.

The compliance focus will be around educating and supporting farmers to undertake the freshwater farm plan requirements.

If non-compliance is identified, appropriate action will be undertaken in accordance with the Resource Management Act (RMA) Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

Horizons is working alongside other regional councils across the motu (country) to develop our approach and support consistency across regions.

When do I have to redo my freshwater farm plan?

Each freshwater plan must be recertified every five years, unless you sell part of your farm or significantly change your farming operation. See the Ministry for the Environment’s advice on what to do in those situations by clicking or tapping this link.

Where can I find more information?

Horizons has a webpage which is serving as a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about freshwater farm plans in the Horizons Region. You can also contact our staff on free phone 0508 800 800 or by emailing if you have further questions.

The Ministry for the Environment's website has a dedicated section for freshwater farm plans, as does the Ministry for Primary Industries'.