Essential Freshwater: Action for Healthy Waterways

The Government  has announced its latest water quality proposals called Action for Healthy Waterways. Compiled within a package entitled "Essential Freshwater Package", it comprises a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater (NPS) and new National Environment Standard for Freshwater (NES) and also new Stock Exclusion regulations.

The Package proposes some major changes, above and beyond  those at current Regional Council levels on the management of freshwater,  with two main objectives:
  1. to stop further degradation of waterways and start making immediate improvements so that water quality improves within the next five years.
  2. to reverse past damage and bring waterways and ecosystems to a healthy state within a generation.
To learn more about it, see the documents and links on this page including our Snapshot of Essential Freshwater Proposals (see below).

In the Document Library section of this page there are a number of the MfE and industry documents around the Freshwater proposals if you wish to read further.

The submission period has now closed - to see the Federated Farmers submission and other submissions relating to farmers from other organisations - click here

Making a Submission

To see the video of our meeting held out of Ashburton for those that missed it click here

It has some great Q&As with our policy team and local farmers and businesses.


We recommend individual farmers focus on providing an overview of the impacts and investment at their farm level. We also suggest you provide details of any specific on farm actions undertaken to improve environmental outcomes.  These good farm stories are not recognised in the proposals, and central government needs to be made aware of them. 

We know this is a big ask at a busy time of year, but unfortunately, at this stage, this is the only chance to influence this regulation. 

We have developed two submission templates (below) to help farmers with their submission. The farmer submission form is shorter and has prompts on some key areas that would be helpful for government to better understand, there is a guidance document to use alongside it that will help you fill it in and work out some basic costs around fencing and planting. The second, MfE Feedback Questions, is a deeper dive into the questions  MfE have put into their discussion document. There are 81 questions in total but feel free to answer as few or as many as you feel necessary. With either template, email to   when you have completed it.

Our submission forms can be found here

Alternatively you can click here and complete the online MfE submission form or do it freestyle by writing a letter and email this directly to    

While you are completing the submission, we have a snapshot (below) we have pulled together to make sense of all the documents on offer. You are also welcome to look into the other documents and summaries provided by other organisations to inform your submission.

Mapping waterways in low slope areas

Waterways in low slope areas will have different fencing requirements under the new proposals. 

To find out what this means for you, click here to go to Federated Farmers map which has a measuring tool and the areas in the low slope areas highlighted as well as nationally recognised waterways. If you have trouble finding your address, search a local school or hall and scroll to your property from there.

Freshwater Communications

Member Advisories

 Essential Freshwater - further update (5/03/2020) 
   We are emailing to update you on the Essential Freshwater ‘Action for healthy waterways’ proposals. This remains a priority focus for Federated Farmers...
 It's DONE all 184 Pages of it... (4/11/2019) 
   We lodged our submission last week on the Essential Freshwater (Action on Healthy Waterways) proposals...
 Coming Up - 50 Shades of Green Day (31/10/2019) 
   The Fifty Shades of Green movement is gaining momentum, and are marching to Parliament on the 14 November...
 Essential Freshwater submission deadline is tomorrow (30/10/2019) 
   The government's package of Freshwater reform proposals “Action for healthy waterways” consultation period ends tomorrow, 31 October 2019
 Climate Change announcements (24/10/2019) 
   There have been two major announcements this week regarding Climate Change
 Essential Freshwater package - Farmer Impact Survey (11/10/2019) 
   The Essential Freshwater proposals are filled with complicated details that will have massive ramifications for farmers.
 Essential Freshwater - Farmer submissions (2/10/2019) 
   The government's package of Freshwater reform proposals “Action for healthy waterways” consultation period ends 31 October 2019.
 Essential Freshwater - what we know so far update (27/09/2019) 
   As the Ministry for the Environment (‘MfE’) public consultation meetings draw to a close we want to thank all of you who attended the events around the country...
 'Freshwater Proposals' primary sector meeting - Carterton (25/09/2019) 
   Please get along to the Ministry for the Environment’s Consultation meeting on the Government’s “Essential Freshwater Proposals” Wairarapa Primary Sector Meeting:
 Essential Freshwater - what we know so far (12/09/2019) 
   What is the ‘Essential Freshwater’ package of reform?

Communications & Press Releases

Government has missed te chance to take farmers with them

Posted on 22/10/2019
New Zealand’s farmers will continue to work on their carbon emissions and water efficiencies on-farm, despite the government’s hugely unrealistic targets for methane...

Freshwater proposals essentially throw farming under the tractor

Posted on 5/09/2019
Large parts of rural New Zealand will have to abandon their reliance on the pastoral sector based on the freshwater proposals released today.

Feds' message to the government on water quality

Posted on 21/08/2019
A ‘one size fits all’, inflexible and punitive regulatory regime for water quality just gets backs – and costs – up and most importantly will not work.