Proposals in Next steps for fresh water: Consultation document


The Government proposes to introduce a requirement for farmers to ensure their stock cannot enter streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

The dairy industry has made progress in voluntarily keeping stock out of water bodies. The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord has resulted in over 24,000 kilometres of fencing to keep dairy cattle on milking platforms out of more than 94 per cent of streams over 1 metre wide and 30 centimetres deep. In 2014, the Government committed to requiring the exclusion of dairy cattle from waterways by 1 July 2017.

Excluding stock from a water body can improve water quality, improving its suitability for recreation, harvesting food, and as a habitat for fish. Livestock with access to water bodies can trample the banks, causing erosion and more sediment in the water. Water quality and the risk to human health are affected by stock faeces and urine. Riparian areas are important to filter the effects of adjacent land use, as habitats and for recreation.

What stock will be excluded from water bodies?

The Government proposes to regulate to exclude dairy cattle on milking platforms from water bodies by 1 July 2017. We intend to extend this to land used for dairy support, beef cattle and deer at a later date (see table 2) to give these farmers time to comply. Sheep and goats will not be covered by this proposal as they do less damage to our streams and rivers.

Stock will only be nationally required to be excluded from water bodies on flat land and lowlands and rolling hills (< 15˚ slope) due to the practicality of fencing on steep country and the high costs relative to the environmental benefits. This would not override more stringent council rules and councils will still have the ability to apply stock exclusion rules more widely where they see this as necessary or desirable.

Table 2:           Proposed deadlines for stock to be excluded from water bodies

Farm type Plains (0–3°) Lowland/rolling hills


Dairy cattle on milking platform 1 July 2017
Dairy support (owned by dairy farmer) 2020
Dairy support (third party grazing) 2025
Beef 2025 2030
Deer 2025 2030*
Pigs 1 July 2017

*Intensive farms only

How stock will be excluded

Farmers will need to put up permanent fences unless there is a natural barrier preventing stock from getting to the water. Temporary fencing will be allowed where this is more appropriate, for example, for short-term grazing or where flooding is a problem.

Water bodies where stock will be required to be excluded

We propose to apply a national stock exclusion regulation to:

  • permanently flowing waterways and drains greater than 1 metre wide and 30 centimetres deep, (and smaller ones on the plains, but giving these landowners until 2020 to comply)
  • natural wetlands, but not including damp gully heads or places where water temporarily ponds, or built structures, such as effluent ponds, reservoirs or channels.

What enforcement will there be for the proposed stock exclusion regulations?

Some councils already have some degree of stock exclusion requirement in their regional plans. There are problems with practical enforcement because the expense to councils and ratepayers of taking a Court prosecution can seem excessive. The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill currently before Parliament provides explicit provision for these proposed national regulations. It also introduces a nationally standardised infringement regime with instant fines.

Will riparian buffers be required?

It is not proposed to require a riparian buffer between a fence and the waterway. If managed well, riparian buffers can benefit water quality, bank stability, and biodiversity. However, the optimum buffer width and how it should be managed depends on the circumstances and aims. The high cost of managing riparian buffers (eg, planting, weed control) is not justified by the environmental benefits in all cases. Some councils are already working with farmers to promote riparian management in high value and at-risk areas.

Read LAWF’s recommendations on stock exclusion.