From 3 September 2020, you will need to:
- Avoid clearing indigenous vegetation, earthworks, drainage or taking, damming or diverting water in and around a wetland unless in limited circumstances.
- You can still sustainably harvest sphagnum if you are already doing this and it meets the permitted conditions.
- You can do some work in a wetland for restoration, or scientific or cultural purposes if this complies with the permitted conditions.
- In most cases, if you want to put in new structures, or make other changes that affect the drainage of a natural wetland, you will need to get a resource consent.
- Report information to ORC if you undertake a permitted activity under the Freshwater NES.
For more information, please read the MfE factsheet here.
Read ORC's factsheet about wetlands here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a natural wetland?
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FW) defines a natural wetland as:
A natural inland wetland means a wetland (as defined in the Act) that is not:
(a) in the coastal marine area; or
(b) a deliberately constructed wetland, other than a wetland constructed to offset impacts on, or to restore, an existing or former natural inland wetland; or
(c) a wetland that has developed in or around a deliberately constructed water body, since the construction of the water body; or
(d) a geothermal wetland; or
(e) a wetland that:
(i) is within an area of pasture used for grazing; and
(ii) has vegetation cover comprising more than 50% exotic pasture species (as identified in the National List of Exotic Pasture Species using the Pasture Exclusion Assessment Methodology (see clause 1.8)); unless
(iii) the wetland is a location of a habitat of a threatened species identified under clause 3.8 of this National Policy Statement, in which case the exclusion in (e) does not apply
What is a wetland?
The Resource Management Act defines a wetland as follows: “A wetland includes permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions.”
Who owns natural wetlands?
Natural wetlands may be in public or private ownership.
How do I define the boundary of the natural wetland on my land?
The boundaries of natural wetlands are determined on a case-by-case basis based on the definitions above. If you look at the vegetation types, where the native vegetation ends will typically form the edge of the wetland. In all cases a conservative approach should be adopted.
Will Otago Regional Council staff help me to define my wetland?
Yes, ORC staff will respond to queries relating to the identification of natural wetlands and are developing a programme to map Otago’s natural wetlands. We are required to identify and map every natural inland wetland in the region that is:
- 05 hectares or greater in extent; or
- less than 0.05 hectares in extent (such as an ephemeral wetland) and known to contain threatened species.
This mapping must be completed within 10 years of the NPS-FM 2020 coming into force.
Why protect all wetlands?
The Ministry for the Environment factsheet explains why there are new rules in place to protect all wetlands:
“The NES, NPS-FM 2020 and stock exclusion regulations are designed to prevent further loss of New Zealand’s valuable natural wetlands and associated ecosystems.
New Zealand wetlands provide essential habitat for a diverse range of endemic flora and fauna, including critically endangered birds like matuku and kōtuku, as well as 67 per cent of freshwater and estuarine fish species, and 13 per cent of nationally threatened plant species. Wetlands provide essential ecosystem services, acting as buffers for flooding, nutrient cyclers, water purifiers and carbon sinks. Replacing these ecosystem services with infrastructure like constructed wetlands, flood barriers and dams generally costs more than avoiding their loss in the first place.
The value of wetlands has not been historically recognised, and many were drained to create additional ‘usable’ land. This has resulted in the loss of over 90 per cent of New Zealand’s historical inland wetland extent.”
Read the full factsheet here.
Can I graze my stock on a wetland to help keep pests and grasses down?
No because new NES-FM regulations, which apply from 1 July 2023, introduce a requirement for beef cattle, dairy support cattle, pigs and deer to be excluded from all wetlands. In addition, policy 6 of the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater requires that there is no further loss of extent of natural inland wetlands, their values are protected, and their restoration is promoted.
Can I maintain a drain within and outside of a wetland?
Yes, if undertaken in accordance with permitted activity regulations 46 and 55 in the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater. You can find these regulations here. You can carry out vegetation clearance and earthworks within a wetland to maintain a drain without a consent as long as you do not change the hydrological function of the wetland. You cannot:
- deepen or widen the drain
- alter the water level within the wetland
You are limited to clearing 500m2 or 10% of the wetland, whichever is less.
Can I install new drains within a wetland?
No, the construction of new drains within a wetland is prohibited under regulation 53 of the NES-FM.
Can I install a new drain within 100m of a wetland?
Potentially yes. However, you will need a resource consent to allow you to do this. This is classified as a non-complying activity under regulation 52. The criteria for obtaining resource consent for a non-complying activity is very high and public notification of an application may occur.
Can I apply animal effluent to land in or near a natural wetland?
The application of animal effluent to land is not captured by Regulation 54 of the NES, as it is not water. However, the discharge still falls under the rules in the Regional Plan: Water and may require consent under these rules.
Note: The irrigation of water is captured by both Regulation 54 of the NES and the Regional Plan: Water