24 August 2020

New Regional and National Water Rules

We welcome the Action for Healthy Waterways regulations, which are designed to restore and protect the health of New Zealand waterways. Alongside these, there are new regional rules you may need to be aware of.

Water quality in Otago is generally very good, and our community has told us they value healthy waterways for recreation, drinking water, mahinga kai, ecological health and to support industries such as farming and tourism.

The intent of the new framework is to stop degradation of our waterways now and achieve improvement where water quality is degraded.

The new provisions and rules will provide welcome certainty and clarity for our rural communities. We will need to work together to achieve the improvement we all want to see. Achieving healthy waterways for Otago is everyone’s responsibility.

At ORC, we are responsible for implementing the new regulations and rules, and monitoring compliance, and will work alongside Otago’s rural landowners and our urban residents to provide as much information and support as possible as the new rules roll out.  Our own freshwater work programme, which includes a new Land and Water Regional Plan to be notified by 2023, as well as proposed changes to the policies and rules in our own water and waste plans, positions us well to better align ourselves with the direction set by the Action for Healthy Waterways reforms.

We are already underway with a work programme to implement the Action for Healthy Waterways reforms, including information about when each new rule will apply and what rural landowners will need to do. We will take an “education first” approach to the implementation of these changes and work proactively with the community to ensure they understand the new requirements and obligations.


We're here to help

We know there are a lot of changes to take in and understand. We’re here to help.

If you would like more information about the new rules and how they might affect you please call 0800 474 082 or email customerservices@orc.govt.nz. There’s more information about applying for a resource consent here.

Our staff can come to your property to help guide you through the new rules and advise whether you comply or would need to make changes.

In the coming weeks we will be reviewing and updating our guidance and factsheets to incorporate the new rules and regulations for healthy waterways that took effect from 3 September 2020.

This timeline shows which rules come into effect when.

New National Rules

What do the new national rules mean for rural landowners?

The new rules won’t come into force all at once, so you will able to adapt to the new regulations over a period of time. There are national rules that came into effect on 3 September 2020 that you'll need to comply with now, and some things that you’ll need to do in the next few months or years. 

The following topics are covered by the new national rules: 

  • Feedlots and stockholding
  • Agricultural intensification
  • Intensive winter grazing
  • Natural wetlands
  • Fish passage
  • Reclamation of rivers
  • Stock exclusion regulations
  • Nitrogen
  • Farm plans with a freshwater module
  • Reporting on water use

For more details about the new rules on these topics, click here.

The Ministry for the Environment also has more detailed information about how different groups and communities will be affected by the reforms and when they need to do what:

For more information, visit the Ministry for the Environment website. 

New Regional Rules

ORC plan changes and proposed new rules

Alongside the new rules and policies brought in at national level, the Environmental Protection Authority has recently notified proposed plan changes to ORC’s Regional Plan: Water and the Regional Plan: Waste that strengthen Otago water quality policies and rules. These rules now need to now be considered when assessing applications for resource consent. In general, national legislation takes precedence over regional rules, unless the rules in regional plans are more stringent.

Read about ORC’s proposed Water Quality Plan Changes here.

To avoid duplication and reduce the complexity of two sets of rules, we have made a submission on our own proposed water quality plan changes requesting the withdrawal of proposed new rules that address some of the same activities as the Freshwater NES.

While we are awaiting a decision on the Environment Court on this matter, you’ll need to be aware of both national and local rules that may apply to you. We're here to help you with this.


The proposed water quality plan changes to the Water Plan (Plan Change 8) include:

New animal water storage rules

  • The rules apply now for new animal waste storage.
  • All new ponds will require resource consent.
  • Existing animal waste storage constructed prior to 25 March 2020 that does not meet the permitted Rule is temporarily permitted until at least six months after the rule is operative.
  • Read the details of the new rules here: Fact Sheet - Animal Waste Systems

New effluent discharges rules

  • Effluent discharges that will require resource consent under the new rules are also temporarily permitted where the storage is temporarily permitted as above.
  • Read the details of the new rules here: Fact Sheet - Animal Waste Systems

New intensive grazing rules

  • Unless existing use rights apply, the new intensive grazing rules apply now.
  • Read the details of the new rules here: Fact Sheet - Intensive Grazing

Stock exclusion rules

  • From 2022, dairy cattle and pigs are excluded from the beds of lakes, rivers wider than 1m and Regionally Significant Wetlands. A setback of 5m applies.
  • Because this rule does not come into effect until 2022, it may be aligned with national rules or withdrawn before then.
  • Read the details of the new rules here: Fact Sheet - Stock Water Access

Sediment traps

  • A new rule containing permitted standards for sediment traps in ephemeral or intermittently flowing rivers. If the standards can’t be met, then resource consent may be required.
  • The rule is enforceable now.


  • These are new rules that are in place now. Earthworks for residential development is permitted where the standards can be met. Otherwise this is a restricted discretionary activity.
  • Read more details about the new rules here: Fact Sheet - Residential Earthworks


The proposed water quality plan changes to the Waste Plan (Plan Change 1) include:

  • Amended rules and a new rule providing permitted, discretionary and prohibited dust suppressant standards.
  • Read more details about the new rules here: Fact Sheet - Regional Plan Waste