Rules and regulations

ORC is responsible for looking after our region’s waterways. To help us do this we have rules, objectives and policies that are designed to protect our environment. But it takes more than rules – we need your help to look after our waterways and make sure they are safe for swimming in and gathering kai from, as well as being healthy homes for the plants and fish that live in them.

If you are using water, or you are undertaking any landuse that may impact on waterways, you need to be aware of rules in our water plan as well as any new regional or national rules about the following:

  • Runoff of soil or sediment
  • Runoff of contaminants (nitrogen, phosphorous and E. coli)
  • Construction of stock crossings and bridges
  • Water take restrictions
  • Wetland and aquifer protection
  • Damming or dredging waterways (river or steam bed disturbance)
  • Stock access to rivers, lakes, and wetlands

For more details about the rules, read the full Water Plan or contact our customer services team on 0800 474 082 or by emailing

Good management practice

Urban areas

If you live in a town or city there are many things you can do to help protect our waterways. Most stormwater isn’t treated before it drains into our local waterways, so it's important to only drain rain and prevent anything nasty getting into our waterways. This means not putting anything in the drain on the road outside your house - for example soap suds from washing your car, paint, grease, rubbish or anything other than rainwater. Anything that goes into the drains can end up polluting our waterways.

Find out more about why you should only drain rain, and how you can achieve this at home and work.

If you have a stream or river on or near your property, consider planting flaxes and other native plants along the edge to help protect the banks of the stream or river. This will also help to trap nutrients and sediment from getting into the water, which can impact on water quality. 

There are also ways you can help conserve water:

  • Collect rainwater from your roof or outside water pipes into a water butt for watering your plants
  • Only put the dishwasher or washing machine on when they are full
  • Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth
  • Check for and repair any dripping taps
Rural areas

To help protect rivers, streams, lakes, groundwater and wetlands – and the ecosystems they support - here’s a checklist of current good management practice for farmers, growers and other rural landusers:

  • If you have stock, keep them away from any waterways or wetlands using fencing, vegetation or hot wires
  • Leave a buffer zone of at least 5 metres between stock and waterways, including wetlands 
  • Don’t graze stock on steep slopes
  • Plant flaxes, native scrubs and trees between waterways and paddocks (this is called riparian planting) to help strengthen the stream and river banks. These plants also help absorb nutrients so they don’t end up in waterways. Use locally-sourced natives – these are more likely to withstand local conditions.
  • Use spray irrigation methods rather than flooding fields
  • Make sure effluent is not applied directly to waterways or within 50 meters of a waterway
  • Use appropriate effluent storage and ensure these are located away from waterways
  • Consider keeping pockets of native vegetation on your property to encourage biodiversity
  • Provide drinking water in troughs for stock
  • Ensure your silage pit is sealed so that leachate does not enter the groundwater
  • If farm roads or tracks cross drains or streams, ensure there are lips or a bund on the edge to stop sediment or muck from getting into the drain or stream
  • Put hay bales or silt cloths in place to trap sediment where there is potential for run-off

Read the Ministry for the Environment’s Good Farming Practice principles.

Read DairyNZ's Good management practices.


Good farming practices over the winter can help to maintain and improve water quality.

Winter poses particular risks to water quality as any exposed soils can become saturated and prone to muddying from stock, and can then be carried away during rain and storms into waterways. As well as carrying soil that can clog waterways and cause issues for ecosystems, this runoff can also contain phosphorus, nitrogen and E.coli that are a risk to downstream water quality and human and ecosystem health.

Watch NOSLaM's video series on wintering, including one from ORC.

There is great work being done to promote best practice over the winter by groups and organisations from around the region and the country. Here are some useful links:

Here's some tips from Beef+Lamb NZ for good practice this winter:

1. Exclude stock from waterways. Create an ungrazed buffer zone between the stock and the waterway. About 3-5 metres is a good starting point, but this should increase with slope and soil instability. 

2. Leave an ungrazed and uncultivated buffer zone around Critical Source Areas. Critical Source Areas are parts of the paddock that can channel overland flow directly to waterways (e.g. gullies, swales, very wet areas, spring heads, waterway crossings, stock camps and vehicle access routes).

3. Graze paddocks strategically. On a sloping paddock, fence across the slope and start grazing at the top of the slope. That way, the standing crop acts as a filter. Or, if there is a waterway in the paddock, start grazing at the far end of the paddock.

4. Make breaks “long and narrow”. The crop will be utilised more efficiently by stock. (note: deer might need alternative grazing management)

5. Back fence. Regularly back fence stock off grazed breaks to help minimise pugging damage and to reduce runoff risk. (note: deer might need alternative grazing management)

6. Place portable troughs and supplementary feed in a dry part of the paddock well away from any waterways or Critical Source Areas.

7. Look after your stock. Provide adequate feed, shelter, lying areas and clean fresh drinking water. Doing this will limit stock movement and help reduce damage to crop and soil.

8. Plant a catch crop. Where soil conditions and farm management allow, consider planting a fast-growing crop in spring such as greenfeed oats. It can make a substantial difference to reducing nitrogen losses.

9. Plan early. When choosing paddocks for next year’s winter feed crop, think about how you can improve your management of Critical Source Areas and waterways.