Freshwater Farm Plans

Freshwater farm plan regulations

The freshwater farm plan regulations were released in June 2023, and become operative in Waikato and Southland regions from 1 August with staged rollouts in all regions by the end of 2025.

Who needs a freshwater farm plan?

Growers and farmers with:

  • 20 hectares or more in arable or pastoral use
  • 5 hectares or more in horticultural use
  • 20 hectares or more of combined use.

What are freshwater farm plans?

Freshwater farm plans are a way for growers to identify, manage and reduce the impact of their growing operations on the freshwater environment. Freshwater farm plans need to be certified and audited with some information reported to the regional council.

HortNZ will be providing growers with ongoing advice on freshwater farm plans through the Growing Change project. Read more about this below.

Growing Change

Growing change is a three-year partnership between Horticulture New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment. The project aims to build capacity and capability within the horticulture sector, and enduring support for growers, to deliver Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) freshwater farm plans. The Growing Change project is funded through the Essential Freshwater Fund, administered by the Ministry for the Environment.  

Growing Change is designing a training programme for growers, horticulture advisors, and auditors on managing the freshwater risks from horticulture. This training programme will become available in late 2025-26. HortNZ is working with Muka Tangata - the Food and Fibre Workforce Development Council, and Te Pūkenga Primary ITO, to design the training programme. The content of the training is based on industry environmental codes of practice and guidelines for managing environmental impacts from horticulture. Through the Technical Advisory Group and Ahumara Kai Advisory Group, this work is bringing together representation across Māturanga Māori, science, and education. 

Growing Change will deliver ten catchment projects to support growers to develop freshwater farm plans. The catchments are in key growing regions, from Northland to Otago/Southland, each with a regional extension officer facilitator. The catchment projects will support growers through technical workshops and support from experienced advisors. Freshwater farm plan implementation through the catchment projects will tell the story of good and best practice by growers. 

Freshwater Farm Plans using the Environment Management System (EMS) add-on to GAP, available to all GAP certified growers. 

The catchment projects are planned for: 

  1. Waimea-Tasman (engagement complete)
  2. Manawatu (Palmerston North/Levin) (engagement complete)
  3. Manawatu (Ohakune) (engagement underway)
  4. Auckland-Waikato (engagement complete)  
  5. Clutha-Otago-Southland (engagement complete)
  6. Selwyn (planning underway)
  7. Kaituna (planning underway)
  8. Hawke's Bay (starts June 2024)
  9. Gisborne (starts June 2024)
  10. Northland (starts June 2024)


Regional Extension Officers

By signing up to the Growing Change project, growers will receive the following support free of charge:

  • NZ-GAP-EMS registration and mapping
  • One-to-one advisor support time to complete EMS add-on
  • Technical workshops for additional support

To find out more, contact one of our regional extension officers:

Arjune Dahya (looking after North Island catchments) P: 027 336 4994 or E

Mark Shelly (looking after South Island catchments) P: 027 322 5644 or E

Nat Bond (looking after Kaituna, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne) P: 027 332 8015 or E:

1. Question: My area is not listed as a current focus, when will it be supported? 

Answer: The project aims to support growers to develop their first freshwater farm plan in the catchments listed by June 2025. If you grow outside of these catchments and would still like support, please contact your regional extension officer. 

2. Question: How will my freshwater farm plan be developed? 

Answer: Freshwater farm plans through Growing Change will be developed using the EMS add-on to GAP. Horticulture growers will need core GAP certification for food safety (NZGAP, GLOBALG.A.P. or NZGAP-GLOBALG.A.P. equivalent) to access the EMS add-on.  

If you do not have GAP core standard, please contact NZGAP to proceed. 

3. Question: How do I sign up to my catchment project? 

Answer: Contact the regional extension officer looking after your catchment.