Media release

Media release: Freshwater Farm Plans Rollout Confirmed

Monday 11 September 2023

Dates have been confirmed by the Government for the phased rollout in Otago of freshwater farm plans, giving farmers and growers certainty of when they need to begin work on preparing their freshwater farms plans.

The Freshwater Farm Plan regulations require properties over a certain size to have a certified and audited freshwater farm plan in place and begins in Otago from 1 February 2024, starting with North Otago.

ORC’s Manager of Environmental Implementation, Libby Caldwell says ORC has fielded a number of questions already from the farming community.

“It’s great to see such interest in an area where we can see so much potential to focus on freshwater while helping farmers and growers plan for the future.”

More than 3500 Otago farmers will have 18 months following the start-dates in their part of Otago to have their freshwater farms plans created and certified. The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) expects about 34,500 Freshwater Farm Plans to be in place across the country eventually.

The updated Order in Council to commence the Freshwater Farm Plan regulations within Otago, West Coast and Horizons regions was gazetted Thursday 24 August 2023 and is a further step in the implementation of the national system.

Freshwater farm plans are a practical way for farmers and growers to identify, manage and reduce the impact of farming on the freshwater environment. All pastoral or arable land of more than 20 hectares will require a freshwater farm plan, as will all horticultural land of 5 hectares or more. They are now required in parts of the Waikato and Southland regions, as of 1 August 2023, and will be rolled out to all regions by the end of 2025.

The roll out and supporting system is being phased in a few regions at a time, with Otago, the West Coast, and parts of Manawatū-Whanganui the next to come into effect.


Otago roll-out

Otago is divided into five Freshwater Management Units (FMU). An FMU is a water body or multiple water bodies of a manageable size where freshwater objectives and limits will be set.

Rohe means ‘area’ in te reo and is used to define distinct areas within larger FMUs.

The proposed Otago roll-out has been confirmed by the Government with North Otago to be first to get underway on 1 February 2024.


Order Commencement date Anticipated number of farms
North Otago FMU 1 Feb 2024 756
Lower Clutha Rohe 1 Aug 2024 821
Upper Lakes Rohe, Dunstan Rohe, Manuherekia Rohe, Roxburgh Rohe 1 Feb 2025 913
Taiari/Taieri FMU 1 Aug 2025 520
Catlins FMU 1 Aug 2025 185
Dunedin and Coast FMU 1 Dec 2025 342


Support from ORC

Many of Otago’s farmers, industry professionals, growers, and catchment groups are leading the way in global farming practices and ORC is keen to start working with our communities to build on the great work already being done, including actions to support and enhance the health of our land and waterways.

Mrs Caldwell says, “ORC will have staff available to help support this implementation over the next couple of years including workshops and one-on-one meetings with farmers to ensure they understand the process and are confident in creating a freshwater farm plan.

“We will soon be calling for expressions of interest from those looking to train as certifiers and auditors of freshwater farm plans in Otago.”


More information

The Order in Council confirming rollout dates for Otago can be found here.

For further details on freshwater farm plans and their implementation within Otago, read the full media release from July 7, 2023:

Media release: Freshwater Farm Plans on horizon for Otago

ORC will also be providing more information as it is available through their Freshwater farm plans web page.