Free help to protect waterways


New Zealand’s clean, green and unpolluted status is invaluable. Farm management practices must protect that status.  Water quality must be protected by keeping untreated dairy farm effluent out of natural waterways. 

Inappropriate dairy effluent management results in degradation of natural waterways.  Direct discharge of both treated and untreated effluent to waterways compromise Māori cultural and spiritual values and is offensive to tāngata whenua, the New Zealand public generally and to overseas visitors. 

Effluent discharge into waterways can result in excessive plant and algae growth, toxic algal blooms, fish deaths, problems with human and animal health due to faecal bacteria and associated nuisances such as flies, odours and water colour changes.

Appropriate dairy effluent management makes good use of the nutrient value of effluent for the benefit of the farm and the long-term marketability of export dairy products. 

Farm dairy effluent management sits within the Resource Management Act (1991) framework for promoting the sustainable management of natural and physical resources (which includes the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (2014)) and is controlled by regional council rules and resource consent conditions. 

Regional councils are responsible for controlling the use of water including damming, taking or diverting water and discharging contaminants into water.  The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management requires regional councils to recognise the national significance of fresh water for all New Zealanders and Te Mana o te Wai (the mana of the water) and directs regional councils to:

  • safeguard fresh water’s life supporting capacity, ecosystem processes, and indigenous species including their associated ecosystems
  • manage freshwater bodies so people’s health is safeguarded 
  • maintain or improve the overall quality of fresh water within their region
  • protect the significant values of wetlands and outstanding freshwater bodies
  • require more efficient use of fresh water by end users
  • avoid the over allocation of water takes and inputs of contaminants, and to phase out existing over allocation
  • set freshwater objectives to meet community and tāngata whenua values which include the compulsory values of ecosystem health and human health for recreation
  • use water quality measures (attributes) to set the freshwater objectives
  • set limits which allow freshwater objectives to be met (for example, a total catchment contaminant-load or a total rate of water take)
  • put in place measures to account for water takes and sources of contaminants, and monitor achievement towards meeting objectives
  • take a more integrated approach to managing fresh water, and
  • fully implement the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2025.

Fencing of waterways and appropriate riparian planting help to protect waterways from dairy effluent and provide food and shelter for wildlife and corridors for plants and birds.

To assist landowners to protect waterways on their land, Taranaki Regional Council’s Land Management Officers can prepare (as a free service) plans for fencing, planting and maintaining riparian zones.  Taranaki Regional Council also supplies plants at cost.

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser. 

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Author(s)

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Marie Callander