What do the new rules say about fencing and the need to keep stock out of waterways?
Anyone who owns or controls stock is required to comply with stock exclusion regulations.
Cattle, deer and pigs need to be excluded from waterways where the farm is considered to be ‘low slope’ or is intensively grazed. ‘Low slope’ land is defined as the land areas highlighted green in the Low Slope Land viewer – RM (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020 map.
This applies to the entire land parcel identified regardless of the actual slope of a particular paddock which, in some cases, will be very considerably steeper than the 10 degrees. Intensively grazed refers to land where stock are break fed, fed annual forage crops, or pasture that has been irrigated in the previous 12 months.
The area which is considered ‘low-slope’ land includes more land than initially expected and incorporates all paddocks within land parcels categorised as ‘low-slope’ regardless of the actual paddock slope.
This means cattle and deer will have to be excluded from more waterways than initially expected.
Fences need to be 3 metres from the edge of the riverbed but if a permanent fence (of at least 2 wires) is already in place (as at 3 September 2020) then this doesn’t need to be moved. A river includes any streambeds that are 1 metre or wider (bank to bank) at any point within the land parcel, irrespective of whether they run permanently or not.
Fences used to exclude livestock from waterways can be permanent fences, temporary fences, or virtual fences which are linked to GPS-enabled collars worn by livestock.
Several regional councils already have regulations in place relating to stock exclusion. Councils may elect to put in place stricter regulations than the national guidelines. This may mean fences need to be further away from rivers in sensitive catchments.
It sounds like a lot of new fencing is needed. Do we know how much and by when?
The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) estimate 81,000 km of rivers (wider than 1 metre) flow through farmland considered to be ‘low slope’. Fences are already in place on 60% of this land leaving a further 32,000 km of streams to be fenced before 1 July 2025.
Canterbury and Otago have by far the largest expanse of rivers that require stock exclusion. See our full report for a table with estimates of the length of river in each region that needs to be fenced. The majority of the fencing required is on sheep and beef farms. Much of the required fencing is already in place on dairy farms but this is not necessarily the case on dairy runoff blocks. Additional fencing will also be required on some deer farms.
In addition, dairy cattle, dairy support cattle and pigs need to be excluded from waterways no matter what the terrain is. This may make it less viable for sheep and beef farms to graze dairy stock, including young stock, carry over cows, and winter dairy cows.
Any intensively farmed hill country will also be subjected to stock exclusion requirements. Cattle, pigs and deer will need to kept out of waterways on farms that have a carrying capacity of greater than 14 SU/ha or for individual paddocks if they carry more than 18 SU/ha, are irrigated (or have previously been irrigated), or where crops are break-fed.
The new rules apply immediately for any new pastoral farms (ie conversions from forestry) but some regulations will be phased in over the next five years.
On 1 July 2023 they will apply for all dairy cattle and pigs, and for beef cattle and deer that are intensively grazed and all stock need to be excluded from natural wetlands identified in regional or district plans by this date.
On 1 July 2025 the rules will apply to all dairy support cattle (regardless of slope of land) and all beef and deer on low-slope land. By this date all stock must be excluded from all wetlands on low-slope land and wetlands that support threatened species.