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FAQs - Riparian vegetation management plans

What’s this I hear about having to fence and plant my stream?

If you take water from surface water (stream, spring, river, creek, drain) you will likely need a riparian vegetation management plan. This will apply for the entire length on your property of the stream from which you take water (or an “offset” stream if appropriate).

You will need to fence the stream within three years of obtaining consent. You will then need to progressively plant it, mainly with natives. You will have the entire duration of the consent to do this, which will normally be 15 years. 

Some farms who take from surface water may not need to provide a riparian vegetation management plan, in particular those farms where the catchment is not at a high level of allocation.

Groundwater takes do not need to have a riparian vegetation management plan.

Am I expected to prepare a riparian plan on my own, or should I get a consultant to help?

Waikato Regional Council has developed a template that farmers can use to create a riparian vegetation management plan that meets the requirement of the rules. The template is intended to help farmers identify the location of the fencing and planting that will be required, while providing guidance on how to stage works over the duration of a consent, including information about plants that can be used and how to maintain the fencing. You can download this here [PDF, 1.3 MB].

If you wish to prepare your own plan, you are welcome to do so, though you may wish to use a consultant who is familiar with this type of work. You need to make sure that it meets all the requirements which are listed in Standard 3.3.4.28 of the Waikato Regional Plan.

If I choose not to provide a riparian vegetation management plan with my application – what are the consequences? (Q26)

If you are taking your water from a surface waterway and wish to rely on the grandparented dairy shed water rules for your pre-October 2008 water volumes, you need to provide a riparian vegetation management plan, and we have a template available to help you do this.

There are some exceptions where a plan may not be required:

  • Where the waterway from which you take water is not located on property you own (including any neighbouring property over which you have an easement, Waikato Regional Council stopbanks or esplanade strips).
  • Where the waterway is within a drainage district managed by Waikato Regional Council or a territorial authority, a consent is required for the actual planting. It may be considered inappropriate for fencing or planting of these areas. Call us or your local drainage area manager to discuss this on 0800 800 402.

If you choose not to provide a riparian vegetation management plan, your application will be considered under the other rules within the Waikato Regional Plan and no special consideration will be given to the existing nature of your water take.

You will need to provide an estimate of the one-in-five-year low flow (Q5 - see ‘Allocation status and hydrology’ FAQ) with your application, which will need to be provided by an appropriately skilled professional. If you are in a fully or over-allocated catchment, your application may be declined.

I have already fenced and planted the stream from which I take water. What do I need to do?

Provided the fencing and planting is of a certain standard, you’ll just be required to maintain it through the duration of your consent.
Those standards include:

  • Planting and fencing must be for the entire length on the property that you own of the surface waterway from which you take water. This includes any waterbodies the water flows into downstream.
  • The fencing needs to effectively exclude all livestock present.
  • The fence must be at least 3 metres from the top of the bank.
  • The riparian planting should be made up of suitable species and needs to be throughout the fenced area, and needs to be at a planting density of 2500 stems per hectare.

If you have undertaken the fencing and planting under one of the following agreements, then you can choose to adopt that agreement as a riparian vegetation management plan and no additional work will be required, so long as it is for the entire length of the waterway on your property:

  • Land Improvement Agreement.
  • Memorandum of Encumbrance.
  • Environmental Protection Agreement.
  • You may also know these as Clean Streams Agreements, Soil Conservation Agreements or Catchment New Works Agreements. You will continue to be bound by the requirements of these agreements.

If you have fenced and planted the stream from which you take water, but it’s not to the full 3m distance required, you can choose to:

  • progressively move the fence back and plant up the additional area
  • offset the requirement by fencing and planting another stream in the same catchment, for the same length of stream and width of planting.

What is the top of bank?

The top of bank is the highest point which contains the annual fullest flow without overtopping its banks into the flood plain.

The nature of the stream I take water from means it’s a real difficulty for me to have permanent fencing and to do planting on this stream. Can I offset the planting?

Yes, you can offset the fencing and planting requirement to another waterbody, though it generally does need to be for the same length of stream and in the same catchment. You cannot offset if that stream is already fenced and planted.

In some circumstances another offset may be acceptable, where you can demonstrate that there is a real environmental benefit to your proposed offset.

What if I’ve already planted lots of streams on my property? Do I still need to fence and plant the stream from which I take water?

Yes, the stream from which you take water is the one that needs to be fenced and planted under the riparian vegetation management plan. Unfortunately the benefit of existing planting on other streams can’t be used to offset the planting requirement of the stream from which you take water.

Is there still funding available from Waikato Regional Council for riparian fencing and planting?

There is still some funding available for riparian enhancement works in priority catchments, however this funding cannot be sought for works that are required as a condition of consent.

In these priority catchments there may be some partial funding available if you are looking to do more than the bare minimum required under your riparian vegetation management plan. For example, you are required to fence and plant to 3m width, but you may wish to plant out an area wider than this, such as 6 metres. You may be able to apply for funding for the additional plants required, or for any additional length of fencing required because of the changes. These will all be assessed according to our usual criteria.

If you have other areas on the farm (waterways, wetlands, hill country) that are not related to your water take stream, then you may still be eligible for funding to protect and retire these areas.

For more information, contact your area’s land management officer on 0800 800 401.