Quick read: Canterbury's nutrient management plan change

Last month, the Environment Canterbury Regional Council accepted the decision of hearings commissioners on Plan Change 5 to the Land & Water Regional Plan. The plan change marked a significant step towards managing nitrate pollution in the region.


  • Up until 2012, there were no effective limits on nutrient losses (nitrate pollution) in Canterbury and this pollution went virtually unchecked for decades.

  • In 2012, under the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, nitrate pollution limits were included with the intent of ensuring farmers and other land users “held the line” and did not increase nitrate pollution.  

  • However there was no requirement in the plan to reduce pollution. 

  • In the years following, Environment Canterbury staff have worked with all sectors of the agricultural industry to determine good management practice for each, and have developed a handbook of industry-agreed Good Management Practices farmers should be implementing.

  • An online tool, known as the Farm Portal, has also been developed which estimates nitrogen loss rates for individual farms if they were implementing the industry agreed Good Management Practice.

  • From 1 July 2020, farmers will be required to achieve the nitrogen losses generated by the Farm Portal, or face enforcement

  • The decisions on the plan change are currently notified and any appeals made to the High Court can only be on points of law.

  • The plan change is expected to be made operative once any appeals have been dealt with.