The Government has just proposed new rules to clean up our rivers … and they are actually pretty good! It’s a significant win for all of us who have worked so hard to save our rivers.

But they’re not perfect or locked in yet — and industry lobby groups like Federated Farmers are pushing back hard to water down the plan.

There are public consultation meetings happening around the country and they have already started so it’s now or never. It’s vital that we turn up and support strong rules to save our rivers from industrial dairying. We also have a Facebook event for each if you’d like to connect with others who want to help protect our fresh water!

This information sheet will help you attend your local public meeting on the new proposed freshwater rules.

Government officials will take feedback of the public meetings to the Ministers who will make the final decisions on what the rules are.

The goal of attending these meetings is to speak up for clean rivers and let the Govt know that there is lots of support for an end to dairy intensification and a cap on synthetic fertiliser use. It’s also important that there are people there to counter the agricultural industry voices who will be pushing for weak or even no rules.

What to do at the meeting:
If you can – during question time, stand up and say something like this:

“I support strong, mandatory rules to protect our lakes, rivers and drinking water and specifically, I support proposals to put a cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and to restrict any further intensification of dairy farming. I want the cap on fertiliser to be a sinking one that ends in the elimination of its use altogether. On this point, my question is…”

Some good questions you could follow with are:

  1. The discussion document proposes that instead of a cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, that individual farm-plans could be used, leaving it up to the industry to essentially regulate itself on the use of this polluting product. Why have you proposed this option when the science is clear that synthetic nitrogen fertiliser leads to overstocking of too many cows, pollutes our rivers and threatens our safe drinking water?
  2. The discussion document says that dairy conversions may still be able to get a consent if they can prove there will be no adverse impacts on the freshwater. But the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) says – quote:
    “Our investigation has shown the clear link between expanding dairy farming and increasing stress on water quality. Even with best practice mitigation, the large-scale conversion of more land to dairy farming will generally result in more degraded fresh water”We all know there are too many cows in NZ – Why haven’t you just banned dairy conversions completely?

Here are some statistics and quotes that you might also find useful:

The state of our freshwater

Too many cows and too much synthetic nitrogen fertiliser

The link between industrial dairy, synthetic fertiliser and the freshwater crisis

If you want even more info before you go, you can check out the Information Sheet that our friends over at Forest and Bird have made for these meetings. And you can check out these in-depth briefings:



1. Ministry for the Environment & Stats NZ 2017: New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Our fresh water 2017

2. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research (2017) ) Technical Background for 2017 MfE ‘Clean Water’ Swimmability Proposals for Rivers 

3. Ministry for the Environment & Stats NZ (2019). New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Environment Aotearoa 2019. Available from and www.stats.govt

4. Schallenberg, M., de Winton, M.D., Verburg, P., Kelly, D.J., Hamill, K.D. and Hamilton, D.P., 2013. Ecosystem services of lakes. Ecosystem services in New Zealand: conditions and trends. Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln, pp.203-225.

5. MFE 2017: New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2016, Snapshot.

6. Stats NZ livestock numbers tables

7. Dairy NZ 2017, NZ Dairy Statistics

8. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment 2013: Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution

9. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research 2010, How clean are our rivers? Water & Atmosphere July 2010 



Synthetic Nitrogen fertiliser props up industrial dairying. It is used to grow too much grass for too many cows, polluting our rivers and warming the climate.

But we don’t need it. There is a better way to farm and New Zealand can lead the world in practicing it.

Together, we can move towards regenerative farming. A way of farming that works with nature, not against it. But to do that, we need to get rid of the enablers of the old, destructive system. We need to ban synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.


David Parker, Minister for the Environment: We the undersigned call on the NZ Govt to ban synthetic nitrogen fertiliser: