Remove the farmer exemption from the RMA

Farming is a highly polluting activity. However, due to an exemption in the law, it does not in and of itself require resource consent. Farmers may require consents to errect milking sheds, store and discharge effluent, or take water for irrigation. But they do not require resource consent for the basic act of sticking cows in a field and having them shit everywhere.

This has a severe effect on our environment. The nutrients from that shit flow downhill and polute our lakes and waterways. Lake Rotoiti is having severe problems with algal blooms due to nitrogen runoff from surrounding dairy farms. Lake Taupo is at risk. Streams around the country are full of dairy runoff. Bringing farming under the RMA would allow these problems to be controlled through district plans e.g. by local councils to impose stocking limits for the protection of waterways.

Relevant legislation

Section 2 of the RMA defines "industrial or trade premises" as excluding "production land". "Production land" in turn is defined as

(a) any land and auxiliary buildings used for the production (but not processing) of primary products (including agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, and forestry products):
(b) Does not include land or auxiliary buildings used or associated with prospecting, exploration, or mining for minerals—

The definition is important because other parts of the RMA limit the discharge of contaminants from "industrial or trade premises". For example, s15 of the Act bars the discharge of any contaminant into water, or any contaminant from industrial or trade premises into the air or into or onto land - a formulation which makes it very difficult to regulate cowshit, fertiliser, agricultural chemicals or pesticides under the RMA (some of these things may be regulated under other legislation, e.g. the HSNO Act).

Potential changes

Delete the line "but does not include any production land" from the definition of "industrial or trade premises", and the associated definition of "production land" from s2.

A transitional provisions clause would need to be inserted to govern the grant of resource consents to farmers.


  • There is no majority for this. The bill would be symbolic only, aimed at positioning the relevant party and forcing the government to vote it down.
  • Such a move would provoke a significant backlash from rural New Zealand.
  • The effects on forestry and horticulture need to be fully explored.

Resource Management (Farming Inclusion) Amendment Bill

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