Legal Framework for Land Based Aquaculture

Land-based aquaculture is not as simple as just buying a farm and setting up tanks or ponds. There are a multitude of legal requirements.

The Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) manages land-based aquaculture farming under the provisions of the Freshwater Fish Farming Regulations 1983 (the Regulations), made under the Fisheries Act 1996. These Regulations require a fish-farm licence granted by MPI to farm those species of fish gazetted for farming for sale.

Freshwater Fish Farming Regulations 1983

The Regulations apply to all fish farming above the mean high-water mark and include cage farming in freshwater canals and aquaria inside buildings. Farming on land using seawater or brackish water (either pumped in from the sea or circulated around the farm), are also subject to the Regulations.  

Before applying for a fish-farm licence, a Resource Consent (RC) from the relevant local council is required under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). This may include consents to establish or construct a fish farm, consents to install pipelines under the foreshore and consents to take and discharge water.

Applying for a Resource Consent/

The RMA process

The RMA process

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)/Adverse Impact Assessment (AIA)/Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) may be required to determine the likely effects and risks to the environment and social makeup of the area. In straightforward cases most impacts are addressed within the RC application. If significant impacts are anticipated a full EIA/AIA/AEE or equivalent study will be required.  

An EIA/AIA/AEE is a thorough study of environmental and social impacts and should be undertaken by experts in the area unless very straightforward. The scope of the study will be prescribed by the local council with input perhaps from the Department of Conservation or other stakeholders.

The Theory: What you Need to Know Before Getting Started

The Resource Management Act can be downloaded from the following link:

resource management amendment act no2 2004

Fish-farm licence applications need to include:

The fee for an aquaculture decision (fish farm licence) is $2008.20 (In 2014). In addition, annual levies are payable to cover administration and compliance costs – these can vary from year to year and are usually set at around $30.

The legal and environmental framework relating to land based aquaculture is summarised at the following link:


The government intends to review the Freshwater Fish Farming Regulations in the future .

It can be a laborious and costly exercise to obtain Resource Consents and Licences to farm fish in NZ . On the positive side it is far easier to obtain these for land based aquaculture as opposed to marine based aquaculture.

A report on applying for consent to establish a LBA facility can be downloaded from the following links:

Applying for consent to establish a LBA facility


The general aquaculture Regulatory framework is explained in detail at these links.

For more information on land-based fish farming, email

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