Friday, 17 February 2017 14:55

Fencing enhances freshwater in many ways

Written by 

Fencing waterways protects freshwater from nutrients, effluent and sediment by excluding stock and creating a buffer between water and the land.

Fencing will help to maintain and improve water quality and create a habitat for birds and freshwater species.

Fencing waterways is a priority under the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord, as follows:

All stock must, by May 2017, be excluded from permanently flowing rivers, streams, drains and springs wider than 1m and deeper than 300mm

All lakes must have all stock permanently excluded by May 2017

Any significant wetlands, as identified in a regional plan or policy statement, must also have all stock permanently excluded by May 2017.

Planning your fencing

Waterway fences must be far enough back to allow for movement/flooding of the waterway.

Start by mapping your waterways and create a fencing plan.

Consider the overall layout of your farm; along with protecting waterways, new fencing can improve grazing management and stock control. Plan out fence lines and crossing points.

Determining where your fence should go

The area between the fence and waterway will slow runoff to filter out bacteria, phosphorus and sediment before it can enter the waterway.

Choose your fence setback depending on how you are going to manage the area. There are four main ways to manage your riparian areas as outlined below. All have the benefit of excluding stock and reducing phosphorous and sediment entering waterways.

Additional benefits and limitations for each option are listed below to help you decide on the fence setback that will best suit your needs.

1. Grass filter strip between fence and waterway

Additional benefits:

Low cost

Small loss of grazing land


Weed control required

No shading of stream

Minimal habitat for bird and aquatic life

Minimal bank stabilisation without deeper rooted vegetation

2. Low planting between fence and waterway

Additional benefits:

Stream bank stability

Small loss of grazing land

Can make use of sprays targeted to broadleaf species

Helps control weed growth

Shade and cover for fish and insect life


Weed control required

Minimal habitat for birdlife

3. Full planting between fence and waterway

Additional benefits:

Reduced drain maintenance

Attractive asset for your farm

Provides shade and keeps water cool

Increased habitat for birds


Higher cost

Larger loss of grazing land

Needs weed control for at least two to three years

May require animal pest control

4. Extend fenced area to include seeps, wetlands, swamps and springs

Additional benefits:

Reduces stock losses

Provide habitat for bird life


May result in loss of grazing land

Needs stringent weed control

Higher cost if planting required

Working in flood-prone areas

- Use fewer upright posts and less wire; this way less debris will catch on the fence.  Do not use netting as it will trap debris.

- Put wires on the downstream back side of posts so the staples can pop and the wire drop rather than pulling out the posts and strainers.

- Use non-barbed staples so wires can pop off more easily.

- Erect fences parallel with the way the stream floods so the fence does not collect debris.

- Set fences further back where active erosion is occurring.

- Construct separate ‘blow-out’ sections across flood channels.

Maintaining access to drains

-Build an electric fence that can be dropped or removed to allow access. e.g. use pinlock insulators so the wires can easily be lowered for machinery to cross.

-Position the fence so that a long-reach digger can reach over the top.

-For wide waterways, place a fence far enough back to allow a digger to work between the fence and the bank. This still allows for a wide grassy margin and you can plant low growing plants on the waterway margin if you wish.

-Do not cut off gateways that give diggers access to neighbouring paddocks.

More like this

New energiser gets smart

A new energiser from Datamars Speedrite range claims to be the first “smart” electric fence unit, alongside an output of 46 joules.



Quality beef bulls wanted

Making quality beef genetics easier for dairy farmers to access is the aim of a new industry partnership.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Caught out?

Was Fonterra caught napping in Australia?

Celebrity welfare

Wannabe kiwi James Cameron is back in the country, under a special visa, to continue filming his movie during the…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter