Feeding the world’s growing population

New Zealand’s reputation as a quality food producer is growing.

Optimising food production

Over the next 50 years farmers around the world will need to produce more food than has been grown over the past 10,000 years.

Best use from a limited resource

Fertiliser helps farmers produce food efficiently by replenishing the soil. But fertiliser needs to be used responsibly.

Responsible and sustainable nutrient management

The Fertiliser Association invests in research and tools to ensure farm profitability while minimising nutrient losses to the environment.

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand promotes and encourages responsible and scientifically-based nutrient management.

Read more

Appendix 1: Legislation And Fertiliser Use

Fertiliser products covered by the Code

The Code is intended to cover the full range of products that are used, known as or seen as fertilisers, and are recognised as such under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997, and the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2001. If there is any uncertainty about whether a given product is considered a ‘fertiliser’, this Code specifically covers:

“Any substance (whether solid or fluid in form) which is described as or held out to be for, or suitable for, sustaining or increasing the growth, productivity, or quality of plants or animals through the application of the following essential nutrients to plants or soils:

nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, calcium, chlorine, sodium, as major nutrients or manganese, iron, zinc, copper, boron, cobalt, molybdenum, iodine, selenium, as minor nutrients or additives”


“Any other product which is considered to meet identified soil or plant nutrient deficiencies and is applied with this as the principle objective. Products discharged or applied as part of a waste treatment process require resource consents. Products that have received resource consent and will be used as a nutrient source should comply with the principles of the Code.”

To be considered a fertiliser under this Code, any product shall be free from pathogens or any other agents which could effect disease and pest transmission.

Substances not specifically manufactured as a fertiliser (e.g dairy shed effluent, chicken litter and manures) may be subject to specific legislative requirements not covered in this Code.


Various regulatory and other industry or quality assurance requirements affect the use and application of fertiliser. The main legislative requirements are the Resource Management Act (1991), the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act (1997) (ACVM), Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Regulations (2001), the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO), the Transport Act 1985 and the Transport Law Reform Act 1990. The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE) is also relevant in relation to safe workplace requirements.


The principal item of legislation that affects the application of fertiliser is the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

Part 1 of the Act - Interpretation and Application

Section 2. Interpretation

The RMA does not define what a fertiliser is but does define contaminant.
“Contaminant” includes any substance (including gases, liquids, solids, and micro-organisims) or energy (excluding noise) or heat, that either by itself or in combination with the same, similar, or other substances, energy, or heat -
(a) When discharged into water, changes or likely to change the physical, chemical, or biological condition of the water; or
(b) When discharged onto or into land or into air, changes or is likely to change the physical, chemical, or biological condition of the land or air onto or into which it is discharged.

Fertiliser, along with numerous other substances, is regarded as a “contaminant”.

Part 2 of the Act states that:

Section 5. Purpose

  1. The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical
  2. In this Act, “sustainable management” means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural wellbeing and for their health and safety while
    1. Sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and
    2. Safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and
    3. Avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

Part 3 Duties and Restrictions under this Act

Section 15. Discharges of contaminants into the environment

  1. No person may discharge any
    1. Contaminant or water into water; or (b) Contaminant onto or into land in circumstances which may result in that contaminant (or any other contaminant emanating as a result of natural processes from that contaminant) entering water; or
    2. Contaminant from any industrial or trade premises into air; or (d) Contaminant from any industrial or trade premises onto or into land unless the discharge
      is expressly allowed by a rule [in a regional plan and in any relevant proposed regional plan], a resource consent or regulations.
  2. No person may discharge any contaminant into the air, or into or onto land, from
    1. Any place; or
    2. Any other source, whether moveable or not, in a manner that contravenes a rule in a regional plan or proposed regional plan unless the discharge is expressly allowed by a resource consent or regulations, or allowed by section 20A (certain existing lawful activities allowed).

Regional and District Councils prepare resource management policies and plans under the RMA. The plans of Regional Councils usually include rules that govern various activities, including the discharge of contaminants. The definition of a ‘contaminant’ given in the RMA includes fertilisers. The discharge of contaminants into the environment, which includes the application of fertiliser, is covered in Section 15 of the Act. Section 17 of the RMA states that every person has “a duty to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on the environment.” As a result, rules governing the discharge of contaminants may appear in Regional Plans including Regional Air, Water, and Land plans. For nutrients derived from waste products the rules may be contained in Regional Waste Plans.

The Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997 (ACVM)

This legislation covers the requirements for the fertiliser group of agricultural compounds. Fertilisers are broadly defined as substances or products that are used to encourage plant growth but are further classed as either:

  • Fertilisers – used to provide nutrients to encourage plant health and growth
  • Fertiliser additives – used to adjust the chemical or biological characteristics of soil to facilitate uptake and use of nutrients
  • Soil conditioners – used to adjust the physical characteristics of soil.

All products that are either fertilisers or fertiliser additives are exempt from registration under the ACVM Regulation 9 as long as the requirements of the ACVM Regulations that cover the import, manufacture and trade in fertilisers and fertiliser additives are met. This means that the fertiliser must be fit for the purpose specified in the directions for use and include a label at the point of sale detailing information such as trade name, nutrient content, modifying pH, details of any precautions to be taken to prevent or manage risk and directions for use. The Fertmark Code is a compliant Code under ACVM.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO)

The Minimum Degrees of Hazard Regulations 2001 and Hazardous Substances Regulations 2001 determine and describe the hazardous properties of substances. Some fertilisers may be hazardous substances under these regulations, in which case any controls applied under the HSNO regulations must be complied with. The controls may relate to any stage of the life cycle of the substance including manufacturing, transport, storage, use or disposal.

Most fertilisers fit into an Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) group standard called ‘subsidiary’. ERMA administers HSNO. Provisions around this group standard relate to labeling, signage, safety data sheets, advertising, storage and health and safety and transport. In general these provisions only affect the fertiliser companies. However, if the fertiliser is classified under the oxidiser group standard (e.g. nitrate products such as ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate) then there are additional restrictions applied to the land manager (who must be an approved handler) and quantities stored on the property.

Transport Act 1987 and Transport Law Reform Act 1991

Users will comply with the requirements of the Transport Act and Transport Regulations when transporting fertiliser by road. Under these Acts it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure:

  • All freight is correctly restrained
  • All hazardous substances are segregated correctly,
  • The drivers license has the appropriate endorsements
  • The safety equipment required, which is provided by the carrier is used.

The carrier is responsible for ensuring that this is achieved. All carriers shall be aware of the Operators Handbook for the Transport of Hazardous Substances by Road (Land Transport Safety Authority).

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE)

All employers and self-employed people must also comply with the Health and Safety in Employment Act. The key focus of this Act requires that people must:

a) As employers, identify hazards to employees at work and manage these so that people are not harmed. Note that a driver’s place of work includes the vehicle being driven.

b) As employees, ensure personal safety and the safety of others, including using safety equipment as instructed.

Staff on the area being treated must know about the fertiliser application. Employees have a duty to comply with safety directives (including using safety equipment as instructed) to ensure their personal safety and the safety of others. Fertiliser users should seek information about their products from the supplier or a qualified consultant.

A safety data sheet should be available for all products used on the property.

Legislation and other nutrient management activities

Most nutrient management activities are covered by the Resource Management Act 1991. Check with the local Regional Council for specific requirements relating to these activities. There may also be other legislation and regulations that cover other operational activities undertaken on the property. Again check with the Regional Council for these.

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand and Dairy NZ funded development of the Nutrient Management Adviser Certification Programme (NMACP). This industry-wide certification aims to ensure that advisers have the learning, experience and capability to give sound nutrient advice.

Find out more

7 September 2022

The 2022 AgriTechNZ Baseline of Digital Adoption in Primary Industries report was released in August.

Created as part of a study by AgriTechNZ and insights partner Research First, the report was co-designed with partners The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand, Zespri, The Foundation of Arable Research and DairyNZ. It was also supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries as part of the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures initiative (SFFF).

The 60-page report looks at digital adoption, including key drivers and barriers across the dairy, horticulture, arable and beef/sheep sectors.

You can download the report here.

6 July 2022

The British Society of Soil Science has published a research article in the Soil Use and Management Journal detailing the latest analysed data from the long-running Winchmore Fertiliser Trial in Canterbury.

The paper was written by Driss Touhami of the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Lincoln University. Touhami is also a member of the AgrioBioSciences Program, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Ben Guerir, Morocco.

The paper, titled "Effects of long-term phosphorus fertilizer inputs and seasonal conditions on organic soil phosphorus cycling under grazed pasture", was co-authored by Leo Condron Richard McDowell and Ray Moss.  The report can be viewed here.

Read more about the long-running Winchmore trial on the FANZ website here.

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