Following a wet winter, Bay of Plenty Regional Council is again reminding rural communities to think twice before grazing stock on stopbanks.
Asset management specialist Kirsty Brown says the council manages and maintains almost 352km of stopbanks across the region to protect people, property and livelihoods.
Wetter soil conditions, combined with heavy animals, can weaken and damage the region's flood defence systems.
"During winter it is common sense to keep cattle off the stopbanks as much as possible to prevent the pugging and damage they can cause.
"Most farmers and lifestyle block owners know this and manage their stock accordingly, but there have been recent cases of severe damage on these vitally important community-owned assets."
Good grass cover on a stopbank helps to 'knit together' the soil structure underneath, so churned up ground is not just a surface problem, it can cause much greater issues.
"A weakened area can have a disastrous effect on surrounding properties and potentially the wider community."
It is an offence to damage stopbanks, and landowners can be held liable for any damage.
Minor offences will receive written and verbal warnings, while more serious offences could face abatement notices, fines and prosecution.
"Our rivers and drainage staff keeps an eye on our stopbanks to ensure farmers are doing the right thing," she said.
"There is too much at stake to risk flood damage to the properties and surrounding communities."