Manawatu Wanganui Regional Council says no farmer will be stopped from intensive farming in the meantime, after it heard some were on suicide watch over its proposed environmental regulations.
Chairman Bruce Gordon said it has become clear some of the demands of its One Plan are unachievable, and that has resulted in groups of farmers being placed on suicide watch.
The One Plan said to reduce farm-nutrient loss and to improve freshwater quality and boost biodiversity in the region.
Mr Gordon said the council's announcement is designed to alleviate some of the pressure on those who are "stressed to the max".
"The council had to do something to give them certainty, and to give them a reason for getting out of bed and going to work in the morning."
All intensive farmers will be granted consents but for varying lengths of time to give them a chance to meet the requirements of the One Plan, which it will start to implement from next year.
The plan is still being challenged in the High Court by Horticulture New Zealand and Federated Farmers.
Mr Gordon said farmers who meet the nitrogen leaching targets will be granted consents for 20 to 25 years.
Those who are working towards those targets will get a consent for 15 to 20 years. Those who have done nothing to reduce leaching will still receive consents of three to five years to give them time to come up with mitigation measures.
Mr Gordon said farmers in the area have done a huge amount to reduce their impact on the environment.
He said the region had 900 dairy farms discharging effluent from their sheds directly into waterways a decade ago. Today, he said, there are none.