Farmers in Hawke's Bay have now experienced two successive years of bad droughts, which has stretched their farm management skills to the limit. Watching this and working with farmers to mitigate the problems are two experienced AgFirst farm consultants based in Hastings - Lochie MacGillivray and Phil Tither. They talked with reporter Peter Burke about what they have seen and what works best.
Over two years, the Hāpara Takatū project will establish 195 kilometres of new riparian fencing to exclude all classes of stock from vulnerable waterways across the region; reducing erosion, enabling riparian plantings to grow and create jobs.
All thanks to a $4.2 million Jobs for Nature partnership between the Ministry for the Environment and Hawke's Bay Regional Council.
Knauf's wetland fencing is one of 70 projects across Hawke's Bay, funded by the Jobs for Nature Hāpara Takatū project. The QEII National Trust and Fonterra also made financial contributions to fencing off Knauf's wetland.
It is claimed the project will generate more jobs in the region, with fencing contractors expanding their workforce.
Knauf has established four kilometres of fencing around the wetland to keep out feral deer and other animals from feeding on native plants and trees.
"This fencing is a crucial first step to restor the wetland and improve freshwater quality," he says. "The next step is to manage willow trees, blackberries and other weeds to allow the native bush to flourish, and native birdlife to return."
Secretary for the Environment, Vicky Robertson, says it's wonderful to see landowners across Hawke's Bay getting involved in the project.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council ecologist Keiko Hashiba says the wetland on Knauf's land is a critical biodiversity area for indigenous wetland flora and fauna who have lost the majority of their habits across the region.
"Ten percent of Hawke's Bay used to be covered in wetlands - around ten times the size of Napier. There is only 4% of the original extent left, and most of the wetlands we have today are very small and isolated.
"The restoration of this wetland will mean it will become a vital habitat for threatened species, a better functioning 'kidney' for filtering contaminants from the land, a water reservoir and carbon storage for our region."
The council's catchment team leader Warwick Hesketh says that, in most cases, fencing waterways is the single most effective thing farmers can do to protect water quality and restore sensitive freshwatr ecosystems.
"To us this is about partnering with out community, not just to fence off waterways for water quality benefits," he says. "But also enhancing biodiversity, recreation, mahinga kai - those things that are so important to us as New Zealanders."