Thursday, 29 October 2020 11:54

State funding for riparian planting

Written by  Staff Reporters
More than 600km of Taranaki river and stream banks will be planted with a million native plants next winter. More than 600km of Taranaki river and stream banks will be planted with a million native plants next winter.

More than 600km of Taranaki river and stream banks will be planted with a million native plants next winter as the region’s farmers take advantage of a $5 million government boost.

The funding for the Transforming Taranaki riparian management programme will allow eligible farmers to buy native plants for $1 each, create 80 new jobs and bring environmental benefits to the entire region.  

The Taranaki Regional Council scheme has been running for 27 years, with farmers voluntarily planting and fencing thousands of kilometres of waterways. In that time Council officers have prepared nearly 3,000 individual riparian plans, and more than 6.2 million plants have been distributed at cost.

The programme’s goal is improved water quality and an increase in biodiversity, with the plants providing habitat for native birds and cover for aquatic species.

About 900,000 plants are being contract-grown for the 2021 winter planting season. The opportunity to buy $1 plants will be offered to Council plan holders in the intensively farmed zone of the Taranaki ring plain and coastal marine terraces, with priority given to those who have demonstrated a strong commitment to riparian planting and fencing over the years.  

If eligible, they can order between 500 and 2,000 plants per plan.

The cost includes planting by Council-arranged contractors, whereas previously that had been the responsibility of the landowner.  Plan holders will be required to erect fences to protect the plants, estimated to be worth $4.1 million.  The value of the combined fencing and planting is expected to be near $10.8 million.

Council land services manager Don Shearman says the funding is great news for the region. 

“Taranaki farmers have put in years of hard work planting and fencing their waterways all at their own cost – because they know it’s the right thing to do. And many are now so close to completing their plans.

“This funding will save them thousands of dollars, plus precious time, allowing them to push forward to the finishing line.

“We’re already seeing environmental benefits from the programme, with a NIWA study last year finding many Taranaki sites had the best water quality they’d had since 1995. We’re excited to see the improvements continue.”

The $5 million came from the Public Waterways and Ecosystem Restoration Fund, administered by the Ministry for the Environment. It is part of the Government’s wider Jobs for Nature Programme, part of its COVID-19 recovery package.

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Restoring our freshwater systems

OPINION: When I started writing this piece, I was sitting in my Kaiapoi office on a sweltering 30-degree summer’s day, and I could hear faint “plops” as youngsters pulled “phat manus” and “bombs” off the bridge into the Kaiapoi River as generations before them have done.

Do they know that the river is deemed “unsuitable” for swimming with E. coli levels of up to 2,420 per 100ml? This information is available on LAWA’s website, Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) - Can I swim here? It makes for sobering reading. With levels this high, we should supply these youngsters with full PPE gear to wear over their shorts. The saddest fact is that this story is repeating itself from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

We are witnessing the systemic collapse of New Zealand’s freshwater systems as our environment can no longer handle the extreme pressure we have placed on it through decades of urban and rural intensification. We have taken too much from our environment and we must start giving back.

Change is coming with a renewed focus on healthy waterways through the National Policy for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), which the Government announced in August 2020, as well as Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (PC7), which progressed through submissions and a hearing in front of independent hearing commissioners last year.

I attended the PC7 hearing in December and it boosted my spirits to observe the passion our community has for improving Waimakariri’s waterways. I hope the changes that come out of PC7 will be bold and far reaching.

The concept of Te Mana o te Wai underpins the NPS-FM and places the highest value on the health of freshwater systems. This philosophy is the new basis for how we, as a society, interact with our environment. The NPS-FM creates a framework for change, but we must also change how we think as council bodies, as communities, as businesses, and as individuals about how our systems/practices must shift from productive growth mode to sustainability mode, and how we can live within an acceptable environmental footprint. On an individual level, we need to realise how, over the long term, that wet paddock or riverbed block would benefit the planet if it were left to revert to a wetland or a more natural state.

This year the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee will focus on priority areas and working with the community to improve our waterways.

We will support change through three newlyformed catchment groups – the Sefton Saltwater Creek Catchment Group, the Landcare Working Group, and the Biodiversity Group.

We are ahead of the curve in Waimakariri in terms of engaging with farmers, waterway conservation groups and the wider community, but we still have a long journey ahead to restore our rivers and streams.

We must work together in a united way to leave our land and water for future generations to inherit in a better state than when we found it.

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua - As man disappears from sight, the land remains.

Michael Blackwellis is chair of Waimakariri Water Zone Committee.

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