Sustainable Land Management Hill Country Erosion Programme

The Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Hill Country Erosion Programme aims to increase protection of highly erodable land. It does this by focusing on building the technical capacity of regional councils and providing targeted funding for catchment initiatives.

About the Programme

The SLM Hill Country Erosion Programme focuses on building the technical capacity of regional councils and providing targeted funding for catchment initiatives.

It arises from a Cabinet directive in October 2006 for MPI to lead the development of a long-term programme for central government engagement in sustainable land management.

The Programme aims to increase protection of highly erodable land through local government initiatives.

A total budget of $2.3 million per year (exclusive of GST) is allocated to maintain the Programme. Of this, $2 million per year is allocated for the SLM Hill Country Erosion Fund. Another $250,000 is available for capacity building initiatives, which includes $200,000 for establishing or enhancing catchment facilitation groups and $50,000 for training initiatives.

The Hill Country Erosion Programme is a targeted intervention, but it fits within a wider sustainability agenda for improving water and soil management, and encouraging communities to adopt a total catchment management perspective towards sustainable land management.

Why protect erosion-prone hill country?

Protecting erosion-prone hill country prevents damage to both rural and urban businesses, communities and infrastructure.

Annual costs associated with hill country erosion are estimated at $100 to $150 million. This is through loss of soil and nutrients, lost production, damage to houses, fences, roads, phone and power lines, and damage to waterways.

Heavy rain and other adverse weather events can increase the risk of erosion in the hill country. Erosion leads to flooding, which in turn can devastate farm production. Under heavy rainfall, up to 10 percent of erosion-prone land under pasture can be lost.

Serious floods place huge social and financial costs on rural and urban communities. For example, in February 2004, exceptionally heavy rain in the lower North Island caused severe erosion in the hill country and resulted in extensive flooding across much of the Manawatu-Wanganui region. A similar scenario played out in the Bay of Plenty in 2005. Following these floods, central government provided approximately $198 million to compensate farmers for lost production, to rebuild roads and bridges, and for rates relief. Stabilisation of land at risk of slipping will guard against this.

Using forestry to protect erosion-prone hill country can reduce the damage from 10 percent of a catchment to 1 percent.

It is predicted that climate change will increase the risk and magnitude of extreme weather events.

Erosion prone regions

Regions that are particularly prone to hill country erosion and the consequent high risk of flooding are Northland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Greater Wellington, Manawatu-Wanganui and Taranaki. Parts of Eastern Bay of Plenty and Waikato are also prone to erosion and flooding, but to a lesser degree.

Programme objective

The Programme’s objective is to produce a long-term shift in management practices on erosion prone hill country.

Programme components

The Programme has four closely-related work areas:

  • Critical Resource Information - to comprise of a science stock take and a modelling project of "erosion and landslide risk" areas.
  • Capacity Building Initiatives - MPI is conscious of the critical role regional council land sustainability officers play in providing information to land owners and managers. These officers are one of the primary sources of material to the farming community on new land management practices. Under the stream of Capacity Building Initiatives, MPI is working with regional councils to develop and deliver targeted training packages, on a regional basis, to support and supplement the knowledge base of regional council land sustainability officers.
    MPI also provides funding to establish catchment facilitation groups in high priority catchments (or sub-catchments). The aim of this capacity building is to advance the adoption of remedial management practices, provide a forum for dialogue and promote the concept of Total Catchment Management. The Programme supports these groups by funding facilitators through the relevant regional council.
    Funding of $0.25 million per year has been allocated to develop training and skill packages for regional council land sustainability officers and manage the facilitation groups. This includes $200,000 for the establishment or enhancement of catchment facilitation groups and $50,000 for training initiatives.
  • SLM Hill Country Erosion Fund - a contestable fund to provide targeted support for regional council initiatives that promote sustainable land management practices.
  • Leadership - to manage the day to day implementation of the Programme and set a longer term direction in line with other government initiatives.


Case Studies

Dealing to drought: Using deferred grazing to improve pasture on sheep and beef farms
Phil and Louise Alexander shut up 20 percent of their farm for four months over summer, and let those pastures go, giving them feed at a later date when a shortage of pasture occurs as well as many other benefits.

Hill country erosion: Stabilising land on Mangapapa Station, Waitotara
A large area of Mangapapa Station would be at risk if areas prone to slump erosion were left untreated, but David and Karen Peat have been steadily reducing the risk by planting poplars over the last 25 years.

Focus on resilience: Farming on steep Hawke’s Bay hills
Trees for soil conservation plantings and fodder, stock which are more tolerant to parasites and facial eczema, and targeted inputs into specific land classes are all ways Wairoa farmer Dave Read is making his farm more resilient.

More information

Afforestation Schemes Review report, August 2011


Related Links


Last Updated: 23 October 2012

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