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Last updated: 27 January 2014
Name of Applicant Group: Taranaki Regional Council
Contact person: Don Shearman
Address: Taranaki Regional Council, Private Bag 713, Stratford 4352
Telephone: 06 765 7127
Related website links:
Status: In progress
HCEF funding: $1,063,000
Total project funding: $3,108,000
Proposed start date: 2009/10
Proposed finish date: 2012/13
The aim of STRESS is to reduce the effects of accelerated, erosion-induced sediment generation, in the Waitotara Catchment. This will be achieved through the change to more sustainable land uses or the implementation of soil conservation practices by landowners. The project is focussed on the Waitotara Catchment in South Taranaki, but also includes other "hot spot" areas in the region under pastoral farming.
The Taranaki Regional Council's Sustainable Land Management Programme has provided on-going targeted investment to reduce the risk of accelerated erosion in the Taranaki hill country. Through comprehensive farm planning, Council works with individual landholders to implement measures that reduce the risk of accelerated erosion and the subsequent sediment that ends up in our waterways and marine environment.
In the Waitotara catchment, 60 percent of the land in private ownership is covered by farm plans addressing 60 percent of the land with a high erosion potential. This effort will now be complemented through the funding for this project which will result in soil conservation works implemented on the ground.
STRESS will accelerate and deliver an enhanced soil conservation programme targeting the Waitotara catchment and other "at risk" areas in the region. Landowners will contribute to poplar and willow planting, close-spaced planting of gullies, and retirement fencing of existing and reverting vegetation. By the end of four years, STRESS is expected to have achieved 733 hectares of soil conservation plantings, 400 hectares of close-spaced forestry plantings, 200 hectares of retirement and 40 kilometres of fencing.
The Waitotara catchment is the largest in Taranaki at 119,570 hectares and represents 16 percent of the region. 80,303 hectares is in private ownership and the rest is Department of Conservation estate. The geology of the catchment consists of a mixture of sand country, alluvial river flats, marine terraces and tephra mantled downlands, mudstone and siltstone hill country, moderately and consolidated sand stone hill country and slump prone land. These landforms are typical of the lower North Island hill country formed from Upper Tertiary and Quaternary (recent) aged sediments that are susceptible to accelerated erosion.
The catchment has a history of storm events resulting in erosion, flooding and other storm related damage. Records of storm events in the Waitotara catchment document significant damage occurring in 1869, 1891,1903, 1904, 1924, 1936, 1971, 1990, 1999, 2004 and 2006. Landcare Research satellite imagery after the 2004 event, showed 465 hectares of landslides (slip scar and debris trails) occurred in the Waitotara catchment. This was estimated at $6,321,495 worth of damage on private land on an estimated 30 properties. Conservatively, overall damage in the catchment was estimated to be over $11,000,000.
The six kilometre stretch of SH3 crossing the Waitotara catchment is of strategic value in that it is the only road directly linking people, industries, services and facilities in Taranaki with major centres south of Taranaki. There are also approximately 250 kilometre of local roads that service the Waitotara catchment. These roads are generally adjacent to the watercourses or traverse the flood plains and are therefore at risk from flood events.
The coastal settlement of Wainui is situated at the mouth of the river and is inhabited by about 50 residents. Sediment discharge and deposition from the Waitotara River affects the coastal marine environment. The Waitotara township was evacuated in 2004 as a result of flooding.
Council will utilise its existing, three hill country land management officers (LMOs) to deliver the outcomes of STRESS. Officers will use land use capability mapping to prepare comprehensive farm plans for 10,000 hectares of hill country per year. In particular, emphasis will be on targeting the remaining landowners in the Waitotara catchment for new farm plans. Existing and new farm plans will be the basis for identifying property resources, developing and implementing works programmes that reduce erosion.
With the support of the project's hill country advisory group, a community meeting will be held in the catchment to publicly announce the opportunities under STRESS. Council already has an excellent relationship with its farm plan holders and from September through to December, will consult plan holders in the catchment to individually promote and develop their work programmes. From January onwards, plan holders outside of the catchment will be targeted.
Landholders will be kept updated on the progress through regular liaison with LMOs, Council's hill country newsletter and liaison with the hill country advisory group.
For the last 20 years, Council has continued to address soil conservation issues in the hill country through its sustainable land management programme. Annually, new properties are introduced into the programme by preparing and servicing Comprehensive Farm Plans and Agroforestry Plans. Consequently, over 386 plans have been prepared which cover over 64% of the hill country in private ownership. Through preparing and servicing farm plans, excellent working relationships have been established with landholders which has allowed the STRESS programme to be delivered effectively and efficiently. All STRESS funding is directed to actual soil conservation works on the ground such as retirement fencing, forestry establishment and pole planting. Since its introduction, STRESS has been incorporated into Council’s Annual and Long Term Plans and remains the primary driver for the implementation of soil conservation works in Taranaki’s eastern hill country.
The majority of work undertaken in the October reporting period is pole planting, forestry establishment and fencing. The majority of retirement fencing will be completed throughout the summer and will be captured in the May 2014 reporting period. Sixty three landholders have participated in STRESS during this reporting period, of which 19 are within the Waitotara Catchment. The total amount of grant money spent in this reporting period is $95,162.
One of Council’s 2013-14 annual plan targets aligned with STRESS is to prepare farm plans covering 3000 ha - addressing 500ha of land with a high erosion potential (HEP). Land with a HEP is land on any land use capability units of class 6e or greater and in pasture. Farm planning preparation is underway and will be reported on in the next reporting period.
In total, 6,781 metres of fencing was erected for this period. 4,039 metres was for fencing to retire 64 hectares of marginal land and a further 2,742 metres of forestry fence was erected. Twenty eight hectares of forestry was established.
Previously, Council has spent considerable time on delivering the Regional Council Pool of the Afforestation Grant Scheme. However, this scheme has now been discontinued with minimal resources now required from TRC.
In summary, STRESS funding has been successful in stimulating landholders to implement more soil conservation works than before its introduction. Combined with the excellent delivery and service by Council’s sustainable land management programme, the mitigation of hill country erosion is being achieved. Landowners are well aware of the scheme and are planning works in advance on the expectation that the scheme continues in the future. However, forestry area targets continue to be difficult to achieve due to the 5ha restriction per entity and pole targets will not be met because of pole supply issues. It is estimated that there is only demand for 4-5000 poles from planholders - when full supply is available.
STRESS has now completed a full winter's forestry establishment and pole planting cycle. Sixty nine ha of close-spaced forestry planting for erosion control were established; 3695 three metre poplar and willow poles planted and12.5 km of fencing erected to protect forestry plantings and retire 112ha of reverting land.
Council continues to promote the scheme to landholders in the Waitotara Catchment as first priority and the rest of the region thereafter. Completion of works programmes in the Waitotara Catchment is planned for 1st December.
Farmers are now more aware of the scheme through ongoing liaison with Land Management Officers, publicity through Council's hill country newsletter, newspaper articles and word of mouth amongst the rural community.
A variation to targets and milestones has now synchronized reporting with the actual implementation date for works on the ground. A restriction of less than 5ha of forestry per entity has made the original target of 100ha per year difficult to achieve and has subsequently been reduce to 50ha per year. To compensate for the lesser forestry area, retirement fencing has been increased from 10km to 20km and the area retired increased from 50ha to 70ha.
To date, there are forty nine participants in the scheme, with 19 of the estimated 40 in the Waitotara catchment taking part. Farm plans are currently being prepared in the Waitotara Catchment and wider region, with the objective of covering 500ha of Land Use Capability classes 6 & 7 land in pasture.
Administration of the scheme is fully functional with a job-cost coding system in place to complete the financial management. This has been set up to record all STRESS works within Council's existing financial management system and to aid reporting.
Currently, individual plan holders in the Waitotara catchment are being visited by Land Management Officers (LMOs) before 1st of December 2010 to prepare their works programmes for the current period. Afterwards, the rest of the region will be included in the promotion to allocate the full 20 kms of fencing. Forestry blocks and pole planting are also being promoted at the same time. LMOs are simultaneously auditing around 178h of forestry plantings in the Waitotara Catchment under the Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS) which complements the work on the ground implemented through STRESS. Retirement of eroding areas – particularly inaccessible gullies - through fencing and forestry planting is proving a useful tool. Traditionally these areas are not high priority for farmers due to the disproportionate cost of fencing relative to the area.
Overall, STRESS is still being well received by plan holders through ongoing promotion by Council. All funds obtained through STRESS are going into works on the ground which will help mitigate against erosion and achieve sustainable land management in the hill country.
To implement STRESS, a planning phase was completed to provide direction for delivery of the project. A protocols and procedures document was drawn up by the project team and the STRESS hill country advisory group. Once this was finalised, 2 public meetings were held on 28 October 2009 in Waverly and Ngamatapouri respectively, to promote the options available to planholders.
Following the public meetings, individual planholders in the Waitotara catchment were contacted by 3 Land Management Officers before 25 December 2009 to promote and gauge interest in potential works programmes. After confirmation of intent by the land owner, a works programme and claims form was created relating to each farm plan along with an accompanying GIS file of the proposed work. Once the works programme was signed by the plan holder, STRESS funds were allocated to each project.
Twenty nine of the estimated 40 planholders in the catchment now have signed works programmes committing to undertake their works within the current financial year ending 30 June. A further 4 land owners are participating in STRESS, outside of the Waitotara Catchment. New farmplans are also under preparation in the Waitotara Catchment covering a further 1351ha of farmland. To date, 2620 has of LUC class 6 and & 7 land in pasture has been mapped under a farm plan of which 300ha is within the Waitorara Catchment. Regionally, new farm plans are expected to cover a further 8000ha of land under private ownership for the financial year.
In conjunction with the promotion of STRESS, LMOs have also been promoting and administering applications to the Regional Council Pool of the Afforestation Grant Scheme. To date, a total of 770ha of forestry has been approved to the value of 1.56 million dollars. Applications for a further 72 ha have been submitted to the national allocation panel for approval to plant in the 2011-12 planting year. Approximately 305 ha of predominantly exotic forestry have been approved for planting in the Waitotara Catchment under the AGS. Planting will be occurring over the next 2 winters.
To protect public investment, a memorandum of encumbrance (attach copy) has been created to protect forestry and fencing works over the value of $5000 of funding received. Poplar pole planting and works under the value of $5000 will be protected with a memorandum of understanding.
Orders for poplar poles are expected to reach 4000, some fencing is underway but most is in the preparation stage with forestry planting not occurring until June. The < 5h forestry block limit per entity has made the target of 100 ha (at least 20 different entities required) more difficult to achieve. LMOs initially focused on promoting small forestry blocks to reach a target of 100ha, however, through mutual agreement with MAF this funding can be transferred into retirement fencing or pole planting. Consequently, there is likely to be an increase in interest for the fencing options in the future.
Overall, STRESS is being well received by planholders and cements the existing working relationship with LMOs. Synergies are gained through this central government initiative and Council’s existing Sustainable Land Management Programme to achieve sustainable landuse in the hill country.