SLMHCE Project - Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI)

Grant No: 07/01

Lastest update: February 2012

Contact details

Name of Applicant Group: Horizons Regional Council
Contact person: Grant Cooper
Address: Private Bag 11025, Manawatu Mail Centre, Palmerston North 4442
Telephone: 06 952 2822
Email: grant.cooper@horizons.govt.nz
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Project details

Status: In progress
HCEF funding: $5,873,000 (excl GST)
Total project funding: $23,000,000
Proposed start date: 2007/08
Proposed finish date: 2010/11
Region: Manawatu-Wanganui

Project description

SLUI targets farms with 273,000 hectares of Highly Erodible Land (HEL) within the five most at risk sub catchments within the region: Middle Whangaehu; Middle-Lower Rangitikei/Kawhatau; Tiraumea; Upper Oroua and Pohangina; and Upper Turakina.

It seeks to identify issues and effects at a catchment scale and then targets implementation at a farm scale. For each property a Whole Farm Plan (WFP) will be developed. A WFP identifies the best use of the various soils and land classes on a property, including strategies that stabilise HEL. Once the plan is established for a property an implementation schedule will be put in place that ensures physical works are achieved. This allows Horizons to target funding and model outcomes for the longer term.

The issue/opportunity

Flooding across much of the Manawatu in February 2004 prompted Horizons Regional Council to work with Government, community representatives and farmers on a plan to address the source of much of the sediment finding its way into our rivers and streams.

The Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI), which aims to repair and reduce hill country erosion in key catchments, attracted a significant five-year Government funding commitment to match Horizons ratepayer and landowner contributions.

The context/background

Hill country erosion has been an issue for the Manawatu-Wanganui region for most of the twentieth century. The Horizons Regional Council (Horizons) has the largest area of farmed hill country of any region in New Zealand with 1,500,000 ha or 68% of the Region’s total 2,200,000 ha in hill-country. Much of this hill-country is underlain by mud, silt or sandstones that are naturally prone to slipping, slumping and other forms of erosion. In total 450,000 ha of the Region has the potential for severe erosion.

Due to vegetation clearance the hill country has experienced accelerated erosion over the past 100 years. The rate of erosion varies greatly with slope, storm intensity and vegetation cover, with the worst erosion rates recorded in areas of highest storm intensity, steepest slopes, and areas with little or no woody vegetation.

Method

SLUI brings together a number of tools in a coordinated approach to target high priority HEL within catchments and sub-catchments. The majority of these tools are Non-regulatory methods supported by the Region’s proposed One Plan:

Whole Farm Plans – the whole farm plan is the cornerstone of SLUI. Suitably trained individuals or groups will work with landowners to map the farm (land types, soils, vegetation cover and infrastructure), discuss with the landowner the current farm business and processes, carry out an economic/environmental assessment to determine the ‘best’ farming practices in terms of environmental sustainability and economic return, and finally develop and implement a programme of works to achieve this best solution.

Incentives – financial assistance to offset the costs to landowners of making changes to their farming practices, e.g. fencing and retiring land, re-routing access tracks, poplar planting.

Monitoring – to assess the progress and success of the initiative and its roll-out. Without monitoring it is not possible to determine if methods or approaches need to be modified.

Land purchase – the WFP process may identify large areas of a farm or even entire farms which have no sustainable use (i.e. they are unsuited to pasture production or forestry) and retirement is the only option. As a last resort it may be necessary to purchase and retire these farms. Any areas of the farm that can still be used for production purposes will be subdivided from the original block and put back on the market. The remainder will be allowed to revert to native bush, or be planted in permanent forest (where it may be eligible for carbon credits. Land purchase will only be undertaken as a last resort and will not use Central Government funds.

Joint ventures – opportunities exist for landowners, local government and private organisations to enter into joint ventures to establish forestry on those blocks where it is identified that stock farming is no longer sustainable. This approach reduces the cost and risk to the landowner of establishing forestry and allows the landowner to tap into external forestry expertise.

Project update: December 2011

With this update at the end of December 2011 we are now one year into our second HCEF term for SLUI.

SLUI has now been running since 2006 and we are now bedding in some impressive changes to the land use of the region’s hill country:

  • we have now completed 369 Whole Farm Plans covering 280,441 hectares of our region, 28% of our hill country farmland;
  • over 85% of these plans are active (works are being undertaken);
  • over 9,260 hectares of works have been completed, the bulk of this has been afforestation from HCEF and Afforestation Grant Scheme funding;
  • we have planted 5,171,000 million trees;
  • we have erected 280 kilometers of fencing.

This year we remain on track to meet our targets, Whole Farm Plans, works completed, and are running to budget. There is still strong demand for plans and a commitment from landowners to undertake work programmes.

Forestry planting has been completed successfully this winter with over 1,000 hectares of work claimed to date and more still to be inspected. Poplar and willow pole plantings have survived a windy spring and are establishing well. Demand for poles continues to exceed our ability to supply and numbers planted have increased annually since 2006.

Landowner contributions are critical to supporting the programme - through both their time and finances. This year our landowners have contributed $780,000 as their share of the works cost, bringing their overall cash contribution to SLUI of $3.5 million. We also value the support of our wider community and our SLUI Advisory Group met in November taking in a field trip onto some of our highly erosion prone land and viewed an early forestry project.

A draft report from AgResearch “SLUI Outcomes Project” is to be finalised by February, this will “develop indicators for monitoring SLUI outcomes”, i.e. what reduction of sediment into our rivers is being achieved as a result of SLUI works.

Project update: June 2011

At the end of June 2011 the first funding agreement for SLUI was completed and we are now six months into a second 4.5 year term. Lessons learnt in the first stages of this programme have led to some changes being made to the next stage of SLUI but the overall goals, objectives and methods are largely the same.

By the end of June 2011:

  • we had completed 355 Whole Farm Plans covering 275,114 hectares, over 85% of these plans are active (works are being undertaken);
  • over 7,650 hectares of works have been undertaken, the bulk of this has been afforestation from HCEF and Afforestation Grant Scheme funding;
  • we have planted over 4 million trees;
  • we have erected over 230 kilometers of fencing.

This year we have met most of our targets. We did less farm plans but they covered more hectares than planned. Our works programmes were exceeded by around 4% or 162 hectares and we finished on budget.

We have had strong interest from landowners around planting programmes that may include some carbon revenue and we have been active in the promotion of better understanding of the Emissions Trading Scheme for farmers and farm foresters. This has included a newsletter to all SLUI landowners, a newspaper article, liaison with MAF in running local field days and hiring a forestry consultant to provide case study assessments on some properties.

The programme’s success depends upon the support of the government (HCEF), our region’s ratepayers and our landowners. All of the work programmes completed to date have required significant input from the landowners in their own time and in dollar contribution to the works they complete. This year our landowners contributed just under $1 million as their share of the works cost, bringing their overall contribution to date to in excess of $2.7 million. We also value the support of our wider community and a SLUI Advisory Group meets twice a year to give advice on the direction of the programme and to assist with any problems that may arise. This group consists of farmer and farm forestry leaders, local community leaders, scientists from our local CRIs, farm consultants and our own Councilors’. The SLUI programme received strong support from the Manawatu River Leaders’ Forum during the development of the action plan to clean up the river. One of the action plan’s six priorities is to reduce sediment from erosion prone land and the leaders reiterated the importance of the programme’s continuation to address this.

We have also begun a programme of meeting with MAF quarterly to discuss progress with the project and issues and risks we may see ahead of us. These meetings complement the more formal six monthly reporting.

Project update: December 2010

At the end of December 2010 the first funding agreement fro SLUI had been completed. The SLUI programme with HCEF support has become an essential part of the soil conservation efforts within the Horizons Region. Lessons learnt in the first stages of this programme have lead to some changes being made to the next stage of SLUI but the overall goals, objectives and methods are largely the same.

Horizons have worked with landowners to prepare 300 Whole Farm Plans covering over 210,000 hectares of our regions hill country. These plans provide detailed environmental and business analysis of individual properties including a description of the farm and the business, an assessment of the natural resources (land, water, natural resources and consent issues), nutrient management (including an Overseer® Nutrient Budget), an environmental programme and a costing.

This year we are ahead of target in some areas with over 1,000 ha of forestry (nearly 1.5 million trees) planted through grant and AGS funding. Our bush retirement and riparian retirement projects are also well ahead of target.

Finding a reasonable and fair way to record and reimburse landowners for “managed retirement” areas (land where management changes lead to slow reversion and enhancement of scrub and bush) has been a difficult proposition and despite having some landowners very interested in this land use option we have some way to go before we can officially record progress in this area.

In another year that is proving to be difficult for many of our sheep and beef farmers (wet at lambing and droughts over summer) we are still seeing them commit significant amounts of their own time and money to the SLUI programme. There have been 78 individual projects completed and farmers have contributed over $550,000 of their own funds toward the $1,224 million of on farm works so far this year. This is around $80,000 ahead of December last year.

Since 2006 over nearly 450 individual work projects have been completed. The cost of funding these works has been shared between the HCEF and Horizons Sustainable Land Use Initiative and this has contributed to over 6,500 ha of land treated by a variety of methods including; afforestation (through forestry rights, Afforestation Grant Scheme, and straight grants) riparian and bush retirement, space and gully planting of poles and drainage to control slumps.

Horizons remain committed to achieving the SLUI objectives of decreasing the amount of sediment entering our streams and rivers and thus improving water quality and flood protection. The recent approval of further funding from the HCEF reinforces the importance of this project regionally and nationally.

Project update: June 2010

By the end of June 2010 Horizons had worked with landowners to prepare 290 Whole Farm Plans covering over 205,000 hectares of our regions hill country.  These plans provide detailed environmental and business analysis of individual properties including a description of the farm and the business, an assessment of the natural resources (land, water, natural resources and consent issues), nutrient management (including an Overseer® Nutrient Budget), an environmental programme and a costing.

Despite a difficult economic environment for sheep and beef farming, farmers have still undertaken 191 individual grant projects and contributed over $1 million of their own funds toward the $2.4 million of on farm works last year. Since 2006 over 360 individual work projects have been completed. The cost of funding these works has been shared between the HCEF and Horizons Sustainable Land Use Initiative and this has contributed to over 4,700 ha of land treated by a variety of methods including; afforestation (through joint ventures, Afforestation Grant Scheme, and straight grants) riparian and bush retirement, space and gully planting of poles and drainage to control slumps.

Horizons remain committed to achieving the SLUI objectives of decreasing the amount of sediment entering our streams and rivers and thus improving water quality and flood protection.  The recent approval of further funding from the HCEF reinforces the importance of this project regionally and nationally.

Project update: December 2009

By the end of December 2009 Horizons had worked with landowners to prepare 230 Whole Farm Plans providing detailed environmental and business analysis of individual properties. These plans include a description of the farm and the business, an assessment of the natural resources (land, water, natural resources and consent issues), nutrient management (including an Overseer® Nutrient Budget), an environmental programme and a costing.

Our surveying of farmers receiving these plans shows a high level of satisfaction with the plans in relation to their description of the resources and the business. This satisfaction is reflected in the response that 90 percent of landowners intend to implement a work programme this year.

Since the programme began in late 2006 over 250 individual work projects have been completed at various grant rates. The grant cost of these works has been over $1.7 million. The cost of funding these works has been shared between the HCEF and Horizons Sustainable Land Use Initiative and this has contributed to over 3000ha of land treated by a variety of methods including; afforestation (through joint ventures, Afforestation Grant Scheme, and straight grants) riparian and bush retirement, space and gully planting of poles and drainage to control slumps.

Our target for 2009/10 is to complete 100 plans (bringing total plans completed to over 300) and 75 percent of those plans will be in five target catchments.

Project update: June 2009

By the end of June 2009 Horizons had worked with landowners to prepare over 200 Whole Farm Plans providing detailed environmental and business analysis of individual properties. The work plans agreed with landowners are being put into place on many farms, with conservation and commercial forestry planting, fencing of at-risk areas, land retirement and sediment control. In 2008/09 a total of 99 projects were completed involving planting over 273,000 trees and erecting 66 kilometres of fencing.

Project update: December 2008

By the end of December 2008 Horizons had worked with landowners to prepare 152 Whole Farm Business Plans providing detailed environmental and business analysis of individual properties. The work plans agreed with landowners are being put into place on many farms, with conservation and commercial forestry planting, fencing of at-risk areas, land retirement and sediment control.

Project update: June 2008

By the end of June 2008 Horizons had worked with landowners to prepare 133 Whole Farm Business Plans providing detailed environmental and business analysis of individual properties. The work plans agreed with landowners are being put into place on many farms, with conservation and commercial forestry planting, fencing of at-risk areas, land retirement and sediment control.

As weather becomes more extreme and erratic Horizons believes its goal to prepare farm plans for 1500 properties over 10 years will continue to provide benefits for the people of the region and its economy for many generations.

 

Last Updated: 27 February 2012

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