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Last updated: December 2010
Name of Applicant Group: Hawkes Bay Regional Council
Contact person: Peter Manson
Address: Hawkes Bay Regional Council
Telephone: 06 838 8527
Related website links: mcraetrust.co.nz; hbrc.govt.nz
Other links: Report - Linking Profits and Conservation on Hill Country Farmland
Status: In progress
HCEF funding: $595,700 (Wairoa Sediment Reduction Initiative $351,000 Catchment Facilitation Programme $244,700)
Total project funding: $1,200,000
Proposed start date: 2009
Proposed finish date: 2012
Region: Wairoa District, Hawkes Bay
The focus of this project is to reduce the volumes of sediment generated from two catchments of the Wairoa River (Ruakituri and Hangaroa), Whakaki Lake catchment and the Nuhaka/Kopuawhara catchments to the east. The Hangaroa catchment is located in the Gisborne District and any work in that area will be carried out in partnership with Gisborne District Council (GDC). Because soil erosion is difficult to treat in isolation from other farm issues, we will be discussing a wide range of farming outcomes with landowners and managers.
While sediment reduction is the main goal, improved land use and land management on a wider farm scale will improve farm performance and profitability. These gradual changes will naturally include options that deal with unstable land and therefore reduce sediment loads of waterways. A community/catchment approach will be taken, that results in common interests and local issues being addressed.
Objectives for the project (to the end of calendar year 2012) include:
This area of the east coast comprises largely soft rock geology, steep slopes and soils which are young. Furthermore, the district attracts occasional severe rainfall events which have caused large amounts of soil loss and damage to infrastructure and river channels. Extended wet conditions can also cause ongoing soil loss.
The focus catchments each have particular needs. The Ruakituri river is an internationally recognised recreational fishery. The headwaters emanate from Te Urewera National Park, indeed a designated ‘Wilderness Area’. However, there are areas of the lower catchment passing through farmland which are prone to soil erosion, including some areas of earth-flow. Earth-flow erosion has been identified as the highest sediment yielding erosion type.
Whakaki Lake is a highly significant coastal wetland and the Maori Trustees have put a considerable amount of effort into enhancement of the wetland margins. The catchment is largely steep erodible hill country, much of which is farmed. The Kopuawhara and Nuhaka rivers comprise adjacent catchments which are erosion prone and are exposed to very high rainfall events. The Nuhaka catchment has numerous earth-flow areas and both have elements of commercial forestry and farming land uses. The Hangaroa river is one of the main tributaries of the Wairoa river. The catchment is mainly in the Gisborne District but is very large and carries a high sediment load at times. It is envisaged that the project facilitator will be able to work closely with GDC staff and add value to the work already being carried out in the Hangaroa catchment.
The project has access to one full time Land Management Advisor and a part time Catchment Facilitator. Both are backed by existing Hawkes Bay Regional Council (HBRC) Land Management staff.
The intended process requires the facilitator to meet all landowners/managers to familiarise them with the availability of HBRC Land Management Services. He encourages them to take up the offer of the farm plan options, promoting the benefits to their farm business and discusses various land management advice or other inputs that might be needed. The facilitator is also required to develop a good understanding of the wider issues facing each property and its families, which will be brought together at a later date and addressed in community forums.
Both the facilitator and Land Management Advisor will promote the principles of ‘Resilient Farming’ and encourage leading farmers in each area to carry out on-ground trials and demonstrations. HBRC funds are available for this purpose.
Field days will be held on catchment focus farms and if necessary, a single central field day open to the whole district, will be held if enough interest can be generated.
Use of occasional newsletters will help to promote the project and keep it fresh in peoples minds.
Project Facilitator – John Ross (Contractor)
Project Land Management Advisor – Nic Caviale (HBRC Staff)
Project Management – Peter Manson (HBRC Staff)
The project team have been working with farmers to advance the trials and demonstrations which have been developed by farmer groups in the three catchments.
Two factors have impacted on general planned progress; firstly a sudden and belated interest in the ETS and Carbon implications by hill country farmers and secondly a severe storm at Easter.
Staff have been working closely with farmers to align ETS requirements with soil conservation programmes and at the same time helping to inform and direct. While this will have medium to long term benefits, it has slowed work in other areas. The storm has had a two fold effect on the project; firstly assistance in the form of advice has been given to farmers in the two project catchments which were affected (Nuhaka and Whakaki) and secondly pole planting expectations are lower over all due to focus being turned to fence and access reconstruction work. While this is not the case on every property, the average effect has been a reduction in pole orders.
A very useful report was commissioned and received from AgFirst Consultants. A summary page is included and the full report is available. This was noted in the previous project update. The main focus of the report was to provide practical information on some of the hill country pasture species with most potential, Kikuyu management information and some guidelines for hill country shrub browse blocks.
Three news articles have been written; two published in the Wairoa Star and the other made available on the councils web site for general information to flood affected farmers. All three are enclosed with this report.
One newsletter has been published and circulated to farmers in the three catchments. (Enclosed). It has a pre winter reminder; ETS reminder and trial update focus.
All trials have been monitored and a new one has been set up in the Whakaki catchment with Ian McIvor (Plant and Food) to test the effect of poplar girdling (for growth control) on younger trees on their root survival. Photo records have been taken in January. The girdling trial with older poplars is ongoing.
Observations in the pasture management areas: (see newsletter for details) red clover and some white clover appeared to grow well in the mid summer period. This was at the expense of ratstail. The trial was assessed in January and March.
An assessment has been made by DOC staff to give some direction and further ideas for better plant survival and growth in a grazed environment. There has been significant damage from soil erosion in the Easter flood.
Both Nufarm and Agriplus have decided to provide sponsorship for the new trial. A meeting with landowners in March decided on a trial design and location which is now underway on a property with very good profile from the main road.
The tagasaste block at Whakaki was damaged by new slips, however growth is good. The initial block outside the catchment (D Reads property) has grown exceptionally well and has been grazed to control weeds and provide a seedbed.
This area was damaged by the Easter flood. However it is clear that seed applied to wood chip treated slip areas stays on the slope better and has access to better moisture for longer during the season, worm counts are high even on old slip scars and there is a notable increase in biological activity. There is a need for some measurement of porosity, Carbon levels, microinvertebrate activity, pH, conductivity and nutrient levels. Also pasture productivity on a more scientific level is needed. At this stage pasture growth compared with untreated slip scars is most dramatic with chip plus Lucerne, or cocksfoot plus sub clover. More specific data has been collected on a duplicate trial on the flats.
Two Comprehensive farm Plans (CFP) have been prepared: a 520 ha property in the Whakaki catchment and a 1500ha property in the Ruakituri catchment. Another CFP is underway (upgrade from an Erosion Control Plan - ECP) on a 350ha property in the Ruakituri catchment. One ECP has been prepared in the Ruakituri catchment. The larger of the new Farm Plans has been prepared for a proactive owner and it is expected that significant activity will result from this contact.
No pole planting has taken place during this period. However planting will be well under way in July and August. Although several new properties are expected to plant this season, total numbers may be down due to storm affected farmers setting other priorities (fencing, earthworks) and lack of pole availability in the North Island.
A 57ha block has been planted in the Whakaki catchment in June. Further planting by the same landowner will have additional positive impacts on the hydrology and sediment yield in the same catchment.
Two areas on one property totalling 18ha are planned for retirement fencing in the summer of 2011-12.
The Kikuyu group has met in February and discussed trial proposals with two chemical supply sponsors. A trial was set up soon afterwards. The Ruakituri group members have not gathered collectively but have met one on one with the facilitator to further discussions about their goals. The Whakaki Integrated Catchment Group (ICM) met once with representatives from Regional Council, District council and NZTA staff to discuss flooding issues. The marae is involved in ongoing trials using native trees for soil conservation on hill country farm land.
The four focus farms have been visited by individuals and groups. H Alexander (Nuhaka) – hill country species/old poplar removal trials, G Crawshaw (Nuhaka) – Kikuyu control, J Ross (Whakaki) – Chip Wood trials and poplar management trials, N Broad (Whakaki) – Totara/Tagasaste fodder trials.
A topic which is closely aligned to tree planting for soil conservation. There has been a rapidly growing interest in this area after recent publicity. Enquiries from the three catchments have resulted in the facilitator and Land Management Advisor organizing a comprehensive seminar for farmers in August. There will be on farm examples and presentations from accountants, MAF and a private firm. Interest in planting additional trees at closer spacings for carbon is growing and some of this seems to be mis-directed. So there will be an opportunity to better inform farmers of their options, opportunities and practical ways of planting for carbon sequestration.
The project facilitator has met with more farmers in the Ruakituri Valley identifying land based issues. It has been evident that social issues are a high priority for this community and probably reflect a similar trend in other small rural areas. Rising costs and falling revenue, shrinking community and consequently concerns about maintaining the school and bus services, were high on the list. A need for development of the roading infrastructure and the potential for tourism in the valley were also major items. On-farm issues included problems with old trees, access problems and damage from storms, a need for more shelter and shade and a need for more knowledge about growing winter feed crops on fragile (pumice) soils. These issues – especially the land based ones are being followed up through further discussions with leading farmers and promoting regional council services via the newsletter and news articles.
Kikuyu control has attracted a lot of interest in the Nuhaka area alongside a strong following of the dry hill country species trial. Control of, or removal of old poplars has raised some interest and the chip wood trial has yet to be assessed professionally. Re-establishing pasture species on slip scars has proven to be a challenging, yet positive project.
Totara on grazed hill country. Seedlings were established on a Whakaki property in partnership with the Whakaki Marae. Early results show that it will be difficult to establish these trees on an intensively managed property, even when grazed with sheep only. However, other options are being discussed by the community group. This project has been an excellent way to engage landowners across the catchment, particularly Maori interests (see December newsletter).
Tagasaste shrub fodder. A steep north face was established with tagasaste in the Whakaki catchment. The potential for this and other crops (e.g. salt bush, acacia) is very promising.
‘Ramial’ Chip Wood for soil conditioning. While the benefits of soil improvement through this method have not yet been translated to pasture production, there is strong evidence that soil structure and biology has improved markedly. Professional analysis is planned as part of a field day in March.
Species trials on slip scars. Lucerne, plantain and Bolta Balensa have been the best performers.
General Hill Country Species trial. Plots have been established at Nuhaka and some early results are available. Bolta Balensa, sub clover, cocksfoot and plantain performed well. The new cultivars of ryegrass did not perform. Early spring growth from cocksfoot was spectacular and palatable. The focus group is keen to establish a paddock scale trial and is aware that management will be the critical factor in longevity and successful production..
Kikuyu Control. A strong discussion group is working from two angles; eradication where possible and management where it has spread over very large areas. A field day was held in September and another is scheduled for February with invited experts. Interest in this topic extends further afield and some field day attendees have come from the Gisborne district.
Removal of Old Poplars. Trials at Nuhaka have shown that the lowest cost effective method is to remove a band of bark around the trunk and poison the bare wood with glyphosate.
Controlling growth of Soil Conservation Poplars. Girdling, similar to a method used in orchards may be effective and low cost. This has only recently been identified after considering other options, so trial work has not yet begun and will be long term.
Our facilitator has met with 12 landowners in the three catchments. He has discussed issues of land management, sustainability and profitability, looking for common themes so that issues can be dealt with on a community basis. Several themes have emerged at this stage. These include; Kikuyu invasion in the more coastal areas, management of older conservation trees, persistence and drought tolerance of hill country pastures. One forestry company was interviewed, being Juken NZ Ltd, who has an open approach to discussing issues and solutions. They also seem to be problem solvers.
Farm land issues focused again on old large conservation trees. Also, choosing and managing new trees. Three options for older trees are offered so far: possible use of growth regulators (some information has been provided by AgFirst), Girdling (trials under way, using different methods, with and without herbicide, assessing costs), and pruning/pollarding (which may also affect root mass and therefore erosion control ability). Farmers feel that there is a need for smaller, slower growing tree species and clones. That has raised a point that there are already some poplars which will meet this need, but not well known. Plant and Food research are interested in further work on tree management. Carbon Forestry has been topical and it has become evident that there is a large information gap. The facilitator has arranged tentatively for Brian McKinlay to speak to local farmers in August. Kikuyu spread and control has become a topic of concern. One facilitated session with interested farmers took place and three of the attendees agreed to trial different chemicals as a starting point. Once there is some local experience with different methods of control, an expert from Northland will be brought in to assess the work and give further advice. Kikuyu affects stock health and performance, is an aggressive competitor with other pasture species and requires intensive efforts to control. In the Nuhaka environment, Kikuyu appears to provide an uneconomic sward.
A ‘dry site’ pasture species trial is underway on a Nuhaka farm. This has been established in partnership with a seed retailer (Agriplus) in Gisborne.
The interview with Juken NZ (forestry) was enlightening and will result in a wider catchment meeting of landowners to discuss land use and harvest issues. Forest companies, feel that they are not treated equally with farmers on resource management issues. Juken are concerned with erosion from skid sites and keeping debris out of streams.
The trial work with a great potential for remediating degraded land is the ‘Ramial wood chip technique’. This has bee established on both a flat paddock and a hill country soil slip. Early results showed lack of N but a very high worm population and hence biological activity compared to untreated areas. It is hoped that the technique can enhance poor soil conditions due to over cropping or soil erosion, by using wood chip from old conservation trees (only branches < 7cm dia.). There is a possibility that some level of fertilizer substitution may be possible as well. Background science can be provided if required. The trial is in partnership with QRS contracting (Wairoa) who provided the high volume wood chipper and operator.
Soil erosion is still a major focus, but with an ultimate goal of healthy soil capable of supporting profitable pasture or pasture-tree systems.
Two levels of farm plans are being prepared for landowners. Simple Erosion Control Plans for specific erosion issues are the first step, however a Comprehensive Farm Plan dealing with much wider farm business resilience aspects is the preferred end result.
Two articles have been published in the local media and one in the Gisborne Herald. A newsletter to farmers in the three catchments has been posted.
Project Facilitator – John Ross (Contractor)
Project Land management Advisor – Nic Caviale (HBRC)
Project Management – Peter Manson (HBRC)
Our facilitator has met with 28 landowners in the three catchments. He has discussed issues of land management, sustainability and profitability, looking for common themes so that issues can be dealt with on a community basis. Several themes have emerged at this stage. These include; Kikuyu invasion in the more coastal areas, management of older conservation trees, persistence and drought tolerance of hill country pastures. Trials of old poplar management techniques and pasture species establishment have begun. Practical fodder shrubs and faster recovery of soil slips are also of interest and both now have on-farm projects under way.
Good coverage in the local media and publication of the first project-specific newsletter is keeping land owners well informed.