Hill Country Erosion Programme for councils

The Hill Country Erosion Programme (HCE) helps protect erosion-prone hill country. It provides leadership and targeted support to regional councils and unitary authorities. Find out how the programme works and why it's needed.

About the Hill Country Erosion (HCE) Programme

The HCE Programme is a partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), councils and landowners. It provides funding support to regional erosion-control projects that are beyond the capacity of councils to address on their own.

The HCE Programme supports councils to:

  • work with landowners in mapping and identifying erosion-prone land
  • deliver catchment initiatives and sustainable land management projects
  • build their technical capacity to deliver erosion-control work.

It also supports councils to plan for and treat erosion-prone land, usually with trees as the main treatment, through:

  • space planting of trees (far enough apart that pasture can grow between them for grazing stock)
  • land retirement and reversion to native vegetative cover
  • forestry.

Loss of productive land through erosion has a significant impact on the environment, and the economy. Erosion and its effects in hill country areas alone are estimated to cost New Zealand's economy $100 million to $150 million a year. Reducing erosion in the upper areas of a catchment costs less than the cost of flooding and of flood-control structures in the lower areas.

Case studies of funded work

Rural coumminities are the kaitiaki (guardians) of much of our nation's precious land and water. Our HCE Programme supports famers to make good land decisions, helping:

  • retain productive soils
  • reduce sediment loss to waterways. 

Right across our regions, the HCE Programme is working to give landowners the support, advice and incentives they need. Read some examples of how the HCE Programme is helping landowners tackle erosion and manage sediment loss across New Zealand.

Solving a catastrophic slip with manuka planting - Rangitikei [PDF, 3.7 MB]

Gathering momentum in the battle against hill country erosion - Waikato [PDF, 1.8 MB]

Joining forces to safeguard a precious catchment - Hawke's Bay [PDF, 3.1 MB]

The role of good partnerships in tackling erosion - Wellington [PDF, 1.6 MB]

Tackling erosion challenges out on the lifestyle block - Nelson [PDF, 3.4 MB]

Hill Country Erosion Programmes in your region

The HCE Programme provides funding to regional councils and unitary (territorial) authorities. It runs funding rounds every 4 years and is currently supporting 12 active programmes around the country.

Landowners should make contact with their council's land management officers to find out about current programmes in their area.

Search for Hill Country Erosion programmes operating in your area, check out details of a particular programme, or read our summary of current programmes.

Expand All
Northland - Northland Regional Council

Investment summary

Contract period 2015-2019  2018-2019 2019-2023
Programme title Kaipara Hill Country Erosion Project Soil Conservation - Hills of Northland Afforestation Project (SCHNAPs) Sustainable Hill Country and Regional Priorities
HCE grant  $0.67 m $0.49 m $3.43 m
Total budget $3.65 m $0.54 m $7.89 m
Current programme (2019-2023)
Sustainable Hill Country and Regional Priorities (SHARP)

Northland has major erosion issues, with over 60% of the region and 40% of the region’s pastoral (grazing) land classified as highly erodible. Deforestation of land has led to extremely high levels of sediment in streams, lakes, harbours and coastal systems.

Before SHARP funding, it’s estimated it would have taken 30 years to complete Farm Environment Plans for the 5,000 farms identified by the Northland Regional Council as having highly erodible land under pasture. 

The funding for SHARP is helping deliver:

  • farm planning
  • increased engagement with landowners and communities
  • accelerated implementation of land treatments on highly erodible land, including
    • afforestation (exotic and native tree planting)
    • soil conservation planting
    • land retirement and assisted regeneration
  • building capacity and capability of local planting contractors and partner agencies.
Waikato - Waikato Regional Council

Investment summary

Contract period 2015-2019  2019-2023
Programme title

Waikato Western Hill Country
Sustainable Land Management Programme

Waikato Hill Country Erosion Control Programme
HCE grant  $0.63 million $3.7 million
Total budget $2.31 million $18.91 million
Current programme (2019-2023)
Waikato Hill Country Erosion Control Programme

The Waikato region includes over 1,000,000 hectares that are affected to some degree by erosion. 

This project builds on existing initiatives to provide leadership and targeted support to communities to treat erosion-prone riparian (waterways) and hill country land within the Coromandel, Lower Waikato, West coast central Waikato and Waipa zones.

Funding supports landowners to transition to more sustainable land management practices by delivering initiatives that aim to:

  • reduce soil erosion and protect unstable or potentially unstable land
  • protect river/stream banks and beds
  • support both forestry planting and reversion of highly erodible land
  • support riparian planting
  • educate landowners about soil erosion risk and appropriate land use options.
Gisborne - Gisborne District Council

Investment summary

Contract period 2010-2014  2019-2023
Programme title Waipaoa River Catchment Works Facilitation Gisborne District Erosion Management
HCE grant $0.1 M $0.42 m
Total budget  $0.1 M $0.62 m
Current programme (2019-2021)
Gisborne District Council Erosion Management – initial capacity building work

The Gisborne district has severe erosion problems, with 26% of the land being susceptible to severe erosion, compared with only 8% of the rest of New Zealand.

This programme is helping address the district's severe soil erosion issue by building the council's land management capability and expertise. This work will pave the way for future land treatment work.

Funding is targeted to:

  • investigate the use of debris dams or other methods to control highly erodible gullies
  • employ a GIS (geographic information systems) analyst to create a comprehensive spatial dataset that identifies what erodible land has and hasn’t been treated, and helps provide data to make decisions about the best ways to protect that land from erosion, especially where current methods aren’t suitable
  • employ a Senior Strategic Sustainable Land Use Advisor to assess opportunities presented by the One Billion Trees Fund and other funding initiatives, so that programmes that best meet the sustainable land use needs of Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) are identified and implemented.

MPI also supports wider erosion control work in Gisborne through the Erosion Control Funding Programme .

Hawke's Bay - Hawkes Bay Regional Council

Investment summary

Contract period  2009-2014  2015-2019  2019-2023
Programme title  Wairoa Sediment Reduction Initiative Building Capacity in Hawke’s Bay Hill Country Erosion Control Scheme Booster
HCE grant $0.72 m $0.36 m $5.03 m
Total budget $1.24 m $0.93 m $10.31 m
Current programme (2019-2023)
Erosion Control Scheme Booster (ECS)

Around 252,000 hectares of Hawke’s Bay hill country is at high risk of erosion. It’s estimated that this land sends over 3.2 million tonnes of sediment into the region’s waterways on average every year. 

This programme expands the council's current erosion control work programme across the region, and aims to increase the scale and pace of work to reduce sediment loss from land, providing funding to landowners for erosion control works. 

In particular the funding is providing:

  • support for erosion control works, including the development of 530 farm plans, planting of 111,065 poplar and willow poles, and the reversion of 352 hectares of farmland into native vegetation
  • people to provide advice, support, and plans for erosion control works
  • capability and knowledge of advisors and landowners in erosion control
  • monitoring and management of works
  • new cross-boundary work with Gisborne District Council in tributaries of the Wairoa River.
Manawatu-Wanganui - Horizons Regional Council

Investment summary

Contract period

 2007-2011 2011-2015  2015-2019 2018-2019 2019-2023

Programme title

Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) Supplementary SLUI Programme Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI)
HCE grant   $5.87 m  $7.62 m $4.76 m $0.31 m $6.49 m
Total budget   $23 m  $27 M (approx.) $30.76 m $0.31 m $33.22 m
Current programme (2019-2023)
Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI)

In 2004, a storm that struck the Manawatu, Rangitikei, Wanganui, and Tararua Districts caused erosion in the hill country and flooding, sedimentation and stream course changes in the lowlands. Damage is estimated to have cost over $300 million. Unsustainable land use of hill country was a major factor that contributed to this damage.

Over half the land in Manawatu-Whanganui is classified as hill country. SLUI aims to reduce erosion and build resilience to weather events in the region, protect downstream communities, extend the life of flood protection assets, and improve water quality in the region.

Funding is helping the SLUI programme to:

  • produce whole farm plans for 90,000 hectares
  • implement 13,665 hectares of erosion control and sediment control works
  • establish 6.82 million trees or 1.7 million per year.

Download the Whole Farm plans report from the council’s website [PDF 2.2MB]

Taranaki - Taranaki Regional Council

Investment summary

Contract period 2009-2013   2015-2019 2019-2023
Programme title South Taranaki Regional Erosion Support Scheme (STRESS) South Taranaki Regional Erosion Support Scheme (STRESS) South Taranaki Regional Erosion Support Scheme (STRESS)
HCE grant $1.06 m $1.21 m $3.99 m
Total budget  $3 m (approx)  $3.23 m $9.66 m
Current programme (2019-2023)
South Taranaki and Regional Erosion Support Scheme (STRESS-3)

In Taranaki, the regional council estimates an extreme storm event causing flooding and slips will occur about once every five to six years. Studies show that compared to pasture, 90% less erosion and slippage occurs under bush/forestry plantation, 80% less under scrub cover and up to 70% less where soil conservation trees are planted.

This project builds on the last nine years of successful STRESS programmes, which have so far treated around 7,000 hectares of erodible land with 4,062,000 trees. An estimated reduction of 700,000 tonnes of sediment per square km/year has resulted from these programmes.

This funding is helping to:

  • establish of 770 hectares of exotic/Manuka forestry
  • establish of 167 hectares of native reversion/native planting
  • complete 3,500 hectares of new farm plans
  • grow and plant 12,000 poplar poles
  • extend the area of land to grow more poplar poles
  • increase staff capacity to deliver the programme.
Wellington/Wairarapa - Greater Wellington Regional Council

Investment summary

Contract period  2009-2014 2015-2019   2018-2019 2019-2023
Programme title Wellington Regional Erosion Control Initiative and Catchment Facilitation Programme Wellington Regional Erosion Control Initiative (WRECI) Wellington Regional Erosion Control Initiative (WRECI) Expansion Wellington Regional Erosion Control Initiative (WRECI)
HCE grant  $0.99 m $1.15 m $0.51 m $7.64 m
Total budget $2 m (approx.) $3.58 m $1.14 m $15.01 m
Current programme (2019-2023)
Wellington Regional Erosion Control Initiative (WRECI)

There are 63,000 hectares of erodible land to treat in the Wellington region. For the last 10 years, the Wellington Regional Erosion Control Initiative has treated land using:

  • poplar and willow planting
  • woodlot establishment (areas of woodland or forest)
  • land retirement from production to revert to native bush.

Land treatments are provided through a farm planning process with support from the council's land management advisors who advise on best practice for landowners.

The current programme focuses on prioritised erosion-prone land throughout the Wellington region by:

  • increasing engagement with landowners and communities
  • forestry planting (native and exotic)
  • native reversion fencing, planting and management
  • space planting of poplar, willow and eucalypts
  • increasing council capacity to engage with landowners and community groups.
Nelson - Nelson City Council

Investment summary

Contract period



Programme title

Nelson Hill Country Stabilisation Project

Nelson Hill Country Stabilisation Project

HCE grant

$0.19 m

$1.27 m

Total budget

$0.51 m

$4.17 m

Current programme (2019-2023)
Nelson Hill Country Stabilisation Project

Heavy rain events, like the 2011 storm that caused multiple slips in the Nelson region, are likely to become more frequent and intense as the climate changes. This programme is helping mitigate future damage by stabilising and protecting erosion-prone land, focusing on erosion on forestry land or post-harvest forestry land.

Funding is being used for the:

  • development of 40 Forestry Environment Plans
  • land reversion and native forestry planting of high-risk sites on farming and forestry land, contributing toward 200,000 trees across the four years
  • engagement and collaboration with iwi as major forestry landowners – working with other Top of the South councils
  • development of long-term strategies and specific plans for erosion control.
Marlborough - Marlborough District Council

Investment summary

Contract period



Programme title

Marlborough District Council Land Management Assistance

Marlborough District Council At-Risk Catchment and Erosion Scheme

HCE grant

$0.21 m

$1.13 m

Total budget

$0.28 m

$2.88 m

Current programme (2019-2023)
Marlborough District Council At-Risk Catchment and Erosion Scheme

This programme is starting to address erosion issues across the Marlborough region, largely by planting trees and building expertise for landowners and within the Council.

The funding focuses on:

  • at-risk areas, including Rai Pelorus sub-catchments - funding farm/forest plans and treatment via managed reversion, fencing, riparian planting, gully planting, and space planting
  • Upper Waihopai riparian planting, managed reversion, fencing, and native plantings
  • South Marlborough earthquake damaged land, using various land treatment types.
Tasman - Tasman District Council

Investment summary

Contract period


Programme title

Restoration and Resilience, Marahau Catchment Reversion in the Wake of Disaster

HCE grant

$0.74 m

Total budget


Current programme (2019-2023)
Restoration and Resilience – Marahau Catchment Reversion in the Wake of Disaster

In 2018, ex-Tropical Cyclone Gita slammed into the Tasman district, and the intense rain that arrived with it caused multiple slips across the district. One area particularly affected was on plantation forestry land behind Marahau, which was returned to iwi in 2014 as part of a Treaty settlement.

Part of this programme is delivering a small pilot project to address the challenge of radiata pine forestry on Separation Point granite above Marahau. Core elements of the project are:

  • a partnership between council and the iwi owners of the land, Ngāti Tama ki Te Waipounamu Trust and Ngāti Rārua Settlement Trust
  • reversion of 114 hectares  of highly erodible land from forestry into permanent native cover
  • use of the knowledge gained from this process to illustrate alternative land management for this type of land.

Funding has also enabled the provision of a shared land management role for the top of the South Island. The role is focused on forestry land and the issues that arise in the erosion window after harvest, especially in those areas that aren’t suited to forestry.

Canterbury - Environment Canterbury

Investment summary

Contract period


Programme title

Kaikoura/Hurunui Soil Conservation and Re-vegetation (SCAR) Project

HCE grant

$1.84 m

Total budget

$4.88 m

Current programme (2019-2023)
Kaikoura / Hurunui Soil Conservation and Revegetation Programme (Scar)

Soil erosion is a big problem in Kaikoura/Hurunui, and this programme focuses on these districts, kick-starting wider efforts across Canterbury to increase the region's soil conservation activities.

Funding is targeted to:

  • catchment-scale mapping and on-farm Land Use Capability maps to support farm environment planning
  • native planting
  • space planting of trees
  • employing staff for project management, soil conservation advice and farm plans
  • the establishment of a new poplar and willow pole nursery.

The programme is closely aligned with catchment groups and environmental initiatives in the districts, including the Hurunui District Landcare Group and Post-Quake Farming group.

Southland - Environment Southland

Investment summary

Contract period


Programme title

Southland Catchment Erosion Programme – Initial Capacity Building Work

HCE grant

$0.15 m

Total budget

$0.22 m

Current programme (2019-2020)
Southland Catchment Erosion Programme - initial capacity building work

Southland has more than 100,000 hectares of highly erodible land at risk of erosion.

This programme is working to:

  • develop a strategic approach to erosion control at a regional level and a longer-term work programme for intervention
  • build the Council’s capacity to plan for and prioritise erosion and sediment management by employing someone in a one-year fixed term position
  • pave the way for future programme of engagement with landowners and land treatment work.
Nationwide - Regional Councils' Poplar and Willow Research Collective, Plant and Food Research

Programme summary

Contract period  2008-2012 
Programme title Poplar and Willow Breeding Programme
HCE grant  $0.65 m
Total budget  $1.28 m


MPI's funding activity database contains detailed information about each Hill Country Erosion programme funded since 2007. Select 'Hill Country Erosion Fund' from the fund drop-down list for the list of projects, ‘in progress’ under Status for more information about the most recent programme, or ‘completed’ for the older projects.

Search the funding activity database

Who to contact

If you have questions about the Hill Country Erosion Programme:

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