Waikato landowners have retired 21 farms’ worth of unproductive land and planted more than three million trees in the past five years.
In doing so, these farmers have contributed to improving water quality, biodiversity and climate resilience on this land, the Waikato Regional Council says.
Catchments in the region are managed in partnership with landowners and the council to achieve its environmental goals.
One way it does this is to help fund the costs of riparian and hill country fencing and planting.
This voluntary catchment and river restoration work is funded in different ways throughout the region, with funding coming from rates collected or by the council applying for funding for various work programmes from other organisations.
Waikato and West Coast catchments manager Grant Blackie said the council has financially assisted 1823 landowners in the past five years, with 80% of the funded work undertaken in prioritised catchments.
“In the Waipā Zone, for example, we have catchments that are predominantly farmland and highly modified, which deliver high loads of the sediment to the Waipa River, so we’ve had extra funding available for those landowners through the Waikato River Authority and MPI’s Hill Country Erosion Fund and One Billion Trees,” Blackie said.
“Landowners are doing a phenominal job taking care of their land. Unfortunately we always have more landowners wanting to work with us than we have funding available and there are large areas of the region outside of our priority catchments where only very limited funding is available.”
He said the 5777ha that has been retired over the past five years – equivalent to more than 20 average-sized farms – consisted of remnant native bush, steep slopes, wetlands and riparian margins.
“All of this work to retire unproductive land helps to contribute to cleaner water, increased biodiversity and improving the climate resilience of each farm.”
Catchment and river management work for the past five years has also included 1205km of fencing, to prevent stock access to retired land, and the planting of 3,147,324 plants, mainly native plants but also including smaller numbers of exotic afforestation species and poplar and willow poles.
“And that’s just through us. There are many landowners who fund this type of work alone or make their own applications for funding through other funding sources.”
Blackie said the value of the work completed in the region in the past five years is conservatively estimated to be about $27 million, based on the average costs of fencing being $12 per metre and $4 for a tree in the ground.
Funding availability is dependent on whether landowners live in an identified priority catchment or whether the council has secured additional funding for work programmes outside business as usual.
It ranges from 35% of costs to 100% depending on the type of work and funding available, and landowners are able to use their contribution as work in kind.