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Another 400,000 ways to help waterways

Land & Water

Farmers have been digging deep for more than a decade now - both with a spade and in their pockets as part of a flagship national project that's protecting Taranaki waterways.

David MacLeod (Photo credit: Trevor Read)

David MacLeod (Photo credit: Trevor Read)

By David MacLeod

On  May 25  they'll edge closer to finishing this work, when the region's farmers will collect 400,000 plants from depot stations, to plant along the banks of waterways on their properties. It's part of Taranaki's Riparian Management Programme, the internationally recognised project, which has been helping protect and improve water quality from the impacts of intensive farming since 1993. Now the end is in sight, the Council is aiming for completion of riparian work by 2020.

The scale of this programme is unique, with an unprecedented number of farmers voluntarily doing the work - 99.5 per cent of the region's dairy farmers have a riparian plan, 80 per cent of fencing has been done and 65 per cent of planting - allowing intensive farming and improving the environment to co-exist together. It's vital as both are the bread and butter for our region's prosperous economy, vibrant environment and lifestyle.

Since 1993, when Councils staff and farmers started working together on the riparian programme, it's been driven by farmers engaging, working and taking on significant cost and time, all without regulation. The efforts have been outstanding and so have the results - our water quality is generally good, biodiversity has improved, stock are protected and have shelter/shade, and pasture management has benefitted.

However, the job isn't finished yet. As we've clearly signaled, it's our wish to have all farmers finish riparian planting and fencing before 2020, without having to resort to regulation and consents. It'll require another 2700km of fencing and 3000km of planting - the overall total investment in this programme, from start to finish, is estimated at more than $70 million. The proposed 2020 target is achievable, but farmers must plan ahead. We appreciate the challenges in the current environment with a lower dairy pay out, but we're still committed to working together to finish the job. There's also an early bird discount of 10 per cent on 2016 plants when orders are made for this year and next. Our land management officers will be contacting farmers, or you can speak to them and order plants on 0800 736 222.

Taranaki's got a lot to be proud of with the Riparian Management Programme, it's leading New Zealand in terms of scale and the voluntary participation of farmers.

There are also more and smaller steams protected by fencing and planting than anywhere else in New Zealand. It's causing other people and regions to sit up and pay attention, watching to see the results.

But there's a simple reason why this is working in Taranaki: our environment is unique, so is each farm and the solution. There's only one way for farmers, the council and community to achieve this - pitch in and work together for the common goal.

This article was originally published on the stuff.co.nz website.

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