Taranaki farmers plant more than 5.5 million natives

Taranaki farmers are picking up more than half a million native plants this week.

These 500,000 natives are added to the 5.1 million riparian plants they’ve already planted, working towards protecting 15,000km of streambanks on the ring plain and coastal terraces.

The Taranaki Regional Council organises the annual supply of plants from multiple nurseries and passes them on to farmers at cost under the region’s Riparian Management Scheme.

Land services manager for the council Don Shearman says this year is the biggest annual distribution of plants since the scheme began in the 1990s.

“It’s really ramping up now. Everyone’s well aware of the need to get their streamside fencing and planting completed by 2020 or near after,” Shearman says.

Under the Riparian Management Scheme the council has worked with farmers to prepare individual property plans mapping the fencing and planting required, and setting out suitable plant varieties and a timeline for implementation.

More than 15,409km of Taranaki streambanks are included in the riparian plans and 85.7 per cent (13,207km) of the streams have already been fenced, with and 71.7 per cent (8399km) of the streambanks that require planting or vegetation already protected by vegetation.

Shearman says farmers have been doing a fantastic job on a voluntary basis but they have been told the council intends to make riparian protection mandatory. The Government is considering a similar move.

In the next few years land management staff will audit all riparian plans to ensure they include all waterways and regionally significant wetlands to meet future regulatory requirements.

Shearman says the vast majority of the region’s farmers understand that they need to do this work because fencing and planting near waterways addresses many environmental issues arising from run-off.

As the completion target approaches the volume of plants ordered each year is increasing, so farmers must order their plants a year in advance to avoid missing out and not meeting the target.

An independent NIWA report last year found that Taranaki’s riparian protection work to date has contributed to improved freshwater health and a reduction in bacteria levels.

PHOTO CAPTION: Vicki Jagersma picks up her riparian plant order from the Stratford depot. Farmers are picking up their plants this week from depots in Stratford, Hāwera, Opunake, Pungarehu and Lepperton.