Efforts by the finalists of a national award to plant along a river have been recognised by the PM.
Planting 11,000 plants along five kilometres of one of Northland's biggest rivers is just part of waterway health improvement efforts being made by New Zealand River Awards finalists Andrew and Vicky Booth.
The farming couple's 10-year planting effort has been done along 2.7km of family farm river bank and 2.5km of farm runoff river bank on almost opposite sides of the Mangakahia River at Titoki.
"Fencing off waterways was one of the first things I did when I came back to the farm," Andrew Booth said of the riparian strips he then began planting up.
The Cawthron Institute's New Zealand River Awards recognise those who are working regionally to improve river health. The winner will be announced at the awards in Wellington on November 7.
The Booths are 50:50 sharemilkers on his parents' Richard and Sharon Booth's 250-hectare farming operation, their property among dozens along the Mangakahia River — a major Northland waterway and part of the giant 640,000ha Kaipara Harbour catchment.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker have just visited the Booth farm to launch a new national $12 million clean waterways fund — the Kaipara Harbour catchment will be the first in New Zealand to benefit.
"It's always been in our best interests to make sure the water leaving this property doesn't harm the river downstream and the Kaipara Harbour," Andrew, 32, said at the launch.
The couple are the only farmers among the New Zealand River Awards eight regional finalists.
The Titoki property on which the couple sharemilk comprises a 210ha milking platform on Mangakahia River's eastern banks and almost opposite, a 40ha runoff on the river's western banks.
Booth is using social media to share efforts being made on the farm towards boosting river quality health.
"We're using Twitter and Facebook to help tell our story because, as farmers, we don't tell it well enough."
The number of followers on his Twitter account @farmerbooth continues to grow, spreading beyond the farming community to city dwellers and others overseas.
"What we're doing is basically what lots of others are doing, it's just that we're sharing it on Twitter and Facebook."
Booth first took to social media after going to DairyNZ's annual Environmental Leaders Forum in Wellington and enjoys sharing what's going on. It helped show the positive things farmers were doing towards river health.
Booth is now involved with the next step in the process of contributing to river health — identifying, fencing off and/or planting up on-farm wetlands, bogs and seeps. Unfenced, they were all potential danger areas where runoff could impact on waterway health.
The Titoki farm's riparian strips are from 10 metres to more than 50m wide and planted with manuka, karamu, cabbage trees and carex.
"It's awesome seeing stuff that was planted as small plants that's grown to create habitat," Booth said of plantings he began upon returning to the family farm in 2010.
Booth said weed management was a major challenge for managing the fenced off riparian strips. It had taken a big effort to keep planted trees and plants free from weeds.
Autumn calving helps
The couple's 415-cow dairy herd is two years into a four-year programme shifting from traditional spring calving towards full autumn calving. Looking after river health was among the benefits of the new option. Intensively break feeding cows produced less mud in summer than in winter. The herd traditionally calved in early July. It calved in early May this year, calving scheduled for April 25 in 2020 and April 15 in 2021.
They have two children, Tamsyn, 6, and Hannah, 4.
Andrew Booth said farmers didn't need to be daunted about making the effort to improve waterway health.
"It's not a daunting thing. It's just a matter of finding a place to start and going from there."
They work closely with community group Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group (IKHMG), from which they've sourced thousands of riparian plants and others such as Northland Regional Council.
He said most dairy farmers had now fenced off riparian waterways and were in the phase of planting these up.