The Northland Regional Council is encouraging the owners of erosion-prone land from Topuni north to place their orders for poplar poles and willows by the end of the month.
The fast-growing trees have broad and binding root systems, and have been used widely for years to prevent and control erosion and reduce waterway sedimentation. Neither species is native, but are favoured because their rapid growth means they can begin controlling erosion within as little as three years.
Every year the council invites Northlanders with erosion-prone land to order heavily-reduced poles from its 13ha nursery at Mata for the winter planting season, typically in June or July.
Councillor Rick Stolwerk said orders for this year's planting were being taken now, warning that with a limited supply, and increasing demand across Northland, they wouldn't last long.
"Demand is likely to be even higher than usual this year, with central government heavily promoting its own planting initiatives through the One Billion Trees initiative," he said.
The council had made some changes to the way it allocated poles to improve the overall delivery and success of its erosion control efforts, and was also working to boost its supply, including by expanding the nursery by another 4ha over the next 12 months.
A new nursery co-ordinator (Matthew Mabbitt) had also been employed to oversee the operation. He was one of a number of new land management staff who had been employed under the council's long-term plan 2018-2028, which had an increased emphasis on water quality and soil conservation.
Mr Stolwerk said for this year's planting season the council would initially be charging the full $12 plus GST cost of a three-metre pole "up front", as well as a small fee for delivery to the farm gate.
Buyers would need a completed free farm environment or planting plan (provided by the NRC) to be eligible to buy poles. Council staff would check that planting had been done as specified by the plan, at which point, depending on the location and what funding land owners were eligible for, half or all the purchase price would be refunded.
"This is in line with council's Environment Fund fencing programme, and ensures that funds are used appropriately," he said.
When allocating poles, the council gave priority to applicants in areas identified as having a high erosion risk. It has occasionally encountered issues with incorrect placement of trees by their new owners, which was one of the main drivers behind its new 'upfront pole payment then rebate' approach.
"Obviously mistakes do happen from time to time, but when pole stocks are so limited we're keen to do whatever we can to ensure they're all planted correctly, including optimal spacing to be effective, and that land owners are aware of the future maintenance they'll require."
The council did not want to be unnecessarily strict, "but it's common sense from our perspective to ensure our erosion control objectives are met and that any trees supplied are planted in the best way to achieve this".
He advised anyone wishing to order poles to contact council land management staff on (0800) 002-004 as soon as possible to arrange a consultation/site visit and develop a free planting plan.
A number of size grades were available, from 1 to 3 metres. Orders would close on April 30, or when stocks ran out.
Mr Stolwerk said the trees would play a crucial role in helping to stabilise land and slow hillslope erosion.
"Erosion, and the resulting sedimentation of waterways and receiving harbours, is one of our most challenging waterway contaminants in Northland."
Information on establishing poplars could be found at www.nrc.govt.nz/poplars.