Retired Levin couple John and Diane Denton own a former sheep and beef farm and with help from Horizons Regional Council have been restoring parts of their farm to native bush.

Once owned by Mr Denton's grandfather, the Dentons restored the farm into their family's possession in 1987.

With more than 160ha (400 acres) situated at the foothills of the Tararua mountain range, the farm includes 40ha of pine trees, a stream, river and steep hills that lose sediment.

Mr Denton, a former accountant at Fluker Denton Ltd in Levin, leases the farm to Tender Tips owner Geoff Lewis, who uses the land to graze dairy cattle.

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The couple's environmental awareness and desire to see native ecosystems thrive led to a riparian planting journey that began more than four years ago.

Since then, they have worked alongside Horizons and now have 3ha of thriving native bush, a partially planted stream, and have set pest control traps.

Horizons environmental programme co-ordinator Lucy Ferguson said the Dentons had received help with the cost of the planting through funding from the Tu te Manawa, and an iwi lead, joint project between Rangitane, Horizons and Ministry for the Environment.

"Horizons also have environmental grant funding opportunities for protecting and enhancing wetlands and bush remnants, funding for erosion protection works on hill country and fencing and planting of waterways, like the Dentons' project, where it fits into the eligibility criteria," she said.

The Dentons' journey has only just begun, as they set their eyes on the hills John's grandfather had once burnt to the ground for farmland.

This 40ha mammoth task is not easily achievable on their own, the couple said.
"We want to keep planting, but it's not that cheap, even with Horizons' help, they either pay half or a third," Mrs Denton said.

Initially the Dentons looked to Horizons for a grant to help cover the cost of planting the hillside, however at the time funds weren't available.

Mrs Ferguson said as there is limited funding available, there are specific criteria that projects must meet to qualify for these grants.

"Projects are prioritised according to those criteria and so from time to time funding may be unavailable depending on the uptake and demand," she said. "While the Dentons' planting of the hillside doesn't currently meet the criteria for funding assistance, we are investigating other ways to enable these larger type planting proposals as we wish to assist landowners as much as we can."

The Dentons have not given up yet and hope that eventually, the funding will become available to them.

"We want to replant the farm as much as we can, to keep the water clean, protect the fish, and try to do our bit because we can," Mrs Denton said.

Mrs Ferguson said Horizons would make an application to central government's one billion tree project, in the hope that further funding will be available for landowners such as the Dentons.

"However, the application process and eligibility criteria for this project have yet to be determined," she said. "We understand a paper will be going to Cabinet regarding this in the next few months."

Meanwhile, the Dentons continue their planting journey.

Recently the couple welcomed 30 Britania Sea Scouts from Wellington onto their farm to camp.

Horizons staff came down to the farm and spoke with the Scouts about its work with riparian planting on farms in the region. The Scouts were shown what to plant and where and by the end of that week, the Dentons had a further 300 natives on their farm.

Mrs Denton said Horizons' help has been invaluable.

"They are the experts, and we needed their skillset and knowledge of what plants to plant where and how," she said.

Landowners can also contact Horizons at any time to speak to a land management adviser about erosion control options, a freshwater adviser about riparian management and a biodiversity adviser for wetland and bush remnant enhancement.