The long-time chairman of NZ Landcare Trust and Whanganui man, Richard Thompson, has retired after 22 years on the board.

And in his place the trust has chosen its first woman chair in Fiona Gower, who is also Rural Women New Zealand national president.

Landcare Trust is an independent NGO that attempts to bring together various stakeholders to work on sustainable water and land quality.

Thompson started as a board member at Landcare before taking on the chairman role in 2005.


"It's been a really great experience being involved with the organisation that long - from starting up from nothing to where it is at the moment," Thompson said.

"The trust does great work. [It] makes a real difference where it engages with rural communities and other communities of interest around environmental issues.

"It's been really remarkable how when you get people together and provide them with the resources and there's a common goal, they really achieve a lot."

He said there had been some standout projects the trust had been involved in - but particularly one near Nelson.

"That was a situation where in Golden Bay - the Aorere River flows into Golden Bay - there were issues with water quality in the bay that were affecting the ability to harvest shellfish.

"There was some important aquaculture there and ... quite a lot of times because of poor water quality coming out of the Aorere River ... they had to shut down their harvesting.

"The Landcare Trust got involved with working with landowners up that catchment, primarily dairy farmers and worked with them in ways in which they could improve or reduce the effect of farming on water quality. Tremendous improvements came out of that. It more than doubled the time they were able to harvest shellfish."

Thompson's biggest frustration was getting appropriate funding for the trust.

Richard Thompson will turn his attention to his growing business, MacBlack Timber.
Richard Thompson will turn his attention to his growing business, MacBlack Timber.

"To date the trust still doesn't have national coverage. The closest co-ordinator to our area is Alastair Cole who's based in Manawatu. He does come over and do a few things but we haven't been able to get resources for a local co-ordinator yet.

"There are a few other regions where we don't have people on the ground - that's just an ongoing conversation with Government."

He named Northland, Auckland, Gisborne, Taranaki and Wellington as other locations the trust needed co-ordinators on the ground.

"I see the trust has a good future - I think that having national coverage where we've got co-ordinators in every region will be important and will help to support communities as they want to do something about water quality and other issues such as soil erosion and things like that."

He turns his attention now to his business, MacBlack Timber.

"It's a combination of years of interest in this ... [we] have a forest up Papaiti Rd and we grow a whole lot of different high-value timber species. And so this timber business has come out of that as a way of trying to get better value out of the timber we grow.

"The business has grown to the extent that we are buying logs from other people as well and scaling up to meet the demand we've got for sustainable wooden products that are grown in New Zealand."

In April Thompson also retired from his role as chairman of the Whanganui Earthquake Prone Buildings Community Taskforce. He has also picked up another role chairing a revegetation advisory group to NZ Carbon Farming Ltd.

Whanganui man George Matthews from the Federation of Māori Authorities has been elected as the new deputy chairman of the trust.