Taranaki farmers are picking up more than 500,000 native plants this week to add to the 5.1 million they've already planted, working towards protecting 15,000km of streambanks on the ring plain and coastal terraces.

It's the biggest annual distribution of plants since the region's Riparian Management 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," says Don Shearman, Land Services Manager for the Taranaki Regional Council, which coordinates the voluntary scheme.

He says farmers have been doing a fantastic job on a voluntary basis but they have been given clear notice that the Council intends making riparian protection mandatory. The Government is considering a similar move.

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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.

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.

Don says the vast majority of the region's farmers understand why they need to do this work.

Fencing and planting waterways addresses many environmental issues arising from diffuse run-off. An independent National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (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.

The Council organises annual supply of plants from multiple nurseries, and passes them on to farmers at cost. It also coordinates contractors if farmers prefer not to carry out the work themselves.

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.

More than 15,409 km of streambanks are covered by riparian plans. A total of 85.7 percent (13,207km) of the streams have already been fenced and 71.7 per cent (8,399km) of streambank that require planting or vegetation are already protected by vegetation.

Farmers are picking up their plants this week from depots in Stratford, Hāwera, Opunake, Pungarehu and Lepperton.

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