The Moutere Catchment Group knows from experience that native trees and improving water quality is a subject that really sparks interest from farmers and landowners.
Now two years old, the group started off with just 10, swelling to 100 by their first official meeting and now has 181 landowners from various walks of life, including horticulture, pastoral farms, forestry, and lifestylers. They are working together to create healthy waterways and reduce the risk of flooding and erosion in their region, just outside Nelson.
Numbers are anticipated to grow even further, with the group recently securing $1.9 million in funding from the One Billion Trees programme to continue their efforts in the 14,680ha catchment.
Annette Litherland, from not-for-profit NZ Landcare Trust, was first approached by landowners to get the group off the ground in 2016 and says water quality in the Moutere River and adjoining waterways was a real concern for locals.
"The main issue with the Moutere waterways is high temperature due to lack of shading," she says. "That high temperature takes oxygen out of the water as does the growth of algae and it becomes a poor environment for fish.
"There's also a high level of sediment in the area, which comes from a combination of forestry, farming and flooding and eroding banks. Add to that a lack of wetlands and you've lost the filters for the waterways – and have an increased risk of flooding."
Planting native trees along waterways to provide much-needed shade and stabilise banks was top of the priority list. Litherland says receiving 6000 free native trees from charity Trees That Count helped the project quickly gather momentum.
"It's quite powerful when people drive around their community and they can see endless trees and plants being planted where they should along the waterways. It makes people want to get involved," she says.
"The funding from Trees That Count really allowed us to get things off the ground and people could see real progress in a short time."
A recent survey of landowners in the catchment area showed the majority wanted to see native plants used in their own restoration work.
"For these landowners, it's about improving water quality and it's about climate change. It's also about being part of a community and creating a beautiful space and enhancing your own property," Litherland says.
"We're now in the process of setting up three community nurseries and running seed collection workshops for people wanting to collect seeds for the riparian strip."
Environmental charity Trees That Count supports hundreds of planting projects in the community through their online marketplace, making it easy for organisations and individuals to fund and gift native trees – which are then planted on their behalf in regions across New Zealand.
The Moutere Catchment Group has ambitious goals and, with the help of Tasman Environmental Trust, Tasman District Council and the One Billion Trees funding now secured, it's possible their dream of planting 270,000 trees over three years might just become a reality. They were also successful in securing funding for 35KM of fencing in the catchment from the Provincial Growth Fund to protect waterways and create jobs.
"We've been fortunate to have groups like Trees That Count help get us off the ground," says Litherland, "and now with this significant funding from One Billion Trees and the Provincial Growth Fund, we've really got the chance to make a lasting impact in Moutere."