A national group wants to keep land use sustainable and improve water quality in Whanganui.
The New Zealand Landcare Trust met in Whanganui this month after an invitation from Whanganui board member George Matthews.
He took the group first to Te Ao Hou Marae for a cultural afternoon, then to Mosquito Point (Pātiki Rua) to talk about swing injuries and drownings there. He took them to Mowhanau Stream, to talk about how a fine for an environmental breach could be used to help it.
On March 3 the group went to Rachel Rose and Hamish Randle's property in the Matarawa Valley. The two plan to plant most of the hilly 28ha in high-value forestry trees, for eventual milling on-site or earning carbon credits.
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They have owned the land for two years, received One Billion Trees funding, and have at least three more years of planting to do. They've had a lot of help from the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, Rose said.
The place has been ungrazed for more than two years. It's covered in long, dry grass.
"Needless to say, we are not using a chainsaw out here at the moment."
Fire is a risk, and the house they build will have an area of bare area around it to defend it from fire. There will be less risk when forest shades out most of the grass.
The couple are establishing vehicle tracks for access before planting, and Rose said it would be good if New Zealand had a stable forest policy.
"We will have really long cycles of production. Regulators and politicians don't appreciate that. We need some long-term decisions, with no tutu-ing every time there's a change of government."
Because the grass is long the plantings cannot be of tiny trees, which have to survive a first dry summer.
The trust's Hawke's Bay regional co-ordinator, Nathan Burkepile, is an expert on wetlands and was asked to give his advice on how they can use wetlands to keep nutrients and topsoil from running off.
Rose was thrilled when he concluded that apart from planting there was not much they needed to do. The property is dry at present, but its valleys become ephemeral wetlands when there is plenty of rain.
Since they are not grazing animals, wetland plants such as sedges will naturally establish there. Sedges are good at trapping sediment run-off, Burkepile said. Slips and fallen trees will impound water, and they can add wetland species when they have time and spare cash.
"Seepage wetlands are really good at taking nutrients out. Why would you dam it? Why not just leave the seepage."
He's an advocate of broadening and lifting streams, slowing their progress. If manmade dams are wanted he suggests starting with small ones near the top of a catchment, and moving downhill as resources permit.
"If you deal with the issues up here you don't have to deal with the issues at the bottom."
One of the group was Manawatū-Whanganui co-ordinator Alastair Cole. He said his work in this end of the region has mostly been with catchment groups, as a supporter rather than a leader.
He's been involved with the group forming in the Whangaehu Catchment, and with others hoping to start one covering 323,666ha in western Whanganui coastal catchments. Another group is attempting to cover all the Rangitīkei and Turakina catchments, and has some early funding from Beef + Lamb NZ.
It is looking to get more from Government, and may employ staff.
The Whanganui River has an even bigger catchment and could be "the final frontier" in terms of local catchment groups.
Two years ago only 5 per cent of the Horizons Region was covered by catchment groups. Now it's 36 per cent, and Cole is pleased about that.
"It's a really exciting space. The conversations I have had so far with communities have been amazing and inspiring."
Good leaders will be needed, he said, to take things forward.