Programme celebrates first year reducing hill country erosion in North Canterbury
The Soil Conservation and Regeneration (SCAR) programme has completed the first of a four-year programme which aims to support landowners who have erosion-prone land with advice, tools and skills.
This will improve both their farm systems and water quality, by reducing the amount of sediment that enters these waterways due to erosion.
SCAR is jointly funded by ourselves and the MPI Hill Country Erosion Fund and is part of a new wave of hill country erosion programmes in the South Island.
Our staff are working with landowners in the region, improving their collective knowledge of soil management with a view to sharing the skills and experiences that have been gained.
SCAR achievements and predictions
In 2019-20, over 2,000 poplars were provided and around 200 hectares of native bush was retired in and around Mt Guardian in the Hurunui district.
In 2020-21, we anticipate:
- planting just under 3,000 poplars, which provide many benefits to a farm including soil conservation, shelter, shade, fodder, agroforestry and timber;
- retiring around 100 hectares of native bush;
- completing 42 Land Use Capability maps free to landowners (more on which below);
- engaging with 40 new landowners; and
- planting 6,500 new poplar and willow stools in our nursery.
Land Use Capability maps
One important feature of the programme is the provision of Land Use Capability maps, where staff come to landowners’ properties and look at: soil, slope and rock type; existing erosion and its severity; and what is growing on the land.
Using all this information, landowners then receive a map showing the capability of the land.
Staff then help to devise a programme of works to improve how the farm system works, allowing for budgeting of resources to reduce erosion over 10 years.
This includes assessing what are the best soil conservation measures, for example, space planting or retiring underutilised eroding land.
Personal reflections on SCAR
The real success of the programme is due to staff building positive relationships with local contractors and the community. Landowners have spoken to staff about the opportunities to improve their farm systems, particularly when diversification in these uncertain times can be seen as a strength. Additionally, as the programme grows, there will be a need for more (ideally local) contractors to support it.
Richard Murchison, a landowner in Waipara, described his experiences with SCAR: “We were planting poles already, in a block with potential erosion problems, so when the opportunity arose to expand by applying for the SCAR funding, it was a no-brainer. The benefits are two-fold – first, it stops erosion and sediment into waterways, and second, it provides stock shelter and shade. It was a smooth process throughout.”
Another landowner, Peter Fitzpatrick of Cheviot, had already been planting between 100-150 poles a year for over 20 years, so it made sense to access the funding and advice and finding available through SCAR: “The benefits to this type of planting are many – preventing erosion, shade in the summer for stock, and the planting looks good. We’ve also enjoyed the enthusiasm and knowledge of working with the team.”
Our Northern Zone Delivery Manager Andrew Arps said: “The team has found the community extremely receptive to the provision of a subsidised package to reduce hill erosion. Putting in space planting and retiring erosion prone land improves both farm systems and environmental outcomes, such as reduced phosphorus in streams and increased biodiversity.”