Marlborough landowners and the Council will be as happy as dung beetles in muck if an ambitious programme to improve the region’s waterways achieves its objectives.
The humble little critters themselves could also prove to be a game changer for Marlborough landowners, assisting in the quicker conversion of manure back to pasture.
Did you know that within 48 hours of placing dung beetles into a small pile of manure, it will disappear? Dung beetles eat manure but also bury it in the ground to lay eggs in. The larvae then eats the dung too. Once buried, it can no longer be washed into waterways in the rain and burial also breaks the parasitic worm life cycle meaning less drenching for farmers.
Environmental Scientist – Land Management Matt Oliver presented these facts and figures to the Mayor and councillors at a recent Environment Committee meeting, part of a wider update on the Council’s Catchment Care Programme. This comprehensive body of work has taken three years to develop.
Mayor John Leggett said the entire region was going to benefit from this important piece of work. “It is our opportunity to put a stake in the ground for the protection and improvement of freshwater resources in Marlborough for future generations,” he said.
New national regulations have set down a rigorous programme of improvement for regional councils and landowners throughout New Zealand. “This represents a step change by the Government – to make that change within a generation is ambitious but it is a goal we hope to meet through our Catchment Care Programme, and on a relative shoestring,” said Matt.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2020, Environmental Standards for Freshwater and Stock Exclusions Regulations (Section 360 of the Resource Management Act) all aim to stop further degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater resources. The regulations are designed to make immediate improvements and reverse past damage, all within a generation. Water allocation issues will be also addressed.
“We (the Council) could have mandated change through the Marlborough Environment Plan (MEP) process but instead we listened to landowners and, through many personal conversations, Council decided on a non-regulatory approach,” said Matt. “We believe with community buy-in the programme will be much more effective and longer-lasting. This programme represents thousands of hours of staff time and conversations with farmers. The result is intended to be proactive, practical, collaborative and respectful,” he said.
The Catchment Care Programme is being funded through a combination of Council, Government and landowner funding. The Council’s own contribution of $1.2 million (cash and in-kind) will join with funding from the Ministry for Environment ($1.8 million), Ministry for Primary Industries ($1.26 million) and landowners themselves will likely invest $1.3 million (cash & in-kind). “The value delivered to landowners over the six year lifespan of the project is projected to be $4.1million or about $668,000 per annum,” said Matt.
Two new jobs have already been created. Catchment Care officers James Mills-Kelly and Rachel Russell have been tasked with working through a long list of landowners (nearly 350 across 1,100 properties) to get permission for catchment surveys to take place. Contractors Geoinsight are getting through the survey work now and have covered nearly half of the 15,000ha to be captured.
This area includes the Are Are Creek, Linkwater and Te Hoiere/Pelorus catchments. The survey looks at fences, riparian plantings, stream crossings and critical source areas, with all data uploaded in real time via an app called ARCGIS Field Maps which is being used by the Council for the first time.
“The next steps will be landowner meetings and mitigation work. We have a five year window for funding work but landowners will get final say on how and when mitigation work takes place,” said Matt.
Under the new regulations, landowners are required to prepare a ‘Freshwater Farm Plan’ so the data the Council is collecting will help farmers create that plan and provide a “single source of truth” about the state of catchments. “We can then have conversations around what transformative actions we can take with the data obtained and then provide expertise to assist landowners,” said Matt.
As part of this, Catchment Enhancement Plans will be written as required under the MEP with the goal of providing a record of progress and guidance for the future for landowners. Among the ambitious goals for the programme are:
• Riparian planting – 15.7 ha
• Riparian fencing – 50km
• Wetland restored – 3.3ha
• Native planting – 46 ha
• 85 Dung beetle farm packs
• Poplar poles – 30 ha
• Support for reversion – 110ha
• Full Time Equivalent employment 21
• Catchment condition surveying 15,000 ha expanding to 33,000 ha.
• Support for workshops and catchment management groups across whole province