“We wanted to improve the farm and do our bit for the environment” is Manawatu farmer Grant Bell’s response when he’s asked why he converted 4ha of his property into an impressive wetland.
“The wetland is a really effective nutrient and sediment trap. 90% of the farm’s run-off water and streams and drains go through the wetland before it exits the farm,” says Grant, who is into his eighth season running the dairy production.
“It was a wasted area of the farm with wetter, less productive ends of paddocks. Five years ago we developed a 2.5ha area and in the last two years we have extended it so it’s now about 4ha.”
Wetlands are a critical part of the natural environment but, in the past, were often drained in urban and rural areas so they could be ‘put to better use’. Today, Fonterra encourages farmers to increase riparian, wetland and tree planting as part of good management practice on farm.
The Co-op provides tools such as Farm Environment Plans, which more than a third of its supplying farms in New Zealand now have – on the way to a target of all farms by 2025.
Back on Grant’s farm, which has been in his family for 25 years, the wetland has a combination of native and exotic species and is still a work in progress at about 80% complete.
“Most of the planting has been done by a guy by the name of Ray Richards. He has a company called Land and Habitat and his son has a nursery so he’s able to source seeds and plants from there. He planted the exotic species because they will provide food and berries for birds for more months of the year.”
Of course, none of this work comes cheap and Grant reckons he’s spent about $100,000 on developing the wetland.
“For the first 2.5ha we didn’t qualify for any help from Horizons Regional Council. They only fund riparian planting, not wetlands. But the second portion runs along a drain so it does qualify and we’ve split the cost 50/50 with the council.”
He has some simple advice for other farmers who want to follow his lead.
“Do little and often. You don’t need to do it all at once. Make a start and just chip away when you can and when you can afford it.”
Fonterra’s approach to on-farm sustainability – The Cooperative Difference – helps recognise farmers who go beyond the minimum requirements to supply high-quality milk, care for their animals, protect the environment, and support their community.
The Co-op also works alongside farmers through initiatives like its Living Water partnership with DOC and its Sustainable Catchments programme to protect and restore the country’s rivers, lakes, wetlands and estuaries.