October 27, 2017

Stirling Silverstream Effort

A 25-strong team of staff from Fonterra, Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment (CAREX), Department of Conservation, Selwyn District Council, Environment Canterbury (ECan) and Wai-ora Forest Landscapes recently pitched in to help one of our Fonterra farmers plant around 400 plants along a spring on his farm.

Five Springs Farm, located in Silverstream just out of Christchurch, is owned by Richard and Jill Simpson and is named after the natural springs emerging on their property. 

Richard says the original idea to transform the springs came from ECan officer David Hewson. 

“We were walking around the farm and when we got to the springs he said it would make an amazing wetland. My wife Jill is a real big-picture person, so she loved the idea and immediately latched onto it,” says Richard.

The couple set to work, fencing off and deepening the springs, before gradually planting out the banks and building tracks. Organisations like ECan, DoC, Fonterra, and CAREX have been helping throughout. It’s been a 17-year labour of love --one they’ve had protected by a QE2 covenant, preserving their efforts in perpetuity. 

Restoring the springs and turning them into a wetland improves their biodiversity meaning more plant and water life can live and grow in the area. It also creates a sediment trap, which prevents sediment continuing into the Silverstream catchment and then on to Lake Ellesmere. Ultimately, this helps improve the water quality in the lake. 

Fonterra Sustainable Dairy Advisor, Libby Sutherland, who helped out with the planting, says it was a great opportunity to help our farmers and give back to the community. 

“Having healthy waterways is in the interests of all of New Zealand and planting our river banks helps farmers protect and improve the quality of the waterways on their farms. 

“These plants basically act as big filters helping slow down any surface water running off the land. They filter out the nutrients and sediment that can get into waterways, and provide shade that reduces the growth of weeds and creates a healthy environment for water life.

“In my role as a Sustainable Dairy Advisor, I work with our Fonterra farmers to develop tailored Farm Environment Plans and waterway planting is a common feature. Sometimes like today we even help them out with the actual planting!” says Libby.

Planting riparian strips can remove at least 60 per cent of nitrogen and 65 per cent of phosphorus from runoff and groundwater.

Richard says with the tracks, bridges, fencing, and now the last of the planting going in, the area is nearing completion.

“We’re seeing seedlings arrive which means it’s starting to be self-sustaining. That’s incredibly pleasing because it means we can start to step back. It’s starting to fulfil our wildest dreams.”