Taranaki farmers have been rolling up their sleeves, planting 16,000km of rural waterways.
Taranaki’s rivers and streams are in the best shape they’ve been in 25 years, according to the latest water quality results.
Ecological health is regarded as the prime measure of freshwater quality and is assessed by examining what sort of tiny creatures are living in waterways, using a nationally recognised scoring system.
The Taranaki Regional Council recently completed its 2017/18 monitoring report, which shows vast improvements in water quality at nearly half of the sites monitored by the Council, and no significant decline at any of them.
Taranaki leads the country with riparian planting and fencing. The Taranaki Regional Council has set a 2020 deadline for all farmers to have all their waterways fenced and planted and is giving them a helping hand through its Riparian Management Programme.
Since it began in the mid-1990s, the Riparian Management Programme has helped farmers protect their waterways with millions of native plants and thousands of kilometres of fencing by providing them with management plans tailored for their property, selling native plants at cost, and organising contractors if they are needed.
Council Director-Environment Quality, Gary Bedford says they are seeing clear benefits of working with farmers through the Riparian Management Programme.
“I’m excited because this latest report shows the work our community is doing is making a real difference. You can’t argue with science – streamside fencing and planting is having a positive impact in Taranaki, trapping and filtering pasture run-off and keeping animals out of our streams.”
Fonterra farmers Rob and Di Bridgeman began fencing and planting on their farm in 2010 after working with the Council to develop a plan for their property, and they already comply with the 2020 deadline.
The couple say they had mixed feelings when they started, viewing it as another requirement that was being imposed upon them.
“But once we got into it, we could start seeing the benefits,” says Rob.
Gary Bedford says he hopes there will be further gains in water quality as more dairy farms switch to land-based effluent disposal.
This couldn’t have happened without farmers, Taranaki Regional Council, Dairy NZ and the Taranaki Dairy Environment Leaders Group It’s an example of what can be achieved when everyone works together.