Living water and Fonterra farmers protect rare plant


The Fonterra and Department of Conservation (DOC) Living Water partnership is working with farmers to save a rare native plant on Northland’s Hikurangi flood plain.

The Fonterra and Department of Conservation (DOC) Living Water partnership is working with farmers to save a rare native plant on Northland’s Hikurangi flood plain.

The floodplain is home to one third of the known population of the heart-leaved kohuhu or Pittosporum obcordatum. The species is listed as nationally vulnerable and only around 2,000 kohuhu plants exist nationwide.

Living Water is a 10-year partnership between Fonterra and DOC that works with farmers, iwi, conservation groups, schools and other agencies to improve the health of five key catchments in significant dairying regions throughout the country.

Living Water recently funded an ecological study that identified 146 of the rare plants in the Hikurangi catchment. Ninety kohuhu plants were found on Fonterra farmers Steve and Amber Brown’s property. They’ve protected the kohuhu by fencing off the area.

Steve Brown says as a steward of the land he understands the importance of working to preserve land for future generations and the support he’s received from Living Water helps him do this.

“When we discovered this plant on the farm, and learned there was so little of it left, we knew we had to do something to look after it. I’d already worked with the Living Water team to build a constructed wetland on my farm, so it was good to have their support for this as well.”

Fonterra GM Responsible Dairying Emma Parsons says the Browns’ efforts demonstrate Living Water’s value.

“The work Steve and Amber have done on their farm highlights the small things people can do to make a big difference to the overall future of our nation’s environment.”

DOC Director of Operations, Northern North Island Whangarei, Sue Reed-Thomas says the Hikurangi flood plain was once wetland covered in native bush. But now there are only a few small pockets of native vegetation remaining on the floodplain.

“It’s essential we protect what is left. We thank the Brown’s for fencing the native bush remnant on their farm that includes a precious patch of kohuhu plants.”

“Living Water is working to protect and enhance the remaining wetland and forest areas on the Hikurangi flood plain. We’re also planting new stretches of native flax and grasses on the banks of waterways.”

This riparian planting will help improve water quality in the catchment by stemming the flow of sediment and nutrients into the waterways. It’s also aimed at connecting islands of remnant native forest and wetland, expanding the habitat for native birds, fish and plants in the catchment.

The Living Water partnership is highlighting the importance of wetlands today, February 2, as this is World Wetlands Day - celebrating the signing of the Ramsar Convention. This an international treaty, signed by New Zealand and 168 other countries, providing a framework for the conservation of wetlands.