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Motu Catchment Project – Erosion Control & River Enhancement

Farmers in the Matawai and Motu area are now seen to be at the forefront of modelling good environmental management and demonstrating the benefits of sustainable farming practices in the Gisborne Region. With both the Matawai and Motu communities now becoming growing tourism areas a group of dedicated farmers has been undertaking a project to protect the quality of the Motu River for over two years now.

The project will result in the improvement in water quality and an improved habitat for fish in the Motu River and its tributaries.  Vegetation on the banks will provide a habitat for terrestrial wildlife and improve biodiversity. Protection of oxbows and wetlands will enhance the filtration of sediment and improve the quality of water entering the Motu River. This will benefit a wide range of recreational users in the area including trout fishermen, cyclists and walkers.

The Motu Catchment group was formed by a group of farmers located in the upper catchment of the Motu River in the Gisborne Region. The unstable nature of the land together with the influence of high intensity rain storms means the area is subject to erosion, and consequently at times the river carries a large sediment load. The groups aim was not only to improve the quality of the Motu river and reduce erosion, but also to build community support and to highlight the difference farmers can make to water quality and soil conservation. In the first phase of the Motu Catchment Project 11 farmers operating 13 farms collectively undertook works to identify and treat erosion on their properties using fencing and native planting through the Erosion Control Funding Programme (ECFP) with Ministry of Primary Industries.

The ECFP (previously called the East Coast Forestry Project) was established in 1992 to address the severe erosion problems in the Gisborne district. More than a quarter of Gisborne district’s land is susceptible to severe erosion and the district is susceptible to regular high-intensity weather events. Applications for funding from the ECFP have now closed, however similar projects can be undertaken under the Ministry for Primary Industries One Billion Trees fund.

Phase One of the project has seen the Motu Catchment Group extend river riparian fencing (on farms within the project) by 8.1 kilometers in the catchment, and over 26,000 native plants have been planted in erosion-prone areas and along riverbanks.

The second phase of the Motu Catchment Project has seen an increased expression of interest with at least 18 landowners operating 19 farms continuing to work to identify erosion prone land and potential mitigation. The application for further funding was carried out by Lilian Harley from Allegrow who has been involved in this project since its inception and has close ties to the area. The second round of funding has been approved and will provide for 22.5 kilometres of fencing for stock exclusion from riverbanks or erosion prone areas and 78,800 native plants to mitigate erosion.

Ecological monitoring carried out as part of the project has shown that the river is in good health.  The fencing and planting carried out under the project aim to protect and improve this, however the full benefits of the work being done may not be seen in the water quality for many years yet.

If you would like to get together as a catchment and apply for some funding there are a number of different options available.  Funding may be available under the One Billion Trees Project, Regional Council, Trees that Count or via private crowd funding.

You can contact Allegrow for support with your application.