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Protecting the Quality of our Waterways – Riparian Planting

Farming plays an essential role in New Zealand economy, and it has important effects on our land and water resources. Land development for farming, urban areas, industry and flood control has removed much of the original vegetation along our waterways. This has resulted in increased amounts of sediment, nutrients and bacteria entering waterways via runoff.

As a farmer, sometimes I ask myself why there is still some inaction from our side trying to counter the impact of farming activities, such as the source of farm-generated contaminants and how they enter our waterways. Perhaps, when I see that from a consultant perspective, I realize that without the understanding of this impact we can’t have enough motivation to apply appropriate farm management practices that are necessary to make a difference. Where the knowledge, does exist, excellent progress has been made….

The Māori view, that does not separate spiritual aspects from the physical practices of resource management, can help us to see ourselves as part of the environment and understand that the welfare of the environment, will directly impact the welfare of the people and our future generations. For Māori, the riparian vegetation within a catchment is important in determining the unique characteristics of a specific environment, which influence the quantity and diversity of mahinga kai species that are present.

When agricultural operations are sustainably managed, they can preserve and restore critical habitats, help protect waterways, and improve soil health and water quality while providing for the health and welfare of communities with employment and economic benefits.

With careful planning it is possible to imitate natural succession and establish a permanent native plant cover. Appropriate riparian management is vital to maintain the quality and biodiversity of our waterbodies, controlling erosion, water filtration and pollution, and enhancing wildlife habitat. Our streams and river life can definitely evolve with native planting.

The key reasons to create a riparian zone is to exclude stock from the waterway, and to have a buffer between the water and land to reduce soil, bacteria and nutrient losses. The riparian buffer zone vegetation can consist of ungrazed grass, commercial trees, stock shelter tree lines, native plants, carefully grazed grass or a combination of these. The composition and extent of vegetation influences how well the riparian area functions.

We have all got a part to play in making Aotearoa’s environment flourish for future generations and applying the principles of ’utu’ or giving back to the environment will help us achieve this… We are certainly in the right pathway to preserve and restore our environment and keep developing a competitive advantage in the world.

 

NATALIA ZEFFERINO

Environmental Consultant

ALLEGROW LTD.