The increasing frequency and severity of flooding events across the country is highlighting the importance of erosion control initiatives.
Te Uru Rākau– New Zealand Forest Service grants and partnerships director Alex Wilson says a loss of productive land through erosion has a significant impact on the environment, economy and local communities.
“While we can’t prevent storms and floods happening, we can help mitigate against the impacts on people and livelihoods from slips and erosion, in particular by planting trees.”
Erosion and its effects in hill country areas alone are estimated to cost New Zealand's economy $250 million to $350 million a year.
“Taking steps to reducing erosion in the upper areas of a catchment is much more cost effective than putting in flood-control structures in the lower areas and cleaning up after a flood.
“Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service works to protect farmland from storm damage by supporting farmers to plant trees to stabilise land, re-establish vegetation, or retire their most vulnerable areas.
“Not only does this work retain productive soils on farms, it also reduces sediment entering waterways and potential downstream damage. It is particularly important to build on-farm resilience now in the face of a changing climate.”
The Sustainable Land Management Hill Country Erosion Programme is the Government’s primary means of reducing soil loss on private land - through actively partnering with councils.
“Establishing partnerships between farmers, councils and Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service are fundamental to the programme’s success.”
Since 2007, more than $200 million has been invested in erosion control through the programme. This includes funding from central government, councils, and farmers.
“We encourage farmers to work with local councils through these voluntary programmes - plan how to best protect the vulnerable parts of your property and get support to take action.”
Gisborne-Tairāwhiti is the latest region to suffer significant storm damage, particularly in the township of Tokomaru Bay, which has been cut in half by damage to a bridge on the main highway.
“Tairāwhiti has a significant proportion of highly erodible land – three times higher than in other regions across New Zealand.”
In recognition of the severe erosion problems in the Tairawhiti district the Erosion Control Funding Programme (ECFP) was established in 1992.
“Since that time, ECFP has partnered with Gisborne District Council to assist landowners in the planting or retirement of over 45,000ha of the most erodible land features in Gisborne.
Evidence of Hill Country Erosion Programme (HCEP) initiatives leading to more sustainable land management can be found in a series of case studies around New Zealand, including in Hawke’s Bay, Manawatū-Whanganui, Nelson, Waikato, and Greater Wellington.
Alex says the case studies clearly demonstrate how HCEP is funding the right tree in the right place for erosion control, helping to prevent erosion in hilly country, which means less sedimentation flowing downstream – and better water quality.