21 Feb 2009

Forestry conversion agreement to reduce pollution

1:06 pm on 21 February 2009

Foresters are enthusiastic about a ground-breaking agreement to pay a Taupo farmer to convert a livestock farm into forestry, to reduce the amount of nitrogen seeping into the lake.

The deal was negotiated by the Lake Taupo Protection Trust which was set up with government and local body funding to reduce nitrogen pollution of the lake, mainly from farming.

Under the arrangement, the 930-hectare farm will have a legal covenant placed on the title to ensure that the nitrogen reduction is permanent.

The Trust has previously bought farms to convert them to low-nitrogen use, but the forestry conversion agreement with the landowner is understood to be the first of its kind in the country.

Forest Owners Association president Peter Berg, hopes the idea will be taken up elsewhere.

He says it is recognition that trees can make an important environmental contribution and can significantly improve water quality.

Mr Berg says it is a fairer arrangement than local bodies using regulations to force farmers and forest owners to plant or retain forests for environmental reasons.

Information for farmers on nitrogen restrictions

Two monitor farms have been set up in the Lake Taupo area to help show landowners there how they can continue farming under nitrogen restrictions and still be financially viable.

The properties are the 1,600 hectare Rangiatea Station, is a Maori Incorporation, and a 290 hectare farm owned by Alex and Anne Richardson.

The programme is being partly funded by Meat and Wool New Zealand, which will also contribute to a community group, established with the help of Taupo Lake Care, a group which represents farmers in the area.

Meat and Wool general manager of farm services Richard Wakelin says the first step is to identify what the farmers on the two monitor farms already know about reducing nitrogen run-off, and what information they'll need to help them.

Mr Wakelin says from there the community group, along with its facilitator, will develop case studies for the different options that are available to reduce nutrient leaching, which will then go through on-farm analysis.

He says the information from the monitor farms will primarily be made available to farmers through on-farm information days.