23 May 2013

Gains made in Manawatu hill country erosion control

10:51 pm on 23 May 2013

A programme to reduce erosion on hill country farms in the Manawatu-Whanganui region is gaining ground.

The Horizons Regional Council has identified significant gains from the Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) in its latest state of environment report, which provides a snapshot of the region's land, air and water resources over the past seven years.

The council introduced the SLUI programme after the devastating 2004 floods, which revealed sedimentation of rivers from hill country erosion as a major issue.

The council's environmental management head Craig Mitchell says more than 400 farmers are part of the initiative which involves retiring and planting vulnerable areas of hill country.

He says independent modelling from AgResearch shows that the 10,000 hectares of land where land use change has been promoted has delivered about 440,000 less kilograms of sediment going into river systems.

Mr Mitchell says that figure will continue to accrue and it's exciting how the farming community has come on board with the initiative in the last six years.

He says possum control has been another area of progress identified in the environment report, building on the Animal Health Board's Bovine TB and possum control programme.

Mr Mitchell says a ratepayer funded possum control programme now covers nearly 800,000 hectares of pasture land.

He says the holding capacity of that region is thought to be around 4.1 million possums but about 1.5 million of them have been eradicated.

Mr Mitchell says that has huge implications for biodiversity and production for the farming community.

He says the environment report has also identified some areas that need further investigation.

They include groundwater quality and council is encouraging people who rely on bores for drinking water to get their groundwater tested.