Episode 31 - Caring for the Kaipara
On the next episode, screening 14 October 2018 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
A phone call from a marine biologist came as a surprise to sheep and beef farmers Bryce and Aneta Lupton. The couple farms 420 hectares of gently rolling hill country on the edge of the Kaipara Harbour.
Streams trickle down to mangrove-lined estuaries and marine biologist Kim Jones, working for Whitebait Connection, thought the Luptons might have a whitebait spawning site on their farm. Kim found whitebait eggs and enjoyed Bryce’s grin when she told he was the proud owner of a whitebait hatchery on the banks of one of his streams.
Apart from having a taste for whitebait fritters, Bryce was pleased for another reason. It was evidence that the work he and other farmers have been doing is making a difference to the health of the Kaipara.
At 947 square kilometres, the Kaipara is among the largest harbours in the world. However, sheer size doesn’t protect it from the effects of man. The biggest threat to the Kaipara is run-off from farms. According to Mark Vincent of Otamatea Harbour Care Society, it is estimated that before humans arrived silting-up was occurring at the rate of a millimetre a year on average. “Now it’s seven to ten millimetres a year of silt charging into the harbour, choking the life on the bottom of the harbour.”
Mark and Aneta’s environmental work has won them two Balance Farm Environment awards. It has also led to them being chosen by Beef and Lamb New Zealand to be a Regional Focus Farm, a model of best practice management.
With support from the Northland Council, Otamatea Harbour Care Society and Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group, the Luptons are retiring land round streams, fencing and planting natives to reduce run-off. Bush blocks on the farm are being protected.
Their stocking programme is designed to minimize run-off. Their ten mobs of bulls are cell-grazed. Each mob has thirty blocks and they are on a sixty-day rotation so, with the mob staying on each block for just two-days, the pasture has fifty-eight days to recover. “With any weather event,” Bryce says, “there will only be minimal damage in one little area. If you come back to that area on your rotation and it's still wet and miserable, you can skip that block out so you're minimizing your pugging, which then maximizes pasture production but also limits silt being washed off down to the harbour.”
They have an active pest eradication programme to deal with rats, possums, mustelids (weasels and stoats) and wild cats.
A previous programme to deal with erosion is itself becoming a problem. For years all over the country willows and poplars were planted to reduce erosion. At the time it was a ‘best practice’ solution. However, no thought was given to managing and pruning the trees and now they have become a pest. The big problem is what to do with the old trees when they are felled. It’s an issue that is facing farmers across the country, so Beef and Lamb NZ is interested in any solution the Luptons come up with.
“We've got a bit of funding from different sources to look at some experiments” Bryce says. He’s looking for a solution that, at worst, doesn’t cost the farmer anything, and may even make them a little money.
“We're looking to clear fell again, but to chip the trees and then the chips can be used in several possible ways. It can be sold as calf bedding. It can be made into high grade paper, because it's technically a soft wood, but for paper making they say it's a hard wood, because of its fibre length, so there's an outlet there that we've got to explore. The other one is using the wood chip for biofuels. There's some industries that are very interested in coming along board to see if that is a viable source for them to get into. Watch the space.”
Find out more information about Otamatea Harbour Care Society here.
Find out more information about Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group here.
Find out more information about Whitebait Connection here.
Find out more information about Beef & Lamb New Zealand here.
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