Poplar and willow sales resume

21 Mar 2024, 10:23 AM

Poplars and willows offer a host of benefits including stabilising land which helps hold fertile soil in place instead of running into waterways and estuaries during storm events.

Northland Regional Council (NRC) member Rick Stolwerk says the benefits the two species offer is one of the reasons it subsidises both from the Mata nursery near Whangarei.

“Keeping fertile soils on the land is in the interest of all Northlanders and without the protection poplars and other trees afford, hills can simply erode and wash away in severe rainstorms.”

Councillor Stolwerk says eroded sediment is Northland’s biggest natural pollutant, research showing the Bay of Islands alone has lost an average of 500,000 tonnes annually for the past century.

“Preventing erosion at source – for both environmental and economic reasons – is one of the reasons the regional council has invested heavily in its poplar and willow nursery.”

He describes poplars and willows as the ‘unsung heroes’ of our rural environment as without the protection the trees offer, many of our hills would seriously erode in bad storms.

The councillor (who represents the NRC’s Coastal South constituency the Flyger Rd nursery sits in) says poplars and willows offer a host of benefits.

“They stabilise pastoral hill country, sequester carbon, provide timber, reduce sediment runoff, improve water quality, provide stock shade and enhance the farm environment.”

Every year about this time the NRC invites landowners with erosion-prone properties from Topuni north to order subsidised poplar and willow material from the Flyger Rd nursery for the approaching winter planting season.

Orders are open now and the council’s nursery manager John Ballinger says prices will vary depending on size and whether it’s planted for erosion control or another purpose.

Mr Ballinger says protective sleeves for 3m poles (largest size of tree) are $7.50 (GST excl) each and depending on contractor availability, the regional council is also heavily subsidising the planting of poplars and willows up to an additional $7.00 (GST excl) per tree.

Mr Ballinger says due to cyclone damage last year, there are a limited number of 3m poles this year, but an abundance of 1m wands. Wands are cheaper than poles and are a good alternative for areas that can be easily fenced (temporarily or permanently).

Demand usually outstrips supply, so people are being urged to order them sooner rather than later.

“While payment doesn’t have to be made until 20th June, we will stop taking orders on 13th May or when stocks are all sold, whichever comes sooner.”

Anyone interested in securing trees should contact a member of the council’s land management staff on (0800) 002 004 or email: [email protected] to arrange a consultation.

Councillor Stolwerk says the fast-growing trees have broad and binding root systems and have been widely used for years in Northland to prevent and control erosion and cut waterway sediment pollution.

“Although neither species is native, their rapid growth rates mean they can control erosion quickly, enabling grazing to continue without the need to retire the entire paddock.” Furthermore, in summer they provide shade for livestock and in winter drop their leaves allowing the grass to grow making them ideal trees for pastoral farming.

He says general information about establishing poplars and willows is also available from the council’s website via: www.nrc.govt.nz/poplars

Meanwhile, Cr Stolwerk says if a property is located within the Kaipara Catchment – either the Northland or Auckland part of the Kaipara Catchment – Kaipara Moana Remediation (KMR) is now supplying poplar poles and wand material for soil conservation and erosion control. (KMR does not supply willow material.)

If you are interested in accessing materials with expert advice, please express your interest at the KMR website kmr.org.nz/landowner-expression-of-interest or email [email protected]

“If you are currently working with KMR please discuss this with your field advisor.”

“Kaipara Moana Remediation will send experts out to help you make a planting plan and place your order from the NRC nursery.” (Please note minimum orders of 30 poles or 0.25ha of wand planting and other criteria apply).

Rows of poplars.

File shot of poplars at the council's Mata nursery.