There are several ways you can help maintain and enhance soil quality and land resources in Northland.
On the farm:
· Exclude stock from waterways.
Where stock have direct access to streams, lakes and estuaries they cause damage in a number of ways, including fouling of the water, stirring up sediment and damaging stream banks and lake margins. Just erecting a temporary electric fence to keep stock out of the water can have major benefits.
A permanently fenced and planted riparian strip is more expensive and requires ongoing maintenance but will have additional benefits. Riparian plants provide shade that reduces water temperature, thus allowing the water to carry more oxygen. The shade also reduces the amount of weed and algae that will grow in the waterway and along the margins. A well designed and managed riparian margin can also help to capture nutrients before they enter the waterways. The plantings will also provide habitat for wildlife. It is important that plantings are well planned in terms of species selection and siting in order to prevent problems with stream bank collapse and blocking of waterways as the plants mature.
Further information is available in the booklets Clean Streams and A Planters Handbook for Northland Natives available from the Northland Regional Council. Land management staff at the Council are also able to give free advice.
· Develop a nutrient management plan for your property
A nutrient management plan can have both economic and environmental benefits. It includes a nutrient budget for the property but also looks at a range of other factors such as winter management, offal management, type and timing of fertiliser application and measuring fertility. Effective nutrient management will lead to improved financial returns as well as reduced loss of fertiliser to waterways through run-off and leaching.
Additional information on nutrient management plans is available from farm consultants and fertiliser company representatives.
· Develop a farm plan that helps to best match land use to capability.
The plan will highlight the suitability of various areas for particular land uses based on factors such as soil type and slope. The plan will also identify "hot spots", such as waterways, wetland, seeps and steep sidings, where environmental protection efforts are best spent, the plan will also identify those areas best suited to further development. A nutrient management plan will be one important part of a whole farm plan.
· Plant trees to reduce erosion.
Erosion has negative impacts on both production and the wider environment. Sediment is the major pollutant of Northland waterways and loss of topsoil reduces the productive capacity of the land. Where pastoral farming is taking place on steep, erosion prone land then the use of suitable tree species can have multiple benefits. It is important to be aware that any plantings require ongoing maintenance in order to maximise long-term benefits.
Further information is available in the booklet Trees for the Land available from the Northland Regional Council. Land management staff at the Council are also able to give free advice.
· Attend industry monitor farm days.
Dairy NZ and Meat and Wool NZ both run regular workshops and field days throughout the region. These days provide a good opportunity to observe what is happening on other farms and receive up-to-date information on a range of subjects including pasture and soil management.
· Undertake regular weed and pest control.
It will help prevent the spread of undesirable species from one farm to another as well as preventing small problems escalating to large ones on your farm. The Northland Regional Council pest management strategies outline the situations where the landowner has a legal obligation to carry out control work.
· Join a landcare group.
There are more than fifty landcare groups active in Northland. These community groups have been established by locals to provide solutions to local issues. A number of groups focus on pest and weed control, while others are based around managing production issues such as kikuyu management, clover root weevil and tropical grass webworm.
For more information contact New Zealand Landcare Trust or refer to their website: www.landcare.org.nz
· Report incidents of poor land management
Report incidents of poor soil conservation and land management that are having a detrimental effect on the environment to the Regional Council on 0800 002 004.