In issue 4: Water quality focus in the proposed new regional plan.
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ISSUE 4      
Welcome to the fourth issue of our e-newsletter to keep you in touch with Northland Regional Council’s Land Management and Biodiversity teams. We’re often so busy with new clients and new initiatives that we don’t have time to reconnect with landowners we’ve worked with in the past. This newsletter will help keep you updated with news and events happening in the land management scene at the council and beyond.

Water quality focus in the proposed new regional plan

Improving freshwater quality continues to be a hot topic across New Zealand. Here at NRC we have new stock exclusion rules in our proposed regional plan. These rules are aimed at improving water quality by reducing the amount of bacteria (e.g. E. coli), sediment and nutrients getting into our waterways. 

These proposed rules will focus on waterways in lowland areas (i.e. land under an average 150 slope), with different dates requiring stock exclusion depending on the type of farming practice to allow for reasonable lead-in times.

Many proactive farmers in Northland have already been working to exclude stock from their waterways, recognising the benefits to their pasture and stock management, as well as animal health. However, the next ten years or so could be busy times for some landowners, with long stretches of streams to fence.

Our land management team expects to be in demand to help clarify the rules and will be available for free farm visits, to advise and discuss the implications for your farming business and possible NRC funding options for riparian fencing. As well as the stock exclusion rules, there are also other new rules that are likely to affect many farmers and landowners, including changes to earthworks rules, water takes and burning (see the graphic below).

Factsheets about the key topics in the plan are on our website:
The proposed plan is open for submissions by anyone interested until 4pm Wednesday, 15th November 2017.  You can put in a submission for or against any part of the plan. If you think you might want to continue to be involved in the process of the plan becoming operative (finalised) then we do recommend you take the time to submit in this first stage.

There is background information on the plan along with information on how to make a submission, on our website:

Catchment group update

Local plans for managing freshwater in the catchments of Doubtless Bay, Mangere, Poutō, Waitangi and Whangārei Harbour have been adopted by the Northland Regional Council, marking a milestone for the five community catchment groups involved.

The catchment-specific plans have been about four years in the making and it has been a challenging journey for the groups comprising tangata whenua, resource users such as the farming and forestry sectors, and organisations with recreational and environmental interests.

All the groups have worked collaboratively to reach consensus about how best to manage fresh water in their catchments and to develop both catchment-specific recommendations (included in the Proposed Regional Plan), and priority actions that will be undertaken by less formal groups working with the council and other agencies.

The groups spent a lot of time at the start of their journey learning about the complexities of the water quality issues in their catchments. A lot went into the learning process including field trips backed by scientific research to help the groups decide what their priorities were. It has been a mammoth effort and they have taken the job very seriously on behalf of their communities.

Combined Mangere and Whangārei Harbour catchment groups celebration meeting on 12 September

A number of the catchment plans have similar rules as they had similar issues (such as making erosion control plans compulsory for highly erodible land by 2025 to address the impact of sediment in waterways), but overall are tailored to address issues specific to the individual catchments.

The proposed Regional Plan has some catchment specific rules which take precedence over other plan rules. These catchment rules can be found in Section E of the proposed plan:

After having a break from meeting over the winter months, the groups have been coming together to celebrate their achievements. Moving on, they will now start working on implementing the non-regulatory actions (i.e. not covered by regional rules) they have prioritised.

Waitangi catchment group celebration meeting on 21 September

Biodiversity focus

Addressing New Zealand's biodiversity challenge

Our native flora and fauna does much to define us as a nation and it’s time to tackle the big questions around its future management. Good progress is being made in some areas, aided by effective new technology and greater public, corporate and philanthropic attention to environmental investment. But business as usual will not be good enough if we are to maintain our unique biodiversity heritage.

Northland’s biodiversity remains under threat, and we are losing ground in many cases. Regional councils have considered how we could better manage our indigenous biodiversity, with a particular focus on our roles and how we can work together more effectively.

Recently Local Government New Zealand’s regional sector released a report into the future of biodiversity management in the country, calling for clarification of roles and responsibilities and the creation of a clear plan to achieve it. Each region has been asked to endorse the recommendations in the report and work towards implementing them.

The report, also known as the “Biodiversity Thinkpiece”, recommends five shifts in the way regional councils and unitary authorities manage biodiversity including:
  • The need for strong leadership and clarity of roles;
  • The need to agree where efforts should be focussed at national, regional or local level;
  • The importance of a national plan and delivering joined up action across all players;
  • The need to understand what success looks like and how to measure it; and
  • The need for modern, fit for purpose frameworks including legislation to help achieve our goals.
Protecting biodiversity, through habitat protection, pest management and improvement of water quality, is core business for councils and the Thinkpiece calls for a coordinated approach with a clear “battle plan” to get the best outcomes. This means strong leadership to join up efforts across private and public land to make sure that work to protect biodiversity is as effective as possible. It also means operating in a smarter and more strategic way, so we can take up new opportunities and technologies as well as increasing support to landowners and communities in their own efforts.

Finally, if we are to measure the success of the projects we support, as well as gauge the state and condition of biodiversity in each region, we will need a fit for purpose monitoring programme which is applied and reported on consistently across the country. 

Centrolepis strigosa, is a tiny native annual plant listed as Nationally Critical (i.e. the kakapo of the plant kingdom) found, when conditions are right, at Kai Iwi Lakes.
More information about the Thinkpiece can be found here:

Wetland fencing brings rich rewards

Fencing off the ‘Top 150’ wetland on his Dargaville beef farm was on Brent McSweeney’s “list of things to do”.  So, when he was approached by Pete and Imogen from the council’s land management team, he jumped at the chance to get a $10,000 environment fund grant to fence half the area.
“The block needed fencing to enable easier management of the stock and pasture so the offer was timely and they made it really easy for me,” he said. “They were awesome.”
Aerial mapping helped define the fenceline location although the flexibility in the fund agreement was another plus, Brent said. “It wasn’t a problem to vary a bit from the plans – as long as the job was done, everyone was happy.”
Brent was so inspired about protecting the wetland from stock, he went on to fence the entire area, putting his own time and funds in to complete the 32-day job.
“It turned my way of thinking around,” he said. “When I bought the farm five years ago, I thought I’d do a bit of slash and burn, but then I started to see the immense value of the wetland. It’s a precious part of our ecosystem.
“There are birds down there, white-faced herons, eels and frogs – lots of frogs. They make a huge racket in the mornings when I’m heading down the paddock. It’s a fantastic sound and when I hear those frogs, I just know I’m doing something right.”
New stock exclusion fencing around part of the Top 150 kahikatea wetland on Brent’s farm

Start planning now for riparian planting in 2018

Dargaville Intermediate School has been sourcing local seeds to grow native riparian plants to supply for regeneration projects since 2012. Over that time, they’ve supplied over 50,000 plants to the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management group flagship sites, Kaipara District Council, Fonterra, Avoca, Kai Iwi Lakes planting projects and individual farmers.

They’re looking for orders now for next winter’s planting season. Species available include: manuka & kanuka, karo, cabbage tree, flax, Carex spp., titoki, kowhai, kahikatea, totara, lancewood.

Dargaville Intermediate School’s native plant nursery
For more information, contact Diane Papworth at Dargaville Intermediate: 09 4398045 or 0211847095;

Research findings about the benefits of manuka and kanuka plants for water quality

Interesting findings from research done over the past 10 years by ESR and Lincoln University has found that the anti-microbial properties of manuka and kanuka root systems can help improve water quality more effectively than other riparian plants. The indicator bacteria E. coli and other soil bacteria related to the nitrogen cycle are reduced much faster under manuka and kanuka plantings.

This research is continuing under field trials, but there is potential for these species to be really useful for water quality improvement in Northland. Further information about the trial can be found on the ESR website

Note, for those landowners undertaking any planting of species in the Myrtle family (e.g. manuka, kanuka, pohutukawa) remember to follow Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) guidelines for myrtle rust control. See the MPI website


Staff member bio: Introducing Immy Field, one of our newer team members

Imogen (Immy) Field has been a land management advisor with the Northland Regional council since February 2017. She was born and raised on the Port Hills in Christchurch, but prefers the warmer Northland climate where she has been living for the past two years. Her role in NRC’s land team is based in the Kaipara catchment, where she is working with farmers to improve water quality by developing Farm Water Quality Improvement Plans and administering environment fund applications.

Immy completed a conjoint bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Commerce at Victoria University, afterwards she returned to the mainland to work as a land management advisor for Environment Canterbury. Working closely with numerous catchment groups, she focused on behaviour change and water quality improvements in urban and rural catchments around Christchurch. This experience has already been very valuable for our team.

Immy’s other passion is the ocean, which has taken her diving and exploring all around the world. She has worked as a SCUBA instructor in various parts of the warm Caribbean and a bit closer to home at the Poor Knights Islands. A year and a half spent at the Poor Knights helped Immy fall in love with the Northland region above and below water. In her role as an LMA she can continue exploring and understanding the landscape whilst helping to protect the land and water that is so important.

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