Farm biodiversity plans in Marlborough are voluntary and considered above and beyond best practice. Funded by the Department of Conservation's Ngā Awa river restoration programme, five on-farm biodiversity plans were created with the help of local ecologist, James Lambie. James says the five farmers involved were all keen to have their efforts and aspirations for biodiversity maintenance and enhancement on record. While a template was used to guide the process, each farm was different and resulted in tailored plans for the properties.
The pressing need for all five of the plans was livestock exclusion around waterways and wetlands, followed by enhancement, restoration planting and maintenance. Unique to some of the farms are remnants of near-original or old-growth forest where livestock exclusion is also a priority.
Ungulate and pest control posed a challenge on some farms, as current regulatory interest and funding is directed for waterway protection and enhancement. Only one of the farmers has the time and opportunity to take on deer, goats, and other pest control. According to the plans shared by landowners, most of the farmers undertake some predator (cat and mustelid) control around their homes, but none of the plans had a predator control focus because of other priorities.
Arising from the biodiversity plans is the need to recognise parts of the farm where staged retirement from grazing of sub-optimal pastures is already occurring and an opportunity for forest restoration is emerging.
Monitoring of the plans will focus on the rate of fencing and success of riparian plantings. Farmers with a passion for native birds are encouraged to undertake annual native bird monitoring to detect any positive changes in birdlife arising from riparian enhancement and to detect negative changes arising from lack of predator control.
Offering assistance to farmers on their biodiversity farm plans was very successful and much welcomed by landowners. Exploring further funding for this action for the next financial year is already under way.
For Te Hoiere Project, James Lambie created the plans for the landowners using guidance documents from Professor David Norton, University of Christchurch.
Many examples of biodiversity management actions in the plans are already being undertaken my landowners in the catchment. Just a few examples from the University of Canterbury are below:
- Fencing (livestock and/or rabbits and/or feral ungulates such as deer & goats). This allows native vegetation to regenerate, restoration plantings to grow, and stops degradation of wetlands and riverbanks.
- Weed control (manual, spray, biological). This reduces the abundance of weeds allowing native vegetation to develop towards a more mature condition.
- Wasp control (poison). This reduces food competition with and predation of native animals and makes bush areas friendlier for people.
- Enhancing nesting opportunities (nest boxes). This allows some native birds to be able to nest free of predation pressure (e.g. ruru/morepork).