Forests and Trees play a significant beneficial role. HBRC has a strong interest in ensuring that the right trees are established in the right places to achieve our regional objectives. Balancing what is ‘right’ with the needs of farming individuals, rural communities, tangata whenua, regional economic and social wellbeing, and ratepayer expectations will be key.
The East Coast Region has a long history of forest clearance of its hill country for pastoral farming that has left large parts of the region susceptible to soil erosion. Within the 1.42 million hectares of land area within the Hawke’s Bay Region, an estimated 252,000 hectares of this land is considered to be highly erodible. Much of this land was cleared with incentives from central government in the interests of economic development. Too often forest clearance took place on land with marginal pastoral value and with adverse environmental consequences.
In response to a loss of forested lands, HBRC has been working to re-establish tree cover on highly erodible lands. Since 1947, HBRC and its predecessors have helped establish an estimated 2.2 million poplar and willow poles on 45,000 hectares of erodible lands. In addition, HBRC has over 2,000 hectares of plantation forest estate under its management and has joint ventures on another 160 ha. The scale and pace of this work however has not been enough to address the extent of our erosion issues.
The biggest driver of poor water quality in the East Coast region’s lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal environments is sediment from soil erosion. This soil erosion damages habitat for aquatic animal and plant species and delivers excessive phosphorus to waterways increasing nutrient levels and stimulates algae.
The increasing likelihood of droughts and large storm events have a compounding effect on our existing erosion issues putting many of our farmers and their communities at serious risk. The increase intense rain events reduces the ability of our soils to absorb rain when it does come and will have a compounding effect on our existing erosion issues. In addition to harming water quality, large-scale erosion during heavy rainfall events risks local infrastructure due to the build-up of sediment in river beds. This impacts on flood protection and increases the severity of flooding on low lying areas.
Trees can provide a number of significant benefits for farming systems and the wider landscape. Tree cover can help ensure more soil stays on the hills where it is productive and out of the waterways where it is a contaminant. A variety of forests and forest species are also key elements in regional climate change resilience and emissions reductions.
Planting trees can provide an estimated $851/ha/yr benefit for 20 years compared to an uneroded state (Dominati, 2014). Most of the value is not in provisioning services like wood or food for harvest but in regulating services such as filtering nutrients, carbon sequestration, and flood mitigation.
What are the benefits of forests:
All regions of New Zealand experience summer temperatures and humidity that, at times, are likely to cause heat stress in livestock. At some points of the year, animals can struggle due to cold or wet conditions. Providing shade and shelter for grazing livestock is one obvious way to prevent heat stress, provide cover from the elements, and to contribute positively to animal welfare.
Growing trees for fodder is one way to mitigate the risk of livestock feed shortages in times of drought. Poplars and willows are fast-growing, highly versatile species and, as well as other benefits, have the potential to provide livestock fodder in dry summer weather. Both species grow large amounts of nutritious foliage, available in summer and autumn when grass is most likely to be in short supply. As the climate becomes warmer and drier in some parts of New Zealand, droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe, and fodder trees may become more highly valued.
Trees improve land stability by binding soils with their roots, covering the ground with litter and preventing repeated drying/wetting or cracking, intercepting rainfall and slowing runoff. Riparian planting often involves deep-rooted trees for this reason; they can bind and reinforce banks, preventing them from slumping into waterways. The risk of soil erosion is greatly reduced by planting trees or allowing vegetation to regenerate. Planting will often offer a quicker response than letting land revert to bush. Different species establish roots at different rates – this can be an important factor when rapid soil erosion control is needed. Forests can reduce erosion by as much as 90% once canopy closure has been met (Dymond et al., 2016, Phillips et al., 1990).
Plantings for timber, livestock shelter, shade and fodder, riparian zone protection and soil conservation can all deliver significant biodiversity and amenity benefits. Each adds capital value to farms as well as, character and visual diversity. Many native plants and birds such as Brown Kiwi and NZ falcon find ideal habitat in pine forests, and native fish species enjoy the shaded, diverse aquatic environment provided under trees..
People call Hawke’s Bay “Wine country”, but with 130,000 hectares under pines it is really “Pine country”. Most of the timber in our region is managed by larger companies but many farm foresters find great value from their smaller pine blocks. Members of the farm forestry association can provide some great advice to other farmers in their community.
Forests absorb carbon as they grow and some are eligible to gain carbon units which can be sold or traded in the New Zealand carbon market. See our page on carbon forestry for more info.
Trees HBRC has invested in a mānuka trial at Tūtira, as part of the High Performance Mānuka Plantations programme, a seven year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) between the mānuka honey industry and the Ministry of Primary Industries. This partnership aims to to increase the supply of medical grade mānuka honey from plantations on marginal land. This crop also offers an exciting alternative means of erosion control on other sites.
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