Lobbying of the government by Federated Farmers led to the QEII National Trust being set up in 1977 to enable farmers to protect natural features on their farms.
Thirty years on, the QEII model of protection has been well demonstrated as being cost-effective and rigorous.
Inherent in the success is independence from government, the involvement of the landowner and the respect of private property rights.
Farmers retain ownership and management of the land and continue to control access.
Above: The attractive rural landscapes formed when productive land use is integrated with covenanted bush remnants add economic value to farm properties.
Farmers with open space covenants have shown the environment can be both restored and enhanced while retaining profitability.
Leaving gullies and other steep land to regenerate back to bush improves farm management; benefits include less battling of regrowth and fewer stock lost in gullies.
Regenerating bush helps to filter rain and runoff, improving water quality. Bush remnants provide shelter and shade for stock in adjacent paddocks.
Farmers comment on birdlife increasing as the bush grows back. From kereru in Northland to kiwi in Taranaki and to the more common tui and grey warblers, the bush is starting to ring with birdsong compared to the recent silence.
Two dairy farmers explain why they have protected bush remnants with QEII covenants.
East of Opunake in South Taranaki, Graham Mourie has two adjacent farms; one a recent purchase run with two others in an equity partnership.
This farm is undergoing an intensive development programme to increase production.
In 1990, Graham protected 1.5ha of semi-coastal forest with a QEII covenant.
Now with 550 cows on a total of 220ha, he had a second covenant approved in June 2008 protecting tawa, kahikatea and pukatea forest.
The bush has a good base of seedlings including nikau, tree fuchsia, rewarewa, coprosma and mahoe.
‘There was twenty acres of bush on the farm I grew up on,’ says Graham.
’Both my grandfather and father were great planters and I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the bush.
‘Trees have a place in a balanced environment. With the way bush is disappearing, covenanting helps to maintain a variety in the landscape.’
Neil Phillips, QEII Taranaki Regional Representative says that most semi-coastal vegetation has been cleared in the Egmont Ecological District.
‘The bush protected by these covenants is in an acutely threatened, critically underprotected land environment,’ he says.
‘And with being on the road to Opunake, the bush has a high visual impact in this intensively farmed landscape.
‘The owners have set up an environmental plan for the farm to balance development with the protection of the remaining forest, restoring waterways and revegetation plantings.’
Graham adds that planting the right species will help to bring back birds once common in the bush including tui, kingfishers and fantails.
‘The Taranaki Tree Trust is assisting with the revegetation,’ he says.
‘The plan is to plant “stepping-stones” to link the protected areas.’
Above: Graham Mourie on the right, with equity partners Darrel Weston (and son Caleb) on the left and Mark Bridges, in front of a protected bush remnant on their Opunake dairy farm. Photo: Neil Phillips
Farmers who protect natural or cultural features on their land with covenants may be eligible for assistance from QEII for partial fencing costs.
Councils may also contribute to fencing. Another possible source is the contestable Biodiversity Condition Fund.
Above: Along with QEII, the South Taranaki District Council is contributing to the cost of replacing this old fence with a 7-wire post and batten fence around Graham Mourie’s recently approved covenant in Opunake.
The new fence will ensure stock is excluded in the future, allowing the bush to regenerate. Photo: Neil Phillips
South-east of Otorohanga, lowland forest and flaxland was protected by the Purdie family on their 180ha dairy farm with a 7.5ha covenant in May 2007.
‘We run 330 cows on about 100ha as the rest is in bush or is too steep for cows,’ says Paul Purdie.
‘The bush is a beautiful spot with trees such as tanekaha.’
Paul’s uncle, long-time covenantor Arthur Cowan, suggested protecting the valuable bush remnant which has rimu, totara, miro and tawa in the canopy and emerging tanekaha, kahikatea, matai and rewarewa.
The NZ Native Forests Restoration Trust has put in considerable effort into revegetating the steeper, less productive land.
‘Covenanting this significant area of forest has also protected the vulnerable soils on the steep sidlings from erosion,’ says Malcolm Mackenzie, QEII Waitomo-Otorohanga Regional Representative.
Above: Protected by a QEII covenant, the magnificent podocarp trees around ignimbrite bluffs enhance the landscape in this intensive dairy farming area near Otorohanga. Photo: Malcolm Mackenzie
You may have a special area on your farm that you wish to safeguard forever. Contact your local QEII representative ...
Open SpaceTM Magazine No. 74, November 2008 © QEII National Trust