Author: Helen Ritchie
This report was prepared for Environment Waikato and the Project Watershed Subcommittee for the Middle Waikato.
Twelve properties were included in a study about soil conservation and waterway protection in the Middle Waikato area.
Farmers were interviewed to find out about the work they had done, their initial motivations and the farm benefits they had gained. They were also asked about any environmental benefits they observed as a result. Information was gathered about costs and the issues farmers had faced as well as lessons they had learned. A further aim of the study was to assess whether the current grants offered through Project Watershed and other schemes are justified, and set at a rate that reflects the balance of private and public benefit.
Farmers were asked open questions on these topics, so their responses reflect what was on the top of their minds. They were not asked to answer yes/no as to whether any of the following applied to them, though some prompts were used. Based on this, the following conclusions were reached:
Motivations and benefits
1. Most of the farmers in this study said they were motivated by a responsibility to be good stewards of their land and water resources and protect them for the future.
2. The majority also expected significant on-farm gains from fencing out riparian areas as a result of better pasture utilisation, less stock losses and ease of mustering. Where stock previously drank from natural water, troughs were associated with improvements in animal health.
3. Many farmers also appreciated the amenity value of a well-protected waterway, including plantings and more bird life (these tended to be a different group than those who said property value improvements were a key benefit of this sort of work).
4. Several farmers said they would prefer to see a clean, grazed streambank, but felt a responsibility to keep cattle out of the water due to the impact on water quality or public perception. Trade and consumer image were mentioned as a motivation by a small number of those interviewed.
5. Farmers commonly believed that property value increases due to this sort of work, but for most, this was not a major benefit or motivation for doing it.
6. Farmers did not believe there was much gain to them from preventing streambank slumping, and some said they had lost significant grazing in retiring riparian areas. However, the impact of streambank slumping on water quality was acknowledged.
7. Farmers generally had not seen improvements in the clarity of their main waterways, but did observe less soil loss and cleaner water coming off steep areas in trees. They also noted more stable banks and run-off being filtered by swamps and riparian strips.
8. Weeds in streamside areas were a problem, especially blackberry. However, for those retiring steep areas and planting timber crops, there could be a significant decrease in spending on pasture weed control compared to keeping these areas in pasture.
9. Some farmers expressed frustration that in spite of their work to protect water quality, what was happening upstream impacted negatively on waterways.
10. Where willows were removed, stream flow and streambank erosion increased, but farmers expected this to be a temporary situation.
Views on grants
11. Most of those interviewed thought the grant was needed to get this sort of work done, and there was a general feeling the grant was set at about the right rate. Some concern was expressed about administration costs and rising rates. However most farmers were positive about the support they got from Environment Waikato.
Ideas for encouraging others
12. The most effective way to encourage others was seen as direct contact, especially farmer-to-farmer approaches. There was support for targeting certain streams and having a local farmer invite people to a meeting to try and get a collective effort.
13. There was also some support for getting positive publicity out, both to encourage other farmers and also to counter the negative publicity in the media about farming.
Report on soil conservation and waterway protection in the Middle Waikato
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|How this study was done||1|
|The questions and interview process||1|
|How information was analysed||2|
|Environmental and public benefits||15|
|Saving on costs or increasing value||18|
|Issues and key lessons||21|
|Assessment of grants||23|
|Encouraging other farmers||27|
|Motivations and benefits||29|
|Views on grants||29|
|Ideas for encouraging others||29|
|Appendix 1: Work done and grants accessed by farmers interviewed||31|
|Appendix 2: Question Schedule for Interviews||33|