Horticulture New Zealand has assisted Pukekohe vegetable growers to get funding for riparian plantings along the waterways that feed into the Waikato River.
Through the Waikato Regional Authority, the Waikato River Clean Up Trust has approved $57,500 funding for a Whakapipi Tributary Riparian Restoration project. Added to a cash contribution from the growers and in-kind support, including from Horticulture New Zealand, the amount for the planting project is $101,000.
"This is the highest level of funding from the Trust and is for a significant project," Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive Mike Chapman says. "It applies to waterways that are unique and locally significant features for the Pukekohe community, and it is the first application related to commercial vegetable cropping land that has been given such funding.
"Riparian planting on the banks of the waterways will improve the ecosystem through shading and habitat improvement."
Several long-term growers will use the funding to enhance riparian land alongside the Whakapipi and Tutaenui Rivers in Pukekohe. There is also a land parcel on the bank of the lower Waikato River that is part of the plan.
Local iwi (Ngati Tamaoho) have been engaged and are supportive, as are Waikato Tainui, seeing the significant potential for improvement of ecological and cultural values associated with water.
The Whakapipi and Tutaenui Rivers suffer from significant fresh water weed growth, which can be reduced with shading. Alongside the cooling and habitat increase provided, this will result in more connected ecosystems and will improve water quality in these tributaries. It is hoped this will also provide improved water quality outcomes and in general, improved quality of water entering the main stem of the Waikato River from these tributaries.
Spokesman for one of the growers involved in the project, Peter Reynolds from T A Reynolds & Sons Limited, says this project will be enhanced by other farm planting initiatives to improve the sustainability of commercial vegetable production, such as catchment scale erosion, sediment control and nutrient management practices.
Mr Reynolds says this project will add to existing riparian plantings and stream protection that has already been done.
"The grower community in Pukekohe provides a significant contribution to domestic food production in New Zealand. Continued production will need to demonstrate that outcomes for food security are compatible with improved water values," Mike Chapman says.