Environment Waikato is concerned about the amount of scrub land potentially being cleared for farm production.
Programme Manager Grant Blackie said the Council had noticed an increase in the last year or two in the number of drystock farmers clearing areas of hill country pasture which had reverted to scrub to bring them back into production.
“Farmers need a resource consent to clear any area greater that one hectare a year, other than crops, grass and exotic weeds. Consents may also be required from district councils to clear native vegetation.”
“As the financial returns from drystock farming have improved in recent years, increasing pressure is coming onto areas of ‘marginal’ grazing land to increase the areas of pasture available for stock. Often these areas have been cleared and reverted, reflecting the financial cycles of drystock farming.”
He said areas known as ‘scrub’ may contain a wide range of sites from woody exotic weeds like gorse and broom, pasture reversion to juvenile manuka through to areas of older kanuka and emerging podocarp species containing pockets of mature podocarp species.
“Some of the areas referred to as ‘scrub’ may actually be 20 – 30 years or older, containing a wide range of emergent tree species. Many people think of scrub as a nuisance but it plays a valuable role in our landscape. Areas of scrub are home to many native plants and animals, including kiwi, lizards and rare orchids.
“In many areas they form ‘corridors’ between other areas of natural vegetation. Some areas of scrub act as a nursery for regenerating forest. Other areas play an important role in buffering native forests or wetlands.”
He said scrub played an important role in the landscape by holding soil together in hill country, preventing slips and minimising erosion, protecting water quality and streams habitats, absorbing and storing greenhouse gases, providing useful products, such as honey and essential oils from manuka scrub and providing sources of traditional medicine such as the native shrub kumarahou.
“Environment Waikato will also be contacting all helicopter companies in the Waikato area to advise them about the need for resource consents. There are other options for landowners wanting advice or help in protecting or enhancing an area of native vegetation.”
Farmers wanting to clear scrub should seek advice from Environment Waikato and their district council. Landowners wanting information about protecting native areas should contact 0800 BIODIV (0800 246348) and those thinking about clearing native vegetation should contact Environment Waikato's Freephone 0800 800 401.