Work­ing hard as guardian of land

Piako Post - - RURAL DELIVERY - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

Farm­ers of­ten call them­selves care­tak­ers of the land.

It is a la­bel that of­ten gets paid lip ser­vice but one that Don Macky takes ex­tremely se­ri­ously.

Farm­ers were only guardians of the land over the course of their lives, the Man­gapiko dairy farmer said when host­ing about 80 peo­ple at a field day or­gan­ised by the Land­care Trust.

‘‘We have a neg­a­tive at­ti­tude in re­spects to own­er­ship. You have ti­tle to the land but you are only its guardian for your life­time.’’

He has backed up his words with ac­tions.

Macky is the chair­man of the Lower Man­gapiko Stream Care Group and has cre­ated a two hectare wet­land on his 145ha farm to help pre­vent nu­tri­ents flow­ing into the Man­gapiko Stream, which runs through his prop­erty.

The pub­lic will see the restora­tion work for them­selves when they have ac­cess in a soon to be de­vel­oped cy­cle­way next to the wet­land.

The route will run from Fon­terra’s dairy plant in Te Awa­mutu along the rail­way line to Ngaroto.

From there it will go along a se­ries of roads be­fore trav­el­ling through his farm.

Macky’s wet­land would be the cy­cle­way’s half way point be­fore trav­el­ling on to Piron­gia.

Macky is the fourth gen­er­a­tion of his fam­ily to farm his prop­erty and has a 50:50 sharemilker run­ning the farm­ing en­ter­prise, which al­lows him to de­vote his time to restor­ing the stream.

The land orig­i­nally had a lot of na­tives that were cleared. Now that was be­ing re­v­ersed with flax planted around the bank along with wil­low hy­brids. Last year, 3500 trees were planted on the farm and 4000 by the neigh­bour­ing farmer.

Macky said their group would never have been able to achieve what had been done with­out the help and fund­ing from the Waikato Re­gional Council and Waikato River Au­thor­ity.

‘‘We are just a group of farm­ers who want to make it hap­pen, and they are the ve­hi­cle where it does hap­pen.’’

The group he leads was cre­ated to im­prove the wa­ter qual­ity of the stream by en­cour­ag­ing land own­ers to per­ma­nently ex­clude stock from all water­ways.

It is a com­mu­nity-led project in­volv­ing land own­ers who live along the stream which runs be­tween Piron­gia and Te Awa­mutu. The project started in 2006 with farm­ers clear­ing trees and fenc­ing off the stream, plant- ing ri­par­ian ar­eas and wil­lows to stop ero­sion.

Main­te­nance of the wet­land was crit­i­cal, he said.

He takes care of weeds with reg­u­lar spray­ing and has set up sev­eral traps for pest con­trol to get rid of rats, stoats and pos­sums. He has also re­placed and re­paired pre­vi­ous de­vel­op­ment. His work had not fin­ished yet and he planned to plant up a gully next to the wet­land.

Group mem­ber and farmer Doug Smith said the pig­head­ed­ness of farm­ers want­ing to have stock graz­ing close to river banks stopped them from fenc­ing off water­ways years ago.

‘‘As farm­ers, we look at one di­rec­tion too much. We should have been look­ing at more di­rec­tions. If we had got stuck into this 30 years ago, imag­ine what it would have been like now. It’s great to say this in hind­sight but we should have been do­ing this 30 years ago.

‘‘My grand­mother used to swim in the stream as a child and it was crys­tal clear. When I was a kid and went eel­ing, it was black. It’s amaz­ing now how it’s come back.’’

PHO­TOS: GER­ALD PIDDOCK

The 2ha wet­land cre­ated on Don Macky’s dairy farm.

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