Working hard as guardian of land
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.’’
The 2ha wetland created on Don Macky’s dairy farm.