David Jack surveys the rolling country over Rosebrae​ Farms and points to where the 200 hectare property borders the Pūniu River.
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LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Planting for the 75ha gully will eventually involve around 1800 native plants established there.

“That’s our southern boundary where the river is, it’s important because it’s one of the tributaries to the Waipā River, which later on flows into the Waikato River.”

Over the river is the King Country, Jack points out.

“Witi Ihimaera wrote a great book about the land wars and how the women and children had to get across the Pūniu to get into the King Country, where the troops couldn’t follow.

Balwinder Singh, left, was among the Synlait workers planting native trees at Rosebrae Farms.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Balwinder Singh, left, was among the Synlait workers planting native trees at Rosebrae Farms.

“So as you can tell, this land has important historical and ecological significance.”

Rosebrae Farms is near Parawera about 17km south of Te Awamutu.

It’s a dairy farm that supplies milk to Synlait which, like other dairy companies, is using the wet July weather to help its farmers plant thousands of native trees this winter.

In total, Synlait planned to plant 40,000 trees in the South Island and 7500 in the North Island as part of its Whakapuāwai environmental programme.

Vanessa Kaleopa, Quinn Cueto and Rosemary Haimona plant trees closer to the water in the gully at Rosebrae Farms.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Vanessa Kaleopa, Quinn Cueto and Rosemary Haimona plant trees closer to the water in the gully at Rosebrae Farms.

It’s difficult to put a figure on the total number of trees being put in the ground for restoration projects in Waikato this winter.

Other dairy companies have similar programmes to Synlait while in the public sector, Waikato Regional Council secured $26 million in grant funding for multiple, long-term environmental restoration, biosecurity and climate resilience projects worth about $40m across the region.

Jack, along with Synlait’s milk supply manager Richard Managh​ and volunteers from the dairy company’s Pokeno factory and canning plant in Auckland, managed to plant about 900 native trees at the farm on July 20.

Joseph Arreola planting one of the 900 trees at Rosebrae Farms.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Joseph Arreola planting one of the 900 trees at Rosebrae Farms.

Managh said some of the staff had given up their own time to travel to the farm and for others, it would have been their first time meeting a dairy farmer.

The trees were grown by the Pūniu River Care Group which won the Waikato Catchment Award 2021 in the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust Awards.

“We’ve already done some riparian planting on the banks of the Pūniu River with the river care group over two years.

“And now the focus is on stepping back and planting the tributaries which feed into the river.”

Planting for the 75ha gully will eventually involve around 1800 native plants established there.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Planting for the 75ha gully will eventually involve around 1800 native plants established there.

The target area for the 900 trees was a 75ha gully which had been fenced off.

“You can fence off waterways to prevent stock getting in but that doesn’t stop effluent and runoff getting under the fence into the tributary.

“But we’ve learned about what different plants can do, so we have grasses and flaxes that have roots that love water, so we are planting them close to the water.

“Then above we are planting manuka and kanuka, coprosma, ake ake and karamu.

“We will plant 900 today and come back another time to plant another 900.”

Rosebrae Farms is one of two dairy farms in the Arohena Pastoral group which is run by a syndicate of kiwifruit growers, bankers, investors and farm managers.

Jack is the syndicate’s board chairman and is a retired manufacturer living in Auckland.

Raniera Gillett and Marjo Ermens helping to plant some of the 3000 native trees around bat hill at Buxton Farm.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Raniera Gillett and Marjo Ermens helping to plant some of the 3000 native trees around bat hill at Buxton Farm.

“We have eight shareholders and we all have different backgrounds, not all are dairy farmers.

“It is a unique group and we have a different approach I suppose to conventional farming.”

The syndicate’s other farm, Arohena, is on the banks of Lake Arapuni about 25km from Parawera.

Arohena is 350ha and runs 670 cows while Rosebrae is 200ha with about 400-450 cows.

“We had an opportunity to plant some of the more steep country at Arohena and in the end we made a decision to go with native trees, rather than pines.

“On either side of us there are native tree blocks so in the end it will provide a larger corridor for native birds to travel.”

Providing habitat for flying creatures was also the target for Fonterra’s community planting day on its Buxton Farm on the outskirts of Cambridge.

Staff from the Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust, Jimmy-Rei James and Scott Vercoe, leading the planting effort up the hill.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Staff from the Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust, Jimmy-Rei James and Scott Vercoe, leading the planting effort up the hill.

The farm had been identified as habitat for the endangered native long-tail bat and planting would help to support their eco-system.

Fonterra cleared the cows off Buxton Farm a few years ago and had been using the property to irrigate wastewater from its nearby Hautapu factory.

A year ago the farm’s former dairy plant was converted into a native tree nursery now used by the Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust which supplies native trees for riparian planting.

Fonterra regional farms operations manager Doug Dibley said the trees will help bring back native flora and fauna to the hill.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Fonterra regional farms operations manager Doug Dibley said the trees will help bring back native flora and fauna to the hill.

Some of those trees were among the 3000 planted around “bat hill” where the bats live near the centre of Buxton Farm.

Fonterra regional farms operations manager Doug Dibley said the hill had been fenced off, Good Nature had supplied some traps to catch predators and the Department of Conservation had set up some possum traps in the block as well.

Fonterra staff, Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust staff and volunteers from DoC, Good Nature and the neighbouring Fencourt community pitched in to help plant the trees on July 30.

Brenda Bell was among the volunteers from the nearby Fencourt community to lend at hand at Buxton Farm.
LAWRENCE GULLERY/STUFF Brenda Bell was among the volunteers from the nearby Fencourt community to lend at hand at Buxton Farm.

“This is the next stage in the project to enhance the biodiversity of the block,” Dibley said.

“The bats are living in eucalyptus trees which are exotic and don’t provide a lot of the native diversity.

“Planting these trees won’t provide extra habitat for the bats but it will encourage native flora and fauna to come back, as well as insects, birds, bees which the bats predate on.”

Dibley said bat hill will also provide a vital corridor for native birds to travel between Te Miro, on one side of the farm, and the Waikato River on the other.

Dairy products and, in particular, grass-fed products are performing strongly post-covid in overseas markets.

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