Riparian planting

Posted on February 25, 2014

Farmers across New Zealand are being encouraged to revegetate riparian areas and fence off waterways to improve water quality and reduce run-off.

The activities aim to reduce nutrient, sediment and bacteria build-up in waterways and wetlands and involve restricting livestock movements and planting native, low-growing, flood tolerant species.

The benefits are three-fold with the plantings filtering surface run-off while providing wildlife corridors and limiting the growth of weeds.

The increased focus on riparian management comes out of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord Agreement signed last year between DairyNZ, DCANZ milk suppliers and government.

Collectively fencing, planting and maintaining waterway margins is known as riparian management and is integral to achieving the goals of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord (the ‘Accord’), an industry wide agreement between DairyNZ, DCANZ milk suppliers, central government and regional authorities, signed in 2013.

Expectations of the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord

  1. Dairy farms will exclude dairy cattle from waterways and wetlands, identified as being significant, under the definition of the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord.
  2. Riparian planting will occur where it provides a demonstrable water quality benefit.
  3. The crossing of waterways by dairy cows will not result in degradation of those waterways.

The Hard Graft, dairy companies will:

Implement measures to exclude dairy cattle from waterways and drains greater than one metre in width and deeper than 30 cm as well as significant wetlands on dairy farms according to the following phase-in timetable:

For waterways and drains:

  • 90% exclusion of the length present on dairy farms by 31 May 2014; and
  • 100% of the length present on dairy farms1 by 31 May 2017.

For significant wetlands:

  • 100% exclusion of all wetlands identified by a regional council as at 31 May 2012 by 31 May 2014; and
  • 100% exclusion of any additional regionally significant wetlands present on dairy farms within three years of them being identified by the regional council.

Encourage dairy farmers to:

  • exclude dairy cattle from all wetlands; and
  • apply the stock exclusion commitment to third party grazing land as if it were their own land.

Implement measures to ensure 100% of regular stock crossing points are either bridged or culverted by 31 May 2018.

Introduce measures to achieve progressive planting of the length of waterways within or bounding dairy farms, after stock exclusion, where planting will contribute to water quality enhancement according to the following phase-in schedule:

  • 50% of dairy farms with waterways will have a riparian management plan by 31 May 2016 and all of these farms will have completed
  • half of their riparian management plan commitments by 31 May 2020
  • full implementation of their riparian management plan by 31 May 2030

100% of all dairy farms with waterways will have a riparian management plan by 31 May 2020.

Promote and facilitate (including through partnerships with other organisations) riparian planting to enhance ecosystem health (on-going).

DairyNZ will:

Develop, in partnership with regional councils, regionally tailored riparian management guidelines that include descriptions of how best to determine setback, fencing options and appropriate planting choice. The guidelines will be heavily geared to the practicalities of how, when and where best to fence and plant, to ‘do it right the first time’. All this is to future proof dairy farms by promoting better stream health and water quality for the benefit of the wider community.

Guidelines will be completed according to the following timetable:

  • Three regions completed by 31 May 2014
  • Nine regions by 31 May 2015
  • The whole country by 31 May 2016

Monitoring and reporting

Dairy companies are now obliged to monitor and report on:

  • The length of stock excluded waterways and areas of significant wetlands as well as the length of any dispensations by region (reported annually).
  • The percentage of stock crossings that have bridges or culverts and any dispensations (reported annually).
  • The extent of all riparian margins planted on dairy farms and through industry or community partnerships across a region e.g off-farm planting (reported biennially).

For further information please refer to: