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Winners are grinners

Winners are grinners - and in the case of three lucky Taranaki farming families, they're also planters.

They shared $9,000 worth of prizes today after a prize draw organised by the Taranaki Regional Council, which is in the midst of distributing 300,000 native plants as part of its large-scale programme to protect and enhance water quality with thousands of kilometres of riparian fencing and vegetation.

The programme is one of the largest water and soil conservation projects in New Zealand and landowners who were early with their plant orders went into the draw for prizes sponsored by Fonterra and Revital Fertilisers. Major winners and their prizes are:

• Pip and Trent Olliver (Mitchell Dairies Ltd), Manaia - 700 riparian plants and associated pre-planting preparation, planting and maintenance work, to a total value of $3,500 (sponsored by Fonterra).
• Neil and Megan Barnes, New Plymouth - Goods to the value $2,500 from RD1 (sponsored by Fonterra).
• Eric and Jeanine Fowler, Urenui - $1,000 worth of riparian plants and $2,000 worth of fertilizer (sponsored by Revital).

The big prize winners, Pip and Trent Olliver, can't believe their beginners' luck - they're in their first year of implementing a Council-prepared riparian management plan for their 150 ha farm on which they milk 600 cows.

"We were thinking about doing it in three stages but now I think we'll be able to combine two of them," says Mrs Olliver.

She says they were attracted by the concept of the riparian programme, and impressed by the example set on neighbouring properties.

Mitchell Dairies Ltd is an equity partnership between the Ollivers, Bill Johnston and Mike Swift

Neil and Megan Barnes has been involved in the riparian programme since it started in the 1990s and were quick to be convinced of its benefits.

"It all started when we were having erosion trouble along the Mangorei Stream and our Regional Council officer convinced us to do some planting," Mr Barnes says. "It worked a treat and we carried on from there."

The Barnes family runs 320 milking cows plus dry stock on 124 ha. Their riparian management plan is almost fully implemented.

Eric and Jeanine Fowler are also enthusiastic planters on their small but hilly block. "We do 6,000 trees a year. It started because of erosion control and we've carried on because we're conservation people," says Mrs Fowler. Part of their land is under QE II National Trust covenant.

They enlist the help of the New Plymouth Girls' High School first XV rugby team to help them plant every year.

Besides the major prizes, the first 80 land owners to order 400 or more riparian plants will each receive a $50 RD1 voucher.

Around 95% of Taranaki dairy farms have had riparian management plans prepared for free by the Council. Plants are supplied at cost and to be eligible for the prize draw, land holders had to order at least 300 by 1 March.

The Council encourages early orders to ensure the success of the plant scheme, and wants farmers to plan their plant requirements a year ahead.

The major prizes were presented by the Taranaki Regional Council Chairman, David MacLeod, Fonterra's General Manager Sustainable Production, John Hutchings, and Revital Fertilisers Manager Kerry O'Neill.

Mr MacLeod says the prize draw is an ideal way to highlight the hard work that's going into riparian protection across the region.

"We've got some big winners on the day but all those who are involved in this programme are also winners," he says. "The uptake of the Council's riparian management plans has been outstanding, and now we need to increase the rate of planting and fencing."
Mr Hutchings says Fonterra congratulates the winners and the Taranaki Regional Council for the approach they have adopted with riparian management plans and plants provided to support farmers.

"We are strong supporters of riparian planting as a key means to improve water quality and we certainly encourage our suppliers to take up the opportunities offered by the Council."


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