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Thousands Of Plants Improve Burgess Stream

Over half of the 4500 native plants for a biodiversity project at Burgess Stream near Eyreton are in the ground with planting expected to be completed by November.

The initiative is a joint project between Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL), Environment Canterbury and WIL shareholder and landowners Andrew and Peter Gilchrist. It is the first in a series of linked biodiversity projects which aim to improve environmental values through WIL’s catchment area.

Biodiversity project lead Dan Cameron says Burgess Stream is the perfect area to begin as the area surrounding an adjacent spring head will be protected and a significant riparian margin will be enhanced with indigenous species.

“It’s been fenced off for years and has a nice thick riparian margin. We also found upland bullies and native fish in the stream which makes it the ideal place to start as we can protect those natural values.”

Dan says the project aims to improve water quality through planting which will increase shading of the riparian margin and contribute organic matter which plays a fundamental role in creating healthy aquatic ecosystems. It will also help to filter sediment from the water and provide a quality habitat for aquatic fauna. The plant species have been selected to thrive under an irrigation pivot, while also not growing high enough to interfere with its operation.

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“We have to be practical with the plants we select as they need to work in with the farming operation. We’ve also included species with cultural significance in terms of mahinga kai values.”

Collaboration is a key theme and Dan spent over 18 months planning and designing the project to ensure that the work carried out protects and enhances the natural values of the site.

“We are planning for the future and trying to implement the vision that landowners, WIL and ECan have for working together cohesively to improve waterways and the environment.

“It’s not just about putting plants in the ground for the sake of it or to tick a box but about making it work within the context of a functional farm and then stepping back to take a holistic view of the surrounding farms, the entire scheme and the wider community where WIL’s scheme connects with other landowners.”

Landowner Andrew says while initially he was a bit apprehensive about the planting project he is now totally on board and has appreciated all the support from WIL, ECan and Dan.

“It’s hard to know at the start but once we got going, I could see the benefits of this because we are all working together. Being able to access funding from ECan to help with purchasing the plants is a real bonus.”

Andrew and his staff spent August planting out around 2500 natives along the stream following a planting plan developed by Dan and ECan staff. He says it was a positive team building exercise.

“August is one of our quieter months for our contracting business, so it was the perfect time to get everyone together for a bit of planting and it was something positive for us to do together.

“We’re looking forward to getting the second lot of plants in the ground and will be watching on with interest as they grow.”

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