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Fonterra funding native trees for sustainable catchments

Planting underway at Tūhaitara Coastal Park

Fonterra may be best known as the folks behind the milk for your morning cuppa, but there’s more to the dairy co-operative than meets the eye. They’ve been stepping up their efforts to support dairy farmers on sustainable practices for land and water: including native tree planting.

Fonterra has so far funded 12,500 native trees through Trees That Count to be planted in dairy farming areas in a diverse range of regions. “Healthy freshwater, soil and ecosystems are essential to the long-term success of Aotearoa New Zealand, our business, farmers’ businesses, and to communities,” says Fonterra’s Head of Environmental Partnerships Trish Kirkland-Smith.

One such business benefiting from Fonterra’s support is the Donald Pearson Farm in Manurewa, which was gifted to the Young Farmers Club NZ. Continuing Pearson’s legacy of strong community involvement, the Farm trust partners with Manurewa College to increase the areas already planted in native bush, retire marginal land currently grazed, and enhance existing wetlands. 

The Donald Pearson Farm is committed to demonstrating farm best practice alongside improving the flora and fauna of the region, ultimately reducing its carbon footprint. Their efforts have been boosted by 1,750 native trees funded by Fonterra and planted in the 2019 and 2020 planting seasons.

Stock check at the Donald Pearson Farm in Manurewa

Likewise, dairy farmers Dave and Trace Thompson at Tōtara Creek have had plantings boosted with 300 extra native trees from Fonterra. The Thompsons farm around 1,100 acres in Hawke’s Bay, and plant around 2,000 native trees per year with the ultimate goal of having all waterways on the property planted in native trees. 

“We’re trying to create a buffer to protect the quality of our streams, so native trees act as a filter to the farm runoff,” explains Dave. “We hope by doing so it protects the freshwater fish and other wildlife in the streams.” 

Through donating native trees to Trees That Count’s online tree marketplace, Fonterra supports a range of community groups aiming to clean waterways as well as dairy farm projects. One such group is the Friends of Ōtaki River, a dedicated team made up of committed members of the community, riparian landowners and representatives from local bodies, iwi, environmental and recreational groups.

The Friends punch above their weight, planting over 5,000 native trees a year as well as growing their own eco-sourced native plants in their nursery. They also work with the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s flood protection, biosecurity, and environment departments to effect change. 

The Friends of Ōtaki River have received 900 native trees through Fonterra funding, and have planted these in restoration areas along the river corridor. Many of these areas are recreational developments which are enjoyed by an increasing number of locals. 

Thriving native plantings cared for by the Friends of Ōtaki River

Community space development is also underway at Awahuri Forest Kitchener Park in the Manawatu, a small scenic reserve located 4km from Feilding township. The park contains special collections of rare flora and fauna cared for by the Trust, within one of the few remaining areas of lowland semi-swamp podocarp forest in the region. The Trust’s planting efforts have been boosted by 1,000 native trees funded by Fonterra.

A little further South, MR WERP stands for Motupipi River Willow Eradication and Restoration Project. The group, largely made up of local landowners, is systematically removing willows along a section of the Tasman’s Motupipi River, then replanting a five metre riparian strip to reduce the flow of sediment into the stream bed. 

“Working in partnership with our communities is essential to achieving sustainable water catchments in the regions where we operate,” says Kirkland-Smith. “Fonterra is delighted to have funded native trees for MR WERP, and thousands of other trees across the country through Trees That Count.”

One of the biggest projects Fonterra supports is Te Kōhaka o Tūhaitara Trust. The Trust manages Tūhaitara Coastal Park, covering some 575 hectares along a 10.5 kilometre stretch of coastline from the Waimakariri river mouth to the township of Waikuku in Canterbury. 

The Trust has a 200-year vision for the restoration of the park, and are currently rehabilitating ‘The Pines’ beach wetland, clearing willow and pines and establishing a native forest on the wetland periphery. Te Kōhaka o Tūhaitara have planted with Trees That Count since 2016, and in the last two years have received 700 native trees funded by Fonterra. 

Also in Canterbury, the King family have the Washpen Road Restoration project underway. The area being planted is adjacent to the Hororata River, so will provide a seed bank for the river margins as well as helping to clean the waterway. The project has received 100 trees from Fonterra through Trees That Count. 

Finally, in Otago, dairy farmers the Simpson family are working on restoration of Waipahi Wetland, east of Balclutha. The family are beginning by planting an elevated section above the wetland, and are planning to plant 4,800 native trees. In 2020 they received 500 native trees through Fonterra’s support.

This diverse range of projects echoes the underlying aims of Fonterra’s environmental work. 

“We want to leave the environment in a better state than when we found it. After all, our co-operative is built from farms passed down from one generation to the next. To achieve this, we’re working to develop the skills, knowledge, partnerships and systems to regenerate the environment from where it all starts on farm right through to the nutritious products valued around the world by our customers and consumers,” says Kirkland-Smith.