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Treatment applications up — as more land slips away

Significant progress has been made in getting people to apply for funding for erosion control tree planting but a wet winter and spring has seen more erosion, Gisborne District Council’s environmental planning and regulations committee was told.

The district’s severe erosion is the reason why the Overlay 3A sustainable hill country programme was developed, and why the government has committed $30 million to it over 10 years, the committee heard.

Environmental and science manager Lois Easton said since the last meeting there had been significant progress in getting targeted property owners to apply to the Erosion Control Funding Programme (ECFP) for grants to establish effective tree cover.

There were 62 landowners with Overlay 3A land who had applied for funding, predominantly for reversion grants.

There remained 95 properties that did not have a draft Overlay 3A works plan, however 34 of these did have applications in for ECFP funding which were intended to translate into work plans.

The 95 properties without a plan were predominantly made up of land administered on behalf of Maori landowners, multiply-owned Maori land administered by a trust, multiply-owned land without a governance plan, and a small number of general title properties.

Land areas of less than five hectares were not eligible for ECFP grants. However, the council staff were scoping a project to treat erosion on this land. There were 621 hectares of Overlay 3A land which fell into the category of being ineligible for ECFP funding.

Winter 2018 had been a difficult year for the region in relation to erosion, she said.

The June storms created very wet conditions and while initially many sites held up and substantial land movement did not occur, over time the conditions — particularly on the East Coast — continued to be very favourable for erosion.

By the end of winter and with further spring rain, large-scale mass movement was evident across a range of land uses, including land which had been deemed to be effectively treated through the ECFP.

The most significant concerns lay around gullies. Many were treated with pine planting around the perimeter in the 1990s and 2000s. While this prevented the gullies enlarging, the actual gully itself had not been treated. The wet winter had activated these areas and there had been significant mass movement from them.

The Overlay 3A mechanism did not capture all the land that needed to be treated for erosion. The next step would be to identify areas where changes in land use were required.

This would be a key matter for discussion as part of the development of the spatial plan for the region, and the review of the Tairawhiti resource management plan.

While the final announcements on the structure of the One Billion Trees programme were yet to be made, there were significant positives for Gisborne and the Overlay 3A programme.

This programme made it likely that should grant applications exceed the $30m cap on the ECFP, funding should still be available.

As a “surge region” for the Provincial Growth Fund and the area with the most significant erosion in the country, Gisborne was clearly identified as a location where tree planting grants would continue to be provided.