Dryland ecosystems contain some of the least protected and most threatened native ecosystems and species. They contain 50% of New Zealand’s most threatened plant species, yet only 2% of dryland is legally protected.
In Hawke’s Bay, a population of tauhinu Pomaderris phylicifolia has been protected within a 63ha open space covenant on Paul Dearden's farm.
Paul was unaware of the plant's existence until QEII regional representative, Marie Taylor, visited to assess kanuka forest and scrub Paul was thinking of covenanting. Marie found the fluffy little shrub growing amongst dry rock outcrops on a ridge and explained its significance.
Paul fenced off the native vegetation, including the rock outcrops, with funding assistance from QEII and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.
'I was a bit apprehensive about affecting the farm operation but the argillite/shale up there on the ridge just doesn't hold the moisture in summer. I'm getting more effective grazing now from the better land that's left out of that one big paddock.
'You see things a bit differently as you get older too. I do have a bit of interest to see how it's regenerating.'
Photo below: Pomaderris phylicifolia var ericoides at Paul Dearden's farm is a coloniser of open, nutrient-poor sites and able to withstand parched Hawke's Bay summers. Photo: Marie Taylor
In eastern Marlborough, farmers have become more aware of the dryland biodiversity on their properties through the Marlborough District Council's significant natural areas (SNA) programme.
The council wrote to landowners in 2001 to seek permission for ecological surveys to be conducted by independent consultants. The surveys were carried out only with willing landowners and the results remained confidential to the owners.
Sally and Rob Peter, whose Cape Campbell farm averages a meagre 550mm per annum, were willing to participate, as they'd wanted to do something for a long time but hadn't had the money.
'The SNA programme was a trigger, really,' Sally says. 'The ecologists and council people were very approachable and explained the various avenues available.
'There's lots of things we don't have control over these days but this is something we can control and we like to do it responsibly. We chose QEII covenants and got help with the fencing costs.'
Photo below: The view from Cape Campbell lighthouse - Sally and Rob Peter are protecting pockets of native dryland vegetation on their semiarid coastal farm.
Inland, up the remote Awatere valley, Lynda and Simon Harvey also decided to covenant identified SNA areas on their farm, Glen Orkney.
'We didn't feel bulldozed and, of course, funding from the council, QEII and the Biodiversity Condition Fund all helped,' Lynda recalls.
'We also became good friends with Geoff Walls, the ecologist, and will be asking him back for advice about where to route a farm walk with least impact.'
Both the Harveys and Peters have prepared farm plans with council-assisted advice on whole farm management from an independent consultant.
Simon Harvey says it has helped get started on things he'd been thinking of for years.
'We're looking to the future and trying to combine commercial farming with protecting the important natural areas. Ecotourism, for instance, helps to justify retiring areas.
'For a lot of us, our thinking has changed in the last five years and could change more. If new ideas are suggested in a sensitive way we're more prepared to think about it.'
Nicky Eade at the Marlborough District Council says if landowners choose not to participate and change their minds later, they can approach the council again, as both programmes are ongoing.
Photo right: Charred plants at Lynda and Simon Harvey's Awatere farm are a reminder of the ever-present fire threat in dryland areas.
Photo below: Remnant native vegetation in the covenanted gullies and bluffs escaped the fire. Photos: Philip Lissaman
Open SpaceTM Magazine No. 69, April 2007 © QEII National Trust