State of land and soils report an important exercise

EDITORIAL

The first instalment of the three-yearly state of the environment report prepared for Gisborne District Council identifies trends and problems but also recognises how fortunate we are to live here.

This time the report is being delivered in sections, with the land and soil one presented to the environmental planning and regulations committee this week.

The major problem is the fact 40 percent of the severely-eroding land in this district, or 18,600ha, is not yet covered by a work plan for “treatment” as required under Overlay 3a, which was introduced to ensure that government funding continued for erosion control planting on the East Coast.

These plans were actually due in 2011 and planting is scheduled to be completed by 2021. It will be no surprise that much of this is multiply-owned Maori land which is probably unproductive — an extension of the problem the council faces with rate arrears.

Elsewhere the report makes for interesting and sometimes encouraging reading.

Exotic forest now covers 20 percent of the district with 172,000 hectares of forestry planted and the harvest tripling since 2002; indigenous forest is steady at 22 percent of the district while manuka/kanuka has climbed from 8.6 percent in 1996 to 9.2 percent in 2012. There has been a 25 percent increase in forestry and a 10 percent fall in pastoral farming since 1996.

It is worth noting that 42 percent of the district’s land is still in pastoral farming, and sheep and cattle numbers are on the increase. It is also interesting to learn that 2212ha of land was planted in fodder crops last winter, with plaintain lucerne being the most common.

There are 566 known hazardous activity and industry sites in the district and 17 contaminated sites. There have been 42 oil wells drilled in this district since 1874 and the council wants government help to locate as many of these as possible to check for signs of gas or oil leakage.

The council is preparing a pamphlet-sized summary of the report that should be required reading — one of the better things local government does.

The first instalment of the three-yearly state of the environment report prepared for Gisborne District Council identifies trends and problems but also recognises how fortunate we are to live here.

This time the report is being delivered in sections, with the land and soil one presented to the environmental planning and regulations committee this week.

The major problem is the fact 40 percent of the severely-eroding land in this district, or 18,600ha, is not yet covered by a work plan for “treatment” as required under Overlay 3a, which was introduced to ensure that government funding continued for erosion control planting on the East Coast.

These plans were actually due in 2011 and planting is scheduled to be completed by 2021. It will be no surprise that much of this is multiply-owned Maori land which is probably unproductive — an extension of the problem the council faces with rate arrears.

Elsewhere the report makes for interesting and sometimes encouraging reading.

Exotic forest now covers 20 percent of the district with 172,000 hectares of forestry planted and the harvest tripling since 2002; indigenous forest is steady at 22 percent of the district while manuka/kanuka has climbed from 8.6 percent in 1996 to 9.2 percent in 2012. There has been a 25 percent increase in forestry and a 10 percent fall in pastoral farming since 1996.

It is worth noting that 42 percent of the district’s land is still in pastoral farming, and sheep and cattle numbers are on the increase. It is also interesting to learn that 2212ha of land was planted in fodder crops last winter, with plaintain lucerne being the most common.

There are 566 known hazardous activity and industry sites in the district and 17 contaminated sites. There have been 42 oil wells drilled in this district since 1874 and the council wants government help to locate as many of these as possible to check for signs of gas or oil leakage.

The council is preparing a pamphlet-sized summary of the report that should be required reading — one of the better things local government does.

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