Farmers given land use options

Farmers given land use options

By Bridie Witton, Rotorua Daily Post, 18 June 2015

Manuka honey and hazel farming have been put forward as potential solutions to Lake Rotorua’s pollution problems.

Pine tree planting, biomass cropping for biofuels and dairy goats were also discussed at the Land Use Opportunities Symposium yesterday, a free two-day event which was run by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

The alternative land use options could help reduce the amount of nitrogen leaching into the lake.

Hazel grower Murray Redpath said his property, which was inland from Opotiki, was environmentally similar to Rotorua. “Rotorua is colder but in terms of rainfall and soils it’s quite similar.

“For 15 years I have had a breeding programme. The results from there can be transferred to the [Lake Rotorua] catchment.”

He said New Zealand’s hazel industry was small, but had potential.

“New Zealand has a small hazel industry, about 350ha. This year world nut prices are the highest ever so if New Zealand had a nut industry, nut farmers would be making big cheese.”

He said hazelnuts were sold at farmers’ markets, and most hazel farmers processed the nuts themselves.

“If we set up efficient systems and got a decent scale the farmer would earn between $4000 and $7000 per ha after growing costs which is good for a horticultural-type venture.”

He said there would be further opportunities for discussion at a workshop in Rotorua this spring.

Speaker John Ford, who owns a 1000ha station between Lake Tarawera and Rotokakahi (Green Lake) was disappointed with the number of farmers that turned out for the second day of the event.

“It’s a free event and most of the talks have been beneficial, but they probably should have had target sessions for a particular audience.

“In some respects, Rotorua is leading the pack in terms of the work we are trying to do about reducing nutrients.”

Ann Green, who owns a 4ha property in the catchment, attended both days of the symposium.

She was pleased at the number of options being discussed.

“I think if anyone has any sized land here, I think there are a lot of opportunities they could take on board. The farmers here need to think of alternative ideas, no longer can they think of traditional farming because that’s no longer working, there’s too much nitrogen going out. So that’s what’s been offered here; other opportunities. It doesn’t mean they have to totally change …”

Alternative land use options

* Pine tree planting, forestry
* Manuka farming
* Hazelnut farming
* Dairy goats
* Biomass cropping for biofuels