With more than 51km of new fencing laid across 56 different properties in just 20 months, Restoring the Moutere’s recently-completed fencing contract was EPIC!
This story begins with an acknowledgment of the late Dr Bernard Simmons, Resource Scientist (Land) for Tasman District Council.
Bernard did all the groundwork and created the platform for the funding of this contract but his life and promising career were tragically cut short in September 2020 when he was killed in a mountain biking accident. He was just 36 years old.
Bernard was a passionate soil scientist experienced in erosion prevention, riparian enhancement and protection, and catchment-scale quality improvement projects.
He passed away before this project got off the ground but we honour his memory and pay tribute to the bright legacy his mahi created.
The first stage of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity
Imagine you want to build a very long riparian fence running through 56 different properties. Imagine the work involved in getting all those landowners on board. Imagine coordinating the work with six different fencing contractors—and what they in turn would need to do to ensure they had enough trained staff to handle the different types of terrain.
Imagine doing it to a deadline during a global pandemic. Lockdowns. Illness. Staff shortages…
… During Aotearoa’s warmest year on record. With regional rainfall more than 149% above normal, and at least two major weather events causing widespread flooding.
That’s what Restoring the Moutere’s fencing contract was up against.
After 20 months of hard slog, this part of the project is (mostly) done. It cost $1.2 million. Forty-three people worked on the contract, with 10 new jobs created—all filled by local workers.
Project coordinator Elliot Easton is a happy man. There were a lot of boxes to tick with this project. And ticked they most certainly were.
Navigating the challenges
MBIE’s Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit was the contract’s primary funder, allocating $952,000 to complete 35 km of fencing over 40 properties. The additional fencing was made possible thanks to over $200,000 of landowner contributions.
That willingness by landowners to pitch in was the result of a great deal of effort by Elliot and his team.
“There’s definitely a special psychological aspect to this sort of work,” he says. “There was a lot of liaising and educating and working with people towards the outcomes. And also being flexible because you’re obviously working on their land.
“You’ve got to be pretty diplomatic but you also have a lot to offer in terms of financial support. And so people are grateful for the opportunity.”
What’s next for Restoring the Moutere
In a nutshell: planting. Thanks to a substantial grant from the One Billion Trees initiative, 300,000 new native plants will be in the ground by the end of the project—around September/October 2023.
“The fencing was obviously a key part of site preparation for that because huge numbers of these plants are going inside recently fenced sites,” says Elliot. “They wouldn’t be able to be planted otherwise because they’d need to be protected from stock.”
The planting won’t stop there, though. An estimated additional 200,000 plants will be planted within the Moutere Catchment over the next 12–14 months, the result of people purchasing additional plants themselves, or organising plantings within the catchment that aren’t part of the funded project.
With the fencing element of the project complete, Elliot hopes there’ll be opportunity to measure some of the environmental benefits.
“Hopefully we might get in and be able to assess the stream health now that the stock [have] been excluded, and train some landowners to do that,” he says. “And hopefully we’re going to see an improvement on what’s living in the stream and the water quality.”
Bernard Simmons did not live to see this important first stage of Restoring the Moutere come to fruition. But his TDC colleague, Trevor James, Senior Resource Scientist Freshwater & Estuarine Ecology, recently sent an email to the project leads that says it all:
Restoring the Moutere fencing project: the numbers
- Length of fencing: 51 km
- Number of properties: 56
- Value of project: $1.2 million
- Length of project: 20 months
- Single biggest amount of fencing laid across one property: 5 km, Riverside Community
- Number of stakeholder, landowner and wider community catchment events held over the fencing project: 23