Tree felling leaving stark landscape

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The felling of trees in North Otago to make way for irrigation development has been highlighted in submissions received by the Waitaki District Council on the Draft Annual Plan.

Peter Grant, Mount Cook Moving, and the Ohau Conservation Trust have commented on the dramatic change in landscape in the Waitaki Valley and feel that the cumulative effect of dairy conversions and irrigation infrastructure is leaving a “stark, industrial-style landscape”.

The conservation trust said in its written submission that developments such as the Alps to Ocean Cycleway depend on the attractiveness of the Waitaki Valley’s special landscapes and that tourism in the region could be adversely affected.

The trust asks that any further modifications to landscapes in the upper Waitaki Basin be identified and included in the final Waitaki District Biodiversity Strategy 2014. They conclude that they would like to be involved in future council discussions regarding changing farm practices and the preservation of landscape values.

Waitaki Irrigators’ Collective Limited policy manager, Elizabeth Soal, noted in their submission, that in the mayor’s foreword to the Draft Annual Plan, he states that “increased irrigation has brought significant changes to our district” and goes on to say that “the felling of trees to allow for growth has been one area of contention and we believe council has a role to play”.

The WICs’ view is that the clearance of trees has not resulted from new irrigation development, instead the clearances have been a “result of the installation of centre-pivot spray irrigation technology, replacing older border-dyke flood irrigation systems”.

Driving this change is the need for tighter restrictions on water quality control and for farmers to use water efficiently.

“Tree felling is something which is not undertaken lightly, and many farmer-irrigators struggle with this issue and consider it an unintended negative consequence of the regional regulations and policies.

“However, the clearance of old exotic shelter belts can have positive consequences and provides the opportunity to replace these with native plantings which can still provide shelter, are aesthetically pleasing, and promote indigenous biodiversity.”

WIC is supportive of the council taking a non-regulatory approach to the issue and is in the process of developing a policy in relation to tree clearance and replanting.

By LINDA MCCARTHY