A trial scheme along a small plantation for manuka honey and oil on the Rangitaiki riverbank is providing pleasing results.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council is working with the Rangitaiki River Forum, Maori Lands Trusts, local landowners, Trust Power and Manuka Bioactives Limited to trial the scheme.
Manuka products are popular both here in New Zealand and overseas.
The international market for manuka products is strong and may provide an opportunity for landholders to plant a native species in marginal land areas to generate a small income.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council principal works engineer Tony Dunlop says the project is going well.
He hopes it may provide a productive land use alternative for some landowners.
Tony says: “This particular area suffered fairly extensive damage during the floods in 2010 and 2012 and extensive repairs were carried out on the sites bordering Wanikau Lands Trust land.
“One of the things we are aware of in riverbank repairs is that we have a reputation for rockworks and a loss of natural environments on riverbanks.”
Tony explains their priority is strong and resilient rivers that can cope with flood events and the protection of people and property on the other side of a stop bank.
“We have a number of projects under way to make sure that this is done as carefully as possible,” he adds, “and we have incorporated whitebait spawning areas, eel habitat and shallower bank profiles to encourage native species in many of our recent works were we can.
“We know manuka isn't a great plant to have directly on the riverbank. It doesn't particularly like to have its feet wet and its root systems are shallow and don't hold a bank together as strongly as other species.
“But further back from the river, there are areas such as this one held by the Wanikau Trust and we are working with them to trial the manuka as a crop plant. There is a lot of work to do to find out if this is viable, but we're keen to know more.”
The area was prepared in August, with gorse control and fencing put in place.
In September 2000 plants were put in the ground and the plants are now growing well.
The new chair of the Rangitaiki River Forum, Maramena Vercoe, is pleased with the opportunities the scheme provided.
“It is great to see Council looking at new ways of doing things and providing opportunities for landowners to make the best of a challenging situation,” says Maramena.
“Obviously no one wants to be flooded, but this provided a unique opportunity for the local hapu to practise their tikanga on their own land.
“It is great to work in partnership with the council and other industry players to find out if this sort of activity is viable in the long term.”