Supporters help native forest work

Dr Adam Forbes is continuing to work with farmers to explore opportunities in native restoration....
Dr Adam Forbes is continuing to work with farmers to explore opportunities in native restoration. PHOTO: FILE
A Canterbury University academic hopes an expanded forestry programme to support farmers will be just the beginning.

Forestry Prof David Norton has been an advocate for having funded biodiversity advisers to support farmers and is thrilled the Restoration Ambassador programme funded by Te Uru Rakau (Forestry New Zealand) has been extended until June next year.

"The focus is to provide independent, free advice on how to do restoration plantings and to help farmers make applications to the One Billion Trees programme," he said.

UC graduate Dr Adam Forbes, who has worked with the Post Quake Farming Project in the Hurunui district, had been the sole restoration ambassador since the programme began last year but has now been joined by Josh Foster, a forestry science graduate.

"He did his masters with me and is pretty switched on when it comes to biodiversity," Prof Norton said of Mr Foster.

"Adam and Josh don’t work for councils or Doc and they’re not coming from a regulatory perspective, so farmers don’t have to feel threatened."

Prof Norton hoped the One Billion Trees programme would continue beyond the election and would lead to other funded programmes to offer farmers advice on biodiversity.

"We are asking farmers to do all this stuff to improve biodiversity. Sure they are farming the land, but we are asking them to do a public good and this is a way we can help farmers.

"Farmers are not ecologists and the worry is there’s only a handful of people with the expertise to write the biodiversity part of Farm Environment Plans. Most ecologists don’t know farming and most farm advisers aren’t ecologists."

Prof Norton was part of an application to the Ministry of Primary Industries’ sustainable food and fibre futures fund to develop an online resource aimed at farmers to provide advice on biodiversity and writing farm environment plans.

"I really believe that we can somehow move away from a regulatory environment, which is turning farmers off.

"A cheap investment would be to employ 20 Adams [Adam Forbes] and have them out there offering advice and we would make the changes we want and still enjoy our lattes."

Having a second restoration adviser meant Dr Forbes could focus on the North Island, where he is based, while Christchurch-based Mr Foster would focus on the South Island, Prof Norton said.

"There’s huge interest from farmers needing advice on how to establish native forests on their land.

"Having two people in the role will mean more free and independent advice can be provided to farmers, iwi and others in rural New Zealand on how to carry out good quality, planned ecological restoration."


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