Tukituki Land Care (TLC), a farmer-led catchment collective, is encouraging activity that benefits the land across the Tukituki River catchment. They are showcasing some of the successful work being done by local farmers.
In the Makara sub-catchment in Central Hawke’s Bay, TLC met with the Laugesen family who have been busy planting natives and poplars on a 350 hectare farm in Elsthorpe which they purchased in 2015.
Graeme (known by all as Logie) and Kate Laugesen’s children have never been afraid to get their hands dirty. Phoebe (21), Maddy (19) and Jack (15) have been helping their parents with farm work for as long as they can remember. They now all study away from home but are back often to help out. Moving stock, shearing, fencing and planting can all be part of a weekend at home.
When the family bought the farm eight years ago, other than pine trees, very little planting had been done. After the purchase, there was not much money available to plant but the dream was definitely there. “There were shelter belts with old pines and they just kept falling over. That first year here we got some of them milled and the money we got out of it we put towards fencing it back up and buying natives. It worked out well for us so everywhere there were pines we followed the same process”.
All the kids have been involved with planting since they were young. “When we were little, it wasn’t that we thoroughly enjoyed planting but we just did it”, says Phoebe who is now studying veterinary science at Massey University. “Now coming back I enjoy it a lot more. I am not sure at what point it changed, but it definitely wasn’t something that we got excited about as kids, that’s for sure”.
“I still don’t get excited about planting poles”, laughs Jack who helped his father plant 400 poplar poles on the farm this year. “Now though, when we walk through the bush we know the names of all the trees because we are so used to planting them, and that’s pretty cool”, adds Phoebe.
Maddy, who is in her first year studying agribusiness and food marketing at Lincoln, has spent the last few days planting natives. “We have just spot sprayed and filled in gaps around a dam that we planted up last year”, says Maddy. “I have been planting a bit of everything, lots of pittosporums, flaxes and lancewoods. I take the Labrador with me, put some music on and it's actually pretty fun”.
The kids were also introduced to planting at their local primary school in Elsthorpe. “We had school shade houses and we would do planting days at the native reserve next to the school and on a local farm”, remembers Phoebe.
The Laugesens are on a mission to fence off and plant a dam a year. “We have quite a few to do”, says Logie. “If you are going to fence them you have to do it 100 percent because if you get a drought the stock are going to try and get in. We have about four or five on the go and next year we will fence another one”.
“It is a lot of time and money but sometimes I have my smoko by the yards and I look around and think well there was not a tree here when we got here”, says Logie. “I now see tui’s flying around and I think, they never used to be here”.
Two years ago they created a wetland on their property. “The area was all swamp and rushes so we fenced it off. We had a digger here for two weeks digging it out and we tipped it and tipped it”, says Logie. “We teed in the overflow from a nearby dam which acts as a silt trap before it flows through the wetland and into the creek. Last year Phoebe planted 200 carex on the bank all the way along to stop the erosion”.
The Laugesens are making plans to set up a poplar pole nursery on the farm next year and are seeking advice from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. Every year they plant poplars on the farm to help with erosion. “Anywhere we can’t work we plant poles”, says Logie.
When Cyclone Gabrielle hit Hawke’s Bay in February they were able to see the benefits of the pole planting. “Where we planted all the poplar poles the land definitely held better”, says Logie. “The stuff we missed has gone down the gully. There is no doubt that the poles have made a difference”.
The children have been helping their parents plant poles for many years. “I remember we had to carry around a little ladder to plant the poles as we were so short”, laughs Maddie.
The planting project has not been without challenges and many plants were lost during two particularly severe Hawke’s Bay droughts. Cyclone Gabrielle also brought challenges but luckily not too much damage to this farm. On another block they own, large slips damaged fences and the water system.
Graeme always wanted to be a farmer and after high school he attended Smedley Station and Cadet Training Farm. On leaving Smedley, he spent a couple of years shepherding in Central Hawke’s Bay before doing his OE working on cropping farms in the United Kingdom. On returning to New Zealand, Graeme started a fencing contacting business which he ran for over 20 years. In 2002, whilst still running the fencing business, Graeme and Kate leased 600 acres with a further 600 acres added about five years later. They leased this farm for 17 years before they purchased their own farm in Elsthorpe.
Kate works as a director at BM Accounting in Waipukurau. She is also on the executive committee of Tukituki Land Care who recently awarded a $10,000 grant to the Makara Catchment Group for a catchment stocktake to get a better picture of the current state of the catchment including environmental management challenges and opportunities.