New Zealander’s are proud of New Zealand’s clean green image and committed to living in this environment in a way that meets our social, economic and environmental needs – now and in the future. Sustainability integrates this concern for social, economic and environmental issues, and involves thinking broadly about objectives, considering long-term as well as short-term effects, assessing indirect as well as direct effects, and taking extra care when changes brought about by development might be irreversible.
Development on a small lifestyle farm block is no different and also needs to be well thought through as there are many specific environmental issues that have the potential to impact on the productivity of your property and the broader communities’ environment.
The first thing to contemplate when purchasing or beginning on new developments in and around your property is what you are legally able to do. You need to check your certificate of title along with your Regional and District Plans to determine the zoning your property is located in and the specific rules and regulations that accompany that zone. The certificate of title may also have restrictions on your landuse in the form of covenants or conditions bought about through the resource consent process. Once you have an understanding of what you can and can’t do on your property you may want to consider carrying out various activities to enhance your current living environment.
When determining what activities are legally permitted on your property you also need to be aware of what services are available to your property. Depending on what services your property is provided for it may be necessary to install your own, for example, water, and sewage. It is essential to plan the layout of where and what system you need to put in place and to ensure there is enough resource to carry out the plans you are proposing. The location of your waste water and storm water runoff is critical for health reasons alone; you do not want to get any cross contamination and cause you, your family or any stock on your property health scares. There are many economic types of domestic sewerage disposal units available and many simply designed structures for farm runoff.
If you are not connected to your town supply for water you need to ensure a source and a plentiful supply to sustain your domestic requirements. You may also wish to have enough water to provide for irrigation to your property to improve pasture or horticulture production as well as providing drinking water for any stock on the property. Without a reliable supply of water to your property future developments become limited. It is beneficial to become familiar and understand these systems so the design best suited to you and your property can be implemented.
If you have existing streams running through your property and are able to draw on the water (your Regional and/or District Council will be able to tell you this) it is to your advantage to ensure the water quality is maintained or that you are aware of improvements that can be carried out if necessary. There are several easy ways to improve water quality on a lifestyle block. The main two factors that influence the state of streams in New Zealand are erosion and temperature. Erosion is often caused by the stream banks collapsing into the stream bed, an example of how this could happen is when stock accesses the stream to drink, or cross and disturb the stream bank resulting in soil falling into the stream bed. Once sediment is in the stream it covers the stream bed smothering the habitat for macro-invertebrates (insects) which live and feed off the stream bed. Fluctuations of stream temperature can be caused by a lack of shade over the stream and can result in a lack of oxygen in the stream, which produces a build up of green slime. The green slime uses the remaining oxygen left in the stream to reproduce, taking away the dissolved oxygen for existing stream biota to thrive. Where there is a combination of sediment and high temperatures stream quality is often low.
Two easy ways to increase stream quality are to plant trees along the stream boundary creating a riparian zone or buffer. These trees can be strategically planted for aesthetics, shelter from the weather, traffic, privacy, and for your animals or for investment reasons with the intention of harvesting the trees in the future. There are many different tree species to choose from when planting up riparian zones and this should be researched to ensure the appropriate tress species is planted to complement the soil, planting location and the desired purpose. For more information on this see the goodGround SPECIAL report on Lifestyle Block Trees. By planting trees and or shrubs along stream edges you will also support the stream banks and reduce the amount of soil entering the stream. Another, but often a more expensive option is to fence the streams off so no animals can enter the area and therefore will not disturb the stream banks. You should also check with you Regional Council as many councils provide subsidies for fencing off streams and planting stream bank areas.
If you are interested in trees or growing fruit trees it may be beneficial to protect your investment with pest and weed control. There are numerous types and methods of controls for managing or eradicating either weeds or pests from your property. Depending on your way of life, traps can be set to capture pests and kill them immediately, which would mean that you would have to remove the dead animal and reset, to bait laying by yourself or by using a contractor. When controlling or eradicating weeds there is a range of herbicides available or there are methods which are less detrimental to the environment, for example, companion planting.
Any activities that you carry out on your property should be completed to industry best practice standards. Most operations carried out, whether it is fencing or tree planting, or installing an irrigation system, have regulations which must be met. These standards are easily obtainable through your local Regional or District Council or from the Ministry of the Environment.
The wide-open spaces of the country side are truly something to care for. You can do many things to maintain the quality of your life by taking responsibility to sustain the land, water and other natural resources. Get started by properly caring for your water supply, waste disposal systems, streams, and soil on your property. GoodGround is here to help you achieve this!