A place for everything
Plant a native tree here, get an extra helping hand there - Rima Herber drives around the Hurunui countryside looking forward to helping groups and individuals with their biodiversity aspirations.
Rima’s role as Water and Land Coordinator is a new one at Hurunui District Council, where her focus and goal is to work with landowners and key stakeholders to champion what biodiversity entails.
“It’s about HDC giving more priority and focus to this important aspect of the care of the land and the landscape, and supporting those who are protecting native biodiversity,” she said.
In her personal capacity Rima volunteers as the facilitator of the Waipara Catchment Rivercare Group, which has been established to mitigate the degradation of the river environment over many years including the encroachment of willows and the proliferation of a wide range of weeds in the riverbed.
Recently Rima organised two working bees with a bunch of locals from the Rivercare Group, where together they made a start on the ‘daunting task’ of tackling a wall of old man’s beard vines which are smothering a stand of native vegetation.
“Over the past fifteen years or so the vine has grown over a mature stand of native plants that have naturally established between the road and the Waipara River, on one of the upper terraces. There is a huge problem with old man’s beard in the Hurunui District and it will take an enormous amount to get it under control, but we’re making an impact on a small area just to get started.”
Saving the natives involved cutting the stems of the Old Man’s Beard at ground level and pasting the stem of the plant with herbicide gel to prevent it re-sprouting.
Rima is also involved in a rehabilitative native planting project on Grierson Avenue at Amberley Beach and is the community representative on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy Group.
She said it’s about figuring out the best way to tackle each particular problem, and sessions like this are part of finding out which control methods work best in each situation.
“One thing I can offer people as HDC Water and Land Coordinator is a really realistic sense of what they can plant, and how to protect what they already have. I would much rather people plant a little bit and have a lot of success.”
Effective biodiversity management and establishment means to first and foremost protect what is already there and target problem areas before they become serious, for example a weed invasion in a native area.
“Many plants can become a serious problem if the conditions are right and a lot of our weed problems are garden escapees which have established in the wild. Catching the problem weeds before they’re well established in the wild is vital.”
Some plants may traditionally seem undesirable, but actually be of use, like matagouri. Rima said this native bush carries a fly that parasitises grass grub, a little-known benefit conferred to farmers by this unloved plant.
“It’s part of the education thing too, teaching people that every plant has its role in the matrix. It’s so interconnected, if you take out one thing, a cascade of negative effects can happen.”
Rima believes in the importance of allowing people to identify with their place on earth, one obvious connection is in the plants and wildlife, observing the variance throughout New Zealand and providing uniqueness to a particular place.
“It’s about giving people a sense of belonging, a sense of pride, providing them a connection to nature. We mustn’t forget that the biodiversity on this land has been adapting to life in this environment for thousands of years and along with that there are families that have lived on this land for many generations, it’s part of our DNA.”
If you have any ideas or questions about the future of biodiversity in Hurunui, please email Rima on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 03 3148 816.