Doug and Sally Lane, Kaeo

October 2007
Doug and Sally Lane are featured in a recently published booklet, Farming with Native Trees, a Guide for Farmers from Northland to Waikato, as inspirational tree-planters.

Doug is the third generation of his family to farm Paitu, a 250 hectare property near Kaeo. Half the farm runs livestock and half is in trees, both plantation species and regenerating natives.

The property was run as a dairy unit until 1981 and since then as an intensive predominantly beef unit, with Doug and Sally taking ownership in 1989. Most of the area now in plantation forest was cleared to grow grass with funding form the Land Development Encouragement Loan scheme of the 1970s. Doug now wishes hed taken his fathers advice to plant more trees using LDELs; the wisdom of hindsight!

The Lanes describe themselves as hobby farmers. Doug spends the summer contract mowing hay/silage and Sally is a part-time natural therapist specialising in the Bowen technique.

Family history

The Lane family have been associaed with sawmilling in the Whangaroa area since the 1800s and now Doug and Sally are replanting some of the trees their ancestors made a living from.

Dougs grandfather, Wilfred, bought Patiu in 1916. A boat-builder by trade, he turned his skills to bridge-building to supplement income from dairy farming. Wilfred had a passion for eucalypts and planted a significant area in the 1920s, most of which have been harvested over the past 30 years. A few 85-year-old redwoods still feature as a memorial.

Dougs father, Ian and mother, Elsa planted a lot of ornamentals, mostly deciduous; mainly liquidamber and poplar which are a feature of Patiu in the autumn.

One hundred and twenty hectares of grass is wintered at 950kg/ha of liveweight in the form of yearling cattle, 55 rising two-year steers and 80 breeding cows.

The breeding cows are mainly milking Shorthorn X Hereford in calf to Simmental. They calve from September 1 October 20, with all their progeny wintered.

Trading cattle are purchased as weaners (March/April), are all Friesian X beef and mostly steers.

All apart from 50-60 of the smallest rising two-year steers are sold store before the second winter. The rising two-year steers wintered have access to a standoff/feeding pad where they are fed silage to supplement their daily grass ration. They are sold in August/September.

Yearlings and cows are wintered behind hot wires on a diet of grass and hay in mobs of up to 65 head.

Two to three hundred tail-end lambs are purchased in November and sold finished in May/June. There are minimal inputs, with the lambs arriving shorn and drenched. They are drenched two or three more times, protected from fly and given unrestricted access to 80ha.

The farm produces 550-600kg liveweight/ha annually.

In 1991, 40 hectares of the farm was identified as marginally productive (steep with a significant ongoing gorse problem). Over three years, this was progressively planted in mainly radiata and a smaller area of lusitanica cypress. The freeing up of financial resources previously invested in this area allowed production to be intensified on better land.

It was then decided that any area Doug could not drive over with a fertiliser spreader would eventually be planted. This is now close to completion.

The emphasis changed after initial plantings, and a smaller number of higher value trees were purchased for the same $2000-$3000 annual budget. Eventually, only natives were planted mainly kauri and kahikatea sourced from Tom Lindsays nursery, Kerikeri Plant Production.

The young native tree plantings will eventually compliment the stands of naturally regenerated bush on the farm. All these areas have been fenced to exclude stock. Over the last 15 years, several areas of bush have been protected with QEII covenants, totalling 70 odd hectares, although now not all are owned by the Lanes.

Totara readily regenerates in the district and is regarded by some as a weed. However, the Northland Totara Working Group headed by David Bergin of Ensis (formerly the Forest Research Institute) is carrying out trial work on different aged stands of totara on the Lane and other properties.

The aim is to evaluate wood quality and compare growth rates under differing management regimes. Hopefully, this will identify naturally regenerated totara as a resource worth managing.

Native species are a very long term prospect and Dougs reason for planting them is to leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy, either financially or aesthetically.

Significant numbers of the following exotic species have been planted as well as radiata and lusitanica; poplar, liquidambar, Himalayan cedar, Japanese cedar, redwood, silky oak, Norfolk pine, eucalypts and Leyland cypress.

Species which dont have eventual timber value will certainly have aesthetic appeal and add value to the property.

All timber trees have been pruned to six metres and thinned appropriately for the species.

The Lanes have over 60 hectares of steep, regenerating country covenanted with the QEII National Trust; a protection option favoured by Doug because the owner retains title yet the block is protected I perpetuity.

The covenants mean QEII covers half the cost of indigenous protection and planting projects.

Last year a Northland Regional Council Environmental Fund grant helped with native tree planting and management costs.

On two separate occasions, funding has been obtained from the Northland Regional Councils Environment Fund to fence waterways. One was already covered in regenerating natives and the other has now been planted.

Although an advocate for protecting waterways, Doug feels each case should be considered on its merits, for example if flooding is a big issue dont go there unless you are prepared for some huge disappointments.

This advice comes after suffering two rainfall events of over 300mm in 24 hours, in three months. As a result, some of the protection planting and fencing is now buried under 300mm of silt. Doug is very thankful he had not done more protection work in that catchment.

The two floods caused major slipping in both bush and pasture areas; trees are not a cure-all for erosion, Doug comments.

There is always stock drinking water to consider when removing stock access to streams and on some properties this could be a greater cost than the fencing. Perhaps, to fence part of a stream and allow stock access to smaller areas for drinking could be a compromise.

Northern North Island coordinator with the Landcare Trust, Helen Moodie, says that while riparian plantings have a role in protecting water quality, there also needs to be a focus on hillside planting for erosion prevention and to reduce phosphate run-off.

Continuous streamside plantings protected by seven-wire fences can exacerbate flood damage. In flood flows they can become choked with debris, damming flow and worsening erosion. However, there are options, like using low-growing species like grasses and sedges, planting only where creeks are deeply cut, or planting clusters of trees rather than fenced rows along the waters edge.

Recently theres been quite a bit of bush cut down in Northland, because development is cheaper than buying more land. While recent floods have been terrible, the upside is that farmers are now thinking about soil conservation techniques to ensure hillsides dont end up in creeks, especially planting and retaining trees.

Doug and Sally Lane are among a number of farmers featured in a booklet published by the NZ Forest Research Institute Limited in July this year, Farming with Native Trees; a Guide for Farmers from Northland to Waikato. This is one of a series available from T?nes Tree Trust which encourages the planting of native species for productive uses.

The Guide has drawn on the experience of farmers in Northland and the Waikato to build a picture of the functional, conservation and biodiversity roles that natives can fulfil on farms. It is aimed at farmers and land managers, especially those considering increased planting or retention of native species on their properties.

Research for the booklet included asking farmers why they valued native species on their properties. Answers included provision of shade and shelter, easier stock management, production from timber or other uses, erosion control, personal satisfaction, improving water quality, aesthetic and intrinsic biodiversity values. Mostly though, it was because they liked native plants. They looked good, attracted birds and were good for nature.

Planting of native species often allows multiple objectives to be realised, for example flax can help stabilise a streambank, provide shelter for stock and also food for tui and other birds that poplars or willows dont offer.

Often natives require less maintenance in the long term, says Landcare Trust regional coordinator, Helen Moodie. I have seen a lot more old pines and macrocarpas tipped over from the July winds on farms than totara!

Establishment of a totara or kauri woodlot will help retain indigenous biodiversity values of an area while providing income for future generations.

I really believe we can make a future for sustainably managed native species but it does rely on targeting high value end uses for the timber, and on the public developing an understanding of sustainable management. It is better to have a kitchen table made of sustainably harvested totara than of timber that originated in South East Asia where harvesting is far from sustainable.

Native shouldnt be translated to lock it up and throw away the key. Community opinions have a very real role in changing that perception.

A common misconception is that native species cant be harvested in the future. The Forest Act allows for sustainable harvest of naturally occurring native trees, and as it doesnt cover planted native trees these can be clear-felled. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestrys indigenous unit is setting up a register of planted native woodlots to make it easier to harvest them in the future. And the Resource Management Act is no barrier in Northland either. All the District Councils class harvesting of native species as a permitted activity provided it is covered by the Forest Act.

It doesnt have to be an either/or decision, says Helen. There are a lot of situations where mixed native and exotic plantings would be ideal, for example poplars along stream banks for initial erosion stabilisation could be combined with plantings of flax and kaihikatea for the long term.

Where there is native bush on a farm, Helen suggests a long-term approach be taken beyond the term of ownership of a single farmer.

Many farmers chose to place a covenant on some bush on their property as a way of ensuring that all the work and effort put into establishment or management wont be wasted because a future landowner decides to bowl the bush over in order to get another kilogram of dry matter off the hillside.

Legal protection on its own isnt always enough. Active management such as possum control, weed control and fence maintenance is crucial, to ensure protected trees will still be there for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.

Both the Northland Regional Council and Environment Waikato have funds that will meet some of costs of establishing native plantings, and central governments Biodiversity Funding will also support planting and protection projects. Other encouragement comes providing information like the Farming with Native Trees booklet.

Support can also be available from a local Landcare group, made up of landowners who come together to address a specific issue. Many seek to encourage planting and protection of riparian areas, management of possums and other threats to the values and production from farm land and control of weeds. The community may be geographic (such as all the farmers along a stretch of stream) or interest driven (e.g. the Northland Totara Working Group or the Kikuyu Action Group).

Landcares role is providing the vehicle for people to come together, share ideas, access resources, encourage and motivate each other generally utilise the power of the group as opposed to an individual slogging it out!

While focused on Northland and the Waikato, farmers in Auckland, Bay of Plenty and elsewhere will find much of interest in the booklet.

Copies are available from T?nes Tree Trust, 09 239 2049