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Landtalk - Tim's blog

September 2017

What to do with stink bugs

In recent days the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) has featured in lots of local and national media. The damage that would be caused by its establishment in New Zealand justifies all the attention it’s receiving. It would have a significant impact on fruit and vegetables of all sorts, including those in home gardens, from fruit trees to sweetcorn and roses. It may also have an impact on the fleshy fruit of some of our native trees – puriri for example.

As always, with possible new insect and disease arrivals in New Zealand, the general public have a huge role to play, watching for anything unusual. Not much detail has been given on what this bug looks like. Everyone will be familiar with the common stink bug, or green shield beetle. But this can have a brown form too. And there are several other brown species (some native) that could be confused with a BMSB. It looks slightly more “decorated” than the others and has alternate black and white markings around the edge of its abdomen.

There’s a great, though sobering, youtube video showing the impact of the bug on kiwifruit in Italy at

What do you do if you think you’ve found one? Catch it and put it in a container and call the MPI hotline on 0800 80 99 66. Preferably don’t call me or the regional council! New incursions like this are the responsibility of MPI.

This bug has not established in New Zealand – yet – but it often gets found at the border. So the chances of it finally getting into the country are quite high. Please keep your eyes open!

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

Stink Bug 

August 2017

Cows and water

As many readers will know, a health advisory was issued earlier this year warning against the eating of pipi at the popular pipi bed at Te Ahiaua at the Waiōtahe estuary. Quite rightly, this resulted in considerable consternation from the many local people and visitors who regularly gather pipi here.

We now know that the bacterial contamination that resulted in this health advisory mostly comes from the dung of dairy cows. The dairy farmers in the catchment are also shocked that their operations are contributing to this problem and have come together as a group to do something about it.

The river and streams are already fenced so we need to look at further actions to solve the problem. The Regional Council has put in place a comprehensive water monitoring programme throughout the catchment to try and get a clearer picture of what’s happening. There is a lot we don’t know about how bacteria behave in the soil and water and the best ways of reducing their flow from cow to river, so we have scientific investigations underway to shed more light on this.

In the meantime, there are improvements that we know can be made, and the farmers are looking carefully at their farm management practices to identify actions they can take now to make a difference. With the seemingly endless rain this winter, this is an even more difficult challenge.

Long term solutions are going to take time and will require a whole community response. We need to remember that all of us benefit in some way from dairy farming providing jobs and a significant contribution to our economy. And most of us appreciate the resulting milk and cheese that form part of our daily diet.

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at


Saving willows

Many people will have noticed that willow trees have very black trunks and stems these days. This is the result of sooty mould growing on the excretions (honeydew) of the giant willow aphid. This aphid is a new arrival in the country and over time it may weaken or even kill willow trees.

This is of great concern as willows provide many useful services. They are planted for erosion control, river bank stabilisation and orchard shelter. Also they provide a vital source of early spring pollen and nectar for bees and the beekeeping industry could be severely impacted. The honeydew is also a source of food for wasps and appears to have led to an increase in wasp numbers in recent years – which impacts on all of us.

The sustainable farming fund is funding a research programme focusing on long term control of this new pest. A number of rural industry groups are providing cash and in-kind support.

Scion are investigating biological control and have discovered a tiny wasp in California which parasitizes the aphid. They will try to get approval to import this wasp and put it through its paces in a special containment facility.

Meanwhile Plant and Food are investigating which of the many willow cultivars show signs of being more tolerant of the aphid. They’ve already found that some are much more tolerant than others.

This is the first year of a three year research programme and there already seems to be a good likelihood of some success.

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

Giant willow aphid 

July 2017

A new plan to protect our special places

Department of Conservation and Bay of Plenty Regional Council have agreed to work together to improve and restore a full range of native ecosystems in the Bay of Plenty, and have recently identified 430 shared priority sites to help us achieve this goal. It’s the culmination of several years of painstaking work looking carefully at all the ecosystems we have left.

Together and with the help of partners, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Department of Conservation will protect and restore native habitats in these priority sites through activities like fencing, predator control, weed removal, and native plantings.

We’re especially keen to support work at sites containing most threatened ecosystem types including wetlands, sand dunes, estuaries, frost flats, and forests in coastal and lowland areas. Many of these ecosystem types only remain in very small fragments. Kahikatea forest (shown in the photo) is one example of these. Now rare, this forest type once covered large tracts of our lowlands. These places require urgent action to ensure these unique ecosystems are not lost forever.

So do you have a natural area on your place that you think might be one of these priority sites? Give us a call to check. If it is, and you are happy to partner with us, we can offer very generous grants to help pay for the protection work required.

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at


Reforesting our dunes

Since the opening of the Mōtū Trails cycleway in 2012, the dunes section of the trail, just east of Ōpōtiki, has been in the spotlight. As a result, in the years since, some 12,000 native plants have been planted by an army of volunteers to try to restore the dunes to something like their former glory.

The plants grow slowly in this harsh environment but early plantings are now becoming quite visible, giving a hint of what the area might look like in years to come. Even some previously very rare plants, like the native shore spurge, Euphorbia glauca, are making a healthy come-back.

On Sunday 16th July, another 500 plants will go into the ground. Further plantings will take place on the 6th and 13th August. We’d love you to join us for a couple of hours to help. A couple of hours work in the dunes is quite pleasant and you’ll even get a hot lunch when the work is done! Bring your bike and enjoy a ride on the trail afterwards.

The whole project is a collaboration between the Mōtū Trails Charitable Trust, Ōpōtiki District Council, DOC, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and, most importantly, the local community.

So come and join us for a morning on the dunes. Please bring a spade if you can and gloves if you need them. We’ll meet up at 9.30am Sunday 16th July at the Tirohanga campground – follow the signs to the dunes the other side of the campground.

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

Planting At Tirohanga 2

June 2017

Dune planting time

Winter is the time when our local sand dunes get as bit of TLC. Every year Coast Care Eastern works with around 1000 volunteers including schools, pre-schools, care groups, local businesses and residents to strengthen the dunes with more plants.

This year, 17,000 plants are destined for dunes between Ōtamarākau and Cape Runaway. Most of these will be spinifex and pingao which help to bind the sand and hold it in place. Often these plants do their job so well that they create new foredunes as they spread slowly seaward.

As well as looking beautiful and providing habitat for various native plants and animals, healthy dunes are vital, helping to prevent erosion during storms and protecting homes and infrastructure close to the coast.

Coast Care’s Wayne O’Keefe is always keen to have new individuals and groups, especially schools, to get involved. And there are extensive educational resources available for schools.

He’s also very happy to help individual coastal residents improve the dunes in front of their own place with weed control and free plants.

So if you want to help or need some advice about your place, go to  or call Wayne on 0800 884 881 ext 8800 to find a planting near you. Taking a few hours to join some others on the beach for a spot of planting is a pretty pleasant way to spend your time!

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki, Ph. 0800884 881 ext 6010,

planting day (1) 

Murupara reserve restored

Ngāti Manawa had a community planting day recently at Kani Rangi Park at Murupara. This is the second year of a major revegetation project using native species that were once more common in the area including kowhai. 

After a short welcome and karakia, the planting team walked past last year’s successful planting and along a path that has been established by the Ngāti Manawa restoration crew, Te Roopu Manaaki. The walkway wound its way up to the top of Te Ihu a Hineani where the group was told about the important history of the area. 

Once down from the hill the group of around 30 people were divided into three groups and planting of the freshly prepared site began. Kaumatua, children from the local kohanga reo, kindergarten, primary and secondary schools along with their parents, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and DOC staff all pitched in to plant around 3000 plants. With so many willing helpers it didn’t take long to get them all in the ground.

Kani Rangi Park was returned to Ngāti Manawa as part of their treaty settlement process. At that stage, it was in a very degraded state, over grown and with lots of rubbish. The Runanga is leading a restoration of the area to provide aesthetic and recreational value for the local community and visitors. Redevelopment of the park is part of a wider vision to develop a number of communal spaces along the Rangitāiki River at Murupara.  Kani Rangi Park itself is named after a distinguished Ngāti Manawa war veteran, Staff Sergeant Kani Rangitauira.

Murupara reserve restored 

May 2017

Tree planting achievement

Winter is planting time. The cool, moist conditions of winter allow the plants to get themselves established in the ground so they are better able to cope with the warmer, drier days of summer.

This coming winter, Bay of Plenty Regional Council will be at least partly responsible for the planting of about 214,000 native plants and shrubs across the region, almost one plant for every person in the Bay. Some of these will be planted in our two regional parks but the vast majority will be planted by individual farmers and landowners.

These plants will end up along stream and river banks, in wetlands, on coastal back-dunes and on hillsides retired from grazing. The cost of this work will generally be shared 50/50 by the council and the landowner concerned. It will be a remarkable achievement by those landowners and the result of many hours of hard work. Many of these plants will also be planted by community groups in their local special place.

These plants will make a difference to water quality, biodiversity and the landscape generally. And it happens year after year in similar numbers.

What’s more, this number doesn’t include the many thousands of plants that will be planted on our sand dunes this winter to protect them (and the people behind them) from coastal erosion. And then there are all the poplar and willow poles planted to protect streams and hillsides from erosion.

If none of these 214,000 are going in the ground on your farm and you have good reason to plant some, let us know – maybe we can help out next winter!

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

Planting Nukuhou 

Myrtle rust and you

The recent news of the arrival of myrtle rust in Northland will have alarmed many people. If it this rust gets established and spreads around the country, a number of our most well-known native plants will be affected to some degree.  

But it’s hard to imagine our coastal cliffs without their fringe of pohutukawa or large trees in the bush without their cloaks of rata vines. Gorse might have free reign on the hills where now mānuka is beginning to reversion back to native bush. Of course it may never quite come to that, we just don’t know.

And then there are those feijoas we’re all enjoying at the moment which would also be affected. Not to mention the impact on the beekeeping industry.

What the media reports have often not said is that it’s really important for observant people out there like you to report anything that looks like myrtle rust to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). They ask that you

  • Immediately call MPI on 0800 80 99 66
  • Do not attempt to touch the plant as this may aid in the spread of the disease
  • Take a clear photo of symptoms and the host plant if possible

We have already been approached by several local folks with concerns about things they’ve found which is great but MPI are better placed to respond. They are the people dealing with this incursion and they are working very hard on it. You can find out more at .

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at


April 2017

How should we deal with the region’s pests?

We have many pests in the region, both plant and animal, many of which have been here for a long time. But new ones arrive from time to time too. Controlling these pests is important to help protect the health of individuals, businesses, livelihoods and assets (for example, control of agricultural pests). Importantly, pest control also helps protect our native ecosystems.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is reviewing the way it approaches pest management and has released a discussion document. This describes the pest management issues facing the region and the Council’s proposed approach to managing these issues. We’d really like your feedback.

Council needs to decide how to deal with each pest and is required to analyse the costs and benefits of doing so. We also need to consider how to allocate costs, taking into account who benefits and who is adding to the problem.

The Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) is the key policy document that directs pest management in our region. What we hear from you will help us decide what goes into the next RPMP.

You can pick up a copy of the discussion document from our offices in Whakatāne or Ōpōtiki or you can find it on our website at There is a useful feedback form included. We’d love to hear from you before May 1st. Then there will be another opportunity for your input through the formal submission process late in the year.

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at


What’s in the water?

Good water quality is clean water that we can use to swim, drink, irrigate and fish from. It keeps rivers and streams healthy so they can also support wildlife and healthy estuaries downstream.

Good water quality is not always obvious. Clear water can contain invisible bacteria. Murky water can be safe but contain natural tannins, minerals or sediments that colour it.

The Regional Council uses a broad range of indicators to check water quality:

Nutrients, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Excesses of these encourage aquatic weed and algae growth. They come from a range of sources including fertilisers, animal urine and sewage overflows. They percolate through the soil into groundwater or are flushed off the land into streams.

Suspended solids and turbidity. High levels of soil run-off can make the water turbid (cloudy), raising water temperatures and smothering animals, insects and plants in streams and estuaries. Poorly managed earthworks and agricultural practices, along with stream bank and hill country erosion can increase turbidity levels.

Temperature. Warm water temperatures (usually caused by lack of shading) can reduce oxygen levels and exacerbate weed and algae growth. Fish also need cool well-oxygenated water to survive.

Bacteria. High levels of faecal bacteria (E.coli) from animal dung, human waste and water birds can make water unsafe for swimming or gathering kai. This is often used as a measure of ‘swimability’.

Stream health. The type and number of macroinvertebrates (insects, larvae etc.) that live in a waterway are used to describe its ecological health. You might be surprised how many critters live in our streams! The more there are, the better the water.

Go to to find out more about what the Regional Council is doing to improve water quality and subscribe to our newsletter. And check out for the state of your local river.

This column is provided by the Eastern Catchments team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For help or advice on the management of land, water and pests, call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

What’s in the water?

March 2017

World Water Day

Tomorrow, Wednesday March 22nd is World Water Day. This is a great opportunity for all of us to celebrate the fact that most of us in this part of the world are blessed with plenty of it most of the time. But we also need to realise that there is also a danger that even here we can sometimes use too much of it, reducing the flows in our streams and underground aquifers. Even more importantly, many of our activities have an impact on the quality of that water.

The regional council cares deeply about water in our region and we’re working hard on water. We spend $24 million each year doing that and run 25,000 water quality tests and 700 stream flow measurements each year to see what the water has got to tell us. In the eastern bay, we are working alongside landowners to ensure streams are fenced and planted where possible and that the impact of farming and other activities on water quality is minimised. Go to our website  and subscribe to our newsletter, Freshwater Flash, about all things water

But we can’t leave all the hard work to landowners and there are plenty of things we can all do. The Sustainable Backyards programme has had lots of events around water over the last few weeks and there are a couple more to come. Saturday 26th is Clean Up Our Waterways Day. Join a group and spend a few social hours in a place special to you. Meet at 9.30am at the Ōhiwa Loop Rd boat ramp to clean up around the harbour or 9.30am at the Ōpōtiki College to clean up in the Waioeka Gorge. Or if you’d like to organise another group in another place contact

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 9518 or at

water day 

Wild Ginger – have you seen this plant?

Of all the invasive weeds people have brought into their gardens over the years, wild kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) is one of the worst. As with most such weeds, it was widely planted in gardens because of its pretty flower and pleasant scent. It’s flowering right now with its large yellow flower heads spiked with red stamens (see photo). The broad lily like leaves grow from tubers just under the soil surface.

Originally from the subtropical lower slopes of the Himalayas, ginger has found our coastal forests very much to its liking. The seed gets quickly been spread around by birds, from gardens into the bush. It grows very happily in the deep shade of native bush. Once established, it forms a dense, impenetrable mass of tubers and foliage, choking out any other plants until it’s the only plant remaining. Without seedlings to replace old trees as they die, the forest may completely collapse over time. There are places overseas where this has already happened, resulting in hills covered in nothing but wild ginger.

The rules of our Regional Pest Management Plan require landowners to destroy this plant if it’s found on their land. Depending on where it’s growing and how much there is, this can often be a difficult task and we are sometimes able to assist landowners meet their obligations. If you only have one or two plants, it’s easy.

We know many of the places where ginger’s growing but we probably don’t know them all. If you have ginger growing at your place, or if you know of ginger infestations elsewhere, please let me know. Your assistance would be very much appreciated.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

wild ginger 

February 2017

The transformation of the Waiewe Stream

Great things often start with a dream. Back in 2009, Annette Such had one for her local weed infested local reserve. The upper reaches of the Waiewe Stream was a wilderness of willows, gorse, wattle and Taiwan cherry with an understorey of pampas, blackberry, ginger and vines. She could see what a beautiful asset the stream could become for the surrounding community.

She began her own private battle with the weeds and enlisted a little help from the regional council staff. But it became clear that to do the job well, she needed more help and funding. A grant from the regional council’s Environmental Enhancement Fund really got things moving.

The funding allowed the engagement of a contractor to cut and poison all the large weed trees. With more help from Department of Corrections work gangs, Annette and her band of volunteers cleared the dead trees, sprayed the smaller weeds and removed the debris. As each area was cleared it was re-planted with native trees.

Over the last four years, over 2000 trees of 33 different species have been planted by local volunteers at weekend working bees. But that’s only the start – along the stream itself, another 5400 flaxes, grasses and reeds have been planted. There’s now a pleasant walk along the stream – go and take a look!

But keeping on top of the weeds is an ongoing battle and working bees are held regularly with the next one on 4 March at 9am. If you’d like to help out, give Annette a call on 3070227.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

transformation of the Waiewe Stream 

Help with nutrient management on your farm

For some years now, farmers, dairy farmers in particular have been diligently fencing their streams and often planting the fenced off banks. Stream crossings are generally better managed and often replaced with bridges. Managing dairy shed effluent disposal has also improved considerably over the last decade. All this work has had a positive effect on the quality of water in many of our streams with sediment and bacteria levels dropping.

But as recent events elsewhere in the country have shown, there are less visible ways that nutrients and bacterial contaminants get into our streams and groundwater. These pathways are a little more difficult to fix.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is committed to helping farmers develop solutions for their farms and to front foot some of the farming challenges which just keep coming. So we are hosting nutrient management seminars to help. Well known independent farm consultant, Alison Dewes, will provide some insight into nutrient management plans, pathways of nutrient loss and possible solutions that could even save you money.

Rangitaiki Plains seminar: Thursday 16th March, Edgecumbe Memorial Hall 10am to 12.30pm

Ōpōtiki district seminar: Friday 17th March, Memorial Park Pavilion, Opotiki, 10am to 12.30pm

Both will begin with morning tea at 10am and end with lunch at 12.30pm. And they’re free! Please RSVP to Mieke Kapa at or on 0800 884 881, ext 9534. If you’d like to find out more, give her a call.

You can see more of what Alison has to offer at

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

Help with nutrient management on your farm

January 2017

A strange living fossil

Rough horsetail, Equisetum hyemale, (pictured) is one of only a small handful of plants that have their origins back in the age of the dinosaurs. Its appearance is equally unusual. Its leaves are almost invisible and the jointed, reed-like stalks are hollow and deep green with many fine, vertical ridges. There are dark brown bands at the joints. At the tip of each long, straight stem is a brown, cone-like structure which produces its reproductive spores.

The outside of the stem is rough and very high in silica and has in the past been used for scouring and polishing – hence its other name, scouring rush. It has also been used as a medicinal plant though it is poisonous.

The plant grows naturally in many parts of the northern hemisphere but has been introduced almost everywhere else where it has nearly always become a serious pest. It’s happiest in wet or damp places but isn’t overly fussy and will grow anywhere.

Probably because of its unusual appearance, it has occasionally been grown in gardens. But most people will regret ever planting it. It spreads by means of underground runners and can over-run an entire garden quite quickly. As there is a real danger of it invading our bush and wetlands, over the years, Regional Council staff have helped a number of residents get rid of this plant. And it’s very difficult to kill. Recently, several infestations have been dealt with in the Ōpōtiki area.

If you have the misfortune to have this plant in your garden, you are likely to want to get rid of it too. So get in touch with us on the number below for some help.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

Rough horsetail 

A walk in Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park

The kind weather at the moment will be enticing many outside for a walk. The Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park at the Ōhiwa headland is right on our doorstep and has within it a remarkable walk. From the edge of the Ōhiwa Harbour, the walking track winds through majestic coastal forest dominated by puriri and pohutukawa before emerging onto public farmland. Comprehensive pest control means that the bird life is prolific. And for an evening excursion, there is a side track to a dazzling display of glow worms.

At the top of the hill you’ll climb onto Onekawa pa, a special place central to the history of local tangata whenua. And from here, on a clear day, there are stunning views of the entire eastern bay coastline from Te Kaha to Mauao and inland as far as Maugapohatu. The steep cliffs below are cloaked in pohutukawa. The park is dotted with ancient pa sites and many of these historic features are clear to the sharp eyed.

The track continues through the farm, with its sheep and calves, down to Bryan’s Beach and from here a walk along the beach back to the Ōhiwa spit completes the loop. At the spit there is plenty of car parking, shelter and a band new public toilet. The whole loop is a 1½ to 2hr walk.

Thanks to the generosity of one of the park’s neighbours, the park has recently been expanded. This means that by this time next year there will be another loop tack in the park, providing the opportunity for a full day’s excursion.

To get there, turn off SH2 onto Ōhiwa Beach Road near the Waiōtahe estuary 12km west of Ōpōtiki and follow the signs. The turn off itself is well signed.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at

Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park

For 2016 Landtalk articles, click here

For 2015 Landtalk articles, click here