Soil Symposium helps to better understand the value of our productive lands

The highly productive lands of the Heretaunga Plains and beyond, their value to growers, producers and the wider economy, and threats to fertile soils and water resources were all explored during a recent soil symposium held in Hastings.

Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have partnered to organize the event, which aims to increase understanding of the nature and value of soils, and will help inform future planning and decision-making.

The symposium program covered a range of perspectives and ideas, including the importance of plains for producers and mana whenua, scientific information on soil resources and threats to them, the planning framework for the protection productive land in Hawke’s Bay in the future.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said Hawke’s Bay was the country’s biggest apple growing region and the second biggest wine producer after Marlborough, demonstrating the importance of the plains for horticulture and viticulture, and the importance of these industries for our region.

“Our economic success is based on the excellent products grown and processed by our producers and exported to the rest of the world. Its economic value to our region is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This wouldn’t happen without our superb land and water resources of the Heretaunga Plains, and our fantastic growing climate which makes them even more special.

“But this economic success creates pressures and threats to land resources. Together with the City of Napier and the Regional Council, we are in the process of preparing a future development strategy for the Heretaunga Plains region – to cover how we accommodate future growth while protecting our land resources for the future. coming.

“These strategies are key to determining how we will manage growth and protect our soils for the future. Above all, they will allow our communities to have a say in how the various pressures on our soil resources should be managed.

“This symposium was the start of a ‘community conversation’ about how we preserve and protect our multipurpose lands – it is important that our communities understand how special, precious and vulnerable our soil resources are.”

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chairman Rick Barker said the soils in the area took millions of years to form.

“They are a gift of nature that must be protected. We humans cannot create them, and they will not return. These soils feed our horticultural, viticultural and agricultural sectors. It is on these soils that we have built our wealth.

“A growing population has driven urban sprawl, putting irreplaceable soil under homes, factories, concrete and tarmac. If this sprawl doesn’t stop, we will have smothered the golden goose.

“Local governments must protect these irreplaceable soils. Local government must redirect development elsewhere. The housing should go up, not out.

“Protecting the environment and these fertile soils must be a non-negotiable, uncompromising number one priority, transcending all individual interests of developers and landowners.

“We must accept that we are individual temporary custodians of the earth, and that the earth will be there for countless generations to come. Our gift to future generations must be the earth in its best state of conservation.

Former Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc. President Ngahiwi Tomoana set the stage for the event by describing the importance of the land and waters of Heretaunga to tangata whenua.

“When we think of the earth, the whenua, we think of it as the womb, and the water around it, the placenta, is also of primary importance – it’s not just dirt, it’s is the source of life.”

Soil scientist Keith Vincent explained the alluvial nature of the soils, located where the Ngaruroro, Tukituki and Tutaekuri rivers merged – their high fertility and productivity due to their location in a river valley with a favorable climatic zone.

Plant and food scientist and President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Brent Clothier, discussed the importance of land and climate in making Hawke’s Bay land so versatile, and how land management techniques were used to make land considered marginally productive.

He also explained how these techniques have been used to demonstrate the value of land and help protect it from development.

Dan Bloomer, director of Page Bloomer Associates and an agriculture and horticulture consultant, focused on how to work with soils to improve their sustainability.

He spoke about the methods used here and abroad to reduce the impacts of threats such as wind erosion and water runoff, by adopting the principles of regenerative agriculture.

“Regenerative agriculture is about minimizing disturbance, keeping the soil covered, keeping the roots alive in the system at all times, and growing a diverse range of crops.”

Kathleen Kozyniak, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Team Leader, Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Sciences, spoke about the potential impact of climate change, including the increasing frequency and intensity of floods, droughts and storms. .

“Much of our cropland is at risk from flooding – not just rainfall, but also storms that occur once every 100 years and different sea elevations. This puts more pressure on the land availability.

The importance of the soil to growers in the region was asked by representatives of industry bodies and locally producing companies, including Kraft HeinzWatties, Delegats, HB Winegrowers, Apple and Pear and RJ Flowers Ltd, who all spoke about the unique growing properties of the region and the value of the produce grown to the local and national economy.

The central idea of ​​the symposium was to address the question of how to protect the soil so that it does not fall victim to its own success, how to sustainably plan the future growth of primary industry as well as the resident population without consuming of highly productive land.

Philip Brown, of Campbell Brown Planning Ltd., with over 30 years of experience in resource planning and management, said that mechanisms such as the [existing] The Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy and the Next Future Development Strategy have been important tools for managing development.

He noted, however, that in order to reduce pressure for urban sprawl, a more aggressive approach to having more compact housing development in existing urban areas was likely needed.

“There may still be a compelling case for expanding urban areas to provide housing, but tipping the scales in favor of soil protection would seem appropriate in the context of Hawke’s Bay.

To learn more about the speakers at the symposium, watch the video or view the presentations at

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