Sustainable land use
Our communities have made it clear that the degradation of our soils, fresh water, native bush and coastal environment is unacceptable. We need to support each other in protecting and regenerating the natural resources we all rely on for our economic, social and cultural wellbeing.

The evidence - what do we already know?

Land and soils

» The Gisborne region covers approximately 839,000 Ha

       > 596,000ha (79%) is steep hill country.

       > 71,000ha (8.5%) is flat to gently rolling land.

       > 352,000ha (42%) of the region is used for pastoral farming.

» Heavy rain events can mobilise the easily erodible soils of our region – sediment enters our rivers and streams before heading out to the coast.

» The region covers 8% of the North Island but includes 25% of the most severe, erosion prone land.

» The Waipaoa River discharges 15 million tonnes of sediment each year. The same as 4,100 truckloads of mud, silt and sand every day.

» The Waiapu River discharges 36 million tonnes every year – the largest discharge of sediment in New Zealand.

» There are 323,873.83 hectares (23% of 1.4m hectares of Maori land) made up of 4,484 separate titles within the Tairawhiti & Opotiki region (“the region”). 

         > The median size (40%) of titles is 1.28 hectares. 

» A specific challenge is the median title size with multiple owners and no governance or management. » 20% (22,158) of the Iwi within the region live within the region while 80% (89,214) live outside the region. 

» 83% (58,970 members) of Ngati Porou live outside the Gisborne District Council region.


maori land

Urban land use

» Gisborne city is a medium growth area. The population is set to increase by over 4000 in the next 30 years.

» Uncontrolled urban growth has the potential to spread over the productive soils of the Poverty Bay Flats. This fragments and reduces the land available for food production. Key drivers of land fragmentation are demand for lifestyle block living and the financial gains derived from property owners subdividing and selling their land.

» In Gisborne City, urban stormwater, polluted discharges and the legacy of contaminated sites are the main sources of pollution. 

» There are 566 known hazardous activity and industry sites across the region

        > 152 are motor vehicle workshop

Plantation forestry

» The region’s wood harvest is expected to peak at around 3.8 million tonnes through to 2035, then fall to around 2.5m tonnes for several years.

» Approximately 14 percent of New Zealand’s logging exports originate from the Gisborne region.

» In 2017, the contribution of the forestry sector (forestry and logging, forestry support service and wood processing) to regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was $132 million.

» 70 percent of log harvests are from the north and the remaining 30 percent is from the western area

» Exotic forest now covers 20% of the region

 Horticulture and agriculture

» Poverty Bay has approximately 17,000 ha of land suitable for horticultural production. Approximately 5,000 ha on the flats around Uawa, Waiapu and Tikitiki

» The total irrigated area in the region is about 4,700 hectares. This is mainly in the Poverty Bay Flats. 36% of this is irrigated using groundwater, with the remaining 64% from surface water sources.

» Horticulture is a major user of both ground and surface waters on the Poverty Bay flats. Demand for abstraction is likely to increase. 

» In the Waipaoa Catchment, the amount of water available for economic uses such as irrigation is under pressure, with declining aquifers and fully allocated river water during the summer irrigation season. 


green map

The challenges and opportunities

Challenges - if we do nothing

» Urban growth and development has the potential to reduce access to and fragment productive soils on the Poverty Bay Flats.

» Flow on economic effects from reducing productive capacity

» Continued high sediment loading in our waterways – impacting in-stream values 

» Post-harvest sites on steepest and most erosive country continue to be exposed to severe storm impacts. Downstream effects on freshwater values, communities, the built environment and the coastal environment.

» The clearance of vegetation can negatively affect habitat and biodiversity values; it may also release silt and contaminants and run-off. It also creates the expectation that land near it can be developed in the same way.

» Reliability of water supply for our important food production and economic uses – and for the Gisborne City water supply could be impacted if we don’t use our water more efficiently. 


» Support the development of maori-owned land

» Contaminated land use studies

» Remediation of Council and privately owned contaminated sites

» Improve provisions for protecting Poverty Bay soils within the Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan

» Regional soil quality monitoring programme » Soils conservation programme (underway)

» Use of 1 Billion Trees fund to support a transition to more sustainable land uses across the region

» Retire the steepest eroding landscapes to permanent vegetation

» Promote more efficient use of water and wastewater

» Explore higher value uses of rural land

» Riparian restoration public and private land

post harvest

The questions

» What type of land uses are suitable for our steepest most erodible land? 

» Is plantation forestry in the right place? 

       > Where shouldn’t we have forestry? 

       > Where should it go? 

       > What are the alternatives? 

» What is the cost of plantation forestry for Tairāwhiti? 

» Do we need more land protected for horticultural use?

      > Where should this be?

» How can we support the development of maori owned land?

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» What type of land uses are suitable for our steepest, most erodible land? Forestry plantations, but not of radiata pine. Long term/permanent native plantations could be considered to stabilise erodible land. It should be noted that recent research suggests that pine trees produce monoterpenes which prolongs the life of methane in the local atmosphere. Given that 42% of our land is taken up by pastoral farming, relying on pine should be avoided and natives planted instead wherever feasible.

» Is plantation forestry in the right place? 
> Where shouldn’t we have forestry? It should be considered that it is not simply a question of where plantation forestry should or shouldn't be, but a question of how trees are harvested and the appropriate management of slash facilitated by more stringent consents granted by the Council.

> What are the alternatives? The success of Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis Company shows that there is real potential for a hemp growing and processing industry in the Gisborne region. The favourable growing conditions and local knowledge present a real opportunity for growth that should be seriously considered for further development.
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