Farming for the environment

by Janine Holland

A Selwyn high country farming family have received additional funding to help them protect the Selwyn River from further degradation and to improve the river’s environmental balance.

In the recent round of Environment Canterbury Immediate Steps funding in Selwyn, High Peak Station came up trumps.

It’s not the first time the Windwhistle property has been singled out. Two years ago, the Guild family applied for support to begin an ambitious project fencing off all feeder streams on their farm that lead into the Selwyn River. The recent grant will allow them to finish this work. “We’ve always had an interest in making sure the water leaving this place is in good condition,” James Guild said.

Son Hamish, who runs the farming side of the business, said their concern is bigger than water.

“Part of responsible farming in this environment is finding the balance between the natural environment and the productive capacity of the land.”

Hamish paid tribute to the support they have had from Environment Canterbury biodiversity officer Jodi Rees.

“She really liked what she saw when she visited and suggested double fencing and riparian planting along the main tributary and the Selwyn River itself. 

“We were told it was the fastest application they’d put through the zone committee,” Hamish said.

Work began early last year and is nearly complete.

Hamish said with a QEII covenant already covering 94ha of their property along the south branch of the Selwyn River, it made sense to protect this part of the farm, especially with high public interest in the catchment.

         James Guild checking on the health of a native tree planted along 
                    the banks of one of the waterways they are protecting

“The Selwyn River is front and centre of people’s minds at the moment. And biodiversity is our main motivation to do this.”

Three streams on the property now feature riparian planting backed up by wire fencing to keep stock out. 

Close to 5km of fencing in total has been erected, which as well as protecting the streams closes off a large swamp and a steep hill face with a spring head at the bottom. James described the deal as a triple win for the farm, the QEII Trust and Environment Canterbury, as the area is now protected in perpetuity, the farm has gained additional fencing which aids land management, and its biodiversity values will be maintained.

The Guilds say their reward is knowing they are making a difference benefitting not only their family, but the wider community.

“I don’t think anyone can argue that the end result is worth it,” James said. 

“It was a considerable expense for us and there have been a lot of secondary costs for the farm, but I think we have to say it’s a great result so far.

“At the end of the day we are doing it for the protection of the river and quality of water that comes out of the farm.”