Sustainable management of hill land


  • A.D. Mackay
  • M.E. Wedderburn
  • M.G. Lambert



One of the major environmental issues currently facing New Zealand is that of the sustainability of pastoral farming on North Island hill country. To be sustainable, a system must be resource conserving, environmentally compatible, socially supportive and commer-cially competitive. The Resource Management Act defines sustainable management as managing the use, development and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and community to meet their needs without unduly compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Evidence shows that at present this is not so for some hill country, for reasons of on-site land degradation and soil loss, and off-site sediment loading. Socioeconomic sustainability is also in doubt through deterioration in rural infrastructure and social services and steadily decreasing average returns for produce. In the long term there is no conflict between environmental and economic sustainability. The major conflict arises in the short term when the environmental needs of the community can conflict severely with the economic survival of the individual land holder. Adoption of sustainable management will require a much greater understanding of the dynamic interaction between land resources and land use practices and improved matching of land uses with inherent soil and climatic properties. A quantitative understanding of the relationship between biophysical stability of our land resources and their productive capability is required. This paper attempts to: (i) examine how biophysical indicators could be used to quantify the impact of current land use on the productive capability of our hill land resource, and in so doing identify several critical issues facing hill country farmers, and (ii) discuss some of the possible solutions to what we see are currently unsustainable farming practices. It is our contention that the adoption of sustainable management practices will ensure the long-term viability of this sector of the pasture industry and not, as many suggest, its demise. Keywords: biophysical indicators, hill land, offsite effects, on-site effects, sustainability







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