group of people around a laptop in outdoor setting

Owning a block of land can be a fulfilling experience. Many of us regard our land with a sense of protectiveness and want to do the best for it. We have an innate desire to nurture it, see it grow and leave it in a better state than when we bought it. In Maori this special relationship is called kaitiakitanga.

Kate Brennan, editor of the LSB website knows this first hand. In the hills above Helena Bay in Northland, a group of landowners, many with areas of native bush, formed a group to remove pests. The group got funding from the Regional Council to employ a professional trapper to use their expertise to target and trap possums, stoats, weasels and rats.

“We had already been trapping pests ourselves, but a professional makes a huge difference. I’m shocked at the number of stoats and weasels that are trapped in the area as you rarely see them around.”

Last year the locals and their trapper together bagged almost 1,500 pests including over 600 rats and 53 mustelids.

The health of the small blue planet we call home is rapidly declining so the race is on to try and use our land as sustainably as we can and protect the natural features of the land.

But saving the planet one block at a time can seem hopelessly difficult, and often the problem extends beyond our own land. The task can seem too daunting to even make a start. This is exactly when Landcare groups, Catchment groups, and community-based environment groups come into the picture.

What are the groups?

Basically, these are groups of like-minded people from within an area or catchment who come together to create positive action on the ground. A partnership where people work together to take action on environmental issues.

A group may be run by farmers, private individuals, a local Council, or through Trusts. They are formed by people with a common goal to protect, enhance and re-establish areas of land and catchment areas, private or public. The focus may be on wetlands, coastal areas, native forest, streams and rivers, private farms or public domains.

Landcare groups are where you can find practical information, support, resources and a general feeling of camaraderie. Working as a team, the group shares the problem of “Where do I start?” or “What do I do next?”

A Catchment group is made up of people who identify with a specific geographical area which is usually based on a river or lake catchment and who work to improve the water quality in the area.

Landcare and catchment groups often work together.

NZ Landcare Trust

NZ Landcare Trust is an independent, not-for-profit non-Government organisation that works with farmers, landowners, community groups, agencies and councils to promote and raise
awareness of, and educate people on sustainable land and water practices.

There are hundreds of landcare groups throughout New Zealand and the best way to find them is to go onto the NZ Landcare Trust website.

On the site, you can view a comprehensive catchment map. The website also has lots of practical information on topics such as riparian planting; wetland restoration and dealing with weeds and pests. You can also find Landcare and Catchment groups and contacts in your area.

What is NZ Landcare Trust’s role?

NZ Landcare Trust works with 145 catchment groups and 400 community groups, supporting lifestylers, landowners, farmers and groups that have a vested interest in preserving or protecting an area.

They can help with:

  • Pest control.
  • Connecting people and groups.
  • Farm environment planning.
  • Water quality monitoring.
  • Wetland design and rehabilitation.
  • Biodiversity restoration.
  • Catchment group facilitation.
  • Fundraising and proposal development.
  • Farm forestry best practice.
  • Climate change adaptation.
  • Working with Tangata Whenua.
  • Biomonitoring.

Can I start my own group?

If you have a passion for a particular area and have like-minded neighbours, you can set up your own group. Some of the biggest groups in New Zealand started from a handful of people wanting to improve their local environment.

There are no hard and fast rules of how to set up and run a landcare group – every group is different and has its own way of doing things. Each group decides on its own focus and activities and these can be as big or small as they need to be and there is no requirement to have a formal structure.

If you do want to start a group, here is a great place to start. Even if you want to go it alone, there is lots of very practical advice on the NZ Landcare Trust’s website.

The joy of belonging to one of these groups is the connection with people who can share practical advice and help you to make decisions based on shared experiences. Working together and supporting each other to achieve your goals is a great way to improve your own area, whether you’re fencing to protect a wetland or protecting native bush by getting rid of pesky pests.