Regional council moves away from grazing for good in major Kāpiti Coast park

The parts of Queen Elizabeth Park previously used for grazing will now be off limits, the regional council has decided.
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The parts of Queen Elizabeth Park previously used for grazing will now be off limits, the regional council has decided.

Stock will not be allowed back onto Kāpiti Coast’s Queen Elizabeth Park, with environmental concerns outweighing the risk of fire.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council agreed not to renew a licence, which ended in November last year, deciding fire risk can be managed in other ways.

The council announced a shift away from stock grazing throughout its 16 regional parks, forests and water catchments in December last year, but the grazing licence was put back on the table amid concerns the overgrown park could pose a fire risk as summer nears.

On Thursday, the council agreed it was not appropriate to continue with the licence, given the harm grazing animals cause to the environment; stock grazing in regional parks accounts for between 20 and 25 per cent of the council’s corporate carbon emissions.

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Preferable techniques for controlling growth in formerly grazed areas, according to the council agenda, include grass cutting for hay or silage, weed spraying and mulching, rewetting and planting natural wetland and peatland areas, removing dry undergrowth, relocating existing utility based firefighting equipment from Battle Hill to the park to support rapid response, and training park staff on fire safety.

The new grazing proposal went out for public consultation between August and October this year, with 152 submissions received. Seventy-two per cent of submitters said that they did not support stock grazing on the land, compared with 27 per cent who did.

Supporters were mostly equestrian users of the park.

Part of the park that could be returned to wetland.
Ross Bell/Stuff
Part of the park that could be returned to wetland.

Concern about fire was based on local knowledge of beach fires, and a small fire in the park in 2020, which was started by a mower working on dry grass. It was found that 100 per cent of fires were started by people.

Other grazing agreements are due for renewal in 2022, such as Kāpiti Stables and Kāpiti Pony Club.

Regional councillor Thomas Nash said it was a big win for wetlands, for nature, for the climate and for public recreation and “achieving it has been a major priority for me since being elected in 2019”.

“Our decision today to discontinue the process for a new grazing licence for 200 hectares of land means that virtually the whole park will now be restored to native vegetation,” he said.

“Native birds, insects and plants will be able to return in abundance and we will be able to see the stories of this whenua come to life again.”

Cows have been trampling through the original peatland for years, local resident Wayne Mitchell says. (File photo)
Christel Yardley/Stuff
Cows have been trampling through the original peatland for years, local resident Wayne Mitchell says. (File photo)

Local resident and member of conservation group, the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park, Wayne Mitchell, has been concerned about peatland, which had been drained and damaged by cattle hooves for years. The decision to remove stock was “fantastic”.

Work on restoring the park to its former glory could begin, he said. “We’re righting the wrongs of the past. The continued farming was inappropriate.”