The conversion of farmland to forestry in nearby areas was seen as a change in land use that was impacting the local environment and community.
“And it’s the carbon credit thing. They’re all buying up land and planting trees. Well, look at Kaitieke, it’s ruined that valley hasn’t it. The school, they’re trying hard to stay open…Once Kaitieke was a thriving valley and all farms, it was incredible and then all the farms bought up by forestry. Well when it was forestry it was quite good but now all the trees have grown and there’s just the carbon credit thing, and they’ll be buying the whole valley up and the trees will just sit there. And that’s it.”
“What’s happening is a corporation say in China, they will buy carbon credits in New Zealand to give them a ticket to pollute? So now all our land is being locked up in pine trees and that’s an issue in itself.”
The protection from overuse and degradation of natural resources was of something of concern to Owhango residents.
“My concern is that it’s getting to a point where it’s (the natural environment) becoming overexploited. Because we have people come from all over the world to experience what we have to offer. But once you fill it up with people it ceases to be what people come here for. And we’re getting to that point. The Tongariro Crossing, it’s an ant trail of thousands of people a day clamoring over it. There are people everywhere. The only way you can manage it is put a ceiling on it. In order to protect the assets they have to put a limit on it which is kind of what’s happening.”
“The water quality in the river is declining and I don’t know this for sure, it’s just hearsay. But I hear it’s the ski field operations because now we have man-made snow and to make snow they introduce a protein to it so the snow crystal has something to bind to and that protein is going into the waterways and it’s evident in um, the algae growing in the riverbeds, and that’s on the increase. There’s this kind of like, that one in the South Island, Rock Snot, they’ve got these long tentacles that come off and you see it spreading up the waterway.”
A particular issue that residents felt needed resolution was a slip on a popular nearby walking track which, further to disenabling walkers, restricted a local predator trapping group from accessing their traps.
The work that has been done there killing predators is quite outstanding. There’s something like 400 rats in the past three months. But that’s not DOC, that’s locals with a trapping programme. It’s a voluntary group in partnership with DOC. They buy traps and things but they also fundraise for traps. And I know down at the bridge those are DOC traps but looking at what was in there the other day that’s been in there a long time! Once it’s set that’s it, you’re not going to catch another rat. And locals started it because we were concerned with the bird life, the whio down there on the river… Bird life has increased tremendously.
In terms of climate and weather patterns:
“This is the worst summer we’ve seen on the farm. We’ll be drying cows off two months early. There are droughts most years so it’s not an increase because it’s been and gone and been and gone. We had a good spring and a mild winter so came into the season very well.”
Residents of Owhango considered themselves ‘quite lucky’ that they were not prone to any particular natural disasters, other the potential impact from volcanic eruptions.
“When Te Maari crater erupted three years ago it made us realise how close to the mountain we are as the crow flies. It sort of made us realise too that we don’t have a lot of water storage. And if the wind had been blowing our way the Council would have had to impose water restrictions. And because we don’t have a lot of water storage, it is a risk we are living with. A lot of farmers have a backup water supply but for most individuals, probably not. We all used to have water tanks years ago but then they put in a water scheme….”
“I would say generally people don’t have a civil defence emergency kit”.