Leicester Murray

Landscape architect Leicester Murray works at the coalface of farm landscapes.

The placement of trees, buildings, irrigation infrastructure, cycleways, fences and tracks in rural landscapes are some of the examples of his work with farming clients.

As a former hill country farmer in Kekerengu, he believes any rules about fencing waterways must be considered in terms of what is best for land stewardship as a whole.

“It may improve water quality but what effect will it have on the ability of farmers to manage the entire farm?

“Managing pastures correctly is something which is actually good stewardship in itself and I firmly believe that sheep and beef and deer farming has a very soft touch on the land already.”

Creating an ungrazed waterway without having weed control options is going to create sites to harbour weeds and reinfest adjacent land. Murray gives the example of a low slope dairy farm that has all the waterway edges becoming infested with ragwort. Introducing sheep to control ragwort is an option, but is likely to affect milk production through pasture competition.

Maintaining fences within a treed area needs to be addressed, he said, especially if it is just a single hot wire. The placement of fences within poplar pole areas is something to be wary of as these trees can be brittle, dropping limbs that damage fences.

Divaricated climbing species such as muehlenbeckia can be a major issue growing up over fence lines in Marlborough. Other regions have species like rough horsetail, blackberry or broom to contend with. These weeds will need to be removed before fences are erected and weed control needs to be ongoing for maintenance. Spraying against waterways is an activity requiring consent in most cases.

Murray said landscape architects can help with the interpretation of the rules and planning of the infrastructure on the landscape. Farmers need to think about having good, quick access to service water tanks and troughs for any new stock water scheme, he said.

“How many farmers think about using landscape architects to help with preparing for placement of fences, tracks and infrastructure, to make it both practical and better to look at?”

He queries whether one farmer can really look after 1000 hectares of land with waterway exclusion fencing and reticulated water systems over it. “It is a big ask.”