Protecting our stopbanks from grazing stock

As the wetter months set in, Horizons Regional Council is reminding rural communities to keep grazing stock off stopbanks to ensure they are best able to perform their function as an essential flood protection asset.

Horizons central area engineer Cliff Thomas says the main purpose of stopbanks is to provide essential flood protection for thousands of people throughout the region.
“While stopbanks can be grazed by cattle less than 18 months old in summer when the ground is firm, grazing cattle is not permitted unless approval is given by river management staff between 15 June and 15 September,” he says.

“As wet weather has set in we have seen a number of stock on banks that have caused minor damage. When conditions are favourable these will be repaired however, it is a statutory offence to damage the stopbanks and landowners can be held liable to pay for any resulting repairs.”
Mr Thomas says it’s fortunate that rain events so far have not put pressure on major stopbanks, but many smaller rivers have experienced high flows and the banks are now in a saturated state.
“Stopbanks require careful management and it is very important that there is enough grass to prevent scouring in a flood event. Stock damage can increase the potential for this to happen.

“We really appreciate the effort many farmers put in to control stock damage caused by grazing during the year. We just want to remind people that it is the time of year again where stock do need to be grazed elsewhere to avoid any damage.”

Mr Thomas says stopbanks not only protect property and production worth billions of dollars, but they also ensure the safety of many in our community.

“That’s why it is so important to reinforce the importance of looking after our stopbanks to anyone who may be grazing stock,” he says.
“Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link. All it takes is one breached section of stopbank to flood hundreds of hectares of farmland, and potentially impact homes and people’s lives.”

Stopbanks are a primary flood protection tool throughout the region. Horizons manages and maintains almost 500km of stopbanks, protecting over 46,000 hectares of land.

A copy of the stopbank grazing guidelines pamphlet is available here with hardcopies available upon request.