Who are denialists now?

April 24, 2014

Federated Farmers’ Hawkes Bay president Will Foley asks, who are the denialists now?

RadioLIVE recently ran an online poll asking its listeners if they were frightened of climate change.  To the shock of host Marcus Lush, two-thirds of respondents apparently said no, they’re not.  I would have said yes.

As some groups are cock-a-hoop over tough consent conditions imposed on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme and others think them lax, you have to wonder if this public climate weariness has spread to them too.

What it all means for the viability of Ruataniwha won’t be known until the 700-page decision is crunched but what I know is this.  If the scheme does not progress it won’t affect Green Party MP’s in their air conditioned offices or the paid Wellington staff at Forest & Bird.  They don’t have to worry about the El Nino being talked about for spring.  They don’t have to watch our region increasingly turn into a retirement village while our young drift to Auckland or Australia.  They don’t have to deal with crime since Hawke’s Bay bucked the national trend last year.

I cannot understand why some are so hell-bent on derailing a scheme, which gives Hawke’s Bay its best shot at adapting to a changing climate. Federated Farmers hosted Dr Russel Norman at the South Island’s Opuha water storage scheme a few years ago.  Memories seem short unless you are a politician.

With a medium level of confidence the climate experts say that average rainfall on the east coast will decrease this century.  This will lead to lower flows of the Makaroro River, Waipawa and Tukituki Rivers. The International Panel on Climate Change warns that by 2040, the East Coast can expect to double or even triple the time spent in drought.  This is our future unless we adapt and that means new pastures, crops, technologies and even animals.  Above all, adaption means storing water like that proposed by Ruataniwha.

I will be blunt to make a point; the shit in the Tukituki during summer low flows has mostly been human.  Up to 70 percent of phosphorous loading during low flows had come from the wastewater plants of Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane and Takapau.  That’s thankfully changing with upgrades in hand while the allocation regime will put more water into the Tukituki during summer.

Ruataniwha could do more.  It could put a quarter of a billion dollars into those towns each year providing councils with the means to meet increasing drinking water standards.  This proves that the environment and economy are flipsides of the same coin.  If there’s no scheme, there’s no dam supported flushing and little additional money to upgrade existing plant.  Can anyone tell me the environmental win in that?

Is it just me or has the media and Ruataniwha opponents overlooked the IPCC’s warning that New Zealand is underprepared for a changing climate.  If anything, there seems to be outright denial since these groups seem to believe our rivers in 2040 will be exactly as they were in 2014.  It is not like the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company got a muppet to look into climate issues and Ruataniwha either.  Victoria University’s Dr James Renwick happens to be an international expert in this field.

While dryland places like North Otago have been averaging twice their normal rainfall over the past five years, in the same timeframe, we’ve had three droughts and it is dragging Hawke’s Bay down.  Out of 67 councils in the last census, Hastings District slipped nine spots to 30th spot, Napier went back one to 31st while Central Hawke’s Bay District dropped to 58th – losing 1.8 percent of its usually resident population.

If Ruataniwha’s consents are so tough they are Clayton’s ones, then it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the environment.  As the climate warms so will the waterways while the volume going into them drops. While that’s great for algae it doesn’t sound so flash for introduced trout or native fish and birds. 

While we can expect less intense rainfall we can store what falls and that’s the beauty of Ruataniwha and the secret recipe of our economy; just add water.

So is Ruataniwha perfect, probably not, but what is?  Do I have the information to make an informed investment decision? That now hinges on the consent conditions attached by the Board of Inquiry.  Yet debating the principle of storing water, given towns and cities do it, is a bit like debating the wisdom of sunblock, dumb. 

If we accept the climate is changing then we need to store water and adapt how we currently do things.  If you deny the climate will ever change then I guess you won’t be at the National Aquarium of NZ on 6 May, where NIWA’s Dr Andrew Tait is talking at 730pm on The Climate and Weather of Hawke’s Bay.

New Zealand makes a tiny contribution to green house gases.

No matter how hard we try to reduce emissions, we are at the mercy of other countries whose emissions are much greater.

We can continue to do our bit but we must also prepare to adapt to whatever nature throws at us.

If, as is predicted, parts of New Zealand will be hotter and drier, then water storage schemes like Ruataniwha which will enable irrigation and maintain minimum flows in rivers, are not just sensible, the economic, environmental and social benefits they provide.


Rural round-up

April 20, 2014

High-Performing Sheep Operation Wins Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Kaituna sheep and beef farmers Matt and Lynley Wyeth are Supreme winners of the 2014 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Judges said the couple’s 800ha (effective) farming operation, Spring Valley Enterprises, was exceptionally well run.

“This is an extremely high performing business with a defined aim to stay in the top 10 percent of equivalent farming operations.”

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 16, Matt and Lynley also collected the Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, the Massey University Innovation Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award. . .

Getting ready to kill the evil weevil  – Tim Cronshaw

Scientists are nearing the halfway mark of their target of sucking up one million wasps from Canterbury paddocks and sending them to Southland to combat the clover root weevil.

AgResearch teams armed with modified leaf blowers are sucking up weevils infected with an Irish wasp.

After counting their numbers in a laboratory, they are sent down in groups of about 100 to go to as many as 1000 Southland farmers. The wasp is a natural enemy of the weevil, which has attacked Southland clover in pastures and limited sheep, beef and milk production since arriving in 2010.

A mild winter allowed the weevil to take its small foothold on Southland farms to a widespread infestation. . .

Moths, beetles free farm of stock-threatening weed  – Iain Scott:

Once covered in ragwort, a Manawatu farm is now almost free of the stock-threatening weed thanks to the introduction of moths and beetles.

Kiwitea dairy farmer Wayne Bennett credits the cinnabar moth, flea beetle and plume moth for ridding the farm of the yellow-flowered weed that had spread through the farm two years after he bought it.

Ragwort has the ability to compete with pasture species and contains alkaloids that are toxic to stock. A single plant can produce more than 50,000 seeds. . .

Marijuana growers causing ‘level of fear’:

Many people in rural areas are ”living in fear” of drug growers and dealers taking advantage of isolated conditions, Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) executive officer Noeline Holt says.

RWNZ and Federated Farmers New Zealand asked their members for feedback on the Ministry of Health’s New National Drug Policy, which sets out the Government’s approach for tobacco, alcohol, and illegal and other drugs.

Mrs Holt said the main concerns of the almost 400 people who responded were about legal highs, marijuana plantations and methamphetamine manufacturing.

”Some of the most isolated homes and houses can be easily accessed and [drug manufacturers] can discreetly manufacture to their heart’s content. . .

Grape Harvest beats rain -

Nelson wineries are relieved the region’s grape harvest has largely finished ahead of prolonged rain.

Nelson Winegrowers Association chairman Richard Flatman said most people he had talked to had managed to get their grapes in.

He described this year’s harvest as perfect, as it had been early and was big on flavour. “It will be fantastic for Nelson,” he said.

Waimea Estates general manager Ben Bolitho said they had been delighted to have all but finished harvest ahead of 10 days forecast rain. . .

 


Rural round-up

April 18, 2014

A sense of proportion about risk, and be grateful for farmer success - Stephen Franks:

I look forward to playing with my latest farm toy. The family call it a ‘golf cart’. It is a UTV ( said by a Jim Mora Panel listener to mean ‘Utility Task Vehicle’) but more commonly referred to as a “side by side”.  As dairy farmers upgrade their gear in the dairy bonanza, the rest of rural New Zealand benefits from their second hand off-road wheels.

The farm bike then quad bike largely replaced the horse several decades ago. Now they in turn will be replaced by UTVs.

The safety over-lords expolit the injury rates on ATVs to get ordinary people to cower apologetically before them. Ignoring the drive of many of us to use our machines to the limit for the same kind of satisfaction as we get from mountain climbing, or playing rugby, or skiing fast, or even perhaps binge drinking, they force industry leaders into snivelling apologies for accidents that are inevitable if people are to continue to be free to choose their preferred levels of risk. . .    

Govt to establish Food Safety Science & Research Centre:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye today announced that expressions of interest have been released for a Food Safety Science and Research Centre.

Establishing a New Zealand centre of food safety science and research is one of the 29 recommendations from the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident, released in December last year.

“The centre will ensure delivery of excellent food safety science and research while also minimising the risks of foodborne illness and maximising economic growth opportunities,” Mr Joyce says. . .

Dairy Women’s Network appoints Atiamuri dairy farmer to North Island convenor role:

Atiamuri dairy farmer Karen Forlong has been appointed North Island convenor coordinator for the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN).

In the 20-hours per week role, Forlong is charged with supporting 18 regional volunteers who run the Network’s regional groups from the top to the bottom of the North Island.

DWN chief executive Zelda de Villiers said the Network was delighted with Karen’s appointment.

“Karen brings a wealth of farming and leadership experience to the Network. Alongside her farming responsibilities she is on the board of Rotorua District Vets and is about to complete the Agri-Women Development Trust’s Escalator Programme. . .

 

Spreading the word on alternative tree species:

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew has announced that a project which aims to provide information for growers on alternative tree species has been approved for a Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) grant.

“The project will focus specifically on cypresses and eucalypts. Both species groups have been successfully grown here on a wide range of site types for many years, but on a limited scale,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“When grown well, both cypresses and eucalypts produce high-value timber with a wide range of possible uses. They have a valuable role in soil conservation, improving water quality, providing shade and shelter, and increasing biodiversity.” . . .

$9.9m in funding for new sustainable farming projects:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the latest round of projects receiving funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF), covering a range of issues from water quality to climate change.

“There are 31 approved projects in this round, with $9.9m in funding over three years coming from the Government and $8.7m from the project’s co-funders.

“The one common factor is they will deliver real economic and environmental benefits to New Zealand’s primary industries. They are driven from the grassroots and will make a real difference to regional communities.

“For example a project addressing water quality issues in the Opihi catchment aims to increase profitability and productivity while reducing the environmental impacts on catchment farms.   . .

Delegat’s founder Jim Delegat to step back from daily operations - Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – Jim Delegat, founder of Delegat’s Group, is stepping down from running the winemaker’s daily operations to focus on the company’s strategic direction.

From next month Delegat will take on the role executive chairman, where he will provide strategic direction and monitor performance, the company said in a statement. Graeme Lord will take over as managing director and will be responsible for developing growth plans, building a high performing organisation and executing business plans. Lord has been the general manager of global sales and market for the past six years. Current Delegat’s chairman Robert Wilton will remain on as a director. . . .

 

 


Rural round-up

April 16, 2014

“Awareness needed around psychology of hunting accidents”:

Wellington start-up, Hunter Safety Lab says there needs to be greater awareness around the subconscious psychological factors that can cause safety conscious, experienced hunters to mistakenly shoot another hunter.

The comment came in light of the death of a Southland hunter shot by another hunter over the weekend.

It is the hunting season’s second shooting accident to take place in the space of two weeks since it officially kicked off at the beginning of April. . .

No rain reprieve yet for drought-hit farms:

While farming areas in the South Island and the main centres receive rain, very little has fallen in areas affected by the upper North Island’s second consecutive autumnal drought.

“It is clearly a localised drought adverse event covering Waikato and parts of Auckland and Northland,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson.

“I must add that we are also concerned about conditions in Manawatu-Rangitikei too.

“Having been through drought myself last year, I fully understand why farmers up north would dearly like to trade weather with us in the South Island. . . .

Kiwi environmental innovation receives international honours:

Contact Energy’s Wairākei bioreactor – a Kiwi innovation – has been awarded honours at the internationally recognised 2014 IWA Asia Pacific Regional Project Innovation Awards in Singapore. Jointly developed by Contact and Beca, the bioreactor is a unique, world-first solution to improve the quality of water that is discharged from the iconic Wairākei geothermal power station into the Waikato River.

“I’m immensely proud of our bioreactor,” says Contact Energy CEO, Dennis Barnes. “As a world-first it’s great to see this example of Kiwi ingenuity recognised at an international level.”

“To work with Contact Energy from the beginning, developing and testing innovative concepts through to the design and construction of the Wairākei bioreactor has been immensely rewarding for the Beca team”, says Beca CEO, Greg Lowe. “This is another great example of New Zealand talent delivering world class project outcomes.” . . .

Tough Ask to Separate Bright 2014 Sharemilker Finalists:

Choosing a winner in the 2014 New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year competition is a tough task for the judges, due to the varying backgrounds and positions of the finalists.

“It is a really interesting competition this year. A number of the finalists are relatively new to the dairy industry, having changed careers, and they also hold a variety of positions which highlights the many ways people can now progress in the industry,” national convenor Chris Keeping says.

“The greatest factor they have in common – apart from being ambitious dairy farmers – is the majority of this year’s finalists have Bachelor degrees. This demonstrates the industry is attracting talented people who are applying skills learned on the job or in other vocations to excel.” . . .

Rollout of faster broadband to remote East Cape schools complete:

All twelve rural schools in remote locations around Gisborne and Wairoa now have faster broadband, as a result of the Government’s broadband initiatives, Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams announced today.

Local communications company Gisborne Net has successfully completed the installation of point-to-point wireless broadband for the 12 schools, under a contract signed with the Government last year.

The 12 Gisborne and Wairoa schools are among 57 across New Zealand which will get faster broadband under the Remote Schools Broadband Initiative, because they are beyond the reach of cost-effective fibre deployment.

The schools will have access to broadband capable of peak speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (about four times faster than previous services). . . .

Sales Volumes Strong, With Prices Holding Steady in March Market:

Summary

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of NZ (“REINZ”) shows there were 94 more farm sales (+25.5%) for the three months ended March 2014 than for the three months ended March 2013. Overall, there were 472 farm sales in the three months to end of March 2014, compared to 534 farm sales for the three months ended February 2014 (-11.6%). 1,842 farms were sold in the year to March 2014, 28.5% more than were sold in the year to March 2013.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to March 2014 was $22,342 compared to $22,317 recorded for three months ended March 2013 (+0.1%). The median price per hectare fell 1.3% compared to February.  . . .

State of the art CT scanner to make quick work of animal yield measurements:

Sheep and Deer farmers in the South Island can now benefit from faster and more accurate carcass measurements, thanks to a new CT scanner in Mosgiel. The scanner, which uses X-Ray technology to create cross-sectional pictures of the body, is a valuable tool for determining meat yield in livestock.

The new CT scanner is being provided by INNERVISION, a joint venture between Landcorp Farming Ltd and AgResearch. It replaces an older scanner that had been in operation for eighteen years.

CT scanner scientist Neville Jopson said the new scanner was considerably faster than the old machine, scanning a whole carcass in around two minutes compared to as much as two hours previously. The ‘spiral scanning’ feature takes measurements over the entire carcass rather than single slice views at set points, providing a much better understanding of composition. . . .

Rabobank opens afresh in central Christchurch:

Continued strong growth in New Zealand has seen specialist agribusiness lender Rabobank relocate to state-of-the-art premises in the new ‘Rabobank Building’ in central Christchurch.

The Christchurch branch of the world’s leading specialist agribusiness bank and the third largest lender to rural New Zealand reopened on Monday 14 April at Level 2, 12 Papanui Rabobank northern south island regional manager David Clarke said the new premises catered for expanding staff numbers and would enable the branch to better service rural farmers and agribusinesses in the Canterbury region.

“We’ve almost doubled in staff numbers in the last decade so we’re excited to move to modern, newer premises with improved technology and more space, which will allow us to grow into the future,” he said. . . .

New Zealand’s First Masterclass for Home Winemakers?

Wine enthusiasts, as well as new and seasoned home winemakers, can learn the secrets of the profession from veteran vintner Justin Oliver.

Oliver is from Matakana’s famous Mt Tamahunga Vineyard and has over 20 years industry winemaking experience at wineries throughout New Zealand and in California. He is also Senior Cidermaker at Zeffer Cider and has distilled professionally. Oliver is in the throes of launching his own wine brand, Free Range Wine Co, specialising in premium wine on tap. 

The Syrah grapes that Mt Tamahunga make into $50 a bottle wine can also be pre-purchased from makewine.co.nz to be collected at the masterclass. The supply is very limited this year – and will be sold on a first in first served. Mt Tamahunga vineyard is one of oldest in the area. It was first planted by the Vuletic brothers for the famous Antipodean Farm wine label of the 1980′s. People may remember a 5-litre bottle of this Bordeaux-styled red selling for $5000 at auction. Those were the days! The Syrah vines were planted in 2004 by new owners, for the premium Mt Tamahunga wine label.  . .


Don’t let this chance go by HB

April 16, 2014

Dear Hawkes Bay,

You have moved a step closer to drought-proofing a significant area of productive land with the release of a draft decision  granting 17 resource consents for the $265 million Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme by the Tukituki Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has proposed building the dam as a way of alleviating drought problems and boosting the local economy through improved primary production on the Ruataniwha Plains near Waipawa and Waipukurau.

The project would involve the construction an 83-metre-high concrete dam on the Makaroro River to store water for irrigating 25,000 hectares of land across the plains. . .

In its decision the board granted the 17 resource consent applications relating to the dam and water storage scheme, subject to conditions.

It allowed the plan change based on a detailed set of conditions including limits on nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Tukituki catchment. . .

The decision pleases the Iwi:

Irrigation New Zealand says the decision is bold and encouraging:

Chief Executive Andrew Curtis says the decision was welcome news – particularly following the organisation’s biennial conference in Napier earlier this month where benefits of the scheme were discussed and attendees were assured of steps being taken by the industry to protect New Zealand’s water quality. This includes initiatives such as SMART irrigation (www.smartirrigation.co.nz) to ensure smart and sustainable farming is practiced in New Zealand.

“Seeing first-hand the drought that is starting to crush many parts of the North Island we can only conclude that Ruataniwha is not only overdue, but essential if the Hawkes Bay is to survive. Creating and investing in water storage throughout New Zealand needs to continue to be a priority for the Government, particularly on the East Coast, which the recent UN Climate change report confirms will only get drier.”

In response to the EPA’s decision to turn down the Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s proposed ‘single nutrient’, Mr Curtis says this aspect of the decision wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“Phosphorus and nitrogen, along with sediment and riparian stream protection all need to be managed to protect water quality – each aspect is covered through the Farm Environment Plan approach to be implemented as part of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.”

“The EPA’s decision is a positive step to New Zealand unlocking its renewable resources for the benefit of all. It’s now down to the local farming and business communities to get on board – both as investors and also to increase initial uptake,” says Mr Curtis.

Federated Farmers says the scheme has now got to second base:

With the Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme getting the tick from a Board of Inquiry appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the concept of water storage has passed a major milestone but a greater one is to ensure it is financially viable.

“You could say Ruataniwha has now got to second base,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“First base was getting Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s leadership to take it forward while second base was the Board of Inquiry.

“Third base will be the scheme’s all-important financing and whether the nutrient limits make it viable for farmers to invest. It also has to be analysed to make sure it still works within the regional plan too.

“If these all stack up then it will be a home run once construction hopefully starts.

“Federated Farmers believes water storage is core economic, cultural, social and environmental infrastructure for a changing climate. . .

My farmer and I were in Hawkes Bay a couple of weeks ago with the Pastoral Management Group. We were briefed on the scheme and taken to the site.

The next day the two of us were asked to speak to farmers at Onga Onga.

My farmer finished his comments with a challenge:

“Go home tonight and think ahead 30 years. What will your grandchildren be saying?

“Will they be thanking you for being visionaries, of will they be saying you were silly old bastards?”

If you don’t grasp the opportunity you’ve got future generations will be thanking you, if you don’t, those who are left will be wondering how you could have been so stupid.

We have seen irrigation transform North Otago.

Ours was the first farm in our valley to get water and during droughts it used to stand out like a blot of green ink on parchment. Now, thanks to the North Otago Irrigation Scheme it’s the few dry paddocks which stand out.

This scheme, like yours, wasn’t cheap.

But drought’s expensive too and it’s not just drought that costs.

Have you every worked out what you lose by having to farm conservatively in the okay and good years because you can’t rely on getting enough rain?

The returns from reliable production in good years and bad more than justify the expense and the financial benefits aren’t confined to farms.

The people who work for us, service and supply us have benefited too, no longer subject to the boom and bust cycles which followed the vagaries of the weather. The wider district and the country are better off because we have water when we need it.

Imagine how much more prosperous towns like Waipukerau would be if you had water when and where you need it.

The benefits aren’t just financial, they’re environmental and social too.

We have fragile soils which blew over from the Waitaki Valley. They used to keep blowing in droughts, now they stay put.

The Waiareka Stream which was little more than a series of stagnant ponds much of the time now flows cleanly all year and native wildlife has re-established in it.

The NOIC scheme was the first to require environmental farm plans from all its shareholders. These are independently audited each year and supply of water is dependent on passing that audit.

Water has brought a social transformation too.

There were four houses on our farm and those of our two closest neighbours before we got water. Now there are 14 and we’re building a 15th.

My farmer and I are the oldest in any of those houses by more than a a decade. Most others are early 30s or younger and several of them are having children.

The average age of the district has plummeted as a result and for the first time since the ag-sag of the 1980s farmers’ adult children are returning home.

Most of the farms which have got water here have converted to dairying. But there is also cropping, most notably a large-scale operation which specialises in bird seed.

The conditions in the resource consent for Ruataniwha might preclude dairying for most of you but  your climate gives you the potential for many other land-use options not available to us down here.

You already know what you can grow when the weather favours you. With irrigation you’ll be able to do all that and more whatever the weather.

The Ruataniwha scheme is providing you the opportunity to do something not just for yourselves but for your province and for the future.

Don’t let this chance go by, Hawkes Bay.

Your grandchildren are depending on you.


Are we in denial?

April 15, 2014

Are we an nation in denial?

This is the question Sir David Skegg, president of the Royal Society of New Zealand asks:

. . . Every New Zealander knows that one of the worst threats to our natural environment is the degradation of rivers and lakes.

Some fresh waterways that were previously clean and inviting have become choked with weeds, slime and algal blooms – with adverse effects on insects, fish, and birds as well.

Two other facts are widely known. First, a major reason for the pollution of waterways is the expansion of the dairy industry.

Second, dairy products are New Zealand’s biggest source of export dollars.

Every one of us benefits from the success of the dairy industry. Without its recent expansion, our economic situation might be gloomy today.

Driving through the South Island, I have seen small towns that were dying rejuvenated by local dairy conversions. And I am conscious the sectors in which I work – health, education and research – are crucially dependent on a vibrant economy.

In November, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment issued a report in which she concludes that New Zealand faces ”a classic economy versus environment dilemma”. Jan Wright’s advice is worded diplomatically, but her message is blunt.

Unless New Zealand takes urgent steps to slow the expansion of dairying, many more rivers and lakes will be degraded. None of the steps being taken to lessen environmental impacts can reverse this trend in the near future.

This sobering conclusion emerges ineluctably from analyses linking two models – one predicting changes in land use between now and 2020, and the other predicting the amounts of unwanted nutrients (especially nitrogen) running off farms into streams and rivers.

Dairy farming has become more intensive, leading to a remarkable 60% increase in productivity per hectare over the past 20 years. This has been achieved by applying more water, more supplementary feed and more nitrogen fertiliser to the land.

While good news in terms of revenue, such intensification leads to increased run-off of pollutants into rivers. But the modelling in Dr Wright’s report shows that although intensification is an important factor in the degradation of rivers, the conversion of more and more land to dairy farms is having the greater impact nationwide.

Despite rhetoric from critics about ”dirty dairying”, many farmers have made sterling efforts to reduce the run-off of nutrients from their land. Measures taken include fencing streams and planting ”riparian strips” along river banks.

Unfortunately, such precautions have a limited effect on the seepage of nitrogen (mainly from animal urine patches) into waterways. Other measures – such as employing nitrogen fertiliser more efficiently or breeding animals that excrete less nitrogen – may eventually yield benefits.

Yet a group of experts convened by the commissioner concluded that even taking an optimistic view, plausible improvements by 2020 could at best balance the effects of likely further intensification.

They could not counteract the much greater threat from expanding the number of hectares used for dairying.

Forecasts based on modelling can never be exact, and sometimes they can be wrong. In the four months since Dr Wright’s report was released, however, I have seen no expert rebuttal of her main conclusion.

I have tried to read all the statements issued by agencies involved. That has been a depressing task, because so many have ducked the key point. Consider a couple of examples.

DairyNZ assured citizens that it is ”working with farmers, regional councils and other stakeholders to contribute to desired water outcomes”. IrrigationNZ rubbished the report and thought ”a far more useful question to be tackled is how we grow farming whilst at the same time improve water quality”.

Two of the most cautious and realistic responses were from Fonterra and Federated Farmers.

The Minister for the Environment was less troubled. While acknowledging the need for more work, she was ”confident that with the combined will of our council, communities, iwi, and water users – and with the support of our science community – we will see significant water quality gains within a generation”.

Scientific research certainly has a role to play, but unfortunately investment in this area has been ramped up only recently and is still modest in comparison with the size of the industry.

There is an urgent need to build scientific capability, and I hope the proposed National Science Challenge (”Our Land and Water”) will help to achieve this. We need to be realistic about what can be delivered in a short period: Dr Wright’s experts did not envisage any breakthroughs that could improve things materially by 2020.

The Government has targets that appear mutually contradictory. One target is to double the value of agricultural exports by 2025. As part of this effort, irrigation schemes are being funded to expand the areas suitable for dairying.

On the other hand, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management requires that the overall quality of fresh water within each region must be maintained or improved. In the light of Dr Wright’s report, can anyone explain how these aims could be reconciled?

We face urgent and difficult choices. If we want to restrict the expansion of dairying in vulnerable river catchments, are we prepared to contemplate a less buoyant economy – at least in the short term?

If we do not limit the expansion, what will be the impact on our second major export earner (tourism) as well as on our quality of life?

How could restrictions be implemented in a way that is equitable for farmers and regions? But before it’s too late, let’s stop pretending that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Sir David has very clearly outlined the issues, acknowledging both the need for clean water and economic growth.

There are already restrictions on dairying in some places.

There is also far more effort going into cleaning up waterways that have been degraded and in maintaining and improving on those with higher quality.

And there is a pressing need for more science capability and for new technology such as the system designed to eliminate waste water on farms:

A new Kiwi designed water filtration system which can eliminate waste water could save New Zealand wineries thousands of dollars annually, has significant export potential for international wine producers and is already being championed by the local dairy industry.

The new waste management process created by Scott Biotechnologies and Allan Scott winemaker Matt Elrick, is designed to rapidly filter the winery’s waste fluids allowing the clean, odourless by product to be reused as irrigation for the vines.

Elrick says the new prototype was created to deal with the Allan Scott winery’s wastewater after growing frustration with traditional wastewater disposal methods, which were expensive, created ponding and associated issues.

He says wineries throughout New Zealand have already tried and failed to come up with a better system for dealing with waste-water at peak times, but many simply revert back to the simple septic tank system.

“With a traditional tank system wastewater settles in a tank, overflows into the next tank, settles there then overflows into the next tank. This means at harvest there often isn’t enough settling time so solids and nutrients tend to jump through the systems faster than the system needs to allow it to be treated, that means you end up with a pretty bad smell,” he says.

The new system which Elrick helped design, means wastewater will now be pumped through a spin separator which uses a cannon to create a centrifugal force and allow clean water to be ejected out of the top and sludge to be forced out of the bottom.

“The clear water goes direct to a discharge tank where it is further filtered and discharged via drip irrigation line onto the vineyard. The remaining sludge waste solids goes through a series of chambers where it can be easily scattered around the vineyard to release its nutrients,” he says.

Elrick believes the technology has significant potential for both wineries and other industries which produce wastewater – including the growing dairy industry.

It is capable of rapidly processing the waste product from winery’s entire harvest without any delay or loss of production efficiency.

“Excess waste production is a huge issues for New Zealand’s horticultural and agricultural industries. In addition to making us more environmentally friendly, this cost reduction technology will also make us more competitive internationally.” says Elrick.

“Essentially we are using our winery wash-downs to create a reusable resource, which is reducing the amount of water drawn from the bore to irrigate our vineyard,” he says. . .

I don’t think we are in denial.

There should be no debate about the importance of clean water.

It’s what we drink, wash with and swim in.

But nor should there be any debate about the importance of economic growth for the social and environmental benefits it can provide.

We can’t have our cake and eat it too. But with good science and improved technology we should be able to have high environmental standards and economic growth.

 

 


Rural round-up

April 12, 2014

Drought causing problems in Rawene – Sophie Lowery:

The top of the North Island has been given a good dousing of rain today, but the region that desperately needs it received just a thimbleful.

Rawene, on the Hokianga Harbour, is just days away from running out of water and there are serious concerns for the local hospital.

The tiny Petaka Stream is the only water supply for the 250 residents of Rawene and it is almost dry.

“The situation in Rawene is critical. We are urging residents wherever they can to minimise their use of water to the essential uses only before we have to impose any more austere methods,” says the Far North District Council’s Tony Smith. . .

Exports to the motherland - Keith Woodford:

 There was a time when New Zealand’s exports went almost exclusively to Britain. Before and during the Second World War, and for many years thereafter, New Zealand was Britain’s farm. It was only in 1973 when Britain joined the EU, which itself had food surpluses, that we had to search for alternative markets.

Now, some forty years later, the only two major products exported to Britain are sheep meat and wine. Britain takes about 20% of New Zealand’s sheep meat exports and is the second most important sheep meat market after China. For wine, Britain also takes about 20% of New Zealand’s exports and is the third most important market after Australia and the USA. Minor export products include apples at about 10% of total apple exports. For wool, about 5% reaches the shores of the UK. Overall, only 3% of New Zealand’s exports are destined for Britain. . .

Minister welcomes Manawatu River clean-up progress:

Environment Minister Amy Adams has welcomed a new report on cleaning-up the Manawatu River, saying it shows that progress can be made even on the most difficult environmental problems when communities work together.

“It is still early days as far as the time frames for cleaning up polluted water ways are concerned, but I am pleased to see the Manawatu Leaders Accord reporting overall improving trends in nutrient levels and levels of bacteria in the Manawatu River,” Ms Adams says.

“The Government regards its $5.2 million investment in cleaning up this river as well worthwhile. By working together, we can achieve far more than leaving it to one group or organisation. . .

LIC scientists discover ‘fat gene’ in cows:

LIC scientists have discovered genetic variations which affect milk composition in dairy cows.

All cows have the ‘fat gene’, named AGPAT6, but LIC senior scientist Dr Matt Littlejohn said the variations they’ve discovered provide a genetic explanation for why some cows produce higher fat content in their milk than others.

“If you think of milk production in the cow’s udder as a factory assembly line, this variation is one of a few workers in the ‘fat chain’, with that worker being very efficient in some cows, and a bit lazy in others,” he said.

“The finding of AGPAT6 helps us to better understand what goes on in a cow’s mammary gland and how milk composition is regulated by genes.” . .

Pukekawa grower named New Zealand’s best young vege grower:

Brett Parker was crowned the New Zealand Young Vegetable Grower 2014, beating six other competitors, at the national competition on April 10.

Held in Pukekohe, the day-long event saw seven contestants go head-to-head in a series of theoretical and practical challenges needed to run a successful vegetable growing business.

Parker, 26, works at Hinemoa Quality Producers in Pukekawa as an assistant crop manager, and won $2500.

Of that $1000 will be used for professional development.    . . .

Diverse Farming Business Scores Supreme Double in Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Kaiwera farmers Andrew and Heather Tripp, Nithdale Station Ltd, have won the Supreme title in the Southland Ballance Farm Awards for the second time.

The Tripps were announced Supreme winners of the 2014 Southland Ballance Farm Awards (BFEA) at a special ceremony on April 10. They also collected the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the Massey University Innovation Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Alliance Quality Livestock Award.

Since first winning the Supreme title in the inaugural Southland BFEA in 2002, the Tripps have added a dairy farm to their diverse farming operation based on historic Nithdale Station, south east of Gore. . .

Support to build winter feed with urea price drop:

As the dry summer conditions ease, a drop in urea prices by Ballance Agri-Nutrients will be welcomed by farmers looking to build up feed reserves to meet stock requirements over winter and early spring.

Ballance dropped the price of urea from $695 to $645 and SustaiN from $751 to $697 yesterday on the back of a slump in global prices for urea.

Ballance General Manager of Sales, Andrew Reid, says that the imbalance between supply and demand that put upward pressure on urea prices earlier this year has now reversed.

“Currently global supply is exceeding demand, which has resulted in international prices easing,” said Mr Reid. . .


More wind generation less power

April 11, 2014

If renewable energy good is more better?

What if more renewable generation results in less power?

Household fridges and freezers will need to be automatically switched off at times when Britain’s electricity demand is high, in order to keep the lights on as Britain becomes more reliant on wind energy, experts say.

The current electricity grid will struggle to cope with the number of wind farms expected to be built by the early 2020s because the power they produce is so intermittent, according to a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

A radical overhaul of the way the electricity system is managed – including a “smart grid” that can control household appliances to reduce demand when power supply is inadequate – will be needed, it finds.

Britain will also need to build more power import and export cables to the continent to help manage variable wind power output, and develop storage technologies to keep surplus power for times when there is a shortfall.

The measures will be necessary to avert blackouts under a vast expansion of wind power – unless Britain instead builds an expensive new fleet of reliable power stations to be fired up as backup when the wind doesn’t blow, it found. . .

Most of New Zealand’s renewable energy comes from hydro generation.

That is at risk from low precipitation but it is generally easier to monitor it and manage its consequences than it is to predict and manage shortages of wind.

For all that people say they support renewable generation, I wonder how many would continue to do so if it meant a less reliable supply and higher prices?

 


GE has place in NZ

April 8, 2014

The audience at the annual Kim Hill Earth Hour debate decided there is a place for genetic engineering in New Zealand.

. . . Ninety minutes of pros, cons and broad views presented by panellists Tony Conner (AgResearch),  Robert Cruickshank (Lincoln University) and Richard Newcomb (Plant and Food Research) on one team and Christine Dann (Organics Aotearoa), Philip Gregan (NZ Winegrowers) and  Jon Hickford (Lincoln University) on the other, with close interrogation of them all by Kim Hill, was followed by 30 minutes of questions from the audience.  Chairwoman Sarah Walters, Deputy Mayor of Selwyn, then invited the audience to indicate by “noise” how they felt on the question.

Sarah ruled that the “ayes” were “slightly louder” signalling that genetic engineering should stay on New Zealand’s agenda “as a research opportunity” but with the provisos that it be well regulated, that consumers have a choice between GE and non-GE through strict labelling, and that the role of large overseas corporate organisations funding, and thereby influencing, research, be curbed. . .

Richard Newcomb added that the “GE debate has become completely intertwined with the anti-big business debate and with the notion of big business controlling food production and supply.” . . . .

He’s right – many of those opposed to GE are on the left of politics and also opposed to what they label big business.

Defending the environment, Christine Dann said she believed genetic engineering was “ecologically dangerous and too risky.”

“If everyone had their own little garden and grew their own vegetables the problem would be solved,” she said.  . .

If she is right, and I don’t think she is, Would she care that a whole lot of other problems would be created including job losses?

New Zealand is taking a very cautious approach to GE which is as it should be.

But the vehement opposition to it is based on emotion not science.

That a majority of the audience gave cautious support, albeit with provisos, to GE gives some hope that science might win.

 

 


More RMA reform needed

April 6, 2014

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the 2012/13 Resource Management Survey shows the Government’s first phase of RMA reforms aimed at improving consenting processes are paying off, however further reform of our planning frameworks is still required.

The survey of how well councils are implementing the Resource Management Act shows that 97 per cent of consents were processed on time for the 2012/2013 period, compared with 95 per cent in 2010/2011.

“This is a vast improvement from the 69 per cent of resource consents processed on time in 2007/08,” Ms Adams says.

Labour and the Green party have opposed National’s reforms but the figures show the positive difference they have made.

Delays are expensive, draining money and energy.

Speeding up the process helps productivity, whether or not consent is given.

“The overall trend across the country shows that resource consenting is becoming more timely and efficient, with fewer staff processing more resource consents. I commend councils for this improvement in performance.”

However the survey finds that resources and staffing required for the current planning framework is a challenge, particularly given extensive consultation requirements and maintaining community input and interest in the often lengthy processes.

“It is not surprising that plan making is identified as an area where further focus is required, as this has also been identified by the Government as a key area for reform, says Ms Adams.

“Councils also highlight the challenges in the time taken to move through planning processes and the difficulty in achieving regional consistency due to the different stages and nature of District Plans.”

“The Government’s reforms are specifically aimed at improving decision-making at every level and a driving fundamental shift towards more proactive planning for what we need, and away from reactive decisions through consents and court appeals.”

The biennial survey has been undertaken since 1995 and monitors council’s performance in implementing the Resource Management Act.

The RMA survey provides information on the Council processes, rather than the social, cultural, economic and environmental outcomes they contribute to.

This latest survey covers the period 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 and all councils provided their data within the required timeframe and can be found at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/annual-survey/index.html.

The RMA process is better than it was but further reform will make it better, reducing costs and delays for councils, applicants and anyone else supporting or opposing a consent.

 


1st for social progress

April 5, 2014

New Zealand has topped the world in a survey on social progress:

People around the globe are learning this week what Kiwis know – New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Commenting on the 2014 Social Progress Index which ranks New Zealand in first place Mrs Bennett urged New Zealanders to take a moment and reflect on just how lucky we are to live here

“We are an ambitious people and we want the best for our families.  Sometimes in our focus on always trying to be better we fail to count our blessings and acknowledge just how much progress we have made as a nation.

“We are ranked first in the world for being a safe, honest, and tolerant country with a good environment.

“The most pleasing part of the report was our winning scores on Opportunity – this confirms that every Kiwi can have aspirations and that in this country it is possible to achieve those dreams.

“To the naysayers – yes we can do much better in a lot of areas and every day we are all working hard to improve our health, welfare and education services with strong backing from the government.

“We’re investing particularly heavily in new policies and services for children and families.  The Children’s Action Plan, more social workers in schools and hospitals, greater support for parents, and welfare reforms to get more people in work to name just a few.

“It’s great to live in New Zealand and it’s nice the rest of the world know it as well,” says Mrs Bennett.

 

Photo: There’s a lot more to be done, but New Zealanders have every reason to be proud of what we are achieving by working together.

Being first overall and first for being a safe, honest, and tolerant country with a good environment and topping the score for opportunity are something to celebrate.

The full Social Progress report here.
 

 


UN warns biofuels do more harm than good

April 4, 2014

The United Nations has admitted that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices.

A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.

The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport.

The summary for policymakers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”

Biofuels were once billed as the green alternative to fossil fuels, but environmental campaigners have voiced concern about them for some time.

They note that growing biofuel crops on a large scale requires either the conversion of agricultural land used for food crops or the destruction of forests to free up land, possibly offsetting any reduction in carbon emissions from the use of biofuels.

Other concerns include increased stress on water supplies and rising corn prices as a result of increased demand for the crop, which is fermented to produce biofuel. . .

Growing plants especially to make biofuels is an example of a supposedly environmentally   friendly practice which isn’t, and it makes food more expensive too.

Z Energy’s plans to make biofuel from beef tallow might stack up better.

Z Energy has announced plans for a $21 million biodiesel plant that will produce fuel from inedible tallow feedstock.

The listed company said the investment would be made over the 2015 financial year and would produce 20 million litres of sustainable biodiesel a year.

It would be manufactured from inedible tallow feedstock, essentially beef fat, and satisfy New Zealand and European fuel specifications.

The plant would be built in Auckland. . .

Tallow is used for making candles and soap not food.

 

 

 


Being a betterarian – eating with understanding

April 2, 2014

Being a betterarian part 3 – eating with understanding:

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You can read more about being a betterarian here.

 


Be a betterarian – farming with respect

April 1, 2014

Journey of a betterarian part 2 – farming with respect:

There’s more on being a betterarian here.

 

 


Be a betterarian – beginning the journey

March 31, 2014

Journey of a Betterarian – part 1 – beginning the journey:

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You can read more on being a betterarian here.

 


Making a dam difference

March 31, 2014

Our first foray into irrigation was with underground water pumped straight into the irrigator.

It didn’t take long for us to work out we could do more by building a dam to store water over winter and other times when we didn’t need to irrigate so we had more when we did.

We started with a relatively small dam then built a bigger one.

The difference that made is illustrated by this:

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We’ll never see a view like that again.

Thanks to the North Otago Irrigation Scheme, most farms are irrigated so now when, as we often do on the east coast, suffer from drought it’s the few dryland farms which stand out from the green.

Even those who don’t, or can’t, irrigate benefit because when it’s dry they have options of selling stock to or buying grazing or supplementary feed from, those who have irrigation.

There are obvious economic benefits from that, not just for farmers but for those who work for, service and supply them too and that flows on to the wider district and the country.

There are also environmental ones.

Our soils are fertile but they blew over from the Waitaki Valley and if we don’t look after them they’ll blow further away. Independently audited environmental farm plans, which were a condition of the resource consent, ensure that every farm which takes water farms sustainably.

Irrigation has brought social improvements too. For the first time since the ag-sag of the 80s, farmers adult children are returning to North Otago in good numbers. There were four houses on our farm and two neighbouring ones before irrigation, there are now 14 and the 15th is under construction.

We’re the oldest in any of those houses, the next oldest couple is around 40, everyone else is 30 or younger.

The NOIC scheme didn’t need to dam a river. It takes water from the Waitaki, pumps it up a hill into a holding pond from which it’s fed through pipes under pressure to the farm gate.

A bit further north the Opuha scheme did dam a river to provide irrigation and recreational opportunities  like swimming, boating and water skiing.

News of another drought in the North Island where they don’t have this insurance against the weather brings with it stories of the problems which follow.

Not every area has the water to use for irrigation, but those which do know the benefits which come from making a dam difference.


Let there be light

March 29, 2014

Tonight some people will be celebrating Earth Hour by turning off their lights.

Some won’t because they don’t have lights to start with.

Others could but won’t.

Among the latter group is Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph.

In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores.

Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely
impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water. Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases.

Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating
stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I
celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance,
poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off
there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature . I hope they leave their lights on.

Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks. I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

Let there be light and heat and all the other benefits electricity brings us and let those who wish to make change a reality find a more positive and useful way to do it.

Celebrating Human Achievement Hour could be a good way to start.

Hat tip: Carpe Diem

 

 


Rural round-up

March 28, 2014

Dairy factories spending up – Alan Wood & Cecile Meier:

South Island dairy processors are upsizing with nearly $135 million of extra factory investment to chase a growing milk powder export market.

Synlait Milk yesterday committed an extra $32m to help expand milk drying capacity at its Dunsandel plant.

Competitor Westland Milk Products said it would invest $102m on a new nutritionals-infant formula dryer in Hokitika.

Both companies have undergone rapid growth, though yesterday NZX-listed Synlait Milk said issues remained with the Chinese infant formula market. . . .

Westland dairy expansion welcomed by most - Cecile Meier:

Despite a few reservations, Hokitika’s community supports Westland Milk Products’ plans to expand its dairy factory with a $102 million new nutritional milk dryer.

The Westland District Council held a hearing this week on the company’s resource consent application to build the new spray dryer.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the move would bring excellent employment prospects for the region.

Hundreds of farmer suppliers to Westland Milk would also benefit from the added value the new facility could bring to their milk.

“Dairy farming is going from strength to strength. It’s a very good move for the West Coast.” . . .

 

Big dry is being monitored closely - James Houghton:

Many of you are wondering why the Government has not declared a drought in Waikato and Northland areas.  Whilst, they do not actually declare a drought as such, when appropriate, the Government can declare the impact of a drought as an adverse event under its Primary Sector Recovery Policy, and provide recovery assistance. For this to happen, basically you and the community have got to not be coping. The declaration of an adverse event is not about the event itself, but rather the impact of the event.

It is important for you as a community to understand this and take stock of how bad the situation really is, and what value a declaration will actually bring. There would not be a lot of financial support for those struggling unless they are at the point where they are struggling to or can’t meet their living costs. The declaration would provide some funding for the Rural Support Trusts; however, on this particular occasion they have made themselves available for contact regardless.

I can assure you the Ministry for Primary Industries has been monitoring the conditions over the last few months by keeping close contact with Federated Farmers and other stakeholders to understand if farmers are coping. They are not in any doubt that a drought does exist, and they are monitoring the situation closely. . . .

Rare native fish found on farm:

A farm restoration project has led to a fishy discovery for Rory Foley.

Foley has a deer farm in the Hook catchment, near Waimate in South Canterbury.

He has spent the past few years improving parts of the catchment that were previously degraded.

However, the efforts have also led to an unlikely spin-off effect, which was only discovered in the past couple of months: the area is now home to rare mudfish. . .

 Synlait Milk shares punished for over-optimistic forecasts, Chinese regulatory speed bumps - Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Investors punished Synlait Milk shares after the dairy processor was forced to wind back the bullish profit forecast it gave in January because of disruptions from increased Chinese regulations on infant formula and unfavourable foreign exchange movements.

The stock dropped 7.3 percent to a three-week low of $3.70, trimming their gains from last year’s initial public offering to 68 percent. The full-year profit forecast was cut to a range of $25 million to $30 million, down from the $30 million-to-$35 million estimate given in January, Synlait said today.

“In January we under-estimated the full impact,” managing director John Penno told BusinessDesk. “The Chinese regulations had been signalled for some time but what’s become apparent since December is how fast they are going to move.” . . .

Farm Days’ a marketing and educational success:

Federated Farmers Farm Days are a huge success in education and tourism. The Federation’s Bay of Plenty province saw 980 people come through the farm gate on Sunday to see what farming is all about.

“Our Farm Day is a great way for everyone to get involved in the region’s rural community. This year was a particular success with 60 percent of the visitors having either never been on farm or to a Farm Day before,” said Rick Powdrell, Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provincial president.

“It is an opportunity to get urban people out, especially the children, to learn where their food comes from. Regardless of what age the visitors were they said they all learnt something. . .

Iconic North Island farm sells:

One of the most highly valued sheep and beef properties in New Zealand has been sold. The 4,839 hectare Mangaohane Station located just off the Taihape to Napier Highway between the Rangitikei River and the Ruahine Forest Park.

It has been sold by the family of previous owner, the late Jim Bull. Jim was known as ‘The Potato King”, and bought Mangaohane at auction in 1973 for what was then a record price.

During the last 40 years, the property has been dramatically transformed – with 1500 hectares of scrub cleared, and a further 1200 hectares of tussock developed into top quality high producing pasture. . . .

 


World Water Day

March 22, 2014

Thought for the day from Water.Org:

Lack of community involvement causes 50% of other projects to fail.
Because it’s  World Water Day.

Hat tip: Waiology


Poll doesn’t support Green irrigation policy

March 17, 2014

An overwhelming majority of people don’t want large-scale irrigation schemes and intensive agriculture expansion unless there’s protection for downstream waterways so that they remain safe for swimming, fishing and food gathering.

The ‘Farming and the Environment Survey’ of 3134 respondents aged 18+ was commissioned by Fish & Game NZ and conducted independently by Horizon Research Limited, with a margin of error of just ±1.8%.

Fish & Game NZ chief executive Bryce Johnson says while the organisation’s primary interest relates to the habitat of trout and salmon and the pursuits of freshwater angling and game bird hunting which are enjoyed by many thousands of New Zealanders, this research proves that Fish & Game and the wider public are united when it comes to freshwater issues. 

“The sole focus on ramping up primary sector growth, whatever the costs, has put the economy on a collision course with the environment and public opinion,” he says.

“What this research shows is that nine out of 10 New Zealanders fundamentally link their Kiwi identity and lifestyle to their natural environment. It also exposes that a very clear risk of losing support exists for political parties which introduce policies promoting economic growth without guaranteed safeguards to protect the environment.”

A majority 67% of respondents say they are prepared to see large-scale irrigation schemes proceed to facilitate the growth of intensive dairy farming, but only if ‘scientific evidence proves that measures are in place to ensure downstream waterways will not be adversely affected’.

What this research shows is that people want clean water but don’t understand what it already being done by farmers to ensure their activities comply with regulations and don’t cause pollution.

“Presently we have a number of large-scale irrigation projects being proposed by Government and regional councils with scant regard being given to the adverse environmental consequences that invariably result from the change in land use, especially downstream water pollution including estuaries and coastal areas,” Mr Johnson points out.

That is simply not true.

Farmers have a vested interest in water quality not just for occasional recreation or food gathering but as a constant source for household use including drinking.

Mistakes have been made in the past but regional councils, farmers and dairy companies have learned from them and are applying what they learned for any new schemes.

North Otago Irrigation Company set a very good precedent for this. A condition of consent from the regional council was that all shareholders have to have an environmental farm plan which is independently audited each year. Anyone who doesn’t meet the standards doesn’t get water.

“The ‘precautionary principle’ is being conveniently ignored here and this negligence is going to leave a legacy of pollution for future generations.”

 The poll also found an overwhelming 74% of respondents do not want regional councils to allow new agricultural development and expansion ‘if it restricts public use and makes waterways unsafe for swimming, fishing and food gathering’.

The only surprise there is that it’s not more than 74%.

What the summary doesn’t say, but the full report does, is that a good number of farmers are among them:

The survey finds

  • An overwhelming 89% of adult New Zealanders link their Kiwi identity to their natural environment
  • · Some 2.34 million of the country’s 3.199m adults believe dairying has worsened water quality in the past 20 years.

However,

  • 67% will agree to large scale irrigation schemes – to grow intensive dairy farming – being allowed to proceed, but only provided scientific evidence proves that measures are in place to ensure downstream waterways are not polluted.
  • · There is strong agreement that polluters should pay, including 76.1% of farm owners and managers. . .

I’m surprised those last two numbers aren’t higher.

The last point is a strong rejection of the Green Party policy at the last election.

They wanted to tax irrigators and use the money to clean up waterways.

That would mean people who are doing what they should be would be paying for those who weren’t and that’s not what those surveyed want.

The support for polluters-paying is reinforced further on:

Responsibility for improving water quality

There is a strong agreement that those who pollute waterways should be made accountable for their restoration so they are safe for swimming, fishing and food gathering.

Some 89% support this view; only 1.6% disagree. Agreement sweeps across all occupational groups, including farm owners and managers (76%)  and supporters of all parties currently in the New Zealand Parliament. Among those who cast their party vote for the  National Party in 2011, 88% believe polluters should be held accountable for restoration of waterways.

New Zealanders also want farmers to take responsibility for reducing any impact of dairying on the environment (only 15 % agree that they should not, 72% disagree with a statement saying farmers should not be required to take responsibility).

Dairy companies’ responsibilities

There is also strong support (73%) for requiring dairy companies to take responsibility for the environmental performance of their contracted suppliers .

This support rises to 82% among farm owners and managers and to 75% among 2011 voters for the National Party.

That is happening now.

The dairy industry and farmers are already  investing millions of dollars in managing their environmental impact and taking their responsibilities seriously.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says dairy farmers, through the milksolids levy they pay to DairyNZ, have boosted their industry environmental investment by 61 percent this financial year to $11 million per annum.

Dr Mackle says it is not surprising that a public attitudes survey just released and funded by Fish and Game paints a negative picture of public attitudes to dairy farming. He doesn’t see the survey work as particularly rigorous or important. “They are playing politics in an election year and dairy farmers are the convenient football to kick around,” he says.

“I think New Zealanders understand that dairying is important to the success of the New Zealand economy and that dairy farmers are an important part of our community. They just want to see the industry acting responsibly and managing its impact,” he says.

“We don’t need another survey to tell us what we already know – that New Zealanders care what the dairy industry is doing to live up to their expectations around environmental stewardship. We’re already acting on that concern in a range of ways - and have a strategy and plan for ensuring responsible and competitive dairy farming including a new, stronger Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord. We launched all that last year,” he says.

“Farmers have certainly recognised the need to lift their game in investing in industry actions above and beyond their usual on-farm investments to show leadership. Across the industry we have signed up to a new water accord and strategy and we’ve been putting our money behind meeting our commitments in those agreements.

“We have programmes and investments in place with regional councils in every major dairying region in the country - from Northland to Southland and every place in between. We need to work harder at making sure more New Zealanders have a better understanding of all that is being done. Farmers are certainly paying their fair share,” he says.

“Most dairy farmers are doing a great job. Industry standards for dairy farmers, no matter where you farm or what dairy company you supply, have now been set and are being implemented through company supply agreements with dairy farmer support. We’re still let down by a few bad performers but that’s like any industry,” he says.

DairyNZ strategy and investment leader for sustainability, Dr Rick Pridmore, says in Southland, dairy farmers, through DairyNZ, are spending $1.1 million each year on environmental work with the council and in the Waituna catchment. In addition, the on-farm investments by Waituna Catchment dairy farmers so far sit at around $1.5 million, with another additional $2 million of work still in the pipeline.

“Where we’re part of the problem, we’re investing in solutions with councils and communities - generally at a catchment level. Just ask any regional council. And this is above and beyond what individual dairy farmers are spending to meet their regulatory requirements or paying as rates including targeted rates in some areas.”

He says dairy farmers, through DairyNZ, are partnering with councils on projects and spending big money. Last year this included work with  Horizons Regional Council ($500,000), Waikato River Authority ($1.2 million), Environment Canterbury ($1 million), Northland Regional Council ($400,000) and $100,000 with the West Coast Regional Council.

“Fonterra dairy farmers have fenced 22,000 kilometres of waterways around the country now and that is all GPS mapped. Depending on how much riparian planting and maintenance is included, we estimate farmers have spent $100-200 million to achieve this, reflecting around $5-10,000 per kilometre,” he says.   

“DairyNZ is also investing dairy farmers’ money in leading New Zealand’s largest catchment project in the Waikato River above Karapiro. This $2.1m project, co-funded by DairyNZ, Waikato River Authority and central government, is delivering environmental management plans to all 700 farmers in the catchment.

“Each Sustainable Milk Plan for those farmers will cost us $2,400 to produce, and out of that will fall a range of actions and investments that the farmer will spend on their farms. That includes installing water meters on most of these 700 farms at a cost to farmers of around $1.5 million. Other examples are Taranaki farmers who are voluntarily investing an enormous amount of money and time to ensure waterways on the Taranaki ring plain are protected with fences and vegetation. Around $80 million has been spent on plants, fencing and contractors since the project began. That’s a fantastic achievement.

“So we can point to an increasing and substantial investment by dairy farmers that shows how much they are all paying in a range of ways to manage their environmental impact. On top of that the dairy industry supports the Government’s plans for farming within environmental limits that is rolling out across the country. This will address the bigger issue of managing land use change. Already in Canterbury, there will be ‘no grow’ areas for dairying in that region as part of implementing its new land and water policies,” says Dr Pridmore.

The poll results were reported to suggest most New Zealanders were against irrigation but another poll counters that.

In January this year, Kiwis voted 71% pro-irrigation in an independent poll commissioned by IrrigationNZ. . .

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis says while he agrees with some of Fish&Game’s survey results, unfortunately the organisation has chosen to focus on the negative. In reality only a minority of Kiwis hold views that reflect no development or progress for New Zealand.

“Fish&Game is reiterating the same old rhetoric around the water quality problems that we all know exist in some parts of New Zealand. It’s like a broken record. Fish&Game need to change their focus and make a constructive contribution. After the Land &Water Forum the farming community is now focused on finding solutions – not throwing stones. Kiwis in our latest research emphasised that as long as irrigation is undertaken in a sustainable and responsible fashion, the majority are comfortable with it.”

“We do however acknowledge that Kiwis need more information on irrigation practice today and how it is monitored and managed and we hope to fill that information gap next month with the launch of our new SMART irrigation website.”

In the meantime we agree with the following findings from Fish&Game;

  • Industry bodies to better understand and align with public opinion on issues relating to irrigation, water and environmental protection in order to form responsible and acceptable policies and industry standards;
  • That irrigation which aids economic development must be managed responsibly with standardised measures and monitoring in place and that
  • ‘Smarter’ practices must be sought out which both enhance production but also protect New Zealand’s resources.

“Irrigation New Zealand is working with agencies, organisations and individuals to minimise the impact of irrigation on our rivers and river flow and water quality limits are being set so that irrigators sustainably manage the water we all value,” says Mr Curtis.

A lot of what appears in the media is a result of poor practices in the past.

There’s a lot of time and money going into remedying those problems and helping farmers do all they can to protect and enhance waterways now.


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