First they came for the dairy cows . . .

July 23, 2014

The environmental lobby hasn’t given up on dairy cows but it has a new bovine target – beef cattle:

A new study into the environmental impact of meat production has singled out beef as the worst offender.

The study says beef requires far more resources than other meats to produce, but industry representatives here say they are working on making the red meat greener. 

New Zealand red meat exports total almost $8 billion annually.

The new study, based on meat production in the United States, which did not include lamb, is pointing the finger at the environmental impact of beef production.

It wouldn’t include lamb because its production is relatively insignificant in the USA.

It found beef needs 28 times more land than that required for the production of poultry and pork, and it requires 11 times more water.

What’s more, the study says beef production leads to five times more greenhouse gas emissions when compared to the other meats. . . 

What’s more, the bulk of USA beef cattle are finished in feed lots rather than grazing free range as they do here.

The cut and carry feed method of production requires a lot more fuel and therefore produces more emissions than free range grazing.

Snap Fresh Food vegetable grower Ashley Berrysmith says greens are the cleanest food choice for people concerned about their carbon footprint. . .

But man, and woman, can’t live on greens alone.

A healthy diet includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables but it also includes a variety of nutrients, protein and some fat all of which are easier to get in the required quantity from red meat than greens.

Agriculture accounts for almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, but Beef and Lamb New Zealand says the industry is getting more efficient.

“We’ve reduced our impact on the environment considerably, producing more meat on less land with less environmental impact,” says Ben O’Brien from Beef and Lamb.

But those behind the study say the science is clear – if you want to pollute less, eat more greens and less red meat.

But that study is from  the USA not New Zealand where beef production is a lot less energy intense.

Red meat production might still cause more greenhouse gas than growing vegetables, but that’s not the only consideration in a healthy diet.

Other considerations are nutrients and price where meat could come out better and let’s not forget that in New Zealand beef cattle graze where no crops could be grown.

Besides the study looks at only one side of the ledger.

Producers can – and do – take measures to minimise and compensate for emissions and most do their best to protect and enhance the environment in other ways too.


Rural round-up

July 22, 2014

Lepto danger with flood waters:

RURAL WOMEN New Zealand  reminds Far North farming families to be mindful about health issues in dealing with flood waters, including the elevated risk of leptospirosis.

Families should be careful about drinking water, pull on their gumboots, wash hands and faces thoroughly, and cover cuts and grazes before they come into contact with flood water to reduce the chance of getting infections, in particular leptospirosis, Rural Women says.

The leptospirosis bacteria is shed in the urine from infected animals including stock, rodents, dogs, possums, and hedgehogs and is more easily spread about where there is excess surface water as the Far North is currently experiencing. . .

Free lunch for Northland farmers:

WHO SAYS there’s no such thing as a free lunch – or dinner, asks the Northland Rural Support Trust.

It is holding free lunch or dinners for flood-hit Northland starting tomorrow (Wednesday, July 23).

“We can’t stop it raining, but here’s a chance to have a dinner you don’t have to cook and an opportunity to talk to other storm affected folk plus pick the brains of some support people,” the Support Trust says to farmers.

Free food and drink is supplied at each event thanks to the trust and local merchants. . .

Stark difference between NZ and Australian dairying but why? – Pasture to Profit:

The visual & financial differences between the New Zealand & Australian dairy industries at the current time are stark and startling!

Why is the NZ dairy industry booming and Australian dairy farmers under so much pressure & having to dig deep to remain profitable. Both dairy industries supply into the same international market and Australia has a much bigger domestic population and local market. A strong local market is often argued as being a strength and likely to lift dairy farmers farm gate price. The economy in both countries is relatively strong & to a large extent was not greatly affected by the world financial crisis. Yet one dairy industry is hanging in by their fingernails while the other is buoyed (perhaps unrealistically!) by higher milk prices. . . .

AbacusBio finalist in sheep awards – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based AbacusBio and its managing director Neville Jopson both feature among the finalists in this year’s Beef and Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards.

After being held in the South for the past two years, the awards have been shifted to Napier and will be held on August 6.

Dr Jopson is a finalist in one of two new categories – the sheep industry science award, which recognises a project, business or person undertaking science that is having a positive impact on farming. . .

Decision on effluent area reserved:

An Environment Southland hearing committee has reserved its decision on whether Southland meat processor South Pacific Meats (SPM) can spread effluent on to a larger area of farmland in northern Southland.

SPM, jointly owned by Affco New Zealand and Talleys Fisheries Ltd, opened a plant at Awarua, south of Invercargill, in 2005.

Last year, it gained consent from Environment Southland to spread sludge from the bottom of its wastewater treatment pond on to 55.5ha of a 1033ha sheep farm near Garston. . . .

Farms: the abuse of children -  A Farm Girl’s Fight:

Recently, I was reading some blogs and websites of organizations and individuals that oppose farmers. These websites have “facts” that are outrageous. Luckily, these facts have “sources” attached….that link back to their own website. Anyway, it’s humorous to me, and gives me ideas for my blogs. And let me tell you what. I am fired up.

There was a sentence on one of the websites (which no I will not link to their website) that stated:

“Farmers are awful people that often take advantage of underage children, often their own, forcing them into a life of work and learning of inhumane ways.”
Let me tell you something. With the exception of the “inhumane ways” addition, that statement is damn true and I am darn proud of it. . . .

 


Rural round-up

July 17, 2014

Shock treatment makes waves - Sally Rae:

It has been an electrifying experiment.

A research team at the University of Otago has been using short bursts of high-voltage electricity in a bid to improve the tenderness of red meat.

The research, in conjunction with Alliance Group and led by Dr Alaa El-din Bekhit, of the university’s food science department, has been cited as having the potential to open up new opportunities for lifting returns on lower-value carcass cuts. . . .

Landowners want history kept alive:

A Taranaki Maori landowner of an award-winning farm wants tribal descendants to know about the land’s history, not just its success.

Te Rua o te Moko farm near Hawera won this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy recognising Maori excellence in farming.

The farm is made of four land blocks, one of which was confiscated by the Crown in 1863 and is being held in a land bank. It is due to be given back as part of the Ngaruahinerangi iwi Treaty of Waitangi settlement. . .

Landcorp’s huge dairy plans start to take shape -

Three new dairy farms that have been converted from forestry will begin milking for the first time in the new season as part of Landcorp’s large-scale dairy development near Taupo.

The state-owned enterprise has converted nine farms from forestry in partnership with landowner Wairakei Pastoral. In total, the nine dairy units encompassed 5300ha and milked 13,000 cows, chief executive Steven Carden said. Based on its current timetable, Landcorp hoped to have everything completed by 2020. To date, the project has cost $87 million.

“We have four this year, four the next year and four the year after. When the whole thing is finished we are looking at 24 farms and around about 30,000 cows across 25,700ha of land.”  . . .

Knock-on effects of less beer drinking – Sonita Chandar:

Fewer people are drinking beer and farmers are getting a hangover.

As beer consumption falls, breweries require less malt and malting companies need less barley from farmers.

The change in Kiwis’ drinking habits is being felt at the Marton malting factory of MaltEurop NZ.

Operations manager Tiago Cabral says some barley growers are likely to feel the effect more than others.

“We will need less barley and will have to contract less tonnage from our growers,” he says. . . .

2014 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards Finalists Announced:

The finalists have been announced for the third Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Sheep Industry Awards.

About 300 people are expected to attend the awards dinner – which recognise top-performing New Zealand sheep breeders – on 6 August in Napier.

Five industry-related awards will be presented. In addition to the Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year, Individual or Business Making a Significant Contribution to the New Zealand Sheep Industry and the Sheep Industry Innovation Award, two new awards have been added: the Sheep Industry Science Award, recognising a project, business or person undertaking science that is having a positive impact on farming now, and the Sheep Industry Supplier Award, which recognises a farmer supplier nominated by processors for consistently meeting company specifications and other key performance indicators. . .

CRV Ambreed appoints artificial insemination expert to Tasman, Marlborough area role:

Dairy farmer, breeder and artificial insemination expert Nigel Patterson has been appointed field consultant for the CRV Ambreed team, in which he will be managing the Nelson, Marlborough, Murchison area.

CRV Ambreed’s South Island sales and services manager Mark Duffy said the company was delighted to have someone with such a strong background in dairy join the team.

“Nigel has over 26 years’ experience in the dairy industry, including running his own pedigree Jersey herd, share milking, providing testing services and supporting farmers through artificial insemination (AI),” said Mr Duffy. . . .

New Zealand’s leading analytical testing laboratory celebrates 30 years:

In July 1984 a young Waikato scientist by the name of Roger Hill left a small soil testing laboratory in Cambridge to launch his own in Hamilton.

Roger and his wife Anne’s initial business intention, he says, was simply to “have a go” on their own.

Yet three decades later the company, well-known nationally and internationally as Hill Laboratories, is the largest privately owned testing laboratory in the whole of New Zealand. . .

Ballance signs up record shareholders:

A record number of farmers from around the country have secured shareholdings in Ballance Agri-Nutrients in time to receive a rebate on their fertiliser purchased from the farm nutrient co-operative in September this year.

Ballance’s rebate and dividend in the 2013 financial year averaged a record $65 per tonne.

Nearly 1000 farmers signed up to become shareholders for the 2014 financial year which ended on 31 May. . .

Reduce winter nitrogen loss – Bala Tikkisetty:

Winter is a time when farmers should take special care to protect both profits and the environment from the effects of increased nitrogen leaching at this time of year.

Applications of nitrogen fertilisers in winter are generally least effective for promoting grass growth.

That’s because slow growth of pasture and drainage from increased seasonal rainfall can result in nitrate leaching directly from fertiliser before plants can take it up. The nitrogen can then make its way to waterways where it can stimulate nuisance algal growth. . .


What about the birds?

July 14, 2014

The Green Party aims to have every river clean enough to swim in.

What will they do about the birds?

Up until recently, ORC staff and local farmers alike have been baffled as to what has been responsible for high concentrations of E.coli occurring at Clifton Falls on the upper Kakanui River, particularly during summer.

ORC staff have been concerned about the bacteria, as high levels have the potential to cause illness in recreational bathers.

ORC enlisted the help of local farmers, who provided access to their properties and the nearby river for close inspection. When still no source of bacteria was found, a helicopter was sent into the gorge to gain an aerial perspective of the problem.

The source – a large colony of nesting gulls – was found in rugged terrain, about 5 km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

Water quality samples were taken immediately above and below the colony, with widely divergent results Upstream of the colony, the bacteria concentrations were 214 E.coli/100ml, whereas immediately downstream, the concentration was far greater at 1300 E.coli/100ml .

ORC manager of resource science Matt Hickey said that according to Government water quality guidelines for recreational swimming areas, those with less than 260 E.coli/100m should be safe, whereas water with more than 550 E.coli/100ml could pose a health-risk.

Mr Hickey said six colonies of gulls were found in total, on steep rocky faces, where they clearly favoured the habitat for nesting. . .

But they can’t be removed because some are protected.

Council resource science manager Matt Hickey said an aerial inspection of the site had revealed that the colony contained at least one species of protected gull, and that meant the council could not act to remove the nesting birds.

”There are three species of gulls, and two of them are protected. . . .

This is not the only river to be polluted by birds and of course they are not always to blame.

And like a lot of other Green policies while this one looks fine on the surface, it’s impractical when you look deeper.

Some waterways, like the Waiareka Creek near us for example, have never been swimmable.

It used to be a series of near stagnant ponds most of the year. Now, thanks to guaranteed minimum flows with irrigation it’s running clean and clear and waterlife has established again, but it’s not deep enough to swim in.

The causes of water pollution are many – some are natural, some the result of people’s activity.

Some waterways will be able to be cleaned up relatively easily – and this is already being done.

It will take a longer time and a lot of money to get others cleaner and getting up to swimmable standard for some waterways will be impractical.

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the Greens announcement today is just the latest step in their anti-jobs, anti-growth, stop everything manifesto.

“Improving the quality of our freshwater is important to us all but the Greens approach is costly and impractical.  Approaching improvement through blanket bans and requirements for every drainage ditch across New Zealand to be maintained at a swimming pool standard just shows that the Greens have once again confirmed they are the anti-growth Party, by pursuing polices that would hurt households and damage the creation of new jobs across regional New Zealand for little real gain,” Ms Adams says.

“The Greens need to explain where they will find the billions of dollars of costs and lost revenue it could take to make every single centimetre of New Zealand’s 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams suitable for swimming. They clearly haven’t thought through the consequences.  Once more we see that they are happy to spend the taxes generated by productive New Zealand but they take every opportunity to impose more costs on households and the businesses who are at the heart of our economy.

“And Russel Norman is once again attempting to mislead New Zealanders by comparing the nitrogen settings in the new National Freshwater Standards to the Yangtze river in China.  While the Yangtze is indeed a highly polluted river, nitrogen is not the problem there. Dr Norman knows this, or at least he should, but continues to try and twist the reality in support of his own agenda.

 “The Government’s approach to raising freshwater standards is much more pragmatic. Our clear, robust national standards for rivers and lakes will make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

“Our approach will ensure that for the first time New Zealand’s rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

 “The Government will let communities make the call about whether particular rivers and lakes should be suitable for swimming all the time, rather than be dictated to by politicians in Wellington.

“In addition, New Zealand already has a system for protecting our most valuable waterways – water conservation orders. These give the highest level of protection to 15 iconic waterways across New Zealand, and have been described as creating a national park system for water.  What the Greens are actually saying in this policy is they plan to stop New Zealand using one of the more important natural advantages it has.  

“Rather than stopping water use, National’s plan is about ensuring it is used responsibly in a way that provides for the needs of our people now, and into the future.”

The Green party appears to believe that economic growth always can only come at the expense of the environment and only by putting the brakes on growth can the environment be protected and enhanced.

That is not right.

I am proud to head the Bluegreens Caucus and proud to be the Chair of the Local Government & Environment Select Committee

It doesn’t have to be one or the other – we can have both economic growth and environmental protection and enhancement.

Furthermore if we want high environmental standards we need the wealth a growing economy brings to pay for them.


Rural round-up

July 8, 2014

National Ballance Farm Environment Award Winners Ready to Spread the Word:

 

Mark and Devon Slee celebrating their success with their family

 

Winning the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards gives Canterbury dairy farmers Mark and Devon Slee the opportunity to tell some ‘good news’ stories about their industry and New Zealand agriculture in general.

The Slees were presented with the Gordon Stephenson trophy at the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s National Sustainability Showcase in Christchurch on June 26.

The couple was surprised and delighted to receive the award, accepting it on behalf of the entire dairy industry.

Mark Slee says he and Devon are proud to be dairy farmers. . .

 Soil mapping technology a big step forward  – Tim Cronshaw:

Four South Canterbury cropping farmers were so smitten with the precision of a soil sampling machine that they brought it back with them from the United States.

The Veris MSP3 3150 was imported by Colin Hurst and Hugh Wigley, who farm at Makikihi, in Waimate, and Michael Tayler and Nick Ward, from Winchester.

Commonly used in the big corn belts of the US since 2003, the technology is new to New Zealand, with only one other machine here.

The $70,000 machine is towed behind a tractor, and uses electrical conductivity to map paddocks for soil texture, and infrared measurement to detect organic matter, while constantly sampling soils for their Ph levels. . .

Grower lauds sugar beet ‘wonder fuel’ – Diane Bishop:

Sugar beet is the new wonder fuel, according to Southern Cross Produce owner Matthew Malcolm who has started growing and harvesting sugar beet for the dairy market.

“I can see a real future for it.

“With a lot more wintering sheds going up there will be a bigger demand to take the crop to the cows,” he said.

Malcolm, who has grown 10 hectares of the crop on his Woodlands property in Southland, was keen to try sugar beet which has a higher sugar content than fodder beet. . .

New Hort Graduate School launched:

Massey University and Plant & Food Research have formed a new joint graduate school to increase collaboration between the two institutes.

About a dozen Massey masters and doctoral students are studying topics that would in future be offered at the school.

This number is expected to increase with the availability of new research projects and supervisors from Plant & Food Research. . .

Spinal injury doesn’t stop Dave – Tim Cronshaw:

Dave Clouston knew his life would change the moment his pelvis jackknifed to his chest.

The fit farmer, hardened from years of mustering, was at his working peak and had earlier run through the forest to grab a tractor before his next job of stacking hay in a barn.

Clouston had worked his way up as a sheep and beef farmer on some of the best mustering blocks in Canterbury, and the young married man was managing a family business at Whitecliffs.

“I was stacking some hay we had brought in, and there was some loose hay on the floor of the barn. I jumped off the tractor to clear that away, and while I was bending over to do that the hay unsettled enough to come down on top of me – I never dreamed it would do that – from five high. They were big, square bales, and at least a couple hit me, and I was left pinned under one of them with my pelvis under my chest.” . .

 Shades of grey: ag’s power play – Sam Trethewey :

THE discovery of some snowy strands in my dark brown ‘do this week brought me both pleasure and pain – the ‘pain’ of ageing of course stings, but the pleasure was based on the realisation that the older I grow, the more I’ll be taken seriously in Australian agribusiness.

Most Australian business, including agribusiness, uses age-old management styles. It’s a vertical, top heavy system that that needs ‘workers’ not ‘contributors’. The sector has limited time for innovation and is resistant to change. We live in a fast-paced, globalised world and this structure is failing us.

These old school management styles put a lot of power at the top of the hierarchy and from there it’s a top down management approach (autocratic). . .


Not just farmers fear Green influence

July 8, 2014

Jon Morgan says farmers should fear Greens’ influence:

He’s right and they do.

Farming has moved a long way in the past few years and the current leadership of Federated Farmers gets some of the credit for that.

Instead of being defensive and/or belligerent  as previous administrations often were, they have accepted problems where they exist and worked hard to encourage farmers make improvements where they’re needed.

Farmers have been helped by improvements in monitoring and advice and further encouraged by meat and milk companies which are requiring much higher standards from their suppliers.

Where carrots haven’t worked, there are sticks. Regional Councils are imposing higher standards and taking a very strict approach to breaches of compliance.

In North Otago, at least, the return of farmers’ adult children in big numbers for the first time since the ag-sag of the 1980s has also helped bring fresh eyes and new approaches to farming practices.

The requirement for shareholders in North Otago Irrigation Company’s scheme to have environmental farm plans which are independently audited each year has helped focus farmers’ on their responsibility for care of the soil and water.

The resurrection of the North Otago Sustainable Land Management group has helped with education in best practice.

In spite of this most of the publicity about farming and the environment is negative and that’s what Green policy appears to be based on resulting in more restrictions and higher costs.

Mix that with Labour’s policies and throw in the influence of New Zealand First and Internet Mana and farmers are right to fear a change of government in which the Green party would have a say.

But it’s not just farmers – the rest of the country which eats the food they produce and benefits from the export income they earn should be just as worried.

Higher costs and lower productivity won’t help any of us.


Rural round-up

July 6, 2014

Young Farmer named for 2014:

David Kidd has beaten seven finalists over three days of competition to become the 2014 Young Farmer of the year.

In the 46 years of the contest’s history, Mr Kidd is the first Northern region finalist to take the title.

His father Richard Kidd was third in a young farmer competition in 1984.

Mr Kidd joked his inspiration for competing was to better his father and said he’ll be rubbing it in when he sees him. . .

Evil among us – farm community closes ranks – Rebecca Ryan:

The quiet and friendly community of Ngapara has been shaken.

Neighbours are watching out for neighbours, new chains and locks have been placed on gates and security cameras on fence posts, some residents are unable to sleep at night and farmers are requiring help to carry out basic farm work – all fearful after a mass killing of more than 215 sheep on two different properties in the area, two weekends in a row.

They are all hopeful the culprit, or culprits, do not return this weekend.

Police believe the killings may be linked and a firearm was used in both. . .

Dairy head to focus on environment - Gerard Hutching:

Newly elected Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard said focusing on the environment was one of his two main priorities.

The other was to deal with the issue of labour standards.

A Feilding dairy farmer, Hoggard said it frustrated him that farmers were always trying to play catch up when it came to dealing with environmental issues.

He acknowledged there was a “real issue” of water quality being affected by dairying.

“Cows urinate and that’s got a lot of nitrogen in it, but a lot of people perceive there’s a pipe coming out of a cow shed and into a river. There are a few ratbags but things are in place for farmers to do the right thing. I don’t defend those who don’t,” he said. . .

Firm finds cunning niches – Emma Rawson:

From a mechanism that cleans up geese poop, to small parts for a Fisher & Paykel baby incubator – the range of machinery designed and manufactured by Dannevirke company Metalform is about as broad as it gets.

But the products have one thing in common: they provide solutions to problems deemed too small for the big international manufacturing giants to produce.

Solving Canada’s geese waste issue might not be big business for an agricultural giant like John Deere, but for family-owned Metalform, its Tow and Collect product has been a winner.

Tow and Collect is being used in North American towns to clean up after Canadian geese, which leave a large volume of mess on golf courses and parks during their migration. . .

Fieldays set to get even bigger – Andrea Fox:

National Fieldays will offer up to 100 extra exhibitor sites next year and a new dairy innovation centre is in the pipeline.

Chief executive Jon Calder said the new sites were part of a master plan for the Mystery Creek Events Centre and would maximise the central exhibition space area.

Large-scale exhibitors who have been seeking a new area are likely to benefit but Calder said the flow-on effect for all exhibitors of an improved design and layout would be positive.

The planned dairy innovation centre, which might not be ready until 2016, would be based on a pavilion model in Canada and would bring together in one area exhibits devoted to the dairy industry, including a herd of cows, live robotic milking, interactive plant and equipment displays, and effluent systems, Calder said. . .

Fonterra targets audience of two billion - Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra intends to be a dairy co-operative that makes a difference in the lives of two billion people by 2025, chief executive Theo Spierings says.

It was already the world’s largest milk processor and dairy exporter and now it wanted to be a globally relevant co-operative, Spierings said.

Growth in demand was forecast to exceed dairy product supply growth by 3% each year in the massive markets of China and India from now until 2020, he said.

India’s forecast compound annual growth rate was 10% and China’s 7%, whereas their supply growth rates were 7% and 4% respectively. . . .

Life in the saddle – Pip Courtney:

PIP COURTNEY, PRESENTER: In the bush, no-one likes a skite. But while modesty’s an admirable trait, it’s kept many with fascinating lives from writing their memoirs.

Alwyn Torenbeek’s a good example. Despite an extraordinary life, it took years of badgering from his family before the 77-year-old retired drover agreed to put pen to paper.

At just 21, he was Australia’s bronc-riding champion, known for his bravery, natural talent and cheeky showmanship. But his biography is about more than fame. There’s adventure, tragedy, romance and mateship, and that indomitable bush trait, endurance.

An endurance riding camp has its own pace. There’s plenty of time to catch up with mates and swap stories, some of them tall.

At Alwyn Torenbeek’s camp, you’re assured of a yarn or five. . .

Good calving nutrition can better support calving season

With calving season just around the corner, the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) and SealesWinslow have teamed up to educate dairying women around the importance of good calf nutrition.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients, through its animal nutrition business, SealesWinslow, will be running a series of interactive calf nutrition days across nine locations in New Zealand during June and July.

Mike Stephens, dairy category manager for Ballance Agri-Nutrients said the sessions will provide participants with practical, hands-on skills to raise healthy calves and, in the long term, build healthier and more profitable herds. . .


Wills signs off saying politics matters

July 5, 2014

Federated Farmers retiring president Bruce Wills used his final speech in the role to say politics matters: (The bold is mine)

I want to start this, my final address as National President of Federated Farmers, with a thank you.

Thank you for the privilege of being your President, thank you for your support, and thank you for all the work you continue to do for Federated Farmers and farming.

Three years has flown by.

I have enjoyed doing ‘my bit’ to help farming remain profitable and sustainable, and like our own aspirations with our farms, I feel I have left this organisation in better heart than I found it. I will return to the hills of Hawke’s Bay later today knowing there is a very capable and competent team to take it from here.

Before signing off I want to reflect on the two things that have absorbed much of my time in this role, the economy and the environment.

The economy
Farming confidence is high and some sectors are close to being as strong now as they have ever been.

Our dairy farmers have just received their highest pay-out in history and there is a quiet optimism in the dry-stock sector with the ‘China affect’ now benefitting red meat and wool.

Food and fibre represents an extraordinary 70 percent of this country’s merchandise exports and if done well is entirely renewable. We are well on the way to doubling the value of our agricultural exports to $64 billion by 2025, on the back of an exploding world population and rising standards of living.

 

I cannot stress enough the importance of free and open trade. In six short years, China has become our biggest export partner as well as our biggest import market.

When I joined the Board of Federated Farmers, in 2008, our two way trade with China was $8 billion. Last month we broke through $20 billion and we are on track to exceed $30 billion within the next six years.

Our 2013 trade deal with Taiwan is ramping up quickly and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) remains a prize we must pursue with all the vigour we can.

No question, we have some challenges.
In recent days the New Zealand Dollar has approached all time highs against both the US Dollar as well as the Trade Weighted Index. This will be a significant headwind and may well prompt a slowing in further interest rate rises.

I have continually cautioned about our very high debt levels.

I note a large monthly increase of $842 million to the end of May reaching a total of just under $53 billion now loaned to our farms alone. In light of global uncertainty across many areas I am not sure how sustainable this sort of debt level is.

A few years ago Australian farmers had $70 billion of rural debt and things looked okay. Then came a serious weather event and now $10 billion of this is ‘non performing’ with a good portion of it unlikely to ever be repaid. We run the same risk here.

I have learnt in this role that ‘politics matters.’

For the past six years we have had a Government that has been largely supportive of agriculture. Should we have a change of Government on September 20, this is unlikely to continue to be the case.

Putting these challenges aside, what I have also learnt from my three years with the World Farmers Organisation is that New Zealand farmers are the envy of the world. Everywhere I travel people are stunned how a small island nation, a long way away, can be such a powerhouse when it comes to producing food and selling it competitively to the rest of the world.

I have learnt that we are a grass fed economy and what happens on our farms absolutely matters on Lambton Quay and Queen Street and all the towns in-between.

We are some of the best farmers on the planet and Agricultural exports will continue to pay the lion’s share of this country’s bills for a long time to come.

The environment
This is the flip side of the economy’s coin, the natural resources, which allow us to keep our food and fibre businesses forever renewable.

Three years ago I called for a more open and honest discussion about farming’s impact on the environment.

We have come a long way. The Land & Water Forum got us talking with all the interested parties and we listened to the concerns of others and have pursued a more collaborative approach to resolving our differences.

Getting agreement is not easy but having the science and being well informed on the issues is the key to making sensible progress. We have engaged a lot with parties right across the economy/environment spectrum and this organisation has gained significant credibility from its more reasoned and reasonable approach.

Some believe it is about winners and losers, I don’t. Farmers understand the ‘black and green’ bit well, it is difficult to invest in environmental innovation without running profitable businesses, and we certainly can’t keep farming without resilient long lasting farming practices.

The big issue of my time in this role has been water. How do we maintain and improve its quality in the face of a growing population, and an expanding and changing farm business environment?

The main focus has been the nutrients we lose from our farms finding their way into our streams, rivers and lakes. We can sort phosphorus, which is largely about good management. It is the diffuse nitrogen leaching that remains our biggest challenge.

All farmers, that I know, strive hard to be profitable and most do a wonderful job looking after their land and their water. Being sustainable is good business, and wasting expensive nutrients just doesn’t make sense.

We have seen a rapid land use change to dairying in the last twenty years. This has pushed onto lighter soils and in some areas we are seeing too many nutrients being lost. The science is telling us this and farmers have been responding for some time by fencing water ways, riparian planting, preparing strict nutrient plans and adopting more efficient irrigation.

In some sensitive areas more needs to be done, and again farmers are responding by building feed pads, herd homes or other means of controlling effluent runoff. Less inputs and reducing cow numbers are further options, and more science is needed for some. I am very encouraged at how quickly farmers are responding to this challenge.

I had the privilege last week to be in Christchurch to judge NZ’s top 10 supreme environmental winners from all around the country. They are outstanding operators leading by example, running profitable businesses, but well and truly meeting their social and environmental responsibilities as well. I think it is telling that the national winner was a large scale intensive dairy farm, on some of Canterbury’s lighter soils. This is exactly the sort of farm at the sharp end of this economy/environment conundrum that we are trying to solve.

Mark & Devon Slee milk 2,580 cows producing 1,830 kgMS/ha, or 475kgMS/cow, but with precision farming, smart science and exceptional management, are leaching the same nitrogen they were leaching in the mid ‘90’s with 70% more cows. Their immediate focus is on reducing their nutrient losses even more.

This is a clear example that we can and must do both. Whilst running efficient profitable businesses, we must do this within sustainable environmental boundaries. All the other nine finalists had very similar stories to tell.

I need to congratulate the CEO of Fish & Game, who took up my challenge of coming to this awards evening to see for himself the great results that our leading farmers are achieving and to follow this up with a Fish & Game media release that quoted the following:

“Dairying has never won the top national award before,” says Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson. “In winning the coveted Gordon Stevenson Trophy, Mark and Devon are demonstrating that environmentally sustainable and profitable dairy farming is not only possible, but up there alongside the other farming categories that have previously won the top national award.”

To ensure all New Zealanders prosper we must continue to grow our largest industry but we must also look after our environment.

This is our challenge; and as I pack my bags and hand over the reins I am more convinced than ever that this is entirely achievable and our farmers are well on the road to making this a reality.

Thank you.

Wills has left Feds, and New Zealand, better for his service.


Getting balance right for water

July 4, 2014

National has announced national standards for water quality which balance economic development and environmental sustainability.

The Government has today announced clear, robust national standards for freshwater that will make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy say the changes announced today are a critical milestone in the Government’s drive to improve water quality.

“Ensuring an on-going and reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental and economic issues facing New Zealand today,” Ms Adams says.

“It is critical that we protect and improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”

Mr Guy says the changes balance economic growth with environmental sustainability.

“It’s not an either-or situation – we need both.

This is very important.

We can have, and we need, both economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Primary industries contribute more than 76 per cent of our merchandise exports and largely depend on freshwater, while tourism also relies on the beauty of New Zealand’s water bodies.

“We all want sustainable and profitable primary industries. That will mean changes to some of our farming practices, but I know farmers are up for the challenge.”

Among the changes announced today, is the introduction of national standards for freshwater in New Zealand.

This means, for the first time, New Zealand rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

More than 60 freshwater scientists from public, private and academic sectors across New Zealand have come up with numeric values proposed for the national standards.

“In 2011, the Government required Councils to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers across their region. If their water quality is already above the national standard it cannot be allowed to deteriorate,” Ms Adams says.

“However, where a water body currently falls below the national standard, councils and communities will need to ensure that the standard is met over sensible and realistic timeframes.”

To help councils with the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, Ms Adams is currently considering applications from regional councils for $1.1m of funding for activities that support regional planning and community participation in freshwater management. Decisions will be announced shortly.

The Government has today also released a high level snapshot of the freshwater reform programme.

Delivering Freshwater Reform provides the history and context for the reforms, outlines why they need to take place and what the desired outcomes are, in an accessible and understandable way.

“Recent freshwater reform documents have had to include sufficient detail for the stakeholders who have a strong level of engagement and acceptance of the reforms,” Ms Adams says.

“This document focuses on providing information to a wide range of New Zealanders who care deeply about water quality and are unlikely to be participating in the more detailed consultation phases.” . . .

Irrigation NZ has welcomed the policy:

. . .  INZ agrees that New Zealand’s fresh water needs nationally consistent, better, more direct and clearer policy to ensure it is sustainably and effectively managed for the benefit of all.

“By having national bottom lines and allowing for regional and local circumstances, the NPS and NOF will prevent situations where unrealistic conditions are set on water quality for irrigation schemes,” says Andrew Curtis, INZ CEO. “Having everyone work off the same page will mean that resource consent processes will be less onerous and less time and money will be wasted reaching acceptable outcomes.”

INZ is pleased that the updated NPS seems to have broadened its measures of water quality and now requires a fuller understanding of issues which impact a body of water before setting limits. “The NPS now suggests that biotic indicators such as the Macro-invertebrate Community Index (MCI), should be included as performance measures – this is a good thing,” says Mr Curtis.

INZ believes that if community freshwater values, as now set out in Appendix 1, are to be realised, attention needs to be paid to an inclusive range of factors such as pest management, habitat restoration, sediment loads, as well as nutrients, to maintain and improve river health.

 “There are many examples around the country which show how habitat restoration alongside stock exclusion and phosphate management have created thriving rivers – despite relatively high nitrate levels – such as the Wakakahi stream in south Canterbury,” says Mr Curtis.

“New Zealanders need to understand maintaining and improving water quality is complex and can be achieved in many different ways – sticking a number on it and regulating everyone to this does not achieve outcomes,” he says.

Additionally, INZ believes that the exceptions provisions may pose a future risk and looks forward to greater clarification.

“Healthy waterways are the responsibility of both urban as well as rural New Zealand, and we must face New Zealand’s water quality challenges as a nation. Farmers are not solely responsible for issues with waterways and should not be picked on to solve these problems on their own.”

INZ is committed to finding a way for New Zealand to develop sustainably managed irrigation schemes within acceptable environmental limits.

“Water is our most valuable renewable resource and we believe that irrigation in New Zealand is essential to protect against climatic variations and to enhance the country’s ability to feed its population and to contribute to feeding the world,” says Mr Curtis.

Fonterra welcomes the framework too:

Fonterra says the Government’s announcement on changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management lays the groundwork for consistent and robust decisions about the management of New Zealand’s freshwater.

Fonterra Acting Group Director Cooperative Affairs, Sarah Paterson, says, “Today’s announcement is an important step towards a nationally consistent approach to managing freshwater. At the same time, it gives communities the tools they need to make decisions about their waterways.”

Ms Paterson says regions across the country have been grappling with the challenge of setting workable environmental limits. Setting national standards for freshwater will provide greater clarity on the science that needs to underpin environmental limits.

“Fonterra and our farmers have been taking part in a collaborative community approach to develop environmental limits. We want these discussions to be based on sound science and economic analysis, and we believe these national standards will help achieve this.”

“We are absolutely committed to lifting environmental performance and improving water quality in New Zealand. Fonterra’s farmers have mapped every waterway and fenced over 23,500km of waterways. Nutrient data has been collected from nearly 4,000 farms to provide information on mitigating the impact of nutrients,” says Ms Paterson.

“We recognise the huge amount of work that has so far gone into preparing these national standards, and we welcome the continuing efforts being made to complete the task.”

Regional councils are supportive of the standards:

The establishment of National Water Standards are being welcomed by the regional sector as bringing valuable guidance to local decision making.

Chair of the regional sector, Fran Wilde, says the standards provide a clear direction from central government while allowing local democracy to do its job.

“All sectors of the community rely on freshwater for one reason or another. Regional councils are responsible for managing the country’s lakes and rivers and, in doing so, must balance the needs of the community.

“New Zealand’s geography alone results in the nature of rivers and lakes being vastly different depending on where in the country you are. Just as the alpine rivers of the south are valued for their aesthetic beauty, so too are the lowland river flats valued for their agricultural productivity.

“As a sector we believe it’s critical for local people to have a say in how their waterways are managed and to what level.”

Ms Wilde says that minimum standards provide a solid foundation to begin conversations with communities about the values they place on a waterway and whether any changes are needed in the way it’s used and looked after.

“Until now, we haven’t had central government direction around how our rivers and lakes should be managed. The establishment of minimum standards provides clear guidance without disregarding the views of the community should they wish to go beyond these standards.”

Ms Wilde says the maintenance of New Zealand’s freshwater relies on a strong partnership with central and regional government and this is evident in the number of restoration initiatives underway around the country.

“Regional councils and our communities are working closely with central government through programmes like A Fresh Start for Freshwater to improve rivers and lakes throughout the country. In many cases government funding is being met with regional funding with over half a billion dollars from taxes, rates and private initiatives going towards cleaning up and protecting our lakes and rivers since 2000.”

These are minimum standards, not a ceiling.

Councils and communities will want better quality in many places and will need to work together to achieve it.

The Minister made this point in question time yesterday:

Hon AMY ADAMS: At the moment, of course, the counterfactual is that there is no requirement for any particular standard for human health. Actually putting in place a minimum requirement that at the very least every fresh water area must be safe for wading and boating is a big step forward. What we have done today is confirm that every council must consider whether it is appropriate to also manage for swimmability. What has to be understood is that each time we move the bar up through that ladder, it brings considerable extra cost on to communities and councils. If the member is campaigning that her party will set the standard there and not leave that choice to local communities, it is welcome to do so, but I look forward to seeing those billions of dollars included in its financial estimates.

Eugenie Sage: Why is the Minister leaving it to regional councils to consider swimmability, and does she not think that it is a national issue and a central government responsibility to ensure that rivers across New Zealand are clean and safe for swimming?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I had always thought that that member was a proponent of local decision-making, but actually we do think it is for communities to decide—above that minimum standard, which is brand new and has never been there before—which areas are to be used for swimming and are to be protected for that, and which are not. We are not going to impose billions of dollars of costs on ratepayers and communities in areas where they do not seek it. What we have put in place is a considerable step forward from what Labour and the Greens were happy to live with, and we are very proud of it.

Eugenie Sage: What does she say to the Otago Regional Council, which said that the bottom line for human health should be contact recreation because such a low standard as secondary contact, where rivers are fit for only wading and boating, is “not consistent with the national identity New Zealand associates with its clean image of its water resources”?

Hon AMY ADAMS: What I would say to the Otago Regional Council is that it is very welcome to set that standard across its water bodies if that is what its community chooses. The difference now is that we have a national expectation of a minimum standard, which has never been there before. That alone is going to impose some costs on communities, but the extent to which they want to go beyond that is up to them. It would be a nonsense to impose costs on water bodies that no one wants to use for swimming or that no one has contemplated for swimming. That is why regional decision-making then becomes important.

Eugenie Sage: Why did the Minister ignore the approximately 90 percent of submitters who wanted the bottom line for human health to be rivers that are clean and safe for swimming?

Hon AMY ADAMS: We have not ignored it. What we have done is made it compulsory now for every council to consider whether swimming is the appropriate standard for that water body. That was not in the draft, and the reason we have done that is that we understand the cost impact that goes with that. As I have said, if those members want to include the billions of dollars of impact from putting that standard in, I look forward to seeing that in their alternative budgets.

Eugenie Sage: Does the Minister still claim that no river quality is allowed to deteriorate, when the Freshwater Sciences Society said that the proposed limits on nitrate in her proposals last November have the potential for “New Zealand’s rivers to become some of the most nitrogen-polluted amongst OECD countries whilst still remaining compliant” and her announcements today have not changed the nitrate limit?

Hon AMY ADAMS: I do not accept that, because, as that member well knows, there is already a requirement for water quality in a region to be maintained or improved. There is no ability—and nor do I imagine there is any desire—for councils to suddenly rush downwards in their water quality. In my experience, communities and councils are absolutely focused on improving water quality, but the important point is this: today there is nothing stopping our lakes and rivers from being completely dead environments. That is what Labour and the Greens were happy with. We are not. This is a step forward, no matter how the member tries to spin it. . .

New Zealand’s water standards aren’t as good as they used to be.

That’s because we used to have pristine water and it’s important to remember while that is no longer the case in all but a very few secluded places, our water quality is still very high by world standards.

That said, some waterways are of unacceptable quality and need to be cleaned up.

Most are okay and that standard should be at the very least maintained and preferably improved.

We can and must learn from other countries and the best practice here to ensure that happens.

There’s more information on the Government’s freshwater reforms, including the updated National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management here.

 

We’re taking action to improve freshwater quality for all New Zealanders. http://ntnl.org.nz/1opocYo #Working4NZ


Rural round-up

June 28, 2014

Sustainable farming title goes to Canterbury  – Tim Cronshaw:

Canterbury farmers have made it two years in a row after Mark and Devon Slee were named the national winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Christchurch last night.

The Gordon Stephenson trophy, farming’s top environmental and sustainable silverware, was handed to the couple by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The Slees topped a field of 10 regional winners in the competition run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).

Their business, Melrose Dairy, is based on a property portfolio of 1014 hectares in the Ealing district, south of Ashburton. . .

Farming balancing act - Stephen Bell and Bryan Gibson:

The final decision on Ruataniwha Dam represents the way of the future for farming and the environment, which will be balancing competing needs, Massey University ecology Associate Professor Dr Russell Death says.

Farming and environmental groups have cautiously welcomed the Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry’s ruling on conditions for the $265 million dam in Central Hawke’s Bay.

However, while irrigators said commonsense had prevailed, one environment group said the decision meant the scheme’s viability was questionable.

“I guess to a certain extent both parties are right,” Death said. . .

Dam may be feasible after all – Marty Sharpe:

The correction of a relatively simple but hugely significant error in the 1000-page draft decision of the board of inquiry into the Ruataniwha dam proposal means the project may now be viable.

The board’s final decision on the dam and associated plan change was published yesterday, and corrected an “unintended consequence” in the draft decision, which inflamed farmers, farming organisations and the applicants – the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and its investment arm.

The draft decision held all farmers in the Tukituki catchment responsible for keeping the level of dissolved nitrogen in the river at 0.8 milligrams per litre of water. . .

 

Wanted: young farm workers for the future -  Gerard Hutching:

Need a sharemilker? How about employing a foreigner? Or perhaps a young New Zealander?

At the same time as the agricultural sector needs a big boost in the workforce, it has become harder to entice young people on to farms.

But it is not just a question of working on farms. The primary sector is facing a significant shortfall in skilled staff across the board, as the Government attempts to meet the ambitious target of doubling exports by 2025.

Within the primary sector, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ report People Powered, support services is the area of most acute need, followed by horticulture, forestry, the arable industry, dairy and seafood. Only the red meat and wool sector envisages a fall in workers by 5100. . .

Farming app replaces notebooks, calculators: – Anne Boswell:

A barrage of questions from his knowledge-hungry sons led dairy farmer Jason Jones to develop a livestock management application that removes the need for notebooks and calculators.

Handy Farmer, a highly-customisable app for iPhone and Android, was launched earlier this year, eight years after the idea was born.

Jones, a variable order sharemilker of 470 cows on 140ha effective near Otorohanga, said his sons started asking him “all sorts of questions” as they were learning the ropes of the dairy industry. . .

 

Online fruit and vege sales boom – Hugh Stringleman:

Online buying of fruit and vegetables is growing quickly and customers are more discerning and are prepared to pay more, the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Connections conference in Auckland has been told.

Four speakers gave perspectives from supermarket chains to fruit-and-vegetable stores.

New Zealander Shane Bourk, vice-president fresh food for Wal-Mart in China, said e-commerce was huge in China, although fresh fruit and vegetables lagged. . .


Yes – with conditions

June 26, 2014

The Hawkes Bay Regional Council has given a conditional yes to supporting the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

A $275 million dam and irrigation scheme proposed for Central Hawke’s Bay is a step closer after Hawke’s Bay Regional Council voted this morning to invest up to $80 million in the scheme provided a number of conditions are met over coming months.

Regional councillors voted 6-3 in favour of proceeding with the investment of ratepayer money in the dam based on conditions including that investment is finalised from other investors, contracts are signed with water users to take a sufficient amount of initial water from the scheme and “satisfactory” environmental conditions are handed down from a board of inquiry that has been considering consents for the project.

Debbie Hewitt, representing Central Hawke’s Bay on the regional council, said the project would address farming and social issues in the district and leave a legacy for future generations. . .

One of the conditions is getting farmer support, which ought to be a no-brainer:

A Central Hawke’s Bay farmer is delighted the regional council will put millions into the Ruataniwha Dam scheme. . .

Jeremy Greer’s family operate an 800 hectare farm, but can only water up to 200 hectares at the moment.

Mr Greer says today’s decision is another step in the right direction.

He says it will ensure drought protection and increase production. . .

A number of conditions still have to be met, including finding other investors and ensuring local farmers sign up to the scheme.

Council chair Fenton Wilson says he’s confident they will come to the table with their wallets.

“The community’s got to do its bit now. We’ve got to get commitment and signed contracts unconditional for minimum 40 million cubic metres of water and that work’s ongoing.”

Wilson says this shows other investors and farmers the scheme can be a viable project.

The dam still has to clear several hurdles before it gets the full green light – including the Board of Inquiry’s final decision due in the next 48 hours. . .

Hawke’s Bay Federated Farmers’ Kevin Mitchell says farmers look to the next generation when it comes to investing in the land.

“Droughts are coming more frequent on this side of the East Coast of the North Island.

“To have that water available to build resilience in your farming systems is absolutely vital.”

Droughts have a devastating impact on farms, farmers and those who work for, service and supply them.

But production isn’t just reduced in bad years. When a region is drought-prone farmers have to farm conservatively because they can’t rely on getting enough rain when they need it.

A reliable water supply with irrigation not only provides insurance against droughts it will also enable much better production in average and good years.

There are environmental benefits too – irrigation helps reduce soil erosion and can ensure minimum flows in waterways.

 

 


Rural round-up

June 24, 2014

Optimistic over farming sector’s future - Sally Rae:

Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills stands down next month after three years in the role. He talks to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae about his tenure and his optimism for the agricultural industry’s future.

His desk might have been cleared in Wellington but New Zealand’s farming community can be assured they have not seen the last of Bruce Wills.

After three years at the governance helm of Federated Farmers and a prior three-year tenure as meat and fibre chairman, his involvement, following the organisation’s annual meeting on July 4, will only be as a ”very loyal” member. . .

Why a carbon tax is udderly useless to us – William Rolleston:

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity, including agriculture, plays a significant role in climate change.

Yet the Green Party’s proposal to tax biological emissions is bad policy for climate change and the economy.

Along with every other New Zealander, farmers already pay for their carbon-dioxide emissions in the current Emissions Trading Scheme. The issue, the Greens argue, boils down to biological emissions in the form of methane and nitrous oxide.

Methane is a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas generated by bacteria in the stomach of farm animals. It lasts around seven years before being converted back to carbon dioxide which is taken up by plants. The methane cycle is complete when animals eat those plants in turn. Methane is measured as kilograms of carbon dioxide based on a 100-year time frame.

This time frame has been chosen by international agreement but any period could have been chosen. . .

Harriet takes on shepherds challenge - Sally Rae:

Harriet Gardner admits she might not be the ”fastest in the world” at it – but she can shear a sheep.

That skill will be crucial when Miss Gardner (20) takes part in the preliminary round of competition at the World Young Shepherds Challenge at Lincoln from July 3-5.

The competition will be held alongside the ANZ Young Farmer Contest grand final events. It will consist of shearing, condition scoring, a quad bike obstacle course, identifying sheep breeds, feet trimming, drenching, counting sheep and demonstrating knowledge ofthe sheep industry. . .

$75m for NZ-Singapore ‘Foods for Health’ projects:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced that the Government will invest NZ$1.75 million to fund New Zealand-Singapore collaborative research projects on the development of food products with validated health benefits. 

New Zealand’s investment will be matched by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), bringing the total investment amount to approximately NZ$3.5 million over two years.

“One of the goals of the Business Growth Agenda is to grow exports from 30 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025. Continuing to develop our innovation in the food science and technology industry will be a key contributor to achieving this,” Mr Joyce says. . . .

A champion for farming :

Fiona Hancox’s father was Colin Richardson, a man who started life as a townie, before eventually owning 12 West Otago farms as well as being extensively involved in farming politics.

Although the son of a tailor, he decided at an early age he wanted to be a farmer.

His first agricultural job was on a property at Crookston, before moving to Gimmerburn to work for the Paterson family and to be a fencing contractor.

Jim Paterson helped him into his first farm – Avalon – at Heriot, when he was 24. . .

Former chair appointed to deer board:

Clive Jermy OMNZ, a well-known red deer stud breeder, has been appointed to the board of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) for a three-year term. He is one of four producer board members, replacing Tim Aitken, Hawkes Bay.

Mr Jermy is a former board chair, standing down in 2007. Before that he was chair of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association.

NZDFA selection and appointments panel chair David Stevens said the panel had interviewed three skilled and talented candidates and the decision process was extremely challenging. The unsuccessful candidates were Tim Aitken, who stood for re-election and Otago-based businessman and deer farmer Grant Cochrane. . .

 


Can Labour see wood for trees?

June 24, 2014

The Green Party can’t see the wood for the trees.

It’s letting itself be blinded by its ideology to oppose the sensible, and environmentally sensitive, recovery of thousands of hectares of native trees felled by Cyclone Ita.

National’s West Coast-Tasman candidate lobbied Conservation Minister Nick Smith to allow the recovery and said:

. . .  that with the downturn in international coal and gold prices, the extra forestry and sawmilling work this decision “would be a welcome filler for jobs and economic activities on the West Coast”.

Sitting MP, Labour’s Damien O’Connor is not quite so enthusiastic:

West Coast-Tasman MP Labour’s Damien O’Connor said he wanted to read the bill before deciding how he would vote, although he thought National would “just” have the numbers to get it through.
He said on the face of it, it seemed logical, and trying to reduce waste from the storm and create opportunities was sensible: “Any opportunities for our region at the moment are welcome.”
However, they had to be mindful not to flood the market, and squeeze out existing operators. . .

Perhaps his caution is prompted by not being sure whether his party will back him if he supports the recovery.

It was Labour which stopped logging on the Coast and it’s in a difficult position.

It’s caught between knowing it should support something which will provide jobs even if it means supporting a government initiative, and not wanting to buy another disagreement with the party it’s most likely to need as a coalition partner if it’s too have any chance of forming a government this year.

That would mean it too take the short-sighted focus on the trees which nature felled of the wider view of the woods which could provide much-needed work for Coasters?


Policy without principles doesn’t make party

June 21, 2014

Another single-issue group is trying to be a political party.

Ban 1080 Party leader Bill Wallace registered his party online yesterday, having completed paperwork to show he has the required 500 members. . .

Wallace, 63, a mussel farmer and helicopter pilot from Golden Bay, claims to be a newcomer to the 1080 debate.

He says the party will look at fielding candidates in West Coast, Tasman and possibly also further afield.

He would not be standing himself but will soon be in discussion with potential candidates and is on the lookout for a celebrity prepared to front the media on behalf of the party. . .

If his aim is to get attention he might succeed but if he wants to make a real difference politically he won’t have a show.

History is littered with the corpses of single-issue groups without the coherent philosophy and principles a political party requires to succeed.

If an individual or group has a single policy there are much better ways of getting action on it than forming a political party which will go nowhere.


Do you hear the people . . .

June 21, 2014

Protests by the usual suspects on the left aren’t unusual.

It takes a lot more than the usual disgruntlements to get other people on to the streets in any number which makes yesterday’s Don’t Damn the Dam rally a serious sign of popular support.

RivettingKate Taylor recorded the rally in words and photos:

CHB people gathered in Waipukurau in their droves this morning to support the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. The dam.

I was going to say hundreds of people lined the streets, but I really have no way of quantifying how many people were there. Watch the news tonight – they might tell you. Suffice to say, in Kate terms, there were lots and lots.

Farmers, bankers, fertiliser reps, spreader drivers and two former regional councillors Ewan McGregor and Kevin Rose, who are probably secretly glad the decision is not up to them anymore.

There were tractors, utes, motorbikes, stock trucks and a few huntaways. . .

After clogging up the state highway system for a wee while, the vehicle possession (bigger than the annual Christmas parade but no Santa!!) parked up and the “green space” on “post office corner” was filled with claps and cheers for Mr Streeter and Mr Heaton, HB Federated Farmers president Will Foley and local fifth-generation farmer (and CHBDC district councillor) Andrew Watts. We also heard from someone from Timaru who had seen the growth in South Canterbury from the Opuha dam and resulting irrigation systems. . . .

I think the someone from Timaru was Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston.

Feds is firmly behind the project, but Hawkes Bay provincial president Will Foley is concerned about nutrient limits:

Last month, Massey’s Dr Mike Joy told a Canterbury audience, “The nitrate toxicity in some waterways is 10 times the safe level already. We have gone from safe levels of 1.9 millilitres a litre, to 3.8ml/l in Canterbury.”

With the Tukituki Board of Inquiry proposing a limit of 0.8 milligrams per litre for dissolved inorganic nitrogen, it would seem contradictory, but its draft decision is about a very different limit – what it believes is good for ecosystem health.  And on the nitrate toxicity score, the draft National Objectives Framework has set 6.9ml/l as the bottomline and the Tukituki is not even remotely close. 

So let’s park Dr Joy and focus on what we all want to achieve for the Tukituki. 

That means remembering why we started out in the first place.  It was to tackle an algae that’s been with us forever called Periphyton.  Everyone agrees it’s a problem so what’s the solution?

We get Periphyton because the Tukituki is a rocky river running warm during summer low flows.  Its growth is exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus so Hawke’s Bay Regional Council came up with a three-pronged approach hitting phosphorus, managing nitrogen and increasing water flows. 

In all the debate since, this environmental solution with strong economic benefits has been parked out of sight.

You can only increase water flow during summer by storing rainwater and that’s where Ruataniwha comes in.  This extra water helps to cool the Tukituki during summer while flushing it of Periphyton.  That’s been the experience of South Canterbury’s Opuha scheme on a similar river. 

We’ve had a similar improvement in the Waiareka Creek from the North Otago Irrigation Company scheme.

It used to be little more than a series of stagnant ponds. Now with guaranteed minimum flows from irrigation water it runs clean and wildlife has re-established.

Another experience is the economic boon Opuha has been to South Canterbury.

Yet during the Board of Inquiry, Dr Joy’s colleague Dr Death, helped to shift the focus off Periphyton and towards the stream life of rivers using a model developed for the Manawatu; a very different river to our Tukituki. Arguably, that’s how a limit of 0.8mg/l entered the minds of the Board of Inquiry, but how many invertebrates found in water doesn’t correlate to any one nutrient. 

Ironically, it was Fish and Game’s Corina Jordan who confirmed that while nitrogen and clearly phosphorus have impacts, so does river flow, sediment, light intensity and temperature.  The upshot being that there is no straight line relationship between a limit of 0.8mg/l and invertebrate health. 

Farmers like me are not in denial because Federated Farmers is okay with having a number, but that number must be an indicator and not chiselled into granite.  Especially since that number was derived from a model not validated for the Tukituki River and especially since Dr Death’s use of the Macroinvertebrate Community Index happens to be an indicator itself.

The Hawke’s Bay community needs a solution but the proposed limit of 0.8mg/l is so blunt, it makes Ruataniwha untenable. 

The Port of Napier is right to call Ruataniwha a game changer for the entire Hawke’s Bay region.  Before Ruataniwha’s viability was compromised we were talking about a quarter of a billion dollar boost each and every year.  If 0.8 remains as a hard limit, it not only kills the dam but means the region going forward will become $50 million poorer each year.  

Unless 0.8 becomes an indicator it will seriously compromise all the farming we currently have.  We’re not just talking sheep and beef but the guys who grow crops, the guys who run orchards, those who milk and even the guys who grow the grapes our region is famous for.

A hard limit of 0.8 means no Ruataniwha leaving us with Periphyton, a worsening economy and increasingly, rivers suffering from ever lower and warmer flows due to drought.  If farms convert to forestry we can possibly add sediment to that list.  Can anyone tell me what the environmental or community upside is? 

Dr Doug Edmeades wrote recently, “the best pieces of advice I was given as a young scientist: ‘Edmeades, I do not give a damn for your opinion what are the facts.”  Opinion seems the basis for 0.8mg/l but it is fact that it’s 14 times more stringent than the international standard for drinking water.  Don’t damn our dam.

Water storage and the irrigation it enables can improve both water quantity and quality.

It provides recreational opportunities and a significant economic boost. Farmers will make the biggest investment and take the biggest risk but as the people rallying yesterday obviously realise the benefits will flow right through the community in more jobs and more business opportunities with the economic and social boost that will bring.

The people of Hawkes Bay spoke through their support for the rally yesterday.

The Regional Council will show whether or not it heard them when it makes it decision on supporting the project, or not.


Who’s putting jobs and people first?

June 20, 2014

The government is to introduce special legislation to enable the recovery of high value native timber blown over in Cyclone Ita on West Coast public conservation land, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith has announced.

“We need to take a pragmatic approach and enable the timber to be recovered where it can be done so safely and with minimal environmental impact. This initiative will provide welcome jobs and economic opportunities for the West Coast at a difficult time, and will provide a financial return to DOC that can be reinvested in conservation work,” Dr Smith says.

Cyclone Ita hit the West Coast on 17 April this year and caused the worst windfall damage in generations, felling an estimated 20,000 hectares of forest and causing significant damage to a further 200,000 hectares.

The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve at Whataroa. Authorisations are only to be issued where the Department’s Director-General is satisfied the proposed method of removing the timber is safe for workers and the public, and minimises environmental impacts. The recovery of timber is limited until 1 July 2019 when the Bill expires. All revenue from royalties will go to the Department of Conservation.

“A law change is needed because the current Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery in this sort of extreme event. The Bill will be introduced and passed by Parliament next week under urgency. This is necessary because the large volumes of beech timber will soon deteriorate with sap stain and borer. I am grateful for the common sense support from the United Future and Māori Parties that are enabling Parliament to quickly resolve this issue.

“It is estimated that several million cubic metres of beech, rimu, matai, totara and miro trees have been felled. Stumpage prices for rimu are $250 per cubic metre, and $60 per cubic metre for beech. It is not possible to estimate the volume and value of timber to be extracted because the safety and environmental constraints may require high cost options like the use of helicopters. This law change will enable the detailed work to be done by operators on recovery proposals so as to determine where recovery is viable and safe.

“It may be appropriate to consider a permanent change to the Conservation Act to enable windblown timber in these sorts of situations to be recovered in future, but I am reluctant to do so with urgent legislation of this sort. The Department of Conservation will be commissioning research on the effects on forest regrowth and ecology by comparing similar windblown areas where timber has and has not been recovered to help make a long-term policy decision on this issue.

“It is a tragedy that so much forest has been wrecked by Cyclone Ita but no good purpose is served by leaving it all to rot. The wood will displace some of the $65 million of tropical hardwoods we import each year and give New Zealanders access to our own beautiful native timbers,” Dr Smith concluded.

The move has the support of the Maori Party:

The Māori Party is thrilled that urgent legislation is to be passed by Parliament to allow for the recovery of native timber that has fallen onto West Coast public conservation land as a result of Cyclone Ita. Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell joined Dr Nick Smith on the West Coast today to make the special announcement.

“We see this as a great opportunity for the West Coast at a time where the community has had to bear the brunt of the storm. This legislation will open up long-term employment and commercial opportunities for the community and I am proud to be part of today’s announcement,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

“The Māori Party support this initiative because we see it as a way for the West Coast to take a silver lining from the storm that hit their community on April 17 this year and caused the most devastating windfall damage in decades.”

“Had we not supported the legislation, the timber would have deteriorated and lost its commercial value. In particular, beech sapwood must be recovered within a month before sap stain fungi and beech borer begin to destroy the value of the timber, which is why there is a need for urgency. The felled rimu can be recoverable for up to five years, providing opportunities for long-term employment,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

“Of course, the safety of the workers will be of paramount importance and authorisations to remove timber will require that the operators provide health and safety plans to show their removal methods would be safe for both the workers and the public. The legislation also provides for public exclusion from areas while timber recovery operations are taking place for their own protection.”

“Ngāi Tahu has expressed their support in principle for the opportunities presented by the legislation and we will support their preference for opportunities for the harvesting of the wind-blown timber and its proceeds to be reinvested into the West Coast community. We will also seek to ensure that the recovery is undertaken in a manner that respects and addresses any environmental and cultural matters of concern that the iwi may have.”

“While we are sad to see that so much native timber has been blown over by Cyclone Ita, we are delighted that Ngāi Tahu and the rest of the West Coast community will benefit from the passing of this legislation,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says the timber recovery is the logical response:

. . . “It is very unfortunate so many trees were blown down in this storm but there is just no benefit in leaving the timber to rot” said Mr Dunne.

Parliament will consider urgent, special legislation to enable the recovery of the high value native timber.

UnitedFuture will support The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill which confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, National Parks, Ecological Areas and the White Heron colony.

“This timber recovery plan is the common sense, practical, and logical response to a natural process.

“I am satisfied by the environmental protections and health and safety regulations to which operators will be subject when the timber is removed.

“This will ensure that the West Coast’s unique environment will be protected” said Mr Dunne.

“New Zealand’s hardwood is some of the most beautiful in the world and I am pleased Parliament will enable New Zealanders to access it rather than leaving it to rot” he said.

Former Former Westland Mayor and now National Party candidate Maureen Pugh approached the Minister and asked that permission be given for logging:

. . . “It just seems like a very practical solution to an event that’s happened,” says Ms Pugh.

She says the logs, which are a mixture of rimu, totara and beech, could be worth up to $50,000 each. . . .

The proposal’s being welcomed on the coast – Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says it makes sense as it has the potential to create money. . . .

this is a very good example of a candidate being proactive for the people who’s support she’s seeking.

Contrast that with the Green Party which doesn’t attempt to win electorates and therefore doesn’t have to worry what’s best for the people in them:

 . . . the Greens say it would require a law change and they’d never support it.

“Generations of New Zealanders campaigned to protect West Coast forests – allowing trees to be taken from timber would completely cut across that,” says Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage. . . .

Nature dealt the trees the killing blow.

If they are left where they are they’ll rot.

There is a small window of opportunity to recover the fallen trees which will provide work and replace imported timber.

It will be done with safeguards for workers and the environment and all profits will go to the Department of Conservation to fund more conservation work.

But once more the Green Party will put politics and its own blinkered ideology before people and jobs.


Production enables protection

June 15, 2014

Jacqueline Rowarth brings some much needed balance, and science, to the question: economy v environment: is fewer cows really the answer?

New Zealand’s future depends on production and protection – but the latter is not necessarily the same as preservation. These ‘P-words’ are getting as muddled as the ‘E-words’ of expertise, experience and enthusiasm.

Economics and environment are also part of that picture. . .

Too often the debate is polarised in favour of one and against the other when they are not mutually exclusive.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released the 2014 Regional Economic Activity Report last week. The Canterbury region is the largest in New Zealand, and contributes 13.4% of national GDP, 13.4% of national employment and is home to 12.7% of population. The report states that:

“There are a range of opportunities to sustain the growing economy. The dairy farming sector could still increase productivity, particularly through sustainable water management, adapting new technologies and expanding into new markets. There is also opportunity for more added-value processing of rural products.”

While the dominance of the primary sector in the export economy is known, the importance in Gross Domestic Product is often overlooked. Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing has 6% of employment and 7.2% of GDP (in the MBIE report). Dairy farming alone has 1.5% of employment and contributes 3.2% of GDP. In some contrast, Horticulture (including viticulture) has 1.3% of employment and 0.6% of GDP.

In the Manufacturing sector, Food and beverage has 3.1% of employment and 4.2% of GDP.

The primary sector is vital.

And the primary sector acknowledges that it has had an impact on waterways. The dairying industry, for instance, is aware of its impacts and working towards mitigating them. DairyNZ spends 28% of its income levied from farmers (currently forecast to be $61 million for the 2013/14 season) on on research and development to increase farm profit and productivity. Other significant expenditure is to consulting officers and demonstration farms (12%) and training, education and leadership (10%).

This means approximately $25 million is spent on research, development and extension.

Independent evaluation of DairyNZ’s investment portfolio by NimmoBell rates “research on farming with environmental limits” as the most valuable project, returning $96/ha/yr for the average farm. . .

That’s a lot of money with the potential to do a lot of good.

She goes on to discuss nutrients and the limitations and constraints of models – and the significant uncertainties in any modelling exercise.

. . . Using technologies such as barns, loafing areas, feed pads at certain times of the day and year, nitrate leaching from dairy cows can be reduced – even halved as suggested by research at Massey University.

Feeding supplements such as maize or palm kernel expeller also reduces the amount of N in the urine, allowing more to go into higher production of milk.

When farmers have a profitable business, they can invest – and fence and plant waterways as well. Increasing productivity from their land, which might mean changing type of stock (from beef, sheep or deer to dairy, for instance), or might mean increasing stock numbers, often makes business sense. Land that is suitable for dairying but is currently under beef and sheep has been estimated to bring in at least four times as much if converted. Water storage, and irrigation, is key.

Analysis in 2010 by NZIER estimated the economic impact of 14 irrigation schemes predominantly in the Canterbury, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa regions would be an increase in GDP of 0.8%, and value of exports of $4 billion.

Land-use change would generate a net revenue gain of approximately $6,000 per hectare in Canterbury and $1,300 per hectare in Hawkes Bay at the farm-gate.

With economic growth driven by the regions, more can be invested in research and development to support the environment – to protect the 32% of New Zealand that is already in the conservation estate, and enable farmers to implement new technologies to reduce the impact of producing food.

Calls for a return to fewer cows and all grass-farming as in the 1980s overlooks the fact that water quality then was considerably worse than it is now.

That isn’t the impression you’d get from much of the media, the anti-farming fraternity and many opposition politicians.

Considerable improvements have been made in stopping city effluent getting into rivers, enabled by economic growth, taxes and rates.

Facts, evidence and data make the logic clear: production enables protection.

How refreshing to get an alternative view, and one based on science.

 


Change of govt poses risks to farming

June 12, 2014

Bernard Hickey was one of the speakers at Alliance Group’s Pure South conference a couple of weeks ago.

I wouldn’t have put him at the blue end of the political spectrum but his list of risks to farming under a Labour/Green and whichever other parties they would need to govern could well have been used to recruit people to National.

The annual KPMG Agri-Business Agenda picks up on some of those risks:

Leaders in the agri-business sector fear the loss of the traditional political consensus favouring free trade agreements if there’s a change of government, but are equally fearful that a Labour-Greens coalition will see heavier regulation against environmental harm and will start charging farmers to use water and other “natural capital”, says the annual KPMG Agri-Business Agenda publication.

While enthusiastic about Labour’s research and development tax breaks, which could help develop new technologies to improve environmental outcomes, farming and food sector leaders fear the lack of visible progress towards environmental goals could see what the report coyly refers to as “a new coalition government” impose new costs and regulation on the industry to force a faster clean-up.

“The need for the primary sector to improve its performance around core sustainability issues, such as water quality and nutrient management, is not disputed,” KPMG’s global head of agri-business, Ian Proudfoot, writes following a series of “roundtable” meetings and surveys with sector leaders around the country.

“While significant investment has been made to address these issues, the benefits are not immediately apparent. There is a concern that the lack of runs on the scoreboard may result in a new coalition government increasing the regulation on the industry and imposing charging mechanisms for the use of natural capital.”

A major concern is the prospect that the “time the industry needs to resolve its challenges may be reduced or completely removed.”

Degradation of waterways has happened over time and has many causes. A lot of work is being done to repair, protect and enhance water quality but problems which developed over years aren’t solved overnight.

On trade policy, the report suggests that agri-business leaders regard the expansion of “high quality” free trade agreements as “higher priority” than in the past, at the same time as Opposition parties appear to be cooling towards them.

“This reflects the benefits that are being derived from the agreements in place, and constraints being experienced when competing in key markets, such as Europe and South Korea, where competitors have preferential market access over our companies.”

However, there were indications the history of cross-party cooperation on trade policy “may no longer be guaranteed”, especially given the extent of opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, currently under negotiation but apparently stalling.

Labour’s policy on trade liberalisation is confused. The Green Party’s is clear – and negative.

The report also suggests the sector has a poor image among urban communities and needs to take a coordinated approach to communicating its importance to the country. . . .

That image isn’t helped when Labour and Green politicians are anti-farming in general and dairying in particular.

A change of government poses serious risks to farming and the people who rely on it.

Given how big a contribution it makes directly and indirectly to the economy, and exports in particular, that’s all of us.

 

Photo: We’ve helped primary sector exports hit record highs, and there’s more to come with exports expected to grow 22 per cent for the five years to 2018. http://ntnl.org.nz/1hxY6lZ

The KPMG report is here.

 


Penalising efficiency

June 8, 2014

Federate Farmers President Bruce Wills:

. . .  The Green’s Gareth Hughes was using a verbal concealer since their plan to ditch the world’s most stringent Emissions Trading Scheme for a carbon tax wasn’t mentioned.

Not mentioning the tax to a farming audience. Was he too scared to do that or did he know he couldn’t answer the questions that would follow?

With Labour scratching the immigration sore ahead of the general election, the Greens are seemingly hitting their farming button. This may reflect the pressure they’re facing from the Mana-Internet hookup. Stranger bedfellows I have never seen but it is hellishly clever branding. Just as the word Green provides a cuddly cloak, covering up less than cuddly policies, the Mana-Internet Party is even more left wing but in the smart dress down clothes of a programmer.

All will be fine until Internet Party’s leader and spin doctor are publicly put on the spot with a highly technical question, like the relative merits of Dual stack, 6rd, DS light, 4RD, MAP-T, MAP-E. That’s when the cynical branding will be revealed for what it is.

And what is it? Not so much a marriage of convenience as a temporary odd coupling for electoral advantage in the hope the funder, Kim Dotcom will be able to escape extradition.

Meanwhile, the Greens’ rhetoric around agriculture maintains the illusion that agriculture is not in the ETS when we most definitely are.

From fuel to electricity to the famous number eight wire, all farming inputs are covered by the current ETS. While surrender obligations for farm biological emissions have been deferred, what Victoria University’s Professor Martin Manning told the Science Media Centre should be noted: “Agricultural emissions increased over 2009 – 2012 due to more export of dairy products. However, the longer term trend shows our CO2 emissions are increasing by more than those of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture . . . substantial reductions in CO2 emissions are more important than changes in the other greenhouse gases.”

While biological emissions account for half of our emissions, that “more export” means we send offshore some 90 per cent of the food we produce.

There’s no free lunch because any carbon tax price would likely find its way into the retail price of milk among other staples. The targeting of farming also denies the reality that New Zealand agriculture has been cutting emissions in each unit of agricultural output by 1.3 per cent each year.

We’re also world leaders in agricultural greenhouse gas research. This makes a strange combination of the Greens’ view of farming as both fall-guy and cash cow.

Penalising our farmers for being the world’s most carbon efficient will not only reduce production and jobs but push production offshore to more carbon heavy farmers. Now where’s the global or local benefit in that?

While the Greens say sheep and beef biological emissions will be initially excluded, that’s an all-too obvious sweetener. In a carbon tax, sheep and beef farmers would still pay what they are paying now under the ETS and making them pay later for biological emissions is as simple as turning the regulatory knob.

Yet the reference to the cost of this economy of drought will stick in the craw of farmers who have been stung by Green Party opposition to rainwater storage. That includes the sheep and beef sector who are looking to water storage to reduce climate risk and improve business and farming models.

The differential tax treatment for biological emissions they propose may reflect that the Greens are starting to understand our farming system is world-leading in low carbon protein production. It is a pity they’re not yet ready to admit it.

 

The policy appears to be predicated on the stupid premise we must do our bit even though we are doing what we can through research and efficient production.

Our emissions are a tiny portion of the world’s. Adding costs and/or reducing production here will encourage our far less efficient competitors to increase it.

That would result in both environmental and economic losses.

 

 

 


Farmers foster fish

June 6, 2014

This makes a very pleasant change from the usual negative stories about dairying:

Dairy farmers are getting praise from unlikely quarters after the most salmon in 40 years have been seen spawning in a small stream in the middle of dairying country.

After identifying good salmon catches in the area during the angling season and higher spawning rates in lowland streams than normal, fishery officers did a spot check at the spring-fed Waikuku Stream, expecting to see little salmon activity.

In a small stretch of the stream which feeds into the Ashley River they found about 35 salmon and as many nests – redds – containing thousands of eggs.

Among other theories for the high salmon count, Fish & Game New Zealand think the main reason is the work of dairy farmers to fence, plant and protect the stream.

South Island spokesman Andrew Currie said it was pure chance they found so many salmon spawning in the stream and farmers deserve the credit.

“In a 200-metre stretch I walked there were at least 25 to 35 redds and that augurs well for the fishery because each one of these nests contains 3000 to 4000 eggs and we can see the day when the Ashley River returns to a good run. What was particularly pleasing by the find was that the stream was in the heart of a dairy farm.”

Currie said the “textbook” spawning site had free-running water, nice overhangs, little weed and an exposed shingle bed and was an example of top riparian planting by farmers.

“I think a lot more farms in Canterbury could have the same in their backyard if they had similar plantings and fencing.

“This is proof that dairy farming and Fish & Game can co-exist. . .

That is refreshingly positive and is appreciated by Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers is thrilled to hear Fish and Game acknowledge the massive positive effect farmers Good Management Practice (GMP) is having on our waterways.

“Headline news in the Christchurch Press today reports farmers riparian management has resulted in the sighting of the most salmon seen spawning in 40 years, an acknowledgement that is huge for the farming community,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Water & Environment Spokesperson.

“The 35 salmon, nests and thousands of eggs found in the Waikuku stream, was smack bang in the middle of dairy farming land. Feeding into the Ashley River, this bountiful Canterbury stream is testament to allowing reasonable timeframes for farmers to fence and riparian plant their waterways.

“It is encouraging to see the results of farming coexisting with its waterways and heartening to have it acknowledged by Fish and Game. This is not an isolated event with similar reports in Ashburton of large numbers of salmon spawning in Spring Creek, tributary to the Ashburton River.

“This article is timely as I sat down to listen, after speaking at the New Zealand Primary Industry Summit today. It was the perfect parallel to reflect on the big picture of our industry and the correlation that it has with the economy. We are looking for ways to move forward in a sustainable way, as the most successful exporters in the world, but we have to make it right at home first and this is proving to be challenging.

“Each regional council is interpreting the requirements for the National Policy Statement for Freshwater management differently and in some cases every catchment, which will lead to an implementation nightmare. Whilst every region is different there needs to be a cohesive approach here and a standardisation of what is required.

“What we are seeing in the Waikuku stream, Spring Creek, and numerous others throughout the country, could be tenfold with a consistent and organised approach from Central and Regional Government,” concluded Mr MacKenzie.

Farming and healthy waterways which foster fish aren’t mutually exclusive.

Sustainability balance economic, environmental and social concerns and is achievable with good management practice from landowners and councils.


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