Rural round-up

September 24, 2014

Beef surges to record on US demand for hamburgers, outlook upbeat – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Prices for beef used in hamburger patties in the US are likely to hold at elevated levels after surging to a record in the past year as drought-ridden American farmers rebuild their herds, boding well for kiwi farmers, an analyst says.

The price for US imported 95CL bull beef, the raw ingredient for meat patties, has surged 59 percent to US$3.18 a pound in the past year, according to Agrifax data. In New Zealand dollar terms, the price is at $8.37 per kilogram, beating the previous record of $6.60/kg in 2001.

“It has just been rocketing up very sharply. It is well into record territory now,” said Nick Handley, senior sheep and beef analyst at Agrifax. “If prices can stay anywhere near these levels, it’s extremely positive for New Zealand because you expect a lot of that to flow through to New Zealand processors and New Zealand farmers.” . . .

Time right for large irrigation schemes:

Farming and irrigation lobby groups are eager for the new Government to change environmental rules and get large-scale irrigation schemes up and running.

Lobby groups Federated Farmers and Irrigation New Zealand say the time is right, with the National Party being re-elected by a handsome margin for the Resource Management Act to be reformed.

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said today that proposals by Labour and the Green parties to tax water did not find favour with irrigators, and National’s resounding win on Saturday gives them more confidence.

Mr Curtis said Irrigation New Zealand wants to see changes to the RMA. . .

Farmers Disappointed with Milk Price Drop, Cautious Approach Required:

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Ian Brown said Farmers will be disappointed following the Co-operative’s latest drop in its 2014/15 forecast farmgate Milk Price to $5.30 per kg/MS.
The Co-op also announced an estimated dividend range of 25-35 cents per share.

Mr Brown: “Even though Farmers are aware of the prevailing market conditions and the effect they have on the price they receive for their milk the announcement will add to the challenges being faced on-farm.

“It is in these seasons that Farmers will want to receive the full benefit from the integrated supply chain that their Co-op provides. . .

Great Result for Farmers Following Challenging Year for Co-Op:

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Ian Brown said the 2013/14 season was one of real complexities for the Co-operative yet produced a great result for Farmers.

Mr Brown: “The farmgate Milk Price of $8.40 per kg/MS has come on the back of a season in which good production was supported by strong demand and high prices.”

“This will be very well received by Farmers.”

Mr Brown said it was important to recognise that the same factors which positively affected the farmgate Milk Price, such as the demand for milk powders, contributed to the challenges faced by the business in terms of profit as evidenced by the Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) figures. . .

 Couple give their farm to university – Jill Galloway:

It was a time for celebrating.

After 10 years, Bulls-Marton farm owners Jim and Diana Howard found they could work with Lincoln University and it had a deal with local iwi Ngati Apa.

It had not been for lack of trying to find a like-minded partner.

But now it has come together – a demonstration farm that local farmers can look over the fence at, and get good ideas, as well as a farm to train people in sheep and beef and cropping.

That was what the Howards wanted and they have given their farm to the Lincoln Westoe Trust. . .

Candidates for Fonterra Board of Directors’ Election Confirmed:

Candidates for the Fonterra Directors’ Election were announced by the Returning Officer, Warwick Lampp today following the completion of the Candidate Assessment Panel (CAP) process.

This year there are six candidates standing for the Board of Directors. They are Gray Baldwin, Leonie Guiney, David MacLeod, John Monaghan, Garry Reymer and Grant Rowan.

As in previous years, the CAP process was available to assess the capabilities, experience and qualifications of Director candidates and provide Fonterra shareholders with more information to help in making an informed vote. While the CAP process is open to all Director candidates, it is not compulsory. This year all candidates went through CAP. . .

 

Pahiatua Company Announced as New Zealand Innovators Awards Finalist:

Pahiatua company, DTexH2o, has been named as a finalist in the Innovation in Agriculture & Environment category of the prestigious New Zealand Innovators Awards.

The company’s innovative product, DTexH2o, is an in-line electronic probe that detects the difference between milk and water in the cowshed milk line.

Founders of the company, Graeme and Alison Franklin, said the DTexH2o uses an alarm to stop farmers spilling milk down the drain or getting water in the milk vat during wash-down.

“When a farmer washes-up the milk line, water is pumped through the pipes, pushing the last milk through into the vat. The farmer must manually turn the valve to re-route the water to stop it going in the vat,” Alison said. . .

New Chairman Excited by Gimblett Gravels Opportunities:

Less than a week into his role, new Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association (GGWA) Chairman, Gordon Russell, is already working on plans for GIMBLETT GRAVELS future success.

Esk Valley’s Senior Winemaker, Gordon says, “I am honoured to become Chairman of this talented group of growers and wine producers. I would like to carry on the work of outgoing Chairman, Tony Bish of Sacred Hill, whose strategic direction and dedication over the last two years has significantly raised the profile of GIMBLETT GRAVELS wines, both in New Zealand and on the international stage. . .


Water tax ludicrous and detrimental – IrrigationNZ

September 11, 2014

IrrigationNZ says the Green party’s water tax is ludicrous and detrimental:

. . . “Introducing a water tax will be ludicrous and detrimental for the country,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO. “The only robust and long term solution to restoring waterways is on a case-by-case basis engaging local communities to find solutions.”

IrrigationNZ agrees with the Green Party and with the National Party that stock must be excluded from waterways, riparian margins established and nutrients and contaminants need to be managed.

In addition, pest plant and fish species also have to be controlled to restore the natural habitat and most importantly – water storage and irrigation infrastructure needs to be developed within limits.

“If irrigation becomes too costly fewer farmers will implement it and water storage infrastructure will not be developed,” says Nicky Hyslop, IrrigationNZ Chair. “It would be foolish for New Zealand not to capture its most valuable resource, the world’s most valuable resource, just for the sake of punishing farmers.”

IrrigationNZ would like to re-iterate the following points:

• A water tax will lead to increased food prices and is inflationary

• In no other country in the world is there an irrigation tax

• In all other countries irrigation is considered a socio economic tool and is funded centrally

• The Green’s policy called: Smart Farming for Clean Rivers – ignores that some of the most polluted waterways are urban ones due to sewerage problems

• A water tax on irrigators is not equitable, all users if water, industrial and hydro electricity plants should be included

• A water tax as Green and Labour want to implement will not prevent land intensification – it will instead encourage it – farmers will have to seek higher returns to justify the increased cost of their water

• The water policies do not define what kind of ‘irrigation’ is taxable, or what size of water take is taxable

• A water tax will reduce money available for farmers to continue mitigating environmental impacts through new technology and nutrient management systems

• Irrigators are already spending billions of dollars of private investment improving our waterways

IrrigationNZ 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.

The Green policy is anti-farming, anti productivity and will penalise the majority of irrigators who farm responsibly to clean up after the minority who don’t.

 


$100m freshwater fund

September 4, 2014

A re-elected National-led Government will spend $100 million over 10 years to buy and retire selected areas of farmland next to important waterways to create an environmental buffer that helps improve water quality.

National will also introduce a mandatory requirement to exclude dairy cattle from waterways.

National’s Environment Spokeswoman, Amy Adams, and Primary Industries spokesman Nathan Guy made the announcement at the Waituna Lagoon in Southland with Prime Minister and National Party Leader John Key today.

“New Zealand’s freshwater makes us an incredibly lucky country. We have over 400,000 kilometres of rivers and more than 4,000 lakes,” Ms Adams says.

“New Zealand’s water is among the very best in the world and we want to keep it that way. These are the next steps in our considered and sensible plan to continual improvements in freshwater quality.

“We are particularly committed to improving the quality of our freshwater and have made a number of key decisions that previous governments have put in the too-hard basket.

“This Government has introduced national standards for freshwater to safeguard it for future generations,” Ms Adams says. “That new framework will give communities around the country the tools to maintain and improve the quality of their lakes and rivers.

“To continue this progress, the next National-led Government will invest $100 million over 10 years to further enhance the quality of freshwater through a targeted fund to buy and retire areas of farmland next to waterways.

“This fund will give councils another option to help manage freshwater by enabling these sensitive areas to be retired for environmental purposes,” says Ms Adams.

National will also introduce a requirement to exclude dairy cattle from waterways by 1 July 2017, and will work with industry to exclude other cattle from waterways over time on intensively farmed lowland properties, says Ms Adams.

“National is committed to building a stronger economy, particularly in our regions. We are also determined to improve the quality of our environment at the same time, and we are confident we can achieve both.”

Mr Guy says dairy farmers have done a fantastic job addressing some of the key environmental issues they face, and they have fenced over 23,000 kilometres of waterways – over 90 per cent of all dairy farm waterways.

“This is an incredible undertaking to do voluntarily. At the end of the day, farmers are environmentalists; they want to leave their land in a better state for their children, and their grandchildren.

“Our approach involves working collaboratively with farmers, water users and communities. You don’t get good environmental results by aggressively penalising and taxing key industries.” says Mr Guy.

“A mandatory requirement will bolster this great work and highlight the importance of this key environmental protection.

“We will work constructively with dairy farmers when developing the legislation, to ensure practical solutions in those areas with difficult terrain or which are subject to extreme weather events,” says Mr Guy.

Farmers have already done a lot to protect and enhance waterways on their own and with encouragement from milk companies and regional councils.

This policy will ensure even more is done.

 

 

A re-elected National-led Government will improve freshwater quality by investing $100m to buy and retire farmland next to important waterways. ntnl.org.nz/1BaGDWz #Working4NZ
Irrigation New Zealand applauds the policy:

Irrigation New Zealand supports National’s 2014 Water Policy announced today which recognises the value of irrigation and which continues to place the responsibility of cleaning up New Zealand’s waterways with the community.

“Instead of penalising irrigators National is taking pragmatic steps to sorting out New Zealand’s waterways issues,” said Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO.

“Ensuring riparian fencing and planting, especially in the lowland plains, will lead to big wins for restoring habitats and supporting aquatic life. This is what New Zealanders’ want to see – fresh water good enough to gather food from and enjoy recreationally.

“With the new freshwater fund and fencing requirements, plus objectives set by the National Policy Statement for freshwater, communities now have the tools to actively and collectively solve freshwater problems,” says Nicky Hyslop, IrrigationNZ chair.

A successful example of a communal resolution to a waterway issue using riparian fencing and planting is the Waikakahi stream on Morven Glenavy Ikawai Irrigation scheme. It has been restored over a number of years and is now thriving with aquatic life. See more detail here http://www.mgiirrigation.co.nz/environmental-management/

“This government understands that a water tax will not solve New Zealand’s freshwater problems and recognises that there is considerable public good to be gained from sustainably managed irrigated agriculture,” says Mr Curtis.

“There are proven significant socio-economic benefits to both the regional and national community from the productive use of water and it is right that this infrastructure is supported nationally. A water tax will only lead to higher food prices and no other country in the world has implemented an irrigation tax for this reason,” says Ms Hyslop.

The opposition’s policy would tax the majority who are doing what they can to clean up after the relatively small number of people who aren’t, or won’t.

National’s policy recognises that economic growth and environmental protection and enhancement aren’t mutually exclusive.

 


Water policy attack on rural NZ

August 11, 2014

Environment Minister Amy Adams says Labour’s water tax is a pointed attack on rural New Zealand and small businesses that operate there.

“Labour is suggesting that rural New Zealand should pay taxes that no other New Zealander has to pay and should abide by rules that other water users aren’t subject to,” Ms Adams says.

“In fact, under Labour’s plan, the productive sector could be hit with a $60 million bill for every one cent of tax Labour imposes per cubic metre of water.

“You have to ask why Labour is looking to penalise farmers and small, rural businesses by making them and only them pay for water use when the issue of water quality is one that applies across urban and rural New Zealand.

“It’s an out-and-out attack on rural and provincial New Zealand.

“Only a few days ago Labour was claiming they supported small businesses. However, Labour’s water tax, which they are hiding the amount of, would cause real damage to hundreds of small, rural businesses in the productive sector.

“It’s not just costs dairy farmers would have to bear. Sheep and beef farmers in Canterbury, apricot growers in Roxburgh, market gardeners in Pukekohe and kumara growers in Dargaville could all be hit by Labour’s water tax.

“As Irrigation New Zealand points out, an equitable and affordable water tax will be impossible to implement and will cost a fortune to establish.

“If it was really about ensuring efficient water use, why is every other commercial water user, except farmers, exempt?

“A water tax will increase the cost of production which could mean higher costs for New Zealanders for products like milk, cheese and fresh vegetables.

“Improving the quality of our freshwater is important to us all but we must do it sensibly so it doesn’t cost thousands and thousands of jobs across regional New Zealand and impose millions of dollars of costs on communities.

“National’s plan will improve and maintain the economic health of our regions while improving the health of our lakes and rivers at the same time.

“With policies like this, Labour might as well give up the pretence that they care about rural and provincial New Zealand and the small businesses that are at the heart of these areas.”

Labour plans to tax “big” water takes but only those in the country that are used for irrigation.

If water has a taxable value for irrigation, why doesn’t it have a one for other big takes – like power generation and urban water supplies?

Labour isn’t going there because that would be too cost them far too much support.

For all they keep talking about supporting the regions they know they’ve got hardly any support there so it doesn’t matter to them that the tax will add costs to farming.

Unfortunately, while doing that,   it won’t contribute to their aim to clean up waterways:

. . .  IrrigationNZ does not believe that imposing an irrigation tax will lead to New Zealand’s rivers and lakes becoming swimmable.

“This policy fails to recognise the complexities of freshwater management in New Zealand and ignores the billions of dollars of on-farm capital investment which has been put into improving our waterways,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO. “A ‘fair and affordable’ variable rate water tax will be impossible to implement and will cost a fortune to establish,” he says. “In no other country in the world is irrigated water paid for through a tax.”

“There is much about Labour’s water policy which aims to yield the economic and recreational benefits of New Zealand’s water for all, this is good, but punishing irrigators by imposing a water tax is not the way to achieve this.

“The only robust and long term solution to restoring waterways is on a case by case basis engaging local communities to find solutions.

“It is time that the value of irrigation in terms of food production and creating jobs is recognised in New Zealand, as it is in every other part of the world. There is considerable public good gained from sustainably managed irrigated agriculture.”

IrrigationNZ would like to point out the following:

• Horticulture and viticulture is not possible in New Zealand without irrigation, therefore an irrigation tax will increase the cost of production and will be passed onto the public when they buy their fresh produce;

• irrigation in New Zealand is not free: irrigators pay for a water permit, pay to be part of an irrigation scheme, and operate within strict limits;

• it is inequitable to single out irrigators when hydro generators, commercial users and urban user will not be charged for their water takes;

• a charge on irrigators will reduce money available for mitigating environmental impacts;

• agriculture has been the backbone of this economy through what have been very challenging economic times globally – everyone has benefitted and now everyone needs to be part of the solution for cleaning up our waterways.

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.

Federated Farmers says its a thinly disguised anti-farming policy:

Federated Farmers is asking why the Hon David Cunliffe is talking about helping regional economies on one hand, while announcing new taxes on those same regions to knock them back on the other.

“This is a thinly disguised anti-farming policy that is trying to blame farmers and particularly farmers who irrigate, for all of New Zealand’s water problems,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“It is clearly misguided and worse it is opening the divide between town and country when we should be working together.

“They know they cannot bring all rivers and lakes up to swimming standards without rebuilding all urban storm water systems and clearing New Zealand of wildfowl at all, let alone, in 25 years.

“Taxing irrigators in Canterbury and Otago to fix up degraded waterways in other parts of the country seems patently unfair.

“As for the practical effect of their anti-farming Resource Rental policy, it can be summarised in Northland, Auckland and the Bay of Plenty as being principally a tax on horticulture.

“In Marlborough and I guess in parts of Hawke’s Bay plus Wairarapa too, it is a tax on grapes as well as fruit and vegetables.

“For the rest of us, it is a tax on wheat, vegetables and pasture production.

“Independent economic modelling indicates that a Resource Rental on water at one-cent per cubic metre of water takes $39 million out of farms and provincial economies.

“This is all money that farmers are currently spending on protecting rivers and streams. Money that is making the towns of Ashburton, Pleasant Point and Oamaru places of employment for thousands of people. The same provincial economies that David Cunliffe wants to help.

“I don’t understand how you can help those towns by punitively taxing the one thing that has driven some prosperity in those regions.

“The Greens want to beat up dairy farmers, Labour wants to do it to irrigators. When will these people realise that others in New Zealand take and pollute water as well.

“Irrigation may take 57 percent of water used but residential and industrial users take 43 percent according to Labour’s own source document. It seems a bit one sided to continuously blame only one sector of the community for effects caused by everyone.

“As New Zealanders we need to collectively own up to our responsibilities and work together if we are to make a difference.

“Farmers have done that. It is time Labour and the Greens recognised that and argued for policies that encouraged the rest of New Zealand to do so too,” Mr Mackenzie.

A general charge would impose costs on production which will affect profit margins or be passed on to consumers in higher prices for food.

It will also be imposed on those doing all they can to keep water clean – which is the majority of farmers – rather than directly targeting the few who don’t.

Water didn’t get dirty overnight.

It will take time to clean it up but good work is being done already with co-operation between farmers, milk companies, councils and community organisations.

That work won’t be helped by labour’s policy which is merely another of their anti-farming taxes.


Rural round-up

July 14, 2014

Help sought for flooded farms:

Northland Rural Support Trust has put out a call for emergency grazing and feed supplies for farmers whose land is under water after the past week’s storm and prolonged rainfall.

Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker said the flood prone Hikurangi Swamp area, north of Whangarei, has been one of the worst affected.

“We’ve got up to 30 farms flooded in the Hikurangi Swamp area, we’ve got nine at least flooded further down in Tangiteroria, and even those that aren’t actually flooded are still cut off”, she said. . .

Greens’ water policy unrealistic:

Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) thinks that there is some merit in the Green Party’s environmental policy relating to water announced today, but is concerned about the economic and social impacts of the policy and about how the Green Party will achieve its outcomes.

INZ agrees that dams must not be built on New Zealand’s pristine rivers and where possible new dams should be located off-river. It also agrees that ‘no go’ areas should be identified.

But INZ does not agree that dams and irrigation destroy rivers or add to pollution if they are designed and constructed properly.

“The reality is that New Zealand needs large scale water storage. This is essential for town and city drinking water supplies, as well as to produce fresh food,” says Andrew Curtis, chief executive of INZ.. .

Green’s need to get on the water policy bus:

Instead of attacking policy that will massively improve New Zealand water quality, Federated Farmers says the Green Party would be more credible if it showed a lot more bipartisan leadership in supporting that policy.

“The new National Policy Statement (NPS) of Freshwater, actually requires regional councils to maintain or improve water quality while giving the wider community the choice of how far they want to go in order to improve our lakes and rivers,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“If the community wants to ensure that certain rivers and lakes are safe for swimming that is supported within the NPS.  But the NPS also requires they be fully informed as to the effect upon jobs, rates and their local economy, when making that choice.

“To leap into swimming as the gold standard for all, without some sort of exceptions regime, will likely cost urban ratepayers massively in the pocket. . .

Fonterra cheese jewel on target - Esther Ashby-Coventry:

The $73 million expansion of the Fonterra mozzarella factory at Clandeboye near Timaru is on track to go online in August 2015.

More than 360 contractors and tradespeople have been working on the project this off-season, with the majority from local companies. Most of the construction materials were bought within New Zealand and the rest manufactured offshore. At any one time there are between 75 and 100 people on the project.

More than 25 new staff members will be required for the factory once it is complete. They are being employed in staggered groups to begin their training. . .

Where is PGG Wrightson heading? –  Keith Woodford:

The last decade has been tumultuous for leading agricultural services company PGG Wrightson. The current company was formed in 2005 with the merger of Pyne Gould Guinness and Wrightson. That merger was led by well-known agribusiness entrepreneur and former Fonterra CEO, Craig Norgate,

Norgate then took PGG Wrightson on a rough ride. It was he who provided the intellectual leadership behind the massive land buying associated with the PGG Wrightson offshoot Farming Systems Uruguay. This subsequently ran into trouble with the coalescence of a major drought and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Norgate also led the proposal for PGG Wrightson to purchase a 50% share in Silver Fern Farms for $220 million. That too ran into trouble due to the Global Financial Crisis. . . .

NZ butchers defend tri-nations title -

New Zealand’s Sharp Blacks have defended their tri-nations butchers title against Australia and the United Kingdom.

The team of six Kiwis battled the Brits and Aussies over two hours at the Royal Yorkshire Show in Harrogate as they turned a side of beef and a whole lamb into 50 products fit for a top shelf butcher’s display.

New Zealand won the tri-nations on home slabs at Wanaka last year and captain Corey Winder, from Christchurch, says winning gold on the other side of the world has been a career highlight. . . 

Japan deal opens FDI money flow - Tony Boyd:

ONE of the least understood aspects of the Australia-Japan trade agreement signed this week is the profound change it will bring to foreign direct investment (FDI) into Australia.

The agreement lifts the screening threshold at which private Japanese investment in non-sensitive sectors is considered by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) from $248 million to $1 billion.

Japanese takeovers in excess of $250 million have never caused a problem for the FIRB and there have been plenty of those over the past 10 years. Nevertheless, the free trade agreement has reserved policy space to screen proposals for investment in agricultural land and agribusinesses at lower levels than $1 billion. . .

New Zealand bra fence braless again:

A fence with hundreds of bras tied to it in Central Otago is looking a bit bare.

Hundreds of bras were cut from the controversial Cardrona Valley bra fence about four or five days ago, Cardrona Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Barrie Morgan told NZ Newswire.

The whimsical fence has existed for about 14 years and has become a popular tourist attraction but some locals regard it as an eyesore and traffic hazard.

The council took it down in 2006 but it was revived a short time later. Bras were mysteriously removed in 2013. . .


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

May 20, 2014

10,000 reasons to remain ambitious – Diane Bishop:

Producing 10,000 lambs a year is an ambitious goal.

But it’s one that the Lawson family hope to achieve on their East Otago hill country property.

Jim Lawson and his sons Rob and Willy farm 5500 Romney- Perendale first-cross breeding ewes and 1350 ewe hogget replacements on their 2336-hectare property Moana Farm, south of Waikouaiti.

Their main focus is lamb production and cattle, which have currently taken the place of a modern tractor, and are used as a pasture management tool. . .

Farm plantings help snare top award -Jill Galloway:

Winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in the Horizons Regional Council area Mary and Justin Vennell have planted 57,000 trees since 2007 on their Rewa sheep and beef farm.

They hosted more than 100 people, mainly farmers, but some academics and rural business people, at a farm field day they held as supreme winners of the awards.

Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA), which give awards for protection and enhancement of the environment on farms in the Horizons Regional Council area, celebrated its 10th year.

Fourteen farms – seven sheep and beef and seven dairy farms – entered this year’s event. . .

Irrigation schemes require professional input:

Increasingly complex water regulations mean directors and managers of irrigation schemes need to take their professional responsibilities even more seriously, says IrrigationNZ.

Irrigators need to adapt to new environmental requirements and those governing and managing irrigation schemes must have the necessary skills to manage the transition, says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

To help the industry rise to the challenge, IrrigationNZ will hold a one-day ‘Governance Essentials’ workshop next month in Christchurch sponsored by KPMG, BNZ and Tavendale&Partners. The 12th June workshop will cover the separation between management and governance as well as governance principles and responsibilities. The workshop is aimed at both directors and managers of irrigation schemes, as well as irrigators wishing to learn more about governance fundamentals. 

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis says with increasing regulation, poor decision making by irrigation schemes can result in severe consequences. . . .

NZ bees battle devastating disease - Sophie Lowery:

New Zealand’s beekeepers have launched a mission to rid honey bees of a potentially devastating disease.

American foulbrood can’t be treated and if left uncontrolled it could damage exports and ultimately wipe out the honey bee population.

If beekeepers can succeed in eliminating the disease it would be a world first.

Around 80 of Hamilton City’s hives were inspected today for signs of the contagious disease, with some samples sent to a lab.

One team came across healthy looking hives, but also found some examples of the deadly disease. . .

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative produces food, change in North End   – Marney Rich Keenan:

It is the height of irony that Tyson Gersh is shy a handful of credits until he graduates from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

At 24, the president of one the fastest-growing, most successful Detroit nonprofits that hardly anybody (over 30 years old anyway) has ever heard of, is short a French class and another class he could probably teach blindfolded.

“Yeah I know,” the collegiate rower and triathlete says, head down, in a rare display of self consciousness. “I failed ‘Urban Entrepreneurship: Doing Business in Detroit.’ ”

Judging from the speed at which Michigan Urban Farming Initiative has taken off, Gersh was likely doing business in Detroit during class time. . . Hat tip: A.E. Ideas

Rural Women NZ celebrates Road Safety Week with good news from 20K school bus signs trial:

A year-long school bus safety trial in Ashburton has shown that illuminated 20K signs on buses can have a big impact on driver behaviour.

“For years Rural Women NZ has called for clear signage on school buses to indicate the 20K speed limit in both directions when passing a bus that’s stopped to let children on or off. This is great news and a perfect way to celebrate Road Safety Week,” says Rural Women NZ vice president, Kerry Maw.

“Every day motorists speeding past school buses on rural roads put children’s lives at risk.”

During the ‘Either Way It’s 20K’ trial in Ashburton there was a marked drop in speeds when the 20K signs were in operation, with many motorists slowing to between 25 and 35 km/h. . . .


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