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. . . .


Don’t let this chance go by HB

April 16, 2014

Dear Hawkes Bay,

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

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

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

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

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

The decision pleases the Iwi:

Irrigation New Zealand says the decision is bold and encouraging:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My farmer finished his comments with a challenge:

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

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

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

We have seen irrigation transform North Otago.

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

This scheme, like yours, wasn’t cheap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water has brought a social transformation too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your grandchildren are depending on you.


SMART Irrigation launched

April 10, 2014

Irrigation New Zealand has launched a framework called SMART Irrigation to ensure that future irrigation in New Zealand is implemented and managed sustainably.

The SMART (Sustainably Managed, Accountable, Responsible and Trusted) framework provides three simple steps for irrigators to better manage their environmental footprint.

(1) Design future irrigation systems to industry standards and codes of practice

(2) Annually check the irrigation system is performing as it should

(3) Justify the reason for applying irrigation.

Central to all the above is record keeping – providing evidence the three simple steps are being achieved.

Irrigation New Zealand CEO Andrew Curtis says the SMART framework will help irrigators meet the public’s expectations around environmental responsibility, and will provide assurance to the public that irrigating farmers are using water efficiently and with care.

“The SMART framework is about providing a benchmark for sustainable irrigation, and is a way for irrigators to share with the community how they irrigate. It’s about being transparent.”

The programme focuses on efficient water use and regular auditing and technological improvements. This is to be supported by ever evolving education and training resources and accreditation programmes all provided by Irrigation New Zealand.

The SMART Irrigation website (www.smartirrigation.co.nz) also launched today, compliments the SMART Irrigation framework. It provides information to the public about how irrigation in New Zealand works: why, how and where irrigation takes place; why it is beneficial; what regulations and policies oversee it; more details on the SMART framework and examples of SMART Irrigators that will be added to monthly.

“We have done nationwide polling to understand what the public thinks of irrigation – two responses were overwhelming in their majority: that New Zealanders (71%) are pro-sustainable irrigation and that the public needs more information about irrigation. The SMART Irrigation website and framework responds to this.”

The website answers several questions:

What is irrigation?

What is SMART irrigation?

Why is it good for New Zealand?

Who’s doing it well?

The last one includes NOIC – the North Otago Irrigation Company which was the first irrigation company to:

  • Introduce the Audited Farm Environment Plan system
  • Have a full time environmental manager on staff
  • Actively supports other irrigation schemes, providing advice on how to develop robust management systems
  • Won Irrigation New Zealand’s Innovation in Irrigation Award’ 2012 for their Farm Environment Plan programme

SMART Irrigation is a smart initiative.

Irrigation done well has intergenerational economic, environmental and social benefits.


Rural round-up

April 5, 2014

Bogged in bureaucracy - Alan Emerson:

The fact that a farmer has so far spent upwards of $3 million trying to get through a pile of red tape and actually farm is criminal and an indictment on our democratic process.

Mackenzie farmer, Kees Zeestraten, wants to irrigate to run a dairy operation there.

Some of the objections are in the believe it or not category.

For example Zeestraten has rejigged his operation so that the irrigators aren’t visible from either Lake Ohau or the Ohau road.

It seems to me that someone is being incredibly precious. . .

Whatever happened to the importance of the fifth quarter? - Allan Barber:

There has long been a belief in the crucial importance of the meat industry’s fifth quarter to profitability. This somewhat obscure term refers to the co-products which contribute an essential revenue component over and above the value of the meat.

Every industry has its own version of the fifth quarter, but the combination of pelt or hide, intestines, tallow and meat and bone meal, especially when global demand for all co-products is high, makes a disproportionately large contribution to meat company profits.

Yet when I read the press release from Silver Fern Farms about the sale of the hide processing unit to Lowe Corporation and the supplier newsletter, not forgetting my phone conversation with Keith Cooper, I got a completely different impression. . . .

Repeat droughts cause kumara crisis – John Anthony:

Kumara chips have been in short supply for the second year in a row because of consecutive droughts in New Zealand’s kumara growing capital.

Kumara growers in Northland’s Kaipara region, where most of New Zealand’s kumara are harvested, say three consecutive summers of drought have affected crops.

Delta Kumara general manager Locky Wilson said yields from the current crops being harvested were not great.

“It’s definitely not going to be an oversupply.” . .

Making the best from our changing climate – Willy Leferink:

Do you know the number of insured disasters actually fell 44 percent last year?  Apparently hailstorms in Germany and France led to US$3.8 billion worth of insured damages, the most ever, so maybe we need to start worrying about “global hail.”

Swiss Re, the World’s number two insurer, is worried that disasters are getting ever costlier.  It warns, “Urbanisation, the clustering of properties and commercial activity and migration to high-risk areas such as coast and flood plains need to be closely monitored.” Since we seem to be putting all of our urban eggs into Auckland’s basket, maybe spreading development to Timaru makes more sense.

So is a changing climate, which may see low lying cities flooded, worse than the world running out of food?  The two could run together but instead of going all Eeyore about the future we need to adapt.

Adapting to change has been a part of farming ever since someone decided to domesticate animals instead of expending lots of energy hunting them.  Those pioneers also started planting crops allowing settled communities to form.  . .

Water management changes needed – Andrew Curtis:

We have reached a crossroads for water management in New Zealand.

Depending on which way we turn we’ll drive our agriculture-based economy forward at pace, continue on the incremental pathway or potentially go backwards.

To realise greater prosperity through increased primary exports changes are required urgently on water management. . .

 

Farm manager eyes ownership – Diane Bishop:

Southland is the land of opportunity for Jared Crawford.

The former plumber and his wife Sara moved from the Waikato to Southland two years ago to further their career in the dairy industry.

They landed a job managing an 800-cow operation at Waimumu last season, but the chance to progress to a first-year conversion at Riversdale was too good to pass up. . . 


Trust Power pulls plug on Rutataniwha

March 28, 2014

Trust Power has pulled the plug on a potential investment in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

. . . The power company terminated its memorandum of understanding with the council subsidiary, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC), and Ngai Tahu Holdings, under which it would have invested between $50m and $60m of the total cost of the project.

“Trustpower has determined that it will not be possible to invest within its risk and return framework for a project of this nature,” the company said.

HBRIC said it “remains strongly of the view that the scheme offers the Hawke’s Bay community both significant environmental and economic benefits and that subject to securing contractual commitments to take water that the scheme will prove financially viable.”

HBRIC would continue to negotiate with Crown Irrigation Investments and recommended this week that council should invest up to $80m in the scheme. It was also looking for expressions of interest from investors in the region to participate in the scheme.

Trustpower’s general manager, operations, Chris O’Hara, said while there was clearly sufficient short-term appetite for the scheme to justify its construction, the long-term uptake by farmers and other irrigators was not strong enough for TrustPower to feel comfortable committing shareholders’ funds.

“Projected cashflows were not meeting a rate of return that would meet shareholder expectations,” he said. . .

Irrigation schemes have long term returns, they don’t usually generate much in the way of cash flow

The loss of a potential investor of that size is a setback but it does provide other opportunities:

Farmers and businesses in the Hawkes Bay need to act quickly to fill the investment gap opportunity left by TrustPower’s exit from the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

“There’s a wonderful opportunity here for Central Hawkes Bay farmers and businesses to get behind the dam to make it work. The Central Hawkes Bay community is now able to be a significant investment partner and take ownership of this project to really drive it forward,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

While some parties may naively present TrustPower’s withdrawal in a negative light, Mr Curtis says it was very common for irrigation schemes to have changing investment partners in the development stage and that TrustPower had only signed a memorandum of understanding.

“The benefit is that the withdrawal allows more local farmers and businesses to buy into the scheme and we know from history that local people driving local solutions always turn out to be the best for the community in the long run,” says Mr Curtis.

“The Hawkes Bay really needs this scheme to proceed as there’s nothing else of significance on the table that would have the ability to reinvigorate the Central Hawke’s Bay economy, create jobs and generate new business opportunities. You only need to look at the looming drought in the Waikato and Northland to see how the provinces suffer when rainfall is low in consecutive years. This is why it is so important to have the right irrigation infrastructure in place to mitigate environmental impacts. The flow-on effects are felt by everybody, not just those working in agriculture.”

“The Ruataniwha scheme is exactly the sort of irrigation scheme New Zealand needs to bring new life to regions like the Hawkes Bay, allowing many of its rural towns to thrive again,” says Mr Curtis.

“IrrigationNZ encourages all potential investors in the Ruataniwha scheme to come to our conference being held in Napier for the first time in just over a week’s time (7th-9th April). You’ll find out everything you need to know about the benefits of investing in water management and how other regions in New Zealand have progressed their water schemes. It couldn’t be timelier to bring an irrigation expo and global irrigation experts to the Hawkes Bay as we’ll be discussing Ruataniwha within a wider debate looking at the future of irrigation in New Zealand.”

Hawkes Bay is drought-prone.

The RWSS would provide very effective insurance against dry weather with significant economic, environmental and social benefits.

The long term pay off from irrigation is immense but it takes a big commitment up-front to get it off the ground.


Rural round-up

March 23, 2014

Irrigator wins Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

IrrigationNZ congratulates Mark and Devon Slee on taking out the main prize at last night’s Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Mark is a board member of IrrigationNZ with an irrigated dairy farm in Ealing within Ashburton District employing 13 full time and two part time staff.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis says Mark and Devon’s sustainable irrigation practices and investment in technology played a large part in their win.

“Mark and Devon are among our top performing irrigators because of their significant investment in technology and personal commitment to reducing their environmental footprint,” says Mr Curtis. . .

PGP Forestry programme takes big step forward:

Primary Industries Ministers Nathan Guy and Jo Goodhew are welcoming commercialisation of new forestry technology this week as a big step forward in improving both productivity and safety.

“The Steepland Harvesting Programme is a very exciting Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) project, with $6 million in joint funding from the industry and the Government and a vision of ‘No worker on the slope, no hand on the chainsaw’,” says Mr Guy.

The new technology involves harvesting on steep slopes using new mechanised technology, rather than exposing forestry workers to risk.

The project was demonstrated to around 55 forestry contractors and company representatives at a Future Forest Research field day in Maungataniwha forest near Napier this week. . .

Minister signs new conservation accord:

An accord between the newly established $100 million NEXT Foundation and the Government was signed in Nelson today by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“The NEXT Foundation is an incredible deed of generosity which has the potential to deliver huge steps forward for conservation in New Zealand. This Accord is about providing the right framework for DOC to partner with the Foundation and to ensure we maximise the conservation gains from this huge investment,” Dr Smith says.

“There are two key elements to the Accord. The first is in ensuring these funds go to new projects that are out and above the work the Government would have ordinarily done. The second is in providing a commitment that the conservation gains are maintained into the future. . . .

Ministers leading agribusiness delegation to South America:

Trade Minister Tim Groser and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy are leading an agribusiness delegation to Chile and Colombia from 23-28 March.

“Latin America is a valued trading partner for New Zealand and a fast growing region,” says Mr Groser. 

“Our relationship with Chile is thriving with a high level of engagement in areas such as energy and environment, agriculture and education. They are encouraging New Zealand business to explore future investment opportunities and we hope to build on this.

“In Colombia we are aiming to build a greater understanding of the market, through a range of farm visits and meetings with local Ministers and authorities.” . . .

Arable research body sets strategy:

The Foundation for Arable Research has just launched its next three-year strategy, which aims to keep arable farming a good viable option for farmers.

Chief executive Nick Pyke says the key points include making sure they have the right people doing the research and having leading research that has the ability to make a difference for farmers.

He says arable farming is buoyant at the moment and they want that to continue. . .

The Peterson Farm Bros’ Beef With Chipotle (Part 2): The Definition of a Family Farmer – Greg Peterson:

Chipotle’s videos depict today’s farmers as huge, industrial farmers, concerned not about ethics and animalwelfare, but motivated rather by greed and money. This could not be further from the truth!

There are over 2 million farmers in this country. Each of whom are working long hours, braving extreme weather, and tirelessly caring for land and livestock. How many of those farmers are family farmers? 96 percent of them, according to the USDA, including the farm I work on with my brothers, my parents and my sister. In fact, I’ve never actually met a farmer who isn’t a family farmer! Have you? I’m sure there are a few out there, but even then, do you really think a farm run by non-family members would operate any differently from those that are? . . .

Rural Women™ International Year of Family Farming Roadshow kicks off next week:

Four South Island towns will be celebrating the International Year of Family Farming next week, as the Rural Women NZ roadshow series gets underway. Three North Island events will follow in early April.

“Rural Women NZ has always backed families working on the land, and in the rural communities that surround them,” says Liz Evans, who is promoting the Rural Women NZ roadshow to be held in Marlborough’s Rai Valley on 30 March.

“For this reason, we were ‘first in’ to initiate a nationwide programme of events to support the UN International Year of Family Farming, a timely opportunity to celebrate the dedication and contribution of farming families, past, present and future.” . . .

Lick block increases lamb survival in triplet bearing ewes:

Significant improvements in lamb survival have been demonstrated by using Crystalyx blocks in a University of Auckland trial in Southland.

Crystalyx Extra High Energy molasses blocks were provided as a supplement to ewes from three weeks prior to lambing through to weaning and resulting in an 11% increase in lambs presented for docking, compared to the control flock.

Barry and Julie Crawford’s Rosebank Farm near Gore was the venue for the trial to determine the benefits of targeted supplementation on triplet bearing ewes. . . 

The Rosebank property is part of the FARMIQ programme. . .

Seed Industry Opens New Office in Templeton, Christchurch:

The New Zealand seed industry is pleased to announce the official opening of its new office in Templeton, Christchurch.

The opening on Wednesday was officiated by the Hon Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary Industries, and attended by over 100 VIPs and guests including Kelvin Coe, the Mayor of Selwyn District.

“It’s a huge honour for our industry to have the Minister officiate and his acknowledgement of the vital importance of our sector to the wider primary industry,” says General Manager Thomas Chin. . .


Rural round-up

March 19, 2014

Taumarunui farmer cheats death for a third time -Lachlan Forsyth:

Yesterday, 54-year-old Janet Kelland cheated death for a third time.

She cheated death on Mount Everest in 1996 in a storm that claimed the life of mountaineer Rob Hall.

And five years ago she broke her neck in a horse-riding accident.

Yesterday, the Taumarunui farmer was checking an electric fence when she stumbled across a wasps’ nest. . .

Wasp swarm attacks farmer – Ben Irwin:

A Waikato farmer had to walk 45 minutes for help after she was stung at least 50 times in the head by wasps when she stepped in a nest on a remote block of land northwest of Taumarunui.

A “really, really sore” Janet Kelland last night spoke to the Herald from her bed at Taumarunui Hospital after the ordeal which began about midday yesterday on the farm she part- owns.

The 56-year-old was walking up the fenceline of a paddock, checking that an electric fence was free from weeds and obstructions.

Moments later she stepped in a “big hole of wasps”. . . .

IrrigationNZ welcomes report on water’s value but questions pricing/allocation focus:

IrrigationNZ has welcomed today’s release of a report confirming the value of water for New Zealand, but cautions any moves to reallocate water or overhaul pricing in its wake would be ‘overly-simplistic’.

Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ’s CEO, says while the majority of recommendations in the NZIER report ‘Water Management in New Zealand – a road map for understanding water value’ resonate with the organisation, he has concerns about its recommendations around water allocation and pricing.

“IrrigationNZ agrees that transfer of water can be improved in New Zealand and that water permits need to be standardised and irrigation storage and distribution infrastructure enabled to do this. But calling for allocation reform is overly simplistic.” . . .

An overview of topical agricultural issues – Allan Barber:

There are four local issues exciting particular interest in the agricultural landscape at the moment: the ram breeders’ testy meeting with AgResearch in Gore, the case against Fonterra by MPI, the failure to award grants to three major research institutes, and Silver Fern Farms’ Eating Quality beef grading system.

First the meeting in Gore when AgResearch finally fronted up to the ram breeders and sheep farmers from the deep south to hear their complaints about relocating most of the scientists from Invermay to Lincoln. Unfortunately for the disaffected farmers AgResearch seems to have made its mind up a long time ago about its Future Footprint Programme which will see two hubs at Massey and Lincoln. After the meeting on 12th March, the word is that the Board will look at the issue again, but only very limited tweaks are expected.

Meeting convenor, Hugh Gardyne, intended to move a vote of no confidence in AgResearch’s board and management, but didn’t get the chance to table the motion. My impression is that the group has shot its bolt and is unlikely to achieve any significant change to the plans. . . .

Changes to Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare Proposed:

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is seeking public consultation on proposed changes to the Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010.

NAWAC is proposing that blunt force trauma may not be used for the routine killing of unwanted dairy calves on the farm.

“We understand that people are concerned about farmers using blunt force trauma to kill young calves on the farm,” says Dr Karen Phillips, Deputy- Chair of NAWAC.

“The risks of incorrect use, coupled with the fact that there are alternatives that can be better for animal welfare, meant that it was time to consider changing the rules on this.

“Industry bodies have been discouraging it over a number of years and it is no longer common practice. However, we agree that there are significant animal welfare concerns when this method is not used correctly,” says Dr Phillips. . .

Ahuwhenua field days farms achieve a level of rural development that has the world watching

Finalists of 2014 Ahuwhenua Trophy BNZ Māori Excellence in Farming Award are achieving a level of rural development that is gaining increasing international interest, as the second of three field days kicks off today.

“The finalists this year are all exemplar models for growing rural economic development,” says Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI’s) Deputy Director-General Ben Dalton speaking from Te Rua o Te Moko Ltd’s field day near Hawera.

“There is increasing international interest in Māori agribusiness as a model for rural development, particularly from countries with rural land holdings capable of agriculture. . .

Regional Finals heat up in Taupo

The ANZ Young Farmer Contest heads to Taupo for the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Regional Final, Saturday 22 March.

Eight finalists are contending for a spot at the Grand Final in Christchurch 3-5 July and their share of an impressive prize pack worth over $14,000 in products, services and scholarships from ANZ, Lincoln University, Silver Fern Farms, AGMARDT, Ravensdown, Honda, Husqvarna and Vodafone.

This Regional Final will see a remarkable group of contenders come together for what will surely be a full on day of practical, physical and theoretical challenges at the Tongariro North Domain followed by the entertaining evening quiz-show held at the Taupo Great Lake Centre. . .

Hogget Mating Becomes Big Focus for Hill Country Farmers:

Hogget mating is becoming a big focus for more and more hill country farmers.

Wanganui Farmer and Focus Genetics ram breeder, Donald Polson held a farm field day recently and told farmers that farm profitability on hill country was driven by the number of lambs weaned.

“Our main goal is to put as many lambs on the ground as we can in a challenging environment. To achieve this we need to grow out good replacements and then we mate our ewe hoggets, which is efficient and more productive. We also run cropping systems which is another simple way to boost productivity.” . . .

New innovation supports confidence in NZ food exports:

In a world facing increasing concerns for food safety and quality, the ability for consumers to get independently verified information about a product, right at the point of sale, is a big step forward in supporting confidence in New Zealand food exports.

Seeing the opportunity to meet this AsureQuality, global experts in food safety and quality, developed the inSight™ brand which is designed to provide consumers with additional information about the products they are buying.

The rigorous process of supply chain assessment to gain an inSight™ licence allows producers to use the inSight™ brand and a unique QR barcode on their products. By scanning the barcode with their mobile devices, shoppers are taken straight to the inSight™ website (www.aqinsight.com). Here they can view independent evidence about the product features prior to purchase. . .

Ballance shareholders get free Ag Hub access:

Thousands of farmers throughout the country are being offered free access to the award-winning Ag Hub farm technology system.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients moved to full ownership of Ag Hub last year and Chief Executive Larry Bilodeau says that with farmers under increasing pressure to track nutrient use and manage nutrient budgets, putting the technology in shareholders’ hands has been a priority.

All of Ballance’s shareholders are being offered free access to the Ag Hub system for their nutrient information.

“Farmers want practical, accurate systems to support on-farm decisions and Ag Hub provides the level of real-time information to help them make the right calls, both for their business and for the environment,” says Mr Bilodeau.


Poll doesn’t support Green irrigation policy

March 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is simply not true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The survey finds

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

However,

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

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

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

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

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

The support for polluters-paying is reinforced further on:

Responsibility for improving water quality

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

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

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

Dairy companies’ responsibilities

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

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

That is happening now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Irrigation’s not just for farmers

January 20, 2014

IrrigationNZ chief executive, Andrew Curtis, shows irrigation isn’t just for farmers:

You finally made it out of the office and hit the road for a much-deserved break. Whether you towed a boat, carried mountain bikes or packed the caravan or tent for a quick escape this summer, chances are you took advantage of irrigation infrastructure.

While most of us think of our waterways as natural, the reality is many popular water destinations have been modified to support farming or energy production.  Your annual summer holiday just as likely included a dip in a river or lake that helps generate electricity or waters crops as it was swimming at the local pool.  

Increasingly farmers and irrigation scheme managers are incorporating recreation interests when they design new systems. Event managers and community groups are also recognising the unique potential of irrigation canals and storage ponds for fundraising and thrill-seeking. 

The challenge for those managing irrigation infrastructure is ensuring holiday makers and adrenalin junkies can be safely integrated into commercial operations, without impeding vital irrigation flows. We profile several irrigation schemes working with their communities to provide access to water for activities other than irrigation.

New Zealand’s largest irrigation scheme, the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) is also one of our oldest. Depression-era labour was used initially to build the race which officially opened in 1945.

Several Mid Canterbury community groups already take advantage of the RDR’s 67km of canals – most visibly the ‘Peak to Pub’, ‘Big Day at the Office’ and Frostbusters’ multisport races. 

And this Easter, a new endurance horse-riding event is likely to see riders crossing the canals as part of 36 hours on horse-back in the district.

Ben Curry, CEO of the RDR, says it’s a balancing act providing access, as health and safety as well as operational and insurance issues, need to be taken into account. But the company tries to find ways to accommodate requests.

While swimming is not allowed due to multiple potential hazards within the water (some of which are submerged), fishing, duck-shooting and cycling along the canals are permitted. A local tourism company has just been given approval to offer high-end cycle tours along the RDR close to the foothills, and the Methven Walkway, created by the local Lions group and a well-used visitor attraction, meanders along sections of the race. 

“We had hoped that the RDR would have been included in the National Cycleway network. It’s still an aspiration,” says Mr Curry.

Lake Opuha is the jewel in the crown when promoters cite wider benefits from irrigation. The man-made 700 hectare lake not only provides water for 230 farms, but as the most accessible lake in South Canterbury, is a magnet for local boaties, kayakers and rowers. 

While rainbow trout were found in Opuha River before the dam was built, brown trout and salmon have since been released into the lake.

Opuha Water Ltd CEO Tony McCormick says since it was filled in 1998, the lake has been a popular destination for anglers and boaties.

His irrigation company supports community use of the lake and its related systems where it can.

Fundraising events are common and one of the most colourful is South Canterbury Diabete’s annual duck race held in an irrigation channel on Arowhenua Road. Fairlie Lions has run a duathalon and mountain bike event around the lake for the past two years and before that hosted fishing competitions. Local farmer and Lions member Murray Bell says the lake is the perfect setting. “It’s a great facility and the location is good as it’s convenient.” As a shareholder in the scheme, Mr Bell says he, like other farmers who supported the lake’s development, is buoyed by its success.

“The duathalon is such a small part of it. Any weekend you are there it’s crowded with boats and in the early mornings you watch the rowing clubs turn up.”

Keith McRobie is President of the Timaru Rowing Club and can vouch for Opuha’s value.

“We’ve used the lake pretty much since it was filled. We are quite limited in Timaru with just a 1km stretch of water so it was a Godsend to have something developed just 45km from town.”

Opuha is pretty much rowable year-round as it is sheltered and accessible during most weather conditions, says Mr McRobie.

Having access to the lake for the past decade has improved South Canterbury’s rowing results. “The schools here punch above their weight at a regional and national level. Every year we have one or two national representatives and Opuha is part of the reason.”

Discussions are underway with the irrigation company and supporters about dedicated facilities for rowing at the lake. Currently three Timaru schools leave boats stored on local farmers’ properties but ideally a purpose-built storage shed and rowing ramp will result in the future.

“We’ve had some discussions with the company and we’re very keen to pursue. If you compare us with Auckland or any other major city, 45 minutes is not really a problem,” he says.    

The Lake Opuha Users Group was created when the lake was first formed to initiate extra amenities for visitors and recreational users of the lake.

Committee member David Williams says their biggest project to date has been the building of a boat ramp to create safe access. Before that up to 150 cars would converge on a 300m section of lake edge that offered the easiest access. Now 90% of traffic has been redirected to the boat ramp greatly reducing the potential for mayhem, he says.

As a farmer himself, Mr Williams says the biggest challenge now is ensuring the lake’s recreational popularity doesn’t impact on its delivery of water to shareholders. “One of the biggest problems for Opuha in the future could be the issue of minimum flows. Some of the recreational fraternity would like to see fluctuations in river flows. But at the end of the day it is the irrigators who are paying,” he says.

Another issue, not created by recreational use, but occasionally compounded by poor behaviour by some boaties, is the spread of didymo. The irrigation scheme and recreational users will need to work together to tackle the algal bloom problem in the future, says Mr Williams.

“Irrigation has provided a great facility by putting this lake here. For the recreationalists there has been a big spin off. At the end of the day it’s been very positive for them and the economic value to our community is also positive.”

The Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company prides itself on a strong relationship with its community, says Chairman Chris Dennison.

“We’re very keen to add benefits to the whole community and not just through the economic driver that irrigation brings,” he says.

 Among its initiatives is the ‘Take A Kid Fishing’ day which the company resurrected in conjunction with the Waitaki Irrigators Collective after an absence of many years. 

Using a shareholder’s attractive tree-lined pond already stocked with trout, 700 salmon were released resulting in very happy young anglers, says Mr Dennison. “The farmer kept his pond open for several weeks after the event to allow the public to fish in a controlled environment with pretty good odds. For young people fishing is about catching fish and most of the kids went away with something for dinner.”

The company has also worked with a local high school to provide access for a fast water kayaking course. Kayaking experts created the course on the scheme’s intake channel by placing obstacles within the stretch of turbulent water and hanging gates from overhead wires. “The effects for us are minimal and the school has ended up with a really good course with easy access,” he says.

Irrigation schemes are developed, and largely paid for, by farmers but the benefits from them are shared well outside of farming.

The economic spin-off helps those who work for and service farms.

Environmental benefits include protecting fragile soils from wind erosion and enhanced flows in natural waterways.

And then there are the recreational opportunities outlined above.


Rural round-up

December 15, 2013

Couple forced off farm so it can be flooded for breeding birds, under EU rules: Miranda Prynne:

A couple have been forced off the land they have farmed for 30 years and planned to pass on to their sons so it can be flooded for breeding birds under EU laws.

Former Army officer Kenneth Hicks said he and his wife Deidre have been told they must leave the 60-acre estate by Eurocrats who put the “rights of birds above humans”.

The couple wanted to pass Harbour Farm (above), in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, on to their three sons when they took retirement.

But now they claim they are being forced to move “with a gun to their heads” so the RSPB can take over the plot to boost endangered bird populations. . .

Tensions rise as farmers wait on repairs – Tim Cronshaw:

The worst of the irrigators wrecked by the September windstorm have needed $500,000 worth of repairs, and as many as 15 Canterbury farmers are reaching desperation point waiting for expensive parts to arrive from overseas.

Irrigator crews working overtime believe they will have more than 80 per cent of the repairs off their books by Christmas, with one company having finished only 60 per cent.

Some of the worst-hit arable farmers remain without irrigator access to water their crops, and the last of the corner arm repairs may take until March to complete.

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said most companies were confident they would have most of the repairs finished within the next few weeks. . .

Crushed finger leads to vibrating post driver - Penny Wardle:

A Marlborough contractor has invented a safe way of driving vineyard posts into the ground.

John Weatherall said losing his right index finger when it was crushed by a hammer-driver got him thinking about safer ways of doing the job.

“I was holding the post while operating the driver when the top 300mm was crushed with my finger amongst it,” Weatherall said.

Five years and many refinements later he has a vibrating-press driver he is happy with, developed with Hamilton’s Machinery Ltd of Rapaura near Blenheim. . .

Maximum capacity – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra has reached capacity from its mix of processing facilities, resulting in the milk price being pegged and the dividend forecast slashed.

It cannot take any more advantage from soaring world milk powder prices, driven by demand from China.

Farmers’ expectations of a boomer season have been tempered and those of investors dashed.

Despite widespread anticipation of another large increase, fuelled in part by competitors that process solely with powder driers, Fonterra held its forecast milk price last week at a record $8.30 a kilogram. . .

Follow the journey of a Christmas tree – Laura Moss:

What happens to the tree before it reaches your house? Modern Christmas tree farms are often large-scale operations with thousands of employees — and one farm in Oregon even has helicopter pilots.

early 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year, and while they appear in our homes only briefly, growing them is a full-time, year-round task.
 
Large-scale Christmas tree farms like Oregon’s Noble Mountain Tree Farm are massive operations that employ thousands of workers.
 
They’re designed to be efficient, and they rely on both old-fashioned human labor and modern technology.
 
While trees are planted and tended by hand at Noble Mountain, the harvesting process involves helicopters flown by skilled pilots whose speed and precision recently took the Internet by storm in a viral video. . .

Half of Kerry farmers over-claim for payments - Anne Lucey and Stephen Cadogan:

Farmers are required to exclude from their annual payment application all ineligible features, such as buildings, farmyards, scrub, roadways, forests, and lakes.

The Government has this year been able to use the latest crystal-clear satellite technology to take thousands of images of farmers’ land to check how much of the land is eligible for payments.

Now it is going after farmers who have over-claimed.

According to the department, over-claims have no impact for 75% of farmers, because they declare more than enough land to cover payment entitlements.

However, 4,000 farmers in Kerry alone have received letters telling them they were applying for grants for ineligible land. . .


Irrigate to prosper

December 7, 2013

We must irrigate to prosper - that’s the message of Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis.

It’s about time we moved beyond the unhelpful rhetoric expressed in Mike Joy’s opinion piece (Intensification benefits untrue, Nov 29). New Zealanders need to grasp the connection between the productive use of water and our lifestyles.

Our neighbours over the ditch have. Everyone in Australia realises the importance of water to their economy, and the subsequent need for irrigation and modern water supply infrastructure. Australians are much better at seeing the big picture – the link between their quality of life, the availability, diversity and cost of food they consume and efficient water use – whether the water is used by urban residents or rural.

As a result there is bipartisan support for investment in rural water-supply infrastructure for the irrigation of crops. Australian politicians across the spectrum recognise it is in the national interest to do this. The continued socio-economic wellbeing of Australia and its food security depends on this. The political rhetoric across the Tasman is now about how this is done – not whether it should be.

New Zealand has two options when it comes to the future of water and agriculture.

Option 1: Do nothing and watch the gradual decline of agriculture in New Zealand.

Climate-change predictions show New Zealand is going to become warmer (plants will use more water when they grow) and drier (less water available for plants to use). The prevalence of “large-storm events” is also predicted to increase. This is perhaps more significant. Even if annual rainfall reduces only slightly, if more of it comes at once then most will not be able to be captured by the soils of productive land. Irrigation will become essential to enable full production in many areas – not just a tool to manage drought risk.

New Zealand’s export markets and the consumers are also becoming more demanding. Everyone wants safe, high-quality produce but few are prepared to pay the true cost of producing it in a sustainable manner. Recent surveys by IrrigationNZ suggest that, when a food price increase is linked to improved environmental outcomes, people state they are happy with the status quo. The environmental challenges created through land use intensification are ultimately created by everyone.

Given that New Zealand’s wellbeing (our economy) is founded on agricultural exports, doing nothing is not viable

Option 2: As a nation, we decide that water infrastructure for irrigation is essential to future-proof agriculture in our highly productive plains and foothill environments and we consciously invest in efficient and sustainable water management.

Irrigation has well-proven benefits. Irrigated land is at least three times more productive than dryland in New Zealand and irrigated farmers are far more financially resilient. For every $1 of public good, at least $3 is returned to the community. That is why irrigation is used as a socio-economic development tool globally by organisations such as the World Bank.

The challenge for irrigation is that in the past we’ve not been great at getting the sustainability component right. However, significant investment is now being focused in this area. More emphasis at the planning stages for irrigation projects through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and greater investment in Smart (good-practice) irrigation are delivering better outcomes. However, it all comes back to affordability. Yes, irrigators can reduce their footprint and, yes, we can create infrastructure that minimises direct impact on the environment; however, one generation alone is not going to be able to do this. Irrigation is intergenerational investment and its financing model needs to better reflect this.

It would be useful if the excellent brains and resources of people such as Dr Joy or Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright could be redirected into helping irrigators get it right. We need to move past “problem definition”.

Irrigators are committed to turning things around over time so, please, let’s move forward together.

The column by Mike Joy this is responding to is here.


Rural round-up

November 11, 2013

Treatment for mastitis could boost dairy profit – Sally Rae:

A mastitis product, developed through the nationally collaborative Mastitis Research Centre, involving researchers at the University of Otago, could result in significant savings to New Zealand’s dairy industry.

Mastitis, which is inflammation of the udder, is a major financial burden to the dairy industry, both in New Zealand and globally.

X-imm24 has been developed by the Mastitis Research Centre which involves expertise from Bayer Animal Health, the University of Otago, Massey University and the University of Auckland. . .

Organic Texel wool on display at A&P show – Sally Rae:

Southland sheep and beef farmers Grant and Alison Kingsbury have no regrets about switching to organic farming.

Mr and Mrs Kingsbury, who farm near Mataura, are displaying some of their Texel wool at this week’s Canterbury A&P Show in Christchurch.

It is the first time organically grown and scoured wool has been on display at the show, as part of the Wool Advancement Group’s (WAG) stand. . .

Low expectations of Bali summit – Nigel Stirling:

Farming leaders say a small package of half-measures and trade-offs is the best that can be expected from a summit that is hoped to keep alive talks vital to freeing up international trade in agricultural products.

Trade ministers from the 159 countries of the World Trade Organisation, including New Zealand’s Tim Groser, will meet in Bali early next month for what is being billed as a last chance for the Doha round of trade talks.

Named after the Qatari capital where it started in 2001, the Doha round of global trade talks was set up to tackle unfinished business from the Uruguay round, which left in place many barriers to trade in manufacturing and agricultural products. . .

Ballance re-jig reflects farming changes – Tim Fulton:

Ballance overhauled its customer and extension team partly in response to the more multi-layered nature of corporate farming, the company says.

One of the more noticeable changes at the company since July has been the disappearance of Altum, once known as Summit Quinphos, after Ballance took outright ownership.

But that was just part of an internal re-fit for the sales and extension staff.

Ballance general manager of sales Andrew Reid said the Altum integration produced some superficial changes, like changes to business cards, but was also part of a broader goal to give farmers and merchants better access to products and services. . .

Focus on Fonterra risk assessment – Hugh Stringleman:

Three board members of Fonterra’s audit, finance and risk committee (AFRC) are up for re-election this year.

Some shareholders have suggested coincidence puts the spotlight on the risk assessment performance and policies of the board following the recent botulism scare.

Farmer-directors Malcolm Bailey and Ian Farrelly are standing for re-election by shareholders and AFRC committee chairman David Jackson, an independent director, is seeking appointment approval at the annual meeting. . . .

Workshops foster irrigation skills:

IrrigationNZ is aiming to improve the skills of people at the forefront of the irrigation industry with a series of irrigation manager workshops in Central and North Otago this month.

The workshops, in Omakau on November 18, Cromwell on November 19 and Oamaru on November 20, would outline core knowledge needed for ”high performing” irrigation, chief executive Andrew Curtis said. . .


Proposals for freshwater management

November 8, 2013

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have released proposals for improving freshwater management, including national water standards.

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.”

“This is an issue that affects us all. We need to work together to create a better way of managing what is New Zealand’s most important natural resource,” Mr Guy says.

In 2011, the Government required regions to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers.

In March a document was released outlining the Government’s proposed plan of action for improving water quality and the way freshwater is managed.

In August, the Government announced its intention to create a collaborative planning option for the development of a freshwater plan within a community.

Today, the Government is releasing a document to seek the public’s feedback on more detailed proposals for amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

The discussion document seeks feedback on the Government’s proposals for:

  • a national framework to support communities setting freshwater objectives
  • explicit recognition of tangata whenua values for freshwater
  • ecosystem and human health as compulsory values in regional plans
  • bottom lines for ecosystem and human health that apply everywhere, and

restricted grounds for exceptions to bottom lines; and

  • requiring councils to account for all water takes and contaminant discharges

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

Ministers have not been involved in the scientific detail of the framework.

The numbers have also been tested with a reference group of water users to make sure they are practical. Further water quality attributes and numbers will be added over time.

The framework will be underpinned by good information that supports regional decision-making, including the environmental, social and economic impacts of any proposed objectives and limits.

“As a minimum, councils still have to maintain or improve water quality, but we are proposing a safety net in national bottom lines for ecosystem and human health,” Ms Adams says.

“These are to safeguard aquatic life in our water bodies, and ensure we can enjoy our water for activities like boating and wading.”

“We expect people to debate these bottom lines – that’s the nature of science – but the freshwater scientists’ numbers we are releasing today also reflect the important role of value judgements in choosing how we use our fresh water,” Mr Guy says.

“If we can get agreement now, there will be less arguing and litigation over regional plans and resource consent applications. It will give people more certainty about what is allowed and what is not, and all this will save time and money.”

The discussion document, the draft amended National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and supporting documents and studies are available here.

Public meetings and hui will be held around the country this month and next. Dates and venues will be posted on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.

Amy Adams’ speech is here.

Farmers are welcoming the proposals.

“What is being proposed directly comes out of the recommendations of the Land & Water Forum and represent a significant change in how communities will plan for water into the future,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“This is a collaborative response to what has been a collaborative process.

“It is a framework which provides an accounting system for measuring water quantity and quality. This reduces much of the subjective emotion that has typified the discussion and sets bottom lines for water quality.

“This also is about giving communities the power to set their own aspirations for water. For the first time this will be scientifically, culturally and economically informed. It won’t be easy and will need some sacrifice from agriculture and urban communities alike.

“As Minister Adams noted at the launch, some of our most polluted waterways are in our towns and cities. It is why every New Zealander has a responsibility to play their part.

“Just like some farmers may face greater restrictions, some cities and their ratepayers may face wastewater upgrades costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The thing about the proposed amendments is that it introduces the concept of time; many issues may have taken decades to build and may take decades to resolve.

“I can confidently say New Zealand’s primary industries are up for this challenge.

“It is a challenge that rightly starts by giving communities the full facts. This is helped by input provided by 60 of New Zealand’s foremost freshwater scientists. For the first time we can build up a picture for what the impacts are and where they are coming from.

“It will also be helped by giving communities an idea as to what the costs of water options being considered are. As long as the community goes into decisions with its eyes open, as farmers, we cannot really complain.

“Many of the issues we face are long-term and the solutions will equally need an intergenerational approach. That makes it important to get the foundations right.

“While the framework is not complete and needs details to flesh it out, it and the consultation now underway, are important steps towards a more open and honest discussion about water,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.

IrrigationNZ says the integration of socio-economic and environmental objectives is the only way New Zealand will achieve long-term sustainability.

“It’s good to see the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum being put into action and IrrigationNZ applauds the scientists and planners behind the framework. It’s a sensible, well-informed first iteration and we look forward to its further development,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

Mr Curtis says communities will now be able to come together and make informed decisions around the values of local waterways. “The framework delivers a more consistent approach to the setting of freshwater objectives and limits throughout New Zealand. IrrigationNZ is particularly excited by the breadth of community values that have been captured. Long term sustainability requires the marrying of socio economic and environmental aspirations and the framework achieves that.”

Another highlight for IrrigationNZ is recognition within the framework that communities need flexibility as they work towards meeting freshwater objectives.

“This is important as there are many factors impacting on water quality and a range of management approaches that can be taken as a result. While much of New Zealand’s freshwater resource is in good shape, there are also hotspots that urgently require attention. For IrrigationNZ, our contribution is working out how we better use water for irrigation and the framework reinforces that with its focus on measurement. Irrigators understand the importance of monitoring and measurement as our industry is founded on it. Our work programme is now based on improving water use efficiency and minimising nutrient losses to groundwater and waterways which will go a long way to delivering improved freshwater outcomes.”

The one jarring note for IrrigationNZ is the continuing debate around what should be included as attributes in the national bottom lines.

“In reality it’s difficult to set national bottom lines for many attributes due to the diversity and complexity of our landscape and waterbodies. Some freshwater attributes, particularly biotic-based indicators that are derived from multiple parameters, are better set at the catchment level where scenario specific analysis can be undertaken.”

Forest and Bird says the proposals are a good first step towards cleaner rivers.

. . . “Currently, regional councils decide their own water quality values. Inevitably, these have been disputed by different sectors all the way to the Environment Court,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“It makes real sense to get consistency and agreement, all at once at a national level, and to have nationally consistent bottom lines.

“While the National Objectives Framework is a good start, as proposed, it would benefit from some more flesh on its bones,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“An obvious omission is that there is no objective that directly relates to the health of freshwater insects, and we hope that they can be included in the national framework that is implemented. Insects provide a direct measurement of how healthy a lake or river is,”
Kevin Hackwell says.

“Where there are still gaps in the regional science – which mean we can’t yet agree on a national set of numbers for particular water quality values – we should still be able to agree on some tight wording on what standards we want to see achieved.

“Tight ’descriptive’ objectives would provide crucial guidance for regional councils to work to, while the figures are worked out,” Kevin Hackwell says.

The Environmental Defence Society also says the proposals are a good first step.

“This is the critically important keystone to the entire freshwater reform process,” said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

“When EDS initiated the Land and Water Forum process in 2008, we had no idea it would take so long to get to this important stage. We finally have a draft of the much-needed national guidance for freshwater management in New Zealand.

“The overall NOF framework appears to be consistent with the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum. That much is welcome.

“However the actual standards and bottom-lines proposed are incomplete and those that are there will need strengthening.

“In particular, we are aware the Science Panels and the Reference Group recommended that macroinvertebrates (small living critters in freshwater systems) should be included – but they haven’t been. We think this can and should be fixed in the final version.

“Overall, some of the other bottom-line standards appear weaker than expected and in many cases are considerably lower than current water quality. We will need to take scientific advice on what adjustments are required. We have to have standards that ensure that no further deterioration in freshwater quality occurs and that we are on an overall improvement pathway especially in lowland streams and rivers.

“Overall, New Zealand’s freshwater should be swimmable and fishable as a minimum.

“The government is running a series of workshops and consultation feedback has been sought with a closing date in February.

“On this occasion the government is generally on the right pathway which will be welcomed by my colleagues on the Land and Water Forum as being in accord with the consensus position we arrived at. EDS stands by that consensus,” Mr Taylor concluded.

Getting consensus on the freshwater strategy is far better than imposing something which will result in on-going wrangles and litigation.

Consensus does however, often require compromise.

All parties involved have a strong desire to ensure we have good freshwater standards that result in clean water. If they keep that in mind they ought to be able to build on what they have in common and work around their differences.

 

 

 


Irrigation delay as bad as drought

October 12, 2013

Immigration NZ’s fast-tracking visas for overseas specialists to repair the 800 irrigators damaged by wind in Canterbury is boosting efforts to get irrigation underway.

But Irrigation NZ says delayed irrigation is a real concern and the economic consequences could rival last year’s drought.

“It’s great to see the help that’s gone into getting irrigators back on track” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. “The fast-tracked Visas are good news for those desperately awaiting repairs. However we’re very aware that even with overseas assistance, the picture is grim for farmers whose irrigators require complicated rebuilds. Some won’t see irrigation before Christmas which could reduce milk production, threaten crop viability and put pressure on stock food supplies.”

It also causes problems with getting rid of effluent which is usually sprayed on pastures with irrigators.

Ashburton’s Rainer Irrigation welcomed four centre pivot technicians from South Africa this week.

Assistant Manager Lucas Cawte says the sheer workload generated by the wind’s severity far exceeded the company’s resources for a quick turnaround and overseas staff will significantly reduce downtime for farmers.

“We’ve brought these guys in from South Africa to focus on pivots as these sustained the most damage and that’s where the pressure point will be. It was pretty short notice for Visas but IrrigationNZ spoke with Immigration and forwarded contacts and it was a straightforward process. The turnaround was about 24 hours and our guys are now here. That’s unheard of.”  

Rainer Irrigation has already fixed ¼ of the irrigators on its books but Mr Cawte says those repair jobs don’t represent the scale of damage they have seen. 

“We’ve focused on the ones with minimal damage using stock we had. But the next phase will be heavy repairs and we’re still waiting on parts. One container has arrived from Australia where we cleared out their stock and another container is due shortly from the US. Our suppliers have really come to the party as we originally thought it would take six to eight weeks to get parts.”

Mr Cawte says farmers had been very understanding as they knew the scale of repairs the industry was facing.

“Many are helping where they can by providing us with telelifters and other machinery and throwing their own manpower at the job. But it is early days still.”

Immigration New Zealand’s Assistant Area Manager Christchurch, Steve Jones, says the department was happy to work with IrrigationNZ to expedite the application process for offshore irrigation crew.  

An Immigration Manager from the Christchurch branch was provided as a dedicated point of contact. The manager was able to advise on the type of applications for offshore staff and where they should be lodged. Having one point of contact for IrrigationNZ and the various irrigation companies had proved very effective, says Mr Jones.

“We consider requests for urgent processing on a case by case basis and, where there are compelling reasons, we will prioritise the processing of applications lodged. This was clearly a situation where time was of the essence and we agreed to prioritise applications accordingly,” says Mr Jones.

Immigration NZ’s acknowledgement of the urgency is appreciated but even with more specialists from overseas the scale of the work needed means it will be at least a couple of months before all irrigators are repaired.

Some farmers will decided the production lost justifies the expense of replacement equipment rather than repairs.


Rural round-up

September 22, 2013

Rural sector key for many of Otago’s SMEs – Dene Mackenzie:

More than half of Otago small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) receive business income from the rural sector.Kiwibank group manager business markets Mark Stephen said with New Zealand’s agricultural sector economic growth lagging in the three months ended in June, the drought had squeezed the sector.

Even those small enterprises which did not directly deal with the rural sector were found to be supplying customers who did deal directly with farmers. . .

Hunter Downs project gathering momentum – Sally Brooker:

An irrigation project taking Waitaki River water further into South Canterbury is gathering momentum.

The Hunter Downs Irrigation Scheme has been awarded $640,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Irrigation Acceleration Fund. It will help pay for engineering design, an investigation into demand from landowners, and a fundraising prospectus.

”This part of South Canterbury has regular droughts,” Irrigation Acceleration Fund manager Kevin Steel said.

”The HDI Scheme is a large-scale infrastructure initiative that hopes to significantly address this problem.

”Where agriculture is New Zealand’s largest export earner, irrigation infrastructure contributes significantly to supporting the country’s ongoing economic growth.” . . .

“Logistical nightmare’ sorting out mess – Ruth Grundy:

Immigration New Zealand is to work with Canterbury-based irrigation companies to get more specialist workers into the country to fix storm- damaged irrigators.

Last week, Irrigation New Zealand said the wind storms which ravaged the region had caused ”unprecedented” damage to more than 800 irrigators.

Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said machinery from South to North Canterbury had been damaged by high winds but the bulk of the damage was to machinery around Ashburton, Selwyn and Waimakariri.

”It’s very, very serious,” Mr Curtis said. . .

Tagging technology tackles possums:

Kiwi ingenuity combined with forensic science techniques has produced a method of identifying individual possums that has the potential to also be used in the fields of environmental and human science.

Dr James Ross  from the Centre of Wildlife Management and Conservation at Lincoln University is using a locally-developed, activity interference device (WaxTag®) baited with attractant substances to identify individual brushtail possums biting the tags.

In the absence of an efficient and cost-effective alternative to estimating the abundance of possums after control methods have been applied, the residual trap-catch index (RTCI) remains the monitoring standard at present. However, RTCI is not sensitive in locating survivors when the population is at very low densities and it is costly because traps need to be checked daily. . .

New scholarship helps students and industry alike:

Lincoln University PhD students Laura Buckthought and Travis Ryan-Salter have been awarded $10,000 each as the first recipients of the new Alexanders Agribusiness Scholarship.

The generous scholarship is exclusive to Lincoln University and awarded on behalf of Alexanders Chartered Accountants who created the scholarship with the aim of helping committed, high calibre postgraduate students undertaking research in the primary sector.

The company Directors did consider opening the scholarship up to students from other universities, but chose to make it exclusive to Lincoln on account of the University’s focus on the land-based industries relative to New Zealand’s key commercial interests. . .

Video sensation Peterson Farm Brothers at the Farm Science Review – we’re just Kansas farm kids – Susan Crowell:

LONDON, Ohio — They’re just typical farm kids.

They’d rather run the combine than the truck during wheat harvest, and they love to run their six-row Kemper chopper they call the Beast Machine. Their first chore was throwing flakes of hay bales to the cattle on their feedlot, and they remember when their dad let them drive the tractor in first gear, inching down the feedbunk while he tossed feed to the cows — “I know it was before I was even in school!”. Their idea of dressing up is something other than an old T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. They hate going out in freezing weather to break up the ice on the waterers for the cows, or cleaning up the outdoor feed bunk after it rains. They post pictures of newly cut alfalfa or eartags on Facebook. . .


Rural round-up

September 14, 2013

More than 800 damaged irrigators:

IrrigationNZ says initial reports suggest more than 800 irrigators across Canterbury are severely damaged and will need to be repaired or written off following Tuesday’s big wind.

“The extent of damage to centre pivots and other irrigators across the region is unprecedented. This is an extremely serious situation as we simply don’t have enough parts to repair all of these machines in New Zealand. We’re looking at a six to eight week time lag before parts arrive and then a similar timeframe before repairs can be completed. If we experience a dry spring, the consequences could be dire for many Canterbury farmers as irrigation will effectively be stymied,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

Gavin Briggs, Owner of Rainer Irrigation, says his company alone is aware of 260 centre pivot spans lying on the ground and another 30 pivots across the region that have lost key components. He describes the situation as “a logistical nightmare”.

“It’s actually quite serious even though we’re still a couple of weeks away from the irrigation season starting. Many farmers don’t have back-up systems for effluent and were relying on centre pivots to do the job. It’s a disaster.” . .

Great support for Canterbury but it’s not over yet:

The past week has been devastating for South Island farmers and with a short sharp wintry blast hitting the far south of the South Island on Saturday, we are not out of the woods yet.

“This has been an overwhelming time for farmers they have taken a huge hit, being Canterbury’s worst wind storm in 40 years, this is likely to hurt them further down the track.” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events Spokesperson.

“The extent of the damage is still being accessed but it is likely to cost millions of dollars and a big part of that will be from over 800 irrigators being damaged. Water access is becoming a big concern and insurance companies are already receiving hundreds of claims. . .

Government’s helping hand for dairy reputation:

Federated Farmers thinks the new Market Connections Fund is an excellent initiative to help New Zealand businesses build back their relations with overseas customers.

“The dairy industry has some ground work to do after the fall out of Fonterra’s recall of product,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy Chairman.

“We know a number of dairy exporters have been affected by this. Many have had product stuck in ports, which is hardly their fault.

“Relationship building needs to be done face to face if it is going to mean anything and I know this is going to be a huge help to those who are serious about repairing the damage done. . .

Our future - Bruce Wills:

This year has been huge for agriculture. We have survived a drought and heavy snow, we have made huge in roads with local government and faced international scrutiny with trade and biosecurity. Despite it all we are still the ‘Silicon Valley’ of agriculture and well on track to reach the Government’s goal of doubling primary sector outputs by 2025.

With local elections here it has been a busy time for Federated Farmers. We have made a massive investment into communicating with regional and district councils, to get a balance between the social, cultural, environmental, and economic planning and outcomes.  This is vital not just for our industries but for all New Zealanders. We need to move forward together so the focus from local government needs to be balanced and fair.

The Minister of Trade, Tim Groser, recently referred to Agriculture being New Zealand’s ‘Silicon Valley’, which conjured up a real sense of optimism for the Federation and farmers alike. New Zealand really struggles with telling the good stories but we have every reason to be optimistic about our future in this country. Groser’s statement captures the reality that agriculture will be as important to New Zealand’s future as it has been to our past. Agriculture has remained the economic backbone of our country and will be for our trade future, the problem is New Zealanders have a bad case of tall poppy syndrome, so celebrating our strengths and successes can prove challenging. . .

Christchurch botanist awarded Loder Cup:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today presented the country’s most prestigious conservation award, the Loder Cup, to Christchurch botanist Nicholas Head.

“Nick Head is a very deserving winner of the country’s oldest conservation award. He has been a tireless advocate for Canterbury’s unique plant life, both through his professional work with the Department of Conservation and as a volunteer and advocate for numerous trusts and organisations,” Dr Smith says.

“His contribution has included extensive work in plant identification, guided field trips, public talks and advocacy for conservation before councils and the Environment Court. A particular benefactor of his work has been the unique plant life of the limestone areas of South Canterbury and the spectacular Mackenzie Basin.” . . .


Rural round-up

August 9, 2013

Fonterra welcomes New Zealand Government’s confirmation of safety of New Zealand dairy products

Fonterra today welcomed the New Zealand Government’s confirmation that the quality issue involving whey protein concentrate is confined to the products made from three batches of WPC80 and no other New Zealand dairy products are affected.

Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings said: “Public safety is Fonterra’s number one priority. When we informed our customers and the Ministry for Primary Industries of the quality issue, we advised them that it was limited to three batches of whey protein concentrate.

“We appreciate the New Zealand Government confirming this to be the case and reiterating the safety of all other New Zealand dairy products, including Whole Milk Powder (WMP) and Skim Milk Powder (SMP), butter and cheese. . .

Surprised by the biosecurity issue - Bill Kaye-Blake:

The issue with botulism bacteria in Fonterra’s whey powder has been in the news all week. There’s been lots of talk of milk prices, exchange rates, marketing images and damage to brands. Most of it is fairly simple. A lot of it, at least over the weekend, was speculation about what could or might happen — filler more than news.

I have one small note to add. I have been working in agricultural economics in New Zealand for the last ten years, all across the sector. Dairy, sheep/beef, apple, kiwifruit, potatoes, forestry, wine, lettuce — lots of different products. I’ve also worked on many different issues: trade, technology, consumer trends, productivity. One area in particular has been biosecurity, which in New Zealand refers to keeping bugs out (in other countries, it refers to biological terrorism, which led to some confusion once when I visited the OECD). . .

Fonterra says no sign yet of losss of business, too soon to count cost:

Fonterra Cooperative Group hasn’t seen any signs of customers reducing their business and says it is too soon to say whether the costs of dealing with the contamination will result in a charge against earnings.

Chief executive Theo Spierings told a conference call today that with listed units on the NZX, Fonterra has obligations to disclose any significant financial impact. Major customers hadn’t signalled as yet any change in demand, he said.

On the conference call chairman John Wilson fronted the media for the first time since the crisis emerged last weekend and defended why it took him this long to appear in public on the issue, saying “in reality this is an operational matter” and he had faith in Spierings’ management team to handle it. . .

North Canterbury will boom on back of water storage

IrrigationNZ says North Canterbury will be revitalised on the back of the Waitohi Irrigation and Hydro Scheme, which was granted resource consent this week.

“Hurunui District, like many other rural areas, has experienced gradual population decline and subsequent school and local service closures over the past 20 years. The announcement that Hurunui Water Project’s Waitohi Irrigation and Hydro Scheme can now proceed has the potential to completely reverse North Canterbury’s fortunes,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

“The supply of reliable water will create certainty which will encourage greater investment in a range of land use options. With North Canterbury’s unique climate allowing a wide range of crops to be grown, the district is well placed to experience an economic boom,” says Mr Curtis.

Mr Curtis says environmental concerns around intensive farming and increased irrigation would be taken care of through audited farm plans. . . .

Rural Contractors welcome new workplace safety reforms:

Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) says it welcomes the government’s newly announced workplace health and safety reforms.

“Both employers and employees have an important part to play in improving safety in the workplace,” says RCNZ president Steve Levet.

“Unfortunately, the attitude towards ensuring workplace safety is not universal in the agricultural scene and it can be a battle to get safety seen as a priority by every individual.”

He says rural contractors and their staff need to be as vigilant with maintaining their own safety in the workplace, as they are with maintaining their machinery. . .

Local yarn’s luxury fibre reaches US Vogue Knitters:

With the resurgence in hand knitting and all things handcrafted, a local yarn company is spinning a name for itself with its luxury natural fibre yarn product especially for hand knitting.

Wellington company, Woolyarns New Zealand, produces an exclusive range of luxury yarn brands for both the textile manufacturing and hand knitting markets internationally.

It is Woolyarns Zealana hand knitting yarn, that has now attracted the attention of Vogue Knitting USA magazine’s Chief Editor. . .


Rural round-up

May 17, 2013

Building water storage too important to become ‘political football’:

IrrigationNZ says it is increasingly concerned about political rhetoric around water storage and a cross-political party agreement is needed to advance the issue.

The national body representing irrigators and the irrigation industry was responding to comments from former Labour MP Stuart Nash that a future Labour Government wouldn’t fund water storage developments.

“As water storage has multiple benefits, from improved river flows to more productive farms and job creation for towns and cities, we struggle to understand why some politicians continue to see water storage as a negative. It’s far too important to be treated as a ’political football’. It’s an investment in New Zealand’s future and one we need to make now,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. . .

Mt Duthie manager single-minded – Sue O’Dowd:

A sheep and beef farmer near Taranaki’s northern gateway wants to see more farmers committing their stock to specific meat processing plants.

Grant Lowry, who manages the 1700ha (1000ha effective) Mt Duthie Station, near Awakino, backs the establishment of a single meat co-operative in New Zealand and the Meat Industry Excellence group’s efforts to get a mandate for industry reform.

The group is hosting its fifth meeting in Te Kuiti tomorrow afternoon, following meetings in Gore, Christchurch, Gisborne and Feilding attended by about 3000 farmers over the last month. . .

Farmers welcome ‘steady as she goes’ Budget 2013:

Federated Farmers is describing Budget 2013 as a ‘steady as she goes’ affair. While there is an increase in new operating spending, this $900 million increase is modest relative to total Government operating spending of $72 billion.

“Budget 2013 continues to move in the right direction as far as farmers are concerned and it is broadly consistent with Federated Farmers’ advocacy,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“We have called for Government spending to be capped and reduced over time to 30 percent of Gross Domestic Product. This is forecast to be achieved in 2016/17. . .

Ultimate Rural Challenge underway in Auckland:

Crowds gathered in Auckland at Aotea Square as the 2013 ANZ Young Farmer Contest officially began.

Auckland City Councillor George Wood opened the proceedings and was delighted this leading agricultural event has come to the ‘City of Sails’.

“We townies look in awe as these young farmers from all over the country get into these different challenges and do such a great job”, Councillor Wood said.

The seven Grand Finalists, each representing a different region, rode into the square on farm bikes and were introduced to the public by Contest announcer Craig ‘Wiggy’ Wiggins and Contest Chairman Bevan Proffit. “It takes a lot of passion and a lot of determination, you also have to be a good all-rounder”, commented Mr Proffit on what it takes to be the Contest Champion. . .

$80m for irrigation – boost to economy, environment:

Budget 2013 has confirmed $80 million in funding for regional irrigation projects, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

“After the extreme drought that most of the country has struggled through this year, the need for better water storage is obvious,” he says.

“There is no shortage of water in New Zealand, but we lack the ability to store and use that water when it’s needed most. Currently, only 2 per cent of rainfall is used for irrigation. We need to do a better job of using this resource.

“Increasing irrigation could see a further 420,000 hectares of irrigated land becoming available, creating thousands of new jobs and boosting exports by $4 billion a year. . .

New Zealand has record year of success at International Wine Challenge:

New Zealand collect 38 Gold medals at IWC including 13 gold for their Pinot Noirs.

New Zealand winemakers demonstrated their excellence at the 30th International Wine Challenge winning 38 Gold medals in a record year of success.

Thirteen of the much-coveted Gold medals were awarded to Pinot Noir. “New Zealand’s Pinot just gets better and better and it is hard to beat in terms of quality, consistency and value. One theme that came through in judging this year was the regional diversity. This is great news for New Zealand Pinot and one that suggests that vine age is now starting to have a significant impact” said Sam Harrop MW, Co-Chairman of the IWC. Sauvignon Blanc also scored highly collecting eleven of the 38 Gold medals awarded to New Zealand. . .

‘Waitaki Wine Doctors see double’:

Drs John Forrest of Forrest Wines and Jim Jerram of Ostler Wines are today celebrating double successes with gold medals for their 2010 Waitaki Valley Pinot Noirs.

Awarded by the prestigious 2013 London International Wine Challenge, this echoes the 2012 event when the John Forrest Collection 2009 Pinot Noir was awarded a gold medal together with the Ostler Caroline 2009 Pinot Noir 2012 also winning gold at the equivalent event in Shanghai.

Waitaki Valley in New Zealand’s picturesque North Otago, was first planted in 2001 and the vineyards are mostly small, intensively managed and produce a range of distinctive cool-climate wines. The key viticultural characteristics are the area’s cool climate with warm summers and long, usually dry, autumn seasons. Its geological origins are complex with limestone, alluvial greywacke and schist being found in close proximity at different sites. . .

Coffee harvest plunges in Puerto Rico – Danica Coto:

Coffee production in Puerto Rico has hit the lowest level ever in the island’s history, leaving farmers and government officials worried about how to revive a once burgeoning industry amid a deep economic crisis.

Farmers produced some 39,900 kilograms of coffee during the most recent harvest, which represents only a third of local consumption, Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas says.

Production in previous years has fluctuated between 47,600 kilograms and 68,000 kilograms, according to department statistics. . .


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