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.


Rural round-up

March 20, 2014

Charmaine O’Shea takes 2014 Dairy Woman of the Year title:

Northland dairy farmer and Chartered Accountant Charmaine O’Shea was named the Dairy Woman of the Year last night at a gala dinner held by the Dairy Women’s Network in Hamilton.

With more than 20 years’ dairy farming and financial expertise, O’Shea has played an important role in improving the profitability of the New Zealand dairy industry through strong financial, environmental and people performance.

She is an equity partner in a Maungatapere dairy farm with brother Shayne. The sibling’s robust environmental stewardship and actions to demonstrate best farming practices were recognised last year when they were named the 2013 Northland Supreme Ballance Farm Environment Award winners. . .

Fonterra Launches China-New Zealand Dairy Exchange Centre:

Fonterra today announced the launch of the China-New Zealand Dairy Exchange Centre in Beijing. The Centre is a joint initiative between Fonterra and China’s National Dairy Industry and Technology System to support the sustainable development of the dairy industry in both countries.

“It is a key priority for Fonterra to contribute to the development of the Chinese dairy industry and we believe there is a lot to be gained by both New Zealand and China through the sharing of knowledge, research and dairy expertise,” said Kelvin Wickham, President of Fonterra Greater China and India.

“Both parties have world-class dairy research and know-how so we are very pleased to be playing a key role in bringing this initiative to life,” he said. . .

Local Government-Backed Website for Water Quality:

The local government sector is leading the way to provide New Zealanders with up to date information about fresh water, with the launch of a new website that makes water quality data public.

The Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website www.lawa.org.nz was created by 16 regional and unitary councils that are Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) members, together with the Ministry for Environment, Cawthron Institute and Massey University with support of the Tindall Foundation.

LAWA provides a rich source of data from more than 1100 freshwater sites local government monitors to give the public easy access to water quality monitoring information. It allows users to see levels of bacteria, acidity, water clarity and other parameters in rivers and catchments. . .

The incredible shrinking current account deficit:

While the value of dairy exports has helped New Zealand record a current account deficit in the December 2013 quarter, $900 million less than in the September 2013 quarter, Federated Farmers knows trade agreements are a must to continue this positive trend.

“Our export performance continues to shine and while dairy is leading, it is a story of our superbly resilient primary industries,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“As Westpac Institutional Bank noted, “A sharp rebound in export volumes, after the severe drought in early 2013, led to the strongest seasonally-adjusted goods balance on record.” . .

High Country innovative leaders:

Federated Farmers High Country farmers are keen to work with Environment Canterbury in making the industry sustainable, so that they can continue improving the land, and keeping the iconic landscape pest free.

“Federated Farmers High Country Field Day yesterday saw 140 industry stakeholders and supporters make a pilgrimage through five of the country’s iconic stations, now a far cry from the barren, rabbit filled desert they once were,” says Simon Williamson, Federated Farmers North Otago High Country Spokesperson.

“There has been an enormous amount of work done to transform some of this barren land into productive pastures. A fundamental part of this transformation has been irrigation, which has allowed this land to generate enough income to support 23 families over eight farms, as opposed to just seven families on six farms nine years ago. . .

Support Trust to highlight farmers’ plight – Hugh Stringleman:

Northland Rural Support Trust has called a meeting of central and local government officials and farmer representatives to help west coast farms gripped by drought.

Former tropical cyclone Lusi turned out to be a damp squib, delivering 20mm of rain at most in the western Kaipara regions of Pouto Peninsula and South Kaipara Head, considerably les than the 50-75mm that fell on Northland’s east coast.

Farmers who attended the Northland Agricultural Research Farm annual field day near Dargaville last week heard of the continuing extreme soil moisture deficit, which has been evident since before Christmas. . . .

Verda Deal Gives New Hope To NZ’s Wood Processing Industry:

 A long-awaited turnaround in the wood processing sector has been signaled today by outdoor wood specialist Verda New Zealand Ltd, who announced they are forming a new entity after a successful capital raising exercise.

Local and international investors have come together to form Verda International Ltd (VIL). VIL has purchased all of Verda New Zealand’s assets, brands and IP, and has taken a 47 per cent stake in the company’s sawmill in Napier.

VIL CEO Grant Butterworth, says the deal is the culmination of 12 months of work to form the new entity, attract new investors and finalise the company structure. . .

Lies, damned lies and statistics (surveys) – Willy Leferink:

What would happen if Federated Farmers put out a survey asking respondents to agree or disagree with broad sweeping statements.  I’m thinking along the lines of, ‘do you feel introduced fish species should enjoy significantly more legal protection over native fish?’ What about, ‘should the trout license fee ($121 for an adult) be abolished, with trout and salmon rules aligned with those for saltwater recreational fishing?’

Something tells me one organisation would cry blue murder before exploding in a rage of apoplexy.  So guess what, I am not going down that line. 

Instead, I am going to respond to what I heard Bernard Hickey and RadioLIVE’s Marcus Lush recently say on radio.  Lush said, “we’re becoming more dairy intensive with these great irrigation projects in Canterbury and to a lesser extent Hawke’s Bay…they are all geared for more people going into dairy.” 

Funny then that the sheep and beef guys in Central Hawke’s Bay are going to use Ruataniwha to part irrigate their farms, just like Federated Farmers’ Mid-Canterbury provincial president Chris Allen. . .

Updated dairy cattle code of welfare to include calf management:

Federated Farmers welcomes the consultation process announced by NAWAC late last week, as it updates the Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare.

“There has been a lot of media coverage recently of calves being slaughtered in Chile,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy Chairperson.

“Federated Farmers agrees with most New Zealanders that this sort of behaviour does not belong on New Zealand farms. . .


Rural round-up

February 20, 2014

4.9 billion reasons why our primary industries rock:

An expected $4.9 billion surge in New Zealand’s primary exports confirms why CNBC labelled New Zealand a ‘rock star’ economy. The announcement came at the Riddet Institute’s Agri-Food Summit.

“It is significant that Riddet Institute’s co-director, Professor Paul Moughan, said New Zealand has great farmers, great processor/marketers and great scientists,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers president.

“Professor Moughan said we stand on the cusp of a revolution and we agree. We now feed an estimated 40 million people around the world and the world is crying out for our primary exports.

“Increasing global prosperity is arguably behind the Ministry for Primary Industries now forecasting an expected $4.9 billion uplift in our primary exports. It is now expected primary exports for 2013/14 will be worth $36.4 billion. . .

Pigging out proves profitable – Jamie Morton:

How do you stop truckloads of unsaleable food from going to the dump – and turn it into something useful? Put a few thousand piggies in the middle.

Each day at the Ratanui Development Company, near Feilding, two trucks deliver around 20,000 litres of whey, to be gobbled up by 8300 pigs.

This by-product of cheese-making – along with other foods such as bread, yoghurt, cheese and dog biscuits – make up about 40 per cent of its hungry hogs’ diet.

“When you drill down on the volume of stuff that these pigs eat, it usually blows people away,” farm director Andrew Managh said.

But more impressive is the idea of what this novel factory-to-farm approach could mean for recycling in New Zealand. The huge piggery is one of 23 farming operations partnered with Auckland-based EcoStock Supplies, which claims its unique business model could dramatically slash the burden on the country’s landfills by millions of tonnes each year. . .

Last stand a fund farewell - Sally Rae:

They’re called simply The Last Stand.

When shearing identity John Hough decided to make his last stand before retiring and contest the national shearing sports circuit, some of his mates decided to accompany him.

Mr Hough, who is soon to turn 70, was joined by Johnny Fraser, of North Otago, Robert McLaren (Hinds), Rocky Bull (Tinwald), Tom Wilson (Cust), Gavin Rowland (Dunsandel), who is also chairman of Shearing Sports New Zealand, and Norm Harraway (Rakaia). . .

Standout season for rodeo rookie - Sally Rae:

Omarama shepherd Katey Hill has had a stellar rodeo season with her young quarter-horse Boots and is leading the national Rookie of the Year title in barrel racing.

But after such a busy season, with a lot of time spent on the road, Miss Hill (22) made the decision, due to Boots’ young age, to ”pull him back a bit” and finish the season on a quiet note.

She said she was heading to the North Island for several rodeos this month, but was borrowing a mount, and Boots was staying at home on the farm. . .

China grapples with food for fifth of world:

Feeding nearly a fifth of the world’s population is no easy feat – and the Chinese government says farming methods will have to be overhauled if it’s going to feed its 1.3 billion people in the future.

A visiting senior Chinese government official and agricultural expert, Chen Xiwen, told a meeting at the Beehive on Tuesday that while agricultural productivity has been increasing, Chinese farming is facing hurdles in producing its own food. . .

A dog’s life focus for photographer – Sally Rae:

Andrew Fladeboe describes working dogs as the ”most noble of creatures”.

That passion for dogs – and photography – has led American-born Mr Fladeboe to travel to New Zealand as a Fulbright fellow.

He was awarded the grant to photograph working dogs and he will work with the University of Canterbury to understand the dogs from social, historical and cultural perspectives.

When it came to selecting a country in which to undertake the fellowship, Australia or New Zealand stood out. . .


Rural round-up

February 12, 2014

Syndicate farming a growing venture – Sue O’Dowd:

School didn’t fit the bill for a young Taranaki man wanting to party and make money.

The man behind Taranaki’s Farm Venture, a business that establishes syndicates to buy and operate dairy farms in Taranaki and the King Country, wanted to get on with life.

Tim Barrett was a pupil at Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth and principal Brother Peter Bray was adamant he wanted the 15-year-old to stay at school so he could go to university.

“But I had stuff I wanted to do,” the now 50-year-old millionaire businessman said, “and I needed money to do it.” .

So Barrett got his way and embarked on a farming career. He managed to fit in some partying but he was more focused on becoming a farmer, so he followed the traditional path of working for wages and as a variable order and 50/50 sharemilker to dairy farm ownership at Te Kiri in South Taranaki. Along the way he also spent a year in Canada working on beef and cropping farms. . .

Changing world for sheep farming and sheep meat – Allan Barber:

It may be a statement of the obvious, but the world for sheep farming, processing and sheep meat has changed dramatically, particularly in the past 30 years.

The age of massive single shift plants, high wool prices, large stations, the frozen carcase trade with the UK and farm subsidies has disappeared for ever. It has been replaced by a new era in which the main characteristics are no subsidies, less sheep and lambs, smaller, more flexible plants, an increasing proportion of chilled product, higher value co-products with less income from wool, and progressively more trade with markets other than the UK and Europe.

To a casual observer or time traveller who has spent the last 30 years elsewhere, there are still some obvious similarities, but a more careful study would show the differences pretty quickly. For example the swathes of irrigated land from mid Canterbury to Southland with dairy cattle instead of sheep grazing, thousands of hectares now covered with vines in Central Otago, Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, the size of lambs going to slaughter, the volume and price of wool at auction and the number of saleyards round the country would all indicate more than a token shift in farming practice. . .

The South Island’s best farmer grows grapes:

The colourful Peter Yealands, who was named 2013 South Island Farmer of the Year, is hosting the winner’s Field Day at his multi award winning Marlborough winery this Thursday (13 February).

“Federated Farmers congratulates the Lincoln University Foundation for recognising the best of South Island farming through its South Island Farmer of the Year competition,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“This Thursday, farmers will have a chance to see just why Marlborough entrepreneur and winemaker, Peter Yealands, was named the South Island’s best farmer for 2013.

“From biological lawn mowers using “baby-doll” sheep to his overall ‘vine to bottle’ approach, the Lincoln Foundation is right to say the knowledge shared at this field day will not just be inspirational, but have relevance to all primary industries. . .

Loyalty and contribution to the betterment of the people of Sarawak honoured:

A man whose career has been marked by an outstanding ability to relate to people across a wide spectrum, from poor indigenous farmers and their communities through to commercial agribusiness and industrial companies, senior government officials and political figures at state and federal level, was today (11 February) awarded the Lincoln Alumni International Medal.

Datu Dr Ngenang Ak Jangu of Sarawak, Malaysia has made an outstanding contribution in his home country, in his chosen field of agriculture.

The Lincoln Alumni International Medal is awarded to a former student, or a past or current staff member of Lincoln University who, in the opinion of the Lincoln University Council, has made an outstanding contribution to his or her chosen field, and brought credit to Lincoln University through achievements in a country other than New Zealand. . .

Weakened milk price predicted to fall back to $7 – Gerald Piddock:

An expected softening in milk prices in mid 2014 has bank economists predicting a milk price of around $7/kg milk solids for the 2014-15 season.

This weakened payout is predicted to occur when northern hemisphere production peaks later this year. The resulting extra supply would push prices down, Westpac senior economist Anne Boniface said. The bank had forecast an opening price of $7.10/kg MS for the 2014-15 season.

“We’re expecting dairy prices to soften a little bit over the course of 2014 as global supply increases.

“It was still a good price. It’s not quite as good as 2013-2014, but not too bad either.” . . .

A floral fight against green terrorists:

Flower power is alive and well in the Waikato. No, it’s not a hemp-wearing, nettle-tea drinking hippy commune promoting pacifism. Rather, depending on where you stand in the food chain, this one’s a bit more sinister. In fact, it’s designed for death.

No need to alert the authorities, however. The horror is taking place at a more microscopic level, and it’s all for a good cause.

To promote biodiversity and reduce the use of pesticides, award winning food company Snap Fresh Foods has teamed up with Lincoln University to harness the pest-killing attributes of flowers. More to the point, the flowers are being used to attract the right kind of killer insects. . .

Enjoy your kiwi heritage – rafting the Clarence - Stephen Franks:

I’ve just come off 6 days rafting down the Clarence River with 13 friends. We’re raving about good times that surpassed all expectation.

The river starts above Hanmer and reaches the sea near Kaikoura. Rafting it should be on every New Zealander’s heritage ‘must do’ list, like the Otago Rail Trail.

Do it for the scale of the country, its emptiness, the clarity of the sky, the alternating serenity and rush of rafting. Do it to enjoy the chatter of your raft-mates, the walking and climbing from campsites among scrub and snowgrass. Do it to swim in deep blue pools and drink the water you swim in all the way down. Do it to boil the billy on wood fires and taste the difference between manuka  and willow smoke in your tea. Do it to be without electronic contact for the entire trip.

Do it to sip your Waipara wines as the swallows zip and dart over your camp after insects in the evening. . . .


Rural round-up

February 11, 2014

Australian milk war becomes the NZ product war:

Federated Farmers of New Zealand believes Australian consumers will ultimately decide it’s not fair dinkum to remove New Zealand products from the shelves of Coles and Woolworth supermarkets in Australia.

“It seems like the Australian milk wars, which so badly affected the viability of many Australian dairy farmers, is fast becoming the New Zealand product war,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President and its trade spokesperson.

“My take on this is that Australian consumers will see a lessening of choice and quality as being not fair dinkum.

“Australia is New Zealand’s second largest export market behind China so what goes on there does matter.

“This seems less a reaction to consumer demand and more a new chapter in Australia’s supermarket war.  Coles and Woolworths are cynically trying to proclaim themselves truer than blue Aussie companies. . .

 

A tale of two spills – Willy Leferink:

What would you say if a dairy farmer took full responsibility for the actions of his relief milker and copped a $45,000 fine in the process?  All the while, human and industrial effluent leaks almost daily into our major rivers and harbours with very little mention. 

Wairarapa dairy farmer Selwyn Donald accepted that as the farm owner, the buck stopped with him. There’s something wrong with a picture where a farmer or business gets pinged but council sewerage spills are either covered by “emergency discharge consents” or a slap by the wettest of wet bus tickets.

Last July, Hamilton City Council was “sentenced” after it released about the same volume of human effluent into the Waikato River as happened on Mr Donald’s farm.  Did Hamilton cop the $600,000 fine the media talked about?  Did the guy at Hamilton responsible get charged just like Mr Donald did?  No way.  That was all traded down to stream restoration, planting and fencing near to where the council spill took place.  Restorative justice.  The guy fingered saw all charges “dropped” against him because Hamilton pleaded guilty. . .

Vehicle tracking programme taking off – Sally Rae:

It was while driving a tractor in Australia that Andrew Humphries came up with the idea of a software system to track farm vehicles.

After growing up on a sheep and beef farm near Gore, he headed to the University of Canterbury where he spent a year studying computer engineering.

He then returned to the farm for four years, flying to Western Australia each year to drive seeding rigs during the April-June seeding season. . .

We don’t’ like seeing animals suffer – James Houghton:

In light of the recent story around the footage of a farmer in Chile euthanizing some calves, there has been a lot of uproar and emotion. To me it is understandable because I know just how awful it feels to have to euthanise an animal and how bad things look with limited information.

It is no fun shooting an animal, and anyone who has done it can tell you that it is not an easy job either in the practical or emotional sense. But if you are to work with animals you need to have the strength to take responsibility for that animal and be there for them when they need you. Recently, I found a cow in the paddock with a broken leg and I had to put her down. It was horrible, but what would have been worse is if I had left her and waited for a vet to come, which could have been the following day. On some properties the farmer can be over an hour’s round trip from parts of the farm. So when you encounter an animal in pain and distress, such as a botched attempt at poaching, then you need to have a means to end their suffering. Banning emergency measures would be wrong but neither should it be the first measure.

We have rules and guidelines around what we can and cannot do, for this very reason, so that farmers do not have to let an animal suffer. These rules have to be realistic and practical otherwise farmers won’t be able to do what is right and help put the animal out of its misery. . .

NZITO and Primary ITO join forces:

On Saturday, 1 February 2014 the New Zealand Industry Training Organisation (NZITO), the industry training provider for the meat processing, dairy manufacturing and seafood sectors, officially merged with the Primary Industry Training Organisation (Primary ITO) as the Government’s strategy to amalgamate ITOs continues. Primary ITO provides industry training across the agriculture, horticulture, equine, water and sports turf industries.

The two organisations share a natural synergy and the move will help to strengthen and enhance the links between the producer and processor sectors. The merger also means Primary ITO is now officially the largest ITO in the country.

As well as training the workforce involved in the production and processing elements of the food chain, Primary ITO also provides qualifications for people working in the service sectors connected to the primary industry. While these sectors are not export focused, they still have an important role to play.

NZITO Chairman, Graeme Sutton, says “we’ve created an organisation that offers the complete primary industry training package. There’s enormous capacity for training and education to raise global and national awareness of New Zealand’s primary industry.” . . .

And a media release:

Ambitious young Māori dairy farmers urged to enter Ahuwhenua competition:

This is the final call for all candidates to submit their entries for this year’s Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer of the Year competition. Entries close on Friday 14 February 2014.

Sponsored by Primary ITO, Te Tumu Paeroa and Allflex, the competition alternates between dairy and sheep and beef farming and will for the second time recognise the skill and proficiency of young Māori employed in the dairy farming sector.  It is free to enter and open to those aged 16-25 who are currently enrolled in or have completed a National Certificate in Agriculture Level 3 or higher in the last year.

“The judges will be looking for ambitious young Māori with initiative and industry knowledge,” says Fred Hardy, General Manager of Strategic Business Development at Primary ITO. 

Fred, who acts in an advisory capacity, says those who enter the competition will be rewarded with ample opportunities to build their profile within the industry.

“The competition gives you access to a network of industry professionals and expert feedback, so it is necessary for entrants to have clear goals in mind.” He continues, “It’s also important that they demonstrate a commitment to Māoritanga.”

The finalists will be announced in April and are invited to attend the Ahuwhenua awards ceremony in Tauranga in June, where the winner will be announced and awarded a cash sum of $3000. 1st and 2nd runners up will each receive $1000.

Previous winners, dairy farmer Tangaroa Walker and sheep and beef farmer Jordan Smith, have both embarked on successful farming careers and look back at the competition as a key stepping stone in their journey to success.

For detailed information about the Young Māori Farmer of the Year competition click here.

Entry form here.


English to step down as Feds CE

February 3, 2014

Conor English has announced he’ll be stepping down from the role of chief executive of Federated Farmers.

. . . “In July this year, I would have been at Federated Farmers for six years as Chief Executive Officer, which, I believe, is a good length of time. Along with the almost three and a half years I worked at Feds in the 1990s, my total time at Feds is almost 10 years! 

“I am very proud of what the whole Federated Farmers team has achieved over that time. 

“I grew up in a household that talked a lot about the three “P’s” – the Prime Minister, the Pope and the President of Federated Farmers. 

That’s a great line, and not altogether said in jest.

It has been a great privilege for me to lead this organisation in the capacity of CEO and to serve our fantastic farmers and rural community.

“2014 will be a year of change and excitement for me,” Mr English said.

The President of Federated Farmers, Bruce Wills, commented:

“We have reluctantly accepted Conor’s resignation and appreciate him giving us six months notice of his departure to enable a smooth transition to a new Chief Executive,” Bruce Wills said.

“Conor has achieved much in his time as CEO and we will miss his energy, talent, skill and experience. . .

“This year is a big year for Federated Farmers with both our own internal board elections and of course the General Election.

 It will be a year of major change with this resignation and Wills and several board members stepping down at the AGM.

Will and English have been good leaders for the organisation.

They’ve worked hard to build bridges and find common ground with all sorts of other groups and individuals, without compromising the best interests of farmers and the wider rural community for whom they’ve been strong advocates.

They will leave the organisation in good heart.


Rural round-up

January 11, 2014

Inquiry after routine spray ruins vines:

The head of a chemical manufacturing giant has launched an investigation after winegrowers had their vines virtually destroyed after a routine insecticide spray went horribly wrong.

North Canterbury winegrowers Brent Knight and Trevor Bunting claim that a common moth insecticide used on the vines in early December last year had been mislabelled by Dow AgroSciences.

They say their vines have been devastated by the compound, which was sprayed over their vineyards.

The managing director of Dow AgroSciences says the company is investigating, but has not admitted liability. Pete Dryden says it is working with the growers to establish what happened, but would make no further comment. . . .

Federated Farmers’ options for red meat reform:

Federated Farmers has publicly released its discussion paper on major options for reforming New Zealand’s $6 billion red meat export industry. 

“The OECD-FAO expects world meat exports to increase by 19 percent by 2022, so the need for reform has never been clearer,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“The OECD-FAO said last year that meat prices will remain high in real terms over the next decade.  This was due to changing market fundamentals of slower production growth and stronger demand and represents the opportunity we have.

“What New Zealanders need to understand is that red meat could be so much more.  If it was a schoolchild then it would be the C+ pupil. The one with massive potential but has issues with concentration and does not play well with others. . .

Why I’m not an ‘agvocate” – Modern Milkmaid:

Advocating for agriculture is a worthwhile goal, no doubt. But who knows what being an agvocate means? Other agvocates. Your typical non farmer thinks you just spelt advocate wrong. The label serves only to identify yourself to others in the industry, most often those who farm the same way you do.

Lately, I’ve become frustrated and disillusioned with where I see agvocacy heading, primarily on twitter. Calling consumers ignorant, stupid, uneducated, brain dead, or scientifically illiterate for not understanding the industry is common. For many farmers, it’s the only life they’ve known. It makes it easy to forget that not everyone lives and breathes agriculture and food issues on a daily basis! I’ve lived both sides, and remember how difficult it was to cut through all the “facts” and “evidence”. We’re experts in our own field, but do you know every facet of the oil or aviation or whatever industries?! . . .

Vice getting prepped to be president – Abby Brown:

Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills, who will stand down in July, says it is normal for the vice president to take over as national president.

“Dr William Rolleston is working to replace me,” Wills said.

All the board members expressed confidence in Rolleston. . . .

 Calendar showcases women in agriculture - Jaclyn Pidwerbesky;

The Women in Ag calendar initiative was founded by three women proud to be members of the agriculture business community and even prouder to be Saskatchewan farmers.  Our mission is to raise awareness within the ag industry by showcasing smart and talented women of all ages, backgrounds and professions, and to contribute to a cause that advances the presence of agriculture in Saskatchewan.

Thus, the 2014 Women in Ag calendar was born.  Women from many different careers are involved in this project. The calendar has been designed to display and represent these women in their everyday work environment.  Our goal is to create a platform for women to promote each other, work together, and network. . .

South Island Farmer of the Year Winner’s Field day:

One of New Zealand’s most successful primary producers will share their ideas, learning and innovation at the Lincoln University Foundation’s South Island Farmer of the Year winner’s field day next month.

Peter Yealands, of Yealands Wine Group, won the prestigious title for the 2013 season and will host the field day at the Yealands Estate Winery near Seddon, Marlborough, on Thursday 13 February.

Lincoln University Foundation Chairman Ben Todhunter says the informative programme planned for the field day will have practical relevance for farmers and other producers across the primary industries. . .

The Best Farmers’ Market in Munster - John Daly:

According to a survey conducted by Bord Bia earlier in 2013, 68% of Irish people admitted buying local products to support the economy, even if they sometimes cost more. Many small food and drink producers began life at farmers’ markets, and the effect of such direct, weekly contact with the public has provided an important stepping stone to many a fledgling start-up.

Farmers’ markets allow producers to develop a loyal customer base in their community, gather valuable feedback and suggestions for new products, as well as a vital source of regular cashflow. Farmers’ markets have experienced substantial growth in recent years, from less than 100 in 2006 to well over double that number today. Recognising the importance of neighbourhood markets to the general economy as well as encouraging local enterprise, a voluntary Good Practice Standard for Farmers’ Markets was launched in 2009. . .


Rural round-up

January 3, 2014

Nature and high-end design meets farming -  Bruce Wills:

Every time you think we know all there is to know about agriculture, nature has a habit of coming along, tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that really, we don’t.

Like sand flies in summer, not all native species are what you could describe as cute, cuddly or wanted.  Porina caterpillars love to chew the grass equally of lawns in-town and farm pasture in the countryside.  Meanwhile, grass grubs attack grass from below ironically proving that beside scale, both town and country have much in common.  These insects do their worst during the key periods of growth for pasture and lawns alike.  If you live in town and find bare patches of lawn odds are you’ll know what I mean.

Since pasture is the engine room of any farm and directly supports half of everything we export to the world, helping to pay our way in it, farmers will spend many millions of dollars trying to control these insects.  Nature being nature means this becomes a biological game of whack-a-mole. . .

Awards for 2013 - Willy Leferink:

As I look back upon 2013, I am going to present my own personal ‘awards’ reflecting some of the big items over the past year.

Given a lack of water defined 2013 at its beginning and water quality defined it at year’s end, my Al Gore Award for Most Underreported Inconvenient Truth goes to the Ministry for the Environment’s “River condition indicator Summary and key findings.”  Why else would a 10-year summary of water quality testing released in July get so little fanfare for revealing, “Of the parameters we [the MfE] monitor, all are either stable or improving at most monitored sites. Four of our parameters show stable or improving trends in 90% of sites”.

Allied to this water theme water is my ‘Harold Camping/The End is Nigh Environmental Armageddon Award.’

This one goes to any celebrity water quality scientist telling the media that virtually all freshwater bathing sites are unsafe.  It’s like hyperinflation meets bathing water quality but most Kiwis swimming at freshwater spots are letting their freestyle do the talking.  The ‘Two Face Special Achievement Certificate’ goes to our friends at our national fishing club who told everyone in the media how terrible our water quality is and who’s largely to blame.  That’s until they want to sell their fishing licenses when the fishing magically becomes fantastic. . .

Landfarming is safe practice – soil scientist - Adam Ray:

A soil scientist who has examined the controversial practice of landfarming says its opponents are ignoring evidence that it is safe.

Landfarming involves mixing mud and other drilling waste into low-quality soil, which then returns to pasture.

Scientist Doug Edmeades has examined soil from a farm near Hawera where it was carried out seven years ago.

“When I started out on this, I expected to find some interesting results,” he says. . .

Growing Up on a Farm: 25 Facts About Being a Farm Kid! - MyAGventures:

This post is dedicated to all you past, present and future farm kids out there. There may not be very many of us, but we truly are  one-of-a-kind. In all honesty, I don’t know of a better way to grow up. Yes, we worked hard. Yes, we can tell stories all day long about our experiences both good and bad. Most importantly, yes we are proud to be farmers’ sons and farmers’ daughters. We are proud to be born and raised farm kids.  We are proud to be future farmers.. .


Water quality and quantity vital to 2 Es

January 3, 2014

Water will continue to be a central issue in 2014, Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says:

“The vast majority of farmers care about the environment and this was highlighted in the New Year’s Honours List, which included a former National President, Tom Lambie.

“The current national discussion around farming would be enhanced if readers, viewers and listeners better understood what farming is actually like in 2014.  A role for the media.

“Water quality and quantity are absolutely vital to the two “E’s” – the economy and the environment. These are not mutually exclusive things but are flipsides of the same coin.

“Water storage is also vital to meet the challenges posed by climate change while enhancing land and water quality.

“Proposals to reform the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, by empowering local communities will, we hope, improve the level of discussion and information. . .

As holiday makers battle rain and even farmers in most areas are thinking there’s been enough, we shouldn’t forget that this time last year most of the country was dealing with drought.

Water storage, where it’s practical, harvests water when there’s too much and enables it to be used for irrigation, and environmental enhancement, when nature doesn’t provide.

Wills is right. The economy and environment aren’t mutually exclusive and water storage is a good way to boost both.


Rural round-up

December 23, 2013

Positive steps to help mental health – Terry Tacon:

Like the mountain that dominates the skyline in Taranaki, the province’s farming industry has a dark side – the effect problems can have on farmers’ mental health.

Recognition of the issue prompted the region’s Rural Support Trust, with the assistance of Like Minds Taranaki, to get behind a publication called Feeling Down on the Farm – Mental Health in Rural Taranaki.

It’s a bid to give farmers somewhere to turn when they have problems and follows a similar publication in southern New Zealand in 2010. . .

Riding high on kindness – Tim Fulton:

A dairy family in Waikato has been part of a daisy chain of generosity that started with tanker drivers upgrading a young man’s trike.

Andrew Oliver, from Puketaha, had been rattling around on his trusty metal steed for a couple of decades.

So Fonterra’s tanker drivers rallied to give him something more modern, complete with a number plate proclaiming Andrew No.1 Fonterra Fan.

Andrew, who is almost 30, has a rare form of impaired brain development known as Fryns-Aftimos Syndrome.

He’s the only New Zealander with the condition and one of just 15 worldwide. He also has five types of epilepsy. . .

Andrew has spell-binding impact -

Andrew Oliver inspired Andrew Lusty from the start.

As a Fonterra tanker driver, Andrew Lusty found quickly he would hear the other Andrew wheeling along on his trike before he could see him.

Drivers receive a message on their cab screens saying there is a disabled person on the Olivers’ farm to watch out for but Andrew usually races to the dairy shed like a whirlwind.

One night on the job driver Andrew gave his mate a new Fonterra hat. As he drove to the next property he did some thinking, then suggested to a colleague it would be a good idea to get Andrew a new trike. . .

Food security: an urban issue – Caspar van Vark:

According to the United Nations human settlements programme, UN Habitat, Africa is the fastest urbanising continent in the world. By 2050, 60% of all Africans will be living in cities.

But urbanisation in Africa is not going hand-in-hand with widespread economic growth: many cities are in fact seeing a proliferation of urban poverty. Food insecurity and undernutrition is therefore also increasingly an urban issue, and with urban people more dependent than rural populations on whatever food they can afford to buy, it’s tied closely to livelihoods.

A new project by the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC) is trying to address this by pulling together the issues of urban growth, migration, livelihoods and undernutrition, and drawing specific attention to the role of peri-urban ‘corridors’ of production outside cities. . .

Christmas wishes on-farm - Bruce Wills:

. . . Like farming the media isn’t immune from having its share of critics as it performs an invaluable role.  The term ‘fourth estate’ was coined for the media in the 17th Century to emphasise its importance but independence from Government.  While the traditional print media faces its challenges I agree with the journalist Rob Hosking; this is evolutionary pain as opposed to being an extinction event.  I believe that media quality will deliver readership quantity.

The shame perhaps being that quality can be somewhat uneven.  In the past couple of weeks there have been some major developments on the trade front but you wouldn’t know it from the scant attention it received from the broadcast media.  I was told one media person was scoffing over the newsworthiness of a tariff agreement with China-Taipei, which is worth $40 million to ‘NZ Inc’ in year one and over $70 million by year four.  Forget that.  They wanted to talk up the prospects of drought instead. . .

Fresh produce industry welcomes New Zealand Government’s recommendation to establish food safety centre:

The Produce Marketing Association Australia and New Zealand (PMA A-NZ), the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the fresh fruit, vegetable, and floral supply chain, has welcomed an in-principle acceptance by the New Zealand Government of a recommendation to establish a centre of food safety science and research in New Zealand.

The establishment of a food safety centre was one of 29 recommendations released on Wednesday in the Dairy Food Safety Regulatory System report commissioned on the back of investigations into the Fonterra food safety scare, which resulted in New Zealand dairy products being blocked from entering foreign countries.

“A food safety centre in New Zealand will draw attention to the important issue of food safety and traceability preparedness,” CEO of PMA Australia-New Zealand Michael Worthington said today. . .


Water storage – essential economic infrastructure

December 23, 2013

This year’s economic growth has been good, but it would have been even better had there been more irrigation to off-set the impact on last summer’s drought.

Agricultural production has turned in a stellar performance in the September quarter, which has helped to lift Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the quarter by 1.4 percent. All this on the day China has overtaken Australia as our single largest export market.

“I can safely say ‘were back’ from the drought with agricultural production up 17 percent for the September quarter,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“That said, the lingering after effects of drought still means we’re down 5.6 percent compared to this point last year.

“To me, this reaffirms why water storage is essential economic infrastructure to meet not only surging demand for our primary exports, but whatever a changing climate will throw at us.

“I’ll leave it to the economists to deduce what the opportunity cost of this year’s drought is but small it is not. . .

This time last year most of the North Island was suffering from a drought.

Much of the country has had a wet spring and early summer but in some parts of Central Otago irrigation has been cut because rivers are too low.

Not every area is suitable for water storage but where it is it provides insurance against dry weather as well as providing opportunities for recreation and environmental enhancement.


Rural round-up

December 19, 2013

SFF implements salary freeze – Nigel Stirling:

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) is implementing a salary freeze as part of a range of measures to get the meat processor back to profitability.

The move, revealed at the company’s AGM in Dunedin today, holds all salaried employees’ remuneration at current levels for a period of 12 months.

The company last year paid wages, salaries and benefits of $315.1m, up from $290.2m the previous year.

Chief executive Keith Cooper outlined further steps to turnaround the company’s performance including land disposals and exiting some stock financing arrangements. . .

Farming – change the perception – Will Wilson:

Agriculture must tread carefully in its bid to attract new entrants to ensure it does not undervalue and trivialise the incredible amount of hard work and education required to be success in the industry.

Agriculture is such a catch all term for a huge range of very specialist professions, yet from the outside the perception is the drip fed image of the village idiot on a tractor or the floppy haired Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his cable knit.

As an industry agriculture continue to pander to this image because it’s media friendly and easier than finding out and explaining the real demands of modern agriculture. . .

Financial report shows agriculture is well on track:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see the Government’s half year Economic and Fiscal Update report showing a faster growing economy, with the agriculture industry being well on its way to doubling its exports by 2025.

“We have long advocated for economic restraint, and it is great to see the $86 million surplus forecast for 2014/15 is up ever so slightly on the surplus forecast in May,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Agriculture has had a great start, with the tradable sector growing 11.1 percent since 2009 compared with non-tradeables up 6.6 percent, however resource pressures are growing and next year we will likely see a tightening of monetary policy to dampen inflation. Farmers and exporters will need the Government to keep spending and debt under control in order to take the pressure off interest rates and the exchange rate. . .

Commission releases final report on Fonterra’s milk price manual:

Issued 16 December 2013, Release No. 56

The Commerce Commission has today released its final report on its statutory review of Fonterra’s milk price manual. The manual determines how Fonterra calculates the farm gate milk price, which is the price paid by Fonterra to dairy farmers for their raw milk.

This is the first of two statutory reviews that the Commission is required to undertake each milk season under the 2012 amendments to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 (DIRA).

The Commission has concluded the 2013/14 Milk Price Manual is largely consistent with the purpose of the DIRA milk monitoring regime. . .

MG lifts milk price to $6.25/kg :

MURRAY Goulburn (MG) has announced a third step-up in the farmgate price (excluding the NSW-Sydney region) for the 2013-14 season of $0.18 per kilogram butterfat and $0.38/kg protein.

This step-up takes MG’s weighted-average, available price to $6.25/kg milk solids.

MG has also increased its end of season forecast to a range of $6.30-$6.50/kg milk solids.

“Global demand for dairy foods remains strong and as a result prices for key dairy ingredients, such as whole milk powder, have remained at near record levels for an unprecedented period,” MG managing director Gary Helou, said. . .

Canterbury style zone committee comes to the Wairarapa:

Federated Farmers’ Wairarapa welcomes the formation of the Ruamahanga Whaitua Committee and its commitment to balance environmental and economic values for the Ruamahanga Catchment.

“The Whaitua committee makeup is well balanced to deliver sustainable and workable rules for the Catchment and the Wairarapa,” says Federated Farmers’ Wairarapa provincial president Jamie Falloon.

“We thank the people involved for putting their names forward for what will be a pretty busy two year period.

“It will be a challenging process and will require all parties to be fully involved in discussions to find outcomes that are what the community wants. . .

Workshops help dairy farmers drive better production and profit:

Farm nutrient company SealesWinslow is running a series of seminars and workshops to help dairy farmers achieve higher production, margins and profits.

SealesWinslow’s “Routes to Profitable Milk Production” roadshow, which kicked off in the Waikato in late October, has been rated highly for content and relevance by farmers attending.

Animal nutrition expert for SealesWinslow, James Hague, has been demonstrating how farmers can master the art of balancing the diet to fully feed the herd and benefit from better production from grass, higher production per cow and per hectare, higher margins and more profit. . . .


Com Com taking action on swaps

December 17, 2013

The Commerce Commission is to issue proceedings on interest rate swaps.

The Commerce Commission confirms that it has advised three major New Zealand banks, ANZ, ASB and Westpac, that it intends to issue legal proceedings over their sales of interest rate swap contracts to rural customers.

The Commission has advised the banks that in its view there is sufficient evidence that they may have breached sections 9, 11 and/ or 13 of the Fair Trading Act, and that it wishes to place the matter before the Court for its decision.

Commerce Commission Chairman Dr Mark Berry says the Commission aims to file proceedings in March 2014.

“This has been a very extensive and complex investigation, but that phase of it is almost at an end. We have advised the banks of our views that swaps were misrepresented to rural customers. I expect to have more talks with the banks about these views, and about the different facts that might apply to each of them, over the coming months,” said Dr Berry.

“Because court proceedings are in prospect, the Commission will not be commenting further at this time.”

The Commission is also considering the conduct of other institutions that have sold interest rate swaps.

The Commission encourages affected swap customers to contact the Commission on 0800 943 600.

Interest rate swaps are a financial derivative product that allows a borrower to manage the interest rate exposure on their borrowing.

Interest rate swaps were typically provided to large corporate and institutional customers, but from 2005 were offered by various banks to rural customers throughout New Zealand.

In August 2012 the Commission began enquiring into whether interest rate swaps were misleadingly marketed from 2005.

Federated Farmers welcomes the news:

“Having fielded calls from concerned farmers over recent years, we formally wrote to the Commerce Commission in November 2012 requesting that they look into the selling of interest rate swaps,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Now we have the news that the Commission has found there is a case to be answered under the Fair Trading Act.  Legal proceedings are to be filed in the New Year against ANZ Bank, ASB and Westpac.

“Some of the debt instruments sold to farmers have been highly complicated to say the least.  In both 2009 and 2010, we mentioned problems with swaps in various submissions, including to the Opposition’s Banking Inquiry and the Review of the Banking Code of Practice.

“This was why we felt the Commerce Commission was best placed to properly investigate them and its decision today vindicates this faith.

“The Commission looked at swaps from the perspective of the Fair Trading Act 1986.  This includes misleading and deceptive conduct in trade such as false and misleading representations.

“In this case the Commission is looking at potential breaches of sections 9, 11 and/or 13.

“Federated Farmers supports the Commerce Commission in wanting to hear from farmers adversely affected by swaps.  They can contact the Commission on 0800 943 600.

“We believe the case, when it comes before the Courts, will help to resolve what has been controversial to say the least.  It will also be a good opportunity to remind the entire financial industry of its wider obligations,” Mr Wills concluded.

NBR reports that about $8 billion of rural swaps loans were made.

They were sold without full information being given to customers, at least some of whom felt pressured to take them.

A lot of farmers lost a lot of money with swaps and some lost their farms.


Rural round-up

December 6, 2013

Farmers keen to come clean – Bruce Wills:

Federated Farmers surprised some people by welcoming Dr Jan Wright’s report, Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution.  Before Dr Wright released it, she kindly gave us a briefing and that tells me we are not only trustworthy but also seen by her as a positive influencer.  This didn’t go unnoticed and the words of the Otago Daily Times’ editor deserve repeating:

  “…Farmers are making attempts to address the negative impacts of their operations and know their future livelihoods rely on looking after the land. But many mitigation efforts, such as riparian planting, are not effective at controlling nitrogen run -off, particularly in some catchment areas and soil types, and a rethink is needed – and our scientists and researchers play a vital part in that, alongside policymakers and farming industry heavy weights.  There is an increasing goodwill and acknowledgement that all parties need to work together to address issues. Federated Farmers is welcoming the report, with environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie saying the effects on water are “not a future we’d like to be a part of”, significant research is being put into finding solutions and progress is being made…”

In our ongoing discussion about water, we must not forget that New Zealand has some of the best quality water on earth. . .

Lincoln University announces LincolnSheep for education, training and research in sheep farming:

Lincoln University is converting 20 hectares of its farmland at its Te Waihora campus into a facility for teaching and researching sheep breeding and intensive lamb finishing. The land was previously used as the site for the South Island Field Days.

The new site for LincolnSheep will use 15 hectares for a partially-irrigated ‘technology farm’ as a summer-safe sheep breeding unit. The unit will be used to investigate and demonstrate current and future on-farm technologies in the management of sheep, hogget and lamb selection, health, welfare and production, with the ultimate aim of maximising productivity and profitability for sheep farming. . .

More iwi want agriculture help from Lincoln University:

Lincoln University says more and more iwi are wanting to set up agriculture partnerships with the tertiary provider.

It has agreements with tribes such as Ngai Tahu in the South Island, as well as Northland iwi, Ngapuhi and Ngati Koroki Kahukura and Ngati Haua in Waikato.

In Waikato, the university and the two Tainui tribes have outlined an agreement to create an agricultural training centre, and aim to create a new farm certificate course. . .

Push to eradicate genetic disease within four years:

Since its introduction into New Zealand in the early 1990s, the Texel sheep has grown to become one of this country’s key breeds in the national flock, both as a terminal sire and as part of a maternal flock.

“Its high meat yield muscling and hardiness has meant it is a first choice for many sheep farmers,” says Alistair McLeod, Chairman of the New Zealand Texel Breed Committee. “We are always looking at improving and advancing our breed for the commercial sheep farmer, so when we identified a genetic disorder we quickly looked at ways to test for it and eradicate it.” . . .

 

 

Researchers back Canterbury stubble burning - Tim Cronshaw:

The burn-off of stubble from harvested crops may be little used overseas, but researchers are convinced of its value for Canterbury arable farming.

Stubble burning demonstration plots were a talking point for managing crop rotations at the Foundation for Arable Research’s (Far) Arable Research in Action field day at Chertsey on Wednesday.

Research and extension director Nick Poole said the plots were set up to show why stubble burning was important in Canterbury, especially to growers of small seed crops. . .

UK wheat prices to fall, boding well for dairy:

 UK growers should prepare for a further fall in wheat prices – but not enough to put livestock producers in profit, in contrast with their dairy peers, HSBC said. 

The bank – which a year ago predicted, broadly correctly, a drop to £165 a tonne in wheat prices this year, from £227 a tonne at the time – said that values will fall further next year, to £150 a tonne.

While the UK itself reaped a relatively small harvest this year, of 12.1m tonnes, after persistent rains hampered autumn sowings, the world picture for cereals supplies has improved, HSBC said, quoting estimates from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that stocks, compared with use, has risen to an 11-year high. . .


Rural round-up

December 5, 2013

Trade access into Peru great news for meat industry:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming the approval of New Zealand meat exports to enter Peru.

Peruvian authority SENASA has approved the listing of all New Zealand exporters currently interested in exporting beef, sheep meat and offal into the country. The listings are valid for three years and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has the option to request the addition of further exporters.

“This approval to export beef and sheep products to Peru is great news for the meat industry. It gives our exporters access to a market with a value (based on 2011 imports) of at least US$19 million, with significant potential for growth.

“This is more good news, following the Chinese Taipei economic agreement which will phase out beef tariffs in 2015. . .

Trust backed for taking court action – Marie Taylor:

The courts should throw the book at anyone causing damage to covenanted land, Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says.

Wills was speaking after the QEII National Trust decided to take a Canterbury dairy farmer to court, alleging damage to covenanted kanuka woodland.

Netherlands Holdings director Roelof Wobben is alleged to have cleared 2.5ha of protected kanuka woodland on his dairy runoff just north of Eyrewell Forest to create room for irrigators. . .

Farmers asked to be on watch after more Chilean Needle Grass found:

Farmers and landowners are being asked to keep an eye out for the Chilean Needle Grass (CNG) plant pest which flowers and seeds at this time of year.

The number of affected sites has risen to 14 in recent weeks after plants were found on roadsides near known sites and two plants were found on a property adjoining an affected site.

Environment Canterbury is working to prevent further spreading of the pest, which has the potential to infest an estimated 15 million hectares on the east coasts of the north and south islands. . .

How onions recognise when to bulb:

New research will help to breed new onions tailored to grow in specific conditions.

Onions, the third largest vegetable crop in the world, form a bulb in response to lengthening days, however the molecular mechanisms controlling this response were not previously known. Research undertaken by Plant & Food Research and the University of Otago has identified the gene controlling bulb development, the first step in discovering genetic markers that can be used as tools to screen conventional breeding programmes for new onion varieties with the right genetic profile.

The research is published in the prestigious online journal Nature Communications with related research published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics. . .

Ballance passes price benefit to farmers:

Farmers stand to benefit from a global oversupply of plant nutrients and weak international demand, with Ballance Agri-Nutrients leading the domestic market down in its latest round of price cuts.

Ballance is reducing the price on many of its fertiliser nutrients on Friday 6 December, with a significant price reduction for potash to follow in the New Year.

The price reductions follow an earlier cut made in July to help farmers get a head start with spring nutrient applications. . .

Kiwi Manufacturer Answers Call for Healthier Meat Products for Children:

One of New Zealand’s leading food manufacturers has created a new range of meat products for kids with a view to securing the all important children’s meal market share.

Beak NZ, a New Zealand operated company has launched an innovative range of sausages – including a Watties tomato sauce flavoured sausage, meatballs and burger patties to appeal to both parents and children alike.

The products which contain herbs, spices and premium beef or chicken are designed to appeal to the growing number of families who are asking for a more natural meat product. . .


Rural round-up

November 28, 2013

Good Environmental Management No Add-On, Say Farming Ambassadors:

“Sustainability must be built into everyday farming, not bolted on”, was one of the key messages delivered to agribusiness and industry leaders by Canterbury farming ambassadors Roz and Craige Mackenzie.

National Winners of the 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the Mackenzies recently met with key industry stakeholders to promote good environmental practices and swap ideas on how to improve environmental management.

The five-day trip in November was organised by the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust and included an address to the Primary Production Select Committee.

The Mackenzies also met with sponsors of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and were impressed with how these organisations had taken the sustainability message to heart. . .

Equity partnership options to buy into a farm:

Equity partnerships offer an opportunity for young farmers and smaller investors to take part in the rise in farm values driven by high dairy payouts and continuing confidence in the long-term future of agriculture, says Justin Geddes, Crowe Horwath’s Dunedin-based Principal.

“Equity partnerships are a great vehicle to grow your own wealth for both farmers and investors,” said Mr Geddes.

The capital cost of running an economic farm unit runs to several million dollars, and one of the pressing issues facing the rural sector is how to get young farmers into farm ownership. . .

Fonterra Australia finalises purchase of Tamar Valley Dairy assets:

Fonterra Australia today finalised the purchase of the assets of Tasmanian yoghurt business, Tamar Valley Dairy. The Tamar Valley Dairy business is now under full Fonterra ownership and management.

Under the terms of the sale, Fonterra has acquired the processing equipment, the related services, and intellectual property and trademark for the Tamar Valley Dairy brand. Fonterra worked closely with Deloitte Restructuring Services to achieve the completed sale.

Importantly, 122 positions of the Tamar Valley Dairy workforce will now transition to Fonterra to ensure the right skill-set and expertise are available to ensure continuity of operations and the long-term sustainability of the business. Regrettably, 18 roles are not required and have been made redundant by the Administrator. . .

Fonterra Wins National Accounting Award:

Two of Fonterra’s senior finance managers picked up the 2013 Innovation of the Year Award at last night’s New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants Awards in Auckland.

Patrice Wynen, Director, Finance Delivery Centre, and Ken Stephens, General Manager Reporting Services, were recognised for a new month-end financial acceleration projects that reduced Fonterra’s group reporting time by 50 per cent.

Through the project, Fonterra’s group month-end financial close was reduced from six days down to just three. The reduction was achieved in less than eight months and without any form of technology change. . . .

Comvita posts 1H loss of $790k on margin squeeze - Paul McBeth:

Comvita, which makes health products from Manuka honey, reported a first-half small loss as its margins were squeezed by expensive honey and as trading conditions in Australia and the UK were stretched by stiff competition.

The Te Puke-based company made a loss of $790,000, or 2.7 cents per share, in the six months ended Sept. 30, from a profit of $2.39 million, or 7.95 cents, a year earlier, it said in a statement. Sales fell 4.6 percent to $43.4 million.

That was in line with guidance last month, and Comvita affirmed its annual forecast to beat last year’s profit of $7.4 million and sales of $103.5 million, with about 60 percent of revenue expected to come in the second half. . .

ANZ Young Farmer Contest sets sights on Taupo:

The ANZ Young Farmer Contest is pleased to announce the 2015 Grand Final events will be held in Taupo.

The decision comes after a unanimous vote by the ANZ Young Farmer Contest Management Committee.

The ANZ Young Farmer Contest alternates between the North Island and the South Island each year. This year it was held in Auckland and the upcoming 2014 Grand Final will be in Christchurch, 3-5 July.

“After three Grand Finals based in larger metropolitan areas, I think the 2015 ANZ Young Farmer Contest Grand Final hosted in an increasingly agricultural area will go down as one of the most exciting and well-run events in the history of New Zealand Young Farmers,” said Terry Copeland, New Zealand Young Farmers CEO. . .

Trust announces Christmas present for the New Zealand wine industry:

Directors of Wine Competition Ltd, the company that owns and organises the Spiegelau International Wine Competition and Marlborough Wine Show, have established a Trust to fund initiatives designed to enhance the success of the New Zealand wine industry.

Margaret Cresswell and Belinda Jackson established Wine Competition Ltd in 2011as an independent company that owns and organises wine competitions and associated events in New Zealand. Knowing that there were a significant number of unopened bottles following the judging process, the pair decided to establish a Trust to which these bottles were donated. The Trust then auctions the wine with the objective of returning the ensuing funds to the industry.

Trustee, Belinda Jackson explains, “Producers pay to submit their wines for the judging process and send us samples. Though we request the least number possible – just three bottles, we feel strongly that those not used should be returned to the industry somehow.” She continues, “The easiest way is to monetise them and then offer that money back in the form of funding for industry grants and scholarships.” . . .

Queenstown trophy station on market - Chris Hutching:

Sothebys in Queenstown is marketing Homestead Bay overlooking Lake Wakatipu on Remarkables Station next to Jack’s Point golf resort.

The trophy property has been owned by three generations of the Jardine family after being founded in 1861 by Queenstown’s first European settler William Rees. The 45ha site comes with development potential for a resort village plus 27 less intensive building sites.

The station is a working farm that descends down terraces to the lake. . . .

Exporting New Zealand forward:

Federated Farmers is buoyed by surging primary exports that has turned in the lowest trade deficit for an October month since the mid-1990s.

“These export trade figures when coupled with the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research’s outlook for 2014 tells me we are turning the corner,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“The primary industries have got our collective foot to the floor and in the month of October by value alone, dairy exports surged an incredible 84.7 percent, followed by logs (26.2 percent), red meat (9.4 percent), fish (5.7 percent) and wine (3.2 percent).

“Of our big six primary exports fruit admittedly did go backwards but the trend overall is positive. . .

NZ winery first in southern hemisphere to trade with bitcoin:

A small high-end winery in North Canterbury is set to become the first wine business in the southern hemisphere to accept bitcoin payment to make transactions easier for its strong domestic and international customer base.

Pyramid Valley Vineyards, Waikairi, produces collectable wines in New Zealand and sees the new currency as a development in line with its innovative approach to business.

“It’s exciting times we live in and bitcoin is a movement that is gaining huge international traction as a currency that is borderless,” says Caine Thompson, managing director of Pyramid Valley. “We’re increasingly getting requests from our international customers to be able to pay with bitcoin, particularly for our exclusive Home Collection wines. They don’t want to be worried about exchange rates and costly transaction fees.” . . .

Record year as NZ Racing Board continues transformation:

At the NZ Racing Board AGM, held at the Head Office in Wellington today, the NZ Racing Board reflected on a record-breaking financial year and outlined its ambitious vision and goals for the future.

Financial achievements in 2013 included a record turnover of $1,956.8m, and record distributions of $147.7m to the racing industry and sporting organisations.

Speaking at the AGM, NZ Racing Board Chair Glenda Hughes said the organisation and the industry still faced significant challenges, and ongoing transformation and a collaborative approach is key to further, sustained success for an industry that contributes almost 1% of GDP. . .


Keep it clean

November 20, 2013

Keep it Clean this was the message from Bruce Wills in his address to Federated Farmers 2013 National Council:

. . . It will not come as a surprise that Federated Farmers biggest area of work and advocacy continues to be water. How we use it more efficiently whilst maintaining and improving its quality.

Most of our towns and cities store water to ensure their residents don’t run out of this valuable resource during the dry summer months. We need to get better at applying this same logic to our rural areas through water storage. The big challenge is how we can continue to grow farming but to do this with less impact upon the environment.

Why is storing water for urban use accepted but storing it for agriculture attracts so much opposition?

. . . This water debate is complex and it will take time.

The farming community must remain a leader in this debate. I want to acknowledge Ian and our respected water policy team for the good work they continue to do in this area.

Water does not instantly degrade but reflects cumulative actions over a period of time. Those actions may be farm related, they may be industrial and in some instances, they may be natural.

The Otago Regional Council found seagulls were to blame for low water quality in the Kakanui River.

Getting good science is the starting point for the rational discussion we sometimes haven’t held when it comes to water. In two days time, Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, will release her much anticipated water quality report.

Parts of this report, frankly, will not be kind to agriculture but to improve we all need to understand what the problem is, what the science is telling us and then move to sensible solutions. We need to ask our communities what their aspirations are for water and what they are prepared to pay economically, socially and culturally.

As farmers, we have perhaps been guilty in the past of farming in denial about the nutrients we lose from our farms. This has changed thanks to the Land & Water Forum process. Diffuse nitrogen loss to water, as opposed to the direct loss you typically see in political cartoons, represents our biggest challenge but also, our biggest opportunity.

There is far greater recognition from farmers of the impact their practices can have on water and far greater effort into reducing it.

I have commented previously about my recent learning’s from World Water Week in Sweden. Compared to the rest of the world, New Zealand is in a lucky and privileged position when it comes to both the quantity and quality of our water.

It worries me that as a country we risk beating ourselves up around our water concerns. Of course we can and must do better but we do need to keep things in perspective.

The world is a hungry and growing place with an amazing 2.3 billion more stomachs due to join the human race between now and the year 2050. It is the sale of our food and primary commodities which helps to pay much of this country’s bills. Farmers share the aspiration to live in a prosperous and beautiful country with bountiful clean water for all.

This is the challenge of our time and I can confidently report that we are making steady progress. . .

Comparing our water standards with those in other countries isn’t an excuse to accept less than optimal practices here or rest on our laurels where we’re getting it right.

Discussion on what needs to be improved and how to do it must be based on science and an understanding of what can be done and what that will cost.


Rural round-up

November 17, 2013

Materials made from natural New Zealand wool go hi-tech in China:

With concern growing in China about the health risks from air pollution, a Kiwi start-up is expecting keen interest in its wool-based filtration products when it exhibits at the China High-Tech Fair.

Auckland-based Texus Fibre specialises in next generation materials which harness wool’s outstanding natural functionality for use in a range of products. An early application for its technology is personal particulate respirators and filters for use in industry.

“Around the world, and particularly in China, people are increasingly worried about the increase in the quantity and toxicity of dust,” says Texus Fibre founder and director Nick Davenport. “The problem has grown to the point that the World Health Organisation recently classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. . .

Quad code urged for rural sector – Richard Rennie:

An experienced farm-safety tutor is urging the farming sector to develop a code of practice for quad-bike use to enforce safer use by farmers and their staff.

Northland FarmSafe instructor Robin Grieve’s patch was the focus of a coronial report on quad-bike deaths, prompted by a spate of accidents in 2010 and 2011. . . .

Merger divides co-op hopefuls – Tim Fulton:

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) director candidate Dan Jex-Blake says he will stand down after his first three years on the board if he doesn’t believe a merger of SFF and Alliance Group is likely by then.

Another candidate to come out of the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group, former chairman Richard Young, who is also standing for SFF, was not so definitive.

“I’d be silly to say I’m not standing on a platform for industry change around consolidation,” Young said. . .

Evening markets: biofuels reforms hammer final nail into soy – Agrimoney:

Which is more important for agricultural commodity investors – data on US exports, or on domestic demand? 

On the evidence of Friday’s performance in soybeans, trade statistics proved the more influential, hands down. 

The National Oilseed Processors Association came in with some strong data on the US soybean crush in October, pegging it 157.1m bushels – well above market expectations of a 154.3m-bushel result.  As an extra fillip, soyoil stocks were lower than expected too, at 1.36bn pounds, compared with a forecast 1.49bn pounds. . .

Eliminate the [water] bugs – Willy Leferink:

I am writing this from Vietnam as I look at how they farm.  For a communist country it seems pretty entrepreneurial but that’s come out of reality versus theory.  After reunification, in 1976, the purists collectivised rice production and collapsed output.  One decade later, Vietnam allowed its farmers to grow and sell their own rice, albeit, within boundaries.   Today however, Vietnam has become the World’s No. 1 rice exporter.

When it comes to rice production water is critical as it is back in New Zealand.

In our many discussions about water quality we often overlook the fact that livestock need good quality drinking water too.  Cows are mammals just like humans so good water is in farming’s own self-interest.  Given the marvels of modern communication, I managed to catch One News’ coverage of the proposed amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. 

It may sound dry but it has massive implications for all Kiwis. . .

One of those years - Angela Dorie:

Out here on the area farms it has been another case of “one of those years”.

Crops were hard to get in, with the cold and wet weather playing havoc with timing for many.

Early planted corn was stressed by too much cold and rain while some later planted fields struggled to mature before the first frost in early September.

Some crop land displayed its low spots with either stunted, yellowed growth or nothing at all.

The soy planting, done after the corn, seemed to go better and combining is now in full swing with many farmers extremely pleased with the yields. The corn will no doubt be a different story for some.

The hay harvest, for the third year in a row, proved to be difficult, especially for those who make the small square bales. The June rains didn’t leave enough good weather in a row to cut, dry and bale the 10,000 or so first cut bales we make yearly, so the harvest dragged on through July and well into August. . . .

Hot to trot farmer makes trotting history:

Federated Farmers is saluting the success of arable and sheep farmer, Ricky May, who made the history books yesterday in the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup.

“Becoming the most successful driver in 110 years, of the great race, takes a lot of talent and we are thrilled for Ricky who is a valued member of the Federation,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“It is humbling to see that even with the nation celebrating his success, when we spoke to him he was back out in the paddock spraying peas. . .


Making unpredicatble more predicatable

November 4, 2013

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills puts the case for irrigation:

The challenge with agriculture is that our industry is heavily reliant on factors that are out of our control. The weather, exchange rates and commodity prices are all very important parts of our business, but they are things we have little or no control over. The erratic nature of farming means an unpredictable economy for all New Zealanders. What the industry needs is the ability to harness the things we can control, to make the unpredictable more predictable.

I am talking about harnessing water. When the droughts come, it is tough on our industry; farmer’s battle dust and moisture deficits and the financial scars of serious droughts can be slow to heal. Even in town it is tough.  Weather patterns are changing we are told so we need to look at ways we can minimise the impacts of what may become increasingly regular dry spells.

After returning from World Water Week in Stockholm, where 2700 attendees came from across the globe, I quickly realised how lucky we are in New Zealand. As much rain falls here in a year as on the whole of Australia and we receive 2.5 times the rainfall of the United Kingdom, yet we let 95 percent  of this flow out to sea unused by man or animal. This astounded conference attendees who were envious of the quantity and overall quality of our water.

So why is it that harnessing and storing one of the very things that can save our bacon, when times are dry, is seen as a threat by some New Zealanders? Having a reliable source of water just makes sense and equally so, storing water in times of plenty and using in times of shortage is surely good business practice. In fact councils all over New Zealand do this to ensure reliable water for their urban residents. We have seen how it has turned provinces around, where water has created jobs and grown communities. Certainty and reliability makes for good business.  It concerns me to watch rural communities struggle during droughts as well as the lost opportunity of all this water running out to sea.

This year’s drought saw a trade deficit for the August quarter, a near one and a half-billion dollar fall in exports compared to the previous year. With farming earning well over half of New Zealand’s total export receipts all New Zealanders suffer when farming suffers. There is a trade off in everything we do and if trade declines we are all the poorer for it. As a trading nation we are dependent upon a hungry world to buy our food.

What keeps me awake at night is the uncertainty around whether we are able to keep up our food production with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion in the year 2050. Water is a key part of New Zealand meeting this growing demand for food.

It is critical that we maintain our reputation as reliable food producers and having reliable water sources is a key part of New Zealand harnessing a sustainable future.

North Otago used to suffer from the boom and bust cycle dependent on the weather.

Now we’ve got a critical mass of irrigation it’s not just farmers who are benefiting. It’s created more jobs on farm and in businesses which supply and service them and in the wider district and of course in Oamaru*.

Soils which used to blow away in nor westers are more stable too.

The wider economy has gained from increased export earnings.

It’s also enabling us to provide more food for a hungry world.

*That’s -  #gigatownoamaru which is seeking to be the fastest town in the Southern Hemisphere.

 


5 day rural post 3 day urban

October 23, 2013

The Updated Deed of Understanding between the government and New Zealand Post has agreed to retain rural mail deliveries at five a week but urban deliveries could go down to three a week.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams says changes were required to ensure the postal service remains viable.

Under the agreement reached between the Government and New Zealand Post, changes to the Deed will not apply until 30 June, 2015.

“Around the world postal volumes are declining. In New Zealand this is at a rate of about 8 per cent per annum,” Ms Adams says.

“It is clear that if changes are not made to the Deed, then significant and on-going government subsidisation in excess of $30 million per year may be required.

“The decision to update the Deed reflects the need to balance the immediate interests of postal users with the longer term need for greater flexibility for New Zealand Post, given the dramatic reduction in the volume of postal items over the past 11 years.

“From their peak in 2002 mail volumes have dropped considerably, with about 328 million fewer items being posted in 2013 compared to 2002.”

New Zealand Post had sought the flexibility to reduce the frequency of mail delivery for standard delivery letters to a minimum of three days per week nationwide.

However, the Government was concerned about the sustainability of rural delivery services and rural contractors in general through fewer deliver days.

“Through negotiations, I have secured agreement from New Zealand Post that it will limit any introduction of a minimum three-day delivery to only urban areas, maintaining five-day delivery in rural delivery areas.

We currently get mail six days a week unless it’s a long weekend when there’s no delivery on Saturdays and Mondays.

Newspapers will be grateful that five-day deliveries are to be maintained because in most rural areas papers are delivered with the mail. If deliveries reduced to three a week most people wouldn’t bother subscribing.

“It is important to note that three-day delivery is the minimum standard New Zealand Post must meet. This means that New Zealand Post may continue to provide a higher frequency of delivery in some non-rural areas.

“The minimum standards in the Deed only apply to basic or standard postal services. The Deed does not apply to other types of postal products or services such as express mail, courier post, parcel post or premium services such as Fast Post.”

Changes to the Deed will also require New Zealand Post to continue to maintain a retail network of at least 880 points of presence, but permit this to be comprised of self-service kiosks, well as physical postal outlets.

Of the 880 points of presence, New Zealand Post has agreed to maintain at least 240 outlets where customers can receive personal assistance from an employee or agent of New Zealand Post.

“This will give comfort to members of the public who may feel anxious at the prospect of the introduction of self-service kiosks.”

The 880 and 240 figures are unchanged from the current Deed, but the specifics in each case have been modified to meet current requirements.

The timeframe for implementing any changes will be a commercial decision for New Zealand Post, after 30 June, 2015.

Minimum service requirements for New Zealand Post are set out in the Deed of Understanding it signed with the Crown in 1998. The Deed has not been significantly reviewed since it was signed.

Federated Farmers welcomes the announcement.

“This is great news for rural people, as many businesses are still heavily reliant on a five day service,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers National President.

“New Zealand Post and the Government have clearly listened to our members concerns and we are pleased that they have recognised the uniqueness of the rural business model in their Deed of Understanding.

“Whilst technology is changing the way we communicate and eventually we will see a decline in postal deliveries, we are not there yet. There are still some 86,000 rural people off-line, where rural post is a daily fixture in the running of their business and household.

“We would like to thank all parties involved for highlighting the unique situation that rural New Zealand is in when it comes to postal delivery,” concluded Mr Wills.

Rural Women NZ is also pleased:

“In our submission, which Minister Amy Adams has acknowledged, we highlighted that the rural delivery is so much more than just a mail service and anything that threatened its sustainability would have widespread unintended consequences,” says Rural Women national president, Liz Evans.

“It is a wraparound distribution service that is part of the fabric that holds rural communities together.

“Our rural delivery contractors provide a lifeline, delivering supplies, repairs and spare parts, animal health remedies, medicines, and courier parcels.

People pay for these services but it would be more expensive and less regular if the rural delivery contractors weren’t able to provide them five days a week.

“The five day service ensures people are able to run their farming enterprises and other rural businesses effectively, even from remote locations.”

Rural delivery contractors also pick up mail and parcels, meaning that it’s feasible to run a production-based business from a rural location. These businesses breathe life into rural communities, as we have seen through our Enterprising Rural Women Awards. Rural Women NZ’s plea to preserve the existing rural delivery service was also based on the limitations of other communications facilities, that urban people take for granted.

“In many rural areas there is limited or no cellphone coverage and we are still dealing with dial-up broadband connections in many cases.”

The mail service is used a lot less than it used to be and the decline is likely to continue.

That decline will be hastened by NZ Post’s reduction in service.
Mail is much slower than it used to be and people are using alternatives because of that.
We used to get killing sheets in the mail but now we can’t rely on timely deliveries we’re getting them emailed.
There will always be some things that can’t be delivered electronically but as technology improves the need for mail services will drop.

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