Rural round-up

April 4, 2014

Fonterra Australia and Woolworths announce proposed new 10 year milk partnership for Victoria:

Fonterra Australia and Woolworths today announced that Fonterra Australia has been selected as the preferred supplier to process Woolworths Own Brand milk in Victoria for the next 10 years in a deal that is great for customers and farmers. The proposed long-term arrangement will give farmers certainty that will allow them to invest in their businesses with the confidence that they have a guaranteed buyer for their milk. Woolworths existing contracts were for a period of one year.

It also means that all Woolworths Own Brand milk sold in Victoria will be made and processed in Victoria, supporting local farmers and jobs in regional communities. . .

Farmers told to talk through differences - :

Environment Canterbury boss Dame Margaret Bazley says she is committed to working with farmers to resolve issues with the recently notified Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

“I think if you don’t get any other message from me, just know that we at ECan are absolutely committed to working with you to get a solution to these things,” she told high country farmers at a Federated Farmers field day in the Mackenzie Country.

She said the Government’s national policy statement for freshwater required all regional councils to set water quality limits and to have a process and timeframe to achieve that. . . .

Simpler Compliance needed - James Houghton:

Last week I was in the midst of New Zealand’s High Country, watching my son row in the Maadi Cup Regatta. As a Waikato dairy farmer in the midst of a drought, I drew some surprising parallels from the iconic landscape to Waikato’s usually lush pastures back home.

Driving through the vast barren landscape, with sleet coming at us horizontally, you cannot avoid the conclusion that the High Country farmers here in the South Island must be made of some hard stuff.  To farm down here is certainly not for the faint hearted, and requires big thinkers who can innovate the land into a viable business. Through the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998, High Country farmers have effectively lost the grazing rights to the top 60 percent of the Crown’s land to conservation, so the need for water has become a much more pressing issue. They need water to negotiate their farm through the loss in feed, another similarity we are also experiencing in the Waikato right now with our second drought in two years. . .

High Court rejects kiwifruit growers’ claim - Niko Kloeten:

Disgruntled kiwifruit growers have taken the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to court over the performance of a German company that owns Turners & Growers.

But a High Court judge has rejected their challenge to the OIO’s view that German company BayWa, which now owns 73 per cent of listed fruit and vegetable marketer Turners & Growers, had fulfilled its consent conditions.

The OIO, which is an arm of Land Information New Zealand, approved BayWa’s takeover of Turners & Growers in 2012. . .

Change aplenty on FarmIQ demonstration farm:

BEEF COWS are out, dairy grazers in and ewe condition a priority on the first FarmIQ demonstration farm to hold a field day this autumn.

“Historically a lot of emphasis went on fattening lambs,” Duncan Mackintosh of White Rock Mains told a field day audience of about 30 farmers and industry representatives late last month.

With hindsight, some of that was at the expense of ewe condition. Now, they routinely condition score the flock when yarded for other operations. . .

Body language can cause confusion – Anna Holland:

THERE SEEMS to be some confusion out there reading dog body language. 

 A couple of people who had watched a DVD about dog training remarked to me that the dogs looked scared of the trainer. I hadn’t seen it so couldn’t comment however I have since seen the DVD and I don’t think the dogs are scared.

Also, at my training days, I have had people remark that the dogs I am demonstrating with have their tails between their legs. It seems to concern the person more than the dog. Why?


CCC ‘incompetent’ – Bazley

June 8, 2013

Environment Canterbury head Dame Margaret Bazley says Christchurch City Council is a “totally incompetent organisation”.

. . . Documents obtained by The Press under the Official Information Act show the tension between the two councils over the delivery of transport infrastructure, particularly the city council’s delay in building a bus “superstop” at Northlands mall.

ECan chief executive Bill Bayfield wrote to his city council counterpart Tony Marryatt on December 10 last year saying it was “extremely disappointing” the superstop was not ready for a December 3 deadline.

The city council’s “inadequate provision of infrastructure” was undoing his staff’s work, Bayfield said.

A council staff member replied, accepting responsibility for the Northlands problems, saying: “Rather than offer excuses, I can confirm that the new infrastructure will be in place in Northlands by the end of February 2013.”

When this deadline was also missed, Dame Margaret weighed into the debate: “I have monitored the performance of the Christchurch City Council on the provision of these facilities… and have built up a picture of staff who tell lies, and of a totally incompetent organisation,” she wrote to Parker on April 16.

“Our staff have at all times worked collaboratively with your officers and have been given assurances that everything was in order, and progress was on track, when this was obviously not true.”

It was a “sad reflection on our supposed partnership” that even building a bus stop on time seemed beyond the city council, she said, and asked Parker to intervene. . .

Friends who are, or have been, trying to do business and rebuild homes in Christchurch tell stories of delays and frustrations which suggest that problems with the council aren’t restricted to this project.

The city has been devastated and faces a huge task in rebuilding.

The council plays a big part in ensuring the rebuild goes as smoothly as possible.

That requires people and systems designed to respond quickly and competently to minimise problems and maximise service.

The council needs a how can we help attitude backed by action for the good of the city and its people.

They and the country need the South Island’s biggest city rebuilt and back to its best as soon as possible.


Rural round-up

May 24, 2013

Agribusiness Innovation and Growth 2013:

New Zealand’s agritech sector is a $3 billion industry, generating export sales in excess of $700 million a year. Top players in the sector are gathering in Hamilton on the night before Fieldays for a mini-symposium on agribusiness and innovation. It’s a Universities New Zealand event, hosted by the University of Waikato on behalf of the University Commercialisation Offices of NZ (UCONZ), and it’s open to the public by online registration.

The keynote speakers will be the Minister for Economic Development Hon Steven Joyce, Wayne McNee, Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries, and Fonterra Nutrition’s Managing Director Sarah Kennedy. . .

Fieldays Innovations Centre brings to life Kiwi can-do attitude:

The Fieldays Innovation Centre Competition is the perfect forum for inventors to introduce their primary industry themed, ‘homegrown’ designs to a local and global audience.

By creating an opportunity for inventors to showcase their designs and prototypes, which are then critiqued by key industry leaders, it’s the ideal way for Kiwis to get past the first, crucial step to gaining commercial success in New Zealand and beyond.

With a serious prize pool available for inventors in the following categories; Grassroots, Launch NZ and International (covering local and global, individual and company entrants), they must wow judges to be in with a chance of winning financial and mentoring support. The goal: to establish their invention across local and global territories and gain commercial success. . . .

Fertiliser Company Helps Curb Pollution in Rural Red Zone:

A group of South Island farmers have rallied together to improve their environmental practises and protect their land and waterways.

Environment Canterbury (ECAN) has declared the Upper Waitaki region a red zone because the nutrient levels in the Ahuriri River are too high.

At a farm field day organised by fertiliser and lime company,Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate Ltd, ECAN told farmers in the Ahuriri Valley that the community wants to see clean water in local rivers and streams and farmers need to better manage their nutrient application. . .

‘Farmy Army’s’ John Hartnell Honoured:

John Hartnell, the driving force behind Federated Farmers’ ‘Farmy Army’, received the New Zealand Order of Merit today.

Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, John organised farmers from around the region, now coined the ‘Farmy Army’, to assist in clearing liquefaction, delivering food parcels and providing general assistance to vulnerable families.

“It is a real honour to be recognised in this way by the Governor General, I am truly humbled,” says John. . .

Exports to China back on track:

Federated Farmers is hugely relieved the meat export impasse in China has been resolved, but believes New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) need to take a hard look in the mirror.

“Can we say thank you to the Minister, our trade officials and the Chinese authorities for solving a big problem,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President and its trade spokesperson.

“China is our largest market for lamb by volume and in the first quarter of 2013, surpassed Britain in terms of value for the first time ever. This is what was at stake so it is embarrassing to discover the fault lay here in New Zealand.

“It feels as if we have been ankle-tapped by a member of our own team. . .

MIE secures farmer mandate for meat industry reform:

A week after meetings in Te Kuiti and Gisborne, Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) has secured a farmer mandate to pursue a value and growing meat industry.

“Having concluded a series of meetings from Gore to Gisborne, MIE now has the confidence to push forward with red meat industry reform,” says Richard Young, Meat Industry Excellence chairman.

“Farmers realise there must be change in our industry if we are to arrest the loss of farms and farmers to other land uses, like dairying and these days, forestry. The only way you achieve this is to make red meat an attractive commercial proposition.

“That is why all industry stakeholders need to be part of the positive change our industry is desperately crying out for. Something MIE is here to champion. . .

New president for Federated Farmers Rotorua-Taupo:

Following Federated Farmers Rotorua-Taupo Annual General Meeting, Alan Wills has been elected provincial president following the retirement of Neil Heather.

“What Neil has done over the past few years will be a hard act to follow but I shall give it my best,” says Alan Wills, Federated Farmers Rotorua-Taupo provincial president.

“The positive contribution made by Federated Farmers and Neil is exemplified by the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective. Known as the Otorua Accord, this was signed in February between Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Te Arawa and our councils. . .

New Technology to Boost Sustainable Fisheries Research:

 Deep sea technology that will provide some of the world’s most accurate and useful marine sustainability research is being launched today.

In a world-first, New Zealand fishing company Sealord has invested more than $750,000 in a new multi-frequency Acoustic Optical System (AOS).

At an event on-board Thomas Harrison, prior to the vessel taking the new equipment on its first sea-trial, Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy launched the new AOS which will provide a boost to the science that contributes to New Zealand’s world recognised Quota Management System. . .

Dollar Pushes up Local Wool Prices:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that the local market lifted significantly for the 10,400 bales on offer at the South Island sale this week. The weakening NZ dollar, particularly against the US dollar which was down 4.97 percent compared to the last sale on 9th May and the weighted currency indicator down 3.91 percent was the principal market influence. This was supported by recent strong purchasing interest and a seasonal limited wool supply.

Mr Dawson advises that a nominal offering of Mid Micron Fleece were firm to 3 percent dearer. . .


Rural round-up

April 23, 2013
Lies, damned lies and statistics or historical facts about sheepmeat – Allan Barber:

A brief comparison of sheepmeat and milk solids prices since 1991 throws up some interesting facts. These give the lie to the belief that the dairy industry is consistently more profitable than the sheep sector.

The statement that there are three kinds of lie – lies, damned lies and statistics – is often attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, 19th century British Prime Minister, but it was popularised by Mark Twain. Students of two of this country’s best known (and generally most profitable) agricultural commodities may find it hard to believe, but you can’t really argue with the facts.

In 1991 soon after I started my agricultural career in the stock and station industry before moving to the meat industry two years later, the price of lamb hit a low point of $14 a lamb; mutton was even worse, being down around $4 a ewe at the meat plant. In contrast the 1991 dairy payout was $3.40 per kilo of milk solids. . .

Committees starting point for law – Tim Fulton:

Environment Canterbury is assuring the public the plans it is generating in land and water committees won’t be obliterated by the Resource Management Act process. Tim Fulton examines what Hurunui-Waiau’s ground-breaking process means for other catchments.

Cantabrians have heard a lot about the exhaustive toil of their zone committees.

They have also had a sense that most of the recommendations will be merged into law.

The Hurunui-Waiau zone committee is the first to have its recommendations to a hearing panel measured against a Resource Management Act-based regional river plan. . .

My new job and youth employment - Milking on the Moove:

I’ve decide to trial a video blog, simply because I don’t seem to have much time to write a blog post any more.

So when I’m busy I’ll just talk about whats on my mind for 5 minutes and just post the video.

I’ll be honest and say I’m a little nervous about posting the video. I’ve followed people on blogs or read their books etc and formed an opinion about the person based on what they have written. . .

A cow portrait for the neighbours – Moon Over Martinborough:

When our neighbors John and Aussie Bronwyn announced that they were selling their property and moving away, CJ and I were mortified. More than anyone, those two have taught us how to live on 20 acres. How could they abandon us?

Aussie Bronwyn is our High Priestess of Chicken Wisdom. John lets CJ borrow and break his tractor on a regular basis. And every Tuesday we spend wild evenings with them – playing cards, accusing each other of cheating, and heading home to bed by 8:30pm. . .

The sun is up and so is the sparky (or the day began pear shaped) – Milk Maid Marian:

Dairy cows are rounded up before dawn but, today, they slept in. We had a bit of a disaster in the dairy last night that would have meant the girls missed breakfast. That certainly would not do, so while they waited for the sparky to weave his magic in the grain auger control box, this is how the cows enjoyed watching the sunrise. . .


Rural round-up

April 21, 2013

New water use plan for Canterbury – Annette Lunn:

A new water plan will allow more land to be irrigated in Canterbury – but has set strict limits on the amount of phosphorus in the waterways.

Environment Canterbury has accepted recommendations in the Hurunui and Waiau River Regional Plan after months of public consultation.

The plan allows 70,000 more hectares of land to be irrigated. . .

Take good care of your farming mates - Pasture to Profit:

This week on Twitter there was a Multi-Nation discussion and concern about “farmers being in dark places” as a result of stress.
Extreme weather events in many countries including Ireland, UK, West Australia and New Zealand are putting farmers under immense stress. Stress about money, feed availability and the costs of buying in expensive feed when pasture is not growing. 
Hell it’s tough! . . .

Inspirational Young Farmers Win Supreme Title in 2013 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

An innovative and hard-working young couple has collected the Supreme Award in the 2013 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Central Wairarapa farmers Michael and Karen Williams received the award at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 18, 2013.

Their 224ha arable, lamb finishing and beef unit, Ahiaruhe Farm, was described by BFEA judges as a very well organised business “run by an inspirational young couple”.

The Williams have immense passion for their farming operation, applying considerable business acumen to everyday decisions, judges said. . .

Gloves off in CAP reform:- Douglas MacSkimming:

THE GLOVES are off and the fight is on to secure the best possible deal for Scotland’s farmers in the CAP reform package.

This was the message from Rural Affairs CabSec Richard Lochhead, who this week outlined the wishlist he would pursue in the last push to agree a reform deal by the end of June.
Addressing a CAP modelling conference in Edinburgh, on Wednesday, Mr Lochhead stressed: “The negotiations aren’t over – we still have the opportunity to fight for Scotland’s remaining demands.
“Like a level playing field on coupled payments – we want to see 15% for all member states, not just for some. Like ensuring that the national reserve rules will help new entrants of all ages, not just those under 40. . .

The Mysterious Mr Black: A farm story (bit of a true story bit of a yarn) – Mad Bush Farm:

When you’re just a kid of five or six years old, things are always larger than life. It took bravery to venture into the old chicken houses on the farm next door. They made for a ramshackle collection of buildings, slightly on a lean, with rusted corrugated iron,  the timbers full of dry rot. Inside the groaning slowly collapsing sheds, were the old nesting boxes, some with eggs still in place, the hens that had laid them long since vanished. I vaguely recall the flocks of White Leghorn hens out in the paddocks foraging away for their feed of grubs and insects between the blades of long rich dairy grass, where once cows had grazed. They had long since gone as well and the walk through milking shed had been abandoned to the elements.

All kids like to venture into places they’re not supposed to go into. That’s the fun of it, doing something you’re not supposed to do, and go looking where you shouldn’t. . .

Pregnant sheep survives 11 days under snow at Scottish farm:

A pregnant sheep who survived 11 days buried under snow at a farm in south west Scotland is on the road to recovery.

The animal is already walking around and eating after its ordeal and was one of only four sheep that managed to survive.

It has even gained some notoriety for managing to stay alive, with thousands of Facebook users ‘liking’ a post that brought news of its amazing feat.

Young farmer Stuart Mactier spoke of his excitement at finding the ewe alive. . .

From The Farmacy:

Photo


Rural round-up

February 5, 2013

ECann Rakaia River recommendation accepted:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Government has accepted Environment Canterbury’s recommendation to change the water conservation order that covers the Rakaia River.

The change will allow TrustPower to release water from Lake Coleridge for irrigation when the river is low, increasing the reliability of the water supply.

“Environment Canterbury’s report and recommendation is a good example of both environmental considerations and the needs of the farming community being taken into account,” Mr Brownlee says. . .

Why wash clean linen in public – Alan Emerson:

Farming is certainly in the mainstream media. 

Most outlets are covering the DCD saga and they weren’t helped by some woolly statements from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Fonterra.

I thought the two fertiliser co-operatives, Ballance and Ravensdown, handled the issue well, with their media releases being factual and unemotive. Both withdrew their DCD product and that, in my opinion, should have been the end of the story.

The issue is simple – DCD is safe. It has been around since the 1920s and used in its current form since 1981 and that is the problem.

Because it isn’t a new product but an adaption of an existing chemical, it is not classified under the international Codex Alimentarium. For that reason there is no minimum or maximum allowable level.

The problem is technical and procedural – it is not a chemical or health issue. Googling DCD you can identify all the many countries using it. You can also read glowing references about the product’s ability to increase yields in tomatoes, wheat, barley, rice and grass. . .

Lessons learned on managing perception – Alan Williams:

THE DCD issue has thrown up some lessons on how to manage market perceptions when the debate gets away from the science, Ministry for Primary Industries deputy director general (Standards) Carol Barnao says.

MPI’s risk assessment team discovered quickly there were no food safety concerns from traces of DCD found in whole milk powder, but the time taken for action was seen by some people as too slow and the presence of an unexpected compound was linked with tainted food in some markets.

More than three months passed between Fonterra’s product testing and the withdrawal from the market of the fertilisers containing DCD.

If there had been food safety concerns action would have happened much sooner, Barnao said.

Working groups were set up as soon as MPI was alerted in early November but it took time to complete the testing methodology and the why, when, and how of what happened, she said. . .

Happy to break new ground - Hannah Lynch:

Primary industries might be getting a new minister, but it’s in the associate role where a woman will be getting to make a mark for the first time. Hannah Lynch reports from Parliament.

The first woman appointed to a ministerial role in agriculture is not afraid of bringing a touch of femininity to the job, revealing she wears high-heeled boots on the family farm. 

Jo Goodhew has just been made Associate Primary Industries Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle that elevated the previous associate, Nathan Guy, into the main role.

“It is exciting but it is part of the general trend we are seeing where women who have the right skills are doing anything,” Goodhew said. 

“Women are going into roles that were previously held by men but now it’s just recognition that if you have got the skills it doesn’t matter what gender you are.”  . . .

MyFarm expanding to sheep and beef farms – Hugh Stringleman:

MyFarm intends to use its farm ownership syndication model for sheep and beef farms as well as dairy farms.

It put together one sheep and beef farm syndicate in 2010, for Kaiangaroa farm east of Taihape, and during this year will offer several more.

MyFarm director Andrew Watters would not specify the locations but gave parameters for the suitable properties and regions.

They would be mainly sheep-breeding and lamb-finishing properties, with beef cattle only additional. . .

Farmers Preparing to Steak Their Claim :

Farmers across the country are selecting their entries for the 2013 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin.

The competition to find the country’s most tender and tasty steak is entering its 11th year and is keenly contested nationwide.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO, Dr Scott Champion, says the competition is taken very seriously and winning has become a badge of honour.

“The Steak of Origin rewards farmers for their efforts and showcases the skill in the New Zealand beef farming industry,” says Champion. . .

Freshman Sire Highlights Final Day of Karaka 2013:

New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2013 National Yearling Sales Series has drawn to a close today at Karaka with the final 212 yearlings of the Festival Sale concluding a bumper seven days of selling that has seen a total of 1021 lots traded for $72,387,700.

For the third day in a row Westbury Stud’s first season sire Swiss Ace (Secret Savings) provided the top price of the day, this time it was the colt at Lot 1353 from the four-time winning Stravinsky mare Poetic Music bought by Rogerson Bloodstock for $95,000.
1353 web
Top lot of the day the Swiss Ace colt (Lot 1353) purchased by Rogerson Bloodstock for $95,000

“He was the nicest horse here today and he proved that because he was the top lot of the day.

http://www.fwplus.co.nz/article/alternative-view-why-wash-clean-linen-in-public?p=6


Rural round-up

January 7, 2013

Rabbit rise may bring 1080 response – Gerald Piddock:

Environment Canterbury’s annual count shows that rabbit numbers are on the rise in the Mackenzie Basin and Omarama.

The regional council monitors rabbit trends every year and the latest draft analysis showed a noticeable increase of rabbits in the Mackenzie Basin, eastern Mackenzie around Haldon Rd and in Omarama.

ECan’s biosecurity team leader, Brent Glentworth, expected there would be some large 1080 operations this summer, particularly on the eastern side of the Mackenzie, as land owners battle to keep rabbit numbers down. . .

UK biofuels influence NZ wheats:

European, notably UK, breeding programmes, growers at PGW’s agronomy group field day last week heard.

 Europe is normally a regular exporter of wheat, but three massive biofuel plants have created an extra 2mt of demand for wheat, preferably high starch soft milling types that maximise ethanol yield, Limagrain’s UK director of sales and New Zealand coordinator, Alastair Moore (pictured), explained.

“We’re seeing quite a drive to the soft wheat end and a lot of the new varieties recommended [in the UK] were in that category.” . .

Insecticide removal would hit crops hard – Gerald Piddock:

Seed and cereal farmers face a major risk to their productivity and profitability from the removal of organophosphate insecticides from the market.

Current control practices used by farmers, particularly during crop establishment rely heavily on organophosphates which are currently the subject of a review and re-regulation by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Organophosphate insecticides are used by farmers to control grass grub, one of the country’s most destructive plant pests. . .

Van der Heyden works till end:

OUTGOING FONTERRA chairman Henry van der Heyden will be using the next five months as a director to help execute the co-op’s strategy refresh.

Van der Heyden is defending his decision to stay on the board after relinquishing the chairmanship to John Wilson. He says the decision has been taken in the interest of the co-op. Some shareholders have questioned the decision.
Van der Heyden says he has always done what is right for Fonterra. . .

Kirkwood takes vote for council – Gerald Piddock:

Oamaru dairy farmer Greg Kirkwood is the new Fonterra Shareholders councillor for ward 32 in Southern Canterbury.

Mr Kirkwood was elected to the council ahead of Geraldine dairy farmer Ad Hendriks.

He takes over from Desiree Reid, who retired from the position by rotation.

Mr Kirkwood said he put his name forward for the Shareholders Council because he wanted to get involved more in the co-operative.

Raw milk health risks under review:

Since the 1950s, New Zealand’s commercial milk supply has been pasteurised – treated with heat to kill bacteria – and most of us have swallowed the official position, that untreated milk is potentially dangerous to drink.

But there’s a growing trend of consumers wanting their food in a natural state, and that includes milk. They say raw milk is not only safe, it’s better for you, and a major study is underway to see if they’re right.

Most of us buy our milk pasteurised and from a dairy or supermarket fridge. But for mums like Angela Jones that’s changing. She’s one of thousands of townies making a regular trek to a trusted farmer to buy raw milk at the farm gate. . .


Rural round-up

September 16, 2012

Some bills 80 times initial quotes -

South Canterbury farmers are challenging Environment Canterbury over more than $300,000 worth of administration costs they have been charged for water consents. 

    Some of the bills are 80 times greater than the amount the farmers were initially quoted. 

    The group of 17 South Canterbury and North Otago consent holders will dispute the administration costs at a hearing in Lincoln on Monday. 

    The costs were billed to the farmers back in 2010 after they were granted 35-year consents to take water from the Hakataramea River. The farmers had waited more than a decade for the consent decision. . .

Legal scrap on cards over LIC hairy calves - Richard Rennie:

Farmers stuck with mutant LIC genetics have strong legal grounds for mounting a compensation challenge against the breeding company, a senior lawyer says.

Concern is growing through all dairying regions as more farmers discover young stock containing the genetics from the LIC bull Matrix.

The bull has sired calves exhibiting mutated traits including excessive hairiness, poor growth rates and ill thrift. .

Tax changes leave way open for farm succession:

Controversial changes to tax legislation around livestock valuation will no longer disadvantage new generation farmers following a successful submission process by accounting firm BDO.

Amendments to the proposed ‘Herd Scheme’ changes were released yesterday [Thursday 13 Sept], providing exemptions for farm succession that free up new generation farmers from restrictive tax barriers.

“The exemption for farm succession has come a long way from the original proposal,”’ says BDO Tax Specialist and Farm Accountant Charles Rau. . .

Best coal under best farmland – Tim Fulton:

Some Australians see Drew Hutton as a pinprick for environmental consciousness; others think he’s a pain in the backside. But the spiritual leader of the Australian Green Party has people listening when it comes to coal mining and drilling for gas.

“We’ve got some areas in Australia where we’ve got 100% support. You can’t get those figures outside of a dictatorship usually.”

Hutton is the elected champion of the “Lock the Gate Alliance”, a network of 120 community groups galvanized against perceived bullying from the mining industry.

And it doesn’t take much of a lecture from Hutton to learn landowner rights and public health is top of their agenda, as is the very future of farming on premium Aussie soil. . . .

Training for beekeepers debated – Peter Watson:

An upsurge of interest in beekeeping has sparked debate about how well trained new entrants are. 

    The number of beekeepers has grown by more than 500 to 3775 and hives by 35,000 to 429,000 over the last year, many of them hobbyists wanting to do their bit to help boost bee numbers in the face of growing threats to their health. . .

Buffalo and rhino make big money:

MAKING SURE none of the rhinoceros herd is poached during the night isn’t something New Zealand farmers have to worry about but it is typical for an increasing number of South African farmers diversifying into the lucrative game breeding industry.  

After several years of rapid growth, there are now estimated to be more than 10,000 commercial game ranches in South Africa breeding rare species for hunting, meat and conservation purposes. . . .

The June issue of Country Wide is now on-line.


ECan commissioners to stay

September 7, 2012

Local Body and Environment Ministers David Carter and Amy Adams have announced that commissioners will continue to govern Environment Canterbury after 2013:

A Bill to extend Commissioner governance until the 2016 local authority elections, with a ministerial review in 2014, will be tabled in Parliament today.

“The Commissioners, under the leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley, have proved highly effective in addressing urgent problems with water management in Canterbury and in rebuilding key stakeholder relationships,” Mr Carter said.

“Their strong governance through the earthquake response and rebuild planning has been excellent and it is vital that this work continues. The disruption caused by the earthquakes has made the Canterbury situation unique, and the focus must now be on ensuring the region can maximise its full economic potential as Christchurch rebuilds.

“In the interests of Canterbury’s progress, and to protect the gains the Commissioners have made, the Government has decided the best option is to continue with the current governance arrangement,” Mr Carter said. . .

Environment Minister Amy Adams says it is imperative that Canterbury’s freshwater resources continue to be managed and governed effectively.

“The Canterbury region has significant economic growth potential but also faces significant challenges. It is critical for New Zealand that the planning governance structure for Environment Canterbury is stable, effective and efficient,” Ms Adams said.

“To keep the freshwater management work on track, we intend to retain the limited appeal rights on decisions made by Environment Canterbury on plans and policy statements relating to freshwater management.”

The Ministers thanked the Commissioners for their efforts over the past two years.

“In the face of enormous challenges, the Commissioners have done a great job of managing Canterbury’s vital freshwater and natural resources. We look forward to further progress for Cantabrians and the continued growth of the region,” the Ministers said.

One measure of the change at the council since commissioners took over governance is processing consents.

ECan had the worst record for processing consents under the dysfunctional council, it is now one of the best.

Postponing elections for another three years is a big step but it’s justified by the size of the task facing ECan.

The earthquakes have given the council a lot more work and made it even more important that it works well.

 


Water too important for dog’s breakfast

June 11, 2012

Canterbury doesn’t need another dysfunctional elected council making decisions on water, former Environment Minister Nick Smith says:

As a cabinet minister, he sacked elected Environment Canterbury councillors and replaced them with commissioners.

When their term expires next year, he hopes they will be replaced by a mixed council of elected and Government-appointed representatives.

In Ashburton on Thursday at a Federated Farmers water forum, he said there were some big water decisions ahead of Canterbury, including bulk storage and tapping into alpine rivers protected by Water Conservation Orders.

He said a fully-elected regional council making those decisions would result in the same “dog’s breakfast” left by the previous council, with views polarised into urban and rural camps.

What is it about Canterbury? From the outside, the Christchurch City Council seems to be similarly troubled by dysfunction and it doesn’t have theexcuse of a rural-urban divide.

Sacking the elected councillors from ECan  was not a decision taken lightly. The Commissioners appointed to replace them were tasked with forming a water plan which ECan had been struggling to do for 20 years.

That plan has been superseded by a national Land and Water plan but it still needs a  local body to oversee it.

Nature has made more than enough of a dogs’ breakfast in Canterbury without aggravating problems with another dysfunctional regional council.

Mr Smith said there was no shortage of water in Canterbury, but too much of the water taken for economic use came from aquifers and lowland streams.
“They only make up 15 per cent of our water resource; 85 per cent is in the big alpine river systems but the moment anyone comes along and tries to use the water everyone says ‘no’.”
He said there was a good chance water rights would be pegged back if there was no progress on storage or alpine river resources could not be tapped. 
That would have consequences for both farmers and the economy.
Mid Canterbury has around 160,000ha of irrigated farmland, returning a gross farm income of $1.36 billion. 
Farmers spent around $800 million. 
By contrast, a 250,000ha Australian cattle station currently had a gross farm income of $50m.

Those with short memories might have forgotten the economic, environmental and social devastation caused by droughts in Canterbury and North Otago before we had irrigation.

Those who farmed and lived through them appreciate the value of water applied carefully when required.

Those of a deep green persuasion believe that water should flow from the mountains to the sea untroubled by human and technological intervention.

Those of more moderate views know  it is possible to irrigate in a way that increases production and protects soils without degrading waterways.


CCC needs unity

January 24, 2012

We can’t blame the water – Christchurch is reputed to have the purest supply of any city in the country.

But something’s rotten in the city. ECan turned into ECan’t and matters got so bad the government stepped in and replaced the regional council with commissioners.

Now the city council is exhibiting signs of major dysfunction.

Councillor Tim Carter has called for a commissioner to replace chief executive Tony Marryatt and Councillor Sue Wells wants the government to sack the whole council and appoint a commissioner.

The idea of a unitary authority combining the regional council commisioners, CERRA and the city council has its appeal. The city is facing an extraordinary situation and the ordinary democratic system is showing the strain. But the government isn’t considering that:

The Government will not “interfere” in the troubled Christchurch City Council, says Local Government Minister Nick Smith.

Smith, who visited Christchurch today, said the Government had no plans to appoint commissioners to run the council, despite calls to do so from two councillors.

Problems at the council were “not entirely surprising”, given the scale of the challenge facing the council, but needed to be dealt with without government intervention, he said.

If central government isn’t going to interfere the local one must get its act together.

Polling before the 2010 local body elections indicated that Jim Anderton would win his challenge against mayor Bob Parker which was far from a vote of confidence in the latter.

But the September earthquake turned the tide and Parker was re-elected.

There were rumbles of dis-satisfaction about the chief executive but he was re-appointed in a decision supported by a majority of councillors.

Whether either of these decisions was in the best interests of the city is irrelevant. That’s what democracy delivered.

If councillors aren’t happy with what’s happening they have to persuade a majority of their colleagues to agree with them to get change or accept they’re in the minority and either shut up or resign.

Christchurch people have had more than enough trouble from nature they don’t need more from their council. The people and their city need unity and action any councillors who can’t deliver both should not be in that role.

 

 


Doesn’t look like an accident

January 13, 2012

The best designed effluent systems aren’t immune from human errors and break-downs which can lead to accidental discharges in the wrong place.

That doesn’t make it right but it could be a mitigating factor if damage is done.

However, if the facts of this case as reported are true, it doesn’t look like an accident:

Lloyd disconnected an open pipe from a blocked irrigator and placed it under trees nearby, allowing the effluent to discharge for four days before the pipe was found by Environment Canterbury (ECan) staff.

Unfortunately this enables opponents of dairying to tar all farmers with the same dirty brush.


Public Service no place for zealots

April 9, 2010

“Public servants have to implement the policies of the government of the day

Many people come to government to try to support a good cause. They don’t realise the one who has to determine which good cause is to be supported is the democratically minister of the day. And quite a lot of departments, not slinging off at their professionalism but say DOC, you get a lot of people who join DOC because they know they want to save a kakapo and if not a kakapo it will be the lesser spotted whatever. And if the lesser spotted whatever is not on the minister’s list of priorities they’ll find it hard to do.

A key part of the role of senior public servants is to explain to them well it is the minister who has to take the heat in public about that and the public servant really isn’t just employed to follow their own interests and if they want to follow their interests they can go and work in the private sector like anyone else. . .

. . . No public servant should be zealous about the particular cause they’re interested in. They should be zealous about democracy and respecting the law. . .”

This is an extract from Mark Prebble’s  discussion with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon.

He was referring to central government but Kiwiblog’s posts on why ECan was sacked  and ECan vs its own commissioners show what he says should also apply in local government.

Some of the officers have at times adopted more of an advocacy role than a neutral advisory role. …

The regional councillors have been replaced by commissioners. Very little has been said yet on the need for a change of staff as well but unless there is a change of attitude and/or personal the problems in ECan will continue.


ECan offers compromise

March 6, 2010

Environment Canterbury has offered the government a compromise between the status quo and the recommendations of the independent review panel on the regional council.

ECan is offering the government what its chair Alec Neill describes as an olive branch.

They’re suggesting the government appoint a commissioner-advisor to manage the region’s water.

They also recommend an external advisory group be set up to assist the commissioner and councillors.

“We’ve come up with what we believe ticks all the boxes for the Government to carry out their direction as to water but allows for the community to retain elected representation.”

The intention was for ECan elections to still go ahead this year, Neill said.

The advisory group would comprise two members of Local Government New Zealand’s regional affairs committee, one Ngai Tahu representative, one member of the Canterbury Mayoral forum, Neill and the commissioner-adviser.

The review panel’s recommendation to sack the council and appoint a commissioner would have requried legislation.

ECan’s offer would mean there is no need for that, provide an opportunity for improved water management in the region and still allow council elections in October.

This isn’t as radical as the review panel’s recommendations but it would retain democratic elections and enable action to improve the region’s water management much sooner than any changes which required legislation.

The need for improved management of Canterbury’s water is urgent and if ECan’s plan was accepted work could start immediately.


Second thougts on ECan report

March 1, 2010

My initial reaction to the report from the independent review panel into Environment Canterbury was to support the recommendation that the council be replaced by an independent commissioner.

However, I didn’t realise that while the government can appoint a commissioner if requested to do so by a regional council, it would take a change of law for that to happen without the council’s request.

That makes me a bit more cautious about the idea.

Another reason for caution is that the district councils which were so unhappy with ECan before are much happier with the improvements since Alec Neill became chair. That gives me more confidence that ECan may be able to come up to scratch without the need for a commissioner.

But whether or not a commissioner is appointed the need for action from ECan is urgent.

The last water consent for water takes from the Waitaki River was North Otago Irrigation Company’s in 2002.

There are now around 40 applications to take water languishing in the system. That includes applications to renew existing consents among which are farmers with businesses built on irrigation who are in limbo until their consents are renewed.

This sort of delay in processing consents is unacceptable.

Whether or not a commissioner is appointed I have concerns that the size and population make-up of ECan is part of the problem.

The population base is in Christchurch and while people there ought to be concerned about their air and water quality I can understand that they might not even think about the Waitaki River about three hours south of the city. 

Yet that river is vitally important for the country because it generates about half our hydro power. The river and its lakes also provide recreational opportunities for tourists, boaties and fishers.

It’s also important for farming because it provides water for around 70,000 of irrigation.

But many of us who live just a few kilometres away from the river are in the Otago Regional Council’s area not ECan’s and so have little or no influence on policies affecting it and us.


New regional water authority for Canterbury?

February 20, 2010

The independent review into Environment Canterbury  recommends that the government sets up a new Canterbury Regional Water Authority (CRWA) to assume all water related responsibilities in the Canterbury Region.

ECan has failed miserably in its responsibilities for water management in the region where it is of most importance. The report says:

The issue of freshwater management (both ground and surface water) is the single most significant issue facing the Canterbury Region.  The Review Group acknowledges that the scale of the issues being addressed in terms of water availability and quality in the Canterbury Region and the scale and nature of competing demands for that resource is significantly greater than that confronted by other regional councils throughout New Zealand. They are correspondingly of much greater significance to the nation’s well-being.

There are four major river catchments in the region but the Waitaki is the only one with an allocation plan and that was imposed on Ecan by central government when Project Aqua showed up the council’s shortcomings.

The creation of an entirely new specialist entity is, we believe, the only way that the Government can be certain that it has an institution capable of dealing with the complexities involved in resolving freshwater issues in the Canterbury Region. The Authority would assume responsibility for all of the functions of Environment Canterbury related to the management of freshwater in the Region.  This includes:

  • Addressing the complexities involved in balancing the competing interests for the relevant resources.
  • Producing relevant plans for the allocation and management of water resources and water quality within a timeframe to be specified in the legislation.
  • Allocation, monitoring and enforcement of consents relating to water.
  • Addressing the water quality issues that are currently the responsibility of Environment Canterbury.

The Review Group also recommends that the council be replaced by a temporary Commission.

Both recommendations are wise.

All the territorial authorities in the Canterbury Region have been complaining about ECan for years, so too have many of the groups and individuals who’ve had to deal with them.

There has been a welcome improvement since Alec Neil took over as chair last year but the Review Group thinks the problems are too deep-seated to be solved by the existing council which is still divided.

The government has yet to consider the recommendations but I wonder if a complete reorganisation of local authorities in the region might result.

The city and district councils have been looking at a unitary authority. A supercity based round Christchurch and a provincial council further south, perhaps?


Their land, our water

January 28, 2010

The paddocks on the side of the road between Tarras and the bridge over the Clutha near Luggate used to be dry and barren for most of the year.

Some of them still are, but others are green and productive, thanks to irrigation.

Which looks better is a matter of opinion but I prefer the green and admire the increased productivity farmers are getting from it.

Some of the irrigated farmland which would have struggled to support a few sheep is now able to feed bulls. These bulls no doubt have the same sort of outputs as dairy cows, but there is a major difference between the Upper Clutha farms and the dairy operations proposed for the Mackenzie Basin and that’s scale.

The bulls grazing paddocks beside the Tarras-Luggate road number in the low 10s. The Mackenzie dairy proposals are for nearly 18,000 cows.

In announcing that he’s calling in the consents for these big operations, Environment Minister Nick Smith said that stock will produce effluent similar to the amount produced by a city of 250,000 people.

That’s an awful lot of waste and helps explains why Environment Canterbury received around 5,000 submissions on the applications for resource consent.

Some were about animal welfare which do not come under the Resource Management Act and I’d be very surprised if any of the concerns were valid. Keeping cattle indoors may not be the way we’re used to farming here but it doesn’t by itself constitute any welfare issues.

Some were about what irrigation and dairying would do to the views. That is entirely subjective, what some regard as beautiful productive paddocks, others will see as blots on the landscape.

Although, it’s not just about how the landscape looks but what’s happening to it. Those travelling through at 100 kilometres an hour don’t appreciate the environmental damage that unrelenting heat and wind can do.

In the January 2-8 Listener, Simon Williamson of Glenbrook Station, was asked about the cost to the landscape of irrigation. He replied:

“I don’t see how it detracts. A green foreground and brown hills. Before it would have been a brown foreground and a dust storm.” *

Many of the other submissions were on the potential threat to water quality and these  submitters are on stronger ground.

Housing the cows as is proposed in the applications allows the farms to have much more control on the dispersal of effluent than if the stock was grazing pasture. But systems are only as good as the people who operate them and can never be fool-proof.

Besides, whether inside or out, these cattle will produce a lot of effluent. The Minster’s appointees will have to be satisfied that there is no danger to water quality from it and that may be very difficult to guarantee.

It is the applicants’ land but their right to do what they will with it doesn’t extend to polluting our water.

* The Williamson quote isn’t online, but the rest of the feature from which it came, Mainland dust-up, is on line and well worth a read.

Update: Federated Farmers media release on the calling in is here.


ECan wants govt to call in dairy consents

January 8, 2010

Environment Canterbury has written to the government asking if it will call in the applications for consent  for intensive dairy farming in the Mackenzie basin because of the potential national impact.

The Government will need to act quickly if it is to follow ECan’s advice, with a decision on two call-ins needed by January 15 and a ruling on the third needed a week later.

Call-ins enable the Government to make a decision, bypassing the lengthy Environment Court process.

The applications have engendered a lot of interest – and more than 3,000 submissions, on the applications.

Many of them may be based on emotion rather than fact and many are based on animal welfare which does not come under the Resource Management Act.

But the content and quality of submissions is beside the point.

People have made submissions and while the consent process may be slow, it will give them an opportunity to have their say.

It is then up to the hearing panel to consider all views and make a judgement consistent with the RMA.

This application may have national implications. Is that a good reason for the government to call it in or is it just an excuse for ECan to pass on the work and let someone else deal with what will be a controversial decision?


ECan review team announced

November 16, 2009

Environment and Local Body ministers, Nick Smith and Rodney Hide, have announced the members of the review teams to investigate Environment Canterbury’s poor performance.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Wyatt Creech, Doug Martin of MartinJenkins and Associates and independent consultant Greg Hill will look at ECan’s resource management performance.

Civil engineer Doug Lowe, consultant Julie Clausen and economist Alison Dalziel will look at the regional council’s governance, policy functions and relationships with other councils.


Ecan under review

October 29, 2009

Being caught between two regional councils has little to recommend it.

Two sets of rules and two sets of people to deal with adds to costs, delays and frustrations.

With some of its catchment coming under the Otago Regional Council and the rest under Environment Canterbury, the Waitaki District Council, and its residents, are able to compare the two authorities.

Time after time, they have more problems with ECan than with the ORC.

Difficulty dealing with ECan is not peculiar to the WDC. Other local authorities and ratepayers have also had problems and 10 mayors wrote to government with their criticisms.

Environment Minister Nick Smith and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide have ordered two inquiries into ECan. One under the Resource Management Act which will look at its resource consent performance. The other under the Local Government Act will look at governance and policy functions.

Newly elected chair Alec Neill has responded sensibly  to this:

“Since I was elected, I have made it very clear that the council will work constructively with both central government and local councils,” he said.

Asked by the Otago Daily Times if he agreed with the ministers’ comment about “poor performance”, Mr Neill said he wanted answers rather than deny the council may have problems.

He was not going to get into “slagging matches” with the ministers.

The Government had information regarding ECan’s performance with resource consents.

In the 2007-08 financial year it was ranked the worst of 84 local authorities by processing only 29% of consents on time.

Since then, it had made changes which had dramatically im-proved its performance.

“I’m not in denial. There have been areas which have been unsatisfactory. If there remain areas which are unsatisfactory, I’m anxious for those to be addressed,” he said.

Regional Councils have wide ranging powers. Any problems they have internally or in dealings with other local authorities and the public add to costs and frustrations.

Mr Neill has met all mayors in the region since his election and there is more confidence that relationships between ECan and other councils will improve.

Regional Councils are supposed to be putting their energies into ensuring soil, air and water are protected, not wasting their time and our money on politics as has been happening. These reviews will help get Ecan’s focus back where it ought to be.


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