Rural round-up

March 18, 2014

New staff to boost border security:

26 New Ministry for Primary Industries border staff begin training in Auckland today as part of a programme to beef up frontline resources, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

“Close to 125 new quarantine inspectors have joined MPI in the last 18 months and this is another big boost in resources.

“The 26 new staff will graduate around the middle of this year and will be posted around New Zealand.

“While there is increasing use of technology and intelligence to protect our border, we still need people on the frontline.

“Biosecurity is my number one priority as Minister because it is so important in protecting our economy. We know that unwanted pests and diseases can have devastating effects on our farmers and growers. . .

Clover root weevil under attack in Southland - Sally Rae:

An industry-wide effort is under way in Southland to combat the damaging clover root weevil, whose economic damage has been measured in hundreds of millions of dollars nationwide.

Clover root weevil (CRW), identified by distinctive U-shaped notches on clover leaves, was discovered in the Waikato and Auckland in 1996 and has now spread as far as Southland.

A project, involving AgResearch, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ and Environment Southland, which has been releasing parasitised clover root weevils on Southland farms, is being accelerated. . .

Fonterra Chairman Visits New $126m UHT Milk Processing Site:

Fonterra Chairman John Wilson visited Fonterra’s new $126 million UHT milk processing site at Waitoa on the weekend.The site is in its final stages of testing before commissioning Anchor UHT milk and cream products at the end of this month.

Mr Wilson said he was impressed with how quickly it had taken the site to get to this stage with construction completed in 12 months.

“It was great to get the chance to visit and meet the team who have brought our Waitoa site to life. There is a real sense of pride from the team on the ground.  . . .

History repeats itself in Northland:

David Kidd is the fourth Grand Finalist to be named in the 2014 ANZ Young Farmer Contest.

The thirty year old sheep and beef farm manager of Shelley Beach took first place at the Northern Regional Final at the Kaikohe Showgrounds over the weekend, Saturday 15 March.

Thirty years after Mr Kidd’s father, Richard Kidd, became a Grand Finalist David is following in his footsteps. Richard placed third (on count back) in the 1984 Timaru Grand Final representing the Northern Region. “I don’t remember it, but I was at that Grand Final and it was my first Young Farmers experience,” said Mr Kidd. . .

Meet Dr Sunday – Alice Roberts:

A doctor living in rural Queensland says it’s the patients who have kept him in town for the past decade.

Dr Sunday Adebiyi has been a general practitioner in Dysart for 10 years.

He says it’s the friendships you strike up in regional areas that make the job worthwhile.

“I have some very, very good patients and I think about them and they think about me, they are concerned about my welfare and how I’m going,” he says.

“So with such people it would be very difficult to let them down. . .

Rabobank business alumni tour successful South Island farms:

More than 80 New Zealand and Australian farmers toured South Island farms last week as part of Rabobank’s Business Management Programme alumni tour.

They visited a deer operation, an intensive indoor robotic dairy operation and a mixed cropping and birdseed business, which was currently undertaking a dairy conversion.

They also visited North Otago dairy farmer Rogan Borrie’s four properties near Oamaru.

Borrie, a fifth-generation farmer, completed Rabobank’s Farm Managers Programme in 2007.

He said it was a rewarding experience to share the developments and technology introduced on-farm.

“We showed the tour our new computerised irrigation scheme with pivot and fixed grid sprinklers that we have recently installed in order to reduce labour time and energy and improve water efficiency,” he said . .


ES requires consent for dairy farms

March 7, 2014

A plan change by Environment Southland means all new dairy farms will require resource consent:

Owners of all new dairy farms in Southland now have to apply for resource consent after a contentious plan change was approved by Environment Southland.

Plan Change 13 was notified nearly two years ago and trialled in the past year, with Environment Southland adopting it in a public-excluded council meeting yesterday.

Under the new rules, all new dairy farms need a resource consent before becoming operational.

Applicants require a conversion environmental plan, which includes a soil assessment, a nutrient management plan and a winter grazing plan.

This imposes additional fees on top of those already charged for water and discharge permits and could cost farmers about $1000 in total.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said the rule would provide the council with a tool to meet the community’s concerns for water quality, while also meeting the council’s national obligations.

The new rules would help to ensure Southland’s water quality did not decline any further, she said. . .

ES is the first council to require consent for dairying.

Other councils could follow, though it would be sensible to wait and see whether the plan change works as it is intended to.

Few would argue with the intention to improve water quality but it will take some time to determine if this is the best way to achieve it.

 


Doing better environmentally and economically

January 22, 2014

The old adage that if you give a dog a bad name it will stick is unfortunately true.

Farming, and dairying in particular, has got a bad name for poor environmental performance even though most are doing all that’s required of them, or more.

Despite 5.7 dairy cattle for every man, woman and child in Southland, the region now boasts some of most environmentally compliant farmers in New Zealand. 

“The compliance monitoring results from Environment Southland, which came out before Christmas, was a real boost for our guys,” says Russell MacPherson, Federated Farmers Southland provincial president.

“It is not just us in the far south but this is a trend throughout New Zealand.  After catching talkback radio recently, the shame is that some people have been suckered in by a clever but increasingly redundant slogan. 

“I mean the Ministry for the Environment’s “River condition indicator Summary and key findings” must be the most non-reported study of 2013.  A 10-year review of water quality found, “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”.

“Take the Mataura River, which received the regional award for the most improved river at the first New Zealand River Awards.  There are physical results proving that it is working and it goes to show how Southland’s farmers are hitting their straps environmentally.

“The majority of Southland’s 887 farming effluent discharge consent holders inspected by Environment Southland were fully compliant with their consent conditions.

“While we farm in what seemingly feels like a glass house, the fact is we are doing better each year environmentally and economically.

“In terms of ground and surface water, the vast majority of our farms are doing pretty well here as well. 

“Federated Farmers believes a new attitude shown by Environment Southland, to actively work alongside farmers like in Taranaki, is starting to pay off.  Farmers previously felt like they’d be belted for anything but we’re now seeing partnership and greater understanding.

Councils and farmers working together will achieve better results than if there’s an antagonistic attitude between them.

“The way town and country are coming together is also evidenced by the way the New River Estuary has galvanised Invercargill residents around storm and wastewater. 

“It will upset those who have made a career out of grievance but truth eventually cuts through spin.

“Perhaps that’s the nub of the issue we face as it’s all about perception, much like that Lincoln University survey from last year.  There’s what some people think we do and what we actually do.  Trying to connect the two is going to take time.

“That could start by having the same scrutiny our farms are put under extended to our local councils. 

“. . . there’s been three human sewerage spills within a month into Lake Wakatipu and the latest one closed a 200 metre stretch of beach right where our family, like many, swim and boat when on holiday.

“If town and country had the same level of scrutiny then the national conversation, I feel, would be much better,” Mr MacPherson concluded.

Poor environmental practices in one area doesn’t excuse it anywhere else and there’s no room for complacency about water quality in urban or rural areas.

Some farmers have been far too slow to get the message about their responsibility for water quality and act on it. But the majority are compliant and are working hard to ensure they stay that way.


Rural round-up

January 5, 2014

Dairy farm consent decision delayed – Bridget Railton:

A final decision on whether all new dairy farms will continue to require resource consent has been delayed another month.

Environment Southland’s plan change 13, which required all new dairy farms to obtain a resource consent before becoming operational, will now not be decided until next month.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said the decision had been delayed because a key staff member involved in the plan change had become ill.

“It’s better to have some sort of continuity in the process.” . . .

Red meat sector ‘absolute challenge’ – Sally Rae:

Amid challenging times for New Zealand’s red meat industry, there have been changes in the guard at governance level recently at the country’s two largest co-operatives. Silver Fern Farms’ new chairman Rob Hewett speaks to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Rob Hewett is well aware his new role is going to be an ”absolute challenge”.

Amid decreasing sheep numbers, calls for industry restructuring and his own co-operative’s unprofitability, the new chairman of Silver Fern Farms knows the road ahead is not going to be easy.

But the South Otago farmer is also optimistic about the future and excited to take on such a pivotal role in the industry. . .

Prince William to study agriculture at Cambridge University -

Clearly worried that a 2:1 master’s degree in geography, a three-year career as a helicopter pilot and a great deal of gap year foreign travel might not quite equip him for running the 130,000 acres of land spread across 23 counties that make up the Duchy of Cornwall, Prince William is going back to college.

Almost three centuries after his ancestor George III was nicknamed Farmer George and mocked for his interest in agricultural improvement and his herd of pedigree sheep, William, second in line to the throne and heir to the Duchy, will be heading for Cambridge University next week to become a full-time student of agricultural management. . .

Celebrating wool and the success of a local lad in the industry -

Creating demand for New Zealand wool is his passion. The enormous efforts of a local lad gone global needs to be celebrated, says Philippa Wright, CEO, Wright Wool and active supporter of the Campaign for Wool NZ.

Sitting on a wool chair at Wool House as a part of the recent Campaign for Wool event in London is Central Hawke’s Bay lad, Craig Smith, Business Development Director for International Wool Trader, HDawson. Smithy is son of Mark and Sue Smith, retired 3rd generation Hawke’s Bay farmers now living in Waipawa. . .

Wool outlook upbeat – Cara Jeffery:

CAUTIOUSLY positive seems to be the catchcry among wool industry commentators when it comes to forecasting what 2014 holds for the market.

In 2013, the Australian Wool Exchange Eastern Market Indicator (EMI) started the year at 1111c/kg and spent most the year above the 1000c/kg mark.

It sank to its lowest point in May at 966c/kg, just after it hit its highest point in April at 1145c/kg. . .


Environmental tax based on perception

May 30, 2013

Federated Farmers says Environment Southland’s plan to increase the differential rate on dairy land use makes no sense:

“It is our view that you are simply imposing an environmental tax on one land use in Southland based entirely on perception,” said Russell McPherson, Southland provincial president.

“Dairy farms comprise only 3.6 percent of the total number of rating units yet, if this proposal goes ahead, will be paying 41 percent of the property value based general rates.

“In total, the dairy sector is already paying their fair share for what are Environment Southland’s public good resource management responsibilities, but it is specifically and solely targeted through the differential as if it was failing to meet its obligations. That could not be further from the truth.

“Taken at face value the dairy differential indicates that if there was no dairying in the region then there would be no water quality issues. Clearly, this is not the case. Nor is it the case that the dairy sector is the only sector which needs to do better to address water quality.

Dairying can lead to a deterioration in water quality but it doesn’t always and it certainly isn’t the only culprit.

“If the differential is nothing about recognising the costs attributed to ES work and a blatant environmental tax then the differential does not recognise or incentivise individual farmer behaviour. It is like handing a speeding ticket to every driver just for getting in the car. It is simply a tax for being a dairy farmer.

A general tax punishes those farmers who are doing all they can to protect waterways and gives no incentive for anyone else to do any better.

“If you are trying to put dairying in Southland on the back foot and alienate farmers then you are on the right track. You will not engage at a farm level with dairy farmers during any response to the NPS for freshwater by telling them they have to pay you to tell them what to do.

“The dairy differential detracts from the goodwill felt towards council from the very dairy farmers council should be supporting – the dairy farmers who are doing things the right way and leading environmental on farm best practice though massive investment and innovation.

“Council’s decision on whether or not to increase the costs allocated to the dairy sector through the dairy differential this year is actually a decision on how it perceives the sector and how water quality issues in Southland will be addressed.

“If the intention is to develop a partnership approach to identifying the mechanisms to best address resource management issues, then the dairy differential is a bad idea.

“If the intention is to recognise and incentivise good practice, then the dairy differential is a bad idea.

“If the intention is to require all sectors of the community to do a better job of resource management then the dairy differential, is a bad idea.

“If the differential is an attempt to identify a scapegoat, distance this council from a key sector in the region and absolve all other resource management users from responsibility, then the dairy differential is a good step,” Mr McPherson concluded.

The council should be developing policies which improve water quality and incentivise good practice.

Increasing the dairy differential isn’t the way to do it.


Only just confident

January 24, 2013

Environment Southland chair Ali Timms has survived a vote of confidence which was called after she made a prank call to Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt on a radio show.

The vote was 7-5, which included her own vote.

That means the council is split 6-5 on her suitability as chair which means the council is only just confident.


Another hoax call gone wrong

December 13, 2012

In a week when the news is full of the fallout from Australian DJs hoax call to a hospital you’d think everyone would think twice before pretending to be someone they weren’t.

Not Environment Southland chair Ali Timms.

Environment Southland chairman Ali Timms is on leave following an “unacceptable lapse of judgement”. . .

. . .  acting chairman Nicol Horrell has issued the following statement: “Councillors have unanimously expressed our extreme disapproval of the unacceptable lapse of judgement shown by Chairman Ali Timms in taking part in the Invercargill City Council’s televised talkback programme under an assumed name last week.

“Councillors have accepted Cr Timms’ application for six weeks leave of absence, effective immediately. We expect to hold an Extraordinary meeting of Council to consider the Council’s Chairmanship in late January.”

This might speak volumes about the relationship between the regional and city councils but it doesn’t reflect well on Timms either.

We all have lapses of judgement but fortunately for most of us, we’re not public figures and they happen in private.


Environment Southland audit

November 6, 2012

Environment Southland is undergoing an independent legal audit of its compliance processes:

Chief Executive Rob Phillips said today that in light of recent allegations in the media, it was essential that there was public confidence that all of the Council’s regulatory practices were sound, and that the processes for taking compliance action were robust.

“Prosecutions are an essential part of our compliance activity, particularly where there has been a serious breach of the law, a regulation or a rule,” Mr Phillips said. “Everyone needs to be confident that compliance action is based on sound processes that have been carried out with integrity.” . . .

And what were those allegations in the media?

The move follows stories in the The Southland Times involving two separate incidents – one surrounding allegations that Environment Southland compliance officer Chris McMillan altered a statement from police after a stock truck sting, and the other where senior Invercargill lawyer Rex Chapman told The Times Mr McMillan effectively acknowledged under cross examination in court the council’s original written case against a farm owner and manager it was prosecuting contained statements that were not true.

Regional councils act as environmental police and wield wide-ranging powers.

Their processes and staff must be above reproach.

 

 

 

 

 


What’s up at Environment Southland?

January 20, 2012

A fixed term contract is just that and employers have the option of renewing it or not.

But why has Environment Southland not taken the option of extending the term of its CEO Ciaran Keogh for another two years when it appears there were no problems with his performance?

At least one councillor appears less than supportive of the move.

Recruitment is not an inexpensive business and seeking a new CEO wouldn’t normally be done without very good reason when the option of extending his term was available.


User pays or council plays?

May 26, 2009

Environment Southland’s Long Term Community Plan proposes imposing a dairy differnetial of $1.08 million to finance more compliance staff, monitoring programmes, stock effluent disposal sites, land sustainability programmes and a new regional discharge plan.

Is this user pays or an attempt to get dairy farmers to finance more than their fair share of the council’s  expansion?

Federated Farmers’ submission says many of its dairy members felt the rate was the regional council’s way of expanding its programmes while insulating the general ratepayer against the effects of an increased rate take.

DairyNZ recommends a partnership between the council and the dairy industry to resolve resource management issues.

That would provide the council with resources from DairyNZ’s own science, local farmer knowledge and dairy industry policy staff, its submission says.

Dairy farmers must pay their fair share of the costs associated with the environmental impact of their business but this looks like the council is playing a growing game and wants farmers to pay for it.

DairyNZ’s proposal would get the results without the need for the regional council to expand its empire at farmers’ expense.


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