Poll doesn’t support Green irrigation policy

March 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is simply not true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The survey finds

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

However,

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

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

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

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

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

The support for polluters-paying is reinforced further on:

Responsibility for improving water quality

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

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

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

Dairy companies’ responsibilities

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

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

That is happening now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

February 23, 2014

Farmers will need to change environment thinking- Tony Benny:

Farmers will need to change their way of thinking about the environment under new regulations in the Canterbury land and water regional plan, but while that may initially be painful for some there will be bottomline payoffs.

The plan was notified last month and with appeals, solely on questions of law, to close today (February 22), it is likely to become operative within a few months. It prescribes limits on allowable nitrate leaching, varying depending on where farms are, and whether water quality is already compromised (red zones), at risk (orange) or acceptable (blue or green). . .

Westland Milk considering China-based  subsidiary - Alan Wood:

The West Coast’s dairy co-operative plans to increase its China export base with a possible subsidiary company and an increased number of employees to add to its Shanghai office.

Westland Milk Products has invested in the milk processing and infant formula powder sectors and exports about $130 million of product a year into China.

There is another $130m of product exported into other Asian countries, and Asia including China together made up about 40 per cent of Westland Milk’s sales, chairman Matt O’Regan said. . .

Kiwi genetic expertise for salmon health:

ONE OF the world’s leading salmon egg producers is working with AgResearch to develop genomic selection in Atlantic salmon.

Icelandic company Stofnfiskur HF and AgResearch, New Zealand’s pastoral crown research institute, are working together to help increase the efficiency of the company’s salmon breeding systems, using modern genomic tools pioneered in sheep.

Stofnfiskur’s high health status of their breeding stock in Iceland allows eggs to be exported to most salmon-producing countries throughout the world. . .

Summer hunting on offer to help farmers:

A SPECIAL two-day bird hunting season is being held in Taranaki and Whanganui to help farmers disperse paradise shelducks.

Fish & Game has declared a special two-day hunting season for paradise shelduck to help farmers disperse flocks which can damage pastures and crops.

The special season will run from 6.30am, Saturday, March 1, until 8pm on Sunday March 2, in Game Management Areas B and C only. The daily bag limit has been set at 10 paradise shelduck per hunter. . . .

Think small plea to machinery makers:

MACHINERY MAKERS should focus more on the smallholder, says the lead editor of a new UN Food and Agriculture Organisation book.

 Mechanisation for rural development, a review of patterns and progress from around the world contains in-depth studies of mechanisation from Africa, Asia, the Near East, South America and Eastern Europe, and covers topics such as development needs, manufacturing and information exchange.

“The book delves into many aspects of farm mechanisation, not only how machines will contribute to an environmentally sustainable future, but also what policies will put machines at the service of family farms so that they too can profit,” says Ren Wang, assistant director-general of FAO’s agriculture and consumer protection department. . . .

R&D targets bee killer -

DEVELOPING new ways to treat the devastating honey bee parasite, varroa mite, is among the aims of a new research and development (R&D) statement from the federal government.

Varroa mites are parasites that live on bees and they can lead to the destruction of whole colonies and hives.

Modelling by CSIRO shows varroa mite could cost our crop industries about $70 million a year if it established in Australia.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce this week released a statement outlining the areas where R&D could help to better prepare our industries and mitigate the risk. . .


Rural round-up

December 3, 2013

Environmental analysis role exciting  – Sally Rae:

Mark Crawford is excited about his new role as a Ravensdown environmental consultant.

The fertiliser company has launched an environmental analysis and planning service, in the wake of increasing demands on farmers to meet environmental standards and regional regulatory requirements.

The adoption of stricter nutrient management regulations was being led by the Horizons Regional Council in the lower North Island, with Otago and Canterbury also nearing completion of recent plan changes. . .

Top of the south for Farmax consultancy - Sally Rae:

Simon Glennie reckons he does his farming vicariously through his clients.

Mr Glennie, a consultant at Dunedin-based AbacusBio, has been named South Island Farmax consultant of the year.

The inaugural awards honoured the top North and South Island consultants who used the farm support software. . .

Dairying women learn to ‘dig deep’ through good and bad at annual conference:

Hundreds of women who work in the dairy industry will be tackling some of the big issues that affect today’s farmers including how to reach and sustain a level of performance that matches medal winning athletics and world champion sports teams when they get together at the Dairy Women’s Network annual conference in March 2014.

The line-up of high calibre keynote speakers includes Hamilton sports psychologist David Galbraith who has worked with the Chiefs rugby team, Magic netball team and Olympic silver medal winner Sarah Walker.

The two-day conference at Hamilton’s Claudelands Event Centre, starting on 19 March 2014, is themed ‘Keeping your finger on the pulse’. . .

Otago link highlighted in Fonterra book - Sally Rae:

Think Park Beede and basketball immediately springs to mind.

Dr Beede was heavily involved with the sport in Otago and coached the Otago Nuggets.

What is not so well known is that he was tasked with coming up with a name for the new dairy company that was to become Fonterra.

The story of the creation of the name – and the Otago connection – is highlighted in the new book Till the Cows Came Home by Wellington journalist and former Southland Times editor Clive Lind. . .

Farmers urged to plan ahead to prevent game bird crop damage

With the start of summer, farmers are starting to see large groups of paradise shelducks moving into their newly-planted crops or onto their irrigation lakes.

Fish & Game Northland says if farmers plan ahead, they can reduce the damage done by these flocks of ‘parries.’

“We encourage farmers to place bird-scaring equipment out before their grasses or crops emerge,” Fish & Game officer Nathan Burkepile says.

“And farmers with paradise shelduck problems on irrigation lakes should start scaring the birds off these lakes before the birds start moulting in January.” . . .

At least one dairy farmer won’t mind the summer heat – Milk Maid Marian:

Wayne has a reputation for getting stuck and he’s outdone himself this year by bogging a quad bike on the first day of summer. Worse, he left his helmet at the scene of the crime and by the time the kids and I came to the rescue, his gear had been given a beating by the local hoons.

Cows may be vegetarians but don’t for a minute think that this in itself bestows innocence. They are merciless with unattended vehicles. This time the helmet, fuel breather line and rubber boot for the brake assembly were squelched deep into the quagmire but I’ve seen much worse. . . .


Rural round-up

October 8, 2013

On Farm Productivity Is Good, But The Big Money Is Made From Off Farm Productivity – Milking on the Moove:

There’s a lot of talk about productivity in New Zealand these days.

But are we focusing on the right areas?

The government has set a target of doubling the primary sectors export earnings from $32 Billion to $64 Billion by 2025.

Nobody doubts that this is a difficult ask.

New Zealand’s primary sector has a strong record of productivity gains.

The sheep industry alone has increase productivity (expressed as meat sold /ewe) by 80% over the last 25 years.

That’s 2.5% productivity gain every year. Any business analyst will agree that that is impressive.

But are sheep farmers any better off?

Despite 20 years of productivity gains sheep farmers recently experienced their lowest level of profitability, according to Beef & Lamb NZ data. . .

Setting a pathway to a sustainable future – James Houghton:

The judges ruling on the One Plan has got everyone claiming a win, which is an unexpected result coming from two sides who have always been quite opposing in their views. What a fantastic result Honorary Justice Stephen Kòs has managed to keep both sides happy! For us it has allowed us, in conjunction with the regional council, to come up with a workable solution to the One Plan.

I was sitting next to a Fish & Game representative last Tuesday and I said that the primary industries are committed to putting money into getting good science around achieving the goals of healthy rivers and work forward for sensible solutions. I don’t know where he has been hiding for the past few years because he was quite surprised.

The plan as it now sits means everything is about making the pathway to improvements on farm achievable, and that’s all we ever wanted. It is all part of managing risk and making the most of the resources we have. But at the same time other stakeholders like Fish & Game and Forest & Bird need to have realistic expectations of what can be achieved through good management practice on farm. This all comes down to setting the values through open and honest consultation and this is why we are setting up the Stakeholders Group, who will represent the community in Waikato and identify where the issues are, as well as the Technical Alliance Group (TAG) who will come up with the solutions. . .

Raetihi farmers frustrated but coping:

Farmers reliant upon Raetihi’s water supply are as frustrated as the urban residents are but remain hopeful alternative water supplies maybe secured by the end of this week.

“With livestock understandingly refusing to drink from contaminated troughs, it has been a difficult week for the affected farms and especially those who draw water from Raetihi’s water supply,” says Lyn Neeson, Federated Farmers Ruapehu provincial president.

“What we need now is some heavy rain and it looks like some is on the cards for mid-week.

“Farmers are coping quite well by moving stock to alternative sources either on or off-farm. This includes on-farm water supplies like dams through to sending stock off-farm. . .

Colombian Farmers Get First-Hand Look at NZ Agri Expertise:

The New Zealand Agribusiness Centre, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), the Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade this week welcome the largest Colombian delegation to ever visit New Zealand.

Some 170 Colombian farmers are spending a week in New Zealand to get first-hand insights into New Zealand’s pastoral farming systems and agritechnology. The visit includes an exhibition and seminar with major players in New Zealand’s agriculture sector at Mystery Creek Event Centre (home of Fieldays); fieldtrips to dairy, beef and sheep farms; and a visit to Landcorp’s pastoral farm development blocks near Taupo.

Led by Fedegan, the Colombian Federation of Ranchers, the delegation to New Zealand follows Prime Minister John Key’s official visit to Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Brazil earlier this year as part of the Government’s increased focus on strengthening bilateral relations and capitalising on trade opportunities with Latin America nations. . .

NZ study tour on offer for international farmers:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has today announced a new programme for overseas farmers to spend time in New Zealand on an agri-tech study tour.

“Four places a year will be available for farmers to spend up to three weeks here, looking at improved agricultural productivity and reducing on-farm methane emissions,” says Mr Guy.

“This programme will be fully funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries and will help promote New Zealand’s agribusiness expertise overseas.

“My recent trip to South America has reinforced to me just how well respected New Zealand is overseas for the success of our agricultural sector. . .

Federated Farmers aids New Zealand’s agricultural diplomacy:

Federated Farmers has successfully tabled a paper at the World Farmers Organisation that could greatly contribute to New Zealand’s global agricultural diplomacy.

“I am pleased to say New Zealand’s proposal to invite farming organisations has been warmly received by the World Farmers Organisation and will further our country’s global outreach and engagement,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“The World Farmers Organisation is currently writing to our Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to agree a programme for farmers from developed or developing countries to travel to New Zealand for an agri-tech study tour.

“We envisage each visit will be coordinated by MPI but will involve industry good bodies, research institutions and ourselves. It will enable visiting farmers to spend two to three weeks working alongside our farming community and agricultural science sectors. . .

NZCTA urges positive action in light of botulism scare:

The New Zealand China Trade Association (NZCTA) is urging industry and Government to work together to learn serious lessons from the Fonterra botulism scare. Official reviews have yet to be published, but the NZCTA is encouraging its members to continue to monitor the situation with respect to the China market.

“There is no doubt that the incident has damaged New Zealand’s image as a source of safe, high quality food products and the implications of this have been felt in terms of earnings for a number of our members, and this is unlikely to be fully resolved until New Zealand can prove that it has adequate systems in place to safeguard the industry and export markets” says Association Chairman Tim White. . .

City-fringe farm with a history of dairy and cattle grazing goes on the market for sale:

A dairy support farm described as being ‘as close to the city as you can get without being a lifestyle block’ has been placed on the market for sale.

The 185 hectare unit near the township of Waiuku in the Counties region of Auckland is a sheep farm which has been converted into a cattle and finishing block capable of running up to 650 head of cattle.

The farm is divided into some 40 paddocks and raced for efficient stock movement and separation. This year the farm has stocked 100 dairy heifer yearlings, 150 dairy heifer calves, 200 beef yearlings and 200 beef calves. . .


Land & Water Forum’s final report generally welcomed

November 16, 2012

The Land and Water Forum’s final report fleshes out the detail of a new consensus for a major reform of water laws and practices in New Zealand,”  Forum chair, Alastair Bisley, said.

“The breadth of this consensus provides a once in a generation chance to resolve the entrenched problems surrounding fresh water.”

The Forum is recommending integrated decision-making in catchments, continuous improvement of management practices and clearer rights to take and use water within set limits.

Mr Bisley said: “Our reports together provide a comprehensive and detailed blueprint to maximise opportunities from fresh water for us all – farmers and fishers, power generators and recreationalists, citizens and tourists, cities and industries.

We want to grow the economy and improve the environment. Our recommendations apply to both urban and rural catchments. They provide for iwi to play their role as Treaty Partners and stakeholders.

“We call for community decisions at catchment level – within national frameworks and bottom lines from central Government.”

The Forum proposes a collaborative approach at both national and catchment levels to set and implement objectives for waterways, prescribe limits for takes and discharges where these are required, and to find fair, efficient and accountable ways to implement the limits.

“The Forum believes all water quality solutions should be tailored to individual catchments,” said Mr Bisley.

“Good management practice by land and water users is the basic tool. Incentivising it is the preferred approach. Regions are accountable for managing within limits. Industry schemes, catchment-wide initiatives and regulation may all help to ensure the limits are achieved within the agreed timeframes.

“Water available for users once limits have been set should be allocated with long-term economic welfare in mind.

“All authorised takes should be brought progressively within the allocation system.

“As catchments become fully allocated, consents should be clarified and strengthened to preserve their value. Water should be made more easily transferable between users while limits are preserved.” . . .

He described the report as a once in a generation opportunity :

 . . . While there were some notable non-signatories to the outcomes of the four year experiment in consensus decision-making, the forum managed to get 95 percent of its 60-plus members from industry, local government, iwi, environmental groups, recreational users and farmers across the line on 67 recommendations.

Among signatories are the national farming lobby, Federated Farmers, although their objection to any system requiring water rents saw the forum make no recommendation in that area.

The system it promotes would see the government establish national guidelines and standards for freshwater catchment management, which would be used by regional councils as the foundation for collaborative processes at a local level to establish “scarcity thresholds” for freshwater resources. . .

Dairy NZ has welcomed the report:

DairyNZ says the key to setting and managing to water quality limits is collaborative decision-making at a catchment level.

Commenting today on the release of the final Land and Water Forum (LAWF) report, DairyNZ chairman John Luxton says, “We recognise, as the LAWF report does, that this kind of community-driven catchment process needs to become the centre of water quality and quantity management.

“That is how we will make a difference to water quality – catchment by catchment across the country. Communities understand that, because people can relate any impact to the place where they live and work and their local waterway, so will take some ownership of the actions.”

He says that dairy farmers are already involved in these kinds of processes throughout New Zealand. . .

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Welcomes Third Land And Water Forum Report:

The final report from the Land and Water Forum strikes a balance between preservation and production, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

As a member of the forum we sought recognition for sheep and beef farmers as stewards of our rural land, while preserving opportunities for those who manage water sustainably.

It has been a long and complex process, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand Western North Island Farmer Director, Kirsten Bryant. “But, ultimately, one in which the voices of water users of all different types have been heard and in which we have all worked together for the good of all of New Zealand.”

She welcomed the emphasis throughout the process on local people making local decisions, within a national framework. . .

Meridian Energy also welcomes the report:

Meridian Energy today welcomed the release of the Land and Water Forum’s (LAWF’s) third report.

Chief Executive Mark Binns congratulated the Forum for pulling together a complex and diverse group of water interests.

“There are a range of views on the right approach to manage New Zealand’s fresh water resources. This forum has enabled all parties to put their views on the table,” says Mr Binns.

“Recognition should go to Chair Alistair Bisley and all Forum members for their four year collaboration. The result is three quality reports that will help improve water management for New Zealand.”

The water allocation report marks the conclusion of the Forum’s work. “LAWF’s collaboration provides an opportunity for making positive change to the way New Zealand manages its water. This framework is capable of protecting the environment and enabling economic growth,” says Mr Binns.  . .

Business NZ says the recommendations are positive:

The third report of the Land and Water Forum brings useful recommendations for improving New Zealand’s freshwater management, says BusinessNZ.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said water was essential for many business activities which drive New Zealand’s economy and on which many New Zealanders rely for employment and income growth.

“Businesses require the confidence to invest in infrastructure and other capital projects knowing their rights to use water are clearly understood and secure.

“Investors are risk averse and any changes in the right to take or use water over time need to be clearly understood.

“It is important that transfer and trade in water rights are facilitated to the extent possible allowing water to move to its highest valued use, without unnecessary restrictions from regulators.”

Fish and Game says cherry picking would derail a water clean up:

Fish & Game NZ says the release of the third and final Land and Water Forum (LWF) report will only have an impact on improving freshwater management if the Government accepts all of the Forum’s recommendations, which are interconnected, and not pick and choose those which suit.

In these three reports the Government now has the bones of a blueprint – reached by consensus – for how to manage the public water resource, says Fish & Game NZ chief executive Bryce Johnson.

“All three reports must be treated as a package deal,” he says. “LWF’s second report recommended the need for a national objectives framework for water quality but the Government took it upon itself to develop these outside the forum framework. We’ve never had reasonable justification for that decision, which is odd given all the expertise was around the LWF table.

“LWF has been deliberating on these issues to reach a consensus for fouryears now and during that time freshwater quality and quantity has continued to deteriorate,” says Mr Johnson. . .

Federated Farmers supports the recommendations:

“Despite what is said at times about our environment, we must never forget we still enjoy some of the highest quality water on earth,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers water and environment spokesman.

“LawF recommendations are about setting a pathway to protect and over time, improve our already high water quality. It is about better managing our most precious natural resource to fulfil our social, economic, environmental and cultural needs.

“Farmers support this aspiration and Federated Farmers is committed to playing our part in achieving it.

“We know the way we farm will need to change. Perhaps what needs to be fully understood is that change is also needed beyond agriculture. LawF covers all water, rural or urban, so we are all in this together.

“At the heart of LawF recommendations is for communities to adopt a collaborative process in setting water quality limits. This mirrors the one we have gone through on LawF itself. It is a very good way to understand issues in depth.

“Any collaborative process must be genuinely informed by what limits mean for individual communities. It is about striking a balance between what is feasible and what is not.

“Federated Farmers does take issue with some regional councils rushing to set limits. This fails to inform or involve the community in what will affect jobs, a community’s standard of living, or for that matter, its makeup.

“There are also some local councils who believe they ought to be exempted because they cannot achieve limit objectives and therefore, shouldn’t have to. It is the kind of thinking some farmers may have harboured decades ago, but not now.

“For agriculture, the regulatory process should embed Good Management Practice (GMP), the inclusion of farm environmental plans and where appropriate, Audited Self Management (ASM).

“Good Management Practice provides a holistic way to address water quality issues than the nitrate myopic approach suggested by many regional councils.

“Good Management Practice should further help communities decide where limits should be set, so as not to cause social and economic damage. I guess this is about empowering communities to find the right balance.

“LawF recommendations are a roadmap and Federated Farmers supports them,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.

Te Wai Maori Trust says the report is a practical and sensible solution to fresh water management:

New Zealand’s future as a leading primary sector producer as well as our nation’s 100% Pure New Zealand brand depends on our ability to sustainably manage the valuable fresh water resource. The third report of the Land and Water Forum (LAWF), released today, provides a responsible yet practical way forward to freshwater management, the Te Wai Maori Trust says.

Te Wai Maori Chairman Ken Mair today called on the Government to implement the recommendations, which found that iwi rights and interests must be resolved for any freshwater management regime to be stable and durable in the future.

“There are a range of competing uses for fresh water throughout the country – from dairying to crop farming, urban demands to tourism uses. But the Government will not be able to resolve them in a durable manner until it engages with iwi over Maori rights and interests in fresh water,” Mr Mair said. . .

Regional councils say the report cements their role:

Chair of the regional sector group Fran Wilde said the report cements the role of regional councils in managing New Zealand’s freshwater resource and highlights the need for a more supportive national framework for collaborative decision-making.

“Regional councils are at the forefront of water management and use a variety of methods to manage and enhance water quality,” said Ms Wilde.

“There is strong support among councils for collaborative decision-making regarding water quality management and we have a number of successful examples of this in action.” . .

Environmental Defence Society endorses Land and Water Forum Report:

The release of the third and final report from the Land and Water Forum has been welcomed and endorsed by the Environmental Defence Society.

The Forum originated at the 2008 EDS Conference where an initial support group from a wide range of interests, including farming and environmental, agreed to try and find a better way of managing freshwater.

“It’s been a long road since then, with the Government getting behind the exercise and the core group expanding to include representation from all key stakeholders and from iwi. Four years on there is now a package of measures that need to be taken together and implemented by Government,” said EDS Chair Gary Taylor. . .

However, Irrigation NZ says last minute changes weaken the report:

IrrigationNZ says last minute changes to the Land and Water Forum’s Third Report, ‘Managing Within Limits’, have weakened its integrity.

“IrrigationNZ has spent the past year collaborating in good faith to reach agreement on how water quantity and quality is best managed in NZ. A package that provided a sound platform to support sustainable future growth in New Zealand had been produced. However, last minute changes, particularly to the water allocation section, mean IrrigationNZ now questions whether the Land & Water Forum is the collaborative consensus- based process it claims to be?” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

While Mr Curtis says there are many positives within the final report, including the need for; community-driven catchment-based water management; industry ‘Good Management Practice’ as the preferred route; development of community water infrastructure to address over-allocation; and a move to plan-led water management – IrrigationNZ has major concerns about parts of the water allocation chapter.

Certainty is the key if irrigators are to invest in sustainability. Irrigators need long-duration consents and an explicit right of renewal,” says Curtis. “Short durations and uncertainty of renewal will produce reactive and high- risk thinking which creates scenarios prohibitive to capital investment. If the community wants environmental gains without job losses or food price increases, then New Zealand must implement a resource management system that allows for long-term investment and thinking.”

There is also a need for community-driven water infrastructure solutions to be consented for over 50 years. This would improve the viability of initial and on-going capital investment. In return for this, IrrigationNZ agrees consents need to adapt in a timely manner to environmental limit changes. “This is the most logical package for water allocation,” says Curtis. Having recently returned from an overseas study tour of irrigation developments in the UK, Israel and Australia he says, “It is also consistent with water allocation internationally.”

“Irrigators have committed to more sustainable farming practices. Certainty, long-term thinking and catchment-based water management are the only way water quality and quantity objectives set by the wider community will be achieved in New Zealand.”

The full report can be downloaded  here.


Rural round-up

November 13, 2012

Fonterra shares in hot demand despite unknowns – Terry Hall:

Dairy farmers should be very, very happy. It seems heaps of Asians, Australians and Kiwis want to invest in their now highly desirable, fashionable industry, even if many haven’t a clue precisely what they are putting their money into.

Even well-tested professional investors are finding the prospectus and the concept behind the $525 million Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund tough to get their heads around. It is essentially an untried investment, the first of its type ever unleashed anywhere. Essentially, owners of the co-operative company will retain full control while opening an investment opportunity to outsiders. This is to provide additional finance to further expand a crucial part of their business, which the farmers seem reluctant to do themselves. . .

Fonterra is a price taker - Milking on the Moove:

Following on from my post about how New Zealand agriculture can learn from Apple, I thought I’d look at some New Zealand companies that are doing well overseas.

Geoff Ross is a former advertising executive who rose to prominence when he founded 42 Below, the Vodka company. He and his partners have gone on to invest and run other companies which they take public. The companies Geoff and co have invested in are Ecoya which makes candles and Moa Beer.
I think he is an interesting business person to study because he hasn’t invented anything new or created a unique product. He has simply taken products which are already common place, but he creates brands that enable him to sell these products at a premium price. . .

Scientists looking at smarter irrigation technology:

Lincoln University researchers are investigating the use of microwave technology to improve efficiency and reduce water wastage from farm irrigation.

The university’s research subsidiary, Lincoln Ventures, has won government funding of almost $850,000 over two years to put its smarter irrigation concept to the test. . .

Fernbaby marketing infant formula – Sally Rae:

When it comes to travelling, Tianxi Shao could be considered a frequent flyer.

The Chinese businessman and sporting enthusiast has visited 60 countries, yet fell in love with New Zealand, captivated by the “clean, green image”.

Mr Shao is now principal of Fernbaby, a company formed to provide a locally-made high-quality alternative to the Australian and Singaporean-made infant formulas, which it says dominate the New Zealand market. . .

Wool-Rich Innovations Take Centre Stage at Shear Brilliance:

Fill your living environments with wool and do it in style – that’s the message from the Campaign for Wool.

The Campaign is hosting HRH The Prince of Wales today at Shear Brilliance – a wool showcase at The Cloud, Queens Wharf, Auckland (1pm today).

“From a carpet couch to a wool peg necklace, from grass grown on wool dags to Tiki artwork on Merino, from Zambesi’s carpet bag to the loftiness of wool knops, Shear Brilliance will surprise and delight anyone who might have thought wool was passe,” says Stephen Fookes, Chair, Campaign for Wool New Zealand. . .

Shearing Showcase At The Cloud For Prince Charles

New Zealand’s shearers and wool handlers have welcomed the opportunity to join Prince Charles in Auckland today at Shear Brilliance, a showcase celebrating the Campaign for Wool.

As patron of the campaign Prince Charles supports the industry’s efforts to raise awareness of wool’s virtues and while In New Zealand for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations visits the Cloud in Auckland to inspect a wool showcase staged by the industry.

President of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors’ Association Barry Pullin says Royal patronage at Shear Brilliance is an opportunity for the industry to state it’s fundamental principle that more successful farmers will sustain a more successful wool industry.  . .

Farmers urged to take early action to prevent crop damage

Auckland/Waikato Fish & Game is urging farmers to make plans now for reducing the damage that can be caused by large flocks of Paradise shelduck, and other game birds.

Game Bird Manager David Klee says that with summer approaching, farmers will start to see large groups of birds moving into their newly-planted crops.

“We urge farmers to plan ahead to reduce the damage done by these flocks,” he says. “We encourage farmers to place bird-scaring equipment out before the new grass or crops start emerging and providing birds with an easy source of food.” . . .


Canada Geese from protected to pest

March 19, 2011

Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson’s announcement that permits will no longer be required for the shooting of Canada Geese is a welcome one.

“As the population of Canada geese continues to increase so does their risk to aviation safety and the damage they inflict to pasture and crops,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“The current status where the geese populations are managed as a game bird is not working.

“Farmers have been getting increasingly frustrated with these birds fouling pasture and damaging crops.

“They also pose an aviation hazard due to their large size and this change will allow for the birds to be more effectively controlled where they pose a risk to aircraft safety.”

Ms Wilkinson says there are tens of thousands of Canada geese across the country and recreational hunting opportunities will remain.

“I expect Fish and Game to continue to work with landowners to assist with managing populations around the country.

“The geese are well established and on top of that farmers will have an incentive to provide hunting access to reduce their goose control costs.”

Fish and Game isn’t happy:

But Fish & Game is calling the decision an “own goal” for Federated Farmers, which lobbied for the change.

“The small group within Federated Farmers who lobbied the minister so hard on this issue will probably spin this as a win,” says chief executive Bryce Johnson.

“Ironically though, the minister’s decision will foist the considerable expense of goose control onto their membership and, indeed, all farmers if the expected push for ratepayer-funded regional councils to take responsibility for control happens.”

This just shows how little Fish & Game knows about farmers, many of whom are forced to fund the organisation through hunting and fishing licences.

Federated Farmers is pleased that Canada Geese have been removed from the protected species list and can now be regarded as the pest they are.

“Federated Farmers has long been campaigning for the Canada Goose to be declared a pest. It’s not native, it spoils the environment and is even an air traffic hazard,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers game and pest animal management spokesperson.

“Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson’s announcement was inevitable, the population was getting out of control. For example, South Island Canada Goose Management Plan in 1995 set a population limit of 20,350. In 2008 that figure was 35,000.

“We applaud her for having the courage to make this decision after five years of consideration and following extensive lobbying by Federated Farmers.

“The Canada Goose was introduced to New Zealand as a game bird and has provided many landowners with nothing but trouble. It puts huge pressure on the environment, damaging crops, spoiling waterways with excrement and outcompeting native birds for resources.

“It adds thousands of dollars to the costs of doing business in the South Island especially.

“This ruling finally allows farmers to defend themselves against Canada Geese.

Christchurch Airport also supports the change in the birds’ status:

Christchurch International Airport Ltd (CIAL) has come out in support of the change in protection status of Canada Geese.

“This bird is a hazard to aircraft,” said CIAL Chief Executive Jim Boult. “Canada Geese are large and cumbersome birds which can cause a great deal of damage if they collide with aircraft.”

Jim Boult pointed out that the Canada Geese population had steadily increased in Christchurch city over the last few years, which raised the risk of bird strike to aircraft. “We want to keep the population of Canada Geese to manageable levels, which will help keep the airspace as clear as possible.”

Fish and Game’s management of the species allowed the bird population to grow.

Airports, councils and farmers can now declare open season on the pest to make airspace safer and reduce the negative impacts the birds have on the environment through pollution of waterways, competition with native species and damage to crops.


Trout farming should get tick

January 15, 2010

Federated Farmers’ President Don Nicolson is calling for the prohibition on commercial trout farming to be lifted.

In a submission to the government’s review of aquaculture he said aquaculture,  minerals and the agricultural sector, provide three pillars for the transformation of the New Zealand economy.

“It’s time for New Zealand to back the sectors that represent the sunrise,” . . .

“By making water storage an infrastructural priority, New Zealand will future proof itself against climate variation.  This infrastructure can further create new opportunities by way of in land and freshwater aquaculture.

“It’s not that New Zealand’s running out of rain but the rain is literally running out of New Zealand. . .

“This is also about evolving farm practices and the species we farm commercially.  It’s about sensibly harvesting the fruits of the environment that benefit every New Zealander.

Nicolson points out that Fish and Game is one of the largest trout farmers in New Zealand through its trout hatcheries. But the ODT reports the organisation is opposed to lifting the prohibition.

Any benefits from allowing commercial trout farming would be “heavily outweighed” by the risks to New Zealand’s wild trout fishery, Otago Fish and Game chief executive, Niall Watson, says. . .

. . . Risks came from the commercialisation of what was a non-commercial fish species and would encourage trout poaching in vulnerable spawning streams of the Central North Island lakes.

“Commercial-scale poaching would be a very serious risk in that area as well as elsewhere in the country.

Monitoring and enforcement costs would be considerable and successful protection of wild fish stocks would be difficult.”

A proliferation of fish farm operations could mean a much greater risk of disease transfer, he said.

I don’t understand why this would be a problem with trout farming when it hasn’t been with salmon farming.

That’s created businesses, provided jobs, added to the variety of locally produced food in supermarkets and restaurants and earned export income.

Friends who fish tell me that, rather than threatening recreational fishing, salmon farming has enhanced it. Why would trout farming be different?

Providing any risks were managed, and that might mean restricting the location and number of trout farms, we’d have lots to gain from lifting the prohibition.


Otago Fish & Game not confident either

November 3, 2009

Otago Fish and Game council has told the national body it lacks confidence in its chief executive.

Areas of concern included a water campaign which failed to proceed in 2006, a lack of agreement over themes for pre-election advocacy, and the “divisive and costly” judicial review on high country pastoral leases taken without consultation with regional fish and game councils.

This action follows a similar move  by Central South Island Fish & Game which was made public last week.

That judicial review was not only divisive and costly for Fish & Game it was very costly for pastoral lessees and the public.

Fish & Game is funded by fishing and hunting licences. It’s a public entity, established by statute and answerable to the Minister of Conservation.

It should have stuck to maintaining and enhancing recreational fishing and hunting, not taking the Crown and pastoral lessees to court.


Fish & Game internal ructions

October 27, 2009

Fish & Game’s challenge attempt to establish a right to roam on pastoral lease land was an expensive business for pastoral lessees and the Crown who were defendants.

It was also costly for the organisation and not just in financial terms. It has caused serious internal ructions.

The Timaru Herald reports that Central South Island Fish & Game has passed a vote of no confidence in the organisation’s national chief executive, Bryce Johnson.

Fish & Game is funded from fishing and hunting licences. Many pastoral lessees hold licences are were livid that they were paying for the court action three times - through their licence fees for the body taking the action and both as taxpayers and lessees for the defence.  

Anecdotal evidence from people hunting and fishing on their land supported lessees’ contention that Fish & Game didn’t have whole hearted support of its members for the action. This vote of no confidence supports the anecdotes.


Feds vs Canada Geese

October 8, 2009

Federated Farmers say Britain’s declaration of an open season on Canada Geese should provide the impetus for New Zealand to classify the birds as pest.

“These fetid vermin defile crops, pasture, waterways and wildlife habitats,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers pest management spokesperson. 

“In Britain, the birds pose a similarly significant threat. The wildlife advice body, Natural England, has now given farmers troubled by the geese permission to kill them with a shotgun or rifle, or trap them in a cage or net from January 1 2010.

“Here in New Zealand, geese numbers are completely out-of-control and their excrement is having a serious impact on water quality and pasture growth. A single Canada goose produces more excrement than a sheep, with most of that ending up in our waterways.

Fish and Game has a statutory obligation to control the birds’ population but hunters aren’t making a dent in the rising numbers.

“In the South Island alone, geese numbers have climbed by an alarming 44 percent in just ten years. Fish and Game’s failure to publicly release the latest June count figures, as required under the South Island Canada goose management plan, is typical of its attempt to hide the pest’s increasing population figures.

“I’m sure South Island farmers who witness these ‘winged rabbits’ munching through hectares of feed within hours would very much like to see those figures.

“The Federation wants the Department of Conservation to go a step further than Natural England. We want Canada geese declared a fully fledged pest so farmers can destroy them without requiring an excuse.

Conservation Minister, Tim Groser, is considering the status of Canada Geese and is expected to release his final decision soon.

“I sincerely hope, for the good of the country, Minister Groser ensures this pest is correctly managed. At the very least, DoC should directly oversee Fish & Game’s management of the pest.”

“Farmers, environmentalists and the country’s airports no longer have confidence in Fish & Game’s ability to manage Canada geese. “

Britain has declared open season on ring-necked parakeets, monk parakeets from South America and Egyptian geese too on the grounds they pose some threat to wildlife, crops, public safety or public health, according to Natural England.


Fish & Game fee rise refused

September 4, 2009

Associate Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson has refused a request from Fish & Game for an increase in licence fees.

She justified her decision on the grounds of the economic recession, and the zero increase in Department of Conservation hut fees and Lake Taupo fishery licence fees (administered by Doc).

Fish & Game appealed and she reviewed her decision but still didn’t approve an increase.

She acknowledged Fish and Game’s recommendations carried a great deal of weight, the increase was less than that sought last year and accepted some costs could not be controlled.

However, she said Fish and Game could rely on reserves to cover any shortfalls during the year.

Fish & Game’s chief executive Bryce Johnson was not impressed by this.

Mr Johnson said the 2009-10 licence fee was below that required to meet the real costs of managing the sport fishery.

“Erosion of reserves to a level where they no longer provide for good financial management will simply require greater fee increases in the future,” he said.

He also warned that key priorities, such as protecting habitat for fish and public access, could be affected.

I might have had some sympathy for this argument had Fish & Game not wasted their money challenging private property rights on pastoral lease land, against the advice of Crown Law.

Federated Farmers made this point in applauding the minister’s decision. Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers game and pest management spokesperson said:

“It is refreshing to have a Minister that is prepared to stand up to this statutory organisation and demand a higher standard of performance.

“Over the years, we have seen Fish & Game undertake some reckless spending at the national level so I’m not surprised it is in need of further funding. I am only too happy that the Government has blocked its proposal to increase its licence fee from $105 to $109 for the 2009-10 season.

“Even though Fish & Game’s national office was in possession of Crown law advice to the contrary, the hunting lobby still went ahead with its unsuccessful challenge to high country farmers’ exclusive possession of pastoral leasehold land. This is a sure sign of how irresponsible Fish & Game has become.

“This failed attempt to by-pass all the work associated with walking access in the high country was a spiteful and damaging waste of the fishing and hunting license fee. . .

Quite.

It wasn’t only licence fees that were wasted, the Crown and pastoral lessees also wasted money defending the case.

They haven’t learned from this either.

After her initial refusal to increase fees, Fish and Game went to a public law specialist and she was “presented with a three- or four-page diatribe” asking her to review the decision.

She questioned why Mr Johnson had not discussed the issue with her directly instead of spending anglers’ money on a legal decision.

Fish & Game’s headquarters needs to forget get out of politics and lawyers’ offices and back to its core business which is where the licence fees ought to be directed. Having less money than they asked for might help them do this.


Fish & Game’s failed court bid could be costly

June 12, 2009

The ODT reports that Fish and Game’s failed challenge to pastoral lessees’ property rights could cost it a six-figure sum.

The two respondents to the High Court action instigated by Fish and Game, the High Country Accord, representing pastoral lessees, and their landlord, Land Information New Zealand (Linz), have both said they are seeking reimbursement of their costs.

The High Country Accord has said the case cost it $250,000, while Linz would not reveal its costs or how much it was seeking from the action heard by the High Court in Wellington.

While Fish and Game is not funded by taxpayers, it gets its money from the sale of fishing and hunting licences, it is a public entity, established by statute, which reports to the Minister of Conservation.

Its attempt to gain public access to pastoral lease properties was in effect one public body taking another to court.

It wasted money which should have been spent managing, enhancing and and maintaining sports fish and game in that action and it’s now likely that much more of the licence fees paid by anglers and hunters will go towards reimbursing the costs of the respondents.


Carter questions court action – Updated

May 15, 2009

Agriculture Minister David Carter is questioning Fish & Game’s leadership  after its failed attempt to gain public access to pastoral lease land.

“I seriously question the use of hunting and fishing licensing fees in taking this action, and I will be discussing this further with the Minister of Conservation.

“I am concerned this divisive action was taken when there was no foundation for Fish and Game’s claim for greater public access to high country stations.

“A pastoral lease gives the runholder the right to say who has access to their leasehold land. This is no different from private property owners,” says Mr Carter.

“The fundamental duty of Fish and Game is to advocate for hunters and fishers, and to help enhance their relationship with rural landowners. . . “

How refreshing to have a Minister who stands up for farmers and rightly questions whether Fish and Game should be using licence fees for its political and litigious campaigns.

Anecdotal evidence from hunters and fishers suggest the Minister is more in touch with their concerns than the body their licence fees funds.

This misguided court action was expensive for licence holders, tax payers and farmers and it’s not just money but goodwill that was wasted.

UPDATE:

Federated Farmers said the court action was a disaster:

The challenge was a failed attempt to by-pass all the work associated with walking access and it is a spiteful and damaging waste of the fishing and hunting license fee money. . .

“This decision brings relief for affected High Country farming families, as they now know Fish & Game members won’t be entitled to walk all over them,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers High Country chairman.

Both Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord played an instrumental role in the formation and development of the Walking Access Commission.

“We have contributed positively to the development of rules for public access that give pastoral leaseholders and their families security and certainty. Meanwhile, Fish & Game’s Executive has sadly played nothing but a negative and destructive role. . .

“High Country pastoral leases impose strict conditions on us as farmers. The judgment acknowledges that leaseholders are responsible for much more than just grass.

“It’s only right that farmers have the ability to control and manage access to such land. This decision enables pastoral leaseholders to operate a business and maintain authority over their property rights contained in their leases. 

“The High Court’s judgement also recognises that pastoral leaseholders perform a stewardship role. In other words, we farm with the High Country and not against it. . .

“Fish & Game chief executive, Bryce Johnston, now needs to take a long hard long look at his and his Council’s decision to waste a vast amount of license fee money on this challenge.

“Federated Farmers consider it also time for the Government to look at the legislative privilege that enables Fish & Game to fund such frivolous litigation. This inappropriate use of license fee money should not go unchecked by Government,” Mr Aubrey concluded.

High Country Accord chair Jonathon Wallis issued a media release in which he asked if the action was a misuse of funds.

“Not just the huge amount of money farmers have been forced to direct into these proceedings away from rejuvenating our economy through expanding and maintaining agricultural production, but both the vast amount of tax payer funds that went into jointly defending it and the allocation of precious funds more commonly used for the protection and establishment of habitat for our fish and game.”

“The latter are funds generated by the sale of Fish and Game licenses sold to hunters and anglers who for almost a century have respected the goodwill and relationships established between farmers and recreationalists regardless of it being a matter of privilege as opposed to right.”

“The question also has to be asked whether this was not just a personal crusade by an executive distorted from the opinion of the general membership of Fish and Game itself.”

Wallis said he allowed licensed duck shooters on to his property on opening morning because he wasn’t blaming them for the actions of the national council.

Alf Grumble and The Bull Pen also post on the issue.


High Court backs property rights for pastoral lesees

May 14, 2009

The High Court has ruled in favour of pastoral lessees’ right to exclusive use of  their land.

In his judgement, Justice France said pastoral leases were consistent with a land leasing arrangement. The land leasing arrangement conferred exclusive possession to the farmer.

“The obligations the lessee undertakes would make it surprising if he or she were obtaining only a licence to occupy.”

. . . The Crown maintained control over the land to preserve it environmentally, and any proposed use other than pasturage required Crown consent.

But a clear indication of the relationship between lessor and lessee was that a recreation permit granted by the Crown to a third party required the consent of the lessee of the land.

“The need to obtain a lessee’s consent is, in my view, a very clear indication of the nature of the lessees’ possession.”

This ruling establishes the property rights of lessees and confirms their right to undisturbed occupation .

Fish & Game took the case to the court, contending that because the Crown owned the land it could give other people access to it.  

Farmers were furious about the case and the grapevine suggests that the new Minister of Land Information New Zealand was not impressed either. His department administers pastoral leases and was a defendant in the case, which in effect meant  it was a statutory body taking a government department to court.

Fish & Game used to be well thought of by farmers  for its work augmenting fisheries but that relationship has been strained in recent years as F&G has fought landowners on access issues and shown an unfortunate tendency to challenge property rights.

The expense to farmers of defending the case, which the ODT puts at more than $200,00, will have done nothing to improve matters. If F&G wants to rebuild postive relationships with farmers they should stay out of the courts and put their energies back into improving fisheries.


Healing the rift in the high country

March 26, 2009

Pastoral  lessees head for court with LINZ today to defend their property rights  against an attempt by Fish and Game to establish the right to roam in the high country.

High Country Accord chairman Andrew Simpson estimated it would cost pastoral lessees $200,000 to defend but said the stakes were high.

“It’s a direct threat to our way of life and the ability of pastoral lessees to farm the land. We can’t farm if we don’t have some form of control over who enters our properties,” he said.

The case is being heard in the High Court at Wellington, and if successful would grant the public as-of-right access to pastoral lease land for recreation – so long as it did not interfere with the lessee’s exclusive right to pasture for grazing livestock.

 . . .  Fish and Game chief executive Bryce Johnson said his organisation was seeking a declaratory judgement on whether pastoral leases granted under the 1948 Land Act offered exclusive possession or exclusive occupancy of the land.

He will argue that pastoral leases only grant runholders exclusive rights to the pasture.

I hope the judge is familiar with Shakespeare because I think this argument is similar to the one which prompted Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice.

Tarry a little;—there is something else.—
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are, a pound of flesh:

The words expressly, with pastoral leases, are land exclusive of improvements.  The land is publicly owned but the improvements which include the fertility, grass, crops, tracks, trees, fences, gates, and buildings, are the property of the lessee.

I reckon that would preclude the right to roam because no-one could enter the property without touching at least some of those improvements.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, we can be grateful that the government wants to heal the rift which developed between pastoral lessees and the previous administration.

Lands Minister Richard Worth said the relationship between lessees and the previous government had collapsed, with farmers feeling there was no trust between the government as landlord and the lessee.

Mr Worth said in an interview he was committed to a relationship based on three policy planks his party campaigned on at the last election: voluntary, good-faith negotiations between runholders and the Government; ensuring rentals were tied to the earning capacity of the property; and recognition that runholders could be as effective land stewards as the Crown.

The inclusion of amenity values in determining rents for leashold land led to court because some lessees are being charged rentals which exceed their gross income just because the sheep and cattle have a view while grazing.

The case concluded last month but the judgement has yet to be released.

Without pre-empting that, there is no doubt this government has a more reasonable attitude to pastoral leases than the previous one.  As Agriculture Minsiter David Carter says:

“The land is not easy to manage and the fundamental question we now have to ask is how will the Doc manage its already 43% hold of the South Island.”

Mr Carter said Doc and other interested parties needed to work more closely with farming families who, in many cases, had farmed the land for several generations.

“They are the ones who have delivered us the landscapes we see today. They are the ones with the ability to manage it far more sustainably than any government department,” he said.

 The previous government was hung up on ownership. But conservation can be assured and access negotiated without wasting taxpayers’ money on purchasing land and the on-going costs of ownership.


Portia’s defence could protect pastoral leasehold property rights

January 31, 2009

The National Business Review (print edition) reports that Fullbright scholar Ann Brower and co-author John Page are challenging whether tresspass laws apply to land farmed by pastoral leaseholders.

Fish & Game have already made a similar challenge by seeking a declaratory judgement from the High Court after a Crown Law opnion supported leaseholders’ contention that they had exclusive possession of the land they farm.

Pastoral leaseholders, supported by Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord, have a different view and are concerned that if the challenge is successful it will give the public a right to roam on leasehold land.

They are consulting lawyers for help but I suggest they also turn to Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice  Act 4, scene 1:

Tarry a little;—there is something else.—
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are, a pound of flesh:(315)
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.

Pastoral leases apply to the land exclusive of improvements so while the land – or flesh – is owned by the public, the blood – the fertility, pasture, trees, fences, gates, tracks and buildings are the property of the leaseholder.

That means that even if the court ruled that trespass laws don’t apply to the public land those wanting access to it would have to get it without laying a finger – or a foot – on so much as a blade of grass because that and all other improvements are owned by the leaseholder and subject to the usual protection of the laws which applies to private property.


Property rights 1 government 0

October 31, 2008

The High Court decision against the Crown’s attempt to transfer land occupied under pastoral lease to the Department of Conservation is a victory for farmers and property rights.

High Court judgement has ruled against the Crown for reneging on a deal to offer a special lease to a group of high country farmers.

In 2003 the Commissioner of Crown Lands (CCL) decided to grant a special lease on the expiry of a pastoral occupation licence to the group, known as the Soldiers’ Syndicate.

In 2005 the CCL changed his mind and decided to designate the land, comprising 4,400 hectares in the Hawkdun and Ida ranges near Ranfurly in Otago, as a conservation area. The syndicate appealed to the High Court and was vindicated by the decision released yesterday (30 October).

High Country Accord Chairman Ben Todhunter said:

“This is one of three court cases where high country farming families are defending their legal rights against the Crown, or Crown entities.

“Basically, you have a government determined to convert tussock grasslands that have been grazed by farmers for generations into high country parks and reserves. Because the government hasn’t been able to achieve this on the scale it wants through good faith bargaining, ministers and the agencies that report to them, have been abusing legal processes.”

The second case, challenging the government’s decision to charge farmers for amenity values, is being held in Dunedin. The ODT reports on it here, here and here.

The third case is a challenge to property rights by Fish & Game which contends that pastoral leases do not allow farmers to restrict access to their land.


Keeping waterways clean

October 3, 2008

A report by Fish and Game and Forest and Bird concludes that the Dairy and Clean Streams Accord:

 has failed to achieve its major goal to reduce the impact of dairying on the quality of New Zealand’s streams, rivers, lakes, goundwater and wetlands.

Susie McKeague, Otago Regional Council  manager of land resources said that in South and West Otago there was a declining trend in ammonia as a result of fencing and planting along waterways, the Clutha River was clean because the volume of water diluted contaminants but water quality in small streams and tributaries was deteriorating.

She put this down to intensive farming on wet soils. Fencing and planting along waterways to keep animals away from them helps prevent run off, but dung and urine move through the soil structure and leach into waterways. One solution to this would be more use of feed pads, particularly in winter when it rained more, so that animals weren’t on the paddocks when they were soaked.

North Otago waterways are cleaner than those further south and Susie put this down to a drier climate and the Environmental Farm Plans which are a requirement for every farm which gets water from the North Otago Irrigation Company.

“The EFPs are the best choice for environmental protection and they are driving good practice more than anything in other areas,” she said.

Susie said that it would be impossible to protect waterways from pollution during floods but at other times it was necessary to capture everything on farm or have remedies if more nutrients than desirable leached into water.

“For example, if phosphorus makes algae grow then we need something to reduce any concentration of phosphorus.”

Susie believes that the best way to solve any problems is to tell farmers what the issues are and leave them to find solutions.

“They have the best ideas to achieve what’s needed. Farmers are switched on, well networked and they know how to find answers.

“EFPs are making a difference in areas we didn’t anticipate and are leading change. Farmers are monitoring soil moisture, irrigation scheduling and effluent disposal and have a real desire to get it right.”


Right to roam with firearms

August 27, 2008

Fish and Game is seeking a High Court declaration challenging the right of farmers to restrict access to their properties.

Federated Farmers High Country chairman Donald Aubrey says that would give people the right to wander at will with loaded firearms.

“It appears to me that this action is to gain access to privately held land for Fish and Game members,” Mr Aubrey said.

Mr Aubrey says farmers with pastoral leases, like any person who rents a home in New Zealand, has the right to exclude others and feel safe and secure in the place they pay rent for.

“House tenants don’t expect other people to have 24 hour access to their homes. Why should it be any different for farmers? Even though the scale is different, the ramifications are not.

“High country farming families have strong relationships with fishermen, hunters and other recreational users. This action by Fish and Game is likely to destroy this goodwill.

Property rights do not vary with size and the fact that the Government owns it is irrelevant. No-one could wander round the section of a state house with a loaded firearm and the reasons which make that illegal also apply to farms, whether they are pastoral leasehold or freehold properties.

Unfettered access, with or without firearms, could disturb stock and interfere with farmwork; and while most hunters are responsible people that doesn’t give them automatic access to other people’s properties.

High country families are geographically isolated which provides more than enough challenges without allowing people to wander round their properties at will with firearms.


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