Rural round-up

April 10, 2014

Personal tragedy drives ‘worker representative’ on ACC forestry sector injury prevention committee:

ACC announced today that following a nationwide ballot of forestry workers, Wiremu Edmonds and Neil Thomas will be the worker representatives on its new injury prevention programme, aimed at encouraging safer practices in the forestry sector.

Both are experienced forestry workers and passionate, experienced health and safety advocates – and in Wiremu’s case, his passion is strengthened by the personal tragedy of having lost a son to the industry.
The ‘ACC Forestry Sector Injury Prevention Programme’ is being developed and implemented in collaboration with WorkSafe NZ, the NZ Forest Owners Association (FOA), the Forestry Industry Contractors Association (FICA) and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU). . .

Aquaduct NZ wins IrrigationNZ Innovation Award:

Aquaduct NZ and its entrepreneurial founder Gerard van den Bosch took out the highly-sought-after 2014 IrrigationNZ Innovation Award at its biennial conference in Napier last night.

Aquaduct’s entry (alongside associate company Bosch Irrigation Ltd) included its ground-breaking solution for the manufacture of irrigation pipe for Valetta Irrigation Scheme’s new 84km underground pipe network.

A factory to produce pipe on-site was created in a paddock within the scheme’s boundaries slashing welding requirements by 80% and reducing installation time and costs. The company supplied over 80km of pipe in sizes from 1.6m diameter to 200mm – in lengths up to 250 metres. The factory is New Zealand’s largest capacity plant pumping out 5800 tonnes of pipe in 60 days. . . .

Irrigation champions share 2014 Ron Cocks Memorial Award:

For the first time ever, IrrigationNZ has awarded its Ron Cocks Memorial Award to two individuals at its national conference.

Retired MAF Policy Manager Grant McFadden and farm business consultant and rural valuer Bob Engelbrecht were jointly awarded the prestigious title at last night’s IrrigationNZ conference dinner in Napier.

McFadden from Christchurch and Ashburton-based Engelbrecht have together more than a century of involvement in advocating for agriculture and irrigation interests, said IrrigationNZ chairman John Donkers who presented the awards.

Grant McFadden began his career as a farm advisor with MAF in the mid 1960s and was a key support for farmers in the Lower Waitaki as they initiated their irrigation scheme in the 1970s. From the early 80s, McFadden worked with farmers going through deregulation and drought experiences and later moved into MAF Policy “as I realised there were opportunities in the policy area to make a real difference to people.” . . .

Minister welcomes first investment by Crown Irrigation company:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the first investment by Crown Irrigation Investment Ltd, with draft terms agreed for $6.5 million towards the Central Plains Water scheme in Canterbury announced today.

“Last year the Government put $80 million towards creating Crown Irrigation as an independent investor to help kick-start regional water infrastructure projects.

“It’s great to see the first investment decision made. Central Plains Water will help irrigate around 60,000 hectares of land on the Canterbury plains once all three stages are complete, giving a real boost to the region’s economy.

“Without this funding, it’s unlikely the scheme would be developed to the size and scale required. . . .

Proactive Mindset Helps Tihoi Farmers Win Supreme in 2014 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

A unique and innovative approach to farming in an environmentally sensitive area has earned Tihoi beef farmers Mike and Sharon Barton the Supreme title in the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 8, the Bartons, who farm 142ha Glen Emmreth Farm on the western side of Lake Taupo, were also presented with the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the Massey University Innovation Award.

Mike and Sharon bought the Tihoi farm in 2004 at a time when strict environmental legislation to protect the health of the lake was looming. They faced this challenge head-on, determined to make their farm as environmentally sustainable as possible.

BFEA judges said the business “has been built from its inception with the understanding that it must be made environmentally sustainable in an extremely difficult location”. . . .

Busy winter ahead for contestant - Sally Rae:

Winter is shaping up to be a memorable season for Glenham farmer Dean Rabbidge.

Mr Rabbidge (28), a member of the Wyndham Young Farmers Club, is Otago-Southland’s representative in the grand final of the ANZ Young Farmer Contest in Christchurch on July 3-5.

He and his wife Sarah are also expecting the arrival of their first child on June 18.

”It’s just going to be busy enough this winter,” he quipped. . . .

Central Otago wineries “delighted” to showcase the region’s wines to Duke and Duchess of Cambridge:

Central Otago wineries are gearing up for what could be the most important wine tasting of the century ahead of the Duke and Duchess’s visit to Queenstown this Sunday April 13.

A handful of local wineries and staff have been selected to present their Central Otago wines to the young Royals at a private wine and food event to be held at host winery Amisfield.

Central Otago Winegrowers Association president James Dicey is the lucky man who will escort the Duke through the tasting, while Central Otago Pinot Noir Chairwoman Lucie Lawrence will accompany the Duchess. . .

Final call for applications – leading farm business management program:

Applications are to close at the end of this month for this year’s Rabobank Farm Managers Program, Australasia’s leading agricultural business management course for the next generation of farm leaders.

Now in its ninth year, the prestigious Rabobank program offers young farmers from across New Zealand and Australia, and a range of agricultural sectors, the opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.

Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple says the Farm Managers Program is constantly evolving to reflect the changing challenges and opportunities in agriculture.  . . .

Steer and dog BFFs – Thomas Mead:

They’re usually each other’s worst enemy, but down south in Ranfurly a farm dog and steer have found a forbidden love.

Scotty, a jersey cross steer, and Bo, a purebred kelpie, have been inseparable after meeting on the job late last year. The unlikely duo often sneak away to play together, wrestling, licking and jumping around the farm.

Owner Jan MacKenzie says they’d spend all day together if they could.

“[Bo's] not allowed to be out there by himself – he does sneak over the fence when no one’s looking,” she says.

“He tries to play with everybody but they’re cows and he’s a dog. Everybody else, [except Scotty], understands it’s meant to work that way.”

But Bo, who is a working farm dog, knows the difference between work and play. . .


Rural round-up

March 23, 2014

Irrigator wins Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

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

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

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

PGP Forestry programme takes big step forward:

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

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

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

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

Minister signs new conservation accord:

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

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

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

Ministers leading agribusiness delegation to South America:

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

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

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

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

Arable research body sets strategy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lick block increases lamb survival in triplet bearing ewes:

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

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

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

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

Seed Industry Opens New Office in Templeton, Christchurch:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

March 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Wasp swarm attacks farmer – Ben Irwin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An overview of topical agricultural issues – Allan Barber:

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

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

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

Changes to Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare Proposed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional Finals heat up in Taupo

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

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

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

Hogget Mating Becomes Big Focus for Hill Country Farmers:

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

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

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

New innovation supports confidence in NZ food exports:

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

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

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

Ballance shareholders get free Ag Hub access:

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

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

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

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


Poll doesn’t support Green irrigation policy

March 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is simply not true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The survey finds

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

However,

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

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

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

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

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

The support for polluters-paying is reinforced further on:

Responsibility for improving water quality

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

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

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

Dairy companies’ responsibilities

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

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

That is happening now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Majority of NZers appreciate irrigation

February 8, 2014

An independent phone poll, commissioned by Irrigation New Zealand, reveals that New Zealanders – regardless of political leaning – see irrigation as good.

The poll also confirms that New Zealanders recognise the link between irrigation and their ability to access cheap and plentiful produce in their supermarkets.

The survey canvassed 1,000 respondents from Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay to better understand public perceptions of irrigation.

The only one of the areas surveyed  – Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay – which has significant areas of irrigation is, I think Canterbury.

Irrigation CEO, Andrew Curtis, says he didn’t expect such a positive response to irrigation from the New Zealand public and is encouraged by the results.

“Close to two-thirds overall agree that irrigation is good for New Zealand. This appears to be the case across the political spectrum which reinforces our belief in the need for a bi-partisan approach to irrigation,” he says.

“In an election year our plea is for politicians to come together to develop a strong vision to continue modernising irrigation infrastructure and practice which would drive sustainable development and achieve benefits for all.”

The poll also identified food production, water management and economic growth as major benefits of irrigation. Environmental impact was identified as a concern and there was a call from respondents for irrigation to be used responsibly – for irrigators to limit losses from nutrients as a result of irrigation; for water use to continue to be monitored and for water wastage to be limited.

This can easily be managed through the resource consent process. North Otago Irrigation Company’s requirement for all shareholders to have environment farm plans which are independently audited each year is a good model.

Andrew Curtis says that irrigation is not just a rural issue and that all New Zealanders need to use water efficiently. The focus now needs to turn to urban and rural water storage development. Providing more information about irrigation to the public is also essential he says.

“The survey shows us New Zealand recognise irrigation’s role in producing affordable and diverse food, but they want to know more about how irrigation works, who is responsible and how it impacts the environment,” he comments.

“We are 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.” . . .

It is disappointing that few recognise the environmental benefits or irrigation. But it’s not surprising when it’s far more often in the news when there are problems than for good reasons such as its ability to improve water quality and protect fragile soils.

There is no mention of the recreational benefits either, such as this one on the Lower Waitaki.

Imagine having key access to a private waterway with a suite of yachts, kayaks and paddleboards available for year-round use.

It’s not the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but an exciting new initiative by a group of Oamaru dairy farmers who have made sailing and kayaking accessible to anyone in their North Otago community.

The farmers, all shareholders of the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company, saw an opportunity for recreational use of a 5 hectare irrigation buffer pond developed just over a year ago. With the support of the irrigation company, they created the Lower Waitaki Water Sports Trust to progress the concept.

While the pond was built for irrigation storage, Trust Chairman Richard Willans says its proximity to Oamaru, easy access and un-impeded views make it ideal for anyone wanting to learn how to sail or paddle. “It’s the safest place to get out and learn on. You can see the whole pond from any point as it’s just so flat.” Local farmers supported the project as a way to encourage greater interaction between townies and farmers. “We want to get people from the town out into the country,” he says.

Ironically, Mr Willans admits none of the trust’s committee had sailing or paddling experience before getting involved, but local boaties and kayakers have been happy to provide advice. He says they’re enthusiastic about the new water asset on their back door-step which compares favorably to the next closest waterways, the Waitaki Lakes, which take another 40 minutes to reach.

The project to date has cost more than $150,000 with the trust sourcing funding from the irrigation company, local businesses, Meridian Trust, Waitaki District Council and the Otago Community Trust. An A4 bay shed for storage, fencing of the area and a car park were completed just before Christmas and the project’s jewel in the crown is a floating jetty.

For only $50 a year, key holders gain access to the pond as well as the use of 10 yachts, 15 kayaks and two paddleboards stored at the lake. Water safety measures including lifejackets and a fully inflatable motorized rescue boat are also available on-site.  

The Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company granted the trust a long term peppercorn rent for the site as Chairman Chris Dennison says the company sees the project as worthy.

“In constructing the pond we aimed to design structures and controls so they posed no harm to the public and the risk to users would be minimal. Working with the community on this joint venture has produced a great outcome and all this happened very quickly. The pond was only built in late 2012 and the trust’s facilities were finished last month,” he says.

Originally the pond was going to embrace day visitors such as anglers, but advice from a health and safety consultant suggested compulsory membership would safeguard its farmer-backers. You have to be a member of the trust to use the pond; however membership is open to anyone who is happy to abide by a comprehensive list of rules in place to ensure the safety of all users. 

An official opening of the pond will take place in the next couple of months and the trust hopes to bring un-named Olympians to town to launch the project.

The ODT has more on the waters sports park here.


Irrigation’s not just for farmers

January 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there are the recreational opportunities outlined above.


Rural round-up

January 14, 2014

 Three vie for award’s top spot:

A Northland woman among three finalists for the 2014 Dairy Woman of the Year Award is helping train other women to take on leadership roles in agricultural organisations.

Whangarei farm accountant and 2013 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme award winner Charmaine O’Shea is vying for the Dairy Woman of the Year Award with Waikato veterinarian Joyce Voogt and Hauraki Plains farmer Julie Pirie. They were individually interviewed by a judging panel consisting of Dairy Women’s Network Trust Board chairwoman Michelle Wilson, Global Women managing director Faye Langdon, Fonterra leadership and talent director Janette Rosanowski, DairyNZ strategy and investment portfolio manager Jenny Jago and 2012 Dairy Woman of the Year award winner Barbara Kuriger. This year’s winner will be announced at the Dairy Women’s Network annual conference in Hamilton on March 19. . . .

Irrigation nominations sought:

Entries close at the end of this month for IrrigationNZ’s ‘Innovation in Irrigation Award’ in association with Aqualinc. The prestigious award, which comes with a $2500 prize, celebrates, encourages and promotes innovation within New Zealand’s irrigation industry.

Previous recipients include the North Otago Irrigation Company in 2012 for its ground-breaking Environmental Farm Plans which guide shareholders in good management practice for irrigation, riparian, soil, fertiliser and effluent use.

Fielding-based Precision Irrigation won the award in 2010 for its variable rate irrigation systems which more effectively target water application through the use of GPS. . .

The impact the dairying ‘revolution’ is having on New Zealand, the consequences, and the prospects - Rodney Dickens:

There is nothing new about the current high dairy export prices in that the current levels are similar to earlier peak levels in 2007/08 and 2010/11.

The left chart below shows the ANZ dairy commodity price indices measured in NZD terms and world price terms.

The much higher world prices than NZD prices in recent years reflect the negative impact of the high NZD.

In world price terms current prices are well above the levels that existed prior to 2007, with this related to a large extent to increased Chinese demand that was revealed in a Raving that looked at the massive impact China is having on a wide range of NZ commodity exports and tourism. Based on the 7 January Fonterra auction results, dairy product prices in USD terms remained high (right chart). . . .

Why should farmers and ranchers invest time in advocacy? - Agriculture Proud:

Last week, I posted an article from Forbes that is very accusatory of modern global agriculture. It’s like a laundry list of activist claims used demonize modern agriculture practices. We could spend time angrily responding to articles like this, but defensively reacting to accusations like this aren’t getting us very far. Hence my emphasis on the importance of being PROactive in reaching out, answering questions, and sharing our story with audiences willing to listen.

Part of that proactive response includes farmers, ranchers and members of the agriculture community investing time in reaching out and engaging. Often when I propose this investment to various ranchers groups across the country, I get either a blank stare or a response similar to this: . . .

Top ram’s DNA revived 30 years on - Sally Rae:

Offspring of a Romney ram, owned by Otago stud breeder David Robertson, will go through the sale ring in Gore tomorrow.

Aurora 105-84 might be long gone, but his genetics live on three decades later, thanks to what was initially a practice exercise in artificial insemination for Mr Robertson’s veterinary surgeon son.

Mr Robertson, who farms at Palmerston and is a third-generation stud-breeder, admitted it was an unusual situation. . . .

International year of family farming kicks off in Australia:

The National Farmers’ Federation and its members have hailed the start of the new year, encouraging all Australians to join with them in celebrating the International Year of Family Farming during 2014.

NFF President Brent Finlay, a family farmer from south east Queensland, said family farms remain the heart and soul of agriculture in Australia.

“Ninety nine percent of Australian farms are family owned and operated – and this year, the United Nations-declared International Year of Family Farming, gives us the opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution these farmers make,” Mr Finlay said. . .


Rural round-up

November 11, 2013

Treatment for mastitis could boost dairy profit – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low expectations of Bali summit – Nigel Stirling:

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

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

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

Ballance re-jig reflects farming changes – Tim Fulton:

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

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

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

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

Focus on Fonterra risk assessment – Hugh Stringleman:

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

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

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

Workshops foster irrigation skills:

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

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


Proposals for freshwater management

November 8, 2013

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

On-going and reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental and economic issues facing New Zealand today,” Ms Adams says.

“It is critical that we protect and improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

restricted grounds for exceptions to bottom lines; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Adams’ speech is here.

Farmers are welcoming the proposals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consensus does however, often require compromise.

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

 

 

 


Rural round-up

September 14, 2013

More than 800 damaged irrigators:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government’s helping hand for dairy reputation:

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

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

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

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

Our future - Bruce Wills:

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

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

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

Christchurch botanist awarded Loder Cup:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

August 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

Surprised by the biosecurity issue - Bill Kaye-Blake:

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Canterbury will boom on back of water storage

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

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

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

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

Rural Contractors welcome new workplace safety reforms:

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

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

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

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

Local yarn’s luxury fibre reaches US Vogue Knitters:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

July 3, 2013

Bacteria detector set to scale up for food industry – Peter Kerr at sticK:

I’m always a bit of a sucker for innovations and improvements that add value to our biological industries.

After all, as a country we’d be fools not to play to our major strength in producing food and fibre.

An innovation’s appeal is also greatly increased when it solves a problem – and in this particular case it is instantly identifying the presence of bacteria in food products.

It’s one reason I’m keen on seeing Veritide’s real-time, non-contact bacterial scanner gain more traction. (Note: Veritide’s in the process of updating its website following its pivot to concentrate on the food industry). . .

Synlait well structured for a successful future – Allan Barber:

Synlait Milk’s $120 million capital raising will enable the company to restructure debt and invest in several new initiatives, including a lactoferrin plant, a third dryer, a butter plant, testing laboratory and dry store. The share offer is made up of $75 million of new capital and $45 million sell down by some of the exiting shareholders.

All the signs point to this capital raising being a success, unlike the attempt to raise $150 million in 2009 which was shunned by New Zealand investors. . .

Fonterra to Invest $27 Million in New Dry Store at Te Rapa:

Fonterra has announced a $27 million investment in a dry store distribution centre at its Te Rapa site that will strengthen its Waikato operations and allow the Co-operative to deliver product more efficiently to its customers.

Fonterra’s Director Logistics Network, Mark Leslie, says the dry store will provide the Co-operative annual benefits of nearly $5m through reduced operating costs.

“Our seasonal production means that we store product until we receive orders. The new dry store will enable us to store product at the site of manufacture right through the peak of the season and to more efficiently manage the flow of goods through to our customers by better utilising the rail infrastructure out of our Crawford St distribution centre,” says Mr Leslie. . .

Reassessment of organophosphates and carbamates:

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is being congratulated by Federated Farmers for the difficult decisions it has made around the use of organophosphates and carbamates (OPC’s).

 “Extending the use of Diazinon through to 2028 was the right thing to do because farmers have little or no alternatives at this time,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

 “Home gardeners and farmers both know that diazinon is the most effective agrichemical we currently have to treat grass grub and porina. An issue may arise if by the end of the next 15-years we fail to have approved replacements in the toolbox. . .

New Crown Irrigation Chair welcomes opportunity:

The chair of the newly appointed Crown Irrigation Investments board, Alison Paterson, is welcoming the opportunity to help develop large-scale irrigation infrastructure.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has this morning announced the establishment of the new company and the appointment of all members of the Establishment Board to the board of the new company. . . .

Crown irrigation investment company needs to act:

IrrigationNZ has congratulated the Government on the establishment of the new Crown company ‘Irrigation Investments Ltd’ – but signals action is needed quickly before opportunities are lost.

The $80million investment company was announced this week as a “bridging investor” to help irrigation projects that may not otherwise get off the ground. . .

OSPRI New Zealand looking to add value to the primary sector:

This week sees a new arrival in the primary sector with the launch of OSPRI New Zealand.

Formed on 1 July, following the merger of the Animal Health Board and NAIT, the national animal identification and tracing scheme, OSPRI has been set up to bring together existing expertise and, as its name implies, to provide creative operational solutions.

“We are excited by the prospect of developing some creative operational solutions for the sector,” said OSPRI Chief Executive William McCook. . .

New President for Veterinary Association:

 Dr Steve Merchant is the new President of the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA). His first official public engagement is welcoming delegates at the opening plenary of the NZVA’s annual conference in Palmerston North this week (3 and 4 July).

He is a founding director of the Pet Doctors Group. Established in 2005, this is an expanding network of clinics made up of like-minded veterinarians who share resources and take a team-based approach to animal care. . .

New Avocado Exporter Lifts Earnings Forecast

Newly formed avocado exporter AVOCO has raised its forecast for this season’s earnings in Australia and now expects to hit the $50 million mark by the end of the harvest, which starts in late August.

Alistair Young, a director of AVOCO, says latest analysis of the potential harvest suggests there will be a better yield than usual, without it being a brilliant harvest. Formed recently by the two largest avocado exporters, AVOCO represents about 75% of all the growers in New Zealand and holds a similar-sized chunk of sales into the Australian market. . .

Praise Bee – industrious insects get the stamp of approval:

They’ve been celebrated in verse (by the likes of Emily Dickinson[1], William Blake[2] and Kahlil Gibran[3]) – in song (by the likes of Gloria Gaynor[4], Blake Shelton[5] and Owl City[6]) – and in popular culture (with spelling bees, ‘Buzzy Bees’ and Wellington’s own ‘Beehive’). But the humble bee stands poised to get a new tribute this week, with the release of a special set of postage stamps.

The Honey Bees stamp issue celebrates the industrious insects on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the National Beekeepers’ Association of New Zealand.

Honey bees, which are of European origin, have played a key role in New Zealand horticulture for over 150 years – pollinating essential crops and producing up to 12,000 tonnes of honey per annum, with as much as half of that being exported. . .


Rural round-up

May 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmers welcome ‘steady as she goes’ Budget 2013:

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

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

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

Ultimate Rural Challenge underway in Auckland:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Waitaki Wine Doctors see double’:

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

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

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

Coffee harvest plunges in Puerto Rico – Danica Coto:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

May 15, 2013

Government approves kiwifruit Psa plan:

A national management plan for dealing with the kiwifruit Psa virus has been formally approved by the Government, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

“This plan means that the primary responsibility for managing Psa is now moving to the industry themselves as they are best placed to co-ordinate and lead the response.

“As part of this, the Government has approved a levy rate on exported kiwifruit equating to one cent per tray for green fruit and two cents a tray for gold fruit. This will help cover disease management, monitoring, plant material movement and dealing with unmanaged and abandoned orchards.

“The levy has been voted on by growers and will have a shortfall until yields return to pre-Psa levels. Therefore Cabinet has agreed that $3.5 million remaining from the initial Government funding of $25 million will be passed to Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) to implement the plan. . .

Enrolments to close for leading farm business management programme:

Applications are to close at the end of this month for this year’s Rabobank’s Executive Development Program, Australasia’s leading agricultural business management course for leading primary producers.

Now in its fourteenth year, the prestigious Rabobank Executive Development Program gives leading New Zealand and Australian farmers, from a range of agricultural sectors, the opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.

Rabobank CEO New Zealand Ben Russell said the Executive Development Program is designed to assist farmers improve primary producers’ ability to manage the challenges of agriculture and plan for the growth of their farming businesses. . .

Farm Environment Ambassadors Study Marketing of New Zealand Produce in Asia:

An industry-backed trip to Asia has given Otago farmers Blair and Jane Smith a deeper understanding of the challenges facing marketers of New Zealand meat and dairy products.

National winners of the 2012 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the Smiths recently returned from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore, where they visited a number of key markets for New Zealand sheep, beef and dairy products.

The purpose of the 16-day trip was to learn more about offshore markets, exchange views on topics of crucial interest to New Zealand farmers and to showcase New Zealand’s stance on agricultural sustainability. . .

Announcement of Intention to IPO:

Synlait Milk Limited (Synlait Milk) advises that it is considering an initial public offering (IPO) of shares and to list on the NZX Main Board.

Synlait Milk is currently 49% owned by Synlait Limited and 51% owned by Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd (Bright Dairy).

Prior to any shares being allotted under ny IPO, Synlait Limited has advised Synlait Milk that it intends to distribute to its shareholders, on a pro-rata basis, the shares it holds in Synlait Milk. . .

PGG Wrightson annual earnings to fall by up to 27% on drought, lower livestock values:

PGG Wrightson, the rural services company which fell out of the NZX 50 Index this year, expects annual earnings to fall by as much as 27 percent as dry conditions on both sides of the Tasman and lower livestock values erode prices.

The Christchurch-based company expects earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of between $40 million and $48 million in the 12 months ended June 30, down from $55 million in 2012, it said in a statement. The decline was put down to the dry climate in Australia and New Zealand, lower livestock value and falling earnings from its Agri-feeds unit after disposing of its 4Seasons Feeds joint venture. . .

Irrigation Event Needs More ‘Owner Operator’ Irrigator Support:

The irrigation industry is rapidly moving away from a ‘No 8 wire mentality’ as next week’s Great Irrigation Challenge in Ashburton will demonstrate, says IrrigationNZ – but more ‘owner operator’ irrigators need to rise to the challenge.

On May 23 and 24 at Ashburton Racecourse, IrrigationNZ, with the support of principal sponsor Aqualinc, will host a series of hands-on workshops aimed at up-skilling and professionalising both irrigators and their support industries.

While more than 100 irrigators, irrigation scheme representatives and industry advisors from across New Zealand have signed up, IrrigationNZ wants to see more ‘owner-operator’ irrigators attend. . .

Southland’s Morning Milking Roll Call:

Georgia Donaldson discovered some ‘udderly amazing’ facts when she came face to face with about 500 cows on Fonterra Shareholders Allan and Ann Black’s farm in Invercargill this morning.

Each Jersey cow can produce at average 4100 litres of fresh milk a year – enough for more than 20,000 packs of Fonterra Milk for Schools milk.

Georgia was one of several children from 12 Invercargill schools invited to learn about the source of their daily dose of nutrition, and how it can help them concentrate in the classroom and, in this case, outside of it. . .


Water Storage fast track needed for drought-proofing

March 21, 2013

IrrigationNZ says water storage needs to be fast-tracked to drought-proof agriculture.

“New Zealand simply cannot afford to bail out its agricultural industry twice every decade – the recent turn-around for a serious dry spell. Over a billion dollars has already been wiped out this summer through drought. Agriculture is what New Zealand is built on – even Auckland – so combating drought is an issue we all need to get to grips with,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

The country doesn’t bail out its agricultural industry but droughts do have a big impact on the economy.

Mr Curtis says the answer lies with a combination of regional and on-farm water storage development, and with a few billion dollars worth of investment, New Zealand could future-proof its agricultural sector and thus its economy.

“For hill country farms having the ability to store water and irrigate a small part of each farm, as little as 20 hectares, would create a strategic advantage for New Zealand agriculture. Irrigation enables feed and produce to continue in a consistent and predictable fashion year in year out.”

“The North Island would not be in such dire straits if we had water storage on-farm. Winter storage is key for hill country environments as stream flows are often erratic. In short, we need to harvest water from adverse events and store it up for sunny days.”

Mr Curtis says recent analysis in the Hawke’s Bay, as part of the Ruataniwha storage proposal, showed when sheep and beef farmers irrigated a percentage of their farm they produced a higher rate of return per irrigated hectare than dairy. Irrigation builds in resilience and provides options to a farming system.

“Imagine how much more efficient our meat and vegetable processors would be if drought didn’t wipe out crops and stock every five years. It’s not just farmers that lose out; it’s their staff, the surrounding community and businesses that rely on agricultural income that also suffer.”

Water storage provides much more reliable irrigation than river-based schemes.

River-based schemes like Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd have been on restriction, followed by a full ban, for the last month. This has significant economic implications. The scheme calculates around $30million (on and off-farm impacts) has been lost from the district already.”

“In contrast, irrigation schemes serviced by the Opuha Dam in South Canterbury won’t face restriction until the end of March and then possibly only partial restrictions in April. It’s a stark contrast between regions that have access to stored water and those that don’t.”

Opuha Dam has been able to maintain river flows well above the very low natural flows they would normally experience. The flow in the Opihi River currently would be less than 50% of what it is with augmentation – even if there was no irrigation abstraction. 

Mr Curtis says the current climatic situation proves the development of reliable water storage and distribution network should be considered ‘a nationally significant strategic investment’.

“Around a billion dollars of investment would future proof Canterbury for the next 100 years. And this investment would be paid back to the community within a decade if the current climatic trend continues.” . .

We were in North Canterbury earlier in the week seeing the difference irrigation has made.

Locals told us that until recently the area suffered from frequent dust storms and farmers could do little to stop their soil blowing away.

Now, thanks to irrigation there’s grass on paddocks which not only provides feed for stock but also protects the soil.

The farms we visited irrigated from the river and faced restrictions when it was dry and they needed the water most.

Any irrigation is good and schemes which harvest water when there’s more than enough to use when there’s not enough are better.


NZ fire risk reduced by irrigation

January 9, 2013

The economic, environmental and social benefits of irrigation are widely recognised.

IrrigationNZ points out it also reduces fire risk:

 IrrigationNZ says the fire risk from extreme temperatures being recorded on both sides of the Tasman has been eased in New Zealand by irrigation infrastructure.

The growth of on-farm storage ponds, particularly in Canterbury, has benefited rural fire-fighting crews in New Zealand by providing additional sources of fire-fighting water, says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.

“These ponds hold thousands of litres of water and farmers and irrigation schemes are the first to make water available when a rural fire starts,” says Mr Curtis.

Irrigation schemes throughout the country have also initiated fire-fighting measures of their own. North Otago Irrigation Company, for example, introduced 20 fire hydrants into its irrigation scheme allowing fire-fighting trucks from the Waitaki Rural Fire Authority to refill within seconds.

Irrigation also lessens the risk of fire by maintaining green buffer zones in rural areas that previously were primarily dry land. Towns and cities surrounded by irrigation such as Christchurch, Gisborne, Napier, Martinborough, Ashburton, Invercargill and Blenheim have benefited.

“Green grass doesn’t burn. Irrigation produces vegetation that is less susceptible to fire and ignites more slowly. Irrigating farmers are closely monitoring their fields at this time of the year as they apply water so they’re often the ones who spot early fires.”

“Irrigation can’t remove fire risk completely but the growth of irrigation infrastructure and schemes throughout New Zealand has definitely made fire-fighting water more accessible,” says Mr Curtis.

Before we had irrigation, North Otago was usually tinder dry in January.

Since we’ve been able to water the land it’s green and the fire danger is far less as a result of that.


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

October 15, 2011

Sights on NZ as dairy nutrition leader – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra can make New Zealand the “dairy nutrition capital of the world”, according to new chief executive Theo Spierings, when speaking just three days into his new job. Spierings was not talking milk volumes at his first news conference, but nutrition knowledge, research, university interactions and product innovation.

“We need to have an ambition to be ahead of the game in dairy nutrition, all of the time,” Spierings said, with typical Dutch determination.

Algae turns greedy for phospohorus from effluent:

MASSEY SCIENTISTS have been granted $745,000 over three years to develop technology of potentially huge benefit to dairying – the removal and recycling of phosphorous from effluent.  

Professor Andy Shilton, School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, and his team have the grant from the Marsden Fund managed by the Royal Society. The fund is designed to allow researchers to do ‘blue sky’, innovative, long term science in particular areas . . .

New look for MAF:

A unified and redesigned MAF will be strongly placed to support the success of New Zealand’s primary sectors, says MAF Director-General Wayne McNee.  

MAF today confirmed the detailed design of the new Ministry following the merger of MAF with the Ministry of Fisheries.

“The new Ministry will be the ‘gateway to government’ for the primary sector, with a clear vision of ‘Growing and Protecting New Zealand’,” McNee says . . .

Board bid brings skills set together – Sally Rae:

John Key inadvertently played a fairly major role in determining Grant Cochrane’s future.   

Although not from a farming family, Mr Cochrane always had an affinity with the land and, from a very early age, had a passion to go farming.   

In 1987, he saw a television programme that featured currency trading and Mr Key – long before the future prime minister had political aspirations – and decided currency trading      would be the quickest route to farm ownership . . .  

Competition hones eye for stock, way with words – Sally Rae:

For young South Canterbury farmer Thomas Gardner,  stock-judging competitions combine valuable public speaking skills with being able to handle stock.   

Mr Gardner (20) was among 13 young people who took part in a      recent junior stock-judging competition in Waimate. . .   

Believe it or not it’s a geep (or a shoat) – Sally Rae:

When Taieri farmer Graeme Wallace brought a mob of ewes    and lambs in for tailing this week, he thought the wool was    being pulled over his eyes.   

      “I thought, ‘What the hell is this? Is it a goat or is it a      lamb? … No, it’s a 50-50′.”   . . .

Zespri says kiwifruit industry will learn to live alonside PSA:

The kiwifruit marketer Zespri says the industry will learn to live alongside PSA.

PSA Innovation’s general manager David Tanner told a kiwifruit conference in Tauranga on Thursday that a programme to produce a new variety of the fruit, which is tolerant or resistant to PSA, has been stepped up.

He says in the short-term, the use of chemicals to protect the vines are buying the industry time . . .

B+LNZ schoalrship takes young Marton farmer to Mexico:

Marton farmer, Richard Morrison, has been awarded the Beef + Lamb New Zealand agricultural scholarship that will take him to the Five Nations Beef Alliance and Young Ranchers Programme being held in Mexico later this month.

Richard (32), was selected from a strong line-up of candidates vying for the chance to represent and promote New Zealand beef, as well as helping to foster international relations within the beef industry.

Rural sales volumes continue rising steadily:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of NZ (“REINZ”) shows there were 93 more sales (+56.7%) for the three months ended September 2011 than for the three months ended September 2010.  Overall, there were 257 farm sales in the three months to end of September 2011 compared with 164 sales in the three months to September 2010.  The number of sales fell by eight (-3.0%) in the three months to September 2011 compared to the three months ended August 2011.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to September 2011 was $17,694 compared to $15,148 in the three months to August 2011 and $17,447 for the three months to September 2010. 

Farenheit 212 turns up heat for NZ wool – Peter Kerr:

The guys who presented some new wool innovation ideas last week in Christchurch and Auckland are an interesting bunch, with an extremely interesting business model. (More, generally, about some of these wool ideas in another blog – all participants have signed a non-disclosure-agreement).

Fahrenheit 212, formed by New Zealander Geoff Vuleta five years ago in New York, is the only company of its kind in the world he reckons. Sure, there’s many product development firms, coming up with new ideas for corporate clients . . .

Farms are getting bigger across Europe Paul at Business Blog:

The number of agricultural holdings across Europe fell by one fifth between 2003 and 2010, as the average size continued to increase, European Commission figures have revealed.

In 2010 there were just over 12m agricultural holdings in the EU-27, and a farmed area of 170m ha. While the number of holdings was down 20% on 2003, the area was just 2% lower, meaning the average size increased from 12ha to 14ha. . .

Farmers stressed by environmental rules:

A study into the health of dairy farmers shows environmental rules from regional councils, including those on water management, are a common cause of stress.

In the first year of a seven-year programme, AgResearch interviewed 500 dairy farmers to identify their main health issues.

It found 17% had experienced depression or anxiety and half did not seek help when they needed it.

IrrigationNZ rewards initiative:

Innovation, discovery and achievement making a positive contribution to irrigation and efficient water management are set to be rewarded by the industry’s national body.

Irrigation New Zealand, in association with Aqualinc, will open nominations this month for the second biennial “Innovation in Irrigation’award.

The award is an opportunity for the industry to showcase innovation, and IrrigationNZ’s way to recognise new invention, ideas, systems, or gadgets that are constantly coming out of the irrigation sector.  The award celebrates, encourages and promotes innovation and the benefit and impact irrigation provides to communities right throughout New Zealand . . .

Basking in the rising sun: unlocking our primary potential - William Rolleston:

It is my pleasure to speak to you on research priorities for agriculture and horticulture.

Before I begin to outline some thoughts that will be challenging at times, I first wish to make comment to you on the research priorities according to New Zealander of the year, Sir Paul Callaghan.  I quote:

We are brilliantly successful at dairying, but sadly we cannot scale up this industry because of the risk of further environmental damage.”

What’s more, apparently, “our dairy industry exports milk powder, rather than developing new products. Our forestry industries send raw logs offshore and despite the past capacity to invest in processing, have shown no inclination to do so”

So there you have it.

We can all pack our bags, go back to our offices, send dismissal notices to our staff and report to Ministers, the scientific community and the public, that biologically, we are as good as we can ever possibly be . . .

Farm manager winner takes next step:

The 2011 New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year, Jason Halford, is now the proud owner of his own herd, sharemilking 280 cows at Opiki, Horowhenua.

“I was ready for the next step and I think sharemilking is a great sector to be in and owning cows is a big positive.”

Mr Halford is co-ordinating the 2012 dairy trainee of the year contest for the Manawatu Rangitikei Horowhenua regional competition, one of 12 regional competitions held nationwide by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards . . .

Shaping the dairy cow of the future:

Dairy farmers get a chance to shape the cow of the future at a national road show over the next month.

The 20 events from Kaitaia to Invercargill are for farmers to give feedback on the National Breeding Objective.

The dairy cow is the engine of the New Zealand dairy industry, with 4.4 million cows producing more than 1.4 billion kilograms of milksolids every year. The National Breeding Objective is to identify animals whose progeny will be the most efficient converters of feed into farmer profit, otherwise known as Breeding Worth (BW). . .

Fertiliser industry environmental initiatives:

The Fertiliser Quality Council (FQC) is pleased that the fertiliser industry is investing considerable amounts on research to lower our environmental footprint. It will be great for farmers and the environment.

The FQC congratulates Ballance Agri-Nutrients and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Primary Growth Partnership for committing $32 million to support the research.

“At a time when margins are suffering, anything that will reduce a farmer’s inputs has to be good,” FQC chair, Neil Barton said. “In addition anything that we can do to preserve the environment is vital . . .


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