First stage of fresh water policy finalised

July 10, 2013

In a speech launching the first stage of a national fresh water policy, environment Minister Amy Adams says:

. . . Already, more than $450 million has been committed to cleaning up some of our most iconic rivers, lakes and wetlands.

It would be much better, though, if we prevented pollution of our waterways in the first place, rather than leaving our children and grandchildren to face a legacy of poor water quality and ever-increasing clean-up costs.

We all want an end to the conflict – the costs and the delays that many of us face when planning for activities that use or affect our fresh water.

It seems that too often water disputes are determined by who has the best lawyers, the biggest chequebook, and in the long term, the health of our waterways has not necessarily been well-served by that approach.

It is time to stop focussing on the issues that divide us, rather than the values around water that we all share.

As our population grows and our land use intensifies, the time is overdue to reassess our approach to managing water.

There is too much at stake if we don’t take action.

New Zealand’s economy depends on the productive sector, which, of course, depends on water.

We produce fruit and vegetables worth more than $5 billion-a-year.

Dairying earns $13 billion-plus-a-year in exports, and tourism earns $10 billion-a-year

Think, too, of the contributions from pastoral farming and forestry.

But, this is not just about the dollars. Horticulture employs 50,000 people and the dairy industry employs another 45,000.

That is around 95,000 people – and their families – that rely on just two of the many industries that rely on access to fresh water.

Paradoxically water is both a renewable and a limited resource. We need better tools to manage it, and we need to consider whether decisions around water management are being made at the right level and with the right community inputs.

To deal with these challenges, we are facing difficult decisions. We have to consider and make trade-offs between the many and often conflicting values we hold around water. It is after all, a shared resource.

There is also the difficulty that when we talk about balance in the context of resource management, there is a perception that we have to pit the environment against the economy.

This is not an either/or question – we want to be able to apply the broad judgement that was originally intended under the Resource Management Act.

Our economy depends on the environment. Equally, a strong economy gives us the ability to address environmental concerns. This is about the economy and the environment.

But, we are now facing increasing risks to both.

In addition, we all have responsibility to ensure we are using our natural resources in a way that is fair to the generations that are still to be born. . .

Part of the problem isn’t what people are doing now, it’s what happened in the past.

Pollution resulting from poor management or poor decisions in the past can take decades to show up in our waterways, so it is quite likely that things will get worse before they get better.

Water is a key ingredient of economic growth, but the value we get from it is not just about the economy; it is also about water’s value in sustaining life and for recreation, and its role in our national identity.

It is clear we need to make changes if we are to continue to enjoy and benefit from it.

The Government has been working on a package of cohesive reform that will lead to more productive and sustainable use of our freshwater resource within a generation. . .

Work on this began four years ago when the Land and Water Forum was tasked with agreeing on the problems, and some possible ways of tackling them.

This was the genesis of the Fresh Start for Freshwater reforms.

In 2011, we progressed the Forum’s recommendations by introducing the first of three major initiatives.

We introduced a limits-based regime for freshwater management through the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.  A key requirement of the NPS is that overall water quality in all regions must be maintained or improved.

Our second initiative was to put $15 million over two years into a special fund devoted to partnership arrangements with councils and communities to clean up six lakes, rivers and wetlands.

And thirdly, we set up the Irrigation Acceleration Fund. In this year’s Budget, the Government has committed $80 million to invest in regional irrigation schemes as the first stage of its commitment to invest up to $400 million. 

Building on the recommendations in the three reports of the Land and Water Forum, and on on-going advice from Iwi Leaders, the Government released a discussion document on a comprehensive and integrated package of proposals for freshwater reform in March this year.

More than 2000 people attended 50 meetings and hui around the country in March and April to give their views.

I am happy to report that there was broad support for the overall direction of the water reform proposals.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Government intends to introduce amendments to the Resource Management Act in a Bill to be introduced to the House this year to begin to deal with these issues.

First and foremost, we accept the Land and Water Forum’s recommendation to include a collaborative option for freshwater planning.

Currently, council staff draft a plan then consult on it – often described as a decide, announce defend approach – which is then followed, potentially, by years of litigation.

Instead, we will provide an option where people and organisations drawn from the community can work together, reflecting their diverse values in setting objectives and limits for their local freshwater resources.

Councils and communities that invest time and energy in the early stages of the planning process are more likely to produce better and more durable decisions because of their involvement.

Getting agreement upfront in the planning process will mean less litigation further down the track, which will increase certainty for everyone, and ultimately, save time and money.

We will not be compelling councils to choose a collaborative approach. Regions will still be able to use the existing Schedule 1 planning process if they choose, however, feedback on our proposals for freshwater reform showed there is significant support for collaboration.

Collaboration depends on the incentives being right for all those engaged, at all steps, to work together towards the best outcomes, and getting those incentives properly calibrated has been a critical part of the exercise.

Limiting appeals is one of the key tools for fostering consensus and incentivising upfront engagement, as are ensuring residual appeal rights are appropriately tethered to deviation from the collaboratively-reached decisions.

An important feature of this planning option is the flexibility in how collaboration can operate region-by-region. It is critical that the Government provides guidance and support, as councils and communities adopt to this new way of working to ensure success.

Additionally, we are also clarifying and enhancing provisions for iwi/Māori views to be explicitly considered before planning decisions on fresh water are made, no matter whether councils choose the collaborative option or the existing Schedule 1 process.

We accept that the current regime is not working as intended for Māori, and that while final decisions are reserved for council, those decisions must be properly informed by all relevant information, including iwi views.

There are many examples of iwi/Māori participating successfully in freshwater management processes.  But I am hearing that there have also been differing expectations and some confusion about their role.

This has led to uncertainty, costs and delays while matters are debated in the courts and some iwi have looked to Treaty of Waitangi settlements to ensure their interests are considered. I want to stress that those Treaty settlement outcomes will be protected.

The Iwi Leaders Group has worked directly on these reforms with us, and I was gratified by the keen interest and positive response from iwi through the consultation hui in March and April.

As I have said, central government will work closely with regional councils to provide guidance and best practice information for implementing the changes. We are all in this together and your input is critical – whether you are from a regional council, an environmental organisation, an iwi group or the productive or energy sectors.

The Ministry for the Environment is working with regional councils and scientists to improve the quality and consistency of data that we need for making sound decisions on freshwater use and management.

National requirements will continue to be provided for through the freshwater national policy statement, which gives councils clear direction to maintain and improve the quality of water in their catchments, as well as the use of the Environmental Protection Authority to assess and progress nationally-significant resource consents, and Water Conservation Orders to protect our wild and scenic rivers.

Despite the recent furore, I want to emphasise that we had not proposed to make any changes to existing Water Conservation Orders, or in any way reduce the important protections they provide.

Rather we wanted to make sure that new applications would not be used to undermine or derail the new collaborative planning efforts that we are fostering.

However, following feedback during the freshwater consultation we have decided that, given goodwill from stakeholders, there is a low risk of Water Conservation Orders being used in this way.

We will, therefore, give the reforms time to bed in before we look at how the Water Conservation Orders process fits with regional planning.

Other parts of the immediate steps for the freshwater reforms include the creation of a National Objectives Framework and better water accounting.

It is the Government’s intention to this year make legislative amendments to facilitate the introduction of a National Objectives Framework.

In the meantime, work continues to progress the development of the National Objectives Framework, including detailed scientific work on populating the framework.

A further period of consultation will be carried out before final decisions on the design and detail of the framework are made.

Just before I finish, I want to touch on another area of work that complements the Government’s freshwater programme – credible state of the environment reporting.

The importance of this work was reinforced by last week’s release of Statistics NZ’s Environment Domain Plan.

The Domain Plan provides a useful picture of the official information about New Zealand’s environment and identifies what can be done to make improvements to this information.

The Government is committed to introducing independent environmental reporting that is underpinned by high quality, consistent statistics that provide a reliable, accurate, and integrated picture of the economy and the environment.

Before we are in a position to do this, we need to address the current barriers to getting reliable, consistent data that provides an integrated picture of the economy and the environment.

In the Government’s 2011 discussion document on environmental reporting, we signalled that changes to the Resource Management Act were required to enable the government to make regulations requiring local authorities and councils to monitor the environment according to specified priorities and methodologies.

This work was completed last year and changes to the Act are included in the Resource Management Reform Bill 2012, which had its second reading in parliament last month.

It is essential that improvements to the quality and accessibility of data are made so that we can debate the issues rather than the integrity of the data.

The Environment Ministry is currently in the midst of this work programme, with announcements likely to be made later this year.

This year is an exciting one for all parties interested in freshwater management reform.

As I have stated throughout this process, while the Government will work at pace to formulate durable solutions, we recognise that these issues are too important to rush.

The speech isn’t on-line yet but a media release on the policy is.

 


Rural round-up

December 1, 2012

Land and Water Forum better solution than Horizons’ One Plan – Lyn Neeson:

When my husband and I purchased our first 345 hectares in 1987, we never thought 25 years later we’d be fighting a regional council for survival.

Through good years and bad, we have worked hard to grow our farm to 1,500 hectares carrying 4,500 ewes and 250 Angus cattle over winter.

Farming keeps your feet on the ground because it is hard to have airs and graces during docking and shearing.

We also want to keep farming here. . .

2012 peak milk production setting new records:

In spite of a cold, wet spring on the West Coast, Westland Milk Products’ shareholder/suppliers on both sides of the Alps have re-written the record books with a peak milk production of 3.2 million litres, edging ahead of last season by 3% season to date.

Says Chief Executive Rod Quin: “This essentially means our shareholders are managing to maintain and even improve on production, which is a considerable testament to their productivity and efficiency.” . . .

Wheat genome’s key parts unlocked in new study -Mark Kinver:

Scientists have unlocked key parts of the complex genetic code of wheat, one of the world’s most important crops, which could help improve food security.

The team hopes the data will accelerate the development of varieties more resilient to stresses, such as disease and drought, that cause crops to fail.

The 2012 wheat harvest was hit by extreme weather events around the globe, causing a sharp rise in prices. . .

Westland shareholders elect two new directors:

Westland Milk products shareholders have elected Hari Hari farmer Kirsty Robertson to represent the Southern Ward after director Jim Wafelbakker stepped down from the post after 25 years’ service.

Westland Chief Executive Rod Quin says few directors of any company could claim the record of service clocked up by Jim Wafelbakker.

“It is one of the hallmarks of Westland Milk Products that the company, because of its cooperative structure and the closeness of West Coast communities, often attracts a loyalty and record of service you’d usually associate with a family-owned business. Jim is a prime example of that. He came onto the board in 1987 and earned the loyalty of southern area shareholders right from the start. He has been an able and passionate advocate of them, and of Westland Milk Company as a whole.” . . .

Farmers getting ready for a dry summer:

Federated Farmers recommends farmers have contingency plans in place in case the current mild El Nino intensifies, bringing a higher risk of drought, Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“Summer is looming and some parts of the country are already experiencing drier weather than last year, which for farmers in the summer dry areas means a return to business as usual,” Ms Milne says.

“Some regions are already noticeably drier than usual, which is causing some concerns. With summer officially starting tomorrow it is important that farmers have contingency plans in place, such as de-stocking and getting in supplementary feeds. . .

Would you like wine with your spectacular sea view?:

Kina Cliffs has become the latest wine vineyard in the Nelson/Tasman region to open a cellar door and tasting room.

Located next to their home at 38 Cliff Road, at Kina the stylish new tasting room offers a truly breath-taking nearly 270° view that stretches from Nelson across Tasman Bay to the Abel Tasman National Park and around across rolling hills to Mount Campbell and the Western Ranges. . .

Hemp Seeds Sown:

Midlands Seed Ltd has recently completed the planting of this seasons hemp crops, which they grow under contract with farmer suppliers in the South Island. It’s an exciting time for the Ashburton based company and its subsidiary company Oil Seed Extractions Limited (OSE) who Cold Press the resultant seed to produce Hemp seed oil. FSANZ have recommended an amendment to food regulation laws allowing the sale of hemp foods in New Zealand and Australia, which if approved should mean more hemp crops grown in New Zealand in the future.

Hemp is an annual plant, with a 120 day growth cycle. Hemp crops are grown for fibre or alternatively for seed, which can be processed to oil and other nutritious foods. Whilst Hemp has a reputation as an easy plant to grow with a host of benefits, Hemp seed production brings with it numerous challenges. . .


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

May 26, 2012

Reward for consistency – Rebecca Harper:

The accolade of Producer of the Decade was bestowed upon them at the 2012 Steak of Origin grand final, but for Angus breeders Chris and Karren Biddles, it was the reward for consistently producing a quality product.

“We like to breed good product and sell good product,” Chris Biddles sums up the philosophy that has seen Te Atarangi Angus named Producer of the Decade.

Chris and his wife Karren farm just under 1000 hectares on the Pouto Peninsula, near Dargaville in Northland, and have been long time supporters of beef cattle breeding in New Zealand. . .

Plenty of bull topped off with a great feed – Jon Morgan:

Aaaaah, Beef Expo. First to assail the senses is the smell. Bullshit and coffee.

Then it’s the noise. Over the low roar of farmers discussing the weather is the enraged bellowing of caged bulls. And somewhere in the distance a tormented soul is shouting out the same number over and over again.

He’s auctioneer Bruce Orr. “I bid 4000, 4000, 4000, 4000 dollars. I’ve got 4000 to bid, 4000, 4000, 4000, 4000.” And so on at break-tongue speed.

Later, I count him and he gets close to 100 times repeating the same number before a bidder takes pity on him and raises him $200. Then it starts again.

It’s my annual immersion in the world of beef breeding. . .

Shear joy for wool industry -

As a young girl growing up on Mt Nicholas Station, at the head of Lake Wakatipu, Kate Cocks was used to a life of uncertainty. Her parents, Lynda and Robert Butson, were high-country merino farmers, their extensive 100,000-acre property spreading from the edge of the lake to the tops of the distant peaks.

“Twenty years ago our wool cheque could vary from $300,000 one year to $1.2 million the next,” says Cocks, who is now the manager of Mt Nicholas Station. . .

Clicking on the link above will take you to a video.

Forum hailed for brdiging troubled waters – Jon Morgan:

 If I could meet the 80 people representing the 60 organisations and five iwi that make up the Land and Water Forum, I would ask them to turn their backs. Then I would give each one a well-deserved pat.

That’s unlikely, so I’ll do it in print. What these people have achieved, and are still to achieve, is awe-inspiring.

Formed four years ago under the leadership of environmental advocates Gary Taylor and Guy Salmon, the forum now includes the representatives of everyone with a stake in the sustainability of our freshwater resource – a remarkable achievement. . .

Dairy expansion pushes cow total to more than 6 million -Annette Scott:

Dairy expansion in the South Island has driven the national dairy herd to over six million while fewer lambs and breeding ewes saw sheep numbers take another tumble in 2011, according to the latest agricultural production survey.

Final results from the 2011 survey show a continued increase in the national dairy herd. An increase of 259,000 dairy cattle brought the number to 6.17m, up 4.4% from 2010.

More cattle were kept for milk production and future replacement, a result of the high payout and strong international demand for dairy products. The national milking herd was 4.82m, 136,000 more than in 2010. . .

The rise and importance of the US dairy industry – Xcheque:

If you have been watching the dairy industry news over the past month you will have noted a growing nervousness about the state of international dairy commodity markets and the flow on effects of this at farmgate.

It certainly appears that there is a gathering storm, one brought about by the over-exuberance of the global dairy traders. 7 billion litres of extra milk production in 2011 from the EU, US, NZ and Argentina, and no sign of the growth rate easing in the first two months of 2012. Domestic demand growth from these countries is typically less than 1% or about 2 billion litres – the balance needs to go onto world markets. Is this possible?

Not if history is a guide. . .

Ray of hope for dairy industry:

New Zealand dairy farmers are expected to be on average 42,000 dollars worse off this season following yesterday’s announcement by Fonterra that it has to cut its milk payout forecast because of softening global dairy prices.

But a New Zealand product gaining increasing attention in the United States could help offset those losses.

Queen of Calves was invented on a Manawatu family farm and promises to raise milk production by 18 per cent. . .

Southland TB campaigner wins deer industry award:

Retiring TBfree Southland Committee member Kevin Gilmour has been awarded the prestigious Matuschka Award by the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association.

Kevin has been associated with the TBfree committee for 20 years. Until recently, he ran a successful deer farm on the edge of the Hokonui Hills, while working tirelessly to communicate, advocate and support the national bovine tuberculosis (TB) control programme in Southland.

“The award came as a very nice surprise. However, I can’t emphasis enough how important the support and technical expertise of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association and TBfree committee has been in achieving our objectives,” he said. . .

Farmer-led Canterbury Water Forum to set the agenda:

Hard on the heels of the Land & Water Forum report, Federated Farmers has taken the lead by convening a farmer-led Canterbury Water Forum.  Taking place at the Ashburton Trust Events Centre on 7 June, it gives all farmers a chance to see what the future holds.

“This Water Forum is very much a forum for farmers by farmers.  It’s about looking at water and environmental stewardship through fresh eyes,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers water spokesperson.

“It’s so important that ATS is helping us put it together.  It’s about issues, yes, but it’s about practical solutions farmers can take inside the farmgate. . .


Land and Water Forum report has wide support

May 24, 2012

The Land and Water Forum’s latest report calls for national bottom lines to be set for the state of the country’s waterways.

. . .  the LWF, a group representing iwi and key freshwater stakeholders, said iwi and urban and rural communities should then collaborate to develop specific water quality objectives for each catchment and identify local solutions to achieve them. . . 

. . .  The Forum’s second major report provides a national framework within which Regional Councils will work with their communities and iwi to set freshwater objectives and develop limits for its use.

It provides a consistent and transparent process for setting objectives and limits, and one that will lead to effective and enduring outcomes, including greater certainty for investment and development.

“The way in which water issues have traditionally been decided has ultimately benefited no one,” said Mr Bisley. “We all agree we need to do better for the sake of both the economy and the environment.”

What is remarkable about the report is the degree of consensus achieved on it and Colin James gives the credit for that to the process:

. . . the forum’s report is important in substance. It is also important as process. Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird at the far ends of the spectrum of interest groups have publicly backed it, along with many others. So, too, have Government ministers, Labour, the Greens and the Maori party.  The word is that similar consensus and party backing is close on the allocation report.   

In short, on a matter of vital importance to economic and social life there is a real prospect of settled policy that can transcend changes of government.

This is no small achievement and if memory serves me correctly former Environment Minister Nick Smith and Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean had a lot to do with setting up the forum and ensuring it ran well.

The process has worked well for water, is it too much to hope a similar process could work as well for other important matters?

A link to the report is here.


Money for irrigation and cleaner water

September 18, 2011

Agriculture Minister David Carter  has announced the opening 0f applications for the Irrigation Acceleration Fund:

“NZIER research suggests the fund could support 340,000ha of new irrigation, which could boost exports by $1.4 billion a year by 2018, rising to $4 billion a year by 2026.

“All successful projects will need to be committed to good industry practice that promotes efficient water use and environmental management, particularly around land-use intensification.  Irrigation good practice is essential if we are to protect our vital water resource for tomorrow,” says Mr Carter.  

The fund will support regional scale rural water infrastructure proposals that address:

  • regional rural water infrastructure
  • community irrigation schemes
  • strategic water management studies.

Mr Carter says the Government will contribute up to 50 percent through the fund to successful proposals.  Applications will be assessed by MAF, with input from a panel of independent experts.  The final decision will be made by the Director General of MAF.

The same day Environment Minister Nick Smith announced the criteria and assessment panel for the new fund to help councils and communities clean-up nationally significant water bodies that have been polluted.

That fund was one of the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum which has been engaged by the Government to progress the next stage of policy work on setting limits on water quality, quantity and allocation.

Progress on fresh water reform stalled for a decade because of highly polarised positions. The Land and Water Forum has done a great job bringing together farmers, environmentalists, industry and iwi to develop an agreed way forward. We are releasing today the Government’s high level response to the Land and Water Forum’s April report and are engaging the Forum to do further work on the complex issue of setting water limits and improving systems for allocation,” the Ministers said.

Federated Farmers says the announcements are about the cleaning up from the  past and looking after the future:

The Irrigation Acceleration Fund will help transform and future proof New Zealand agriculture on the same day another fund, the ‘Fresh Start for Fresh Water Clean Up Fund’, will help communities remedy the legacy of the past. . . .

Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers RMA and environment spokesperson said:

“There’s no coincidence that it is announced concurrently with the ‘Fresh Start for Fresh Water Clean Up Fund’. This is about the future every bit as much as the past.

“The $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund is a positive step forward to developing water as a resource. That’s because 95 percent of the water used in agriculture does not come from storage and when I use the term agriculture, I include horticulture and the wine industry too.

“Federated Farmers has enthusiastically pushed for a ‘new water’ policy because this is about storing what falls from the sky. Economic studies done on the Opuha Dam during the last Labour Government showed an 8:1 economic payback.

“The $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund could well unlock billions of dollars in benefits.

“What’s more, native fish and water fowl can’t prosper in dry river beds. Water also provides recreational and community gains. . . .

Those community gains are environmental, recreational and economic.

Water storage provides opportunities for fishing and water sports, it can enhance waterways to ensure they have a reasonable minimum flow during dry spells and also protect soils from wind erosion.

Storing water for irrigation safe-guards farms during droughts which ensures money keeps flowing through to the people and businesses who work for, supply and service farmers.

We had about 10 mls of rain yesterday, it’s the first significant precipitation since the two winter snow falls. Without irrigation we’d be starting to worry, with reliable water we know we can grow grass whatever the weather.

There is potential for more irrigation here and in other places. The Irrigation Acceleration Fund will help the development of new schemes while the work of the Land and Water Forum will ensure past mistakes are cleaned up and not repeated in the future.


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