Rural round-up

August 20, 2014

Waitaki River group objects to planned changes:

The Canterbury Regional Council is promoting changes to give growers and Meridian Energy, which runs the Waitaki hydro-power scheme, certainty of water supply.

But a Waitaki River users group says a deal to drop the river’s minimum flow would badly harm an already sick river.

The Canterbury Regional Council is promoting changes to give growers and Meridian Energy, which runs the Waitaki hydro-power scheme, certainty of water supply.

The plan includes a cut to the minimum flow by a third during a dry spell. . . .

Shark finning to be banned from 1 October:

A ban on the finning of all shark species within New Zealand waters will take effect from 1 October this year, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced today.

“Implementing this ban has happened much faster than originally proposed. It reinforces New Zealand’s strong international reputation for sustainability and protecting our natural environment,” Dr Smith says.

The Ministers released a revised National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks) earlier this year, which included a commitment to phase in the ban on shark finning in New Zealand by October 2016 at the latest. A first tranche of shark species was to be covered by the ban from 1 October 2014, a second tranche from 1 October 2015, and only the highly migratory blue sharks was to be left until 1 October 2016. . . .

Botulism scare prompts diary working group:

Last year’s botulism scare has prompted the creation of a new working group in the dairy processing sector.

It was one of the recommendations of the independent Government inquiry into the whey protein concentrate contamination, which sent shock waves through New Zealand’s dairy industry.

The inquiry highlighted a shortage of experienced people with processing expertise and so the group has been set up to fix that.

The working group will be chaired by Northland dairy farmer and former Fonterra board director, Greg Gent, who said it was an exciting project. . .

NZ software could scupper mouse outbreaks:

A New Zealand-designed software system designed to predict and tackle mouse outbreaks is being trialled in Australia.

MouseAlert is an interactive website which uses mapping technology to enable arable crop growers to record and view mouse activity in their local area in real time.

Landcare Research has been providing the expertise on building this information into computer models which can then forecast plagues of mice. . .

Farmers welcome GlobalDairyTrade stabilisation:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see stabilisation in the latest benchmark GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) online auction result but warns price volatility will likely continue until well into the last quarter.

“It is great to see GDT average still in the US$3,000 a metric ton range but that slight 0.6 percent fall means we are on exactly US$3,000,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Vice-Chairperson.

“It seems to underscore how similar this season is to 2012/13. At a similar point two seasons ago, the average winning price was just US$54 more except it had come up from the high 2,000’s.

“But before anyone traipses back to the beginning of the year to make a more dramatic story, any price before 1 June is completely irrelevant when you are talking about this 2014/15 season. . .

 

China dangerous market reliance or exciting market growth? – Andrew Watters:

The economic growth of China over the past four years has resulted in huge demand for New Zealand dairy and meat products; lifted our terms of trade to historical highs and provided a major fillip to agriculture and the wider NZ economy.

However the somewhat dramatic slide in global dairy prices since their peak in midFebruary has the appearance of China exiting the market causing demand to stall.

It has prompted several commentators to ponder whether exciting market growth has become market over-reliance.

At MyFarm we see ‘China growth’ as a major boost to farming industry returns – one that will have a profound affect for the next two decades. . .

 

Informercials used to sell NZ meat in China - Dave Gooselink:

TV shopping shows and infomercials have become a popular way of selling everything from exercise equipment to kitchen and beauty accessories. But one New Zealand company has struck gold in China with a very surprising product – packaged meat.

It’s home shopping as most Kiwis will be familiar with, but the Chinese shopping show is selling something a little unusual – prime cuts of New Zealand beef and lamb.

Most of us Kiwis, we’d never think about buying our lamb or beef on a TV shopping channel,” says Silver Fern Farms head of sales Grant Howie. “But in a 30-minute slot earlier this year, we sold 12.5 tonnes of our beef.” . .  .

Minister approves Marlborough coastal plan changes:

Plan changes to enable three new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds were signed off today by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith at a function at the Marlborough District Council with Mayor Alistair Sowman and representatives from NZ King Salmon.

“These three new salmon farms at Waitata and Richmond in Pelorus Sound and Ngamahau in Tory Chanel are hugely important to Nelson and Marlborough’s aquaculture industry and wider economy. They will enable NZ King Salmon to grow its products from the current 6000 tonnes per year to 9000 tonnes per year in 2015 and 13,000 tonnes per year by 2033. These new farms will grow our GDP by $120 million per year, our exports by $50 million and employment by 150 new jobs,” Dr Smith says.

“I am well satisfied that our region can maintain the conservation and recreation benefits of Marlborough Sounds while enabling the growth of the aquaculture industry. These three farms will take up only about five hectares of surface water space out of a total area of over 100,000 hectares in the Sounds, or less than 0.01 per cent.” . .

The forest safety battle is not yet won

Point scoring in the media will not make our forests safer places to work, says the Forest Owners Association.

“The unions are claiming credit for a sudden reduction in the fatality and serious accident rate and Worksafe NZ is slamming us for a lack of safety leadership. These comments are unbalanced and unhelpful,” says association president Paul Nicholls.

“Political posturing and blaming others won’t save workers lives. To transform the industry’s safety culture, participants will need to acknowledge their past shortcomings and to share experiences and knowledge. They are less likely to be open to this if they are being publicly pilloried.” . .

Implementing Reform:

The sweeping reforms to the ways water is managed, as recommended by the Land and Water Forum two years ago, are now beginning to be implemented. The final shape and rate of reform will be very dependent on what government is elected in a few weeks. Therefore this is a particularly apt event looking at policy reforms that could reshape the way we manage and think about water.

“Implementing Reform” is the theme of the Water NZ annual conference being held at Hamilton’s Claudelands convention centre in the final week of the election campaign – 17 – 19 September.

Water reforms already implemented in Australia will be discussed in the first two sessions of the conference starting at 9.40 am on Wednesday 17. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

July 4, 2014

Red Meat Profit Partnership tries to answer crucial question - Allan Barber:

Analysis of the objectives and methodology of the RMPP suggests the programme has highlighted the most important issue facing the red meat sector. Briefly stated, it is to work out why there is still such a significant gap between the top farmers and those in the middle of the pack and to lift the average closer to the top performers.

When the Red Meat Sector Strategy identified behind the farm gate specifically as a major area of potential improvement, there was much mumbling about why the industry structure wasn’t being more usefully exposed as the area most in need of improvement. But figures released by the B+LNZ Economic Service show this isn’t the case. . .

 Out of cow muck comes magic – Emma Rawson:

Although it has grizzly beginnings in the blood and gore of the meatworks, there is a fairytale element to the story of biomaterials company Southern Lights.

A little like the Brothers Grimm’s goblin Rumpelstiltskin, who spun straw into gold, the Napier company transforms cow byproducts which would otherwise be destined for pet food and fertiliser into extremely lucrative Type 1 polymeric collagen.

At about $50,000 a kilogram it is no exaggeration to say the polymeric collagen is worth its weight in gold – only a few thousand shy of the price of bullion. . .

Award for science professor:

Lincoln University plant science professor Derrick Moot has won an award recognising the successful application of research or experience to an aspect of animal production.

Prof Moot was presented with the New Zealand Society of Animal Production’s Sir Arthur Ward Award at the society’s 74th annual conference on Tuesday night.

Prof Moot has been identifying plant pasture species which will survive and thrive on the dry East Coast, and developing ways to incorporate them into mostly sheep and beef farming systems – but also some dairying ones.

Lucerne ticked most of the boxes as it was a legume which fixed nitrogen from the atmosphere, was high in protein and energy and also had a deeper rooting system than other pastures, he said. . .

Filthy pigs? Not on our patch … – Sue O’Dowd:

The proud co-owner of a Taranaki piggery is so confident about its cleanliness that he sometimes walks around in it in his socks.

Ron Stanley, of Oaonui, is frustrated at this week’s television portrayal of a Canterbury piggery. Filmed earlier this year, the footage showed squalid conditions, severe overcrowding, and suffering animals.

The Stanley Piggery co-owner found the footage disturbing.

“That’s not the way we keep our animals,” he said. “I always say if I can’t come over to the piggery in my socks on a dry day, then there’s a problem. . .

Farm buildings to be exempt from assessment:

Farm buildings are to be exempt from the requirements for assessments under the Government’s earthquake-prone buildings policy, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced today.

“The Government is not satisfied that the risks posed by farm buildings justify the cost of every building being assessed. These buildings have a low occupancy rate and there is no record of a fatality caused by a farm building collapsing in an earthquake,” Dr Smith says.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill requires all buildings to be assessed in the next five years and for those under 34 per cent of the building standard to be upgraded within a period of 15 years, with a further 10-year extension available for heritage buildings. The Bill currently excludes residential buildings except those that are multi-storey and contain more than two homes. . .

Farmers welcome windfall from wind farms - Gerard Hutching:

Wind turbines west of Wellington are not only changing the landscape, they are also transforming landowners’ bank balances.

“They’re music to my ears, actually,” says Ohariu Valley sheep and beef farmer Gavin Bruce, who has a 440-hectare property with eight turbines.

All told there are 88 turbines on two Meridian Energy wind farms: 62 on the West Wind farm, situated on both Meridian’s own property as well as on Terawhiti Station, south of Makara; and 26 on the Mill Creek wind farm on four properties in the Ohariu Valley. . .

Driving safety home to farmers:

Rural retailers are backing government’s safety message to farmers.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), in partnership with Agcarm and WorkSafe New Zealand, is launching a campaign to increase awareness about the importance of wearing the right safety gear when using farm chemicals.

The campaign directly addresses the “she’ll be right” attitude toward using safety gear.

Agcarm distributor members across New Zealand will display posters and distribute flyers with practical tips about safety gear. . .

US Company churns out cloned cows -

In the meadow, four white-haired Shorthorn heifers peel off from the others, raising their heads at the same time in the same direction. Unsettling, when you know they are clones.

From their ears dangle yellow tags marked with the same number: 434P. Only the numbers that follow are different: 2, 3, 4 and 6.

The tag also bears the name of the company that bred them and is holding them temporarily in a field at its headquarters in Sioux Centre, Iowa: Trans Ova Genetics, the only large US company selling cloned cows.

A few miles away, four Trans Ova scientists in white lab jackets bend over high-tech microscopes in the company’s laboratories. They are meticulously working with the minute elements of life to create, in Petri dishes, genetically identical copies of existing animals. . . .

You Won’t Believe What This Guy Did With Old Farm Scrap Metal. Seriously, WOW:

Farmers of South Dakota, if you see John Lopez going through your garbage, please let him continue to do so. In his hands, what was unfixable or unwanted to you becomes art. Not just any art, though. Big, striking sculptures that celebrate the American Old West. The kind of stuff you’d probably like! At the very least, you’ll be impressed by his work. Who wouldn’t be? . . .

https://twitter.com/Fonterra/status/484566445662027776


Rural round-up

June 6, 2014

Milk production hits record levels - Gerard Hutching:

Chasing higher prices, dairy farmers have produced a record 1.8 billion kilograms of milksolids in 2013-14, a 160 million kg hike over the year before, the latest economic update from the ASB reports.

“Of the 10 per cent increase, 7.5 per cent comes from Fonterra’s farmers, with other companies lifting it to the 10 per cent,” economist Nathan Penny said.

He said that the increase was not just a response to higher prices, but farmers had also bounced back from the drought of 2012-13.

“But you don’t get a rebound from the drought two years in a row, it’s harder to get a big jump again,” Penny said. . .

Industry champion rendered speechless – Annette Scott:

Being named the winner of this year’s Deer Industry Award came as a bit of a shock for Paddy Boyd, who admits he was lost for words. He talked to Annette Scott.

When Mackenzie farmer and Haldon Station manager Paddy Boyd was named winner of this year’s Deer Industry Award he was lost for words.

The announcement at the industry conference in Methven came as a surprise for Boyd, who said he was usually able to string a few words together as a voice for deer producers. . .

Flock House farm to be jointly run:

A Rangitikei based iwi, a Maori incorporation and local Pakeha farmers will be working together to run the historic Flock House farm near Bulls.

AgResearch has completed the sale of its Flock House farm to Nga Waiariki-Ngati Apa for an undisclosed sum.

The farm was brought by Te Runanga o Ngati Apa, in partnership with Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation and Waitatapia Station Limited, and farming will be carried out by Te Hou Farms Limited Partnership. . .

$7m to assess irrigation viability in South Canterbury:

A new funding agreement will investigate the viability of the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme for up to 40,000 ha in South Canterbury, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

‘The Government’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund will provide $7.044 million over two years to co-fund technical investigations and design work to determine if an irrigation scheme is viable, both from a technical and economic perspective,’ says Mr Guy.

‘This will be matched by funds from shareholder equity and the scheme’s partner, Meridian Energy. . .

Green Ribbon Award finalists announced:

To mark World Environment Day, Environment Minister Amy Adams has today announced the finalists for the 2014 Green Ribbon Awards, which honour outstanding contributions to protecting New Zealand’s environment.

“Over the 24 years of the Green Ribbon Awards, more than 150 environmental champions have been recognised for their initiative, commitment and dedication to tackling environmental issues,” Ms Adams says.

“For this year’s awards, 113 nominations were received across 12 categories. The finalists come from a range of backgrounds and the work they do is challenging, time-consuming and sometimes unrewarded. . . .

Federated Farmers @ Fieldays 2014:

Federated Farmers has not only uprated its 2014 Fieldays presence with a site in the feature pavilion but will hold the final meeting of its current Board in Hamilton ahead of Fieldays.

“Federated Farmers will make Hamilton, or should I say, Megatron, as its base for Fieldays week,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President, who retires from the role in July.

“As this is my final Fieldays as National President, I am pleased to say we are making our largest ever investment into our Fieldays site.  . . .

Drinking water from poo nearly ready for market:

A technology for extracting drinkable water from manure is on its way to commercial application this year, a US university said today. The technology is particularly useful for animal operations in dry regions where water is at a premium, according to Michigan State University.

The McLanahan Nutrient Separation System is an add-on to an anaerobic digester, which extracts energy and chemicals from manure. The system adds ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system to produce water that’s clean enough for cattle to drink. . .

 


No change good, change bad

March 19, 2014

Share market investors put their money on yesterday’s poll results:

The NZX 50 Index rose to a new record, following a global rally, paced by power companies after recent political polls put the government ahead, helping dispel fears the opposition parties will be able to overhaul the electricity sector. MightyRiverPower, Meridian Energy and Contact Energy rose.

The benchmark index rose 47.638 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5135.664. Within the index, 27 stocks rose, 12 fell and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $167 million.

Better than expected US industrial production figures kicked off a global rally in equity markets which carried on into Asia. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.5 percent in afternoon trading, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 1.4 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX was up 0.5 percent.

Power companies paced today’s gains after a New Zealand Herald’s DigiPoll survey put the governing National Party at 50.8 percent support ahead of the September election. Labour, the main opposition party, garnered 29.5 percent. A key election policy of the opposition parties is to regulate the electricity market, creating a single state-owned wholesale electricity buyer. . .

“The electricity sector is up, and I’m going to put it down to the Herald DigiPoll results which were published, because they’re up across the board,” said Greg Easton, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. “If there is no change in government, then that sector could really outperform after the election.” . . .

If no change in government good the obvious implication is that a change of government would be bad – and not just for energy companies and the stock market.


LabGreen power play threatens renewable energy

February 14, 2014

There’s another flaw in the LabourGreen power play  – it would threaten investment in renewable energy:

Labour and the Greens have jointly proposed scrapping the wholesale energy market in favour of a single state-operated buyer of electricity, called NZ Power, claiming the move would save hundreds of millions of dollars on consumer power bills.

Today Mark Binns, chief executive of Meridian Energy, told the commerce select committee that while a lack of detail meant it was hard to properly analyse the plan, Meridian believed it would favour thermal generation over renewable plants such as wind farms.

“Our view is it would potentially impact on renewables because it would make thermals, particularly gas plants – which are easier to consent and easier to put in place quickly – more viable in that environment,” Binns told MPs..

“If you have a central buyer, the Crown has the responsibility for deciding the next wind farm or other power that is required, and wind farms take between five and 10 years to consent.

“Why would we keep investing in developing renewable options, given the uncertainty around central buyer?

“The reality is it’s much easier for someone like Todd Energy to basically get a piece of land with gas to the front door, and strap on a jet engine to a lump of concrete and generate electricity.” . . .

Questions over the economic credibility of Labour and Green policies aren’t new but there’s more than a little irony in this very serious question over the environmental impact their power play would have.


Labour will meddle in power market

January 17, 2014

Labour is planning to follow through on its policy to meddle in the power market if it is in government:

. . . Labour and the Greens unveiled plans to overhaul New Zealand’s electricity market on the eve of the government’s MightyRiverPower selldown last year. The operator of nine hydro stations on the Waikato River has traded below its $2.50 IPO price since just after the sale last May.  Meridian Energy, sold in October, is hovering around its listing price.

The opposition parties want to create a single, state-owned power buyer and a restructured pricing model, to eliminate excessive power company profits and pass savings onto consumers through cheaper electricity prices.

“A wise investor will be aware if the pricing model changes, in this case to stop the profiteering of public rivers, that will change the companies’ profits,” Parker, who would be finance minister in a Labour government, told BusinessDesk.

“Investors are already discounting those stocks because of what might happen if we win,” he said. “It’s actually a good example of how the market works.” . . .

If they can reduce the value of companies and the wealth of investors this much when they’re in opposition, they will do much worse in government.

Investors have already assessed the threat. The New Zealand stock exchange energy group index, which includes all listed power companies along with Z Energy and NZ Refining, has dropped 9.6 percent in the past 12 months, while the NZX 50 Index has rallied about 17 percent.

“Some people just won’t touch them because they are scared of a Labour-Greens government,” said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners. “Others say because they’re dirt cheap people are pessimistic. If National got re-elected they’d go up again.”

A potential change of government may pose risks to other sectors as well, he said.

“Regulatory risk is weighing on those sectors which could be in for attention from a Labour government,” Lister said. “The market is aware of the sectors susceptible to regulation – SkyCity, the electricity sector and Chorus have a cloud hanging over them, which will continue to the election.” . . .

If there’s a Labour/Green/New Zealand Firs/Mana and whichever else party after the election that cloud will darken.


If question is wrong how can any answer be valid?

November 27, 2013

The question on the politicians’ initiated referendum asks: do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.

Several people have pointed out that those who want more than 49% sold could vote no.

That would be taken as opposition to any sale when that’s the opposite of their view which favours total sales.

Then there’s the name of one of the companies – if Google is to be believed Genesis Energy is an SOE but I couldn’t find a Genesis Power.

There is another even more fundamental flaw in the question – the Government hasn’t sold and isn’t planning to sell up to 49% of Air New Zealand.

It didn’t own 100% of the shares in the first place and sold only 20% of the total, retaining 53%.

If the question is wrong, how can any answer be valid?


More warning on danger of LabourGreen power play

November 1, 2013

Meridian Energy’s partial float was given an initial thumbs up by analysts but they warn the share price is likely to be volatile heading into next year’s general election.

One fund manager said the difference in share price between Labour and National could be as much as 90 cents. . . 

Analysts agreed that day one of the float was successful and the closing share price was in line with expectations.

Devon Funds Management equity analyst Phillip Anderson said new investors would be pleased. “It’s enough for the new investors to be happy – they are feeling good about it – but not so much that it looks like the seller left a lot on the table.”

The general feeling among analysts was that institutions which had their share quotas scaled back had created strong demand for Meridian shares.

But the analysts warned that the general election could affect the share prices of both Meridian and Mighty River Power, which was partly privatised this year.

“My valuation for . . . [Meridian] as a whole is . . . around $1.10 if the Labour Party wins, but business as usual under National at around two bucks,” Anderson said. . .

That loss in value isn’t just for the wealthy for whom the left show no concern.

It is loss in value for ACC, Kiwi Saver accounts, the New Zealand Superfund, other pension and savings funds, and of course in the 51% of the company the state still owns.

The best way to keep the value up is to get National back into government.

The #gigatownoamaru campaign doesn’t hold political views.


Rural round-up

October 29, 2013

Futuristic drones to watch your sheep – Howard Keene:

Kiwi agriculture scholarship winner sees drones having a big potential in the industry.

Natasha King went overseas on a Nuffield Scholarship recently to primarily look for energy-generating solutions to New Zealand’s effluent disposal problems, but also became fascinated by some of the new technologies she came across.

“It wasn’t my area, but I became interested in it as a basic farmer from New Zealand,” Ms King, who is Meridian Energy’s national agribusiness manager based in Christchurch, said. . .

Steaks high in trans-Tasman Trans-Tasman beef battle – Jenna Lynch &  Elton Smallman:

The Kiwi and Aussie battle is heating up again, but there’s no sport in sight. This time it’s a battle of the beef.

Australian red meat is making its way across ditch and filling a gap in our supermarkets, as Kiwi beef farmers recover from last summer’s drought.

But how does the Aussie beef compare to a good homegrown Kiwi steak?

Well there’s only one way to find out: A blind taste test. . .

Lots of changes in industry, but basic principles remain the same – Yvonne OHara:

Winning the first and second Southland regional Sharemilker of the Year competitions and coming second by half a point in the national competition was memorable and disappointing for Karen Bellew and Stephen Malone.

The former Edendale 50/50 sharemilkers, who have since separated, won the inaugural regional competition in 1990 but it was held too late for them to compete in the national final.

However, they were allowed to enter the Southland event the following year and won again. . .

Lincoln University to apply expertise to restoration project:

International mining company Rio Tinto has confirmed that it will continue funding a major ecological restoration project currently underway at Punakaiki on the South Island’s West Coast.

The Punakaiki Coastal Restoration Project (PCRP) has been underway for five years and is part of a four-way partnership between Lincoln University, Rio Tinto, the Department for Conservation (DoC) and Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ). Professor of Ecology, Nicholas Dickinson , and his colleagues in the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been spear-heading the project for Lincoln University.

Rio Tinto has committed to another three years of funding the PCRP, which involves the restoration of a 70-hectare site that has been negatively impacted over the years through both mining and agriculture. The company originally bought the site to mine ilmenite (an oxide of titanium), but later gifted it to DoC. . . .

Tarras Water weighs options:

Tarras Water Ltd is still afloat, even if the company’s hopes for a dry shareholder have been sunk, director Peter Jolly says.

When contacted by Southern Rural Life last week, Mr Jolly said the company’s shareholders were looking at their options, including some which would not involve Tarras Water Ltd.

The company’s board was still meeting regularly and had a ”telephone link-up” about three weeks ago and an ”informal” meeting last week, he said.

However, the board had abandoned hope of a dry shareholder taking equity in the company, he said. . .

Council downsizes, reports increased event attendance  – Timothy Brown:

Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s Central South Island Council decided on a smaller council at its annual meeting in Cromwell last week, reducing the number of councillors from four to three.

South Canterbury farmer Andrew Fraser stepped down, and the three other councillors, Blair Smith, Ivan Geary and Robert Peacock were re-elected unopposed. . .

Council downsizes, reports increased event attendance


LabourGreen power policy already costly

October 24, 2013

Meridian shares will list at $1.50 which is at the bottom of the government’s indicative range and some of the blame for that can be laid on the threat of the LabourGreen power policy:

. . . Numerous factors combined to force down the price of Meridian shares. Chief among these were market fears that a Labour-Greens government, if elected next year, will gut electricity company profits to deliver large price cuts; and ongoing uncertainty about the long term future of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter. . .

The Labour and Green parties have cost the country in opposition.

They’ll cost us all lots more if ever they get into government.


Postal referendum on partial floats

September 30, 2013

The government has taken the least expensive option for the referendum on the partial float of a few state owned assets.

The citizens initiated referendum on the Mixed Ownership Model will be held as a postal vote in November and December this year after a petition regarding the Mixed Ownership Model was signed by 10 per cent of eligible voters. 

The referendum will ask whether New Zealanders support the Government’s sale of up to 49 per cent of Meridian, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Government is required to hold the referendum by September 2014, which will be overseen by the Electoral Commission.

“We want to hold this referendum as soon as practicably possible and completing it before the traditional holiday period begins will help us get maximum voter participation,” Ms Collins says.

The voting period will open on Friday, 22 November and will close three weeks later on Friday, 13 December.

The referendum roll will close on Friday, 25 October, but voters will be able to enrol on the supplementary roll up until Thursday, 21 November.

The Electoral Commission has estimated the cost of the postal referendum at $9 million – including $2.85 million for public information and advertising.

The Commission is expected to deliver a preliminary result after voting closes and a final result will be delivered as soon as possible thereafter.

The result of the referendum is not binding on the Government.

This politicians’ initiated referendum is a very expensive publicity exercise for the opposition.

Grey Power, which initially fronted the petition, lost any credibility on the issue when it signed up to discounts for its members with a private company.

Meanwhile, the share offer for up to 49% of Meridian energy began this morning with strong demand.

The Prime Minister says there has already been “strong” early demand for Meridian Energy shares by retail investors, ahead of the offer opening today.

Close to half of the Meridian Energy share offer has been pre-committed to New Zealand retail investors after Kiwi sharebrokers were invited last week to submit bids for shares on behalf of interested clients. . .

The partial float will be done and dusted with the money banked before  the referendum begins.


Referendum even more redundant

September 17, 2013

Finance Minister Bill English and State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall have announced the timetable for the partial float of Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy and further selling down of Air New Zealand shares.

The Government has confirmed New Zealanders will have the opportunity to invest in a minority shareholding in Meridian Energy from later this month, before an expected sharemarket listing on 29 October.

Full details will be set out when the offer document is lodged this Friday 20 September, Finance Minister Bill English and State-owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall say.

Pre-offer marketing will start this evening, ensuring New Zealanders are aware of the Meridian offer through television, newspaper and online advertising. This will explain how people can get more information, including ordering an offer document.

As with the Mighty River Power share offer earlier this year, New Zealanders will again be at the front of the queue for shares in Meridian, Mr English says.

“The Government was very clear about the opportunity for New Zealanders when we put our share offers programme to New Zealanders during the 2011 election campaign. The compelling reasons for proceeding with the share offers are as valid today.

“The Government share offer will enable New Zealanders to invest in big Kiwi companies at a time when they are telling us they want to diversify their growing savings away from property, bank deposits and finance companies.

“And we can invest the proceeds in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow that money in volatile overseas markets, and increase debt.”

As Ministers have previously indicated, investors will buy Meridian shares in two instalments over 18 months. This means investors will need to pay only around 60 per cent of the price up front – but they will receive in full any dividends.

In addition, there will be a price cap for New Zealand retail applicants to provide more certainty about how much the shares will cost.

Mr English says further decisions have now been confirmed, including:

  • The Meridian offer document will be lodged this Friday 20 September, setting out all the information investors need to make an informed decision about whether to invest. This will include the price range, the price of the first instalment, the capped price of the second instalment and the expected yield.
  • After the offer document is lodged, the Financial Markets Authority has around five business days to review the document. This ‘consideration period’ is expected to conclude on 27 September.
  • New Zealanders will then have three weeks from 30 September to consider the offer document and apply for shares before the general offer closes on 18 October. This will be followed by a book-build process where institutions bid for shares.
  • It is expected that Meridian will list on the New Zealand and Australian sharemarkets on 29 October.

Mr Ryall says the offer process puts New Zealanders at the front of the queue for shares and will ensure they have easy access to information.

“To help achieve this, a retail syndicate will be marketing the offer to New Zealanders, and they will offer information and advice to their clients.

“In addition, we have included what is called a ‘broker firm’ aspect to the Meridian offer. Under this arrangement, brokers assess demand from their clients and submit bids, and the Government then chooses how much to allocate them.

“Just like the retail offer, this process is open only to New Zealanders and is consistent with our commitment to ensuring 85-90 per cent New Zealand ownership of the shares,” Mr Ryall says.

Ministers have also confirmed they are considering options for Genesis Energy and Air New Zealand – two of the other companies in the Government’s share offer programme.

“As the Prime Minister said last month, we anticipate that the Genesis Energy share offer will occur in the first half of 2014, subject to market conditions,” Mr Ryall says. “Preliminary work is underway and will continue over the next few months.”

The Air New Zealand share offer will be different to the others, as it is already a sharemarket-listed company.

“What that means is that New Zealanders can buy shares in the company now, if they wish,” Mr Ryall says.

“We are currently working through the best way the sell down can occur and we remain keen to ensure that New Zealanders have the opportunity to participate in it.  At this stage, no final decisions have been made, including on timing. However, when it occurs we expect it will be a shorter process than that used for Meridian and Mighty River Power.”

This makes the politicians’ referendum on the partial sale of a few state owned assets now even more redundant.

It was always only political posturing.

It was never going to have any impact on government policy which was clearly signalled before the 2011 election, made the issue by the opposition and had already begun with the partial float of Mighty River Power before enough signatures had been gathered.

That Grey Power which fronted the referendum petition has now negotiated a deal for its members with a private power company makes it not just redundant but hypocritical.

Referendums are very blunt instruments and none of the four Citizens Initiated Referendums we’ve had since they were introduced in 1993 have achieved anything.

There are better, and cheaper, ways to make a point and influence policy.

All the latest one does is reinforce the growing body of opinion that Citizens Initiated Referendums have had their day.


Partial float of Meridian to go ahead

August 20, 2013

The partial float of Meridian Energy is going ahead with the float expected to take place in early November.

Prime Minister John Key today confirmed the Meridian Energy share offer would be concluded and the company listed on the New Zealand sharemarket by early November, subject to market conditions.

“The Meridian share offer – the second in the Government’s Share Offer programme – comes after we successfully floated 49 per cent of Mighty River Power in the first half of this year, hitting our target of an 85 to 90 per cent New Zealand shareholding, and retaining majority Government control,” Mr Key says.

“And the Government remains committed to 85 to 90 per cent New Zealand ownership on the Meridian share offer.”

He expects Mighty River Power, and now Meridian Energy, will benefit from a broader shareholder base, and end up being better, stronger companies for the rigour and transparency that being listed on the sharemarket brings.

“Both companies will also be better off because they will be able to access capital to grow in more ways than companies that are 100 per cent government owned – which is basically from the taxpayer.”

He says the share offer programme is aimed at freeing up between $5 billion and
$7 billion to invest in other public assets for New Zealand and New Zealanders.

“The partial sale of Mighty River Power put $1.7 billion into the Future Investment Fund – and that is money we have been using to buy public assets without having to borrow on overseas markets.”

Mr Key says it should be remembered the whole Government Share Offer programme covers less than 3 per cent of the Government’s total assets.

“It’s smart reinvestment. With so many demands on government funding, these companies can get investment from sources other than just hard-working taxpayers, and taxpayers can get money freed up for spending on other priority projects that they will benefit from.”

Mr Key says he is confident New Zealanders will understand the instalment receipts model being used for the Meridian share offer, which will involve them paying for their shares in two instalments.

“It is not an uncommon model with large share offers.  I think New Zealanders will view the ability to pay around 60 per cent of the share price at the time of the IPO and receive full benefits for the first 18 months as a positive feature of this offer.”

He says listing up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy will also give New Zealanders the chance to invest in another big Kiwi company at a time when many people recognise the value of diversifying their growing savings away from property and bank deposits.

As at June this year, New Zealanders held around $118 billion in bank deposits – around 20 times the expected size of the entire Government Share Offer programme. 

The Government will use instalment receipts in the share offer which will allow investors to pay for their shares in two instalments.

Subject to market conditions, the sale of up to 49 per cent of Meridian is expected to be completed, and the company listed on the sharemarket, by early November, Finance Minister Bill English and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall say.

“Listing up to 49 per cent of Meridian on the sharemarket will give New Zealanders an opportunity to invest in another big Kiwi company at a time when many people recognise the value of diversifying their growing savings away from property and bank deposits,” Mr English says.

The instalment receipts, which are fairly common for major initial public offerings in other countries, will mean New Zealand retail investors will need to pay less cash up front when they apply to buy shares. Instalment receipts were used by the Government in the float of Capital Properties in 1998.

“They will allow New Zealanders to pay for their shares in two instalments,” Mr English says. “The first instalment, for around 60 per cent of the share price, will be paid when investors apply for shares.

“The remaining amount, which will be fixed at the end of the share offer, will not need to be paid for a further 18 months.”

Between the first and second instalments, investors will receive the full dividends paid out in that period, which will make the dividend yield – or return on their investment – higher in those first 18 months.

Ministers have decided to use the instalment receipts as an incentive for New Zealand investors in Meridian, instead of the loyalty bonus shares that were used in the previous Mighty River Power share offer.

Mr Ryall says ministers have also confirmed the following decisions for the Meridian share offer:

  • A minimum application of $1,000 will apply for the first instalment of shares.
  • Given there is sufficient public familiarity with the Government’s share offer programme, there will not be a formal pre-registration process, as happened with the Mighty River Power offer.
  • Retail banks ASB and ANZ and sharebroker Forsyth Barr have been appointed to the retail syndicate for the Meridian offer. The syndicate will work closely with joint lead managers Craigs Investment Partners / Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs /JB Were and Macquarie to market the offer to New Zealanders.

“Another difference with the Meridian offer is that we have decided to set a share price cap for New Zealand retail investors who take part in the offer,” Mr Ryall says.

“We understand that people like to know the maximum price they’ll be paying at the time they apply to buy their shares. 

“Therefore, the cap will be set at the same time that we set the price range, and it will be announced when we lodge the offer document. This will give retail investors more certainty when they apply for shares.

“It also means that if demand is such that institutions are bidding at higher prices than our price cap, then retail investors will get their shares at a lower price than that paid by the institutions.”

More information on the offer and how instalment receipts work is here.


Southland happy

August 9, 2013

The Southland Times says a dark cloud has been lifted with news the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter will remain open and further job cuts are “unlikely“.

The smelter’s immediate future was secured through the signing of an electricity agreement between New Zealand Aluminium Smelters and Meridian Energy after 12 months of negotiations.

The deal came after the Government gave the smelter a $30 million one-off payment.

NZAS chairman Brian Cooper said the previous electricity contract had included price increases which threatened the future of the smelter in the face of falling aluminium prices and the strong New Zealand dollar.

The new deal is until 2030, but the smelter can terminate the deal from January 2017 if it gives 15 months’ notice.

“The clouds have lifted over Invercargill today, both literally and metaphorically,” Cooper said, alluding to the fact the smelter would remain open for at least three more years. . .

The Opposition which has been calling for the government ‘to do something’ is of course critical of the deal but Finance Minister Bill English explains:

“This is a one-off incentive payment to help secure agreement on the revised contract because of the importance of the smelter to the stability of the New Zealand electricity market,” Mr English says. “It provides medium term certainty for Southland and New Zealand.”

This deal protects jobs in the short term.

It is also a $30 million counter to claims from the opposition that the government doesn’t care about the regions.


Time to cut the lines?

June 24, 2013

The Waitaki Electric Power Board used to boast of getting electricity to the most isolated dwellings in the furthermost corners of its catchment.

I doubt the board boasted about the cost of doing that and in those days service usually overcame commercial imperatives.

When Max Bradford’s power reforms were introduced the new lines companies were required to keep servicing the far-flung consumers.

I think there was a review of that a couple of years ago and the decision was made to keep things as they were.

It is possible that this might not always be best.

Lines charges make up a big proportion in most people’s power bills. The cost can be out of proportion to how much or how little power they use and how expensive it is to maintain the lines and repair them after storms like last week’s.

Given technological advances, is it still necessary to deliver power to everyone?

Westpac and Meridian Energy launched a new solar panel initiative for farmers at the National Fieldays.

One of the first to pilot the solar panels will be the Westpac Taranaki Agricultural Research Station in Hawera, which will provide an ongoing assessment and monitoring of the solar panels’ operation and cost savings on their dairy farm. . .

According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), around 140,000kWh of solar energy falls on the roof of a typical farm shed each year. Many sheds consume more than this in electrical energy.

While the savings from solar are modest in comparision to a farmer’s overall energy bill, there are savings to be had and potentially the opportunity to make money by selling any unused energy back into the grid at non-peak times. . .

Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Energy spokesperson, uses solar power at Castle Point Station and says it’s an effective technology for supplying power to remote areas in a cost effective manner.

“At Castlepoint Station we use solar to power radio communications and wireless broadband over 3,700 hectares.

“With my Federated Farmers hat on, I can see dairy farmers looking to use the roof expanse of their milking sheds for solar panels. The same applies to other heavy energy users such as arable farms and large sheep and beef stations like Castlepoint.

“If a farm’s electricity bill is over $1,000 each month then the Solar Shed initiative may suit your business. . . “

The Solar Shed initiative is for people who are still tied to the grid. That enables them to get power when they can’t generate enough themselves and gives them the opportunity to sell any excess back to a power company.

If reducing lines charges is one of the aims, some properties will have to be off the grid and Castle Point has a house which is.

It uses solar power and gas. Small scale wind or hydro schemes might work in some areas and diesel generation might also be viable.

Friends built a house in the country which is off the grid. They spent a lot of time designing it to make the best use of natural light and heat, have very good insulation and use wood burners, solar panels and diesel.

I realise this is potentially dangerous territory. Talking about cutting the lines to the peripheries, invites  debate on the cost to many versus the benefit to a few.

But as lines charges increase and technology improves, it could be worth investigating whether there are better, cheaper and possibly more reliable ways of getting power in remote places than through power lines.


Southland’s loss NZ’s gain?

April 7, 2013

Invercargill City Council has resolved to take out full-page advertisements in all major New Zealand newspapers to get across what it calls the “correct information” about the deal Meridian Energy and the smelter’s owner, Rio Tinto, are trying to negotiate over power prices.

I’m pleased my rates won’t be paying for that.

The rest of New Zealand, or at least the newspaper reading segment of it, might have a great deal of sympathy for the plight of workers facing redundancy and the downstream impact on Invercargill and Southland.

But sympathy is very unlikely to translate into action and if it did, what action would that be?

When the price of aluminium was high it might have made sense to import bauxite, use our relatively cheap power to convert it into aluminium and export that. But the world price of aluminium has plummeted and Rio Tinto says the power isn’t cheap enough to keep it here.

Getting across the “correct information” isn’t going to change that.

The ads are going to be even less effective if those who read them also read that there’d be no trouble getting excess power to Auckland if the smelter closed.

The ICC would be better employed working out how to attract businesses to the south to help employ those who would lose jobs in the smelter closed.

That might also provide a use for at least some of the excess power so it wouldn’t need to be sent north.

Without that, the loss of the smelter in Southland could turn into the gain of a greater supply and therefore lower priced power for the rest of New Zealand.


Meridian unlikely to reach agreement with smelter

March 28, 2013

Meridian has announced it’s unlikely to reach an agreement with Pacific Aluminium over supply of electricity to its Bluff smelter.

. . . Chief Executive of Meridian Energy, Mark Binns, says that Meridian has advised Pacific Aluminium of its ‘bottom line’ position.

“Despite significant effort by both parties there remains a major gap between us on a number of issues, such that we believe that it is unlikely a new agreement can be reached with Pacific Aluminium,” says Mr Binns.

In the event no agreement can be reached, Meridian will seek to engage with Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Chemical Company Ltd, the shareholders of NZAS, who will ultimately decide on the future of the smelter. . . 

The smelter is a big employer in Southland but falling global prices for aluminium have put pressure on its operation.

This announcement also has implications for power prices. Without the smelter supply could well be greater than demand.

. . . news that there may be no new electricity price agreement with New Zealand Aluminium Smelters carries huge implications for the electricity sector, which has struggled to grow in the last five years and would face a massive supply over-hang which could last years, were the smelter to close.

However, that outcome is not yet certain.

The smelter’s majority owners, Anglo-Australian minerals giant Rio Tinto, are locked into the first three years of an new 18 year contract, which took effect from Jan 1, took three years to negotiate, and had been agreed in 2007.

While the New Zealand smelter makes internationally recognised high grade metal, which sells at a premium, Rio has been hit hard by its exposure to the aluminium sector, where world prices have been hit hard since the global financial crisis.

Rio Tinto is seeking to sell the smelter, along with a clutch of other, older smelters in Australasia, which it has packaged as a new subsidiary, Pacific Aluminium. . . .

If my recollection is correct the smelter was wooed to New Zealand by the price of cheap electricity.

This is an example of the dangers of such policy. It was designed with the good intentions of job creation but has skewed the electricity market.

State Services Minister Tony Ryall says all relevant information – including about the smelter electricity contract – will be reflected in the Mighty River Power offer document which is currently being finalised.


Another reason to sell

February 26, 2013

The NBR provides another argument in favour of the sale of State Owned Assets.

Like other state-owned enterprises under the former Labour government, Solid Energy was encouraged to diversify its core business and take advantage of subsidies encouraging investment in renewable resources and technologies.

To try to put the blame for the company’s plight on National and its assets sales programme is turning reality on its head.

The same goes for Meridian and Mighty River Power having to sell out of similar forays after closer inspection by the Treasury and other as part of the government’s selldown policy.

That has included MRP withdrawing from a project in the US that was driven by government renewable energy subsidies there. . .

Meridian’s decision to withdraw from the Project Hayes wind farm also looked like a proposal driven by politics that didn’t stand up to financial scrutiny.

One good reason for partial privatisation is more financial rigor in the management of these companies.


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.


Customer service – spot the flaws

September 25, 2012

The call came from Meridian Energy about a final meter reading.

Caller: “The contractor went to do the final reading on Tuesday but couldn’t get in to the house.”

Me: “No-one lives in the house, the key is here.”

Caller: “Yes, I told them that and they were to call in to the house or office to get the key but they said no-one was there.”

Me: “Which day was that?”

Caller: “Tuesday.”

Me: “Some one was in the office from 8.30 until 4ish and I was in the house all afternoon.”

Caller: “Well, they said no-one was home and I want to book them again.”

Me: “Could they ring before they come to make sure someone will be here?”

Caller: “I can ask them but they have their own mobile phones and don’t like using them because they have to pay for them.”

Sigh.

This call was from an energy company but it could have been from numerous others which expect you to hang about waiting for them.

Mobile phones ought to make it so much easier for them to let you know when they’re likely to come.

Instead too many use them only to communicate with their own company and don’t worry about the customer.


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