Rural round-up

May 12, 2014

Beer cheese ‘natural joint project’ – Rebecca Ryan:

Joining forces to create a beer cheese was a ”natural collaboration” for Oamaru companies Whitestone Cheese and Scotts Brewing Company.

Since January, the businesses have been trialling different recipes and techniques to develop a beer cheese.

The final product, an ”Indian Pale Airedale”, is due to be launched in spring, with manufacturing starting in the next few weeks.

”We’ve just come up with one we’re really pleased with,” Whitestone Cheese chief executive officer Simon Berry said. . .

Meat industry reform and the phony war - Keith Woodford:

The current situation in the meat industry reminds me of two famous phrases from the First and Second World Wars. From the First World War, came the term ’all quiet on the Western Front’. And then early in the Second World War there was the ‘phony war’. Both were periods of quiet while the protagonists geared up for major battles. All parties knew that it was actually the quiet that was phony.

The current situation in the meat industry is similar. Eventually hostilities will inevitably break out as the processing and marketing companies compete with each other for survival. In beef there is scope for most to survive, but in sheep meat there have to be casualties. . . .

Turned on the weather – RivettingKateTaylor:

By the time I arrived home from the Farmer of the Year field day yesterday it was raining, freezing and dark. Just an hour earlier I was standing in the sun in the yard at Drumpeel, partaking of some yummy Silver Fern Farms product, catching up with some of Hawke’s Bay’s rural clan.

About 264 people attended the 2014 Hawke’s Bay Farmer of the Year field day (according to the man counting at the gate!) at the CHB property of Hugh and Sharon Ritchie and their four beautiful children (sorry David, let’s try one handsome son and three beautiful daughters). . .

Kate has more photos of the field day here.

Irrigation agreement signed with ORC - David Bruce:

Otago Regional Council councillors and staff on Thursday saw how the North Otago Irrigation Company and its farmers are managing efficient use of water and flow-on effects before signing an agreement with North Otago irrigation companies and representatives.

Cropping and dairy support farmer Peter Mitchell with the help of the company’s environmental manager Jodi Leckie, explained how variable rate irrigation and close monitoring of soil needs helped both the farmer and the environment on a Fortification Rd property.

The Memorandum of Agreement is with North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC), the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company (LWIC), and the Waitaki Irrigators’ Collective Ltd and concerns implementation of the council’s Regional Plan: Water for Otago Plan Change 6A. . .

 

Great conditions for olives this season:

The olive harvest is off to a good start with the hot dry summer combining with the industry’s maturing trees to provide lots of high quality fruit.

Olives New Zealand president Andrew Taylor said the harvest began in the far North in late March and will finish up in Canterbury in July.

He said it was the second consecutive summer that the industry had had ideal weather conditions for growing olives, which had led to excellent fruit quality, and the odds of great oil were high. . .

Sustainable piggeries in American Samoa preventing contamination:

Farmers in American Samoa have been told to avoid using water to clean out their piggeries in a move to avoid contamination.

Almost 100 farmers were schooled last week on environmentally-friendly ‘dry-litter’ piggeries, that use woodchips instead of water to deal with waste, which then provides composting options for crops.

The chief piggery compliance officer, Antonina Te’o, says wash-down systems can cause land and water pollution and allow waste material to infiltrate the drinking water supply. . . .

 


Farmers angry with AgResearch

March 18, 2014

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson said last week’s meeting with farmers in Gore was constructive over plans to move scientists from Invermay to Lincoln was constructive.

The meeting was initiated by the Southern Texel Breeders and hosted by Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Eighty seven people attended the meeting, of which about 50 were farmers.

“It was good to be able to speak to concerned farmers directly about our plans to deliver them better science and higher returns. It was a good wide-ranging discussion, and wasn’t solely focused on our reinvestment plans for AgResearch campuses,” says Dr Richardson.

“There was also discussion on government investment in science, industry support for science and how to take research forward.

“Regards our campus reinvestment plans, we understand the concerns of Southland and Otago farmers, and it was an opportunity to reinforce the fact we are not closing Invermay – in fact we’d like to increase the numbers of staff there who are dealing with on farm and regional environment issues.”

AgResearch’s Future Footprint plan will position the organisation for the long-term to deliver better science, more effectively, to New Zealand farmers, the pastoral sector and the New Zealand economy.

The Southern Texel Breeders passed a motion requesting an independent review of the plan, which will involve the co-location of scientists into science innovation hubs, allowing for a more effective collaborative approach to tackle national science ‘big issues’.

Dr Richardson says the plan will see $100 million reinvested to create modern facilities that are functional, adaptable and fit for modern science.

“Future Footprint will see us maximising the use of our facilities and specialist infrastructure to achieve better returns for AgResearch, our clients and the pastoral sector,” says Dr Richardson.

“We remain committed to find the best solution to continue to deliver the science all New Zealand farmers rely on to stay ahead of their international counterparts.”

Farmers aren’t convinced and they’re angry.

They pay levies which provide a good part of AgResearch’s funds and they want scientists to stay based where the bulk of sheep and beef farming takes place – in Otago and Southland.

Immigration Minister and Dunedin-based MP Michael Woodhouse isn’t convinced AgResearch has yet made its case for shifting scientists from Invermay to Lincoln.

As the debate about the merits of an AgResearch hub being established at Lincoln, Mr Woodhouse confirmed to the Otago Daily Times yesterday he had visited Invermay and talked to the staff.

There had been a fear that leaving just 20 scientists at Invermay to deal with farming services and animal services was a ”death spiral” number. But Mr Woodhouse had been ”assured” by AgResearch 20 was the absolute minimum number of scientists and it was hoped to lift the number to 50 scientists at Invermay in the future.

”We need to test that plan and make sure it is the right thing to do for New Zealand Inc and New Zealand agriculture. Can we be confident moving 50 scientists out of 80 from Invermay is better than moving the 30 from Christchurch to Invermay? I am not convinced AgResearch has met the test set them by Minister [Steven] Joyce.” . . .

The plan hasn’t met the farmers’ test.

Dr Andrew West tried to merge AgResearch and Lincoln when he headed AgResearch and failed. Farmers think he’s trying to achieve the same thing by another route now he’s vice chancellor of the university.

They wonder if the plan has more to do with shoring up Lincoln than what’s best for the industry.

AgResearch gets a lot of their money and they are worried that much-needed research will suffer from the loss of institutional knowledge and distance from the main concentration of sheep and beef production.

Whether or not the move goes ahead, one option for any spare buildings no-one has mentioned is as the headquarters for the Otago Regional Council.

The ORC has been looking for a new home and had expensive plans for one in the city. That was torpedoed but they still need a bigger base.

Invermay, with or without the current AgResearch staff, could be an option.


Rural round-up

March 8, 2014

Otago water plan appeals resolved:

The appeals of Federated Farmers and others on Otago Regional Council’s Plan Change 6A (Water Quality) have been constructively resolved for farming and the environment.

“Otago Regional Council’s Plan Change 6A is now a reality,” says Stephen Korteweg, Federated Farmers Otago provincial president.

“On paper, at least, it offers a roadmap for maintaining or improving water quality in Otago. Now the hard work of implementing the plan begins. . .

What’s good for the farmer also proves good for the environment - Jamie Gray:

In Canterbury, the cockies are only half joking when they say they’re into hydroponics.

For dairy farmers, once they have the land it’s just a matter of adding water, the right feed, nutrients and cows and the result is milk. Lots of it.

In some parts of the province, you only have to dig down a few centimetres before hitting gravel and soil can vary widely in depth and quality.

Dairying does have an impact on the environment and it is heavily reliant on irrigation. So it comes as no surprise that water usage and quality is a hot topic in the region and the nation in general. . .

New posting to boost MPI presence in the Middle East:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the creation of a new position for an Agricultural Counsellor to be based in Dubai.

The announcement has been made as part of the Minister’s current visit to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“This new position is the latest step by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to increase its presence in the Middle East. It recognises the growing importance of the New Zealand relationship with the region and will provide further support for New Zealand exporters,” says Mr Guy.

“Based in Dubai, the position will cover key markets in the Middle East and seek to advance our trade and economic relationships. The position will also contribute to New Zealand’s strategy to develop strong government and private sector relationships with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). . .

Why wait till disaster strikes? – Katie Milne:

Ten years ago last month, the Manawatu suffered flooding in scenes eerily similar to what we saw in Britain and now Christchurch.  That 2004 flood event cost $300 million with Palmerston North coming within a hair’s breadth of disaster. 

In Britain, a former head of its Environment Agency dismissively said of Somerset’s flood management: “I’d like to see a limpet mine put on every pumping station.”  The UK’s Environment Agency acts like a huge regional council for England and Wales on flood and coastal management.  Its embattled head, Lord Smith, now faces headlines like this: “Environment Agency bosses spent £2.4million on PR… but refused £1.7million dredging of key Somerset rivers that could have stopped flooding.”

In October 2010, the late Horizons Regional Councillor, David Meads, told the Manawatu Standard that the Resource Management Act made it harder for his council to deliver its core business of flood protection:  “…that $6 million saved Palmerston North…But the work lower down, on the tributaries, was way behind. As we found out in 2004.”  Farmers felt shut out on consultation on flood and drainage schemes yet, “they were the people whose gumboots overflowed when heavy rain caused flooding on the plains.” In Christchurch, I guess we can add homeowners. . .

Husband and Wife to be tested in Kaikohe:

The Northern Regional Final of ANZ Young Farmer Contest will see husband and wife Rachel and Robert Cashmore of Papakura, battle it out in Kaikohe, Saturday 15 March.

The couple, along with six other competitors, will be vying for a place at the Grand Final and their share of $14,000 in prizes from ANZ, Lincoln University, Silver Fern Farms, AGMARDT, Ravensdown, Honda, Husqvarna and Vodafone.

The events begin with the practical day at the Kaikohe Showgrounds which will test competitors’ skills, strength and stamina. There will be a variety of hands-on, physical and theoretical challenges – all with an agricultural and farming focus.. .

Fieldays seeks agricultural innovators:

The highly regarded Fieldays Innovation Competition is back after yet another ground breaking year which saw previous entrants finding fame and fortune.

The most innovative competition in the agricultural industry is now open for 2014 and organisers are urging inventors to enter their rural innovations in the distinguished competition held annually at Fieldays, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agribusiness expo.

The competition celebrates New Zealand ingenuity by showcasing the latest innovations, backyard inventions and commercial improvements, with thousands of Fieldays visitors eager to view the latest rural advancements. . .

Years of Dedication Sees Double Award Win for Goat Cheesemaker:

Rural Waikato cheesemaker Jeanne Van Kuyk is celebrating an incredible double win at the 2014 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards after claiming a highly sought-after supreme award and major category win.

Aroha Organic Goat Cheese cheesemaker, Jeanne, was presented with the Milk Test NZ Cheesemaker of the Year Award at a gala dinner and awards night held at The Langham, Auckland on Tuesday night (March 4).

While the certified organic, and GE free company is no stranger to award wins, this is the first time Aroha Organic Goat Cheese has taken out one of the coveted supreme titles. . .


Oyster farming secret cracked

September 9, 2013

Bluff Oyster Co says it’s cracked the secret to farming oysters for export:

A Bluff oyster company says it has cracked the secret to farming the Bluff oyster for export.

But the company, which is based in the old Ocean Beach meatworks in the port town, will not be ready to start production until it finds suitable waters to finish off the oysters.

New Zealand’s Bluff Oyster Co general manager Rodney Clark said they would then be ready to produce millions of oysters for the world market.

Mr Clark, who has been involved in the Southland fishing industry for 25 years, said he started pioneering the project a decade ago.

The hatchery and nursery were now “perfected” and ready to produce millions of oyster spat and adult-sized oysters for export, he said. . .

This is good news for oyster lovers all over the world.

I’m not among them but accept the verdict of oyster lovers that the Bluff ones are the best.

“This has the potential, with the right support in the southern region, to produce hundreds of new jobs but it will need support from councils and local government,” he said.

Targeting the export market would avoid flooding the New Zealand market and help to protect the existing wild Bluff oyster industry, Mr Clark said.

The oysters would be grown in the hatchery before moving into Bluff Harbour. But the harbour is not “certified waters” so the oysters would need to be moved to other certified waters approved for the sale of shellfish for export.

New Zealand’s Bluff Oyster Co is working with Southern Clams, which is based in Dunedin.

Southern Clams operations manager Dave Redshaw said he was in the process of applying for a resource consent to finish the Bluff oysters in Otago Harbour.

The farmed Bluff oysters would be moved to the harbour for two weeks to cleanse before meeting export standard, he said.

The Otago Regional Council had rejected two applications because of insufficient information, but the company expected to present its third application next month, he said. . .

The ODT is running a Stand Up Otago campaign which is supported by the ORC and Dunedin City Council.

Having a how-can-we-help attitude rather than a you-have-to-do-this one from councils plays an important part in business development.

I’m not suggesting they should break any rules, just that they need to ensure the rules they have are necessary and that applicants are helped to comply with them.

The south needs all the jobs it can get and councils must ensure they’re not putting unnecessary hurdles in the way of businesses which could crate them.


Rural round-up

February 21, 2013

Fish war on canals :

”Greedy” salmon anglers threatening to turn a salmon bonanza in the Waitaki hydro canals into a free-for-all are being accused of ignoring catch limits and using illegal methods to catch easy prey.

Following the release of 36,000 salmon smolt from the Mt Cook Alpine Salmon hatchery at Ohau 18 months ago, anglers have reported being able to hook a fish on every cast at some spots on the Tekapo and Ohau canals.

However, Central South Island Fish and Game field officer Graeme Hughes said the easy fishing had resulted in more people fishing illegally and ignoring the two-salmon quota. .  .

Tarras scheme reprieve - Rebecca Fox:

Potential irrigator Tarras Water Ltd has had a reprieve, but it has come with a stern warning from the Otago Regional Council.

The council voted 7-3 to overturn its own hearing panel’s recommendation not to amend the long-term plan to allow for investment in the irrigation scheme at a meeting in Dunedin yesterday. Instead, the ORC is proposing the amendment go ahead.

As the decision gives the council the option to invest in the scheme, a meeting will be held, possibly as early as next month, when councillors will make the decision whether to invest – with conditions attached – or not. . .

Cautious steps in goat milk expansion:

An Australasian goat milk company, CapriLac, is looking to expand “in a cautious way” in the Waikato.

Co-owner Rupert Soar said the family-owned company was advertising for goat farmers who were interested in selling their goat milk or leasing their operations to the company.

The company had received “quite a bit of interest”, and was following up leads, Soar said.

Farmers did not need to buy shares to get involved, as the company was not a co-operative. . .

Mining rights unlikely to affect farm sales – Terri Russell:

Solid Energy’s decision to sell farmland and keep mineral rights for mining would not turn away potential buyers, a Southland rural agent says.

About 1000 hectares of farmland near Mataura have been put on the market, and the mining giant plans to retain rights to lignite resources under the surface for about 30 years.

Last year, the company reviewed its land holdings after a drop in coal prices and a $40m loss for the year ending June 2012.

Southern Wide Real Estate director Philip Ryan said potential buyers would not be put-off if it were reserved for mining because about half of Southland had mineral rights. . .

A finalist but best still home – Gerald Piddock:

Doug and Jeannie Brown have made the final of the 2013 Glammies.

The North Otago farmers made the cut in the best of breed – traditional for one of his romney lambs grown on his farm at Maheno.

It was the third time they had entered the Golden Lamb Awards and the first time they have made the finals. This year four sheep were entered into the competition.

Their entry was one of 20 finalists which made the cut out of 180 entries from around the country. . . .

 

 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

February 4, 2013

Alliance taste testers help guide NZ meat industry – Dave Gooselink:

A team of 50 Southlanders have what some carnivores might see as the perfect job.

They’re the taste testing panel for meat company Alliance, charged with ensuring the company’s export lamb, beef and venison is gourmet quality.

There’s not a lot of conversation around the table. The diners are too busy eating prime cuts of lamb, cooked to perfection by an award-winning chef. It’s their job, making in-depth evaluations of meat.

“You smell it for the aroma, then you bite into it for the texture and succulence, then last of all the flavour,” says veteran meat taste tester Sonja Lindsay. . .

$21m of new funding to benefit research partnerships:

The Government will invest $21 million over a maximum of seven years to support research that will benefit two of New Zealand’s primary industries Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced today.

A $16 million investment over seven years will be made in the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and a $5 million investment over a maximum of seven years will be made in Seafood Innovations Limited.

“Science and innovation are major drivers of economic growth and international competitiveness. These investments will help improve the performance of two key parts of our primary industries, and as a result the New Zealand economy will benefit,” Mr Joyce says.

The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium — a partnership between AgResearch, DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb NZ, Fonterra, Landcorp Ltd and DeerResearch — will develop new technologies that farmers can use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without loss of productivity. . .

ORC split on water accord – Rebecca Fox:

A decision about whether or not to sign up to the dairy sector’s new water accord has divided Otago regional councillors.

The council, along with others nationally, has been asked to sign up to the accord as a ”friend” but the implications of this worried some councillors, while others were concerned not signing would alienate the dairy sector.

Councillors voted three times before a final decision was made to sign the document – although not all were happy. . .

Winton’s dairy vet woman of year finalist – Sally Rae:

Winton dairy veterinarian and mastitis consultant Kath Taylor is among six finalists in the 2013 Dairy Women of the Year Award.

She has been a dairy vet for 19 years, graduating from Massey University in 1994 and working in mixed practice in Taranaki for the next seven years before moving to Southland in 2001. She works for VetSouth Ltd in Winton, leading the milk-quality team. . .

Shearers take break before big Southland record challenge:

Four shearers are sitting it out in Southland in the countdown to a World Record shearing challenge in which they could shear as many as 3100 lambs between them on Tuesday.

Contractor and event organiser Brendon Potae says he’s given the quartet the weekend off after three hard weeks preparing for the Heiniger Four-stand Crossbred Lambs Eight-Hour World Record, to be shorn at Centre Hill Station, near Mossburn.

“I’ve told them to go fishing, sightseeing,” he said today as he and others from a support crew expected to swell to almost 70 people put finishing touches to the shed where about 250 people are expected to watch the event inside, with others watching on CCTV in marquees nearby. . .

Dancers for Farmarama - Sally Rae:

Tractors, motorbikes, farm machinery and dancing girls will all be on display at the Southfuels Farmarama at Lawrence on February 7 and 8.

The biennial event will be held at the Lawrence gymkhana grounds, opening to the public at 11am on the Thursday and 9am on the Friday. . .

Tru-Test Group acquires NZ’s leading milk containment and refrigeration company, DTS:

Auckland-based agri-tech company Tru-Test Group has today announced the acquisition of Dairy Technology Services from NDA. The move is the second such deal completed by Tru-Test Group in recent months, following its purchase of Radian Technologies (MilkHub) in December.

Dairy Technology Services (DTS) is the leading provider of milk storage and cooling systems in the New Zealand dairy industry. It employs 80 staff in its manufacturing facility in Taranaki and its nationwide sales, installation, repairs and maintenance and customer service operation based in Hamilton.

The deal reflects NDA’s desire to focus on its engineering activities in the dairy processing and transport, chemicals and refining, wine and resources industries. . .

New Record Top Price at Karaka Festival Sale:

Day 1 of New Zealand Bloodstock’s two-day Festival Sale was highlighted by a new top price for this session with the Swiss Ace colt at Lot 1149 fetching $125,000.

From the Hussonet mare Eclaircissement, Lot 1149 from Westbury Stud was purchased by Rogerson Bloodstock for $125,000.

Having a previous affiliation with the family, Rogerson was prepared to go beyond his budget to secure the colt out of a half-sister to multiple stakeswinner Illuminates (Strategic). . . .


Rural round-up

February 3, 2013

Basting a chop won’t make a steak – Chalkie:

Poor old Red Meat. There she is, best frock on, hair done, smiling with her eyes and showing a bit of leg, only to find that tarty dairy cow getting all the attention.

Dairy co-op Fonterra teased investors for years before finally letting them on to third base late last year, with explosive results. Units in its Shareholders Fund quickly shot up to well over $7 after being issued at $5.50 a mere two months ago.

Meat co-op Silver Fern Farms, on the other hand, is still working the street corner.

After a reform of its capital structure in 2009, ordinary shares in Silver Fern became tradeable by any Tom, Dick and Harry on the unlisted market, but they have not been pursued with any passion. . .

NZ meats on Singapore menu -

New Zealand beef, lamb and, most likely venison, are on the menu at the Lone Star’s first overseas restaurant in a top waterfront precinct in Singapore.

The meat, branded Pure South, is being supplied by meat processor and exporter Alliance Group to the Fern & Kiwi restaurant, an offshoot of the Lone Star bar and restaurant chain.

A New Zealand-themed menu was worked out by consultant chef Mathew Metcalfe, who has cooked for the late Steve Jobs and leading Hollywood figures.

The meat range will come from farms across the country and processed at Alliance’s Group’s eight plants. . .

Carter laments stubborn attitudes – Jon Morgan:

Outgoing Minister for Primary Industries David Carter reels off a long list of what he calls “a good number” of achievements during his four years in office, but at the end of it he has to admit to a few lows as well.

The intransigent wool and meat industries have both defeated him, as they have ministers before him.

It obviously frustrates him. He puts it down to warring personalities in leading roles and the farmers’ apathy that lets this continue. . .

NZ wool floors show crowds - Tim Cronshaw:

The reaction of customers to Wools of New Zealand’s (WNZ) carpet wool at the world’s largest flooring show has reinforced to its leaders they are on the right track with capital raising a minimum of $5 million.

A share offer to commercialise WNZ into a sales and marketing company was extended to February 25 after the capital raising reached more than $4.1m last year from 500-plus strong wool farmers committing 12 million kilograms of annual wool production.

WNZ chairman Mark Shadbolt said growing interest by spinners and manufacturers in WNZ carpet ranges at the world’s largest flooring trade show, Domotex, this month had been encouraging. The trade show was attended by 40,000-plus visitors. . .

Safety shake-up call – Gerald Piddock:

Farmers are going to have to make health and safety a normal part of running their business if the number of on-farm accidents is to be cut.

Some farmers struggle to give health and safety the same amount of attention as they do to stock health or pasture management, industry-good Farmsafe national manager Grant Hadfield says.

“It’s considered a bit of an ogre. It shouldn’t be because it’s pretty easy to put systems in place.” . . .

Plaudits for irrigation policy - Gerald Piddock:

The Government’s decision to become a minority investor in irrigation schemes will ensure those projects get off the ground, say farmers with close ties to irrigation schemes in South Canterbury.

The Government announced last week that it would establish a company to act as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure development.

The yet-to-be-named company would take minority stakes in water projects with a long-term goal of getting out and leaving the projects to the private sector. . .

Submitters discuss Tarras irrigation scheme – Jessica Maddock:

There was passionate opposition to an Otago Regional Council proposal to invest in a $39 million Tarras irrigation scheme at a hearing yesterday, with submitters saying it would be using ratepayer money to benefit only a few.

The council is considering buying $3.5m of redeemable preference shares. It would also pay up to $500,000 annually for five years, toward the fixed costs.

Tarras Water is planning the scheme to benefit 40 families, by taking up to 73.6 million cubic metres a year from the Clutha River to irrigate about 6000 hectares.

Nearly 70 people lodged a submission on the investment proposal, with the majority in opposition.

Eleven submitters spoke at a hearing in Cromwell yesterday, before four council members. Eight opposed the proposal and three supported it. The first day of the two-day hearing was in Dunedin on Thursday. . .


One Plan costs up to 43%

November 18, 2012

Horizon’s One Plan could cost up to 43% of farm profitability.

Farmers are aghast an independent analysis commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), for a Land & Water Forum (LawF) working group, has revealed the shocking impact of the Horizons One Plan upon agriculture.

“The elected council of Horizons resembles a shiver looking for a spine to run up,” says Hew Dalrymple, Federated Farmers Grain & Seed vice-chairperson and an environmental award winning farmer.

“Upwards of $15 million of ratepayers money has been spent on a plan that will make farming here damned difficult.

“Thanks to Landcare Research’s research, we now have a good handle on the One Plan as it stands following the Environment Court decision. It scarily confirms the impact upon farm profitability will be at the upper end of 22 to 43 percent.

“If you are a member of the public, take up to 43 percent off your post-tax income and you’ll understand why we are angry. That grows when one of our policy staff members described even this high level of impact as potentially ‘optimistic’.

“In spite of this Landcare Research report, the council is acting like someone who has been told they have a terminal disease. It is in denial. How many times and how many ways do they have to be told the current plan version is a dog before the penny drops?

“Instead of being an officer’s mouthpiece, the elected council needs to ‘grow some’ and take charge. Councillors appear to have little understanding of which version of the One Plan they are talking about, let alone its effect upon agriculture. They appear to treat what council officers tell them as gospel.

“The council must listen to proper research that comes directly out of the work done for LawF. Given LawF got a positive reception by almost all parties, is Horizons really thumbing its nose at it now?” Mr Dalrymple asked.

Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president, Andrew Hoggard, shared Mr Dalrymple’s concern over the Plan’s social and economic effects.

“Our concerns only increase when you read the Council Chairman confusing the outcomes of the Decisions Version with what came out of the Environment Court. If the impact was really one percent, do you think our dander would be so up, now?” Mr Hoggard added.

“From Landcare Research’s work for LawF, it is clear the council did not provide the Environment Court a full appreciation of just how deep One Plan cuts. Instead, all it got was a flimsy analysis from the Horizons Regional Council.

“We have seen an Official Information Act answer staking out One Plan’s impact. When you get Wellington bureaucrats describing the social and economic effects as ‘significant’, the word concerned puts it mildly.

“What is gutting is that Federated Farmers was fairly happy with Decisions Version of the One Plan. This was decided by the council’s Independent Hearing Commissioners and we spent some two years preparing for and being in front of the Commissioners.

“What they came up with we could have lived with.

“This work by Landcare Research provides a circuit-breaker for the council and it would be unwise of them to ignore it.

“I fully back the Minister when he says Horizons call for calm is dumb.

“This belief we should just hold our tongues and wait and see how many farmers go broke, farm staff get laid off, or rural service businesses downsize impacting rural towns, is beyond dumb,”Mr Hoggard concluded.

A mini-case study: Mike and Tracey Collis’ Organic farm in Tararua:
This farming couple stated to look at the options for whole farm management in 2008, following the notification of the One Plan. At that time, Organic diary farming ticked all the boxes, economically and environmentally. Now fully organically certified, this same farm run by an award winning farming couple can no longer comply with the year one nutrient loss targets and faces an uncertain future. The current farming system incorporates all nutrient management mitigation options available. To reduce nutrient loss to comply with the year one targets in the One Plan will result in a significant loss of farm profitability and equity which jeopardises the survival of the business. If farmers and farming systems of this calibre cannot comply with the One Plan we must fundamentally question its appropriateness.

The Otago Regional Council’s water plan has caused a similar level of concern and not just from farmers.

In Cleaner water but how? Rebecca Fox gives a very good coverage of the range of views on expressed during a month of consultation over how to achieve clean water.


Rural round-up

November 1, 2012

Wool’s future far from woolly:

Farmers are counting down the days to when major shareholdings in New Zealand Wool Services International (NZWSI) will be on-sold by the receivers.

“In a green-aware age, bales of wool should be flying out of our woolsheds. As they are not, is why management consultants could describe the wool industry as a ‘problem child’,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson. . .

New Head of Farm Environment Trust Ready for Challenge:

Well-known Wanganui farmer Alistair Polson has been elected chairperson of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

He takes over from North Waikato farmer Jim Cotman who has stepped down after six years in the role.

Mr Polson’s extensive experience in farming politics and business management includes serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002.

Since 2004 he has been Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand. He is a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust. . .

Deep in the current – Bruce Munro:

Graeme Martin has been described as everything from a compassionate, principled, visionary genius to an inflexible, stubborn, demanding taskmaster. Bruce Munro examines pieces of the puzzle that make up the influential, complex and soon to retire chief executive of the Otago Regional Council.

“I shan’t forget a very large fist waved very close to my face” Graeme Martin says.

He is sitting in a comfortable chair in a corner office with city, harbour and peninsula views.

Three hundred and sixty kilometres and 45 years separate him from what happened that day in the Addington railway workshops.

But there is no denying the edge to his voice.

“A fist waved in my face because I was working too hard.” . . .

Winemaker celebrates 50 years:

The staff lunchroom might not seem an obvious stop on a tour of a picturesque winery. But Villa Maria’s is immaculate – largely due to the writing on its wall. 

One side of the lunchroom at the company’s winery in Mangere, Auckland, is dominated by information about its lean manufacturing programme, Achieving Continuous Excellence (ACE), running in the company for the past two years. It’s brought efficiencies to the business, but benefits in the physical environment are also obvious. Nothing – not even in the caf – is out of place.

It’s a point of pride for founder Sir George Fistonich, but also gives an insight into how the company, which celebrates its 50th vintage this year, has continued to grow in a tough industry. . .

Soil biology is key to saving saving fertility – Peter Watson:

Complacency is costing us some of our best soils, says ecologist and educator Nicole Masters.

New Zealand is losing 11 tonnes of topsoil per hectare a year, more than 10 times the global average, she said during a recent Beef + Lamb New Zealand field day held at Claire Parkes and Simon Vincent’s farm near Wakefield, and attended by about 35 farmers.

“We live in one of the most blessed soil environments in the world.

“We are fertile, we have good carbon and beautiful rainfall, but we are losing all this topsoil and it’s not sustainable.” . .

Convert to sustainability – Tim Cronshaw:

A farmer with nearly 9000 deer who once never put much thought into improving the environment on his farm, has become a fully converted believer.

Graham Carr estimates he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past four years fencing off waterways and putting in settling ponds, so the water coming off his farm at Peel Forest Estate in South Canterbury is crystal clear.

Carr has built up one of the largest deer herds in the country, since emigrating to New Zealand 25 years ago from Britain, where he came from a joinery background. . .

A2 Corp to take control of NZ marketing, enter North America:

 A2 Corp, which markets milk products with a protein variant claimed to have health benefits, wants to directly enter the New Zealand market and is looking to expand into North America and some European nations having wrapped up a strategic review to speed up growth.

The alternative-market listed company will shift its focus to a number of opportunities in a bid to ramp up growth, including directly marketing into New Zealand, it said in a statement. A2 plans to expand rapidly include entering markets in North America, German, France Italy and Spain via joint ventures, using local contract manufacturers or investing in regional processing, it said. . .


Water quality more worrying than mortgage

October 4, 2012

The ODT’s quote of the day from the hearings on the Otago Regional Council’s proposed water plan was from Neil Smith:

“I worry more about the proposed water management plan and effluent than I do about my mortgage”

Worrying about effluent isn’t unusual and it’s not a bad thing. We ought to be concerned it and the impact it could have on water quality if not managed properly.

However, most of us do what is required to manage effluent and ensure we are well within the rules.

The proposed changes to Plan 6 are a different matter because farmers don’t think it is possible to keep within the limits.

ODT reports on the hearings show farmers are concerned about the viability of their operations  under the proposed changes:

North Otago farmers yesterday queued up to tell the Otago Regional Council (ORC) they could go out of business if the council did not alter proposed changes to water quality rules. . .

Former North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) chairman Jock Webster said without irrigation schemes, farmers in the area      would still be at the mercy of a historically drought-prone region.   

Mr Webster said farmers had invested heavily in irrigation,  but had also had to increase productivity, in order to pay for watering systems.   

He said those who were part of the NOIC irrigation scheme already had farm environmental plans, which had resulted in better awareness of water quality. . .

. . . However, he added that the varying nature of soil and  particularly sub-soils in the area meant they could be eroded      easily during high rainfall, leading to poor water quality.   

“I do not believe those who drew up the water plan understand      the catchment sufficiently to write up sweeping rules and      conditions that may cover the whole of the Otago area.   

“There is no issue with water quality in the Waitaki Valley, and we have got some good things happening, but there is no      way we can meet some of the standards.   

 “You cannot change nature.”

And nature isn’t perfect anyway. Another quote of the day:

 “Recently we had water tests taken to  check how our farm will meet the proposed levels … They  show that the water quality coming out of the spring was  poorer than further down the drain. The spring water itself  does not meet the required limits” – Jeff Thompson

If spring water doesn’t meet the limits the limits are unreasonable.

There is also concern over uncertainty in the plan and the lack of tools which farmers can use to measure water quality.

My farmer was one of those who submitted yesterday. He likened the impact of the proposed plan to being expected to drive within the speed limit in a car without a speedometer.

No-one is arguing against the intent of the plan and the need to have good water quality.

The concern is that proposed changes are based on theoretic modelling which doesn’t take into account the nature of the soils, expects compliance when there are no measurement tools and imposes limits which are impossible to meet.


Rural round-up

September 22, 2012

Otago close to eradicating crop destroying rook:

The Otago Regional Council says it is close to eradicating a pest bird from the region.

Rooks can destroy crops and new grass paddocks in a couple of days and are a problem throughout New Zealand, but are more prevalent in grain-producing regions in the south.

The Otago Regional Council says its eradication programme has reduced numbers from 5000 to less than 100 over the past six years. . .

China to help protect manuka honey exports - Victoria Young:

After more than two years of negotiations a deal has been struck with Chinese officials to protect New Zealand exports of manuka honey . . .

Separating the chaff from the grain in the debate on GM wheat - Prof. Jack Heinemann:

My report on assessing the risks of a form of GM wheat has sparked heated comment here and on other blog sites. The Sciblog-associated Australian Science Media Centre published excerpts from Peter Dearden’s “Genetics Otago” along with comments made by Australian scientists.

For me, these events have raised some fundamental issues – not new ones but recurring ones – that have been confronting the scientific and regulatory communities at the forefront of developing, and critically evaluating, new technologies. I don’t pretend to have all the answers in this difficult area, and my views do and will continue to evolve. In the meantime, let’s pause to reflect on some issues. . .

Change in deer tagging requirements

Deer farmers will soon be able to use a NAIT-approved ear tag instead of an Animal Health Board (AHB) barcoded primary tag.

From 1 October 2012, deer farmers have the option of tagging their animals with a National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme RFID tag, or an AHB barcoded primary tag, until deer join the NAIT scheme in March 2013.

“Deer farmers who have already put NAIT tags into their animals, or plan to do so soon, won’t have to keep using AHB barcoded primary tags,” said AHB Operational Policy Manager Nick Hancox. . .

Farmers help design new online tools to take pain from paperwork:

Ravensdown has worked with farmers to develop new online tools to help take the pain out of farm paperwork.

Farmers helped design the new features of the MyRavensdown secure website, so that documents like statements and invoices are shown the way farmers need them. The 100% farmer-owned co-operative is also the first to launch “live help” for farmers which allows users to get instant help from one of the trained NZ-based Customer Centre team.

“Farming has always been data-rich, but farmers are time-poor, so a great secure online service has to be simple to use,” said Mark McAtamney, Chief Information Officer at Ravensdown.“There’s a real danger of too much information, so the visitor can tailor how much detail they want to drill down and see. Farmers helped us design the straightforward layout and they appreciate the live help feature, so they can ask questions about the page they are on and get an answer about their account there and then.” . . .

Ballance Research Targeting Nutrient Loss Solutions:

As more pressure goes on farmers to manage within nutrient limits, Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ $32 million research programme is working on new and targeted approaches for nitrogen and phosphate applications.

The work is being done through its Clearview Innovation programme which includes projects that will help farmers decide where on-farm to apply nutrients for maximum benefit and minimal loss.

“There is a definite shift towards regional councils requiring farmers to work within nutrient loss limits,” says Ballance Research and Development Manager, Warwick Catto. . .

Lincoln University memes:


Rules without tools

September 17, 2012

The need for standards to ensure we have clean water for consumption and recreation is unquestioned.

How to keep it clean and improve sub-standard waterways is less straightforward.

The proposed Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan would have a radical impact on land use.

“A radical feature of Canterbury’s Proposed Land and Water Regional Plan is consent to farm under nutrient discharge rules,” says Chris Allen, Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury Provincial President.

“The big problem for any farmer, forester, wine maker or market gardener, revolves around incredibly tight tolerances for land use change.  Most farmers, like me, will not have nitrogen leaching conditions on a water consent because sheep farmers tend to be dryland ones.

“The practical impact means a good lambing may increase stock by just a few animals.  When running this through a nutrient management tool called Overseer, it may tell me my nitrogen loss has increased 10 percent.  That triggers an uncertain resource consent process.

“As large parts of Canterbury are defined as ‘red zones,’ we know the proposed default decision on land use change will be to decline.

“So that leaves me with two stark choices that sicken me as a farmer.  Either we carry less stock, underperforming productively and commercially, or some may be forced to dispose of lambs to remain compliant.

“That’s not farming.  It is dumbly following numbers punched out by an imprecise tool. . .

Submitters on the Otago Regional Council’s proposed plan are equally concerned about its impact.

A group of farmers says the council is acting against its own and national standards and farmers have expressed concerns about the rules.

Further north Horizon’s One Plan will see all but extensive hill country farmers having to seek consent to farm.

There is real concern about the impact these plans will have on people’s ability to farm. One of the reasons for this is that the councils appear to be imposing rules when there are not practical tools to measure water quality in a way that would enable landowners to comply.

Drinking the water every day gives us a very real interest in its quality and only environmental Luddites argue with the intention to maintain clean water and where necessary improve it. But there are real fears that the plans are being over-zealous and that the quest for pure water will threaten the viability of farming.

Those voicing concern aren’t asking to for economic concerns to trump environmental ones. They are asking for a better balance between the two and for rules which will work in practice and take account of the tools available for compliance.


Pristine water, no people

August 19, 2012

The Otago Regional Council is proposing changes to its water quality plan which would mean some land in North Otago couldn’t be farmed.

One of those affected by the planned change is Robert Borst who farms 580 hectares in the Kakanui Valley.

. . . Mr Borst believed there was a lack of understanding of the implications for farming businesses as a result of what the council was trying to impose, and it was “hellbent on bulldozing along”.

“The harsh reality is, unless I get this overturned, all these people [his staff] and the whole farming business is finished. That’s what we’re fighting.” . . .

. . . “Here we’re talking about probably hundreds of jobs and family farming businesses put in jeopardy.”

The way it was heading, there would be pristine water in the Kakanui Valley but no-one living there, he said.

We drink this water and swim in it.

We want it to be clean and to stay clean.

But the proposed changes appear to be an extreme reaction which would prevent farming in the area.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

July 1, 2012

The risks of global worming:

FOR decades, the overuse of antibiotics has encouraged the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria which, though they have never broken out and caused an epidemic in the way that was once feared, have nevertheless been responsible for many deaths that might otherwise have been avoided. Now something similar seems to be happening in agriculture. The overuse of drugs against parasitic worms which infest stock animals means that these, too, are becoming drug-resistant. That is bad for the animals’ health and welfare, and equally bad for farmers’ profits.

This, at least, is the conclusion drawn by Ray Kaplan, a parasitologist at the University of Georgia who has just published a review of research on the problem. His results, which appear in Veterinary Parasitology, make grim reading. . .

Young man on a mission – Sally Rae:

Tangaroa Walker is a young man with a very clear and bold vision for his future.   

By the time he is 40, Mr Walker (22) wants to own holiday homes in Queenstown and Mt Maunganui, a dairy farm in Southland and be living on a beef farm at Whakamarama, in the Bay of Plenty, the area where he grew up.   

They might be hefty goals but, given what the Southland-based lower order sharemilker has already achieved, you get the feeling he will most likely achieve them . . .

Dad’s death led to organis shift – Sally Rae:

Southland dairy farmer Robin Greer always had a desire to    process his own milk.   

He did some research and spent one day a week for 18 months in his kitchen, making cheese from recipes he found on the internet and in books.   

 He taught himself to make most of the cheeses now produced at the factory he and his wife Lois established on their farm.

They market their products – milk, cheese and yoghurt - throughout New Zealand, under the Retro Organics label, and  are looking at export opportunities. . .

Tests uncover way to cut use of 1080 poison – Gerald Piddock:

Landcare Research scientists are cautiously optimistic they have discovered a method of killing rabbits as effective as current methods but using significantly less 1080 poison. 

    The breakthrough came after Landcare and the Otago Regional Council carried out experiments on two high country stations in Central Otago last winter. 

    The experiments were based around refining how bait was sown on rabbit-prone country from fixed-wing aircraft by altering the volume of bait used for rabbit control. . .

Helicopters only way to cull deer:

It took sweat, precision and millions of dollars to make Highland Cuisine Ltd a venison exporter but owner Bill Hales fears a game council will put its deer procurement and customer relationships to the sword.

Parliament is mulling legislation for the council as part of a national wild game management strategy.

Submissions to the bill have poured in to the Environment and Local Government select committee, including those dismissing it as excess political baggage from MP Peter Dunne.

Yes, the council and wild game strategy is part of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with Dunne’s one-man United Future Party. But that political history doesn’t change much for people like Hales. . .

Young agribusiness team from Massey competes in China – Pasture to Profit:

Massey University(NZ) had a team competing in theInternational Food and Agribusiness Management Association student case study competition, held in Shanghai,China.

The competition is in its 7thyear and is held in conjunction with the IFAMA annual forum and symposium. The late “Daniel Conforte” (an inspirational lecturer at Massey University) had a long standing association with IFAMA and at the opening of the Symposium was made a fellow of IFAMA the highest honour, a well deserved tribute recognising his passion and contribution to the organisation.  . .

Young farmer contest announces first ever patron:

A career in education and working with young people provided an excellent foundation for Dr Warwick Scott’s involvement with The National Bank Young Farmer Contest.

After 12 years of close association with the event, Dr Scott has recently been appointed as the first Contest Patron.

“I am deeply honoured,” he says. “It is a privilege to work with this amazing event which, year after year, showcases the on-going talent New Zealand has among its young famers, both men and women.”

ANZ Bank, DairyNZ partner on financial benchmarking of farms - Peter Kerr:

DairyNZ is partnering with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group to boost the financial performance of dairy farms.

Under a memorandum of understanding, DairyNZ’s business performance analysis tool, DairyBase, will be available to ANZ Bank economists and agri managers when working with farmers, they said in a statement.

DairyBase consolidates the financial results from more than 1,800 farmers, allowing like with like comparisons. Some 41% of dairy farmers currently use benchmarking . . .

First ever ‘Green 50’ list shows booming green sector:

New Zealand’s first definitive list of companies making money improving the environment has just been launched by strategic research company New River.

Top of the New River Green 50 list is Auckland-based Chem Recovery, which recovers and recycles heavy metals to produce 99.9 per cent pure re-usable metals; followed by Stonewood Homes, builder of a 7-star green building; and Reid Technology, a New Zealand leader in solar power. Other companies on the list include Flotech, a technology pioneer allowing organic waste to be converted into methane for pipeline gas; and Outgro an innovative fetiliser company enabling farmers to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen run-off into waterways while increasing their yields. . .


Who really cares about LTP?

March 31, 2012

The Otago Regional Council is inviting submissions on its Long Term Plan.

Who really cares about it? I suspect only those with a particular issue they feel very strongly about will take up the invitation.

If changes mooted for local bodies come to fruition its probable the council will disappear long before the term of the plan but that doesn’t make submissions any less important.

This is one reason no farmer should begrudge paying a sub to Federated Farmers.

Few if any of us will bother to read the plan and fewer still will submit on it.

But Feds will do it on our behalf and we should be grateful that they do because the plan will affect the rates we pay and what we can and can’t do on our farms.


ORC urges farmers to register for water quality forums

September 13, 2011

The Otago Regional Council is urging farmers to register for its water quality forums at which it will give updates on proposed changes to the Otago Water Plan.

The forums will be held in Cromwell on Tuesday September 13 (Presbyterian Church Hall); Oamaru on Monday September 19 (Kingsgate Hotel Brydone); and Balclutha on Thursday October 6 (South Otago Town and Country Club).

 All three forums run from 11am to 2.30pm.

 ORC will be presenting the proposed rules that will give effect to its Rural Water Quality Strategy at the forum. These will cover the council’s approach to water contaminants in runoff, drainage, and leaching ( known as non-point source or diffuse pollution).

The strategy includes information on how changes to the Otago Water Plan are likely to affect water quality and farming practice throughout the region.

ORC associate director communications Peter Taylor said farmer attendance was important because the changes are designed to address water quality issues in a way that works for local people and the environment.

This included using conditioned permitted activity approaches to encourage farmers to develop their own systems for managing discharges, rather than having a prescriptive consenting regime forced on them.

It is usually far better for farmers to have their own systems which work than have to adopt prescriptive ones which might not.

These meetings provide the best opportunity for farmers to contribute to discussions about the future of water management in the region.  Once the plan is adopted it will be very difficult to change.


It’s still raining

May 26, 2010

We’ve now had about 180 mls of rain  in the last couple of days, considerably more than we’d had in total since  the start of the year as this Otago Regional Council graph shows:

State Highway 1 closed from the north yesterday morning. The radio told us it had closed from the south too, but it was open until late afternoon.

I had to go into Oamaru yesterday morning and on the way home stopped in Enfield to pick up a Road Closed  sign which had blown over. While I was doing that a car stopped and the driver asked for directions to Christchurch.

They were Australian tourists. Their map had only main roads so I brought them home to print some Google maps for them. My farmer rang Rural Transport because truck firms usually have the most reliable information on roads. Rex told us the only way to get north from here was the very long way – inland to Omarama then north via Tekapo, Fairlie and Geraldine.

I managed to get in to town to MC  the Enterprising Rural Women Awards last night and the road was still open when I came home.

It’s still raining but my farmer has just phoned from the top of the farm. He says there’s no snow on the Kakanui Mountains and he can see a break in the weather to the south.

As timing goes it could be worse – cows are being dried off and no-one’s lambing or calving.

However hundreds of people will be trying to shift home because the current dairy season ends on Monday and this is when sharemilkers, dairy farm managers, staff and stock move farms in large numbers.

Roads closed throughout Canterbury and Otago will make that difficult.


ORC sets a good example

March 10, 2010

The Otago Regional Council is planning a nil rate increase in financial year ahead.

That’s a very good example for other local authorities to follow.


Ecan under review

October 29, 2009

Being caught between two regional councils has little to recommend it.

Two sets of rules and two sets of people to deal with adds to costs, delays and frustrations.

With some of its catchment coming under the Otago Regional Council and the rest under Environment Canterbury, the Waitaki District Council, and its residents, are able to compare the two authorities.

Time after time, they have more problems with ECan than with the ORC.

Difficulty dealing with ECan is not peculiar to the WDC. Other local authorities and ratepayers have also had problems and 10 mayors wrote to government with their criticisms.

Environment Minister Nick Smith and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide have ordered two inquiries into ECan. One under the Resource Management Act which will look at its resource consent performance. The other under the Local Government Act will look at governance and policy functions.

Newly elected chair Alec Neill has responded sensibly  to this:

“Since I was elected, I have made it very clear that the council will work constructively with both central government and local councils,” he said.

Asked by the Otago Daily Times if he agreed with the ministers’ comment about “poor performance”, Mr Neill said he wanted answers rather than deny the council may have problems.

He was not going to get into “slagging matches” with the ministers.

The Government had information regarding ECan’s performance with resource consents.

In the 2007-08 financial year it was ranked the worst of 84 local authorities by processing only 29% of consents on time.

Since then, it had made changes which had dramatically im-proved its performance.

“I’m not in denial. There have been areas which have been unsatisfactory. If there remain areas which are unsatisfactory, I’m anxious for those to be addressed,” he said.

Regional Councils have wide ranging powers. Any problems they have internally or in dealings with other local authorities and the public add to costs and frustrations.

Mr Neill has met all mayors in the region since his election and there is more confidence that relationships between ECan and other councils will improve.

Regional Councils are supposed to be putting their energies into ensuring soil, air and water are protected, not wasting their time and our money on politics as has been happening. These reviews will help get Ecan’s focus back where it ought to be.


Ecan says ‘e can’t

August 29, 2009

Environment Canterbury  chair Kerry Burke lost a vote of no confidence by eight votes to six  at this week’s council meeting.

The rebellion was led by South Canterbury councillor Mark Oldfield.

The loss has set up a showdown vote on September 24 when councillors will consider removing Sir Kerry as chairman and, if that is resolved, they will have to elect a new chairman.

It’s been a long time coming.

Problems with his leadership have been fomenting for years, aggravated by a rural urban divide which often resulted in seven councillors on each side of a debate.

The result of the 2008 local body elections led to an impasse when an even number of councillors supported the two candidates for chair – Sir Kerry and Alec Neil. That was settled when Mackenzie councillor Bronwen Murray supported Sir Kerry, even though she had said she would not when seeking election.

Problems have not been confined to those round the council table. Ecan is deeply unpopular with people rural people, especially those south of Christchurch where it’s popularly known as ECan’t.

Relationships between Ecan and  district councils in the region are fraught. They have deteriorated so far that the district councils are investigating the possibility of ceding from ECan and forming a unitary authority.

The Waitaki District is divided between the Otago Regional Council and Ecan. The Waitaki District Council and residents regularly complain that it is much more difficult to deal with Ecan than the ORC.

Complaints about  Ecan gained credence when it was found to be the worst performing of all councils in the Ministry for the Environment’s biennial Resource Management Act survey.

Problems run deep among councillors, staff and the people they are supposed to serve. A new chair may help relationships but it will be difficult to solve the underlying problem of a council split by political affiliations and dominated by Christchurch, a large urban area which appears to have no understanding of, or sympathy for, the needs of the rural hinterland.

The Press backgrounded some of the issues here.


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