Why waste water?

April 16, 2013

A woman once told me that water should be left to flow from the mountains to the sea as God intended it.

I wasn’t quick enough to ask her if God also intended oil to be left in the ground and if so was she going to stop driving a car.

Not everyone uses God as a reason to oppose irrigation but the objections by some of a dark green persuasion have a religious fervour which I don’t understand.

Irrigation has positive economic, environmental and social impacts and the absence of it where it’s needed inflicts a very high cost.

New Zealand has “heaps” of water, but the country is not good at using it efficiently, says Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills, as the country suffers one of the worst droughts in 70 years.

“We let most of it run out to sea in the winter, and the economy gets whacked, (by drought)” Wills said. . .

Government officials now believe the drought could carve as much as $2 billion out of the economy.

After selling off lots of stock because of the lack of grass and feed, farms were now like supermarkets with only half their shelves full.

“It is very hard to make money on that basis,” Wills said and when they restocked it would be at higher prices than when they bailed out and sent stock off to the works.

“It will be a tough few years to go, the impact will go on for some time,” Wills said.

There would be a “good number” of farmers making losses this year, but he hoped only a small number would be pushed to the wall and forced to sell up.

Fertiliser spending had already halted so trucks and planes were not moving and that meant a tough impact on provincial towns.

“Belts will be tightened and chequebooks put away,” Wills said. . .

But for all drought-hit farmers: “If winter comes early it will be tough,” Wills said. “A lot of farmers are still on a knife-edge and a lot will depend on what happens next month, if we get some more rain and more warmth.

“Drought is far from over when the rain comes; that’s just the start of the recovery.”

Farmers had to get through the latest drought, but plan better to get through similar future events, Wills said.

“We have massive potential in this country to sensibly and carefully irrigate vast areas of land,” Wills said.

There were big-scale proposals to help make more parts of the country less prone to drought. . .

These include the $230 million Ruataniwha water storage scheme in Hawke’s Bay.

It is proposed a public-private scheme will build a dam west of Waipukurau that would hold 90 million cubic metres, capable of eventually irrigating 30,000 hectares. At present, just 6000 hectares of land in Hawkes Bay is irrigated.

“That’s on a big scale to be more efficient, so there’s lots we can do,” Wills said, to lessen the impact of drought, including water storage, pasture management and different feed regimes and breeds that cope with drought.

The Ruataniwha scheme would build “sensible” resilience into the economy.

In South Canterbury, the Opuha dam irrigation schemes made the area “substantially” drought proof.

The Wairarapa Water Use Project plans to irrigate more than 60,000 hectares and fuel a boom in farming in the region. But the nine proposed reservoirs would also destroy 35 homes, sever roads and flood land, with local home owners concerned about the secretive process.

But Wills said water storage and irrigation had wider benefits.

“It is not just for farmers. It is for the entire economy,” he said, with the 2008 drought costing the country $2.8 billion. Those costs could be mitigated far more than they are today.

Government studies of Opuha suggest that every 1000ha irrigated created 27 jobs and injects $7.7 million into the local economy. With 30 potential projects covering around 1 million ha up the eastern seaboard that’s about $7.5 billion extra revenue for the country each year and 27,000 new jobs. . .

A few decades ago farmers often waited for government help before making decisions. Now there are no subsidies they know they have to make decisions early, and to be prepared for drought.

Wills says most farmers are good at responding to the signals of drought.

He changed the way he farmed dramatically after the last bad drought in 2007.

“This has been tough, but we have got through this drought much better than 2007, because we have done dramatic things,” he said.

In 2007, his farm had 85 per cent sheep and the balance in cattle. This year he had 60 per cent cattle and just 40 per cent sheep. “We massively changed,” he said.

Wills farms in hill country in Northern Hawke’s Bay, but after the 2007 drought he built 60 new dams for stock water, which was a cheap way to store water.

“We learnt last time, when you run out of water, you run out of options,” he said. “We get plenty of rain in the winter, just not enough in the summer”. . .

That’s where storage, for stock water and irrigation comes in.

Why waste water when there’s too much when it’s possible to store it?

If you accept that some use of water is alright, taking it from rivers at high flow and storing it until it’s needed has the least impact on rivers and a big impact on soil health, pasture growth and farming profitability.


Rural round-up

December 13, 2012

Agricultural producers and food processors call for full trade liberalisation through the Trans Pacific Partnership

Farmers and food processors from Australia, New Zealand and Canada are calling on Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries to conclude a 21st century trade agreement in 2013 that liberalises trade across all goods and services.

At the 15th round of TPP negotiations taking place in Auckland, New Zealand, agri-food groups from across the TPP region are meeting together and call for negotiators to uphold a high level of ambition in the trade talks. . .

TPP negotiations need to deliver for agriculture:

New Zealand’s red meat sector is encouraging all negotiating parties in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to work tirelessly to ensure this agreement can be completed by October 2013. Key outcomes from the completion of TPP must be the elimination of agricultural trade barriers and the opportunity for greater economic integration across the Asia Pacific region, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) say.

The B+LNZ and MIA chairmen, Mike Petersen and Bill Falconer (respectively) reinforced the need for reduced barriers to agricultural trade, including the elimination of tariffs and other technical barriers as a priority. Achieving that would create benefits and opportunities for all TPP members exporting red meat products. . .

$2.5 million for irrigation project a welcome potential boost for jobs and the environment

The government’s announcement that it is funding half of the $2.5 million Wairarapa Water Use Project to investigate the feasibility of developing water storage, alongside the Greater Wellington Regional Council, is warmly welcomed by Federated Farmers.

“Water is the lifeblood of farming, which is why Federated Farmers welcomes Primary Industries Minister David Carter’s announcement this morning that the government will add this funding from the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) to look at the feasibility of this project,” says Federated Farmers water spokesperson Ian Mackenzie.

“This announcement means Wairarapa is potentially a huge step closer to securing a brighter economic future for its farmers and everyone else in the region. . . .

New Zealand Winegrowers explores the science of Sauvignon blanc

New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) has commissioned UK wine writer Jamie Goode to publish The Science of Sauvignon blanc. The book is based on the results of a six year multidisciplinary research initiative that explores the key aroma and flavour compounds in Sauvignon blanc wine and how they relate to viticulture and winemaking.

“In our research programme we wanted to understand the unique characters of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc” says Dr Simon Hooker, General Manager Research at New Zealand Winegrowers. “What are its sensory attributes? Can they be linked back to viticultural management? Are they generated in the vineyard, through winemaking processes or by the yeasts? This book presents an overview to these questions in a very user friendly way that has given the industry new tools for driving flavour”. . .

Rapaura Springs Judged No2 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc:

The Rapaura Springs 2012 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc has been named one of the two best Sauvignon Blancs in the country by Cuisine Magazine’s judging panel.

Owner Brendan Neylon says achieving number two rank, as well as a five star accolade, denoting “outstanding quality” in a wine, is an excellent result from such a prestigious tasting, and perfectly timed for Christmas. . .


Rural round-up

December 11, 2012

Irrigation fund project given green light:

Primary Industries Minister David Carter says the go-ahead for the Wairarapa Water Use Project has the potential to irrigate an additional 30,000 to 50,000 hectares of land and boost the area’s GDP by $400 million.

Speaking at the launch of the Business Growth Agenda – Building Natural Resources progress report, Mr Carter welcomed today’s announcement of a $2.5 million pre-feasibility study to develop water storage and distribution in the Wairarapa.

The study is jointly funded by the Government’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund and the Greater Wellington Regional Council. . .

Meat and dairy products lead manufacturing rise:

Meat and dairy products dominated the rise in total manufacturing sales for the September 2012 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today.

After adjusting for seasonal effects, the value of total manufacturing sales rose 1.6 percent ($370 million), led by the 9.3 percent ($612 million) increase in meat and dairy product manufacturing.

When price changes are removed, the volume of manufacturing sales rose 2.6 percent, also led by meat and dairy product manufacturing, up 13 percent.

“The volume increase in meat and dairy manufacturing is reflected in the rise of export volumes for dairy and meat products, with increases of 32 percent in dairy, and 15 percent in meat,” industry and labour statistics manager Blair

Wider use of crossbred wools urged – Sally Rae:

Crossbred wool has a future – but its uses need to be diversified instead of just concentrating on carpets.

That is the belief of Arrowtown man Tom Murdoch, a former manager of the Alliance Textiles mill in Oamaru (now Summit Wool Spinners).

Mr Murdoch, who spent 28 years in Oamaru, has had a long involvement with the wool industry.

Before moving to Oamaru, he ran a factory in Mauritius which produced knitted Shetland garments. After leaving North Otago, he got involved in a spinning mill in Bangkok and then helped set up a dye-house. . .

Apathy problems for Wools of New Zealand - Gerald Piddock:

Wools of New Zealand chairman Mark Shadbolt hopes farmer apathy won’t derail the company’s $5 million capital raise following low turnouts at meetings nationwide.

One of the final meetings of the wool company’s nationwide roadshow in Waimate last week drew only about 20 farmers.

Overcoming the apathy shown by farmers was their biggest challenge. The small audience at Waimate was typical of the turnout at the meetings, Mr Shadbolt said.

The meetings are to promote Wools of New Zealand’s prospectus, asking wool growers to invest at least $5 million to buy shares in the company and to commit wool for deals to high-end users such as airlines, hotels, luxury apartments and cruise ships. . .

Two appointments made to Dairy Women’s Network Board:

The Dairy Women’s Network has welcomed two new trustees to its Board, Maree Crowley-Hughes from Thornbury and Robyn Judd from Oamaru.

A hands-on farmer and experienced business woman, Maree and husband Peter Hughes own seven farms in Southland and Otago, which collectively milk 5000 cows producing more than two million kilograms of milk solids per year. . .

Cardno said. . .

Knives Out For Former Meatworks:

The former AFFCO meat killing and processing plant at Taumarunui in the Central North Island has been placed on the market for sale – at less than five per cent of what it was once worth.

The 10,000 square metre plant – sitting on 5.5 hectares of land – was once valued at $18million during its peak production period in the 1980s and 1990s. The plant was made redundant in 2009 and has largely remained idle ever since.

The huge site adjacent to State Highway 4 is now being marketed for sale by Bayleys Hamilton at an auction being held on December 13. Jim McKinlay of Bayleys Hamilton said the vendor’s price expectations was upwards of $450,000. . .

And ACC Minister Judith Collins in ACC’s new milking shed safety apron:

milking apron


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