Greens get it wrong on dariying

May 26, 2008

A fertiliser rep who moved here from Scotland told me the biggest threat to New Zealand exports was the British tabloids. He reckoned just one photo of a cow in a stream could seriously damage the reputation of our farms and consequently our markets.

 

We don’t have to wait for the tabloids to come to us, The Hive  points out the Greens are doing the ground work for them with this press release   on the risk from “dirty dairying”.

“Industrial dairying, or agricultural intensification, is leading to a decline in water quality across the country, as revealed in the suppressed Chapter 13 of the Ministry for the Environment’s State of the Environment report earlier this year,” says Dr. Russel Norman, Green Co-leader.

“If we want to gain an EU eco-label we will need to clean up the effluent and nutrients running into our rivers and lakes leaving them ecologically decayed, not to mention dangerous for our kids to swim in.

“Our economic future is linked to our environmental husbandry. We need to look after the land and the rivers if we expect others to pay a premium for our produce.”

I agree we need to look after our land and rivers but this release doesn’t acknowledge that most of us do. A couple of weeks ago Ag Research held a field day on our property. One of the speakers was Otago Regional Council Land Resources Officer Susie McKeague who said that North Otago generally did not have a problem with water pollution.

 

Among the reasons for this were the environmental farm plans which are mandatory for anyone taking water from the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC).  In a first for NZ the plans were a condition of the resource consent for the scheme. The plans ensure efficient use of water, control of run off, careful dispersal of effluent, fencing of water ways, riparian planting and other measures to protect the soil and water. They are independently monitored each year by the North Otago Sustainable Land Management Groups (NOSLaM)

 

New Zealand isn’t perfect and farmers have a big role to play in protecting our air, soil and water but there is nothing to be gained by ill-informed comments like these:

 

Federated Farmers and much of the Government are still in denial about the declining quality of our natural water bodies. Good farmers doing the right thing are being punished by industrial dairy companies making a fortune trading on our clean and green reputation. But if we don’t force industrial dairy to clean up its act then our clean and green reputation will end up tarnished which will damage all our exports, including tourism.”

 

Federated Farmers are not in denial, and while I can’t speak for all Regional Councils nor are the ORC and Environment Canterbury. Last month the ORC took three dairy farmers to court for breeching the council water plan with effluent discharges.

 

While there is no room for complacency and still room for improvement the Greens are behind the times with this press release. However, if they are genuinely concerned about water quality they could agitate for action on the Tukituki River in Hawkes Bay into which thousands of cubic metres of only partially treated urban sewage is pumped each day.


Allomes win Sharemilker of Year

May 26, 2008

When you’re overseas it is a little disconcerting to realise how little New Zealand features in other countries’ media. Tonight I’m feeling the same way about rural news in our own media.

 The Sharemilker of the Year competition took place at the weekend. Had I not been listening to the Farming Show at lunchtime and heard Jamie McKay interviewing Ben Allomes, who with his wife Nicky, won the national title I wouldn’t have known anything about it.

 Ben aged 30 is National President of Young farmers and a two-time finalist in the National bank Young Farmer contest. He and Nicky have purchased their first farm, 50% share milk 400 cows on one farm, 250 cows on another and lease a 140 hectare beef block. They also have three children aged 4, 2 and nine months.

 

A Dominion profile   (published when they won the regional final in March) explains how they wrote down their goals.

One was to have $1 million in assets in 10 years. “We wrote it down but we didn’t tell anyone,” he says. “We didn’t want to hear other people’s negative views. But seeing it in print made us believe it was possible.”

 

Later, they attended a Dexcel strategic management course and wrote a new mission statement: “To have a happy healthy family and a low-stress sustainable farming business providing freedom and security.” They were both 22.

By dint of heard work they are well on their way to achieving their goals and their story is one which ought to appeal to town and country alike.

While they are proud of their achievements, they don’t want people to get the impression it has all come easy. “We’ve had to work hard and make sacrifices,” Mrs Allomes says.

“While other people our age were spending their money on their social lives, travelling overseas and buying flash cars, we were staying at home and putting aside every penny. We could spend up now, but that will come later. We think we can make better use of our money on the farm for now.”

“We want to enjoy our time with our kids now,” Mr Allomes says. “That’s the beauty of working on a farm; it’s your home as well as your workplace. And we want our children to be brought up knowing what hard work is all about; that money has to be earned, not taken for granted.”

The full awards list is here.

 

 


He’s talking sense, whoever he is.

May 26, 2008

At the National Party Southern regional conference three weeks ago John Key said when he’d walked into a room the previous evening someone called him Mr English and a few minutes later he heard someone addressing Bill English as Mr Key.

 The NBR is similarly confused this morning with a headline saying English attacks socialist dreamworld over a photo of Key.

 Regardless of that, English is talking sense.

Bill English has delivered a riposte to finance minister Michael Cullen’s latest  budget. 
Speaking to a Grant Thornton lunch in Christchurch, Mr English condemned the government for concentrating on managing the risks of an ageing population, though its Super fund, KiwiSaver, and new boons for superannuants.
Although he agrees that the problem of an ageing population is important – describing it as a certainty rather than a risk – he says it is better to deal with the problem as part of an over-riding strategy of economic development.

 

National’s budgets would have a sharp focus on economic growth. The goal would be to lift New Zealand’s economic status in the OECD. At present it is number 23, below Czechoslovakia.

 This is the difference between people who understand that wealth creation is better than redistribution not just for individuals but the nation. 

He explained to NBR that Dr. Cullen had used technicalities to conceal a warchest of $8 billion which he is now spending.

 

 Moreover, he accuses Dr. Cullen of overcoming his stated aversion to debt funding, to the tune of around $4 billion of the last budget. Mr English says this will leave the cupboard bare by 2011.

He says National will get New Zealand concentrated on earning rather than borrowing, and believes it can obtain a higher income, despite the present slowdown. The country should benefit from a fortunate change in the terms of trade which is boosting the price of food exports.
 People who have worked in the real world know there is opportunity in adversity.

 The planks in National’s policy outlined by Mr English are:  broad-based  tax changes, improved regulation, effective control of government spending, improved education – especially improving the numeracy and literacy of about 10,000 kids who fail each year, and “have not got a dog’s show” – and infrastructure. 

The real risk facing us not the aging population, it’s the young people coming out of school ill-equipped for work and life.

 

 

 


Policy will be announced when it suits the party

May 26, 2008

In an ideal world we would know what we believe in, join a political party whose philosophy and principles best match those beliefs and help the party formulate policy based on them. As a consequence most of us would know who we’re voting for, and why, well in advance of an election.

 

But while democracy gives us all a vote, it doesn’t require us to understand what we’re doing with it so in the real world most people say they’re not even interested in politics, although most have views on policy if only in a what’s-in-it-for-me way. Many don’t know, or won’t comment on, who they are going to vote for until very close to the election – some surveys suggest as many as 20% make up their mind in the polling booth.

 

This is why calls such as Chris Trotter’s (not yet on-line) in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times, and this morning’s Herald editorial, for National to announce more policy will be ignored.

 

National has policy and it will announce it before the election – to do otherwise would enable opponents to say, “you can’t trust them”. But while Governments have to have let us know what’s in their Budgets and their policy programme, one of the few advantages of being in Opposition is that you can keep your policy under wraps until it suits you to announce it.

 

Revealing all now might please commentators and other parties but there is no need for National to announce much policy yet when, if surveys are to be believed, nearly half the country doesn’t even realise there will be an election this year.


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