Rural round-up

The big dry – Groping Towards Bethlehem:

We’re in a drought. Pastures are drying out, stock are stressed, and Wellington now has water restrictions (very mild water restrictions, it must be said).

The costs are being toted up. The figures being tossed around are in the $1 to $2 billion range (0.5% to 1.0% of GDP, roughly), which compares to agriculture being ~10% of GDP. If it hits lambing or breeding stock, the impacts could go on past this season. Given the weak economic recovery, there are concerns about moving back into recession.

The drought is, of course, a lack of water. But really, it’s a lack of insurance. By insurance, I mean information and infrastructure that protect us from downside risk. There isn’t enough of that around water in New Zealand, and no wonder. We haven’t needed it. But this year we do, and climate change is expected to increase the variability of weather and make ‘insurance’ more important. . .

Water governance and the RMA – Steve Couper at Waiology:

Deteriorating water quality is consistently rated by many New Zealanders as being their number one environmental concern. Their concern is well placed. Some of our lowland waterways are now so badly polluted that the ‘clean green’ brand we promote is being actively challenged.

The evidence for declining environmental health in these waterways is strong. Monitoring 77 sites along 35 rivers, the National River Water Quality Network (NRWQN) shows an overall decline in water quality since its inception in 1989. While the bulk of this deterioration has been caused by diffuse pollution from intensification of agricultural land use, the waterways running through our urban environments are the most degraded. Urban dwellers are in no position to point the finger at “dirty dairying.” . . .

Drought backdrop to disaster research seminars:

Farmers digging in for the reality of a long drought will also have to face the implications of such dry spells on their lifestyle off the land too.

Massey University clinical psychologist Dr Sarb Johal, from the Joint Centre for Disaster Research says the likely recurrence of drought conditions in future farming seasons would not only cause a transition in the management of land and water use but also in the way farmers mentally handled challenges set to affect everything from economic productivity to leisure time.

Dr Johal is among other emergency management specialists gathering at Massey Wellington campus this week for a series of seminars addressing issues around preparing for and responding to natural disaster. . .

Drought could push farm businesses close to the wall – James Houghton:

After meeting with Ministry for Primary Industries representatives on Friday, I am pretty confident that a medium-scale adverse-event drought will be declared for Waikato and much of the upper North Island soon. While any drought declaration would be a relief for farmers, the reality is we need rain, stat.

Some of us have been reluctant to call for an official declaration, because farmers do not want to be seen as bludgers. In fact, we do not get any more help than any other sector struck by a natural adverse event.

There is enough science supporting that this weather is out of the ordinary. However, with this being the third drought declaration since 2008, we could be seeing the start of a worrying trend. . .

NZ wins tri-nations:

The 2013 Pure South Butchery Tri Nations has been taken out by New Zealand’s Wedderburn Sharp Blacks.

The team beat last year’s champions, Australia, and newcomers, Britain, to take the winners spot.

Taking a side of beef and a whole lamb, each team had to use the product to create a butchery display within a two-hour timeframe.

“The pressure was definitely on. We’ve put a lot of work into this competition and it feels great to walk away with the result we were after,” Wedderburn Sharp Blacks Captain Corey Winder said.

“Being on our home turf created the perfect setting for an unforgettable experience.” . .

Young Farmer time again – RivettingKate Taylor:

Okay now I am starting to feel old.

There was a time when I knew everyone (technically, not EVERYone) in Young Farmers, not just in my region, but around the country. Now, as the press releases roll in with the 2013 finalists, they’re just too young! I spoke to a young farmers meeting the other day with another hat on and some of them probably weren’t alive when I joined!

Not just from national conference, but the Young Farmer Contest.. I remember (just to name drop a bit….) when a friend Warwick Catto won in Hastings in1995 (Thomas and I were on the organising committee as well and Warwick is now high on the management list at Ballance Agri-Nutrients), our farming friends Shaun Baxter from the mighty East Coast in 1997 and Callum Thomsen in 2007. Some of them I don’t remember as such but the names are familiar to many in agribusiness in NZ – Young Farmers CEO Richard Fitzgerald was third in 1995, Philip Reid of Southland radio fame won in 1996, Waikato Federated Farmers chairman James Houghton (I think) was second in 1998 (yes Steve Hines, I’ll mention you too cos you won that year!) Paul McGill was in two Grand Finals – he’s just finished a stint as Wairarapa Feds chairman. . .

And Hat Tip CoNZervative:


Townie: “What are those filing cabinets in the field?

Rural hick: “We need to keep accurate records of every sheep.”

8 Responses to Rural round-up

  1. TraceyS says:

    Russel Norman says today “the solution to drought is not one silver bullet. It is a systematic problem and we need to support appropriate systematic solutions.”

    These “systematic solutions” to the “systematic problem” of drought do not seem to include irrigation and GE drought-resistant grasses. I’m left wondering exactly what these systematic solutions actually do include. Cutting down on using the tractor perhaps? He doesn’t say.

    Maybe we don’t want to know.

    Norman says “Dr William Rolleston’s suggestion that GE grasses may be a solution for drought is a cynical abuse of the tough situation facing so many farmers and communities.” Is talk of cutting down on carbon fuel use in the cause for future drought protection not equally cynical abuse of the same by his own definition?

    I can’t believe the Green Party now care about farmers. Maybe I’m just a little too cynical, but I know abuse when I see it. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!


  2. JC says:

    “Dr William Rolleston’s suggestion that GE grasses may be a solution for drought is a cynical abuse of the tough situation facing so many farmers and communities.”

    Would the Greens and others blaming the current drought on humans also be such a “cynical abuse”?

    I see this drought is being promoted as “The worst drought in 70 years!” Thats interesting because 70 years ago (1943) the CO2 level was about 33% less than today.

    Just maybe there are other factors at work that have provided us with temp, precipitation and drought records that precede the buildup in CO2.



  3. TraceyS says:

    We all know where the argument is headded JC and it has nothing to do with concern for farmers. I think that it is a very deceptive approach they are using.


  4. Mr E says:

    I love it when politicians name and shame themselves.
    Systematic solutions… Cynical abuser?


  5. Mr E says:

    I am significantly concerned about the opening statment made by Steve Couper. I wonder if he has actually read the article he linked to, by Larned et al. In that the following was stated.
    “A reasonable interpretation of these results is that among-class
    differences in water quality state developed before the 1996–2002 period, and current differences are relatively stable. If this is accurate, then recent changes in land-use practices, climate conditions, and other
    sources of anthropogenic and natural variability have had only minor effects on low-elevation stream water quality, or have occurred at scales too small to be detected by this large-scale study.”
    Is seems to me that Steve is ingnoring his own foundation of argument.


  6. TraceyS says:

    “Just maybe there are other factors at work… ”

    Like this one, dubbed the “atmospheric river”:

    “If the Sahara gets any drier, it could make California wetter. That’s because the dust and microbes that help form clouds can travel around the world on narrow air streams, causing rain.

    In two storms with otherwise identical conditions, the one containing more dust was much wetter. In future, extra dust from desertification and activities such as agriculture could make far-flung places wetter, says Prather.”

    Cloud formation has been left out of climate predictions. So too, no doubt, evidence that the Sahara was green 10,000 to 8,000 years ago becoming dry thousands of years before industrial CO2 emissions began. Back then it was home to the Kiffian who suddenly disappeared when the Sahara became very dry for a thousand years.

    Nowadays we have the ability to plan and relocate in response to changes in climate. Or alternatively, stay and engineer our defences and responses. If only that is not hampered by taxing those very activities by way of carbon taxes. And through the intentions of those who pretend to care, but don’t.


  7. TraceyS says:

    Another example of pretending to care, but not…

    “Overseas investors buying up houses in New Zealand is great news for the banks and real estate agents making money from these deals, but terrible for New Zealand house buyers in an already tight market.”

    So let’s have quantitative easing to try and lower the New Zealand dollar. Yes, why not make it even easier for foreigners to buy property in NZ?
    ( see page 2).

    Even better, let’s add a “… 15 per cent emergency tax on foreign buyers of residential property.” This is what Russel Norman says the government should “look to”. Instead of that 15% going to the property owner, it would go to the government.

    How clever.


  8. JC says:

    Bad news for Russel:

    Less than 10% of house sales are to foreigners and the Brits are the biggest buyers. The Chines buy just 2.1% of Auckland houses and only 1.2% do not intend to live in their purchases.

    The whole China bashing housing scenario just went poof.



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