Rural round-up

January 16, 2020

Simplistic climate change lessons counterproductive, Federated Farmers says:

Introducing school children to the science underpinning climate change is positive and worthwhile but great care will be needed to ensure there is balance, Federated Farmers says.

“Teachers will need to present and explain the pros and cons of various courses of action in response to global warming, and in particular guard against the lessons fostering feelings of panic or hopelessness,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

While much of the material in the ‘Prepare today, live well tomorrow’ teacher resource is instructive and compelling, some of it is misleading unless the nuances of the topic are explored, Andrew said. . . 

How the trees and birds returned to Camp Hill – Guy Williams:

Thirteen years ago, a Californian movie software engineer and psychotherapist bought 73ha of land at the head of Lake Wakatipu.

Lifelong environmentalist Rob Lay had a growing sense of alarm about climate change, and decided the best thing he could do was plant trees. Guy Williams visited him at Camp Hill to ask about a  restoration project that has produced stunning results.

When Rob Lay bought Camp Hill in 2006, it had three forlorn patches of forest.

The stands contained mountain and red beech trees hundreds of years old, but sheep and cattle grazed beneath them, preventing the growth of a forest understorey and natural regeneration.

He had come to New Zealand the year before to commercialise digital effects software, including helping Weta Digital with its work on Peter Jackson’s King Kong. . .

Iwi catch the horticulture wave – Hugh Stringleman:

Planting has begun on a large avocado orchard in Maori ownership near Kaitaia, in the Far North, while debate continues over the sustainability of irrigation to keep that new development and many others in the region alive and productive.

Ngai Takoto’s farming business, Rakau Ora, has started planting a 20ha orchard in the northern Sweetwater district, west of Awanui.

Further planting of 40ha is planned over the next two years and 200ha in total in a decade, Ngai Takoto chief executive Rangitane Marsden said. . . 

Changing South: The Huntaway :

New Zealand has its own breed of dog: the hardy, uncomplaining Huntaway.

They’re essential team members on many a station – the “take ’em away” experts moving sheep to the farmers’ whistles.

As part of a series Newsroom is running over summer, Christchurch documentary-maker Gerard Smyth catches up with Jude, Frank, Jett and Floyd, some of the Huntaways on the 126,000 acre Mt White station in Inland Canterbury. . . 

Former Wellard boss vows to design new era of livestock carriers – Vernon Graham:

Six months after he “ceased” employment as CEO of Australian-based livestock exporter, Wellard, Mauro Balzarini has announced he is launching a new venture to build cleaner, smarter livestock carriers.

He left Wellard last June, ending 40 years of involvement with the company by his family.

Mr Balzarini had been the chief executive officer of the business for 15 years and led it to a public listing on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2015. . . 

Natural England beef over ‘anti-meat’ TV after Channel 4 show that called for end to all farming – Helena Horton:

Channel 4 show calling for farming to be completely scrapped and replaced by factories which produce food out of bacteria has been criticised by the head of Natural England.

The show, Apocalypse Cow, aired on the public broadcaster on Wednesday night, and was fronted by vegan activist George Monbiot, known for being arrested at the Extinction Rebellion protests last year.

In it, he argues that farming is responsible for the world’s environmental ills and calls for “farm-free food” made in laboratories.

Tony Juniper, the head of Natural England, disagreed with his claims that grazing animals are bad for the planet. . . 


We don’t need another pest

January 13, 2020

A petition calling for  calling for koala bears to be introduced to New Zealand eucalyptus plantations has gathered more than 4000 signatures.

. . .The Koala Relocation Society started the petition a week ago saying “koalas are functionally extinct in Australia, and could thrive in New Zealand, as many other Australasian species do”.

It’s estimated hundreds of thousands, even millions of animals have perished in the fires ravaging parts of Australia.

“New Zealand has 28,575 hectares planted in eucalypts, most is located in the Central North Island, and are similar to much older forests from Australia, as they grow fast here,” the petition read. . . 

Which other species that functionally thrive in New Zealand would the petitioners be talking about?

The  possums that carry TB and threaten trees and birds? The wallabies that eat native trees and farm pasture?

The toll the bushfires have taken on Australian wildlife is devastating but there are much better ways for New Zealand to help than trying to establish populations of koalas here.

We don’t need another pest.


Light rail to Roys Peak?

December 30, 2019

The car park at the bottom of Roys Peak is overflowing – again:

As the resident population in Wanaka multiplies by a factor of three during the Christmas-New Year week, so does the number of cars and vans parked illegally outside the Roys Peak track car park along Mt Aspiring Rd.

Yesterday, the Department of Conservation 100-space vehicle park at the start of the one-day 16km return walk overflowed into the adjacent road verge for up to half a kilometre north.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when boat owners launch their boats into Lake Wanaka and many used the Glendhu Bay boat ramp.

At times, cars towing boats had to drive on the other side of the road to avoid the cars and vans parked illegally on the edge of Mt Aspiring Rd. . . 

The park was enlarged a couple of years ago but still isn’t big enough for holiday crowds. It won’t help that two other popular tramps – Rob Roy Glaciar and Rocky Point – are closed.

But don’t panic, the Minister of Conservation has a solution:

On a recent visit to Wanaka, Ms Sage said she was aware of the popularity of Roys Peak and the parking congestion issues and was considering introducing a charge for private vehicles in the car park as a way to increase the use of public transport to and from the hike.

Who would police the parking and how much would parking fees and fines have to be to cover the costs of the policing?

What public transport would that be and how would it be scheduled to cope with all the people who start and finish the tramp at all hours of the day and night?

There are taxis in Wanaka but using them would double the number of trips to and from the bottom of the hill.

The only buses go to and from Wanaka to other towns, nowhere near the track which is on a no-exit road that ends at Aspiring Station.

And surely even a Green MP wouldn’t be considering light rail from Wanaka to Roys Peak.

That leaves walking, biking, running or driving. Most people will consider going up and down the hill enough exercise and still opt for driving whether or not there are enough parks.


Deer Wars

December 14, 2019

The story of turning a pest species into an export industry:

 

Kim Hollows reprises his role as Executive Producer for the first time since creating Ata Whenua. This is a story of men and machines, of incredible daring and unprecedented ingenuity set in the dangerous and unpredictable New Zealand mountains. Over a 20 year period these helicopter pioneers turned a national ecological disaster into a major export industry – but at a cost. Over 80 men died in the pursuit of deer and many more seriously injured. This film celebrates this unique time when through innovation and sheer guts a few hundred Kiwis did the impossible and created the legend that became the deer wars.


Westpower hydro decision shows need for better process

August 30, 2019

The government’s decision to stop the Westpower Hydro scheme shows the urgent need for a better consenting process:

“The cancellation of the Westpower hydro scheme concession under the Conservation Act after years of community engagement has significant implications for the review of the resource management system that is about to commence and underlines the need for an improved system for planning consents,” says Paul Blair, the new CEO for Infrastructure New Zealand.

“Westpower, the locally owned electricity distributer and generator for Westland, had hoped to build a 20 MW hydro scheme on the Waitaha river on the South Island’s West Coast.

“The scheme would have improved resilience of electricity supply, was aligned with national carbon reduction priorities and would have injected millions of dollars into a part of the country whose traditional industries are under significant pressure.

An old joke asks: what do conservationists do if they see and endangered bird eating a threatened plant?

In this case conservation decided the natural beauty of the river trumped the need for renewable energy which gives credence to those opposed to declarations of climate emergencies.

“But it also would have reduced water flows along a pristine river, impacting recreational activities, and impacted the natural character of the area.

“This was always going to be a difficult decision, but the fact that a local company spent millions of dollars before a line call from a Cabinet Minister cancelled the proposal shows how tenuous and uncertain the consenting process is in New Zealand.

Is it any wonder we have such low productivity when so much time and money is wasted like this?

“Though this was a Conservation Act process, this is an excellent case study for the RMA review panel chaired by retired court of appeal judge Tony Randerson.

“How do we develop a system to optimally trade off the wider social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits of a proposal versus negative environmental effects?

“How do we balance local aspirations to grow and prosper against national objectives to retain areas of national significance?

“How do we provide guidance or accelerate decision making so that economic and social uncertainty, waste and frustration are mitigated, along with environmental impacts?

“In a better system, the need to expand renewable energy supply would have been part of a coordinated regional plan for Westland, led by the region, supported by central government, iwi and local communities, and linked to a wider programme designed to enhance regional wellbeing.

“National concerns about the significance of the Waitaha river would have been tackled through a collaborative planning process and either the effects mitigated or alternatives developed.

“That would have saved everyone a lot of time and cost and instead of wondering ‘what next?’ Westland would now be implementing an agreed strategy to lift incomes and improve the environment,” Blair says. 

Conservation concerns have stopped mining and forestry on the West Coast, now they’ve stopped the hydro project which could have provided jobs, renewable energy and energy security.

Whether or not the decision is the right one, the long and expensive process that preceded it is wrong and must be addressed through RMA reform.

 


Rural round-up

June 30, 2019

Bovis takes a human toll – Sally Rae:

Next month will mark two years since bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was first confirmed on a South Canterbury dairy farm. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae speaks to Waimate farmer Carl Jensen, who has first-hand experience of the outbreak.

“As soon as you get that phone call, ‘hi, it’s MPI’, the anxiety journey has started.”

Carl Jensen has traversed that road – with many twists and turns – since becoming caught up in the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in April last year.

The Waimate farmer has come out the other side; restrictions to his farming operation have been lifted, compensation has finally been paid and his business is back on track. . .

‘M. bovis’ anguish: ‘frank’ feedback helping in long process – Sally Rae:

For those farmers most affected by Mycoplasma bovis, the cure may very well seem worse than the disease, programme director Geoff Gwyn says.

“We all need to do everything we can to support them, and that starts with us continuously making sure our systems and processes are working well, and then working in partnership with farmers to get this job done,” he said.

MPI regularly talked to the likes of Waimate farmer Carl Jensen and other farmers, who gave “frank and robust” feedback on how it could improve and that was a very important part of making the programme work. . .

Rat numbers are at a 48-year high and the environment is suffering – Leah Tebbutt:

Rat numbers have exploded across New Zealand and it is no different in Rotorua with some saying numbers are at a 48-year high.

Pest controllers’ phones are ringing off the hook due to an outbreak caused by a mega mast Forest and Bird say.

A mega mast is an over-abundance of plants that have a high seed production, in turn providing food for pests.

The problem began close to four months ago and there are ways to avoid a problem like this in future said Alpeco managing director Heiko Kaiser. . . 

Robust process vital in DIRA review – John Aitkinson:

A robust review process is needed for the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), writes Rotorua/Taupo Federated Farmers Dairy Section chairman John Atkinson.

DIRA is a major part of dairy farming.

It is an important tool in the food chain that allows you to enjoy your cheese, your latte or if you’re partial to it, New Zealand made dairy milk chocolate.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) was a special Act passed by the Helen Clark-led Government enabling the formation of Fonterra in 2001. . . .

A tractor for every day of the week – Samantha Tennent:

Manawatu farmer Reuben Sterling would much rather be behind the wheel of a tractor than at the shed milking.

His preference for tractors goes back to when he was growing up on the family farm at Rangiotu. He would often head out with his dad Rob and sit next to him while he mowed paddocks and did other jobs.

“I guess every farm kid wants to be like their dad and drive the tractor,” Sterling says.

“I remember being about six and going to get the cows in for milking on my own with the four-wheeler. . . 

Shearing and Woolhandling World Championships: Meet the Kiwi team

The 18th World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships are being held at Le Dorat, France, next week.

Teams from around the world, including New Zealand, will compete. The competitions take place on July 4-7.

The Allflex New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling Team will be there. Check out their profiles below. . . 

‘Our small towns are toppling like dominoes: why we should cut some farmers a checkRobert Leonard and Matt Russell:

How we address an expanding list of crises related to global warming is the most demanding question of our day. So far, our approaches have been piecemeal, enormously costly and largely unsuccessful.

A common denominator for many of these crises is in how we use the land, and that is where we will find the solution. A simple, cheap and relatively quick fix is to pay farmers and ranchers for environmental services. Not traditional government cost-share programs; we mean cut them a check when they provide measurable environmental services. It would cost Americans pennies per meal.

We already provide enormous taxpayer support for farmers to stabilize our food supply. The Trump administration’s trade bailouts for farmers to the tune of $28 billion in 2018 and 2019 are examples. Unfortunately, right now, farmers who invest in conservation practices are at a competitive disadvantage to those who don’t.  . . 


To those too busy on farm

June 30, 2019

A sad story, unfortunately not uncommon, but one with important lessons about what really matters and the message that tough men talk, they don’t hide their feelings.

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