Rural round-up

May 21, 2019

Farmers are right to ask questions – Bryan Gibson:

Last week Regional Development Minister Shane Jones called farmers a bunch of moaners for voicing concerns about the billion trees policy and the Zero Carbon Bill.

We’ll put aside the fact that it’s not a great way to engage with a large and important constituency for now. But Jones must realise his policies have consequences that are going to alter rural New Zealand forever.

In last week’s editorial I urged farmers to get on board with the Zero Carbon Bill as a concept because it provides a path to sustainability and can ensure our customers continue to be happy to hear our farming story. That means they’ll also be happy to keep buying our food. The details of it, which are not yet set in stone, can be challenged but the concept is sound. . .

Merit award acknowledges shepherd’s class:

Nic Blanchard’s happy place is running around the hills with her team of dogs.

Ms Blanchard is a shepherd at Long Gully Station, at Tarras, where she also classes the property’s hogget clip.

Earlier this month, her classing prowess was acknowledged when she was presented with a merit award for the mid micron category at the New Zealand Wool Classers Association’s annual awards.

It was PGG Wrightson Wool Central Otago representative Graeme Bell who thought the clip was worthy of nomination for the awards and put it forward. . .

Dairy can protect water gain – TIm Fulton:

Water carried Graeme Sutton’s forebears to a life of freedom in New Zealand and it keeps doing the same for them on land. Tim Fultonreports.

Five generations ago, in 1842 Graeme Sutton’s English family landed in Nelson. 

It was the start of a family partnership that has endured and expanded into several irrigated dairy ventures.

“The reason they came out, I understand, is that New Zealand gave them an opportunity for land ownership. They never had that in England. They just worked for a Lord,” Graeme says. . . .

Exciting journey to Grand Final – Sally Rae:

As Georgie Lindsay prepares for the grand final of the FMG Young Farmer Contest in July, she admits it had been an exciting yet unplanned journey.

Ms Lindsay (24) has been working as a shepherd in North Canterbury. When she “tagged along” with a couple of members of her local Young Farmers Club who were competing in the district final, she never dreamed she would reach the pinnacle of the event.

In the past, she had been playing a lot of sport and she never had a spare weekend to have a crack at the competition. This year was the first time that she could do it justice and she decided to give it a go. . .

Regional population surge puts pressure on rural GPs:

Medical practices around Northland are closing their doors to new patients – as they struggle with a shortage of GPs and a surge in population growth.

It’s a perfect storm of sorts – with many GPs reaching patient capacity just as a wave of retirees cash in on house prices in cities like Auckland – and move north.

In the Far North, medical centres in Kaitaia and Coopers Beach – a popular retirement location – are no longer accepting new patients, and in Whangarei, only two GP practices are taking new enrolments. . .

Warning predator free goal faces ‘conflicts’ and uncertainty – Kate

The goal of becoming predator free in 30 years could be hampered by conflicts, inadequate planning and uncertainty, a report warns

Predator Free 2050 aims for a coordinated, nationwide eradication of New Zealand’s most damaging introduced predators – rats, stoats and possums – compared to the current piecemeal controlling of limited areas.

A just released report from the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge looks at the predator free target as a large social movement, but said there were gaps that need to be addressed on social, cultural and ethical issues . .


Rural round-up

May 11, 2019

Forget the avengers, farmers are the real heroes – Nigel Malthus:

Farmers are the world’s real superheroes, says Rabobank executive Marc Oostdijk.

Launching Rabobank’s recent FoodX programme, which aims to introduce high school students to career paths in the food industry, Oostdijk says world population is expected to reach 9 or 10 billion by 2050.

“That’s massive, and to grow food and fibres for them is a massive challenge.” . . 

Mental health help ‘there if you ask’ – farmer who faced Mycoplasma bovis cull for months:

A Southland farmer whose farm suffered through a cull because of Mycoplasma bovis says emotional support is available for those who need it – especially farmers, who might be scared to ask for help. 

It comes as two senior rural support workers, hired to help farmers cope with losing their stock, quit over what they say has been a poor response by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Southland farmer Ben Walling told First Up he was forced to cull 1700 calves after his farm became infected. . .

Health bus nearly ready to roll – Yvonne O’Hara:

The new Women’s Health Bus (Te Waka Wahine Hauora) is expected to arrive in the Otago and Southland region next month, service co-founder Dr Helen Paterson, of Dunedin, says.

The non-profit mobile health service has been in the planning stages for about two years, but last year obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Paterson and Junction Health practice co-owner and practice nurse Alice van Zijl, of Cromwell, ordered the purpose-built vehicle from a specialist Whangaparaoa building firm.

Dr Paterson said the health bus would provide women’s health services, including cervical screening and contraception, to women in Otago and Southland’s rural and isolated communities. . .

Frame & Macey: Two-basket approach no free ride for farmers – Dave Frame & Adrian Macey:

A two-basket approach to climate policy is perfectly sensible and would be anything but a free ride to farmers. Recent assertions to the contrary by Jim Salinger and Raymond Desjardins suggest they may have misunderstood both the recent climate science and the policy logic that has led both the Productivity Commission and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to recommend two-basket approaches.

The first and simplest point to note is that the world has actually used a multi-basket approach to climate policy before. The Montreal Protocol worked pretty well – on some estimates it was more successful at lowering greenhouse gas emissions than the Kyoto Protocol. Montreal was based on a multi-basket approach. There’s nothing inherently better about a one-basket approach to policy, and the reverse is probably true if the residence times of different pollutants span a large range. . .

In a remote South Island valley, birdsong returns – David Williams:

Twenty-one years of intensive pest control in the Landsborough Valley is paying off. David Williams reports.

Colin O’Donnell ambles towards the edge of silver beech forest near the Landsborough River, drawn by the high-pitched, repetitive call of a mohua. It’s a call the Department of Conservation ecologist has been following for more than 30 years.

Ford Flat, overlooked by the Solution Range of mountains, is a common place to wait for the river to recede. In sections of the forest above there’s an ominous ripple of red – signs of a coming mast seeding. Swirling sandflies are ever-present and insistent.

“While it’s there I might just cheat,” O’Donnell says of the chattering mohua, producing from his pocket a portable speaker loaded with bird calls. “It might not work but we’ll give it a go.” . .

Special occasion for fans of hunt – Sally Rae:

He might be ”just a little” over 80 but evergreen Central Otago Hunt master Glynne Smith is showing no signs of slowing down.

Yesterday, Mr Smith was galloping across farmland near Moa Creek, in the Ida Valley, filling the position he has held for the past 30 years.

As master, he was ultimately responsible for the running of the hunt day, and yesterday’s was particularly special for him.

It was the first hunt in Central Otago Hunt’s 30th anniversary programme, which includes four hunts, the South Island hound show and several social functions. . .


Stuff stuffed the headline

March 21, 2019

Federated Farmers was approached by a Stuff reporter asking questions about firearms.

The story was initially headlined Federated Farmers say AK-47 and AR-15 guns are needed to control pests on farms.

There is nothing in the story that says that. The headline was a complete misquote of what Feds spokesman Miles Anderson did say.

Feds were alerted to the headline but an email to members from chief executive Terry Copeland says the story stayed on the website for three hours and that it took intense pressure from the Feds comms team to get it altered.

The story is now headlined Federated Farmers says semi-automatic firearms have a place on farms.

The email says a phone call and an explanation from a Stuff Editor-in-Chief. Stuff has added its ‘regret’ about the misreporting at the bottom of the story.

That the mistake was made in the first place was at best careless, that it took three hours and intense pressure to get it corrected is appalling.

It is particularly disappointing when emotions are heightened in the wake of the mass murders in Christchurch and the need for quiet reason and facts on the issue of gun control are essential.

The email from Feds gives the questions and answers emailed from and to the reporter:

What do most farmers use guns for?

Mainly pest control (rabbits, possums, Canada geese and feral pigs) and humanely euthanizing livestock. Also recreational hunting and target shooting.

On average how many guns would one farmer own? Most farmers own a 0.22 for shooting rabbits and possums, a shotgun for ducks and geese and rabbit control, and a centrefire rifle for deer and pigs, and euthanizing large animals such as cattle.

Generally, what types of guns do farmers use? As above. Farmers use the right firearm for the right job. Quite a lot of the firearms farmers use for pest control are semiautomatic, such as 0.22 rifles and shotguns. These are used to target small fast moving pest species such as rabbits, hares, wallabies and Canada geese. For these species there are often only very limited opportunities to shoot at them and they are commonly found in groups. For Canada geese, for example, hunters may sit in a crop paddock all day for only a few opportunities to shoot at a mob of geese, which may arrive in a mob of up to 100 birds. Four geese eat as much as one sheep and shooting is the only way to control them.

Does the farming community support gun reform? Should the government make it harder for individuals to get gun licences?

Federated Farmers will participate in any process that reviews the law.

What is Fed Farmers’ opinion on military style semi-automatic guns for farming. How common are they? How necessary are they?

Military style semi-automatic rifles are not in common use by farmers. There is no need for general public sales of detachable, high-capacity semi-automatic rifle magazines.

For the record:

My farmer bought an air rifle (for which no licence is needed if you are aged over 18) a couple of years ago when rabbits started invading the lawn and garden. Neither of us owns any other firearm.

Some of our staff own rifles and shotguns which they use for controlling rabbits, possums, ducks, geese, deer and pigs, for recreational hunting and for the mercifully rare occasions when it’s necessary to euthanise cattle.

None own military style arms nor would they have any need to.


Rural round-up

March 18, 2019

Dairy industry riding to rescue as property boom economy falters – Liam Dann:

It looks like New Zealand’s dairy sector is riding to the economic rescue – again.

Given the aspirations we have to transform and diversify the economy, that’s almost a bit disappointing.

But right now I’ll take it – and so should the Government. . . 

Shania effect swallows farmland:

It is called the Shania effect, named after the Canadian singer-songwriter who in 2004 with her then husband Mutt Lange, paid $21.5 million for Motatapu and Mt Soho Stations in Otago’s lakes district.

Land Squeeze Dinkus 1The marriage subsequently split and Lange kept ownership of the properties before adding Glencoe and Coronet Peak Stations, taking his holding to more than 53,000ha of pastoral land from Glendhu Bay near Wanaka to Coronet Peak near Queenstown.

He later invested heavily in environmentally sympathetic development that removed reliance on livestock farming.

That included spending $1.6 million over three years controlling wilding pines, weeds and pests, planting river margins and fencing waterways and sensitive shrublands. .

Rabobank head strongly linked with land, South – Sally Rae:

Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris has always had a connection with farming – and the South.

While not choosing to pursue a career in hands-on farming, the way it worked out meant he had that “absolute connection” and focus on agriculture, he said during a visit to Dunedin last week.

He might not get back to the South that often but when he did get the opportunity to drive through his old haunts, it was a reminder of what it was “all about”, he said.

Born in Tapanui, where his father was a stock agent, Mr Charteris grew up in West Otago, South Otago and Southland. . . 

Raukumara Conservation Park, the dying forest – Michael Neilson:

A bare forest floor, erosion, slips and no birdsong explain the state of the once-flourishing Raukumara Conservation Park. And experts say there might be less than 10 years to save it. Michael Neilson reports.

Standing in the middle of the Raukumara Conservation Park should be one of those picture perfect, 100% Pure New Zealand moments.

The birdsong should be deafening, rich with raucous kākā, chirping tūī and kōkako.

The forest floor should be lush, with new trees rising up and filling the gaps in the canopy. . . 

We’re doing it wrong – Alan Williams:

Exporters are sitting on a gold mine but failing to sell their provenance story overseas, British grocery expert Rob Ward says.

They need to cash in on sensory perception and the Love Triangle.

“New Zealand is incredibly good at what it does but not enough people know about it,” Ward, a United Kingdom grocery data and analytics expert has been told people at Agri-food Week in Palmerston North.

Lamb is a prime example of how the NZ message can be improved. . . 

Rise of women in agriculture an encouraging sign – Robbie Sefton:

Of all the various ways that humanity has devised for splitting itself into tribes, gender tribes are surely the most pointless. 

Men and women are undoubtedly capable of widely differing viewpoints, and are perfectly capable of exasperating each other, but we are literally nothing without each other.

That’s why it’s been wonderfully encouraging to watch the rise of women in agriculture over the past few decades. 

What was once an industry wholly associated with blokes (at least on the surface) is rapidly becoming one that, in terms of participation, is pretty gender-equal. . . 


Rural round-up

February 19, 2019

Tasman facing serious drought – Tracey Neal:

First there were floods, then fire and now drought.

The Waimea Plains, cradled between two mountain ranges, are usually immune to such extremes in the weather.

But a Tasman District Council water scientist says the wider area is facing its worst drought since 2001. . .

Explainer: Why NZ can’t afford to mess with China – Aimee Shaw:

China and New Zealand have enjoyed decades of mutual benefits.

The global powerhouse and New Zealand signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2008 and since then have phased in provisions to ease trade between the two countries.

China is now New Zealand’s largest trading partner, followed by Australia. Suffice to say it’s a relationship New Zealand can’t afford to lose.

Fallout from the Government taking the United States stance on the Huawei debate and now reports of people not wanting to come to New Zealand as a result are threatening the country’s long-standing friendly relationship. . . 

Year of the Pig means feast of exports for Fonterra :

Celebrations have been underway around the world to celebrate the festive Chinese New Year season — welcoming the Year of the Pig.

In China itself those celebrations are likely to have included family feasts including dairy produced in Waipa’s Fonterra plants.

Fonterra’s Te Awamutu site exported around $175 million in products to China for consumption in 2017/18. That’s about $12,500 per person in Te Awamutu. . . 

Optimistic report on ‘M bovis’ response – Sally Rae:

Improvements are already being made in many areas highlighted in the Mycoplasma bovis Technical Advisory Group’s report, response head Geoff Gwyn says.

Work is under way to develop a new surveillance approach for the beef industry and the focus is increasing on improving communication to affected farmers, the public and staff.

The report, released this month and following the group’s meeting in late November, provided independent validation the eradication programme was ”on track”, he said.

Mr Gwyn said the findings and recommendations were not surprising. Some of the recommendations were relatively simple to implement or were already in train, while others would need careful consideration before a decision was made. . . 

Open Country challenges validity of Fonterra 2018 milk price – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Open Country Dairy is seeking a judicial review of the way Fonterra Cooperative Group set its milk price in the 2018 season, despite the Commerce Commission giving the price-setting process a pass mark.

The commission noted the judicial review on its website, saying Open Country Dairy brought proceedings against certain conclusions in its 2018 report.

In that report, the regulator was satisfied that Fonterra’s calculation was largely in line with the efficiency and contestability elements required by law governing the dairy sector. . . 

Unusual beefalo meat in demand – Ken Muir:

A chance meeting with an engineer building a cowshed on a neighbouring farm next door to Nadia and Blair Wisely introduced them to bison and from there they’ve taken to producing beefalo – a bison beef cross – on their Isla Bank farm.

”We met Dennis Greenland by chance and he had purchased animals from a Marlborough breeder Bob Blake”, Mr Wisely said.

”He told us about the animals and that piqued our interest.”

The Wiselys purchased a bison bull, crossed it with a range of cows and Netherton Farm Beefalo was born. . . 

Wild horses go under the hammer in Hanmer

Twenty horses, all aged two or three years old, were mustered from the isolated Ada Valley and sold by auction at cattle yards in the St James Conservation Area, where there was once an 80,000-hectare cattle station.

The two-day biennial muster is a family tradition.

Hugh Dampier-Crossley, a sheep and beef farmer near Cheviot, has been mustering the horses since he was ten.

“The Stevensons owned the property. Jim Stevenson was my grandfather, they bought the place in 1927. He taught me how to break in horses and shoe horses so it’s become a bit of a passion,” he said. . . 

Plan to plant genetically engineered trees throughout US to save dying forests – John Gabattis:

Inserting genes to protect against foreign diseases and pests could bring species back from brink of extinction

Plans are under way to plant swathes of genetically engineered trees across the ailing forests of North America in a bid to save them from the ravages of disease and pests. 

Species such as the ash tree and whitebark pine have faced catastrophic declines of up to half their populations after creatures introduced from overseas tore through their defences. . .

 


How much does Minister know?

February 19, 2019

Conservation Minister Eugene Sage has ruled out genetic modification in the fight against pests:

 Predator Free 2050 aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators by 2050, and has a number of government agencies involved in the plan including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

But Predator Free 2050 is forbidden from carrying out any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing, a letter written by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage shows.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 obtained by lobby group Life Sciences Network said its primary tasks were to invest in breakthrough scientific research, but not to research into genetically modified organisms and technologies or gene editing, and to raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

“Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks.” . . 

This directive counters officials’ views that GE could be an alternative to 1080:

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.” . . 

The minister’s refusal to permit sciencetific exploration is rank stupidity.

It’s also hypocritical coming from a member of the party that exhorts everyone to accept the science on climate change.

But how much does the minister know about the science when the strongest opponents of GM food know the least and think they know the most?

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.” . . 

Is the minister’s decision based on a lack of knowledge or just politics and emotion trumping science?

Whichever it is, a minister should not be shutting the door on scientific exploration.


Seeking a saxy song

January 22, 2019

Could a saxy song save the Kākāpō?

Since 2016, Meridian Energy have been the National Partner of the Department of Conservation’s Kākāpō Recovery Programme (KRP) in their efforts to revive this critically endangered native parrot, but what most people don’t know is that there are only 147 left.

As a 100% renewable energy generator, Meridian is incredibly focused on taking care of New Zealand’s natural environment and the precious species that inhabit it, including supporting the recovery effort through science, technology and state-of-the-art Smart Eggs that help the incubation process.

Michael Healy, Meridian’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “The trouble is, these are only good once breeding kicks off. Meridian decided some creativity might be needed to give these treasured native parrots with troublesome breeding a helping hand. And by hand, we mean saxophone”.

So, Meridian has put a call out to New Zealand (and beyond – Kenny G, we’re looking at you) to find a talented saxophonist to help save a species with what is widely recognised as the smoothest, most romantic instrument out there.

We’re aware the science behind saxophones and kakapo breeding is as yet untested. But with only 147 of these amazing birds left, at Meridian we’ll try anything,” says Healy.

The winning saxophonist, whether they’re a gifted local or the legend Kenny G himself, will professionally record a song for the kākāpō that will be available for download on the Meridian Energy website and handed over to the Kākāpō Rangers.

The response to the campaign to date has been great, and we’ve received some great entries from keen sax players all over the country. We’re still hoping that to attract the main man himself, Kenny G, but we’ve also got some great local talent who can help these precious birds out.”

“Most importantly though, we’re really aiming to make sure everyone is aware of the fact there are so few of these birds left – so it’s a privilege to be helping raise more awareness of the plight of the kākāpō”, says Healy.

You can read more here.


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