Regions lose with central control

August 2, 2019

The government is centralising vocational education, merging 16 technology institutes and polytechnics into one:

Former Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce warns of the risks in this move:

. .  .Leaving aside the issue of transferring the control of hundreds and hundreds of millions of assets out of regional New Zealand to Wellington, there are huge risks in the proposal. Across the Tasman, New South Wales has just done something similar, merging its 16-odd TAFEs (polytechs) into one NSW-wide TAFE, and it is a cautionary tale. The merged entity lost $30 million in its first year, blowing out to $240m in its second. It’s now in the process of further reform.

Yes, many New Zealand polytechnics are currently struggling, but that’s not unique to this country. When employment is high, vocationally-minded people tend to get into work ahead of going to polytech, and roll numbers drop. It’s been made worse here by the sudden squeeze on international enrolments caused by government immigration policy which is contributing to a perfect storm of red ink.

Interestingly however, well-run polytechnics like SIT in Southland, Otago, and the Eastern Institute of Technology in the North Island, have continued to perform and make surpluses. A few board overhauls and the odd regional merger, plus a bit more tuition funding, would do wonders for the others and retain their local focus – and be much less risky.

The government’s prescription is radical surgery when much less drastic medicine could solve the problems at a much lower cost in both money and jobs:

The Government’s polytechnic and industry announcement today will cost thousands of jobs and may be the death knell for some polytechnics, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.

“Moving apprentices back to polytechnics and creating one mega polytechnic will cost at least 1300 jobs in industry and probably as much again in polytechnics.

“Employers are telling us they will cease to employ apprentices next year if apprentices go back to polytechnics. This is a big step backwards especially when our construction sector is crying out for apprentices.

“The Government has brutally dismissed the concerns of industry and businesses who raised serious issues with polytechnic training. Industry understands the needs of industry best and who will be the best fit for them, but Mr Hipkins is blatantly ignoring them.

“Now the Minister is turning his axe to polytechnics. Under these reforms well performing polytechnics from the Southern Institute of Technology to Otago Polytechnic will lose the very essence of their successful and innovative local decision making.

“The reforms dissolve polytechnics into hollow and meaningless ‘legacy’ polytechnics. This ideology will destroy tradition, decimate organisational knowledge and the final indignity will be the mega polytechnic spending community gifted cash and assets.

“This is devastating for polytechnics and their staff and students.

“Every aspect of the vocational education sector is under attack. Apprentices are being sent back to polytechnics, polytechnics are being amalgamated into legacy campuses, jobs are being lost, cash and community assets will be ring-fenced and regional autonomy is being stripped away.

“These reforms will be disastrous for regional education and apprenticeships. Mr Hipkins is pushing ahead with ideology over what is best for students and regional New Zealand.

“National will empower the regions to make decisions around what they teach, where they teach and how they teach. We will return polytechnic assets taken by Labour and give them back to communities. We will return apprentices to industry.

“National supports apprentices and regional polytechnics and we will fight for their voice and autonomy in these ideological educational reforms.”

Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt said the city will fight to save The Southern Institute of Technology:

Invercargill leaders have vowed to fight a Government decision to centralise the Southern Institute of Technology [SIT] with 15 other polytechnics and training institutes nationwide.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he was in “absolute disbelief they could do such a terrible thing to our city” and said legal action would be taken against the decision.

“They have really ripped the heart out of Invercargill with this announcement.”

The proposal also threatens the future of Telford Farm Training Institute:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said the announcement was incredibly disappointing and raised uncertainty for Telford’s future.

“Today’s announcement of the Government’s reform of vocational education through the centralisation of polytechs is another blow to rural and regional New Zealand. 

“It is the people in regions who know the needs of their people best, not a long list of public servants in Wellington.”

Community assets would be taken away, decision-making powers would be lost and as a result, Telford would be disadvantaged, he said.

“Telford’s long-term proposal was turned down because of this reform which will now cause further damage to Clutha-Southland and its workforce.”

“This creates further uncertainty for staff and students at Telford who have already been through enough.” . . 

Successful organisations like SIT and Otago Polytech could have been used as a model for other institutions that were floundering.

Instead the successful are being sacrificed because of others’ failures and the regions lose autonomy to central control.


Unemployment increase > Oamaru’s population

July 24, 2019

Job-seeker beneficiaries have increased by more than 15,000 since the Labour-led government took office:

An increase of 15,500 people on jobseeker benefits under the Labour-led Government shows that they are not motivated to help New Zealanders into work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“The Government proudly announced last June that new policies had led to a 23 per cent daily drop in sanctions. They now say that they have not changed Work and Income’s policies.

“What they claim not to see is the direct link between the removal of work obligations and the rise in people receiving benefits.

A benefit provides temporary assistance for some people when for a variety of reasons they find themselves without work.

But removing work obligations has made it too easy for others for whom a benefit is preferable to a job.

“If the Minister isn’t going to encourage people into work and more fulfilling lives, she should rename the Jobseeker Support benefit, because its recipients are no longer obliged to look for jobs.

“The Government lacks ambition for young people, with 17 per cent more 18 to 24-year-olds claiming Jobseeker Support in the past year. This is clear evidence that this Government isn’t investing in helping young people improve their lives.

The younger people become beneficiaries the longer they are likely to stay dependent on the state with the increased risks of poorer health and likelihood of committing crime that go with that.

“The Government also says it wants to end poverty. If that’s the case, they should be making every effort to reduce the number of benefit-dependent households.

“Benefits are an important safety net, but 8000 more Kiwis were dependent on Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months this June than in September 2017. Benefits are becoming a long-term trap.

“National supports New Zealanders to be aspirational. We believe the best way out of poverty is through work. 

“That this Government is responsible for such a large rise in the number of people on a jobseekers’ benefit while employers are crying out for workers shows its claims of kindness and care to be hollow words.”

The increase of 15,500 on job seeker benefits is a couple of thousand more people than the total population of Oamaru.

That isn’t good for them, nor is it good for the country.

Every dollar spent on a benefit and the associated costs of delivering it to people who could be in work is a dollar taken from tax and not available to provide better social services and infrastructure.

This government is more than half way through its term and is failing to deliver policies that would make a positive difference to the country and its people.

Instead it’s spent more than $300 million on working groups:

The Government’s constant outsourcing of work has left taxpayers with a $317 million bill, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“Over the past 21 months, there have been 279 working groups created or reviews launched. That’s a working group every two days since the Labour-led Government has been in office.

“The Government has used working groups as an excuse to stall on doing any work while the coalition squabbles in the background.

“It shipped off work to the Tax Working Group, the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, the Business Advisory Group and the Fair Pay Working Group. All of these groups reported back with recommendations but the Government has done little or nothing with them.

“New Zealanders will be scratching their heads wondering why their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent on working groups when the work isn’t even being used. They’ll be asking themselves, what is the point of this Government? 

“The Government has broken many promises it made leading into the 2017 election, like $20 million for rare disorders, $10 cheaper GP fees to all New Zealanders and free annual health and eye checks for seniors.

“Not every review is wasteful. We support the Government in calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terrorist attacks, but the constant outsourcing of work takes the focus off the important reviews that really matter. Over the same time period when we were in Government, we had 113 reviews, less than 40 per cent of what this Government has called for.

“The Government has no plans for growing the strong economy it inherited, or for improving the lives of New Zealanders. Rather than having a plan and a vision for New Zealand it’s focused on keeping the coalition together and treading water.

As well as wasting money of working groups whose recommendations it ignores, the government is wasting money on poor policies.

“On top of all the working groups, the Government is making poor spending decisions, including more than $2 billion for fees-free tertiary, which has resulted in fewer students, $3 billion for Shane Jones’ slush fund and $2 billion on KiwiBuild, which has resulted in next to no houses.  

“National would cut the waste and invest taxpayer dollars in more considered and targeted ways. Savings from these reviews alone could fund the Roxburgh children’s village for the next 90 years, fund 5,600 cochlear implants, restore and maintain full facilities at the Lumsden Maternity Clinic for more than a hundred years, or axe the regional fuel tax.

“National is doing the work in Opposition so we’re ready should we earn the right to govern in 2020. We have already released three comprehensive discussion documents and there are six more to come. Our polices will be in place and our legislation will be ready to go in time for 2020.” 

Labour was unprepared for government and we’re paying the price for that.


Rural round-up

July 12, 2019

Rotten reality: Apples still on trees in July a visual reminder of Hawke’s Bay picking struggles :

Fruit hanging on trees well into a cold and frosty Hawke’s Bay winter provides a visual reminder of the struggle growers had finding pickers over the last season.

New Zealand Apples and Pears CEO Alan Pollard said it was the third year in a row a labour shortage had been declared in Hawke’s Bay, and it was time to have a conversation about solving the issue.

“We can’t continue to have an annual conversation which is what we’ve been doing in the past, we’ve got to have much more long-term solutions. . .

Winston Peters wonders why he doesn’t get a thank you from farmers – Hamish Rutherford:

No one provides a defence of the New Zealand Government quite like Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

Over the course of nearly two years in Government, senior Labour Party Ministers have adopted an increasingly conciliatory approach to critics, while, if anything, Peters becomes more cantankerous.  . . .

Sheep and beef on farm inflation reaches 3 percent:

Sheep and beef farm input prices rose twice as fast as consumer price inflation in the year to March 2019 with on-farm inflation at 3.0 percent, according to the latest Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service Sheep and Beef On-Farm Inflation Report.

The report identifies annual changes in the prices of goods and services purchased by New Zealand sheep and beef farms. The overall on-farm inflation rate is determined by weighting the changes in prices for individual input categories by their proportion of total farm expenditure.

B+LNZ Economic Service’s Chief Economist Andrew Burtt says the biggest three expenditure categories – shearing expenses; fertiliser, lime, and seeds; and council rates – contributed substantially to the 3.0 percent rate of on-farm inflation. . .

ANZCO confident no repeat of horror year – Allan Barber:

ANZCO’s 2018 pre-tax loss of $38 million was the worst result in the company’s history. The exporter has traditionally posted a profit, even in difficult years for the meat industry which has always had a chequered history, so it is critical to assess what went wrong and, more important, how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

None of the largest meat companies that publish their annual results, Silver Fern Farms, Alliance and ANZCO, enjoyed a great year, but contrary to its previous performances relative to its competitors, ANZCO had the worst of it by a considerable margin. Analysis of the figures shows record income more than offset by expenses and finance costs; the obvious questions for CEO Peter Conley are what is going to change and how is 2019 tracking? . . .

Alternative protein startups: let’s get the facts straight about livestock’s carbon footprint – Lauren Manning:

The impact of the meat industry on the environment, particularly relating to greenhouse gas emissions, has become common knowledge among consumers and is increasingly a feature of mainstream media headlines today.

Arguably starting when the Food and Agriculture Organization released a paper entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow in 2006, the anti-meat movement moved on from focusing on concerns about the humane treatment of animals to its environmental footprint. . . 

Inaugural Ground Spread Awards recognise  innovation, skill and excellence:

The inaugural winners of the New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA) awards were announced this week at the organisation’s 63rd annual conference, ‘Technology the Enabler’, in Taupo.

The NZGFA Innovation Award (sponsored by Trucks & Trailers) was presented to Canterbury’s Ron Smith of R&R Haulage Ltd for his detailed research into testing bout widths against product quality. . .


Rural round-up

May 31, 2019

Employment model tipped on head – Richard Rennie:

As dairy farmers struggle to hire and keep staff Woodville farmer and DairyNZ director Ben Allomes has tipped his farm employment model on its head. 

He and wife Nicky aim to attract and retain people in an environment that recognises effort and nurtures potential while recognising a work-life balance.

The challenges in attracting and retaining good people and a need to restructure their business two years ago presented the Allomes with a chance to look at how they employ people on their 750-cow operation.

“It also came from a realisation that if I was in this industry for the long haul and was relying upon key people then I had a duty to make it work for them.  . . 

Wellbeing Budget should have worked with farmers on conservation:

The 2019 Budget has left Federated Farmers questioning why the Government’s first Wellbeing budget has left a critical gap in its commitment to conservation.

There is no additional funding for the QEII National Trust or the Ngā Whenua Rāhui Fund. Plus, woefully inadequate funding for the control of wilding conifers, Feds Arable and Biosecurity spokesperson Karen Williams says.

The extremely modest increase in funding for the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme means its work will be going backwards in terms of managing this out-of-control pest.  

“We hoped to see the wilding conifer programme receive more like $25 million per year.  . . 

Farmers milk new technologies – Luke Chivers:

Winton dairy farmers Billy and Sharn Roskam believe tapping into modern technologies is the key to an efficient dairy operation. They spoke to Luke Chivers.

It is 7am.

As daylight breaks on the Southland Plains, Winton dairy farmers Billy and Sharn Roskam’s morning milking is well under way.

Their 36-bail rotary is filled with the steady hum of modern machinery – from automated cup removers to automated teat sprayers and heat patches. 

“It’s all about labour and efficiency,” Sharn says.  . . 

Taieri couple can stay and seek residency – Sally Rae:

A Taieri couple’s future in New Zealand is looking much more certain after they were told they can apply for residency.

Last year, nurse Pawan Chander faced deportation to India after her application for a work visa was declined by Immigration New Zealand, as her husband Harrie’s employment as herd manager on a Woodside was deemed “lower skilled”.

Following publicity about the couple’s plight, Mrs Chander was granted a 12-month visitor visa to line up with Mr Chander’s work visa, which expired this month. . . 

Innovation rewarded – Yvonne O’Hara:

John Falconer’s hydraulic, remote-controlled deer crush, which he designed, was one of the reasons he and wife Mary won the Gallagher Technology and Innovation Award at the 2019 Deer Industry Environmental Awards last week.

“The crush has been a game-changer for us,” Mr Falconer said.

Mr and Mrs Falconer, of Clachanburn Station, Puketoi, won the award for their use of “farming technologies to improve productivity and manage resources”.

They also won the Duncan New Zealand Award for “vision and innovation while mastering a demanding environment”. . . 

Costs up as farmers reinvest back into business:

DairyNZ’s newly-released Economic Survey 2017-18 shows farmers have taken advantage of increased milk income to catch up on deferred farm maintenance and revisit capital expenditure, previously delayed due to lower milk prices.

DairyNZ senior economist Matthew Newman said the annual farmer survey shows the largest increases in spend during 2017-18 (1 June 2017 to 31 May 2018) were on feed, repairs, maintenance and labour. But, it is likely expenditure has increased further in 2018-19.

“The 2017-18 season was difficult due to a dry spring/early summer for all regions. That affected pasture growth and peak milk production. It’s also the season that Mycoplasma bovis was discovered,” said Matthew. . .

Living off the grid for almost 80 years – Ciara Colhoun:

Margaret Gallagher has lived off-grid for almost 80 years.

When she was was born – near the Irish border in County Fermanagh in 1942 – it was not unusual for families to live without electricity and running water.

Margaret’s neighbours only began to update their homes in the late 1940s and 1950s.

But her family missed the opportunity to join the trend due to her mother’s death, when Margaret was 10, and her father’s ill health. . . 


Rural round-up

May 25, 2019

Plant patties may not be any healthier than beef burgers, expert says – Esther Taunton:

They’re touted as better for both people and the planet, but highly-processed plant-based “meats” may not be healthier than red meat, an expert says.

BurgerFuel this month became New Zealand’s first nationwide burger chain to add plant-based patties made by California-based company Beyond Meat to its menu.

Based on pea protein, the patties are free from gluten, soy, dairy and genetically modified organisms. . .

Science to fore in reducing stress – Toni Williams:

Our brain is working 10 times faster than ever predicted possible. We’ve lost control,” says resilience speaker and crisis negotiator Lance Burdett.

It has led to overthinking with increased negative thoughts, sleep problems and much worse.

And people needed to learn how to turn their brains off, he said.

Mr Burdett, the founder of WARN International, was in Ashburton May 9 to speak at an event hosted by the Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury. It was part of a national tour. Around 130 people attended . . 

BrightSIDE offers career advice for farm workers

It’s not ”rocket science”, South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) committee member Amy Johnston says.

She and other committee members have put together BrightSIDE, an afternoon session during the dairy conference on June 25, which is specifically for farm workers, and focuses on career progression.

Mrs Johnston, who, along with husband Graeme, is a 50/50 sharemilker on two farms with 900 cows, wants to encourage dairy farm owners and employers to pay the $100 fee for their staff to attend. . . 

Farm replacing beef with koura :

A Maori farming partnership near Lake Taupo, which began to diversify 10 years to lower nitrogen impact, is experiencing wide-ranging benefits and opportunities.

Tuatahi Farming Partnership, which farms 6000 hectares of high country land in the catchment above Lake Taupo, was one of the first and largest landowners to strike a deal with the newly established Lake Taupo Protection Trust to protect the long-term future of the lake.

Tuatahi sold 28 tonnes of its nitrogen footprint to the trust for $10 million and sold carbon credits from tree planting to Mercury Energy. . .

Harvesting the benefits of diversity – Jenny Ling

A Northland couple run a diverse operation consisting of three business units. Jenny Ling reports.

Northland farmers Shane and Dot Dromgool already run a successful dairy and beef operation but recently branched out into the world of viticulture in a bold bid to diversify their business.

The couple run a robust operation, Longview Shorthorns, farming pedigree beef Shorthorn cattle on the outskirts of Kerikeri. It consists of a 300ha beef unit and a 200ha dairy operation. . .

Big Data has arrived for commercial sheep production. Can the effort required to harness it pay dividends? – Jamie Brown:

Big data is coming to a small production enterprise near you. Is it worth the time and money to embrace it?

Speakers at Saturday’s Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association conference in Armidale gave numerous examples of how computer assisted problem solving will directly benefit producers, and smooth speed bumps along the supply chain – with potential to bring premium prices. . .


Asking too much of ag

May 9, 2019

The announcement that methane will be treated differently from other gases under the Zero Carbon Bill ought to be good news for farmers, but it isn’t:

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is deeply concerned over the proposed treatment of methane and targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and is calling for critical changes to the bill.

The proposed methane reduction targets of between 24-47 percent by 2050 significantly exceed both New Zealand and global scientific advice and the government is asking more of agriculture than fossil fuel emitters elsewhere in the economy.

The government wants to turn productive farm land into forests and it’s also asking too much of farmers in its methane target.

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is committed to playing its part in addressing climate change and acknowledges that in some areas the government has followed scientific advice, such as the split gas approach and proposed ambitious net zero target for nitrous oxide.

“Sheep and beef emissions have already reduced by 30 percent since 1990, helping meet New Zealand’s climate change challenge and we accept we still have work to do,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Chairman and Southland sheep and beef farmer Andrew Morrison.

“New Zealand needs a robust science-based and fair approach when setting targets for an issue which will affect future generations.

“It’s unreasonable to ask farmers to be cooling the climate, as the government’s proposed targets would do, without expecting the rest of the economy to also do the same.

It’s also unfair to expect farmers to follow the science on the need to reduce emissions while ruling out genetic modification which could be an affordable and effective tool for doing so.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand is calling for a fair approach, where each gas is reduced based on its warming impact. An equitable approach requires carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to go to net zero, and methane to be reduced and stabilised by between 10-22 percent. This is consistent with the advice from the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment who identified this range as meaning methane would be contributing no additional warming. Any target above a 10-22 percent reduction is therefore asking methane to cool the planet.

“In addition to our 30 percent reduction in emissions, sheep and beef farmers have also conserved 1.4 million hectares of native forest, an area the size of Hawke’s Bay, which is capturing significant quantities of carbon and cooling the planet, which when combined with our free range, naturally-raised farming systems enables our farmers to produce beef and lamb at a lower carbon footprint than many other countries.

“Not allowing trees to offset biological methane, as is allowed for fossil fuel emitters, exacerbates the unequal playing field, and is completely counter to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

It’s even more galling when a lot of those trees are planted on farmland.

As a sector which set a goal of being net carbon neutral by 2050, the ability for farmers to offset biological methane on farm through tree planting is a key tool that farmers should be allowed to access.”

The sheep and beef sector is also urgently calling on the government to be transparent and release all the advice on which they based its decision.

“The government’s decision appears to fly in the face of international scientific evidence, which supports reducing and stabilising methane by 10-22 percent as equivalent to net carbon zero.

“As the Zero Carbon Bill currently stands, it will have a dramatic impact on New Zealand’s regional communities and the entire economy, and the knock-on effect will be felt by every Kiwi.”

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is worth approximately $10.4 billion, is the country’s largest manufacturing sector, the second largest export earner, and supports 80,000 jobs across the country, both directly and indirectly.

New Zealand’s emissions are around 0.17% of the global total.

If anything we do was going to make a significant difference the economic sacrifice might – just might – be justified. But when anything we do is insignificant on a global scale there is no justification for economic sabotage.

These jobs form the heart of hundreds of regional communities. The social and economic impacts of these potential changes will reverberate beyond the farm gate and hollow out the many regional communities who rely heavily on our sector,” says Mr Morrison.

“Beef + Lamb New Zealand will continue supporting research into greenhouse gas mitigations, as well as its ongoing work with farmers to help them further reduce the methane emissions from their livestock.”

DairyNZ has similar concerns about the methane target:

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle has reconfirmed the dairy sector’s commitment to play its part to reduce its biological emissions, and supports the intent of the direction of the Zero Carbon Bill.

“Our farmers are committed to sustainable farming practices, and need long-term certainty to make business decisions based on reduction targets. We are pleased the Government has listened to the science regarding the short-lived nature of methane, recognising it has a different impact on the environment,” says Dr Mackle.

“DairyNZ supports a science-based approach, where each gas is reduced based on its warming impact. We have not yet seen the Government’s analysis behind the 2050 target range. The 2050 target, of reducing methane by 24 to 47 per cent, is based on global scenarios that are not grounded in the New Zealand context. This range for methane, combined with reducing nitrous oxide to net zero, goes beyond expert scientific advice for what is necessary for New Zealand agriculture to limit global warming to no more than at 1.5° C.

“It is very important to get the range right. If we get this wrong it will have significant impacts on not just the dairy sector, but the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of New Zealand. 

“While we can support much of what is in the Zero Carbon legislation, we will be pushing for the range to be reviewed and aligned with the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, of 10-22 per cent reduction in methane. When combined with our commitment on nitrous oxide to net zero, this is an equitable, yet ambitious and challenging target, that is grounded in robust science.

“We know our farmers will be concerned by the 47 per cent and what that might mean for their livelihoods. It is not set in stone, and the Bill includes a number of criteria for review including availability of mitigation options, what other countries are doing, and reduction efforts by other sectors. 

“New Zealand is already one of the lowest emissions producers of dairy nutrition in the world per kilogram of milksolids and we want to build on that advantage. Climate change is a global issue and it is good for the world if dairy production stays in New Zealand where we have low emissions for the amount we produce. We believe our premium, grass-based, high nutrition dairy will continue to be in demand well into the future, alongside a range of other options consumers may have.

Sabotaging dairying here will increase global emissions as production from less efficient producers elsewhere is increased to make up the shortfall.

“The 2030 reduction target is the first step, which we know will be very challenging. But there is action that farmers can take, and are already taking, to reduce on-farm emissions. The first step is to understand their emissions and where they come from. As part of our pan-sector Dairy Tomorrow strategy, over the next 5 years each farm will have a farm-specific plan to manage and reduce these emissions.

“DairyNZ remains focused on researching and developing tools to help farmers make choices for how to reduce emissions – through farm systems changes and new technologies. It will take time for some of these tools to develop. We will continue working closely with government to ensure all efforts on farm are recognised, and expert advice and training is made available. This support is a vital part of a fair transition.

Federated Farmers says the methane target will change the country not the climate:

Targets released today for farming’s methane emissions are going to send the message to farmers that New Zealand is prepared to give up on pastoral farming.

“This decision is frustratingly cruel, because there is nothing I can do on my farm today that will give me confidence I can ever achieve these targets”, Federated Farmers vice president and Climate Change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

New Zealand farmers are already playing their part in tackling global warming, and are willing to do more.

“But hearing the government setting arbitrary targets based on a random selection of reports and incomplete data will leave some farmers wondering; ‘what is the point’?

“The 10% reduction target for methane by 2030 gives us a deadline for going beyond net zero more than 20 years earlier than for any other sector of New Zealand. It is unheard of anywhere else on the planet,” Andrew says.

The targets are significantly higher than what is necessary to be equivalent to net-zero carbon dioxide.

The announced methane reduction target for 2050 of 24-50%, when coupled with the target of net zero for nitrous oxide, requires the New Zealand agriculture sector to reduce its emissions by 43-60%.

“Let’s be clear, the only way to achieve reductions of that level, is to reduce production.  There are no magic technologies out there waiting for us to implement.

“At this point in time we have no idea how to achieve reductions of this level, without culling significant stock numbers.

“All Kiwis need to ask themselves one simple question: ‘if we cut our agricultural production by up to 50% over the next 30 years, what is the country going to do for jobs, taxes and community investment, in the future?”

There is no practical, sustainable or viable answer to that question.

 In complete contradiction to the most recent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report, New Zealand farmers will also not be able to offset their methane emissions by planting trees.

“Large fossil carbon dioxide polluters can offset their emissions by continuing to buy up land and putting it into forestry, but farmers will not be able to offset their methane emissions by planting trees on their own land.

“Basically pastoral farming is being used to buy the rest of New Zealand time to deal with the fundamental driver of climate change – increased carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the greenhouse gas the government obviously finds too politically hot to handle.”

This government keeps talking about fairness then introducing policies that are anything but fair.

Q: Isn’t a split gas target what the agricultural sector wanted?
A: A split gas target for long and short-lived greenhouse gases is required in order to reflect the dramatically different reduction needed in order to have each gas no longer contribute to additional warming of the atmosphere. The reduction targets announced by the Government go above and beyond what is required for methane to reach net zero carbon dioxide equivalent. We welcome a split gas target but the target for methane itself is not viable.

Q: Who said biological methane doesn’t need to reduce to net zero by 2050, like the other greenhouse gases?
A: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), the Productivity Commission and most recently the Climate Change Commission in the UK.

Most prominently, the internationally recognised climate scientists from Oxford (including Professor Myles Allen) and Victoria University of Wellington (including Prof. Dave Frame) have published research identifying a 0.3% year-on-year reduction in biological methane would ensure that the gas had no additional warming impact. This equates to a 10% reduction by 2050 (not 2020 as proposed by Government). These scientists have been lead authors in chapters of IPCC reports.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton, in his 29 March 2019 report ‘Farms, forests and fossil fuels’ (pg. 80) said if New Zealand wished to stabilise the contribution of livestock methane to global warming at its 2016 level, it would need to reduce these emissions by 10-22% by 2050. He said: “Unless large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are achieved, efforts to reduce methane and nitrous oxide will be of limited long-term value.”

Q: If farmers aren’t required to get methane emissions down to net zero by 2050, as with the other greenhouse gases, isn’t that letting agriculture ‘off the hook’?
A: No. Methane emissions need to only slightly reduce to have no additional warming effect (equivalent to zero gross carbon dioxide emissions). This is because methane is a relatively short-lived gas in the atmosphere.

Under the Zero Carbon Bill targets farmers are being required to reduce another biological emission, nitrous oxide, to net zero by 2050.  Farmers (and processors) are also big users of transport and electricity to harvest/process/get their goods to market, so like other New Zealanders and industry sectors they will bear the costs of reducing carbon dioxide to net zero by 2050.

Q: What’s wrong with the tougher methane reduction targets and deadlines?
A: The announced targets disregard the core principal of all gases being reduced equally in order to have the same impact in reducing global warming. The 10% reduction target for methane by 2030, goes beyond what is needed to achieve no further contribution to warming from methane. This target is expecting farmers to reduce methane 3 times greater than required for methane to no longer contribute to additional global warming.

Essentially this means the 10% methane target is required to be achieved two decades before the target for all other gases.

Apart from the obvious significant economic impacts this is also likely to have the counterproductive impact of increasing global warming, as no other agricultural exporting country is setting such tough methane targets.  Less efficient trade competitors will fill the market gap created by the reduced food production in New Zealand. This concept is known as “emissions leakage”.

Q: Where does the figure of ‘27% – 47%’ reduction for methane by 2050 come from?
A: Good question. There are no Government reports outlining the reasoning for the figures. The Government cannot provide any analysis of how they arrive at the 24%- 47% figure. The numbers are from the 2018 IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  Note these are ‘scenarios’, one of which includes a nuclear power option and another allows for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions.

Q: But can’t farmers just plant trees to offset methane?
A:  No, the Government has specifically prevented farmers from offsetting methane emissions. A coal power station will be allowed to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by buying up farms and planting pines trees but a farmer will not be allowed to offset their methane emissions by planting trees on their own land.

This is contradictory to the recent recommendations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who recommended a landscape approach to forestry offsets. Under the PCE’s landscape approach the use of forestry offsets would be limited to biological methane, and offsetting nitrous oxide would be limited to native vegetation, and fossil carbon dioxide would not be offset at all by planting trees.

The Government’s Zero Carbon Bill announcement makes no distinction between fossil and biological greenhouse gases and operates in a reality where a carbon dioxide molecule is as theoretically stable in a pine tree in Nelson as one in solid coal a kilometre under the ground.

Q: How can farmers reduce their emissions in order to reach the methane target?
A:  Currently the only way farmers can reduce methane emissions is to feed less dry matter to livestock. The Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) commissioned work that shows in order to significantly reduce livestock methane emissions in the future without cutting production many currently unavailable and uncertain technologies will need to be developed and commercialized, including genetically modified ryegrass crops.

This is yet another aspirational policy from the government without a plan and without a scientific basis.

It’s also another example of a policy that won’t make a measurable environmental difference but will come at a high social and economic cost.


Rural round-up

May 5, 2019

Sensible immigration will allow rural communities to flourish – Nick Hanson:

A big shakeup could be coming for New Zealand’s immigration policy.

Many of the proposed changes are sensible and will lead to a simplification of the immigration system, but there is also concern that while the system might be easier to understand, it will be harder, longer and more costly to employ workers from overseas.

Under the proposals, every employer who wishes to employ a migrant must become an accredited employer. In theory, this is good  migrants deserve to come to New Zealand to an employer who treats them well and complies with New Zealand employment law.  . . 

Fonterra could learn lessons in enterprise and growth from Australia’s Wesfarmers – Point of Order:

NZ  co-ops have been  getting  a  bad  media  rap   lately.  Take  Fonterra, for example.  Andrea Fox, one of the  country’s  best-informed journalists  specialising  in agriculture  issues,  started   a  new series in the  NZ  Herald  with the  headline:  “Fonterra: Disappointment and soured  dairy dreams”.

Noting   the dairy goliath had a silver-spoon  birth   nearly  18 years ago she  wrote:

“Today the  co-operative  is looking a bit like  the family’s overweight, lazy teenager  hogging the remote  on the biggest couch in the room And the  credit card bills are coming in”.

After Fonterra posted a historic first net loss of $196m, Fox  says  calls  are heating up  for  the company to be split up  and a  company, perhaps  listed, spun off it, open to outside capital  investment to  chase  high-value product  markets. One of the country’s investment  gurus, Brian Gaynor, says even major shareholders  are telling him it’s  time for  change. . . 

Uncertainty swirls over Mackenzie dairy plan – David Williams:

The legal battle over a large dairy farm planned for the Mackenzie Basin is heading to the High Court. David Williams reports.

The future of the Mackenzie Basin’s Simons Pass Station – a lightning rod for national environmental opposition – remains as unclear as a swirling effluent pond.

Dunedin businessman Murray Valentine has spent 16 years and millions of dollars gathering approvals, court settlements, and building infrastructure for a $100-million-plus dairy development at Simons Pass, near Lake Pukaki. Valentine told Newsroom last year he plans to irrigate 4500 hectares at the property – some of which is Crown lease land – and stock more than 15,000 animals, including 5500 cows. (The average herd size in New Zealand is 431 cows. The national herd is five million milking cows.)

As of late last year, 840 cows were being milked and Valentine says the development is about a quarter finished. . . 

Regional wrap:

Confident sheep and beef farmers are paying top money and have out-bid foresters for land on the North Island’s East Coast. In the South Island apple harvesting’s almost finished in the Nelson Motueka region.

Kaitaia, in Northland’s north, needs a good dose of rain – the five or six millimetres at the weekend didn’t help much.  Where there are wet spots in paddocks new grass is germinating well.

Around Pukekohe it’s been quiet in market gardens because of the school holidays and the working week being interrupted by statutory holidays. Many staff have taken time off. It’s been warmer this week than last and Monday’s 15mm of rainfall has been enough for most crops. . .

Bumper crop of Young Vegetable Growers:

Seven of New Zealand’s best and brightest will vie for the title of Young Vegetable Grower of the Year in a competition in Pukekohe next Friday, 10 May.

The victor will be crowned Young Vegetable Grower of the Year, and move on to the Young Grower national final, to be held in Tauranga in October. There, they will join the winners of the Bay of Plenty, Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and Gisborne regional fruit-grower events, to compete for the national title of Young Grower of the Year 2019.

Contestants will demonstrate their knowledge and skills around topics vital to the management of a successful horticulture business, including tractor proficiency, sales and marketing, and health and safety. The winner will be decided at an awards dinner on Friday night, where they will speak to an audience from throughout the industry about growing in a climate of change. . . 

Stuart Varney is proud to be a farmer the Fox business star sees a Chinese trade deal coming soon – Betsy Freese:

Stuart Varney has a top-rated market program on television, but he is happiest when he is working on his 1,100-acre tree farm in upstate New York. The host of Varney & Co., weekdays 9 a.m. to noon EDT on FOX Business, is in the midst of his first timber harvest this spring. Born and raised in the U.K., Varney, 70, helped Ted Turner launch CNN in 1980. He became an American citizen in 2015. I caught up with Varney to talk about agriculture, trade deals, and the media.

SF: Tell me about your farm.

SV: It’s lovely rolling hills and forests, a delightful piece of land. It reminds me of my native England. I bought it 18 years ago because I wanted a big piece of land within a reasonable drive of my home in New Jersey. In England, the idea of owning 1,000 acres, or even 100 acres, is out of the question unless you are a billionaire. But in America, you can do it. We found this property for a reasonable price. It was my piece of America. I fell in love with it. The idea of creating a tree farm came later. I didn’t know anything about logging and didn’t buy it for that purpose, but we hired a forester and he created a plan. Our first harvest is this year. We will harvest 1,088 trees. . . 


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