Rural round-up

April 25, 2015

Industry-Leading Orchardists Win Supreme in 2015 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards


Matamata horticulturists Frans and Tineke de Jong, their son Talbert de Jong and his partner Emily Meese are Supreme winners of the 2015 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

At a special BFEA ceremony on April 23, the de Jong’s family-run business, Southern Belle Orchard, also collected the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, the Massey University Innovation Award, the WaterForce Integrated Management Award and the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award. . .

Disappearance of bees a mystery:

Bee scientists have been left baffled by the disappearance of thousands of honey bees from hives last spring, and say unless it happens again, it remains a mystery as to what caused it.

Plant and Food research bee scientist Mark Goodwin said last October a number of bee keepers from around the country began reporting strange symptoms occurring in their hives.

He said bees usually rebuilt their colonies in spring after winter, however, large numbers of bees were disappearing from hives in the Coromandel, Raglan and Wairarapa areas.

“So instead of having a queen and a lot of brood – that’s larvae and pupa – and about 30 or 40,000 bees, when the bee keeper came back a few weeks later … suddenly there were no bees there at all, there was a queen and about a hand full of bees and everybody else had gone. And we saw that in whole apiaries and between apiaries and then we were getting reports from beekeepers elsewhere in the North Island that were noticing very similar things.” . .

What Mondayising means on-farm – John Brosnan:

You’ve probably seen this advertised.

You might remember the law was changed in 2013 to allow Anzac day and Waitangi day to be moved to a Monday if they fall on a weekend.

This year’s Anzac day will be the first affected – but what does Mondayising really mean for you as a rural employer?

In reality for most farm staff – not much.

Why? Well here’s what the law states re this …

DairyNZ sessions help farmers assess cash flow – Sally Rae:

Another round of farmer events is under way nationally to give dairy farmers a ”wake-up call” to assess their cash-flow situation, given the low milk price forecasts.

DairyNZ, which is behind the Tactics for Tight Times campaign, has analysed what it is like for the average farmer in every dairying region and it is ”not looking pretty”, chief executive Tim Mackle says.

While 2015-16 would probably still end up being a break-even year for most farmers, he said cash flow would be a major issue that could result in some increased term debt in the sector and less spending in the regions. . .

New Zealand’s Best Eggs awarded last night:

Three of New Zealand’s most well known companies: Fonterra, Deloitte and The Warehouse were last night crowned “Good Business Eggs” in recognition of their work in the community sector. Whilst these companies might be better known for the scale of their business activities, they also demonstrate significant commitments to their various community initiatives.

The event hosted by CQ Hotels Wellington, one of last years winners was packed with business and community leaders anxious to see who had won the annual award. . .

Fonterra management appointments:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced changes to the roles and responsibilities of two members of the Fonterra Management Team.

Jacqueline Chow, who is currently Managing Director Global Brands and Nutrition, is stepping into the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer Velocity, effective 1 June 2015 – where she will work alongside the management team to accelerate performance across the Co-operative.

Chief Executive Theo Spierings today said: “In her new role, Jacqueline will lead the next stage in Fonterra’s evolution, working across the entire Co-operative to push forward the Velocity part of our V3 strategy and deliver the best possible performance.” . .

Hooroo to Oz Made brand? – Andrew Miller and Laura Griffin:

ADOPTION of the ‘True Aussie’ brand for all agricultural produce would be “a little perplexing”, says Australian Made campaign marketing manager Ben Lazzaro.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) plan to build standards for MLA’s True Aussie brand – developed last year for red meat – which can then be applied to all Australian agricultural products in domestic and global markets.

While the existing government-backed Australian Made label covers a broad range of products including electronics, furniture and clothing as well as food, True Aussie would be “all about agriculture”, an NFF spokeswoman said. . .

 

 

 


Rural round-up

April 21, 2015

Sturgess.”I’ll help” – Neal Wallace:

Tom Sturgess, one of New Zealand’s richest men and largest farmers, is willing to be involved in making the red meat industry more profitable.

A career that includes running several diverse multi-billion-dollar companies including United States meat packing houses has given Sturgess some clear thoughts and ideas on how to revitalise the meat industry, even though some of those solutions could be considered unconventional.

Sturgess volunteered his help in an FWplus interview, saying he would happily be involved to find ways to improve sector profitability if he was wanted. . .

Shear warmth: former hairdresser’s dream become reality :From being a city hairdresser in New Plymouth making small talk with clients to living in the remote central North Island where the closest neighbour is eight kilometres down a winding, gravel road, Monique Neeson has been through a few changes.

You can also add to that the launch of a company selling woollen blankets that are, as she describes them, born, grown, woven and handmade in New Zealand.

Neeson laughs at her transformation.

“I can remember the first time I came to this farm, winding down the road for absolutely ages, and I told Tim, [now her husband], I’d never negotiate the road again.” . .

Don’t fight system farmers told – Alan Williams:

Farming within water quality limits is now a reality that all farmers will need to adapt to, Canterbury farmers have been told.

The process of setting quality limits and the farming changes required to meet them would be challenging and take time for everyone to get there, Environment Canterbury (ECAN) commissioner David Bedford told the Future of the Heartland farm forum at Conway Flats in North Canterbury today.

Some nutrient management tools had limitations and were still being developed and ECAN compliance activities would take that into account, he said in a speech on behalf of head commissioner Dame Margaret Bazley. . .

Farmers’ bank balances under severe pressure:

Industry body DairyNZ says bank balances for most dairy farmers will be heading south this winter and spring, producing some short-term but significant cashflow management challenges for farmers.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says 2015-16 will still probably end up being a breakeven year for most farmers but cashflow will be a major issue that could result in some increased term debt in the sector and less spending in the regions.

“Farmers are used to having seasonal cashflow that drops into the red but then pops back into the black at some stage during the summer period. However, our current forecasts indicate that many farmers won’t be in credit for the entire 12 months of next season unless costs are reduced, income is higher than predicted or some of their overdraft is put into their term debt.” . . .

24 ways to to survive next drought – Nadene Hall:

Ask a group of farmers with over 500 years’ experience between them how to manage a property before, during and after a drought, and you get a lot of practical tips and wisdom. AgResearch asked 20 South Canterbury farmers about their strategies for successfully managing their properties after a drought.

All the farmers had experienced severe droughts over the previous 20-30 years of farming. What worked best on an individual property depended on things like its climate and soil type, and what was being farmed, but the scientists concluded these are the key areas to look at: . .

Search on for cotton workers – Andrew Marshall:

AUSTRALIA’S rural skills shortage is not just a problem troubling individual farms or regional machinery businesses – the cotton industry fears the profitability of the entire cropping sector is eroding.

The combined impact of new farm technology growth and a shortage of rural recruits with skills ranging from information technology and accounting, to engineering and agronomy, is stressing broadacre agriculture’s efficiency and productivity.

Corporate farms and big agribusinesses are frequently resorting to ‘cherry picking’ the talent they need from other players or other sectors of the industry, even if it means taking agronomists and turning them into bankers.  . .


Rural round-up

April 16, 2015

Call for Cantabs to think about future of water:

Canterbury would have much to gain from improving its water management practices but needs more information on how land use affects the water supply, Waterways Centre director Jenny Webster-Brown said during a recent talk at Lincoln University.

Almost three-quarters of New Zealand’s total water allocation comes from Canterbury, and current land and water use practices mean the future of the region’s water quality is far from certain, Dr Webster-Brown said.

“The region’s water management challenges have arisen for a unique combination of reasons. The main causes include a reliance on untreated groundwater for drinking, intense agriculture production and the fact that most of the population live in the lower catchments.”

Dr Webster-Brown said while a lot of water is used in irrigation on the plains, urban Christchurch residents go through around 400 litres of water each per day; one of the highest rates of city use in New Zealand or Australia. . .

 Student in take welcome:

A significant lift in numbers of students studying agriculture is overdue and ”great news” for the sector, Beef and Lamb New Zealand chief executive Dr Scott Champion says.

This year, Massey University recorded its biggest intake into agricultural qualifications for at least 25 years.

At Lincoln University, the Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Diploma in Agriculture programmes both attracted 20% more enrolments than last year. Enrolments doubled for the new Bachelor of Agribusiness and Food Marketing and the Master of Science in Food Innovation programmes.  . .

Local government funding reform good news – Dr William Rolleston:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this evening. Federated Farmers has for many years been a strong proponent for reform of local government funding. We particularly support reduced reliance on the system of property rates, which in our view is inequitable from both the redistribution of wealth and the beneficiary pays perspectives.

Overall, rates revenue amounts to around 58 to 60 percent of the local government sector’s total operating revenue.

The difficulty with this system is that it seeks revenue for public goods from only those who own property in the community.  Thus the burden falls disproportionately on those who have relatively high value properties without necessarily the ability to pay. Compare for example rates paid by a super-annuitant living in their own home with a business such as the Warehouse in a provincial centre paying less in rates than an average farm. In fact rates constitute one of the top five expenses in many farming enterprises. . .

Nutrients Are Pesticides: The Dose Makes The Poison – The Foodie Farmer:

Most people find it odd that I am a Registered Dietitian who is licensed as a commercial pesticide applicator. I actually find it quite advantageous because what I studied in my nutrition degrees both undergrad and grad school, applies across multiple biological systems, not just human systems, but soil and plant systems too. Because I have a solid understanding of the science of nutrition, I therefore have a solid understanding of the science of pesticides. Many of the nutrients I studied as an RD, have applications as pesticides.

Paracelsus was correct when he coined the term “The dose makes the poison“. 

First, lets start with some definitions: . . .

 

Mr and Mrs Flowers – Thekitchensgarden:

Yesterday, after milking the cow and feeding the goats and the cows and the big pigs and the little pigs and the chickens of all descriptions, John and I loaded two dog crates into The Matriarchs jeep and went to the Bantam Swap. Do you remember last years Bantam Swap we brought home Godot and Carlos Garcia and the year before we brought home BooBoo and the year before that it was The Duke of Kupa. 

Well this year was just as successful. . .

Fruit and vegetable market ripe with growth opportunities goes up for sale:

A well-known fruit and vegetable market in Napier’s ‘Golden Mile’ – known as the centre of lifestyle, horticulture and market gardens – has been placed on the market for sale.

McKelvie’s Country Market is a long-established, family owned produce business operating from 284 Meeanee Road in Napier. The area is locally known as the ‘Golden Mile’ for its fertile soil resulting in the high quality fruit and vegetables produced and sold. . .

 


Rural round-up

April 14, 2015

That is indeed a beautiful sound – Gravedodger:

Since around 0645 we have had the sound of rain on the roof,  steady and after two hours, around 13mm.

Here in Akaroa we were not as desperate as many pockets  around North Canterbury, a friend from Cheviot next door to where we spent three years in the mid 60s, is saying it is so parched there is not even any green in gully floors where there is normally some hope of a lunch for a rabbit.

Another comment in Farmers Weekly said their bit of unirrigated country has moved from brown to white. . .

Uneven rules costly – Neal Wallace:

Steps to control agricultural nutrient discharge could add 10c a litre to the cost of producing milk and impose wide-ranging restrictions on land management.

But there is little uniformity in regional council rules.

Most of the county’s 16 regional authorities are still to complete their regional plans but early indications are that each council has its own approach.

Rabobank sustainable farm systems manager Blake Holgate has been following the development and release of environmental regulations and said even neighbouring regional councils such as Otago and Southland have differing rules, creating uncertainty for owners of multiple properties and unknown costs. . .

Heartland Forum shaping up as South Island farming event of the year:

A speakers’ lineup of the who’s who in the primary sector makes this month’s ‘The Future of Heartland Forum’ near Cheviot in North Canterbury, a must attend.

A farmer discussion in Cheviot late last year about the spread of Chilean Needlegrass has since grown into staging a premier forum on the future of agriculture industries in New Zealand.

The event will be held at Te Mania Angus Stud, Conway Flat, Friday, April 17.

Other than Government speakers, the lineup includes; Dame Margaret Bazley from Environment Canterbury, Winton Dalley the Hurunui Mayor, Peter Townsend the Chief Executive of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, Craige and Roz Mackenzie and Sam and Mark Zino, award winning farmers, Nicole Masters of the New Zealand Biological Farmers Association and Dr William Rolleston the National President of Federated Farmers New Zealand. . .

 Robotic milking can revive kids’ interest:

Robotic milking is coming of age in New Zealand and interest has surged in the last six months, DeLaval’s Grant Vickers says.

“I think it’s because a number of installations in New Zealand are working well,” he told Dairy News. “The perception of risk has probably lessened.”

The current inquiries, for robotics and barns, are from all sizes of farms and will result in installations in the North and South Island. 

Vickers spoke about robotic milking during a Dairy Women’s Network field trip to a 600-cow wintering barn as part of the organisation’s ‘Entering Tomorrow’s World’ conference. . .

What’s behind the longevity of Country Calendar? – Julian O’Brien:

Soon after I started producing Country Calendar, we had a minor crisis.

We thought we’d found a simple and elegant way to make new opening titles – but it quickly turned into a nightmare. 

We needed footage of people involved in typical rural activities, but to integrate the shots into our titles, they had to be shot against a neutral background – ideally a green-screen set up in a studio. 

Sheep in a studio? Achievable, but someone needs to be ready with a broom afterwards.

New Zealand’s top shearers in a studio? Impossible, if you want to keep the feel of a shearing competition – but we desperately wanted the shot.

As we pondered this, we had a crew shooting part of a story at the Taumarunui Shears – but there was no neutral background at the event to do a titles shot. . .

NZPork Annual Report 2014:

The NZPork Annual Report 2014, released today, reflects on the importance of the New Zealand consumer to the future of its business.

NZPork Chairman Ian Carter points out that it’s important to remember that our consumer is our neighbour and that we are touch with what consumers want and believe.

“We need to provoke interest in our product and our industry. We need to invoke confidence in our production standards and systems. And we need to evoke desire for our product,” said Ian Carter.

The report states the industry recognises that little is understood about pig farming in general amongst many New Zealanders, particularly the requirements of caring for its animals. In light of this, it is taking steps to be more transparent and advocate confidence to its consumers via its production systems and standards. . .

 Silage smells and what they mean – Ian Williams:

I grew up in town and one of my distinct memories of summer and autumn when we went to visit our farming friends was the smell of silage. 

As a kid, silage always seemed to stink and it is a smell which has been imprinted on my brain.

Now I work with the stuff. I even have a personalised number plate with the word SILAGE on it! Whenever I  introduce myself to people from town and they ask me what I do and I mention the word silage, they instantly screw up their noses and say something like “How can you work with that stuff, it stinks?” or they ask “Are you still married?” . .  .

How to install a ready-made food making business on your farm:

Making the transition from being a primary producer to processing and selling your own produce has become considerably cheaper, easier and less stressful thanks to an Anglo-French company that has created a new process that effectively builds a ‘barn inside a barn’.
Create-a-cabin has led a revolution in French farming by rapidly installing food-safe, highly flexible, and technically sophisticated food preparation rooms without the need for planning permission.
Across the Channel, Create-a-cabin’s custom-made, modular building shells have been erected quickly and cheaply for cheese-makers, poultry abattoirs, jam kitchens, meat packers, fish smokers and many more, allowing farmers to control at least one more link in the food production chain, as well as adding value to their product and thus  commanding a higher price. . .


Rural round-up

April 13, 2015

Shearing king David Fagan calls time – Libby Wilson:

Shearing king David Fagan had a fitting send-off to his competitive career last night, cheered on by a capacity hometown crowd in his final shear in Te Kuiti.

Having shorn 26,000 sheep in the course of his 640 open wins stretching back 37 years, the 16-time national champion put down the handpiece after contesting the Running of the Sheep in his Te Kuiti home.

His final contest came against his nephew James Fagan, whose father John beat David to second place in the 1984 Golden Shears. . .

Running of the sheep craws big crowd to Te Kuiti – Mike Mather:

A mob of hundreds of determined sheep made their way down Te Kuiti’s main street on Saturday, flanked by thousands of cheering humans.

The ovine athletes were the unwitting participants in the Running of the Sheep, an annual event that is part of the town’s Great New Zealand Muster, held to celebrate its claim of being the country’s sheep capital, and which also includes the New Zealand Shearing Championships.

Although a tad skitterish at the start of their run, the flock behaved in a very un-sheeplike manner, running straight and true down the centre of Rora St, through the centre of the town.

Waitomo District Council community development co-ordinator Donna Macdonald said she was very impressed with the behaviour of both the 342 four-legged runners and their two-legged audience. . .

Nitrate absorption trialled – Allison Beckham:

Scientists are trialling a filter system which they hope will provide dairy farmers with a simple and cost effective way of removing nitrates and phosphorus before they reach waterways.

A nitrate catcher was commissioned recently near Waituna Lagoon, southeast of Invercargill, and a phosphorus catcher will be built nearby soon. . . .

Blazed a trail in sales – Sally Rae:

Looking back, Katrina Allan wonders how she ever managed to juggle motherhood with work and tertiary study.

But, with a determination to finish her university studies before her son started his, Mrs Allan (44) did manage, finishing a year before he started, although she joked that she never wanted to see another textbook again.

Mrs Allan has the distinction of being the first female salesperson at Alliance Group, having worked for the company for 17 years. . .

Securing Glenfern Sanctuary’s future:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry has announced the Government will contribute towards a joint bid to buy Glenfern Sanctuary on Great Barrier Island for the nation.

The Nature Heritage Fund, which is allocated at the Minister’s discretion, will put a significant amount of funding towards a consortium including the Auckland Council and Great Barrier Local Board looking to purchase Glenfern.

The sanctuary, in Port Fitzroy in the north of the island, was founded by the late sailing champion Tony Bouzaid in 1992 and is now for sale. . .

We don’t know how lucky we are – Chris Lewis:

As New Zealand Dairy farmers we often take for granted the sophistication of our industry and the relative ease we have in producing food for the nation and the World. April will not be one of those months for me.

I received a phone call last month from a Tear Fund organiser about this woman who was coming over from Sri Lanka to talk about the benefits of a project that has been designed and supported by TEAR Fund and the New Zealand Government, with Kiwi expertise to improve milk quality.  She is Selina Prem Kumar and is the Director of the successful dairy project in Sri Lanka. Her story will shock and move you.

The Wanni Dairy Regeneration programme she heads, started during the protracted civil war in Sri Lanka, has brought together both Singhalese and Tamil small hold dairy farmers for the common purpose of raising their incomes and revitalizing the dairy industry which stalled during the conflict. . .

A hill lambing made simple:

Zan Kirk, from Low Kilbride, in Dumfries, has struck upon a novel way of making hill lambing that little easier if you are dealing with small numbers, perhaps on the scale that smallholders deal with.

‘There comes a time in everyone’s life when things need to be made easier, computers help in many ways, but not with lambing. So here is the fail-safe way to a simple, stress-free lambing – keep your pet lambs and lamb them!
We have been doing this for some time now and most of our flock started out life as pet lambs. This removes the inherent fear that most sheep have of humans and means that, as we are getting on and still lambing outside, if we need to catch a ewe, most respond to a ‘shoogle’ of cake. They can then be caught, popped into the transport box and taken up to the shed to be lambed in comfort, and with warm water.
On Sunday, my most pet ewe lamb from last year lambed, albeit not in the best place – right in the middle of the field! I wandered up, asked her if she needed some help and she just sat there pushing. I helped lamb her, saw the lamb was breathing fine, told her how clever she was, gave her an hour and brought her into the shed for her tea and toast. . .


Seizing blue green initiative

April 13, 2015

Environmental issues concern people across the political spectrum and solutions are not the preserve of the political left.

Environment Minister Nick Smith recognises the opportunity to seize the blue green initiative:

. . . There is more fresh thinking going on in National about how New Zealand can better manage its rich heritage of natural assets than any other party.

It was a telling comment during Election 2014 when the Greens co-leaders stated their preference for ministerial offices, with one wanting Social Development and the other Economic Development.

And there has been a vacuum in Labour thinking on environmental issues from Opposition. There was not a single major environmental plank from Labour in either of the 2011 and 2014 elections. The portfolio once attracted Labour heavyweights like Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Helen Clark in the 1980s, but their last Environment Minister Trevor Mallard was given the role as punishment for heavyweight behaviour of a different kind, with a bit of biffo with Tau Henare. There have been 10 spokespeople since.

With the Greens being distracted over leadership and identity, and Labour showing little interest in these issues, we have an opportunity to go after the Greens soft vote.

Our principles of marrying good economic and environmental policies; of underpinning our policies with good science; and of moving from a polarised conversation on environmental issues to a more collaborative approach – we can appeal to New Zealanders’ practical, down-to-earth brand of environmentalism.

Environmental protection and enhancement and economic development aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s not only possible to have both, economic growth is essential to fund environmental initiatives.

Principles are important but it is results that matter most. Let me highlight 10 achievements that we have been able to deliver on in Government.

The first is this new Aotea Conservation Park opened yesterday on Great Barrier Island and championed by local MP Nikki Kaye.  We are protecting 12,000 hectares and New Zealand’s largest possum- and stoat-free forest, and some of the best stands of Maggie’s beloved kauri trees. Our $2.5 million investment in the new Aotea track opens up new opportunities for eco-tourism on the island.

The second achievement I want to highlight is our progress on marine protection. We’ve created a record number and area of new marine reserves. We are also the first Government to formally protect surf breaks, of which we have gazetted 17.

We are the Government that created the Environmental Protection Authority and a proper system for managing environmental effects in New Zealand’s huge Exclusive Economic Zone. Prior to our administration, many activities including deep sea drilling were allowed without any environmental assessment.

We also should take pride in the progress we have made in insulating over 300,000 old, cold, damp homes. The benefit from this energy efficiency initiative is not just in savings in power bills and greenhouse gas emissions, but in warmer homes and healthier families.

Nor should we be at all defensive about our progress in climate change policy. This area is notoriously difficult politics as you see in Australia where it has tripped up three consecutive prime ministers.

We successfully landed and implemented our moderated ETS in July 2010. Its initial impact has been small, with the carbon price being so low, but it is now $6.40, and is a sound platform on which to step up our efforts on climate change.

We should celebrate the progress we have made towards meeting our renewables target of 90 per cent by 2025. This is particularly telling in that through the previous two decades, New Zealand went backwards. Our policy prescription of time-constrained national consenting for major projects, genuine competition in electricity generation, and our policy of discouraging thermal generation with the ETS is working well.

Bluegreens have been at the forefront of our agenda to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management. When we came to Government, there was not even a requirement for those like irrigators extracting water from our lakes, rivers and aquifers to even meter what they took. We changed that with national regulations in 2009 in the spirit of you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Talk of a National Policy Statement (NPS) on freshwater started in 1995 but it had gone nowhere. The Land and Water Forum helped us deliver the first NPS on freshwater in 2010 and the limit setting and minimum standards in 2014.

And we have put our money where our mouth is. We’ve committed over $350 million to clean-up initiatives, a fivefold increase on predecessors and in much more constrained financial times. We are getting real results in lakes like Rotoiti, Taupō and Waituna. Over 20,000 kilometres of rivers have been fenced.

We have also been making good progress on air pollution with the air we breathe today being the cleanest on record.

In 2009, we introduced tighter environmental standards on new and second-hand imported vehicles and toughened them again in 2012.

Fuel standards have been improved, reducing the sulphur content from 150 parts per million in 2008 first to 50ppm, and then to 10ppm.

We have also funded 40,000 conversions to cleaner home heating. These air quality improvements are saving over 100 premature deaths per year, and are more significant than more highly reported reductions in the road toll or homicide.

One of our most challenging environmental issues is the loss of so many of our native species, and particularly our birds. There was a time when the principal threat was hunting and loss of habitat, but the threat today is the stoats, rats and possums that kill 25 million of our native birds each year.

Our ninth significant achievement is Battle for our Birds, the largest pest control initiative totalling over one million hectares last year.

The tenth achievement I want to note is the New Zealand Cycle Trails. I confess that this initiative, unlike the others, did not have its genesis at a Bluegreens Forum, but came from the Prime Minister and his 2009 Job Summit. Members like Jacqui and Scott will attest to the success of these Cycle Trails in rural communities.

I list these 10 significant achievements to remind ourselves how far we’ve come, but also to inspire our work programme going forward.

The public banks political achievements and then wants more and the government has more:

The next significant initiative is the passage of the Environmental Reporting Bill, and the publishing in July of Environment Aotearoa.

New Zealand is the only OECD country to not have a statutory framework for environmental reporting. It is an anomaly out of step with our clean green brand. This new Act will rightly put our environmental management under scrutiny and improve the integrity of brand New Zealand.

We should not underestimate the power of open reporting systems to improve performance. This new Act is the environment equivalent of Ruth Richardson’s Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1993. Prior to these financial reporting requirements, New Zealand had one of the worst records of public finance management, but in the 20 years since we have moved to one of the best. It is also consistent with this Government’s National Standards policy in education, requiring the open reporting on student achievement.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act has led to better public financial management and far greater transparency. A statutory framework for environmental management should have similarly positive results.

The environment information is to be framed around five six-monthly reports covering air, atmosphere and climate, freshwater, land and marine domains, and a comprehensive State of the Environment report summarising all five domains, produced at three-yearly intervals. The reports are to be produced jointly by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment, with the three-yearly report audited by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

This initiative is also part of our plan to strengthen New Zealand’s environmental institutions. The model we have been developing, not indifferent to the role of Treasury, the Reserve Bank and the Auditor-General, is a strong policy-focused Ministry, an independent regulator with the EPA we established in 2010, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment as the system auditor.

The second big reform we want to advance in this term of Parliament involves Maggie, Nathan and I in a substantive reform of New Zealand’s system of marine protection, of which we had an entrée with this morning’s panel discussion.

We should be proud of National’s heritage, being the first country in the world to legislate for no-take marine reserves in 1971, but the Act is now outdated.

It does not provide for marine protection in the huge Exclusive Economic Zone. The process for establishing reserves is cumbersome and divisive. Nor is there adequate recognition of Māori interests.

The most exciting part of the reform is providing for a range of different types of Marine Protected Areas, as has become best international practice. Our new Act will enable us to declare, as now, areas to be fully protected as marine reserves, but will also allow recreational-only fishing parks, species-specific sanctuaries, as well as seabed reserves.

This work is the logical next step to our new EEZ laws, and parallels the evolution of our regulatory system on land.

The EEZ law is about setting the rules of economic development, the ocean equivalent of our RMA. The new Marine Protected Areas law is the equivalent of our National Park and Reserves Act.

Our ambition with our fisheries quota management system, our new EEZ law and this new Marine Protected Areas law is for New Zealand to be a world leader in the responsible use and conservation of the ocean environment. The next step in this work will be releasing a discussion document.

Bluegreens recognise that the RMA is New Zealand’s most important environmental law, covering the management of water, air, biodiversity, land use, noise and the coast, as well as all the complexities of urban development, covering subdivision, building height and shading restrictions, and the provision of the transport, communication and water infrastructure to make our cities function.

In our first phase of reforms, we set up the EPA and a system for national consenting that is working well. We put together rules on councils to process consents on time that has seen late consents plummet from 15,000 per year to under 1000 per year. We passed specific law to prevent the misuse of the RMA for restricting trade competition. The more difficult issues over urban development, infrastructure and Sections 6 and 7 were put off to specialist technical advisory groups.

Pulling this advice together into a Bill that we can secure a majority in Parliament has always been challenging and even more so since the Northland By-Election but I am still confident we will be able to progress substantive change. To that end we are continuing discussions with our confidence and supply partners consistent with the direction of reform I outlined in my speech at the beginning of the year.

It is not my intention to recite those 10 priorities for National, but I do want to reemphasise the direction of travel.

The first key change is improving the plan-making process. The current Schedule 1 process is cumbersome, costly and is not serving New Zealand’s environment or economy well. It takes an average of seven years to produce a plan change, when a sector like housing can go from boom to bust in just three years.

We keep having to pass special legislation to get around these problems. We had to do it to get some limits on water takes in Canterbury, to get a new unitary plan for the consolidated Auckland councils, to get a plan for Christchurch’s rebuild and through the Special Housing Areas to get some progress on Auckland’s housing shortage.

I am a strong enthusiast for the collaborative process recommended by the Land and Water Forum for water plans, but am also keen to enable use of this sort of approach to a wider range of resource management issues.

The second key directional change is stronger national direction and standardisation. Very few National Policy Statements or National Environmental Standards have been advanced over the 25-year history of the Act. We’ve done more in the last five years, than in the last 20, and have more in the pipeline.

We are currently consulting on a new National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities. It has been attacked by the Greens as undermining the environment and community consultation, but we are not going to progress a world-class communication network with each of our 67 councils having different rules on what sort of wi-fi panel, street cabinet, antennae or microwave communications tower is allowed.

We will also finalise a National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry this year.

Our phase two reforms will strengthen national standards and policy statements, and require councils to use standard planning templates so they get to decide where different rules apply, but the rules are standardised nationally.

Another key element of our reforms is how we balance between the rights of a person to reasonably use their property, and the wider community and environmental interests.

I have no difficulties with rules that limit intensification of land use where it results in pollution of public waterways or saying to a landowner you can’t remove a hundreds-year-old kauri tree. But how far should it go? I have constituents being denied consents for a home because the living areas face the sun rather than the street on the basis that there is a public good in them keeping an eye on the safety of the neighbourhood. I have another where the fence is deemed unacceptable because the gap between the pallings is too small. We do need to put some limits on how much we micro-regulate people’s lives.

We are a party that believes it is Government’s role to protect the environment but we also believe this should be limited and done in such a way that we don’t unduly interfere in people’s lives. We need new provisions that waive the need for resource consents where the environmental effects are negligible.

The issue of how we improve the way we deal with natural hazards, urban planning, housing affordability and infrastructure are key subjects in our discussions with our support parties.

The most straightforward should be increasing the status of significant natural hazards.

We will be doing a disservice to the people of Christchurch if we do not heed the lessons of the RMA policy failures of allowing new subdivisions in areas like Bexley, where the liquefaction risk was known and identified but ignored.

Kiwis value their environment, but they are practical people who recognise that we live in one of the most geologically active countries in the world with risks from earthquakes, floods, volcanic activity and landslides, and that our systems need to better manage these risks.

The most difficult issue to resolve is how we address the challenging problems around growth of our urban communities and housing affordability

The Special Housing Areas mechanism is working successfully by bypassing the normal RMA process. This law expires in September 2016 and we need to find a way in this package of reforms to maintain this momentum. Auckland’s housing supply issues go back over a decade, and will take many more years to resolve.

The underlying issue is that the RMA is not well-designed for dealing with urban issues. Most countries have a separate planning Act to resolve these. When we passed the RMA in 1991, we assumed other countries would follow suit and put their planning and environmental laws into one. It hasn’t happened, for the reason that it is not a comfortable fit. Dr Phil McDermott, a former Professor of Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University, has recently written a paper on the case for new thinking in this area, suggesting separate resource and urban planning law. It is not an issue we should consider in this second phase of our RMA reforms, but is something Bluegreens need to think about in the longer term.

I want to conclude with comments on water reform.

Last week we reinvigorated the Land and Water Forum to advance the next stage of work in improving how we manage freshwater.

The most important goal will be in supporting the implementation of the National Policy Statement at regional and catchment level.

We have two further policy commitments on freshwater to deliver on this term.

The first is in developing a $100 million fund to support the retirement of buffer zones around sensitive lakes and rivers.

The second is on delivering a requirement for all dairy cattle to be excluded from waterways by 1 July 2017. The devil is always in the detail of such policies. We want to work with the Forum in ensuring this is done in a way that is both practical and effective. . .

Practical and effective – that is a good foundation for good policy.


Europe’s getting greener

April 8, 2015

Hat tip: Utopia who thinks that there must have been a mass kidnapping of environmental activists or otherwise they’d be dancing in the streets to celebrate the greening of Europe under capitalism and freedom.


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