Rural round-up

April 19, 2018

Zespri says Gold3 licensing tender to generated as much as $195M in 2018 – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – Zespri Group said corporate revenue from the 2018 allocation of the Gold3 license release will be $190 million to $195 million, or around $253,000-to-$260,000 per hectare, a figure that is up on the prior year.

The range is the combined revenue estimate resulting from 700 hectares of Gold3 licence, and 50 hectares of Gold3 Organic new development licence, both released under a closed tender bid mechanism, New Zealand’s statutory kiwifruit exporter said in a release. The validation process for all bids is still ongoing and all bidders will be notified of their outcome from May 1. . . .

Water quality results show pleasing improvements:

Federated Farmers says all the hard work being done to improve our freshwater quality is starting to pay off.

The release of the National River Water Quality Trends by Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) show that many more sites are improving than deteriorating for all the river water quality parameters monitored over a 10 year period.

“There are lots of good things going on, both urban and rural, to help improve the quality of our waterways,” Federated Farmers water and environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“It is very good news. To see that the effort being made is starting to show results.” . . 

Bigger role for water companies in farm strategy:

Irrigation companies have a bigger role to play in helping farmers make strategic decisions on land use, future innovation strategist Roger Dennis says.

Dennis is a key-note speaker at Agri Innovation in Ashburton on 2 May, held jointly by MHV Water, Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation and Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation.

He says many organisations influence farmers, but none is more agnostic about how farmers use their land than the company that delivers their water. . . 

Irrigation body confident of big projects despite govt cuts

Irrigation New Zealand is confident that an end to government subsidies will not spell the end of large-scale irrigation projects.

The lobby group is holding its biennial conference this week and looking at the future of the sector now that the tap has been turned off on the $450 million worth of loans the previous government promised.

Under National, irrigation was seen as one of the key ways of driving economic growth, resulting in it setting up Crown Irrigation Investments, a company willing and able to dole out millions in loans to fledgling irrigation schemes.

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said in the end it only granted a small portion of money with the most significant contributions still to come. . .

Broken food systems – developing a citizen-centric NZ food strategy – Nadine Porter:

The global devaluation of food in developed countries due to physical, digital and biological advances has been the catalyst for destruction of both social, cultural and economic systems and New Zealand, in the absence of an ethical humanity centred ‘whole food system’ risks the same deterioration and consequences, other first world nations are attempting to reverse.

Lack of understanding around the role of food as a connector in every facet of our lives not only diminishes the importance of food production – it further industrialises and negates the responsibilities of the process, which in turn reshapes the‘economic social, cultural and human context in which welive’.(1)

At a time when discourse and a disconnect between those on the land and those in built up areas is at unparalleled levels, questions and negative scrutiny has and will continue to be levelled at the New Zealand farming fraternity – the scapegoats and the legacy of citizens who have been progressively severed from their local food systems. . . 

Govt risking rural communities’ mental health:

The Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will begin shutting its doors due to a lack of support from the Government and may not be able to provide vital mental health services into the future, National Party spokesperson for Mental Health Matt Doocey and National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King say.

“It has been confirmed that RHAANZ will begin shutting its doors because they don’t have critical infrastructure to hold Government contacts, including the rural mental health initiative,after the Government failed to commit funding to ensure the alliance could continue,” Mr Doocey says. . . 

Government again targets regional New Zealand:

National stands behind New Zealand’s international commitments to reducing emissions but has cautioned against drastic action which will unfairly impact New Zealand farmers and businesses, spokesperson for Climate Change Todd Muller says.

“The Government has today established an Interim Climate Change Committee that will work on New Zealand’s efforts to meet our international climate change commitments – and right away set it the task of targeting regional New Zealand.

“New Zealand’s international commitments were made by the previous National Government because we believe New Zealand can and should play its part – but that we must do so in a sustainable way. . . 

Wintering practices important for farm economics and environment – Bala Tikkisetty:

The weather already this year has been a mixed bag of wet and dry. The winter season is now around the corner and who knows what that will bring!

Soil health damage during winter has been recognised as a significant issue for the farming community. It coincides with high stock densities and high soil moisture conditions.

It’s general practice during winter to graze stock intensively on winter forage crops supplying large quantities of feed in a relatively small area. . . 

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That was then . . .

April 18, 2018

Remember how hard Labour and the Green Party campaigned against the then-National Government’s appointing commissioners to Environment Canterbury?

That was then, this is now:

National Party spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration has welcomed the decision by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to follow the previous National Governments’ approach to keep the current Environment Canterbury (ECan) board.

“Nanaia Mahuta is making a sensible decision to keep the current ECan Board and returning to a full democracy at the 2019 local body election, as the previous National Government had planned,” Ms Wagner says.

“Labour made plenty of noise about the lack of full democracy in Canterbury whilst in Opposition. Both present Ministers Eugenie Sage and Megan Woods led an aggressive campaign to have full elections immediately.

“Yet again, now that Labour is in Government it has abandoned its policy and is continuing with the plan started by National.

“Our long-term approach whilst in Government was designed to improve the standards at ECan. In 2009, the previous Government appointed commissioners to ECan following repeated poor performance by the council in achieving their regulatory requirements.

“Thanks to the hard work of the commissioners and the strong, sensible leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley and David Bedford, Canterbury now has one of the best performing regional councils in New Zealand.

“This has always been about making good decisions for Canterbury. The commissioners were put in to complete the water management plan for Canterbury which had languished under the leadership of the previous council.

“Nanaia Mahuta’s decision shows that the long-term plan started in 2009 has been effective. Half of the members on ECan were elected in 2016 and the plan had long been for the full council to be elected in 2019.”

ECan wasn’t working with elected councillors.

Commissioners have improved performance. Half the board are now elected members and as National planned, all members will be elected at the next local body elections next year.


Farmers want Molesworth to stay as farm

April 18, 2018

Farmers want the country’s biggest farm Molesworth Station to stay as a farm.

. . .The Department of Conservation started an online survey on the future of Molesworth Station, between Marlborough and Canterbury, in January to gauge public appetite for a radical rethink of the farm.

The survey follows up a 2013 management plan for the 180,000-hectare Molesworth, about the size of Stewart Island, which looked to move the station away from its traditional farming focus to include more recreation and conservation activities.

But Molesworth neighbour Steve Satterthwaite, of Muller Station, said getting rid of farming could create “major ramifications” for the environment.

“As far as Molesworth is concerned, I believe it should continue to be farmed and there’s plenty of reasons as to why,” he said.

Without farming, there could be pest problems and weed issues, as well as a huge fire risk, Satterthwaite said.

Weeds, pests and fires don’t observe farm boundaries.

Any weed and pest management and fire prevention measures farmers do can be nullified if their neighbours aren’t doing their best too.

It was concerning the public could weigh in on the future of the Molesworth and potentially “sway” what happened with the station, he said.

“It really concerns me that unaffected people that have no knowledge of the utilisation of Molesworth and the risk associated with not farming it can potentially have the input to sway the politicians or the decision-makers because of their numerical numbers,” he said.

“We are in the east of dry land zones, and if the fuel was allowed to be completely uncontrolled and public have unlimited access, the risk of a major fire in that environment would be one that would need to be considered seriously.” . . 

Middlehurst Station farmer Susan Macdonald said she would like to see farming at the station continue, with the possibility of providing a little more public access.

She said it was “important” for farming at the station to continue for pest and weed reasons.

“I would like to see it continue to be farmed in harmony with the environment and in harmony with people.

“There’s a lot of land there and I think it’s got a huge value in terms of agriculture.” . . 

J Bush & Sons Honey co-owner Murray Bush said the “status quo” needed to continue into the future.

“I think there is a good balance between public access and farming but not having farming would actually make the property go backwards, I believe, and then it wouldn’t have that same appeal to the public,” he said.

Bush said allowing public access to the station year-round could create a safety risk.

“If you open the road 52 weeks of the year and let people just do what they want … if it was never closed and it was open, there’s no communication up there so unless there’s millions and millions and millions of dollars going to be spent on public access safety … it’s not an environment to be taken lightly,” he said.

“Unless you’re going to employ people on the ground 52 weeks of the year just to look after the tourists, it’s a real issue and I think people underestimate that environment.” . . .

The neighbours’ concerns about changing the balance between farming and access are valid.

The road through Molesworth is closed in winter and can be closed in summer if the fire risk rises.

That is necessary for public safety and to protect the environment.

Molesworth is farmed by Landcorp which makes a very small return on capital but income from the farm offsets the costs of weed and pest control, and grazing reduces the fire danger.

The station generates an income, looks after the environment and allows some public access.

If the area farmed is reduced the income will drop, even if DoC lets commercial concessions for access,  and costs will increase.

Molesworth is the country’s biggest farm and it should continue to be farmed.


More rivers improving than degrading

April 17, 2018

New Zealand river quality is improving:

National River Water Quality Trends released by Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) today, reveal that for all river water quality parameters monitored over a 10 year period, more sites were improving than deteriorating. This encouraging national picture has been welcomed by scientists and local government who pointed to freshwater ecosystem management practices as likely contributing to the progress.

Trends analysis was led by Cawthron Institute Freshwater Group Manager and Ecologist, Dr Roger Young. He described the overall picture as encouraging and said, “Looking back from 2016 at a decade of data, for every monitored parameter, more sites showed evidence of improving water quality, than degrading.

“My hope is this could represent a turning point in New Zealand’s river health story.

“While this analysis gives us cause for optimism, water quality is just one indicator of river health and there is still more work to be done. While all parameters show there are more sites improving than degrading, there are still degrading sites for all parameters. In order to continue further improvements, we need to invest in freshwater ecosystem management, routine monitoring, and further research and innovation,” said Dr Young.

The National River Water Quality Trends (2007 – 2016) released by LAWA follows a similar 10 year analysis released in 2015 by National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Compared with the 2015 report, a change in the trend of nitrogen is particularly noteworthy, with significant progress in the number of improving sites compared with the number that are deteriorating. . . 

This report shows an encouraging trend.

However, it might not persuade the government enough is being done:

The Government is planning a more centralised regulatory approach to fresh water management and Environment Minister David Parker warns farmers he is not afraid to make unpopular decisions.

Parker indicated the shift in approach in an address to a Catchments Otago symposium on water and biodiversity issues, hosted by Otago University. 

He said he will get off the back of rural New Zealand when he sees water quality is no longer deteriorating.

“If we can’t get a collaborative outcome from stakeholders, someone has to make a decision and I’m prepared to be that person.”

The LAWA report shows that rural water quality is improving.

That has been achieved by on-farm improvements with the encouragement and education by regional councils, and industry bodies including Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and dairy companies.

The country’s recent economic growth had been at the expense of the environment, especially through the expansion and intensification of dairy and Parker was unequivocal that will no longer be the case.

Behavioural change will come only through education, regulation and price and Parker said regulation to improve compliance, monitoring and enforcement is the most important instrument.

Price? Does this forebode a new tax in the Budget?

That will be driven through changes to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater.

The document established national standards to be applied locally for emissions such as nutrient and sediment discharges, land intensification and deadlines for improvement.

Parker said he is also seeking scientific advice on appropriate nutrient and sediment loadings, the impact of beef feedlots, intensive winter grazing and cattle in waterways.

He told the 70 delegates his priority is to stop further degradation and said agriculture will have a generation to reverse damage to waterways but he expects to see some material improvement within five years.

Waterways didn’t degrade overnight. It will take time to completely reverse the degradation but the LAWA report shows improvements are happening.

Land use and land management decisions are the most common cause of water quality degradation and it has been exacerbated by agricultural intensification and what he called poor land practice by some.

The speed with which dairying expanded caught local and central government by surprise as the sector sought to produce dairy products for Asia but now exceeds carrying capacity in some areas.

Parker believed possible solutions are to shift to high value horticulture and cropping.

It is the government’s role to set standards, not to dictate how they will be achieved. Horticulture and cropping can degrade water too.

Farmers have a vested interest in ensuring waterways on and near their farms are clean.

That’s the water we drink and swim in.

Any action taken by government to further improve water quality must be based on facts.

It should acknowledge that waterways in irrigated areas is cleaner than those without irrigation and that water quality in urban areas is often much worse than that in the country.

 


It’s only one poll

April 16, 2018

Labour’s honeymoon is over for now.

National is back in front of Labour but the three parties in the coalition are still comfortably ahead of National and Act.


What’s green & what’s greenwash?

April 16, 2018

How do we know what’s green and what’s greenwash?

The green mantra is reduce, reuse and recycle.

It ought to be safe to claim reducing our use of limited resources and our impact on the environment is green.

Reusing and recycling aren’t so clear-cut.

Reusing some things can be better for the environment than chucking them in the rubbish – providing whatever needs to be done to make them reusable has a lower environmental footprint than dumping.

But that isn’t always the case.

Take reusable shopping bags and the so-called single use plastic ones for example.

 It’s counterintuitive, but  are far more energy efficient than any of the other options. Paper’s out – it causes seven times more global warming than a plastic bag reused as a bin liner. A cotton bag would have to be used 327 times to break even with plastic, and trendy “organic” cloth bags are hopelessly inefficient.

 

You also have to take into account what people use in place of the single-use plastic bags.

. . .The supermarket chains can’t believe their luck. The overseas experience suggests they’re about to receive a massive boost in the sale of bin liners, which they essentially gave away for free all these years, and come out of the whole thing looking like heroes, despite potentially making global warming worse. . . 

However, it’s not that simple. An environmental footprint takes into account more than the energy and emissions used to produce and dispose of it.

What happens to the bags when they’re no long wanted also has an impact as the number of plastic bags littering land and sea show.

If you dispose of plastic bags properly you’re probably treading more gently on the environment than using reusable ones. But does that counteract the damage done by people who don’t dispose of them carefully so they pollute oceans and endanger sea life?

Then we come to recycling.

If the whole pathway of recycling which includes transport to and from processing as well as the processing itself is taken into account then it isn’t always as green as it’s painted and might have a higher environmental cost than dumping in an environmentally safe landfill.

 

Energy use in transport as well as the potential for air and water pollution from processing can more than counter the benefit of less rubbish being sent to landfills.

Supermarkets are full of products claiming to be eco-friendly but it’s very difficult for consumers to know whether their claims are empty, if they do have a lesser impact on the environment or if they do more harm than alternatives which don’t make any claims.

It is much easier to see the greenwash in the government’s ban on off-shore oil exploration. As Taranaki MP Jonathan Young says:

. . . The Government may think they have attacked the problem, but unfortunately, they have attacked the solution.

As National’s Energy and Resources spokesperson I would support a transfer of knowledge, skills and investment into the greening of the petroleum industry rather than ending it.

Apart from 50 per cent of all oil produced being for environmentally benign purposes, we should continue to pursue the goal of utilising hydrocarbons as feedstock for ultra-low or zero emission fuels. 

Research is already underway for this, such as methanol, and hydrogen. There is a tremendous amount of research taking place on improving engine and fuel efficiency. The petroleum sector has some of the smartest people in the country when it comes to understanding carbon and molecules. Utilising their knowledge and skills here and collaborating with other industry-based research is the smart thing to do.

The Ardern-Peters Government has made a significant misstep in their approach. New Zealand has 10 years of known gas supply lefts. We haven’t had a gas discovery for eight years. With existing exploration hoping to make a discovery, it has a 10-15% chance of success.

When a discovery is made, it will take a further ten years of development before gas is available for market. Just do the math, without considering any chilling effect on investment the Government’s decision has created, we should get ready for a gasless future. 

With every fifth day of our electricity generated from fossil fuels, mostly gas – we have a problem. When electricity demand increases because of the growth of electric vehicles in New Zealand, we have a compounded problem. Wind and solar energy might contribute, but both are intermittent. This will require overbuild and capacity charging, leading to higher electricity prices. With gas possibly gone, and any shortfall in renewables, we’re left with coal to keep our lights on. Emissions will likely rise rather than fall. 

In a contest between energy security and the environment, the need to keep lights on will win.

Considering New Zealand’s contribution to world Green House Gas emissions is 0.17% of the total, our energy emissions (including electricity generation and transport) is 40 per cent of that 0.17 per cent. 

If the petroleum industry was to completely disappear tomorrow, then our emissions profile will remain unchanged as we import crude for all our liquid fuels. What we sell overseas will be sold by someone else, as supply exceeds demand. No change here both domestically or globally.

If we were able to replace half of our liquid fuel fleet with zero emission electric vehicles, we’d be down to 0.136 per cent of the world’s emissions. The sobering truth is our reductions will get swallowed up by the massive increase of emissions in a growing and developing Asia. So, while we work hard to do our essential bit, world emissions increase for some time yet.

We ought to be realistic about being “world leaders” as James Shaw wants. Norway are world leaders, but they do that through giving all electric vehicles free electricity for life, free parking and exemption from any congestion taxes, arguably afforded through their wealth derived from oil production. 

World emissions are set to increase for a while yet, which is why I think we must take a global and rational approach. We should find more gas and export it to Asia. We should encourage the industry rather than close it down. It’s counter-intuitive, but it works!

Gas replacing coal is one of the key reasons why energy emissions stalled in their growth in 2014, 2015 and 2016 according to the International Energy Agency. . . 

The ban on future exploration will have no affect on demand for fossil fuels here or anywhere else.

It will almost certainly add to our emissions and to the cost of fuel not just for private cars which the eco-warriors hate but for heat, light and industry, including food production.

There’s nothing green about the exploration ban. It’s quite clearly greenwash.

 


Dan Bidois for Northcote

April 15, 2018

The National Party has selected Dan Bidois as its candidate to contest the Northcote by-election.

Mr Bidois is currently Strategy Manager for Foodstuffs. He was raised and educated in Auckland, leaving school at 15 to complete a butchery apprenticeship with Woolworth’s New Zealand.

Aspirational for his future, he went on to study at the University of Auckland, and attended Harvard University on a Fulbright Scholarship. He has worked as a strategist and economist in New Zealand, the United States, and Malaysia. . . 

Qualifications and experience in both a trade and profession are a good combination for a potential MP.


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