Rural round-up

August 20, 2017

Taxing our water:

Figures released yesterday by Irrigation New Zealand included bad news for Otago when it comes to funding being taken in irrigation tax for “Clean Rivers”.

The figures show Otago will pay the second-highest amount of irrigation tax of $7.8 million when it has 8% of rivers said to be poor for swimming and just 3% of irrigated land.

Canterbury, as could be expected, will pay the most at $41 million. The region has 4% of rivers declared poor for swimming but 11% of irrigated land.

Labour has declared it will implement a royalty on the commercial consumption of water to assist with the cost of keeping New Zealand’s water clean. The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water and its use. Royalty levels will be set following consultation and the revenue will largely be returned to regional councils. . .

Award recognises work with SIL – Sally Rae:

Invermay scientist Dr Sheryl-Anne Newman has received national recognition for her work with Sheep Improvement Ltd.
Dr Newman received the Sir Arthur Ward Award, presented by the New Zealand Society of Animal Production.

It recognised the successful application of research or experience to an aspect of animal production in New Zealand.

She is only the second woman to receive the award. Dr Julie Everett-Hincks, also from Otago, received it last year for work she had done to improve lamb survival. . .

Growing virtual plants could help farmers boost their crops – Leslie Nemo:

What if farmers could grow sugarcane in a matter of seconds, not days or weeks? Scientists are doing just that. Of course, these crops are not sprouting from soil. Instead they flourish on a computer screen.

Digital plants like these are part of a new movement in agricultural science called “in silico,” where researchers design highly accurate, computer-simulated crops to help speed up selective breeding, in which plants are chosen and replanted to amplify their desirable traits. Scientists believe the future of farming is not just in fields, but in graphics, too. . .

Dispatch from New Zealand no. 4 lessons for the UK – Jonathan Baker:

New Zealand was easily the most challenging and energising place I’ve visited so far. Having thought about it, I think this is because many of the debates are similar, until they’re not. Meaning the cultural and geographic similarities create a sense of familiarity which means the inevitable differences really jarr. I certaintly spent more time gazing into the middle distance here than anywhere else I’ve visited. There is much more I could say about New Zealand but I’m currently in Korea and the detailed synthesis of my thoughts in NZ will have to wait.

In the meantime, here is a non-exhaustive and slightly long set of lessons for the UK:

  1.  Environmental regulation is inevitable
  2. Be nimble
  3. No subsidy, no problems
  4. Look to solve conflict, with collaboration and consensus
  5. Prepare for political ping-pong
  6. The need for new, improved industry – Government collaboration
  7. Using subsidies to compensate for policy change, can allow for more radical policy change
  8. There is trouble in (farming) paradise. . .

Kokako birdsong rings out in Kauri Coast forests:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says there’s been a more than thousand percent increase in the number of kokako in Kauri Coast forests since 1990 due to the continued use of 1080 and trapping.

“An aerial 1080 drop in 1990 is credited with saving the kokako from local extinction and its continued use along with trapping has seen the population grow from a low of 5 pair in 1990 to 60 pair today, as well as 29 single kokako,” Ms Barry says. . . .

Continued Softening in Rural Real Estate Market:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of NZ (“REINZ”) shows there were 76 fewer farm sales (-16.2%) for the three months ended July 2017 than for the three months ended July 2016. Overall, there were 392 farm sales in the three months ended July 2017, compared to 459 farm sales for the three months ended June 2017 (-14.6%), and 468 farm sales for the three months ended July 2016. 1,739 farms were sold in the year to July 2017, 1.5% fewer than were sold in the year to July 2016, with 44% more finishing farms, 28% more dairy farms and 21% fewer grazing and 22% fewer arable farms sold over the same period. . . 

Farmer candidates sought for DairyNZ elections:

Candidate nominations opened this week for farmer-elected roles on the DairyNZ board and Directors Remuneration Committee.

This year two farmer positions on the Board of Directors are available, along with one position on the DairyNZ Directors Remuneration Committee. . .

Kiwis assured all Fresh avocados eaten in New Zealand are grown here:

 “All fresh avocados eaten in New Zealand are grown here,” says New Zealand Avocado CEO Jen Scoular, mitigating concerns that we import the fruit from Mexico. Criticism of Mexican growing practices was raised by an article published this week by the New Zealand Herald in the Lifestyle Section article headlined “Why you should stop eating avocados.”*

Scoular says the article has caused confusion and New Zealand Avocado had fielded some concerned calls from the public for clarification about the origins of the fruit in New Zealand. . .


Hort NZ also threatened on water tax

August 19, 2017

Labour isn’t listening to reason on water tax, and it’s not just Mid Canterbury farmers it’s threatening with a higher tax:

Farmers in Ashburton are not the only group that has been threatened by Labour over its water tax, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“I was not surprised when I saw the Twitter feed from @dairymanNZ about a meeting in Ashburton last night where David Parker told them he was not there to negotiate and not to push him. At a meeting with Labour on Tuesday this week, myself and HortNZ’s president and deputy chief executive were told that the tax could a much higher number. That was equated to the cost to farmers for the Ruataniwha dam in Hawke’s Bay which is not a fair comparison as any charges for that project cover infrastructure and operating costs to deliver certainty of water in a drought-prone region over generations.

One minute Labour says they haven’t got a figure, then they say its 2 cents per 1000 litres then Parker threatens it could be higher.

There’s no need to worry about facts when they’re basing the policy on emotion but a little bit of consistency would be helpful.

“We had asked for a meeting to discuss the water tax and explain the impact it would have, not only on our fruit and vegetable growers, but on the wider New Zealand community who want to eat healthy food. The reality is, the tax will be passed on consumers and healthy food will cost more. How much more depends on the rate of the tax.

“It is unfair to impose a tax on rural New Zealanders for water when there is no such tax for urban New Zealanders. Having the amount of that tax unknown is also unfair. At the higher numbers it will have vast and negative consequences far beyond revenue gathering to clean up waterways.

“That solution lies in looking at the outputs from both city and rural waste.

“The tax confuses water users with water polluters. It implies that people on municipal water supply already pay for water, when in fact nobody pays for water. The costs they are talking about relate to the infrastructure required to source water and remove it as waste.

They also seem to think that fairies deliver water to farms for free when irrigators pay the costs of infrastructure the same way those taking urban water do.

We pay $800 per hectare per year for irrigation water.

“There is no recognition of the facts – it takes water to grow healthy food, water is a renewable resource, and many of our growers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on both infrastructure to source water and in riparian planting and technology to protect waterways and improve water quality in streams and rivers.

“It is wrong to say this tax will not affect the price of fruit and vegetables, I have had growers ringing me constantly since this tax announcement, telling me how it will add to their production costs, which are passed on to consumers.

Another tax would be an additional cost on production at least some of which will inevitably be passed on to consumers in higher prices for food.

“At our meeting with Labour they would not accept the inequity or impact of this tax and said the policy would be completed within 100 days of them coming to power, all that it would take is discipline. They remain committed to it being a tax on water users outside municipal supply only, even though large urban areas are responsible for some of the worst water pollution.

“For us, this is about policy, not politics, and we want a fair hearing in the making of any such policy. We are trying to understand what Labour wants to achieve. For horticulture, having a reliable water supply is essential to supplying high quality, healthy food,” Chapman says.

Resorting to threats at this early stage doesn’t give any reassurance about being listened to later in spite of Labour promising to do that.


Rural round-up

August 19, 2017

Mayor protests against water tax – Pam Jones:

Central Otago’s economy could lose $6 million a year through Labour’s proposed water tax, a strongly-worded letter from Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says.

Mr Cadogan, who wrote to Ms Ardern yesterday, said Labour’s water tax announcement had been greeted with “fear and dismay” in Central Otago and would be “grossly unfair” on the region.

His letter comes at the same time as a group of Maniototo women are separately preparing a campaign against the water tax. . .

More on water – The Veteran:

Labour, Winston First and the Greens are all committed, to a greater or lessor degree, to imposing a tax on something they don’t own and, in doing so, are opening the doors to Maoridom to demand a slice of the action that they don’t own either.

This policy made on the hoof and with no-one prepared to put a number on it has the potential to severely undermine our agricultural and horticulture industry (and that’s just for starters).

OK, this isn’t an issue for Labour as in their lexicon farmers are all ‘rich pricks’ and they know they are about as welcome in rural New Zealand as a pork chop in a Synagogue. . .

Rebuild slows flock decline – Alan Williams:

The decline in the national sheep flock has slowed markedly over the last year with rebuilding after drought and indicating some return in confidence.

Total sheep numbers were estimated to be 27.34 million on June 30, a 0.9% fall from the 27.58m a year earlier but that figure was a 5% fall on 2015.

Though ewe numbers were lower than a year earlier this year’s lamb crop should be higher, according to Beef + Lamb NZ, largely because more ewe hoggets were mated and the ongoing productivity gains in the flock. . .

TPP agreement will give New Zealand a competitive edge:

A long awaited Trans Pacific Partnership(TPP) agreement can’t come quick enough with approval for a mandate to negotiate good news says Federated Farmers.

The Government announced it will be pushing for minimal changes from the original TPP agreement with a TPP 11 proposal due to go before trade officials from 11 countries at November’s APEC Conference in Vietnam. . .

Bay of Plenty woman wins Young Grower of the Year:

The future of our $5.6 billion horticultural industry is in excellent hands as shown by the talent of this year’s Young Grower of the Year: Erin Atkinson of Te Puke.

Erin Atkinson, 30, technical advisor for Apata Group in Te Puke, was named Young Grower at an awards event in Christchurch tonight after a long day pitting her skills, knowledge and experience against four other finalists. She is the first woman to win the title, which is in its 11th year. . .

Talley’s skipjack tuna gets tick of sustainability:

New Zealand¹s main skipjack tuna purse seine fishery has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as being sustainably managed.

The certification covers the Talley’s Group Limited (Talley’s) fleet of two large purse seiners, is valid for five years, and allows skipjack to be sold under MSC’s ‘blue tick’ of sustainability. . .

NZ wool market improves at weekly auction – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand wool prices and sale clearance rates lifted at the latest weekly auction.

Some 83 percent of the 8,251 wool bales offered at yesterday’s South Island auction were sold, and prices lifted for all styles of wool on offer with the coarse crossbred wool indicator up 9 cents to $2.82 a kilogram, AgriHQ said. . . 

Significant changes to provisional tax already in effect for farmers:

With the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) unveiling the new provisional tax rules that took effect at the start of this financial year, farmers should be satisfied with sensible adjustments to the rules according to Tony Marshall, Tax Specialist for Crowe Horwath.

The new regime means that if you pay provisional tax using the standard uplift method, which uses the previous year’s liability with five percent uplift, you will no longer suffer high interest if your tax predictions are incorrect. . . 


Labour counters facts with threats

August 19, 2017

Labour hasn’t got the facts to back up its water tax policy so is resorting to threats:

That quote is from David Parker, Labour’s Environment spokesman.

A royalty for using a public resource?

Will it be sunshine and air next?

They are also just as much public resources as water and are also necessary ingredients for growing food.

 


Rural round-up

August 18, 2017

Why will the least swimmable rivers receive less funding for clean up?:

Labour – Let’s answer this – why will regions with the least swimmable rivers receive less funding to clean them up?

IrrigationNZ is continuing to challenge the logic of Labour’s water tax proposal, after finding that regions with more swimmable rivers will receive more funding from the water tax, while those with the least swimmable rivers will receive less funding to clean up rivers.

“We pointed out to Labour in our meeting with them yesterday that region’s with more irrigated land actually have more swimmable rivers, while areas with lower proportions of irrigated land have more rivers graded poor for swimming,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive. “The data doesn’t support the idea that irrigation is a main cause of river pollution.” . . 

MPI wins farmers’ praise for cow disease response – Gerard Hutching:

Federated Farmers have given government officials grappling with the cow disease Mycoplasma bovis a pat on the back for their efforts in dealing with the issue.

Biosecurity spokesman Guy Wigley said farmers who met in Waimate last week to hear the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) latest update were impressed by the scope of what was being done.

“They are getting a huge number of tests done over the next month – 33,000. Farmers were impressed with the professionalism of the staff.” . .

Murray Grey cattle first choice for King Country breeder :

Bringing a cold young lamb inside on a cold spring mornings is a good excuse for a cold young farmer to take a break too.

It has been a wet season on Mike Phillips’ Honikiwi farm about 15 mins northwest of Otorohanga.

“The past month has been really busy and the weather’s not playing ball at all this week. I’ve come in to heat up a lamb so it’s a welcome chance for me to dry out too. I’m feeding about 30 orphan lambs at the moment so we’re in a bit of a routine.”

It’s a far cry from the day he named his murray grey cattle stud – Paradise Valley Murray Greys. . . 

McClay – Government approves TPP11 mandate

The Government has approved a negotiating mandate for Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 (TPP11), which will ensure New Zealand businesses remain competitive in overseas markets.

Trade Minister Todd McClay says New Zealand will be pushing for the minimal number of changes possible to the original TPP agreement, something that the remaining TPP11 countries have agreed on.

“TPP11 ministers have committed to moving forward with the agreement as quickly as possible,” Mr McClay says. . . .

Commitment to TPP11 applauded:

New Zealand’s mandate to negotiate for the new Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP11) is good news, says ExportNZ.

New Zealand has taken a prominent role in moving the agreement towards completion following the US decision to withdraw from TPP negotiations this year.

ExportNZ Executive Director Catherine Beard says it is positive that all 11 members of the TPP group have agreed to stick closely to the terms of the original TPP agreement and are moving at pace towards concluding the agreement. . .

Dairy industry body joins GIA biosecurity partnership:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) has become the fifteenth and largest industry sector to join the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) biosecurity partnership, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

DCANZ is the national organisation representing the dairy processor and exporters sector, comprised of 11 members responsible for 99% of the milk processed in New Zealand.

“It’s very pleasing to have DCANZ working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and other industry partners on biosecurity,” says Mr Guy.

“The dairy industry is a crucial part of New Zealand’s economy, making up over a third of all New Zealand total exports. It is vital we work together to prepare and respond to biosecurity threats. . .

Silver Fern Farms Announce Winners of the Inaugural Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships:

Silver Fern Farms has awarded six Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships to an exciting group of young people from around New Zealand who are developing their careers in the red meat, food and farming industries.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Dean Hamilton says the talent emerging from the scholarship applications indicates a bright future for the broader red meat sector. . . .


Rural round-up

August 17, 2017

Labour’s knee-jerk ‘clean our rivers’ call needs details so it doesn’t look like a rural-to-urban wealth transfer in the sheep’s clothing of a freshwater policy; On the principles of royalties; And why aren’t we talking nitrates? – Alex Tarrant:

Labour’s water policy announcement had some of the desired effect. “Labour promises to make commercial water bottlers pay,” one major news outlet headlined.

Some coverage even got excited that Labour would get unemployed youth to plant trees and build fences around waterways to ‘help’ the farmers out.

I’ll get that out of the way first, because as Jordan Luck once said, it’s been bugging me: If you can get someone to the skill level required to build stock fences on rural terrain then you’re more than halfway to training up a fully-fledged farmer. That’s no bad thing, given an ageing farming workforce and shortage of labour. . . 

Alarming lack of detail in Labour’s water charge – Andrew Curtis:

Labour’s announcement of a tax water will hit not just the dairy industry but is bad news for all New Zealanders. Labour won’t be drawn on how much the tax would cost. Apparently it may vary by region based on the scarcity and quality of water. And no assessment has been made of how it would affect the average Kiwi.

However, if there’s one thing you can be certain of, it is that like all taxes, it is not actually a tax on the supplier of goods, because like all taxes it will be passed on to the consumer. In the same way that businesses factor in the costs of paying company tax and GST on goods they use, we will all end up paying.

There is an alarming lack of detail around what has been announced. It can hardly be called a policy, or a plan, because all we have to go on is a one page press release. Calls to the Labour Party headquarters asking for more details were fruitless. . .

‘Let’s answer this’ – questions mounting as New Zealanders demand answers on water tax:

‘Let’s Answer This’, a campaign to get key questions on Labour’s proposed water tax answered is gathering momentum – while the fundamentals remain unclear.

The questions were sent to Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern on Friday 11th August by non profit membership organisation Irrigation New Zealand asking for a confirmed response in writing.

The organisation was prompted to act after a one page statement issued by Jacinda Ardern announcing the water tax provided very little detail on what the tax would involve. Key questions that have not been addressed include the impact of the tax on ordinary New Zealanders, what it will cost, who it will apply to and how it might be implemented. . .

Five-star treatment for NZ venison – Lynda Gray:

Venison processor Mountain River is slowly but surely growing Chinese appetites for Kiwi venison through five-star Western hotels restaurants.

At face value the strategy seems illogical but it made perfect sense given most of the diners were Chinese.

“If you’re a high-end Western restaurant and not targeting Chinese diners you won’t survive,” Hunter McGregor, a Shanghai-based importer and exporter said. . .

Dairy processors compete for milk – Sally Rae:

More cautious investment over the next five years is likely as New Zealand dairy processors struggle to fill existing and planned capacity, Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins says.

While capital expenditure in new processing assets stepped up between 2013 and 2015, capacity construction had run ahead of recent milk supply growth and appeared to factor in stronger growth than Rabobank expected.

In a new industry report, Ms Higgins said milk supply had stumbled over the past couple of production seasons and, while the 2017-18 season was likely to bring a spike in production of 2%-3%, the bank expected growth to slow to or below 2% for the following four years. . . 

NZ innovation makes mastitis treatment easier:

· Penethaject formulation a world first

· Locally developed in New Zealand

· Effective treatment of mastitis in dairy cows

A new ready to use antibiotic formulation for treating mastitis that took seven years to develop, register and launch is now available for New Zealand dairy farmers.

Penethaject™ RTU (ready to use) has a unique formulation that requires no pre-mixing. It’s the first time such a formulation has been developed anywhere in the world.

Bayer dairy veterinarian Dr Ray Castle says Penethaject RTU will make it easier for farmers to effectively treat clinical mastitis, a condition affecting 10% – 20% of New Zealand’s 5 million dairy cows every year. . . 

To fit into Silicon Valley wear these shoes – Nellie Bowles:

 Silicon Valley goes through its own unique shoe crazes. There were Vibrams. There were Crocs.

Now comes the Allbird, a knit wool loafer. In uncomfortable times, Silicon Valley has turned to a comfortable shoe. If there’s a venture capitalist nearby, there’s probably a pair of Allbirds, too.

The Google co-founder Larry Page wears Allbirds, according to the shoemaker, as do the former Twitter chief Dick Costolo and the venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Mary Meeker.

Founded by a New Zealand soccer star and a clean-technology entrepreneur, Allbirds makes the sneakerlike shoes from wool and castor bean oil. . .

 


Irrigated areas most swimmable

August 17, 2017

IrrigationNZ has shot another hole in Labour’s water tax policy:

IrrigationNZ is further challenging Labour’s plan to tax water used for irrigation to fund the clean-up of rivers after an analysis of the latest Ministry for the Environment data on water quality showed rivers in areas with irrigation are more swimmable than elsewhere.

The analysis undertaken by IrrigationNZ has compared irrigated area with river quality data for swimming by region. Graphics and maps can be found here. . . 

“By far the region with the least swimmable water was Auckland where 62% of rivers were graded as poor. Auckland was also the only region to have no rivers graded as good or excellent for swimming. The rivers with the worst quality were located within or close to the city’s urban area,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.

“Labour was clear that money from this tax would not be used to fund urban waterway improvements so will the tax actually result in improvements where they are most needed?”

Over 80% of New Zealand’s irrigated land is located in Canterbury, Otago, Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. However, only 4% of Canterbury rivers and 8% of Otago rivers have poor river quality for swimming.

One of those is the Kakanui River where it’s seagulls, not irrigation or farming, which are responsible for the poor quality.

This drops to 1% for Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. In fact all New Zealand regions with high levels of irrigation had fewer rivers graded poor for swimming than the New Zealand average. For example, Marlborough has New Zealand’s third highest proportion of irrigated land, yet has very clean rivers – with 90% of rivers graded as excellent or good for swimming.

By contrast, the country’s least suitable rivers for swimming are located in areas with the least irrigated land. After Auckland, Northland and Waikato had the highest percentage of rivers graded poor for swimming. In both regions less than 1% of their land area is irrigated.

Will tax result in improved rivers?

“Labour has clarified that the irrigation tax would be spent within the same region it is collected from. We would question whether the tax would raise enough money in areas with poor river swimmability to make the improvements promised,” Mr Curtis says.

“For example if $64 million was raised nationally from the tax, Canterbury would receive $41 million of this to spend in its region. However Northland would only receive $700,000 yet it has some of the least swimmable rivers in New Zealand, with 48% of rivers graded poor for swimmability, and only 4% of rivers classified as good or excellent.”

Poorer quality rivers not generally correlated with irrigation

IrrigationNZ also looked at data from the Ministry for the Environment on a range of other key measures of river health including clarity, nitrogen and phosphorus concentration and macroinvertebrate scores and compared these to irrigated land by region.

“When you look at the data it shows that poorer quality rivers are not generally correlated with high irrigation areas. There are a number of locations throughout the country such as Auckland, Waikato and Southland which have low amounts of irrigated land but poor river health. The exception to this would be nitrate levels in Canterbury which are high, but they are also high in a number of other locations with low irrigation,” Mr Curtis says.

“We acknowledge that irrigated land use is one factor which can impact on river health and irrigators are working hard to reduce the impact of their activities meeting strict new requirements such as nutrient discharge limits, irrigation efficiency, riparian protection – through the implementation of audited Farm Environment Plans.

Farmers are doing this themselves with their own funds. They neither need nor want money taken as tax, filtered through central and local government to have what’s left given back to them.

Worse, this tax would take money from farmers who have already done everything necessary to protect waterways and give it to those who have not.

If any farmers aren’t doing what they should be doing, it’s up to regional councils to make sure they do, at their own cost. That doesn’t need a new tax.

However, overall the data simply doesn’t support the idea that irrigation is the sole driver behind poor river quality,” he adds. “This is a misperception that has been heavily promoted to the New Zealand public that is simply not true.” . . .

That’s the sad reality. Anti-irrigation, anti-farming and anti-dairying propaganda has led to the belief that irrigation is the only cause of degraded waterways.

It’s not and it can help improve water quality and ecosystems by maintaining flows during dry weather.

The Ministry for the Environment Our Fresh Water 2017 report has more information on water quality.


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