Where are you now?

May 30, 2020

Mountain Scene editor Tracey Roxburgh asks a very good question: Dear Minister, where the hell have you been?

Dear Kelvin,

I know you’re busy and all, but I just had one quick question for you.

Where, exactly, have you been?

Or, perhaps, more to the point, as Minister of Tourism, what – aside from tasking Tourism New Zealand to come up with a domestic marketing campaign – have you been doing to support NZ’s tourism industry?

Here’s the thing.

Please forgive me for being blunt – it’s been a tough couple of months and, like many, I’m running low on sleep and patience – but you seem to have been dumbfoundingly quiet. . . 

The whole piece is worth reading, it finishes:

This, Kelvin, is your job.

There are thousands of people in our community who were doing theirs, extremely well, until two months ago.

Now they have no income and no idea when, or from where, they’ll get their next pay cheque.

Some of them will lose their homes, Kelvin.

And, with the utmost of respect, sir, you look like you’re asleep at the wheel of the tourism industry.

Todd Muller was right when he talked about the few heavy lifters and all the other empty chairs round the cabinet table.

The Tourism Minister’s is definitely one of those. You could add the Small Business one too.

It’s closely related to tourism and both Ministers should have been not just working with their sectors, they should have been seen to have been working with them.

Some 1,000 jobs are being lost a day, most of those from small businesses and many from tourism, and it will get worse.

The answer to what have you been doing? is not nearly enough.

Is that likely to change?

If the gaping gaps between promise and delivery on almost everything else this government promised, it won’t.


If this was Foot and Mouth

March 17, 2020

The impact of Covid-19 on tourist businesses is similar to the impact Foot and Mouth disease would have on farming.

If it was a Foot and Mouth outbreak all infected stock and would be culled; road blocks would be set up around the infected area; and all vehicles would be checked to ensure they weren’t transporting animals or raw meat.

I’m not suggesting culling people, but I am questioning whether the government’s response to Covid-19 has been strong enough, as it would if this was Foot and Mouth.

Requiring anyone arriving from overseas to self-isolate for 14 days is good in theory, but how  is it working in practice?

How can you stop a tourist from going to supermarkets or restaurants, visiting attractions, taking part in  activities?

How can you keep returning residents and citizens at home?

We can’t just rely on being geographically remote to protect us.

My daughter has cancer which makes her vulnerable and she has good reason to be scared.

Our health system is over-stretched already.

It won’t cope if the disease becomes wide-spread and we all have to play our part in making sure it doesn’t.

Morgan, a young woman with cancer has a message for those too healthy to worry about Covid-19:

Lucky you, but this isn’t about you. This is about me and the millions of other Americans with underlying health conditions that leave their immune systems compromised. This isn’t about whether or not a healthy person will quickly recover from a virus. This is about keeping the otherwise healthy people out of the hospitals so there is room for the sick. This is about our doctors having to avoid deciding whose life is more important and who deserves to be put on a ventilator and who doesn’t. This is about avoiding the spread of a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus to those who are most vulnerable. . .

We shouldn’t be aiming to flatten the curve, we should be aiming to stop the spread before it starts.

The response to this disease in people should be just as urgent and just as strict as if it was Foot and Mouth in stock.


Higher standard for cows than people

January 8, 2020

A lack of loos on DoC tramping tracks is a problem that needs urgent attention.

A public toilet should be added at the Ben Lomond Saddle or the area’s impressive tourist reputation risks being flushed away, MP Hamish Walker warns.

Mr Walker, the Clutha-Southland MP, said the Department of Conservation needed to act and install the much-needed toilet.

About 35,000 people walked to the summit annually and this number was growing each year.

“As the track’s popularity continues to increase this issue will get bigger,” he said.

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) southern convener Peter Wilson agreed with Mr Walker’s suggestion, but emphasised that the funding for the toilet should come from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and not from Doc’s own hard-pressed resources.

It’s a timely suggestion,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Walker said the matter “needs to be sorted now with the installation of a toilet to future-proof the track and protect the natural environment”.

The necessary infrastructure was not in place, and there was “a major environmental problem developing, with piles of human faeces and toilet paper spread across a large area, getting worse every year”, he said.

Landowners voluntarily offered access to members of the public, but the growing mess could jeopardise this access, he warned.

Mr Wilson, a former Dunedin resident who is immediate past FMC national president, said a toilet needed to be installed to prevent environmental damage at the 1326m saddle, near Queenstown. . .

Roys Peak has a  similar problem with human waste.

The property owner next to the Roys Peak Track in Wanaka has vowed to keep advocating for more toilets to be installed along the popular Department of Conservation day walk, despite the Minister for Conservation assuring him that inappropriate toileting behaviour was on her radar.

On November 25, John Levy wrote to minister Eugenie Sage asking for the “very important health issue” of only two toilets, one at the start and one at the summit on the 16km return, to be addressed.

In the past year Doc recorded 81,350 people had walked the track, an average of 222.8 people a day.

“If the Mt Roy track was a restaurant, cinema or any other business in Wanaka, the Queenstown Lakes District council would require 47 toilets, not just two,” Mr Levy said.

If anyone else tried setting up a business catering to the public with too few loos they would not get consent. If anyone else had an attraction which couldn’t cater for the number of visitors it would be required to restrict numbers or upgrade to cope with them. Why is DOC not held to the same standard?

On December 16 Mr Levy received a reply from Ms Sage, in which she acknowledged “inappropriate toileting is unacceptable and of concern” but it was a national issue for Doc and not restricted to the Roys Peak track, she said.

“Encouraging behaviour change of our visitors requires a multi-agency approach across New Zealand … there was a significant focus [last year] on promoting responsible visitor behaviour, which had a significant reach and impact,” she said.

Trying to change tourist behaviour was “asinine”, Mr Levy said.

“It is like saying we only have one toilet at the cinema or restaurant and everyone can just hold it until they get home.” . . 

Educating tourists on toileting while tramping is only a very small part of the solution. It is completely unrealistic to expect people to either hold on or carry a trowel and bury their waste on popular tracks like those up Ben Lomond Saddle and Roy’s Peak.

Last time we went up Roy’s Peak it took us 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to the top. We carried  along the ridge, up Mount Alpha then down to Spotts Creek, finishing in the Cardrona Valley where we’d left a car the night before.

This is the Skyline Track which the DOc website says takes 10 to 11 hours.

This challenging tramp begins with the track to Roys Peak (1578m). From the peak, follow the ridgeline towards Mt Alpha (1630m). A short narrow section of track around rocks before the climb to the highest point has a steep drop off on one side and requires care when crossing.

From Mt Alpha the track descends through snow tussock to a 4WD farm track before reaching a signed junction. A poled track from this junction drops down into Spotts Creek then out to the Cardrona Valley Road and car park. Though this description has the track starting with Roys Peak Track, the Skyline Track can be walked in either direction.*

We did the tramp in 7 1/2 hours, our son-in-law did it last week in a bit more than half that time.  But even that would be too much without at least one loo stop for most people, especially if it’s a hot day and you’re making sure you stay hydrated.

These are DoC tracks and it’s their responsibility to ensure that they’re not polluted with human effluent, in exactly the same way that farmers have a legal responsibility for dealing with effluent from dairy sheds – with very expensive consequences should they get it wrong.

As it stands, there’s one standard for tourists and another much higher one for stock and for the sake of both human and environmental health, that is simply not good enough.

* The Skyline Track can be walked in either direction but I’d advise starting at Roys Peak, even though it’s a steeper climb than going the other way.  There are some steep and scrabbly stretches between Roys Peak and Mount Alpha and it’s easier going up these than down. Once at the top of Alpha it’s a reasonably gentle descent into the valley which is much easier on joints and braking muscles than the steep one down from Roys Peak.


Light rail to Roys Peak?

December 30, 2019

The car park at the bottom of Roys Peak is overflowing – again:

As the resident population in Wanaka multiplies by a factor of three during the Christmas-New Year week, so does the number of cars and vans parked illegally outside the Roys Peak track car park along Mt Aspiring Rd.

Yesterday, the Department of Conservation 100-space vehicle park at the start of the one-day 16km return walk overflowed into the adjacent road verge for up to half a kilometre north.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when boat owners launch their boats into Lake Wanaka and many used the Glendhu Bay boat ramp.

At times, cars towing boats had to drive on the other side of the road to avoid the cars and vans parked illegally on the edge of Mt Aspiring Rd. . . 

The park was enlarged a couple of years ago but still isn’t big enough for holiday crowds. It won’t help that two other popular tramps – Rob Roy Glaciar and Rocky Point – are closed.

But don’t panic, the Minister of Conservation has a solution:

On a recent visit to Wanaka, Ms Sage said she was aware of the popularity of Roys Peak and the parking congestion issues and was considering introducing a charge for private vehicles in the car park as a way to increase the use of public transport to and from the hike.

Who would police the parking and how much would parking fees and fines have to be to cover the costs of the policing?

What public transport would that be and how would it be scheduled to cope with all the people who start and finish the tramp at all hours of the day and night?

There are taxis in Wanaka but using them would double the number of trips to and from the bottom of the hill.

The only buses go to and from Wanaka to other towns, nowhere near the track which is on a no-exit road that ends at Aspiring Station.

And surely even a Green MP wouldn’t be considering light rail from Wanaka to Roys Peak.

That leaves walking, biking, running or driving. Most people will consider going up and down the hill enough exercise and still opt for driving whether or not there are enough parks.


Whakaari / White Island tragedy

December 10, 2019

This picture tells only a very small part of the unfolding story on Whakaari / White Island.

 

From that distance, we can’t see the terror that must have struck, the efforts to rescue the visitors and the heroism of the rescuers.

The whole story of this eruption will add another tragic chapter to New Zealand’s history.


Time to target tourists?

June 17, 2019

Cataclysmic headlines tell us we’re facing a climate crisis.

Councils are declaring climate emergencies.

People are marching demanding action to reverse climate change.

But how many are actually doing anything that will make a real and sustainable difference?

In spite of what it’s trying to tell us our government isn’t.

Its carbon zero bill is largely political and bureaucratic posturing that ignores the science.

If it was really serious about doing something that made a real difference it would stop trying to reduce farm production here which will only increase emissions as other less efficient producers increased their production to fill the gap.

Instead it would target tourists, taxing travel for any but essential reasons.

Farming produces food which people need for survival.

The benefits from tourism are purely personal.

Tourist taxes high enough to compensate for the emissions from travel aren’t being imposed and haven’t been suggested as a serious solution.

Does this mean that the government hasn’t got the courage of its climate change convictions, has got another plan it has yet to tell us, or doesn’t really believe there’s a crisis?


Rural round-up

May 1, 2019

Gas tax won’t cut farming emissions – Neal Wallace:

A capital gains tax is off the agenda but farming leaders are warning the imposition a suite of new taxes and regulations is pending.

In addition to farmers paying a greenhouse gas emissions tax of $50 million a year the Government is expected to impose tougher regulations on freshwater quality, aerial cropping, winter grazing and feedlots.

“When you look at everything else coming down the pipeline, if I was asked to pick one we were prepared to lose it would be this one, the one we have won,” Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard said of the capital gains tax.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also ruled out water and fertiliser taxes as suggested by the Tax Working Group. . .

Top dairy title revealed tonight – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy farmer Emma Hammond, of East Limehills, felt honoured when she was nominated for this year’s prestigious Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.

The only South Island-based finalist, she and the other three women will hear if they are winners during a dinner this evening at the Allflex Dairy Women’s Network’s conference in Christchurch.

”For us to be recognised for what we do and get that acknowledgement is humbling,” Mrs Hammond said. . .

Farm management whizz ‘well on track‘ – Sally Rae:

At 19, James Matheson set a goal of having $1 million equity by the time he was 30.

Now 26, the Gore farm manager is ”well on track” to achieve that, sitting at between $700,000 and $800,000.

It has been a meteoric rise for a young man who had never previously considered a career in the dairy industry.

Now he and farm owner Chris Lawlor were endeavouring to help other young people follow a similar path through an innovative initiative. . . 

Highlife on top of the world – Andrew Stewart:

Setting up a tourism venture on a farm not only provides a second income but also acts as a public relations exercise to help bridge the rural-urban divide. And when it includes luxury glamping and breathtaking views the visitors cannot fail to be impressed. Andrew Stewart took a look.

In terms of spectacular views, Angus and Sarah Gilbertson’s farm is up there with the best. 

Rising to 600 metres above sea level at the highest point, the panorama on a clear day encompasses all the mountain peaks of the central plateau, Mount Taranaki to the west and the clear blue waters of the Tasman Sea far to the south. 

Between these stunning landmarks are great swathes of some of the most productive farming country in New Zealand that connect the landscape in various shades of green. It’s the sort of view you can’t help but stop and enjoy and this is part of the reason the Gilbertsons created their glamping business five years ago. . . 

The 10 biggest stories in farming over the past 25 years – Jamie Mackay:

My final chat on Newstalk ZB with the laconic Larry Williams was a great excuse to take a trip down memory lane.

Larry was stepping down after 27 years at the drive helm on ZB, while I was blowing out the candles on an accidental radio career spanning a quarter century in rural broadcasting.

For our penultimate ZB cross the week earlier I’d turned the tables on Larry and, without warning, asked him some unscripted questions. Much like his metronomic golf swing, he’s sometimes hard to get off script, but on this occasion he took up the challenge with good humour. . . 

Hunt on for ‘M.bovis’ study project manager – Sally Rae:

The search for an assistant research fellow to project manage a study on the impacts of Mycoplasma bovis on farmers and their communities has attracted a high level of interest.

In January, it was announced the University of Otago would undertake a study on the emotional, social and psychological impacts of the bacterial cattle disease on southern farmers and farming communities.

The two-year study, due to start this month, will look at the impact of the eradication programme on farmers specifically and the wider community more generally. . . 

Medicinal cannabis firm Pure Cann New Zealand gets $6 million investment– Rebecca Howard:

Pure Cann New Zealand, which counts former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe as its executive chair, has secured $6 million from Australia’s Cann Group for a 20 per cent stake in the local medicinal cannabis company.

The investment will be made over stages with the initial 10 per cent to be completed on or before August 30 and a further 10 per cent when New Zealand regulations come into force and Pure Cann’s board approves the construction of its commercial cultivation facility.

The New Zealand government anticipates introducing new regulations, licensing requirements and quality standards governing medicinal cannabis usage by the end of this calendar year. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 11, 2018

Climate change and rural confidence – Mike Chapman:

There has been a lot of talk in the media and in boardrooms about a drop in business confidence. This is also a hot topic in the rural sector, with some of the employment law changes causing concerns about the ongoing financial viability of businesses, and economic growth stalling. An additional concern for the rural sector is the impact of climate change adaptation on primary industry businesses.

Recent reports published on climate change include models that increase hectares planted in trees, and in fruit and vegetables. Some models have fruit and vegetables increasing from today’s 116,000 hectares used for growing, to 1 million hectares. That’s a big increase in growing area and for horticulture, it will most likely come from what is now dairy land. Forests are more likely to be planted on sheep and beef land. The challenge with models is that they make predictions, but turning that into reality may not be easy. . .

Waimea Dam investor that revived project remains a mystery – Erik Frykberg:

A mystery investment which helped get approval for the Waimea Dam project near Nelson is likely to remain anonymous for now.

The investment is for $11 million, and it helped Tasman District Council put the dam project back on course after it was blocked for financial reasons last week.

While little is being said about the investment, RNZ understands it comes in the form of convertible preference shares from an institutional investor, possibly a nominee company from in or around Richmond. . .

Waimea Dam decision good news for Tasman:

The decision by Tasman District Council to support a revised funding proposal to enable the Waimea community dam to proceed is good news for the district, says IrrigationNZ.

Without a dam, the council says that urban and rural water users will be facing significant water use cuts from this summer. This is due to a plan change introducing higher flow requirements on the Waimea River.

“The dam is the most cost effective way to provide a secure water supply for urban residents, business and irrigators while sharing the cost of this major project,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ Chief Executive. . .

Feeding and breeding are vital – Andrew Stewart:

A desire not to be anchored to machinery led Mike and Vicki Cottrell to try something new. They headed for the hills and have spent a quarter-century running sheep and cattle on medium to steep back country near Taihape. They told fellow Rangitikei farmer Andrew Stewartabout facing the on and off farm challenges of the farming life.

Venture southeast from Taihape and you come across the farming community of Omatane.

It is here that clean, green hills are punctuated with river chasms and rim rocks. In the distance Mt Ruapehu provides a stunning but sometimes chilly backdrop. Loosely translated from the Maori dictionary, Omatane means a fleeing man.  . .

New Zealand’s largest forestry acquisition goes ahead:

Australian sustainable forestry company, OneFortyOne Plantation’s (OFO) purchase of Nelson Forests completed this week, following approval by the Overseas Investment Office.

Nelson Forests, was owned by investment funds advised by Global Forest Partners LP (GFP), and is a vertically-integrated plantation and sawmill business in the Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions of New Zealand. Nelson Forests employs 101 people fulltime and its business activity is further supported by approximately 350 contractors. . .

World not yet falling apart – Allan Barber:

Much to a lot of people’s surprise, the global economy is resisting the dire predictions of many commentators, just as the New Zealand economy continues to perform much better than businesses are prepared to accept. But it is far from certain whether this just a question of timing or the genuine possibility the predictions are exaggerated. Speculation, based on suspicion and anecdote, appears to be an unreliable guide to what is actually happening, so, while planning for an uncertain future is essential, it would pay not to ignore present realities.

For the agricultural sector, certainties include sheep meat prices at around all time highs, a high milk price, a fairly mild winter following good growth earlier in the year, continuing demand from trading partners, no new tariffs imposed on New Zealand agricultural products, a bullish, if potentially volatile, global economy, a stable domestic economy and an exchange rate which has stabilised at up to 10% off its 2017 peak. All these factors suggest the world isn’t about to end any time soon. . .

Owen River Lodge first fishing lodge to win at NZ Tourism Awards:

Luxury fishing accommodation Owen River Lodge near Murchison is the first fishing lodge ever to scoop a gong at the New Zealand Tourism Awards.

The 2018 Westpac Business Excellence Award, open to New Zealand tourist operators with less than $6m annual turnover, was presented to owner Felix Borenstein at a black tie dinner in Christchurch last night. . .


Where’s the consistency?

September 4, 2018

Simon Bridges has facilitated the payment for the medivac of a New Zealand woman from Bali:

Kiwis have paid it forward by fronting $170,000 for the medical evacuation of Abby Hartley, who is in a coma in Bali.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told Newstalk ZB on Monday he was contacted by concerned New Zealanders last week who he knew “pretty well” who didn’t want anything out of it aside from helping the Hamilton family.

“They could see the money was the issue.

“They have underwritten what has happened and paid for the medevac.”

Bridges said he had facilitated the payment for the medevac with Abby’s husband Richard.

“The plane has been paid for, the medevac has been paid for. Now it’s just about when the medical right time for Abby to come back to New Zealand,” he told Newstalk ZB. . .

Hartley’s insurance company wouldn’t pay for their treatment and return to New Zealand.

The family approached the government for help but were turned down.

The government has to be very careful about bailing out people in this way.

It would be too easy to set a precedent that led people to expect public funding to extract them from predicaments.

But this government has repatriated bodies of dead servicemen and is paying millions in an attempt to retrieve dead bodies from Pike River and many more to bail out uninsured property owners in Christchurch.

Then there’s the cost of a special flight for the PM to go to Naru for a short time so she won’t be away from her baby who would have to have a whole lot of vaccinations if she accompanied her mother.

I am not going to join the critics of the Jacinda Ardern over this. Whether Foreign Minister Winston Peters could have stood in for her is a fair question. But if it was important for her to be there, the shorter the trip the better it is for Neve. If we have a PM with a baby there are going to be different compromises and extra costs.

But where is the consistency?

 


Calling 175,000 Richie McCaw fans

September 3, 2018

Kurow is calling on 175,000 fans of Richie McCaw to help fund a statue of their hero in the town:

The small Waitaki town of Kurow needs 175,000 Richie McCaw fans to help erect a bronze statue of the All Blacks great, right where he kicked off his legendary career.

It was hoped the life-sized statue of the most capped test rugby player of all time would bring economic growth and more visitors to the Waitaki Valley.

McCaw grew up in the Hakataramea Valley just across the Waitaki River from Kurow where he began playing rugby for the local club. . . 

Kurow-local Bob Watherston had a dream to erect the bronze statue of the world’s greatest rugby player.

The former chairman of the Statue Project Committee passed away in November last year, missing out on seeing his dream fulfilled. . . 

Along with the Waitaki Valley community, Watherston’s daughter Chrissy Watherston was picking up the slack and has created a Givealittle page, asking for the public’s help.

Watherston asked for 175,000 of McCaw’s fans to pitch in and donate $1 to help get the statue project over the line. . .

Will a statue of McCaw bring more people to the town?

One of Colin Meads attracts fans to Te Kuiti but it is on a main road between other places.

Kurow would require a detour for most travellers but even if the statue doesn’t bring people to the town it might stop those who are passing through.


Working groups breeding working groups

August 16, 2018

First the good news – the government is providing $8.5 million to better manage freedom camping.

 . . .Recycling collection facilities, infrastructure and operating costs in Grey District will receive a $850,000 funding boost.

Westland District Council has been allocated about $780,000 for new camping facilities and to cover operating costs, education and enforcement.

Tasman District Council is set to receive $660,000 from the fund to improve tourism infrastructure in the lead up to summer.

Queenstown Lakes, Buller, Mackenzie and Waitaki district councils will receive more than $500,000 in the lead up to the tourism season, with Mackenzie and Waitaki receiving a joint payment. . .

Visitor numbers are well in excess of ratepayers’ ability to fund infrastructure for tourists. This money will be thinly spread in areas with great and urgent need but it is a good start.

But then there’s the bad news.

The working group set up to review freedom camping wants five more reviews.

One of the Government’s infamous 140 working groups has, incredibly come back with a recommendation to have five more reviews, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis’s Responsible Camping Working Group has reported back not with a plan but with a recommendation the Government reviews the Freedom Camping Act, the compliance regime, the administration system, the camping-grounds regulations and the ‘responsible camping rules’.

“That’s right. Five more reviews leading us to the extraordinary situation where we have working groups calling for working groups.

These working groups are like mushrooms, breeding more of their kind in the dark.

In a damning indictment on its lack of work in Opposition this Government came to power with so few ideas it’s launched 140 working groups and inquiries costing $170-odd million, to tell it what to do.

“Now it turns out not even those working groups have any answers and decisions are being kicked further down the road, with Mr Davis saying his ‘cross-Government plan of action’ is still off somewhere in the never-never. We’re talking two years before any major legislative change will bring relief to most popular tourist destinations, and to the communities in those areas.

“Worryingly, Mr Davis also says even those recommendations the Responsible Camping Working Group did make won’t all be ready in time for this summer’s peak influx of tourists.

“That will be hugely disappointing for a sector which generates $14.5 billion of export earnings.

It’s not just disappointing for tourism, it’s frustrating for locals who have to put up with rubbish and human waste left behind and councils who have to pay the bills for cleaning it up.

New Zealand’s natural beauty and relatively unspoiled countryside are among the reasons tourists want to come here.

Too many freedom camping, washing themselves, their dishes and their clothes in rivers and lakes, and leaving their rubbish and waste behind are damaging the environment and posing health risks.

An answer to the problems needs to be found and acted on in the next few months before the summer tourism rush starts.

“This is symptomatic of a Government that loves to set up reviews and working groups rather than actually get on and do the job. At a time when businesses are crying out for certainty this Government gives them less.

“What is Mr Davis actually doing? Tourism is a full-time profession and it deserves more than a part-time minister.

“In the meantime, the Government could pick up National MP Anne Tolley’s Freedom Camping Bill which would prohibit Freedom Camping more than 200 metres from public toilet facilities, provide more organisations with the right to restrict freedom camping, and provide for instant fines that have been issued to be collected by rental car companies. That will make an immediate difference.”

All of this could be easily implemented, could take effect and make a difference immediately.

Tourism competes with dairying as our top income earner.

We owe it to the people who contribute to that to provide them with facilities and infrastructure they need to visit without despoiling our country.


365 days of gratitude

February 18, 2018

On my morning walk I happened to be passing the entrance to Burnside Homestead as four cyclists came out and stopped to take a photo.

I offered to take one of all of them and in the process got into conversation with them.

They were very enthusiastic about the Alps2Ocean cycleway and the hospitality they’d received at Burnside.

The cycleway has created lots of jobs and brings a lot of people who would never have travelled from Mount Cook to Oamaru Harbour without it.

It’s boosting the local economy and also providing exercise opportunities for locals and I’m grateful for that.


Rural round-up

May 18, 2017

UK farming looks doomed – Allan Barber:

Two contrasting publications have each given a pretty damning picture of the state of farming and food production in pre-Brexit UK; and despite the conclusions of the Ferguson Cardo report into the future of British agriculture, it is hard to see how this situation will change for the better without a huge amount of pain on the way. But equally it is almost impossible to imagine a continuation of the status quo within the EU, where in 2015 70% of UK farm income came from direct and environmental subsidies.

A much shorter piece in the well-known satirical paper Private Eye captures the problems faced by UK dairy farmers very cogently, although these have been well publicised already. The number of dairy herds has fallen like a stone since 1993 – the year the Milk Marketing Board was abolished – when there were 33,000 herds, compared with fewer than 10,000 today. The cost of milk production this year is forecast to rise to 32.5 pence per litre, while the price farmers receive is anchored at 25p or even worse predicted to fall even lower. Not surprisingly more closures are expected. . . 

No idle time for top dairy woman – Sally Rae:

Jessie Chan-Dorman’s determination was evident from an early age.

At 16, she left home and funded herself through secondary school and university.

Ms Chan-Dorman (39) was named 2017 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year at the Dairy Women’s Network annual conference in Queenstown last week.

The inspirational Canterbury businesswoman’s career spanned farming, business and governance. . . 

Interim Project Director Appointed to Dam:

Tasman District Council and Waimea Irrigators Limited, on behalf of the Waimea Water Augmentation Project (WWAP), have appointed John Hutton to the role of Interim Project Director.

The appointment is necessary now because the WWAP team overseeing the delivery of the various work streams has come to the view the project is sufficiently advanced that it needs a step up in the level of direction and a dedicated project office needs to be established.

John Hutton’s tasks are to: . . 

University of Auckland Aotearoa Māori Business Leaders Awards 2017 winners announced:

When Blanche Morrogh (nee Murray) started Kai Ora Honey in 2012, she had no idea it would bloom so quickly into a multi-million dollar global concern.
Today, the Far North-based whānau-owned business operates 2500 hives and exports 50 tonnes of Active Manuka Honey to customers in Asia, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Kuwait, with plans to export 90 tonnes-plus by 2020.

Her achievements were honoured on Friday night when Morrogh (Ngāti Kuri and Te Rarawa) received the Young Māori Business Leader Award in the 2017 University of Auckland Aotearoa Māori Business Leaders Awards at a sold-out dinner. . . 

New $5 million earthquake fund for farmers and growers:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced $5 million in new funding support for quake-struck farmers and growers.

The new Earthquake Recovery Fund will support projects that investigate long-term land use options and will also fund professional advisory services for future land use planning.

“The November earthquake has caused significant erosion and damage to land in the Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough regions. Farmers, growers and foresters are now faced with the challenge of determining what to do with their land going forward and this fund is designed to help with those decisions,” says Mr Guy.

The fund is designed to provide support to farmers and growers in two different ways, depending on their needs. . . 

Entertaining evening on wellbeing coming to Kaikoura:

Take a night off on Wednesday 24 May – Farmstrong and the Rural Support Trust are inviting you to find out how healthy thinking can help you live well, and if you are in farming, to farm well too.

The free event will kick off with a free bite to eat before medical doctor and author, Dr Tom Mullholland, shares his simple and practical Healthy Thinking tools to help you manage the ups and downs that come with rural life.

“The stress that people have been under from the earthquakes alongside those in high-pressure professions such as farming, can take a toll on our wellbeing,” Farmstrong spokesperson Gerard Vaughan says. . . 

Country’s top bull breeders celebrated:

Some of the country’s top bull breeders came together in Hamilton this week  to celebrate their contribution to the next generation of elite genetics for the New Zealand dairy industry.

Breeders from all over the country (listed below) attended LIC’s Breeders’ Day after supplying a bull calf to the co-operative which went on to form part of the 2016 Premier Sires artificial breeding bull teams. The teams are responsible for approximately three out of four dairy cows being milked on New Zealand dairy farms.

LIC chairman and Nelson dairy farmer, Murray King, said the event recognises a partnership that secures a productive future for the average kiwi dairy farm, the New Zealand dairy industry and New Zealand economy. . . 

Fired-up tourism infrastructure fund appreciated:

Farmers and other ratepayers in tourist hotspots will be pleased the Government has upped the ante in co-funding new infrastructure, Federated Farmers local government spokesman Katie Milne says.

“Earlier this year Federated Farmers described a $12 million regional tourism infrastructure fund to help councils cope with tens of thousands of freedom campers as ‘a damp tea towel on a bonfire’.

“It seems the Government has heard our message, and that of others, and called out the fire brigade,” Katie says. . . 

Another Feds’ success at Dairy Woman Awards:

Federated Farmers is delighted that Mid Canterbury dairy farmer Jessie Chan Dorman was crowned 2017 Dairy Woman of the Year.

Jessie received the prestigious award at a ceremony in Queenstown last night (Thursday). She follows in the footsteps of Federated Farmers’ Board Member Katie Milne who was a previous winner in 2015. . . 


Just a Little extra tax

April 3, 2017

The ink is barely dry on the Labour and Green Parties’ attempt to convince voters they won’t overtax and overspend which includes a promise for no tax increases.

But Andrew Little is already calling for a new tax:

Labour leader Andrew Little wants a “tourist tax” charged at the border to help pay for tourism infrastructure, rejecting Tourism Minister Paula Bennett’s concerns it risked making New Zealand look like a “rip-off.”

Little said a “modest” levy would be ring-fenced to pass on to local councils to use on tourism-related infrastructure. . . 

On Friday Rob Hosking pointed out the difficulty with the Labour-Green framework:

The real question is about the other promises Labour and the Greens are making and how these might fit within that framework.

The short answer is, they don’t.

The ability to fund free tertiary education and start payments into the NZ Superannuation Fund alone will test the limits of that framework. Those two policies alone will cost literally billions of dollars.

That is going to make it difficult to fit within one of the other joists in the Labour-Green fiscal framework: keeping government spending at around 30% of GDP.

One of these things is sheer spin: either the promises of new spending policies or the fiscal framework itself.

Take your pick.

Little’s suggestion of a new tax just days after the attempt to convince us of the Labour and Greens fiscal prudence has shot a very big hole in the framework.

There is a case for more spending on tourism infrastructure but Lincoln University professor of Tourism David Simmons has calculated that the government made a $630m surplus once tourism related costs – such as those for Tourism New Zealand and Department of Conservation visitor services – were deducted from the GST take.

We don’t need a new tax, whether it’s levied on New Zealanders or visitors.

A new tax is a tax increase by another name. That Little is considering the idea shows how flimsy the fiscal framework is.


StepUp Taranaki

December 5, 2016

I had a two-week posting on the Taranaki Daily News when I was at journalism school.

That was my first and last visit to the province but this celebration of the area’s people and places from StepUp Taranaki makes me want to go back:

This is the first choreographed dance video of its kind to be launched to the world.

It’s the result of one New Plymouth woman’s dream to bring the region together. Behind it is an amazing story of inspiration, motivation and the joining of cultures.

It was filmed over 18 months using a variety of filming techniques including numerous drone shots. A Huge team of dedicated volunteers all worked on it keen to help their community come together.

It features world first shoots like dancing big rig trucks and dancing oil rig workers along with thousands of locals. Even New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key got involved! Mr. Key and renowned TV show host Paul Henry starred as Pilots in our StepUp Airways scene.

This project was produced by a charity and made money for other other charities and we at StepUp believe it is a world first.

To top it all off, New Zealand has just been ranked the number one place in the world to live (Legatum Prosperity Index), AND Lonely Planet has just voted Taranaki the 2nd best place in the world to visit.

It’s about community building, team work,spirit and pride. Whoever you are, wherever you live you can do this and your area will thrive from such a positive and uplifting project. Everyone loves to dance – we’ve proved it!

Who’s in?!

#Whatsyourregion? #Whatsyoursong? #Whatsyourdance? #Everyonelovestodance

The full story is at StepUp Taranaki


Rural round-up

September 6, 2016

Pukeuri boners get robotic workmates – Sally Rae:

A $7.5 million upgrade at Alliance Group’s Pukeuri meat works is the biggest investment at the site since redevelopment following a major fire in 2006.

Commissioning is under way of robotic  cutting machinery in the  boning room.

The machinery, developed by Scott Technology, features an X-ray unit that analyses each carcass and instructs two cutting machines where to cut.

The primal cutting machine separates carcasses into hinds, middles and forequarters.

A middles cutting machine then separates  middles into racks, loins, flaps and saddles. . . 

Water quality, farm model links asserted – Sally Rae:

New Zealand cannot continue to have conversations about protecting water quality without having a parallel set of conversations that change the farming business model, Taupo farmer Mike Barton says.

Speaking at the Institute of Forestry’s conference in Dunedin, Mr Barton questioned how to start that conversation if the model was to change.

“Food production is the biggest single component of our impact on the planet … We just don’t talk about that. Nowhere in the world do we internalise the environmental costs of food production,” he said.

About 150 years had been spent convincing consumers that food was cheap.

It would take two or three generations before environmental costs were internalised into the price model. . . 

Rakiura Maori Lands Trust & Real Journeys Announce Wild Kiwi Encounter on Rakiura/Stewart Island:

Rakiura Maori Lands Trust (RMLT) and Real Journeys announced today that their first joint tourism venture will be kiwi spotting on Stewart Island called Wild Kiwi Encounter.

These highly successful nocturnal trips were previously run by Bravo Adventures. Owner Phillip Smith, who began the original trips to see Rakiura/Stewart Island brown kiwi says he is delighted that he has been able to find a company with a solid conservation ethos to operate his Department of Conservation concession (authorisation to operate the trips).

“I’ve been running kiwi spotting trips for over a quarter of century now. I still love seeing the look on people’s faces when they see a kiwi in the wild for the first time, but was ready to put my feet up and let someone else head out into the night!” . . 

Higher lamb meat prices eroded by elevated kiwi dollar – Tina Morrison:

 (BusinessDesk) – Limited supply of lamb meat is pushing up prices in overseas markets, however the gains for local farmers are being eroded by the higher value of the New Zealand dollar.

The benchmark CKT price for a leg of lamb in the UK rose to 4.10 British pounds per kilogram in August, from 4.05 pounds/kg in July and 3.40 pounds/kg in August last year, according to AgriHQ data. In New Zealand dollar terms, returns declined to $7.41/kg in August, from $7.53/kg in July, and $8.35/kg a year earlier.

New Zealand’s lamb numbers fell last season as farmers reduced sheep numbers to cope with drought conditions, and are expected to decline a further 2.9 percent to 23.3 million this spring, according to the Economic Service of farmer-owned industry organisation Beef + Lamb New Zealand. . . 

Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker 2016 announced:

Congratulations to Jordan Hogg from Seresin – the Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker 2016. The National Final was held on Tuesday 23 August at MRC and the winner was announced at the Bragato Wine Awards dinner on Thursday 25 August.

Congratulations also goes to Alex Roper from Mission Estate, Hawke’s Bay who was the runner up. Tom Hindmarsh and Matt Fox were the other finalists, also performing strongly throughout the competition. . . 

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Female farmer – of course I don’t work as hard as men, I get it right the first time.

Buchan Uncorks New Design at NZ Winery:

Global architectural firm The Buchan Group has uncorked its design of the Mt. Beautiful Tasting Room in Cheviot, New Zealand, aimed at introducing food and wine enthusiasts to this internationally successful, locally grown wine label.

Mt. Beautiful is a premium North Canterbury wine brand grown and produced at Spotswood, 9 kilometres north of Cheviot. The tasting room based in Cheviot showcases its varieties in Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. . . 

Rod McDonald wines scoop international design award for ‘One Off’ Pinot Noir:

Hawkes Bay wine company Rod McDonald Wines is the only New Zealand winery and business to win a prestigious prize in the 2016 Harpers Design Awards.

The internationally recognised design awards, made up of a high calibre judging panel, received entries from ten countries around the world, with only five picking up an award.

“The standard was high, with some stunning examples of enticing and engaging design, really lifting those products above the ordinary,” said Harpers editor Andrew Catchpole. “But our brief as judges went beyond purely aesthetical considerations, looking at how well the design of each product had been tailored to the client’s brief and its target market.” . . 


100% Pure NZ

July 14, 2016

A  new New Zealander, James Cameron is promoting our country:

 


Happy Penguin Awareness Day

January 21, 2016

It’s still January 20th somewhere in the world:

Sirocco Kākāpō's photo.

You can easily spot Little Blue and Yellow Eyed penguins in and around Oamaru.


366 days of gratitude

January 19, 2016

North Otago didn’t used to feature on many people’s tourist itineraries and Oamaru was once just another town to crawl through for people driving on State Highway 1.

But the growing popularity of the little blue penguins which nest around the harbour, the town’s stunning old (by New Zealand standards) buildings and its Victorian precinct and becoming the country’s Steampunk capital  started attracting more visitors.

Oamaru was dubbed New Zealand’s coolest town by Lonely Planet which has helped attract more visitors and help locals appreciate what we have on our doorstep.

Visitors’ appreciation isn’t confined to the town and exploration of the wider district has been boosted by the development of the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycleway which has been recognised as one of the world’s leading attractions:

North Otago’s Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has made it on to a list of the world’s best destinations in 2016 by travel publishers Frommer’s.

The trail runs from Aoraki-Mt Cook to the coastal town of Oamaru in North Otago.

Being named as one of 16 of the “Best Places to Go” in the world in 2016 is priceless marketing and “something that the whole region should be really proud of”, Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill says.

“It’ll be an amazing thing for the trail,” Mr Gaskill said.

“This is extremely important – it’s recognition that the trail itself, the infrastructure around it, the people who are operating on it and the people who are supplying it are operating to a standard that people feel comfortable to promote.”

Frommer’s describes the trail as ‘‘stunning and cheerfully hospitable” and starting the trail at Aoraki-Mt Cook “sets a perfect standard for awesome”.

“Your local hosts along the trail are happy to greet you and warmly organise food and lodging – after all, they pitched in to create this route for tourists – so come meet them under wide landscapes and huge skies… before the hordes find their way here,” the Frommer’s website said.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is the only New Zealand attraction to feature on the list and appears alongside destinations including Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Mongolia. . . 

The A2O isn’t finished yet but is already bringing lots of visitors and providing business opportunities for people servicing and selling to tourists.

Tourism is broadening the district’s economy, lessening its reliance of agriculture and it’s opening the eyes of locals to the many charms of our home patch.

Today I’m grateful for visitors who appreciate what we’ve got and help us appreciate it to.

P.S. The Frommer’s Best Places to Go list is here.

 


Alps 2 Ocean gets funding boost

August 28, 2015

Prime Minister John Key, who is also Minister of Tourism, has  announced a further $935,000 will be invested to help complete the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail.

“Once finished, the 310km trail will be a major tourism asset for the Waitaki and Mackenzie Districts, helping attract both local and international visitors to the area,” Mr Key says.

“There is strong support from local tourism operators, and a growing number of international tourists are already using the trail, with an estimated 25 per cent more users in January 2015, compared with the same period last year.

The Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail is one of 23 Great Rides that make up Nga Haerenga – the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

“The Great Rides have proven to be a significant driver of local and international tourism which is helping New Zealand stay on the international map as a top tourist destination,” Mr Key says.

“The trails are also boosting economic growth in the regions with reports from individual trails indicating that more than 1,200 jobs have been created.

“Figures also indicate at least 60 new businesses have been established as a result of the Great Rides being built, and over 40 businesses have expanded their operations to cope with the new demand from cyclists.

“The funding announced today will help build on that success, creating more opportunities for the region and New Zealand as a whole,” Mr Key says.

 This additional funding, made available through the National Cycleway Fund announced in Budget 2015, will bring the total Government contribution to the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail to $3,705,000, and to almost $55 million to construct the trails nationally.

The local community has raised $955,000 of co-funding to contribute to the completion costs.

The 41 km section to be completed will connect Sailors Cutting on the shores of Lake Benmore with Duntroon, meaning users will no longer have to cycle on State Highway 83.

This is great news for the Mackenzie and Waitaki Districts, and the many thousands of people who will use the cycle way.

Cycling on the road is neither safe nor enjoyable.

The cycle way is already providing a financial boost for the districts even though it has yet to be completed.

Neighbours offer homestays in their historic homestead and enjoyed heavy bookings last summer from people using the cycle trail.

Other existing businesses on the route report similar increases in patrons and new businesses have been established to service and supply cyclists.

The A2O cycleway starts near Mount Cook and finishes in Oamaru which Lonely Planet dubbed New Zealand’s coolest town.


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