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?

 


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