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.


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