$1m + to protect DoC staff

December 18, 2018

Funds that ought to be spent on conservation have to be used to protect Department of Conservation (DoC) staff:

The Department of Conservation has spent more than $1 million protecting its staff from threats and abuse from anti-1080 protesters but says that doesn’t reflect the full cost of what they’re dealing with.

Incidents over the past 18 months include threats to shoot down DOC helicopters and skin the faces off staff.

A letter was delivered to DOC’s New Plymouth office with a blue substance leaking out of it, and in the South Island a DOC worker’s details were published online, with comments about filling him with lead, and needing good snipers in New Zealand.

The Prime Minister, Conservation Minister and Agriculture Minister have all become targets.

Over the past two years DOC has spent around $780,000 on security for aerial 1080 drops.

During October and November it spent another $295,000 on a Co-ordinated Incident Management (CIM) plan in response to an increase in threats and abuse, which culminated in an anti-1080 hikoi to Parliament.

That CIM involved covering the costs for up to 30 DOC staff to monitor the situation.

DOC spokesperson Nic John said they had been working with police to manage the situation – that had resulted in four warnings, four arrests and one conviction so far.

“These figures don’t capture the true cost of security to the organisation. Other costs incurred locally have not been captured, as they are very hard to collate nationally.” . . 

The figures don’t take into account the human cost either.

I spent a few weeks in Dunedin this year and while walking the dog I was sitting I came across another dog walker.

When I introduced myself he asked me if I was related to someone with the same surname. When I said yes he explained how he knew her and only then mentioned he worked for DoC.

I asked if he’d had any problems with the anti-1080 zealots and he said he hadn’t but because of the threats he didn’t usually tell people who he worked for.

Forest and Bird’s chief executive Kevin Hague said it was infuriating DOC had had to shift money away from conservation.

“This is money that should have been available for the vital task of protecting our nature and to have it diverted, in order that DOC staff and contractors can be safe from these awful people, is just absolutely frustrating.”

He said the irrational behaviour of the anti-1080 protesters was highlighted last week when autopsy results revealed a weka, which was used during a protest, had likely been shot with a .22 rifle – despite claims it had died from 1080.

“These extremist anti-1080 protesters are just completely beyond reason, they don’t use actual evidence in anything they say and their arguments are immune to the rules of logic that most people would apply,” Mr Hague said. . . 

I don’t understand people who think the lives and wellbeing of people come second to their cause.

They won’t see the irony that diverting money to protect DoC staff from them takes it away from the work needed to protect the endangered species they purport to be fighting for.

They are zealots and their immunity to the rules of logic makes countering them both expensive and potentially dangerous.

 


Rural round-up

November 20, 2018

Has the time come for genetic modification?– Charlie Dreaver:

Trees with red trunks and apples that are red right the way through and flower all year round. Should we back or block the genetically changed plants New Zealand scientists are growing? Charlie Dreaver reports for Insight. 

Gene edited plants are just as safe as normal plants, according to one scientist. At a Plant and Food Research greenhouse in Auckland, one of the sections is filled with $300 apple trees, and Andy Allan, a professor of plant biology, is pointing out one of his favourite experiment, a tree with bright, fuchsia-coloured flowers.

“The particular red gene we’re testing is under a strong expression, so the roots are red, the trunk is red, the leaves are copper and the fruit goes on to look more like a plum, it’s so dark.” . . 

Hope for kiwi comeback from 1080 project targeting stoats – Jono Edwards:

The first western Fiordland 1080 project will start mid-next year in the hope of bringing the stoat-ridden area’s kiwi back from the brink.

As part of the Department of Conservation’s “Save Our Iconic Kiwi” initiative, the operation will target 50,000ha of rugged, inaccessible terrain at Shy Lake, between Wet Jacket Arm and Breaksea Sound.

Non-toxic baits to accustom rats to the bait are planned for late winter next year, followed by toxic baits in September and October. The stoats will then eat the poisoned rats. . .

Native vegetation on sheep and beef farms summary report:

A report from the University of Canterbury has revealed that 24 per cent of New Zealand’s native vegetation (approximately 2.8 million hectares) is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms. This is the largest amount of native vegetation present outside of public conservation land. 

The report has also uncovered that 17 per cent of all New Zealand’s native forest is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms and is likely playing a vital, but often unheralded role in supporting biodiversity.

B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor reflects that “This is a great acknowledgement for our farmers and the work they’re doing as stewards of the land. I hear sheep and beef farmers talking every day about what they’re doing on farm to support biodiversity and it’s great we have been able to develop evidence to back their passionate voices”. . .

Less effective killers cost more – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 Glyphosphate, commonly sold as Roundup, has been in the news again, this time because of a link to antibiotic resistance.

Canterbury University’s Professor Jack Heinemann has done some interesting work in the laboratory. He has also acknowledged agar plates in controlled conditions are a very long way from field use.

More research is required. Of course.

And scientists love having a reason to do more research.

It’s different in Russia – Keith Woodford:

This last week I have been working in Russia on issues of A1 and A2 beta-casein.  I am still there, but today is Sunday and together with my wife Annette, I am on a fast train from Moscow to St Petersburg.

It’s late autumn over here, but to a Kiwi lad it seems like the middle of winter. Until today, the weather has been fine and clear but with temperatures below freezing. Today the snow has arrived, and it will now be on the ground for at least the next four months.  There is not much sign of global warming over here!

Travelling by fast train at 250 km per hour, I am fascinated by the lungs of Russia. By that I mean the hundreds of kilometres of trees, largely pines, with just the occasional village.  Somewhere there must be some farm lands, but they sure aren’t in sight from the train. . . 

Signs mount that Fonterra will have to cut its payout forecast –  Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – The risks are mounting against Fonterra holding its current forecast milk payout and this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction could be yet another nail in its coffin.

The auction results will be released early Wednesday, New Zealand time.

Fonterra’s current forecast is a rate of $6.25-to-$6.50 a kilogram of milk solids but Mark Lister, the head of wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, says the trends in both dairy pricing and the renewed strength in the kiwi dollar could see the actual payout settle closer to $6.00 or $6.25. . . 

Fonterra too helpful to councils – Hugh Stringleman:

The ever-increasing compliance load on dairy farmers was forcibly questioned at the Fonterra annual meeting by Cambridge dairy farmer Judy Bryan.

She alleged Fonterra accepts and facilitates regional councils’ demands for environmental actions that load costs on farmers.

“We may be getting $6 something in milk price but look where a lot of that is going, on compliance. . .

Careful! You might miss New Zealand’s latest luxury lodge:

New Zealand’s newest luxury lodge epitomises discretion, from blending seamlessly into its secluded rural location to the luxe surroundings and discerning service of a high-calibre luxury destination.

Set to become New Zealand’s newest luxury destination, The Lindis which opened this month in a dramatic South Island high country valley, blends so perfectly with the surroundings that you’d be forgiven for missing it.

Try spotting The Lindis from the air and you’re liable to miss it thanks to outstanding architecture designed to blend with the stunning landscape surrounding the building’s resting place in the Ahuriri Valley. The valley lies in a stretch of South Island high country between Mount Cook and Wanaka and the lodge name associates with The Lindis Pass, a picturesque alpine roadway linking the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. . .


Rural round-up

October 4, 2018

NZ’s pig-headed rejection of GM is putting our agricultural future at risk – Andrew Allan:

Ignorance of the facts of genetic modification poses an economic risk to New Zealand, writes a professor of plant biology.

There is a new agricultural-based green revolution beginning around the world, and it’s a technique you’ve probably heard of before: gene editing. New types of rice, wheat, tomato, maize, soybean and other crops created through the CRISPR-Cas9 technology are already growing in fields in America and beyond. These enhanced products include wheat with a 30% increase in grain weight and tomatoes with a 5-fold increase in vitamin A levels. The issue however is that these crops rely on ‘directed’ changes to DNA, which we categorise as ‘genetic modification’ (GM) under NZ law. This is despite the fact that the changes made are exactly the same as that created by sunlight, and a lot less than that from traditional breeding. This categorisation makes it near-impossible for our country to join this green revolution. Worse still, the value we currently gain from our plant-based economy is under threat from far better crops being developed quickly around the world. . .

Sheep and beef farmers bullish about the future but watchful of challenging headwinds:

More than two thirds of sheep and beef farmers are positive about the future of the industry, according to research by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

Sixty-eight per cent of sheep and beef farmers surveyed in the August 2018 quarter are confident – the highest level since B+LNZ’s first launched the research in November 2010.

Sheep and beef farmers’ positive mood contrasts with gloomy headlines on business confidence elsewhere in the economy, as well as recent inaccurate claims made by the Productivity Commission about the “marginal” nature of the sector. . .

Using images to misinform – Alison Campbell:

The internet, while it can be a godsend if you need to find something out (gotta love google maps for directions), can also be a wretched hive of wrongness and misinformation.

That misinformation can take many forms, but when it comes to 1080 it’s clear that those opposed to NZ’s use of this chemical firmly believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. Any picture.

Thank goodness for the ‘reverse image search’ function in Google. For example, on the Facebook page for the group New Zealands not clean green, in amongst photos of animals that may or may not have been killed by 1080, we find several of animals that weren’t. For example: . .

More farmers turn to DNA parentage testing to improve productivity:

This spring, upwards of 250,000 calves from around the country will have their parentage confirmed by LIC’s DNA parentage service which operates from its laboratory in Hamilton. So far this year, the co-operative has had on average one new herd a day sign up to its DNA parentage service.

LIC’s General Manager of NZ Markets, Malcolm Ellis, says the increased demand reflects the industry’s new reality of “peak cow”. . .

Wrightson Seeds suitor DLF cites research capability, export growth –  Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Danish producer DLF Seeds says its research capability makes it a strong potential acquirer of PGG Wrightson’s grains and seeds business. The firm is seeking clearance from the Commerce Commission for the $421 million purchase announced in August. . .

Silver Fern Farms Announce Winners of Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships 2018:

Six inspirational young people from around New Zealand have been named as the Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships recipients for 2018. Each winner received $5000 to further their careers in the red meat sector. Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says he is delighted to see the passion young New Zealanders have shown for the red meat industry through the applications submitted to the annual scholarship programme.

   

Rural round-up

September 22, 2018

Changes on the farm are improving water efficiency:

A water tax isn’t workable – but changes on the farm are improving water efficiency

IrrigationNZ says that introducing a nationwide water tax is not workable, and that allowing irrigators to continue to invest in more modern irrigation systems rather than taxing them will result in the biggest improvements in water use efficiency.

“A water tax has been considered in other countries internationally but in every case it has been abandoned. Other countries have found it too complex and expensive to design a fair water tax which can be easily implemented without resulting in adverse outcomes,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . .

1080 drop to go ahead after failed legal bid :

A conservation group has failed in its legal bid to stop a 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland.

The Friends of Sherwood Trust won a temporary injunction in the Environment Court halting the major pest control programme two weeks ago.

It argued that the drop breached the Resource Management Act which prohibits the dropping of substances in beds of lakes and rivers.

However today the court refused the Trust’s bid to further halt the drop.

“We are not persuaded that there is likely to be serious harm to the environment if the proposed application proceeds.” . .

Plans for huge tahr cull upset Otago hunters – Simon Hartley:

A sweeping cull of at least 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr proposed by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, has outraged some recreational hunters in Otago.

Ms Sage’s sudden announcement of the high killing ratio may yet be challenged in court.

Killing of the tahr, which are related to goats and were introduced here in 1904, is to start within two weeks.

Ms Sage is proposing the Department of Conservation kill 10,000 animals in various areas in the Southern Alps over the next eight months because the animal’s estimated 35,000 population was “three times” that permitted by the long established Himalayan Tahr Control Plan. . .

Meat firms need more staff – Chris Tobin:

South Canterbury meat companies are so desperate for workers to start the new killing season they are recruiting overseas.

Immigration NZ has approved work visas for 24 migrant employees to work at Alliance Smithfield this season.

Figures released to The Courier by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show Immigration NZ has also allowed Silver Fern Farms to employ 49 overseas workers in Canterbury, although the information did not specify what the break-down figures between the company’s two plants at Pareora and Belfast, Christchurch, were.

Work visas for 18 overseas workers for Anzco Foods at Ashburton have also been approved. . .

New Everyday FarmIQ pack targets mainstream dairy and livestock farmers.

A new range of software subscriptions from FarmIQ address the growing information needs of New Zealand dairy and livestock industry.

With a clear focus on the information needs of dairy and livestock farmers, the new packs will help mainstream New Zealand farmers run more productive and sustainable operations.

Darryn Pegram, FarmIQ Chief Executive Officer, said subscriptions start at $55 a month for the new “Everyday FarmIQ” software pack, delivering a broad suite of recording and reporting tools. . .

 ‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats -“

New findings suggest that more intensive agriculture might be the “least bad” option for feeding the world while saving its species – provided use of such “land-efficient” systems prevents further conversion of wilderness to farmland.

Agriculture that appears to be more eco-friendly but uses more land may actually have greater environmental costs per unit of food than “high-yield” farming that uses less land, a new study has found.

There is mounting evidence that the best way to meet rising food demand while conserving biodiversity is to wring as much food as sustainably possible from the land we do farm, so that more natural habitats can be “spared the plough”. . . .


Fake news grows when gatekeepers go

September 18, 2018

Mainstream news outlets have gatekeepers.

They’re the people who decide what is real news and what is not.

They’re human and so not perfect.

They can let their bias colour decisions and, not knowing what they don’t know, let the wrong story through without at least some balance from the right one.

But they are still there to draft off deliberate and dangerous fake news.

Social media doesn’t have gatekeepers and without them fake news grows and spreads.

Lies, defamatory comments and accusations and false statements not only get published they go viral, infecting the world with untruths and fiction purporting to be facts.

In when anti-1080 activism grew  noisy and got uglyHayden Donnell  shows how it’s done:

. . .What caused the sudden escalation? Part of the answer can perhaps be traced back to October last year, when anti-1080 leaders held a think-tank near Nelson. There the lawyer Sue Grey gave a presentation on how to mainstream the movement. Grey has been a leading spokesperson in the medicinal cannabis movement, which has gained political traction and overwhelming public support in recent months, and she drew on her experience with that cause to outline a new anti-1080 strategy. Activists couldn’t rely on getting mainstream media coverage, she said. She proposed taking a different tack – co-opting stories about issues completely unrelated to 1080 to spread the anti-1080 message.

“You don’t have to wait for a story about 1080 to put a comment about 1080,” she said. “You know – here’s [a story on the fact] the prime minister’s in Vietnam – well put a comment ‘what’s the prime minister telling them about putting 1080 in our food?’. And you can actually sort of divert the whole story.

“There’s all sorts of things you can do to pick up on momentum and people are going ‘hang on, where’s all this 1080 stuff coming from’.” . . 

This sort of thread-jack happens on blogs too. An activist sees a post on x and uses it as an opportunity to write a comment that sides tracks with but what about y.

The tactics she outlined almost perfectly match a sea change in how anti-1080 activism is practised online, and particularly on Facebook.

I had my first encounter with the online anti-1080 movement last month after watching a live news video where Phil Twyford and Kris Faafoi glumly announced new rules governing wheel clamping. When I looked at the video’s comments section, almost no-one was interested in clamping. Nearly every comment was the same message, repeated over and over: Ban 1080.

I found out the comments had their roots in a single Facebook page: Operation Ban 1080. The 60,000-member group  was encouraging members to take advantage of Facebook’s easily evaded moderation tools to get their message heard on unrelated videos.

It was like Grey said in her seminar: they weren’t waiting for stories about 1080 to post a comment on 1080. They were diverting news stories on unrelated topics. They were being more noisy, and creating more trouble. . .

The dark side to that is familiar to anyone who’s watched fringe groups flourish on social media in recent years. Where Operation Ban 1080 would previously have had to go through gatekeepers to get their message heard – opening themselves up to scrutiny and countering opinion – on Facebook they were allowed to run wild. Emotive posts accusing 1080 of wholesale environmental destruction were actually rewarded by Facebook’s algorithm due to their high engagement. False posts or doctored photos showing native birds or deer “poisoned by 1080” went semi-viral. Lies could be posted without counterargument, and any objections were confined to other parts of the site.

“You get this snowballing crescendo of hysteria and conspiracy and science denial and hyperbole where, in order to keep on getting the likes on Facebook, each statement has to be more fantastical, more hyperbolic than the last,” said Dave Hansford, the author of Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the Fight to Save New Zealand’s Wildlife. “This is the whole fake news phenomenon. They used to be happy with simply misrepresenting studies or cherry-picking research or just denigrating scientists … but more recently that clown car has just like careered off this on-ramp to crazy town. People are no longer concerned with keeping even one fingertip still on a fact anymore. Now they’re happy to just make shit up.” . .

That nails it and deserves repeating:

This is the whole fake news phenomenon. They used to be happy with simply misrepresenting studies or cherry-picking research or just denigrating scientists … but more recently that clown car has just like careered off this on-ramp to crazy town. People are no longer concerned with keeping even one fingertip still on a fact anymore. . . 

In crazy town, facts don’t matter, conspiracy theories grow and emotion trumps science.

Facebook and Twitter are particularly good seed-beds for growing fake news making it too, too easy for its proponents to spill their venom from their echo chambers to infect a wide network.

They go too far on-line which encourages followers to go too far in real life, as the anti-1080 protesters did last week.

But what happened next showed the downside of that increasing radicalisation. Fake 1080 pellets were thrown onto the steps of parliament, prompting a debate between environment minister David Parker and anti-1080 protesters. Then dead birds were laid outside parliament. Though protesters originally claimed the animals were killed by 1080, tests later showed they appeared to have died from blunt force trauma. A police complaint was laid. Public tolerance for the anti-1080 protests quickly waned.

To Hansford, that shows how the same forces behind the rise of the anti-1080 movement also contain the DNA for its demise. While the increasingly radical online activism has won supporters to the cause, it also increases the chance of someone taking the violent online rhetoric literally and doing something so harmful it ensures the anti-1080 movement is booted out of the limelight and back into the fringe conspiracy dustbin, he said. “It could end in tragedy and if it keeps going there’s a good chance it’s going to. And on that day, public support for the anti-1080 movement evaporates.”

They have already gone too far:

Department of Conservation staff are facing a torrent of online threats and abuse following a recent spike in anti-1080 protests. . .

Last year they went even further, loosening wheel nuts on DoC cars and making threats to staff safety.

But still the lies travel further and faster than the truth without the gatekeepers to stop the infection.

In the face of that we have to vaccinate ourselves against the fake news virus with sceptisism and science, and follow Edgar Allan Poe’s advice to believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.

 


Ignorance kills

September 17, 2018

Animal rights activists in Germany killed four cows and left 40 more critically ill:

Idiot  animal rights activists KILLED four cows and left 40 others critically ill after releasing them into a feeding pen where the beasts “ate themselves to death”.

Suspects are believed to have trespassed onto an organic farm in Germany on Saturday night and released dozens of dairy cows and calves.

The cows then headed straight to the feeding pen where they ate up to 10kg of concentrated feed with catastrophic results.

They are normally fed a maximum of 2kg a day.

Anja Schiemann, the farm’s managing director, told the Berliner Zeitung: “Too much concentrate feed causes the digestive system in the rumen to be severely disturbed.

“The damage to the liver is just too much.” . . .

Ignorance kills.

A similar accusation could be made against anti 1080 activists. Without it native plants, birds and insects will die.

The ODT opines:

The case for 1080 use in New Zealand’s forests is overwhelming, no matter the fervent protests of the past two weeks.

Each independent investigation into its use has come to that conclusion. 

Yet, the Department of Conservation and its staff have had to put up with abuse and worse. Tampering with the wheel nuts on vehicles, as has been reported, is downright criminal and dangerous.

Blatant “fake news” and completely misleading photographs have been spread around the internet, news stories hijacked by activists, and 1080 drops disrupted.

There is, indeed,  no doubting the genuine feelings of the anti-1080 brigade, including the majority who act responsibly in their opposition. But they, like the irresponsible, are sadly and badly misguided.

Some of the fervour is understandable.  Dog owners are fearful of the awful death their charges might suffer should they eat carcasses of mammals killed by the poison.  Others are concerned about the deer by-kill, meaning fewer animals to hunt.

Much worse than these concerns, though, is the massacre by possums, stoats and rats. They lay waste forests of birds and chicks, turning them into silent graveyards and disrupting the ecosystem.

Trap instead of poison, say the 1080 opponents. Given the vastness, and ruggedness of New Zealand’s topography, this is totally  and absolutely impractical.

The 1080 kills birds instead of saving them, the opponents add. While it is true 1080 has killed birds as well as pests, birds and reptiles seem to have some tolerance. Doc’s threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki quotes a study where 600 kiwi were monitored by radio transmitters for a long time after 1080 was spread.  Not one died. Meanwhile, 19 of 20 kiwi eggs were eaten by predators in areas without pest control.

The 1080 kills so many pests it allows bird numbers to recover. . .

The strongest advocates of 1080 accept it’s not the perfect answer but it is better than any alternatives that are currently available.

Until there is something better, it is 1080 or death to a lot of native flora and fauna.


Birds bludgeoned

September 13, 2018

Native birds used in a protest against 1080 were bludgeoned to death:

The speaker of the house has laid a complaint with police after discovering native birds used in a 1080 protest were bludgeoned to death.

Protestors laid dead birds on the steps on parliament yesterday along with fake 1080 pellets.

Protestors claimed the birds were killed by 1080 poisoning.

However, Trevor Mallard says forensic experts say the birds were killed by blunt force trauma.

Even people who aren’t experts ought to be able to tell the difference between death by poisoning and death by blunt force.

Who did the bludgeoning and how did the protesters find the birds that had been bludgeoned?

Whatever the answers, and whoever did it, both killing birds this way and using them in a protest like this is seriously sick.


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