Rural round-up

December 4, 2017

Cows going online in NZ paddocks :

Kiwi cows are going online in a new initiative by Chinese tech company Huawei.

Its connected cows programme is currently being trialled on an undisclosed farm in New Zealand, with cattle wearing collars containing small “internet of things” (IOT) chipsets that it hopes will enable farmers to better monitor their stock.

The company’s new chief executive, Yanek Fan, said this was one of the many future technology initiatives Huawei wanted to roll out in New Zealand in the coming years.  . . 

Importance of irrigaiton expected to grow – Yvonne O’Hara:

Irrigation is likely to become even more important to Central Otago in the next few decades as the climate becomes warmer and drier, IrrigationNZ (INZ) chief executive Andrew Curtis tells Yvonne O’Hara.

Alexandra’s Bodeker Scientific’s report “The past, present and future climate of Central Otago”, which was released last month, looked at climate change projections for the region during the next 80 to 100 years.

It predicted increasing overall summer and winter temperatures, more extreme rain and wind events and less water storage as snow on mountain snowpacks.

It said there might be earlier snowmelts and less water from the snowmelt being available during spring and precipitation that might have fallen as snow would likely fall as rain and contribute to river flows and lake levels. . . 

Shed’s reconstruction brings back memories – Yvonne O’Hara:

The recent reconstruction of a shearing stand, which had been rescued from a demolished woolshed, and was now on display at the Tuapeka Vintage Club, brought back memories for one of the woolshed’s owners, writes Yvonne O’Hara.

It had been on the Halwyn property, near Lawrence, and owned by the Crawford family.

The sheep and beef property was originally part of Bellamy Station, and the original Halwyn homestead was built for the first owners, the Harris family. Donald’s grandfather Duncan Crawford and wife Margaret bought the property in 1927 for their sons Allan, Alex and George.

Alex lived at Craigellachie, and farmed a nearby property while Allan and George farmed Halwyn in partnership. . . 

Spring has sprung – Kirian Farms:

And with it the urgency to attend to the 1001 jobs around the farm that were deferred over winter.  While it’s great to have the sun out and warmer temperatures – it means one thing, the lawnmower gets a very frequent outing (each outing is about 4 hours so I imagine the neighbours are hoping the wind isn’t blowing their way those days).

​The ewes and lambs are doing well although the change in the season bought some dirty bottoms so in came Mr Shearer to crutch the ewes, making it a more pleasurable experience for the lambs going in for a feed I’m sure.  The first of the “butter ball” lambs will be drafted for sale at the end of November with the balance taking their first truck trip mid December. . . 

Jack Jones is still classing at ninety – Stephen Burns:

Into his ninetieth year, southern Riverina farmer Jack Jones continues to cast his eye over the annual clip shorn from the Bond Corriedale ewes grown on the Urangeline-district property held by his family for over one hundred years.

Mr Jones, along with his wife Marie and son Graeme operates the mixed-farming operation and said he will continue to work as long as he is able.

“I enjoy what I am doing,” he said as he flicked another staple of the Bond Corriedale fleece he was classing to test it’s tensile strength. . . 

 

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Rural round-up

October 29, 2017

B+LNZ in global protein study – Neal Wallace:

The meat sector has launched a global study into the threats and opportunities posed by artificial protein, as the fledgling industry continues to attract eye-watering sums of money from rich people.

That investment had also started flowing domestically, with reports movie producers Sir Peter Jackson and his wife Frances Walsh and James Cameron and his wife Susan Amis-Cameron had established PBT New Zealand and started working with the Foundation for Arable Research in a future foods project. . . 

Conference focuses on the future of irrigation:

Registrations for IrrigationNZ’s 2018 national Conference are now open. Unlocking a Golden Future through SMART irrigation is the theme of the conference to be hosted at Alexandra from 17-19 April 2018.

“With so much public focus on irrigation and water issues in the media, this is an important opportunity for farmers and growers, the irrigation service industry, researchers, academics, councils and other groups to come together to discuss the future of water management and irrigation systems,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ Chief Executive. . .

IoT Alliance calls for Government backing to help grow more food – Stuart Corner:

The executive director of the recently formed New Zealand IoT Alliance, Kriv Naicker, has called for government support of the group, its sister organisation the New Zealand AI Forum and the broader tech industry to help address the food needs of a growing global population.

His comments were made in the run up to a conference in Christchurch in early December at which the future of food will be discussed.

“Key tech leaders will attend the Feed the World 2030: Power of Plants Hackathon event on December 2 and 3,” Naicker said. . .

New Chair for New Zealand Avocado Growers Association:

Avocado grower and Avocado Growers Association Representative Tony Ponder has been elected as the New Zealand Avocado Growers Association and Avocado Industry Council Chair.

NZAGA Grower Representative Linda Flegg has been elected as the Vice Chair of the NZAGA.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the New Zealand avocado industry, with an incredible increase in value and the positive collaboration throughout the industry,” says Ponder. . .

Primary Wool appoints new director:

Waikato agribusinesswoman Janette Osborne has been appointed to Primary Wool Cooperative’s (PWC) board.

Chairman Bay de Lautour says special skills and understanding are required with PWC being the only New Zealand wool cooperative, and with its unique cooperative / corporate joint venture with Carrfields in CP Wool. . .

Provincial wedding and function venue business groomed for sale:

One of the plushest function and corporate all-in-one event venues in provincial South Island – complete with its own specialised bakery and patisserie-making kitchen – has been placed on the market for sale for the first time.

StoneBridge wedding and function venue in the South Canterbury township of Geraldine is a purpose-built event-hosting destination which is operated in conjunction with a commercial accommodation arm. . .

 


Rural round-up

October 9, 2017

Water conservation orders dam up vital conversation – Andrew Curtis:

The past few weeks have seen hundreds of Hawke’s Bay residents take to the streets to protest against a proposed water conservation order that would limit the amount of water taken from the Ngaruroro River. Nearly 400 submissions on the order have been received, with submitters split evenly between those for and against.

The Ngaruroro has had water drawn from it since the time settlement of the Heretaunga Plains started more than 100 years ago. Its waters support the orchards and vineyards that contribute to Hawke’s Bay’s identity and our enjoyment of New Zealand grown produce. Two-thirds of New Zealand’s apples come from the area, along with nectarines, onions, sweetcorn, squash and internationally renowned red wine. Thousands of jobs in Hastings and Napier rely on produce and business from these fertile plains. . . 

Healthy returns likely to continue – Tony Leggett:

Volatility is ever present but Alliance Group expects to deliver healthy farmgate returns for all types of livestock over the coming months.

Speaking at a roadshow meeting in Feilding on Tuesday, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Heather Stacy presented positive price ranges for lamb, mutton and beef.

“It’s been a strong year to date for farmgate prices but we’re really looking forward with caution. These price ranges I’m about to deliver are not a guarantee,” Stacy said. . .

Getting women active in decision making:

A course designed to lift farm profitability by helping farming women become more active partners in their farming businesses is achieving outstanding results, according to new research.

The Understanding Your Farming Business (UYFB) course funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) Primary Growth Partnership Programme and run by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust has since 2014 built up the skills, knowledge and confidence of 650 farming women. . .

Meat quota outrage – Nigel Stirling:

The New Zealand sheep meat industry has gained a powerful new ally in the United States as access arrangements to its single most valuable market, Europe, are again thrown into doubt.

The industry was jolted by Britain’s announcement last week that it had agreed with the European Union how import quotas would be split after it left the 28-country bloc in 2019.

It was thought Britain had agreed to take part of the 228,000 tonne tariff-free quota previously covering the whole EU. The British portion would be based on its previous three years of imports. . .

Bananapocalypse: The race to save the world’s most popular fruit – Paul Tullis:

In a hot, dry field near a place called Humpty Doo in Australia’s Northern Territory, scientists are racing to begin an experiment that could determine the future of the world’s most popular fruit, the lowly banana.

Dodging the occasional crocodile, researchers will soon place into the soil thousands of small plants that they hope will produce standard Cavendish bananas — the nicely curved, yellow variety representing 99 percent of all bananas sold in the United States. But in this case, the plants have been modified with genes from a different banana variety. . . 

 


Water tax by the numbers

September 21, 2017

When policy is based on politics rather than logic it’s difficult to work out the cost, but IrrigtionNZ has done the numbers for the water tax:

Recent attempts to estimate the cost of Labour’s proposed water tax to farmers have demonstrated a basic lack of understanding of how irrigation works, says nonprofit membership body IrrigationNZ.

This issue, which is compounded by a lack of detail from Labour about how the tax would be applied, has resulted in some widely varying estimates. Radio New Zealand’s ‘Fact or Fiction’ series calculated the cost for irrigated farms at $13,800 a year, whereas figures from DairyNZ have estimated a figure of $45,000 a year.

On top of this, yesterday Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ there are 12,000 farms in New Zealand and 2,000 of them have irrigation. In fact according to Statistics NZ and the 2012 Agricultural Census there are 58,071 farms in NZ and 10,500 have consent for irrigation. Irrigation NZ estimates the number of irrigated farms is now at around 11,000.

‘The public will rightly be confused by these very different figures,’ says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. ‘But the lack of detail on how Labour would apply a water tax compounded with the sheer number of variables between farms – for example their size, what they produce, and how dry the region is, makes it hard to estimate with accuracy. While recent coverage has focused on the impact on dairy farms – just over half of our irrigated farms are not used for dairy – but for sheep or beef, arable farming, horticulture or vineyards. These farmers and growers will also pay the tax.”

IrrigationNZ has spent the last decade developing a comprehensive suite of standards, codes of practice, guidelines and knowledge resources on irrigation, and now run over 50 training courses a year nationally. IrrigationNZ’s main focus is providing knowledge and training to help irrigators achieve ‘excellence in irrigation.

‘Our figures, based on the average irrigated farm in Canterbury of 220 hectares, show an actual average cost of $24,000 to $29,000 a year (at 2 cents per 1000 litres). We’ve used Canterbury figures because there is no national average figure available for the size of an irrigated farm – but there is for Canterbury, where 60 per cent of irrigated land is.’

‘When this additional cost is put in context of the profit generated by a family farming business – it will create a significant impact, particularly for sheep and beef, arable and vegetable farmers who have reasonably tight operating margins.”

Mr Curtis adds that there will be larger farms and those farmers operating in drier climates who will be facing significantly higher bills of $40,000 to $50,000 or more.

Will non-irrigated farms pay?

While both Radio New Zealand and DairyNZ calculated water tax costs for non-irrigated farms, it remains unclear whether these farms would be paying the tax as it is unclear whether they would qualify as ‘large commercial users of water’. The only users mentioned by Labour are water bottlers and irrigators.

6% of New Zealand farms are irrigated (around 11,000 farms). Regardless of whether other farms may pay some of the tax costs, the majority of the tax will fall on a small subset of farmers.

Calculating a water tax on irrigated farms – key variables:

Type of farming – from dairy, to sheep, arable, or horticulture (DairyNZ’s figures were for dairy farms)
Size of farm
Amount of rainfall
Actual water use vs consented take
Number of days irrigation water is applied
The cost of the tax.
IrrigationNZ has been surprised by the growing number of irrigation experts in NZ.

‘Academics, economists and organisations that wouldn’t have the knowledge to turn on an irrigator are all offering their expert opinions on the cost of a water tax. Anyone talking about the potential cost of a water tax must have some basic understanding of water use by irrigators and not everyone offering an opinion currently seems to have that,” says Andrew Curtis.

‘We’d be happy to run a special course for the growing list of water tax experts – to help people to brush-up on their irrigation knowledge and assumptions.’

Calculating irrigation water use – the backbround

Before entering into the ‘how much will irrigators pay’ debate some basic knowledge of water use by irrigators is required.

‘The key piece of information is 1 mm of rainfall (noting rainfall is measured in millimetres not millilitres) falling over 1 hectare is equivalent to 10m3 which is equivalent to 10,000 litres). This provides some context around the sensationalist numbers being used by some parties around irrigation water use,’ says Andrew Curtis.

“For example over the Canterbury region (4.5 million hectares) an annual rainfall of just under 1,650mm or 74 trillion litres falls. However, we all know this isn’t distributed evenly and that’s why we need to irrigate – to provide additional rain for a crop to grow during dry periods. Under 500 mm falls at the coast, rising to 1,000 mm in the foothills and well over 2,000 mm in the mountains.”

For the 500,000 ha of irrigation in Canterbury (based on a seasonal allocation of 550 mm which is explained below) this means the maximum use for irrigation is 4.5 trillion litres or 6% of the annual rainfall.

“It is important to realise irrigators must hold a consent to take water for irrigation, and this contains a seasonal allocation expressed as a volume in m3. This volume is the maximum amount of water an irrigator is allowed to take and based on 80% application efficiency (the agreed industry standard) and 90% supply reliability,” says Mr Curtis.

Councils use a water allocation tool, such as Irricalc (http://irrigationnz.co.nz/practical-resources/irrigation-development/water-allocation-calculator/) to calculate a farms seasonal irrigation allocation requirements. These tools are based on a daily time step water balance model that uses the local climate and the farms soil water holding properties.

“However, when we case study an individual farm we always base it on the seasonal volume written on their consent – as this is the most likely method through which a water tax charge will be calculated,” says Mr Curtis.

David Clark gives the impact the tax will have on his cropping farm:

 


Rural round-up

September 3, 2017

Irrigation brings environmental improvements Greenpeace wants – Andrew Curtis:

I am sure Greenpeace felt very proud of themselves when they locked themselves inside a Central Plains Water irrigation pipe to “protest dairy intensification”.

They shouldn’t be. Quite apart from putting themselves at risk on a dangerous construction site, breaking the law and tying up police time, they were wrong on a number of counts.

The first problem with the Greenpeace protest was the idea that irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water automatically lead to more dairy intensification. This is not true. The new farms connecting to Central Plains Water are traditional mixed cropping farms. The same holds true for other new irrigation developments like the Hurunui Water Project in North Canterbury, the North Otago Irrigation Company and Hunter Downs in South Canterbury. Across the country, around 50 percent of irrigated land has other uses – growing food, raising sheep and beef cattle, and for wineries. . .

Hawke’s Bay honey company stung by theft:

A Hawke’s Bay honey company has been stung by the theft of almost 500,000 bees.

Nineteen hives of Arataki Honey were stolen from a remote forestry block in Putere, an hour and a half north of Napier, this week.

The site was hidden from the road and Arataki Honey’s field manager Duncan Johnstone said the thieves must have known where to find the bees.

It was an expensive loss for the company – each hive is valued at $700 and all up it was a $20,000 loss. . .

QE II Trust Members reappointed:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry today announced the re-appointment of two members of the Queen Elizabeth ll National Trust.

“I’m delighted Chairperson James Guild (MNZA) and Director Bruce Wills have agreed to stay on the board and continue the excellent work underway as the Trust celebrates its 40th anniversary,” Ms Barry says.

“Both men will serve another 3-year term and use their considerable skills and experience to ensure the Trust continues to win support from landowners willing to covenant their land for future generations. . .

Dairy industry set for big crash – Susan Murray:

The dairy sector faces another big price drop if the industry doesn’t continue to push for innovative ways to use dairy protein, warns KPMG.

Dairy companies need to think of themselves as protein or nutrition companies, said KPMG global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot.

He said there will be 10 or more items able to compete with traditional natural cow’s milk in a supermarket chiller.

“It’s interesting to me when I look at what’s happened in the last sort of six months – as the dairy price has gone up, the desire for change has gone down. . . 

Powering up Predator Free 2050:

National will boost Predator Free 2050 with $69.2 million of new funding over the next four years to ramp up the ambitious, world-leading pest eradication programme, Conservation Spokeswoman Maggie Barry says.

“We have been absolutely thrilled with the enthusiasm of communities up and down the country about Predator Free since it was launched one year ago,” Ms Barry says.

“National in Government will match the commitment of our volunteers, councils and philanthropists and turn this project into something that will achieve what Sir Paul Callaghan called “New Zealand’s moonshot”.” . . 

Smith welcomes sanctuary pest control work:

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith is hailing today’s pest control operation in the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary as a win for the survival of New Zealand’s native birds.

“The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust has fought long and hard for today’s pest control operation. It has had to go to court three times as a result of action by the Brook Valley Community Trust to try to stop it, and three times the court has backed the Sanctuary Trust,” Dr Smith says.

“The science is clear that the only way birds like kiwi, kokako, kea and kaka will survive is to effectively control the pests that have decimated their populations. I can appreciate people’s angst at killing rats, stoats and possums but every year these pests brutally kill 25 million native birds. . . 

This tiny country feeds the world – Frank Viviano:

In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise.

From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20.

That copious output is made all the more remarkable by the other side of the balance sheet: inputs. Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.”  . .

#LoveLambWeek: Sheep farmers call on consumers to put lamb back on plates –

The next generation of sheep farmers has called on the next generation of shoppers to put lamb back on plates across Britain through Love Lamb Week.

Over the past 15 years, fewer people have been regularly eating the very British meat, and with those aged 55 years and over making up the lion’s share of the market, time is ticking for lamb.

This year the annual campaign runs from 1-7 September, and social media users are being urged to tweet the hashtag #LoveLambWeek . . .

 


Water tax won’t work

September 1, 2017

We all want clean water but Labour’s water tax won’t achieve that:

. . .Labour’s water policy of taxing irrigation water is great as it has raised awareness, stimulated debate and attempted to fix the problem. The saddest thing is that it is fundamentally flawed. It has indirectly torn us apart as a country, creating an ‘us and them’ divide between rural and urban communities.

You simply can’t tax one sector of society for a national problem – we are all in this together. We all have to pay.

If individual farmers are causing problems they should be responsible for them and regional councils already have the powers to hold them accountable. But it is wrong to make all irrigators pay a tax to spend cleaning up messes for which they’re not responsible.

The policy has vilified irrigated farmers, portraying them as the sole cause of the issue. This has given urban people the ammunition to point the finger and hide behind the quietly forgotten fact that urban waterways have some of the worst quality in the country – through no fault of agriculture, let alone irrigation. . .

Even in the country, rivers with more irrigation generally have fewer quality problems.

The tax is holding all irrigators responsible for something few, if any, caused and it could have unexpected consequences:

A new survey of irrigators has revealed the potential impact of implementing Labour’s proposal on a water tax, including the news that it is set to lead to more intensive farming.

Key findings from the survey conducted by IrrigationNZ were:

• 40 per cent of farmers said they would need to increase the number of stock on their farm to pay for the water tax

• 63 per cent of farmers and growers said they would reduce their spending in local communities

You can’t spend money twice. Every dollar taken from a farm in water tax is a dollar less to spend and the local community will be the first to feel the impact.

Over 80 per cent of farmers are already carrying environmental improvement work such as fencing off streams or riparian planting – but half of those surveyed said they would have to reduced their spending on this to pay for the water tax

Every dollar taken in water tax is a dollar less for on-farm improvements.

Andrew Curtis, CEO, Irrigation NZ, says: “The survey raises serious concerns about the potential unintended effects of a water tax and whether these outcomes are desirable. Environmental lobby groups who support a water tax blame intensifaction for water quality issues but our survey shows the water tax is set to lead to more intensive farming as well as reduce spending on environmental improvements and spending in rural communities.

“The tax would not just affect farmers but the rural economy, with the potential for job losses in local shops and businesses in many areas of New Zealand.”

Dairy conversions could go up

IrrigationNZ carried out a survey of 124 farmers to gather information on the potential impact of the water tax (at a 2 cents per 1,000 litre charge). Of the 59 arable, sheep, beef or mixed cropping and sheep or beef farmers participating in the survey, 48% said they would consider converting their property to other uses, like dairying, dairy grazing, horticulture and more intensive activities to make their farms viable enough to fund the cost of the tax. Two property owners said they would consider selling up.

One arable farmer explained his reasons for considering converting: “We have continued to hold off converting to dairy, while many around us have done just that. We believe we are doing a good job, but every year our bottom line is diminishing, while we work harder and are more productive. Soon, dairying will be our only viable option.”

Mr Curtis says: “Many people would assume that taxing water would result in less water being used however the results indicate farmers would have less money to spend in investing in more efficient irrigation systems and less to spend on crop monitoring to apply water only when needed.

Every dollar taken in tax is a dollar less for investing in technology which would have environmental benefits.

“Equally, the comments from arable, sheep and beef farmers indicate that many of them would consider moving to more intensive farming such as dairying which would consume more water – not less!”

A group of Maniototo farmers who use irrigation predominantly for sheep and beef farming recently highlighted the impact of the tax in this video. The area is one of New Zealand’s driest and receives only 350-500mls of rain annually. The farmers could face costs of $2.6 million in water taxes and would have the option of selling their farms, reducing their water allocation or converting to dairy farming as a result of the tax.

Environmental improvements already happening

“The results also highlighted that most irrigators are already fencing off waterways and many are carrying out riparian planting work. With that in mind we would question whether a new tax, with its associated administration costs is needed, given this work which is already underway,” he adds.

IrrigationNZ has reiterated its concerns about the water tax in light of the survey results.

“While we understand that many New Zealanders support the concept of a water tax, we question whether they would support some of the outcomes it could create. Labour is talking about raising $650 million to $1 billion from the tax over the next decade. They need to provide the public with an analysis of the impacts of the tax on farms, jobs and the wider economy before people can make an informed decision about whether the tax is a good idea,” says Mr Curtis. “Our survey has thrown up some very concerning issues.”

The survey also raised issues with Labour’s idea of having ready for work unemployed young people access properties, with most of those surveyed having concerns about the health and safety issues liability issues involved.

Survey findings in full

The survey found that costs varied widely if a 2 cents per 1,000 litre tax was introduced:

• 30 per cent of irrigators would pay less than $10,000 per annum

• 19 per cent of irrigators would pay between $10,000 and $20,000 per annum

• 29 per cent of irrigators would pay between $20,000 and $40,000 per annum

• 22 per cent of irrigators would pay $40,000 or more, with the highest individual cited a cost of $175,000 per annum.

Meeting the extra expense

• 40 per cent of farmers said they would need to increase the number of stock on their farm to pay for the water tax

• Of the 59 arable, sheep, beef or mixed cropping and sheep or beef farmers participating in the survey, 48% said they would consider converting their property to other uses, like dairying, dairy grazing, horticulture and more intensive activities to make their farms viable enough to fund the cost of the tax. Two property owners said they would consider selling up.

• 63 per cent of farmers said they would reduce their spending in local communities

• 56 per cent of said they would look at reducing debt payments and 35 per cent of farmers said they would consider increasing debt.

• 27 per cent said they would have to look at either reducing staff hours or laying off staff to meet the tax costs

Environmental Improvements

• 47 per cent had undertaken riparian planting work already

• Over 80 per cent had done one or more of the following – fenced off waterways, undertaken riparian planting, or undertaken some other kind of biodiversity enhancement work

o 74 per cent had already undertaken work to fence off waterways

o 47 per cent had already undertaken riparian planting

o 44 per cent had already undertaken some other form of biodiversity enhancement

People who’ve already done, or are doing, work to protect waterways will be taxed and some of their money will be used to help those who haven’t or aren’t.

• 50 per cent said they would reduce riparian planting, wetland restoration or other biodiversity enhancement work as a result of the tax

• 45 per cent said they would scale back investment in funding more efficient irrigation systems

• 21 per cent said they would reduce back crop monitoring or irrigation scheduling investment.

The survey follows an earlier analysis IrrigationNZ completed on the amount of tax raised by region from the proposed water tax, compared with the swimmability of rivers. The analysis showed that the regions with least swimmable rivers were all located in areas with less than one per cent irrigated land area.

Every day more facts come out to show how bad this policy is.

But as yet none of those facts have had any impact on Labour politicians who have based their policy on emotion.

 

 


Water tax gets worse

August 30, 2017

Labour has changed its mind on the water tax again, making it even worse:

Supporters of Labour’s proposed water tax may be changing their minds when they hear the money raised won’t all be spent on cleaning up rivers.

Labour introduced the water tax proposal with the stated aim to ‘restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable state within a generation’. They even called it a ‘Clean Rivers’ announcement. http://www.labour.org.nz/water

They also said the money would be spent cleaning up rivers in the regions where the money would be raised, from irrigators and water bottlers.

But speaking on RadioLive at the weekend, Labour’s spokesperson on Primary Industries Damien O’Connor backtracked. O’Connor said some of the money would be used to introduce a government subsidy on drinking water improvements. He also said some of the money would be transferred between regions.

It was bad enough that people doing everything right were going to pay to clean up after those who aren’t in their own region, but now the money would go out of the local economy to fix up messes in other parts of the country.

Andrew Curtis, CEO of Irrigation New Zealand, said: “Supporters of Labour’s proposed water tax are likely to feel let down by the news that the money won’t all be going on cleaning up rivers, as Labour originally said it would. And we know that many of our members will be dismayed that their hard-earned dollars won’t all be going back to rivers in their region.

‘This is yet another example of Labour chopping and changing it’s mind on the water tax. That’s why we can’t support the tax. There are too many unanswered questions.

“This a proposal that could cost $650 million to $1 billion over the next decade.

Labour doesn’t even have a policy setting out how such a huge amount of money would be spent and it hasn’t done any analysis of the impacts of the tax on the economy, jobs and farmers.’

‘It seems to me that Labour’s latest announcements indicate they see this as another opportunity to introduce a new tax to be spent on whatever the government decides.”

The PREFU showed continuing surpluses. There is no need for new or higher taxes.

Not thought through

Andrew Curtis said the constant changes in direction on the water tax over the last few weeks demonstrated Labour did not have a grasp of the issue and hasn’t thought through the implications.

“When they introduced the policy Labour said the tax would vary depending on the scarcity of water, which they’ve since backtracked on after realising that was too complex. They’ve also backtracked on the cost of the tax after telling us it was 2 cents per 1,000 litres, and then saying they hadn’t decided.

“And now we find out the money won’t be spent within the regions it comes from and some of it won’t even be spent on rivers.”

Labour agrees with Irrigation New Zealand on Auckland

Mr O’Connor acknowledged what Irrigation New Zealand have been saying for a while – that the water tax would not solve poor quality rivers in urban areas like Auckland.

He said Auckland ratepayers would need to fund a rates rise to provide money to fix the region’s rivers. Auckland has the least swimmable rivers in New Zealand with 62% of rivers graded poor for swimming, and no rivers graded as good or excellent.

Andrew Curtis said: “At least Labour has now acknowledged that the water tax won’t fix some of the country’s worst rivers. Aucklanders need to realise this too, and that they are facing a higher rates bill.”

Labour has chopped and changed so much on this, it’s difficult to know what their plan is unless it’s to muddy the waters over exactly what they’ll do, in which case they’re succeeding.


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