Rural round-up

August 17, 2017

Labour’s knee-jerk ‘clean our rivers’ call needs details so it doesn’t look like a rural-to-urban wealth transfer in the sheep’s clothing of a freshwater policy; On the principles of royalties; And why aren’t we talking nitrates? – Alex Tarrant:

Labour’s water policy announcement had some of the desired effect. “Labour promises to make commercial water bottlers pay,” one major news outlet headlined.

Some coverage even got excited that Labour would get unemployed youth to plant trees and build fences around waterways to ‘help’ the farmers out.

I’ll get that out of the way first, because as Jordan Luck once said, it’s been bugging me: If you can get someone to the skill level required to build stock fences on rural terrain then you’re more than halfway to training up a fully-fledged farmer. That’s no bad thing, given an ageing farming workforce and shortage of labour. . . 

Alarming lack of detail in Labour’s water charge – Andrew Curtis:

Labour’s announcement of a tax water will hit not just the dairy industry but is bad news for all New Zealanders. Labour won’t be drawn on how much the tax would cost. Apparently it may vary by region based on the scarcity and quality of water. And no assessment has been made of how it would affect the average Kiwi.

However, if there’s one thing you can be certain of, it is that like all taxes, it is not actually a tax on the supplier of goods, because like all taxes it will be passed on to the consumer. In the same way that businesses factor in the costs of paying company tax and GST on goods they use, we will all end up paying.

There is an alarming lack of detail around what has been announced. It can hardly be called a policy, or a plan, because all we have to go on is a one page press release. Calls to the Labour Party headquarters asking for more details were fruitless. . .

‘Let’s answer this’ – questions mounting as New Zealanders demand answers on water tax:

‘Let’s Answer This’, a campaign to get key questions on Labour’s proposed water tax answered is gathering momentum – while the fundamentals remain unclear.

The questions were sent to Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern on Friday 11th August by non profit membership organisation Irrigation New Zealand asking for a confirmed response in writing.

The organisation was prompted to act after a one page statement issued by Jacinda Ardern announcing the water tax provided very little detail on what the tax would involve. Key questions that have not been addressed include the impact of the tax on ordinary New Zealanders, what it will cost, who it will apply to and how it might be implemented. . .

Five-star treatment for NZ venison – Lynda Gray:

Venison processor Mountain River is slowly but surely growing Chinese appetites for Kiwi venison through five-star Western hotels restaurants.

At face value the strategy seems illogical but it made perfect sense given most of the diners were Chinese.

“If you’re a high-end Western restaurant and not targeting Chinese diners you won’t survive,” Hunter McGregor, a Shanghai-based importer and exporter said. . .

Dairy processors compete for milk – Sally Rae:

More cautious investment over the next five years is likely as New Zealand dairy processors struggle to fill existing and planned capacity, Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins says.

While capital expenditure in new processing assets stepped up between 2013 and 2015, capacity construction had run ahead of recent milk supply growth and appeared to factor in stronger growth than Rabobank expected.

In a new industry report, Ms Higgins said milk supply had stumbled over the past couple of production seasons and, while the 2017-18 season was likely to bring a spike in production of 2%-3%, the bank expected growth to slow to or below 2% for the following four years. . . 

NZ innovation makes mastitis treatment easier:

· Penethaject formulation a world first

· Locally developed in New Zealand

· Effective treatment of mastitis in dairy cows

A new ready to use antibiotic formulation for treating mastitis that took seven years to develop, register and launch is now available for New Zealand dairy farmers.

Penethaject™ RTU (ready to use) has a unique formulation that requires no pre-mixing. It’s the first time such a formulation has been developed anywhere in the world.

Bayer dairy veterinarian Dr Ray Castle says Penethaject RTU will make it easier for farmers to effectively treat clinical mastitis, a condition affecting 10% – 20% of New Zealand’s 5 million dairy cows every year. . . 

To fit into Silicon Valley wear these shoes – Nellie Bowles:

 Silicon Valley goes through its own unique shoe crazes. There were Vibrams. There were Crocs.

Now comes the Allbird, a knit wool loafer. In uncomfortable times, Silicon Valley has turned to a comfortable shoe. If there’s a venture capitalist nearby, there’s probably a pair of Allbirds, too.

The Google co-founder Larry Page wears Allbirds, according to the shoemaker, as do the former Twitter chief Dick Costolo and the venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Mary Meeker.

Founded by a New Zealand soccer star and a clean-technology entrepreneur, Allbirds makes the sneakerlike shoes from wool and castor bean oil. . .

 


Water policy inconsistent, unfair

August 14, 2017

Labour’s environment spokesman David Parker showed up yet more flaws in the party’s water tax policy on Q&A yesterday:

. . . No, look, you know, if there’s a cost of cleaning up our rivers, cos I think it’s your birthright and mine to be able to swim in our local river in summer, and for our kids to put their head under without getting crook, there’s a cost to that cleanup. As Nick Smith said last week, he thought that the cost for central government was going to be about $100 million per annum. Now, who should pay that? Should we tax pensioners? Or working people? Or should the farmers who are polluting make a contribution?  . . 

As a general rule, polluters should pay and farmers who pollute now do pay if successfully prosecuted by regional councils. Prosecutions can be not just for actual pollution but also for potential pollution from, for example, effluent spills which could reach waterways, even if they don’t.

But problems with waterways aren’t always the result of current practices, they’ve built up over years, even decades. It is unfair to tax all irrigators now for damage done in the past for which many wouldn’t have been responsible.

It is equally unfair to tax irrigators who aren’t contributing to pollution to clean up after those who are and to tax those in one area to repair damage done in another.

This tax isn’t going to be levied just on polluters it’s going to be levied on all irrigators no matter how good their farming practices and environmental stewardship are.

Then there’s the inconsistency of charging some commercial water users but not all:

. . . CORIN Here’s the thing – you’ve targeted farmers. But why are you giving an exemption to Coca Cola and various other businesses in the cities?

DAVID Well, what we’ve said is that domestic and stock water will never pay. We’re not interested in the municipal sources of water. You know, Coca Cola, they already pay a dollar per cubic metre or a dollar per thousand litres to the Auckland Council for the water they drew. We’re not going to charge them twice. . . 

Good grief! Does he think irrigation water arrives at the farm gate for free?

To get water from the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC), farmers have to buy shares and pay a cost of about $80 $800 per hectare per year. That covers the infrastructure and delivery costs, which are the same costs Coca Cola pays for council water.

If Labour isn’t going to charge Coca Cola twice, why is it going to charge farmers twice?

. . .CORIN But it does feel, there will be many in the farming sector who will be frustrated and feel they’re being singled out.

DAVID It is them who are polluting our rivers, so I don’t know how that’s unfair.

CORIN Well, they’re certainly a contributor.

DAVID Well, no. Let’s deal with one of the issues that Steven Joyce said. He said, ‘Look at the cities.’ You know, over the last decade, cities have improved their quality.

CORIN But they do pollute waterways as well.

DAVID Not nearly as much as they did in recent decades. And who’s paid for the cost of that cleanup? The people in the cities. They’ve paid for better sewerage treatment; the factories have cleaned up. And over those same decades, the rural sector rivers are getting worse. Now, who should pay? Should the polluter pay or should we tax pensioners? . . 

It doesn’t matter how many times or different ways he says it. Problems have built up over decades and not all are caused by those irrigating now.

Most farmers have changed their practices to stop pollution, to repair damage and enhance waterways.

Labour’s policy won’t give them any credit for that, will charge all irrigators regardless of whether or not they are causing problems, and will tax farmers in one place to clean up water in another.

And not all the problems in rural rivers are caused by irrigation.

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows.

Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of December, but readings for those sites at other times and for all other sites have been considered safe for swimming. . . 

This summer the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls Bridge is the only site to have its most recent reading in the amber/alert range, recording 510 parts of E. coli per 100ml of water on December 28.

ORC duty director Scott MacLean said there was a large colony of nesting gulls at the site, in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E. coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season.”

Other amber readings were recorded in the Taieri River at Outram on December 12 and 19, and in the Taieri River at Waipiata on December 15.

Mr MacLean said the Outram spikes were caused by high river flows on December 12 and heavy localised rainfall on December 19, and the Waipiata spike was caused by rising flows at the time of sampling, due to rainfall on December 12.

Readings at both sites had since fallen to the green band of fewer than 260 E. coli parts per 100ml of water, which was considered very safe for swimming, Mr MacLean said. . . 

Seagulls and heavy rain, not irrigation, caused spikes in pollution and the poor water quality after the rainfall lasted only a few days. Nature caused that problem and nature fixed it without any political interference or tax.

And not all councils have paid for better treatment.

The state of the Invercargill City Council’s stormwater system has been called a “dirty little secret” that has been allowed to exist for years.

Federated Farmers had a crack at both the city council and Environment Southland about the city’s stormwater system at a resource consent hearing on Thursday.

Federated Farmers executive David Rose, at the hearing, said: “It was a revelation to us, this dirty little secret in Invercargill hidden from Invercargill ratepayers, how rundown the stormwater system is”. 

“The ratepayers of Invercargill are our cousins, our family and our friends. It’s a big shock to the farming community also.”

In the council’s own evidence, it accepts stormwater was contaminated with sewage, Rose said. 

The council has applied to discharge water and contaminants from stormwater systems into surface water bodies and into open drains, for a term of 35 years. 

A total of 147 discharge pipes draining to the Waikiwi Stream, Waihopai River, Otepuni Stream, Kingswell Creek and Clifton Channel are covered by the application. 

But Environment Southland says the consent should be turned down, because receiving waters and the New River Estuary will be effected. 

Environment Southland principal consents officer Stephen West’s report says, “With the known sewage contamination of the stormwater network, including the engineered overflow points, it is likely that the discharges will have more than minor adverse effect on the environment”.

Effects on water quality within the receiving waters and in the New River Estuary appeared to be more than minor, it says. . . 

No farm would apply for consent which would allow it to pollute waterways for 35 years.

But there’s nothing to be gained by widening the rural-urban divide as Labour is attempting to.

We all want clean water.

That won’t be achieved by Labour’s policy which will raise issues around Maori ownership of water.

The most effective way of improving water quality on or near irrigated farms is for farmers to make changes on-farm and to invest in new technology. Labour’s policy takes money from productive uses like that and channels it through a bureaucracy. In doing so it takes responsibility and accountability away from farmers and worse provides a disincentive for them to make improvements to their practices.

So far the announcement has raised more questions than it answers:

“The Labour Party’s glib and misleading announcement this week about a new water tax was disappointing for all New Zealanders,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive, Andrew Curtis.

“Farmers are clear that a tax on irrigation would affect all New Zealanders through higher food prices but Labour has failed to address this, even though many of their voters cannot afford to pay more for groceries,” he says.

“We think the tax is inconsistent in treating water used for irrigation differently to other types of commercial water use and there are a range of complex issues associated with how it would be implemented which appear not to have been thought through at all,” he adds.

“Kiwis have a right to understand the tax before they vote.”

IrrigationNZ requests that Labour provides written answers to the questions below so that voters can understand the impact of this new tax on all New Zealanders.

“Labour – Let’s Answer This” – New Zealanders deserve answers on water tax!” 

What is the impact of Labour’s water tax?

  1. How much tax will be charged per unit of water?
  2. Who will be charged?
  3. What impact will the tax have on price increases for food eg fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, beer, bread, wine, ice-cream, and how will poorer households afford price increases?
  4. How many jobs would be lost across New Zealand due to our food becoming unaffordable at home and not competitive internationally?
  5. How will a water tax enable local communities to implement solutions to their environmental issues?

How is Labour’s water tax fair?

  1. Who owns New Zealand’s water?
  2. Who will the tax be paid to?
  3. Why is it fair to tax some types of commercial water use and not tax others?
  4. Exporters already pay income tax – why should they pay twice?
  5. Why is Labour not going to introduce a sewage tax in town water supplies when the Our Freshwater 2017Report found that E.coli and nitrate-nitrogen concentrations are highest in urban catchments?

How is Labour’s water tax proposal workable?

  1. If the tax varies depending on water scarcity, water quality and weather conditions then how many different tax rates will there be?
  2. Which organisations have you consulted on the tax?
  3. Can Labour confirm that those affected by the tax will set the new tax level as suggested by the Leader?
  4. If tax payers have a different view to Labour will the tax payers’ view prevail?

How will Labour’s water tax address the impacts of climate change and existing investment?

  1. How will taxing water used to grow food increase New Zealand’s resilience to climate change?
  2. Over the last 5 years there has been $1.7 billion investment in modern efficient irrigation infrastructure – what impact will the tax have on this?

Honest answers to these questions would kill the policy, which is what it deserves for being so inconsistent and unfair.

Water quality is an issue all over the country, not just where there’s irrigation and it can be more of an issue when the water falls straight from the sky as rain than when it’s controlled through irrigators.

All farmers should, and most do, play an important role in improving the health of waterways.

Picking on just some of them with a tax will hinder the good work already being undertaken, provide a disincentive to do more and open a can of worms over water ownership.


Rural round-up

July 23, 2017

Real progress can be made at catchment level – William Rolleston:

New Zealand, as we all know, is blessed with abundant water and we have it to ourselves.  

We have abundant water, but not always in the right place at the right time. For example, North Canterbury had been in drought for three years, affecting not only farmers who had to turn off their irrigators, but also rivers like Selwyn – the subject of intense media scrutiny over the early part of this year.  

In the final Selwyn River hurrah, before the rains came and ruined all the fun, The Press, in Christchurch, ran a front page article on the Irwell River where fishing had been destroyed.  . . 

The arguments for and against the Ruataniwha dam – Victoria White:

Over its lifespan, the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme has attracted its fair share of supporters and critics.

For some, the scheme promised a solution to drought problems which hampered the region’s economic development, and placed pressure on water supplies in the Tukituki catchment.

Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said without the dam, “severe water restrictions” would be placed on irrigators, which could impact their livelihood. . . 

Truffle enthusiasts converge on Waipara Valley

Truffle fanatics from around New Zealand have converged on the Waipara Valley in North Canterbury for the area’s third annual truffle festival.

The first of the fungus treasures were produced in the area only 20 years ago – but the region has quickly established itself as the country’s truffle capital.

Waipara Valley truffle grower, Gareth Renowden, said people had been travelling from as far afield as Auckland and Wellington for the festival events, which included hunts, cooking classes and truffle-themed lunches.

Mr Renowden said the truffle trade in the area had taken off and it was hoped in the future there would be a strong export industry. . . 

Wool volumes pick up, stockpiles linger :

A higher volume of wool was offered at New Zealand’s latest weekly auction as stockpiles from last season come to market.

Some 8873 bales were offered at yesterday’s North Island auction, 32% above the 6697 bales offered at the same time last year, AgriHQ said.

The auction achieved a strong clearance rate of 81%, ahead of the 74% average clearance rate in the previous season which ended June 30, AgriHQ said. . . 

Cropping farmers go to polls :

Cropping farmers go the polls in the next few weeks to determine the future of their levy-funded research organisation, Foundation for Arable Research.

Under the Commodity Levies Act growers have the opportunity to vote to renew levy orders every six years. A ‘yes’ vote will ensure FAR’s continued existence and on-going contribution to the cropping industry, while a ‘no’ vote would result in the organisation being wound up, and all research and extension programmes ceasing. . . 

Wish we’d thought of that – astounding agribusiness ideas – Ben Mack:

Agribusiness helps form the backbone of Aotearoa’s economy. Are you doing something stupendous that you think deserves to be recognised at the 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards? Then enter it in the Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment category, sponsored by Bayer NZ.

The 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards are open for entries. If you’ve got an amazing product, service, process or venture – or you know someone who needs to be shoulder-tapped – now’s the time to get it out there. And to help encourage entries and showcase the categories, we’re showcasing the best innovations we come across. We focus next on Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment, sponsored by Bayer NZ.

Farmshed Labs

Anyone who has lived in Aotearoa for any length of time can attest to how important the dairy and cattle industries are to the New Zealand economy, especially out in the regions. Likewise, anyone who has worked with cows on a farm can explain the tricky art of knowing when to breed a cow to a bull, and how often such attempts are unsuccessful. But guess what? Breeding cows isn’t art – it’s science. And there’s some wearable tech that’s making that science easier than ever before. . .

Cream cheese innovation at the heart of significant new build:

Dairy lovers across Asia will soon get their first taste of an innovative new cream cheese, as Fonterra announces plans for two new cream cheese plants at its Darfield site in Canterbury.

The Co-operative today marked the start of the ambitious project, inviting Selwyn MP Hon. Amy Adams and Selwyn District Council Mayor Sam Broughton to join Fonterra management and staff in turning the first sod on the new build. . . 

Feds man honoured for contribution – Laurel Stowell:

Whanganui’s Tim Matthews calls himself an amateur policy analyst.

He won Federated Farmers’ 2017 Outstanding Contribution Award at the federation’s annual general meeting in Wellington on June 21.

A sheep and beef farmer with 1000ha of hill country near Mangamahu, Mr Matthews has been a member of Federated Farmers since 1983. He’s been the vice-president and meat and fibre chairman for the Wanganui province at various times since then. . . 


Rural round-up

May 2, 2017

Young Kiwis needed to help shift NZ’s primary industry focus to environmentally friendly horticulture:

OECD warns New Zealand’s current economic growth model approaching environmental limits

More young Kiwis are needed to roll up their sleeves and help save New Zealand’s environment, particularly our waterways, by participating in careers that expand horticulture as the higher value land use activity of choice. This needs to be given considerable urgency following last month’s warning from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) that New Zealand’s economic growth model is approaching its environmental limits.

Chair of the Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture Education Trust’s ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017 Competition’, Elle Anderson, says she hopes that the OECD’s warning that New Zealand’s economic growth model was approaching its environmental limits will make more young people choose to make a difference with a career in horticulture . . . 

More can be done to protect New Zealand’s waterways:

Protecting New Zealand’s waterways are a priority and dairy is one of many sectors that needs to play a role.

The Ministry for the Environment’s Our fresh water 2017 report released today, Thursday 27 April, identified that more needs to be done to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen and E.coli entering the waterway, in both rural and urban settings.

New Zealand’s dairy farmers have been on this journey for many years now, and the improvements to the quality of their waterways are beginning to show. Over the past five years, dairy farmers have built 26,000 kms of fences to protect waterways on their farms. That’s the equivalent of a journey from downtown Auckland to the steps of the United Nations in New York – and almost all the way back again. . . 

‘Our fresh water 2017’ highlights the need for collective action:

The release of ‘Our fresh water 2017’ is a call to action for all New Zealanders, says IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis. The report measures fresh water quality, quantity and flows, biodiversity and cultural health.

“This report highlights the impact we all have on fresh water resources. I have no doubt it will provoke further finger-pointing at the rural sector, but the reality is, all human activities are placing pressure on our fresh water environments and we must all do our bit to limit and reverse those impacts. ‘Our fresh water 2017’ is a call to action for communities to work together to implement sustainable solutions.”

Mr Curtis said that whilst the report contained some good data on the impacts of certain activities in specific catchments, it was constrained by a lack of consistent data and knowledge gaps – particularly around irrigation. While the report shows 51% of the water allocated by councils is for irrigation, it was not able to determine how much of the allocated water was actually used because data quality and the completeness of records on actual takes is inconsistent. . . 

World Championships big earner for region:

The 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, held in Invercargill in February, was widely heralded as the best event in the competition’s 40-year history.

Now, independent analysis has backed that up, revealing a $6.78 million to $7.48 million economic impact to the Southland economy.

The economic impact report, commissioned by the event and undertaken by Venture Southland, has revealed that international visitors to New Zealand for the event stayed an average of 31.3 days in New Zealand, 14.5 of those in Southland. . . 

Lactoferrin receives GRAS Notice for use in Infant Formula:

Synlait Milk (NZX: SML; ASX: SM1) has been given the green light to export its lactoferrin to the United States for use in infant formula and toddler formula.

Synlait is the second company in the world to receive a GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) notice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use lactoferrin in these applications.

A GRAS notice is added to the FDA Register once a food ingredient is scientifically proven to be safe for its intended use. . . 

US food guru to speak at horticulture conference:

American food and agribusiness guru Roland Fumasi has today been announced as one of the keynote speakers for the Horticulture Conference 2017, on 14 July in Tauranga.

“Roland Fumasi is well-known worldwide for his work for Rabobank’s RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness group,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“He understands the consumer-led market that growers are providing for and the challenges around that, so his presentation will be of great interest at our conference and beyond. . . 

Dairy and lamb to China boost March exports:

Exports rose $446 million (11 percent) when compared with March 2016 to reach $4.6 billion in March 2017, Stats NZ said today.

Exports to China in the March 2017 month were valued at $1.1 billion, up $326 million (43 percent). Milk powder, butter and cheese (dairy), and lamb led the rise. Dairy rose $114 million and lamb rose $57 million.

“China continues to be our top destination for goods exports, and accounts for a quarter of the total dairy exports value,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. “This March, exports to China exceeded $1 billion for the first March month since 2014.” . . 


Rural round-up

February 7, 2017

Sellers withdraw from wool auction as prices plummet – Sally Rae:

Unprecedented levels of wool withdrawn or passed from the market resulted in the smallest offering South Island wool brokers have presented.

Of the original 13,900 bales put up for auction last week, 2100 were withdrawn on the day as sellers chose to hold, as prices were now well below long-term sustainable levels for wool growers, New Zealand Wool Services International chief executive John Dawson said.

The balance of the offering of 11,819 bales had 64% sold, and the remainder was passed in, Mr Dawson said.

Even the grower resistance could not halt further price slippage for crossbred wool, with lamb’s wool and poorer style fleece again being the most affected, PGG Wrightson Wool’s South Island sales team. . . 

Farmers say plan to regulate privately owned bush is heavy handed – David Burroughs:

Farmers have accused the New Plymouth District Council of “confiscating their land rights” with a plan to regulate areas of privately owned native bush.

Nearly 200 farmers from North Taranaki and further afield filled the Urenui Community Hall on Thursday night to listen to the council’s proposal on Significant Natural Areas (SNAs), with many of them speaking out against the proposal.

Under the plan, around 361 areas would become legally protected, with farmers needing a resource consent to make changes to them, such as building a track or making a hut. 

But many of the farmers said they already took care of the land without the need for regulation and bringing in the new rules was heavy handed of the council. . . 

Marlborough shearer ‘sorted’ for international competition – Mike Watson:

Crutching 1000 lambs could prove the ideal warm up for Marlborough shearer Sarah Higgins as she heads to the All Nations shearing championships in Invercargill.

Higgins is the sole Marlborough shearer competing at the All Nations event which has drawn 400 entries.

“It’s part of my practise run towards the championships,” she said. . . 

Water restrictions affect irrigators too:

They’re as much a part of the traditional kiwi summer as burnt sausages and backyard cricket and despite their late arrival, water restrictions are now in place in most regions. While most of us can accept that our carefully-tended lawn will soon become a pocket square of brown dirt, we tend to get a little bit upset when just down the road we see irrigators operating.

“It’s natural for people to question it” said IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis. “But what they often don’t understand is that irrigators operate under the same regulatory regime that town water supplies do, and that town water supplies actually have a priority – irrigators always get restricted from taking water from a river or aquifer long before towns do.”

However, in urban areas, household restrictions are driven by the infrastructure’s capacity to supply; no town water supply system is built to cope with peak demand,  which is everyone watering their garden at the same time in the height of summer. . . 

Pupils take on farm study:

St Hilda’s Collegiate Schoolpupils have been getting their heads around lamb weights.

The Dunedin school was among 26 nationwide to trial a red meat profit partnership programme last year, aimed at engaging primary and secondary school pupils in farming.

The resources, including assessments within the programme, have received the New Zealand Qualification Authority quality-assured assessment materials trademark, and the programme could be used to gain NCEA credits. It will be rolled out to further schools this year.

St Hilda’s head of maths, John Bradfield, said the school had coincidentally been looking for dairy farming data at the time the RMPP programme “popped across the radar”. . . 

It’s a dog’s life as trial season begins – Sally Rae:

Dog trial season is under way, with a big week ahead in May for the Otago centre.

The South Island championships will be held at Warepa, in South Otago, starting on May 1.

The centre’s first trial for the season was held recently at Lowburn and entries were well up on last year.

It was a particularly good couple of days for members of the Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club, who featured among the prizewinners.

Duncan Campbell, from Earnscleugh Station, won the long head with Zip, while his father, Alistair, was third in the straight hunt with Ra. . .

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and child

 


Where are the protests?

January 31, 2017

Otago rivers are fine for swimming, except for the Kakanui where the cause of poor water quality, once again, is seagulls.

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows.

Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of December, but readings for those sites at other times and for all other sites have been considered safe for swimming. . .

This summer the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls Bridge is the only site to have its most recent reading in the amber/alert range, recording 510 parts of E. coli per 100ml of water on December 28.

ORC duty director Scott MacLean said there was a large colony of nesting gulls at the site, in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E. coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season.”

The gulls are natives and can’t be culled, but why can’t something be done, after the breeding season, to deter them from returning next year?

If farming, and particularly dairying, was responsible, the usual suspects masquerading as environmental warriors would be calling for action but they have been silent on this.

They have also been silent on the appalling state of Auckland waterways which are unsafe for swimming.

Kerre McIvor points out hygiene and sanitation are one of the basic requirements for a community to properly function and yet New Zealand’s biggest city is being let down badly on that count.

Whenever Auckland gets more than 5mm of rain, rainwater flows into the shared stormwater pipes and flushes raw sewage into streams or straight into the harbour.

These overflows happen at least 12 times a year.

Newsflash, Auckland gets a lot of rain – and the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools of raw sewage pour into our waterways every single time.

It’s appalling. And the problem is not new. . .

No business, farming or otherwise, would be able to continue to pollute in this way, why are councils and why aren’t the usual suspects protesting?

Alan Emerson asks that question too:

We are continually told in the most emotive terms about the health problems with dairy and irrigation but I’d venture to suggest those issues would be absolutely minimal when compared with raw sewerage.

I ask again; where are the protesters?

The ongoing problem of raw sewerage continuing unabated for the next 18 years is infinitely worse than anything our farming industry can do.

I went to the Greenpeace website believing I must have missed something but no. There was a headline telling me to stop seismic blasting. Maybe that causes sewerage to go into harbours and on beaches.

There was also a rant about a bank presumably funding forest destruction. I can see the logic there, destroy the forest, build houses and pollute beaches.

Greenpeace also wants the Huntly coal power plant shut down. Maybe it was polluting the Waikato River.

What irritated me most though was a mealy-mouthed release about the shocking vandalising of a North Otago farmer’s irrigation equipment.

Paradoxically, Greenpeace claimed to be a peaceful protester but could understand the vandalism as being “a sign of overwhelming public frustration about polluted rivers”.

Show me the science. . .

We are told ad nauseum about farming’s supposed threat to our clean, green image. There’s an appalling lack of science behind the accusations but the anti-farming rants are extreme.

Correspondingly, we have the country’s largest city with far more people than all the provinces combined pumping raw sewerage into the supposed pristine beaches of Auckland.

Where are the environmental protesters?

The Green Party, always willing to castigate farming and generally show indecent haste in the process, hasn’t said anything about the crap-covered beaches of Auckland.

On its website it accused National of plundering our fisheries, claimed the recent extreme weather was a sign of things to come and pontificated, naively in my view, that a fresh start was needed for European Union trade agreements.

There was nothing I could find about the scandalous pollution of our pristine Auckland beaches and the compromising of our clean, green image.

Again if they can slag off farmers for whatever reason they will do it with alacrity no matter what the facts may be.

When it comes to our largest city they seem cowed by the number of voters there. . . 

Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO, draws a similar conclusion:

A recent meeting between Irrigation New Zealand and Greenpeace failed to resolve differences because the environmental group needs a polarising issue to preserve its Auckland funding base, Irrigation chief executive Andrew Curtis says.

Greenpeace gave scant acknowledgement of the role of irrigation or that farmers were reducing their environmental footprint.

The group’s true agenda was laid bare soon after the meeting in a press release that was understanding of Auckland dumping millions of cubic metres of raw sewage into the harbour each year while again admonishing the dairy industry.

Curtis said it showed Greenpeace was a fundraising body determined to protect its Auckland funding base.

“That point was highlighted by the press release this week about Auckland sewage flowing into the harbour which said it was a concern but not majorly because the Auckland Council recognised it is an issue.

“Contrast that with its view of dairy farming and the irrigation industry, which is that there is no acknowledgement they have an issue and are doing nothing to improve the water quality. . .

Clean water is a fundamental necessity for human health.

It is an issue for both rural and urban New Zealand.

Farmers have collectively spent many millions of dollars cleaning up their acts to safeguard waterways.

Regional councils take their responsibilities to monitor farms very seriously. They have the right to prosecute farmers and have done so not only for polluting waterways but for pollution which could reach a waterway even if it hasn’t.

Yet city councils are given not just years but decades to bring their sewer and waste water systems up to 21st century standards.

If farmers were causing even a fraction of the problems that Auckland faces, protesters would be strident.

Their silence on the city pollution and slower than snails’-pace action on improving it is deafening.

 

 


Rural round-up

November 8, 2016

Rural suicide levels at record low – Mitch McCann:

The number of New Zealand farmers taking their own lives is at the lowest point since provisional records began, according to the latest Ministry of Justice statistics.

Figures obtained by Newshub show in the year to June, 18 people who work in farming-related occupations committed suicide, compared with 27 in the previous year.

In fact, the latest numbers are the lowest since figures were first collated in 2007/08. . . 

Honour for oocyte identifier – Sally Rae:

If AgResearch scientist Jenny Juengel had to write a job description for her ideal job, she reckons she would come up with her current position.

Dr Juengel, recently named one of 19 new Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand, is principal scientist with the reproduction team, based at Invermay.

Living in Otago meant she was a long way from where she grew up on a dairy farm in Michigan in the United States. It was that upbringing which she attributed to whetting her interest in agricultural research, particularly reproductive research, as she became interested in why some cows failed to become pregnant. . . 

Irrigate only when necessary:

Canterbury irrigators are being reminded to only turn their irrigators on when necessary as on-going wet and relatively cold temperatures in many parts of the region reduce the requirement for early season irrigation.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis says overall he’s been excited by the number of irrigators that have ‘only just started up’ as it shows that more and more people must be recording rainfall, measuring soil moisture and paying attention to weather forecasts. “However, there’s still a handful of irrigators going on days when its obvious water application isn’t required – we need to get everyone scheduling their irrigation well.”

“Farmers need to record the sporadic rainfall we’ve been experiencing and monitor their soil moisture levels closely. Keeping a check on any predicted rainfall is also key. Not irrigating until you need to reduces operational costs and increases profitability.” . . 

Marton Young Farmers member secures spot in FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional final:

The race to represent Taranaki/Manawatu in New Zealand’s most prestigious primary industries competition has begun.

The first district contest and skills day for the 2017 FMG Young Farmer of the Year was held on Saturday near Stratford.

Twelve contestants were put through their paces by judges assessing their agricultural knowledge and practical skills.

They included Michael McCombs, Alana Booth, George Watson and James Beattie from Marton Young Farmers. . . 

BVD vaccination helps good heifers realise potential:

When you’re raising big, strong and healthy looking heifers to bring into the milking herd, it can be extremely frustrating when they fail to fire. That’s what was happening for northern Waikato farmer Verena Beckett and she was keen to find out what was holding the first calvers back.

Beckett runs a 400-cow dairy herd on her father’s 160-hectare property at Rotongaro, west of Huntly. But it was on her own adjacent 165-hectare farm, also running 400 Friesians, where the trouble was brewing.

Her replacements are raised as part of a grazing scheme run by Franklin Vets (Te Kauwhata) on a separate sheep and beef property northeast of Te Kauwhata. They were, according to veterinary technician Jess Kingsland, “monster” heifers in great condition. But the naturally mated animals were experiencing empty rates of 8–10 percent and calving was very spread out. . . 

Technology helping to make horticulture more attractive to young people:

Efforts by primary stakeholders, helped by the rising prevalence of technology in the horticultural sector, appear to be paying off as more and more young people enter the industry.

Initiatives such as the Young Horticulturist of the Year 2016 Competition – to be contested on Thursday this week – andT&G Pipfruit’s annual Young Fruit Growers recent competition, which attracted spectators from Hastings Girls High School, are helping to change perceptions and generate excitement about careers in one of New Zealand’s more profitable primary industries.

T&G is a major partner of the national Young Hort competition, but also runs the company’s internal competition for young orchard workers as a pathway to the pipfruit . . sector contest (whose winner goes on to the national contest for New Zealand’s best young horticulturist). . . .

Pot calling the cattle back

Why did the cows return to the marijuana paddock? It was the pot calling the cattle back.


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