Hunter Downs irrigation scheme down

October 10, 2018

The Hunter Downs irrigation scheme hasn’t got enough support to go ahead.

Hunter Downs Water Ltd announced yesterday it did not have enough buy-in from landowners in its command area between the Waitaki River and Timaru.

The company owns resource consent to use up to 20.5 cumecs of Waitaki River water.

The irrigation proposition was launched in 2006.

In March last year, shares were offered in a $195million scheme to irrigate 21,000 ha and a government development funding grant of $1.37million had been made. By June 2017, the design was shrunk to 12,000 ha.

At the end of last year, South Canterbury rich-lister Gary Rooney’s offer to buy “dry shares” saved the project from being scrapped then.

In April, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd’s $70million term debt funding would no longer be available to the scheme. So the company released a new funding proposal in August, asking all prospective investors to reconfirm their commitment.

Not enough did.

Chairman Andrew Fraser said yesterday “a significant drop-off in support” meant the scheme could not proceed.

It was not all about intensifying land use and converting to dairying, but rather relieving pressure on existing water takes, decreasing reliance on surface water extractions, and using the plentiful Waitaki River resource, he said. . .

These schemes have to have the support of farmers. But without debt funding from Crown Irrigation, the cost would have been too high for too many.

IrrigationNZ rightly calls it a lost opportunity for South Canterbury.

The scheme had the potential to significantly boost the Waimate economy, create jobs, improve people’s standard of living and help resolve water quality problems,” says Andrew Curtis, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ.

“It’s disappointing that a scheme with wide reaching community benefits won’t proceed.”

“Much of Environment Canterbury’s plans for improving water quality in the South Canterbury coastal area rely on the development of the irrigation scheme to reduce pressure on groundwater and augment the Lake Wainono Lagoon. Hunter Downs still wants to use its consent to augment the Lake Wainono Lagoon, but the other environmental impacts of the scheme not proceeding will need to be worked through.”

The scheme wouldn’t just have drought-proofed farms, it would have    had environmental benefits in improved water quality and lagoon enhancement.

“While farmers benefit from irrigation development, so do local communities. Irrigation projects are difficult to get off the ground if farmers are the sole funders of major infrastructure projects. There have now been numerous studies completed of New Zealand irrigation schemes and all demonstrate that irrigation have significant benefits for local communities and create substantial new tax income for the government,” says Mr Curtis.

“Other countries are increasing their investment in water storage to recognise that their communities and economies need access to a secure water supply in a changing climate. New Zealand needs to keep making similar investments to future-proof our water resources and food production, and secure our export income.”

On the south of the Waitaki River the economic, environmental and social benefits of irrigation are obvious. Those on the other side of the river will miss out on all of that without the scheme.


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”. . . .


Rural round-up

September 11, 2018

Climate change and rural confidence – Mike Chapman:

There has been a lot of talk in the media and in boardrooms about a drop in business confidence. This is also a hot topic in the rural sector, with some of the employment law changes causing concerns about the ongoing financial viability of businesses, and economic growth stalling. An additional concern for the rural sector is the impact of climate change adaptation on primary industry businesses.

Recent reports published on climate change include models that increase hectares planted in trees, and in fruit and vegetables. Some models have fruit and vegetables increasing from today’s 116,000 hectares used for growing, to 1 million hectares. That’s a big increase in growing area and for horticulture, it will most likely come from what is now dairy land. Forests are more likely to be planted on sheep and beef land. The challenge with models is that they make predictions, but turning that into reality may not be easy. . .

Waimea Dam investor that revived project remains a mystery – Erik Frykberg:

A mystery investment which helped get approval for the Waimea Dam project near Nelson is likely to remain anonymous for now.

The investment is for $11 million, and it helped Tasman District Council put the dam project back on course after it was blocked for financial reasons last week.

While little is being said about the investment, RNZ understands it comes in the form of convertible preference shares from an institutional investor, possibly a nominee company from in or around Richmond. . .

Waimea Dam decision good news for Tasman:

The decision by Tasman District Council to support a revised funding proposal to enable the Waimea community dam to proceed is good news for the district, says IrrigationNZ.

Without a dam, the council says that urban and rural water users will be facing significant water use cuts from this summer. This is due to a plan change introducing higher flow requirements on the Waimea River.

“The dam is the most cost effective way to provide a secure water supply for urban residents, business and irrigators while sharing the cost of this major project,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ Chief Executive. . .

Feeding and breeding are vital – Andrew Stewart:

A desire not to be anchored to machinery led Mike and Vicki Cottrell to try something new. They headed for the hills and have spent a quarter-century running sheep and cattle on medium to steep back country near Taihape. They told fellow Rangitikei farmer Andrew Stewartabout facing the on and off farm challenges of the farming life.

Venture southeast from Taihape and you come across the farming community of Omatane.

It is here that clean, green hills are punctuated with river chasms and rim rocks. In the distance Mt Ruapehu provides a stunning but sometimes chilly backdrop. Loosely translated from the Maori dictionary, Omatane means a fleeing man.  . .

New Zealand’s largest forestry acquisition goes ahead:

Australian sustainable forestry company, OneFortyOne Plantation’s (OFO) purchase of Nelson Forests completed this week, following approval by the Overseas Investment Office.

Nelson Forests, was owned by investment funds advised by Global Forest Partners LP (GFP), and is a vertically-integrated plantation and sawmill business in the Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions of New Zealand. Nelson Forests employs 101 people fulltime and its business activity is further supported by approximately 350 contractors. . .

World not yet falling apart – Allan Barber:

Much to a lot of people’s surprise, the global economy is resisting the dire predictions of many commentators, just as the New Zealand economy continues to perform much better than businesses are prepared to accept. But it is far from certain whether this just a question of timing or the genuine possibility the predictions are exaggerated. Speculation, based on suspicion and anecdote, appears to be an unreliable guide to what is actually happening, so, while planning for an uncertain future is essential, it would pay not to ignore present realities.

For the agricultural sector, certainties include sheep meat prices at around all time highs, a high milk price, a fairly mild winter following good growth earlier in the year, continuing demand from trading partners, no new tariffs imposed on New Zealand agricultural products, a bullish, if potentially volatile, global economy, a stable domestic economy and an exchange rate which has stabilised at up to 10% off its 2017 peak. All these factors suggest the world isn’t about to end any time soon. . .

Owen River Lodge first fishing lodge to win at NZ Tourism Awards:

Luxury fishing accommodation Owen River Lodge near Murchison is the first fishing lodge ever to scoop a gong at the New Zealand Tourism Awards.

The 2018 Westpac Business Excellence Award, open to New Zealand tourist operators with less than $6m annual turnover, was presented to owner Felix Borenstein at a black tie dinner in Christchurch last night. . .


Rural round-up

September 7, 2018

Noisy opposition to dams will leave us short of water – Andrew Curtis:

A few days after a vote to build the Waimea Community Dam was narrowly lost at a Tasman District Council meeting the response from politicians, a number of councillors and many around the country, seems to be shock.

The effects will kick in immediately as a plan change which requires Waimea River flows to be raised, drafted on the assumption the dam would go ahead, will mean water restrictions will be enforced in the district this summer.

In Auckland, both Watercare and the region’s vegetable growers take water from the Waikato River. With the region’s population booming, future conflict over water is also on the horizon. Decisions made at a local level, where a noisy opposition may be focused solely on their rates bill, have wider impacts on regions and in fact the whole country. . .

Take the credit – Sonita Chandar:

Young South Taranaki couple Owen Clegg and Hollie Wham do things a lot better than they expected. Sonita Chandar reports and how they are running their farm.

South Taranaki farmers Owen Clegg, 26, and Hollie Wham, 25, are a young couple who, despite achieving great things in the industry, give themselves little credit.

Earlier this year they won the 2018 Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year title. They also won the Honda Farm Safety and Health Award, Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award and the Westpac Business Performance Award. . .

Meat farmers should expand – Neal Wallace:

One of Europe’s largest buyers of New Zealand red meat is urging farmers to expand their flocks and herds.

Alexander Eyckeler said demand is growing for quality cuts of NZ lamb and venison, the reason prices have steadily risen in the last three years.

“My clear message not only for sheep meat farmers but also venison farmers, you have incentives to build up your herds again.”

Eyckeler is one of Alliance Group’s largest lamb, mutton and venison customers, supplying retail and food service markets throughout Europe. . .

Otago merino making mark in space – Yvonne O’Hara:

Merino wool from Central Otago sheep has made it into space, taken part in military operations, fought wild fires and protected extreme endurance athletes.

Outer and undergarments using fabric made from New Zealand, and more specifically Central Otago merino wool, are manufactured and sold in 36 countries by Armadillo Merino, a UK-based company.

Company founder Andy Caughey said their merino wool garments were being used by professional risk takers, including special forces and elite police teams and by International Space Station (ISS) astronauts ”because of the multi-attribute properties of merino wool”.

”Armadillo has also supplied base garments to the Washington DC Park Police Department, which provide public security protection for President Trump and his presidential motorcade,” he said. . .

’M bovis’ hampering free meal – Margaret Phillips:

A reluctance to visit dairy farms in order to reduce the risk of spreading Mycoplasma bovis has dealt a blow to a service dishing up free meals for migrant workers.

Volunteers normally visited 10 to 20 farms each week to invite mostly migrant workers to the community meals put on in Riversdale during the busy lambing and calving season.

Organised by the Riversdale-Waikaia Presbyterian Church, the free weekly meals have in past years attracted about 80 people at the seasonal peak.

But the numbers had dropped drastically, church pastor John Gullick said . .

Ditch the almond milk: why everything you know about sustainable eating is probably wrong – Tony Naylor:

In food and drink, we all want to do the right thing. We want to shop and eat sustainably. But, sometimes, it is easier said than done. Our willingness to jump on the latest eco-trends and unquestioningly accept reassuring labelling can lead to unintended consequences. If we are serious about eating green, we need to read beyond the headlines and think rigorously about how we apply ethical advice in our own lives. By way of inspiration, here are some of the ways we get it wrong on ingredients, storage and recycling – and a few surprisingly easy solutions.

Is almond milk really the nuts?

Influenced by clean eating and agri-exposés such as Cowspiracy(whichpointed to methane emissions from cattle as crucial in global warming), many are ditching cows’ milk in favour of non-dairy alternatives, which, according to Euromonitor, now make-up 12% of global milk sales. . .


Rural round-up

August 17, 2018

Tru-Test to sell businesses to Datamars for $147.9 million – Rebecca Howard

(BusinessDesk) – Tru-Test Corp will sell some of its business to Switzerland-based Datamars for $147.9 million, it said in its annual report.

Tru-Test announced plans to shed the bulk of its businesses, signing a conditional deal to sell its retail solutions and milk meter divisions, which account for about 85 percent of group revenue.

Those businesses include the weighing, electronic identification, contract manufacturing, electric fencing and milk metering operations. All intellectual property – including the Tru-Test name – form part of the deal. . .

Farming educator explains how forecast hot weather could impact farmers and food:

International scientists have released new forecastspredicting higher global temperatures from 2018 – 2022.

IrrigationNZ strongly believes that as the climate continues to vary, many areas of New Zealand will be at increasing at risk of drought and to mitigate this risk, the country must invest in well-designed water storage.

“In hotter conditions crops need more water. Water makes a huge difference to plant growth – for example a wheat field which is not irrigated will only produce half the amount of wheat as a field which is irrigated,” says Andrew Curtis, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ. . . 

Our calving season has finally arrived – Bruce Eade:

The biggest event on every dairy farmer’s calendar is finally here, writes dairy farmer and Southern Rural Life columnist Bruce Eade.

Calving is in full swing for most southern farmers with the middle of August upon us.

The mating decisions and choices we made in October last year are all now coming to fruition.

As I’ve said before, I really enjoy this time of year, seeing the next generation ”hatch”.

Will it be a heifer?

The anticipation, the excitement and the disappointment when it’s a bull is all part and parcel of the season. . .

The ‘cutest sheep in the world’ are now running around in Canterbury – Pat Deavoll:

When North Canterbury farmer Melissa Cowan discovered the valais blacknose sheep on the internet, she thought it was the most endearing animal she had ever seen.

With a black face, ears and feet, a shaggy fringe and beautiful white fluffy fleece it was no wonder the breed had become known as “the cutest sheep in the world”. 

They looked like cuddly toys. Plus they had a friendly temperament. Melissa Cowan had fallen in love.

It wasn’t long before she had talked her husband Hayden Cowan into importing valais blacknose embryos into New Zealand to start a flock. . .

 Swiss immigrant creates piece of pastoral paradise on the Christchurch fringe – Pat Deavoll:

Take a drive out the south side of Christchurch, go around a bend or two, and on the right, no more than a minute from the last house you will find a little piece of pastoral perfection.

Trees, both exotic and native shade small grassed paddocks dotted with plump sheep.  Fantails and tuis dart amongst the treetops. If you are lucky you will see a wood pigeon lumbering through the branches.

This 18-hectare farmlet is the 40-year labour of love of Swiss immigrant Ernst Frei, who brought the property with his wife Renate in 1979 with the dream of converting it into an organic market garden . .

RSE scheme better for business and New Zealand workers:

The tenth annual survey of RSE employers is another win for the New Zealand horticulture and viticulture industries – and New Zealanders.

The latest employers’ survey found that nearly nine in 10 employers had employed more New Zealanders – in addition to RSE workers. On average each of those employers has been able to hire five additional permanent workers, and 20 seasonal workers as a result of their participation in the scheme. . .


Rural round-up

June 5, 2018

Cold facts don’t diminish need to look after farmers – Liam Dann:

Economists and business writers tread a fine line between staying true to the data and the reality of the experience suffered (or enjoyed) by individuals.

There is a risk of coming across cold and robotic.

Take the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

I felt a little cold hearted this week pointing out the scale of the cattle cull is not statistically large. . .

Not worth the stress farmer says – Sally Rae:

Mycoplasma bovis-affected farmer Kerry Dwyer believes the huge amount of stress placed on farmers through the massive cull of cattle will not be worth the result.

Last Monday, the Government unveiled an $886 million plan to eliminate the disease, rather than undertake long-term management. If successful, New Zealand would be the first country in the world to do so.

The cull, of about 126,000 cattle in addition to the 26,000 well under way, would take place over one to two years.

Mr Dwyer, who voluntarily sent 400 calves to slaughter, said success relied on the premise the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) testing regime was accurate and no animals “slip through the net . .

Farmers roast MPI – Annette Scott:

The heat was on Ministry for Primary Industries officials as they sat before 800 farmers at a where-to-from-here Mycoplasma bovis meeting in Ashburton last week.

As the questions and criticism flew from the floor so did the eyebrows rise at the front table that included MPI director-general Martyn Dunne, MPI response veterinary adviser Eve Pleydell and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

The turnout was indicative of the concern the district stands to lose 25% of its dairy herd. . .

Demand for seedlings stuns mānuka farming group – Esther Taunton:

An offer of free mānuka seedlings has been so popular, the scheme is almost 200 per cent oversubscribed. 

Mānuka Farming New Zealand (MFNZ) offered 1.8 million seedlings to landowners, enough to cover about 1635 hectares across New Zealand.  Within a week, 70 applications were received, accounting for 3.6 million seedlings.  . .

All the cowshed is a stage for singing dairy farmer – Jane Matthews:

Every day Patrick Johnson dresses up for work and sings to a crowd of 750 for about three hours.

But Johnson’s not a musician; his costume is an apron and gumboots and the audience never applaud him – they’re cows.

Johnson is a South Taranaki dairy farmer who recently started recording himself singing while he was milking cows and posting a video on the internet everyday in an attempt to make fellow farmers smile. . . 

 

Taking the lead on water – Sally Rae:

Irrigation New Zealand has been involved in the development of Good Farming Practice: Action Plan for Water Quality which will be launched tomorrow. Sally Rae talks to Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis about water — and his varied career.

Andrew Curtis has no interest in “getting back to old Blighty”.

The affable English-born chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) is happily settled in Canterbury with his family.

Their lifestyle block is stocked with Belted Galloway cattle and they consider New Zealand “home. . .

We have a responsibility to help our farmers says chef and restauranteur Matt Moran – Matt Moran:

I’m proud to say that I’m a fourth-generation farmer. I had a rural upbringing on a cattle and dairy farm near Tamworth and still have a commercial farm in the NSW Central Tablelands.

Throughout my childhood we, like most farmers, hit both bad times and good and I thank this rural upbringing for instilling in me a work ethic and a certain toughness. It also gave me a genuine understanding of just how hard farmers work to supply us with the food we rely on at every meal and the quality we demand.

With all the discussion these days about food and sustainability, many of our farmers are struggling to be sustainable in even the most basic sense of making ends meet. . . 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

April 22, 2018

Irrigration industry tries to fix bad boy image at conference :

The head of Irrigation New Zealand recognises the industry has garnered an image as the bad boys in the eyes of many, but they are working to fix it.

About 400 delegates have attended the Irrigation New Zealand conference in Alexandra this week, hearing what the future holds for the agricultural industry.

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said restoring the public image of irrigators was a focus for the industry.

“We are at this crossroads and we have got to find a way forward,” he said. . . 

Landcorp deer milk turned into cosmetics and powder for high end restaurants – Jill Galloway:

Landcorp is milking 80 red deer to make milk powder for high end New Zealand restaurants and skin creams and other cosmetics for Asian markets.

The government’s farming company completed its second season of milking last month. and is due to start milking hinds again when they drop their fawns in November.

Innovation general manager Rob Ford said the hinds were in-fawn at the moment and were not being milked. “The season usually goes from November until February or mid March, the deer are milked twice a day, and the fawns are hand raised.” . . 

It’s time to be moving on – Louise Giltrap:

Parts of this column will sound like a repeat, not because I’m bored or have no opinion on anything, but simply because it’s that time of year.

It’s moving time, which means new jobs, new farms and new homes for some of you.

We have two of our family members on the move this season. Eldest daughter Courtney and her partner William are moving house on the same farm.

They contract milk for William’s parents and are making the move from the worker’s house into the main family home while William’s parents move into town. . . 

Red meat story coming to farmers soon:

We want to provide you with an update on the Red Meat Story, which aims to support the sector to capture greater returns from global markets for farmers.

Last Friday, Beef + Lamb New Zealand hosted a workshop where we presented industry partners with the New Zealand beef and lamb origin brand and a high-level “go to market” strategy.

The workshop included the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Damien O’Connor, the Meat Industry Association, NZ Trade and Enterprise, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade, MPI, Tourism NZ, all major processing companies, and a number of farmers that have been involved in the development of the Red Meat Story. . . 

Salmon key to life for tribe – Hamish MacLean:

In a bid to return salmon to their sacred river, a California First Nations tribe yesterday visited the Hakataramea hatchery where the chinook salmon were first introduced to New Zealand rivers.

Winnemem Wintu hereditary chief and spiritual leader Caleen Sisk was in South Canterbury to learn the history of the Mchenrys Rd hatchery where McCloud River chinook salmon were released into the tributary of the Waitaki River in 1901. The tribe had a sacred connection to the salmon and like the fish, her people had suffered after settlers moved into the forests of northern California. . . 

 

Police join SafeWork campaign to stop quad deaths – Daniel Pedersen:

GRAHAM Brown knows well the dangers of a quad bike.

He was spraying a boundary fence on his property in 2015 when he “looked away at the wrong time, hit a piece of wood and went over.

“I knew I was gone, so I just grabbed hold of the handlebars and clung on,” he said this morning, as SafeWork NSW, NSW police and politicians spilled onto his Springside property to promote quad bike safety. . . 

 

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