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.


Anti-farming bias won’t wait for facts

August 24, 2016

Contamination of Havelock North’s water supply is a serious health issue which has prompted the government to undertake an inquiry.

In announcing the draft terms of reference for it, Attorney General Christopher Finlayson said:

“It is important that New Zealanders have confidence in the quality of our drinking water, and the independent inquiry will ensure we have a clear understanding of what happened in Havelock North,” says Mr Finlayson.

“Cabinet has today agreed to initiate a Government inquiry which will report to me as Attorney General.

“The inquiry will look into how the Havelock North water supply became contaminated, how this was subsequently addressed and how local and central government agencies responded to the public health threat that occurred as a result of the contamination.

“The terms of reference are very wide and will include any lessons and improvements that can be made in the management of the water supply network in Havelock North and, more broadly, across New Zealand.”     

Cabinet will consider over the coming weeks who will lead the Government inquiry.

The inquiry will be undertaken under the Inquiries Act 2013. This will ensure it follows a clear statutory process and will have a range of powers such as the ability to call witnesses.

The need to wait for facts hasn’t stopped the usual anti-farming suspects rushing to blame farming in general and dairying in particular for the contamination and using it as an excuse to call for the end to irrigation development.

Federated Farmers’  Hawke’s Bay president Will Foley said while there was some livestock farming in the area it wasn’t intensive:

. . . Basically in terms of the area around Havelock North there just isn’t intensive livestock farming.

He said farmers were watching the situation but there had not been any discussions yet.

“Really we’re just waiting to see some more clear evidence as to how the contamination occurred. And then if it was something related to farming livestock, then we can react to it then and I guess change practises if that’s what it turns out to be.”

IrrigationNZ points out that a focus on science and proven solutions is needed in the response to the Havelock North water crisis.

“IrrigationNZ is very concerned, as is everyone else, about the situation in Havelock North. However, we are surprised by some of the accusations now being made around intensive livestock and irrigation, particularly as the area surrounding the water supply well is dominated by orchards, cropping and low intensity livestock.”

“Before jumping to conclusions we first must understand the facts. A thorough inquiry will establish how groundwater in the area has become contaminated but this will take time. In the short term we should be moving towards best practice when it comes to protecting public water supplies from contamination,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO.

Fact 1;

Pathogen contamination almost always results from a point source or a preferential flow scenario.

“The issue will likely be either a preferential flow scenario down the side of an old well case (particularly around older bore casings), a poorly constructed or sealed well head or backflow (contamination making its way directly into bores). Another scenario could be point source from the stock piling of manure. During periods of heavy downpour, contaminants can move through the soil and then there is a risk,” says Mr Curtis.

Fact 2;

Grazing livestock or irrigation are unlikely to be the cause.

“The Havelock North end of the Heretaunga plains is an area of low intensity livestock. Dominated by orchards and seasonal cropping, with sheep grazing in winter there is no dairy or intensive livestock,” says Andrew Curtis.

Livestock grazing is extremely unlikely to have caused this issue – the pathogens don’t make it through the soil, the soil acts as a filter – research work undertaken by ESR has previously shown this to be true.”

Solutions to prevent contamination of groundwater?

Proven solutions include good management practice at both the supply point and any nearby wells.

“Well head protection is essential for all bores and this needs to be better enforced for older bores. Additionally, we need to be looking at requiring back flow protection where applicable. INZ has produced guidelines for backflow prevention that are based on international best practice for agriculture. On top of this, the council needs to be managing nearby point sources where, if heavy rain occurs, leaching could result. Basically all wells near public water supplies should be properly protected.”

“A best practice approach to managing the threats to public water supplies needs to be implemented across New Zealand. There will always be risks from avian, ruminant and human sources so we need to be identifying all the contamination pathways. We need to let the experts get on with their jobs and not take cheap shots with un-informed accusations,” says Mr Curtis.

It’s understandable for the people of Havelock North to be upset about their water and everyone wants to know what caused the problem and what can be done to prevent it happening again in the area or anywhere else.

But that’s not an excuse for the usual suspects to use the issue for their own political agenda without waiting for the facts. In doing so they’re show their anti-farming bias.

We could forget about feeding people and earning the export income we need for a happy, healthy, well functioning country as those of a very dark green persuasion would have it.

We could produce a lot more food and seriously degrade the environment with no concern for the future, a path for which I haven’t heard anyone advocate.

Or we could use science to produce food sustainably which requires good environmental practices based on science.

If poor farming practices are degrading the water we can do something about it but let’s wait for the inquiry and base any required action on the facts.

 


Rural round-up

June 16, 2016

Meeting the market – Sally Rae:

A group of Silver Fern Farms supplier shareholders, led by chairman Rob Hewett, recently flew to China, visiting Shanghai, Inner Mongolia and Beijing. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae joined the group to learn more about opportunities, and challenges, in the country. 

Diverse and complex – that’s China.

It’s a country of extreme contrasts; travel from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the inner city on the maglev train and reach a relatively sedate speed of just over 300kmh (it has a top speed of 430kmh).

City footpaths are swept by old-fashioned straw brooms, while latest model cars sweep past, somehow – albeit narrowly – avoiding the melee of ubiquitous scooters, bicycles and pedestrians. . . 

 

Chilled meat market to come – Sally Rae:

Chilled meat exports to China are likely to be “some time away yet”, Silver Fern Farms chairman Rob Hewett says.

In April, Prime Minister John Key announced New Zealand and China had agreed to protocols relating to chilled meat.

That was lauded as being set to add hundreds of millions of dollars in returns from red meat exports. . .

Dramatic improvement in water quality expected from aquifer project:

A project that provides fresh ways to improve water quality in New Zealand rivers opened to the public today.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said “The Hinds/Hekeao Managed Aquifer Recharge project will take clean Rangitata River water and put this into the aquifer, helping solve current water quality issues as well as improving stream flows.

“The recharge project in combination with improving farm environmental performance, through nutrient limits and audited farm environment plans, will allow waterways in the zone to regenerate and thrive,” he said. . . 

 

Rural businesses target growth strategies;

Fieldays focus on helping rural businesses shift to the cloud

Despite the challenging effects of the dairy downturn, businesses in rural New Zealand remain focused on growth strategies, with strong investment intentions for the coming year according a new report on the sector released on the eve of Fieldays.

The latest MYOB Colmar Brunton Business Monitor survey of 210 businesses from across rural New Zealand highlighted that over half (57 per cent) acquired new machinery and equipment in the last year, a third (33 per cent) invested in technology and just under a quarter (23 per cent) spent money on employee training. . . 

A2 Milk lifts guidance for full-year sales, earnings as trading exceeds targets – Jonathan Underhill

 (BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk raised its guidance for full-year sales and earnings, saying trading is exceeding its targets and the milk marketing company is well placed to cope with changes to regulations for infant formula in China.

Revenue is forecast to be in a range of $350 million to $360 million in the year ending June 30, from a previous forecast of $335 million to $350 million. Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are projected to be $52 million to $54 million, up from the $45 million-to-$49 million range it gave with its first-half results in February. . . 

Wrightson lifts earnings forecast on strong retail, sees tough 2017 – Paul McBeth

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson raised its earnings guidance, saying its retail unit is likely to beat last year’s record result, although the rural services firm expects 2017 to be tough.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are expected to be between $65 million and $68 million in the year ending June 30, up from a previous forecast for ebitda of $61 million to $67 million, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement. That’s still down from $69.6 million a year earlier due to the slump in dairy prices eroding farmers’ incomes. . . 


Irrigation greener option

May 25, 2016

Greenpeace is highly critical of the decision to provide funding for irrigation in Canterbury.

. . . Genevieve Toop, Greenpeace’s agriculture campaigner, said:

“The government is throwing away millions of dollars on this controversial industrial irrigation scheme which will pollute our precious rivers.

“Millions of tonnes of pollution ends up in our rivers already. And this will only get worse if government departments like MPI throw taxpayers’ money at irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water that expand the industrial dairy sector.

“Ecological farming is much better for our rivers, our land and our international reputation. It’s this that the government should be backing, not some failed industrial agriculture model which is polluting our rivers.” . . 

IrrigationNZ counters her arguments:

IrrigationNZ welcomes government funding of $7.85 million for Canterbury irrigation projects that will help lift the water quality of Lake Ellesmere and groundwater in the Hinds area.

The Central Plains Water scheme has been injected with $6.64m to help get its next stages through to construction, and $312,000 has been puttowards a pilot study for aquifer recharge in the Hinds area which aims to restore spring-fed stream flows and alongside address groundwater nitrate issues.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said the Hinds recharge project was particularly exciting because it was the first time techniques commonly used overseas would be used to improve water quality.

“The trial – a first in New Zealand – will use clean Rangitata River water to soak into the aquifer in an area of high nitrate concentrations, diluting the nitrate, whilst also providing better reliability for groundwater takes, and stream flows”, said Curtis “

This alongside the move to Good Management Practice through Audited Farm Environment Plans will allow natural ecosystems to regenerate,” said Curtis. 

Pollution from intensive farming happened over time and it will take time to improve water quality but that’s not an argument to oppose irrigation when better management and independently audited farm environment plans will protect and enhance waterways.

The water will come from the Ashburton District Council’s unused stock water allocation via the Rangitata Diversion Race and Valetta Irrigation Scheme. Groundwater, surface water and climate monitoring will be built into computer models to distinguish the trial effects from other water influences.

“Managed aquifer recharge is used a lot in the United States to replenish aquifers, but is new to New Zealand. This trial is about replenishing aquifers and diluting nitrates. It could be a great tool going forward with excellent environmental outcomes. The success of the trial could lead to it being used in other catchments in New Zealand.”

The project is expected to bring many benefits to the Ashburton community including economic, environment and recreation, said Curtis.

IrrigationNZ also welcomed the announcement by Minister Guy that responsibility for the Government’s irrigation programmes will change in July when Crown Irrigation Investments Limited takes over grants for the development of regional irrigation schemes. This role was previously carried out by the MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund that continues to be involved in supporting early stage strategic water studies and smaller irrigation scheme developments.

Curtis agrees it makes sense to link the Government’s irrigation investment agency more closely to developing schemes, they have much expertise and their help and advice is welcome in setting up the commercial side of community water storage projects as this is one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome. “In the past we have often commented that the two government organisations involved in irrigation should be joined at the hip so this makes much sense,” said Curtis.

Bigger irrigation schemes, particularly those with water storage, are better for the environment than individual farmers pumping underground water.

The bigger schemes use less power and replenish aquifers rather than taking from them.

Of course Greepeace would prefer no irrigation at all and is blind to the economic environmental and social benefits it brings.


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