Rural round-up

July 1, 2018

Farmers stop cow abuser from working with animals unsupervised – Gerard Hutching:

The Northland contract milker caught hitting cows by hidden cameras has been banned from working unsupervised around animals.

Owners of the dairy farm said “as lifelong and committed dairy farmers we are shocked and deeply saddened” by the reports of the ill treatment of some stock on their farm.

“As of today the contract milker concerned has been removed from all duties requiring unsupervised contact with stock pending the outcome of due process with regard to our contractual obligations,” they said in a statement.

The man had earlier been described as a sharemilker, but the owners clarified that he is a contract milker. Sharemilkers own their own cows, whereas contract milkers work with a farm owner’s livestock. . . 

Reigning Young Farmer grand final winner ready for 50th anniversary – Mary-Jo Tohill:

If he had not won the FMG Young Farmer of the Year last year, Lovells Flat sheep and beef farmer Nigel Woodhead would be in Invercargill giving it another go next week.

The 50th anniversary event kicks off in Invercargill on Thursday and runs until Saturday.

“I would be studying my backside off right now to have another go,” the 29-year-old said.

It is now up to another past grand finalist and this year’s Otago-Southland regional winner Logan Wallace, who farms at Waipahi, to have a shot at the Southland-based grand final. . .

Youngsters get say on future :

Farmstrong has developed a new online survey to better understand the pressures facing younger farmers and farm workers and ask them what works to improve their wellbeing.

The nationwide, rural wellbeing initiative provides tools and resources for farmers, growers and farm workers to help them better cope with the ups and downs of farming.

It will help provide a clearer picture of the things that might work to improve the wellbeing of younger farmers and farm workers.  . . 

Why there’s no rural-urban divide when it comes to caring for the environment – Melissa Clark-Reynolds:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand says farmers care just as much about the environment as everyone else, and with its new Environment Strategy and Implementation plan, it plans to help sheep and beef farmers promote reduced carbon emissions, cleaner water, thriving biodiversity, and healthy productive soils. 

I recently spoke at a farmer’s event in Christchurch with a few hundred sheep and beef farmers from the northern part of the South Island. At the end of my talk, an older farmer came up to me and asked why I hadn’t talked about organics. On my way home, someone tweeted me that they’d “always said we should have declared all of New Zealand organic and GMO-free. The price premium could have been whatever we asked for.”

At the Beef + Lamb AGM recently, a group of farmers (mixed ages, from their 20s through to their 60s) asked me why I hadn’t talked more about Regenerative Agriculture – farming that heals the land, the lifeforms that dwell there, and the communities of people too. The fact that I keep being surprised by this stuff says more about me as an urban Kiwi than it does about farmers. . .

Nutrient management valuable tool if handled correctly says Allen:

The National Party’s announcement of bipartisan support for the Climate Change Commission last week made it clear that environmental conservation is currently at the forefront of political and social concern in this country.

Part of that concern is the issue of national water quality, breached by David Parker several weeks ago with his announcement of plans to introduce nationwide farm nutrient limits.

A particular point of contention was the suggestion that destocking would have to take place in certain areas to meet the new limits. However, Federated Farmers national board member Chris Allen says if all else fails, it’s just something some farmers may have to accept: . .

What makes a good farmer – Blue North:

What are the attributes of a really good farmer? Would they include a penchant for order and neatness? A single-minded focus on efficiency and yield maximization? A bullet-proof resolve in the face of risk? What about drive for expansion and scale or technical proficiency? While some or all of these may currently inform our rating of farmers, I want to propose some alternative attributes in response to this question. But before getting there, some context is needed.

One of the formative ideas, probably the most important one, that shaped our thinking when we started Blue North in 2011, and which fundamentally shapes what we do to this day, is understanding farmers as the key role-players in determining the sustainability of food supply-chains, and, by extrapolation, the sustainability of mankind as a whole. . .

What are the challenges facing farming around the world? – Mary Boote:

Kenya is on the brink of embracing biotechnology in agriculture. On the brink. Now I’m ready to say something new. We’ve been on the brink for too long.”

These words, offered by Gilbert arap Bor, a Kenyan smallholder farmer and lecturer at the Catholic University of East Africa- Eldoret, illustrate the frustration shared by many farmers -smallholder and large across Kenya and much of the African and Asian continents. With the safety of GE crops confirmed and supported by scientists, approved by every regulatory agency around the world, based on thousands of reports and 21 years of data, why does the war regarding the safety of these often life-changing crops continue to rage?

Have no doubt: The impacts of this ‘war’ are real, and they challenge farmers in the developing and developed countries around the world. . .


Rural round-up

June 28, 2018

Improved systems lower dariy’s footprint – Esther Taunton:

The greenhouse gas emissions produced for every kilogram of milk solids have fallen by almost a third in the 25 years to 2015, DairyNZ says.

At a climate change workshop in Taranaki on Thursday, DairyNZ senior climate change advisor Milena Scott said New Zealand’s dairy industry had been increasing its emissions efficiency by an average of one per cent per year since 1990.

Data from the Ministry for the Environment showed that from 1990 to 2015, the emissions intensity of milk solids fell 29 per cent, Scott said. . .

Negative comment undervalues agri-food industry – Sally Rae:

Unbalanced narrative around the agri-food sector is putting both it and the contribution it makes to New Zealand at risk, KPMG global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot believes.

In the latest KPMG Agribusiness Agenda, Mr Proudfoot said that narrative had reached a point where it could not longer be ignored ”as an inconvenience or an annoyance” and it should be considerably more positive.

”It is this sector that pays for the schools, roads and hospitals that the whole community relies upon. . .

Devil in the detail of fresh water management:

Key advice from a water report for the Government should be considered, but the devil will be in the detail says the Federated Farmers representative on the Land and Water Forum (LAWF), Chris Allen.

The LAWF report on preventing water quality degradation and addressing sediment and nitrogen has been released to the Government. The data and 38 recommendations are the culmination of a lot of work from many different groups represented on the Forum, Chris says.

“While there are still a range of views, especially when it comes to nitrogen discharge allowances, the fact is everyone is at the table and working on getting it right.” . . 

Lamb exports set new record:

The value of lamb exports hit a new record of $369 million in May 2018, Stats NZ said today. Higher prices and more quantities of lamb exported boosted this month’s level. The previous high for lamb exports was $340 million in February 2009.

“It has been a strong month for meat exports in general, with both lamb and beef increasing in quantities,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. . .

North Island Māori secure a record slice of kiwifruit market:

Three North Island iwi-based entities have successfully purchased one of New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit portfolios.

Te Arawa Group Holdings (Rotorua); Rotoma No 1 Incorporation (Rotorua), and Ngāti Awa Group Holdings (Whakatane) today announced they are the new owners of Matai Pacific’s vast kiwifruit portfolio.

The large-scale property deal includes three Bay of Plenty orchards covering a total of almost 100 canopy hectares. . . 

Fodder insurance – silage pit – Mark Griggs:

For Talbragar River cattle breeder and grazier Brian Bowman, droughts and floods are not new.

The Bowman family at “Shingle Hut”, Dunedoo, experienced three consecutive floods in 2010 to 2012, wiping out each year’s crop.

Mr Bowman said each flood covering all the river flat country was in November and wiped out 486 hectares of wheat crops in each of the first two and a big canola crop in the third year. . .

This start up can make avocados last twice as long before going bad – Caitlin Dewey:

The new avocados rolling out to Midwest Costco stores this week don’t look like the future of fresh produce. But they’re testing technology that could more than double the shelf life of vegetables and fruits.

That technology, developed by the start-up Apeel Sciences, consists of an invisible, plant-based film that reinforces the avocados’ own skin. The company hopes to expand to stores nationwide — as well as to a range of other produce.

Experts say the product, which has quadrupled shelf life in a lab setting, has the potential to make foods less perishable — with huge boons for consumers, the environment and the food industry. .  .


Rural round-up

June 6, 2018

Mycoplasma bovis: European semen is the likely culprit source – Keith Woodford:

It is now increasingly evident that European-sourced semen, imported legally but containing live Mycoplasma bovis that survived the antibiotic cocktail, is the likely source of the organism in New Zealand dairy.

The evidence suggests it struck first in Southland, but there is a likelihood that the same semen has struck on other farms, and then spread from there via progeny.

It is also likely that Mycoplasma bovis arrived in New Zealand via this semen by late 2014 or even earlier.  This is an important issue because so far MPI has only focused on events since the end of 2015. . .

Dairy sector told to look to success of alternative products – Sally Rae:

The time is right for the dairy sector to reflect on the success of alternative dairy products and consider applying those lessons to dairy, a dairy expert says.

In an industry report, Rabobank dairy senior analyst Tom Bailey said the key was understanding the consumer.

Marketers of dairy alternatives had been far more successful in connecting with consumers on an emotional level than traditional dairy marketers, he said.

In the past 10 years, global retail sales growth for dairy alternatives had soared at a rate of 8% annually. . .

Action plan accelerates waterway protection efforts:

The Good Farming Practice Action Plan for Water Quality is a tangible illustration of commitment by the primary sector, local and central government to work together to enhance our streams and rivers, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Our agriculture and horticulture industries are already a long way down the trail of environmental stewardship but this is an important step towards achieving higher standards,” Chris says. . .

No major impact from ‘M bovis’ cull – Sally Rae:

The long-term influence on the beef schedule from the Mycoplasma bovis cull is not expected to be significant, Rabobank New Zealand’s animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate says.

On Monday, the Government and industry announced phased eradication would go ahead, with a further 126,000 cattle to be culled over the next one to two years.

Given the number of cattle being culled represented only about 5% of New Zealand’s annual beef slaughter, and the cull was occurring over a prolonged period, the negative impact on prices should be limited when compared to external factors, such as export market demand, Mr Holgate said. . .

Young guy with autism believes more people with disabilities should be employed – Jill Galloway:

Palmerston North teenager Jeremy Price just wants to work on a dairy farm.

Diagnosed with autism and  attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) four years ago, he  believes more people with disabilities should be employed.

“Not just on farms, but in other industries as well. People think the worst of any people whose CV shows they have a condition. But most people can do the job and should not be labelled.”

Price,17,  is just a “normal” teenager, other than being open about living with his conditions. . .

Search on for forages that reduce nitrogen leaching – Tony Benny:

The Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching project is delivering better than expected results, says programme leader Ina Pinxterhuis. She talked to Tony Benny.

With public concern over the effect of dairy farming on the environment mounting, DairyNZ has taken the lead in finding ways to reduce farming’s negative effects while maintaining productivity and profitability.

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching is an MBIE-funded collaborative programme by DairyNZ, AgResearch, Plant and Food Research, Lincoln University, Foundation for Arable Research and Landcare Research with the aim of cutting nitrate leaching losses by 20 per cent.

It combines field and animal experiments with computer modelling and trials on nine Canterbury monitor farms – four dairy, two sheep and beef, two arable and one mixed arable/dairy. . .

Farmer shoots dog attacking cattle:

A Northland farmer has shot two dogs caught mauling his cattle after the owner was unable to call her dogs off the panicking stock.

The attack showed even well-trained dogs could turn quickly without warning, Hikurangi farmer Stuart Clark said. If there was any doubt, the dogs should be kept on a lead, he added.

He said a couple had been walking two dogs at the Lake Waro Reserve recently when they strayed onto his land at the north end of the lake where cattle were grazing. . .

Trees on farms -DairyNZ:

With good planning and design, trees create a pleasant, diverse and interesting place in which to live and work.

Trees have the power to inspire awe and wonder. For generations they have been used to beautify the landscape.

Trees have many attributes. Plantings for timber, livestock shelter, shade, fodder, soil conservation and biodiversity can deliver significant benefits. Each adds capital value to your farm as well as character and visual appeal. . .

 

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No snow leopards

March 26, 2018

Federated Farmers is saying a definite no to snow leopards in the South Island high country.

Federated Farmers is stunned to learn of a proposal to introduce a snow leopard sanctuary in the South Island High Country.

The Ministry for the Environment has been petitioned by a Hastings man, who is inviting a private landowner to give up their land to create a safe haven for the endangered species.

“This idea, with all due respect, is outlandish and just plain crazy. It’s a poorly thought out concept, ” says Federated Farmers’ Environment Spokesperson Chris Allen.

“As a High Country farmer you’d be worried about your livestock and your own welfare for that matter, this would actually become a health and safety issue.

“The truly worst case scenario for any farmer is a rogue animal on their property or nearby.”

Federated Farmers trusts the Ministry will make a sensible decision and banish this idea. Its widely acknowledged that snow leopards are a pest to landowners in Mongolia – as they are known to attack livestock.

New Zealand is in the fortunate position of being free of native fierce creatures.

Introduced ones like pigs do a lot of damage to farmland and also prey on young stock.

The idea of saving the snow leopard by introducing it to our high country might sound noble from the safety of Hawkes Bay.

To those of us closer to the danger they’d present to people and stock it is as Feds say, crazy.


Rural round-up

March 19, 2018

We need a long cool look at water – Andrew Curtis:

As years go, 2017 was dramatic.

In February, one of the biggest fires in New Zealand history ignited on the Port Hills in tinder dry conditions, causing thousands of residents to evacuate.

In March, the upper North Island was soaked, with Auckland experiencing its wettest March day in 60 years, and over 300 homes were flooded.

July brought flooding to Otago and Canterbury, and snow and strong winds to other areas. . . 

Mix of farming, forestry, engineering keeps McKenzies busy – Sally Rae:

When it comes to thinking outside the square, it would be hard to look past the innovative McKenzie family from Clinton.

Colin McKenzie jokes they have a lot of junk around, but they are incredibly clever at turning that “junk” into all sorts of machinery.

As well as running a large sheep and beef operation, they also do their own forest harvesting, utilising some of their own home-made technology. . . 

Effluent technology set to lift dairy water efficiency – Jamie Thompson:

Nutrient efficiency is vital to Ravensdown as a component of smarter farming — good for the bottom line and the environment.

Water efficiency is now a catch-cry and the dairy sector is being urged to lessen its water ‘footprint’.

Crucial to this challenge is how effluent is managed. Recycling and reusing the nutrients in dairy shed effluent is good practice, showing that dairy farmers are doing the right thing. This comes with a price tag: 70% of dairy farmers’ environmental spending goes on effluent management (see graph). . .

Passion for dairy farming shows through for Canterbury environment award winners:

The Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards have been won by a dairy farming company showing a fantastic level of passion, pride and promotion for its industry. David and Brenda Hislop, Mark Daly and Janet Girvan are partners in Medbury Farm Limited – milking 1240 cows on 442ha at Hawarden.

The awards judges said the partners show strong awareness of farming practices and how they influence the environment. “They show excellent attention to detail to business planning, governance and policies and how that influences and drives the business, as well as great staff and people management.” . . 

Fonterra close to reaching Argentina deal :

Fonterra is close to reaching a deal with Argentina-based dairy co-operative SanCor, according a media report from Buenos Aires.

The Argentine newspaper La Nacion reported that Fonterra was anticipated to finalise a deal with SanCor by the end of this month.

La Nacion, in a translated report, said Fonterra and SanCor would form a new company, of which Fonterra would have 80 to 90 percent control. The remaining shares would stay with the dairy farmers in Argentina. . . 

Education doesn’t encourage creativity’ – Jill Galloway:

The education system does not value creativity enough, says a business commentator.

Chanelle O’Sullivan​ was one of five speakers at a creativity breakfast seminar, one of 10 events being held as part of the Manawatū-hosted Agri Food Week.

Described as an entrepreneur who founded the websites Rural Mums and Virtual Insights, O’Sullivan advised people to not rely on anyone else “as no one is coming to rescue you”. However, people should not feel ashamed of failing. . . 

Four candidates for Silver Fern Farms board :

Conor English, the youngest brother of former Prime Minister Bill English, is throwing his hat in the ring for election to the Silver Fern Farms board of directors.

English is the former chief executive of Federated Farmers who started his farming career at the family farm in Dipton. He is also chairman of Agribusiness New Zealand, a company he founded after leaving Federated Farmers in 2014.

Board members Fiona Hancox and Rob Hewett, and chairman, retire by rotation at the company’s annual meeting in Dunedin on April 18.

Four candidates have put themselves forward for the two available positions on the board. Hancox and Hewett have both advised they will stand for re-election, while nominations have been received for Chris Allen and English. . . 


Rural round-up

August 14, 2017

“Parallel Parker” Needs to Do A Better Job of Lining Up Labour’s Water Policy:

Federated Farmers wants Labour to honour the commitment it made to only look at charging overseas-owned water bottlers and to permanently park its discriminatory tax on water that will divide communities and undermine regional economies.

On 21 June this year, then Labour leader Andrew Little told the Federated Farmers national conference, in front of the media, that they were not going to tax water across the board – just look at water bottling. When news reports on this started to come out, Labour changed its tune.

At the beginning of this week Mr Parker was telling us it would apply to “large commercial users”, but now, and the end of the week, we hear it won’t apply to the very large companies putting water in bottled products right now in central Auckland. . . 

Labour could have knocked the water debate out of the park; But the economics of its royalties policy just don’t work; Let’s hope they get some nationalistic headlines out of it before questions are asked – Alex Tarrant:

Labour this election had the opportunity to knock the water pricing debate out of the park. Jacinda Ardern’s announcement Wednesday was instead a nod to politics over policy.

On the face it, the headline announcement that all commercial water users would be charged based on usage was a welcome addition to the water allocation and pricing debate in New Zealand this year.

But going beneath the surface throws up more questions than answers. These mainly stem from the policy’s central theme of different royalty rates applying to different water users, and depending on the quality of water used.

I made my views clear on this issue back in March. Let’s have a proper water pricing debate that encompasses all water use. We also need clarification on who owns water before we go about charging for it. . . 

Govt sets out path to better freshwater:

The Government’s new National Policy Statement (NPS) on Freshwater Management will deliver cleaner lakes and rivers with ambitious new targets for improving their recreational and ecological health, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The new policy confirms the Government’s national target of 90 per cent of rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040. The policy has been strengthened following consultation by requiring regional councils to set regional targets and regularly reporting on achieving these. This ambitious plan will require 1000km of waterways be improved to a higher grading each year. It is being supported by new national environmental regulations governing activities like fencing stock out of waterways and forestry. . . 

Farmers welcome support to improve environment:

The Government’s announcement of $44 million to support freshwater improvement projects is welcomed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

B+LNZ Chief Executive Sam McIvor says that over the past two years, in particular, the organisation has responded to farmer demand for support in the environment space. “Through this work, we’ve identified that – while farmers want to take action – knowing where to start and what to prioritise can be a barrier.

“This government funding is timely and will help us better support farmers to deliver on their water quality ambitions.” . . 

California crops rot as immigration crackdown creates farm worker shortage – Chris Morris:

Vegetable prices may be going up soon, as a shortage of migrant workers is resulting in lost crops in California.

Farmers say they’re having trouble hiring enough people to work during harvest season, causing some crops to rot before they can be picked. Already, the situation has triggered losses of more than $13 million in two California counties alone, according to NBC News.

The ongoing battle about U.S. immigration policies is blamed for the shortage. The vast majority of California’s farm workers are foreign born, with many coming from Mexico. However, the PEW Research Center reports more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming here. . .

Collaboration essential for sustainable dairy farming:

If a future in sustainable farming is to be achieved in the coming years, companies in both the private and public sector need to be working both faster and more collaboratively, says dairy farm investment company Fortuna Group.

Southland-based Fortuna Group, along with Dairy Green, are the innovators at the forefront of New Zealand’s methane recovery system.

While there are other methane recovery plants in New Zealand, the partnership’s plant at Glenarlea Farms in Otautau is the only one that is consistently and reliably generating electricity from methane.  . . 

Lower fruit prices bittersweet due to high vegetable prices:

Fruit prices fell 5.2 percent in July 2017, contributing to a 0.2 percent fall in food prices, Stats NZ said today.

Cheaper avocados and strawberries led the fall in fruit prices in July. Avocado prices fell 29 percent in July, coming off a near-record high in June, and strawberry prices fell 23 percent. The average price for a 250g punnet of strawberries was $5.92 in July 2017, compared with $7.71 in June.

“Strawberries are unseasonably cheap for this time of year,” consumer prices manager Matthew Haigh said. “They typically reach their lowest price in December, but are currently dropping in price due to more imports from Australia.” . . 

NZ wool sale volumes rise at double auction across North, South islands  – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – A higher volume of wool was sold at auction in New Zealand this week after organisers skipped a week and held a double auction across both islands.

Some 80 percent of the 15,054 wool bales offered at auctions in Napier in the North Island and Christchurch in the South Island were sold yesterday, AgriHQ said. That’s ahead of the 72 percent clearance rate for the 2016/17 season which ended June 30, and the average 77 percent rate for the first six weeks of the current season. . . .

Sanity prevails over proposed animal manure imports says Feds:

Sanity based on sound science has prevailed says Federated Farmers after the Government confirmed it would no longer be permitting imports of products containing animal manure.

The decision follows a Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) investigation which discovered imported compost from the Netherlands, intended for mushroom growing, contained animal manure.

“This is the right decision and we are glad the Government has taken this step. Federated Farmers made a strong submission earlier in the year against these imports,” says Guy Wigley, Federated Farmers’ Biosecurity Spokesperson. . . 

Synlait Invests in Category Management to Target Growth:

Synlait Milk is investing in category management capability to support increased business development in existing and new categories.

“Building discipline in category management is a crucial step in our pursuit of profitable, and sustainable, growth opportunities,” says John Penno, Synlait’s Managing Director and CEO.

“We’re here to make the most from milk. Category management will allow us to continue planning our growth into the most profitable categories, products and customers, and to monitor our progress against those plans.” . . 

Fonterra hailed as top NZ co-op:

Fonterra has been judged New Zealand’s top co-operative business of the year, and praised for a “stunning financial turnaround, generous social responsibility programmes and a high profile campaign proudly proclaiming its Kiwi farmer-owned, co-operative status”. 

The sector’s peak body Cooperative Business New Zealand (CBNZ) made the award at a function in Auckland last night.

Shareholders’ Council Chair Duncan Coull, who collected the award, says our farmers should take real pride in this special recognition for their co-op.

“Our farmer shareholders set themselves high standards, and it’s their daily hard work and commitment that drives the success of the co-op. I also want to recognise the energy and contribution of our staff in helping build a co-op that returns such value to shareholders, local communities and the New Zealand economy.”  . . 


Labour wants consent to farm

August 12, 2017

Labour’s water tax policy holds a sting in its tail:

Farmers and horticulturalists face the prospect of resource consents if they want to make a shift in land use under a Labour government.

Buried in Labour’s water policy announcement was its intention to dump the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management and replace it with a policy based on recommendations made by Environment Court judge David Sheppard in 2010.

Sheppard’s recommendation was any increase in farming intensity including more livestock, irrigation or fertiliser would no longer be permitted under the Resource Management Act unless a resource consent was obtained.

That suggestion was shelved by National when it instead opted for the policy statement on freshwater management now in play.

Federated Farmers water spokesman Chris Allen said he was surprised to learn about the resource consent provision in Labour’s policy, which had less profile than the water royalty charges mooted.

“But take that along with the water charges and they have just added another level of burden and cost on producing food in this country.

“It would seem the $18 cabbage will become more of a reality.”

He also challenged the costs the consent conditions would bring.

“This will require a significant increase in the number of people skilled to work in this area of consenting.

“Even here just in Canterbury right now we cannot get enough of those people, let alone throughout NZ.”

He said Labour’s water package taken in its entirety should have all New Zealanders concerned. . .

Water New Zealand has joined the critics of the policy:

. . . “It is only fair that some of the profits from the taking of water are returned to communities to help restore degraded water quality,” says Chief Executive John Pfahlert.

But it’s not fair that people who are already doing everything they can to protect and enhance waterways and in areas where there aren’t quality problems should pay for clean-ups elsewhere.

In principle it acknowledges the value of water and its huge contribution to our economic security and way of life.”

He says he can understand why voters would be attracted to policies that include charging big commercial users such farmers who rely on irrigation and water bottling companies. But he believes a fairer approach would be to charge everybody who uses water.

“Why target farmers and water bottlers and not industrial and domestic users in order to ensure that water is used efficiently across all sectors?”

John Pfahlert says it is important that there is a consistent approach to any policy on water and water pricing and not a knee-jerk response to opinion polls.

He says although publicly appealing, this policy raises many difficult questions.

“Currently the Government’s view is that nobody owns water. This policy takes the view that everybody owns the water.

“This shift in ownership status would raise questions of the rights of Maoridom who could legitimately claim a share of ownership under the Treaty of Waitangi.”

John Pfahlert says there are also questions around the mechanisms that would be used to impose a charge on water consent holders and irrigators.

“It would probably mean there would need to be retrospective legislation and this would raise many fish hooks for farmers and for the government.”

Massey University agribusiness expert Dr Jame Lockhart says the policy is the wrong solution to the wrong problem:

Dr Lockhart says the policy has been borne out of unsustainable growth by the dairy industry and foreign-owned bottling plants exporting water at no cost and creating little, if any, benefit to New Zealand.

“There is no doubt that some of our waterways have degraded with the intensification of land use,” he says. “This is due to many things – water extraction for irrigation, reducing flow levels, is only one. But if these are the problems that Labour is trying to solve, then the policy cabinet is full of tried and true methods to rectify them.”

He says the impact on farmers will be immense, especially those in regions where water supply is at risk, including the Heretaunga Plains, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury in particular and North and Central Otago.

“If this tax, and it is a tax, is at the levels being mooted, there could be as much as $500-600 billion to be paid by irrigation users, including vegetable growers, vineyards, and orchardists. Agriculture and horticulture is being asked to bear the entire burden for the nation’s water use and the degradation of its waterways.” . . .

The policy also raises questions over property rights and Treaty claims.

“Due to the abundance of water in New Zealand, we have not assigned value to it in the way we should. That means New Zealand has built an agricultural and horticultural sector around water being free, while the volumes used are regulated to some extent, all the costs to date are around access and application, such as storage, pumping and distribution.

“So, if a business has its own harvesting and storage, does it pay the same royalty as a business that takes artesian groundwater or surface water? At that point some fundamental property rights are being removed from those who have invested in their own systems.”

He says the thorny issue of who owns water in New Zealand has, until now, been something that successive governments have tried to avoid.

“Who owns water in New Zealand? Right now, Labour is saying that if they become government they do. At that point, water ownership becomes highly contestable and immediately opens the door for another round of Treaty claims.”

There are also anomalies in the policy, Dr Lockhart says, including during periods of drought.

“Labour appears to be offering some leniency during drought events so when water has the most value to the agricultural and horticultural sectors, and the environmental consequences are greatest, the tax will be either lowered or removed completely. That shows it is not an environmental issue they are trying to solve at all.

“Labour is boldly going where no government has gone before – but this is looking largely punitive as opposed to being a deliberate effort to restore the quality of our waterways.

“The policy simply has not been thought through as anything other than a vote gathering exercise. Our tax system should not be built on the principle that someone has to do worse for you to do better.”

This is echoed by the Taxpayers’ Union:

Labour’s Water Tax policy is quickly becoming the laughing stock of public policy circles with parallels being made to its infamous 2014 NZ Power policy – which, ironically, saw the very industry which escapes the Water Tax whacked with an economic gorilla.

Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union says, “Three week’s ago, if Andrew Little got up and announced a new water tax, but couldn’t answer how much it is, he’d have been laughed off the stage”.

“How can Labour credibly protest against industry claims that cabbages will cost $18 and grocery bills will sky-rocket when they can’t put a single number next to their policy?”

“As much as NZ Power was laughed at, at least David Cunliffe had some numbers.”

Minister for Primary Industries said the policy is like sending farmers a blank invoice.

Labour has little understanding of farming and very few MPs outside Auckland and Wellington.

Perhaps that’s why they haven’t joined the dots between the profitability of farming and those who service and supply the industry, nor between the costs of food production and the cost of food.

 


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