Politically appointed, politically disappointed

November 6, 2017

New Health Minister David Clark is considering asking District Health Board chairs for resignation letters.

David Clark says resignations may be accepted if DHB chairs aren’t “on the same wave-length” as the new government.

Dr Clark said he was “very seriously considering” asking for resignation letters and would make a decision shortly.

“I want to be sure that the district health board chairs … are in agreement with the current government’s agenda and direction. I need them to be on board with where we’re heading.” . . 

New ministers will, sooner or later, look at appointments made by their predecessors.

They have the right, and the power, to let them continue in their roles, or to terminate their appointments.

Clark should consider whether or not he wants DHB chairs to continue but he’s made a mistake by musing about it in public.

He should be doing his considering in private and once he’s done it he should act by either confirming chairs will stay or asking them to go.

By musing publicly Clark looks like he’s pussy-footing.

He also risks chairs calling his bluff by not writing resignation letters which would then force him to sack them.

Everyone who accepts such appointments know that when they’re politically appointed they can be politically disappointed.

Public musing merely looks like ministerial vacillation.

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Rural round-up

October 31, 2017

Beltex sheep breed focus of field day – Sally Rae:

The Beltex sheep breed will be under the spotlight at a field day in Canterbury tomorrow.

Former Invermay head Dr Jock Allison, Canterbury farmer Blair Gallagher and farm adviser John Tavendale, with their families, are behind Beltex New Zealand, which has brought the breed to New Zealand.

Three properties will be visited at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Canterbury Farming for Profit field day, looking at three different systems; lamb weaning, ram selection and calf rearing. . .

Fonterra doubts ETS for dairy – Richard Rennie:

As the new Government pushes for a zero carbon economy by 2050 a Fonterra submission on what a low emission economy means has highlighted issues it maintains challenge a transition into the Emissions Trading Scheme for dairy.

The new Government has indicated it wants farming to contribute to greenhouse gas emission costs, possibly incurring 5% of those costs initially.

The farmer co-operative has submitted to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the impact of a low emissions economy on economic well-being and production. . . 

Milligans Food Group joins GDT Marketplace:

Oamaru-based company Milligans Food Group is among three additional dairy ingredient suppliers to join Global Dairy Trade’s GDT Marketplace.

Milligans supplies and manufactures food ingredients, consumer food products and animal nutrition products.

Specialised food and food service products were manufactured, blended and packed on-site then marketed across New Zealand, Australia, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and the United States. . . 

Drop in asparagus crop blamed on wet weather:

Wet weather over the past few months is leading to a big drop in the amount of asparagus being grown this year, according to a grower near Levin.

Cam Lewis, the director of TenderTips in Horowhenua, said he was seeing a 50 percent drop in his crop and there was a lot less asparagus around this year

He said that was keeping prices up. . . 

Farmers Fast Five – David Clark – Claire Inkson:

Where we ask a farmer five quick questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Mid Canterbury Proud Farmer David Clark.

1.    How long have you been farming?

I grew up in the North Island and left school at the end of the 6th Form at a time when farming in New Zealand was very tough coming out of the ’80s downturn. I was very fortunate to be employed by the Cashmore Family at Orere, SE of Auckland. It was during this time that my employers showed me by example that there was a future in farming if you worked hard and did things well, this set me on my course.

2.    What sort of farming were you involved in?

My parents had been both Town Milk Dairy and Sheep and Beef Farmers and I was determined to make a start for myself so started contract fencing which then led into a wider range of Agricultural Contracting activities. In 1994 my parents sold their farm and I sold my contracting business and we pooled our resources and purchased a dryland sheep property at Valetta, inland Mid Canterbury. It soon became very clear that we needed to develop irrigation on the property in order to move to an intensive arable farm system. . . 


Water tax by the numbers

September 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will non-irrigated farms pay?

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

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

Calculating a water tax on irrigated farms – key variables:

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

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

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

Calculating irrigation water use – the backbround

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Facts on water tax

September 18, 2017

What will the water tax cost?

It depends.

Businesses, like Coca Cola, which take water from council supplies won’t pay anything.

Food producers which don’t irrigate won’t pay anything.

Farms, orchards and market gardens which do irrigate will pay and the dryer the year, when other costs rise too, the more they’ll pay.

David Clark gives the facts on what he’ll have to pay if Labour is in government ant imposes the water tax:

Today farmers will be marching in Morrinsville to protest against the tax.

I hope they stick to the facts.

There are enough of them to win the argument with anyone prepared to listen properly.


Vision based on science and experience

September 11, 2017

David Clark writes:

I also have a Vision…
…of where NZ is going to be taken.

When I was a young fella growing up, all I wanted to do was go farming, just like my Dad, my grandfather before him and my great grandfather who had jumped ship in Thames as an orphan in the early 1870’s. I knew that there was something very special about being able to farm the land and grow food.

Then along came the 1980s and the brutal recession brought on by the changes made the Lange Labour Government. As a teenager I still vividly remember watching Television News coverage of a farmer by the name of Dan Dufty being escorted off his North Waikato farm like so many other families were at the time. I remember the tears running down his face and the anguish in his voice.

I remember worrying about whether that would happen to us, things where pretty tight on our family’s small South Auckland Town Supply dairy farm during this time.

When I left school I was very fortunate to be employed by a family at Orere on their large Sheep and Cattle farm. They demonstrated to me that there was a future in farming if you worked hard and this set me on my course.

I wanted to get ahead and found that by starting a small contracting business, initially as a fencer, with a lot of determination, late nights and early starts I would be on a path to make my own way. There was no O.Es, no leering up. In 1994 my parents and I each sold up our assets in Clevedon and set off for the South Island to take up arable and stock farming in Mid Canterbury.

We started contracting out of necessity to help us fund the development of irrigation on the then dryland farm and in 2010 sold that Contracting run to then fund the installation of Centre Pivot Irrigators that were much more water efficient and resulted in less leaching than the earlier machines.

My wife Jayne and I farm here with our three young sons and my parents still live here on farm. This is our Turangawaewae.

But I sit here, thirty years on from that farmer being dragged off his farm and I wonder, no, I fear we are heading back to those very grim days. In my view we are standing in 1984.

Since I wrote my last article, I have seen overwhelmingly positive feedback who buy into the idea that poor water quality has many causes, urban, rural and industrial. Those many causes have many solutions best worked through on a catchment by catchment, community by community basis.

But sadly I have also seen the hatred and vitriol, and I’ve paid a lot of attention to the policies being proposed or hinted at by Labour and the Greens. I have come to the view that these policies, not in isolation, as a compounding effect will likely result in the biggest drop in agricultural economic confidence since the ‘80s.

A Water Tax levied on irrigation, primarily on the East Coast of the South Island to fund a payment of Koha to Iwi and then pay for waterway restoration across the Nation is inequitable and will be ineffective. There is no correlation between areas of poor water quality and areas of intensive irrigation; in fact quite the reverse applies. The tax will exempt all other farming systems and all urban and industrial takes from municipal supply even though it is very clear that poor water quality is also caused by other activities.

The Greens Nitrogen Tax intends to levy Dairy Farmers initially and other farming types soon after for Nitrate discharge even though other land forms leak Nitrogen, as does the DoC estate, Plantation Forestry and of course the discharges of treated and untreated human effluent and storm water, all of which will be untaxed. The cost of compliance with an Audit Quality Overseer assessment required on every farm, every year would be enormous. The suggestion that funding be used in part to coach farmers on Organics is nonsense.

Overseer was never designed to be used to levy tax and it is not reliable – up to 30% margin of error.

I fully understand that the agricultural sector must work to address water quality issues and I believe that we are already making very good progress with riparian fencing and plantings, upgrading of older irrigators to precision application of water, more targeted fertiliser usage and a major rebuild of farm effluent systems in the last 15 years. We have reduced our calculated Nitrogen loss here by 25% in the last six years. Progress is being made, largely voluntarily, however nationally and certainly in Canterbury, Regional Plans have been introduced to put significant onus on land owners to demonstrate a measurable reduction in agricultural externalities.

Farming under the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan will, is, delivering results for the environment, but it is expensive to make the changes required in our faming systems, taxing more money out of our business will slow the progress that we can make on farm due to cashflow restriction.

An inclusion of all agricultural emissions into an ETS will see us as farmers compete in the International Marketplace with another layer of cost as we compete against produce that is largely directly or indirectly subsidised and will see farmers struggling to compete with the same overseas product in our domestic market. An ETS on Agriculture in NZ will simply move food growing to a less efficient producer elsewhere in the world.

I hear people regularly saying we all must pay our dues to fight climate change, but I note that International Air Travel is excluded from the Kyoto Protocol because of the damage it would do to global tourism. Research and Development is the way to reduce livestock emissions, not Tax.

A Land Tax with an annualised charge levied over the value of an asset is just simply a new tax, not based on productivity or profit, just a tax and in my view a tax of envy. Farms have high asset values and low profitability, the affordability of an annualised charge will further undermine farming, especially in the sheep and beef sectors.

A Capital Gains Tax and its’ necessary partners, Death and Gift Duties will threaten the very core of New Zealand Agriculture, but not only Agriculture, but intergenerational ownership of all types of businesses across New Zealand and will result in more land and productive assets being lost to long-term corporate and offshore ownership.

Many families struggle to meet the cash flow and capital raising requirements of family succession at the time of the intergenerational transaction, which is done at or near to market values. The new generation of farmer invests their own capital and relies on either internal family or external borrowings to then buy out non-farming siblings; help expand the business to accommodate multiple siblings and provide money to buy a house for parents or otherwise fund their care and welfare.

If Government put their hand out for a Capital Gains Tax on the lifetime growth in the value of the asset, then that cash removed by way of a tax would be the very cash that was so badly needed to complete the intergeneration handover. I certainly understand the extreme difficulties caused by Death Duties in years gone by in New Zealand. They were abolished for very good reason.

Capital Gains Tax and Death Duties will make continued family ownership of the farms and businesses, on which New Zealand is built, extremely difficult.

In Argentina death and gift duties stall farms sales. People hold onto land and lease it rather than selling.

In Australia, CTG stalls farm succession and sales.

In my view the most significant policy of this election is Labour’s Employment Relations Policy which hands total control of workplace pay, conditions and terms across all sectors and all skills and puts the Unions in a centre role of negotiation and “Remove the ability for employers to deduct pay from workers taking low level protest action during an industrial dispute” . I would argue that most New Zealanders have a relationship with their employer built on mutual trust and respect and I don’t believe that most Kiwis wish to return to the ‘70s and ‘80s were the Ferries went on strike at the start of the school holidays, the works went out just as the lambs came on in January or Unions went out in sympathy for a workplace scrap going on at the other end of the country.

In my opinion, this election has got nothing whatsoever to do with the House Prices or Swimming in rivers, this election and the campaign of Labour is a desperate attempt by the Trade Unions to seize control of the New Zealand workplace.

At present we are living with an asset bubble, certainly in house prices in the upper North Island and arguably in farmland, this is no different to most Western economies that have binged on cheap and plentiful credit generated by the madness of Quantitative Easing. Arguably it is not the Government’s fault that we have “traded up” our family home, put a boat or overseas holiday or new car “on the house”, or generally lived beyond our means and racked up massive private sector debt secured against the family home.

We are enjoying interest rates well below the recent long run average and a credible statistical correction could easily see cost of borrowing lift from 5% to 8-9%, I’m not convinced that many home owners would not find their financial situation severely compromised by a near doubling of interest rates, nor do I think many farming businesses could stand such a shock.

I fully support the need for our society to have a robust and compassionate Social Welfare system to provide an outstretched helping hand to our fellow man as they go through a vulnerable time, but this must be a based on the principle of a hand up, not a hand out, and for us to be able to provide that compassion, we need to have a robust and stable economy in the first instance.

It is a culmination of all of these policies, not just one in isolation that I believe has the very real potential to create a collapse in economic confidence not seen in New Zealand since the 1980s.

The brutal and stark reality is that even with our business, which is very sound and holds only a very modest level of debt, there is simply not the money to pay these taxes and increased costs. The cumulative total of these taxes will far outweigh the taxable profit of our farm and will leave us cash flow negative and therefore un-bankable.

I don’t know where the Labour Party think the cash will come from, I can assure you it is not under the pillow in a cake tin.

I can very accurately tell you where the money for these taxes and charges will come from. These costs will come straight out of the till of the businesses in our local town that supply us with goods and services. I fear for the future of those business and the families employed by them, I really do. The ‘80s was very tough for service industries as well.

Land and CTG taxes will hit businesses big and small including health professionals like doctors and physiotherapists, shops, hair dressers, and trades people.

Will the people who think these new taxes are a good idea also think paying more for the goods and services these businesses provide is a good idea?

We have already suspended all none urgent expenditure pending the election outcome.

I and many other New Zealand farmers today are proud to have grown the grain for your cereal or toast; multiplied the seeds that were planted by other farmers to grow your vegetables and spuds; raised your tender meat; clipped wool for your warm clothes; produced the milk for your coffee and supported a multitude of local businesses along the way.

The words that resonate with me are those of retired US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack…

“Every one of us that’s not a farmer, is not a farmer because we have farmers. We delegate the responsibility of feeding our families to a relatively small percentage of this country… so the rest of us can be lawyers or doctors… or all the other occupations because we never have to think – Do I actually have to grow the food for my family? No, I go to the grocery store and buy it.”

I am proud to be a farmer, doing what’s right, we are not in the ‘80s, please don’t let us go back…

If you support what I have said, please stand together with me and I would really appreciate you sharing this post.

This vision is built on experience, science and facts not political theory.

A lurch to the left under a Labour-led government would undo much of the good that National’s careful economic management has achieved.


Rural round-up

September 10, 2017

Why we should get rid of the word ‘townie’ for NZ’s sake – Sarah Perriam:

There is a civil war brewing on social media between “food producers” and “food consumers” and the aggression has reached the level of straight out bullying.

A friend of mine who works as a Farm Environment Auditor (yes that’s a thing) sends me screenshots of tweets (I don’t have the patience for Twitter!). One tweet said “You farmers are just a bunch of c**ts, see you next Tuesday, and you deserve everything you get.”

If this sort of comment was aimed at women, children or homosexuals, would this be appropriate? Of course not. But sadly, in this day and age, our Facebook feed is our news, with many are reading the comments rather than the article, looking to confirm their beliefs rather than form new ones. . .

Farmer fears for future – Annette Scott:

Mid Canterbury cropping farmer David Clark has grave concern about the disconnection between food production and urban people. He talked to Annette Scott about his passion for the land and his fear for the future of farming in New Zealand.

David Clark is a full time, working arable farmer, passionate about the greater industry and its sustainability for future generations.

The Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers vice president says the farming industry has been good to him and his involvement in Feds is one way he can give back to the industry.

If there is an issue to sort, Clark will be there to contribute his bob’s worth for the betterment of farming. . .

Ferreting out rabbits seen as a ‘win-win‘ – Pam Jones:

A medieval method of pest control is helping an endangered species at a Central Otago reserve. Pam Jones finds out how ferreting is tackling both rabbits and redbacks in the fight to protect the Cromwell chafer beetle.

It is an ancient and environmentally friendly practice that is getting results in a protected Central Otago landscape. But it will also get you bitten occasionally.

“Ferrets here have to be trapped from the wild and tamed down by handling lots. The younger they are when trapped the easier to train — in general. But I have had many a sore finger from unsuitable ferrets that cannot be tamed down.”

Steve “Billy” Barton is talking about rabbiting, done an old-fashioned away. Ferrets have been used to catch and kill rabbits and hares since before medieval times, and in Central Otago they have been used for pest control on and off for decades. . .

Riparian survey to capture data – Richard Rennie:

As the go-to option for managing sediment runoff, there are surprisingly few case studies showing how different approaches to riparian plantings work. Now Niwa researchers hope to change that. Richard Rennie spoke to freshwater ecologist Richard Storey who is leading the initiative.

Farmers are being invited to provide information on their riparian plantings to help measure their effectiveness and provide a pool of data for future plantings.

“Riparian plantings are now a major investment people all over the country are working on and that includes dairy processors and industry groups,” Niwa scientist Dr Richard Storey says. . .

Texas farmers suffers extensive crop damage in wake of Harvey  – Carrie Kahn:

In south Texas, this was going to be one of the best years farmers had seen in a while. The cotton crop was projected to bring in record prices and even clear out many families’ debts. But the massive rainfall, winds and a slow drying-out process from Harvey have left many farmers overwhelmed and worried.

That includes people like Dave Murrell, whom I meet at AL-T’s Seafood and Steakhouse, a Cajun restaurant in Winnie, Texas, a rural town about an hour east of Houston. The place is packed, even though lunchtime has long come and gone. No one is in a hurry to get back to their fields — they can’t. They’re flooded. Murrell says nearly 400 acres of his rice are totally submerged. . .


Disconnect between food production and people

August 21, 2017

Mid Canterbury arable farmer David Clark writes on Facebook:

It really saddens me to hear and read to the hatred and vitriol that been brought into this election campaign and I am very concerned at the rift between urban and rural and the disconnection between food production and our population.

The people who support Labour’s water tax can’t seem to join the dots between costs of production and the cost of food; nor are they joining the dots between farming and the export income which is essential if we want first-world goods and services.

We live in a nation of low unemployment, a world standard low cost health system, a no-fault accident compensation scheme, social welfare and pension provisions. We have an extraordinary high degree of food security in this country.

I live in a district whose main town has virtually the lowest unemployment in New Zealand. We have a vibrant, multi-cultural community that offers a wide range of employment opportunities and a very high level of community facilities. This is much transformed town that come out of the ‘80’s with its tail firmly between its legs.

Ashburton is a town that has been transformed in the last 25 years; this is a town that has been transformed by the development of irrigation, both in arable and dairying land uses.

This district grows over half of the world’s carrot and radish seeds along with a wide variety of other crops exported worldwide. We produce 8% of the National Dairy production.

I am an arable farmer using irrigation to grow seed crops that are exported worldwide and grain and vegetable crops for domestic food consumption as well as finishing lambs for NZ butchers and export.

We first put irrigation on in ’98 and then in 2011 installed pivots to achieve more efficient water use and lower leaching than the older irrigators we had originally operated, at a cost of well over $1 million. We did that voluntarily because it increased our production, reduced our water use and significantly reduced our environmental footprint, however we could only justify that expenditure because our business was bankable.

Our business proudly supports local firms for the provision of goods and services and like our fellow farmers, most of the gross income is spent in the local community and profit, if any is largely reinvested in our business via local firms.

We operate our tractors on GPS guidance, running at 20mm accuracy to reduce overlap, our fertiliser spreader is GPS controlled and records all applications to a geo-spacial map, our combine weighs every kg of crop and overlays that data onto a map so we can track inputs and outputs accurately here as a result of investment in technology. It is investment in this technology that is achieving improvements in our environmental footprint.

On Friday night I attended a public meeting to hear Labour Water Spokesperson David Parker present his proposal for a tax on irrigation water. His presentation was headed by “How did we get to this?” and showed a series of photos from around New Zealand of environmental degradation caused by agriculture.

The photos showed practices that are unacceptable for sure, no argument about that, but a selective portrayal of the worst of the worst in my view.

At not one point did I hear any positive comment of the actions of the farming community in NZ. But interestingly none of the photos depicted anything in Mid Canterbury, had nothing to do with arable agriculture and only one shot of Coe’s Ford after three years of drought had any connection to irrigation. There was only one photo of a degraded urban waterway and that was one that Federated Farmers had provided to Mr Parker earlier in the day and challenged him to display.

The purpose of the meeting and continuation of his presentation was to explain the Labour Party’s intention to impose a tax on irrigation in NZ with the intent of using the money raised to repair environmental damage.

The missing part of this logic was that his slide show did not depict irrigation as the cause of the degradation and this is confirmed by a report by Irrigation NZ that shows there is no correlation between areas of high irrigation development and regions with poor water quality in NZ.

So why tax irrigation? And Irrigation predominately in Canterbury and Otago that are regions with good water quality?
I listened to the proposal and wondered why, if using a public resource for private profit was so villainous, why would a food producer using irrigation be taxed, but a soft drink company abstracting water from the Auckland Municipal supply be exempt? I heard the argument popular in Ashburton about export water bottlers, but if the bottling company pumped from their own well, they would be captured by this tax, however if the plant connected onto the local Council reticulated supply, their export activity would be water-tax free.

I sat in the meeting heard a whole lot of vitriol and bitterness extended towards the agricultural community and I reflected on the fact that it was August 18th and that night our monthly bills would be paid and a not insignificant sum would be transferred to local businesses, local businesses that the attendees relied on for either direct or indirect employment or for taxation to fund their social payments. The receipts from our production re-cycle many times through our local community, and I’m pleased about that.

I reflected on the reality that in the last ten years a qualified tradesman in Ashburton could pretty much name their charge out rate or hourly wage on the back of rapid development, both urban and rural, largely, virtually entirely, whether direct or indirect, on the back of the productivity achieved irrigation in the Ashburton District.

This is a town where professionals view their income earning potential as better than in large cities, a town that offers an unemployment rate equal to the lowest in the country. A town with a man-made lake providing a housing location and leisure facility for all; a lake that is packed on any summer’s afternoon.

We have a town with a new art gallery; and a new aquatic centre costing $35m. A fantastic complex on which the paint was hardly dry and some around the town were grizzling that it needed the addition of a Hydro Slide for the children.

I listened to the anti-farming vitriol, and heard how they believed that we were stealing water and the town folk saw no benefit.

Every dollar we earn is re-cycled into our local community, the employment generated by our business, direct or indirectly is significantly higher than it was in 1994 when we moved to a dryland sheep farm running 2,000 ewes.

A theme, which seems to be propagated at present by the Left is that Water Quality is a Rural problem, and therefore of Agricultural origin.

I accept that farming has an environmental footprint; no doubt, I also accept that practices need to and will change. In my view, technology and regulation will go hand in hand to solve those problems. Interestingly the three key policies that David Parker said he would implement are already in place by way of the Canterbury Land and Water Plan and he congratulated the National Government appointed Commissioners at ECan on introducing a robust water management framework.

But I don’t think that is the end of the debate. We regularly swim with our children in the river that bounds our farm; in fact I would happily drink it. I, along with thousands of others enjoy recreation in Lake Hood which is fed by the Ashburton River.

But the media and the Left would portray our rivers as dangerously polluted and degraded.

In comparison, I cannot swim in the Avon or Heathcote, nor the Christchurch Estuary which are subjected to storm water flows, overflows from the sewer network, seepage from broken sewers and heavy metals and petroleum contamination, which at times are several hundred times safe levels. Sure Christchurch has been devastated by the earthquakes, but the pollution of these urban waterways long pre-date the earthquake.

I would look forward to the day we can safely swim in the Avon adjacent to Oxford Terrace.

We hear much of the risks of the Ruataniwha Dam, but overlook the reality that the Hawke’s Bay’s two cities pump their sewerage out in the bay. Invercargill City is currently arguing in the Courts to renew its consent to discharge sewerage into four waterways including a lagoon.

In the Hutt Valley the sewerage system has contaminated an aquifer and will likely require the long term chlorination of the local water supply.

I grew up in South Auckland and enjoyed swimming at their most magnificent beaches during summer. The situation now is that one million cubic metres of sewerage and wastewater pours into the harbour every year regularly requiring the beaches to be closed to swimmers.

Two summers ago we stopped for lunch at a public picnic table looking out to Lion Rock at Piha. As our children walked across the mown grass their shoes turned green from the septic tank leachate oozing from the ground. Their shoes and the whole area stank; it sure didn’t do much for our appetite.

Yet the Left are silent on urban water quality issues, best not scare the voters with any suggestion they may need to fund the upgrade of their own effluent disposal system. It is far more politically expedient to poke the borax at farmers. We all have a footprint on this planet, and poor water quality has many causes and we are all responsible for the many solutions. Taxing only one group is not that solution.

Across New Zealand we are covering much of our elite food producing soils with the ongoing march of urban sprawl, permanently removing this land from production. Surely mankind cannot have more of a footprint that covering food producing soil with concrete.

In our world, we are challenged to produce food at the lowest price in the world. We do so by employing world leading technology to be some of the most efficient producers on the planet. Why would I say the cheapest in the world? Well, if we are not, the manufacturers and supermarkets will turn and import the ingredients quickity-split.

You see, as much as we talk about providence of supply and country of origin, animal welfare and environmental footprint, the brutal reality it that the vast bulk of consumers purchase the grocery item that the supermarket has a “special” tag attached to and couldn’t give two-toots as to where it came from or what standards it conformed to.

Our family has proudly farmed continuously in various parts of NZ for 140 years; I am but a caretaker and would hope that at least one of my children might take our family forward as food producers. It is in our very best interests to ensure that this property is in better condition for the next generation than when I began my stewardship.

I have listened to the hatred, I have read the posts on social media riping into farmers and it saddens me. This is a very nasty election campaign and I hope it is not a reflection on society as a whole.

It is a wet Sunday afternoon and I have stock to check on, best get my wet weather gear back on and get cracking.

David Clark.

We all want clean water. Labour’s water tax policy isn’t the best way to achieve that.

It will take money from those doing everything right and take responsibility away from those doing something wrong.


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