Conspiracy censorship or . . .?

June 22, 2018

Speaker Trevor Mallard  ruled out an amendment from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill that would have made a controversial 106-house luxury development in Northland more attractive to wealthy overseas buyers.

The amendment that exempted Te Arai property development near Mangawhai from the consent provisions of the bill was inserted by the office of Associate Finance Minister David Parker, the minister in charge of the bill.

It was included in recommendations on the bill from the Labour-chaired Finance and Expenditure Committee.

That was despite concerns from National members of the committee that the inclusion of a private exemption for Te Arai development through an amendment to a public bill was inappropriate. . . 

Richard Harman wrote a comprehensive post at Politik yesterday explainging the background to this.

National’s Amy Adams questioned the minister about the issue yesterday:

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: What is the purpose of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): There are three main purposes. The first is to ban foreign buyers of existing New Zealand homes; the second is to bring forestry registration rights into the overseas investment screening regime to ensure they’re treated similarly to existing screening for freehold and leasehold forests, whilst at the same time streamlining screening for forestry to encourage foreign direct investment in the forestry sector; and the third and equally important purpose is to preserve policy space for future Governments to protect the rights of New Zealanders to own their own land. This policy space would, in practice, have been lost forever had this Government not acted to do these things before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comes into effect.

Hon Amy Adams: Was it the policy intent of the bill for developers of multimillion-dollar homes targeted at foreign buyers, such as the Te Ārai property development, to be exempt?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. The transitional exemption that was put forward but has been ruled out of order was put forward with the intent of helping the iwi who had suffered long delays on the project. It was a time-limited, transitional measure. There was advice from Treasury that this was procedurally appropriate to allow an exemption. However, the Speaker has advised that the select committee’s recommendation is not within the Standing Orders. The Government accepts the Speaker’s ruling, and therefore the transitional exemption will not proceed.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it his intention to promulgate regulations under the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill to exempt the Te Ārai development, or any other development linked to John Darby, from the provisions of that legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, and, indeed, the other regulation-making power in the bill—and the member will know this because she was on the select committee—would not allow such an exemption. . . 

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming the Minister responsible for the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, has he had any discussions about the bill and the proposed Te Ārai development exemption with the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Michael Wood; and if so, when?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Obviously on a number of occasions, but I do that with every bill that I’m responsible for.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming a Minister has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted John Darby or Ric Kayne, as the beneficial owners of the Te Ārai development, or any representative of their business interests; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know thousands of people in New Zealand, including Mr Darby. I have bumped into him probably once or twice in the last decade. The last time I can recall talking to him was when I bumped into him, and it’s so long ago I can’t remember when it was.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, since becoming a Minister, has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted any representative of John Darby and Ric Kayne’s lobbying firm Thompson Lewis; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Everyone in the House will know that GJ Thompson actually was the acting chief of staff here, so I’ve regularly spoken with him—unfortunately for the member, not about this issue. Someone made me aware that Mr Lewis had some involvement in this. I have not spoken to Mr Lewis about this at all nor corresponded with him. The two meetings that I can recall having with Mr Lewis since we were elected were in respect of carbon rights and forestry, and members of staff were present at those meetings to witness them, as well. . . 

Later Matthew Hooton tweeted:

I read the column but if you click on the link now, it’s disappeared.

Is there a conspiracy, is it censorship is there really nothing to see or is there more to come?

 

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Rural round-up

May 17, 2018

Climate ambassadors the next step in dairy’s plan :

Fifteen dairy farmers have been chosen to profile the climate change cause as New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassadors.

This is the next step of the dairy sector’s plan to create a culture of climate conscious agribusiness amongst farmers and the broader dairy industry, says DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle.

“These fifteen men and women all represent best environmental farming practice for their farm system,” says DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle. “They run their farms profitably and sustainably and are serious about reducing on farm greenhouse gas emissions. . .

Savvy couple win at Dairy Industry awards – Stephen Bell:

Northland couple Dan and Gina Duncan are technologically savvy and care about people, the environment and cows and while doing very well at dairy farming.

Their efforts were rewarded when on Saturday night they were named the Share Farmers of the Year.

Gerard Boerjan from Hawke’s Bay-Wairarapa is Dairy Manager of the Year and Simone Smail from Southland is Dairy Trainee of the Year. 

The judges said the Duncans are passionate, professional and committed. . .

Dairy trainee of the year grateful for employers’ support – Nicole Sharp:

In three years, 24-year-old Simone Smail, of Invercargill, has come a long way in the dairy industry.

Being presented the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year award at Stadium Southland on Saturday night, Miss Smail was overcome.

She thanked her family for their support, her bosses Steve and Tracy Henderson for giving her a start in the industry and everybody else she had met along the way. . .

Lamb prices expected to stay high – Simon Hartley:

Key lamb export markets are paying  14%  more for product so far this season, with record highs  for this time of year,  ASB rural economist Nathan Penny says.

He said AgriHQ  reported lamb supply remained tight  and competition among processors was still keen given the  relatively low levels of slaughter.

“It follows that underlying demand is also solid …  all key export markets are paying 14% or more so far this season compared to last season.”  . .

Increasing biodiversity is a priority at Craigmore Station – Kate Guthrie:

Every year David Bielski, manager of Craigmore Station in South Canterbury, plans to spend $50,000 of the station’s budget on fencing, planting trees and labour to increase biodiversity on the property.

An impressive 51 hectares of land already consists of native plant species and is under various QE II covenants and game keeper John Brownley has been controlling a full range of pests on the station for over 10 years.

“Our pest tally for last year was 120 feral cats, 30 ferrets, 13 stoats, 214 hedgehogs, 19 (recorded) rats, 260 rabbits, 155 possums, 6 wallabies and 57 hares,” David confirms. “Numbers go up and down. We try to minimise pests, but we never get on top of them.”. . .

Is Labour anti-farming? – Jamie Mackay:

Environment Minister David Parker has an interesting background in agriculture.

He oversaw the due diligence on both the science and the intellectual property for the A2 Corporation and was one of its first two employees. It’s now a $9 billion dollar company.

Unfortunately, for him, he sold his start-up shares to avoid a conflict of interest when he became a politician.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from an interview I did with him on my radio show last week: . . .

Farmer suicide research not a priority for govt:

A release of official documents confirms the Ardern-Peters Government does not consider further research into farmer suicide to be a high priority, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“Documents relating to a funding application for Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) show how officials successfully persuaded the Minister of Health David Clark and the Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor that further investment into farm related suicide research is not a priority at this stage,” Dr Reti says.

“This astounding admission continues the Government’s dismissive attitude towards rural mental health – further compounded by the refusal to commit to a school of rural health. . .

Future guardians get their hands dirty planting on Mauao – Scott Yeoman:

A busy winter season of planting has begun on Mauao in Mount Maunganui, with Ngāi Te Rangi’s future guardians getting their hands dirty and leading the way.

About 500 native plants were dug into a bank at the base of Mauao yesterday by 20 children under 5 and a team of adult helpers.

Ngāi Te Rangi’s Kia Maia Ellis said the Mauao Trust had a big kaupapa (policy) around restoring the korowai (cloak) at Mauao. . .

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Rural round-up

May 14, 2018

Fewer cows no easy task – ODT editorial:

Environment Minister David Parker is continuing his campaign to clean up New Zealand’s waterways.

It is not as though New Zealand has not had plenty of warning. In June last year, Mr Parker made the point of saying Labour would make it tougher for farms to intensify operations under a 12-point freshwater policy.

The party’s policy sought to crack down harder on polluters, make all rivers and lakes swimmable, and extend freshwater quality standards.

At the weekend, Mr Parker indicated he wants fewer cows per hectare because the number now is higher than the environment can sustain. . . 

Budget day the benchmark for judging Government’s C+ performance in regions- Gerald Piddock:

 Six months have passed since the new Government has taken office and made a vast array of decisions negatively impacting on provincial New Zealand and in turn, farmers.

The list is depressingly long: The ban on offshore oil and gas exploration in Taranaki, the end of government money for irrigation, the loss of air ambulances in Rotorua, Taupo and Te Anau, the refusal to give $600,000 funding to the Rural Health Alliance, regional fuel taxes and just recently David Parker talking up the prospect of nutrient limits – effectively a cap on stock numbers.

The devil will be in the detail on the latter, but on the surface, Parker’s aims appear similar to what most regional councils are putting in place around the country anyway.

Topping it all off are the ballooning costs of biosecurity issues and the likelihood of agriculture coming into the Emissions Trading Scheme.  Labour will also almost certainly be campaigning for a water tax in the 2020 election . . 

Farmers are spooked – Sudesh Kissun:

Dairy farmers are spooked and they have every right to be.

We have a Prime Minister describing climate change as “my generation’s nuclear free moment”; and a Climate Change Minister who not only happens to co-lead the Greens but who sees climate change “as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvent parts of our economy and society for the better”.

And this new Labour-Greens-NZ First Government is forthright in its green-leaning tendencies and policies.

Last month, in a historic move, it announced that no new exploration permits for offshore oil and gas fields will be issued, in support of its commitment to action on climate change. . . 

Inaugural Winners of New National Dairy Award Announced:

The inaugural winners of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Fonterra Farm Source Responsible Dairying Award are considered leaders within the dairy industry, in all areas of sustainability, business and farm management, as well as in the way they give back to the industry and community.

Edward (Wynn) and Tracy Brown own a 320ha 700-cow farm near Matamata, with a further 30ha leased from their neighbour. Their property bears the name “Tiroroa”, which means ‘extensive view’ or ‘view to the future’.

“Our aim is to run an economically and environmentally sustainable dairy farming business maximising production while minimizing footprint,” say the couple. “We like to take the meaning of Tiroroa into consideration with all our decision-making. . . 

Daily milk urea readings could help tackle N in urine:

New Zealand’s 4.8 million milking cows excrete 1000 tonnes of nitrogen a day in their urine, and 200 tonnes of this end up in groundwater, says CRV Ambreed.

The company says it calculated the daily numbers using existing data related to milk urea concentration in daily bulk milk reports.

Farmers could be using the milk urea concentration (MU) value on their daily bulk milk reports to calculate the amount of nitrogen their herd is excreting in urine and take steps to address that, says Phil Beatson, the company’s head of R&D. . .

‘Wool Shed’ about inspiring – Nicole Sharp:

Teenagers will be encouraged to come up with ways to use wool creatively in a bid to have them take up the torch as ”Generation Wool”.

Campaign for Wool board member and former chairman Craig Smith officially opened the South Island’s new ”wool shed” in Riverton recently, but it is no normal wool shed.

Accompanied by Wool in Schools project manager Vicki Linstrom and PGG Wrightson Wool general manager Grant Edwards, the ”wool shed,” an education resource, initiated by the Campaign for Wool, was delivered to its first stop at Aparima College . . 

Southern goat group formed – Yvonne O’Hara:

Whitestone Boer Goat Stud owners Owen and Annette Booth formed the goat farmers and breeders’ Southern Goat Group following a wet field day on their Milton property on April 28.

Mr Booth is the chairman and Kaaren Wilkes, of Chatto Creek, is the secretary.

Mr Booth said the heavy rain contributed to lower than expected numbers attending.

”We had about 12 people there,” he said.

”They came from Duntroon, Alexandra, Peninsula and Brighton.

”We formed the group and got things under way.” . . 

No kidding! Newborns blamed for shortage of goat milk – Belle Puri:

The herd of goats on a Fraser Valley farm is kidding, but the farmer isn’t when it comes to a recent shortage of certified organic goat milk.

An explosion of newborn goats or “kids” has put a dent in the production line at Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, B.C.

The kids get first access to doe milk before any of it can be used to make products for human consumption, said Farm House office manager Dana Dinn. . .


Rural round-up

May 8, 2018

The problem is not dirty dairying, it’s still dirty government – Not PC:

Environment Minister David Parker is all set to tell dairy farmers how many cows he’s going to be let them have on their own farms.  This is, he claims, to fix “dirty dairying.”

But turns out you neither need nor want central planning to fix the alleged problem. What you do need is property rights — and common law.

Here’s a repost from 2008 that’s sadly topical again, explaining what that means… . . 

Give farmers who are having a free ride on the Feds a rev up, says Manawatu leader – Jill Galloway:

Freeloading farmers are getting a free ride when Federated Farmers goes to bat for them on rural issues, says a Manawatū leader.

Manawatū/Rangitīkei Federated Farmers president Richard Morrison said the value of Federated Farmers was often queried and everyone was after a tangible return for every dollar they spent.

“I can see why they want to know how the money is spent … however consider the wins we at the federation have had. There has been a benefit for farmers and rural communities.”

He said some farmers who were not members were getting an easy free ride on others. “Talk to those people and see if they will join up,” he told about 50 members at the region’s Federated Farmers annual meeting. . . 

Farmers have stake in caring for water: Waikato mayor – Craig Rowley:

At the heart of the Waimate district is the rural sector – farming that contributes to both the local and national economies.

Farmers have and continue to work hard to reduce any negative impacts on the environment. The establishment of water zone committees is one example of this.

The Lower Waitaki South Coastal Canterbury Water Zone committee is made up of local people, including farmers, who have a wide range of interests in water – the source, the use and the benefits that come with good water management practices. . . 

Commodity prices good but problems possible – Simon Hartley:

Commodity prices in many of the country’s agriculture sectors are in a “sweet spot” at present, but Brexit, US-China relations and global trade talks could yet create headwinds.

The waning strength of the New Zealand dollar has been in the headlines for the past week.The kiwi has been down 5% against its United States counterpart in recent weeks and at one point fell below US70c, boosting commodity prices in New Zealand dollar terms.

Westpac senior economist Anne Boniface said, from a revenue perspective, the country’s agricultural sector was “in a bit of a sweet spot”,  although there was  the odd exception. . .

Emma Lewin wins Tararua Shepherd of the Year :

Four candidates — two men and two women competed for the title of Tararua Shepherd of the Year 2018.

At the Greenhill Station Field Day on Friday April 27 Emma Lewin was declared the winner.

According to judge Damian Reynolds of Totaranui Angus each was put through their paces in a rigorous two-hour assessment on the properties where they currently work.

This involved both practical skills such as stock handling and shearing as well as knowledge of the industry and operation of the farm they work on. . . 

Not an easy fit for agricultural drones in broadacre – Sharon O’Keefe:

THEY take pretty pictures and if you choreograph your headers correctly, your drone video may even trend on social media. 

However, precision agriculture specialists and researchers are questioning the utility of drones for broadacre agriculture. 

McGregor Gourlay, national digital agriculture manager, Brooke Sauer said while her company was a drone stockist, she felt as a general rule, drones were more useful for purposes other than broadacre precision agriculture.  . . 

Cumbrian farmer tracks down stolen pregnant sheep:

FOURTEEN stolen pregnant ewes have been safely returned to their Cumbrian farm thanks to a high-tech marking system.

Pip Simpson, whose farm is at Troutbeck near Windermere, has been a victim of previous livestock thefts.

He turned to a tracing system to help protect his flock from criminals targeting isolated farms across the county.

TecTracer, a forensic sheep tracing system developed by John Minary, a former senior police detective, and a Swedish ballistics expert ingrains coded markers into a sheep’s fleece,“marking” them with a unique identifying code which makes it easy to trace which farm the sheep originated from. . . 


Rural round-up

May 7, 2018

The threat of irrational environmentalism – Dr Doug Edmeades:

I never thought it would end. Certainly I never thought that I might be alive to see the beginning of its end.

I am referring to the Enlightenment – the intellectual movement that began in the 17th century. It saw the end of Dark Ages and ushered in the Age of Reason. Mystical and religious certitude and bigotry gave way to reason based on objectively derived evidence.

Rather than praying to God for a good crop you adopted the latest technologies to ensure the crop did not fail. And if it did fail it was not seen as a consequence of your failure to appease God through prayer, but because you did not fully understand or fully implement the best knowledge and technology. If you prayed it was for more science, please. . . 

Economic development is about more than wishful thinking:

The Government risks serious damage to New Zealanders’ livelihoods by replacing the real productive economy with wishful thinking, National’s Economic Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“On TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, Economic Development Minister David Parker spoke of his wish to reduce the number of livestock in this country. He said horticulture, such as growing apricots, would be better for the environment.

“He said the problem was that it was too expensive to pick fruit in New Zealand. But, no worries, we’ll invest in robotics. Robots will pick the fruit and the economy will surge.

“This is wishful thinking on a grand scale and it fails on so many levels.

“Mr Parker also admitted that the Government hadn’t done an analysis of what the economic impact of his proposed shift away from current land use. . . 

Plan to keep scheme farmer owned – Sally Brooker:

Farming leader William Rolleston has come up with a plan to keep the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme fully farmer-owned.

The former Federated Farmers national president, who farms in South Canterbury, outlined his idea at the federation’s South Canterbury provincial annual  meeting in Waimate on Friday afternoon.

The irrigation scheme, which has resource consent to use water from the Waitaki River on land towards Timaru, has struggled to get landowners to buy enough shares to make it financially viable. Originally aimed at a 21,000ha command area, it was reduced to 12,000ha last year. . . 

 

Quacker of a start for duck shooting :

Duck-shooting season is off with a bang, with tens of thousands of people turning out across the country for the opening weekend.

The season officially started at 6am yesterday and runs through until August.

Fish and Game’s spokesperson Don Rood said hunters were on good behaviour and there were no reports of serious injury on day one.

“That’s all credit to our licence holders for doing the right thing. We’ve been pushing the education message with them. Safety is the very first priority before anything else – no duck is worth a shooting accident.”

In 2016, three people were accidentally shot at the beginning of the season. . . 

Alliance beefs up offering – Neal Wallace:

Alliance Group has launched premium branded beef under the label Pure South Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef.

To qualify each carcase, irrespective of breed, is individually selected and visually assessed. 

It must have a high marbling score, low Ph range and extended wet aging.

The launch follows three years of research and will be targeted at the New Zealand food service sector and overseas markets. . . 

Farmers back in driving seat – Lindy Nelson:

Time, creative thinking, resources to create change and information all support us to turn business threats into opportunities.

Leadership well-applied and executed is one of those resources that inspires and supports action to respond.

Applied leadership was exactly what was demonstrated at Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s recent workshop on the red meat sector story where our sector’s origin brand story, go-to-market strategy and response to the threat of alternative proteins were unveiled.

It was inspiring on a number of fronts – what the leadership team of B+LNZ has achieved and who it had collaborated with, its in-depth understanding of customers and detailed analysis of the synthetic protein threat and the knowledge that place of origin acts as a shortcut to consumer understanding and trust in our products.

All of this provides a strategy for action alongside the release of the origin brand story. . . 

Whare’s new lease on life – Toni Williams:

A  little red corrugated-iron whare will roll smoothly behind a vintage tractor in the Greg Donaldson Contracting Ashburton Wheels Week Plus street parade this month.

The whare  will be taking its place among members of the Ashburton Vintage Machinery Club in the parade on the final day of the Wheels Week Plus  programme.

  The club has about 100 members, so expect to see a few vintage machines. The whare, which sits on a truck chassis, plays a big role in the life of Ashburton Vintage Machinery Club president John Hall. It holds warm memories and its walls are lined with memorabilia — newspaper clippings, places and events Mr Hall has visited. . . 

 


Govt sowing seeds for another ag-sag?

May 7, 2018

Let’s start with something we can agree on: we all want clean waterways.

Where opinion diverges is on how that is to be achieved.

The government thinks part of the solution is in reducing cow numbers:

Environment Minister David Parker told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that in some parts of New Zealand cow numbers may have to be cut.

‘Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.’

It’s not just a cow issue and it’s not just nitrogen and phosphorus as this chart from the Agricultural Research Centre shows:

As I have said many times before, the major contributor to problems in the Kakanui River isn’t farming it’s  seagulls.

Back to Q&A, just like with the government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration, it has no idea about the economic impact of reducing cow numbers:

CORIN This is a massive signal. This is like your oil and gas. This is you saying to the farming sector, ‘You cannot continue with some of your practices in dairying, and we will force you to have less cows.’ What work have you done to look at what the economic impact of that would be? Because we know if there’s a drought, for example, and milk production goes down a couple of percent, it takes off a percent off GDP.

DAVID Mm. Well, I think the Landcorp example is illustrative that it’s not the end of the world for dairying.

The Landcorp example is not a good one because the company’s return on capital is abysmal and it’s propensity for making losses couldn’t be sustained by private businesses.

CORIN Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

DAVID We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses. . . 

It’s not just difficult to model, it’s ignoring the reality that land, climate and soils that suit dairying don’t necessarily suit horticulture.

Jacqueline Rowarth pointed out nearly two years ago, a reduction in cow numbers would have unexpected consequences:

Replacing dairy with horticulture might have some economic merit, but land suitability has to be considered, as does the supporting infrastructure and inputs.

The point about any land-based activity is that it suits the topography and climate, which interact with the parent material to create the soil. Farmers and growers understand the nature of the interaction, and then manage the deficiencies – fertilisers, irrigation, shelters, for instance.

They also consider the infrastructure, processors and markets. Land that can be used economically and environmentally sustainably for horticulture has mostly been converted already.

There are also detrimental environmental impacts to be considered. Research on the Canterbury Plains reported in the media last year indicated that dairy conversions involving fertiliser and irrigation, actually increased organic matter.

The reverse is also true. And when organic matter breaks down, nitrogen is released as is carbon dioxide.

Massey University’s professor Tony Parsons has examined the land-use challenge with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC). He has calculated that at a given N input, dairy produces two to three times as much food, similar or less methane and less than half the amount of nitrogen loss.

He has also shown the use of supplements improves efficiencies. Combined with strategic use of shelters and feed pads, nitrogen losses can be reduced. . . 

A lot of work has been, and continues to be, done into improved practices which reduce dairying’s environmental impact

Keith Woodford says that we need a rational debate about water:

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’.    The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal. . . 

Radical environmentalists and anti-farming groups have done a very good job with the superficiality, rhetoric and shoutingWhat we need now is science and the recognition that problems decades in the making will take time to solve and that improving water quality isn’t as simple as reducing cow numbers.

Currently, there is great confusion between issues of water quantity and water quality.  Dirty dairying has become the catch phrase.  At a public level, distinguishing between nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, bacterial loadings and sediment does not occur.  There is also very poor understanding as to the constraints to cash crop and horticulture production in the absence of irrigation.

The rural community also has to accept that change is necessary. . . 

The rural community, and farmers in particular have generally not only accepted that change is necessary but have poured money into making changes which enhance and protect waterways.

They are aware, as the government and many others don’t appear to be, that water quality isn’t just about the environment, it also has a direct impact on the economy.

It is remarkable how huge swathes of the big-city populations have lost sight of the dependence New Zealand has on its natural resource-based industries. They do not appreciate that destruction of agriculture is incompatible with poverty elimination. . . .

Dairying has revived communities that were dying, creating jobs on farms and in businesses which service and supply them. Schools which were in danger of closing have had their rolls boosted, sports clubs which were in decline have been revived.

It has also provided a huge boost to the national economy, as the biggest or second biggest export earner and a major contributor to the annual tax-take.

The regional slush fund will be no compensation for the destruction of businesses and the people who depend on them. The fund itself will be in danger if the tax take and export income are severely reduced by attacks on farms and farmers.

The Lange-Douglas policies created the ag-sag of the 80s.

Few would argue with the necessity for change and what that government did but this government ought to have learned from the damage done by how they did it.

Farmers aren’t arguing against the need for clean water.

We’re just very worried that the government is sowing the seeds for another ag-sag.

They, and too many other people, don’t understand the economic and social cost of forcing fast changes, especially where they’re not backed by science.


More rivers improving than degrading

April 17, 2018

New Zealand river quality is improving:

National River Water Quality Trends released by Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) today, reveal that for all river water quality parameters monitored over a 10 year period, more sites were improving than deteriorating. This encouraging national picture has been welcomed by scientists and local government who pointed to freshwater ecosystem management practices as likely contributing to the progress.

Trends analysis was led by Cawthron Institute Freshwater Group Manager and Ecologist, Dr Roger Young. He described the overall picture as encouraging and said, “Looking back from 2016 at a decade of data, for every monitored parameter, more sites showed evidence of improving water quality, than degrading.

“My hope is this could represent a turning point in New Zealand’s river health story.

“While this analysis gives us cause for optimism, water quality is just one indicator of river health and there is still more work to be done. While all parameters show there are more sites improving than degrading, there are still degrading sites for all parameters. In order to continue further improvements, we need to invest in freshwater ecosystem management, routine monitoring, and further research and innovation,” said Dr Young.

The National River Water Quality Trends (2007 – 2016) released by LAWA follows a similar 10 year analysis released in 2015 by National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Compared with the 2015 report, a change in the trend of nitrogen is particularly noteworthy, with significant progress in the number of improving sites compared with the number that are deteriorating. . . 

This report shows an encouraging trend.

However, it might not persuade the government enough is being done:

The Government is planning a more centralised regulatory approach to fresh water management and Environment Minister David Parker warns farmers he is not afraid to make unpopular decisions.

Parker indicated the shift in approach in an address to a Catchments Otago symposium on water and biodiversity issues, hosted by Otago University. 

He said he will get off the back of rural New Zealand when he sees water quality is no longer deteriorating.

“If we can’t get a collaborative outcome from stakeholders, someone has to make a decision and I’m prepared to be that person.”

The LAWA report shows that rural water quality is improving.

That has been achieved by on-farm improvements with the encouragement and education by regional councils, and industry bodies including Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and dairy companies.

The country’s recent economic growth had been at the expense of the environment, especially through the expansion and intensification of dairy and Parker was unequivocal that will no longer be the case.

Behavioural change will come only through education, regulation and price and Parker said regulation to improve compliance, monitoring and enforcement is the most important instrument.

Price? Does this forebode a new tax in the Budget?

That will be driven through changes to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater.

The document established national standards to be applied locally for emissions such as nutrient and sediment discharges, land intensification and deadlines for improvement.

Parker said he is also seeking scientific advice on appropriate nutrient and sediment loadings, the impact of beef feedlots, intensive winter grazing and cattle in waterways.

He told the 70 delegates his priority is to stop further degradation and said agriculture will have a generation to reverse damage to waterways but he expects to see some material improvement within five years.

Waterways didn’t degrade overnight. It will take time to completely reverse the degradation but the LAWA report shows improvements are happening.

Land use and land management decisions are the most common cause of water quality degradation and it has been exacerbated by agricultural intensification and what he called poor land practice by some.

The speed with which dairying expanded caught local and central government by surprise as the sector sought to produce dairy products for Asia but now exceeds carrying capacity in some areas.

Parker believed possible solutions are to shift to high value horticulture and cropping.

It is the government’s role to set standards, not to dictate how they will be achieved. Horticulture and cropping can degrade water too.

Farmers have a vested interest in ensuring waterways on and near their farms are clean.

That’s the water we drink and swim in.

Any action taken by government to further improve water quality must be based on facts.

It should acknowledge that waterways in irrigated areas is cleaner than those without irrigation and that water quality in urban areas is often much worse than that in the country.

 


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