Rural round-up

May 11, 2019

Forget the avengers, farmers are the real heroes – Nigel Malthus:

Farmers are the world’s real superheroes, says Rabobank executive Marc Oostdijk.

Launching Rabobank’s recent FoodX programme, which aims to introduce high school students to career paths in the food industry, Oostdijk says world population is expected to reach 9 or 10 billion by 2050.

“That’s massive, and to grow food and fibres for them is a massive challenge.” . . 

Mental health help ‘there if you ask’ – farmer who faced Mycoplasma bovis cull for months:

A Southland farmer whose farm suffered through a cull because of Mycoplasma bovis says emotional support is available for those who need it – especially farmers, who might be scared to ask for help. 

It comes as two senior rural support workers, hired to help farmers cope with losing their stock, quit over what they say has been a poor response by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Southland farmer Ben Walling told First Up he was forced to cull 1700 calves after his farm became infected. . .

Health bus nearly ready to roll – Yvonne O’Hara:

The new Women’s Health Bus (Te Waka Wahine Hauora) is expected to arrive in the Otago and Southland region next month, service co-founder Dr Helen Paterson, of Dunedin, says.

The non-profit mobile health service has been in the planning stages for about two years, but last year obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Paterson and Junction Health practice co-owner and practice nurse Alice van Zijl, of Cromwell, ordered the purpose-built vehicle from a specialist Whangaparaoa building firm.

Dr Paterson said the health bus would provide women’s health services, including cervical screening and contraception, to women in Otago and Southland’s rural and isolated communities. . .

Frame & Macey: Two-basket approach no free ride for farmers – Dave Frame & Adrian Macey:

A two-basket approach to climate policy is perfectly sensible and would be anything but a free ride to farmers. Recent assertions to the contrary by Jim Salinger and Raymond Desjardins suggest they may have misunderstood both the recent climate science and the policy logic that has led both the Productivity Commission and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to recommend two-basket approaches.

The first and simplest point to note is that the world has actually used a multi-basket approach to climate policy before. The Montreal Protocol worked pretty well – on some estimates it was more successful at lowering greenhouse gas emissions than the Kyoto Protocol. Montreal was based on a multi-basket approach. There’s nothing inherently better about a one-basket approach to policy, and the reverse is probably true if the residence times of different pollutants span a large range. . .

In a remote South Island valley, birdsong returns – David Williams:

Twenty-one years of intensive pest control in the Landsborough Valley is paying off. David Williams reports.

Colin O’Donnell ambles towards the edge of silver beech forest near the Landsborough River, drawn by the high-pitched, repetitive call of a mohua. It’s a call the Department of Conservation ecologist has been following for more than 30 years.

Ford Flat, overlooked by the Solution Range of mountains, is a common place to wait for the river to recede. In sections of the forest above there’s an ominous ripple of red – signs of a coming mast seeding. Swirling sandflies are ever-present and insistent.

“While it’s there I might just cheat,” O’Donnell says of the chattering mohua, producing from his pocket a portable speaker loaded with bird calls. “It might not work but we’ll give it a go.” . .

Special occasion for fans of hunt – Sally Rae:

He might be ”just a little” over 80 but evergreen Central Otago Hunt master Glynne Smith is showing no signs of slowing down.

Yesterday, Mr Smith was galloping across farmland near Moa Creek, in the Ida Valley, filling the position he has held for the past 30 years.

As master, he was ultimately responsible for the running of the hunt day, and yesterday’s was particularly special for him.

It was the first hunt in Central Otago Hunt’s 30th anniversary programme, which includes four hunts, the South Island hound show and several social functions. . .


Rural round-up

April 20, 2019

Better data will help us do a better job – Federated Farmers:

The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released today will help all New Zealanders, not just farmers, identify the priorities for action.

But we can only manage what we have information on, Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Our message during the last central government election campaign, when various candidates and commentators were putting the boot into farmers for environmental impacts, was that all Kiwis were in this together. This new report underlines exactly that. . .

Irrigation sector committed to continuing to improve environmental practices:

IrrigationNZ says the recent Environment Aotearoa report highlights the need for farmers and growers to continue work underway to: improve practices on-farm and upskill farmers; invest in cutting edge technology; and implement Farm Environmental Plans to change the way water is used for production.

“In partnership with national and regional government, it’s essential we continue to research, trial and adopt new practices and technology,” says Ms Soal.

“It is critical that we recognise that water is a precious resource which is essential for primary production and regional resilience in the face of climate change and that we use it in a way that is environmentally responsible,” says IrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal. . .

Dairy committed to a better environment:

DairyNZ says today’s Environment Aotearoa 2019 report gives honest insight into New Zealand’s environment and where the opportunities lie for the dairy sector, particularly for water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

Strategic leader for DairyNZ’s environmental portfolio, Dr David Burger, said while the report shows the dairy sector has work to do, there is no doubt farmers are working hard to look after the environment – with significant work already undertaken over the last 10 years to improve environmental practices across New Zealand. . .

Living affects the environment – Neal Wallace:

Our way of life is putting the environment under pressure.

A report produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand with evidence and trends of what is happening to the environment highlights nine key issues.

It is based on a comparison with previous reports, analysis of more than 60 indicators and new methods.

It found native plants, animals and ecosystems are under threat, changes to land vegetation are degrading soil and water, farming is polluting our waterways and water use affects freshwater ecosystems.

Urban centres create environmental pollution with urban sprawl occupying the best soils and destroying native biodiversity, it said. . .

Water tax decision allows environmental improvements to be targeted:

IrrigationNZ says the government’s decision not to introduce a water tax in the near future is good news for all New Zealanders.

“The Tax Working Group proposed a nationwide tax on all water use including for hydroelectricity, household, business and agricultural use. That would have resulted in higher power and food prices for households and businesses and higher rates bills for everyone,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal. . .

Wrightson gets OIO approval to sell seeds unit, still mulling size of return – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson has cleared the final hurdle to sell its seeds division to DLF Seeds for $434 million after securing Overseas Investment Office approval, but still hasn’t figured out how much to return to shareholders.

Now the OIO has signed off on the transaction, the rural services company anticipates the deal to settle either this month or May. . .

Whio ducks make a comeback after predator programme :

A nationally vulnerable duck species is making a comeback following a programme to curb predators in Fiordland.

About 64 breeding whio have been found during surveying of a security site for the blue ducks.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger Andrew Smart said extended trapping efforts and predator control enabled the whio to make a strong comeback. . .


How much does Minister know?

February 19, 2019

Conservation Minister Eugene Sage has ruled out genetic modification in the fight against pests:

 Predator Free 2050 aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators by 2050, and has a number of government agencies involved in the plan including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

But Predator Free 2050 is forbidden from carrying out any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing, a letter written by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage shows.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 obtained by lobby group Life Sciences Network said its primary tasks were to invest in breakthrough scientific research, but not to research into genetically modified organisms and technologies or gene editing, and to raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

“Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks.” . . 

This directive counters officials’ views that GE could be an alternative to 1080:

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.” . . 

The minister’s refusal to permit sciencetific exploration is rank stupidity.

It’s also hypocritical coming from a member of the party that exhorts everyone to accept the science on climate change.

But how much does the minister know about the science when the strongest opponents of GM food know the least and think they know the most?

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.” . . 

Is the minister’s decision based on a lack of knowledge or just politics and emotion trumping science?

Whichever it is, a minister should not be shutting the door on scientific exploration.


Seeking a saxy song

January 22, 2019

Could a saxy song save the Kākāpō?

Since 2016, Meridian Energy have been the National Partner of the Department of Conservation’s Kākāpō Recovery Programme (KRP) in their efforts to revive this critically endangered native parrot, but what most people don’t know is that there are only 147 left.

As a 100% renewable energy generator, Meridian is incredibly focused on taking care of New Zealand’s natural environment and the precious species that inhabit it, including supporting the recovery effort through science, technology and state-of-the-art Smart Eggs that help the incubation process.

Michael Healy, Meridian’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “The trouble is, these are only good once breeding kicks off. Meridian decided some creativity might be needed to give these treasured native parrots with troublesome breeding a helping hand. And by hand, we mean saxophone”.

So, Meridian has put a call out to New Zealand (and beyond – Kenny G, we’re looking at you) to find a talented saxophonist to help save a species with what is widely recognised as the smoothest, most romantic instrument out there.

We’re aware the science behind saxophones and kakapo breeding is as yet untested. But with only 147 of these amazing birds left, at Meridian we’ll try anything,” says Healy.

The winning saxophonist, whether they’re a gifted local or the legend Kenny G himself, will professionally record a song for the kākāpō that will be available for download on the Meridian Energy website and handed over to the Kākāpō Rangers.

The response to the campaign to date has been great, and we’ve received some great entries from keen sax players all over the country. We’re still hoping that to attract the main man himself, Kenny G, but we’ve also got some great local talent who can help these precious birds out.”

“Most importantly though, we’re really aiming to make sure everyone is aware of the fact there are so few of these birds left – so it’s a privilege to be helping raise more awareness of the plight of the kākāpō”, says Healy.

You can read more here.


Some animals more equal

January 9, 2019

Forest and Bird  says the SPCA’s call for a ban on 1080 is naive:

Forest & Bird says the SPCA’s statement calling for 1080 to be banned shows a naïve failure to understand how nature works in the wild, and they will be seeking a meeting with the organisation to discuss its position.

Forest & Bird CE Kevin Hague says “The SPCA’s statement on the use of 1080 is seriously misinformed, and contains errors of both fact and logic.

Their position reflects their history of caring for domesticated animals such as cats and dogs, without understanding the needs of New Zealand’s native animals and ecosystems.

The SPCA is generally respected for its care of domestic and farm animals.  Extending its concern to pests which carry disease, and torture and kill native birds puts its reputation at risk.

It’s not hard to get public support for an organisation that promotes the wellbeing of cats, dogs, sheep and cattle. It would be very easy to lose support by giving rats, stoats and possums equal status with native birds.

“While the idea of stoats and rats peacefully coexisting with native birds sounds great, the reality is that an estimated 25 million native birds, eggs, and chicks are cruelly eaten alive by introduced predators every year in New Zealand.

“This is the terrible death that countless native animals across New Zealand suffer every night.

“The SPCA’s position on 1080 is a blow to their credibility. It’s sad to see them promoting flawed logic whose outcome is the extinction through being eaten alive of treasured animals like our kiwi, kereru, and kokako.

“Without scientific, ethical, and precision pest control, of which 1080 is a key tool, there is no way to protect our native animals from the overwhelming numbers of introduced predators. Giving up 1080 would lead to an ecocide of huge proportions in New Zealand, and the SPCA need to understand this is the outcome of their pest control position.”

The SPCA might think all animals are equal but when it comes to conservation, some are more equal than others.

Rats, stoats and possums are introduced species which carry diseases that can infect people, farm and domestic animals, and they are not endangered. They prey on native species which are.

No-one says 1080 is perfect but experts including the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the Environmental Protection Authority and the Department of Conservation say it is the best option available to protect  native species when trapping and shooting aren’t possible.

Attempting to put pests on equal footing with endangered natives is not only denting the SPAC’s credibility, it’s costing it support.


Rural round-up

December 23, 2018

Farmers urged to focus on critical risks to avoid joining summer accident toll:

Summer is a busy time on the farm, but it’s also among the most hazardous periods for accidents.

Almost 550 farmers suffered injuries serious enough for them to take at least a week off work over the last summer (December 2017-February 2018) while there were three fatalities on farms.

Overall, trips, slips and falls, being hit or bitten by animals, hit by moving objects and incidents involving vehicles were the major causes of injuries, according to data from ACC. . . 

Russell forest possums ‘down 80 percent’ since 1080 drop – Lois Williams:

The recent 1080-poison drop on Northland’s Russell State Forest has been declared an outstanding success.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said results showed rats had been all but wiped out and possum numbers had dropped by 80 percent.

The aerial operation in September covered the Russell Forest north of Whangarei and Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands, and was the first since the mid-1990s. . .

Another assault on local democracy:

The Government should back off local government in the Hauraki Gulf and let the people decide their futures, says Federated Farmers Auckland.

The Government proposes to establish a Ministerial Advisory Committee to implement the Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan (aka Sea Change), clearly stepping on local government, says Federated Farmers Auckland provincial president Andrew Maclean.

“This move is just the latest assault on local democracy from central Government.” . . 

Project highlights nutrient loss challenges for farmers:

Work by farmers on a Hawke’s Bay project aiming to cut their nitrogen losses has provided valuable lessons and highlighted the challenges ahead.

The “Greening Tukituki” project that included two dairy farmers and two drystock farmers from the Tukituki catchment aimed to help them meet their nutrient loss obligations under the Hawkes Bay Regional Council (HBRC) plan change 6.

The project closes amid growing disquiet about the shortcomings in nutrient software system Overseer as a regulatory tool. . . 

Livestock farmers join the GIA biosecurity partnership:

Key players in the livestock farming sector have taken steps to protect their multi-billion-dollar export industries from pests and diseases by joining other primary sector organisations and Government in the biosecurity fight.

Industry organisations DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand consulted with their farmers over a year ago to join the Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA). The final step in the process is the signing of the GIA Deed. . . 

Lightwire announced as partner in rural broadband milestone:

Lightwire announced as partner in New Zealand’s rural broadband milestone

Trans-Tasman telecommunications company Lightwire is proud to be a new partner of Crown Infrastructure Partners’ (CIP) Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RBI2), providing significant additional rural broadband coverage across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions.

This phase of the Initiative will take coverage to 99.8% of New Zealand’s population, bringing innumerable benefits to Lightwire’s rural communities. . . 


Rural round-up

December 22, 2018

Alliance chairman queries Govt’s subsidy stance – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group chairman Murray Taggart has expressed concern over what he sees as the Government’s apparent determination to subsidise forestry plantings at the expense of low environmental impact sheep and beef farming.

Addressing the co-operative’s annual meeting in Dunedin yesterday, Mr Taggart said it was occurring just when it looked like the ”bureaucratic playing field” was being levelled up for sheep and beef and recognising the sector’s lower environmental footprint relative to dairy.

”The apparent lack of rigour in relation to the social, economic and environmental impacts of this strategy is disturbing,” he said. . . 

Telford future in doubt following liquidation -Chris Morris:

The training institute running the Telford campus in South Otago has been placed in interim liquidation at the request of its board.

Taratahi, a private training establishment and agricultural education provider, runs residential campuses in Wairarapa and Reporoa in the North Island, as well as Telford.

It employs about 250 staff and boasted about 2850 students across all three campuses this year.

Today’s announcement was made by David Ruscoe and Russell Moore of Grant Thornton, who were appointed interim liquidators by the High Court.

The liquidators, in a statement, said Taratahi was facing “financial and operational pressures caused by declining student numbers”, which had resulted in a reduction in funding. . . 

Risk of spreading Wallabies sparks pest action plan – Tess Brunton:

Fears Wallabies are placed to become the possum problem of the 21st century has prompted plans to create New Zealand’s first national wallaby management programme.

A business case has been submitted to the Treasury as part of a collaboration between regional councils, government and crown research agencies in the last couple of weeks.

Department of Conservation threats technical advisor Alastair Fairweather said New Zealand could not afford to wait before acting. . . 

Super cute sheep deliver Christmas lambs – but not for eating:

The sheep dubbed the world’s cutest have given birth to their first lambs in New Zealand.

Wairarapa farmer Christine Reed and her business partners imported Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep as embryos from the United Kingdom about 18 months ago.

Over the past two weeks, Ms Reed’s sheep have brought five tiny bundles of fluffy cuteness into the world, while her business partners had similar numbers of newborn lambs arrive. . .

New agreement to protect fresh tomato industry:

Biosecurity New Zealand and Tomatoes New Zealand have reached an agreement on the pathway forward to better prepare for future biosecurity responses.

Both parties signed a Sector Readiness Operational Agreement today (21 December).

“The agreement demonstrates both organisations’ commitment to strengthen readiness for incursions of specific pests and pathogens,” says Andrew Spelman, Biosecurity NZ’s Acting Director, Biosecurity Readiness & Response Services. . . 

Kiwi investors snap up cherry orchard investment:

Over 60 New Zealanders have invested $10.5 million to become the proud new owners of the largest modern cherry orchard development in Central Otago.

Central Cherry Orchard Limited Partnership will begin development of the 96 hectare bareland block in the Waikerikeri Valley north of Alexandra in autumn 2019.

New Zealand export cherries are recognised for their exceptionally high quality and freshness. This season it’s estimated 1.9 million 2kg boxes of cherries will be picked and airfreighted fresh to China and the rest of Asia to arrive in time for Chinese New Year on February 5. . . 


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