Rural round-up

September 9, 2020

Fonterra maintains forecast despite latest GDT fall – Gerald Piddock:

Fonterra has maintained its forecast range of $5.90-6.90/kg milksolids for the current season, keeping its advance rate at the midpoint of $6.40/kg MS.

It released its updated forecast on the eve of the latest Global DairyTrade (GDT) auction, which saw average prices fall 1% to US$2955/tonne.

Fonterra chair John Monaghan said the global market was finely balanced with both demand and supply increasing but it has the potential to change.

“There is good demand in the market at this stage of the season, however, the forecast economic slowdown is likely to increase global unemployment and reduce consumer demand,” he said.  . . 

Hunters slam DOC’s tahr plan – Neal Wallace:

If the Department of Conservation (DOC) was hoping to diffuse the tahr culling debate by releasing a new control plan, it has failed.

DOC operations director Dr Ben Reddiex has released an updated Tahr Control Operational Plan for the coming year, which will focus control on public conservation land.

“With an open mind we have considered a wide range of submissions from groups and individuals representing the interests of recreational and commercial tahr hunters, as well as conservationists, recreationists and statutory bodies,” he said in a statement.

Acknowledging the new plan will not satisfy everyone, he says it will enable the recreational and commercial hunting of trophy bulls and other tahr, while still moving DOC towards meeting the statutory goals of the 1993 Himalayan Thar Control Plan. . . 

 

Rural Waikato thrives on community spirit :

In this part of the country, more than 200,000 cows are milked, fed and cared for each day by Kiwis, as well as by a growing group of skilled migrants.

Experienced farm hands are in high demand and, as Waikato farmers increasingly realise and appreciate, some of the best workers come from the Philippines.

Johnrey Emperado, second-in-charge at a 270-hectare farm near Tirau, is one of them.

Johnrey and his wife Iris moved to New Zealand in 2009. With their two children, daughter Skye (4) and baby Brian, who was born in January, they live on Moondance Farms, where Johnrey works. . . 

New AgResearch boss keen to make NZ ag great again – Nigel Malthus:

AgResearch’s new chief executive is promising solid evidence-based science to make New Zealand’s agriculture sector the best in the world.

Nigel Malthus reports.

Dr Sue Bidrose recently took up the role at AgResearch’s Lincoln head office after a varied career, including policy work for the Ministry of Social Development and 15 years in local government, the last seven as chief executive of the Dunedin City Council.

“We are here to do really good science, to give our agricultural community the best ammunition they’ve got to be the best in the world,” Bidrose told Rural News. . .

From Boeing to baling :

A number of out-of-work airline pilots are considering roles as large machinery operators and tractor drivers.

Former pilot Andy Pender says he won’t be surprised if they find they’re happy working in the country and don’t go back to flying.

Pender is a former captain for Virgin Australia (New Zealand) and now the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) medical and welfare director.

He says the association has been working for several months with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Rural Contractors’ Association to match pilots with rural jobs. . . 

UK food exporters’ confidence plummets to record low :

Business confidence among food manufacturers and exporters reached a record low this year due to Covid-19 uncertainty, a new report says.

Data by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) shows that food firms’ confidence plummeted -65.2% in the second quarter of 2020.

The industry has faced a ‘variety of challenges’, from the closure of the hospitality and out-of-home sectors, to rising costs and a fall in exports. . . 


Rural round-up

September 8, 2020

Much of the plan is not common sense’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

Matakanui Station owner Andrew Paterson estimates it will cost him about $1.6 million to comply with the new freshwater rules for fencing off waterways on his Central Otago hill country property.

He will also have to take about 47ha out of use to follow the 5m buffer rule.

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 sets out new objectives and policies for farming including waterways, nutrient losses and winter grazing and the rules come into effect tomorrow.

He agrees with Federated Farmers Southland president Geoffrey Young that some of the rules are unworkable and supports Mr Young’s recent call for a boycott of the new rules. . . 

Revelations in the cow shed – Peter Burke:

Mental health and connectivity are two of the main issues affecting dairy farmers in this country according to a survey by DairyNZ.

The so called ‘cow shed’ survey shows that 62% of farmers say that they or someone on their farm had experienced mental health issues over the last year.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says he was “quite surprised” at how high this number was.

“I think the stresses that came out in the survey were drought, with two thirds of those surveyed saying they had been affected by drought in the last little while,” he told Dairy News.

Winding up a long career championing New Zealand – Sally Rae:

When Lyn Jaffray walks out the door of Silver Fern Farms’ headquarters in Dunedin tomorrow, it will be the end of an era, as business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Lyn Jaffray is preparing to close his last deal with Silver Fern Farms.

When he retires tomorrow, it will mark a 48-year association with the company which has included more than 20 years managing its China market.

The former All Black’s departure follows a discussion about succession and a year-long transition period, and he was happy with the timing of it.

“I’m comfortable where we are, the company’s going great, I’m comfortable with closing the deal,” he said. . . 

Doc’s revised 2020/21 tahr management plan is ideology hidden in a glossy brochure:

The New Zealand Deerstalkers Association believes the Department of Conservation’s revised tahr control operational plan released yesterday shows that culling the Himalayan tahr herd as now planned is based on ideology, political interference, a lack of quality data and science, and made to appease the extreme views of Forest & Bird who continue to maintain their threat of bad faith court action.

Deerstalkers Association Chief Executive Gwyn Thurlow says the decision defies good sense and logic and is another example of a string of poor decisions made by this Government.

Gwyn Thurlow says “After reviewing the latest iteration of the plan, we can see no substantive change to the Department’s approach from before the High Court win by the Tahr Foundation because the bottom line is the number of operational hours has not reduced. This means our tahr herd will be decimated, as feared. . . 

$4.7 million in funding for SVSS from MPI:

A project to boost vegetable growers’ efforts to care for the health of the environment while supplying fresh, healthy food, has received $4.7 million in government backing from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The funding adds to the $2.8 million already invested by industry into Sustainable Vegetable Systems, a four-year project, focused on improving crop nutrient management for the growing of potatoes, onions, brassicas, butternut squash, carrots, and leafy greens.
MPI is investing in the project from the Productive and Sustainable Land Usepackage, which promotes farming and growing practices that deliver more value and improved environmental outcomes. . . 

Campaign to boost British venison amid fall in demend :

An innovative working group has been created across England and Wales to reignite the venison market following a drop in demand due to Covid-19.

The group will focus on strengthening existing markets and opening new channels to counter competition provided by imports and slashed demand.

The Wild Venison Working Group is chaired by the Forestry Commission and has representation from stakeholders in woodland management, shooting, gamekeeping, and venison supply sectors.

In the absence of natural predators, the deer population in the United Kingdom is at its highest level for the last 1,000 years. . . 


New Zealand’s Tahr – They Are Us

July 13, 2020

Why is the Tahr Foundation fighting to keep them in New Zealand?

The Tahr Foundation has released a short video that shows just what Himalayan tahr mean to Kiwis and why so many people are fighting so hard to maintain them in New Zealand.

The video is a powerful reminder of the extent that tahr are now woven into the fabric of everyday New Zealand life.

New Zealand’s Tahr – They Are Us is available at https://youtu.be/SQyEwlgYSB4

“From people that work in the hunting industry and make a living from these animals to those from all other walks of life that just love spending time in the mountains amongst them, this video shows just how much tahr mean to so many Kiwis,” says Tahr Foundation Spokesperson Willie Duley.

“For the professional and recreational hunters, climbers, trampers, school teachers, sportsmen, helicopter operators and families that appear in this video, tahr not only enhance their experience in the mountains but in many cases are the reason for it.”

“We also want to see tahr properly managed and our alpine flora and fauna preserved because those of us who love the mountain environment and spend so much of our time there have the greatest stake in looking after it.”

“Despite our win in the High Court which confirmed DOC had not properly consulted with us, it is still extremely disappointing that they have been allowed to carry on in the interim with 125 hours of culling and the eradication of all tahr including bulls in Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks.”

“This interim culling still has the potential to decimate the tahr resource and the livelihoods of thousands, which is exactly what we have been fighting against and will continue to do so until an agreement is reached” says Duley.

“We feel the Minister and DOC are riding rough-shod over those of us with an interest in tahr, and the people that appear in this video and the near 50,000 others that have signed our petition are asking that their voice be heard.”

“It’s time this almost annual conflict was ended, and we’re given the opportunity to sit down with all stakeholders and constructively work together.”

“The Tahr Foundation wants to work with DOC and the Game Animal Council to come up with an enduring management strategy that fits with the realities of modern New Zealand and will work for both recreation and conservation. This is neither impossible nor too much to ask.”


Rural round-up

July 12, 2020

Farm owner rejects carbon bids to buy East Coast station – Tom Kitchin:

A Gisborne farmer is ecstatic that a large sheep and cattle station in Tolaga Bay – which has just changed hands for the first time in nearly half a century – will not be turned into forestry.

Earlier this week the Labour Party announced plans to introduce legislation limiting forestry conversions of the most productive land, if it wins re-election.

Annette Couper is saying goodbye to Mangaheia Station, a farm that’s been in her family since the 1970s.

She said selling up was tough, but none of her daughters were farmers. . .

Shortage of skilled operators – Yvonne O’Hara:

Invercargill agricultural contractor Daryl Thompson is more than “extremely worried” about finding enough skilled and experienced staff to operate his expensive equipment for the coming season.

“On a scale of one to 10, ranging from not worried to extremely worried, I am sitting at a 12.”

Mr Thompson, of DThompson Contracting, usually employs 50 to 60 people in Southland during the season, including trainees and retired farmers. . .

Tahr Foundation welcomes landmark High Court decision on DoC’s controversial extermination plan:

The Tahr Foundation is welcoming the High Court decision halting DOC’s controversial plan to kill thousands of tahr through the Southern Alps.

The Foundation asked the High Court for a judicial review of DOC’s plan to exterminate all Himalayan Tahr in national parks and sharply reduce tahr populations in other areas.

The application was heard in the High Court in Wellington on Wednesday and Justice Dobson has just released his decision this afternoon.

In the decision, Justice Dobson says that DOC is to reconsider its decision to proceed with the 2020-2021 plan after consulting with interests represented by the Foundation and other stakeholders. . . 

B+LNZ’s Economic Service celebrates 70th anniversary:

This month marks the 70th anniversary of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service, which was initially set up in 1950 to help a struggling post-war sheep sector.

The Service was established as a joint venture between the Meat Board and Wool Board after a 1947 Royal Commission study recommended establishing a Sheep Industry Board to collect and document factual information about farm production and economics.

This continues to be done today, as it was back in 1950, through the Economic Service’s Sheep and Beef Farm Survey.

As well as giving insight into the state and financial health of New Zealand’s agricultural industry, the information gathered through the Survey is used to inform local, regional and central government policy, underpin forecasts and trends in meat and wool production. It also enables farmers to benchmark their own businesses against others in their cohort. . . 

Property sales to finance wool :

Plans to sell and lease back its portfolio of properties are part of a range of ways Cavalier is financing its natural fibre strategy, chief executive Paul Alston says.

Alston said listing the firm’s three industrial sites in Auckland, Napier and Whanganui is about transforming the company into a high-end, premium flooring brand rather than strengthening the balance sheet.

“We are comfortable with current debt levels,” he said, referring to the sale and lease back plans and noted the firm can access more bank funding to cope with any covid-related impacts. . . 

£2m grant to help Scottish farmers create more woodland :

Over £2 million is being made available to Scottish landowners and farmers to help them play their part in creating more woodland.

The support is part of Scottish Forestry’s Harvesting and Processing Grant, which will help farmers and foresters buy specialist woodland equipment.

This could range from poly tunnels, seed trays through to mounding equipment, work site welfare units and small scale sawmills for wood processing. . .


Rural round-up

July 4, 2020

Farming key to NZ”s future – David Bennett:

National’s agriculture spokesman, David Bennett on how the sector is key to New Zealand’s economic rebuild.

It’s no secret that agriculture is key to New Zealand’s economic rebuild and is cementing itself as the most reliable contributor to our economy in a post-Covid world.

It’s the same old story – no matter what, people need to eat and we have a proud reputation as the producer of some of the best food in the world.

I am a farmer and I know the contribution our farmers and growers make to our communities. It’s great to see more people outside the farm gate realising what we’ve known all along about how important agriculture is to our country. However, we can’t rest on our laurels and must always be looking at ways to grow the industry for years to come. . . 

From farm life to aviation and back – Daniel BIrchfield:

Sven Thelning is just as comfortable on the farm as he is high in the clouds.

Farm manager at dairy farm Avon Glen at Enfield for about four years, the North Otago born father of three grew up on his parents’ sheep and beef farm at Herbert but gave up life on the farm to pursue his interest in aviation.

But, as he suspected might happen one day, the lure of farm work was too great to resist.

‘‘I had a bit of experience overseas when I left school, but after that I went into aviation for a bit before I got back into farming about 2014 and have been at the same place ever since.’’ . . 

Plant a Seed for Safety – Marina Shearer:

When Marina married her farmer some 25 years ago, she was unsure of how her corporate background would merge with farm life. Coming from a background in telecommunications to settle on a sheep and beef farm two hours north of the city seemed daunting, however within a few short years, she had a vision to build an online horticultural business – something she had little to no experience in. RhodoDirect was launched in 2000, and over a 20 year period both she and her husband Craig not only established a five acre show garden, but provided the leadership that saw the launch the Hurunui Garden Festival, an annual, springtime event that celebrates local gardens. In 2020, RhodoDirect was sold, allowing Marina to return to her original career in training and development. With a newly acquired Diploma of Professional Coaching, Marina has since launched a new business – Thrive13 – which focusses on the personal and professional development of young women. Now with 25 years’ experience in both corporate and rural sectors and with her own horticultural career behind her, Marina has a wide range of skills to offer her clients. 

When asked what concerned Marina about the health and safety of those in rural industries and communities, Marina spoke of the impact of depression on personal relationships within rural families. As a passionate facilitator of workshops for rural women, she said that members of rural families need invest energy into finding their voice and having the confidence and the courage to speak up not only for themselves, but for those around them.  . . 

Lack of consultation by government shows and public get behind tahr:

New Zealand Deerstalkers Association Inc (NZDA) are disappointed to receive a final Himalayan tahr control operational plan from the Department of Conservation (DOC) for the coming 2020/21 operational period that ignores any advice and input from NZDA as the voice of recreational hunters.

NZDA Chief Executive, Gwyn Thurlow says “I have received many calls and emails from hunters, not just our members, expressing their outrage and disbelief at the government’s decision to take a course of action that flies in the face of its overarching objective of listening, being compassionate, and caring about our people and communities.

“There is no doubt that New Zealand hunters, a minority group, are being brushed aside by government and treated with a complete lack of due process and consultation. . . 

Mass killing of tahr devastating for tourism industry:

Tourism industry operators are pleading for the government to halt DoC’s plan for a mass killing of Himalayan Tahr, saying the animals provide hundreds of jobs and a multi-million dollar benefit to the country.

Under a controversial 2020-21 plan which came into effect yesterday, DoC will significantly increase the number of tahr it kills, including exterminating all animals in national parks.

The Tahr Foundation has asked the High Court for an injunction to stop DoC going ahead with the mass slaughter. . . 

Air-borne weed detector helps map out weed control at Coonamble – Vernon Graham:

The Single family has developed a drone-based weed detection sensor to better manage herbicide resistance in their large-scale dryland cropping enterprise south east of Coonamble.

Developed over 10 years by family members headed by Ben Single, a mechanical engineer, along with the help of robotic experts, the air-borne weed sensor has been used commercially on their farm for the past 18 months.

It can map between 200 to 300 hectares an hour and is capable of picking up weeds the size of the top of a beer can. . . 


Rural round-up

July 3, 2020

Rock bottom crossbred wool prices pose dilemma for farmers – Maja Burry:

Crossbred wool prices have plummeted to new record low levels in the wake of Covid-19, with some farmers receiving less than a dollar a kilogram for their wool.

Coarse wool makes up about 85 percent of New Zealand’s total wool clip, but prices have been low for years.

South Canterbury sheep farmer and former Federated Farmers meat and wool chair, Miles Anderson, said the problems facing the sector had been exacerbated further by the coronavirus.

Miles Anderson said at the moment returns to farmers didn’t even come close to covering the costs of shearing and in some cases, it wasn’t even worth sending the wool off farm. . . 

Environmental devastation at Tolaga Bay may take a century to recover, says councillor – Bonnie Flaws:

Forestry waste has again flooded the beaches of Tolaga Bay.

A video of a log-covered Tolaga Bay beach had been shared widely on social media on Tuesday.

A storm hit the district on Queen’s Birthday weekend 2018, washing over 40,000 cubic metres of wood onto beaches.

“We had 300 millimetres [of rain] up there over the weekend and a total new amount of wood has come down,” local farmer Henry Gaddum said. . . 

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand calls for genuine government consultation over tahr kill:

New Zealand’s largest outdoor recreation retailer, Hunting & Fishing New Zealand, today called on the Government to get back around the table and genuinely work with the hunting community to develop a pragmatic and long-term solution for the management of the South Island’s tahr population.

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand Chief Executive Darren Jacobs says it is extremely disappointing that a lack of consultation has once again required legal action, with the Tahr Foundation seeking an injunction this week in the High Court to stop a widespread cull due to start on 1 July.

“This is the second time in less than two years that hunting groups have had to take court action to stop plans for an extreme tahr cull and force the Government back around the table to talk with hunting groups, and other interested parties, to develop a collaborative approach to managing the tahr population,” says Jacobs. . . 

Anger at DoC’s ‘sham consultation’ over tahr slaughter plans:

The Tahr Foundation is condemning the Department of Conservation for what it describes as DOC’s “sham consultation” over plans to kill thousands of Himalayan tahr.

DOC’s kill operation is due to start today but the final version of its plan was only released just before midnight, minutes before it came into force. The plan confirms that DOC aims to exterminate tahr from national parks and kill thousands more through the Southern Alps.

The Tahr Foundation says that is outrageous and confirms that the already suspect consultation process was a farce.

Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley says DOC’s tactics are cynical. . . 

LIC strengthens partnership to support future farming leaders:

LIC has strengthened its support for growing the next generation of primary sector leaders with the signing of a three-year agreement with Rural Leaders which runs the highly-respected Nuffield Farming Scholarship and Kellogg Rural Leadership programmes.

Farmer owned co-operative LIC is committed to further enabling rural business professionals and farmers to flourish at a time when career opportunities on and around farms are strong says LIC Chief Executive Wayne McNee.

“We’re proud to have strengthened our partnership with Rural Leaders having previously had an association for five years,” he explains. “We’re excited to further cement our support for the future leaders our sector needs to retain and grow if we are to maintain global status as a world-class provider of agritech, food and products. We need leaders with passion and depth to navigate the challenges and opportunities being faced. Like Rural Leaders, LIC is focused on empowering people to grow and we’re delighted to be working with Rural Leaders to support more talented Kiwis to embark on forthcoming Nuffield and Kellogg programmes.” . . 

Overwhelming support to continuing seed levy:

Growers have overwhelmingly supported the continuation of the Non-Proprietary and Uncertified Herbage Seeds Levy order for another six years.

“In fact, from 82 percent in favour at the last levy vote in 2014, support shown during the vote last November had risen to 91 percent,” Federated Farmers Herbage Seedgrowers Subsection Chairperson Hugh Wigley says.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and the rest of Cabinet have approved continuation of the levy, and it will be gazetted this week.

“Grasses and clovers are vital to our sector but contracts for growing from proprietary seed are not always available and are more expensive. This levy safeguards supply of non-proprietary and uncertified seeds and provides different options to our farmers,” Hugh says. . .

 Wine industry, researchers and educators mark milestone with MOU:

Three institutions offering wine and viticulture courses have signed an agreement that will see them collaborate on research and student learning with the Marlborough Research Centre and Marlborough-based Bragato Research Institute.

The Memorandum of Understanding brings together tutors and students from Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay, Otago Polytechnic, the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, whose Budge St campus also houses Bragato’s research winery, as well as the Marlborough Research Centre.

MRC Chief Executive Gerald Hope says the MOU is another milestone towards the development of the campus as the national centre for wine-making and viticulture, following on from the opening of the Bragato research winery in February. . .


Rural round-up

June 20, 2020

ETS will see more farmland lost – David Anderson:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) believes the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will see huge swathes of productive farming land converted into trees for carbon farming.

It says there is no disincentive in the updated climate change policy to stop significant land use change away from productive and sustainable pastoral agriculture to exotic plantation forestry for the purpose of carbon farming.

The red meat lobby claims this failure will take the focus away from actually reducing fossil fuel emissions.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says his organisation is concerned by the lack of government action to limit the amount of carbon farming available through the ETS to offset fossil fuel emissions.  . . 

Blocking MFAT advice on forestry bill ‘concerning’ says Initiative:

The Government’s refusal to let its skilled public servants advise a Select Committee about new legislation is “deeply concerning,” said The New Zealand Initiative.

Today, the Environment Select Committee published its final report on Minister Shane Jones’ Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Bill. Despite the Bill’s many flaws – and an unprecedented chorus of disapproval – it has emerged from the Select Committee largely unsubdued.

The Bill’s purported purpose is to create an occupational licensing regime for log traders and forestry advisers. It deems all forest owners to be “log traders,” thereby subjecting them to the registration and regulatory requirements of the new accreditation scheme. . . 

The ongoing search for new markets – India and beyond – Keith Woodford:

Finding new markets for NZ exports is challenging. Here, Keith Woodford looks at the Southern Asian countries of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and further west to Iran

In recent weeks I have been exploring opportunities for market diversification, given increasing concerns that New Zealand has become too dependant on China. I started by looking at China itself , with the key finding being that growth of two-way trade between New Zealand and China is a consequence of natural alignment for each other’s products, also facilitated by the 2008 Free Trade Agreement between the countries.

Next, I focused on other North-East Asian markets and specifically on Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The challenges with all of those include that their populations are either declining or about to decline. Also, their economic growth had either stalled or nearly stalled even before COVID-19 came along. That means that new trade requires elbowing out existing products rather than meeting new economic demand from consumers. . .

Deer cull will help families in need :

Venison is on the menu for New Zealand families in need — an annual deer cull in Fiordland will provide meat for foodbanks.

The deer cull in Fiordland National Park will this year provide 18,000kg of venison to New Zealand foodbanks and families in need.

Fiordland Wapiti Foundation typically would remove up to 1000 animals during the cull, and this year partnered with Game Animal Council and the Department of Conservation (Doc) for the initiative.

Fiordland Wapiti Foundation president Roy Sloan said that, weather permitting, by the end of July 600 deer from Fiordland National Park would be removed for processing into 18,000 1kg wild venison mince packets. . .

Rural focus welcome in health review but urgent action needed:

The NZ Rural General Practice Network today welcomed the Health and Disability System Review’s focus on addressing inequity in access to health care for rural communities, but said action was now needed with real urgency.

The new Chief Executive for the NZRGPN, Grant Davidson, said he would take time to digest the report and discuss it with its members, but welcomed the acknowledgement of the pressing need to address rural health.

“The first report noted that access to healthcare for rural communities was ‘unacceptable’ and the extent to which rural communities and their inequitable access to healthcare is a focus in this report is welcomed,” Grant Davidson . . 

Farmers helps save Pacific economies as COvid-19 brings economies to a halt – Mereia Volavola:

The Pacific Islands have been spared some of the deadliest health consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

But by taking away the tourists, the virus has dealt a huge blow to economies and jobs largely dependent on foreign visitors’ spending to stay afloat.

As of May, every destination on earth had put in place some form of travel restriction, according to the U.N.’s World Travel Organization, and all tourism in the Pacific has stopped as a consequence, depriving many communities of income. In Vanuatu, 70 percent of tourism jobs are estimated to have disappeared already.

In the midst of this crisis, small-scale farming has provided the region with crucial resilience . .

Allflex tech’s powering up Litchfields’ dairy op – Matt Sherrington:

The Litchfield family’s investment in technology from Allflex Livestock Intelligence is paying dividends within their southern NSW-based dairy farming operation.

Ian and Karen Litchfield purchased the 182-hectare Kariana, situated near Mayrung in the Riverina, in 2000, and over the years they’ve purchased three other blocks, which including Kariana cover 760ha of which 600ha consists of flat flood irrigation country.

Together with their daughter Amy and son-in-law Jack, the Litchfields milk 800 Holstein cows each year out of a total milking herd of 950 head with their flat milk supply sold into the year-round milk markets. . .


Rural round-up

June 11, 2020

Open letter on the value of animal agriculture’ – penned by a global farming community:

Almost 70 groups and individuals representing farmers, producers, vets and researchers from across the world have written an “open letter” to highlight the valuable role that animal agriculture has held during the Covid-19 pandemic.

From Europe to the US, from New Zealand to Africa and Canada leading farming associations, agricultural academics, producer associations, and other high-level industry stakeholders are “pushing back” against what is described as “misinformation” around animal agriculture that has circulated throughout the outbreak. . .

DoC leaves concessionaires in the lurch:

The Department of Conservation (DoC) has shown a lack of compassion towards businesses permitted to operate on conservation land, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

When the border shut, concession holders saw a large chunk of their business dry up overnight. Despite having no income from international visitors, they are still having to pay full concession fees to DOC.

Those affected are often small businesses like cafes and tourism operators. . .

Feral deer sightings spark concern for kauri forests :

Northland residents are being urged to report feral deer sightings after several animals were spotted in the area.

Four deer were recently seen – and one shot – from a helicopter in the Bay of Islands.

Wild deer are classed as an ‘eradication species’ in the north and it is illegal to release or move wild deer in or around the region.

Northland Regional Council biosecurity manager Don McKenzie said Northland is one of the few regions in New Zealand that has no established wild populations of deer and it would be “disastrous” for the area’s kauri forest if this changed. . . 

Protecting NZ fries as part of PNZ pandemic recovery & transformation plan:

Potatoes New Zealand has met with Minister Faafoi this week to discuss investigating the potential importation of heavily discounted frozen potato chips into New Zealand.

With MBIE’s support we are undertaking an investigation to gather evidence of the potential import threat. 

KEY POINTS

    • PNZ want growers to feel confident in the industry recovering from pandemic crisis
    • PNZ want to discourage the Europeans from attempting surplus import
    • We are gathering economic trade data and carrying out public interest analysis . . 

Barley use for brewing and malting ‘lowest in 10 years’ :

Barley usage for the brewing, malting and distilling sector in April has fallen to the lowest figure in over a decade, according to analysis.

New figures – the first full month of data showing the implications of the Covid-19 lockdown – show that barley use for the sector was just 114,700t.

The last time that barley usage for brewing, malting and distilling fell below 120,000t in a month was August 2009, when just 111,500t was used. . . 

Cheese price hits record highs – Lee Miekle:

Dairy prices ended May in far better shape than at the beginning of the month, and block cheese prices entered June Dairy Month at record highs.

The cheese handily topped $2 per pound for the first time since November 2019 in the Memorial Day holiday-shortened week. The 40-pound Cheddar blocks closed Friday at $2.23 per pound, up 29.25 cents, all on unfilled bids, and 51.5 cents above a year ago.

The 500-pound Cheddar barrels finished Friday and the month at $2.0225, up 13.25 cents on the week and 48.25 cents above a year ago. . .


Rural round-up

March 27, 2020

Farming must step up, sector heads say – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s lockdown over Covid-19 is an opportunity for the agricultural sector ‘‘to step up and remind our country how great we are’’, Farmlands chief executive Peter Reidie says.

The farm supplies co-operative has been identified as an essential service and will remain open, although customers have to call or email orders first, and a contactless collection process will then be arranged.

Yesterday, Mr Reidie said the world would still need to be fed and New Zealand was very well placed in terms of the quantity and quality of its produce .

‘‘Provided we can get things on boats … we should keep on keeping on. That’s got to be the ambition,’’ he said.

It was a reminder of the importance of landowners, farmers and orchardists. . . 

Kiwi Jack Raharuhi takes the crown in top Australasian award:

Jack Raharuhi from Pāmu Farms in Westport, and Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year 2016, has been crowned the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award winner.

Raharuhi, 27 years old, is the Buller Dairy Group Operations Manager for Pāmu, where he oversees 4 dairy farms and a machinery syndicate at Cape Foulwind, and Health and Safety leadership for 10 dairy farms. He is also Chair of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, and heavily involved with training and mentoring staff as part of the West Coast 2IC Development Programme.

The annual Award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented young individuals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. It was launched in 2014 in memory of Australian beef industry leader Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013. . . 

Carrying on farming and consider grain options for stock feed:

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best – putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue – with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern – the drought, and how to feed stock. . . 

Dairy Trainee of the Year spots all go to women :

Women won all three placings in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

The awards were presented at the West Coast Events Centre in Shantytown on Tuesday last week.

Alexis Wells won the trainee section, Dallas Bradley was second and Stephanie Gray claimed third place.

Ms Wells (21) is a farm assistant on a 307ha, 670-cow Pamu Farms of New Zealand property in Reefton. She is studying level 4 husbandry and feeding with Primary ITO and said she was proud to have made it to the dairy awards finals three years in a row. Her goal is to the win the national title. . . 

Pandemic postpones DoC predator control – David Williams:

The Conservation Department will halt operations to kill bird-eating pests during the four-week national shutdown. David Williams reports

Pest control operations to protect rare and vulnerable native species are about to cease.

The Department of Conservation will halt all biodiversity work during the upcoming four-week national shutdown, director-general Lou Sanson confirms.

“We debated that seriously but when we heard the Prime Minister [on Monday], and we understood the seriousness of the lockdown, the number one focus for New Zealand is to stop people moving, and that means all our biodiversity work stops, our construction work stops. About the only things we’ll be doing is the operation of sewerage schemes, search and rescue, and fire.”

(DoC acts as the local council, providing utilities like drinking water and sewerage schemes, in places like Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.) . . 

Exports rise as dairy gains while logs and fish fall:

Total goods exports increased in the February 2020 month due to an increase in the value of dairy products, Stats NZ said today.

The total value of meat exports was little changed, but higher quantities were exported to the United States instead of China.

The increase in total good exports was despite falls in exports of logs and fish, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The value of total goods exports rose by $212 million (4.5 percent) from February 2019 to reach $4.9 billion in February 2020. . . 


Rural round-up

February 27, 2020

Water will be currency of 21st century – Todd Muller:

Water is one of our nation’s critical strategic assets, perhaps second only behind our people. Therefore water storage is essential for ensuring we have a thriving primary sector for years to come, writes National’s Agriculture spokesman Todd Muller.

Water will be the currency of success in the next century.

In the 19th century it was coal, in the 20th century it was oil and in my view in the 21st century it is water.

We are a tradeable economy and water is a critical strategic asset in developing our commodities. The ability to store it will be a key infrastructural necessity if we are to leverage the value of water over the next few decades. . .

Wild rabbit enterprises shot down by red tape:

Federated Farmers is dismayed by reports that at least two businesses which process meat from wild rabbits are being strangled by compliance costs.

“It’s tough times on farms at the moment, with rising rabbit numbers in dry conditions.  With all the focus on predator-free and biodiversity, surely we should be working with and encouraging the commercial use of pest species, not making it harder for operators,” Feds Meat & Wool Chairperson Miles Anderson says.

Radio NZ has reported that the owner of a business supplying wild rabbits to high end restaurants, and for pet food, is spending up to 40 hours a week on paperwork, never mind growing MPI audit fees at $176 an hour.  As with another Canterbury-based processor, he told Radio NZ he was thinking of closing down. . .

Dairy returns too tiny for farmers – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have many reasons for optimism though three out of four say the returns are not worth the effort, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says.

Many farmers are asking themselves why they still bother dairying and his task is to help clear the fog and rekindle motivation, he told the DairyNZ Northland farmers forum.

Farmers are worried about environmental, banking, farm value, alternative food, drought and disease pressures. . .

Weevil win – we knocked the bastard off – Karen WIlliams:

Hats off to you, Wairarapa.  In the words of another Kiwi who achieved a world-first, “we knocked the bastard off”.

Okay, eradicating the region’s pea weevil incursion isn’t as grand as Ed Hillary and Tensing Norgay climbing Everest but in terms of biosecurity, and protecting an industry that earns us $50 million in domestic sales and $84 million in exports, it is a big deal.  It’s also another bug we don’t have to spray for.

As far as we know, no other country has successfully combatted this pest after an incursion.

It’s taken a region-wide and government agency effort to get where we are – that’s growers/farmers, home gardeners, Federated Farmers, local councils, Greater Wellington, local MPs, MPI, Biosecurity NZ, the Foundation for Arable Research, Assure Quality…a big thank-you to you all for your perseverance, flexibility and understanding. . .

New app to help hunters track tahr during culling –

A long-term plan is being developed to control Himalayan tahr in the South Island.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the large goat-like animals, introduced to New Zealand during the early days of European settlement, posed a threat to the country’s native alpine plants.

To combat the loss of native vegetation, DOC said it had been working with ecological experts to start a new monitoring system.

The long-term control plan is led by DOC and Ngāi Tahu. . . 

Beef bans based on ‘popular opinion, not facts’, Harper Adams says:

Harper Adams University has said it will never ban beef from its campus menus as it criticises other institutions for their ‘knee-jerk reactions’ to the climate crisis.

In recent years, and even more so in recent months, several UK universities have attracted significant media attention for voting motions to ban beef.

Earlier this month, thousands of students at Edinburgh University rejected proposals to ban the meat in all student union run outlets. . .

 


Govt tramples property rights

February 14, 2020

The government is trampling over West Coast farmers’ property rights:

West Coasters whose land has been newly classified as a significant wetland or natural area are unlikely to receive any compensation from the Government, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says.

After a Department of Conservation appeal to the Environment Court in 2012, the West Coast Regional Council was ordered to add a further 215 schedule 2 wetlands to its Soil and Water Plan.

Regional council chairman Allan Birchfield estimates about 5000ha of wetlands on private land are affected, with landowners required to pay for ecological assessments to see if the land qualifies for full protection under schedule 1.

“That’s effectively put the land into the DOC estate because the landowners will need DOC input – and approval as an affected party if they want to develop it. So the Crown is gaining land without paying for it, and that is theft,” he said.

“However, there is support through the sustainable land use package from budget 2019 to support landowners with fencing and riparian planting.”

Support for doing something they have no choice over is not compensation for loss of property rights.

Birchfield said that would be unacceptable to most landowners.

“It’s their land and they don’t want it fenced off. They either want it purchased or possibly a land swap. It’s not the Wild West here, where you just take land off people.”

DOC had plenty of land on the Coast, if it wanted control of the wetlands it should be a willing-seller, willing-buyer situation with no compulsion, he said.

“Those landowners lose the use of the land, but have to go on paying rates on it. DOC doesn’t pay any rates.

Farmers will not only have to pay rates, they’ll also be responsible for weed and pest control on what was their land and will be in name only.

“We’ve got little enough private land here anyway and they should keep their hands off the little we have, to make a living out of.”

The ecological benefits of wetlands are well understood but that doesn’t justify forcing farmers to retire land without compensating them.

This government doesn’t want forestry or mining on the Coast, it’s rejected a hydro generation plan and now it’s effectively taking land from farmers, leaving them with the costs of ownership and none of the benefits.

Property rights are one of the foundation stone of democracy.

Forcing farmers to retire land without compensating them tramples all over those rights.

 


Rural round-up

December 9, 2019

Rural rates chan pulls tighter – Richard Rennie:

The Federated Farmers rates report for the year has highlighted the continuing ability of council rates to outstrip other cost indices, with property owners experiencing a 170% increase over the past 20 years.

That rise has left standard cost indices for dead, even when compared to typically high-rising products like alcohol and tobacco, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said.

Those two products rose 120% over the same period, with significant tax increases on them through that period.

Food prices increased 50% over the same period while transport costs went up 30%.

Farmers are desperate for a handbrake on rates rises but concerned councils appeared to be signalling further rises are likely. . . 

Minister failing to give farmers the facts:

Damian O’Conner has badly let down rural New Zealand by not requesting economic and social analysis on his Government’s freshwater proposals, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“Ministry for Primary Industries officials revealed today in Select Committee that they did not conduct any economic or social modelling prior to the release of the proposals, nor did the Agriculture Minister ask them to.

“It is Damien O’Connor’s responsibility to look out for rural communities and make sure the facts are laid out before hammering them with the most significant policy proposal farmers have faced in years. . . 

Massive high-tech pest control operation in Perth Valley declared a success – Lois Williams:

The company that carried out a massive pest control operation in South Westland’s Perth Valley this year is declaring it a success.

Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) supported by DOC blitzed the remote river catchment near Whataroa with 1080 pellets in two aerial drops, in April and July, following intensive pre-feeding with non-toxic pellets.

But it also set up a network of 700 traps for rats and possums, all connected by radio and satellite to rangers phones and laptops, along with 142 cameras to detect stoats.

The company’s aim is to rid the Perth Valley of all predators and keep them out – something that has never been achieved outside of fenced sanctuaries and islands. . . 

Dairy compliance on the up and up:

The Dairy industry and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have adopted the shared goal to achieve 100% compliance with all resource consents, and are almost 80% towards the goal, celebrated at this week’s Dairy Compliance Awards.

The Dairy Compliance Awards recognise Hawke’s Bay dairy farmers who consistently achieve full compliance with their resource consents.

This is the sixth year of the Dairy Awards, covering water takes, farm dairy effluent and air discharge consents. Over the years, overall compliance has improved from 71% in 2012-13 to 78% in 2018-19. . . 

Good sense sold up the river – Alan Moran:

Earlier this week some 3,000 irrigators and their supporters rallied in Canberra against government policy on Murray-Darling irrigation and management.  With the  cacophony of dozens of semi-trailers’ blaring horns, it was certainly noisy. Ominously for the National Party, their representatives were treated with considerable hostility, particular anger being directed at water Minister David Littleproud. Enduring the jeers, the Nationals would have been especially dismayed at the warm welcome for Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts.

The current drought has exacerbated a contrived water shortage that government policy has engineered in the Murray. Having set a cap on water extractions in 1999 — roughly a third of the average flow — the productive uses of this “working river” have been gradually reduced.  As a supplier of a vital agricultural input to a formerly barren area that grew to supply 40 per cent of the nation’s farm produce, the river has been de-rated.  At a cost of $13 billion, some 20 per cent of the flow has been diverted to “environmental” use. This has caused a five- to ten-fold increase in the price and forced thousands of farms out of business. . .

Winston Nutritional secures Chinese Government approval for infant formula production:

Winston Nutritional is one of only two New Zealand manufacturers in 2019 to secure approval from China to produce infant formula.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017. . . 


Rural round-up

July 13, 2019

AFB spread prompts burning of hives – Laura Smith:

Watching bees burn would have to be one of the most difficult things a beekeeper could do – it is also an experience more Southland apiarists will have to face.

It is the consequence of the spread of destructive bee-killing disease American foulbrood (AFB).

Southland commercial beekeeper Geoff Scott said ignorance was a major contributor to the disease spreading.

”And we’re doing it – it’s us beekeepers doing it.” . .

Hinewai revival worth every cent – Tim Fulton:

Hinewai Reserve was once dismissed as a fantasy of fools and dreamers. 

Now, as the 1250ha native sanctuary on Banks Peninsula flourishes it has about $1m of carbon credits plus income from a walking track and public donations.

But Hugh Wilson’s neighbours let rip when his plans for Hinewai Reserve became clear. . .

Possum is scourge of farm and forest: – Nick Hancox:

Managing disease in farmed cattle and deer is one stream of the TBfree programme’s work. It underpins the value and reputation of the meat and milk New Zealand exports.

The other essential work the programme manages is possum control — taking and keeping numbers down at a level where disease can’t keep cycling in wildlife.

That possum control work has two big benefits for New Zealand: eradicating bovine TB to protect the primary sector while supporting the goals of the predator-free movement.
The TBfree programme managed by OSPRI aligns with programmes designed to protect and defend New Zealand’s biodiversity and environmental health, such as the Department of Conservation’s Battle for Our Birds and Predator Free 2050. . .

Ploughman straight on to Minnesota – Chris Tobin:

”You don’t go to the Olympic Games and wear someone else’s track shoes and you don’t go to a Formula race in someone else’s car.”

Champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens is explaining his approach to the upcoming world ploughing championships at Baudette, Minnesota.

After placing eighth in Germany last year and second in Kenya in the reversible section of the world championships, he is aiming for gold this time round in the United States. . .

Avocado prices plunge as new season starts – Esther Taunton:

Avocado fans, rejoice – you can now buy two for less than the cost of a flat white.

Supplies of the popular toast topping have surged and those who have struggled through the avo off-season can again feast on the fruit.

On Thursday avocados were were selling for $2.70 each or two for $5 at Countdown supermarkets around the country. . .

Boarding school allowances – rural families deserve better – Ann Thompson:

The cost of sending children to boarding school is placing a big burden on rural employees, and it’s well past time a change was made to make the boarding allowance system fairer, writes Federated Farmers policy adviser Ann Thompson.

Over the past few years Federated Farmers has made requests to both the National and Labour-led governments to increase the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance.

This allowance is provided for pupils who live so far away from school that boarding school is the only realistic option.

As at June 2019, the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance was $3200 per annum while the Multiple Barriers Boarding Allowance was $7500 (plus $500 for pastoral care). . .


Rural round-up

July 4, 2019

FARMSTRONG: Sticking to the game plan:

The link between mental skills and performance is well-established in sport. Now those ideas are gaining traction in farming. Recent finalists in the Young Farmer of the Year competition have received sports psychology training to cope with pressure. Farmstrong caught up with three to see how it helped.

The Young Farmer of Year competition is one of the flagship events on the rural calendar.

By grand final week more than 300 contestants have been whittled down to just a handful. Over several days they compete over a range of practical and technical tasks, an HR challenge, a speech and a fast-paced quiz of agricultural and general knowledge questions. . . .

Farmers honour vet who found Mycoplasma Bovis in NZ :

A vet whose determination led to the identification of the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis in New Zealand has been recognised for her contribution to the farming sector.

More than 300 people attended the Primary Industries Summit gala dinner in Wellington last night, where Ōamaru vet Merlyn Hay received the Outstanding Contribution to the Primary Industries Award.

The audience heard Dr Hay was not satisfied she had found the root cause of the unusual and distressing symptoms she had observed in cows and calves on a South Canterbury property and left no stone unturned until the cause was diagnosed. . .

Forestry hurts rural communities – Tracey Collis:

He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata. Our communities are going through change and it seems like it is happening so fast we may not feel the full impact until it has already happened.

Change is good but only if there are clear outcomes sought for all involved.

The rapid expansion of forestry throughout the Tararua is causing much angst and stress for our communities and it concerns me to watch our people genuinely hurting in so many ways.

This is hurt at a local level, far removed from Government politicians and policymakers, and there are few levers to pull as we see our local democracy eroded by central government aspirations. . . .

Demand drives need for finishers – Colin WIlliscroft:

A 30% increase in demand for First Light Wagyu beef has led the Hawke’s Bay company to look for more farmers to finish its cattle.

It will have 25,000 Wagyu-cross weaners available for farmers to buy this spring, an increase of 5000, so it’s looking for 20 to 30 extra farmers.

General manager Wagyu Matt Crowther said those farmers will benefit from a short, transparent supply chain and income stability. . .

 

Representing NZ beef on the world stage – Brent Melville:

Jess Cairns is fizzing about where New Zealand beef is going.

Having just spent six days in Brazil at the International Beef Alliance (IBA) the 24-year-old Southlander is back working as a stock manager at Coalbrook Farm, a 500ha sheep and beef operation just outside Gore.

And while she loves her job, she reckons the trip to Brazil will be a tough one to beat, describing it as ”hands down the best thing I’ve ever done in my professional life.”

That’s saying a lot. Ms Cairns started with Coalbrook as a shepherd a little over a year ago, on the strength of a bachelor of agricultural science with first class honours. . . .

Apocalypse Cow – Michael Reddell:

That was the title of Wellington economist Peter Fraser’s talk at Victoria University last Friday lunchtime on why Fonterra has failed (it is apparently also a term in use in various bits of popular culture, all of which had passed me by until a few moments ago –  and a Google search).    Peter is a former public servant –  we did some work together, the last time Fonterra risks were in focus, a decade ago –  who now operates as a consultant to various participants in the dairy industry (not Fonterra).   He has a great stock of one-liners, and listening to him reminds me of listening to Gareth Morgan when, whatever value one got from purchasing his firm’s economic forecasts, the bonus was the entertainment value of his presentation.       The style perhaps won’t appeal to everyone, but the substance of his talk poses some very serious questions and challenges.

The bulk of Peter’s diagnosis has already appeared in the mainstream media, in a substantial Herald  op-ed a few weeks ago and then in a Stuff article yesterday.  And Peter was kind enough to send me a copy of his presentation, with permission to quote from it. . .

Birds at risk of local extinction – Elena McPhee:

Native birds in beech forests in Otago could face local extinction in some valleys without aerial control, the Department of Conservation says.

Mast years occur every two to four years, when trees produce high amounts of seed that drop to the ground.

This is the biggest beech mast in four decades, and populations of rats, mice and stoats are expected to increase due to the abundance of food.

Doc operations lead Colin Bishop said there was variability across Otago sites, but Doc was still projecting rodent numbers to reach levels requiring aerial predator control. . .

Aust producers gain insight into Argentina’s feedlot challenge – Mark Phelps:

AUSTRALIAN beef producers gained an invaluable insight into the South American feedlot sector during a visit to the Conecar Feedlot in Argentina’s famed Panpas region.

The 10,000 head showcase feedlot is located at Carcara in the Santa Fe Province, about 350km north west of Buenos Aires. The yard was visited during the recent Alltech Lienert beef tour to Argentina.

Conecar is predominantly a custom feed yard servicing 12 customers who supply beef into both domestic and export markets. Any spare capacity in the facility is usually taken up by the owners of the yard, who also operate a premix and stockfeed plant supplying other feedlot operators. . . 

Farmland management changes can boost carbon sequestration rates – J. Merritt Melancon:

Well-maintained pastures prevent erosion, protect water and, as it turns out, can restore the soil’s organic matter much more quickly than previously thought, according to a team of researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Florida.

Soil contains the largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon. Tilling fields every year to plant crops releases carbon into the atmosphere. It’s been known for a long time that transitioning cropland to pastureland where livestock grazes replenishes the soil’s carbon, but their study showed that the process can be much more rapid than scientists previously thought.

“What is really striking is just how fast these farms gain soil organic matter,” said Aaron Thompson, associate professor of environmental soil chemistry and senior author on the study. . .


Activists cost conservation nearly $11m

June 7, 2019

The Department of Conservation’s budget includes nearly  $11m to protect its staff from anti-1080 activists.

Last week’s Budget allocated $10.7m to DOC over four years, explicitly for security purposes.

Since the start of this year there have been 23 cases involving dangerous and illegal behaviour towards Department of Conservation staff.

DOC security manager Nic John said threats had moved from online and social media to physical attacks, threats to shoot down helicopters, vandalism, thefts and vehicles being tampered with.

“One was an incident where there was an axe presented and in that case that individual was convicted of assault and threats,” he said.

Mr John said three DOC staff had been assaulted this year, including one who was hit with a quad bike, but was fortunately okay.

“Very concerning for them though – you can imagine that they’re out, quite isolated, working by themselves often and to have somebody take that course of action against them, leaves them very, very vulnerable and often quite shaken,” she said.

The Budget funding allows for $4.1m for a permanent security team, $5m to improve health and safety systems and staffing levels, and $1.6m to improve physical security at DOC sites. . . 

Any protests which require this level of security cross the line from legitimate protest to crime.

These activists are not only endangering DoC staff, they are diverting money from conservation into crime fighting and they are disregarding the science on pest control.

Alternatives to 1080 like trapping and shooting can be and are used where possible. But there are huge swathes of bushland where neither are practical and the only weapon against the introduced species that prey on native flora and fauna is 1080.


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.


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