1080 or death to natives

12/09/2018

Doc, Federated Farmers, Ospri, Royal Forest & Bird and WWF-NZ are countering the emotion against 1080 with facts:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is fully committed to the use of 1080 to protect our forests and native wildlife in the face of the current campaign of misinformation and is joined by other agencies in standing up for the use of this pesticide.

New Zealand’s native wildlife is in crisis. The flocks of native birds that used to fill our forests have been killed and replaced by vast populations of rats, possums, stoats and other introduced predators. This is not the future most New Zealanders want.

These animals also carry diseases which pose a danger to people, pets and farm animals.

DOC, OSPRI (TBfree NZ), Federated Farmers, Forest & Bird and WWF-NZ all agree that 1080 is an effective, safe and valuable tool in the fight to protect New Zealand’s forests and native birds, bats, insects and lizards.

The agencies above, along with community groups and volunteers, invest huge amounts of time and effort to protect out native taonga from predation. There are multiple tools and technologies used to control predators of which 1080 is one. 1080 is a highly effective toxin and a necessary tool to help protect our native species.

We use a range of methods including the latest self-setting traps and there is significant research being undertaken into pest control technologies. However, Forest and Bird volunteer trappers agree they could never cover the vast and inaccessible areas that aerial 1080 operations can. Biodegradable aerial 1080 is the most effective tool we have for suppressing rats, possums and stoats in one operation over large, difficult to access wilderness areas—where most of our native wildlife lives.

Huge areas of native bush is inaccessible by foot and the only way currently available to kill pests where trapping is impossible is 1080.

Scientific and technological advances, including genetic modification, might provide alternatives in the future but there are no viable alternatives now.

These organisations use or advocate for 1080 because it is backed by years of rigorous testing, review and research by scientists from Landcare Research, Universities, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Ministry of Health and the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

In 2011, the former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright wrote a comprehensive report on 1080 and the current Parliamentary Commissioner, Dr Simon Upton, stands by Dr Wright’s analysis and recommendations.

The results are clear that where 1080 is used, our birds and native wildlife start to flourish.

We understand that some New Zealanders have genuine concerns and fears about 1080 in relation to the environment, water, animal welfare and wild food sources. We urge them to seek out www.1080thefacts.co.nz that addresses these issues.

New Zealanders have a choice: use 1080 to protect our native species over large-scale wilderness areas or end up with collapsing and denuded forests and our native species restricted to pest-free islands and fenced sanctuaries.

https://www.doc.govt.nz/standupfor1080

Lou Sanson, Director-General, Department of Conservation

Chris Allen, Board Member, Federated Farmers

Barry Harris, Chair, OSPRI

Kevin Hague, Chief Executive, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society

Livia Esterhazy, Chief Executive, WWF-NZ

Predator Free 2050 is an ambitious goal which will need a range of pest control measures to achieve, including some not yet invented or feasible.

Until science and technology come up with effective alternatives, the choice is 1080 or death to native birds, bats, insects and lizards, and the destruction of native fauna.


Rural round-up

18/04/2018

Government should use tertiary funding to push Kiwis into primary industries– Sarah Perriam:

Imagine two high school students.

One drops out to work in a factory.

The other finishes school, and now travels the world with chefs and photographers.

They’re both 25 years old, and earning $100,000.

How did they do it? They chose to work in the ‘food’ industry, which has for too long been called a ‘primary’ industry. . . 

Interim climate change committee immediately asked how to deal with agricultural emissions – Henry Cooke:

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has announced the members of a climate change committee and asked them to look at how to get agricultural emissions down.

The interim committee is chaired by David Prentice, who was most recently CEO and managing director of infrastructure firm Opus International Consultants, and features former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright.

The interim group will be replaced when an independent Climate Change Commission takes over in May of 2019, when Shaw hopes to pass a Zero Carbon Act, with an amendment at select committee to deal with agriculture. . . 

MPI committed to efficient Mycoplasma bovis compensation payouts:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is committed to helping farmers affected by the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis receive their due compensation and is working hard to process all current claims.

MPI’s director of response, Geoff Gwyn says MPI has not yet received compensation claims relating to its decision to direct the cull of some 22,000 cattle on infected properties, which MPI announced last month.

“However, we are aware some farmers are nervous about compensation timeframes and I would like to provide reassurance that we are running as fast and efficient a process as possible. . . 

$35,000 paid for Holstein calf – Sally Rae:

A six-week-old heifer calf from North Otago’s Busybrook Holsteins is believed to have set a New Zealand record, selling for $35,000.

The Bayne family held an on-farm “gold label” sale near Duntroon on Friday. The offering included both North American genetics and high-indexing New Zealand-bred cows.

The sale comprised calves, heifers and in-milk cows, with 45 lots sold in total – averaging more than $6700 and grossing $303,200. Buyers came from Northland to Southland, PGG Wrightson agent Andrew Reyland said. . . 

Providing insight into primary industries – Sally Rae:

She calls herself a multipotentialite.

Primary industries advocate Chanelle O’Sullivan wears a lot of hats and there is so much more to her than her Instagram handle, Just A Farmer’s Wife, would lead you to believe.

Indeed, she is a farmer’s wife, but she is also the mother of two energetic young children, an entrepreneur, a social media specialist, a futurist and someone with a never-ending source of ideas.

“Wherever I see anything, I see an opportunity,” she said.

Now she is getting excited about her latest venture — a business that combines her passion for the primary industries and technology to highlight New Zealand’s produce, careers, environment and skills. . .

Seeing trees for the wood :

The forestry sector is fired up with discussion about how to meet the Government’s One Billion Trees planting initiative. Partnering with red meat farmers to help them achieve what they want to achieve with trees in their businesses will be important to persuade any change of land-use, those attending a recent conference heard.

Delegates from throughout the forestry sector were in Wellington last month at ForestWood 2018 (21 March), a pan-sector conference drawing people from forestry companies to wood and paper manufacturers. . . 


Rural round-up

07/08/2017

Community mourns farmer of the year – Ruby Harfield:

Farming and rugby communities are in shock after the sudden death of Hawke’s Bay Farmer of the Year Paul “Butch” Renton.

Mr Renton, who with wife of 27 years Marie accepted the 2017 Farmer of the Year title at the Hawke’s Bay Primary Sector Awards just four months ago, was found dead on Wednesday morning at Glenmore Station, the Mangatahi property west of Hastings on which he grew up. 

Police have said no foul play was involved and the matter has been referred to the coroner. . . 

The great food disruption: part 1 – Rosie Bosworth:

Milk without the cow, meatless burgers that bleed, chicken and shrimp made from plant matter, and now foie gras without a force-fed goose in sight. A new food revolution enabled by science and biotech is brewing and, if it succeeds, animals will have little to do with the future of food. For some, that future looks rosy, but, as Dr. Rosie Bosworth writes in part one of a series, the implications for New Zealand’s agricultural sector could be less than palatable. 

We humans love to romanticise things – and we particularly like to romanticise our food. When you think about that juicy burger at lunch, last night’s curry or this morning’s breakfast berry smoothie, it’s all too easy for us to imagine a happy cow called Daisy who spends her days roaming across lush rolling hills with her young nearby, leaping lambs, happy hens frolicking in the fields, and trusting, caring farmers, who lovingly ply their trade the old-fashioned way – tractor, straw hat and pitch fork in hand. . . 

Avocado thieves selling stolen fruit on black market:

Police have found small business owners in Bay of Plenty are purchasing stolen avocados, following a spate of orchard thefts in the region.

Police received nine reports of thefts in Western Bay of Plenty since May, and said there had been a number of avocado thefts in Tauranga to Katikati in the last month.

They had found that a number of retailers were accepting the stolen avocados to sell in-store. They urged store owners to support orchardists by only purchasing produce  from legitimate growers. . .

Blue Sky Meats posts $1.9M loss, signals review of unprofitable Gore beef plant –  Tina Morrison

 (BusinessDesk) – Blue Sky Meats, the Invercargill-based meat processor, posted a loss for the second year in a row and said the future of its unprofitable beef plant in Gore is under review.

The company reported a loss of $1.91 million, or 16.54 cents per share, in the 12 months ended March 31, from a loss of $1.96 million, or 16.98 cents, a year earlier, according to its annual report. Revenue slid 17 percent to $97.9 million. It won’t pay a dividend. . . 

Carbon budgets would provide ‘certainty’ for dairy sector:

DairyNZ has welcomed the release today of a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, which recommends New Zealand approach climate change in a similar manner to the United Kingdom.

Dr Jan Wright recommends Government set up an independent Climate Change Commission to propose carbon budgets as stepping stones towards meeting greenhouse gas targets, which would provide certainty and transparency about how New Zealand climate change targets will be met..  .. . 

Australia gets closer to objective carcase measurement – Alan Barber:

In March I wrote about Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) plan to seek A$150 million from the Australian government to assist with the introduction of Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) objective carcase measurement (OCM) technology to all Australian meat plants. At that time neither the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) nor the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) were completely persuaded of the logic of committing the industry to such a large investment without further analysis and a robust business case.

The resulting review, performed by EY, has recommended that Australian meat processors and producers should go ahead with OCM projects in spite of a lack of consensus throughout the sector. The main finding confirms earlier studies which indicate significant benefits for both parts of the industry, if the technology is adopted. The review recommends AMPC and MLA to work together to achieve alignment between the two sectors which haven’t always agreed with each other. . . 

Farmers lift the lid on repro results:

It’s no secret that many New Zealand dairy farmers are struggling with herd reproduction and this is hurting their profitability. Yet there are some farmers out there achieving above-average repro results. What are they doing right?

Blake Korteweg: 78 percent six-week in-calf rate

Farm Facts
Location: Hedgehope, Southland

Farm size: 175ha (effective)
Herd size: 500 cows
Production: 203,000kg MS

When 50:50 sharemilker Blake Korteweg took over management of the family farm in South Otago from his father, the six-week in-calf rate was only 60 percent. Under his management, that’s climbed to 78 percent. The first change he made was to get mating down from 15 weeks to 11 weeks. . . 

Opening Agcarm conference – David Bennett:

 . .  Agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines, or ACVM, play an important role. Their use is essential to address animal welfare and to produce safe and suitable food we can sell with confidence in New Zealand and overseas.

Farmers and food producers around New Zealand depend on them to:
• improve the quantity and quality of their produce;
• keep people, animals and crops healthy; and
• reduce the spread of diseases, weeds, parasites and other pests. . . 

Planning is Key to Success in New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards:

The runners-up of the 2017 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year Award believe the earlier potential entrants begin preparing for the awards, the better, and they should be starting now.

Entries for the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Awards open in October, and Carlos and Bernice Delos Santos say gathering information and records takes time, and now is a good time to start this if they haven’t already. . . 

Image may contain: text

Barbed wire, ruining farmers’ jeans since 1867.


Rural round-up

28/06/2017

NZ Farmer Confidence at Record High – Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey:

• Net rural confidence has jumped up in the second rural confidence survey of 2017 and is now at the highest level recorded since the survey commenced in early 2003.

• Farmers across all agricultural sectors were more positive about the outlook for the agricultural economy with the majority citing improved commodity prices as a key reason for increased optimism.

• The number of farmers expecting their own business performance to improve was also up in comparison with the last survey with over half of farmers expecting an improvement in the coming 12 months. . . 

Cannabis more often detected in workers than any other drug – Maureen Bishop:

Cannabis is still the most common drug ”by a country mile” found when staff are tested, farmers attending a workshop in Ashburton last week heard.

Therese Gibbens, general manager of the Canterbury West Coast area for The Drug Detection Agency, said 80% of positive drug results from tests carried out by the company in Canterbury detected cannabis.

This was followed by opiates, amphetamines and methamphetamine.

She had tips for farmers about policies, detection and managing the risks of staff affected by drugs or alcohol, backed up by statistics and experience. . . 

McClay says time is right for trade deal with four amigos:

Trade Minister Todd McClay says he believes the time is right to launch trade talks with Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia as part of the Government’s push for better access in Latin America.

Mr McClay leaves tomorrow to attend the Pacific Alliance Leaders Summit where a trade deal will be top of his agenda.

“We’ve been talking to the four Pacific Alliance countries about better access for Kiwi exporters for the last two years. With direct flights to South America there is increasing opportunity for New Zealanders to do more in these growing markets,” Mr McClay says. . . 

High tech approach to improve safety on SH1 at Moeraki Boulders:

Associate Minister of Transport Tim Macindoe welcomes a new high tech warning system, which will help to improve road safety, has been installed on State Highway 1 in the Waitaki District.

The new Rural Intersection Active Warning System at the turnoff to Moeraki Boulders, off State Highway 1, is now operational and the variable speed limit is now legally enforceable.

“The new warning system is able to detect vehicles approaching the right turning bay at Moeraki Boulders Road and vehicles waiting to turn back on to the highway, and automatically adjusts the speed limit in the area to 70km/h to allow the approaching car to merge safely with oncoming traffic,” says Mr Macindoe. 

The 70km/h variable speed limit will apply 170 metres either side of the SH1/Moeraki Boulders Road. . . 

Be ready for the calving season:


MPI’s Penny Timmer-Arends has attended many field days and workshops to discuss the new bobby calf regulations with those affected across the supply chain.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is asking farmers to be ready for new bobby calf regulations coming in this season.

“The new requirements for bobby calf shelter and loading come in to play on 1 August and we want to make sure everyone is well aware and prepared,” says Paul Dansted, MPI’s Director Animal and Animal Products.

“Calves need to be provided with shelter that keeps them warm and dry, and loading facilities that allow them to walk onto trucks.” . . 

Tegel delivers continued growth with record volumes, revenues and profit:

New Zealand’s largest poultry producer, Tegel Group Holdings Limited , today reported its FY2017 results for the 53 weeks ended 30 April 2017. The Company reported Net Profit After Tax (NPAT) of $34.2 million. This was $22.9 million higher than the prior year mainly as a result of a change in capital structure following listing. Underlying EBITDA was $75.6 million, 0.8% ahead of FY2016. Both NPAT and underlying EBITDA were within the Company’s revised guidance range issued in December 2016. . . 

PCE receives Forest & Bird ‘Old Blue’ environmental award:

Forest & Bird has awarded the outgoing Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment an ‘Old Blue’ for her significant contribution to New Zealand’s environment and wildlife.

“Over ten years, Dr Jan Wright’s insightful reports have illuminated complex environmental subjects and in many cases fundamentally improved public appreciation of those issues,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague. . . 

Kiwis Eating Less Red Meat – Research:

More than half of Kiwis say they are eating less meat, and a quarter expect to be mostly meat-free by 2025, as they focus on their health and budget according to the results of a new survey.

It seems the days of a nightly meal of meat and two veg may soon be behind us too, with one in five of those surveyed (21%) saying they choose to have a meat-free dinner for more than half of the week. . . 


Rural round-up

09/09/2016

It’s a demographic time-bomb: dairy farms in crisis as youngsters shun milk because health professionals ‘treat it as an enemy’  – Dave Burke:

  • Consumption of dairy products has dropped among young people
  • A new ‘three-a-day’ campaign is due to be launched to promote the nutritional benefits of milk, butter and cheese
  • The warning was sounded by David Dobbin, chief executive of United Dairy Farmers
  • He said health professionals are largely to blame for the slump

Britain’s dairy farmers are facing a crisis due to falling demand – because health professionals are treating milk and dairy products ‘as the enemy’, an expert has warned.

David Dobbin, chief executive of United Dairy Farmers – a co-operative group of producers – said younger generations are drinking far less milk than their parents and grandparents did. . . 

Predator Free 2050 vision supported by DOC-Kiwibank partnership:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry has welcomed a new partnership between DOC and Kiwibank which will contribute towards New Zealand’s goal of becoming predator free by 2050.

The partnership announced today focuses on DOC’s conservation dog programme and the remarkable canines using their unique noses to tackle predators and help our native species.

“Specially-trained dogs are truly one of conservation’s best friends, and they will play a crucial role in our plans to make New Zealand predator free by 2050,” Ms Barry says.

“My own North Shore electorate often sees the popular Pai and Piri, two terriers who are excellent ratters, working at our ferry terminals. . . 

Changes to commercial fishing limits:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced changes to management controls for 25 fish stocks as part of the regular twice yearly fisheries sustainability review.

“All these decisions make the best possible use of the latest scientific information to ensure sustainable stocks whilst maximising the benefits for all users – customary, recreational and commercial,” says Mr Guy.

A key change is a significant increase to the catch limit for Snapper 7 (covering the top and west coast of the South Island) with recreational catch increasing from 90 to 250 tonnes, and commercial from 200 to 250 tonnes. . . 

Environment Commissioner congratulates Minister on strong decision for longfin eels:

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has congratulated the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, on his decision to make big reductions in the catch limits for longfin eels in the South Island.

“It’s great to see the Minister making this very positive move towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of the longfin eel,” said Dr Jan Wright.

New catch limits announced by the Minister today effectively amount to a suspension of commercial fishing for longfins in four of the six management areas in the South Island, and a reduction of the allowable catch in the remaining two. . . 

DWN joins forces with Deosan:

Dairy Women’s Network has signed on a new dairying partner in Waikato-based company Deosan this month.

Dairy Women’s Network chief executive Zelda de Villiers says the Network is thrilled to work alongside Deosan, a New Zealand owned business specialising in udder health, dairy hygiene and liquid mineral products, to offer its 9300 members market-leading advice and education in the space.

In the coming months, Deosan will be presenting a series of free educational workshops on udder health and mastitis prevention to DWN members in key regions throughout the country as part of their agreement with the Network. . .

Global experts set to share selenium wisdom:

New Zealand farmers, producers and animal health professionals (veterinarians, nutritionists, feed companies), are being urged to take advantage of a free one-day seminar to help boost animal health and productivity.

Focusing on the essential key mineral, selenium, the seminar presents world-renowned experts, Professor Peter Surai and Dr. Kevin Liu, sharing the latest global research and developments in selenium nutrition and supplementation.

Attendees will learn first-hand about the importance of selenium as an antioxidant in modern New Zealand intensive animal production.  . . 

Hamilton farm girl’s on-line search for love – Ryan Bridge:

If you’re looking for love but lead a busy life then you’ll be able to relate to Marcella Bakker.

Ms Bakker’s a farmer and all-round good sort from Hamilton who’s become quite famous online thanks to her search for a man.

She posted a message on the NZ Farming website asking for men to contact her if they were interested in a date and Story went to answer the call. . . 

‘Modern day farm chick’ puts face to agriculture – Ray Mueller:

“Don’t expect to change the world but at least change the world for one person.”

That’s the vision which inspires Annaliese Wegner, who has dubbed herself “modern day farm chick,” for her social media blogs in which she tries to counter and correct “the bad and false information” about dairying and agriculture that “consumers eat up.”

Wegner posts on Facebook, Instragram and Twitter and participates in the AgChat Foundation in order to “share our story.” That story is rooted in her experiences at the 550 Holstein cow herd near Ettrick in Trempealeau County, where she and her husband Tom and his parents Jeff and Betty Wegner are the partners in Wegnerlann Dairy LLC. The younger Wegners met when they were students at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. . . 

Wool market subdued:

New Zealand Wool Services International Ltd’s C.E.O John Dawson reports that the South Island auction offering a wide range of microns and types, saw varied interest as a resurgent New Zealand dollar and limited overseas buying combined to undermine local price levels.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies lifted 2.69 percent compare to last week.

Of the 10454 bales on offer only 55 percent sold with many growers not prepared to accept current price levels.

Mr Dawson advises that compared to the last South Island offering on 25th August. . .

 


Rural round-up

03/07/2015

More work urged on water quality – Neal Wallace:

A good start but still more to be done.

That is the conclusion of a stocktake by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on managing the quality of fresh water.

Dr Jan Wright praised the Government for implementing the National Policy Statement to improve fresh water management and regional councils for taking steps to improve water quality, but warned there was still much to be done. . . .

AGMARDT goes Green:

Rural businessman Richard Green of Canterbury has been appointed to the AGMARDT board.

AGMARDT is an independent not-for-profit trust that aims to foster and enable innovation and leadership within the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors of New Zealand.

 “We are very fortunate to have Richard join the AGMARDT board of trustees,” says chair Barry Brook. . .

Precision aerial spreading a reality:

Precision fixed wing aerial fertiliser application on hill country is now a reality, says nutrient cooperative Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

New technology in top dressing planes is set to resolve some of the challenges for farmers relying on aerial application, offering the ability to take precision up a gear.

SpreadSmart is a variable rate application system. This allows different amounts of fertiliser to be applied to different areas of the farm to boost productivity and protect waterways and sensitive areas. . .

Donkeys keep dogs on the hoof – Cara Jeffrey:

LIVESTOCK producers in southern NSW are ramping up their fight against wild dogs with baiting, trapping and donkeys all part of the arsenal.

Rob and Sally Bulle introduced donkeys to their Holbrook property “Ardrossan” two years ago to help combat wild dog attacks against their first-cross ewe flock – particularly at lambing time.

The donkeys – a mixture of jacks and jennys – have proven their worth and have remained a fixture on the property. . .

Feeding beats slow- release worm control:

A large anthelmintic trial investigating the efficacy of controlled-release capsules (CRC) and long-acting (LA) anthelmintics in pregnant ewes should ring alarm bells for sheep farmers. The study was initiated by the Whangaehu and Alfredton Farm Business Groups because of the widespread perception among farmers that use of these products will reliably return significant production benefits to both the ewe and her lambs. 

The perception held by farmers, and promoted by commercial interests, appeared to the group to be largely unsupported hence the reason for a widespread, repeated study to provide independent data on both the size and variability in the production response from treating ewes with a CRC pre-lambing. . .

Your first dog – Lloyd Smith:

When buying your first dog, first make sure the animal is going to be an asset not a liability. Sometimes young folk can be a dumping ground for old dogs past their use-by date. But a genuine dog with a few useful years left is a good option to get you started. These dogs are not always easy to source.

A dog’s useful working life is usually pretty much over by 10 years old. I would be hesitant about buying a dog of more than seven years old. Old dogs are pretty set in their ways and are limited in what you can change about them so expectations should not be high. . .


Rural round-up

20/06/2015

Environment Commissioner warns water quality is “not out of the woods yet”:

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, today released two reports on water quality, calling for further steps to safeguard the quality of New Zealand’s fresh water.

“To its credit, the Government has invested heavily in developing policy to improve the management of fresh water,” said Dr Wright. “The 2014 National Policy Statement is a major step forward. Some regional councils have already begun to act and there is a real sense of momentum.”

“But we are not out of the woods yet. Some lakes and streams are below bottom lines and many others are not far above them. And in many places, water quality continues to decline.” . .

PCE report constructively points to next steps in water reform:

The Government has welcomed the two reports released today from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on managing New Zealand’s freshwater reforms.

“This report acknowledges the step change in improving freshwater management through the National Policy Statement in 2011 and the addition of the National Standards in 2014, but it also challenges the Government on the next steps. The report is timely in that it can feed into the work we are doing with iwi leaders and the reinvigorated Land and Water Forum. Our plan is to have a discussion document out on the next steps in freshwater reform early in 2016,” Dr Smith says.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has recommended six improvements to the Freshwater National Policy Statement. The recommendations are: . . .

 Federated Farmers supports PCE report:

Federated Farmers welcomes the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report on Managing Water Quality which supports our long held position that the National Policy Statement (NPS) is a major step forward for water management in New Zealand.

Dr Jan Wright has reflected on what has been an effective couple of years since her last report, with a sense of significant momentum in the regions. She has made six recommendations which overall we agree with excluding concerns around the exceptions policy.

Ian MacKenzie, Federated Farmers Environment Spokesperson, says “We agree with the Commissioner’s recommendation for a more strategic approach in prioritising the more vulnerable catchments. To date some councils have spread their efforts too far and thin when they needed to prioritise and make some real progress on the ones that are under the most pressure.” . . .

Landcorp says 2015 earnings ‘on track’ despite weaker dairy prices – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp Farming, New Zealand’s largest corporate farmer, said it doesn’t need to downgrade its earnings outlook in the wake of falling dairy prices remain weak, as it sheltered from volatility by locking in a guaranteed price at the start of the season.

Dairy product prices slipped in this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction to the weakest level in almost six years. State-owned Landcorp in October cut its forecast for this year’s operating profit to a range of $1 million to $6 million, from a previous forecast range of $8 million-$12 million, citing weaker milk prices. However the company said it is protected from some of the recent weakness by taking up Fonterra Cooperative Group’s guaranteed milk price. . .

Grass-fed infant formula venture for Synlait:

Canterbury dairy company Synlait is going into partnership with United States company Munchkin to create a new infant formula.

California-based Munchkin has seven offices around the world, and is a leading manufacturer of infant and toddler products.

Synlait’s managing director Doctor John Penno said the unique aspect of this agreement was the product will be grass-fed.

“We’re differentiating inside the farm gate and in a way that really epitomises the very good things about the New Zealand grazing system. . .

Fonterra debate on the wrong track – Andrew Hoggard:

The argument about how well Fonterra is performing is gathering pace. People are claiming there is a bloated management.  We have politicians calling for the CEO to take a pay-cut.  That CEO has just indicated possible redundancies as an outcome of an internal review.

The view seems to be that a number of support roles in New Zealand need to go and be replaced by people in the market.

Pub talk fixes on how many are earning more than what amount, and then assumes that if the pay is slashed the problem is sorted.

I think we sometimes forget how big Fonterra is.  You don’t pay small wages to top people to run a business like that. A far more sensible discussion for us to be having would be on what Fonterra pays in wages as a percentage of turnover. And then break that down by division.  Then compare with other successful dairy co-ops from around the world and see what lessons we can take. . .

Waikato Seasonal Outlook: A new drought and rainy period forecasting system is giving farmers and other primary producer a chance to adjust schedules to improve production and protect investments and livelihoods.

When it comes to climate risks in New Zealand, the bluster and rage of tropical storms can steal the stage. But what has really garnered attention over the last ten years are the recurring droughts some of which have affected not just regional New Zealand but the whole country. These events can flare up quickly, and can cause considerable economic damage and stress to farmers and the ecosystems under their stewardship.

Drought is often insidious and creeping, intensifying over many months, stunting or killing crops and limiting grass growth and quality as it develops, reducing groundwater levels and river flow and drying out water supplies. It represents a more frequently occurring and persistent climate hazards faced by New Zealand. Conversely, extended rainy periods and the occasional extreme rainfall event characterised by excessively high rainfall totals over a short duration and typically covering small geographical areas can lead to their own set of problems for the country. . .

 


Fracking okay with safeguards

05/06/2014

Environment Commissioner Dr Jan Wright has given a qualified okay to fracking – with safegaurds:

. . . In her 2012 report into fracking, Commissioner Dr Jan Wright found that much of the concern about fracking was associated with the expansion of the industry. The technique of hydraulic fracturing – fracking – could be used to extract ‘unconventional’ oil and gas from many parts of the country outside Taranaki. In some parts of the United States and Australia, this has led to oil and gas wells multiplying so rapidly that regulators have found themselves “scrambling to catch up”. . . .

Dr Wright has made six recommendations in the report. They are:

• The Government should develop a national policy statement paying particular attention to ‘unconventional’ oil and gas.

• Revision of regional council plans should include better rules for dealing with oil and gas wells. Most council plans do not even distinguish between drilling for water and drilling for oil and gas.

• Wells need to be designed to minimise the risk of leaking into aquifers.

• Processes around who pays if something goes wrong need to be improved. Abandoned wells need to be monitored – the older a well is, the more likely it is to leak.

• Regulations on hazardous substances at well sites need to be better enforced.

• The disposal of waste from wells by spreading it on farmland needs review. There have been instances of farm animals grazing these areas before the breakdown of hydrocarbons is complete.

Although she has found that the local environmental impacts of oil and gas drilling can be managed, Dr Wright said that she does not want the report to be seen as giving a big tick to the expansion of the industry in New Zealand.

“I would much rather see a focus on ‘green growth’ because my major concern is the impact of the burning of fossil fuels on the global climate.” . . .

The full report is here and the Q&A is here.

One of the questions is why the Commissioner didn’t call for a moratorium, the answer is:

Commissioner has identified a number of problems that need to be fixed by Government and councils. The Commissioner has found that a moratorium is not justified because New Zealand has laws in place that can be used to prepare for a rapid expansion of the industry.

The usual anti-growth groups are using the report to call for a moratorium, but that isn’t the Commissioner’s recommendation.

She is very firm on the need for better regulation but she’s not arguing for fracking to stop.


Are we in denial?

15/04/2014

Are we an nation in denial?

This is the question Sir David Skegg, president of the Royal Society of New Zealand asks:

. . . Every New Zealander knows that one of the worst threats to our natural environment is the degradation of rivers and lakes.

Some fresh waterways that were previously clean and inviting have become choked with weeds, slime and algal blooms – with adverse effects on insects, fish, and birds as well.

Two other facts are widely known. First, a major reason for the pollution of waterways is the expansion of the dairy industry.

Second, dairy products are New Zealand’s biggest source of export dollars.

Every one of us benefits from the success of the dairy industry. Without its recent expansion, our economic situation might be gloomy today.

Driving through the South Island, I have seen small towns that were dying rejuvenated by local dairy conversions. And I am conscious the sectors in which I work – health, education and research – are crucially dependent on a vibrant economy.

In November, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment issued a report in which she concludes that New Zealand faces ”a classic economy versus environment dilemma”. Jan Wright’s advice is worded diplomatically, but her message is blunt.

Unless New Zealand takes urgent steps to slow the expansion of dairying, many more rivers and lakes will be degraded. None of the steps being taken to lessen environmental impacts can reverse this trend in the near future.

This sobering conclusion emerges ineluctably from analyses linking two models – one predicting changes in land use between now and 2020, and the other predicting the amounts of unwanted nutrients (especially nitrogen) running off farms into streams and rivers.

Dairy farming has become more intensive, leading to a remarkable 60% increase in productivity per hectare over the past 20 years. This has been achieved by applying more water, more supplementary feed and more nitrogen fertiliser to the land.

While good news in terms of revenue, such intensification leads to increased run-off of pollutants into rivers. But the modelling in Dr Wright’s report shows that although intensification is an important factor in the degradation of rivers, the conversion of more and more land to dairy farms is having the greater impact nationwide.

Despite rhetoric from critics about ”dirty dairying”, many farmers have made sterling efforts to reduce the run-off of nutrients from their land. Measures taken include fencing streams and planting ”riparian strips” along river banks.

Unfortunately, such precautions have a limited effect on the seepage of nitrogen (mainly from animal urine patches) into waterways. Other measures – such as employing nitrogen fertiliser more efficiently or breeding animals that excrete less nitrogen – may eventually yield benefits.

Yet a group of experts convened by the commissioner concluded that even taking an optimistic view, plausible improvements by 2020 could at best balance the effects of likely further intensification.

They could not counteract the much greater threat from expanding the number of hectares used for dairying.

Forecasts based on modelling can never be exact, and sometimes they can be wrong. In the four months since Dr Wright’s report was released, however, I have seen no expert rebuttal of her main conclusion.

I have tried to read all the statements issued by agencies involved. That has been a depressing task, because so many have ducked the key point. Consider a couple of examples.

DairyNZ assured citizens that it is ”working with farmers, regional councils and other stakeholders to contribute to desired water outcomes”. IrrigationNZ rubbished the report and thought ”a far more useful question to be tackled is how we grow farming whilst at the same time improve water quality”.

Two of the most cautious and realistic responses were from Fonterra and Federated Farmers.

The Minister for the Environment was less troubled. While acknowledging the need for more work, she was ”confident that with the combined will of our council, communities, iwi, and water users – and with the support of our science community – we will see significant water quality gains within a generation”.

Scientific research certainly has a role to play, but unfortunately investment in this area has been ramped up only recently and is still modest in comparison with the size of the industry.

There is an urgent need to build scientific capability, and I hope the proposed National Science Challenge (”Our Land and Water”) will help to achieve this. We need to be realistic about what can be delivered in a short period: Dr Wright’s experts did not envisage any breakthroughs that could improve things materially by 2020.

The Government has targets that appear mutually contradictory. One target is to double the value of agricultural exports by 2025. As part of this effort, irrigation schemes are being funded to expand the areas suitable for dairying.

On the other hand, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management requires that the overall quality of fresh water within each region must be maintained or improved. In the light of Dr Wright’s report, can anyone explain how these aims could be reconciled?

We face urgent and difficult choices. If we want to restrict the expansion of dairying in vulnerable river catchments, are we prepared to contemplate a less buoyant economy – at least in the short term?

If we do not limit the expansion, what will be the impact on our second major export earner (tourism) as well as on our quality of life?

How could restrictions be implemented in a way that is equitable for farmers and regions? But before it’s too late, let’s stop pretending that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Sir David has very clearly outlined the issues, acknowledging both the need for clean water and economic growth.

There are already restrictions on dairying in some places.

There is also far more effort going into cleaning up waterways that have been degraded and in maintaining and improving on those with higher quality.

And there is a pressing need for more science capability and for new technology such as the system designed to eliminate waste water on farms:

A new Kiwi designed water filtration system which can eliminate waste water could save New Zealand wineries thousands of dollars annually, has significant export potential for international wine producers and is already being championed by the local dairy industry.

The new waste management process created by Scott Biotechnologies and Allan Scott winemaker Matt Elrick, is designed to rapidly filter the winery’s waste fluids allowing the clean, odourless by product to be reused as irrigation for the vines.

Elrick says the new prototype was created to deal with the Allan Scott winery’s wastewater after growing frustration with traditional wastewater disposal methods, which were expensive, created ponding and associated issues.

He says wineries throughout New Zealand have already tried and failed to come up with a better system for dealing with waste-water at peak times, but many simply revert back to the simple septic tank system.

“With a traditional tank system wastewater settles in a tank, overflows into the next tank, settles there then overflows into the next tank. This means at harvest there often isn’t enough settling time so solids and nutrients tend to jump through the systems faster than the system needs to allow it to be treated, that means you end up with a pretty bad smell,” he says.

The new system which Elrick helped design, means wastewater will now be pumped through a spin separator which uses a cannon to create a centrifugal force and allow clean water to be ejected out of the top and sludge to be forced out of the bottom.

“The clear water goes direct to a discharge tank where it is further filtered and discharged via drip irrigation line onto the vineyard. The remaining sludge waste solids goes through a series of chambers where it can be easily scattered around the vineyard to release its nutrients,” he says.

Elrick believes the technology has significant potential for both wineries and other industries which produce wastewater – including the growing dairy industry.

It is capable of rapidly processing the waste product from winery’s entire harvest without any delay or loss of production efficiency.

“Excess waste production is a huge issues for New Zealand’s horticultural and agricultural industries. In addition to making us more environmentally friendly, this cost reduction technology will also make us more competitive internationally.” says Elrick.

“Essentially we are using our winery wash-downs to create a reusable resource, which is reducing the amount of water drawn from the bore to irrigate our vineyard,” he says. . .

I don’t think we are in denial.

There should be no debate about the importance of clean water.

It’s what we drink, wash with and swim in.

But nor should there be any debate about the importance of economic growth for the social and environmental benefits it can provide.

We can’t have our cake and eat it too. But with good science and improved technology we should be able to have high environmental standards and economic growth.

 

 


Battle for birds

30/01/2014

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith has launched DOC’s largest-ever species protection programme called ‘Battle for Our Birds’.

“Our native birds are in decline and the kiwi will not exist in the wild for our grandchildren unless we do more to protect them. Rats, stoats and possums must be controlled to stop them killing 25 million native birds a year. It is like having a Rena disaster, which killed 2000 birds, every hour,” Dr Smith says.

“This problem is particularly urgent this year because we are facing a one in 10 to 15 year large beech mast that will drop about a million tonnes of seed in autumn. This flood of food will trigger a plague of an additional 30 million rats and tens of thousands of stoats. When the seeds germinate in spring, these starved predators will annihilate populations of our endangered birds.

“This ‘Battle for Our Birds’ programme increases pest control in 35 forests to protect 12 native species, and mainly involves using 1080. An additional 500,000 hectares will be treated in this mast year, increasing the proportion of public conservation land protected from these pests from five per cent to 12 per cent. It also involves expanding DOC’s on-going pest control work by 50,000 hectares each year over the next five years.”

The twelve target species are the great spotted, brown and tokoeka kiwi, kaka, kea, whio (blue duck), mohua (yellowhead), kakaraki (orange-fronted parakeet), rock wren, long and short tailed bats, and giant snails. It will save millions of other native birds like fantails, robins, tui, kereru, riflemen, bellbirds, tomtits and warbles, reptiles like geckos, insects like weta, trees like rata, and plants like mistletoe.

The bulk of the 35 forests where the protection work will occur this year is in South Island beech forests in the Kahurangi, Abel Tasman, Arthur’s Pass, Westland, Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. The other reserves in the South Island are the Catlins and Waikaia in Otago, Mt Dobson and Upper Hurunui in Canterbury, Haast, Maruia and Mokihinui on the West Coast, and Pelorus and Isolated Hill in Marlborough. The five forests in the North Island to receive protection this year are Pouiatoa in Taranaki, the Whanganui and Tongariro National Parks, and at Pirongia and Awaroa in western Waikato.

“The details of the exact areas, timing and mix of pest control tools will be finalised over coming months. We need to monitor the mast seed drop and the resulting pest plague, and engage with affected communities.

“This pest control programme does involve the use of aerial 1080, but does not mean record use. Pre-feeding, improving bait quality to avoid crumbs attractive to birds, helicopter rather than fixed-wing aircraft distribution, GPS, and the development of repellents for non-target species have enabled major improvements in 1080 control methods. Bait application rates have reduced from 30 kilograms to one kilogram per hectare.

“I know there are people, regardless of the science, who will oppose the use of poisons. The comprehensive conclusions of the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Environment Protection Authority make plain that 1080 is safe and the only practical tool that will work. Reason must trump prejudice about poisons when the very species that define our country like kiwi are at stake.”

This programme will cost about $21 million over the next five years out of DOC’s $335 million annual budget and is possible because of savings from last year’s restructuring, partnership funding, efficiency gains from improved pest control technologies, and economies of scale in this large project

“The ‘Battle for Our Birds’ is New Zealand’s largest ever species protection programme. It’s about backing our kiwi, kaka and kea over rats, stoats and possums,” Dr Smith concluded.

The plan has the backing of parliament’s environment watchdog:

. . . Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright warned of the “pest explosion” in December and she’s welcoming Dr Smith’s move.

“The potential toll on our native wildlife is enormous,” she said.

“I’m delighted with Dr Smith’s considered response to this very major threat to New Zealand’s native flora and fauna.”

Dr Wright says 1080 is the only tool to control the plagues of rats and stoats that follow a mast event.

Forest and Bird says the 1080 plan should be standard:

“Conservation group Forest and Bird says increased pest poisoning in response to an expected boom in rat and stoat numbers should be the new baseline. . .

“Without this increase in predator control, there will be a real possibility that we will lose a bird species this mast year,” said F&B advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell.

“DOC should be funded properly for dealing with this event. But, if this level of predator control is not maintained, the money could easily be wasted. For this reason the programme over the next five years should become the new standard for DOC’s aerial 1080 operations.” . . .

Native flora and fauna are under threat from imported pests in the best of years.In mast years the increased danger calls for an extraordinary response and the planned 1080 blitz  is necessary.

Beech mast 2014 logo.

There is more on the plan at DOC’s website.


1080 myths dispelled

24/01/2014

Wilderness magazine says it’s time to end the 1080 debate once and for all:

Opponents to the aerial use of 1080 should stop scaremongering and start thinking of better alternatives, say leading independent experts.

The experts, interviewed in the February issue of Wilderness magazine, have categorically dispelled many of the myths surrounding use of the poison. These myths include the idea that it kills kiwi, gets into our water supplies, threatens native bird populations and is no more effective than trapping and hunting.

Editor of Wilderness Alistair Hall believes it’s vital to stamp out rumours especially at a time when beech mast threatens many of the country’s rarest species. DOC’s preparing to launch a 1080 attack on rats, mice and stoats after predictions a bumper summer of beech flowering will lead to a huge increase of the predators later in the year.

“It’s time to get a few things straight,” said Hall. “1080 has never killed a kiwi, it has never been found in a drinking water supply and only one person has ever been killed by the poison – and that was in the 1960s.

“It’s not us who are saying this, it’s every expert we’ve spoken to. We made sure we picked people who are independent, rather than those who represent one side of the argument. The experts were unanimous in saying there’s currently no viable alternative when it comes to controlling pests on a large scale and that, without 1080, many of our native species would only exist on off-shore islands and intensively protected pockets on the mainland.”

Wilderness spoke to Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr James Ross, senior lecturer in wildlife management at Lincoln University, and Penny Fisher from Landcare Research.

Each expert was presented with 10 commonly held beliefs and asked to state whether they’re true or not based on what is currently known about the toxin.
“It’s fascinating to read what they have to say,” said Hall. “I often hear the argument that there hasn’t been enough research conducted on 1080 to determine whether it’s safe or not. In actual fact, there’s been continuous research since the 1950s.

“It’s so important to get this message across. As a tramping community we want to hear and see native birds and plants when we head into the backcountry. It’s clear to us, having spoken to those in the know, that using 1080 is the only way to ensure we can continue to do this.”

Full interviews with the experts are in the February issue of Wilderness magazine, available in shops from today and online here.

Animals targeted by 1080 endanger native flora and fauna they also carry TB which is a risk to animal and human health.

Where alternatives to 1080 can be used they are. But in many areas, including those of dense bush, there is no viable alternative to it.


Irrigate to prosper

07/12/2013

We must irrigate to prosper – that’s the message of Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis.

It’s about time we moved beyond the unhelpful rhetoric expressed in Mike Joy’s opinion piece (Intensification benefits untrue, Nov 29). New Zealanders need to grasp the connection between the productive use of water and our lifestyles.

Our neighbours over the ditch have. Everyone in Australia realises the importance of water to their economy, and the subsequent need for irrigation and modern water supply infrastructure. Australians are much better at seeing the big picture – the link between their quality of life, the availability, diversity and cost of food they consume and efficient water use – whether the water is used by urban residents or rural.

As a result there is bipartisan support for investment in rural water-supply infrastructure for the irrigation of crops. Australian politicians across the spectrum recognise it is in the national interest to do this. The continued socio-economic wellbeing of Australia and its food security depends on this. The political rhetoric across the Tasman is now about how this is done – not whether it should be.

New Zealand has two options when it comes to the future of water and agriculture.

Option 1: Do nothing and watch the gradual decline of agriculture in New Zealand.

Climate-change predictions show New Zealand is going to become warmer (plants will use more water when they grow) and drier (less water available for plants to use). The prevalence of “large-storm events” is also predicted to increase. This is perhaps more significant. Even if annual rainfall reduces only slightly, if more of it comes at once then most will not be able to be captured by the soils of productive land. Irrigation will become essential to enable full production in many areas – not just a tool to manage drought risk.

New Zealand’s export markets and the consumers are also becoming more demanding. Everyone wants safe, high-quality produce but few are prepared to pay the true cost of producing it in a sustainable manner. Recent surveys by IrrigationNZ suggest that, when a food price increase is linked to improved environmental outcomes, people state they are happy with the status quo. The environmental challenges created through land use intensification are ultimately created by everyone.

Given that New Zealand’s wellbeing (our economy) is founded on agricultural exports, doing nothing is not viable

Option 2: As a nation, we decide that water infrastructure for irrigation is essential to future-proof agriculture in our highly productive plains and foothill environments and we consciously invest in efficient and sustainable water management.

Irrigation has well-proven benefits. Irrigated land is at least three times more productive than dryland in New Zealand and irrigated farmers are far more financially resilient. For every $1 of public good, at least $3 is returned to the community. That is why irrigation is used as a socio-economic development tool globally by organisations such as the World Bank.

The challenge for irrigation is that in the past we’ve not been great at getting the sustainability component right. However, significant investment is now being focused in this area. More emphasis at the planning stages for irrigation projects through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and greater investment in Smart (good-practice) irrigation are delivering better outcomes. However, it all comes back to affordability. Yes, irrigators can reduce their footprint and, yes, we can create infrastructure that minimises direct impact on the environment; however, one generation alone is not going to be able to do this. Irrigation is intergenerational investment and its financing model needs to better reflect this.

It would be useful if the excellent brains and resources of people such as Dr Joy or Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright could be redirected into helping irrigators get it right. We need to move past “problem definition”.

Irrigators are committed to turning things around over time so, please, let’s move forward together.

The column by Mike Joy this is responding to is here.


Rural round-up

26/11/2013

Will pay dirt slip through farmers’ hands? –  Robert Gottliebsen:

The GrainCorp takeover bid from the US agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland is suddenly becoming a wake-up call to farmers — they are going to lose long-term market power.     

And that potential loss of power underlines the fact that in the last few decades a big proportion of the rewards from farming have shifted from growing crops to those providing transport, processing and retail services. 

In major international takeovers of agricultural transport and processing, the winners are the shareholders and the management. All too often the losers are the farmers.

As we have seen in both Warrnambool Cheese and GrainCorp, shareholders are being offered substantially more than the pre-bid market value for their shares. And the mangers of both GrainCorp and Warrnambool will be essential for the overseas bidders. They will almost certainly receive international style salaries. . .

Five tribes buy state dairy farms in Waikato:

Five tribes have bought a big dairy operation in the Waikato region.

The Hauraki Collective now owns the Pouarua dairy complex, which it’s purchased from the state farmer, Landcorp.

Ngati Maru, Ngati Paoa, Ngati Tamatera, Ngati Tara Tokanui and Te Patukirikiri have used Treaty money to buy more than 2200 hectares near Ngatea on the Hauraki Plains.

Although the iwi have not yet fully settled their grievances with the Crown, the government has agreed to provide $53.5 million up front to complete the deal. . .

Overcoming obstacles to setting water quality limits – Ned Norton and Helen Rouse:

In the previous Waiology series on Water governance, we referred to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) (2011) requirement to set limits for water quantity and quality. So, how are councils getting on with limit-setting?

In May 2012 we surveyed planners for regional councils to find out how their current regional plans measure up against the NPSFM requirements to set limits, and found that 1 of 14 respondents said their current plan meets NPSFM requirements, 8 of 14 said their plan met requirements to some extent, and 5 of 14 said their plan did not meet NPSFM requirements.

Our survey also identified a number of potential obstacles that make limit-setting difficult. Some of the most common obstacles were costs (time,staff), availability of catchment-specific data, understanding existing/baseline conditions, balancing instream and out-of-stream values, lack of support for plan process (political or council staff), lack of clear process for getting parties together/getting agreement, and lack of understanding of (and difficulty communicating) complex issues and value trade-offs. . .

Eric Ropiha — a legendary horseman:

New Zealand racing has lost a highly-respected, successful and decorated horseman with the death last Friday of Eric Ropiha. He was aged 88.

Ropiha trained 716 winners during his career from 1948 to his retirement in 2001 and won the National Trainers’ Premiership in 1959-60 with 43 winners.

He had a number of top-class gallopers through his hands, including the 1960 Caulfield Cup winner Ilumquh, who was twice placed in the Melbourne Cup, and Fans, who also finished third in the Flemington feature for him. . .

North Canterbury Winery takes out trophy for top Pinot Noir:

Greystone Wines has won the Pinot Noir trophy at New Zealand’s most prestigious wine show- the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, for their Waipara Pinot Noir 2012. The North Canterbury winery has taken the top gong from more well-known Pinot Noir producing regions, reinforcing growing interest in this area. The Pinot Noir was grown on the clay and limestone slopes of the Waipara Valley, an hour north of Christchurch.

A team of local and international judges were effusive with praise for the sustainably accredited wine. They described it as “Opulent and powerful, yet poised and refined with dark berries and floral aromas.” In addition the same wine was last month rated 96 points and named by Gourmet Traveller magazine as one of New Zealand’s Top 12 Pinot Noir. . .

New Zealand’s best lamb:

Canterbury farmer Mike Ryan has taken out the 2013 Mint Lamb Competition, producing the country’s best lamb from paddock to plate.

Farmers from throughout New Zealand were invited to showcase their quality lamb and compete in the competition that celebrates the quality and variety of lamb available in New Zealand with a focus on increasing consumption of one of the country’s largest export earners.

Lambs were judged on the hook at an Alliance plant for Best Overall Yield. The top 4 lambs in each class (dual purpose,
dual purpose/cross terminal, composite/crossbred cross terminal and terminal) were selected as semi-finalists and sent to be Tender Tested at Lincoln University. Based on the result of the Tender Test, the top 3 lambs in each class were selected as finalists. All finalists were Taste Tested at the 2013 Canterbury A&P Show to decide the overall winner of the Mint Lamb Competition. . .

Organic practices will improve water quality:

A shift towards organic farming practices and diversification is needed to protect and enhance our waterways and our economy, says the Soil & Health Association. The recently released report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, shows that water quality is deteriorating, particularly in areas where there is expansion or intensification of dairy farming.

“The current push for more dairy farms and more animals on the land is not sustainable,” said Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health. “We need to be farming smart and farming to the conditions of each area, rather than trying to wring as much as we can out of the land, or extracting huge volumes of water to irrigate naturally dry areas.” . . .


Rural round-up

22/11/2013

Farmers welcome the PCE’s water contribution:

Federated Farmers has welcomed the report of Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, entitled, Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution and is offering to help ground truth some of the modelled assumptions.

“Federated Farmers has consistently said we need good science to underpin policy decision making,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson.

“As Dr Wright conceded at the launch water is complex and the modelling arguably represents the worst case.  It does however highlight the cumulative effects of land use intensity upon water.  It represents our future if we do absolutely nothing but that is not a future we’d like to be a part of.

“Farmers understand there are some challenges but we mustn’t forget that New Zealand has some of the best quality water on earth.  There is also enormous resource and work being put into finding practical workable solutions and we have made some good progress. . .

Time and tide waits for no man or woman – Jeanette Maxwell:

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Zambia for the inaugural World Farming Organisation Women’s committee meeting, the international day of Rural Women and the Zambian National Farmers Union conference.

This has much resonance for the issues we will be discussing over the next two days.

Travelling to a country like Zambia gave me an opportunity to see how farmers do business in a developing nation.  A working farm there can be anything from 10 hectares to many thousands of hectares.

In Zambia I found that 62 percent of all farmers are women.  Women also make up a large share of the labour force and much of the weeding and crop maintenance is done by women.

For many farmers the land is transferred by succession and while there are opportunities to buy land you do need to know the right people.   In Zambia, succession is seen as being critical for the continuation of farming and for feeding the nation.   Sounds familiar. . . .

New DOC boss signals cultural shift:

Farming leaders are applauding a cultural shift signalled by new Department of Conservation (DOC) boss Lou Sanson.

Mr Sanson, who took over as DOC chief executive about two months ago, told the Federated Farmers’ national council in Wellington on Tuesday that DOC would be focusing more on partnership arrangements with farmers and other community and commercial interests, including fishing and mining.

He said Canterbury’s Hakataramea Basin was an example of what he meant by a cultural change for DOC, with a lot of land taken back into its control through tenure review.

“We’ve also taken a lot of musterers’ huts. Generally a farmer 100 years ago put a poplar or a willow beside the hut to give him firewood for the hut,” Mr Sanson said. . .

Contest gives credit to sharemilking role – Sue O’Dowd:

New Zealand’s premier dairy farming contest can be traced to a Taranaki man who thought a sharemilkers’ competition would provide a window to show off their skills.

Murray Cross was a sharemilker at Ngaere when he suggested the Taranaki Sharemilkers Association should run a Sharemilker of the Year competition. At the time he and wife Ruth were on the farm his father, Sydney Hamilton Cross, had bought after he returned from World War II.

Murray Cross drew his inspiration for the competition from going through the process for a Nuffield scholarship. Although he was unsuccessful, he thought he could apply what he had learned to a competition in Taranaki for sharemilkers.   . .

Meat co-ops see obstacles to merger:

Silver Fern Farms and the Alliance Group, agree that further consolidation is needed in the meat industry.

But both big farmer-owned co-operatives see different obstacles in the way of the farmer campaign to merge the two co-ops as the starting point for forcing wider changes in the industry.

The Meat Industry Excellence group is frustrated at the failure of the major processors and exporters to agree on any reform measures after months of discussions. It is pushing a merger idea in co-op board elections currently underway.

However, Alliance Group chair Murray Taggart of Canterbury says it does not support the view that the co-operatives should be the main vehicle for consolidation and bear the costs. . .

Sustained crop returns for wheat and maize:

Digging a little deeper into the budget for grain fertiliser has valuable paybacks in terms of crop yields for maize and wheat, according to recent studies funded by Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

Trials were undertaken in Canterbury, Southland and Waikato in spring 2012 to evaluate the performance of standard urea against Ballance Agri-Nutrient’s SustaiN, which is urea coated with the urease inhibitor AGROTAIN®. Agrotain is a nitrogen stabiliser that has been proven to suppress ammonia volatilisation, delivering more nitrogen directly to the soil where it can contribute to plant growth.

The trials showed that the additional cost of $11/ha for SustaiN (applied at 100 kg N/ha) was readily recouped. . .

 


Land use changes put pressure on water quality – Environment Commissioner

21/11/2013

New Zealand is undergoing huge changes to land use and decision makers need to be aware of the consequences for the future, says the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.

The conclusion comes in her latest report, Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution, which examines how New Zealanders are changing the way they use land and the pressure this puts on water quality.

“The report is focused on the two nutrient pollutants – nitrogen and phosphorus. On land they are valuable nutrients, helping plants to grow. But when there is too much of them in water, they become pollutants, and can lead to excessive growth of weeds, slime and algae.

“Over recent years, hundreds of thousands of hectares used for sheep and beef farming have been converted to dairy farming on the one hand, and forestry on the other.

“Conversion to dairying increases nutrient loads on water; conversion to forestry does the opposite.

Dr Wright added: “I applaud the effort that is being put into environmental mitigation on dairy farms. Unfortunately, it is particularly difficult to control nitrogen. Nitrogen – in the form of nitrate – is so soluble that I think of it as the ‘elusive’ pollutant.

“I am pleased that fresh water policy is very much on the Government’s agenda with the recent release of a discussion paper on setting ‘bottom lines’ for water quality. I hope that this report will better inform both the general public and those who make decisions on their behalf.”

The full report is here.

Dr Wright was interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon this morning.

We’ve got 20 people coming for dinner tonight and preparing for that is taking priority over reading and discussing the report.

However, given its importance I wanted to give readers the chance to discuss it.


Keep it clean

20/11/2013

Keep it Clean this was the message from Bruce Wills in his address to Federated Farmers 2013 National Council:

. . . It will not come as a surprise that Federated Farmers biggest area of work and advocacy continues to be water. How we use it more efficiently whilst maintaining and improving its quality.

Most of our towns and cities store water to ensure their residents don’t run out of this valuable resource during the dry summer months. We need to get better at applying this same logic to our rural areas through water storage. The big challenge is how we can continue to grow farming but to do this with less impact upon the environment.

Why is storing water for urban use accepted but storing it for agriculture attracts so much opposition?

. . . This water debate is complex and it will take time.

The farming community must remain a leader in this debate. I want to acknowledge Ian and our respected water policy team for the good work they continue to do in this area.

Water does not instantly degrade but reflects cumulative actions over a period of time. Those actions may be farm related, they may be industrial and in some instances, they may be natural.

The Otago Regional Council found seagulls were to blame for low water quality in the Kakanui River.

Getting good science is the starting point for the rational discussion we sometimes haven’t held when it comes to water. In two days time, Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, will release her much anticipated water quality report.

Parts of this report, frankly, will not be kind to agriculture but to improve we all need to understand what the problem is, what the science is telling us and then move to sensible solutions. We need to ask our communities what their aspirations are for water and what they are prepared to pay economically, socially and culturally.

As farmers, we have perhaps been guilty in the past of farming in denial about the nutrients we lose from our farms. This has changed thanks to the Land & Water Forum process. Diffuse nitrogen loss to water, as opposed to the direct loss you typically see in political cartoons, represents our biggest challenge but also, our biggest opportunity.

There is far greater recognition from farmers of the impact their practices can have on water and far greater effort into reducing it.

I have commented previously about my recent learning’s from World Water Week in Sweden. Compared to the rest of the world, New Zealand is in a lucky and privileged position when it comes to both the quantity and quality of our water.

It worries me that as a country we risk beating ourselves up around our water concerns. Of course we can and must do better but we do need to keep things in perspective.

The world is a hungry and growing place with an amazing 2.3 billion more stomachs due to join the human race between now and the year 2050. It is the sale of our food and primary commodities which helps to pay much of this country’s bills. Farmers share the aspiration to live in a prosperous and beautiful country with bountiful clean water for all.

This is the challenge of our time and I can confidently report that we are making steady progress. . .

Comparing our water standards with those in other countries isn’t an excuse to accept less than optimal practices here or rest on our laurels where we’re getting it right.

Discussion on what needs to be improved and how to do it must be based on science and an understanding of what can be done and what that will cost.


Are they reading the same report?

28/11/2012

Parliamentary Commissioenr for the Environment Jan Wright,  says that fracking can be done safely if well managed but raises concerns about the rules and safeguards surrounding the practice New Zealand.

“During the course of this investigation I have come to a similar conclusion to the Royal Society which is that fracking is safe if it is properly regulated and managed.

“However I have significant concerns about how fragmented and complicated the regulatory environment for fracking is and about how these rules are being applied.

“If fracking is not done well it can have significant environmental impacts including polluting water and triggering earthquakes.

“I am also concerned that regulation may be too light-handed, particularly if fracking opens the door to a large-scale and widespread oil and gas boom with a lot of different companies involved.

“These concerns form the basis of the next stage of my investigation into fracking which I hope to conclude before the middle of next year.”

That seems reasoned and reasonable but the responses make me wonder if people are reading the same report.

An alliance of 16 environmental groups, hapu and businesses have signed onto a joint statement, demanding a nationwide ban or moratorium on fracking.

The Environmental Defence Society says the report isn’t green light for fracking but is a timely wake-up call for early reform of fracking consenting and monitoring.

“This report reveals the complexities of fracking, the reliance on high quality environmental management to prevent pollution and the gaps in the present regulatory settings,” said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor. . .

Forest and Bird backs the commissioner’s caution:

Forest & Bird is urging the authorities to adopt a precautionary approach to fracking because much more needs to be known about its environmental impacts and how New Zealand should regulate the practice before approval for more fracking operations can be considered. . .

Straterra, the representative group for the minerals and mining industry, says Dr Wright has provided a much-needed common-sense approach to the debate:

“The minerals and mining sector – like all other industries – fully embraces the need to look after New Zealand water resources and our environment. Examples of fracking so far in New Zealand provide a pretty good track record of having done that.

“The industry deserves to be given the opportunity to submit on work carried out in New Zealand to show how they are protecting New Zealand’s environment as part of their everyday activities, and that is what the Commissioner is allowing to happen,” Mr Baker says.

“It is important that fracking, like any resource sector activity that impacts on the environment, is carried out to a high standard, and that we have good regulations in place for that activity. That said, fracking and new technologies have made a major positive impact on the availability and cost of energy elsewhere in the world.

“Economically, New Zealand can ill afford to turn its back on the opportunities fracking offers in energy security and increased wealth,” Mr Baker says. . .

Todd Energy also welcomes the report:

Todd Energy notes the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s (PCE) high level conclusion that the environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing can be managed effectively provided operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation.

Todd Energy Chief Executive Paul Moore said the company welcomes the Commissioner’s report. “We would like to assure the public that Todd’s hydraulic fracturing operations are effectively designed and executed. . .

Federated Farmers says:

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s (PCE) hydraulic fracturing investigation could reduce unease over the technique.

“Federated Farmers has kept an eye on the PCE investigation given land-based minerals exploration can often occur on or near to farmland,” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers energy spokesperson.

“From what I have seen in the PCE’s interim report, she has taken a considered look at fracking. While hydraulic fracturing has been used in New Zealand since 1989, controversy has really only ignited over the past two years, if you excuse the pun.

“From agriculture’s perspective, we are most interested in land access issues and compensation. As well as what risks the technique may pose to ground and surface water.

“The PCE found the distance between where fracking occurs and aquifers can be as much as one to two kilometres. There are shallower fracks and I guess this underscores why the PCE recommends a watching brief.

“The PCE however believes that while contamination of ground or surface water is possible, the probability “is very unlikely”.

“After reading the PCE’s report, I can say that Federated Farmers feels more comfortable with the technique.

“The PCE stresses we frack well in New Zealand but describes regulation and oversight as “labyrinthine“. Clearly, there is a role for Government to ensure regulations are fit for purpose.

“Mining and minerals are important contributors to the economy and employment. Along with agriculture and utilities, mining is one of the few areas where we outperform Australia in terms of productivity,” Mr Crofoot concluded.

Caution and further investigation to ensure that best practice is required and adhered to is sensible.

But the report is clear there is not a case for a moratorium, although that hasn’t stopped those of a dark green and far left persuasion calling for one.


1080 still needed

08/06/2011

Banning 1080 would damage native forests, birds, insects and reptiles parliamentary commissioner for the environment Jan Wright says:

“Possums, rats and stoats are chewing up our forests to the point that we are only a generation away from seeing regional extinctions of kiwis and other native species where no pest control is carried out.

“There are other pest control methods that are more suitable than 1080 in certain circumstances but on much of our conservation land there is currently nothing else that will effectively kill possums, rats and stoats.

“While there may be an alternative to 1080 one day, if we want to keep our forests for future generations we simply cannot afford to stop using 1080. Time is not a luxury we have.

“So many of our native forests, birds, reptiles and insects are unlike those found anywhere else in the world and form a distinct part of our identity. It would be a travesty to allow these to disappear.”

Possums and stoats also carry TB which is a danger to cattle.

There are places where alternatives to 1080 can and are used to good effect. We visited a farm in Marlborough in March where an extensive pest trapping programme was making a big difference to pasture, native bush and birds.

But Dr Wright is right – there are some places where 1080 is the best option. Vast tracts of native bush are inaccessible and aerial drops of 1080 are the only way to kill the pests which will kill the plants, insects, birds and reptiles there.

The full report is here.


Farming and conservation not mutually exculsive

07/04/2009

High Country farming and conservation aren’t mutually exclusive a report into enivronmental stewardship and tenure review  by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.

The report  recommends that a High Country Commission be established to provide oversight and strategic direction and it questions the ongoing expansion of the DOC estate.

The only high level strategy for the high country is DoC’s plan for the creation of 22 high country parks. Yet much of the land going into those parks has no special biodiversity value, and comparatively few people will be hardy enough to use them for recreation. With the addition of each park must come the need for significant ongoing Crown expenditure on pest and weed control, access roads, fences, tracks and huts. It is hard to see how this strategy yields the best national value for the conservation dollar.

Farmers and local bodies have been saying this for some time but went unheard because the previous government failed to recognise that farmers had been and could continue to be stewards of high country land and that farming and conservation aren’t mutually exclusive.

Labour’s antipathy to private property rights drove the purchase of large tracts of South Island high country which few if any members of the public will ever see and has left taxpayers with an on-going bill for weed and pest control, repairs and maintenance.

Public funding for conservation will always be limited. Other models that sit between the extremes of unfettered private ownership and management on the one hand and pure DOC ownership and management on the other should be used more widely. Covenants and possibly performance-based fi nancial incentives as well as local authority rules can all be used to support farmers and other owners in the stewardship role many already play.

The previous government gave a directive that leasehold land couldn’t be protected with QEII National Trust covenents, preferring to buy land back from pastoral lessees, saddle DOC with its management and the public with the bill.

Land purchase and fencing alone has already cost the public $120 million.

Agriculture Minsiter David Carter has welcomed the report and says it:

. . . recognises that farmers already play a ‘stewardship’ role, a role which lessees have long argued and which has been overlooked.” 

Mr Carter says that high country runholders can be just as effective stewards as the Crown. 

“We also support the questioning by the Commissioner of the ongoing expansion of the DOC estate. 

“The Government has made it clear that it supports the principle of tenure review, but believes a new approach is needed to restore confidence in the process.  Voluntary, good faith negotiations between lessees and the Crown are at the heart of this.   

This is a welcome change from the anti-farmer view which the previous government subscribed to and should see better economic and environmental outcomes.


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