Rural round-up

July 13, 2020

IrrigationNZ pleased to see Government expenditure on water services across the country – but calls for joined-up approach to all water:

IrrigationNZ believes Government investment in the water sector is a step in the right direction – but calls for a broader strategy to encompass all water infrastructure, including storage and policy development.

Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the Government will invest $761 million for a much-needed upgrade to water services across the country.

IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal says the proposal to reform water service delivery into large-scale multi-regional providers(for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater)will provide greater opportunities for investment in water infrastructure (such as water storage) that will improve outcomes beyond three waters, to include water for irrigation, reallocation, and the environment. . . 

Potatoes NZ anti-dumping tariff application:

On 3rd July 2020 Potatoes NZ submitted an application to Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment for anti-dumping duties on frozen potato products originating in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The application is based on the real threat of material injury to the New Zealand potato industry. 

The threat is a result of huge surplus inventories of frozen potato products and processing potatoes in Belgium and the Netherlands. 

This situation has arisen through the impacts of the Covid-19 global pandemic causing supply chain disruption in hospitality industries worldwide.  . . 

Quality beef bulls wanted:

Making quality beef genetics easier for dairy farmers to access is the aim of a new industry partnership.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics and LIC are collaborating to help fulfil growing demand for beef genetics suitable for New Zealand dairy cows.

The collaboration has seen the creation of the B+LNZ Genetics Dairy Beef Progeny Test, devised to identify quality beef bulls and help enable their widespread use for dairy beef.

Beef breeders can nominate their best bulls for consideration for the programme, with successful bulls then becoming part of the progeny test scheme. . .

Hunting guides welcome High Court decision on DOC’s Tahr plan:

The Professional Hunting Guides Association is welcoming the High Court decision on DoC’s controversial tahr campaign.

The High Court in Wellington was asked on Wednesday by the Tahr Foundation for a judicial review of DoC’s plan to kill thousands of Himalayan Tahr in the Southern Alps.

In a decision released this afternoon, the court ruled in the Tahr Foundation’s favour over the lack of consultation with hunting groups.

Professional Hunting Guides Association president James Cagney says the decision is a huge relief. . . 

High Court decision a win for hunters:

A High Court decision has stopped this clumsy and incompetent Government from destroying a $17 million industry and hundreds of jobs, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage gave permission for a large-scale cull of tahr to start on July 1st. The High Court decided to halt the controversial plan to kill thousands of tahr through the Southern Alps, which is not only a win for hunters, but for the many New Zealanders whose jobs were on the line.

“Eugenie Sage has made this brash decision before where she tried to enact a large-scale cull unsuccessfully. She must go back and consult with hunters and key stakeholders. . .

Welsh govt confirms farmers will adopt green farming:

The Welsh government has confirmed that sustainable farming will remain at the heart of future agriculture support post-Brexit.

An official response has been published to last year’s Sustainable Farming and our Land consultation, which received over 3,300 responses from farmers and landowners.

The consultation proposed that future funding should support farmers who operate sustainable farming systems and protect the environment.

NFU Cymru replied to it by urging the Welsh government to be ‘careful, considered and measured’, and to develop future policy through a ‘process of evolution rather than revolution’. . . 


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

January 18, 2020

Disease’s cost killed meat firm – Jacob McSweeny:

Meat production at a 100-year-old Dunedin company has ceased and 13 staff have been made redundant but the owner of The Craft Meat Company says the business will live on.

The decision came after meat producers’ profits were cut by rising costs due to a global shortage of protein triggered by the African swine fever epidemic, owner Grant Howie said.

‘‘[It was] the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do,’’ Mr Howie said of the decision to axe staff. . . 

Sage softens lease land changes – Neal Wallace:

The Government appears to have softened the sharpest edges of proposed changes to the management of pastoral lease land while confirming farming will continue in the South Island high country.

The bill detailing changes to the Crown Pastoral Lands Act appears to back down on initial proposals that included greater political oversight of the activities of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, traditionally an independent position.

It seems also to accept submissions from farming sectors that lessees have legal rights to pasturage and quiet enjoyment of their land, which would have been compromised by the original recommendations. . . 

Fonterra pioneer expects much better:

One of the architects of Fonterra says he’s very disappointed with the co-op’s performance over the years.

Tirau farmer, Tony Wilding says farmers expected better when they formed the co-op in 2001. “It’s not the performance we had in mind when we formed Fonterra,” he told Rural News.

Wilding received a New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list for his contribution to the dairy sector and community. . .

New chief executive for Meat Industry Association – Sudesh Kissun:

The Meat Industry Association has appointed Sirma Karapeeva as its new chief executive.

Karapeeva, who is currently the Meat Industry Association’s (MIA) trade and economic manager, has been with the trade association since 2015. She replaces Tim Ritchie who is retiring after 12 years in the role.

Karapeeva, who takes over in April, held a variety of trade, policy and regulatory roles in Government before joining MIA.

Kiwifruit prices hit record high:

Kiwifruit prices were at an all-time high in December 2019, with prices for seasonal fruit and vegetables also up, Stats NZ said today.

“Kiwifruit prices rose 32 percent in December to a weighted average price of $8.27 per kilo, an all-time high,” acting consumer prices manager James Griffin said.

“This compares with $4.24 in December last year.” . . 

Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award nominations open:

Nominations to a national award that recognises dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainable dairying and who are ambassadors for the industry open January 15th.

The Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award was introduced by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards to recognise those dairy farmers who are respected by their farming peers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying. Entry for this award is by nomination only via dairyindustryawards.co.nz. . . 


Higher standard for cows than people

January 8, 2020

A lack of loos on DoC tramping tracks is a problem that needs urgent attention.

A public toilet should be added at the Ben Lomond Saddle or the area’s impressive tourist reputation risks being flushed away, MP Hamish Walker warns.

Mr Walker, the Clutha-Southland MP, said the Department of Conservation needed to act and install the much-needed toilet.

About 35,000 people walked to the summit annually and this number was growing each year.

“As the track’s popularity continues to increase this issue will get bigger,” he said.

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) southern convener Peter Wilson agreed with Mr Walker’s suggestion, but emphasised that the funding for the toilet should come from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and not from Doc’s own hard-pressed resources.

It’s a timely suggestion,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Walker said the matter “needs to be sorted now with the installation of a toilet to future-proof the track and protect the natural environment”.

The necessary infrastructure was not in place, and there was “a major environmental problem developing, with piles of human faeces and toilet paper spread across a large area, getting worse every year”, he said.

Landowners voluntarily offered access to members of the public, but the growing mess could jeopardise this access, he warned.

Mr Wilson, a former Dunedin resident who is immediate past FMC national president, said a toilet needed to be installed to prevent environmental damage at the 1326m saddle, near Queenstown. . .

Roys Peak has a  similar problem with human waste.

The property owner next to the Roys Peak Track in Wanaka has vowed to keep advocating for more toilets to be installed along the popular Department of Conservation day walk, despite the Minister for Conservation assuring him that inappropriate toileting behaviour was on her radar.

On November 25, John Levy wrote to minister Eugenie Sage asking for the “very important health issue” of only two toilets, one at the start and one at the summit on the 16km return, to be addressed.

In the past year Doc recorded 81,350 people had walked the track, an average of 222.8 people a day.

“If the Mt Roy track was a restaurant, cinema or any other business in Wanaka, the Queenstown Lakes District council would require 47 toilets, not just two,” Mr Levy said.

If anyone else tried setting up a business catering to the public with too few loos they would not get consent. If anyone else had an attraction which couldn’t cater for the number of visitors it would be required to restrict numbers or upgrade to cope with them. Why is DOC not held to the same standard?

On December 16 Mr Levy received a reply from Ms Sage, in which she acknowledged “inappropriate toileting is unacceptable and of concern” but it was a national issue for Doc and not restricted to the Roys Peak track, she said.

“Encouraging behaviour change of our visitors requires a multi-agency approach across New Zealand … there was a significant focus [last year] on promoting responsible visitor behaviour, which had a significant reach and impact,” she said.

Trying to change tourist behaviour was “asinine”, Mr Levy said.

“It is like saying we only have one toilet at the cinema or restaurant and everyone can just hold it until they get home.” . . 

Educating tourists on toileting while tramping is only a very small part of the solution. It is completely unrealistic to expect people to either hold on or carry a trowel and bury their waste on popular tracks like those up Ben Lomond Saddle and Roy’s Peak.

Last time we went up Roy’s Peak it took us 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to the top. We carried  along the ridge, up Mount Alpha then down to Spotts Creek, finishing in the Cardrona Valley where we’d left a car the night before.

This is the Skyline Track which the DOc website says takes 10 to 11 hours.

This challenging tramp begins with the track to Roys Peak (1578m). From the peak, follow the ridgeline towards Mt Alpha (1630m). A short narrow section of track around rocks before the climb to the highest point has a steep drop off on one side and requires care when crossing.

From Mt Alpha the track descends through snow tussock to a 4WD farm track before reaching a signed junction. A poled track from this junction drops down into Spotts Creek then out to the Cardrona Valley Road and car park. Though this description has the track starting with Roys Peak Track, the Skyline Track can be walked in either direction.*

We did the tramp in 7 1/2 hours, our son-in-law did it last week in a bit more than half that time.  But even that would be too much without at least one loo stop for most people, especially if it’s a hot day and you’re making sure you stay hydrated.

These are DoC tracks and it’s their responsibility to ensure that they’re not polluted with human effluent, in exactly the same way that farmers have a legal responsibility for dealing with effluent from dairy sheds – with very expensive consequences should they get it wrong.

As it stands, there’s one standard for tourists and another much higher one for stock and for the sake of both human and environmental health, that is simply not good enough.

* The Skyline Track can be walked in either direction but I’d advise starting at Roys Peak, even though it’s a steeper climb than going the other way.  There are some steep and scrabbly stretches between Roys Peak and Mount Alpha and it’s easier going up these than down. Once at the top of Alpha it’s a reasonably gentle descent into the valley which is much easier on joints and braking muscles than the steep one down from Roys Peak.


Light rail to Roys Peak?

December 30, 2019

The car park at the bottom of Roys Peak is overflowing – again:

As the resident population in Wanaka multiplies by a factor of three during the Christmas-New Year week, so does the number of cars and vans parked illegally outside the Roys Peak track car park along Mt Aspiring Rd.

Yesterday, the Department of Conservation 100-space vehicle park at the start of the one-day 16km return walk overflowed into the adjacent road verge for up to half a kilometre north.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when boat owners launch their boats into Lake Wanaka and many used the Glendhu Bay boat ramp.

At times, cars towing boats had to drive on the other side of the road to avoid the cars and vans parked illegally on the edge of Mt Aspiring Rd. . . 

The park was enlarged a couple of years ago but still isn’t big enough for holiday crowds. It won’t help that two other popular tramps – Rob Roy Glaciar and Rocky Point – are closed.

But don’t panic, the Minister of Conservation has a solution:

On a recent visit to Wanaka, Ms Sage said she was aware of the popularity of Roys Peak and the parking congestion issues and was considering introducing a charge for private vehicles in the car park as a way to increase the use of public transport to and from the hike.

Who would police the parking and how much would parking fees and fines have to be to cover the costs of the policing?

What public transport would that be and how would it be scheduled to cope with all the people who start and finish the tramp at all hours of the day and night?

There are taxis in Wanaka but using them would double the number of trips to and from the bottom of the hill.

The only buses go to and from Wanaka to other towns, nowhere near the track which is on a no-exit road that ends at Aspiring Station.

And surely even a Green MP wouldn’t be considering light rail from Wanaka to Roys Peak.

That leaves walking, biking, running or driving. Most people will consider going up and down the hill enough exercise and still opt for driving whether or not there are enough parks.


Waste tax starting at wrong end

November 29, 2019

Yet another proposed tax from the government that said no new taxes:

Eugenie Sage’s proposed six-fold increase in the levy rate for landfills will not only cost households more but lead to more illegal dumping, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

The plan was a key policy in the Government’s Waste Discussion Document released today.

“The proposal will have perverse outcomes on both the environment and New Zealanders’ back pockets,” Mr Simpson says.

“Fly tipping is already a huge problem in New Zealand, and knee jerk price hikes like this will only make it worse.

“Sadly people will realise it’s cheaper and easier to dump their rubbish over a bank or into the bush rather than paying the exorbitant fee to use their local tip.

Most mornings I walk along roads bordering our farm and each time I come across odd bits of rubbish – usually bottles and food wrapping – that has been thrown from car windows. Fortunately there are no banks or bush on my usual route to encourage fly-tipping but every now and then I venture further afield and it’s not unusual to find rubbish that ought to have been taken to a tip.

“People in some parts of the country are already paying close to $200 per tonne at their landfill. This will only drive the price even higher.

“Meanwhile expanding the number of landfills to which the levy applies is a belated follow-through on plans National had already announced in Government.

“Eugenie Sage should be investigating practical ways of addressing our waste problem like waste to energy systems used in other countries. Instead she seems happy to indulge her ideological preferences and hit the tax button.”

The Taxpayers’ Union points out this tax will hit the poor hardest:

. . .Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Like any levy, this will be a regressive tax hike, with a disproportionate impact on the budgets of large households in the country’s poorest suburbs. If it brings in the forecast $220 million, that’s a tax hike of $120 per Kiwi household, per year.”
 
“This is yet another painful tax hike that betrays the Government’s claims of compassion for the poor.”
 
“Meanwhile, the beneficiaries of this proposal will be the businesses taking handouts from the poorly managed Waste Minimisation Fund, and the local councils that get a revenue boost. No wonder they’re supporting it.”
 
Earlier this year the Tax Working Group pointed out that increasing the rubbish tax will cause a spike in illegal dumping. Even the Green Party should agree that it’s better for old mattresses to end up in the tip than dumped on the road or riverside.”

Waste to energy systems would be a much better idea than another tax, especially as this one is starting at the wrong end of the problem – hitting the people who have to get rid of rubbish rather than those who create waste in the first place.

Take bananas as a small example – they grown in bunches with their own protective covering. Why do supermarkets find it necessary to put them in plastic bags? It’s the businesses that put them in bags who cause the problem, not the people who buy the fruit and are left with the unwanted bags.


Science when it suits

April 8, 2019

Anyone who dares to challenge the politically accepted view on climate change  is told to accept the science.

But  during Question Time last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, showed again he is prepared to accept only the science that suits:

. . . Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement made on 4 March during an interview on Q+A that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he—and I quote—”will be led by the science on it.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said—and I quote—”I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the then Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who also said at the time—and I quote—”There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: When he said he would be—and I quote—”led by the science”, did he mean all science or just the science that fits his political narrative?

Hon JAMES SHAW: If the member looks at the previous supplementary questions, he’ll see that what Sir Peter Gluckman was saying is that he didn’t see any other ways than GE to achieve those outcomes. I do see other ways.

Todd Muller: What are the other ways of addressing agriculture emission reduction that he thinks the chief scientist has not captured in his assessment?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I can’t comment on what the former Chief Science Advisor included in his assessment, but if the member’s interested, I would advise him to read the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group that the previous Government set up. It took a number of years looking at a range of options for how agricultural emissions could be reduced and found that, actually, with a high degree of confidence, agriculture would be able to reduce emissions by at least 10 percent by 2030, and found with a similarly high degree of confidence that it would be able to reduce it by at least 30 percent by 2050.

Todd Muller: A final supplementary: does he consider climate change to be a sufficiently serious global issue that all science and innovations, including GE, need to be considered, or does he just think it is a pick and choose menu?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I think that policy makers always have options in front of them about what choices to make, but I certainly do believe that climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time but, potentially, the greatest challenge of all time. . .

If he wants us to accept that climate change is such a challenge and take the need for action seriously, how can he shut the door on technology that could address at least some of the contributors?

Federated Farmers correctly points out his closed mind is unhelpful:

The Green Party’s apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues is extremely disappointing, Federated Farmers says.

“Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle. But discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party’s membership happy,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been plenty of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing. It can substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle which eat it. Under our current laws the grass cannot be grown in New Zealand, and field trials are having to take place in the United States. . . 

“Mr Shaw didn’t have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman but we do hope he won’t be so quick to shut down discussion of GE’s potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others,” Andrew says.

“We’ve already had Green MP and Conservation Minister  tell Predator-free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.

“Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies still being worked on.

“Federated Farmers’ position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders.”

James Shaw is playing to his political supporters and putting their opposition to GE, which is based far more on emotion than science, ahead of his ministerial responsibility.

In doing so he is denying New Zealanders tools which could reduce greenhouse gases and increase the pace of the journey towards a predator-free country, both of which ought to appeal to those of a green persuasion, but sadly not enough who are Greens.

It’s a pity they and the Minister, can’t, or won’t, accept the science that shows the very low risks and high potential benefits of GE.


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.


Rural round-up

October 3, 2018
Government blamed for pessimism – Neal Wallace:

Growing pessimism among dairy farmers has sent confidence plunging into negative territory for the first time since early 2016. The quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey of 450 farmers reveals confidence in the agricultural economy has fallen from plus 2% in June to minus 3% in September.

Those expecting an improvement in the next 12 months fell from 26% to 20% while those expecting conditions to worsen rose slightly from 23% to 24%. . .

Farmer group aims at land best practice  – Simon Hartley:

A farmer-led initiative covering six Aparima catchments in Southland is looking at ways to improve land management practices to benefit the environment and local communities.

The Aparima Community Engagement (ACE) project, which represents six local catchment groups, has been under way since March this year, and a fortnight ago briefed Environment Minister David Parker on its aims during his visit to the area.

The type of issues being tackled includes identifying best practice around the likes of buffer zones for wintering, and the use of crops and fertiliser. . . 

McDonald’s lauds Maori beef farm  – Hugh Stringleman:

Hapū-owned Whangara Farms, on the East Coast north of Gisborne, has been accredited to the McDonald’s Flagship Farmers programme, the first such appointment in the Southern Hemisphere. Under general manager Richard Scholefield for the past 12 years, the 8500ha group has become the 28th Flagship Farmer for the worldwide restaurant chain and the seventh beef supplier. . .

Hunting lobby wins concessions over tahr cull  – Kate Gudsell, Eric Fryberg:

The powerful hunting lobby has won concessions in the heated fight over the cull of thousands of Himalayan Tahr.

A meeting was held yesterday between Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and hunting groups including the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and the Game Animal Council as well as conservation groups such as Forest and Bird, and iwi Ngāi Tahu with the hunting industry emerging confident at the outcome.

The hunting fraternity say Ms Sage has pulled back from positions which the industry had found unacceptable and forced her to re-think plans to cull 10,000 Himalayan Tahr from the Southern Alps.  . .

Seeka warns of possible PSA outbreak in Victorian orchard – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Seeka, New Zealand’s biggest kiwifruit grower, says it may have found the fruit disease PSA in an orchard it is developing in Australia.

It has notified Agriculture Victoria of unusual bacterial symptoms and is removing suspicious plant material pending further test results. . .

Pāmu releases first Integrated Report – returns to paying a dividend

Pāmu Farms of New Zealand (Landcorp) has released its first truly integrated Annual Report for 2018 today.

Chief Financial Officer Steve McJorrow said the 2018 EBITDAR[1] of $48.5 million, announced on 31 August, was very pleasing, and reflected good milk and red meat returns, along with revaluation of carbon holdings (NZUs).

“We are also pleased to be back to paying our shareholders a dividend, which will be $5 million for the 2017/18 financial year. . .

Dairy Hub farm reserach to be revealed at field day:  – Yvonne O’Hara:

Kale versus fodder beet, phosphorous supplementation and buffer widths will be the focus of the Southern dairy hub’s next field day at Makarewa on October 10.

DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley said they would be updating those attending about the early results of the studies being carried out on site.

Farm manager Shane Griffin will be talking about the hub farm’s progress and Dr Ross Monaghan, of AgResearch, will discuss results of the nitrogen leaching study.

Dairy apprenticeship programme celebrates first birthday:

Federated Farmers is wishing happy birthday today to the Federated Farmers Apprenticeship Dairy Programme on its first anniversary.

The pilot programme supported by MBIE, the PrimaryITO and Feds, was launched last year with the intention of finding more Kiwis keen to work in the dairy industry on farm, and keen to upskill into a farming career.

After almost a year Feds is proud to say we’ve had 193 employer expressions of interest, and 98 completed farm charters, enabling employers to enter the programme along with 180 eligible apprentice expressions of interest and 62 apprentices in the programme. . .

 

Rural round-up

September 24, 2018

There is support out there for Hawke’s Bay farmers – Georgia May:

Farmers constantly deal with situations that are out of their control, heavy weather, dairy payouts and stock illness. A vulnerability that doesn’t weigh on the minds of many others.

It’s been nearly three weeks since heavy rain struck the Hawke’s Bay region where some farmers lost up to 25 per cent of their newborn lambs.

While attitudes of farmers generally remain stoic through difficult times, others have spoken out, saying that they feel forgotten about. . .

Plant shows Alliance is serious

Processing has begun at Alliance’s new $15.9 million venison plant at Lorneville in Southland.

The first deer went through the plant last Monday. 

Once operating at peak capacity the plant will employ about 60 people.

It has improved handling facilities and an enhanced configuration. 

The slaughterboard, boning room and offal area are larger than those at Alliance’s venison processing facilities at Smithfield and the company’s former Makarewa plant. . .

Comprehensive interim tax report a useful step:

The Tax Working Group’s (TWG) Interim Report provides a useful resource for how New Zealand’s tax system could be improved says Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard.

“It’s a good piece of work. The report clearly articulates and explores the issues we raised in our submission – it’s a highlight when you can see you have been heard.”

A big issue explored in the report is whether to extend New Zealand’s taxation of capital income, says Andrew. “Federated Farmers remains opposed to a significant broadening of the capital gains tax particularly if it taxes unrealised capital gains.”

“The report outlines the value of providing ‘roll-over relief’ for farms sold to the next generation and for farmers wanting to ‘trade-up’ to a bigger more expensive farm.  These were two critical issues we raised in our submission to the TWG back in April so we are pleased that it has listened to us on those points. . .

Tax Working Group findings support private land conservation:

QEII National Trust is pleased to see the Tax Working Group’s recommendations acknowledged the scope for the tax system to support, sustain and enhance land protected by QEII covenants.

QEII National Trust CEO, Mike Jebson says “our covenantors know the value of investing in protected private land and we are pleased to see the Tax Working Group include suggestions that costs incurred in looking after land protected by QEII covenant should be treated as deductible expenses for tax purposes in their interim conclusions.” . .

UK farmers have edge on Kiwis – Jack Keeys:

Over the past 12 months I’ve visited numerous farms and agricultural companies throughout Britain. 

That insight provided an opportunity to observe New Zealand agriculture from an outside perspective and get a clear comparison with those on the other side of the world. 

Driving through Scotland, Ireland, Wales and now England I see the farms here exhibit a large variation in size, topography, climatic conditions and pasture management. 

However, some broad commonalities become very apparent.

The farms have insufficient infrastructure, they are under-stocked and have very inefficient pasture management.

Most farms require subsidies s to be profitable.  . .

Hunters under attack again:

Hunters all over new Zealand feel like they under an intense attack from the Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage who has let her personal hatred of wild animals cloud her judgement.

“This mass killing of up to 25,000 Himalayan Tahr is unprecedented in this country and about one million kilos of meat will be left to rot on the mountains of New Zealand. The stench and pollution of headwater streams will be on the Minister’s head. This is our food basket on which many families rely on.” says Alan Simmons President of The NZ Outdoors Party. . .


Rural round-up

September 22, 2018

Changes on the farm are improving water efficiency:

A water tax isn’t workable – but changes on the farm are improving water efficiency

IrrigationNZ says that introducing a nationwide water tax is not workable, and that allowing irrigators to continue to invest in more modern irrigation systems rather than taxing them will result in the biggest improvements in water use efficiency.

“A water tax has been considered in other countries internationally but in every case it has been abandoned. Other countries have found it too complex and expensive to design a fair water tax which can be easily implemented without resulting in adverse outcomes,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . .

1080 drop to go ahead after failed legal bid :

A conservation group has failed in its legal bid to stop a 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland.

The Friends of Sherwood Trust won a temporary injunction in the Environment Court halting the major pest control programme two weeks ago.

It argued that the drop breached the Resource Management Act which prohibits the dropping of substances in beds of lakes and rivers.

However today the court refused the Trust’s bid to further halt the drop.

“We are not persuaded that there is likely to be serious harm to the environment if the proposed application proceeds.” . .

Plans for huge tahr cull upset Otago hunters – Simon Hartley:

A sweeping cull of at least 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr proposed by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, has outraged some recreational hunters in Otago.

Ms Sage’s sudden announcement of the high killing ratio may yet be challenged in court.

Killing of the tahr, which are related to goats and were introduced here in 1904, is to start within two weeks.

Ms Sage is proposing the Department of Conservation kill 10,000 animals in various areas in the Southern Alps over the next eight months because the animal’s estimated 35,000 population was “three times” that permitted by the long established Himalayan Tahr Control Plan. . .

Meat firms need more staff – Chris Tobin:

South Canterbury meat companies are so desperate for workers to start the new killing season they are recruiting overseas.

Immigration NZ has approved work visas for 24 migrant employees to work at Alliance Smithfield this season.

Figures released to The Courier by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show Immigration NZ has also allowed Silver Fern Farms to employ 49 overseas workers in Canterbury, although the information did not specify what the break-down figures between the company’s two plants at Pareora and Belfast, Christchurch, were.

Work visas for 18 overseas workers for Anzco Foods at Ashburton have also been approved. . .

New Everyday FarmIQ pack targets mainstream dairy and livestock farmers.

A new range of software subscriptions from FarmIQ address the growing information needs of New Zealand dairy and livestock industry.

With a clear focus on the information needs of dairy and livestock farmers, the new packs will help mainstream New Zealand farmers run more productive and sustainable operations.

Darryn Pegram, FarmIQ Chief Executive Officer, said subscriptions start at $55 a month for the new “Everyday FarmIQ” software pack, delivering a broad suite of recording and reporting tools. . .

 ‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats -“

New findings suggest that more intensive agriculture might be the “least bad” option for feeding the world while saving its species – provided use of such “land-efficient” systems prevents further conversion of wilderness to farmland.

Agriculture that appears to be more eco-friendly but uses more land may actually have greater environmental costs per unit of food than “high-yield” farming that uses less land, a new study has found.

There is mounting evidence that the best way to meet rising food demand while conserving biodiversity is to wring as much food as sustainably possible from the land we do farm, so that more natural habitats can be “spared the plough”. . . .


Waste tax tackles wrong end of problem

August 21, 2018

The Green Party wants to increase taxes on waste at landfills.

. . There have been calls to increase the $10 a tonne levy, which applies to only around 11 per cent of waste disposal facilities, to as much as $140 a tonne. The levy in New South Wales for example is more than $A120 a tonne. Sage would not say what she would like to see the levy go up to, saying she wanted to see what the Ministry for the Environment work produced. . . 

This is yet another policy that is long on emotion and short on science.

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the environmental mantra.

Reducing waste in the first place would be a much better strategy than either recycling or higher taxes for disposing of it.

Recycling isn’t necessarily a greener option and higher landfill levies would provide an incentive for illegal dumping which would pose far greater environmental problems than disposal in landfills.

A tax would be tackling the wrong end of the waste problem, potentially increasing greenhouse gases and diverting rubbish from landfills without reducing it.


Principles pay price of power

July 27, 2018

The Green Party has paid for power with the loss of its principles in supporting the waka jumping legislation.

. . .Labour promised to support the waka jumping legislation in its coalition agreement with NZ First, but the legislation is not covered in its agreement with the Green Party.

However, a clause in the agreement seemingly holds the Greens to supporting any legislation not specifically flagged in the coalition talks, meaning the Greens MPs feel they have to vote for the waka jumping bill. . .

Have they voted for every piece of government legislation so far and will they continue to do so?

Didn’t they vote against the CPTTP? If they could stick to their principles then, when they were in the wrong, why not now when they’d be in the right?

It’s understood that the Green negotiators were asked to produce a list of potential NZ First legislation they could not agree with during coalition talks, and did not think to include Waka Jumping as it had been so long since the law had been an issue.

That was at best naive.

Former Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who was part of the negotiating team, said earlier this year the agreement did not in fact force the Greens into supporting the bill.

Then why are they doing it?

Green MP Eugenie Sage said “we don’t like it” but it was “very important” to one of the coalition parties.

“It is a dead rat they we have to swallow,” Sage said.

The Greens have long opposed such legislation. . .

Proponents argue that it maintains the proportionality of Parliament while opponents say it stifles democracy.

If maintaining proportionality was so important, National would have got another list MP when Peters won the seat of Northland. Instead of which NZ First got another MP.

National MP Nick Smith said the Greens had “sold their soul” and were “trashing their core values.”

“We’ve never before had a party saying it opposed a bill – leat alone a bill that makes changes to our electoral law and constitution where they are oppose to it but are going to vote it anyway.

“This is the Green Party selling its soul for power,” Smith said.

“They are the last party I would expect to do this.”

He goes further in a media release:

Government changes to New Zealand MMP electoral law enabling a party leader to dismiss an MP would break the constitutional law Allied Powers put in place following the end of the Second World War, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“The Government cannot justify this draconian law change on the basis of MMP. Germany has had MMP for over 70 years and has no such provisions. In fact, the Human Rights Commission has drawn to Parliament’s attention that it would be ironic and wrong for New Zealand to have insisted on specific democratic protections in Germany, but to be breaching those protections at home,” Dr Smith says.

It is not just Germany that has constitutional protections for MPs’ free speech. The European Court has over-ridden similar laws like those being proposed for New Zealand as undemocratic. The Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea struck down similar laws there in 2010.

New Zealand is putting itself in the company of totalitarian states like Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone with these electoral law changes.

That isn’t company any country, government or party that stands up for democratic rights would want to be in.

In these countries, Members of Parliament have been dismissed for challenging corruption in their own Government, for participating in a press conference without their leaders consent and for voting in Parliament differently to how their leaders instructed them. The Government is opening up the risk of this happening in New Zealand.

“New Zealanders should be deeply concerned that changes are being made to our electoral law that would be illegal and unconstitutional in most parts of the world. At a time when autocratic rulers are on the rise, New Zealand should be strengthening and not weakening our protections for democracy and free speech.

“This draconian bill that the Government accepts will have a ‘chilling effect on the expression of dissenting views by MPs’ must be abandoned.”

The select committee received submission after submission from legal experts, academics and a broad cross-section of people concerned for this assault on democracy.

And all because New Zealand First’s leader Winston Peters is so insecure and distrustful of his caucus.

Labour swallowed the dead rat in coalition negotiations. Green Party MPs are facing up to swallowing it now so the legislation will go through.

Their members won’t be happy but they are the ones who wouldn’t have countenanced the party going with National.

Had they agreed to a blue-green government they would have got several conservation gains, including the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Instead of which they’re watching their MPs dine on a large dead rat and wondering what other principles they might sacrifice as the price of power.


What if you don’t have a power bill?

June 29, 2018

This is an extraordinary admission from a minister:

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today told the Environment Select Committee that her key achievement in office is requiring New Zealanders who go tramping to carry power bills to prove to DOC rangers that they are kiwis, National’s Conservation Spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“This is outrageous. New Zealanders have an expectation that they have open access to the great outdoors. Instead, Ms Sage expects when we pack our tramping bags – we will remember to include our latest power bill,” Ms Dowie says. . . 

What happens to the many of us who don’t have power bills in our names?

Our bill is addressed to the farm not my farmer and me.

That will apply to a lot of people whose business is also their home.

But it’s not only home-based business people who won’t have power bills addressed to them.

Children, including adults, who live with their parents are unlikely to be the bill addressee; not all couples have bills in both their names and accounts for flats could well be addressed to one or some rather than all of the flatmates.

There could be a case for charging overseas tourists to access National Parks, but requiring us to carry a power bill when tramping isn’t the best way to sort the local sheep from the touring goats.


That was then . . .

April 18, 2018

Remember how hard Labour and the Green Party campaigned against the then-National Government’s appointing commissioners to Environment Canterbury?

That was then, this is now:

National Party spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration has welcomed the decision by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to follow the previous National Governments’ approach to keep the current Environment Canterbury (ECan) board.

“Nanaia Mahuta is making a sensible decision to keep the current ECan Board and returning to a full democracy at the 2019 local body election, as the previous National Government had planned,” Ms Wagner says.

“Labour made plenty of noise about the lack of full democracy in Canterbury whilst in Opposition. Both present Ministers Eugenie Sage and Megan Woods led an aggressive campaign to have full elections immediately.

“Yet again, now that Labour is in Government it has abandoned its policy and is continuing with the plan started by National.

“Our long-term approach whilst in Government was designed to improve the standards at ECan. In 2009, the previous Government appointed commissioners to ECan following repeated poor performance by the council in achieving their regulatory requirements.

“Thanks to the hard work of the commissioners and the strong, sensible leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley and David Bedford, Canterbury now has one of the best performing regional councils in New Zealand.

“This has always been about making good decisions for Canterbury. The commissioners were put in to complete the water management plan for Canterbury which had languished under the leadership of the previous council.

“Nanaia Mahuta’s decision shows that the long-term plan started in 2009 has been effective. Half of the members on ECan were elected in 2016 and the plan had long been for the full council to be elected in 2019.”

ECan wasn’t working with elected councillors.

Commissioners have improved performance. Half the board are now elected members and as National planned, all members will be elected at the next local body elections next year.


If only there’d been a teal deal

February 16, 2018

The governing coalition is all at sea over fisheries monitoring:

Evidence given to the Environment Select Committee from the Department of Conservation (DOC) today just goes to show the deeply divided factions occurring within the Coalition Government, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.

“Speaking at DOC’s annual review, the Director General Lou Sanson was asked what input his department has had on the new Government’s decision to firstly postpone and then, this week, cancel the introduction of cameras on fishing boats.

“Mr Sanson and DOC have always been spirited advocates of on-board cameras as one of the best practical measures needed to protect our declining marine bird species.

“He told the committee that DOC ‘absolutely’ maintains its position that cameras on fishing boats are essential if we are to reverse the decline in the sort of seabird species we see in our waters.

“It’s therefore quite extraordinary that his Minister, Eugenie Sage, has so quickly and thoroughly distanced herself from Stuart Nash’s decision to cancel the roll-out that the National Government initiated.

“It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that Mr Nash is being leant on by Coalition partner, New Zealand First.

“I’m surprised that as a junior Coalition partner, the Greens have allowed themselves to be side-lined in this way,” Mr Brownlee says.

The Green Party has had to swallow a lot of dead rats in its agreement to support Labour and New Zealand First in government.

Had they been able to countenance a deal with National last year, there would be no compromise over on-board cameras.

If the Greens could moderate their radical left economic and social agenda, they could sit in the political middle, able to go left and right.

A teal deal would have been better for both the economy and environment than what we’ve got – a red and black one with a weak green off-shoot.


Rural round-up

February 8, 2018

NZ needs more water storage in a changing climate:

The importance of water storage in helping provide a reliable supply of water for urban communities, and for food and energy production in a changing climate needs to be recognised, says IrrigationNZ.

“We are seeing the effects of poor future planning for the effects of climate change on water infrastructure overseas, with Cape Town expected to soon run out of water. By ratifying the Paris Agreement in 2016, New Zealand confirmed it will plan for and take action to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Developing more water storage to supply towns, rural communities and for food and energy production is important to protect the future wellbeing of Kiwis,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . . 

Dairy product prices climb for third straight auction amid supply concern – Margreet Dietz:

(BusinessDesk) – Dairy product prices rose at the Global Dairy Trade auction, rising for the third straight time, as buyers stocked up in anticipation of easing output.

The GDT price index climbed 5.9 percent from the previous auction three weeks ago. The average price was US$3,553 a tonne. Some 22,197 tonnes of product was sold, down from 23,319 tonnes three weeks ago.

Whole milk powder rallied 7.6 percent to US$3,226 a tonne. . .

Have your say: Bill aims to deter livestock theft:

Parliament is now seeking public submissions on a bill aimed at deterring livestock rustling (the theft of livestock from farms or property).

Livestock rustling is estimated to cost the farming community over $120 million each year and is a major threat to farming businesses. It also puts the safety of people in isolated, rural areas at risk because rustlers are often armed. . . 

Bay of Plenty Maori partner with Japan’s Imanaka on high-value dairy products – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – A group of Maori organisations has partnered with Japanese food company Imanaka to develop a milk processing plant to make high-value niche products in Kawerau.

Kawerau Dairy is a collaboration between 11 Maori Bay of Plenty entities, which own two thirds of the venture, and Imanaka’s Cedenco Dairy unit, which owns the remaining third. They expect the first stage of the $32 million project to begin operations early next year.

The dairy venture is following the model of the Miraka milk company in Taupo which was set up by Maori interests with an overseas food group as a cornerstone shareholder, with power supplied from Maori geothermal assets and much of the milk supply sourced from local Maori farms. . . 

Eugenie Sage has questions to answer on cancelled land sale:

Eugenie Sage has questions to answer on her reasons for turning down the sale of the Sullivan Mine on the West Coast to Bathurst Coal Limited against the advice of overseas investment officials, National Party Energy and Resources Spokesperson Jonathan Young says.

“Ms Sage needs to give an absolute assurance that her views as Conservation Minister and as a Green Party MP have not coloured her statutory role as Minister for Land Information,” Mr Young says.

“Bathurst is a significant investor on the West Coast and Southland, creating jobs and economic activity in each region. . . 

NZ’s first avocado shipment arrives safely in China:

The first airfreighted consignment of fresh New Zealand avocados has arrived safely into China, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said today.

This follows agreement and signing of a protocol on phytosanitary requirements between New Zealand and China last November, and a technical audit of New Zealand’s regulatory system for exporting avocados by Chinese officials in January.

“Securing export access for our avocados into China has been New Zealand’s top horticulture priority,” says MPI Director-General Martyn Dunne. . .

Wellington to host FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional final:

A former cocktail bartender, an award-winning contract milker and a drone-flying drystock farmer will face off in the Taranaki/Manawatu Regional Final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

Farmers will descend on the nation’s capital for the event on February 24th.

It’s believed to be the first time the regional final has been held in Wellington. . . 

Nominations Open for Silver Fern Farms Co-Op Board Directors:

Nominations are now open for two farmer-elected Board positions on the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Board.

Directors Rob Hewett and Fiona Hancox retire by rotation at the Company’s 2017 Annual Meeting.

Rob Hewett and Fiona Hancox have advised they will seek re-election.

Nominations close on Monday 5 March 2018 at 5pm. . .. 


Global problem requires global solutions

May 18, 2016

The Green Party continues its blinkered approach to the environment with its call to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme:

The call comes in the wake of a study, part funded by the New Zealand Government,1 showing that global warming pollution from agriculture must be cut significantly to keep global temperatures below a 2° rise, and that currently not nearly enough is being done to achieve this.

“National needs to stop making excuses and set a deadline to end the growing levels of climate-damaging pollution from agriculture,” said Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The National Government has repeatedly refused to push the agricultural sector to reduce climate damaging pollution, despite this being a requirement for the energy sector, transport providers and nearly every other New Zealander.

Wrong.

The government was the prime mover behind the establishment of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural GHGs which is using international collaboration to find  solutions. It’s also working with farmers who are paying for research into methods to reduce emissions without the financial and social costs that the Green’s solution would impose, not just on farmers but the wider economy.

“All New Zealanders, including farmers, want to preserve a safe and stable climate for future generations. That means facing reality, and committing to an end to pollution-intensive farming. . . 

Facing reality means accepting that global problems require global solutions.

That means understanding that reducing food production here would increase emissions because production would increase in other countries with far less efficient farming methods than those employed by most New Zealand farmers.

It also means accepting good science which could show that genetic modification is one of the solutions.

AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified ryegrass that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% but biotechnology experts warn regulations could delay its use.

Though it has several environmental benefits and could boost production it faces regulatory hurdles here because it has been genetically engineered.

The scientists have shown in the laboratory the ryegrass, called High Metabolisable Energy (HME), can reduce methane emissions from animals by 15% to 30% while modelling suggests a reduction in nitrous oxide of up to 20%.

It has also shown resilience to dry weather and can increase milk production by up to 12%.

Environmentalists have berated agriculture for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions but if laboratory results are replicated in the field, HME could reignite the GM debate.

UN research shows New Zealand farmers can cut climate damaging pollution with current technology, by as much as 17 percent. The Government shouldn’t be pinning all its hopes on a silver bullet solution to agricultural pollution.

“Leading dairy farmers are showing they can increase profit and cut pollution by optimising stocking rates and by shifting production to high-value, low-impact organic dairy farming. We need all farmers to follow suit,” said Ms Sage.

Of course reducing stock would reduce emissions here but it would at best do nothing to reduce world-wide emissions and would almost certainly lead to an increase as less efficient producers elsewhere increased their production.

The Green solution would reduce food production and lead to increases in both the price of food, which would impact hardest on the poor, and emissions.

Farmers are doing all they can to reduce emissions globally rather than the smoke and mirrors approach of cuts here replaced by increases there the Green Party is promoting.


Dalziel sees light on asset sales?

August 2, 2014

Christchurch has to find an extra $883 million by 2019 to cover its share of the rebuild and one of the options for funding that is asset sales:

. . . Meanwhile the Cameron Partners report shows the council needs to find an extra $883 million by 2019 to cover its share of the rebuild – constructing basic community facilities like libraries and swimming pools, and carrying out road and piping repairs.

The finance advisory firm believes the council has few legitimate reasons to hold onto its entire $2.6 billion asset portfolio and says there is “considerable scope” for a partial sale.

Ms Dalziel says the proposal is being considered as part of a wider recovery plan, which is likely to include rate increases and spending cuts. The council plans to open the floor for consultation in September and will listen to public opinion before making any decision.

The council is considering the release of around $400 million in capital from CCHL. The $2.6 billion portfolio includes Christchurch International Airport, the Lyttelton Port Company and electricity supplier Orion – although Ms Dalziel hopes to maintain “strategic control” of all three companies. . .

Christchurch mayor, Lianne Dalziel, was a Labour MP when the party so vehemently opposed the government’s plan to sell shares in a few state assets.

She appears to have now seen the light and accepts that asset sales would be preferable to a huge rates hike or steep increase in debt but her former colleagues are still in the dark:

Labour will vigorously oppose short term solutions to plug Christchurch City Council’s funding shortfall – including asset sales – which leave the city worse off financially and strategically in the long term, Labour’s Canterbury Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson says. . .

The Green Party is similarly blinkered:

Christchurch City Council should not be forced into selling its strategic assets, the Green Party said today. . .

“A firesale of Council assets involving the sale or partial sale of strategic assets such as Orion and Christchurch Airport is not in Christchurch’s interests,” said Green Party Christchurch spokesperson Eugenie Sage today. . .

This is the council’s business not opposition partys’.

The government is making a multi-billion dollar commitment to the rebuild and no-one should begrudge that but the city has to help itself too.

Christchurch people have more than enough to cope with without substantial rates increases or shackling themselves with excessive debt.

The city council has asked for advice on what to do and it’s up to it to do it or not without the interference from opportunistic opposition parties blinded by their ideological opposition to sensible economics and more interested in securing votes than the best interests of the city and its people.


Getting balance right for water

July 4, 2014

National has announced national standards for water quality which balance economic development and environmental sustainability.

The Government has today announced clear, robust national standards for freshwater that will make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy say the changes announced today are a critical milestone in the Government’s drive to improve water quality.

“Ensuring an on-going and reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental and economic issues facing New Zealand today,” Ms Adams says.

“It is critical that we protect and improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”

Mr Guy says the changes balance economic growth with environmental sustainability.

“It’s not an either-or situation – we need both.

This is very important.

We can have, and we need, both economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Primary industries contribute more than 76 per cent of our merchandise exports and largely depend on freshwater, while tourism also relies on the beauty of New Zealand’s water bodies.

“We all want sustainable and profitable primary industries. That will mean changes to some of our farming practices, but I know farmers are up for the challenge.”

Among the changes announced today, is the introduction of national standards for freshwater in New Zealand.

This means, for the first time, New Zealand rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

More than 60 freshwater scientists from public, private and academic sectors across New Zealand have come up with numeric values proposed for the national standards.

“In 2011, the Government required Councils to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers across their region. If their water quality is already above the national standard it cannot be allowed to deteriorate,” Ms Adams says.

“However, where a water body currently falls below the national standard, councils and communities will need to ensure that the standard is met over sensible and realistic timeframes.”

To help councils with the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, Ms Adams is currently considering applications from regional councils for $1.1m of funding for activities that support regional planning and community participation in freshwater management. Decisions will be announced shortly.

The Government has today also released a high level snapshot of the freshwater reform programme.

Delivering Freshwater Reform provides the history and context for the reforms, outlines why they need to take place and what the desired outcomes are, in an accessible and understandable way.

“Recent freshwater reform documents have had to include sufficient detail for the stakeholders who have a strong level of engagement and acceptance of the reforms,” Ms Adams says.

“This document focuses on providing information to a wide range of New Zealanders who care deeply about water quality and are unlikely to be participating in the more detailed consultation phases.” . . .

Irrigation NZ has welcomed the policy:

. . .  INZ agrees that New Zealand’s fresh water needs nationally consistent, better, more direct and clearer policy to ensure it is sustainably and effectively managed for the benefit of all.

“By having national bottom lines and allowing for regional and local circumstances, the NPS and NOF will prevent situations where unrealistic conditions are set on water quality for irrigation schemes,” says Andrew Curtis, INZ CEO. “Having everyone work off the same page will mean that resource consent processes will be less onerous and less time and money will be wasted reaching acceptable outcomes.”

INZ is pleased that the updated NPS seems to have broadened its measures of water quality and now requires a fuller understanding of issues which impact a body of water before setting limits. “The NPS now suggests that biotic indicators such as the Macro-invertebrate Community Index (MCI), should be included as performance measures – this is a good thing,” says Mr Curtis.

INZ believes that if community freshwater values, as now set out in Appendix 1, are to be realised, attention needs to be paid to an inclusive range of factors such as pest management, habitat restoration, sediment loads, as well as nutrients, to maintain and improve river health.

 “There are many examples around the country which show how habitat restoration alongside stock exclusion and phosphate management have created thriving rivers – despite relatively high nitrate levels – such as the Wakakahi stream in south Canterbury,” says Mr Curtis.

“New Zealanders need to understand maintaining and improving water quality is complex and can be achieved in many different ways – sticking a number on it and regulating everyone to this does not achieve outcomes,” he says.

Additionally, INZ believes that the exceptions provisions may pose a future risk and looks forward to greater clarification.

“Healthy waterways are the responsibility of both urban as well as rural New Zealand, and we must face New Zealand’s water quality challenges as a nation. Farmers are not solely responsible for issues with waterways and should not be picked on to solve these problems on their own.”

INZ is committed to finding a way for New Zealand to develop sustainably managed irrigation schemes within acceptable environmental limits.

“Water is our most valuable renewable resource and we believe that irrigation in New Zealand is essential to protect against climatic variations and to enhance the country’s ability to feed its population and to contribute to feeding the world,” says Mr Curtis.

Fonterra welcomes the framework too:

Fonterra says the Government’s announcement on changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management lays the groundwork for consistent and robust decisions about the management of New Zealand’s freshwater.

Fonterra Acting Group Director Cooperative Affairs, Sarah Paterson, says, “Today’s announcement is an important step towards a nationally consistent approach to managing freshwater. At the same time, it gives communities the tools they need to make decisions about their waterways.”

Ms Paterson says regions across the country have been grappling with the challenge of setting workable environmental limits. Setting national standards for freshwater will provide greater clarity on the science that needs to underpin environmental limits.

“Fonterra and our farmers have been taking part in a collaborative community approach to develop environmental limits. We want these discussions to be based on sound science and economic analysis, and we believe these national standards will help achieve this.”

“We are absolutely committed to lifting environmental performance and improving water quality in New Zealand. Fonterra’s farmers have mapped every waterway and fenced over 23,500km of waterways. Nutrient data has been collected from nearly 4,000 farms to provide information on mitigating the impact of nutrients,” says Ms Paterson.

“We recognise the huge amount of work that has so far gone into preparing these national standards, and we welcome the continuing efforts being made to complete the task.”

Regional councils are supportive of the standards:

The establishment of National Water Standards are being welcomed by the regional sector as bringing valuable guidance to local decision making.

Chair of the regional sector, Fran Wilde, says the standards provide a clear direction from central government while allowing local democracy to do its job.

“All sectors of the community rely on freshwater for one reason or another. Regional councils are responsible for managing the country’s lakes and rivers and, in doing so, must balance the needs of the community.

“New Zealand’s geography alone results in the nature of rivers and lakes being vastly different depending on where in the country you are. Just as the alpine rivers of the south are valued for their aesthetic beauty, so too are the lowland river flats valued for their agricultural productivity.

“As a sector we believe it’s critical for local people to have a say in how their waterways are managed and to what level.”

Ms Wilde says that minimum standards provide a solid foundation to begin conversations with communities about the values they place on a waterway and whether any changes are needed in the way it’s used and looked after.

“Until now, we haven’t had central government direction around how our rivers and lakes should be managed. The establishment of minimum standards provides clear guidance without disregarding the views of the community should they wish to go beyond these standards.”

Ms Wilde says the maintenance of New Zealand’s freshwater relies on a strong partnership with central and regional government and this is evident in the number of restoration initiatives underway around the country.

“Regional councils and our communities are working closely with central government through programmes like A Fresh Start for Freshwater to improve rivers and lakes throughout the country. In many cases government funding is being met with regional funding with over half a billion dollars from taxes, rates and private initiatives going towards cleaning up and protecting our lakes and rivers since 2000.”

These are minimum standards, not a ceiling.

Councils and communities will want better quality in many places and will need to work together to achieve it.

The Minister made this point in question time yesterday:

Hon AMY ADAMS: At the moment, of course, the counterfactual is that there is no requirement for any particular standard for human health. Actually putting in place a minimum requirement that at the very least every fresh water area must be safe for wading and boating is a big step forward. What we have done today is confirm that every council must consider whether it is appropriate to also manage for swimmability. What has to be understood is that each time we move the bar up through that ladder, it brings considerable extra cost on to communities and councils. If the member is campaigning that her party will set the standard there and not leave that choice to local communities, it is welcome to do so, but I look forward to seeing those billions of dollars included in its financial estimates.

Eugenie Sage: Why is the Minister leaving it to regional councils to consider swimmability, and does she not think that it is a national issue and a central government responsibility to ensure that rivers across New Zealand are clean and safe for swimming?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I had always thought that that member was a proponent of local decision-making, but actually we do think it is for communities to decide—above that minimum standard, which is brand new and has never been there before—which areas are to be used for swimming and are to be protected for that, and which are not. We are not going to impose billions of dollars of costs on ratepayers and communities in areas where they do not seek it. What we have put in place is a considerable step forward from what Labour and the Greens were happy to live with, and we are very proud of it.

Eugenie Sage: What does she say to the Otago Regional Council, which said that the bottom line for human health should be contact recreation because such a low standard as secondary contact, where rivers are fit for only wading and boating, is “not consistent with the national identity New Zealand associates with its clean image of its water resources”?

Hon AMY ADAMS: What I would say to the Otago Regional Council is that it is very welcome to set that standard across its water bodies if that is what its community chooses. The difference now is that we have a national expectation of a minimum standard, which has never been there before. That alone is going to impose some costs on communities, but the extent to which they want to go beyond that is up to them. It would be a nonsense to impose costs on water bodies that no one wants to use for swimming or that no one has contemplated for swimming. That is why regional decision-making then becomes important.

Eugenie Sage: Why did the Minister ignore the approximately 90 percent of submitters who wanted the bottom line for human health to be rivers that are clean and safe for swimming?

Hon AMY ADAMS: We have not ignored it. What we have done is made it compulsory now for every council to consider whether swimming is the appropriate standard for that water body. That was not in the draft, and the reason we have done that is that we understand the cost impact that goes with that. As I have said, if those members want to include the billions of dollars of impact from putting that standard in, I look forward to seeing that in their alternative budgets.

Eugenie Sage: Does the Minister still claim that no river quality is allowed to deteriorate, when the Freshwater Sciences Society said that the proposed limits on nitrate in her proposals last November have the potential for “New Zealand’s rivers to become some of the most nitrogen-polluted amongst OECD countries whilst still remaining compliant” and her announcements today have not changed the nitrate limit?

Hon AMY ADAMS: I do not accept that, because, as that member well knows, there is already a requirement for water quality in a region to be maintained or improved. There is no ability—and nor do I imagine there is any desire—for councils to suddenly rush downwards in their water quality. In my experience, communities and councils are absolutely focused on improving water quality, but the important point is this: today there is nothing stopping our lakes and rivers from being completely dead environments. That is what Labour and the Greens were happy with. We are not. This is a step forward, no matter how the member tries to spin it. . .

New Zealand’s water standards aren’t as good as they used to be.

That’s because we used to have pristine water and it’s important to remember while that is no longer the case in all but a very few secluded places, our water quality is still very high by world standards.

That said, some waterways are of unacceptable quality and need to be cleaned up.

Most are okay and that standard should be at the very least maintained and preferably improved.

We can and must learn from other countries and the best practice here to ensure that happens.

There’s more information on the Government’s freshwater reforms, including the updated National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management here.

 

We’re taking action to improve freshwater quality for all New Zealanders. http://ntnl.org.nz/1opocYo #Working4NZ


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