Rural round-up

12/04/2021

A victory for common sense – Alan Emmerson:

My views on the original wintering rules are well known. Basically, the original system, the Essential Freshwater Rules on winter grazing, were unworkable and promulgated by a bureaucracy without any knowledge of rural issues.

It was obvious at the start that the rules wouldn’t work, but the civil servants continued at pace.

The Southland farmers protested, backed by the local council.

Then Environment Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage labelled them irresponsible. I’d have called them realistic. I remain unconvinced that Sage has any idea of the practicalities of farming despite the nation relying on the ag sector for its prosperity. I’d have said the same for her department. . . 

Native forestry good for environment and climate – Paul Quinlan:

The Climate Change Commission says NZ should plant 300,000ha of new permanent native forests by 2035, but indigenous forestry advocates argue we should go much further in harvesting indigenous timber.

Nature-based forestry is ‘a blend between art, culture, and science’, where forests are managed on a continuous cover basis and allowed to reach their full potential in terms of the holistic services they can provide, including timber. Harnessing the power of markets is suggested as an effective way to shift land-use towards more natural forest management.

Last year, Dame Anne Salmond articulated an aspirational vision for “intelligent forestry” in Aotearoa. She has clearly been inspired by models of continuous cover forestry – specifically, ‘close-to-nature forestry’ practices, where the emphasis is on management of a whole and healthy natural ecosystem and where timber production is only one objective to be managed in a compatible way with the many other cultural, environmental and recreational values in each part of the forest. . . 

Environmental impact of forestry taking a toll on East Coast communities – Tom Kitchin:

East Coast locals are disheartened by the prospect of more forestry in the area as the industry grows.

The Climate Change Commission is encouraging the planting of thousands of hectares of forestry in decades to come.

But many people in Gisborne and Wairoa say the industry is damaging their pristine environment and ruining communities.

In Tolaga Bay, a small town of about 800 people nearly an hour north of Gisborne, one end of the beach near the famous wharf is almost clear and sandy, with only a touch of wood nearby. . . 

Team of 5 million – Gerald Piddock:

The new DairyNZ Climate Change Ambassador chair says New Zealand as a whole needs to work together to achieve climate goals.

Getting the dairy industry to achieve tough new climate goals is like running an ultramarathon, recently appointed DairyNZ Climate Change Ambassador chair Fraser McGougan says.

Both require small steps to get to the finish line and both are huge undertakings.

McGougan has already accomplished one of these milestones, having completed an ultramarathon in February. . . 

Trusty tractor at farmer’s side over decades, across world – Mary-Jo Tohill:

A tractor, is a tractor, is a tractor … but then there’s Ian Begg’s tractor. The former Wyndham Station owner talks about how this humble piece of farm machinery shaped his life. Mary-Jo Tohill reports.

People ask him: “What are you?”

He answers: “I’m still a farmer, cos I’m nothing else.”

Ian Begg, the former owner of Wyndham Station in Southland has been many other things — orchardist, importer, real estate agent and developer. But the farm boy remains.

The 75-year-old was reminded of his roots when he attended Wheels at Wanaka at Easter, and was reunited with the tractor that took him 27,000km across the globe, and set a world record for the longest journey by a tractor in 1993-94. . . 

New chief at VFF eyes closer links with consumers – Gregor Heard:

NEW VICTORIAN Farmers Federation chief executive Jane Lovell believes agriculture has an excellent story to tell, but it needs stronger links to consumers and the community to do so.

Ms Lovell, who has a background in areas as diverse as plant pathology, politics and quality assurance, said providing a solid platform for agriculture to be able to demonstrate its credentials was a key goal in her new role.

“Talking about and demonstrating our sustainability and environmental stewardship are going to become even more important with consumers,” Ms Lovell said.

“Gone are the days when everyone had a farmer as a close relative and sadly, this means many people don’t have that connection to farming and the land,” she said . . .


Rural round-up

19/10/2020

Rural stakeholders meet over Mackenzie fires – Annette Scott:

Federated Farmers and the Forest and Rural Fire Stakeholders Forum are calling for urgent action following two major fires in South Canterbury’s Mackenzie district.

The embers had barely cooled on the most recent, the Ohau fire, before the debate turned to causes and Feds and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage crossed swords on what degree fire fuel loads on Department of Conservation (DOC) land were a factor.

“We definitely need some answers sooner rather than later,” Feds high country chair Rob Stokes said.

At a rural stakeholders meeting, including farming and DOC representatives, Stokes said it was a matter of absolute urgency to start planning now before the next fire. . . 

Ag Uni staff facing job cuts – Colin Williscroft:

Staff cuts at Lincoln University and Massey University’s College of Sciences have raised concerns about the impact they could have on future teaching and research of agricultural and horticultural science.

Earlier this month, Massey science staff received a discussion document that says the college’s expenses urgently need to be cut, with most of its curriculum affected by unsustainably low enrolments as a result of New Zealand’s border closure to overseas students.

The document set out two options to address the situation, with both requiring changes to the curriculum, along with a reduction in staff numbers of around a third – which equates to about 100 jobs. . . .

Shareholders Council review – final report out– Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman James Barron says the council supports the recommendations of a review into its role and functions.

A steering group delivered its final report to the council today.

Barron says the council is committed to actioning the recommendations.

He says councillors will be meeting farmers in their respective wards next month “to get a greater understanding of their views and expectations”. . . 

Don’t fence me in :

Three New Zealand farms are now using electronic cow collars that use sound and vibration to guide and contain individual cows without the need for fences.

The collars are designed by the Kiwi agri-tech company Halter. 

Basil the Friesian cow munches calmly in the paddock.

As she moves there’s a quiet beep emanating from a collar around her neck. . .

Gisborne sheep shorn after five years producing record-breaking fleece :

A Gisborne sheep that evaded capture for five years has finally been shorn, producing a record-breaking fleece.

Gizzy Shrek was shorn at the Poverty Bay A & P show this morning, producing a 13kg fleece, said its owner Rob Faulkner.

“It’s a hell of a lot of wool to carry around.”

It broke the record for the world’s longest fleece, measuring in at 58 centimetres. . .

Women’s work in agriculture set to take leading role – Andrew Marshall:

Women working in agriculture are increasingly likely to be better educated than their male peers and are on course to make up about half of the industry’s managers in 10 years.

More women than men are now studying and graduating from tertiary degrees in agriculture and environment-related courses according to research by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

The analysis, which covers the entire agribusiness service and production sector, noted a 23 per cent jump in the number of women who completed post school education qualifications in ag-related subjects between 2011 and 2016. . . 


Feds fired up over fires

07/10/2020

Federated Farmers wants to baa DOC from the high country because sheep do a better job:

The fire risk on Department of Conservation-managed land is being mismanaged and neglected, and needs urgent review, Federated Farmers says.

More than 1600 hectares have been destroyed by the fire at Lake Ohau that also ripped through the small alpine village on Sunday morning. Five weeks ago, around 3000 hectares of trees and scrub were turned to ash.

“It’s not even fire season and we have lost almost 50 homes and over 5000 ha because of fire,” Federated Farmers High Country Chair Rob Stokes says.

“In August we had the Pukaki Downs fires, also burning through DOC land, and now just weeks later another fire, again burning through DOC land. Both these fires were entirely avoidable.

“Lake Ohau residents who have tragically lost their homes must today have serious questions around what fuelled the fire.”

Federated Farmers has held grave fears for many years that locking up high country land without the proper care is dangerous.

In future Feds believes the risk will become even greater as the government’s new freshwater policies and the livestock destocking that will come through unreasonable fencing requirements will kick in. These policies will result in the growth of more combustible vegetation.

“This fire is another red flag; how many do we need?” Rob asks.

The 2012 Report of the Independent Fire Review said vegetation fires were arguably New Zealand’s most significant fire risk.

Destocking hill and high-country farms for conservation purposes has not been thoroughly thought through, Rob says.

“There is simply no science to support destocking. Now people have lost their homes because of mismanagement by DOC.”

Passive grazing of these areas in the past has significantly reduced the fire risk by controlling wilding pines and grasses, which left ungrazed become fuel. It also enabled the landowners and leaseholders to manage other pests while preserving open landscapes.

Feds also wants to forget the cheap shots and get serious about fire risk vegetation:

The destruction at Lake Ohau should light a fire under DOC for early negotiations with farmers on a partnership approach to deal with uncontrolled vegetation on conservation land, Federated Farmers says.

“For Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage to suggest yesterday that Federated Farmers was opportunistic in the wake of the Ohau blaze and just looking for free grazing was a cheap shot,” Feds High Country Chairperson Rob Stokes says.

Her comment that farmers are looking for cheap grazing was a very cheap shot and an uniformed one.

“We have been warning about fire fuel loads on DOC land in the South Island for years.  We have only been opportunistic in the sense that the near-miss to human lives, not to mention the stock loss and serious property damage from Sunday’s fire, was a chance to finally get some traction with the department and the government on this issue.

“Farmers aren’t looking for ‘free’ anything.  They operate commercial businesses and they’re looking for a partnership, with contracts, to try and reduce a serious risk to safety, private property and the environment,” Rob says.

Federated Farmers recognises there are some areas of the DOC estate where it’s totally inappropriate to have livestock.  But in less sensitive areas, low numbers of sheep or cattle can keep combustible grass, scrub and immature wilding pine levels down.

“Australia, the UK and the USA have learned this lesson but in New Zealand we seem to be going 180 degrees in the other direction.  In fire risk areas of those other nations, authorities are inviting farmers to graze livestock on public land – in fact, in some places are paying them to do so.”

On her return from the Climate Smart Agriculture event in Bali last year, former Feds President Katie Milne pointed out that Spain had rejected pressure for reductions in livestock numbers after it was pointed out that with fewer livestock chewing down grass and bush in forested areas, the losses and costs of forest fires already equivalent to around 3% of Spain’s GDP would accelerate.

For farmers, grazing adjacent DOC land can be more of a headache than a gain.  Because the areas are not fenced, mustering is time-consuming and the land is often such that the animals don’t put on much weight.

“Any grazing arrangement might only be for three months a year.  What is the farmer supposed to do with the animals for the other nine months?  That’s why it’s sensible to have long-term arrangements with land-owners immediately adjacent to DOC land, so there’s no costs trucking animals in and so on,” Rob says.

“Federated Farmers welcomes an opportunity to sit down with DOC for a sensible discussion on the practicalities of fire fuel loads on the public estate.” 

At least some of the people who are screaming loudest about the dangers of climate change are the ones who oppose mitigation – irrigation, and farming practices such as light grazing which have protected the high country for generations.


DoC policy fueling fires?

06/10/2020

Is DOC policy fueling fires?

Farmers say wilding vegetation on DOC land helped fuel the Lake Ōhau fire but the conservation minister has hit back saying nature does not start fires.

The Ōhau fire destroyed at least 20 homes and forced around 90 people to evacuate.

Federated Farmers High Country Committee chairman Rob Stokes said he had been warning the government about this danger for 12 years.

He said DOC closing up land for national parks meant that the ground was not grazed by sheep and cattle and therefore tussocks and grass were left to grow wild.

“I’ve been in the high country committee for 12 years and we’ve bought it up with DOC every year – the fuel that has been built up over the years is going to be an ongoing issue.

“It’s early in the season to be hit but it won’t be the last fire that’s for sure,” Stokes said.

He said it was good the government was investing a lot into wilding pine and weed control but more needs to be done.

“The scrub builds up over a year – when the country used to be clean we had buffer zones, but the conservation land is a bomb waiting to go off.”

Andrew Simpson farms merino sheep and cattle at Balmoral Station near Lake Tekapo.

He has notified Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage often about this problem.

“I’ve told her they may need to rethink how they manage some of this conservation land it is a fuel load and a disaster waiting to happen.

“She didn’t dismiss grazing it again but I’ve said that she might have to do some strategic fuel loading burns to get rid some of the problem areas like they do in Australia.

“It creates fire breaks and alleviates the risk of so much land being burnt,” Simpson said. . . 

Mackenzie District mayor Graham Smith also blames DOC mismanagement of conservation land:

Five weeks ago, a fire near Lake Pukaki, near Twizel, burned through more than 3500ha of land – much of it wilding pines – on August 30.

Mr Smith has joined a growing chorus of voices calling for better management of Doc land to prevent such blazes from burning out of control in future. . . 

“It is a huge risk to neighbouring properties to have areas of land with that much vegetation and fuel for fires. I would like to see better management practises.”

Ms Sage today visited Lake Ohau village and said she remained focused on the losses people faced in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

However, she said there would be a need for a conversation about ‘‘land management in the bigger picture’’ in future.

The current Government had put $100 million over four years into controlling wilding conifers, Ms Sage said, and on conservation land these had been substantially reduced.

‘‘Federated Farmers, I think, was making a push for free grazing,” she said. “Nature doesn’t start fires except by occasional lightning strikes, it’s managing human activity that is the key.”

No-one said anything about free. If light grazing was permitted it could help fund conservation.

North Otago Federated Farmers high country chairman Simon Williamson, a farm owner between Omarama and Twizel, said he had been woken by news of the Lake Ohau fire after 3am yesterday. . . 

Mr Williamson said the retired land the fire was spreading through was a “huge risk” that had not been addressed.

“All this ground that’s been locked up and hasn’t been grazed is becoming a hazard to life. The fuel loading in the land is just huge.”

Mr Williamson said having two fires in the past month highlighted the dangers of retired land and wilding pines.

“People are saying they want to lock everything up and create a safe habitat, but you’re not locking it up when it’s not being grazed or managed … you get one spark and it spreads and burns everything in sight.”

Mr Williamson said he heard of three or four farms that had lost livestock or had to move it.

“It’s really disappointing. We’ve been warning of this for a long time … once upon a time it was all grazing land.

“There’s a mindset that grazing is bad and it kills wildlife, but the reality is these massive blazes are going to happen more and more and spread further and further.”

The government has put millions into wilding pine control but that is a different issue from the fuel load that builds up when grass and scrub aren’t grazed.

The tenure review process has put many thousands of hectares under DOC control and not all has been a conservation success.

Farmers used to carry out weed and pest control but DOC hasn’t been funded to do as much of that as is needed.

And contrary to the views of those dark green advocates, removing stock doesn’t mean the land returns to the pristine condition in which they think it existed in a utopian past.

The hills around the summit of the Lindis Pass used to be covered in tussock. Without the stock grazing and application of fertiliser that happened when the area was farmed, hieracium is colonising the hillsides and the tussock is disappearing.

That isn’t nearly as scenic as the tussock was but it’s the danger of the growing fuel load that worries neighbouring land owners most.

Lightening strikes excepted, nature doesn’t start fires. But left to its own devices nature does add to the fuel load that increases the risk of fire spreading regardless of how it starts.


Rural round-up

19/09/2020

Fonterra back in the black :

Fonterra has posted a $659 million profit and will pay farmers $7.19/kg milksolids for the 2019-20 season.

It has held the forecast for the 2020-21 season at $5.90-6.90/kg MS.

The dividend for the 2019-20 season is 5c a share.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says 2019-20 was a good year for the co-op, with profit up, debt down and a strong milk price.

“We increased our profit after tax by more than $1 billion, reduced our debt by more than $1 billion and this has put us in a position to start paying dividends again,” he says. . . 

Farmers and growers call for help with labour shortages – Katie Todd:

Farmers and growers say if agriculture is going to drag the country’s economy back into shape, they will need help to fix labour shortages.

While urban centres went into a strict lockdown in April and May – contributing to a 12.2 percent tumble in gross domestic product – agriculture, forestry and fishing saw only a marginal drop of 2.2 percent.

The pandemic has done little to disrupt business on Damien Roper’s south Taranaki farm, home to 420 dairy cows.

He said even in the throes of the level four lockdown, his classification as an essential worker made it almost business as usual. . . 

Urgent government intervention required for horticulture industry Finance Minister told :

Industry representatives met with Finance Minister, Grant Robertson in Hawke’s Bay earlier this week to discuss challenges facing the regional fruit and wine industry. The main item of discussion was around labour pressure for the coming grape, summerfruit and apple harvests – pressure that will see more than 10,000 seasonal workers needed.

Industry welcomed the Minister’s positive message that the government understood the issue facing these industries.

“With backpackers and Pacific seasonal workers down by 50,000, the industry is facing an incredibly difficult task across New Zealand this season,” says New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI) chief executive Alan Pollard. . . 

‘Languishing’ Jobs for Nature process leave tourism operator fearful – Tess Brunton:

A South Island tourism operator says he could have prevented redundancies if wasn’t for delays to a nature-based job creation scheme.

More than $1 billion was earmarked for the Jobs for Nature programme in May as part of the government’s cross-agency Covid-19 recovery package to run over four years.

Today, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced an extra $19.7 million for kiwi conservation aimed at reversing the decline of the species.

While the funding has been welcomed, some applicants have been waiting months in limbo unsure if they will get a green light. . . 

Agricultural policy must incentivise innovation:

Agcarm calls on the government to introduce managed risk to legislation. Its chief executive Mark Ross says that the rural sector faces many, and often conflicting, demands. “Our farmers and growers are faced with the challenges of growing more food and fibre in reducing hectares of available space. They are also being asked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, keep up with international best practice, minimise residues and manage resistance.

“To support our farmers and growers to meet these challenges, we must allow them to have access to the latest technology and the most effective and sustainable animal medicines and pesticides to protect animals and crops from devasting losses,” he says.

In its election manifesto, Agcarm asks the new government to modernise the regulatory environment for new product approvals and base scientific decision-making on facts and evidence, not political popularity. . . 

Rural market poised for spring:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 121 more farm sales (+45.7%) for the three months ended August 2020 than for the three months ended August 2019. Overall, there were 386 farm sales in the three months ended August 2020, compared to 341 farm sales for the three months ended July 2020 (+13.2%), and 265 farm sales for the three months ended August 2019. 1,252 farms were sold in the year to August 2020, 7.2% fewer than were sold in the year to August 2019, with 22.9% less Dairy farms, 14.1% less Grazing farms, 15.3% less Finishing farms and 6.1% more Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to August 2020 was $25,657 compared to $25,346 recorded for three months ended August 2019 (+1.2%). The median price per hectare increased 10.8% compared to July 2020. . . 


Rural round-up

13/07/2020

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

14/02/2020

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

18/01/2020

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

08/01/2020

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?

30/12/2019

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

29/11/2019

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

08/04/2019

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?

19/02/2019

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

03/10/2018
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

24/09/2018

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

22/09/2018

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

21/08/2018

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

27/07/2018

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?

29/06/2018

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 . . .

18/04/2018

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.


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