Rural round-up

27/08/2017

Deafening silence over water tax disappointing – Lyn Webster:

 As a small time dairy farmer in the far flung Far North I would possibly not be directly affected by the Labour Party’s proposed water tax. However since the idea was mooted, I feel physically and mentally badly affected by it.

It’s very strange indeed, I am actually finding this difficult to write as my feelings against the suggested policy and the potential ramifications of it are so abhorrent to me.

The deafening silence in the wake of Jacinda Adern’s proposal is also scaring me. There should be an outpouring of national outrage against the ideology of charging food producers taxes on natural inputs – whether the charges are called royalties, taxes or fees. . . 

Who will decide who will pay for water? – Ewan McGregor:

Charles Dickens’ Mr Micawber’s oft-quoted law defining the recipe for happiness states: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and six pence, result happiness.

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and six pence, result misery.”

The point is that the margin between happiness and misery is just a shilling. Such a small difference can have serious consequences to one’s spirit – and to the politics.

This is what has happened in this country, especially Hawke’s Bay, with water. Within a relatively short time available water (income) has moved from abundance, or at least the perception of such, (happiness), to scarcity (misery). . . 

Federated Farmers: chasing hard data on irrigation effects:

Based on their on-farm experience and observations, lots of farmers believe irrigation can boost soil carbon and soil water holding capacity.

Former South Canterbury Federated Farmers president Ivon Hurst is chairman of a research project that over the next three years will look to nail those understandings down with hard science and peer-reviewed data.

“Anecdotal evidence is not enough,” Ivon says. “It has to be scientifically validated and that’s the way forward for all future land management practices.”

Project research will be led by Landcare Research’s Dr Sam Carrick, and a range of extension activities led by Katherine McCusker, of the AgriBusiness Group. It will support improvements in the management of soils to reduce environmental impacts and enable more accurate estimation of nutrient loss. . . 

Dairy payout boosts Timaru’s $2.3 billion year – Elena McPhee:

Timaru District generated more than $2.3 billion as it continued its drive away from the brink of recession on the back of a more-than $150 million dairy payout, a new report reveals.

An economy that ended the year last year close to recession was firmly in growth in the second half of the year to June, the Infometrics quarterly economic monitor found.

Timaru’s economy stabilised in the June quarter and the provisional estimate of its gross domestic product suggested it was 1.3 per cent healthier than the year before. . .

On stressed out women: just hold on tight – Louise Giltrap:

A few months back, I was invited to join a newly formed group on Facebook.

It was formed in the hope that some of us within the dairy industry could get back to talking about what was important without feeling someone was waiting to judge us.

The other day a lady posted about getting to her breaking point during calving. The tears, the swearing, not getting the kids off to school on time and instead giving them the day off to avoid more angst and more chaos.

It opened the floodgates for a lot of us, including myself, to tell of our own falls from grace over the last week or so of calving. . .

Blue-sky thinking drives Tibet’s organic industries

(Xinhua) — “While one kilogram of ordinary peaches only sells for about 30 yuan (4.5 U.S.dollars), the peaches here might make 100 yuan each,” village official Sonam Yangkyi tells surprised visitors to Lhasa’s Pure Land Industry demonstration zone.

The reason for such a high price for the winter peach is simply that Tibet Autonomous Region’s high altitude and clean environment mean the peach is tastier and better than its competitors.

The winter peach is just one of the many varieties of fruit and other Pure Land Industry produce with premium quality and unique properties thanks to the pure water, soil and air there. . .

 


Do you hear the people . . .

21/06/2014

Protests by the usual suspects on the left aren’t unusual.

It takes a lot more than the usual disgruntlements to get other people on to the streets in any number which makes yesterday’s Don’t Damn the Dam rally a serious sign of popular support.

RivettingKate Taylor recorded the rally in words and photos:

CHB people gathered in Waipukurau in their droves this morning to support the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. The dam.

I was going to say hundreds of people lined the streets, but I really have no way of quantifying how many people were there. Watch the news tonight – they might tell you. Suffice to say, in Kate terms, there were lots and lots.

Farmers, bankers, fertiliser reps, spreader drivers and two former regional councillors Ewan McGregor and Kevin Rose, who are probably secretly glad the decision is not up to them anymore.

There were tractors, utes, motorbikes, stock trucks and a few huntaways. . .

After clogging up the state highway system for a wee while, the vehicle possession (bigger than the annual Christmas parade but no Santa!!) parked up and the “green space” on “post office corner” was filled with claps and cheers for Mr Streeter and Mr Heaton, HB Federated Farmers president Will Foley and local fifth-generation farmer (and CHBDC district councillor) Andrew Watts. We also heard from someone from Timaru who had seen the growth in South Canterbury from the Opuha dam and resulting irrigation systems. . . .

I think the someone from Timaru was Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston.

Feds is firmly behind the project, but Hawkes Bay provincial president Will Foley is concerned about nutrient limits:

Last month, Massey’s Dr Mike Joy told a Canterbury audience, “The nitrate toxicity in some waterways is 10 times the safe level already. We have gone from safe levels of 1.9 millilitres a litre, to 3.8ml/l in Canterbury.”

With the Tukituki Board of Inquiry proposing a limit of 0.8 milligrams per litre for dissolved inorganic nitrogen, it would seem contradictory, but its draft decision is about a very different limit – what it believes is good for ecosystem health.  And on the nitrate toxicity score, the draft National Objectives Framework has set 6.9ml/l as the bottomline and the Tukituki is not even remotely close. 

So let’s park Dr Joy and focus on what we all want to achieve for the Tukituki. 

That means remembering why we started out in the first place.  It was to tackle an algae that’s been with us forever called Periphyton.  Everyone agrees it’s a problem so what’s the solution?

We get Periphyton because the Tukituki is a rocky river running warm during summer low flows.  Its growth is exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus so Hawke’s Bay Regional Council came up with a three-pronged approach hitting phosphorus, managing nitrogen and increasing water flows. 

In all the debate since, this environmental solution with strong economic benefits has been parked out of sight.

You can only increase water flow during summer by storing rainwater and that’s where Ruataniwha comes in.  This extra water helps to cool the Tukituki during summer while flushing it of Periphyton.  That’s been the experience of South Canterbury’s Opuha scheme on a similar river. 

We’ve had a similar improvement in the Waiareka Creek from the North Otago Irrigation Company scheme.

It used to be little more than a series of stagnant ponds. Now with guaranteed minimum flows from irrigation water it runs clean and wildlife has re-established.

Another experience is the economic boon Opuha has been to South Canterbury.

Yet during the Board of Inquiry, Dr Joy’s colleague Dr Death, helped to shift the focus off Periphyton and towards the stream life of rivers using a model developed for the Manawatu; a very different river to our Tukituki. Arguably, that’s how a limit of 0.8mg/l entered the minds of the Board of Inquiry, but how many invertebrates found in water doesn’t correlate to any one nutrient. 

Ironically, it was Fish and Game’s Corina Jordan who confirmed that while nitrogen and clearly phosphorus have impacts, so does river flow, sediment, light intensity and temperature.  The upshot being that there is no straight line relationship between a limit of 0.8mg/l and invertebrate health. 

Farmers like me are not in denial because Federated Farmers is okay with having a number, but that number must be an indicator and not chiselled into granite.  Especially since that number was derived from a model not validated for the Tukituki River and especially since Dr Death’s use of the Macroinvertebrate Community Index happens to be an indicator itself.

The Hawke’s Bay community needs a solution but the proposed limit of 0.8mg/l is so blunt, it makes Ruataniwha untenable. 

The Port of Napier is right to call Ruataniwha a game changer for the entire Hawke’s Bay region.  Before Ruataniwha’s viability was compromised we were talking about a quarter of a billion dollar boost each and every year.  If 0.8 remains as a hard limit, it not only kills the dam but means the region going forward will become $50 million poorer each year.  

Unless 0.8 becomes an indicator it will seriously compromise all the farming we currently have.  We’re not just talking sheep and beef but the guys who grow crops, the guys who run orchards, those who milk and even the guys who grow the grapes our region is famous for.

A hard limit of 0.8 means no Ruataniwha leaving us with Periphyton, a worsening economy and increasingly, rivers suffering from ever lower and warmer flows due to drought.  If farms convert to forestry we can possibly add sediment to that list.  Can anyone tell me what the environmental or community upside is? 

Dr Doug Edmeades wrote recently, “the best pieces of advice I was given as a young scientist: ‘Edmeades, I do not give a damn for your opinion what are the facts.”  Opinion seems the basis for 0.8mg/l but it is fact that it’s 14 times more stringent than the international standard for drinking water.  Don’t damn our dam.

Water storage and the irrigation it enables can improve both water quantity and quality.

It provides recreational opportunities and a significant economic boost. Farmers will make the biggest investment and take the biggest risk but as the people rallying yesterday obviously realise the benefits will flow right through the community in more jobs and more business opportunities with the economic and social boost that will bring.

The people of Hawkes Bay spoke through their support for the rally yesterday.

The Regional Council will show whether or not it heard them when it makes it decision on supporting the project, or not.


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