Rural round-up


‘Inspiring’ kiwi landscape in the blood decades on

Life is still a laugh for 88-year-old environmentalist Gordon Stephenson.

While he was “gobsmacked” to learn that Waikato University wanted to bestow its highest honour on his shoulders, he isn’t above making light of it.

“What do I do in public when somebody says is there a doctor in the house, please?”

“Yes,” he says with a laugh, “that is worrying me.”

But on that score there’s still time up his sleeve – April 16 is the day Mr Stephenson will receive his honorary doctorate at Claudelands Events Centre for his lengthy and ongoing contribution to the environment. . .

Dyed in the wool innovation partners to go global – Peter Kerr:

The time it takes to convert a good idea into something that another person’s willing to buy is almost invariably longer than you think.

A couple of years ago, sticK reported on BGI Developments’ winning the right to commercialise AgResearch’s new textile fabric dyeing process.

The beauty of this process is different dye colours don’t bleed into each other – the picture or pattern remains sharp and embedded in the fabric (unlike say printing on top of a T-shirt for example).

BGI (stands for Bloody Good Ideas) directors Robyn George-Neich and Brent Gregory have spent part of the past two years looking for the right company to take the technology to the global market. . .

Time to shore-up water supplies for the future – Terri Russell:

Southland river levels are the lowest they have been for years. Environment Southland has stopped some farmers from irrigating. No significant rain is in sight. Terri Russell talks to industry experts to find out what is being done to help future-proof the agricultural industry in times of a changing climate.

From flooding in January to a prolonged dry period, the Southland Federated Farmers boss says it is time to look at water storage options for the future.

MetService duty forecaster Ian Gall said parts of Southland were forecast to receive about 10mm to 15mm of rain yesterday but there would be no more significant rain before the end of the week. . .

Orchard optimism follows tough times – Peter Watson:

Turners & Growers has had to make big writedowns in the value of its Nelson orchards for the second consecutive year, but chief executive Geoff Hipkins hopes they are at an end, with market prospects looking brighter.

Bruised by $29 million in asset writedowns, the fruit and vegetables marketer posted a full-year loss of $15.3m for 2012.

The loss, although deep, was an improvement on the previous year’s $18.9m deficit, also a result of asset writedowns, and better than the $16m to $19m loss it forecast in December. . .

Ballance Farm Award finalists chosen – Sally Rae:

The finalists have been selected for the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

There were 10 entries in the awards, which were judged by Matt Harcombe, Andrea Ludemann, Bernard Lynch and John Barkla.

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner to be held at The Venue in Wanaka on Friday, April 12. . .

Venison gets exposure:

The deer industry has just hosted four young German chefs and eight German journalists to New Zealand, to learn more about farmed venison here.

Manager for Deer Industry New Zealand, Innes Moffat, said the aim was to enthuse them about farm-raised venison and develop relationships with these influential people within German cuisine.

“Some of the feedback from both the young chefs and journalists reveals that there is an ongoing need to improve the level of understanding of how NZ venison is grown and how it can be prepared.” . .

Technology important part of farming – Terri Russell:

New Zealand dairy farmer co- operative LIC delivered its farmer workshops in Southland and Otago. 

Last week sessions were held in Gore, Invercargill and Balclutha as part of a series of workshops throughout the country. It provided dairy farmers with the knowledge to plan and record drying- off of cows and and the culling of cows.

There were two sessions on how to enter and access data in MINDApro, a herd management software program, and a more advanced session on how to produce more tailored reports using the program. . .

Agland goes to market:

A $150 million-plus portfolio of Australian agricultural land, including the remaining PrimeAg Australia assets, is being offered to institutional investors just as they start to show greater enthusiasm for the alternative asset class.

Last week the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, one of the world’s largest pension funds, said it planned to start buying Australian farmland.

That follows two Swedish pension funds known as ­AP-fonden, the Michigan Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, US-based fund manager TIAA CREF and the Qatar Investment Authority buying Australian ­agricultural land in the past 12 to 18 months. . .

Turkeys make NZ look Mickey Mouse


If you listen to opponents to foreign investment in New Zealand you could be forgiven for thinking the Overseas Investment Office is merely a rubber stamp for anyone with a whim to buy land or  a business here.

It’s far from easy and from the applicant’s side the Wellington turkeys make New Zealand look Mickey Mouse:

THE IMAGE presented by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) and the Crafar Farms situation made New Zealand look like “Mickey Mouse turkeys” to German company BayWa, says Geoff Hipkins, the new chief executive of Turners & Growers (T&G).  

As BayWa went through processes of buying the major shareholding in T&G, Hipkins says its impression of the OIO was of a huge government department “all-powerful and telling the world what to do”.

“They didn’t believe me when I said it is actually four people stuck in the bowels of the Land Transfer Department, snowed under because they had this issue re Crafar Farms; that’s why [BayWa’s] case had been delayed,” Hipkins told the HortNZ conference in Auckland.

“They all looked at me and virtually said to a man, ‘b****’. They couldn’t believe our foreign investment was controlled by such an august group.

“Then you throw in the Crafar farm situation, where you have the judiciary changing the rules of the game with five minutes to play. They couldn’t understand that situation. You try to explain that to people wanting to spend hundreds of billions in this country.

“We really looked like Mickey Mouse turkeys and that is the only way I can explain it. The question was asked, ‘Is it because we are German?’ That was quite literally the thought going through the BayWa executives’ minds.” . . .

A friend who manages a farming company owned by overseas interests tells me a similar story.

Getting approval for purchases – even if it is using money gained from selling another farm in New Zealand – is a long, complicated,  frustrating and very expensive process.

He says it wasn’t the fault of the people he was dealing with. They administer the law but they don’t make it and contrary to what the xenophobes would have us believe, successive governments have made it harder.

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