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

29/06/2020

Agriculture emerges from lockdown relatively unscathed, but coming global recession will bite, says economist – Bonnie Flaws:

Agricultural incomes are expected to take a hit later this year as the effects of the global recession caused by coronavirus kicks in, says Westpac senior agri-economist Nathan Penny.

The sector was likely to remain profitable, however.

Despite having come through the lockdown and its immediate effects relatively unscathed, due largely to agriculture’s classification as an essential service, the forecast 3 per cent hit to global growth over 2020, meant there would be less demand for the forseeable future.

As a country that exported over 90 per cent of its agricultural production, New Zealand would be heavily exposed, Penny said. . .

McBride optimistic about Fonterra’s future despite global uncertainty – Esther Taunton:

Fonterra will face “bumps in the road” as the global economy rebuilds after the coronavirusoutbreak, but chairman-elect Peter McBride is optimistic about the dairy co-op’s future.

“Businesses learn more from challenges than successes and there will be plenty learnt from this,” the South Waikato dairy farmer said.

And McBride should know.

As the chairman of the Zespri board from 2013-18, he led the kiwifruit marketer through a crippling outbreak of the vine disease Psa, estimated to have cost growers close to $1 billion . .

Few winter grazing issues found – Neal Wallace:

Soutland farmers are being given a pat on the back for their winter grazing management so far this year, which Environment Southland says is an improvement on last year.

An aerial inspection by regional council staff prompted chief executive Rob Phillips to conclude farmers have made positive improvements.

“I’m encouraged by what we’ve seen. Farmers appear to have made a real effort, which is exactly what we need.”

Phillips said it is early in the season so wet weather will change conditions. . . .

Outstanding vintage despite Covid-19 conditions:

While it will be forever remembered as the Covid-19 harvest, an excellent summer throughout most of the country has contributed to an outstanding vintage for New Zealand’s wine regions.

“Although Covid-19 restrictions did have a huge impact on the way the harvest was run, they will not affect the quality of the wine, and we are really looking forward to some exceptional wines coming from this year’s vintage” said Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers.

The New Zealand wine industry had hoped for a larger harvest in 2020, after smaller than expected crops over the last three years. With 457,000 tonnes of grapes harvested, this year’s vintage will help the industry to meet the high demand for New Zealand wine.

With New Zealand moving into Alert Level 4 just as Vintage 2020 began, the industry was acutely aware that it was in an incredibly privileged position to be allowed to pick the grapes, says Gregan. . .

Tug-of-war fan desperate to keep sport alive – ‘It’s weightlifting lying down’ – Carol Stiles:

A Waikato farmer is building a museum on his farm to preserve memorabilia from New Zealand’s oldest introduced sport – tug-of-war.

Graham Smith has a dairy farm 50 minutes south of Hamilton.

He is also a passionate advocate for a sport which is dwindling. He’s preserving the memory of tug-of-war in case one day it sparks up again.

He is the president of the New Zealand Tug of War Association and has been involved for more than 40 years. . .

Record on-farm price for EC Angus – Hugh Stringleman:

An Angus bull from Turiroa Stud, Wairoa, has made $104,000 at auction, believed to be a New Zealand on-farm sale record.

Turiroa’s best-ever sales performance also featured a price of $86,000 and an average of $12,560 for a full clearance of 50 bulls.

Andrew Powdrell said there was good buying further into the catalogue and there was a bull for everyone.

The Powdrell family was humbled by the result and thrilled the bulls are going to good homes. . .


Rural round-up

21/07/2017

Surrender now and we’ll pay a huge cost in future – Will Foley:

If the dam is dead, as its opponents are claiming, we’ve missed a great chance to smooth the jagged edges of Mother Nature.

Right now, Hawke’s Bay is sodden. A welcome but uncharacteristic (in the current weather pattern) wet autumn set us up to be wet right through the winter and that’s exactly how it’s playing out.

We’ve swung from one extreme to the other; as recently as February we were fretting about another dry summer. . .

Patangata Station shortens supply chain and buys own butchery – Kate Taylor:

An overheard conversation led to a Central Hawke’s Bay farming couple diversifying into retail butchery. Kate Taylor reports.

The market wants to know where its meat comes from, say Duncan Smith and Annabel Tapley-Smith, the owners of Patangata Station and the new owners of Waipawa Butchery.

“When people buy meat from Waipawa Butchery they now know it’s finished at a farm just 10 minutes up the road,” says Smith.

The couple took over the butchery at the beginning of the month. It was sold by 77-year-old Murray Stephens who had worked there for 60 years and owned it for 40. The Smith family has been farming in Central Hawke’s Bay for just as long and has been shopping at the butchery for many years. . . .

Variety is the spice of life on Miranda Farm – Andrea Fox:

If Waikato agroforester and dairy farmer Graham Smith could bottle his energy, he’d make a killing.

Running four businesses from his 37 hectare farm in the Korakonui area, 25km south east of Te Awamutu isn’t enough: he’s about to launch a fifth, and just for fun, excavate a submerged ancient forest and create a little sport museum.

Profitably milking 80 crossbred cows provides the base for all these entrepreneurial efforts, but it’s growing an unusual tree with multiple uses and benefits that sets him apart and proves it is possible to make a small farm a good earner. . .

Researcher using milk protein to help regrow human muscle – Amy Wiggins:

Milk could be the key to helping regrow muscle and eventually body parts.

A Canterbury University PhD student is using milk protein to create biodegradable films with 3D imprints in the shape of muscle and bone cells on them in the hope they may influence the shape and growth of cells.

Azadeh Hashemi is focused on creating those films using casein – one of the two proteins found in milk – so they are biodegradable and would not need to be removed if used as an implant. . .

New animal welfare regulations progressed:

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has confirmed 46 new animal welfare regulations will be developed this year.

“Changes we made to the Animal Welfare Act in 2015 have allowed us to create directly-enforceable regulations. This has given the Act more teeth, and creates more tools to deal with mistreatment of animals,” says Mr Guy.

“These 46 regulations include stock transport, farm husbandry, companion and working animals, pigs, layer hens and the way animals are accounted for in research, testing and teaching. . . 

New app to measure success of wildings control:

For the first time, authorities fighting the spread of wilding conifers will have a complete picture of infestations throughout the country, says Minister for Land Information Mark Mitchell.

“Land Information New Zealand has developed the Wilding Conifer Information System, a web-based mapping and monitoring tool, to ensure control of this invasive species is carried out in the most efficient way possible,” Mr Mitchell says. . .

Seafood New Zealand applauds paua relief package:

The Government’s financial assistance package for the Kaikoura commercial paua divers has been welcomed by Seafood New Zealand chief executive Tim Pankhurst.

“The package will help support paua divers in Kaikoura who have been under considerable financial stress since last year’s earthquake,” Pankhurst said. . .

Carrfields acquires Farmlands’ livestock business:

Carrfields Livestock has grown to a national heavyweight player in its sector following the purchase of Farmlands’ livestock business this month.

Under the deal, Carrfields Livestock has acquired Farmlands’ entire livestock business, which includes a team of nearly 30 agents mainly based in the South Island.

This extends Carrfields’ coverage of the livestock market to all major regions of New Zealand, said Donald Baines, General Manager Carrfields Livestock. . . 

Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2017 announced:

Congratulations to Ben McNab-Jones from Urlar who became Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2017 on 20 July. This is the second year McNab-Jones has entered the regional competition and he is over the moon to be going through to the National Final to represent the Wairarapa.

Congratulations also to Scott Lanceley who came 2nd. Lanceley is currently self-employed and contracting to different vineyards within the region. Congratulations also to  from Te Kairanga who came 3rd. . . 


Rural round-up

08/06/2014

Feds top job too good to pass up – Andrea Fox:

New Federated Farmers chief executive Graham Smith is the first to admit his previous employer is upset over his quick exit from a new job, but says the federation role is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he could not resist.

Smith will leave not-for-profit new technology company incubator Soda, where he has been chief executive for less than two months, to head the federation late next month. . .

Minister launches primary industries capability report:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy today launched The Future capability needs for the primary industries in New Zealand – a report that forecasts the future workforce needs of the primary sector.

“The report highlights that employment in the primary industries is expected to increase by 50,000 by 2025 to reach the Government’s goal of an export double. Over half of these workers will need a Tertiary or Level 4 Qualification,” says Mr Guy.

“New Zealand has a proud tradition in the primary industries – it’s an innovative sector that requires our best and brightest across a range of skills. As international markets become more sophisticated and competitive, it is crucial New Zealand’s primary industries keep pace. . .

We’re working with primary industries to make sure they keep innovating and keep growing. http://ntnl.org.nz/1hilnZ8

High country conference discusses neighbourliness:

What it means to be a ”good neighbour” was discussed at Federated Farmers’ high country conference in Queenstown yesterday.

The conference was examining how neighbours could look after each other in regard to water and nutrient management and pest control, Federated Farmers high country chairman Chas Todhunter said.

”We need to communicate with each other to understand each other’s differences and work towards mutually acceptable outcomes,” he said. . .

Innovation pitch finalists chosen:

After two days of intensive workshops nine innovators have been chosen to pitch their ideas at the National Fieldays Innovation Den on Thursday.

The chosen innovations include LiquidStrip, a filtration system designed to efficiently separate liquid and solid from waste effluent to allow for superior disposal options; Ice Cycle, a snap milk chiller capable of chilling milk from the cow at 34C to 4C in under three seconds, and Patrick Roskram with his Gudgeon Pro 5-in-1 fencing tool that is used to quickly and accurately hang gates. . . .

 ‘Black List’ proposed for ecological invaders:

A new scheme to rank invading species according to their environmental impact has been developed by a global team of leading experts in ecology and conservation.

The scheme, described in the journal PLOS Biology and co-authored by Lincoln University Professor of Plant Biosecurity, Philip Hulme, proposes a standardised approach for ranking alien species relative to their negative environmental impact. In so doing, globally recognised ‘Black Lists’ of unwanted species can be produced. . . .

Lifting farmgate returns the solution:

AUSTRALIA’S share of the global dairy market has been slipping gradually and turning the industry around is going to be a huge challenge, Murray Goulburn chairman Phillip Tracy says.

At the same time the company is cutting jobs across Victoria.

The co-operative’s commitment to lift farmgate returns by $1 a kilogram of milksolids by 2017 was the type of price rise needed to turn the industry around, Tracy said. . .

Foreign investment’s tough wrap – Jenna Cairney:

THERE’S no “foreign takeover” of our agricultural land and while a debate on foreign investment is worthwhile, any blows have to be above the belt.

At a packed NSW Farm Writers lunch last week John Corbett, the director of the often camera-shy Qatari government’s agricultural arm Hassad, dispelled some of the foreign direct investment (FDI) misnomers, in particular via sovereign wealth and institutional funds.

Hassad was created in response to the 1997 grain shortages and now owns more than 250,000 hectares of farmland in NSW, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, with the aim of producing 165,000 tonnes of grain and 100,000 lambs annually. . .

 A ‘turnip’ for the canola books – Gregor Heard:

MOST broadacre croppers would say they are happy to leave turnip and cabbage crops to their horticultural cousins.

However, researchers at the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) are using the two vegetable crops to make valuable discoveries about canola.

The relatively recently developed canola plant has a mixed heritage of both turnip and cabbage genetics. . . .


Graham Smith Feds new CEO

05/06/2014

Federated Farmers, has named Graham Smith as its Chief Executive Officer designate to succeed Conor English.

“Federated Farmers is thrilled to announce Graham Smith’s appointment to lead the Federation in its next phase of growth,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Graham is a highly accomplished Chief Executive who joins the Federation from Soda Inc, an organisation facilitating new technologies, including agri-tech and company start-ups. Prior to this, he was Chief Executive of the Crown Research Institute ESR (Institute of Environmental Science & Research) for almost three years. 

“Graham understands the strategic context Federated Farmers operates in and is no stranger to the primary industries, having been a former General Manager at AgResearch.

“The Board is especially impressed by Graham’s commercial and people leadership skills as well as his background in science and innovation. He has managed an international technology commercialisation organisation and worked for several overseas food companies.

“Graham has relationships across the political and primary industry sectors, which extends across the Tasman, as Graham is Australian by birth but has lived in New Zealand since 2001. 

“Graham holds an MBA from the University of South Australia and a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Adelaide.  

“Federated Farmers is a strong and respected voice, both in Wellington and within New Zealand’s vibrant provincial hinterland.  We are passionate about the positive role farming plays in New Zealand and we know Graham shares this outlook.

“With a focus on evidence based policy, Graham will be instrumental in achieving policy outcomes, which strike the right balance between our economy and our environment.

“Graham Smith will formally take over the role of Chief Executive Officer in July.

“We wish to thank Conor English for a highly successful six years.  Federated Farmers and the agriculture sector owe him a huge debt of gratitude and we wish him all the best for the future.

“Graham is a worthy successor and he will work closely with the new Federated Farmers Board to continue the invaluable work we do for New Zealand’s farmers and the wider economy,” Mr Wills concluded.

As farmers, and rural people in general, decline as a proportion of the general population the need for strong advocacy from Feds becomes even more important.

Wills and English have been a very effective team and have left a solid foundation on which the new leadership can build.

 

 


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