No excuses

July 8, 2020

If Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker had told media he had the personal details of Covid-19 patients, would not give the information to them, but was alerting them to a serious breach of privacy, he would have been able to stand on the moral high ground.

Instead he made the mistake of sending the details.

That was a very serious error of judgement for which there are no excuses.

I am so very sorry, I know and like Hamish and until now he has done everything a new MP should do in working for his constituents and handling his shadow portfolios well.

I  learned of the news at a National Party function last night.

More than 100 people were there to listen to party leader Todd Muller who spoke with authority and handled questions with aplomb.

The audience was impressed. I am even more so knowing that he knew about this and gave not a hint of the trouble it was causing and the media storm he would be facing afterwards.


Rural round-up

June 14, 2020

Dairy farming courses attract career changers – Esther Taunton:

A builder, a cafe worker and a shop assistant walk on to a farm…

It might sound like the start of a joke but DairyNZ says Kiwis signing up to sample farm life are seriously considering a career change.

The industry group launched an entry-level course for career changers on Monday and has attracted interest from New Zealanders from all walks of life. .  .

Govt ignoring forestry industry’s concerns:

The Government is failing to acknowledge the valid concerns raised about its rushed and unpractical forestry regulation bill, which has led to the industry sending the Prime Minister an open letter pleading for the bill to be delayed, National’s Forestry spokesperson Hamish Walker says.

“The Bill was introduced during urgency and has been rushed through Parliament even faster than the March 15th gun reforms.

“Out of 640 submissions only 11 are supportive of the Bill, meaning almost 98 per cent of submitters oppose it. . . 

Embracing the power of food loss technology and food waste solutions to strengthen global food security:

Today there are 800 million undernourished people in the world, yet the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of the world’s food is either lost or wasted. The New Zealand government’s recent decision to allocate $14.9 million to redirect unused food will go some way to address the issue, but there are broader challenges to address.

Food loss begins in the planted field where, without pest management, up to half of all crops can be lost to pests, diseases, and post-harvest losses. Droughts and natural disasters can also be devastating.

The Treasury estimates that the 2007/08 and 2012/13 droughts jointly reduced New Zealand’s GDP by around $4.8 billion. Globally, droughts were responsible for 83 percent of all global crop losses and damage in the decade up to 2016. Floods, storms, and other catastrophic events meant a loss of approximately US$96 billion (NZ$159 billion) worth of crops and livestock between 2005 and 2015. . .

Departing Synlait SFO’s ‘hell of a journey’  :

Synlait Milk’s outgoing chief financial officer Nigel Greenwood has some simple advice for his replacement: learn to sleep faster.

Greenwood is leaving the business after 10 years that saw the processor go from being in breach of its banking covenants in 2010 to reporting its maiden profit two years later to now having a market capitalisation of $1.3 billion.

His replacement, Angela Dixon, is coming in at a pivotal point in the business,” he said. 

“The time is now right for a transition from me to someone new,” he said. . .

Why collaboration is key to New Zealand’s freshwater future:

As the dust begins to settle over the COVID-19 crisis, New Zealand has an opportunity to address another critical national challenge: the future of freshwater.

A new report by law firm Bell Gully released during Visionweek highlights current freshwater issues and looks at where the key to cleaner water might be found in a sector grappling with complex relationships between the agricultural sector, iwi, government and other stakeholders.

Natasha Garvan, lead author of The Big Picture: Freshwater, and partner in Bell Gully’s environment and resource management practice, said New Zealand requires integrated solutions around freshwater, solutions that provide economic pathways for iwi, farmers and others to make a living in a way compatible with the environment. . .

So fresh, so green: Hophead heaven is harvest time in Nelson – Alice Neville:

An urgent excursion to her hoppy homeland shows Alice Neville why brewers and beer drinkers the world over seek out Nelson’s pungent bounty.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, trainloads of working-class London families would temporarily migrate to Kent to work in the hop fields during harvest time. It was the closest thing many of them got to a holiday.

There’s something romantic about hops. They’ve got a certain olde worlde charm – row upon row of green bines (yes, they’re called bines, not vines) climbing skyward. But the reality for the Kent pickers was anything but romantic; they were often housed in squalid conditions and in 1849, cholera killed 43 hop pickers on a single farm. . .


National’s refreshed responsibilities

May 25, 2020

Todd Muller has announced the refreshed responsibilities for his MPs:

He has taken Small Business and National Security.

His deputy Nikki Kaye has Education and Sports and Recreation.

Amy Adams, who had announced her retirement, is staying on with responsibility for Covid-19 Recovery.

Judith Collins:  Economic Development, Regional Development, is Shadow Attorney-General and takes on Pike River Re-entry.

Paul Goldsmith keeps Finance and has responsibility for the Earthquake Commission.

Gerry Brownlee: Foreign Affairs, Disarmament; GCSB; NZSIS and Shadow Leader of House.

Michael Woodhouse keeps Health, is  Deputy Shadow Leader of the House and Associate Finance

Louise Upston: Social Development and Social Investment.

Mark Mitchell: Justice and Defence

Scott Simpson:  Environment, Climate Change and Planning (RMA reform)

Todd McCLay:Trade and Tourism

Chris Bishop has Infrastructure and Transport

Paula Bennett: Drug Reform and Women

Nicola Willis: Housing and Urban Development and Early Childhood Education

Jacqui Dean: Conservation

David Bennett: Agriculture

Shane Reti: Tertiary Skills and Employment,  Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Associate Health

Melissa Lee: Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Data and Cybersecurity

Andrew Bayly:  Revenue, Commerce, State Owned Enterprises and Associate Finance

Alfred Ngaro: Pacific Peoples, Community and Voluntary, and Children and Disability Issues

Barbara Kuriger: Senior Whip, Food Safety, Rural Communities

Jonathan Young:

Nick Smith:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi:

Matt Doocey:

Jian Yang:

Stuart Smith:

Simon O’Connor:

Lawrence Yule: Local Government

Denise Lee:  Local Government (Auckland)

Anne Tolley: Deputy Speaker

Parmjeet Parmar:  Research, Science and Innovation

Brett Hudson:  Police, Government Digital Services

Stuart Smith: Immigration, Viticulture

Simeon Brown: Corrections, Youth, Associate Education

Ian McKelvie: Racing, Fisheries

Jo Hayes:  Whānau Ora, Māori Development

Andrew Falloon: Biosecurity, Associate Agriculture, Associate Transport

Harete Hipango: Crown Māori Relations, Māori Tourism

Matt King: Regional Development (North Island), Associate Transport

Chris Penk: Courts, Veterans

Hamish Walker Land Information, Forestry, Associate Tourism

Erica Stanford: Internal Affairs, Associate Environment, Associate Conservation

Tim van de Molen: Third Whip, Building and Construction

Maureen Pugh: Consumer Affairs, Regional Development (South Island), West Coast Issues

Dan Bidois: Workplace Relations and Safety

Agnes Loheni:  Associate Small Business, Associate Pacific Peoples

Paulo Garcia: Associate Justice

At the time of the announcement SImon Bridges was considering his future, he nas subsequently announced he will stay on in parliament and contest the Tauranga seat again.


Penny Simmonds Nat candidate for Invercargill

May 19, 2020

National’s candidate for Invercargill is Penny Simmonds:

. . . Penny is the Chief Executive of The Southern Institute of Technology and has been in the role for 23 years. She has spent decades working hard to ensure the Invercargill electorate continues to grow and prosper but with its own unique voice.

It is very exciting to welcome Penny to the National Party, she was born and bred in Southland and is so clearly passionate about the electorate.

“I’m delighted to be selected as National’s candidate for Invercargill. I’m looking forward to getting out and making sure our community, both Invercargill, Stewart Island and our new rural areas in Western Southland, have a strong voice advocating for them in Wellington,” Ms Simmonds says.

“The Invercargill electorate has been and will always be best placed to understand our needs and the best way to deliver for them. Too many decisions are made in Wellington without understanding the uniqueness of our community.

“Not only has education been a core focus of mine, I have also been heavily involved in sport within the community, as Chairperson of Hockey Southland, and the President of NZ Hockey. Having been involved with farming all my life, the value of our agriculture and horticulture industries are also top of mind for me.

“I’ve been involved over the past few years with the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDs) to help Southland be recognised as the best place to live, work and play in the world, because as all Southlanders know, it really is.

“Our electorate, alongside the rest of New Zealand, is in unprecedented times, and now more than ever we need a strong voice who will stand up and represent it.

“I know our community well. Right now it’s hurting. But Invercargill, Stewart Island and our rural communities are known for being hard working and resilient, and the National Party will support you and back you every step of the way.”

Biographical Notes: Penelope Simmonds

Penelope (Penny) Simmonds was born in Southland is now the Chief Executive of Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and was appointed in 1997. SIT has campuses in Invercargill, Gore, Queenstown, Auckland and Christchurch as well as a successful distance learning faculty through SIT2LRN.

Prior to her appointment as CE, Penny was in a management position at SIT from 1990-2997. Penny was an Advisory Board Member of Venture Southland and has been involved in the Southland Regional Development Strategy since its inception and is now on the Shareholders Advisory Board of the newly formed Economic Development Agency for Southland. Penny has been a Trustee of the Community Trust of Southland since 2012, and Director of Southern Lakes English College.

Penny was Chair of Hockey Southland for 10 years finishing that role in 2017 when she also completed two years as President of New Zealand Hockey. Penny is also a former Director of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery and former Board Member of the Southland District Health Board and Southland DisAbilities Services.

In 2000 Penny was a recipient of the Woolf Fisher Fellowship in 2000 and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2016 New Years’ Honours List.

Penny is married with three adult daughters and two grandchildren.

This is very good news for the electorate and National.

In spite of what last night’s poll said, the government is very, very unpopular in Invercargill, not least of all for seizing control of SIT, the success of which is largely due to Penny’s work.


Rural round-up

May 15, 2020

IrrigationNZ believes Budget 2020 missed opportunity for water investment to aid Covid recovery:

IrrigationNZ believes that strategic water storage in key regions could aid a post-Covid recovery which focuses on protecting jobs, creating new ones, achieving positive environmental outcomes, and contributing to climate change targets.

“But Budget 2020 has missed the opportunity for water storage to be part of the solution,” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal.

“IrrigationNZ understands the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 but believes that strategic management of this essential resource remains important, and that a water strategy to guide spending would be beneficial,’’ Ms Soal says.

“We will continue to talk to the Government about how this can be done utilising the $20 billion unallocated funding, and the $3.2 billion infrastructure contingency fund.” . .

Workers not leaving quarters a problem – Sally Rae:

Farm workers refusing to leave their accommodation are causing headaches for farmers preparing for the start of the new dairy season.

A large number of dairy farming families, sharemilkers, contract milkers and employees move to new farms to begin new employment and milking contracts on June 1, known as Moving Day.

But Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said changes to tenancy law passed through the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act, which placed general restrictions on all landlords, had left some farmers without employee accommodation.

Mr Walker had been contacted by more than 10 farmers with issues about former employees not moving out of the accommodation provided for working on the farm. . .

’Together We Grow NZ’ initiative launched to celebrate Kiwi farmers :

Some of New Zealand’s leading women in agriculture have launched “Together we Grow NZ”, a new initiative with a goal to connect urban and rural communities.

“Together We Grow NZ” will showcase the importance of both communities working together by sharing stories, collaborating, and creating opportunities to highlight New Zealand’s farming background to the next generation.

The project was created by 15 women, who met while completing the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s leadership and governance programme “Escalator”.

The group continued working together during the Covid-19 lockdown and saw an opportunity to bring to light some of the stories of Kiwi food producers. . . 

 

Groups set up to help the helpers – Annette Scott:

A red meat industry initiative to upskill rural professionals is focused on building capability to help enable a sustainable future for farming.

Launched in Canterbury as part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Network Group, the initiative is bringing together small groups of rural professionals to work towards a shared focus and goals.

The group of 12 rural professionals has joined forces to develop their skills in helping farmers make positive changes.

RMPP group facilitator Richard Brown said the action group model lets young professionals achieve their goals as facilitators and experts. . .

Fonterra council future in the air:

Fonterra has asked its shareholders and sharemilkers to help determine the future of its 25-strong shareholders’ council, seven months after initiating a review of the council’s relevance and cost.

The dairy co-operative billed an initial farmer survey as the first stage of consultation to review the council’s role and functions and acknowledged that came only after criticism of the council’s performance by some farmers. 

The functions of the council, set up to act as a farmer-run watchdog for the co-operative, have not been amended since it was founded in 2001. . .

Helius secures major grant for $2.4m R&D project:

Helius Therapeutics has confirmed it’s the recipient of a substantial grant for its New Zealand-based cultivation, plant breeding and medicines research programme.

The $2.4 million research and development project has been approved for co-funding of up to 28% by New Zealand’s innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation. Supporting innovative and high-performing R&D businesses, the agency has committed to contributing up to nearly $600,000 (excluding GST) to Kiwi-owned Helius Therapeutics over the next three years.

Chief Science Officer at Helius, Dr Jim Polston, says Callaghan Innovation’s co-funding will help Helius advance unique cannabis genetics and develop safe, consistent, and high-quality, novel cannabis medications for clinical trials. . . 


That’s no way to say goodbye

May 13, 2020

National is threatening to fight Level 2 enforcement law if the rule on tangi and funerals isn’t changed:

Under level 2, only 10 people can attend a tangi or church service at any given time. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she, like other world leaders, struggled with the decision, but had to play it safe. . . 

But what’s safe and what’s not doesn’t seem to be consistent.

National Leader Simon Bridges said the public had been writing to him raising the point that people could still go to a restaurant or movies with 100 people at the venue.

Yet at one of the most tragic defining points of life, at a funeral, direct family members cannot attend them under those rules. That’s not just unkind, it’s inhumane, and I think we can do better than that,” he said.

One of the doctors who looked after our son and was there when when he died told us that it was very important to say goodbye properly.

We didn’t know much about funerals and others said it would be best to keep it private.

Tom was only 20 weeks old, had spent almost a third of his life in hospital and few outside the family and hospital staff had met him so we followed that advice.

It was a mistake. We had afternoon tea after the service then our parents and siblings went home leaving us alone with our young daughter and our grief.

We learned from that and when our second son died we had a public service.

It was so much better. Some people left after the service, others stayed to talk, to listen, to comfort us.

That’s how saying goodbye  should be, a service about the one who has died to for the ones who are left, and for most that needs more than 10 people.

Anger and upset over this is made worse by inconsistencies:

Grieving families are distraught over inconsistencies with the COVID-19 alert level 2 rules, baffled that the Government will trust people to go to the movies, gyms and malls but not to farewell friends and whānau. 

Kiwis will be privy to a whole lot of new freedoms on Thursday when the level 2 rules come into play, but it won’t bring satisfaction to the family of Southland man Maurice Skinner, who passed away last week, three months before his 90th birthday. 

A former jockey and racing trainer, Maurice Skinner was a well-known Southland figure, and a funeral could’ve drawn hundreds. But his family just wanted a small private service – 21 people – so they delayed until alert level 2. 

But holding off has left them disappointed because the level 2 rules don’t allow it. 

“We can’t even do that now, so we’re absolutely devastated,” his daughter told Newshub. “One of the worst things you can stop people doing is being able to farewell their loved ones.”

Under level 2 there’s a cap on gatherings – no more than 10 people. And yet, up to 100 people could be in a gym, a restaurant or the movies, as long as they’re socially-distanced. 

In the normal course of events, people would be much closer than two metres and part of comforting the bereaved would be hongi and hugs. But funeral directors and celebrants, as required under health and safety legislation, could make sure that social distancing was maintained.

We know this is causing pain but we equally have tried to be really consistent,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. 

But it doesn’t feel consistent for grieving families. 

“The Government is telling us we need to be kind but where on earth is the kindness in that? It’s actually inhumane,” Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker told Newshub.  . .

Those in mourning want the Government to trust them. 

The woman Newshub spoke to anonymously is from a family of medical professionals including a COVID-19 nurse, and they know full-well how to manage the risks. 

“We can be responsible with our loved ones and the people that are around us – just give us the benefit of the doubt,” she said.  . . 

Ten is a very small number for most families. We had 11 adults and six children at Tom’s private service.

It is possible for far more than 10 to join via electronic communication but that is a very poor second to being there, with the people you care about, albeit two metres apart.

If there was widespread community transmission of Covid-19 the insistence on no more than 10 people at a funeral would be more easily understood.

But there is not.

Yesterday’s ODT reported no new cases of the disease in the Southern District Health Board area for 16 days and the Waitaki District, like several others has recorded no cases at all.

It defies logic that the government trusts casinos, bars and movie theatres to have up to 100 people but no more than 10 at a funeral.

Preventing people from saying goodbye properly is the antithesis of the kindness we’re all exhorted to show.

It’s inhumane and the rule must be relaxed to allow families and whanau to farewell the dead and comfort the living.


More generous, better targeted

May 7, 2020

National has come up with a more generous and better targeted plan for small businesses hit by the Covid-19 lockdown:

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today announced the first part of National’s plan for getting New Zealand working again.

“New Zealand has flattened the curve. Our first priority now must be to lift the restrictions that are flattening the economy.

“We need to get cash flowing to the thousands of small businesses that were forced to close in the national interest, and left shouldering a disproportionate amount of the economic burden.

Businesses, and the jobs they support, come and go at the best of times.

But these are the worst of times owing to circumstances beyond their control and as a direct result of government directive.

The directive was made with the best of intentions and for the public good but that in no way softens the blow to businesses nor reduces their need for help.

“To reduce the damage and to save jobs, National would offer a GST cash refund of up to $100,000 – based off the GST they paid in the 6 months to 1 January 2020 – to the small businesses most affected. They would need to demonstrate a revenue drop of more than 50 per cent across two successive months due to the lockdown rules.

“We estimate this could benefit up to 160,000 businesses and save countless jobs.

“If the business paid more than $100,000 in GST over that period, then they would be able to claim up to an additional $250,000 as a repayable loan over 5 years.

“National understands the key to growing the economy is to encourage and incentivise business investment.

“That’s why we would temporarily lift the threshold to expense new capital investment for firms. The Government lifted the threshold from $500 to $5000 as part of its Covid response. We’d go much further and lift it to $150,000 for two years.

For example, if a company spends $145,000 on a new machine to improve its productivity, rather than depreciating that asset over many years, it will be able to expense the full $145,000 in this tax year.

“What we do in the next few months is critical to help businesses survive and save jobs.

“The Government took the right steps to contain the virus but already it’s stalling on what to do next.

“National will work alongside New Zealanders to achieve jobs, sustainable growth and boundless opportunities for New Zealanders and their families.

“Kiwis have done a great job self-isolating and social distancing to save lives. But with 1000 people a day joining the dole queue, we now need to turn our attention to saving jobs.

“National will get New Zealand working again.”

Business NZ approves:

BusinessNZ says National’s proposals for business support would help build investment and confidence.

Chief Executive Kirk Hope says National’s proposals for cash grants, low-interest loans and a higher cap on depreciation are sensible options. . . 

Luke Malpass says Bridges has hit the right note:

. . .For a start he has been positive: although all the usual political point-scoring applied, he has announced a new policy that, were it to be enacted, would greatly assist many small businesses which are currently being nursed through the continued lockdown. It is new, it has been roughly costed (at a cool $8 billion it is not chump change) and it is specifically designed to support small businesses which will struggle to make payroll once they can start operating again.

The second policy announced — a temporary instant asset write-off for investments of up to $150,000 (supercharging the Government’s $5000, which was increased only in March) is also good policy given the circumstances. It is designed to provide an extra incentive for firms to invest as the lockdown continues to wind down. 

Importantly, the policies are both forward-looking and recognise that as the economy loosens, the next wave of Government support is going to be needed. This will clearly be the focus of Grant Robertson’s Budget next Thursday.

The entire basis of the lockdown was that the Government was prepared to induce a sharp recession in order to avoid a surge of Covid cases  resulting in deaths, which would in turn lead to an elongated downturn, driven by fear and uncertainty.

Yet as the will-they-won’t-they nature of the Covid alert levels rolls along the Government risks having both the sharp and deep recession, followed by a drawn-out period of uncertainty which it sold the New Zealand public on hopefully being able to avoid.

It is this risk that Bridges is seizing on, pushing the Government to move to level 2 quickly, and it is not unreasonable. . .

The Prime Minister was praised for her announcement explaining the alert system levels but they no longer mean what she said, and what the Ministry of Health’s website, say they mean.

A couple of weeks with new cases in single figures, two days with no new cases and then just one confirmed and one probable case yesterday should mean the risk of community transmission is low.

People are losing patience with the constraints under which we’re working and the lack of information on what will happen next, and when it will happen.

We’ll learn today what will and what will be permitted at Level 2 but won’t know until Monday when we’ll get there.

Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker writes of the need for certainty:

. . .The Government needs to be giving details of the conditions that will enable an easing of the alert levels, and when Southland will be able to function normally again. If normal functioning is not possible, the Government needs to tell us what restrictions will be put in place and what support there will be for businesses?

The Government needs to be providing details to us now so businesses can plan.

Sir Bill English once said to me “Hamish, it’s uncertainty which kills business and the economy. People can live with negative decisions that affect them, but you need to tell them so they can plan.” . . 

The government isn’t following this advice and National has stepped into the vacuum with a policy that would provide certainty and enable businesses to plan.  Unfortunately it’s in opposition and therefore not in a position to implement it.

That leaves us with uncertainty until the government deigns to provide us with the information we need and the assistance businesses require.

The full speech is here.


Plane hypocrisy

March 10, 2020

Guess which back bench MPs spent the most of flights:

The Parliamentary expense disclosure released today shows that, on average, Green Party list MPs are outspending list MPs in all other parties on air travel. On average, the list MPs from the Greens are spending more than a third more than Labour’s equivalent.

Reacting to the figures, Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams said:
 
“The Greens constantly say that we need to reduce air travel if we are to save the planet. They need to practice what they preach.”
 
Average air travel spending for non-ministerial list MPs by party:
Greens – $9,816
NZ First – $8,059
National – $7,332
Labour – $6,499

These MPs don’t have the excuse of servicing electorates at either end of the country like Sarah Dowie, Hamish Walker or Matt King do.

The Greens are all list MPs.

They argue that because there are fewer of them, each has to travel more.

But that doesn’t wash when are the ones that preach to the rest of us about cutting down on all but essential travel and the necessity of reducing our use of fossil fuels.

As Heather du Plessis-Allan writes:

. . . This is a plane (deliberate) and simple case of the Greens being a bunch of outstanding hypocrites. This is the party asking Parliament to declare a national climate emergency. It’s the party trying to penalise people who buy petrol cars, asking stretched farmers to pay for their emissions, trying (and thankfully failing) to put a halt to the building of new roads and begging ACC to divest from fossil fuel stocks. Essentially, it’s the party trying to force everyone else to sacrifice a little something for the climate, while they carry on working towards another year of Elite Gold Koru Club status. . .

The Greens hope it’s all okay because they offset their flight carbon by paying for someone to plant trees. Again, nice try. Even the UN says that’s no get-out-of-jail-free card. Trees planted today, to quote the UN, can’t grow fast enough to avoid what the UN calls “catastrophic planetary changes”. Offsetting emissions is like setting a house on fire, giving it a good five minutes to get started, then putting it out and painting over all the damage.  . .

Hypocrisy is never a good look, it’s even worse in this case because it is so much a case of do as we say, not as we do.

The Greens are forever preaching about what the rest of us should be doing, but when it comes to practice, they find that in the absence of alternative time and convenience come before climate concerns.


Higher standard for cows than people

January 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roys Peak has a  similar problem with human waste.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Labour pains? National delivers

October 10, 2019

When you serve a large rural electorate you have to be prepared to lend a hand:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker’s duties took a turn for the unusual when he drove past a bleeding ewe in a paddock, pulled over, and helped deliver a lamb. . . 

“What’s great about small communities is it only takes one phone call to find the local information you need. The lady I phoned knew who the paddock belonged to. She phoned the farmer, who arrived 45 minutes later.”

A gloveless Walker then assisted the farmer in birthing the lamb, which required him to reach in and pull out the lamb by hand, a process Walker described as “normal”. . . 

That’s taking the adage that Labour pains, National delivers literally.


Rural round-up

June 12, 2019

Dairy law changes spur dissent – Sally Rae:

Changes to dairy industry legislation will bring some improvements to the sector but also represent “a missed opportunity”, both Fonterra and Federated Farmers say.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor yesterday announced changes to be made to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 (DIRA) and the Dairy Industry Restructuring Raw Milk Regulations 2012.

The changes include allowing Fonterra to refuse milk supply from new conversions and from farmers who did not comply with its supply standards. . . 

Crush protection for quad bikes very worthwhile option – Feds:

Federated Farmers is on board with WorkSafe’s decision to “strongly recommend” installation of a crush protection device (CPD) on quad bikes used for work purposes.

“We support WorkSafe’s policy clarification.  For some time Federated Farmers has been saying CPDs, or roll over protection as it used to be called, can be a very useful injury prevention option in many – but not all – farm settings,” Feds President Katie Milne says.

“There is still some debate about CPDs, including from quad bike manufacturers who say they are unsafe, and those who say the device itself can cause injury in some circumstances.  But like WorkSafe, Federated Farmers believes there is now enough evidence from credible sources to say that farmers should at least be considering Crush Protection Devices. . . 

Forest awards apprentices of the year a chip of the old block – Sally Rae:

Paige Harland was born to be in the bush.

Miss Harland (21) comes from a Southland family who have sap in their blood over three generations.

Named apprentice of the year at the recent 2019 Southern Wood Council Forestry Awards, she works for Harland Brothers Logging.

The business was established by her grandfather and great-uncle, later taken over by her uncle Peter and is now run by her cousins Jesse and Corrie Harland. . . 

Deer farmers set example:

Central Hawke’s Bay farmers Evan and Linda Potter have won the premier Elworthy Award in the deer industry’s 2019 environmental awards.

The Potters were praised by the award judges for their work in enhancing the environmental performance of their property.

They have owned the 640ha Waipapa Station for 20 years.

A bush clad gully on their Elsthorpe farm is a highly visible and attractive aspect of the Potters’ contribution. . . 

 

Decision to not front Lumsden meeting ’embarrassing’, MP says:

The Ministry of Health and Southern District Health Board decision not to meet with Southland midwives today has been described as a slap in the face.

The meeting was called to help midwives practice safely in the area after the former Lumsden Maternity Centre was downgraded.

It was cancelled after both organisations decided not to front up to midwives this afternoon.

National’s Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said it was embarrassing that neither were prepared to meet with midwives for the good of the rural communities. . . 

Meet the midwives at Fieldays:

For this first time this year, midwives will have a stand at Fieldays at Mystery Creek in Hamilton.

Midwives play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of rural communities throughout New Zealand and the thousands of people who flock to the country’s premier agricultural show, will have an opportunity find out more about their work.

Out of New Zealand’s total population of 4.8 million, approximately 576,000* people live in rural areas. Around 55,000 women give birth annually in New Zealand; nearly a third of whom live in rural areas. . . 


Rural round-up

June 7, 2019

New tech boosts packhouse output – Richard Rennie:

While much has been made of the prospects for robots harvesting kiwifruit and other orchards, one packing company has invested heavily this season in robotic technology in the pack house. Apata Group chief executive Stuart Weston outlined to Richard Rennie some of the smarts behind the country’s most robotised pack house, and what it heralds for the industry.

This year’s kiwifruit harvest is enduring another season with dire predictions of labour shortages coming at least partly true. 

Most processing companies report an ongoing need for more staff, both pickers and in pack houses.  . . 

NZ Producers cheesed off with EU – Pam Tipa:

Trade expert Stephen Jacobi says he thinks New Zealand cheesemakers are rightly concerned about a European Union plan to protect the names of common cheeses.

It is a concern in the context of the EU-NZ free trade agreement negotiations, he says.

“The Europeans say they are not looking to penalise in any way the generic names,” Jacobi told Rural News. “They are saying they are only interested in the ones that have geographical connections.” . . 

Southland maternity like ‘Russian roulette’, midwife says – Tess Brunton:

Supplies mishaps are plaguing the Lumsden and Te Anau maternity hubs that were meant to be up and running seven weeks ago, adding to concerns over giving birth in the region.

RNZ has been told pure oxygen – which poses a danger to babies when administered over long periods – was delivered to the Lumsden Maternal and Child Hub, while the Te Anau hub is still waiting for more equipment.

The news is adding to continued concerns over the emergency hubs, which are only meant to be used when expecting mothers are unable to reach a primary birthing centre in time. . .

Rural mums need urgent action:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker has again written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she promised to ‘take another look’ into the Lumsden Maternity Centre downgrade.

“I have written to the Prime Minister and asked for her findings as well as informing her of the second birth in the Lumsden area in just 11 days,” Mr Walker says.

“This could be a matter of life or death. All we have to do is look across the ditch to rural Queensland where since the downgrading of maternity services the death of babies in every 1000 is now at 23.3, compared with 6.1 in rural areas with obstetrics. . .

Farmers ticked off over NAIT ‘fluster cuck’ – Nigel Malthus:

Farmers are bristling over any suggestion they had been slack about re-registering their farm locations in National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) in time for moving day on June 1.

Every person in charge of animals must re-register their NAIT location following a recent upgrade to the system.

Yet only one week out from moving day, the Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor released figures showing that about half of all dairy farms – 8000 out of 15,000 – had yet to re-register. . . 

It’s the little things – Penny Clark-Hall:

What is it that we can do to earn and improve our Social Licence? So many people in the primary sector have asked me this lately and this was precisely what I was wanting to be able to give them from my Kellogg research.

The answer, while no one quick fix, isn’t big either. It’s lots of little things. They require bravery, honesty and accountability, but it’s not going to cost you the world, just time. A resource that I know is probably just as precious, if not more, to farmers than money.

So here is what my key recommendations are. . . 

Dairy a pig of a job – Stephen Bell:

Hold onto your hats folks it could be a wild ride in the dairy industry but without all the fun of the fair.

There are so many things going on here and abroad that will influence not just farmgate milk prices but also input and compliance costs and thus, most importantly profits.

On the face of it things are looking up for the new season with rural economists predicting a starting price somewhere north of $7/kg MS.

But Fonterra, on the back of narrowing its 2018-19 forecast to the bottom end of its range at $6.30 to $6.40/kg MS has given a wide range for this season of $6.25-$7.25. Though the economists are optimistic Fonterra has set the advance rate at only $3.80/kg MS.

And we still don’t know any detail for Fonterra’s new strategy but we can take it from chief executive Miles Hurrell’s comments accompanying the third quarter results that it won’t be plain sailing for a couple of years yet. . . 

Pigeon Valley fire aftermath: ‘Biggest recovery effort ever made‘- Katie Todd:

One of New Zealand’s largest recorded ‘tree salvages’ has been hailed a success in the aftermath of the Pigeon Valley fire.

About 10,000 tonnes of burnt pine trees are being plucked from the ground for use in Canterbury construction projects, Nelson housing developments and to prevent future fires in Tasman.

It comes despite an initial race against time for Tasman Pine Forests, that own about 60 percent or or 14 sqkm of the fire-affected land.

After the fire was out, crews were faced with the task of extracting trees of varying ages and heights, some slightly charred at the base and others scorched to the tips, before beetles and bugs could begin to break them down. . . 

National Lamb Day held where it all began – Sally Brooker:

National Lamb Day was celebrated on May 24 at the place where New Zealand’s frozen meat industry began 137 years ago – Totara Estate.

The historic farm just south of Oamaru prepared a shipment of lamb that arrived in Britain in pristine condition on May 24, 1882.

As Britain looked to its colonies to provide food for its surging population, wool prices here had collapsed by the end of the 1870s.

New Zealand’s huge sheep flocks were increasingly worthless, and the mutton was in such oversupply that it, too, was not valued. Britain represented a massive potential market, but getting the meat there before it went off was no small problem. . . 


Rural round-up

May 29, 2019

Roadside birth: it could have been much worse – Tim Miller:

The Southland mother who gave birth to her son on the side of the road yesterday morning says the situation could have been much worse.

As a result of her experience with the newborn, Amanda McIvor will now join the campaign to improve maternity services in the South.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker has also written to the Prime Minister this morning, asking her to reinstate full services at the Lumsden Maternity Hospital.

Early yesterday, Ms McIvor knew she was in labour so called her midwife, Sarah Stokes, who advised her and partner Gordon Cowie to drive to Lumsden from their home between Mossburn and Te Anau for an assessment. . . 

Multi-million dollar cherry venture – Pam Jones:

Mt Pisa Station has been named as the location for the latest multimillion-dollar cherry venture in Central Otago.

Station manager Shane MacMillan said the family’s sheep and beef business would invest in the $15.5million project, which would result in 80ha of the station’s land being planted out in premium quality cherries for export from 2021-22.

It is one of three projects to be led by cherry investment firm Hortinvest in Central Otago in the past two years.

Another development – also worth $15.5million, and also on 80ha of land – is planned for Lindis Peaks Station and will be called the Lindis River development. . .

Drafting cows easy as :

Being environmentally friendly while farming happy and healthy cows and achieving a high in-calf rate were the three main drivers for Jonathan Power’s decision to install an autodrafter at his shed.

Power milks 530 Friesian-cross on 143 hectares at Lismore, Mid Canterbury. 

When he took over the property as the sharemilker five seasons ago the 40-aside herringbone was completely refitted with new plant. His earlier experience in an 80-bail rotary with a competitor’s drafting gate meant he already knew the value of autodrafting. . .

Fieldays: a food and fibre vision :

It’s an extraordinary time to be a farmer in New Zealand. On the one hand returns have been strong across most sectors and the demand outlook continues to look good for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, there is deep concern across the sector that farmers are not receiving credit for the hard work being done in the environmental sustainability space and, perhaps more concerning, we are being asked to shoulder an unfair share of the burden of addressing climate change. Primary Sector Council chairman Lain Jager explains.

It is in this context the Primary Sector Council set up by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor in April last year has been talking to farming groups around the country about what a vision for the future might look like. . .

What caused the abandonment of New Zealand’s freezing works – John Summers:

This story was originally published by North & South and is republished with permission.

OPINION: John Summers wonders if his abiding interest in New Zealand’s abandoned freezing works is actually a long farewell to his grandfather.

One summer, we drove north-east, beyond Gisborne to the quiet bays on that coast: Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay. Towns where sand settles between the stones in the asphalt and, walking down the street, you’re as likely to be passed by a kid on a horse as by a car.

There was a campground we planned to stay at, but it was a treeless field. No toilets, no kitchen. “We’re pretty relaxed around here,” the owner said, but we weren’t, so drove on to another. After pitching the tent, we walked to the end of the bay and onto a dilapidated wharf to look out at the empty sea – no ship had docked here for decades. . . 

Passion for merino ewes drives ambition – Stephen Burns:

“I’m truly fascinated by the Merino,” was Ross Walters’ comment after his flock of Bindaree-blood May-shorn maiden ewes had been awarded the Monaro Livestock and Property Trophy for Overall winner of the 90thBerridale Maiden Merino ewe competition.

“They live and perform under various conditions, but can still make a good return,” he said.

“The Monaro is some of the toughest country in Australia, if not the world, yet the Merino ewe is very productive with high lambing percentages and heavy wool cuts.” . . .


Rural round-up

March 9, 2019

MP says Landcorp is ‘out of touch’ – Sally Rae:

Hamish Walker Hamish Walker Landcorp has rejected a suggestion by Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker that it is “out of touch” with farmers.

Mr Walker contacted the Otago Daily Times after yesterday’s primary production select committee meeting which he described as a “fiery one”.

But Landcorp spokesman Simon King said the company did not agree with Mr Walker’s categorisation of the exchanges “which from our perspective were, for the most part, well mannered” . . 

Lean tools boost performance – Richard Rennie:

Increasing costs, lack of time, poor performance and farmers’ inability to step out of the business prompted a self-help book to give farmers simple tools and concepts to address these issues.

Manawatu management consultant and dairy farmer Jana Hocken has taken some of the principals often used in big multi-nationals and put them into a New Zealand dairying context in her new book, The Lean Dairy Farm.

Hocken’s book is based on the concept of lean, aiming to achieve continuous improvement of things in farmers’ control. . . 

Entries open for inaugural NZ Primary Industries Awards:

Across New Zealand’s agri-sector, it has long been recognised that we need to tell our primary producers’ story better and to celebrate our innovators.  That’s what the new Primary Industries Awards are all about.

“The awards, which will be presented at the inaugural Primary Industries Summit at Te Papa in Wellington on July 1, are a great chance to increase awareness of the vital role the primary sector plays in the economy,” Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says.

“We want to identify and reward the most successful and innovative primary sector operators, and by promoting those role models we’ll stimulate greater involvement and interest in the primary sector from graduates, investors, politicians and the media.” . . 

Barking drones used on farms instead of sheep dogs – Maja Burry:

Robots aren’t just stealing human jobs, they’re after man’s best friend too – now there’s a drone that can bark like a sheep dog.

The latest drone developments come as more farmers have started using the technology for work on the farm in recent years.

Drone specialist from Christchurch-based DJI Ferntech, Adam Kerr, said the uptake in drones for agricultural uses had now made the National Agricultural Fieldays in Hamilton one of the biggest events in the company’s calendar.

“The past two years have seen farmers embrace drone technology to help with those jobs that are dirty, dangerous or just plain dull,” he said. . . 

2019 Northland Dairy Industry Award winner living the dream:

The 2019 Northland Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners realised while studying at university that the office life wasn’t for them, so they made the decision to chase the New Zealand rural life dream and haven’t looked back.

Colin and Isabella Beazley were named the 2019 Northland Share Farmers of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at Toll Stadium in Whangarei last night, and won $7,927 in prizes plus four merit awards. The other major winners were the 2019 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year Lorraine Ferreira, and the 2019 Northland Dairy Trainee of the Year, Daniel Waterhouse. . .
Defra have no Brexit impact assessment for sheep farming

The government has not conducted any analysis of the potential impact of leaving the EU on British sheep farming, it has been revealed.

Defra has admitted, after a freedom of information (FoI) request, that it did not hold any information or documents relating to an assessment of the impact of Brexit on sheep farming.

A response from the department added: “We can confirm that to the best of our knowledge the information is not held by another public authority.” . . 


Rural round-up

February 28, 2019

Farmers tired of bearing blame – Hamish Walker:

Farmers are working hard on improving water quality and should be supported, writes Hamish Walker.

It’s all farmers’ fault didn’t you know?

Those fenced-off waterways, new sediment traps, wetlands, all the riparian plantings, not cultivating near waterways, strategically winter grazing and everything else farmers do on-farm to protect the environment, it’s still all their fault.

What is it, you ask?

Well, Fish & Game’s anti-farming crusade would have you believe it is the water quality issue, one solely caused by farmers. . . 

Farms firmly in taxman’s sights – Neal Wallace:

Agriculture will be firmly in the sights of the tax collector should the Government adopt the Tax Working Group suggestions, which propose a suite of environmental taxes and a broadened capital gains tax.

The group recommends including agriculture in a more tax-like emissions pricing scheme, introducing a nitrogen tax and taxing those who pollute and extract water, though it concedes establishing a mechanism to do that is problematic.

The report says more work is needed to develop tools to more accurately estimate diffuse water pollution and extraction but in lieu of such a system it recommends a general fertiliser tax. . . 

Applications open for Trans-Tasman agribusiness management programme :

Applications for the prestigious Rabobank Business Management Programmes have opened for 2019, with the Farm Managers Programme – the course for up-and-coming young farm leaders – returning to New Zealand for the first time in a decade.

Announcing the opening of applications for this year’s intake for the two residential programs – the Executive Development Programme (EDP) and the Farm Managers Programme (FMP), which are designed for progressive New Zealand and Australian farmers looking to take their businesses to the next level – Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris says it is fantastic news to have the Farm Managers Programme returning to Kiwis shores for the first time since it was last held in Christchurch in 2009.

Ahuwhenua finalists named:

The three finalists in this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori sheep and beef farm have been announced.

They are Whangara Farms, Gisborne; Te Awahohonu Forest Trust – Gwavas Station, Tikokino near Hastings and Kiriroa Station – Eugene & Pania King, Motu, near Gisborne. . . 

Gold and silver found on conservation land in Coromandel – Gerald Piddock:

OceanaGold​ has discovered gold and silver buried under conservation land on the Coromandel Peninsula.

But a local environmental group has vowed to fight the multinational company every step of the way if it decides to mine the precious metals.

The discovery after exploratory drilling at Wharekirauponga, inland from the holiday resort town of Whangamatā lies near the Wharekirauponga Track in the Coromandel Forest Park, which is classed as Schedule 4 land. . . 

 

Farmers launch ‘Mission 4 Milk’ to help promote the white stuff

A new campaign has been launched by dairy farmers to promote the health benefits of milk to the public.

Mission 4 Milk is a campaign which sets to raise awareness about how milk can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The campaign states: “With the rise of plant-based alternatives, the reduction of free milk in schools, and the shift away from milk marketing, the average shopper doesn’t know why they should drink milk.

“But cow’s milk is packed full of essential, natural vitamins and nutrients – many of which you won’t get anywhere else. It’s great for your bones, it’s great for your teeth, and perhaps most importantly – it’s great for your brain.”


Rural round-up

February 27, 2019

South Canterbury’s Opuha Dam an example for the country – Joanne Holden:

Opuha Dam is a water storage “success story” National MPs would like to see adopted around the country.

The 20-year-old dam was the first stop on Friday for National’s Primary Industries Caucus Committee – hosted by Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon – as they toured Mid and South Canterbury’s primary industry spots.

On the trip were MPs Nathan Guy, Jacqui Dean, Matt King, Hamish Walker, and List MP Maureen Pugh, who also visited Heartland Potato Chips in Washdyke, the Managed Aquifer Recharge in Hinds, and spoke to South Canterbury community members about the future of primary industries. . .

 

Farm conflicts in tourist hotspot – Neal Wallace:

A billionaire lives on a lifestyle property on one side of Chris and Emma Dagg’s Queenstown farm. On the other is a multi-millionaire.

Land Squeeze Dinkus 1The exclusive Millbrook Resort is nearby and actor Tom Cruise was a neighbour while filming in New Zealand.

The Daggs’ 424ha farm in the Wakatipu Basin between Queenstown and Arrowtown includes some of NZ’s most sort after land for residential development.

A short drive from Queenstown, the rural setting provides a desirable place for the rich and famous to live, putting pressure on landowners in a region short of land, houses and sections. . . 

Rain in Waikato a good start – more please, farmers say:

Rain in Waikato was good news for farmers but more is needed to keep the threat of drought at bay. 

Until the weekend, the region had only received 0.4 millimetres of rain leaving soil moisture levels dangerously low. 

Federated Farmers Waikato president Andrew McGiven said the 10 millimetres of rain received over the weekend “was a good start”.  . . 

Lanercost open to all farmers – Tim Fulton:

The first Future Farm is contributing to the rehabilitation of a bruised Canterbury farm and community. Tim Fulton reports.

Visitors to Lanercost can see its potential as a sheep and beef demonstration farm, the lessees say.

The North Canterbury hill country property near Cheviot is 1310ha modelled on a farm at Lincoln that has allowed the dairy industry to assess innovation.

Farmer Carl Forrester and Mendip Hills manager Simon Lee have a lease to run the 1310ha Lanercost in partnership with Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Lanercost’s owner, the T D Whelan Trust. . .

Loneliness in farming community is ‘heart-breaking’, police officers say

Police officers have highlighted how ‘heart-breaking’ it is to see some farmers suffer from extreme loneliness and isolation. The issue of loneliness in the farming community has been highlighted by Dyfed-Powys Police, who have a small team of specialist rural officers. PC Gerwyn Davies and PCSO Jude Parr are working closely with mental healthy charity the DPJ Foundation. They have referred several farmers to the charity for counselling and mental health support. . . 

Soil ecologist challenges mainstream thinking on climate change – Candace Krebs:

How cropland and pastures are managed is the most effective way to remedy climate change, an approach that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, according to a leading soil ecologist from Australia who speaks around the world on soil health.

“Water that sits on top of the ground will evaporate. Water vapor, caused by water that evaporates because it hasn’t infiltrated, is the greenhouse gas that has increased to the greatest extent since the Industrial Revolution,” said Christine Jones, while speaking at the No Till on the Plains Conference in Wichita in late January. . . 


Rural round-up

January 16, 2019

SIT plans takeover of Telford – Giordano Stolley:

The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) will submit a proposal to Education Minister Chris Hipkins to take over operations of the troubled Telford agricultural training campus in Balclutha.

A statement from the Clutha District Council yesterday afternoon quoted SIT chairman Peter Heenan as saying that he was “encouraged by the support from all parties at the meeting for SIT to pull together a proposal for the minister’s consideration”.

Mr Heenan made the comments at a meeting at the district council offices.

While the statement provided no details of the the proposal, Clutha Southland National Party MP Hamish Walker, said: “They [SIT] are looking to take over operations at Telford.” . . 

Funding call for Telford training farm campus staff:

The Clutha community is trying to raise funds for staff at a financially troubled rural training campus, mayor Bryan Cadogan says.

Dozens of staff at Telford agricultural training campus near Balclutha are stuck without pay while their employer’s future is decided.

The Telford training farm in South Otago is part of the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, which was placed in interim liquidation late last year.

More than 30 tutors and support staff at Telford had their wages suspended on Friday. . .

Synlait plant registration renewed – Sally Rae:

Synlait has successfully renewed the registration of its Dunsandel plant, allowing it to continue exporting canned infant formula to China.

The registration was issued by the General Administration of Customers of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC).

Synlait chief executive Leon Clement said GACC had strict criteria that overseas manufacturers must meet to maintain registration.

New pasture legume hard to fault – Jill Griffiths:

THE PERENNIAL forage legume tedera is on track for commercial release in 2019. Dr Daniel Real, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), said difficult seasonal conditions in Western Australia this year had provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the potential value of tedera.

“Rain at the end of February created a false break,” Daniel said. “All the annuals germinated but then died, and the dry autumn left nothing in the paddocks. The annuals were non-existent but the tedera was looking good.”

Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) is native to the Canary Islands and was brought to Australia in 2006 through research conducted under the auspices of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre. . . . 

Deliberate food contamination needs harsher penalties:

A recent member’s bill which seeks to introduce harsher penalties and offences is good to see, but any action from it will have to be funded and resourced adequately to have any real impact, says Federated Farmers.

The bill is from National’s Nathan Guy and it comes in the wake of last year’s Australian strawberry needle scare which triggered copycat offences here and back over the ditch, says Feds Food Safety spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

Thousands of strawberries had to be destroyed as needles started showing up in the fruit across stores. The needle scares crushed spirits and trust. . .

How one innovative company is using bees to protect crops from disease – Nicole Rasul:

Billed as an “elegant solution to a complex problem,” Bee Vectoring Technology, or BVT, is a Toronto-based startup that is using commercially reared bees to provide a targeted, natural disease management tool to a range of agricultural crops.

The bumblebee, one of nature’s hardest workers, is the star of the BVT method. Hives that contain trays of powdered Clonostachys rosea CR-7, which the company describes as “an organic strain of a natural occurring endophytic fungus… commonly found in a large diversity of plants and soils all around the world,” are placed near a fledgling field. . .

Cheaper to get your 5+ a day at the end of 2018:

Avocados and lettuces were much cheaper than the previous summer, but egg prices hit a record high in December 2018, Stats NZ said today.

“Overall, getting your five-plus (5+) a day servings of fruit and vegetables was cheaper in 2018,” consumer prices manager Geraldine Duoba said. Fruit prices were 3.8 percent lower in December 2018 than in December 2017, while vegetable prices were 7.5 percent lower.

“Bad weather in 2017 reduced the supply of many vegetables, pushing up their prices,” Ms Duoba said. “Growing conditions were mostly more favourable during 2018, boosting supply and lowering prices.” . .


Rural round-up

September 26, 2018

Profiting from precision irrigation:

Economic, environmental and social benefits are prompting a growing number of Australasian and US farmers to adopt precision variable rate irrigation systems.

New Zealand, a country generally known for its ample annual rainfall and phenomenal natural crop growth, is an unlikely origin for a precision irrigation development that’s gaining traction globally. However, light soils and sporadic precipitation in some regions, plus readily available water for irrigation, mean close to 800,000 ha or 6.5% of the country’s farmland is artificially watered.

Originally, much of that was with flood irrigation using border-dykes but, in the drive for water use efficiency and environmental protection, spray irrigation has become the norm, mostly with centre-pivots. . . 

Growers get 20,000 plants back after MPI testing clears any risk – Eric Frykberg:

The Ministry for Primary Industries has released about 20,000 apple plants and 400 stone fruit plants which it impounded as a biosecurity risk three months ago.

It has now completed testing of the plants and found no trace of pests or diseases.

As a result they have been freed from all restrictions. . .

MPI slow to pay M bovis compensation – Rachel Kelly:

Some farmers are seeking help from their MP to get compensation claims paid out after their farms have been infected by Mycoplasma bovis.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said MPI’s response to compensation claims for M. bovis had improved in recent months, but it still needed to be better.

The ministry said it was aware that some farmers have found the compensation process difficult, but it was important that each claim was assessed and approved properly. . .

Carbon trees ‘opportunity’ for landowners – Toni Williams:

There is ”renewed opportunity” for landowners to get into carbon trees, Carbon Forest Services managing director Ollie Belton says.

And ”hopefully it will mean more trees (planted) on farms”.

Mr Belton was a guest speaker at a Bayleys Real Estate breakfast meeting attended by sales agents and invited guests at the Hotel Ashburton, in Ashburton, earlier this month. . .

Omapere Rangihamama Trust: a country comeback story

In 2007, the Omapere Rangihamama Trust was broke. A decade later, the Far North Trust won the prestigious Ahuwhenua Māori Excellence in Farming Award for the top sheep and beef farm in Aotearoa.

They continued to decline for the next three decades until a new management team with clear strategies and visions was put in place in 2007. . .

Fonterra’s Chilean farmers threaten to break away – Gerard Hutching:

Disgruntled Chilean dairy farmers have threatened to stop supplying Fonterra because they say they are being underpaid for their milk.

The dairy giant has a 86 per cent ownership stake of processing company Prolesur, but some small farmers in southern Chile who supply it are unhappy with their treatment.

Waikato dairy consultant Mike McBeath, who is chairman of Chilean company Chilterra, said it was looking to combine with about 200 farmers to create a rival co-operative. . .

Fonterra has bred an ‘us versus them’ mentality damaging farmers – Louise Giltrap:

I think it’s about time we got some things cleared up around how people think our dairy giant Fonterra operates.

The statement I love hearing the most is: “But you farmers own Fonterra and you should take back some control!”

And the second one just recently has in response to the grandiose five-star functions held over the last fortnight for select Fonterra staff: “It’s not the farmers’ money they are spending!”

Alrighty, so let’s start at the beginning. All the farmers get a vote and that vote is cast on what is selectively put in front of us to vote on. . .


Rural round-up

April 28, 2018

Minister refuses to meet MP to discuss future of rescue helicopter base – Guy Williams:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says Health Minister David Clark has refused to meet him to discuss the fate of Te Anau’s rescue helicopter base.

Te Anau was one of three bases cut from a list of bases in a tender for air rescue services put out by the ACC and Ministry of Health last month.

Taupo and Rotorua’s bases were effectively restored to the list after three North Island mayors met Mr Clark on Monday. . . 

Scientists work on simple way to clean streams – Tony Benny:

Canterbury University scientists have perfected a simple method to reduce sediment load in waterways by up to 70 per cent, part of a project to find solutions to Canterbury’s water woes. Tony Benny reports.

On the Canterbury Plains alone, there are about 17,000km of waterways, many of which carry high levels of nitrogen, phosphate-laden sediment and faecal bacteria and a huge effort is going into ways to reverse this decline in water quality, with local and national government agencies, farm industry bodies, iwi and farmers all joining in.

Adding some science to the mix is the Canterbury Water Rehabilitation Experiment (Carex), a project by the University of Canterbury’s Freshwater Ecology Research Group, funded by the Ashburton-based Mackenzie Charitable Foundation. The Carex team comprises nine scientists including professors, researchers and students. . . .

Gas not grass at farm field day – Richard Rennie:

Ground-breaking research turning a commercial dairy farm into a living lab is starting to reveal some valuable insights for farmers seeking ways to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gases.

Waikato University has, for the first time, thrown back the blanket on its researchers’ cutting-edge equipment and early lessons from that equipment on a Matamata property that has been a core site over the past six years.

In something of a national first, the traditional style Waikato farm discussion day had greenhouse gases rather than growing more grass as the key focus for those attending.

At the heart of the property’s research into better understanding of nitrous oxide release on dairy farms is the university’s $250,000 Quantum Cascade Laser. The high tech kit is helping researchers gain far more accurate analysis what the gas does when released from cow urine patches.  . . 

Hurdles ahead in future irrigation development – Yvonne O’Hara:

Irrigation New Zealand’s (INZ) held its conference in Alexandra earlier this month and the primary focus was on irrigation and its future role.

IrrigationNZ chair Nicky Hyslop said the conference “celebrated the role that irrigation played”.

The future of the Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group’s plan to raise the height of Falls Dam by 6m to irrigate 12,500ha was highlighted following the announcement that the Crown Irrigation Investments (CII) would not be funding any more irrigation projects.

Water strategy group chairman Allan Kane said it had decided, based on pre-feasibility study information, that raising Falls Dam by 6m to irrigate 12,500ha was the best option.

However, the Government’s announcement meant alternative funding options would need to be found to contribute to the group’s final feasibility study. . . 

Bulk milk tests ‘not working’ – Annette Scott:

Frank Peters’ $4 million dairy herd, the result of 55 years of breeding genetics is about to be slaughtered despite being clean in bulk milk testing.

Now he’s worried about 2500 calves he has sold in the four years since Mycoplasma bovis arrived on his 1400-cow farm in stock he bought from Southern Centre Dairies in Southland in autumn 2014.

“That’s four years ago and we have sold 2500 calves in that time that could be anywhere now. . .

Big year for Wallace Family of South Otago – Rob Tipa:

Rob Tipa visits a family that has caught the judges’ eye in a couple of recent competitions.

This year is shaping up as a big one for the Wallace family of Waipahi in South Otago, winning several major southern farming awards in the space of a week.

Logan, Ross and Alexa Wallace won the Beef + Lamb Livestock Award, the Massey University Innovation Award and the supreme award for the Otago region at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Wanaka earlier this month.

Last weekend Logan, 28, added a win in the Otago-Southland regional final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year awards in Winton to his impressive record in the industry. . .

Put wellbeing in business plan:

If the wool industry wants to attract the next generation of shearers it needs to prioritise the wellbeing of its workforce, industry veteran Dion Morrell says.

Dion and his partner Gabriela run a busy, Alexandra-based contracting business employing up to 50 shearers at peak time. 

He’s worked in the industry for over 40 years, starting as a shearer straight out of school, working his way up to elite level competition representing New Zealand and setting four world records along the way.  . . 

Viral American farming sensation on tour in New Zealand

From a family farm in Kansas in the United States, four siblings known as The Peterson Farm Bros have risen to social media fame with their funny parody videos.

Songs names like “Takin’ Care of Livestock” (Taking Care of Business Parody) are sure to put you on the map, and these siblings have racked up over 50 million views on their videos.

However, the world’s most popular farming family are using their fame for the greater good to advocate for agriculture and to correct farming misconceptions. . .


Thriving regions need health & rescue services

April 11, 2018

Proposed changes to helicopter rescue services in the regions could cost lives.

. . Te Anau has not been included in the list of bases proposed under the National Ambulance Sector Office’s (NASO) call for air ambulance services and will now be covered by Queenstown.

NASO is seeking larger area-based contracts, including one for all of the South Island, because the demand for air ambulance services has been rising.

If demand is rising why would they cut out a base?

Under the proposal, Fiordland will be covered by helicopters from Queenstown, but only if the three companies that provide services in the South Island now – Heliworks in Queenstown, the Otago Helicopters in Dunedin and Garden City Helicopters in Christchurch – band together to bid for a contract to cover the whole of the South Island. 

Lakes District Air Rescue Trust chairman Jules Tapper said the three companies had formed a company called HEMS NZ and were considering bidding for the South Island work, but twin-engined helicopters were required under the new proposal and Te Anau would not be a base,

Lakes District Air Rescue Trust operates emergency rescue helicopters from bases in Queenstown and Te Anau.

Tapper said lives would undoubtedly be lost under the new proposal if Te Anau was no longer a base.

“They seem to think they can cover it from Queenstown but it is 20 to 25 minutes flying time from Queenstown to Te Anau before you head into Fiordland and lives will be lost in that time.

“Having only twin-engined machines is a huge increase in costs and one size does not fit all. The new plan excludes Squirrels. They’re fast, very nimble and can get into tight clearings and tight places where you can’t get big machines.” . . 

The trust covers the biggest geographical area in the country, from Haast to Alexandra and Invercargill and undertook rescues in the Southern Ocean.

It flew more than 400 missions a year and about 200 of them were from Te Anau.

The Te Anau based service also has experienced pilots who know the terrain and weather.

Southern Lakes Helicopters pilot Sir Richard Hayes, who was flying on Sunday and could not be reached for comment, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to search and rescue and has more than 40 years’ experience flying.

Fiordland LandSAR secretary Stewart Burnby said the proposal to not have a base at Te Anau was “the most bloody stupid thing I’ve ever heard.”

He had been involved in search and rescue for more than 25 years in Fiordland, much of it with Hayes and said his loss of experience would cost lives.

“It sounds like a recipe for disaster. To put it bluntly Richard has the experience and the equipment, Queenstown don’t.

“Mountain flying is a very different beastie and he knows the place like the back of his hand. It sounds like politics is getting in the way of sensibility.”

Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker said it was unacceptable that the service was at risk of being moved away from the region

“It is very concerning that local rescue helicopters in Te Anau, that have successfully operated for nearly three decades, may no longer receive Government funding after being left out of the Government’s proposals for helicopter rescue services.

“The Te Anau helicopters have helped to save lives and are an important part of a timely rescue response service for our region.”

The importance of local knowledge was illustrated last week:

. . . He [Tapper] said sometimes it was impossible for helicopters from Queenstown to get into the area.

“Last Friday was a classic example when there is no way a machine could’ve got in from outside of the area, it was shocking winds and snow and rain and yet Sir Richard Hayes was able to sneak up Lake Te Anau and up the Milford Track to the Mckinnon Pass where two ladies were succumbing to hypothermia – one was in a very, very bad way and would’ve undoubtedly died if she hadn’t been pulled out.

“Now that is a classic example where the machine, on the spot with local knowledge, was able to do the job successfully.” . . 

It’s not just South Island services under threat.

. . . A pilot for the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter in Taupō, Nat Every, said last year the Taupō and Rotorua rescue helicopters flew 420 missions around the region, which includes the Central Plateau and the Tongariro National Park.

Without bases there, people would be forced to wait longer for help.

“If you require a helicopter and you are in the Taupō/Central Plateau region, I think it’s fair to say – categorically – it will take longer for that helicopter to reach you than it currently does,” Mr Every said.

And the longer people are forced to wait, the more critical their situation becomes, he said.

“It is absolutely time-critical. You’re having a heart attack, you’re having breathing difficulties, you’re in a car accident, it’s your child, it’s your wife, it’s your children, your mother, your family member, you know every second counts,” Mr Every said.

The Taupō area would have to rely on helicopters coming from Taranaki, Hamilton, Tauranga, Hawke’s Bay or Palmerston North.

That could add an extra 35 minutes to an hour to the flight time. It would also leave those regions without access to a helicopter while it was being tasked elsewhere, he said. . . 

Mr Every said factors like the weather and the geography of an area were crucial.

“It’s all very well for someone to have a map of New Zealand and draw circles around several hospitals and go ‘OK well that circle covers that area and that area … and look I think we’ve go the country covered there’.

“As a paper exercise it all seems to work but what it doesn’t take into account is the weather, the hills, the geography,” he said. . . 

The government aims to eliminate road deaths.

That’s a highly aspirational goal which won’t be helped if the lives of accident victims are lost for want of rescue services relatively near by with pilots and crew who know the area.

It’s not just rescue services which are threatened. The Rural Health Alliance  might also be lost:

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) are saddened to see that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will cease operating if it does not receive government funding next week.

“RWNZ supports the work already done by RHAANZ in bringing together various rural groups and rural health providers to develop initiatives for rural communities,” says RWNZ Board Member and Health Portfolio Convenor, Margaret Pittaway.

“Remarkable work has been done to deliver the Rural Health Road Map which sets out a plan and priorities for achieving healthily rural communities.

“Being geographically isolated, often with significant distance to the nearest town or health centre means that rural communities have an immediate need of affordable and reliable access to all health services.

”The Government has committed to rural proofing government policy, and RHAANZ has a vital part to play in this development – without the continuation of RHAANZ, and the work it does, rural communities will go backwards.

“There is no other place where issues impacting the health and wellbeing of rural communities are considered concurrently, and the loss of achievements met and efforts made by RHAANZ will be detrimental for our rural people.
RWNZ urges the Government to recognise the good work that has been done by RHAANZ and to support its continuation,” says Mrs Pittaway. . . 

Throwing money from the Provincial Growth Fund at feasibility studies is not rural-proofing government policy.

Funding for essential health services must come first.


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