Taranaki landfarms fit for purpose

05/10/2013

An investigation  commissioned by the Taranaki regional Council has found that landfarms are fit for purpose.

Doctor Doug Edmeades of AgKnowledge  who undertook the investigation found:

1. Waste products (rock cuttings and drilling muds) from the oil exploration industry in Taranaki are being incorporated into  re-contoured formed sand dunes and re-sown back to pasture (a process referred to as Landfarming). This process is controlled by resource consents issued by the Taranaki Regional Council. Three Landfarms have been completed to date and are now being farmed commercially (2 under irrigation).
 
2. The drilling muds contain potential contaminants: petrochemical residues, barium, heavy metals and salts. The question arises: are these reformed soils ‘fit-for-purpose’ – in this case pastoral farming and especially dairy farming.
 
3. As required by the consents regular soil samples were collected and analysed during the disposal process. These results were summarised and examined relative to the permitted limits for the various potential contaminants.
 
4. The completed sites were visited and the pasture and soils inspected. Soil and pasture samples were collected and analysed for all potential contaminants. These results were compared to the properties of normal New Zealand pastorals soils.
 
5. It is concluded from this body of evidence that these modified soils are ‘fit–for-purpose”. The concentrations of: nutrients (macro and micro), heavy metals and soluble salts in these soils and pasture are similar to normal New Zealand soils. The form of barium present is as environmentally benign barite, and there is no evidence of accumulation of petrochemical residues.
 
6. The process of Landfarming these otherwise very poor soils, together with appropriate management (irrigation, fertiliser and improved pastures) has increased the agronomic value of the land from about $3-5000/ha to $30-40,000/ha.
 
Federated Farmers had earlier called Green Party concerns about these properties as scaremongering and is buoyed that an independent scientific investigation has confirmed these farms are not only safe, but may be better for the environment.
 

“Federated Farmers congratulates Taranaki Regional Council for commissioning Dr Doug Edmeades of AgKnowledge to test landfarming,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.

“If you happen to be a farmer with less than even pasture or soil quality, then the cliché, ‘One man’s trash is another’s treasure,’ very much applies. Landfarms recycle the mud, rocks and clay that comes from mining so is smart recycling.

“The blending of this material into the sand makes it worthwhile to add fertiliser and to put in place irrigation infrastructure. Simply put there is soil.

“These landfarms are also monitored and tested by Taranaki Regional Council and Dr Edmeades study vindicates both the concept and the council’s monitoring approach.

“That’s why the negative claims made about landfarms in Taranaki were so thin they could model in Paris.

“Dr Edmeades is a scientist who has completed an ANZAC Fellowship and was National Science Program Leader (Soils and Fertiliser) for AgResearch. In 1997, he established his own science consulting business, which became AgKnowledge.

“Dr Edmeades is an expert in his field. His report concluded that landfarming made sandy and highly erosion prone coastal farmland, ten times better for dairy farming. That is both an economic and environmental win since these farms previously had poor soils.

“Because of the value and productive uplift from landfarming, it has allowed better management practices to be adopted.

“His report found that the concentrations of heavy metals in the landfarms were at the low end of the range, when compared to soils from various regions in farmed and non-farmed areas. That is a positive.

“While hydrocarbons were found on the most recently completed landfarm, Dr Edmeades said these levels would decline as soil microbes broke them down.

“Being a farmer, I know that earthworms are a strong indicator of soil health and Dr Edmeades found them in large numbers. That’s a key thing for me because he described earthworms as a soil scientist’s ‘canary in the mine’.

“At least we now have a robust independent scientific report saying that landfarming is not only safe but can be environmentally positive. That’s why we need to base discussion on hard facts and evidence and not for short-term political gain,” Mr Leach concluded.

Fonterra had stopped taking milk from new properties on land farms because of the cost of tests.

The perception of a safe clean dairy industry was also a factor.

Perception beats reality – it will probably beat the science because those dark green anti-dairy campaigners only back the science which suits their case.


Rural round-up

17/06/2013

40% productivity rise realistic – Sally Rae:

On-farm productivity gains in the New Zealand sheep industry over the past 25 years have been an ”extraordinary story”, AbacusBio consultant Dr Peter Fennessy says.

Productivity, which drove profitability, had been increasing at about 2.5% a year, which he attributed to a combination of genetics and management.

There had been genetic improvement through consolidation of the ram-breeding sector and larger ram-breeding flocks, and uptake of new technology (rams and pasture) and better pasture management. . .

Working within cap on nitrogen – Sally Rae:

“As a nation, we cannot continue to have conversations about protecting water quality without having a parallel set of conversations that redefine the New Zealand farming business model.”

So says Taupo farmer and entrepreneur Mike Barton, who, when faced with what was effectively a cap on stock numbers, sought to increase the value of the product he produced.

A nitrogen cap was imposed on farmers around Lake Taupo to protect its water quality, with 35,000ha of land now covenanted for 999 years to remove 20% of manageable nitrogen. . .

Fonterra invests further $30m into Whareroa:

Fonterra has announced a further $30 million investment to expand its Dry Distribution Centre at its Whareroa site in Taranaki.

This follows a $23 million upgrade of the Whareroa coolstores last year, bringing the total capital investment in the logistics infrastructure on site to more than $50 million since 2011.

Fonterra Director of Logistics, Mark Leslie, says the project is part of Fonterra’s overall drive to simplify their supply chain and reduce the associated costs.

“These investments are part of a strategy to deliver more products, more directly to ports for export. . . “

Fieldays; washer cleans up– Jackie Harrigan:

Taranaki dairy farmer Simon Washer made a clean sweep of the Fieldays Rural Bachelor of the Year Competition for 2013.

After a busy week of an Amazing Race through the North Island followed by a series of eight challenges at Mystery Creek, 25-year-old Simon won the People’s Choice Award – having built his Facebook following to more than 700 likes – before being presented with the Golden Gumboot Award for overall Rural Bachelor of the Year.

Simon is sharemilking in coastal Taranaki and a motor-cross and trail riding fan who is also involved in Young Farmers and chairman of his local club. . .

Green’s Taranaki claims poppycock – Harvey Leach:

What we saw on TV3’s Campbell Live about landfarming in Taranaki and then got from a Green Party media release was straight out of the conspiracy theorists’ playbook.

The Green Party called on Fonterra to stop taking milk from land in Taranaki that it said had been spread with oil and fracking waste, which included toxic chemicals.

This divides things into “everyone even remotely involved-qualified versus me”. In our case, those remotely involved-qualified were landowners, Fonterra, Taranaki Regional Council, petroleum companies and the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association. The “me” in this story was the Green Party of Dr Russel Norman. . .

 


Facts counter political opportunism

05/06/2013

TV3’s story on cows grazing on landfill was an example of emotion trumping facts and it provided an excuse for the Green Party to seek more publicity.

Fortunately Federated Farmers has the facts to counter their political opportunism:

Federated Farmers Taranaki is concerned the Green Party’s scaremongering over rehabilitated landfarms is putting at risk New Zealand’s number one merchandise export.

“Politicians and political parties have a higher duty when it comes to what they say or do,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.

“The Green Party media release I saw is like going into a packed theatre and yelling fire. I think we are hitting new lows in politics when the sum total of a political party’s research effort is a television news segment.

“Unlike that party, Federated Farmers has asked questions and knows there is a double testing regime in place for rock cuttings and clays.

“Taranaki Regional Council is incredibly rigorous in what it does. The Council tests ground conditions to ensure things are as they should be. Fonterra further tests for contaminants when it collects milk to ensure integrity of the entire milk supply chain.

“The science is clear; there is no issue here. Of course you don’t want the truth to get in the way of a bad story.

“Politicians misrepresenting the truth is low-ball stuff. They are calling into question the integrity of a major regional council which is the most experienced we have in dealing with oil and gas.

“It also puts at risk our $12 billion dairy export industry by questioning the integrity of our major dairy exporters. We are being ankle-tapped by politicians who get paid by our hard work and that of other hard working kiwis. We deserve much better.

“Farmers will be predictably disappointed in the Green Party because they seem willing to throw decent hard working people under a bus to get a cheap headline. It is nasty politics spun at its worst,” Mr Leach concluded.

New Zealand has a well deserved reputation for food safety and animal health and welfare.

It could very easily be sabotaged by people and parties will to put political opportunism ahead of the facts in this manner.


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