Hunter Downs irrigation scheme down

October 10, 2018
The Hunter Downs irrigation scheme hasn’t got enough support to go ahead.

Hunter Downs Water Ltd announced yesterday it did not have enough buy-in from landowners in its command area between the Waitaki River and Timaru.

The company owns resource consent to use up to 20.5 cumecs of Waitaki River water.

The irrigation proposition was launched in 2006.

In March last year, shares were offered in a $195million scheme to irrigate 21,000 ha and a government development funding grant of $1.37million had been made. By June 2017, the design was shrunk to 12,000 ha.

At the end of last year, South Canterbury rich-lister Gary Rooney’s offer to buy “dry shares” saved the project from being scrapped then.

In April, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd’s $70million term debt funding would no longer be available to the scheme. So the company released a new funding proposal in August, asking all prospective investors to reconfirm their commitment.

Not enough did.

Chairman Andrew Fraser said yesterday “a significant drop-off in support” meant the scheme could not proceed.

It was not all about intensifying land use and converting to dairying, but rather relieving pressure on existing water takes, decreasing reliance on surface water extractions, and using the plentiful Waitaki River resource, he said. . .

These schemes have to have the support of farmers. But without debt funding from Crown Irrigation, the cost would have been too high for too many. IrrigationNZ rightly calls it a lost opportunity for South Canterbury.

The scheme had the potential to significantly boost the Waimate economy, create jobs, improve people’s standard of living and help resolve water quality problems,” says Andrew Curtis, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ.

“It’s disappointing that a scheme with wide reaching community benefits won’t proceed.”

“Much of Environment Canterbury’s plans for improving water quality in the South Canterbury coastal area rely on the development of the irrigation scheme to reduce pressure on groundwater and augment the Lake Wainono Lagoon. Hunter Downs still wants to use its consent to augment the Lake Wainono Lagoon, but the other environmental impacts of the scheme not proceeding will need to be worked through.”

The scheme wouldn’t just have drought-proofed farms, it would have    had environmental benefits in improved water quality and lagoon enhancement.

“While farmers benefit from irrigation development, so do local communities. Irrigation projects are difficult to get off the ground if farmers are the sole funders of major infrastructure projects. There have now been numerous studies completed of New Zealand irrigation schemes and all demonstrate that irrigation have significant benefits for local communities and create substantial new tax income for the government,” says Mr Curtis.

“Other countries are increasing their investment in water storage to recognise that their communities and economies need access to a secure water supply in a changing climate. New Zealand needs to keep making similar investments to future-proof our water resources and food production, and secure our export income.”

On the south of the Waitaki River the economic, environmental and social benefits of irrigation are obvious. Those on the other side of the river will miss out on all of that without the scheme.

Rural round-up

May 7, 2018

The threat of irrational environmentalism – Dr Doug Edmeades:

I never thought it would end. Certainly I never thought that I might be alive to see the beginning of its end.

I am referring to the Enlightenment – the intellectual movement that began in the 17th century. It saw the end of Dark Ages and ushered in the Age of Reason. Mystical and religious certitude and bigotry gave way to reason based on objectively derived evidence.

Rather than praying to God for a good crop you adopted the latest technologies to ensure the crop did not fail. And if it did fail it was not seen as a consequence of your failure to appease God through prayer, but because you did not fully understand or fully implement the best knowledge and technology. If you prayed it was for more science, please. . . 

Economic development is about more than wishful thinking:

The Government risks serious damage to New Zealanders’ livelihoods by replacing the real productive economy with wishful thinking, National’s Economic Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“On TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, Economic Development Minister David Parker spoke of his wish to reduce the number of livestock in this country. He said horticulture, such as growing apricots, would be better for the environment.

“He said the problem was that it was too expensive to pick fruit in New Zealand. But, no worries, we’ll invest in robotics. Robots will pick the fruit and the economy will surge.

“This is wishful thinking on a grand scale and it fails on so many levels.

“Mr Parker also admitted that the Government hadn’t done an analysis of what the economic impact of his proposed shift away from current land use. . . 

Plan to keep scheme farmer owned – Sally Brooker:

Farming leader William Rolleston has come up with a plan to keep the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme fully farmer-owned.

The former Federated Farmers national president, who farms in South Canterbury, outlined his idea at the federation’s South Canterbury provincial annual  meeting in Waimate on Friday afternoon.

The irrigation scheme, which has resource consent to use water from the Waitaki River on land towards Timaru, has struggled to get landowners to buy enough shares to make it financially viable. Originally aimed at a 21,000ha command area, it was reduced to 12,000ha last year. . . 

 

Quacker of a start for duck shooting :

Duck-shooting season is off with a bang, with tens of thousands of people turning out across the country for the opening weekend.

The season officially started at 6am yesterday and runs through until August.

Fish and Game’s spokesperson Don Rood said hunters were on good behaviour and there were no reports of serious injury on day one.

“That’s all credit to our licence holders for doing the right thing. We’ve been pushing the education message with them. Safety is the very first priority before anything else – no duck is worth a shooting accident.”

In 2016, three people were accidentally shot at the beginning of the season. . . 

Alliance beefs up offering – Neal Wallace:

Alliance Group has launched premium branded beef under the label Pure South Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef.

To qualify each carcase, irrespective of breed, is individually selected and visually assessed. 

It must have a high marbling score, low Ph range and extended wet aging.

The launch follows three years of research and will be targeted at the New Zealand food service sector and overseas markets. . . 

Farmers back in driving seat – Lindy Nelson:

Time, creative thinking, resources to create change and information all support us to turn business threats into opportunities.

Leadership well-applied and executed is one of those resources that inspires and supports action to respond.

Applied leadership was exactly what was demonstrated at Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s recent workshop on the red meat sector story where our sector’s origin brand story, go-to-market strategy and response to the threat of alternative proteins were unveiled.

It was inspiring on a number of fronts – what the leadership team of B+LNZ has achieved and who it had collaborated with, its in-depth understanding of customers and detailed analysis of the synthetic protein threat and the knowledge that place of origin acts as a shortcut to consumer understanding and trust in our products.

All of this provides a strategy for action alongside the release of the origin brand story. . . 

Whare’s new lease on life – Toni Williams:

A  little red corrugated-iron whare will roll smoothly behind a vintage tractor in the Greg Donaldson Contracting Ashburton Wheels Week Plus street parade this month.

The whare  will be taking its place among members of the Ashburton Vintage Machinery Club in the parade on the final day of the Wheels Week Plus  programme.

  The club has about 100 members, so expect to see a few vintage machines. The whare, which sits on a truck chassis, plays a big role in the life of Ashburton Vintage Machinery Club president John Hall. It holds warm memories and its walls are lined with memorabilia — newspaper clippings, places and events Mr Hall has visited. . . 

 


Govt acts on threat to irrigation

April 6, 2018

The government has acted on its pre-election threat to axe funding through Crown Irrigation Investments.

Three schemes already under way will keep the funding promised.

The government will help fund the construction of irrigation projects on the Canterbury plains and near Kurow and Nelson as it winds back support for large-scale water schemes.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson today said all existing Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd development contracts will be honoured, and that the three named schemes will receive funding for their construction phase given how far down the track they were.  . . 

IrrigationNZ bemoans the lost opportunity.

 . . .“In Crown Irrigation Investments Briefing to Incoming Ministers, the socio-economic gain to communities from planned future irrigation projects in New Zealand was over $1.2 billion per year. With a number of these projects being unable to access loan funding, this is a huge lost opportunity for these rural communities,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.

“The Hurunui Water Project, Hunter Downs and Flaxborne irrigation projects all have local community support and also meet strict new environmental requirements around river swimmability and nutrient limits. In addition to this they plan to undertake additional activities to help improve existing water quality – for example the Hunter Downs scheme was planning to augment river flows into the Wainono Lagoon which will help to restore this culturally and environmentally significant ecosystem. A recent UNESCO report – Nature Based Solutions for Water, has highlighted the importance of ‘green infrastructure’ initiatives such as this for improving water quality globally,” he adds.

The Hurunui, Hunter Downs and Flaxborne projects aim to provide water security to predominantly beef, sheep and cropping farms in drought prone areas.

Over the past summer we have experienced droughts followed by unprecedented wet conditions. This is indicative of the climate change impacts we can expect to see in the future,” says Mr Curtis. “It is critical for rural east coast farming communities to have access to a reliable water supply in order to help them manage through these effects,” says Mr Curtis.

Mr Curtis says that when farming communities experience significant droughts, it’s not just farmers who suffer but also the rest of the community and local businesses.

“Local councils see the value of investment in water infrastructure and recognise this as one of the most pressing issues for their communities. We would like to see the merits of these projects considered through the Provincial Growth Fund. These projects will build more resilient rural communities and provide significant community benefits.”

Irrigation would be much better use of regional development funding than a Minister’s pet projects.

Axing the fund continues the government’s raid on the regions.

The Government’s confirmation it will axe major irrigation projects is the second major blow it’s dealt to regional New Zealand in a week, National’s Paul Goldsmith and Nathan Guy say.

“Fresh from whacking a major new fuel tax on New Zealand motorists the Government has announced it will leave regional farmers and growers at the mercy of prolonged droughts by canning support for important irrigation projects,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“This is a huge blow to regional New Zealand which is facing an increasingly uncertain future as a result of this Government’s raid on our regions.

“This summer alone saw six regions declared in drought as dry weather hammered primary producers right around New Zealand. These irrigation projects would have given them the certainty they could deal with future dry spells but that certainty’s now been ripped away.

North Otago used to be wracked by recurring droughts which caused widespread financial, environmental and social distress.

Now large areas are irrigated the district is virtually drought-proof.

Irrigation has enabled the production of more food, the provision of more jobs and provides insurance against dry weather.

Mr Goldsmith says the Government’s regional growth strategy is a mess.

“It’s Jekyll and Hyde and seems to come down to which of Labour’s two support parties wins the day.

“One day Shane Jones sticks his finger in the air and doles out taxpayer cash for pet projects, the next day four ministers announce the Government will rip $5b out of regional road funding but tax motorists more and the next it is stripping millions out of important and demonstrably effective regional irrigation projects. . .

It just shows the Government has no clear strategy.

“It says it supports regional New Zealand but it continues to put the boot in. Axing irrigation projects makes it harder for farmers and growers to do their jobs, harder for them to create jobs, harder to grow our exports and harder for New Zealanders to get ahead.”

It’s ironic that the government wants us to take climate change seriously, including the risk of more droughts, yet has striped funding from irrigation projects which could provide insurance against dry weather.


Rural round-up

December 27, 2017

More than 100 people help farming family after tragedy – Andrew Owen:

About 40 shearers and a support crew of more than 60 helped a farming family complete one of the biggest tasks of the year, days after a tragic accident cost the lives of their son and his friend.

Craig “Yopp” Murphy, 31, and his mate Jason Payne, 34, died on December 9 when their ute rolled on a remote, privately-owned farm in Kohuratahi, in the Whangamomona Valley, about 76 kilometres inland from Stratford.

Craig Murphy’s funeral took place on Saturday, December 16, and four days later more than 100 people got to work helping his bereaved parents, Whangamomona Valley farmers Dan and Kathy Murphy, shear their 3400 sheep for free, a task that needed to be finished at the peak of the season before Christmas. . .

Hunter Downs scheme meets share target – Daniel Birchfield:

The 12,000ha Hunter Downs irrigation scheme is to go ahead, after the required number of shares were sold.

Hunter Downs Water Ltd, the company behind the proposal to use water from the Waitaki River on land towards Timaru, held its annual meeting on December 14, when it was expected a decision would be made on whether to proceed or return funds to those who had already made the commitment to take water.

After a delay of several days, Hunter Downs Water Ltd chairman Andrew Fraser announced yesterday the company had “secured sufficient farmer uptake to now enable it to proceed” and finalise the funding structure and contractual arrangements to start construction, which was likely to be early next year. . .

New trapping project already successful – Louise Scott:

A pest control operation to protect native birds in the Rees-Dart River delta is proving successful just one month in.

Glenorchy local Russell Varcoe has built and set four new trapping lines as part of the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust’s Braided River Project.

That includes 601 traps — of which 574 had been placed by last Friday.

It is hoped the project will protect five species classified by the Department of Conservation as either endangered or threatened: wrybills, black-fronted terns, banded dotterels, black-billed gulls and black stilts . .

Leading questions: Synlait Milk founder and chief executive John Penno:

Business leaders discuss the year just gone and what will affect them in 2018. Today: Synlait Milk founder and chief executive John Penno.

What is 2018 looking like for your business?

2017 was very busy – after opening a new infant formula blending and packaging facility in Auckland, and nearing capacity at our Dunsandel site, we are entering 2018 looking to build an infant formula manufacturing site somewhere in the upper North Island.

We’ll also be constructing a $125 million world-class milk packaging plant in Dunsandel to supply fresh milk and cream to South Island families through our new partnership with Foodstuffs South Island. . . 

 

 

Rain on Christmas wish-list as drought conditions become critical in outback Queensland – Eric Barker:

With less than half the average rainfall across many parts of western Queensland this year, rain is top of the Christmas wish-list for most graziers.

While widespread winter rain in 2016 lifted spirits, most of central and south-west Queensland has been officially drought declared for the past four years.

Grazier and Blackall Tambo Shire Mayor Andrew Martin said most of the area had been suffering below-average wet seasons before the drought declarations. . .


Rural round-up

December 2, 2017

Depression and anxiety a sickness not a weakness – Marc Gascoigne:

I don’t know anyone in my circle of friends and family who has been killed in a car accident. Or on a quad bike, or by drowning, or in a work accident, or any other sudden accidental death.

Except for suicide. In the last few years I have lost three close friends or family to suicide, the latest being my nephew on January 10.

Almost everyone I have talked to since then has said the same thing to me. . . 

Milking marvels: sheep one side of the shed, cows the other – Kate Taylor:

Belief in how they do things and the values their family hold are the prime drivers behind Sentry Hill Organics. Kate Taylor visited Tom and PJ White to find out more about how they do things their way.

There’s a lot of laughter at the White family home in Ashley Clinton – much of it aimed at themselves.

“We just do things differently,” Phillippa White says, who is known locally as PJ.

“Yep, we’re definitely not followers,” adds her husband Tom.

“We’re not leaders either though,” interrupts PJ, with a shake of her head. . .

Final plea for water intake – Annette Scott:

The final plea is out to farmers and investors to ensure a South Canterbury irrigation project can proceed.

Without the minimum uptake the proposers of the $110 million Hunter Downs irrigation scheme have indicated they would be forced to pull the plug.

The project, which had been 12 years in the making, was 10% short of the minimum uptake needed to proceed.

“We are making a final appeal to farmers and other key stakeholders to invest in this project,” Hunter Downs Water chairman Andrew Fraser said. . .

Dairy auction prices expected to lift on looming threat of drought – Tina Morrison:

(Business Desk) Prices on the GlobalDairyTrade auction may lift next week, snapping four consecutive declines, as the increased threat of drought in New Zealand weighs on expectations for Fonterra Cooperative Group’s milk production.

The NZX whole milk powder futures contracts for December last traded at US$2,840 a tonne, 3.7 per cent ahead of the equivalent contract at the last GlobalDairyTrade auction on November 21, signalling traders expect the price to rise at the next GDT auction overnight on December 5.

Longer-dated whole milk powder futures contracts are also signalling an increase, as are futures contracts for skim milk powder, while futures for butter and anhydrous milk fat point to declines. . .

Auckland’s future: vertical farming? – Adriana Weber:

Farming in high-rise buildings, warehouses or shipping containers could benefit a rapidly expanding Auckland, an expert in sustainability says.

Some farmers and industry groups, including Horticulture New Zealand, are worried productive land is increasingly being swallowed up by growing towns and cities.

The problem is especially evident in Auckland, the country’s fastest growing region, and in its southern vegetable growing towns like Pukekohe.

New York-based sustainability strategist Henry Gordon-Smith said Auckland should look into merging city and farm. . . 


Rural round-up

November 7, 2017

Crown cash vital to lagoon plan – Tim Fulton:

The Labour-led Government might need to keep backing Crown funding for irrigation to inject life into a vulnerable South Canterbury lagoon.

South Canterbury’s Hunter Downs irrigation scheme was in final-stage talks with farmers and Crown Irrigation Investments for funding linked to a rescue bid for Wainono Lagoon, near Waimate.

Environment Canterbury said using the Waitaki River to add clean, low-nutrient water to the lagoon was a key feature of the proposed 12,000ha Hunter Downs scheme.

ECan classed the coastal lake near Waimate as a nutrient red zone. . . 

Basic farming brings rewards – Annette Scott:

Nick France admits to being pretty stingy in his sheep and beef breeding operation as he sticks with old-fashioned philosophy of attention to detail at key times.

He told farmers at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand farming for profit day he runs his beef operation as cheaply as possible, aligning practice with the philosophy of having bulls that perform well under commercial conditions and produce well-grown, profitable offspring.

“What we do here is cheap and commercial. The cows are a tool. We use them for growing and managing pasture for our commercial sheep operation and selecting bulls for the stud,” France said. . . 

New SIL values thereby hangs a tail – Sally Rae:

A sheep breed developed in West Otago has become the first in the world to have breeding values calculated for tail length and bare skin on the tail.

Allan Richardson, from Avalon Genetics, has been breeding and recording low-input sheep that do not require docking since 2009.

He believes the new SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) breeding values will give commercial farmers new opportunities to reduce their cost of production, improve animal welfare and open new markets for their lamb. . . 

Farmlands directors elected – Sally Rae:

Former long-standing Alliance Group director Murray Donald has been elected to the Farmlands board.

Mr Donald, who farms at Winton, is a chartered fellow of the Institute of Directors, councillor and member of the audit and risk committee for the Southern Institute of Technology and a trustee and chairman of the audit and risk committee for the Agri-Women’s Development Trust.

Nine candidates contested the three  vacancies this year and Nikki Davies-Colley, from Northland, was  re-elected. . . 

Wobbly times ahead for wool industry – Andrew McRae:

New Zealand could face a shortage of shearers because they’re not being trained, an industry organisation says.

Wool Research Organisation chair Derrick Millton said young people were not as attracted to shearing as a career as they once were. He said there was no specific training organisation to promote shearing and woolhandling.

“The age of the shearers for a start off, they’re getting older and no new ones coming in… There are a lot of other jobs today that are more appealing than shearing. . . 

Connecting children with dairy:

DairyNZ’s education programme is now used in more than one third of primary schools and one quarter of secondary schools around New Zealand.

Thanks to farmer volunteers, 4500 children (plus teachers and parents) visited a dairy farm in the past year and more than 21,000 children have visited a farm since the Find a Farmer programme launched six years ago.

Science in schools

DairyNZ’s hands-on science kits have helped teachers bring learning alive in the classroom, and explore science through the context of dairying.

Each science kit is distributed to 200 teachers who have signed up for the resource, reaching about 6000 children. The kits provide all the tools a class needs to complete a science experiment, investigating a learning outcome within the context of dairy. The schools share their work on ourfarmvisit.co.nz. . . 


Rural round-up

May 9, 2017

NZ beef, lamb and dairy prices on ‘reasonable’ footing – Simon Hartley:

Two separate New Zealand commodity price indexes have the country’s exports in good health, but the strength of the New Zealand dollar remains a concern.

ANZ agri-economist Con Williams said while the headline ANZ commodity price index dipped 0.2% in April, the underlying detail for New Zealand’s main commodities remained ”robust”.

The headline index was driven lower by dairy – it was down 2.5% month on month – while the non-dairy component rose 1.2% for the same period. . .

Gas to energy project – Rueben on line:

An Isla Bank dairy farm is saving money and preventing harmful greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere by converting waste to energy.

Glenarlea Farm, a Fortuna Group dairy farm, is now converting methane gas captured from the dairy effluent pond into electricity for the dairy shed, as well as for heating water which can be used for wash-down purposes on the farm.

Quick decision lead to success – Neal Wallace:

Weo Maag concedes the Pukepoto Farm Trust does things a bit differently.

A trustee of the entity that owns the 1400ha breeding and finishing property at Ongarue near Taumarunui, Maag said the trust aimed to keep things simple but was a willing adopter of any systems or tools that worked.

An Ahuwhenua Trophy finalist, the Pukepoto trust was formed in 1978 and its 1000 shareholders owned land that was originally used as a thoroughfare for Maori travelling between Taranaki and Whanganui. . . 

Disastrous end-of-harvest for South Canterbury’s cropping farmers – Pat Deavoll:

Twice the normal rainfall in March followed by four times the amount in April has meant a disastrous end to the harvest for South Canterbury’s arable farmers.

Federated Farmers arable chairman for South Canterbury Mike Porter said he “struggled and battled” his way through harvest and finished last week.

“It’s been a very challenging harvest – the most challenging I have ever known.” . .

Dairy women gathering –  Sally Rae:

Dairying women from throughout New Zealand will converge on Queenstown this week for the Dairy Women’s Network conference.

The event, on Thursday and Friday, features practical workshops and keynote speakers, including All Blacks manager Gilbert Enoka and Corrections Minister Louise Upston. . . 

Water scheme will reflect demand – Annette Scott:

Hunter Downs Water will forge ahead with a multi-million-dollar irrigation scheme for South Canterbury despite falling short of its capital-raising target.

What form it would take was being worked through with the contractor in a redesigned scheme to meet the demand from farmers who had committed through the share uptake, Hunter Downs Water (HDW) project manager Stacey Scott said.

The deadline for the uptake of water and development shares in the $195m scheme was on April 28, after its initial April 10 deadline was extended. . . 


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