Govt business what not how

October 30, 2017

The Green Party is sticking to its plan to reduce dairy farming:

Prior to the election, the Green Party said it would pay more than $136 million for farmers to move to more sustainable practices and if it were in government it would invest in a Sustainable Farming Fund.

Green Party leader James Shaw said a priority would be putting together a package to help farmers make the transition from dairy farming.

He said the Greens wouldn’t be pushing for a cap on the number of cows.

But Mr Shaw said dairy farmers would need help to change.

“A lot of dairy farmers are still heavily in debt from the acquisition of the land and also the conversions and also it’s a pretty difficult time when the price of milk is still somewhat depressed.

“So you know the thing we’re going to be pushing hardest on is making sure that there is a package available for farmers to help them make that transition.”

Mr Shaw said dairy farmers needed to make the transition to more sustainable methods of farming.

Setting standards for water quality is the business of government.

Dictating how that is achieved is not.

It might be that dairying isn’t appropriate in some places. But other land uses aren’t necessarily any kinder to the environment and it could be that a change in management could make dairying a better option than any other form of farming.

Dairying has got a bad reputation, some of which might be justified. But some is based on historical practices no longer in use and some on alternative facts not supported by science.

Some of the latter comes from organisations with an anti-dairying agenda.

Jamie McFadden, a member of Federated Farmers North Canterbury executive, rightly asks is our freshwater fishery really in crisis?

Last year Fish & Game sought and received approval from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to place a winter fishing ban on all North Canterbury rivers below State Highway 1.

At the time, Fish & Game claimed the North Canterbury freshwater fishery was in crisis and it was because of farming.

Both DoC and the Rural Advocacy Network have requested the evidence supporting these claims. After 18 months no evidence has been forthcoming. DoC now realise they have been misled and have said they will not renew the fishing ban unless Fish & Game provide evidence.

Earlier this year I attended a public meeting in Rangiora organised by Fish and Game where the fishing ban was discussed. I presented our submission challenging the lack of evidence behind the fishing ban, particularly for the Hurunui and Waiau rivers. A show of hands was taken and the clear majority of the 70 attendees felt the ban should not apply to these rivers. Of those who fished the Hurunui and Waiau the majority thought these were healthy fisheries. . . 

Clearly there are a range of factors affecting our freshwater fishery and increasing fishing pressure, particularly near Christchurch, is one of them.

A local fishing guide has for several years been undertaking the annual trout spawning surveys in the Waimakariri River. This year he reported better numbers than have ever been seen and some superb stream improvements by many farmers – the future is bright.

In late autumn I checked the middle reaches of the Hurunui River catchment and photographed numerous shoals of 10-20 trout. In one pool alone I counted 65 good-sized healthy trout.

A balanced report on the state of our freshwater fishery would acknowledge there are some healthy fisheries, concerns with some other fisheries and a range of factors affecting both. It is disappointing that Fish & Game has made no attempt to correct their misinformation in the media.

Many farming families are Fish & Game licence holders and enjoy the recreational opportunities our rivers provide. Farmers want to know what they need to do to fix any water quality problems they are causing.

There are many examples of farmers actively engaging in improving water quality and undertaking stream enhancements. Farmers want to work with organisations like Fish & Game but the continual attacks on farmers undermine the ability to achieve this.

We would like to see Fish & Game publicly drop the anti-farming broad brush ‘dirty dairy’ campaign, correct their misinformation in the media and develop a more constructive approach to freshwater issues.

Farmers, and others, are working to improve water quality and this report from Seven Sharp showing definite improvements in Taranaki dairy country.

Meanwhile, science is making progress with pasture species:

Research is in progress but plantain-based pastures may be useful for reducing nitrate leaching while maintaining or increasing milksolids production.

The urine patch is the major source of nitrogen loss to the environment on dairy farms and different forages can be used to reduce nitrate leaching, either by lowering the nitrogen loading in urine patches or increasing the nitrogen uptake from the urine patch.

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL)

Research in Canterbury and Waikato the FRNL programme has found that urine-N concentration of cows grazing plantain was 56% lower than those grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures, and 33% lower for cows grazing 50/50 pasture-plantain.

Within FRNL, diverse pastures that include plantain were identified as a promising tool for reducing N leaching. Modelling estimated that, at commercial scale, N leaching could be reduced by 10 and 20% when the area of the farm sown in diverse pastures was 20 and 50%, respectively. This was because of lower total urinary N excretion and lower urinary N concentration (Beukes et al. 2014; Romera et al. 2016).

Sustainability balances economic, environmental and social concerns.

Dairying generally gets ticks for its economic and social contributions and farmers and industry bodies like DairyNZ, are making good progress to address environmental concerns .

DairyNZ acting chair Barry Harris said last season saw dairy export earnings reach $13.4 billion, which is on par with the five-year average, and illustrates how well farmers have responded to the low milk prices of previous seasons.

“I see the decade ahead of us to be transformational for our sector. Never before have we had a stronger mandate for the dairy sector to concentrate on productivity – to produce more from less, and to do so sustainably,” says Barry.

“We support initiatives that incentivise farmers to use the best environmental practices. While the 2010s have been about dairy positioning itself for the changes ahead, I see the 2020s as heavily focused on making those changes.

“New Zealand’s environmental reputation, the reputation that gives us an advantage on the global market, relies on us upholding and improving our sustainability.” . . 

Thanks to good science, herd numbers can decrease while production increases.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said in 2016/17 national cow numbers fell to 4.86 million from 5 million previously, with the average herd size dropping five cows to 414.

“Yet production per cow set a new record – increasing by 9kg per cow (381kg MS/cow).” . . 

 

The government and its partners needs to stick to the what, not the how.

Good progress is being made and it will continue to be made not by political dictates but by good practice based on sound research.


Rural round-up

August 17, 2014

Aerial topdressing scheme flies away with top award  – Sue O’Dowd:

A safety programme developed by the agricultural aviation industry to protect the environment has won a major award.

The New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) Aircare programme received the Richard Pearse Trophy for Innovative Excellence in the New Zealand Aviation Industry, named in honour of the New Zealand pioneer aviator and inventor, at last month’s Aviation New Zealand conference.

Aircare was an integrated environmental safety and flight safety programme that stopped contamination of waterways by fertilisers and sprays, NZAAA chairman Alan Beck, of Eltham, said. . .

Northlander takers Young Grower crown

Northland kiwifruit and avocado specialist Patrick Malley was crowned Young Grower of the Year at an awards function in Christchurch last night.

The 30-year-old contracting manager from Onyx Capital kiwifruit and avocado orchard in Maungatapere, Northland, secured his place at the national competition after being named the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower in June.

In the final phase of the competition he topped three other regional champions in a series of practical and theory challenges testing their industry knowledge and skills. . .

Ngai Tahu appeals dairying decision:

South Island iwi Ngai Tahu is appealing against a decision declining an application to develop large scale dairy farms in North Canterbury.

In July this year, commissioners on behalf of the Canterbury Regional Council granted only partial consent to convert 7000 hectares of Hurunui forest to irrigated dairy farming and another 617 hectares for dryland dairy farming.

The decision was based on the unacceptable adverse effects the full development would have on the environment and the water quality of the Hurunui River. . .

Cow lameness costs farmers – Tim Cronshaw:

Cow lameness could be higher than 10 per cent a year nationally and cost dairy farmers an average of $500 for each case of a cow out of production.

Accurate figures are not kept for lame cows because not every incident is reported, there can be repeat cases for the same cow and the extent of lameness can vary.

DairyNZ animal husbandry extension specialist Anna Irwin said lameness was more difficult to measure than mastitis or other animal health issues because it was not routinely measured by all farmers, had different treatments and few cows needed medical treatment. “We have industry estimates of somewhere around 10 per cent and it could be as high as 15 per cent and that’s incidents for the whole year.” . . .

Call for whitebait sock net ban:

Whitebaiters in Buller on the West Coast are demanding an end to the use of large sock nets to catch the delicacy in their area.

Lynley Roberts said she’s collected close to 400 signatures on a petition calling on the Department of Conservation to ban sock nets.

Whitebaiters in Buller on the West Coast are demanding an end to the use of large sock nets to catch the delicacy in their area.

Photo: PHOTO NZ

She said the use of the nets, which she says can catch up to 200 pounds a tide, is greedy.

Ms Roberts said there won’t be time to make any changes before the season starts in Buller on 1 September. . .

Where have all the whitebait gone?:

Whitebait season opened today and many whitebaiters may be asking themselves, “where have all the whitebait gone?” With predictions that it will be only an average season, it’s a very pertinent question.

Whitebaiting has long been a contentious issue, with feuds over the best positions on the river sometimes lasting through generations of whitebaiters.

These days, with whitebait numbers dwindling further and further, the arguments go beyond who has the best spot. Debate now includes the question of where they have all gone, who’s to blame for the declining numbers and if we should still be allowing people to catch whitebait at all. . .

Nominations open today for the 2014 Fonterra Elections:

This year elections are being held for three shareholder-elected Directors for Fonterra’s Board of Directors, two members of the Directors’ Remuneration Committee, and 22 members of the Shareholders’ Council.

Candidates must satisfy shareholding requirements in order to be elected and further procedural requirements are specified in the Election Rules. These include a requirement for Candidates to be nominated and seconded by Fonterra shareholders.

Nomination Papers and Candidate Handbooks are now available by phoning the Election Hotline on freephone 0508 666 446 or emailing elections@electionz.com. Nominations must be received by the Returning Officer, Warwick Lampp of http://electionz.com/ by 12 noon on Friday, 5 September 2014. . . 


Hurunui moratorium right decision

July 22, 2010

A moratorium on new water takes from a river is unusual, but it’s the right decision  for the Hurunui River.

Environment Minister Nick Smith says:

“The Hurunui moratorium proposal makes good sense when there is no proper plan for the river and catchment,” Dr Smith said. “It will provide much needed breathing space in which stakeholders can develop a balanced and comprehensive plan for the Hurunui River ahead of major decisions on proposals for irrigation development and water conservation orders that will impact upon the future of the river for generations to come.” . . .

. . . “This moratorium will breathe life into the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and the recently announced Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee. It provides a window of opportunity for a collaborative local approach in which provision is made for both the economic development and environmental sustainability of the Hurunui River.

“That the first use of the special powers under the Environment Canterbury Act (2010) is a moratorium reinforces the Government’s intent that irrigation development in Canterbury needs to occur in a planned and sustainable way.” 

Both irrigators and those who want to leave the river untouched are happy with the decision.

Irrigation NZ says it makes sense when there is no water plan.

Irrigators are often accused of not being mindful of environmental issues but most understand how important it is not to degrade waterways by taking too much water from them. Existing irrigators are also mindful that without a plan their water rights may be compromised.

Conservation groups are also supportive though Nick Smith points out the irony in that. This move is only possible because of the Environment Canterbury legislation which at least some of those on the green end of the political spectrum opposed.


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