Rural round-up

June 28, 2015

Strategic positioning down on the dairy farm – Keith Woodford:

Right now, everyone in the New Zealand dairy industry is figuring out how to get through the next 12 months without too much pain. But eventually events will turn and we will be able to think more strategically about where the industry is going.

Down on the farm, the big long term issue will be how to remain profitable while living in the new world of nutrient emission limits.

There are two ways to go. One is to farm within an all-grass system, but pull back the stocking rate and other inputs such as nitrogen fertiliser and supplementary feed. Some of the environmentally-focused people are arguing that this is the way to go, and within industry organisation DairyNZ there is a strongly held viewpoint that all-grass is where our competitive advantage lies. . .

 

Tukituki decision a win-win for environment & economy:

Federated Farmers is pleased the Tukituki Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry has released a decision that has allowed for both the environment and economy to prosper.

The Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry has decided to let the Ruataniwha Dam go ahead with some amendments to the conditions around nutrient management.

Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers water and environment spokesperson says “We are pleased the process is finally over and are 100 percent behind the Ruataniwha Dam project going ahead for the reasons that water storage is good for the environment and the economy.” . .

 

Unprecedented support for North Canterbury:

In an unprecedented first, a group of North Canterbury stock agents and meat processors have agreed to collectively work together with Federated Farmers as the coordinator and the Rural Support Trust to help farmers affected by the drought for the good of the industry.

As feed supplies in the province dwindle large numbers of stock have to be relocated elsewhere or other solutions need to be found. 

Dan Hodgen, Federated Farmers North Canterbury Meat & Fibre Chair says “The commitment from these groups to work together to help drought affected farmers is really encouraging and I thank them for it. This hasn’t happened before and it reflects how serious the situation is heading into lambing and calving.” . . .

Biosecurity pups named Fudge and Fritz:

Fudge (girl) and Fritz (boy) are the winning names for two new biosecurity detector puppies that have been especially bred to stop pests and diseases from entering New Zealand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries announced the beagle names today after running a public competition to name two puppies from its “F-litter”.

“Both names were popular choices among the entrants, and they meet our requirements for names that are short and easy to remember,” says MPI Detection Technology Manager Brett Hickman. . .

 

Aussie farmers plant more Monsanto’s GM canola:

Australian farmers continue to embrace GM technology in greater numbers and have now planted more than 1.5 million hectares of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® canola since its introduction in 2008.
 
Despite an expected 9% drop in the size of this season’s overall canola crop, local growers have purchased a record one million tonnes of Roundup Ready canola seed, up 15% on last season.
 
More than 436,000 hectares of GM canola will be planted this year, up from nearly 350,000 hectares last year. GM canola varieties now make up 22% of the canola planted in the states that allow GM canola to be grown – Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. . .

Horticultural Industry Celebrates Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower Success:

More than 280 people from around the horticultural industry came together last night to celebrate the 2015 Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower competition which saw 26 year old Craig Ward from Apata take out the 2015 title at a sold-out gala dinner.

Craig beat seven other competitors in a series of competitive events and tests during the day and a quiz and speech competition in the evening. Craig will now go on to represent the Bay of Plenty at the national competition run by Horticulture New Zealand in Christchurch on 12-13 August.

This year’s competition received a huge amount of support from the horticultural industry through sponsorship and other contributions. . . .

 


Rural round-up

June 20, 2015

Environment Commissioner warns water quality is “not out of the woods yet”:

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, today released two reports on water quality, calling for further steps to safeguard the quality of New Zealand’s fresh water.

“To its credit, the Government has invested heavily in developing policy to improve the management of fresh water,” said Dr Wright. “The 2014 National Policy Statement is a major step forward. Some regional councils have already begun to act and there is a real sense of momentum.”

“But we are not out of the woods yet. Some lakes and streams are below bottom lines and many others are not far above them. And in many places, water quality continues to decline.” . .

PCE report constructively points to next steps in water reform:

The Government has welcomed the two reports released today from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on managing New Zealand’s freshwater reforms.

“This report acknowledges the step change in improving freshwater management through the National Policy Statement in 2011 and the addition of the National Standards in 2014, but it also challenges the Government on the next steps. The report is timely in that it can feed into the work we are doing with iwi leaders and the reinvigorated Land and Water Forum. Our plan is to have a discussion document out on the next steps in freshwater reform early in 2016,” Dr Smith says.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has recommended six improvements to the Freshwater National Policy Statement. The recommendations are: . . .

 Federated Farmers supports PCE report:

Federated Farmers welcomes the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report on Managing Water Quality which supports our long held position that the National Policy Statement (NPS) is a major step forward for water management in New Zealand.

Dr Jan Wright has reflected on what has been an effective couple of years since her last report, with a sense of significant momentum in the regions. She has made six recommendations which overall we agree with excluding concerns around the exceptions policy.

Ian MacKenzie, Federated Farmers Environment Spokesperson, says “We agree with the Commissioner’s recommendation for a more strategic approach in prioritising the more vulnerable catchments. To date some councils have spread their efforts too far and thin when they needed to prioritise and make some real progress on the ones that are under the most pressure.” . . .

Landcorp says 2015 earnings ‘on track’ despite weaker dairy prices – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp Farming, New Zealand’s largest corporate farmer, said it doesn’t need to downgrade its earnings outlook in the wake of falling dairy prices remain weak, as it sheltered from volatility by locking in a guaranteed price at the start of the season.

Dairy product prices slipped in this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction to the weakest level in almost six years. State-owned Landcorp in October cut its forecast for this year’s operating profit to a range of $1 million to $6 million, from a previous forecast range of $8 million-$12 million, citing weaker milk prices. However the company said it is protected from some of the recent weakness by taking up Fonterra Cooperative Group’s guaranteed milk price. . .

Grass-fed infant formula venture for Synlait:

Canterbury dairy company Synlait is going into partnership with United States company Munchkin to create a new infant formula.

California-based Munchkin has seven offices around the world, and is a leading manufacturer of infant and toddler products.

Synlait’s managing director Doctor John Penno said the unique aspect of this agreement was the product will be grass-fed.

“We’re differentiating inside the farm gate and in a way that really epitomises the very good things about the New Zealand grazing system. . .

Fonterra debate on the wrong track – Andrew Hoggard:

The argument about how well Fonterra is performing is gathering pace. People are claiming there is a bloated management.  We have politicians calling for the CEO to take a pay-cut.  That CEO has just indicated possible redundancies as an outcome of an internal review.

The view seems to be that a number of support roles in New Zealand need to go and be replaced by people in the market.

Pub talk fixes on how many are earning more than what amount, and then assumes that if the pay is slashed the problem is sorted.

I think we sometimes forget how big Fonterra is.  You don’t pay small wages to top people to run a business like that. A far more sensible discussion for us to be having would be on what Fonterra pays in wages as a percentage of turnover. And then break that down by division.  Then compare with other successful dairy co-ops from around the world and see what lessons we can take. . .

Waikato Seasonal Outlook: A new drought and rainy period forecasting system is giving farmers and other primary producer a chance to adjust schedules to improve production and protect investments and livelihoods.

When it comes to climate risks in New Zealand, the bluster and rage of tropical storms can steal the stage. But what has really garnered attention over the last ten years are the recurring droughts some of which have affected not just regional New Zealand but the whole country. These events can flare up quickly, and can cause considerable economic damage and stress to farmers and the ecosystems under their stewardship.

Drought is often insidious and creeping, intensifying over many months, stunting or killing crops and limiting grass growth and quality as it develops, reducing groundwater levels and river flow and drying out water supplies. It represents a more frequently occurring and persistent climate hazards faced by New Zealand. Conversely, extended rainy periods and the occasional extreme rainfall event characterised by excessively high rainfall totals over a short duration and typically covering small geographical areas can lead to their own set of problems for the country. . .

 


Rural round-up

May 29, 2015

Top deer environment award winners announced – Kate Taylor:

Central Hawke’s Bay farmers George Williams and Laura Billings were presented with the Elworthy Environment Award at the deer industry conference in Napier on Tuesday night.

The couple have a 1188ha business, including home farm Te Maire, in the Tikokino area with sheep, beef and cropping as well as deer.

Williams has a personal passion for deer with a focus on velvet with a venison by-product.

Velvet production for the 2014/15 season was a total of 2550kg (including 278kg of regrowth). Te Maire has also hosted the Wilkins Farming North Island stag sale since 2010. . .

Chefs to serve up kiwi venison in Euorpean restaruants –  Kate Taylor:

New Zealand venison will be eaten at European restaurants this summer.

Thirty-six ambassador chefs in Belgium and the Netherlands will be serving cervena venison on their menus in a trial as part of a Passion2Profit initiative formally launched at the Deer Industry Conference in Napier on Tuesday. . .

NZ heading for lowest wool clip in 6 years as farmers favour meat breeds, sheep flock declines – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand, the world’s largest exporter of crossbred wool, is heading for its smallest annual wool clip in six years, reflecting the lowest sheep flock in more than 70 years, dry conditions and an increased focus on meat producing breeds of sheep.

New Zealand will probably produce 138,400 tonnes of greasy wool, or 833,700 wool bales, in the annual season that runs through June, down 5.4 percent on the year earlier, according to farmer-owned industry organisation Beef + Lamb New Zealand. That would mark the lowest level since the 2008/09 season when the clip dropped to 132,400 tonnes as farmers eschewed a second shear in the face of low wool prices. . .

Support for dairy farmers ramped up:

Industry body DairyNZ is ramping up its support to dairy farmers following the announcement today by Fonterra of an opening forecast Farmgate Milk Price of $5.25 per kgMS for the 2015-16 season.

Chief executive Tim Mackle says DairyNZ had already been working on boosting its Tactics for Tight Times campaign to help farmers cope with what is likely to be a “very tough and grim season”.

“By our calculations, this forecast will translate into an average farmer’s milk income dropping by $150,000 for this next season. We’ve worked out that the breakeven milk price for the average farmer now going forward is $5.70 kgMS, yet under this forecast scenario they’ll only be receiving $4.75 all up in terms of farm income including retro payments from last season and dividends. Annual farm working expenses will need to be reduced to minimise increasing debt levels further. The flow-on impacts to the local economy will be significant as that money gets spent on things like feed, fertiliser, repairs and maintenance items. There will also be less capital spending in our sector. . .

Well-oiled operation sees rapid growth – Harrison Christian:

WAYNE and Maureen Startup never dreamed the four olive trees in their Havelock North backyard would turn into 17,000.

But that is what happened, after they decided to go full-time with their hobby 15 years ago.

The Village Press, which takes its name from their hometown, is the biggest and most competitive olive oil operation in New Zealand. Its high-quality olive and avocado oils are stocked on shelves around the world – and the business continues to grow. . .

Farmers ready to put irrigation funds to good use:

Federated Farmers says farmers will put to good use a $25m funding boost, from the recent Budget, for investigation and development of irrigation projects.

The Government has put $25m into the Irrigation Acceleration Fund through the next five years to kick-start regional irrigation projects.

Federated Farmers spokesperson on water, Ian Mackenzie, says the Government is quite right to identify nearly every part of New Zealand as being hit by drought in the past three years. . .

Plant disease world first in Bay:

A Peruvian plant disease will be used in a world first biocontrol against a notorious weed in the Bay of Plenty and Northland

Lantana blister rust (Puccinia lantanae) was recently released in the Bay and Northland regions in an attempt to control lantana – considered one of the world’s 10 worst weeds.

Landcare Research scientists have been searching for biocontrols before it becomes widespread. . .

Input Prices Rise for Sheep And Beef Farmers:

Prices for inputs used on New Zealand sheep and beef farms increased 1.1 per cent in the year to March 2015, according to the latest Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service sheep and beef on-farm inflation report.

The sheep and beef on-farm inflation report identifies annual changes in farm input prices in New Zealand for the various expenditure categories. The on-farm inflation rate is determined by weighting the individual input category price changes by their proportion of total farm expenditure.

B+LNZ Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt says the increase in the 2014-15 year follows a 0.6 per cent decrease the previous year and was driven by rises in prices of interest and, local and central government rates and fees. It was only partly offset by a fall in fuel prices as fuel accounts for less than 5 per cent of sheep and beef total farm expenditure. . .

Pasture and Performance Loan to lift red meat productivity:

New Zealand’s largest rural lender today launched an extended lending package for red meat farmers wanting to boost farm productivity.

ANZ Bank’s Pasture and Performance Loan offers an interest rate of 5%* p.a. with a maximum loan of $100,000. The maximum loan term is five years, principal reducing, and there are no establishment fees. . .


Rural round-up

January 22, 2015

Fuel price falls should mean lower farm costs:

The continuing fall in fuel prices should be reflected in lower farm input costs Federated Farmers believes.

Petrol and diesel pump prices have declined by more than 40 cents per litre since October.

Federated Famers transport spokesperson, Ian Mackenzie says he expects the persistent decline in the cost of fuel to be reflected in farm expenses.

“The direct expenses of running machinery are accounted for with a lower fuel bill for the farmer. But there are other high fuel use industries, in particular transport, where we would expect to see some reduction in the costs from now on,” he says. . . .

Court case reconfirms QEII covenants’ clout:

For the second time in less than 12 months the durability of QEII National Trust covenants has been confirmed by the High Court.

The first case was considered by the High Court earlier in 2014 when a landowner wanted to subdivide and build 20 houses on an area of covenanted indigenous forest land he had bought on the Coromandel Peninsula. He challenged the legal status of the covenant agreement because it prevented him from developing the land.

The High Court decision declared that the National Trust’s covenant agreements were ‘indefeasible’, meaning the covenant cannot be annulled. . .

 

Stock theft affects us all – Chris Irons:

Around Christmas time stock rustling seems to rear its head and this holiday season has been no different. Concerns are mounting around stock rustling and the ability to stop it. Ironically, the morning of writing this I was actually out hunting down one of my own heifers, which in the end I found but it gets the heart pumping when you think it has been stolen.

Following the event where a farmer’s cows were shot with a crossbow at the southern end of the Hunua Ranges, questions are being raised as to what rights farmers have to stop a poacher or thief on their property? Not only do farmers have limited rights to stop people stealing their stock, but we’ve got to ask whether the penalties imposed are serious enough to be a deterrent for either rustling or poaching?  Based on the Federation’s experience to date they are not. . . .

DWN conference heads to Southland:

Dairy Women’s Network is excited to be holding its 2015 annual conference in one of New Zealand’s fastest growing dairy regions.

The Network’s key annual event is sponsored by Lifetime Insurance and Travel Advisors, and is taking place in Southland on 18-19 March at the ILT Stadium in Invercargill.

Network chief executive Zelda De Villiers said the 2015 conference theme ‘Entering tomorrow’s world’ would be evident in the eight workshops offered, comprising financial management, sustainable environments, a presentation by High Performance Sport NZ psychologist David Galbraith, farmer wellness, animal lameness, legal liability and more. . .

MBIE report backs primary sector careers:

Lincoln University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Business Development, Jeremy Baker, has welcomed the findings of a Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) report which shows particularly favourable prospects for those exploring primary sector and associated land-based careers.

The Occupation Outlook 2015  report is a comprehensive industry document designed to provide key information for those contemplating study and career options. The report rated the job prospects for agricultural scientists as very high, and projected an annual growth for the profession of 4 percent for 2013-18 and 3.2 percent for 2018-23.

Identical figures are listed for environmental scientists and food technicians, while the job prospects for farmers and farm managers is also rated as very high.

“The report lends weight to the message Lincoln University has been making for some time. Namely, that there are many exciting career opportunities in the primary sector for those who are prepared to open themselves up to the possibilities,” says Jeremy Baker. . .

Boosting food production through phosphorus: Lincoln works with Chilean university:

Lincoln University is joining forces with a prominent Chilean university research institute to address pressing issues involving the essential role of phosphorus in global food production.

Professor Leo Condron, of Lincoln University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, recently spent six weeks at the Scientific and Technological Bioresources Nucleus (BIOREN) of the Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, Chile, as part of a Biological Resource Management Fellowship funded by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“The fellowship involved bringing together the complementary skills of Lincoln University and Universidad de La Frontera to investigate ways of improving the usability of phosphorus in agricultural systems,” said Professor Condron.

The productivity of ecosystems is largely determined by the presence of phosphorus in soil. However, the world’s known phosphorus reserves are steadily being depleted, and demand is expected to exceed supply within 100 years. . .

Primary industry sector on verge of a technological revolution:

While farmers and other rural industries have always been innovators and pioneers, many city dwellers still think of them as tough, hardworking people who do without ‘modern’ technologies such as smart phones, tablets and big screen TVs.

Times have changed. The reality is something quite different. These and an array of new and innovative technologies are now a vital component of most rural businesses.

City dwellers can use their latest mobile gadget as they make their way into work. Modern farmers would rather use their latest UAV (drone) for a spin around the property or set up their new driverless tractor for the day’s operations – all while tracking everything via their tablets using GPS and wireless networks. . .

Manuka Health – recognised for excellence in International Business Awards

Manuka Health is delighted to be recognised as a finalist in the 2015 New Zealand International Business Awards (NZIBA) in the $10 – $50 million General Award Category. This signals the extraordinary growth experienced by Manuka Health over the past eight years and is also an acknowledgement of recent investment in a multi-million dollar plant in Te Awamutu.

Opened officially in November 2014, the Manuka Health facility is a high tech, internationally accredited laboratory, honey processing factory and global distribution centre which enables the Company to produce award-winning innovative natural healthcare products.

“We are honoured to have been recognised for our success in international business,” says Kerry Paul, CEO Manuka Health. “This comes on top of an exciting year with the opening of our world-class facility and a prestigious Gold Innovation Award for our ManukaClear™ Intensive BB Gel in the USA. . . .

 


Rural round-up

September 29, 2014

Te Puni Kōkiri Chief Executive Hails Growing Success Of Māori Agribusiness at Ahuwhenua competition launch – 2014 FOMA Conference:

Speaking at the official launch of the 2015 BNZ Māori in Farming Award – Sheep & Beef (Ahuwhenua Trophy) at the FoMA Conference in Whanganui this evening, Te Puni Kōkiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite said: “The Ahuwhenua Trophy Competition remains a preeminent showcase for excellence, achievement, and for growing Māori innovation for economic prosperity.”
Looking around the room, Michelle said that those at the conference showed the depth and calibre of talent at the helm of large Māori farming enterprises around the country.

“Over the years, most of these Māori farm enterprises had featured as entrants and finalists in the Ahuwhenua Trophy Competition,” she said. “Today the competition could be credited with driving continued improvements occurring in Māori agribusiness, and which were now pushing it to the forefront of the sector.” . . .

Second hand TradeMe buys boosts farm change – Jill Galloway & Sandra Crosbie:

Ryley Short says that when the Fonterra tanker first came to collect milk at her Mt Stewart farm there were 10 people there cheering. They were all involved in converting the farm to dairy, wanting to see it succeed.

“The tanker driver was a bit surprised,” Ryley says. “He asked if this was the first milk picked up. It was. It had been a sheep and beef farm before the conversion.”

The switch by Ryley Short and her husband Mike to dairying is a conversion with a difference. They have relied a great deal on Trade Me for secondhand equipment, which they often get cheaply. Even the dairy shed came through the online auction website. . .

Production at demo farm reaches record level  –

Daily milksolids (MS) production for each cow on the Waimate West Demonstration Farm near Manaia in Taranaki is at its highest ever.

The daily per cow MS production has reached two kilograms in the third and final season of a trial that’s investigating the viability of integrating cropping on the dairy platform.

Twenty-five per cent of the farm is being planted in crops for the trial.

At last week’s spring field day on the farm, DairyNZ scientist Kevin Macdonald produced figures showing daily milksolids per cow to mid-September was almost half a kilogram higher than last year’s figure of 1.56kg. . . .

National’s Freshwater Fund may spur on-farm wetlands:

 Having worked with DairyNZ to analyse the $100m freshwater fund policy, recently announced by the National Party, Federated Farmers believes it could vastly improve water quality outcomes.

“The Fund to retire farmland would be perhaps better interpreted as a policy to create on-farm wetlands,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“After talking with the team at DairyNZ we’ve arrived at a very different conclusion to that other groups have come up with.

“Instead of looking at this as a linear purchase of land, or trying to recreate MAF’s old farm advisory division, think more along the lines of NIWA’s guidelines for constructed wetlands.

“A fund $10 million a year could purchase at least 286 hectares. Using NIWA guidelines and if turned into strategically located wetlands, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers believe it could remove 60-70 percent of Nitrogen from around 9,500 hectares of farmland. . .

 Sweet Success for Villa Maria at International Wine Show:

It was sweet success for Villa Maria last evening, collecting nine gold medals and the trophy for Champion Sweet Wine at the New Zealand International Wine Show, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Auckland.

The New Zealand International Wine show is the country’s largest wine show, in its tenth year with over 2000 global entries, it gives recognition to wines that are or will be sold in New Zealand.

The world renowned show organised by Kingsley Wood of First Glass Wines of Auckland, has a panel of over twenty experts judging the high calibre of entrants, overseen by Chief Judge Bob Campbell, MW. . .

 


NZIER: water taxes will suck Otago & Canterbury dry

September 18, 2014

Water taxes could become a regional tax on Canterbury and Otago, seriously impacting those regional economies.

This is the conclusion of a New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) report for Federated Farmers.

Care needs  to  be  taken  when  considering  taxing  competitive  agricultural  sectors since  countries  which  have  done  so  without  strong  justification  have  performed poorly (e.g. Argentina).

While there is little policy relevant data to tell us how much water is being used by the rural sector, preliminary estimates suggest that for every cent (per cubic metre of water) the rural sector is charged, $39 million will be taken out of rural communities.

This assumes  that  the  policy  is  enforceable  and  that  any  exceptions  could  be adequately  accommodated.1

Further, if  focused  on  irrigation  only,  the  tax  will predominantly fall on Canterbury and Otago  water users  (see following table), while traditional dairying areas such as Taranaki and Waikato will pay a minimal water tax.

While water  quality  is  reasonably  good,  maintaining  water  quality  is  a  major challenge that needs  to be overcome  with the  spotlight firmly on non-point  source agricultural run-off. Farmers need to be proactive in addressing this issue or others (e.g.  over-zealous  regulators, foreign consumers)  will do so  instead, possibly in ways that are less efficient for farmers and the country than an industry-driven initiative.

Doing nothing about water quality  is  not a sensible  option.  Neither is rushing ahead without sufficient information.  

But this is not a new problem. New Zealand can learn from other countries’ water quality regulatory experiences here and hopefully avoid making their mistakes. Some key lessons are:

  •  Addressing water quality that impacts on agriculture is a long term game. Rash decisions made now could have significant and costly unintended consequences
  •  Use science to determine minimum flows to sustain healthy water ways, and be flexible and adaptive in the management of the environment as scientific knowledge improves
  •  Using markets to allocate water between competing uses can be efficient and effective when conditions allow, but be aware that market forces alone will not solve all problems
  •  Water taxes will not be an effective allocation mechanism if significant physical, regulatory or information barriers exist. Specifically, further work is required in understanding the detailed water use trade-offs since we lack the necessary policy-relevant information, data and institutional capability
  •  Where possible, including urban areas within the same water allocation and trading framework will improve efficiency. . . .

It compares the policies of the National, Labour and Green parties and says:

There certainly  needs  to  be  a  step  up  in  primary  sector  –  and  other  sectors’  – responsiveness to this issue. But durable, effective water  trading  solutions take time to develop and must be based on robust analysis and facts, not rhetoric and ideology.

Voters should  be  wary  about  promised  policy  outcomes  when  the  evidence  base around  the  economic,  environmental,  social  and  cultural  impacts  of  the  proposed policies is far from complete. . .

There are no credible arguments against the importance of good water quality, the need to prevent degradation of water ways and clean up the dirty ones.

But imposing a water tax on Canterbury and Otago farmers to address problems all over the country, some of which have nothing to do with irrigation or farming, is not the answer to poor water quality in some areas and will create other problems.

It will also impose huge costs on a relatively small number of farmers in two regions:

“Let’s not kid ourselves that the road Labour and the Greens are travelling down with Water Taxes, looks more like regional farming taxes to us,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“The NZIER have calculated that a water tax of one cent on every cubic metre (m3) of water used for irrigated and stock purposes, means $39 million would need to be paid by farmers. 

“While Labour and the Green Party won’t confirm what they are considering, in 2011, the Greens campaigned on ten cents a cubic metre.

“If that happened then Canterbury’s farmers would foot 62 percent of the cost ($248 million) while 21 percent of the cost would fall on Otago’s farmers ($82 million).  Those two regions being where most of New Zealand’s irrigation happens.

“This represents something like a 13 percent bite out of agricultural GDP in Canterbury and 12.5 percent out of Otago’s agricultural GDP.  That’s one heck of a wallop and for what?

“These taxes have little to do with the political rhetoric of tackling water quality. There are plenty of regions with little or no irrigation, which have water quality challenges due to agriculture, industry and municipal influences.  

“It seems more about revenue generation to plug big spending promises and farmers, horticulturalists and vintners in Otago and Canterbury are being lined up to foot the bill.

“There’s no mention that these same businesses already pay thousands of dollars each year in ‘taxes’ to regional and district councils for the privilege  of accessing water.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that water taxes will only drive up the cost of food production, especially locally grown fresh vegetables and fruit.

“Are Kiwis really prepared to gift our domestic food market to other countries by pricing ourselves off the market?

“Labour and the Greens claim it will drive better and more efficient use of water. Well they are too late. Over the past ten years or so, farmers have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading on and off-farm irrigation infrastructure to more efficiently use water.

“This is plainly obvious for all to see in Canterbury with the proliferation of centre pivot irrigators.  With each one costing some $250,000, they allow the farmer to use substantially less water producing more food and fibre over traditional border dykes.

“There’s only so much money to go around for farmers to invest.  These proposed tastes will only slow down or stop a farmers’ ability to invest in new technologies.

“You’ve got to remember that we’re only using a fraction of New Zealand’s renewable freshwater resource, but the proper word is renewing.

“As the NZIER also notes, there are large informational, institutional and implementation gaps on water taxes. In our view, water tax proposals should have ‘use with caution’ in flashing red lights.

“If you want an example of a country with ill-founded and ill-thought out taxes that are like a wrecking ball through the primary industries then Argentina provides it.  Dr William Rolleston visited it earlier this year and saw for himself how everyone loses out there.

“By attacking Canterbury and Otago irrigators, there is such a dislocation between who you tax and the problem you want to solve, that the only thing you hurt is the economy.

“That’s why the media, politicians and commentators need to heed NZIER’s advice that, “care needs to be taken when considering taxing competitive agricultural sectors since countries which have done so without strong justification have performed poorly”.

“With some trading partners increasingly believing we are not responsibly harnessing our water resources to guarantee production, this is no place for policy experiments,” Mr Mackenzie finished by saying.

We don’t need an expensive experiment the direct costs of which will be carried by a relatively small number of farmers and the indirect costs of which will impact on Otago and Canterbury.

We need more of what’s already working.

This includes independently audited environmental plans for farms, which is what the North Otago Irrigation Company requires of all its water users.

Farmers already had lots of reasons to vote for another National-led government. This report provides them with more.


How much will people pay?

September 9, 2014

A correspondent to the Otago Daily Times, rev Steve O’Connor, (not online) asks:

Is it stupid to try to clean up our rivers and lakes inside a generation? Is it stupid to aspire to having all rivers and lakes swimmable, fishable and suitable for food gathering? Is it stupid to have regulatory safeguards and charge a little bit for large water takes for irrigation? . . .

We don’t have to choose between a thriving primary industry and clean water. We can have both. . .

To which Ian Mackenzie, a Federated Farmers board member responds:

The question Rev Steve O’Connor should be asking is how much he is prepared to pay in extra rates to clean up the Leith to swimming standards? that is to the standards of Moana Pool.

At the moment, run-off from the streets of Dunedin contaminates the Leith to about four times the acceptable level of E. Coli for safe swimming.

That has nothing to do with farming but it is he and the greater population of North Dunedin who are responsible.

I can now swim safely in the creek that flows through my farm because for years we have been investing in stock exclusion and riparian planting to ensure good water quality .

What did the rev O’Connor’s boss say about ‘he who is without sin’?

It is possible to have a thriving primary industry and clean water.

It is also possible to have clean water in urban areas but it will take time and money to achieve the high standard required for food gathering and swimming in many places.

How do the urban people so keen to have farmers – who by and large are already doing their bit to clean up the waterways they border – pay more, feel about paying to clean up waterways in their towns and cities?


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