Rural round-up

29/09/2019

Meetings show farm frustration – Colin Williscroft:

High farmer turnouts at meetings trying to explain the Government’s freshwater proposals show the degree of frustration the sector is feeling, Central Hawke’s Bay farmer Sam Robinson says.

Robinson, who attended a meeting a meeting in Napier that attracted 300 to 400 farmers and growers said he and just about everyone else there do not disagree with the proposals’ objectives. It is the approach causing frustration among farmers.

Frustration was also the overwhelming feeling at a meeting in Carterton, targeted specifically at farmers and growers, Farmers Weekly columnist Alan Emerson said. . .

Fonterra faces painful reality – Stephen Bell:

Fonterra has confirmed a farmgate milk price of $6.35/kg MS for last season while recording a net loss after tax of $605 million, an improvement on the forecast loss of up to $675m.

It had sales revenue of $20.1 billion, down 2% with operating expenses of $2.3b, down 7% and capital spending of $600m, down 30%.

Th co-op is reshuffling its management team with its global operations chief operating officer Robert Spurway the only casualty. Fonterra said he chose to leave to return to directly running a company.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell said 2019 was incredibly tough for the co-op but also the year Fonterra made decisions to set it up for future success. . .

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell: ,I knew 100% what I was getting in to’ :

Financial results media scrum over, two interviews with journalists down and a swag more scheduled, Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell’s baby face is starting to take on some harder edges.

It’s been a marathon couple of months leading to Thursday’s formal presentation of the dairy cooperative’s grim annual results, tempered only slightly by the simultaneous unveiling of a bright and shiny new business strategy.

There are only so many times a man can smile while saying “mea culpa New Zealand”. . .

From city to country: Award-winning shepherd kicks career goals.

It’s a brisk winter’s night as Kristy Roa and her teammates jog onto a floodlit sports field in Gisborne.

The 20-year-old shepherd heads for the nearest goal, pulling on a clean set of goalkeeper’s gloves as she goes.

A whistle sounds and it’s not long before a muddy soccer ball is hurtling towards the left corner of the goal. . .

Farmers look after rare mudfish – Toni Williams:

Arable farmer Ian Mackenzie and his wife Diana, opened their Eiffelton property in Mid Canterbury to Foundation for Arable Research’s Women In Arable group, to have a close up look at how farming and environmental protection can work hand in hand.

Mr Mackenzie, a third generation farmer on the Akaunui Farm site, spoke about the efforts to help protect the endangered mudfish which live in the farm’s Purakaunui Creek.

The Mackenzies, even after more than 25 years dealing with mudfish on farm, were still learning about the rare breed, as there were few people who knew a lot about them. . .

Dubbo to host life facilitator Viv Adcock who can talk to animals including livestock – Lucy Kinbacher:

A life facilitator who says she can talk to animals will visit Dubbo in October to offer livestock producers an opportunity to better understand their animals needs.

Sunshine Coast based woman Viv Adcock will visit the property of Merino sheep breeders, the Coddington family, from October 11 to 13 to talk to their animals about a range of topics including nutrition, handling and welfare. Her work is based on building a connection with animals, along with using body language, to perceive an animal’s behaviour.

Ms Adcock said often failure to fall pregnant, lack of production or low yields for either meat or fleece were signals of bigger problems. . .

 


Rural round-up

28/06/2015

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

20/06/2015

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

29/05/2015

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

22/01/2015

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

29/09/2014

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

18/09/2014

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?

09/09/2014

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?


Water policy attack on rural NZ

11/08/2014

Environment Minister Amy Adams says Labour’s water tax is a pointed attack on rural New Zealand and small businesses that operate there.

“Labour is suggesting that rural New Zealand should pay taxes that no other New Zealander has to pay and should abide by rules that other water users aren’t subject to,” Ms Adams says.

“In fact, under Labour’s plan, the productive sector could be hit with a $60 million bill for every one cent of tax Labour imposes per cubic metre of water.

“You have to ask why Labour is looking to penalise farmers and small, rural businesses by making them and only them pay for water use when the issue of water quality is one that applies across urban and rural New Zealand.

“It’s an out-and-out attack on rural and provincial New Zealand.

“Only a few days ago Labour was claiming they supported small businesses. However, Labour’s water tax, which they are hiding the amount of, would cause real damage to hundreds of small, rural businesses in the productive sector.

“It’s not just costs dairy farmers would have to bear. Sheep and beef farmers in Canterbury, apricot growers in Roxburgh, market gardeners in Pukekohe and kumara growers in Dargaville could all be hit by Labour’s water tax.

“As Irrigation New Zealand points out, an equitable and affordable water tax will be impossible to implement and will cost a fortune to establish.

“If it was really about ensuring efficient water use, why is every other commercial water user, except farmers, exempt?

“A water tax will increase the cost of production which could mean higher costs for New Zealanders for products like milk, cheese and fresh vegetables.

“Improving the quality of our freshwater is important to us all but we must do it sensibly so it doesn’t cost thousands and thousands of jobs across regional New Zealand and impose millions of dollars of costs on communities.

“National’s plan will improve and maintain the economic health of our regions while improving the health of our lakes and rivers at the same time.

“With policies like this, Labour might as well give up the pretence that they care about rural and provincial New Zealand and the small businesses that are at the heart of these areas.”

Labour plans to tax “big” water takes but only those in the country that are used for irrigation.

If water has a taxable value for irrigation, why doesn’t it have a one for other big takes – like power generation and urban water supplies?

Labour isn’t going there because that would be too cost them far too much support.

For all they keep talking about supporting the regions they know they’ve got hardly any support there so it doesn’t matter to them that the tax will add costs to farming.

Unfortunately, while doing that,   it won’t contribute to their aim to clean up waterways:

. . .  IrrigationNZ does not believe that imposing an irrigation tax will lead to New Zealand’s rivers and lakes becoming swimmable.

“This policy fails to recognise the complexities of freshwater management in New Zealand and ignores the billions of dollars of on-farm capital investment which has been put into improving our waterways,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO. “A ‘fair and affordable’ variable rate water tax will be impossible to implement and will cost a fortune to establish,” he says. “In no other country in the world is irrigated water paid for through a tax.”

“There is much about Labour’s water policy which aims to yield the economic and recreational benefits of New Zealand’s water for all, this is good, but punishing irrigators by imposing a water tax is not the way to achieve this.

“The only robust and long term solution to restoring waterways is on a case by case basis engaging local communities to find solutions.

“It is time that the value of irrigation in terms of food production and creating jobs is recognised in New Zealand, as it is in every other part of the world. There is considerable public good gained from sustainably managed irrigated agriculture.”

IrrigationNZ would like to point out the following:

• Horticulture and viticulture is not possible in New Zealand without irrigation, therefore an irrigation tax will increase the cost of production and will be passed onto the public when they buy their fresh produce;

• irrigation in New Zealand is not free: irrigators pay for a water permit, pay to be part of an irrigation scheme, and operate within strict limits;

• it is inequitable to single out irrigators when hydro generators, commercial users and urban user will not be charged for their water takes;

• a charge on irrigators will reduce money available for mitigating environmental impacts;

• agriculture has been the backbone of this economy through what have been very challenging economic times globally – everyone has benefitted and now everyone needs to be part of the solution for cleaning up our waterways.

INZ is committed to finding a way for New Zealand to develop sustainably managed irrigation schemes within acceptable environmental limits.

“Water is our most valuable renewable resource and we believe that irrigation in New Zealand is essential to protect against climatic variations and to enhance the country’s ability to feed its population and to contribute to feeding the world,” says Mr Curtis.

Federated Farmers says its a thinly disguised anti-farming policy:

Federated Farmers is asking why the Hon David Cunliffe is talking about helping regional economies on one hand, while announcing new taxes on those same regions to knock them back on the other.

“This is a thinly disguised anti-farming policy that is trying to blame farmers and particularly farmers who irrigate, for all of New Zealand’s water problems,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“It is clearly misguided and worse it is opening the divide between town and country when we should be working together.

“They know they cannot bring all rivers and lakes up to swimming standards without rebuilding all urban storm water systems and clearing New Zealand of wildfowl at all, let alone, in 25 years.

“Taxing irrigators in Canterbury and Otago to fix up degraded waterways in other parts of the country seems patently unfair.

“As for the practical effect of their anti-farming Resource Rental policy, it can be summarised in Northland, Auckland and the Bay of Plenty as being principally a tax on horticulture.

“In Marlborough and I guess in parts of Hawke’s Bay plus Wairarapa too, it is a tax on grapes as well as fruit and vegetables.

“For the rest of us, it is a tax on wheat, vegetables and pasture production.

“Independent economic modelling indicates that a Resource Rental on water at one-cent per cubic metre of water takes $39 million out of farms and provincial economies.

“This is all money that farmers are currently spending on protecting rivers and streams. Money that is making the towns of Ashburton, Pleasant Point and Oamaru places of employment for thousands of people. The same provincial economies that David Cunliffe wants to help.

“I don’t understand how you can help those towns by punitively taxing the one thing that has driven some prosperity in those regions.

“The Greens want to beat up dairy farmers, Labour wants to do it to irrigators. When will these people realise that others in New Zealand take and pollute water as well.

“Irrigation may take 57 percent of water used but residential and industrial users take 43 percent according to Labour’s own source document. It seems a bit one sided to continuously blame only one sector of the community for effects caused by everyone.

“As New Zealanders we need to collectively own up to our responsibilities and work together if we are to make a difference.

“Farmers have done that. It is time Labour and the Greens recognised that and argued for policies that encouraged the rest of New Zealand to do so too,” Mr Mackenzie.

A general charge would impose costs on production which will affect profit margins or be passed on to consumers in higher prices for food.

It will also be imposed on those doing all they can to keep water clean – which is the majority of farmers – rather than directly targeting the few who don’t.

Water didn’t get dirty overnight.

It will take time to clean it up but good work is being done already with co-operation between farmers, milk companies, councils and community organisations.

That work won’t be helped by labour’s policy which is merely another of their anti-farming taxes.


Blue better for water than Green

30/07/2014

Green isn’t the best colour for water, Federated Farmers environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie says:

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for freshwater may not have razzmatazz, but arose from that exercise in consensual collaboration called the Land and Water Forum [LawF].  It was the first time industry, councils, government departments and groups from Federated Farmers to Fish & Game, sat down to openly address water issues and find solutions.

At the heart of the NPS are our regional councils, who have been tasked with maintaining and improving water quality while bringing the poorest water quality up to a national minimum standard.  With next to no exceptions, this policy applies to all water bodies whether they are in town or country. This was an essential part of the LawF consensus and the government chose secondary human contact as the national minimum standard.  All of New Zealand’s top water scientists were involved in this.

The Green Party claim they are advocates for the environment and I would have thought they would have welcomed this important piece of legislation; whose intent is to keep New Zealand’s fresh water as the best in the world.

Being a farmer and with so many conflicting claims about water quality you may be dubious about what I am saying.  For an objective ‘warts and all’ water picture, can I direct you to the Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website at www.lawa.org.nz.  It confirms our water quality is generally good, with many rivers and streams improving thanks to farmers’ efforts at riparian protection.

What we know is that most swimming spots monitored by regional councils over the warmer months are generally satisfactory for swimming.  The Greens often claim “60 percent of our water” is unsafe, but a vast number of sites are affected by urban runoff.  

When poor water standards are mentioned too many people blame farming but some of the worst water quality is in urban areas and the result of urban activities.

Now, the Green Party wants to make all water bodies swimmable.   This is disingenuous because of the sheer difficulty and cost of achieving it.

There are 425,000 kilometres of waterways in New Zealand, which would have to meet those swimming standards, 24 hours a day and 365-days of the year. 

The LAWA website states, “rivers and streams in (or downstream of) urban areas tend to have the poorest water quality (the highest concentrations of nutrients and bacteria, and lowest macroinvertebrate community index (MCI) scores).” This is because all our urban storm water systems are designed to use urban rivers and streams to take away all this run-off.  

The Landcare Trust is running a community project to clean up some of the urban streams that flow into the Tamaki River. Regardless of that effort and enthusiasm they will never be able to stop those streams from being contaminated to the extent that they will become safe for swimming. Think of the 150-page NZ Standard for public swimming pools, “to ensure the risk to public health is minimised.”  Most small schools have had to close their swimming pools because of problems maintaining that and other standards.   Trying to apply that standard to all fresh water bodies is a nonsense. 

This is where the Green Party is disingenuous.

When they say ‘all water bodies,’ they really mean only those in the countryside because they do not wish to alarm their core urban constituency.  The Green Party ignores the huge shift in farmers’ attitude towards environmental stewardship and underplays quantum leaps in management and mitigation of farm nutrients, the fencing of waterways, riparian planting, the strategic application of fertilisers and nutrient budgeting and the effects these are having on improving water quality.  The Greens do not mention that many of the sites NIWA test for its National Rivers Network that fail swimming standards are in fact rivers and lakes affected by urban run off. Instead they continue to blame farmers.

There is still more to be done but the imposition of higher standards by regional councils and improvements in farming practices are making a positive difference in many areas.

Farmers like me acknowledge that there is a lot more work we need to do and the vast majority of us are adopting practices and spending tens of millions of dollars a year which, given time,  will sort out our contribution.  But we are not the sole cause or the sole solution.  River quality reports are already showing the benefit of a change in farmers’ attitude toward environmental stewardship, but this narrative doesn’t fit the Green’s script.

The NPS by contrast will be law.  It gives communities the power to decide how much progress needs to be made and over what timeframe. It specifically encourages communities to decide what they want for their rivers and lakes while balancing that with the costs to society and the economy. It has the fish hook that over time, all water bodies will have plans for how they will meet community aspirations, so if the students of North Dunedin decide they wish to swim in the Leith at anytime and the ratepayers of that great Southern town can afford it and are prepared to prioritise that spending over all other, then that is their choice. My guess is the cost will have that city’s burghers muttering darkly at their haggis and prevarication will win.  That’s been the case in most major urban centres. 

The NPS may not have the sexy but implausible sound bite ‘swimmable for all’ but it gives that choice to the community to decide. It is practical, pragmatic and is the law. With water we’re in this together and the NPS underscores that. 

 The idea of being able to swim in every body of water is attractive but expensive and almost certainly an impossible standard to reach everywhere.

Dairying and recent intensification is blamed for poorer water quality but dirty water isn’t new.

My father was a carpenter at what was then Waitaki freezing works at Pukeuri  more than 40 years ago. That’s when the company had to build a huge reservoir to hold water which had to be treated because the water from the Waitaki River, which supplied Oamaru and other smaller settlements, wasn’t fit to wash export meat.

We’ve come a long way since then and while dairying is blamed for the problem it’s also working hard to be part of the solution with initiatives such as Fonterra’s Grassroots Fund:

Fonterra Grass Roots Fund

For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra’s Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com
Photo: For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra's Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com

There is general acceptance of a need to improve water quality in many areas.

The argument is about how far improvements need to go.

National’s policy imposes a a minimum standard.

It leaves it up to communities to decide how much higher they want, and can afford, their water quality to be.

They are the ones with the most to gain from cleaner water and they are the ones who will have to pay for it.

The Green policy sets an impossibly high standard and leaves communities with no choice regardless of their wishes and priorities.

Blue is a much better colour for water than green.


Rural round-up

14/07/2014

Help sought for flooded farms:

Northland Rural Support Trust has put out a call for emergency grazing and feed supplies for farmers whose land is under water after the past week’s storm and prolonged rainfall.

Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker said the flood prone Hikurangi Swamp area, north of Whangarei, has been one of the worst affected.

“We’ve got up to 30 farms flooded in the Hikurangi Swamp area, we’ve got nine at least flooded further down in Tangiteroria, and even those that aren’t actually flooded are still cut off”, she said. . .

Greens’ water policy unrealistic:

Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) thinks that there is some merit in the Green Party’s environmental policy relating to water announced today, but is concerned about the economic and social impacts of the policy and about how the Green Party will achieve its outcomes.

INZ agrees that dams must not be built on New Zealand’s pristine rivers and where possible new dams should be located off-river. It also agrees that ‘no go’ areas should be identified.

But INZ does not agree that dams and irrigation destroy rivers or add to pollution if they are designed and constructed properly.

“The reality is that New Zealand needs large scale water storage. This is essential for town and city drinking water supplies, as well as to produce fresh food,” says Andrew Curtis, chief executive of INZ.. .

Green’s need to get on the water policy bus:

Instead of attacking policy that will massively improve New Zealand water quality, Federated Farmers says the Green Party would be more credible if it showed a lot more bipartisan leadership in supporting that policy.

“The new National Policy Statement (NPS) of Freshwater, actually requires regional councils to maintain or improve water quality while giving the wider community the choice of how far they want to go in order to improve our lakes and rivers,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“If the community wants to ensure that certain rivers and lakes are safe for swimming that is supported within the NPS.  But the NPS also requires they be fully informed as to the effect upon jobs, rates and their local economy, when making that choice.

“To leap into swimming as the gold standard for all, without some sort of exceptions regime, will likely cost urban ratepayers massively in the pocket. . .

Fonterra cheese jewel on target – Esther Ashby-Coventry:

The $73 million expansion of the Fonterra mozzarella factory at Clandeboye near Timaru is on track to go online in August 2015.

More than 360 contractors and tradespeople have been working on the project this off-season, with the majority from local companies. Most of the construction materials were bought within New Zealand and the rest manufactured offshore. At any one time there are between 75 and 100 people on the project.

More than 25 new staff members will be required for the factory once it is complete. They are being employed in staggered groups to begin their training. . .

Where is PGG Wrightson heading? –  Keith Woodford:

The last decade has been tumultuous for leading agricultural services company PGG Wrightson. The current company was formed in 2005 with the merger of Pyne Gould Guinness and Wrightson. That merger was led by well-known agribusiness entrepreneur and former Fonterra CEO, Craig Norgate,

Norgate then took PGG Wrightson on a rough ride. It was he who provided the intellectual leadership behind the massive land buying associated with the PGG Wrightson offshoot Farming Systems Uruguay. This subsequently ran into trouble with the coalescence of a major drought and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Norgate also led the proposal for PGG Wrightson to purchase a 50% share in Silver Fern Farms for $220 million. That too ran into trouble due to the Global Financial Crisis. . . .

NZ butchers defend tri-nations title

New Zealand’s Sharp Blacks have defended their tri-nations butchers title against Australia and the United Kingdom.

The team of six Kiwis battled the Brits and Aussies over two hours at the Royal Yorkshire Show in Harrogate as they turned a side of beef and a whole lamb into 50 products fit for a top shelf butcher’s display.

New Zealand won the tri-nations on home slabs at Wanaka last year and captain Corey Winder, from Christchurch, says winning gold on the other side of the world has been a career highlight. . . 

Japan deal opens FDI money flow – Tony Boyd:

ONE of the least understood aspects of the Australia-Japan trade agreement signed this week is the profound change it will bring to foreign direct investment (FDI) into Australia.

The agreement lifts the screening threshold at which private Japanese investment in non-sensitive sectors is considered by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) from $248 million to $1 billion.

Japanese takeovers in excess of $250 million have never caused a problem for the FIRB and there have been plenty of those over the past 10 years. Nevertheless, the free trade agreement has reserved policy space to screen proposals for investment in agricultural land and agribusinesses at lower levels than $1 billion. . .

New Zealand bra fence braless again:

A fence with hundreds of bras tied to it in Central Otago is looking a bit bare.

Hundreds of bras were cut from the controversial Cardrona Valley bra fence about four or five days ago, Cardrona Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Barrie Morgan told NZ Newswire.

The whimsical fence has existed for about 14 years and has become a popular tourist attraction but some locals regard it as an eyesore and traffic hazard.

The council took it down in 2006 but it was revived a short time later. Bras were mysteriously removed in 2013. . .


Rural round-up

05/07/2014

 Proud to be a dairy farmer – Will Leferink:

You could say I started back in the day when no one would likely tweet what you said or even know what a tweet was.

I will probably end my Feds career on the national stage with someone tweeting something right now.

So please Tweet this.

I am so very proud of New Zealand’s dairy farmers.

To use farming vernacular you are good buggers.

I am not talking our immense economic contribution because everyone gets that.

I am talking about the fantastic contribution being made by us environmentally. . .

Minister corrects incorrect claims about national freshwater standards:

Environment Minister Amy Adams has today moved to correct incorrect and misleading comments made about the Government’s ground-breaking national freshwater standards.

The Government yesterday announced clear, robust national standards for freshwater that will make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

This means, for the first time, New Zealand’s rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

However, some, including the Green Party, the Labour Party and Massey University environmental ecologist Dr Mike Joy, have resorted to making incorrect claims about the freshwater reforms that have gone unchallenged.

“Some of New Zealand’s best freshwater scientists came up with numeric values for the national standards.

“Ministers have not been involved in any way in the scientific detail of the framework. We were deliberately hands-off during this part of the process so we could get the best scientific information. . .

Environment the winner in freshwater reforms:

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, incorporating the National Objective Framework, is the most comprehensive approach to sorting environmental issues for this country’s freshwater resource. While tough on farmers it is equally tough on urban New Zealand.

“Unlike the Green Party, which has the divisive notion the dairy industry should be held accountable for absolutely all water quality, this seminal policy makes it clear that urban and rural water must be treated equally,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Water and Environment Spokesperson, who was also on the NOF reference group.

“Using a local example, this applies equally to the Avon River, the South Island’s most polluted urban waterway even before the earthquakes, as it does to the Hinds River in Mid-Canterbury. . .

Dairy farmers ready to take action to implement water quality standards

Dairy farmers are up for the challenge of working with local communities to fix local water quality problems and deliver on the Government’s new national water quality standards.

“DairyNZ will implement these new standards with farmers. We have a firm commitment from the industry and from our farmers on that front. Where there’s an agreed problem that needs fixing, we’ll get in there and do our bit,” says DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader for sustainability, Dr Rick Pridmore.

“The dairy industry supports farming to environmental limits to solve identified water quality problems. We’re already doing that kind of work across the country with farmers and councils in 15 priority areas. We also spend more than $11 million a year of dairy farmers’ levy money on environmental initiatives including local water quality studies and supporting farmers to take action to fix issues.” . . .

Earthquake-prone buildings farm exemption welcomed as a first step:

Federated Farmers is delighted Government has seen the logic of exempting farm structures from the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill as a first step to ensuring the viability of rural towns is not compromised.

“It was mind boggling to hear the Minister cost the inclusion of farm structures in the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill as being an imposition of $170 million,” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers new Vice-President.

“We naturally welcome this exemption since no one in the recorded history of farming in New Zealand has ever been killed in a collapsing farm structure during an earthquake. It was a clear case of regulatory overreach. . .

Fonterra Forms Exclusive Partnership with UK-Based Dairy Crest:

Fonterra has entered into an exclusive partnership with UK-based Dairy Crest to market and sell two products for the fast growing global baby food market.

The products – Galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS) and Demineralised Whey – are both used in the manufacture of infant formulas, and will be manufactured by Dairy Crest. Fonterra will be the dedicated and exclusive sales channel for the infant formula ingredients produced.

Dairy Crest is entering into a newly-formed joint venture with UK-based Fayrefield Foods to produce the GOS. These plants are expected to begin production in 2015. . . .

First NZ tourism attraction to gain certification:

Rotorua’s Te Puia became the first visitor attraction in New Zealand to have staff certified in rural skills today, with its Environment Team members presented with a National Certificate in General Skills Agriculture (Level 2) – Primary Sector.

The Primary ITO, New Zealand’s largest industry training organisation, officially presented the certificates this morning, after 12 months of training on and off-site. The qualification included training in the use of chemicals; driver training for tractors, forklifts and quad bikes; chainsaw use and health and safety.

Te Puia’s Environment Team are responsible for all maintenance across the 70 hectare geothermal site, including horticulture, hygiene and the conservation of native flora and fauna. Part of their role has involved the removal of undergrowth to expose natural geothermal features, with an ongoing focus on ensuring pathways are clear and safe for visitors. . . .

96 Points Rapaura Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Back to Back Double Gold’s:

Marlborough Winery Rapaura Springs is justifiably proud of its recent Double Gold award and 96 point rating at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Challenge 2014.

One of only a handful of wines from New Zealand to achieve this award, it’s made all the better by the fact we received the same recognition from the esteemed panel of judges last year. Both the 2013 and 2012 vintage Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wines have been awarded Double Gold medals. Talk about consistent!

Owner Brendan Neylon praises “a great team effort and an unwavering focus on quality, from the vineyard to the winery”. . .

Luring British Wine Professionals to New Zealand’s Largest Wine region:

Wine Marlborough and the NZ-UK Link Foundation are proud to announce that applications for the 2014/2015 Wine Marlborough NZ-UK Link Foundation scholarship are now open.

The history of the scholarship began in 2009 when Wine Marlborough and the NZ-UK Link Foundation, together with the late John Avery MW, established a scholarship to fund an exceptional wine industry professional from the UK to travel to New Zealand to experience Marlborough’s wine industry. The aim of the scholarship is to further the recipient’s wine knowledge and assist in their personal development as a potential leader in the wine industry. . .


Guard changes at Feds

05/07/2014

Federated Farmers has a new president and CEO.

Dr William Rolleston, former vice-president was elected unopposed to lead the organisation and Graham Smith takes over as CEO.

As Vice-President since 2011, I am honoured to be entrusted with a leadership role following in the footsteps of some farming greats,” says Dr Rolleston, Federated Farmers new President.

“Federated Farmers is New Zealand’s foremost rural advocate with a proud past and strong future. 

“Our National Council knows that the President must represent the views of all members and Federated Farmers is a broad church. I endorse this principle.

“I believe we can learn from all form of farming systems, including  organic practices, so long as these are underpinned by robust science.

“Given the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity, including agriculture, plays a significant role in climate change, science and innovation are key to the future of farming. Science and innovation are also key to the water quality sphere.

“I am fortunate that our Grain & Seed Industry Group chairperson, Ian Mackenzie, is staying on the Board for another year.  His work in the Land & Water Forum was publicly acknowledged yesterday by our Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Nathan Guy. 

“Ian is widely respected even among the environmental lobby.  His expertise and wise counsel will be welcome.

“As will be the support of my Vice-President, Wairarapa’s Anders Crofoot.  As our buildings spokesperson, I must acknowledge the success Federated Farmers has had in convincing Government to remove farm structures from its earthquake prone buildings Bill.

“A $170 million saving for farmers is an auspicious start for my tenure and a tangible example of the value Federated Farmers delivers for its members and farming in general.

“I will draw on the myriad of skills that the West Coast’s Katie Milne offers, especially on the high profile areas of rural security, employment and adverse events. 

“As a Board Member at large, she is joined in that capacity by Mid-Canterbury’s Chris Allen, who is fast developing expertise in water policy.

“I look forward to working with my newly elected Industry Group chairs, Rick Powdrell from Bay of Plenty for Meat and Fibre and Andrew Hoggard from Manawatu-Rangtikei for Dairy.

“Both are exceptionally talented farmers with an outstanding grasp of industry issues.

“Speaking of extremely talented people, Bruce Wills has been an inspiration to me.  His focus on environment collaboration and communication has done much to represent the modern face of farming.  These are themes I wish to continue with the new Board.

“As a Board it speaks volumes about Federated Farmers that someone of Graham Smith’s calibre came to us to be our new Chief Executive. 

“As Graham has started the handover process with Conor English I wish to thank Conor for his guidance over the period I was Vice-President and before that as a provincial president.

“I am excited by the future,” Dr Rolleston concluded.

Wills and English have overseen a change for the better in Federated Farmers for which all involved in farming and the wider rural community should be grateful.

They have provided a strong foundation on which the new leadership can build and carry on the much-needed work representing and advocating for farmers, farming and rural New Zealand.


Farmers foster fish

06/06/2014

This makes a very pleasant change from the usual negative stories about dairying:

Dairy farmers are getting praise from unlikely quarters after the most salmon in 40 years have been seen spawning in a small stream in the middle of dairying country.

After identifying good salmon catches in the area during the angling season and higher spawning rates in lowland streams than normal, fishery officers did a spot check at the spring-fed Waikuku Stream, expecting to see little salmon activity.

In a small stretch of the stream which feeds into the Ashley River they found about 35 salmon and as many nests – redds – containing thousands of eggs.

Among other theories for the high salmon count, Fish & Game New Zealand think the main reason is the work of dairy farmers to fence, plant and protect the stream.

South Island spokesman Andrew Currie said it was pure chance they found so many salmon spawning in the stream and farmers deserve the credit.

“In a 200-metre stretch I walked there were at least 25 to 35 redds and that augurs well for the fishery because each one of these nests contains 3000 to 4000 eggs and we can see the day when the Ashley River returns to a good run. What was particularly pleasing by the find was that the stream was in the heart of a dairy farm.”

Currie said the “textbook” spawning site had free-running water, nice overhangs, little weed and an exposed shingle bed and was an example of top riparian planting by farmers.

“I think a lot more farms in Canterbury could have the same in their backyard if they had similar plantings and fencing.

“This is proof that dairy farming and Fish & Game can co-exist. . .

That is refreshingly positive and is appreciated by Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers is thrilled to hear Fish and Game acknowledge the massive positive effect farmers Good Management Practice (GMP) is having on our waterways.

“Headline news in the Christchurch Press today reports farmers riparian management has resulted in the sighting of the most salmon seen spawning in 40 years, an acknowledgement that is huge for the farming community,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Water & Environment Spokesperson.

“The 35 salmon, nests and thousands of eggs found in the Waikuku stream, was smack bang in the middle of dairy farming land. Feeding into the Ashley River, this bountiful Canterbury stream is testament to allowing reasonable timeframes for farmers to fence and riparian plant their waterways.

“It is encouraging to see the results of farming coexisting with its waterways and heartening to have it acknowledged by Fish and Game. This is not an isolated event with similar reports in Ashburton of large numbers of salmon spawning in Spring Creek, tributary to the Ashburton River.

“This article is timely as I sat down to listen, after speaking at the New Zealand Primary Industry Summit today. It was the perfect parallel to reflect on the big picture of our industry and the correlation that it has with the economy. We are looking for ways to move forward in a sustainable way, as the most successful exporters in the world, but we have to make it right at home first and this is proving to be challenging.

“Each regional council is interpreting the requirements for the National Policy Statement for Freshwater management differently and in some cases every catchment, which will lead to an implementation nightmare. Whilst every region is different there needs to be a cohesive approach here and a standardisation of what is required.

“What we are seeing in the Waikuku stream, Spring Creek, and numerous others throughout the country, could be tenfold with a consistent and organised approach from Central and Regional Government,” concluded Mr MacKenzie.

Farming and healthy waterways which foster fish aren’t mutually exclusive.

Sustainability balance economic, environmental and social concerns and is achievable with good management practice from landowners and councils.


Rural round-up

26/04/2014

Future farm staff needs a big priority:

To be considered world leaders, the dairy industry needs to lift its game to attract and retain quality staff, says DairyNZ.

As dairy farms get bigger, demands on farm staff are getting greater, says DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader for people and business, Mark Paine, a key speaker at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum, May 7-8. Farmers are encouraged to register now to attend the forum.

“We need to ask ourselves if we’ve got an industry geared up to accommodate the growing demands,” says Mark. “We have a range of initiatives in place and we’re working hard on all fronts – but is it enough? I’ll be keen to hear from farmers attending the forum about their priorities.

“Our research suggests that for on-farm roles, we need 1000 graduates every year at diploma level and above, and another 250 a year for rural professional and science roles. . .

Crop losses ‘in millions’ – Annette Scott:

Unprecented weather is proving a cropping farmer’s nightmare as Canterbury arable farmers face crop losses in the millions of dollars.

“We are at the tough end of a relatively tough season and the toughest part is we can’t do anything about it,” Federated Farmers national grain and seed chairman and Mid Canterbury arable farmer Ian Mackenzie said.

“It’s worse than frustrating and what hurts most is that it’s the more-valuable crops that are still standing out in the paddocks.”

Ground conditions were very wet, he said. Autumn wheat should be planted but radishes were still in the paddock. . .

Cropping farmers encouraged to seek support:

Federated Farmers is encouraging farmers to help each other as cropping farmers in Canterbury and North Otago seek respite from a prolonged wet spell which is threatening specialist crops and cereals ahead of harvesting.

“Already sodden fields have been shown no mercy from a succession of passing cyclonic fronts” said Mid-Canterbury President, Chris Allen.

“This will have the same impact on cropping farmers as one metre of snow during lambing would have on sheep farmers, it’s very serious.

“Now into autumn with shorter days and less heat, there will be limited opportunities for farmers to recover their crops.  Due to the wet ground conditions, crops aren’t suitable for harvest and when they are, there will be a big demand on resources. . .

Farmer grateful for army help:

Federated Farmers is appreciative of the efforts of the New Zealand Army to help southern Westland clean up the mess caused by former tropical Cyclone Ita.

“Given it is Anzac Day, we are moved to have the New Zealand Army on the ground here in Westland to help us to recover,” says Katie Milne, the organisation’s Westland provincial president.

“It feels like the cavalry has arrived but more accurately, it’s the sappers.”

On Thursday Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said nine New Zealand Defence Force personnel were already in Whataroa and a team of 16 engineers and support personnel from Burnham would arrive on Thursday afternoon. . . .

FMA investigates whether banks breached financial markets laws on interest rate swaps to farmers

(BusinessDesk) – The Financial Markets Authority, New Zealand’s markets watchdog, is investigating whether the sales and marketing of interest rate swaps by major banks to rural customers may have breached financial markets laws.

The FMA is working with the antitrust regulator, the Commerce Commission, to see if the banks have breached laws including the Securities Act 1978 and the Securities Markets Act 1988, the watchdog said in a statement. It declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing. . .

NZ infant formula makers likely to get all-clear from China – Andrea Fox:

Nearly all New Zealand’s 13 infant formula manufacturers look likely to pass muster by Chinese authorities to continue exporting to China, which has introduced tough new regulations after food-safety scares.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kay said based on advice from Chinese officials in the past 24 hours following their audits of NZ manufacturers, most, if not all, were expected to achieve registration.

However, one unnamed manufacturer would have to make some changes before registration would be complete, the ministers said.

The Chinese audit was conducted last month. . .


Rural round-up

08/02/2014

Waikato fast turning waste into wealth:

The Waikato is fast turning waste into wealth, thanks to New Zealand’s first and only independent product development spray dryer and a collection of the country’s world-class researchers.

Waikato Innovation Park is the first organisation in the region to receive funding from Bio-Resource Processing Alliance (BPA). The $28,000 is helping it develop a way to scale up commercial production of pure avocado powder – a project that was started on a small scale in 2013.

The BPA is a government funded initiative that helps New Zealand’s biological-based manufacturing businesses gain maximum value from waste and by-products, while reducing environmental impacts from primary production and manufacturing activities.

According to BPA general manager Trevor Stuthridge, the initiative has $2.5 million per year on offer to New Zealand companies and their research providers over the next five years. . .

Benefits tipped from Synlait takeover – Alan Williams:

New jobs and $6 million coming from overseas for farm development spending are among the benefits of the latest Shanghai Pengxin investment in New Zealand, Cabinet ministers say.

Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin’s majority shareholding in the company that is taking over Synlait Farms in Canterbury was approved by State Services Minister Jonathon Coleman and Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson.

In their decision released by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), they also referred to the benefits to NZ of the Shanghai Pengxin investment in 16 former Crafar farms in the North Island and the advancement of New Zealand’s “China strategy”. . .

Controls on fruit and vegetable movement lifted:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirms that all restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables in Whangarei have been lifted as of yesterday evening, Friday 7 February.

MPI Deputy Director General, Compliance and Response, Andrew Coleman, says this marks the milestone where two weeks of trapping, fruit sampling and testing is completed.

“We have received our final results from trapping and fruit examination and I am delighted to say that our rigorous checks found no further sign of the Queensland fruit fly in the Whangarei area. New Zealand’s fruit fly-free status remains intact, as it has throughout this response. There is no longer any need for residents in the area to be restricted in their movements of produce.” . . .

Whangarei fruit fly operation comes to an end:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has thanked the people of Whangarei for their cooperation over the last two weeks in responding to the find of a single male Queensland fruit fly.



“It’s very pleasing that no other fruit fly has been found and that this appears to be a solitary insect.



“This detection is a very rare event and shows we have a high performing biosecurity system.



“I want to thank the people of Whangarei for their support and patience over the last two weeks.



“Locals have been very supportive of this operation. They realise how important it is to treat this response seriously, and their cooperation has been great,” says Mr Guy. . . .

Good news in seed export growth:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see exports of vegetable and herbage seeds still rising.

“To see total seed exports rise by 14 percent from 2012 levels shows arable farmers in New Zealand are doing their fair share for the economy,” says Ian Mackenzie, the Grain & Seed Chairman of Federated Farmers.

“What makes the $192 million contribution to the economy so good is that this contribution is heavily concentrated in mid and North Canterbury region, with almost all the production done between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers.

“Dairy is not the only land use that is driving economic activity in Canterbury, and that deserves to be celebrated” . .

Rabobank Wine Quarterly Q4: Challenges remain for global industry:

• New Zealand harvest yet to commence, but favourable growing conditions indicate positive signs for the coming vintage.

• New Zealand wine exports are firmly back in growth given the higher supply available from the record 2013 vintage, and the share of bulk wine in the ‘product mix’ is rising.

• Australian harvest underway, expectations of a slightly smaller crop, with the recent severe heatwave potentially impacting yields. . . .

The full report is here.


Rural round-up

22/11/2013

Farmers welcome the PCE’s water contribution:

Federated Farmers has welcomed the report of Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, entitled, Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution and is offering to help ground truth some of the modelled assumptions.

“Federated Farmers has consistently said we need good science to underpin policy decision making,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson.

“As Dr Wright conceded at the launch water is complex and the modelling arguably represents the worst case.  It does however highlight the cumulative effects of land use intensity upon water.  It represents our future if we do absolutely nothing but that is not a future we’d like to be a part of.

“Farmers understand there are some challenges but we mustn’t forget that New Zealand has some of the best quality water on earth.  There is also enormous resource and work being put into finding practical workable solutions and we have made some good progress. . .

Time and tide waits for no man or woman – Jeanette Maxwell:

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Zambia for the inaugural World Farming Organisation Women’s committee meeting, the international day of Rural Women and the Zambian National Farmers Union conference.

This has much resonance for the issues we will be discussing over the next two days.

Travelling to a country like Zambia gave me an opportunity to see how farmers do business in a developing nation.  A working farm there can be anything from 10 hectares to many thousands of hectares.

In Zambia I found that 62 percent of all farmers are women.  Women also make up a large share of the labour force and much of the weeding and crop maintenance is done by women.

For many farmers the land is transferred by succession and while there are opportunities to buy land you do need to know the right people.   In Zambia, succession is seen as being critical for the continuation of farming and for feeding the nation.   Sounds familiar. . . .

New DOC boss signals cultural shift:

Farming leaders are applauding a cultural shift signalled by new Department of Conservation (DOC) boss Lou Sanson.

Mr Sanson, who took over as DOC chief executive about two months ago, told the Federated Farmers’ national council in Wellington on Tuesday that DOC would be focusing more on partnership arrangements with farmers and other community and commercial interests, including fishing and mining.

He said Canterbury’s Hakataramea Basin was an example of what he meant by a cultural change for DOC, with a lot of land taken back into its control through tenure review.

“We’ve also taken a lot of musterers’ huts. Generally a farmer 100 years ago put a poplar or a willow beside the hut to give him firewood for the hut,” Mr Sanson said. . .

Contest gives credit to sharemilking role – Sue O’Dowd:

New Zealand’s premier dairy farming contest can be traced to a Taranaki man who thought a sharemilkers’ competition would provide a window to show off their skills.

Murray Cross was a sharemilker at Ngaere when he suggested the Taranaki Sharemilkers Association should run a Sharemilker of the Year competition. At the time he and wife Ruth were on the farm his father, Sydney Hamilton Cross, had bought after he returned from World War II.

Murray Cross drew his inspiration for the competition from going through the process for a Nuffield scholarship. Although he was unsuccessful, he thought he could apply what he had learned to a competition in Taranaki for sharemilkers.   . .

Meat co-ops see obstacles to merger:

Silver Fern Farms and the Alliance Group, agree that further consolidation is needed in the meat industry.

But both big farmer-owned co-operatives see different obstacles in the way of the farmer campaign to merge the two co-ops as the starting point for forcing wider changes in the industry.

The Meat Industry Excellence group is frustrated at the failure of the major processors and exporters to agree on any reform measures after months of discussions. It is pushing a merger idea in co-op board elections currently underway.

However, Alliance Group chair Murray Taggart of Canterbury says it does not support the view that the co-operatives should be the main vehicle for consolidation and bear the costs. . .

Sustained crop returns for wheat and maize:

Digging a little deeper into the budget for grain fertiliser has valuable paybacks in terms of crop yields for maize and wheat, according to recent studies funded by Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

Trials were undertaken in Canterbury, Southland and Waikato in spring 2012 to evaluate the performance of standard urea against Ballance Agri-Nutrient’s SustaiN, which is urea coated with the urease inhibitor AGROTAIN®. Agrotain is a nitrogen stabiliser that has been proven to suppress ammonia volatilisation, delivering more nitrogen directly to the soil where it can contribute to plant growth.

The trials showed that the additional cost of $11/ha for SustaiN (applied at 100 kg N/ha) was readily recouped. . .

 


Proposals for freshwater management

08/11/2013

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have released proposals for improving freshwater management, including national water standards.

On-going and reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental and economic issues facing New Zealand today,” Ms Adams says.

“It is critical that we protect and improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”

“This is an issue that affects us all. We need to work together to create a better way of managing what is New Zealand’s most important natural resource,” Mr Guy says.

In 2011, the Government required regions to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers.

In March a document was released outlining the Government’s proposed plan of action for improving water quality and the way freshwater is managed.

In August, the Government announced its intention to create a collaborative planning option for the development of a freshwater plan within a community.

Today, the Government is releasing a document to seek the public’s feedback on more detailed proposals for amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

The discussion document seeks feedback on the Government’s proposals for:

  • a national framework to support communities setting freshwater objectives
  • explicit recognition of tangata whenua values for freshwater
  • ecosystem and human health as compulsory values in regional plans
  • bottom lines for ecosystem and human health that apply everywhere, and

restricted grounds for exceptions to bottom lines; and

  • requiring councils to account for all water takes and contaminant discharges

More than 60 freshwater scientists from public, private and academic sectors across New Zealand have come up with numeric values proposed for national bottom lines for freshwater.

Ministers have not been involved in the scientific detail of the framework.

The numbers have also been tested with a reference group of water users to make sure they are practical. Further water quality attributes and numbers will be added over time.

The framework will be underpinned by good information that supports regional decision-making, including the environmental, social and economic impacts of any proposed objectives and limits.

“As a minimum, councils still have to maintain or improve water quality, but we are proposing a safety net in national bottom lines for ecosystem and human health,” Ms Adams says.

“These are to safeguard aquatic life in our water bodies, and ensure we can enjoy our water for activities like boating and wading.”

“We expect people to debate these bottom lines – that’s the nature of science – but the freshwater scientists’ numbers we are releasing today also reflect the important role of value judgements in choosing how we use our fresh water,” Mr Guy says.

“If we can get agreement now, there will be less arguing and litigation over regional plans and resource consent applications. It will give people more certainty about what is allowed and what is not, and all this will save time and money.”

The discussion document, the draft amended National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and supporting documents and studies are available here.

Public meetings and hui will be held around the country this month and next. Dates and venues will be posted on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.

Amy Adams’ speech is here.

Farmers are welcoming the proposals.

“What is being proposed directly comes out of the recommendations of the Land & Water Forum and represent a significant change in how communities will plan for water into the future,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“This is a collaborative response to what has been a collaborative process.

“It is a framework which provides an accounting system for measuring water quantity and quality. This reduces much of the subjective emotion that has typified the discussion and sets bottom lines for water quality.

“This also is about giving communities the power to set their own aspirations for water. For the first time this will be scientifically, culturally and economically informed. It won’t be easy and will need some sacrifice from agriculture and urban communities alike.

“As Minister Adams noted at the launch, some of our most polluted waterways are in our towns and cities. It is why every New Zealander has a responsibility to play their part.

“Just like some farmers may face greater restrictions, some cities and their ratepayers may face wastewater upgrades costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The thing about the proposed amendments is that it introduces the concept of time; many issues may have taken decades to build and may take decades to resolve.

“I can confidently say New Zealand’s primary industries are up for this challenge.

“It is a challenge that rightly starts by giving communities the full facts. This is helped by input provided by 60 of New Zealand’s foremost freshwater scientists. For the first time we can build up a picture for what the impacts are and where they are coming from.

“It will also be helped by giving communities an idea as to what the costs of water options being considered are. As long as the community goes into decisions with its eyes open, as farmers, we cannot really complain.

“Many of the issues we face are long-term and the solutions will equally need an intergenerational approach. That makes it important to get the foundations right.

“While the framework is not complete and needs details to flesh it out, it and the consultation now underway, are important steps towards a more open and honest discussion about water,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.

IrrigationNZ says the integration of socio-economic and environmental objectives is the only way New Zealand will achieve long-term sustainability.

“It’s good to see the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum being put into action and IrrigationNZ applauds the scientists and planners behind the framework. It’s a sensible, well-informed first iteration and we look forward to its further development,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

Mr Curtis says communities will now be able to come together and make informed decisions around the values of local waterways. “The framework delivers a more consistent approach to the setting of freshwater objectives and limits throughout New Zealand. IrrigationNZ is particularly excited by the breadth of community values that have been captured. Long term sustainability requires the marrying of socio economic and environmental aspirations and the framework achieves that.”

Another highlight for IrrigationNZ is recognition within the framework that communities need flexibility as they work towards meeting freshwater objectives.

“This is important as there are many factors impacting on water quality and a range of management approaches that can be taken as a result. While much of New Zealand’s freshwater resource is in good shape, there are also hotspots that urgently require attention. For IrrigationNZ, our contribution is working out how we better use water for irrigation and the framework reinforces that with its focus on measurement. Irrigators understand the importance of monitoring and measurement as our industry is founded on it. Our work programme is now based on improving water use efficiency and minimising nutrient losses to groundwater and waterways which will go a long way to delivering improved freshwater outcomes.”

The one jarring note for IrrigationNZ is the continuing debate around what should be included as attributes in the national bottom lines.

“In reality it’s difficult to set national bottom lines for many attributes due to the diversity and complexity of our landscape and waterbodies. Some freshwater attributes, particularly biotic-based indicators that are derived from multiple parameters, are better set at the catchment level where scenario specific analysis can be undertaken.”

Forest and Bird says the proposals are a good first step towards cleaner rivers.

. . . “Currently, regional councils decide their own water quality values. Inevitably, these have been disputed by different sectors all the way to the Environment Court,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“It makes real sense to get consistency and agreement, all at once at a national level, and to have nationally consistent bottom lines.

“While the National Objectives Framework is a good start, as proposed, it would benefit from some more flesh on its bones,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“An obvious omission is that there is no objective that directly relates to the health of freshwater insects, and we hope that they can be included in the national framework that is implemented. Insects provide a direct measurement of how healthy a lake or river is,”
Kevin Hackwell says.

“Where there are still gaps in the regional science – which mean we can’t yet agree on a national set of numbers for particular water quality values – we should still be able to agree on some tight wording on what standards we want to see achieved.

“Tight ’descriptive’ objectives would provide crucial guidance for regional councils to work to, while the figures are worked out,” Kevin Hackwell says.

The Environmental Defence Society also says the proposals are a good first step.

“This is the critically important keystone to the entire freshwater reform process,” said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

“When EDS initiated the Land and Water Forum process in 2008, we had no idea it would take so long to get to this important stage. We finally have a draft of the much-needed national guidance for freshwater management in New Zealand.

“The overall NOF framework appears to be consistent with the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum. That much is welcome.

“However the actual standards and bottom-lines proposed are incomplete and those that are there will need strengthening.

“In particular, we are aware the Science Panels and the Reference Group recommended that macroinvertebrates (small living critters in freshwater systems) should be included – but they haven’t been. We think this can and should be fixed in the final version.

“Overall, some of the other bottom-line standards appear weaker than expected and in many cases are considerably lower than current water quality. We will need to take scientific advice on what adjustments are required. We have to have standards that ensure that no further deterioration in freshwater quality occurs and that we are on an overall improvement pathway especially in lowland streams and rivers.

“Overall, New Zealand’s freshwater should be swimmable and fishable as a minimum.

“The government is running a series of workshops and consultation feedback has been sought with a closing date in February.

“On this occasion the government is generally on the right pathway which will be welcomed by my colleagues on the Land and Water Forum as being in accord with the consensus position we arrived at. EDS stands by that consensus,” Mr Taylor concluded.

Getting consensus on the freshwater strategy is far better than imposing something which will result in on-going wrangles and litigation.

Consensus does however, often require compromise.

All parties involved have a strong desire to ensure we have good freshwater standards that result in clean water. If they keep that in mind they ought to be able to build on what they have in common and work around their differences.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

01/11/2013

Drone helps Southland farmers check on stock – Dave Goosselink:

A Southland farming family have employed a set of digital eyes to help keep track of their stock.

They’re using a remote-controlled drone fitted with cameras to fly over their large farm, counting sheep and looking out for problems.

There are over 4000 sheep and cattle on the Gardyne family’s farm, and it was 13-year-old Mark who suggested turning to technology.

“Dad and I were watching TV and we saw the drones in Afghanistan for the military purposes and we decided how we could use that in agriculture,” says Mark Gardyne. . . .

Allan Barber:

The announcement by Silver Fern Farms of the reopening of its Finegand, Balclutha, casings plant eight years after it closed is an interesting example of history repeating itself. Of particular interest are the reasons behind resuscitating an operation which nobody would ever have foreseen as likely.

The first part of the explanation is both simple and inexplicable: simple because China has stopped accepting any shipments of green runners (sheep and lamb intestines) which were processed into sausage casings, inexplicable because nobody seems to know why. The second component of the explanation is belief by SFF that it can amalgamate substantial volumes of green runners from its South Island plants and add value to them profitably in the new facility. . . .

Progress for irrigation in Otago and Rangitikei:

Federated Farmers congratulates the Government on their commitment to sustainable irrigation in New Zealand.

“The Government’s $850,000 investment into the Central Otago and Rangitkei projects, through their Irrigation Acceleration Fund, will go a long way to improving these provinces economically and socially. It also bodes well for getting it right from the beginning,” says Ian MacKenzie, Federated Farmers Water Spokesperson.

“The potential for these provinces to develop and profit from a more reliable irrigation source is huge – with only two percent of our rainfall used for irrigation right now. It also will play a major part in reaching the goal to double our exports by 2025. . .

Iconic lake benefits from weed control:

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson says great progress is being made to improve the health of Lake Wanaka through efforts to rid it of a noxious weed.

Lagarosiphon, also known as South African oxygen weed, chokes waterways, smothers native aquatic plant communities and it establishes quickly if left untreated.

Weed control at Lake Wanaka is carried out by a lagarosiphon management committee, led by Land Information New Zealand. . .

Stable wool pricing needed – Wools of New Zealand:

At an estimated average production cost of $4.50/kilo of greasy wool, cross bred wool growers have had only two years of profitable returns over the past decade, continuing a 30-year downward cycle.

Mark Shadbolt, chairman of Wools of New Zealand, says the numbers make for sober reading. “The industry’s primary concern has to be with price volatility. When there’s a price spike manufacturers switch away from wool, eroding demand and fuelling further volatility. Wools of New Zealand have developed a stable pricing model designed to stabilise prices for growers and customers alike, which over time will provide incremental growth in demand and ultimately returns at farm gate.”

Writing in the just released Wools of New Zealand annual report – the first since the company’s successful capital raise was completed in February this year – Mr Shadbolt notes that the company has developed two six month stable price contracts direct with customers. . .

New programme to unlock Northland’s primary industry potential:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has launched a new programme to help unlock the potential for primary industry growth in Northland today.

“This is the start of a wider programme by the Ministry for Primary Industries to work in partnership with regions to help them further develop industries like agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and aquaculture.

“We chose to start with Northland because it has significant potential, with a good climate and a vast tracts of land suitable for further development,” says Mr Guy.

MPI is already working with two Māori-owned farms in Northland. One involves the conversion of 270 hectares of Māori land to a dairy farm. The other involves providing technical support for a 2480 hectare dairy and beef farm to increase productivity, with the support of key partners including Landcorp, Dairy NZ and Te Tumu Paeroa. . .

Special Year as 2014 Dairy Awards Entries Open:

The 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are accepting entries in what is likely to be the most memorable awards competition to date.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the 2014 awards coincide with the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year competition – the country’s longest running dairy farming contest.

“We are taking some time to celebrate this achievement and are enjoying the trip down memory lane as we see where some of our past winners, entrants, judges and organisers are now. What has become apparent is the long lasting effect and impact their association with the contest has had on them and their dairy farming career.” . . .

Give it up for the dairy industry’s Oscars – Willy Leferink:

What do you call the dairy industry’s Oscars, Emmy’s or the Canon Media Awards all rolled into one? It’s the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

These awards are much more than a night for farmers to don a tux and hit the big smoke, although Auckland is where the finals are being held in 2014. Next year also happens to be the 25th Anniversary of the Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year competition. For those who don’t know much about sharemilking it is a unique New Zealand pathway into farming. There is lower order sharemilking which is the first rung on the ladder before progressing onto 50/50 sharemilking. There is also equity partnership, where a farmer manages the farm and draws a salary but also has an equity stake in the farm business. All three forms are businesses and mean people with little money but a great work ethic can make a great future for themselves and their family.

In order to recognise the best in our industry is why 25 years ago, Federated Farmers ran the very first Sharemilker of the Year competition in Stratford. . .

Award-Winning Amisfield Wine Company Ownership Returns to Its Roots:

Leading New Zealand businessman John Darby recently announced he has become the sole shareholder of multi award-winning Amisfield Wine Company.

Mr Darby, who was previously a majority shareholder, assumed full ownership following the buyout of other shareholders.

Founded in 1988 and originally known as Lake Hayes Wines, vines were first planted on 110 hectares of vineyards in Gibbston Valley in the early 1990s. . . .

New HALO reds show Hawke’s Bay’s class:

Hawke’s Bay’s classic red wine characteristics shine through in two Sacred Hill HALO premium red wines from the 2012 vintage, released this week.

Named after the distinctive halo in Sacred Hill’s logo, the HALO range has earned a reputation for handcrafted, richly textured wines and the Sacred Hill HALO Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 and HALO Syrah 2012 continue that tradition.

Chief winemaker Tony Bish says the wines are made from small parcel selections of fruit from Sacred Hill’s best vineyards. . .


Rural round-up

20/08/2013

Important not to let China dominate red meat sector – Allan Barber:

It’s a scary thought how quickly things have changed, but China has become one of New Zealand’s biggest markets for red meat, almost without any warning.

After years of thinking of UK/Europe as our biggest market for sheepmeat and the USA for beef with all other countries way down the chart, China has surged to reach the status of our biggest destination by volume for sheepmeat with 60,000 tonnes in the last 12 months compared with 55,000 to the UK.

The rise in beef is less dramatic, although year on year volume increased by more than 600% to 27,500 tonnes. However this volume is larger than exports to any single market other than the USA. The increases are less pronounced if measured in dollars, but the message is the same. . . .

Innovation from grassroots:

Retaining primary sector research and development to maintain competitiveness while at the same time diversifying into other key areas is important, says industry body DairyNZ.

Commenting on the launch of a new book, Get Off the Grass: Kickstarting New Zealand’s Innovation Economy, by Shaun Hendy and Paul Callaghan, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says dairying in New Zealand has not been ‘backed’ at the expense of other sectors.

“Its export value has grown by 83% in the last 10 years because our industry is innovative, resilient and highly competitive,” he says. “And I agree that diversifying our economic base is important,” says Mackle.

“Some of the research I’ve seen points to the importance of cities and regions being powerful drivers of knowledge economies. They are associated with significant productivity gains and innovation and high densities of businesses in related industries. The new Lincoln Agri Hub that DairyNZ is a part of is an agricultural response to that for Christchurch and Canterbury. There is a food one in Palmerston North and we are looking to develop a hub in the Waikato too,” he says. . .

Primary industry mobile tech forum draws the digerati – sticK:

Numbers tell a story on their own.

And the fact that over 220 attendees ponyed up at the Mobile Tech Summit 2013 in Wellington on August 7 & 8 underscores the message that our natural resources aren’t as old-hat as some would like to believe.

This new event is designed to showcase current and upcoming mobile innovations in New Zealand’s principle food and fibre sections.

In other words; the application of smartphones and mobile devices across our biological industries – which for all the movies made in New Zealand and talk of standalone digital businesses, still underpin our economy. . .

Farm compliance and water breakthroughs:

Figures obtained by the Dominion Post show a significant fall in the number of dairy farmers receiving infringement and abatement notices.  This follows hard on the heels of the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) reporting in 90 percent of monitored sites, water quality over 2000-2010, was either stable or showed improvement

“The numbers from the Dominion Post tell the full story and that is one of marked improvement,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“While the Dominion Post has singled out dairy farming over the past five seasons, we are buoyed to see the number of abatement notices almost halve while infringement notices have more than halved.  . .

Changes to farming regulations on the horizon:

Federated Farmers supports Government proposals to change the Resource Management Act (RMA) but there are some changes still to be made.

“The principles behind the changes are to give certainty to the planning process and to consenting,” said Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers’ Environment spokesperson.

“I’m sure everyone will welcome greater consistency and faster decision making. The changes should make local authorities better to deal with and more accountable.

“We are disappointed that the Government is still not addressing inconsistencies with the framework of the National Policy Statement for Fresh Water; devised to protect indigenous aquatic flora, fauna and habitat. The proposed RMA changes continue to protect introduced predator species, such as trout. You cannot have it both ways. . .

Best plants for bees – Raymond Huber:

Honey bees are the glue that holds our agricultural system together…Hannah Nordhaus

It’s Bee Week and Time magazine features The Plight of the Honeybee (hey Mr. Time Editor, it’s ‘honey bee’, two words, not one). One cause of bee decline is monocultural farming: bees are starving because of a lack of flower diversity. You can help by planting bee-friendly fruit trees, bushes, herbs and wild flowers:
  • Plant nectar-rich flowers: clovers and mimosa; rosemary, thyme and sage; koromiko and veronicas; brassicas; dandelion, sunflower, dahlias, cosmos, and zinnia
  • Bees like bluish-purple flowers such as Californian lilac, erica, and lavender . . .

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