Rural round-up

December 7, 2018

Maize crops sick, seeds failing:

 A major seed supplier is urgently investigating reports from farmers that some of their maize crops aren’t growing properly.

Genetic Technologies Limited is the New Zealand producer and distributor of the Pioneer seeds brand and sells more than 20 hybrid maize varieties.

The crop is grown in New Zealand for the production of animal feed, either in the form of grain maize or as maize silage.

This season some farmers say up to 30 percent of their maize seeds from Pioneer have failed and other seeds that have struck are looking sick.

A tale of two milk companies – one of them is being suckled by taxpayers – Point of Order:

The contrasting fortunes of Synlait Milk and Westland Milk Products were thrown into sharp relief last week. On the one hand Synlait won applause at its annual meeting from shareholders, impressed by its performance in virtually doubling profit ($74.6m against $39.4m) in its tenth year of operations. On the other hand Westland had the begging bowl out for a Provincial Growth Fund loan of $9.9m which will help the co-op in funding a $22m manufacturing plant aimed at converting milk to higher-value products.

The Westland dairy exporter, discussing a capital restructure in its 2018 annual report, said it had relatively high debt and limited financial flexibility. . . 

Sheep needed on hill country – Alan Williams:

Waikato farmer Alastair Reeves has taken umbrage at the Productivity Commission’s suggestion sheep should be cast aside to make way for trees. He reckons sheep have a great future if they are not threatened by people making decisions in isolation and ignoring the ramifications of being wrong. He’s even got a plan for wool involving the Duchess of Sussex, aka Meghan Markle.

Sheep should be at the forefront of sustainable farming on hill country rather than being tossed aside for massive tree-planting programmes, Waikato hill farmer Alastair Reeves says.

It is a disgrace for the Productivity Commission to suggest up to 2.8 million hectares of new forestry be planted as a means of achieving a low carbon-emissions economy.  . . 

Water storage essential for future resilience – as experts cite drought as a major risk to NZ:

IrrigationNZ says a recent expert discussion document on drought and climate change highlights that future national planning to improve water storage and look at a range of options to mitigate the effects of the more severe droughts forecast is urgently needed.

“More frequent droughts and more variable rainfall will affect both urban and rural communities and will mean that we will need to rethink how we manage water in the future.
For example with less rainfall forecast over summer in western areas of New Zealand, there will be more demand for water storage from both councils and farmers to provide a reliable water supply,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . . 

Elitism of another kind – Clive Bibby:

I grew up on a farm just outside the small Central Hawkes Bay town of Waipawa.

My forebears had owned sizeable tracts of farming land that had been hacked out of the bush and scrub under the Ruahine Ranges.

I am very proud to be a descendant of such pioneering folk who understood what it means to build a business from nothing and see it grow into something that makes a reasonable contribution to the local economy. They also built the first trading general store in CHB. The building still stands.

It is perhaps ironic that much of the farm land in question was in the near vicinity of the catchment area for the now defunct Ruataniwha Fresh Water Dam proposal. . . 

New tool helps farmers gauge carbon footprint:

Meridian Energy and Westpac NZ are proud to support a new carbon calculator that gives farmers a guide to the size of their carbon footprint

The tool has been developed by Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU) and Agrilink NZ, with financial assistance from Meridian Energy and Westpac NZ.

It is available at http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/carboncalculator. . . 

Horticulture growth retains momentum:

Horticulture growth retained momentum with a seven percent growth in export earnings since 2016, according to an updated report, with tariffs on exported produce down by 12 percent since 2012.

The New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority (HEA) and Horticulture New Zealand commission the report New Zealand Horticulture – Barriers to Our Export Trade every two years, with funding support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZ Fruitgrowers Charitable Trust, and industry. . . 

International Boma NZ summit to help Aotearoa’s food:

A future-thinking agriculture summit will bring together global and local experts on future farming trends, exponential change, and new business models and product pathways. The summit, called Grow 2019, is designed to help Aotearoa’s food and fibre sector be more innovative, collaborative, sustainable and profitable now and into the future.

Organiser Kaila Colbin says the two-day summit is an opportunity to learn about the future trends that are impacting the agriculture sector, and what to do about them, in a practical way, from people on the ground. Grow 2019 will also connect groups of like-minded individuals and organisations so that together we can understand, adapt and grow in a future that looks nothing like today. . . 


Rural round-up

August 11, 2017

Cold water poured on water policy – Sally Rae:

Irrigation was the topic at a breakfast in Dunedin yesterday organised by the Otago Chamber of Commerce and Irrigation New Zealand. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae spoke to Irrigation New Zealand chairwoman Nicky Hyslop about rural resilience and Labour’s proposed water tax.
Irrigation New Zealand chairwoman Nicky Hyslop sums up New Zealand’s water debate succinctly.

“We have got a huge amount of water. It’s just getting it to the right place at the right time and meeting a whole lot of expectations,” she says.

There was no need for finger-pointing or throwing stones, but she did feel a sense of frustration in terms of how the issue has become such a “political football”. . .

‘Strategic’ plan for start-up farming company earns Kiwi farmer Australasian business award:

New Zealand farmer Matt Iremonger has won the highly-regarded Australasian business award, the Rabobank ‘Dr John Morris’ Business Development Prize, for 2017 for a strategic business plan he developed for a start-up farming enterprise in North Canterbury.

Mr Iremonger was presented with the award in front of fellow 2017 graduates of 
Rabobank’s prestigious Executive Development Program (EDP) – a leading business management program for progressive New Zealand and Australian farmers – in Sydney. . . 

Unavoidable olive oil price rises on the horizon for NZ consumers:

The price of olive oil is set to rise in the coming months and it’s unavoidable due to poor Mediterranean harvests creating an international shortfall, says Sam Aitken, managing director of William Aitken & Co – importer of market leader Lupi olive oil.

“Mediterranean growers have been hit with a number of things that have impacted on their yields and ability to supply. The latest being the severe drought that Southern Europe is enduring,” says Mr Aitken. . . 

More new forests funded through grant scheme:

A total of 5183ha of new forest will be planted by 101 applicants who have received support through the 2017 Afforestation Grant Scheme funding round, Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston says.

The Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS), administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries, aims to establish new forests by providing grants of $1300 per hectare to successful applicants. . . 

National Environmental Standard a step up and forward for plantation forestry:

Forest Owners say the introduction of a National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry is vitally needed for better environmental outcomes.

The government has just released the NES, to bring in a standard set of environment regulations for plantation forests.

The regulations cover eight forestry activities; including re-afforestation, earthworks, harvesting, quarrying and installing stream crossings. . . 

New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards Enter New Era:

The New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association is delighted to announce a new era for its annual Champions of Cheese Awards with the appointment of a new event manger and public relations agency, Marvellous Marketing.

The Specialist Cheesemakers Association has been running the awards since 2003, and will host their 15th annual awards event in Auckland on Wednesday 14 March 2018. .  . 

Fiordland Outdoors Company wins Innovation Category to secure Nurture Change Scholarship:

When innovation and tourism collide, the results are pure magic. This is especially true for the Fiordland Outdoors Company, who have just been named the winners of the Innovation Category in the 2017 Nurture Change scholarship awards.

Director Mark Wallace couldn’t quite believe it when he heard the news. . . 

Hunters Welcome DoC’s Crackdown on Poachers:

A hunting organisation the Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust (SHOT) has welcomed the Department of Conservation’s crackdown on poachers and is hopeful that includes deer poachers too.

SHOT’s spokesman Laurie Collins of the West Coast said DoC’s director general warning to poachers and others “acting illegally on public conservation land” showed a new, refreshing attitude by the department. . . 


Rural round-up

August 27, 2015

Farmers not off the hook on health and safety:

It’s a complete fallacy that the farming community doesn’t have to worry about health and safety as a result of proposed changes to the Health and Safety Reform Bill, according to an expert in the field.

Crowe Horwath agri health and safety expert Melissa Vining says the recent hype around proposed changes have monopolised the headlines in recent days with many accusing the government of letting farmers off the hook.

However she is quick to dispel the myth that farmers have been given a mandate to ignore health and safety. . . 

Landcorp posts 2014/15 annual results:

Landcorp has recorded a net operating profit of $4.9 million on revenue of $224.3 million for the year ended 30 June 2015.

The $4.9 million net operating profit is down from the $30 million result the previous year. The sharp decline in the price of milk solids, combined with lower lamb prices, saw income from farm products drop 11.7 per cent on the previous year, to $213.5 million.

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden said record-low dairy prices and tough growing conditions had driven overall financial performance down. However, a constructive response to challenging conditions had helped buffer Landcorp from major impact. . .

New Zealand in unique position for ‘water development’:

New Zealand has many advantages over the rest of the world when it comes to ‘water development’ but we need to get better at leveraging water use – for our future well-being and to protect us from the effects of climate change, says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

This week is World Water Week 2015 with a theme of ‘Water for Development’. More than 3000 people, including world leaders, water experts and international aid organisations, have gathered in Stockholm, Sweden to debate solutions for water crisis around the globe at an annual symposium run by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) (www.worldwaterweek.org.nz).

Mr Curtis says New Zealanders are blissfully unaware of the relative advantage New Zealand has with plentiful rivers, lakes and groundwater supply across the country. . . 

Huge potential in Chathams – farmer:

The Chatham Islands has a huge, untapped potential for farming but a better understanding of soils is needed, one of the islands’ farmers says.

The islands are part of New Zealand and lie 750km east of the South Island.

Federated Farmers Chatham Islands chair Tony Anderson said there were 15 large farming operations there but many farmers worked a second job in the fishing industry. . . 

‘Power Play’ Innovation in Dairy Awards:

Entrants in the 2016 Dairy Manager of the Year contest will play to their strengths with a ‘power play’ initiative among the new judging criteria.

The change is one of many to the 2016 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards programme, aimed at enabling more people to enter the awards competitions and at ensuring people with similar age, skills, maturity and investment in the industry compete against each other.

National convenor Chris Keeping says other changes include new competition names, entry and judging criteria – like the power play. . . 

OMG Dairy NZ Confessions Stories Advice's photo.


Rural round-up

August 15, 2015

Central Plains Water irrigation scheme opens in Canterbury:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the official opening of Stage 1 of the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme in Canterbury today, which has the potential to create more than $1 billion in new economic activity.

The Central Plains Water Enhancement Scheme, when completed, will irrigate 60,000 hectares of dairy, arable, horticulture and stock finishing land between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers.

“This is an exciting day for the Canterbury region, given that farmers and growers have suffered through a severe drought this year. This shows the clear need for this kind of water storage project. . . 

INZ applauds Central Plains Water for providing farmers reliable water for diversification and efficiency:

“Today marks a big step for irrigation infrastructure in New Zealand. Central Plains Water will help sustain Canterbury,” says Nicky Hyslop, Chair of IrrigationNZ on the official opening of New Zealand’s largest irrigation scheme for some years, by the Prime Minister John Key.

Mrs Hyslop attended the opening with IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

“Access to reliable water is particularly important at the moment during a dairy downturn as it will allow farmers to diversify and weather the storm,” says Mrs Hyslop. . . 

Fonterra cuts back GDT whole milk powder by a third over the next year – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world’s largest dairy exporter, is reducing by a third the amount of whole milk powder, the key commodity export ingredient, it sells on the GlobalDairyTrade platform over the next 12 months due to persistent low prices.

The Auckland-based cooperative’s forecast cut the offer volumes over the next 12 months for its total New Zealand products by a further 56,045 metric tonnes, following a 62,930 metric tonne decrease in the past three months, it said in a statement.

Fonterra managing director global ingredients Kelvin Wickham said the bulk of that is whole milk powder, and milk collected will be shifted from whole milk powder production into other value-add parts of the business that will achieve a higher margin. . . 

Fonterra ratings on review at S&P in face of high debt levels, low global prices – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group’s credit ratings were put on CreditWatch with negative implications by Standard & Poor’s, which said there was a risk of weakness in the dairy exporter’s financial metrics given its high debt levels at a low point in the global price cycle.

The Auckland-based company has ‘A’ long-term and ‘A-1’ short-term ratings with S&P, which were put on CreditWatch following its announcement of a lower forecast milk price due to weak demand and surplus supply in the global dairy market.

“This ongoing weakness in the global dairy market has occurred when Fonterra’s debt is at very high levels due to a large acquisition and peak capital expenditure, placing downward pressure on Fonterra’s key financial metrics,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Brenda Wardlaw. . . 

Fonterra – Anchor extends portfolio with additional Kids’ Milk range in China:

Our China Brands business recently hit another milestone with the launch of the ultra-premium Anchor Kids’ Golden Milk.

The new milk has 3.6g/100ml protein, a high calcium content and no added sweeteners or additives other than vitamins. 

Business Development Director of China Brands Manoj Namboodiri said the team designed and launched Anchor Kids’ Golden Milk to meet the growing demand from Chinese parents for ultra-premium quality, nutritious and unsweetened kids’ milk.  . . 

Misery peddlers are milking a crisis – Mike Hosking:

Yes, these are tough times for dairy farmers but we should trust those with the industry’s interests at heart.

My plea this morning is that we give our dairy farmers a break, that we cut them some slack and start to get on board with what they already know. Because, let’s be frank, they know dairy a lot better than all the others who, from the comfort of their urban existence, are lining up to tell us the world is ending.

Just to be clear, this will be a tough season. The return of $3.85 is not flash and it’s a mile away from $8.40.

Yes, most farmers won’t make a profit. Yes, some farmers might not make it out the other side, especially those who have gone in late and borrowed big to do so. But what I admire so much about the farming community is they’re realists. . . 

Is organic farming making climate change worse? Demand for ‘sustainable’ food has increased greenhouse gas emissions – Richard Gray:

It has a reputation for being better for us and the environment, but new research suggests organic food may actually be harming the planet.

Scientists have found that rather than reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released, organic farming may actually be increasing them.

They found the shift to large scale organic farming in order to meet growing demand for organic products in shops has led to an increase in emissions for each acre of land. . .

Fit farmers with Farmstrong – Anna Russell:

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand and FMG Insurance, along with support from NZX-Agri, launched the initiative Farmstrong. It is an initiative designed to give farmers the skills and resources to live well, farm well, and get the most out of life.

The three areas they focus on are applicable in any work environment, and particularly can help during times of transformation and change:

Time Out – taking regular breaks is an important part of remaining fresh and positive in day-to-day work. So is getting a good night sleep. . . 

Jordy Nelson’s offseason activity? Farming – Anna Katherine Clemmons:

FOR MANY NFL PROS, the offseason means private islands and poolside cabanas. Not for Jordy Nelson. The 30-year-old, who set the Packers’ single-season receiving record last year with 1,519 yards, swaps his cleats for work boots on his family’s 4,000-acre Kansas farm. For five or six weeks each year, he drives a combine and cuts wheat, sometimes for 12 hours a day, or rounds up some of the 1,000-cow herd. “Working cattle is my favorite farm duty,” he says. “It’s interactive, and you’re on your feet all day.” . . .

 


Rural round-up

December 11, 2014

Wellington decision makers get the facts on irrigation:

“Highlighting New Zealand’s international excellence in irrigation practice to urban audiences and dispelling myths is key to getting greater acceptance of water storage and irrigation throughout the country,” said Andrew Curtis, CEO of IrrigationNZ at a breakfast of over 70 politicians, industry and business representatives and NGOs in Wellington this morning.

The breakfast meeting was arranged by the national body representing irrigators and the irrigation industry, IrrigationNZ, as part of its efforts to educate New Zealanders about water storage and irrigation and to emphasise the link to food production.

In his opening remarks, Minister for Primary Industries Hon Nathan Guy congratulated IrrigationNZ for bringing together the capital city’s key decision-makers to learn about the irrigation industry. . .

 

Reduced milk payout challenge to farmers, but recovery likely to commence in 2015-16 – Rabobank:

While the reduced milk price forecast means New Zealand dairy farmers will face significant challenges in the coming 12 to 18 months, the medium to longer-term outlook for dairy remains sound, agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank said today.

Commenting on today’s announcement that Fonterra has further cut its farmgate milk price forecast for 2014/15, Rabobank New Zealand CEO Ben Russell said while the challenges New Zealand dairy farmers would have to deal with in the immediate term were “acute”, farmers should have confidence in the medium and longer-term outlook for dairy, with Rabobank expecting a price recovery to commence during the 2015-16 season. . .

 

Small towns face dairy payout pain:

Small towns which service the dairy sector will be the first to feel the impact of the lower milk payout, Fonterra warns.

The payout has fallen below $5 to $4.70 per kilogram of milksolids – down from $5.30/kg.

It’s the third time Fonterra has lowered its farmgate milk price since the opening forecast for the 2014/15 season of $7, announced in June.

The federation’s chairman, Andrew Hoggard, said it would be midway through next year before farmers felt the impact of the reduced payout. . .

Small dairy farms can still be profitable – Keith Woodford:

Last week I wrote about the changing scale of dairying. Farms are getting bigger and they will continue to do so, driven by the combined power of scale and financial leverage.

Unfortunately the title I supplied for that article (‘The changing scale of dairy’) was changed in the Sunday Star Times to ‘Dairy is all about scale’. This title implied that there was no future for small dairy farms. However, those of us working with farmers know that small farms can indeed be profitable, and there are many factors other than scale that influence that profitability.

The false impression in last week’s Sunday Star Times article was further compounded by a headline sentence, inserted by editorial staff, that there were 1900 farms with 4.8 million cows. The correct number for 2013, as stated in the article itself, is 11,900 farms. . .

Asian markets fuelling growth for NZ mussel industry:

New Zealand’s iconic Greenshell mussels are proving a hit with consumers in emerging Asian economies and fuelling export growth for the sector according to peak governing body Aquaculture New Zealand (AQNZ).

“Asia can’t get enough New Zealand Greenshell mussels,” AQNZ Chief Executive Gary Hooper said.
“The popularity is driven by the quality, purity, taste, health properties and the reputation of the product. Consumers deliberately seek out premium New Zealand farmed mussels because they know they come from pristine waters, are handled with integrity and are guaranteed safe products they can trust.” . .

 

Forest safety brain trainer for Tree fallers – Switchback’s Steven Falk joins International Safety Conference:

The Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) is pleased to announce that forestry teamwork expert Steven Falk from British Columbia, Canada has been confirmed as a keynote speaker for it’s flagship forest safety conference series March 2015. The summit runs at Rotorua’s Distinction Hotel on 3-4th March and Bayview Eden Hotel in Melbourne on 10-11th March.

Steven Falk’s team of trainers at Switchback has worked with manual tree fallers in British Columbia for many years. He reports, “Our feedback shows that 96% of participants thank us for the training/coaching and express a desire for their families to be able to participate in further Switchback training.” . .


Rural round-up

October 31, 2014

Seasonality drives the red meat industries – Keith Woodford:

I have previously described the challenges that seasonality creates for the dairy industry. For New Zealand’s red meat industries, those issues are even more constraining. It is a key part of the reason why restructuring the meat industry is so challenging.

Sheep are designed by nature to give birth in the spring, and their fertility is much reduced at all other times of the year. Given that the market predominantly wants carcasses of 17 – 20 kg, this means that most lambs are ready for slaughter between December and April, with the peak slaughter in a shorter period from January to March.

In practical terms, this makes impossible the development of a mainstream consumer products industry based on a 12 month supply of chilled lamb. Trying to configure the national industry in this way would lead to exorbitant production costs. . . .

Dam could lift region’s GDP by $54.5m:

A new report shows the gross domestic product of the Nelson Tasman region could be lifted by more than $54 million if a proposed dam is built.

The analysis by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has been released during a public consultation of Tasman ratepayers into the possible funding models for the Waimea Community Dam.

The report’s author, senior economist Peter Clough said his analysis suggested the benefits of the dam would more than cover the cost of its construction.

Nelson Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said the Lee Valley project definitely stacks up. . .

Details about next Tuesday’s Ruataniwha water event:

Federated Farmers and Irrigation NZ have released more details about the free “Ruataniwha – it’s Now or Never” event, taking place from 7pm next Tuesday (4 November), at the Waipawa/Central Hawke’s Bay Municipal Theatre. 

“It is definitely not going to be a theoretical discussion about economic models, but real world examples of farmers and schemes with costs similar to what the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme proposes,” says Will Foley, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay.

“Instead of talking about an economic model, we’re bringing up farmers involved in the comparable cost North Otago Irrigation Company scheme and Mid-Canterbury’s BCI scheme.  . .

Sheep, beef farmers want big changes – Sally Rae:

West Otago sheep and beef farmers Nelson and Fiona Hancox want farmers to ”stand up and be counted” and take charge of their futures.

The couple, who are both passionate about the red meat industry and are involved with various groups and industry bodies, believe it is time for farmers to take control.

Mrs Hancox was nominated to attend the 2014 Rabobank Global Farmers Master Class in Australia next month, where she would have been joining farmers from around the world. . .

 

Maori agriculture selling itself short – Gerald Hutching:

Maori agriculture has “huge” potential for development but only 20 per cent of farmland is well developed, 40 per cent is underperforming, and 40 per cent is under-used, says a Massey University academic.

Lecturer and researcher and Kaiarahi Maori Dr Nick Roskruge said about 720,000 hectares of Maori land was farmed, returning $750 million a year, but its short-term potential was $6 billion.

Maori are most strongly represented in the sheep and beef cattle sectors, with dairying becoming increasingly important. About 15,000 Maori are employed in the sector. . .

Capitalising on a perfect partnership on-farm – Jon Morgan:

Rambunctious is the best name for this ram. He’s a big bruiser, used to getting his own way, and he doesn’t like being manhandled.

He struggles out of Peter Tod’s grip and makes a break for freedom. But the Otane farmer’s determination is stronger and the ram is wrestled into submission for a photograph.

He is picked out from a small mob as the most photogenic because of his open face, long back, well-shaped legs, sound feet, and meaty hindquarters. . .


Rural round-up

July 14, 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. . .


Getting balance right for water

July 4, 2014

National has announced national standards for water quality which balance economic development and environmental sustainability.

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

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy say the changes announced today are a critical milestone in the Government’s drive to improve water quality.

“Ensuring an 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.”

Mr Guy says the changes balance economic growth with environmental sustainability.

“It’s not an either-or situation – we need both.

This is very important.

We can have, and we need, both economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Primary industries contribute more than 76 per cent of our merchandise exports and largely depend on freshwater, while tourism also relies on the beauty of New Zealand’s water bodies.

“We all want sustainable and profitable primary industries. That will mean changes to some of our farming practices, but I know farmers are up for the challenge.”

Among the changes announced today, is the introduction of national standards for freshwater in New Zealand.

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

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

“In 2011, the Government required Councils to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers across their region. If their water quality is already above the national standard it cannot be allowed to deteriorate,” Ms Adams says.

“However, where a water body currently falls below the national standard, councils and communities will need to ensure that the standard is met over sensible and realistic timeframes.”

To help councils with the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, Ms Adams is currently considering applications from regional councils for $1.1m of funding for activities that support regional planning and community participation in freshwater management. Decisions will be announced shortly.

The Government has today also released a high level snapshot of the freshwater reform programme.

Delivering Freshwater Reform provides the history and context for the reforms, outlines why they need to take place and what the desired outcomes are, in an accessible and understandable way.

“Recent freshwater reform documents have had to include sufficient detail for the stakeholders who have a strong level of engagement and acceptance of the reforms,” Ms Adams says.

“This document focuses on providing information to a wide range of New Zealanders who care deeply about water quality and are unlikely to be participating in the more detailed consultation phases.” . . .

Irrigation NZ has welcomed the policy:

. . .  INZ agrees that New Zealand’s fresh water needs nationally consistent, better, more direct and clearer policy to ensure it is sustainably and effectively managed for the benefit of all.

“By having national bottom lines and allowing for regional and local circumstances, the NPS and NOF will prevent situations where unrealistic conditions are set on water quality for irrigation schemes,” says Andrew Curtis, INZ CEO. “Having everyone work off the same page will mean that resource consent processes will be less onerous and less time and money will be wasted reaching acceptable outcomes.”

INZ is pleased that the updated NPS seems to have broadened its measures of water quality and now requires a fuller understanding of issues which impact a body of water before setting limits. “The NPS now suggests that biotic indicators such as the Macro-invertebrate Community Index (MCI), should be included as performance measures – this is a good thing,” says Mr Curtis.

INZ believes that if community freshwater values, as now set out in Appendix 1, are to be realised, attention needs to be paid to an inclusive range of factors such as pest management, habitat restoration, sediment loads, as well as nutrients, to maintain and improve river health.

 “There are many examples around the country which show how habitat restoration alongside stock exclusion and phosphate management have created thriving rivers – despite relatively high nitrate levels – such as the Wakakahi stream in south Canterbury,” says Mr Curtis.

“New Zealanders need to understand maintaining and improving water quality is complex and can be achieved in many different ways – sticking a number on it and regulating everyone to this does not achieve outcomes,” he says.

Additionally, INZ believes that the exceptions provisions may pose a future risk and looks forward to greater clarification.

“Healthy waterways are the responsibility of both urban as well as rural New Zealand, and we must face New Zealand’s water quality challenges as a nation. Farmers are not solely responsible for issues with waterways and should not be picked on to solve these problems on their own.”

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.

Fonterra welcomes the framework too:

Fonterra says the Government’s announcement on changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management lays the groundwork for consistent and robust decisions about the management of New Zealand’s freshwater.

Fonterra Acting Group Director Cooperative Affairs, Sarah Paterson, says, “Today’s announcement is an important step towards a nationally consistent approach to managing freshwater. At the same time, it gives communities the tools they need to make decisions about their waterways.”

Ms Paterson says regions across the country have been grappling with the challenge of setting workable environmental limits. Setting national standards for freshwater will provide greater clarity on the science that needs to underpin environmental limits.

“Fonterra and our farmers have been taking part in a collaborative community approach to develop environmental limits. We want these discussions to be based on sound science and economic analysis, and we believe these national standards will help achieve this.”

“We are absolutely committed to lifting environmental performance and improving water quality in New Zealand. Fonterra’s farmers have mapped every waterway and fenced over 23,500km of waterways. Nutrient data has been collected from nearly 4,000 farms to provide information on mitigating the impact of nutrients,” says Ms Paterson.

“We recognise the huge amount of work that has so far gone into preparing these national standards, and we welcome the continuing efforts being made to complete the task.”

Regional councils are supportive of the standards:

The establishment of National Water Standards are being welcomed by the regional sector as bringing valuable guidance to local decision making.

Chair of the regional sector, Fran Wilde, says the standards provide a clear direction from central government while allowing local democracy to do its job.

“All sectors of the community rely on freshwater for one reason or another. Regional councils are responsible for managing the country’s lakes and rivers and, in doing so, must balance the needs of the community.

“New Zealand’s geography alone results in the nature of rivers and lakes being vastly different depending on where in the country you are. Just as the alpine rivers of the south are valued for their aesthetic beauty, so too are the lowland river flats valued for their agricultural productivity.

“As a sector we believe it’s critical for local people to have a say in how their waterways are managed and to what level.”

Ms Wilde says that minimum standards provide a solid foundation to begin conversations with communities about the values they place on a waterway and whether any changes are needed in the way it’s used and looked after.

“Until now, we haven’t had central government direction around how our rivers and lakes should be managed. The establishment of minimum standards provides clear guidance without disregarding the views of the community should they wish to go beyond these standards.”

Ms Wilde says the maintenance of New Zealand’s freshwater relies on a strong partnership with central and regional government and this is evident in the number of restoration initiatives underway around the country.

“Regional councils and our communities are working closely with central government through programmes like A Fresh Start for Freshwater to improve rivers and lakes throughout the country. In many cases government funding is being met with regional funding with over half a billion dollars from taxes, rates and private initiatives going towards cleaning up and protecting our lakes and rivers since 2000.”

These are minimum standards, not a ceiling.

Councils and communities will want better quality in many places and will need to work together to achieve it.

The Minister made this point in question time yesterday:

Hon AMY ADAMS: At the moment, of course, the counterfactual is that there is no requirement for any particular standard for human health. Actually putting in place a minimum requirement that at the very least every fresh water area must be safe for wading and boating is a big step forward. What we have done today is confirm that every council must consider whether it is appropriate to also manage for swimmability. What has to be understood is that each time we move the bar up through that ladder, it brings considerable extra cost on to communities and councils. If the member is campaigning that her party will set the standard there and not leave that choice to local communities, it is welcome to do so, but I look forward to seeing those billions of dollars included in its financial estimates.

Eugenie Sage: Why is the Minister leaving it to regional councils to consider swimmability, and does she not think that it is a national issue and a central government responsibility to ensure that rivers across New Zealand are clean and safe for swimming?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I had always thought that that member was a proponent of local decision-making, but actually we do think it is for communities to decide—above that minimum standard, which is brand new and has never been there before—which areas are to be used for swimming and are to be protected for that, and which are not. We are not going to impose billions of dollars of costs on ratepayers and communities in areas where they do not seek it. What we have put in place is a considerable step forward from what Labour and the Greens were happy to live with, and we are very proud of it.

Eugenie Sage: What does she say to the Otago Regional Council, which said that the bottom line for human health should be contact recreation because such a low standard as secondary contact, where rivers are fit for only wading and boating, is “not consistent with the national identity New Zealand associates with its clean image of its water resources”?

Hon AMY ADAMS: What I would say to the Otago Regional Council is that it is very welcome to set that standard across its water bodies if that is what its community chooses. The difference now is that we have a national expectation of a minimum standard, which has never been there before. That alone is going to impose some costs on communities, but the extent to which they want to go beyond that is up to them. It would be a nonsense to impose costs on water bodies that no one wants to use for swimming or that no one has contemplated for swimming. That is why regional decision-making then becomes important.

Eugenie Sage: Why did the Minister ignore the approximately 90 percent of submitters who wanted the bottom line for human health to be rivers that are clean and safe for swimming?

Hon AMY ADAMS: We have not ignored it. What we have done is made it compulsory now for every council to consider whether swimming is the appropriate standard for that water body. That was not in the draft, and the reason we have done that is that we understand the cost impact that goes with that. As I have said, if those members want to include the billions of dollars of impact from putting that standard in, I look forward to seeing that in their alternative budgets.

Eugenie Sage: Does the Minister still claim that no river quality is allowed to deteriorate, when the Freshwater Sciences Society said that the proposed limits on nitrate in her proposals last November have the potential for “New Zealand’s rivers to become some of the most nitrogen-polluted amongst OECD countries whilst still remaining compliant” and her announcements today have not changed the nitrate limit?

Hon AMY ADAMS: I do not accept that, because, as that member well knows, there is already a requirement for water quality in a region to be maintained or improved. There is no ability—and nor do I imagine there is any desire—for councils to suddenly rush downwards in their water quality. In my experience, communities and councils are absolutely focused on improving water quality, but the important point is this: today there is nothing stopping our lakes and rivers from being completely dead environments. That is what Labour and the Greens were happy with. We are not. This is a step forward, no matter how the member tries to spin it. . .

New Zealand’s water standards aren’t as good as they used to be.

That’s because we used to have pristine water and it’s important to remember while that is no longer the case in all but a very few secluded places, our water quality is still very high by world standards.

That said, some waterways are of unacceptable quality and need to be cleaned up.

Most are okay and that standard should be at the very least maintained and preferably improved.

We can and must learn from other countries and the best practice here to ensure that happens.

There’s more information on the Government’s freshwater reforms, including the updated National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management here.

 

We’re taking action to improve freshwater quality for all New Zealanders. http://ntnl.org.nz/1opocYo #Working4NZ


Push up food prices, put down farmers

May 7, 2014

Justified fears farmers have about the dangers of a LabourGreen government were confirmed by David Parker’s announcement of Labour’s environment policy:

Labour would axe the $400 million Crown Irrigation Fund to kick-start private irrigation schemes . . .

While honouring any contracts already in place, Labour would replace the Crown Irrigation Fund, established from the proceeds of state asset sales, with a freshwater pricing regime to encourage economically marginal irrigation schemes.

“With a new irrigation proposal where the economics are just breakeven, as they often are, then maybe the price of water for the first 30 years is next to nothing,” said Parker. . .

Irrigation NZ said the policy would push up food prices and cripple farmers.

Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) is not convinced that Labour has fully considered the implications of a tax, or resource rent, for irrigation. Particularly how such a mechanism would be practically implemented. 

Many water takes involve combinations of irrigation, hydropower and domestic supply such as the Opuha dam or the Rangitata Diversion Race – how will these complex takes be split apart to allow for irrigation related resource rents?

More importantly it is not equitable to do so given that private energy companies, Trustpower for example, and commercial business connected to domestic water supply systems also prosper from the use of water. A resource rent will mean increased cost for domestic water supply and electricity alongside food price increases – such a tax would therefore impact upon low income earners the most.

Yet another way in which a LabourGreen government would increase costs for households and producers.

Additionally, this increased cost to the farmer will impact production and importantly prevent farmer investment in improved environmental management to meet the water quality limits now in place in a number of regions. Ultimately it will see the demise of the traditional NZ family farm.

Despite Mr Parker’s statement that irrigation is funded by subsidies, this is not the case. The Crown Irrigation Investment Fund is an investment company receiving market returns – for example the recent $6.5million loan to Central Plains Water. New Zealand does however need to consider the benefits of subsidising modern irrigation scheme development, it would allow increased farmer investment in improved environmental management enabling them meet new standards more quickly.

Mr Parker’s comments that irrigation is a wealth transfer that only benefits rich land owners is disingenuous. Irrigation is well proven to benefit everyone – multiple independent socio-economic studies both in New Zealand and overseas demonstrate this. Because of the consensus view In New Zealand that our waterways are important and integral, all proposed irrigation schemes in New Zealand incorporate sustainability and environmental improvements.

Irrigation schemes provide infrastructure that allows opportunity for communities to grow. The reality is irrigation underpins thousands of jobs and entire communities in New Zealand, whilst also ensuring we have affordable food available on our tables. Blenheim, Ashburton, Timaru and Oamaru are all prime examples of this.

Parker spent a term as MP for Otago, which included Oamaru, and he ought to understand the benefits irrigation has brought to the whole district.

Sustainable solutions and environmental safeguards – many driven and agreed on by the 62-member Land and Water Forum – have begun in earnest: with compulsory water metering, stock exclusion from waterways and water quality limit setting. As a result in excess of $2billion ($5,000 per hectare) has and continues to be spent on converting flood and older spray irrigation systems to modern centre pivot irrigators.

These measures already in place will help ‘clean up’ dirty rivers and lakes over a generation; increases in intensity of land are already being controlled through nutrient allocation limits imposed on irrigators; and improvements to farm practice are already underway to offset environmental burdens caused by intensive farming.

INZ agrees with Mr Parker that New Zealanders can have their ‘cake and eat it’ – good water quality and a vibrant farming economy is achievable with a better defined environmental management framework for irrigators to operate within. Reducing uncertainty is key as it allows for investment. The future is about developing policy that enables irrigators to invest in the latest technology to improve water use efficiency and decrease their impacts on water quality.

Fairly funded and properly regulated irrigation is needed to achieve the next level of prosperity and sustainability in New Zealand.

Labour’s policy reinforces its ignorance of rural New Zealand, its needs and its issues.

It would impose extra costs and put more hurdles in the way of rural communities which are trying to drought-proof themselves.

We need more irrigation not less for the economic, environmental and social benefits it brings.

 


Don’t let this chance go by HB

April 16, 2014

Dear Hawkes Bay,

You have moved a step closer to drought-proofing a significant area of productive land with the release of a draft decision  granting 17 resource consents for the $265 million Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme by the Tukituki Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has proposed building the dam as a way of alleviating drought problems and boosting the local economy through improved primary production on the Ruataniwha Plains near Waipawa and Waipukurau.

The project would involve the construction an 83-metre-high concrete dam on the Makaroro River to store water for irrigating 25,000 hectares of land across the plains. . .

In its decision the board granted the 17 resource consent applications relating to the dam and water storage scheme, subject to conditions.

It allowed the plan change based on a detailed set of conditions including limits on nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Tukituki catchment. . .

The decision pleases the Iwi:

Irrigation New Zealand says the decision is bold and encouraging:

Chief Executive Andrew Curtis says the decision was welcome news – particularly following the organisation’s biennial conference in Napier earlier this month where benefits of the scheme were discussed and attendees were assured of steps being taken by the industry to protect New Zealand’s water quality. This includes initiatives such as SMART irrigation (www.smartirrigation.co.nz) to ensure smart and sustainable farming is practiced in New Zealand.

“Seeing first-hand the drought that is starting to crush many parts of the North Island we can only conclude that Ruataniwha is not only overdue, but essential if the Hawkes Bay is to survive. Creating and investing in water storage throughout New Zealand needs to continue to be a priority for the Government, particularly on the East Coast, which the recent UN Climate change report confirms will only get drier.”

In response to the EPA’s decision to turn down the Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s proposed ‘single nutrient’, Mr Curtis says this aspect of the decision wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“Phosphorus and nitrogen, along with sediment and riparian stream protection all need to be managed to protect water quality – each aspect is covered through the Farm Environment Plan approach to be implemented as part of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.”

“The EPA’s decision is a positive step to New Zealand unlocking its renewable resources for the benefit of all. It’s now down to the local farming and business communities to get on board – both as investors and also to increase initial uptake,” says Mr Curtis.

Federated Farmers says the scheme has now got to second base:

With the Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme getting the tick from a Board of Inquiry appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the concept of water storage has passed a major milestone but a greater one is to ensure it is financially viable.

“You could say Ruataniwha has now got to second base,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“First base was getting Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s leadership to take it forward while second base was the Board of Inquiry.

“Third base will be the scheme’s all-important financing and whether the nutrient limits make it viable for farmers to invest. It also has to be analysed to make sure it still works within the regional plan too.

“If these all stack up then it will be a home run once construction hopefully starts.

“Federated Farmers believes water storage is core economic, cultural, social and environmental infrastructure for a changing climate. . .

My farmer and I were in Hawkes Bay a couple of weeks ago with the Pastoral Management Group. We were briefed on the scheme and taken to the site.

The next day the two of us were asked to speak to farmers at Onga Onga.

My farmer finished his comments with a challenge:

“Go home tonight and think ahead 30 years. What will your grandchildren be saying?

“Will they be thanking you for being visionaries, of will they be saying you were silly old bastards?”

If you don’t grasp the opportunity you’ve got future generations will be thanking you, if you don’t, those who are left will be wondering how you could have been so stupid.

We have seen irrigation transform North Otago.

Ours was the first farm in our valley to get water and during droughts it used to stand out like a blot of green ink on parchment. Now, thanks to the North Otago Irrigation Scheme it’s the few dry paddocks which stand out.

This scheme, like yours, wasn’t cheap.

But drought’s expensive too and it’s not just drought that costs.

Have you every worked out what you lose by having to farm conservatively in the okay and good years because you can’t rely on getting enough rain?

The returns from reliable production in good years and bad more than justify the expense and the financial benefits aren’t confined to farms.

The people who work for us, service and supply us have benefited too, no longer subject to the boom and bust cycles which followed the vagaries of the weather. The wider district and the country are better off because we have water when we need it.

Imagine how much more prosperous towns like Waipukerau would be if you had water when and where you need it.

The benefits aren’t just financial, they’re environmental and social too.

We have fragile soils which blew over from the Waitaki Valley. They used to keep blowing in droughts, now they stay put.

The Waiareka Stream which was little more than a series of stagnant ponds much of the time now flows cleanly all year and native wildlife has re-established in it.

The NOIC scheme was the first to require environmental farm plans from all its shareholders. These are independently audited each year and supply of water is dependent on passing that audit.

Water has brought a social transformation too.

There were four houses on our farm and those of our two closest neighbours before we got water. Now there are 14 and we’re building a 15th.

My farmer and I are the oldest in any of those houses by more than a a decade. Most others are early 30s or younger and several of them are having children.

The average age of the district has plummeted as a result and for the first time since the ag-sag of the 1980s farmers’ adult children are returning home.

Most of the farms which have got water here have converted to dairying. But there is also cropping, most notably a large-scale operation which specialises in bird seed.

The conditions in the resource consent for Ruataniwha might preclude dairying for most of you but  your climate gives you the potential for many other land-use options not available to us down here.

You already know what you can grow when the weather favours you. With irrigation you’ll be able to do all that and more whatever the weather.

The Ruataniwha scheme is providing you the opportunity to do something not just for yourselves but for your province and for the future.

Don’t let this chance go by, Hawkes Bay.

Your grandchildren are depending on you.


SMART Irrigation launched

April 10, 2014

Irrigation New Zealand has launched a framework called SMART Irrigation to ensure that future irrigation in New Zealand is implemented and managed sustainably.

The SMART (Sustainably Managed, Accountable, Responsible and Trusted) framework provides three simple steps for irrigators to better manage their environmental footprint.

(1) Design future irrigation systems to industry standards and codes of practice

(2) Annually check the irrigation system is performing as it should

(3) Justify the reason for applying irrigation.

Central to all the above is record keeping – providing evidence the three simple steps are being achieved.

Irrigation New Zealand CEO Andrew Curtis says the SMART framework will help irrigators meet the public’s expectations around environmental responsibility, and will provide assurance to the public that irrigating farmers are using water efficiently and with care.

“The SMART framework is about providing a benchmark for sustainable irrigation, and is a way for irrigators to share with the community how they irrigate. It’s about being transparent.”

The programme focuses on efficient water use and regular auditing and technological improvements. This is to be supported by ever evolving education and training resources and accreditation programmes all provided by Irrigation New Zealand.

The SMART Irrigation website (www.smartirrigation.co.nz) also launched today, compliments the SMART Irrigation framework. It provides information to the public about how irrigation in New Zealand works: why, how and where irrigation takes place; why it is beneficial; what regulations and policies oversee it; more details on the SMART framework and examples of SMART Irrigators that will be added to monthly.

“We have done nationwide polling to understand what the public thinks of irrigation – two responses were overwhelming in their majority: that New Zealanders (71%) are pro-sustainable irrigation and that the public needs more information about irrigation. The SMART Irrigation website and framework responds to this.”

The website answers several questions:

What is irrigation?

What is SMART irrigation?

Why is it good for New Zealand?

Who’s doing it well?

The last one includes NOIC – the North Otago Irrigation Company which was the first irrigation company to:

  • Introduce the Audited Farm Environment Plan system
  • Have a full time environmental manager on staff
  • Actively supports other irrigation schemes, providing advice on how to develop robust management systems
  • Won Irrigation New Zealand’s Innovation in Irrigation Award’ 2012 for their Farm Environment Plan programme

SMART Irrigation is a smart initiative.

Irrigation done well has intergenerational economic, environmental and social benefits.


Trust Power pulls plug on Rutataniwha

March 28, 2014

Trust Power has pulled the plug on a potential investment in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

. . . The power company terminated its memorandum of understanding with the council subsidiary, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC), and Ngai Tahu Holdings, under which it would have invested between $50m and $60m of the total cost of the project.

“Trustpower has determined that it will not be possible to invest within its risk and return framework for a project of this nature,” the company said.

HBRIC said it “remains strongly of the view that the scheme offers the Hawke’s Bay community both significant environmental and economic benefits and that subject to securing contractual commitments to take water that the scheme will prove financially viable.”

HBRIC would continue to negotiate with Crown Irrigation Investments and recommended this week that council should invest up to $80m in the scheme. It was also looking for expressions of interest from investors in the region to participate in the scheme.

Trustpower’s general manager, operations, Chris O’Hara, said while there was clearly sufficient short-term appetite for the scheme to justify its construction, the long-term uptake by farmers and other irrigators was not strong enough for TrustPower to feel comfortable committing shareholders’ funds.

“Projected cashflows were not meeting a rate of return that would meet shareholder expectations,” he said. . .

Irrigation schemes have long term returns, they don’t usually generate much in the way of cash flow

The loss of a potential investor of that size is a setback but it does provide other opportunities:

Farmers and businesses in the Hawkes Bay need to act quickly to fill the investment gap opportunity left by TrustPower’s exit from the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

“There’s a wonderful opportunity here for Central Hawkes Bay farmers and businesses to get behind the dam to make it work. The Central Hawkes Bay community is now able to be a significant investment partner and take ownership of this project to really drive it forward,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

While some parties may naively present TrustPower’s withdrawal in a negative light, Mr Curtis says it was very common for irrigation schemes to have changing investment partners in the development stage and that TrustPower had only signed a memorandum of understanding.

“The benefit is that the withdrawal allows more local farmers and businesses to buy into the scheme and we know from history that local people driving local solutions always turn out to be the best for the community in the long run,” says Mr Curtis.

“The Hawkes Bay really needs this scheme to proceed as there’s nothing else of significance on the table that would have the ability to reinvigorate the Central Hawke’s Bay economy, create jobs and generate new business opportunities. You only need to look at the looming drought in the Waikato and Northland to see how the provinces suffer when rainfall is low in consecutive years. This is why it is so important to have the right irrigation infrastructure in place to mitigate environmental impacts. The flow-on effects are felt by everybody, not just those working in agriculture.”

“The Ruataniwha scheme is exactly the sort of irrigation scheme New Zealand needs to bring new life to regions like the Hawkes Bay, allowing many of its rural towns to thrive again,” says Mr Curtis.

“IrrigationNZ encourages all potential investors in the Ruataniwha scheme to come to our conference being held in Napier for the first time in just over a week’s time (7th-9th April). You’ll find out everything you need to know about the benefits of investing in water management and how other regions in New Zealand have progressed their water schemes. It couldn’t be timelier to bring an irrigation expo and global irrigation experts to the Hawkes Bay as we’ll be discussing Ruataniwha within a wider debate looking at the future of irrigation in New Zealand.”

Hawkes Bay is drought-prone.

The RWSS would provide very effective insurance against dry weather with significant economic, environmental and social benefits.

The long term pay off from irrigation is immense but it takes a big commitment up-front to get it off the ground.


Irrigate to prosper

December 7, 2013

We must irrigate to prosper – that’s the message of Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis.

It’s about time we moved beyond the unhelpful rhetoric expressed in Mike Joy’s opinion piece (Intensification benefits untrue, Nov 29). New Zealanders need to grasp the connection between the productive use of water and our lifestyles.

Our neighbours over the ditch have. Everyone in Australia realises the importance of water to their economy, and the subsequent need for irrigation and modern water supply infrastructure. Australians are much better at seeing the big picture – the link between their quality of life, the availability, diversity and cost of food they consume and efficient water use – whether the water is used by urban residents or rural.

As a result there is bipartisan support for investment in rural water-supply infrastructure for the irrigation of crops. Australian politicians across the spectrum recognise it is in the national interest to do this. The continued socio-economic wellbeing of Australia and its food security depends on this. The political rhetoric across the Tasman is now about how this is done – not whether it should be.

New Zealand has two options when it comes to the future of water and agriculture.

Option 1: Do nothing and watch the gradual decline of agriculture in New Zealand.

Climate-change predictions show New Zealand is going to become warmer (plants will use more water when they grow) and drier (less water available for plants to use). The prevalence of “large-storm events” is also predicted to increase. This is perhaps more significant. Even if annual rainfall reduces only slightly, if more of it comes at once then most will not be able to be captured by the soils of productive land. Irrigation will become essential to enable full production in many areas – not just a tool to manage drought risk.

New Zealand’s export markets and the consumers are also becoming more demanding. Everyone wants safe, high-quality produce but few are prepared to pay the true cost of producing it in a sustainable manner. Recent surveys by IrrigationNZ suggest that, when a food price increase is linked to improved environmental outcomes, people state they are happy with the status quo. The environmental challenges created through land use intensification are ultimately created by everyone.

Given that New Zealand’s wellbeing (our economy) is founded on agricultural exports, doing nothing is not viable

Option 2: As a nation, we decide that water infrastructure for irrigation is essential to future-proof agriculture in our highly productive plains and foothill environments and we consciously invest in efficient and sustainable water management.

Irrigation has well-proven benefits. Irrigated land is at least three times more productive than dryland in New Zealand and irrigated farmers are far more financially resilient. For every $1 of public good, at least $3 is returned to the community. That is why irrigation is used as a socio-economic development tool globally by organisations such as the World Bank.

The challenge for irrigation is that in the past we’ve not been great at getting the sustainability component right. However, significant investment is now being focused in this area. More emphasis at the planning stages for irrigation projects through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and greater investment in Smart (good-practice) irrigation are delivering better outcomes. However, it all comes back to affordability. Yes, irrigators can reduce their footprint and, yes, we can create infrastructure that minimises direct impact on the environment; however, one generation alone is not going to be able to do this. Irrigation is intergenerational investment and its financing model needs to better reflect this.

It would be useful if the excellent brains and resources of people such as Dr Joy or Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright could be redirected into helping irrigators get it right. We need to move past “problem definition”.

Irrigators are committed to turning things around over time so, please, let’s move forward together.

The column by Mike Joy this is responding to is here.


Irrigation delay as bad as drought

October 12, 2013

Immigration NZ’s fast-tracking visas for overseas specialists to repair the 800 irrigators damaged by wind in Canterbury is boosting efforts to get irrigation underway.

But Irrigation NZ says delayed irrigation is a real concern and the economic consequences could rival last year’s drought.

“It’s great to see the help that’s gone into getting irrigators back on track” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. “The fast-tracked Visas are good news for those desperately awaiting repairs. However we’re very aware that even with overseas assistance, the picture is grim for farmers whose irrigators require complicated rebuilds. Some won’t see irrigation before Christmas which could reduce milk production, threaten crop viability and put pressure on stock food supplies.”

It also causes problems with getting rid of effluent which is usually sprayed on pastures with irrigators.

Ashburton’s Rainer Irrigation welcomed four centre pivot technicians from South Africa this week.

Assistant Manager Lucas Cawte says the sheer workload generated by the wind’s severity far exceeded the company’s resources for a quick turnaround and overseas staff will significantly reduce downtime for farmers.

“We’ve brought these guys in from South Africa to focus on pivots as these sustained the most damage and that’s where the pressure point will be. It was pretty short notice for Visas but IrrigationNZ spoke with Immigration and forwarded contacts and it was a straightforward process. The turnaround was about 24 hours and our guys are now here. That’s unheard of.”  

Rainer Irrigation has already fixed ¼ of the irrigators on its books but Mr Cawte says those repair jobs don’t represent the scale of damage they have seen. 

“We’ve focused on the ones with minimal damage using stock we had. But the next phase will be heavy repairs and we’re still waiting on parts. One container has arrived from Australia where we cleared out their stock and another container is due shortly from the US. Our suppliers have really come to the party as we originally thought it would take six to eight weeks to get parts.”

Mr Cawte says farmers had been very understanding as they knew the scale of repairs the industry was facing.

“Many are helping where they can by providing us with telelifters and other machinery and throwing their own manpower at the job. But it is early days still.”

Immigration New Zealand’s Assistant Area Manager Christchurch, Steve Jones, says the department was happy to work with IrrigationNZ to expedite the application process for offshore irrigation crew.  

An Immigration Manager from the Christchurch branch was provided as a dedicated point of contact. The manager was able to advise on the type of applications for offshore staff and where they should be lodged. Having one point of contact for IrrigationNZ and the various irrigation companies had proved very effective, says Mr Jones.

“We consider requests for urgent processing on a case by case basis and, where there are compelling reasons, we will prioritise the processing of applications lodged. This was clearly a situation where time was of the essence and we agreed to prioritise applications accordingly,” says Mr Jones.

Immigration NZ’s acknowledgement of the urgency is appreciated but even with more specialists from overseas the scale of the work needed means it will be at least a couple of months before all irrigators are repaired.

Some farmers will decided the production lost justifies the expense of replacement equipment rather than repairs.


Water tax wrong approach

August 22, 2011

The Green Party’s water policy has some good points.

Sustainable use makes sense, so does ensuring water is clean and safe.

But taxing irrigation to provide funds to clean up waterways does not.

Irrigation NZ points out this would cost the average irrigated farm in Canterbury and North Otago $40,000 – $50,000 a year.

The idea of imposing the cost is to provide a financial incentive for conservation. But we already have that, we pay about 30 cents a cubic metre for our irrigation.

We are also required to have an environmental farm plan to prevent waste and protect soil and water.

Irrigation NZ CEO Andrew Curtis points out an irrigation tax would unfairly target a relatively small number of farmers:

He says the concept is badly thought out and unfair because it would mean irrigation users, most of whom are in Canterbury, would be paying to clean up polluted waterways in other parts of the country.

Farmers have a direct interest in the sustainable use and cleanliness of water. We drink it and swim in it.

Taxing irrigation, which would impose an added cost on a relatively small number of users, isn’t the best way to protect and enhance it.


Management requires measurement

November 11, 2010

Significant water takes will have to be metered to enable better management of fresh water.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said:

“We can’t manage what we don’t measure,” Dr Smith said. “We know that over the past decade we have doubled the amount of water that can be legally taken from our rivers, lakes and aquifers to 450 million cubic metres per week. That is 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools every minute. We also know we are reaching resource limits in significant areas.  We need to know how much water is actually taken and when if we are to properly manage New Zealand’s hugely valuable freshwater resource.”

The Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010 take effect today and require all new water takes of more than 5 litres a second to be metered. Existing takes of more than 20 litres a second must be metered within two years (10 November 2012), those more than 10 litres a second must be metered with four years (10 November 2014) and all takes more than 5 litres a second within six years (10 November 2016).

“These regulations will hugely improve the information we have on water takes.  We currently measure only 31% of allocated water. These regulations will increase this to 92% in 2012, 96% in 2014 and 98% in 2016,” Dr Smith said.

This is sensible and already happens in many areas.

We take water from the North Otago Irrigation Scheme, which comes from the Waitaki River, underground and from the Kakanui River for irrigation and all of the takes are metered.

“These pragmatic regulations do not apply to small water takes less than 5 litres per second that make up 39% of consents but only 2% of the volume of water taken. Requiring small takes such as households and stock water to be metered could not be justified nationally.

“The Government is providing $90,000 to Irrigation New Zealand to develop guidance about water meters, verification and installation to irrigators so as to ensure the smooth implementation of these new regulations.  We also want irrigators to be well informed as to how to use this information to improve the efficiency of water use.

“These new regulations on water metering are part of a broader programme to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management.  This has included major investments in lake and river clean-ups, toughened penalties and stronger enforcement of resource consents, doubling funding for the New Zealand Landcare Trust, addressing Environment Canterbury’s problems and progressing the work of the Land and Water Forum. This Government recognises how important water will be to New Zealand’s future economic and environmental well being.”

Environment Canterbury and Irrigation New Zealand have welcomed the move.

NIWA’s lake water quality report was also released yesterday and the Minister gave it a could-do-better:

“This report concludes that New Zealand lake water quality compares favourably with Europe and North America but there are signs of real concern,” Dr Smith said. “It is unacceptable that 32% of our monitored lakes have poor water quality and that more lakes are deteriorating in water quality than are improving.

“Lake water quality is worst in low-land intensively farmed areas such as the Waikato and Manawatu.  The Government is ramping up spending on freshwater clean-up initiatives, from $17 million from 2003-2008 to $94 million from 2009-2014.  It is encouraging the lake showing the greatest improvement in water quality is Lake Rotoiti in the Bay of Plenty, proving the success of the Rotorua Lakes Water Quality initiative.”

Sixty-eight lakes had reliable data for the period 2005 to 2009 to enable trends in water quality to be measured.  Nineteen lakes showed deterioration and eight showed improvement.

“The deterioration in lake water quality was worst in Canterbury between 2005 and 2009, making up 15 of the 19 lakes nationwide that went backwards,” Dr Smith said.  “This reinforces the Government’s decision to intervene in water management in Canterbury, and the need to fast-track water plans and rules to better manage pollution.

“The data in this report is not comprehensive and has some gaps. More information is required on why the greatest deterioration in water quality has occurred in catchments with more native than pastoral land cover. The data is also limited to 112 out of 4000 New Zealand lakes, although I am encouraged that the number of lakes being monitored has trebled since 2000.

Federated Farmers welcomed the report as a vindication, albeit grudging, of the work farmers have done to improve water quality in the past decade.

“Turning water quality around is no different from a supertanker.  It takes time but we’re now seeing some positive indicators,” says Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“Over the past decade, we’ve invested massively in effluent management systems and other on-farm improvements.  There’s been a hell of a lot of great work done on-farm and in the industry which goes completely unreported. . .

. . . “This NIWA report raises important questions and we must answer those. . .

. . . “Interpreting these results must be lake specific with multiple factors at play. LakeSPI, for one, is influenced heavily by exotic aquatic plants and fish, which aren’t cows.

“But are farmers denying any impact of agriculture on lake water quality? Of course we’re not.  That’s why we’ve made a massive investment over the past decade and why we’re open to public scrutiny.

“But we cannot be expected to make all the improvements when agriculture is far from all of the problem.

“I, for one, would dearly love to know what’s causing the decline in 40 percent of lakes with ‘dominant native catchment cover’.

“Could it be introduced water fowl, koi carp, aquatic plants and trout perhaps?  NIWA has instead strayed into ‘gosh, it must be farming’, instead of staying science informed. . .

There are many causes for declining water quality. Indentifying them and finding solutions must be based on science and requires the co-operation of land owners, visitors, water users and relevant agencies.


Hurunui moratorium right decision

July 22, 2010

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

Environment Minister Nick Smith says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rod Carr to chair Infrastructure Board

May 25, 2009

Infrastructure Minister, Bill English has announced the appointees to the National Infrastructure Board.

The board has been set up to provide independent advice to the Infrastructure Minister and to help formulate the first 20-year National Infrastructure Plan, which will be completed by the end of the year.

Members have been chosen on the basis of their individual skills and their collective knowledge of infrastructure planning, investment and asset management methods.

The chair will be Dr Rodd Carr, Canterbury University Vice Chancellor and a former managing director of Jade Corporation and a former Reserve Bank  deputy governor. He was a senior executive of Bank of New Zealand and National Australia Bank; is vice-president of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and a director of Lyttelton Port Company Ltd and Taranaki Investment Management.

Other members are: Sir Ron Carter, Lindsay Crossen, Dr Arthur Grimes, Dr Terence Heiler,  Rob McLeod, John Rae and Alex Sundakov.

It’s an impressive line up and I’m particularly pleased to see Terry Heiler’s name on the list. He’s an engineer, a former director of Landcare Research and chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand.

His profile on the INZ website says:

Dr Terry Heiler is an international consultant in natural resources, specialising in water management and irrigation. His engineering consultancy works with clients in New Zealand, Australia, Asia and with major international development agencies. His prior experience includes 25 years as a principal research engineer – soil and water, and 11 years as director of New Zealand Agricultural Engineering Institute, Lincoln University. He runs a small farming business based in West Melton, Central Canterbury. Terry was appointed as the inaugural chief executive of INZ in July 2006. His role with INZ is primarily leadership of the New Zealand irrigation industry with scientific and accurate advocacy to government and other key decision makers.


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