Rural round-up

April 20, 2019

Better data will help us do a better job – Federated Farmers:

The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released today will help all New Zealanders, not just farmers, identify the priorities for action.

But we can only manage what we have information on, Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Our message during the last central government election campaign, when various candidates and commentators were putting the boot into farmers for environmental impacts, was that all Kiwis were in this together. This new report underlines exactly that. . .

Irrigation sector committed to continuing to improve environmental practices:

IrrigationNZ says the recent Environment Aotearoa report highlights the need for farmers and growers to continue work underway to: improve practices on-farm and upskill farmers; invest in cutting edge technology; and implement Farm Environmental Plans to change the way water is used for production.

“In partnership with national and regional government, it’s essential we continue to research, trial and adopt new practices and technology,” says Ms Soal.

“It is critical that we recognise that water is a precious resource which is essential for primary production and regional resilience in the face of climate change and that we use it in a way that is environmentally responsible,” says IrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal. . .

Dairy committed to a better environment:

DairyNZ says today’s Environment Aotearoa 2019 report gives honest insight into New Zealand’s environment and where the opportunities lie for the dairy sector, particularly for water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

Strategic leader for DairyNZ’s environmental portfolio, Dr David Burger, said while the report shows the dairy sector has work to do, there is no doubt farmers are working hard to look after the environment – with significant work already undertaken over the last 10 years to improve environmental practices across New Zealand. . .

Living affects the environment – Neal Wallace:

Our way of life is putting the environment under pressure.

A report produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand with evidence and trends of what is happening to the environment highlights nine key issues.

It is based on a comparison with previous reports, analysis of more than 60 indicators and new methods.

It found native plants, animals and ecosystems are under threat, changes to land vegetation are degrading soil and water, farming is polluting our waterways and water use affects freshwater ecosystems.

Urban centres create environmental pollution with urban sprawl occupying the best soils and destroying native biodiversity, it said. . .

Water tax decision allows environmental improvements to be targeted:

IrrigationNZ says the government’s decision not to introduce a water tax in the near future is good news for all New Zealanders.

“The Tax Working Group proposed a nationwide tax on all water use including for hydroelectricity, household, business and agricultural use. That would have resulted in higher power and food prices for households and businesses and higher rates bills for everyone,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal. . .

Wrightson gets OIO approval to sell seeds unit, still mulling size of return – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson has cleared the final hurdle to sell its seeds division to DLF Seeds for $434 million after securing Overseas Investment Office approval, but still hasn’t figured out how much to return to shareholders.

Now the OIO has signed off on the transaction, the rural services company anticipates the deal to settle either this month or May. . .

Whio ducks make a comeback after predator programme :

A nationally vulnerable duck species is making a comeback following a programme to curb predators in Fiordland.

About 64 breeding whio have been found during surveying of a security site for the blue ducks.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger Andrew Smart said extended trapping efforts and predator control enabled the whio to make a strong comeback. . .


Just 2%

March 23, 2019

New Zealand is, as Geoffrey Palmer once noted, a very pluvial country.

We are blessed with a bountiful supply of water and contrary to the doom merchants who think we don’t have enough, all but 2% of it flows from its source to the sea.

IrrigationNZ used World Water Day, yesterday, to put water use in perspective:

. . .  In New Zealand the biggest consented water use is hydro-electricity generation. This uses about five times more water than all other water uses combined.

The next biggest user is irrigation. Worldwide irrigation grows 40% of the world’s food on 20% of the world’s agricultural land, and here in New Zealand irrigation also plays an important role in food production.

New Zealand is very fortunate to have plentiful supplies of freshwater when compared with other countries worldwide. 

The picture below shows how abstracted water is used in New Zealand:

 

 

 


Rural round-up

March 3, 2019

Stemming lifestyle bock growth – Richard Rennie:

 Soaring kiwifruit orchard values have helped take some steam from the lure of subdividing quality land into smaller blocks in Western Bay of Plenty.

However, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council has also had to tighten up on development plans to help prevent the loss to uneconomic lifestyle blocks.

Alongside Tauranga City, Western Bay of Plenty is one of the country’s fastest-growing districts, recording a population increase from 27,000 in 1986 to 46,000 in 2013. . .

Farmingin the city – Luke Chivers:

When New Zealanders think of Auckland few think of farming. But a young Karaka dairying couple are combining their love of the city with their passion for the land. Luke Chivers reports.

IT WAS Gypsy Day 2016.

Traditionally, it is the start of the dairying calendar when accounts are settled, stock is bought and sold or moved to a new farm and new careers are launched. At least that was what Chris and Sally Guy hoped when their sharemilking agreement on a well-nurtured and developed inland slice of rural New Zealand kicked in. The couple are 50:50 sharemilkers with his parents Allan and Wendy who own the 80ha Oakview Farm in South Auckland.

New fertigation trial examines effects on nutrient loss – Pat Deavoll:

A new project to trial the use of fertigation, which could help reduce nitrogen leaching on farms, is underway.

State-owned farmer Pāmu was working with IrrigationNZ and Ballance Agri-Nutrients on the trial which had received funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Fertigation is the application of small quantities of fertiliser through an irrigation system. Fertigation is used overseas but was uncommon in New Zealand. . .

Shearers clip for cancer – Toni Williams:

They came, they shore and they conquered, raising more than $85,000 for charity.

Around 70 vintage shearers from New Zealand and overseas, including current and former world champions, stars of the movie She Shears and All Black greats, appeared on the stands at the Shear For Life event at the Ewing Family property, at Hinds in Mid Canterbury on Saturday.

It was the brainchild of shearing mates Rocky Bull, Alan ”Bimbo” Bramley and Steven ”Dixy” Lynch, who wanted a chance to catch up with a few of the old shearing crowd. . .

Wyndham farmer Matt McRae’s community engagement contributes to Otago/Southland Young Farmer of the Year award  – Blair Jackson:

 Community engagement is something Wyndham farmer Matt McRae values highly.

It’s part of the reason he was recently named Otago/Southland Young Farmer of the Year.

Although his rugby career has taken a hit – he will play in Wyndham’s second string side to focus on his farming study and work – he enjoys what he does. . .

Glass bottles. Make a come-back on Country Calendar – Melenie Parkes:

A Nelson dairy farm is looking to the past to take it into the future. These dairy disruptors are using new technology to reinvent an old-fashioned favourite.

When Julian and Cathy Raine’s winter contract was cancelled by Fonterra in 2012, they had to come up with a plan to generate another source of income.

Their solution was to sell milk direct to the consumer using innovative vending machines, sourced from Europe and dotted throughout Nelson. . .

 


More than a CGT

February 22, 2019

The proposed capital gains tax (CGT) has got most of the attention, but worryingly there’s more, including the proposal of a water tax that would affect everyone:

IrrigationNZ says a proposed nationwide water tax would affect all Kiwis, and there needs to be more discussion about how this would impact households, farmers and businesses.

“The Tax Working Party has recommended the government consider introducing a water tax on all types of water use including hydro-generation, household use and commercial water use,” says Nicky Hyslop, IrrigationNZ Chair.

“This would result in higher power and food prices for households and businesses and higher rates bills to pay for the irrigation of parks and reserves as well as direct water tax on household and business water use.”

An increase in the cost of production inevitably leads to an increase in the cost of what’s produced.

The working party is proposing that the water tax could be used to fund the restoration of waterways.

“While we all want to see cleaner rivers, often the solutions to improving rivers require people to change their existing practices both on farm and to prevent urban wastewater discharges into rivers. Just allocating money will not be the most effective solution,” says Mrs Hyslop.

This was proposed before the last election and was rightly criticised for taxing the good to clean up after the bad.

“We need to think about whether a water tax is equitable as water use varies hugely across regions based on rainfall. For example a Christchurch resident uses an average of 146,700 litres of water per year, while the average for a New Zealander is 82,800. Someone living in Christchurch would pay nearly twice as much in a water tax as someone living elsewhere and would also pay more in rates because in a dryer climate the Council will use more water to irrigate their local parks. Is taxing dryer regions such as Canterbury, Otago, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough more heavily with a water tax a fair way to fund river restoration nationwide?”

Mrs Hyslop says there are similar equity issues for farmers and growers.

“Some regions receive a significant amount of rainfall and farmers don’t need to use irrigation. Central Otago receives less than half the rainfall of Auckland, so farmers and growers rely on irrigation to grow stonefruit, wine and for pastoral farming to provide feed for animals. Only 7% of farmers use irrigation nationwide – why are those farmers being targeted to pay a tax which 93% of farmers won’t pay when there are many regions which have very poor waterways but little use of irrigation?”

Generally waterways with more irrigation are cleaner than those with less or none.

Mrs Hyslop says that a water tax on hydro-electric power generation would also add to power bills for households and businesses and this tax doesn’t make sense at a time when the government wants to encourage the use of renewable energy to meet climate change targets.

The poor already struggle to pay their power bills, why make it worse for no environmental gain?

“Currently a number of regions are suffering from very dry conditions and we need to be developing more water storage as climate change is predicted to bring more frequent droughts in the future,” she adds.

“We disagree with the suggestion in the report that introducing a water tax will encourage greater investment in water storage. If you look at the most recently approved water storage project – the Waimea Dam – a price increase for the dam construction nearly resulted in it not being built. Introducing a new tax on water use will add to be long-term costs of this and similar projects and make them less viable and less likely to be built. We really need more investment in these projects to ensure we have enough water to supply our growing population and get through more frequent future droughts.”

“We also have concerns that farmers and growers in many regions may face significant water tax costs in excess of $10,000 a year which will make it more difficult to fund the environmental improvements we all want to see to improve waterways,” she says.

“The report discusses how a water tax will encourage more efficient water use. There are already a number of existing incentives that encourage efficient water use including electricity costs and regulatory nutrient limit rules which require farmers to only use water when needed. The biggest improvements in water use efficiency come from modernising irrigation systems.Farmers and irrigation schemes have already invested $1.7 billion to modernise their systems since 2011, resulting in significant improvements in water efficiency. Introducing a major new tax will reduce farmers ability to replace an older irrigation system with a more water efficient model.” 

The capital gains and water taxes aren’t the only monsters unleashed by the TWG .

The Tax Working Group has gone much further than a Capital Gains Tax with a raft of new taxes targeting hard-working New Zealanders, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

There are eight new taxes including; an agriculture tax, a tax on empty residential land, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, a waste levy and a Capital Gains Tax.

“This is an attack on the Kiwi way of life. This would hit every New Zealander with a Kiwi Saver, shares, investment property, a small business, a lifestyle block, a bach or even an empty section,” Mr Bridges says.

“For farmers, who are the backbone of our economy, this is a declaration of war on their businesses and way of life. They would pay to water their stock, feed their crops and even when they sell up for retirement.

“Labour claims this is about fairness, but that’s rubbish. The CGT would apply to small business owners like the local plumber, but not to investors with a multi-million dollar art collection or a super yacht who won’t pay a cent more.

“The TWG has recommended one of the highest rates of Capital Gains Tax in the world. The Government would reap $8.3 billion extra in its first five years from ordinary Kiwis – small business owners, farmers, investors, bach and lifestyle block owners. After 10 years it would be taking $6 billion a year from Kiwis.

“It will lead to boom times for tax lawyers and accountants and even Iwi advisers, given recommendations for exclusions that include Māori land in multiple ownership.

“We believe New Zealanders already pay enough tax and the Government should be looking at tax relief, not taking even more out of the pockets of New Zealand families.

“National says no to new taxes. We would repeal a Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to the cost of living and let Kiwis keep more of what they earn.”

The government keeps trying to counter the accusation it’s not a good economic manager.

Introducing new and higher taxes is not the way to do it.

It should be aiming for higher quality spending not more spending and reducing the burden of tax to allow us all to keep more of our own money.

 


Rural round-up

November 15, 2018

Wool cells used for new material – Sally Rae:

Deconstruction of coarse wool fibre to create new materials has been described as a ‘‘major breakthrough’’.

Researchers at Lincoln Agritech Ltd have broken down coarse wool — which  comprises about 75% of New Zealand’s wool clip — into its cellular components, creating new materials that are not wool but contain wool attributes.

The work was part of a $21 million seven-year research programme into new uses for coarse wool, co-funded by the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ) and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment. . . 

Fonterra must learn to be driven by profit not volume – Point of Order:

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan sought to cheer up the co-op’s farmer-shareholders by telling them at what was reported to be a “packed” annual meeting that “For a time this year, NZ farmers were paid this highest milk prices in the world.”

He insisted there has been a structural change in the co-op’s milk prices since Fonterra was formed. . . 

Using collaborative science to unlock our potential:

Enhancing the production and productivity of New Zealand’s primary sector, while maintaining and improving the quality of the country’s land and water for future generations. That’s the mission of the ‘Our Land and Water’ National Science Challenge.

National Science Challenges emerged from The Great New Zealand Science Project, which in 2012 invited New Zealanders to talk about the biggest science related issues for them.

The project resulted in 11 Challenges, set up by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in early 2016.

They are designed to ensure that science investment focuses on areas that matter most to New Zealanders. . .

Luxury cashmere produced here in NZ – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s fledgling cashmere industry, which has its roots in South Otago, has reached a significant milestone, as Sally Rae reports.

Production of the first pilot New Zealand-grown cashmere garments is being heralded as a milestone in the country’s fledgling cashmere industry.

In January, New Zealand Cashmere — formed by Clinton farmers David and Robyn Shaw — announced a partnership with Christchurch-based sustainable lifestyle fashion brand Untouched World and Wellington-based Woolyarns to commercialise a market for New Zealand-grown cashmere.

This week, Untouched World is launching a  retail store in Wanaka and those first garments will be on display. . . 

Dairy is not evil – Sudesh Kissun:

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis believes there will always be a place for dairy.

“I keep saying it: it’s not about too many cows, but how the land is managed,” he told Rural News. Curtis, who is leaving the helm of Irrigation NZ in March, says he knows some “very, very good” dairy farmers with good environmental footprints and some “very, very bad” dairy farmers with horrible footprints – and the same with good and bad cropping farmers.

“So, let’s stop going on about the land use thing because it’s all about land management practices,” says. . . 

Mycoplasma communication team needs to play with straight bat – Keith Woodford:

MPI is currently reporting a positive story about Mycoplasma bovis eradication. There is indeed good news to report. But in cricket terminology, the communication team needs to play with a straight bat.

I found myself to be a topic in MPI’s latest announcements. According to an anonymous MPI spokeswoman, I have made claims questioning the time of arrival that I have declined to back up, despite multiple requests. That is a falsehood. The MPI bat is not straight. I will return to that topic further down, but first the big picture.

Over the last six weeks, there have been four new infected farms detected and three new trending-positive (RP) farms. Some of these are large dairy farms and they have led to a new string of traces. Accordingly, active trace farms have increased from 208 to 245. There are also many hundreds of surveillance farms. . .

Waikato Innovation Park to build new spray dryer for growing sheep milk industry :

Plans are underway for a new spray dryer at Waikato Innovation Park to cater for the burgeoning sheep milk industry.

The $50 million dryer will sit alongside the Park’s existing dryer, but will have 2.4 times its capacity. It will be built by Tetra Pak with construction expected to start this month.

It is due to be on line by November 2019 and once completed, is expected to more than double employment at the plant from 17 to 35 staff. . . 

Novel plumbing for Massey research farm:

Massey University’s sheep and beef research farm is to begin nutrient leaching research using underground water and nutrient collection.

Keebles Farm (287ha), near Massey’s Manawatū campus, now has water collection under each paddock to allow all water to be collected and studied.

Deputy head of the School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Paul Kenyon says the farm will be the first to use a collection system of this type for sheep and beef research in New Zealand. . . 

A sensible decision to support safe crop protection options – Tim Burrack:

Their names almost make them sound like the villains in an old John Wayne movie: Palmer Amaranth, Tall Waterhemp, and Giant Ragweed.  

In reality, they’re among the worst invaders in a farmer’s soybean fields—prolific weeds that rob our food crops of moisture and nutrients, depress our yields, and resist many forms of herbicide. 

To fight them, we need the best technology available—and on October 31, the Environmental Protection Agency tossed us a lifeline.  . . 


Hunter Downs irrigation scheme down

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

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

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

The irrigation proposition was launched in 2006.

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

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

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

Not enough did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural round-up

October 1, 2018

Getting to the next generation – Glenys Christian:

Ken Hames thinks a lot about the big issues facing farming and society. He accepts change as part of life and gets on with doing the necessary work then moves on as he keeps looking to the future. He talked to Glenys Christian about his views on the challenges facing farmers and what they need to do to meet them.

Northland farmer Ken Hames always has an eye to the future.

So, when he pays local school children $1.20 for each tree they plant on his Paparoa farm he is already thinking about what will happen when they’re adults.

Seventy percent of them will be living in cities,” he said.

Rural New Zealand needs to get wider NZ on side to lock in our licence to farm and this is how we can influence the next generation. . .

 Nebraska tour generates new ideas :

A team of farmers and irrigation experts has returned from a trip to Nebraska with some fresh ideas about how to improve environmental management in New Zealand.

IrrigationNZ organised a five-day trip to Nebraska for its members. The 25-member team included 15 farmers; the team also included farm and environmental consultants and irrigation schemes and service industry representatives.

The party visited the Husker Harvest days – the world’s largest irrigated farm show, the University of Nebraska’s Water for Food Global Institute, research farms and research trials, irrigation schemes, natural resource districts which manage water resources and irrigation manufacturers.

 Study looks at kumera as potential baby health food–  Charlie Dreaver:

New Zealand researchers are hoping to find out if kumara could promote healthy bacteria in an infant’s gut.

The work is part of the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, using a technique dubbed ‘reverse metabolomics’.

Infant health programme principal investigator Clare Wall said when infants were introduced to solid food for the first time, they underwent a transformation of their microbiome, or gut bacteria. . .

Manuka scores in runoff trials  – Peter Burke:

A new field trial in Wairarapa is using native plants to clean up farm runoff into Lake Wairarapa.

Scientists from ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research) are looking at the potential of mānuka and other native trees to reduce the leaching of nitrate and other pathogens from farm runoff.

Dr Maria Gutierrez-Gines, a scientist at ESR, says laboratory work show that mānuka and kānuka enhance the die-off of E.coli in the soil and reduce nitrate leaching more effectively than pasture or pine trees.

On the farm – what’s happening in rural New Zealand:

What’s happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

The North island-Te Ika a Maui

In Northland, the farmer we called was drafting bulls on Friday morning. He suggested a good pair of eyes and one arm to draft well. As for the whole of the North Island it was cooler in the north this week, around 9 to 10 degree days. Farms are also a little wetter than usual so grass is only just turning a corner in terms of growth. Prices for store cattle are only just starting to pick up
.

Industry teams up to double genetic gain:

MerinoLink CEO and Project Manager Sally Martin has been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of participants in a project designed to double the rate of genetic gain in participating Merino flocks by 2022.

The DNA Stimulation project is a collaboration between the not-for-profit research group MerinoLink, University of New England, stud and commercial Merino breeders and MLA Donor Company (MDC).

It aims to double the rate of genetic gain among participating flocks within five years by providing breeding program support and expertise. . .


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