Frank conversation on water

July 29, 2020

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

Today Irrigation New Zealand released its 2020 Election Manifesto. IrrigationNZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4bn of GDP. The manifesto puts the following requests to the New Zealand Government:

A national water strategy that guides the future of water management and investment across Aotearoa New Zealand – and asks that IrrigationNZ be at the table to contribute to this.

A focus on water storage to ensure our communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets

The devastation droughts wrought on Hawkes Bay and Northland this year could have been minimised had water been harvested and stored when there was a surplus. Some of the damage inflicted on Northland by recent floods could have been offset, at least a little, had some of the rain been captured in dams.

More and better water storage would also have protected towns and cities from water shortages.

Policies that support irrigation and the environment, through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation – and asks the government partner with IrrigationNZ to assist because of its ‘on the ground’ expertise.

A resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater – and offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups about access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.

An allocation framework that provides certainty and reliability of supply, whilst providing for multiple uses and benefits for economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being. IrrigationNZ can assist agencies with this policy work through its expertise in managing complex changes to allocation frameworks in catchments with multiple stakeholders and water uses.

IrrigationNZ also states that it will support the sector and partner with Government, members and stakeholders to achieve the following:

  • develop a clear, recognised and unambiguous set of standards for irrigation
  • ensure efficient and effective water use that minimises adverse environmental effects
  • work to ensure widespread adoption of the irrigation standards
  • increase understanding of the benefits of irrigation.
  • support members in national and regional advocacy

IrrigationNZ is offering to share its knowledge, expertise, and data to support the above in relation to:

  • farm environment plans and the freshwater modules within them
  • Water storage solutions
  • Water allocation issues

“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life, IrrigationNZ wants to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs three waters’ reform and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.

“IrrigationNZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision-making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels. This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.

“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts.

“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”

North Otago has had very little rain for several months. When, as often happened before we had much irrigation, we would have been going into spring with little soil moisture and a lot of uncertainty about pasture and crop growth.

Thanks to several irrigation schemes, we know that irrigation will compensate for what nature hasn’t provided.

The economic and social benefits from that are immense and it also has environmental benefits by maintaining minimum flows in waterways and protecting soils from erosion.

If predictions of higher temperatures and more floods due to climate change are taken seriously, irrigation must be part of the mitigation plan.

Irrigation New Zealand’s 2020 Election Manifesto can be found here.


Rural round-up

April 18, 2020

Northland drought: No feed, no water and coronavirus increases farmers’ stress – Denise Piper:

“Extreme” drought conditions in Northland are being called the worst for decades and have left farms with no stock food and with their water sources drying up.

In Northland, where little rain has fallen, more farmers are asking for help, said Julie Jonker, co-ordinator of Northland Rural Support Trust. 

“There is quite a lot of stress out there,” she said.

Many Northland farmers have already used all of their winter supplementary feed and alternatives, like palm kernel, are expensive and hard to source. . . 

Dairy farmers dry cows off early as tough winter nears :

Tight feed supplies and ongoing drought are forcing some dairy farmers across the country to dry off earlier than usual.

Fonterra Farm Source director Richard Allen estimates that about 13 percent of farmers have dried off by mid-April compared to 8 percent at the same time last season.

Last month, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor declared a large-scale adverse event in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams. The worst-hit region, Northland is still holding out for decent rainfall. . . 

Freshwater 2020 – working towards improved outcomes balancing the environment with community and economic needs:

IrrigationNZ commends the work that has gone into the Freshwater 2020 report released today, and recognises this data helps towards providing certainty of where we need to head.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says, “Freshwater and related ecosystems are very complex, and as the report says, data gaps do remain. However, it is helpful for farmers to see where their improvements are working, and where further work is required.”

IrrigationNZ notes some positive trends emerging from the report for example: . . 

Puketoro Station — village in a bubble – Leigh McNeil:

Puketoro Station, inland from Tokomaru Bay, has been in lockdown for three weeks now under the Covid-19 rules, and it’s the same as every other farm in New Zealand — business as usual.

But what makes Puketoro slightly different from most farms is that there are 19 people in the station “bubble”.

So the McNeil Farming operation is a tiny village on its own, and in typical village fashion, the residents range in age from four months to Goldcard-holders.

The bulk of the shepherds are under 25 years old, so it’s been somewhat of a tough call for them to stay put for four weekends in a row. . . 

 

California farmer ploughs under lettuce after coronavirus shutters restaurant market – Mike Blake and Christopher Walljasper:

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – There should be tractors rumbling across Jack Vessey’s ranch, pulling wagons full of fresh-cut romaine lettuce to be packed and shipped to restaurants and grocery stores across the United States.

Instead, as the coronavirus outbreak upends the nation’s food distribution network, a tractor and plow destroyed rows and rows of green produce on Wednesday.

“You put your blood, sweat and tears into a crop,” said Vessey, president of Holtville, California-based Vessey and Company, Inc. “To just disc it into the ground: It’s painful.” . .

Digital initiative keeps Northland farmers connected during lockdown:

Northland farmers are embracing the digital age as they respond to the dual challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown and the region’s severe drought conditions.

Extension 350 (E350), Northland Inc’s award-winning farmer-led and farmer-focused programme, is driving a digital initiative, which includes pilot video interviews with farmers, called “What’s on your mind?”, accessible via the programme’s YouTube channel.

The interview format encourages the farmers to share their thoughts on issues impacting their businesses, what specifically prompted these thoughts, and the process they expect to follow in developing and implementing responses to protect or enhance their businesses. . .


Recovery requires short cutting consent process

April 2, 2020

The drought that has covered most of the country has reinforced the need for more irrigation and shows the need for  water infrastructure to be part of the  government’s call for infrastructure projects to kick-start the post-Covid-19 recovery:

IrrigationNZ supports the Government’s decision to ready infrastructure projects for construction following a return to normal in New Zealand as part of efforts to boost the economy. IrrigationNZ notes that water infrastructure has been included in this.

The pandemic and the lockdown have demonstrated how important the food and fibre sectors are to our country, to put food on the table and also to support our economy,” Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal says.

Covid-19 has inflicted near-mortal damage on tourism and export-education and highlighted, yet again, the importance of primary production. Farming, horticulture and viticulture would do even more with better water infrastructure.

‘’It is therefore not only a huge relief for the primary industries sector to see water included as essential infrastructure but also extremely prudent.  Not only will investment in water infrastructure projects create jobs during the construction phase, but they will also support the longer-term resilience of our economy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and while health and wellbeing are the number one priority, planning ahead for the post-pandemic New Zealand is essential,” Ms Soal says.

The economic and social costs of dealing with the pandemic, the shutdown and the recovery will hold back the country for years.

Primary production and the businesses which service and supply it, and process its produce, will be more important than ever.

“In the last few decades, water infrastructure projects have typically been funded largely by local communities and end users.  As the effects of the pandemic affect regional economies on a scale we have not seen before, increased central government funding will be critical from now on.  High levels of co-funding at the local level will simply no longer be feasible” said Ms Soal.

“We also need to consider how certain processes the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act will affect the viability of projects” says Ms Soal. “For example, it is currently unclear how annual planning processes will occur or how resource consents can be fast-tracked to get projects ‘shovel-ready’ in a short time frame.  Consenting processes for major projects generally take years, not weeks” said Ms Soal.

If the economy is to get up to speed as quickly We need to create the jobs and earn the export income that will fuel the recovery. New projects, including irrigation, that will do this can’t be hamstrung by the current time consuming and expensive consent process.

After Cyclone Bola, then- Prime Minister David Lange ordered the army to construct a Bailey bridge without resource consent.

The government must find a way to enable short cuts to consent processes to allow infrastructure projects to start in weeks to a very few months not years.

That doesn’t mean ignoring the requirement to maintain high environmental standards. There are enough irrigation schemes that have improved economic, environmental and social sustainability already operating on which the standards for new ones could be based.

When the state of emergency is over and alert levels end, we’ll be faced with a new normal that will leave the country much poorer than it was just weeks ago.

We can’t afford to have repairs to the economic and social damage inflicted by Covid-19  and the response to it, hampered by torturous consent processes that held back development in the old normal.


Rural round-up

August 30, 2019

Dairy farmers have ‘stepped up’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy farmers are not getting the credit they deserve for stepping up their game to improve their practices, dairy farmer and industry climate change ambassador Dean Alexander believes.

He and wife Suzanne winter 1200 cows on two flat 179ha and 242ha platforms effective near Winton.

”As an industry, we have made huge innovations in the past 10 to 15 years, which has been driven by regulations,” Mr Alexander said.

”Changes needed to happen and we have stepped up our game and ought to get credit for the progress we have made.”

He said the quality of water into waterways and estuaries had improved compared to 20 to 30 years ago. . .

Role of red meat in a healthy diet is globally recognised – Rod Slater:

I was saddened to read the article Hospitals should lead the way by cutting out meat (August 20) by Professor John Potter. He has a huge amount of experience and, unfortunately, he used every ounce of it to produce a thoroughly disingenuous and misleading piece of writing.

Firstly, I would like to address his criticisms of Dietitians NZ (DNZ). DNZ provided a statement in response to the Ministry of Health (MoH) releasing a report which suggested less meat and dairy in the health sector to reduce the impact on the environment, in what seems to be a move by the MoH that is severely deficient in local context. 

DNZ is entirely independent and performs a vital role in representing the nutrition scientists who have made it their life’s work to understand and advise on diet and health matters. For Prof Potter to discredit its response on the basis of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s “support” of DNZ is ludicrous. . . .

New grass could reduce methane emissions from animals – Maja Burry:

New Zealand scientists trialling a potentially environmentally sustainable grass in the United States hope to study its effects on animals in the next two years.

The genetically modified ryegrass has been developed by the Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, at its grasslands centre in Palmerston North.

Modelling has found it can grow up to 50 percent faster than conventional ryegrass, it is more resistant to drought and could reduce methane emissions from animals.

Trials are now progressing in the mid-west of the US, where genetically modified organisms can be field tested outside of the lab. . . 

 IrrigationNZ responds to Waitangi Tribunal report on national freshwater – changes to New Zealand’s water allocation framework:

IrrigationNZ says that the timing of the Waitangi Tribunal report and recommendations on freshwater and geothermal resources puts Māori rights and interests in freshwater firmly back in the public spotlight, just when the Government is set to release a raft of policy changes under the ‘Essential Freshwater’ package.

“We are in favour of the Waitangi Tribunal report’s recommendation to establish a body to oversee future water governance and management, including whether a Water Act is required to provide a new framework for freshwater,” says Elizabeth Soal, Chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We agree, and firmly believe, that New Zealand needs a national water strategy and a body to oversee this strategy so that this precious resource can be used and allocated for the benefit of all,” says Ms Soal. . . 

MPI pair helping farmers through `M. bovis’ process – Toni Williams:

Empowering farmers working through the Mycoplasma bovis process involves Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) regional managers Charlotte Austin and Lydia Pomeroy working long hours.

But, as a way of being prepared to fight for their cases and keeping up to date with the issues, it is something they are only too happy to do.

”We certainly lose sleep, but we also understand that it’s not nearly as big an impact on us.

”That’s why we will quite happily work a 12, 13 or 14-hour day ‘cos we understand that these individuals are living it,” said Ms Austin, speaking to media after the recent Mid Canterbury Mycoplasma bovis Advisory Group meeting in Ashburton. . .

What’s our beef with beef? – Helen Browning:

Red meat is not inherently unsustainable, despite recent headlines – it’s how it is farmed that matters.

A new report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for us to make radical changes to the way we farm and eat to prevent further global warming. But what did the IPPC report actually say on meat eating? Were the NFU and others right to say reporting was misleading?

As ever, the issues are complex, hard to convey accurately in an eye-catching headline or a snappy tweet.

The IPCC is clear that, on a global level, ruminant livestock – that’s cattle and sheep – carry a high greenhouse gas footprint. This leads to the conclusion that if we eat less red meat, we can reduce these emissions. . .


Rural round-up

August 1, 2019

Rural folk – defend yourselves – Robin Greer:

As a proud Southland dairy farmer the wellbeing of our rural families concerns me greatly.

They are constantly bombarded with the hypocrisy of extreme groups and some ministers in our Government.

Many use mistruths to persuade people agriculture needs to be removed from the New Zealand landscape.

We have ministers in the Government who hate dairy farmers and their legacy is to deal with us.

Many of the statements made by some of these people would be called hate speech had it been directed at a different group of the community but farmers are fair game. . . .

First women to graduate from world-leading irrigation design programme :

The latest group of graduates in New Zealand’s Level 5 Certificate in Irrigation Design include the first two women to have done this course.

New Zealand is the only country in the world to have a national qualification in irrigation design.

“IrrigationNZ is proud to have been part of successfully graduating these students from this important course – which will become critical as farmers and businesses increasingly need state-of-the-art irrigation systems to demonstrate efficient and sustainable use of our shared water resources,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal.

“The qualification recognises the specialist skills needed to design technically efficient and environmentally sustainable irrigation systems. . .

New Zealand must learn to talk about ‘evolving technologies’ – Sir Peter Gluckman – Eric Frykberg:

New Zealanders should get to grips with gene technology and not bury their heads in sands of short-term thinking, according to one of this country’s leading scientific thinkers.

Sir Peter Gluckman is a former chief science adviser to the prime minister, who has held many academic posts and currently heads a multidisciplinary think tank at Auckland University.

In a speech to the annual conference of Horticulture New Zealand, Sir Peter said New Zealanders must seriously debate evolving technology such as gene editing, and not leave it mired in rhetoric, and conflated with politics.

Sir Peter told his audience there had been centuries of change in organisms’ genetic make-up, which was speeded up with gene transplants in the 1970s. . . 

Third time lucky for winners – Luke Chivers:

Romney genetics and consistency guide Brian and Anna Coogan’s farming philosophy. They told Luke Chivers about winning the annual, national ewe hogget competition.

Convinced by his wife Anna to enter the national ewe hogget competition Brian Coogan has walked away with the top honours.

The Taihape farmer took out the Romney and flock performance sections, finishing just 0.33 of a point ahead of runners-up Allan and Leeann Woodrow of Waikana before going on to win the overall breeds supreme award in the 23rd annual event in Christchurch. . .

Value of red meat exports up by eight percent :

The value of red meat exports of sheep, beef and co-products increased by eight percent to $8.8 billion for the year to June 2019, according to the latest analysis from the Meat Industry Association.

More than 399,470 tonnes of sheepmeat was dispatched, similar to 2018 volumes but the value of these exports increased by six percent.

For beef, export volumes were up by nine percent to more than 453,202 tonnes with a 13 percent increase in value. Co-products exports increased by five percent. . .

Global meat-eating is on the rise, bringing surprising benefits

Things were different 28 years ago, when Zhou Xueyu and her husband moved from the coastal province of Shandong to Beijing and began selling fresh pork. The Xinfadi agricultural market where they opened their stall was then a small outpost of the capital. Only at the busiest times of year, around holidays, might the couple sell more than 100kg of meat in a day. With China’s economic boom just beginning, pork was still a luxury for most people.

Ms Zhou now sells about two tonnes of meat a day. In between expert whacks of her heavy cleaver, she explains how her business has grown. She used to rely on a few suppliers in nearby provinces. . . 

Livestock grazing is vital ‘interference’ to boost biodiversity, new Plantlife study finds – Ben Barnett:

Livestock grazing has a crucial role to play in addressing a dramatic decline in biodiversity-rich wildflower meadows, according to a prominent botanist who warns that totally abandoning land to nature will do more environmental harm than good.

By allowing nature to ‘rewild’ landscapes unchecked, three-quarters of the UK’s most threatened species would decline or disappear altogether within just three years, Dr Trevor Dines said.

Environmentalists have called for the so-called rewilding of parts of the countryside to address historic environmental damage and to help absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but habitats such as wildflower meadows need sufficient levels of grazing and management to prevent them from being lost, Dr Dines said. . .


Rural round-up

July 31, 2019

Levies are killing farming – Annette Scott:

Levies are killing farming as changes to the Biosecurity Act and Nait set to be another nail in the coffin, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says.

The Government is fixing the Biosecurity Act and the National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) Act to ensure they meet future needs, Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said.

Implementing the programme for Mycoplasma bovis exposed the clunkiness of the outdated Biosecurity Act and lessons must be learned from the M bovis experience to formulate a law that’s more flexible and appropriate. . . .

Organic finds whisky farmers – Neal Wallace:

The Styx Valley is in a remote southern corner of the Maniototo basin in Central Otago where the seasons can be harsh. But that isn’t stopping John and Susan Elliot from running an innovative whisky distillery alongside their farm. Neal Wallace visits Lammermoor Station.

The story of Andrew Elliot discovering a copper whisky still on his Central Otago station early last century is family folk lore that resonates with John and Susan Elliot.

It is a link to the latter part of the 1800s when the Otago hills, rivers and valleys were crawling with gold prospectors, swaggers and opportunists. . . .

Guy’s pragmatism appreciated by Federated Farmers:

Farmers regarded Nathan Guy as a pragmatic and knowledgeable Minister for Primary Industries.    

The MP for Otaki, who among other roles served two years as Associate Minister of Primary Industries and four as Minister in the John Key-led government, has announced he will not seek re-election in 2020.

“His door was always open, and he was always level-headed and considered in his dealings with people,” Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said. 

“He had his finger firmly on the rural pulse and I always appreciated that you could have free and frank discussions with him, including occasionally by phone when he was out helping weigh and drench calves.  He has real empathy for the sector and for the wellbeing of rural communities.” . .

IrrigationNZ thanks Nathan Guy for his work in parliament congratulates Tood Muller:

IrrigationNZ wishes to thank Hon Nathan Guy for his contribution to the primary sector as he announces his retirement from 15 years in Parliament with a departure from politics next year.

Following news of Nathan’s decision, the National Party today announced that Todd Muller, Member of Parliament for the Bay of Plenty, will be picking up the Agriculture, Biosecurity and Food Safety portfolios from Hon Nathan Guy. IrrigationNZ would like to congratulate Todd on this new role. IrrigationNZ also notes that Hon Scott Simpson, Member of Parliament for Coromandel, who leads the Environment portfolio for National, will take on Climate Change from Todd, which IrrigationNZ recognises as a sensible and good fit. . .

Grasslands brings science and practice together:

Linking science and technology with grassroots farming and production has been the key to the success of the Grassland Society.

The Grassland Society of Southern Australia has come a long way in the 60 years since a small group of farmers banded together in 1959 to help producers get the best out of their land.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Society assists farmers across three states to create better soils and pastures. . . .

Agricultural aviation celebrates 70th anniversary:

“In September 1949, a group of aerial work operators got together to form the NZ Aerial Work Operators Association ‘to advance the techniques of aerial work’ in the country,” said the New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) Chairman, Tony Michelle.

“We celebrate the achievements of those early companies and pilots at an agricultural aviation show at Ardmore Airport on Sunday 4 August, from 12 midday to 4pm. Many examples of aircraft that have worked in agricultural aviation will be on display. It also gives people a chance to mingle with many of the older pilots from those early days, as well as those safely flying our skies today. . .

Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year 2019 kicks off this week

Now in its fifth year the first of the regional finals will be held this week as the countdown begins to find the Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year 2019.

This year there will be three regional finals and the winner from each will go through to represent their region in the National Final.

The North Island regional competition will be held on Thursday 1st August at EIT in Hawke’s Bay and is open to all emerging young winemakers in the North Island. . .

Brexit: Michael Gove admits farmers may never recover from no-deal – Paris Gourtsoyanis:

A no-deal Brexit would seriously harm the UK’s farmers, Michael Gove has admitted.

The Environment Secretary told the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) conference that there was “no absolute guarantee” that British farmers could export any of their produce to the EU in a no-deal scenario, and would face punishing tariffs even if they could.

Mr Gove also dismissed speculation that the UK Government could slash tariffs on food imports after Brexit, an idea hinted at by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. . .


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. . .


We need to talk about GM

September 24, 2018

We need to talk about genetic modification, former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says.

Sir Peter Gluckman says the debate over whether to use genetically edited grasses to combat greenhouse gas emissions is more philosophical than scientific.

It’s also more emotional and political than rational.

The former Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay about his report released this week in which he suggests New Zealand needs to have a “national conversation,” about using GMOs in agriculture.

“What I’ve raised in the report is just that if we’re serious about climate change, if we’re serious about environmental protection, if we’re serious about a reduction in predators and protecting biodiversity, we perhaps need to think again about whether the technologies which are increasingly being used offshore have got a role to play in New Zealand.” . . 

There are widespread calls for farmers to play their part in reducing emissions but many of those agitating for that are also opposed to allowing GM.

It is a tool widely used in other countries that is being denied to New Zealand farmers.

Mackay wonders if consumers will want to eat products from animals that have grazed on genetically modified grass, but Gluckman says this is already happening.

“Around the world consumers are eating lots of meat and lots of milk that are coming from genetically modified crops now … it’s been going on at least for a decade broadly around the world.”

It’s also in a lot of the food we’ve been eating for years. Most corn and soy that we import will have come from GM crops.

Gluckman says the issue is more “philosophical rather than a scientific debate” with a number of countries ruling that gene editing does not need the same regulatory controls as gene modification, but “other countries are not so certain.”

Gluckman believes there needs to be a discussion around the use of GM grasses before New Zealand begins testing them.

“I think that in theory it’s possible in New Zealand. It’s just that in practice it’s not possible and I think one would need a much broader national conversation to look through the issues which are largely more philosophical and values-based than they are scientifically based.”

We saw huge areas of corn when we were in Colorado and Nebraska on an IrrigationNZ tour 10 days ago.

All of it was genetically modified.

Farmers there have been producing GM crops for years with no problems in the field or in the market.

They told us it had both economic and environmental benefits. It yielded better and required fewer chemicals to grow.

AgResearch is trialing GM grass in the USA because it can’t do it here. The grass has the potential to make a significant reduction to methane emissions.

Opponents of the technology say it could risk our reputation for producing clean and green feed.

Surely the risk our competitors will be gaining the benefits of GM grass and marketing their meat as cleaner and greener is even greater.

Science is rarely 100% settled. But after decades of use in many countries there has been no evidence of any problems with GM that would put our farming at risk, and plenty of evidence of the benefits.

New Zealand needs to start talking about GM and the  conversation must be based on science and facts, not emotion and philosophy.


Rural round-up

September 22, 2018

Changes on the farm are improving water efficiency:

A water tax isn’t workable – but changes on the farm are improving water efficiency

IrrigationNZ says that introducing a nationwide water tax is not workable, and that allowing irrigators to continue to invest in more modern irrigation systems rather than taxing them will result in the biggest improvements in water use efficiency.

“A water tax has been considered in other countries internationally but in every case it has been abandoned. Other countries have found it too complex and expensive to design a fair water tax which can be easily implemented without resulting in adverse outcomes,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . .

1080 drop to go ahead after failed legal bid :

A conservation group has failed in its legal bid to stop a 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland.

The Friends of Sherwood Trust won a temporary injunction in the Environment Court halting the major pest control programme two weeks ago.

It argued that the drop breached the Resource Management Act which prohibits the dropping of substances in beds of lakes and rivers.

However today the court refused the Trust’s bid to further halt the drop.

“We are not persuaded that there is likely to be serious harm to the environment if the proposed application proceeds.” . .

Plans for huge tahr cull upset Otago hunters – Simon Hartley:

A sweeping cull of at least 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr proposed by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, has outraged some recreational hunters in Otago.

Ms Sage’s sudden announcement of the high killing ratio may yet be challenged in court.

Killing of the tahr, which are related to goats and were introduced here in 1904, is to start within two weeks.

Ms Sage is proposing the Department of Conservation kill 10,000 animals in various areas in the Southern Alps over the next eight months because the animal’s estimated 35,000 population was “three times” that permitted by the long established Himalayan Tahr Control Plan. . .

Meat firms need more staff – Chris Tobin:

South Canterbury meat companies are so desperate for workers to start the new killing season they are recruiting overseas.

Immigration NZ has approved work visas for 24 migrant employees to work at Alliance Smithfield this season.

Figures released to The Courier by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show Immigration NZ has also allowed Silver Fern Farms to employ 49 overseas workers in Canterbury, although the information did not specify what the break-down figures between the company’s two plants at Pareora and Belfast, Christchurch, were.

Work visas for 18 overseas workers for Anzco Foods at Ashburton have also been approved. . .

New Everyday FarmIQ pack targets mainstream dairy and livestock farmers.

A new range of software subscriptions from FarmIQ address the growing information needs of New Zealand dairy and livestock industry.

With a clear focus on the information needs of dairy and livestock farmers, the new packs will help mainstream New Zealand farmers run more productive and sustainable operations.

Darryn Pegram, FarmIQ Chief Executive Officer, said subscriptions start at $55 a month for the new “Everyday FarmIQ” software pack, delivering a broad suite of recording and reporting tools. . .

 ‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats -“

New findings suggest that more intensive agriculture might be the “least bad” option for feeding the world while saving its species – provided use of such “land-efficient” systems prevents further conversion of wilderness to farmland.

Agriculture that appears to be more eco-friendly but uses more land may actually have greater environmental costs per unit of food than “high-yield” farming that uses less land, a new study has found.

There is mounting evidence that the best way to meet rising food demand while conserving biodiversity is to wring as much food as sustainably possible from the land we do farm, so that more natural habitats can be “spared the plough”. . . .


Rural round-up

September 11, 2018

Climate change and rural confidence – Mike Chapman:

There has been a lot of talk in the media and in boardrooms about a drop in business confidence. This is also a hot topic in the rural sector, with some of the employment law changes causing concerns about the ongoing financial viability of businesses, and economic growth stalling. An additional concern for the rural sector is the impact of climate change adaptation on primary industry businesses.

Recent reports published on climate change include models that increase hectares planted in trees, and in fruit and vegetables. Some models have fruit and vegetables increasing from today’s 116,000 hectares used for growing, to 1 million hectares. That’s a big increase in growing area and for horticulture, it will most likely come from what is now dairy land. Forests are more likely to be planted on sheep and beef land. The challenge with models is that they make predictions, but turning that into reality may not be easy. . .

Waimea Dam investor that revived project remains a mystery – Erik Frykberg:

A mystery investment which helped get approval for the Waimea Dam project near Nelson is likely to remain anonymous for now.

The investment is for $11 million, and it helped Tasman District Council put the dam project back on course after it was blocked for financial reasons last week.

While little is being said about the investment, RNZ understands it comes in the form of convertible preference shares from an institutional investor, possibly a nominee company from in or around Richmond. . .

Waimea Dam decision good news for Tasman:

The decision by Tasman District Council to support a revised funding proposal to enable the Waimea community dam to proceed is good news for the district, says IrrigationNZ.

Without a dam, the council says that urban and rural water users will be facing significant water use cuts from this summer. This is due to a plan change introducing higher flow requirements on the Waimea River.

“The dam is the most cost effective way to provide a secure water supply for urban residents, business and irrigators while sharing the cost of this major project,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ Chief Executive. . .

Feeding and breeding are vital – Andrew Stewart:

A desire not to be anchored to machinery led Mike and Vicki Cottrell to try something new. They headed for the hills and have spent a quarter-century running sheep and cattle on medium to steep back country near Taihape. They told fellow Rangitikei farmer Andrew Stewartabout facing the on and off farm challenges of the farming life.

Venture southeast from Taihape and you come across the farming community of Omatane.

It is here that clean, green hills are punctuated with river chasms and rim rocks. In the distance Mt Ruapehu provides a stunning but sometimes chilly backdrop. Loosely translated from the Maori dictionary, Omatane means a fleeing man.  . .

New Zealand’s largest forestry acquisition goes ahead:

Australian sustainable forestry company, OneFortyOne Plantation’s (OFO) purchase of Nelson Forests completed this week, following approval by the Overseas Investment Office.

Nelson Forests, was owned by investment funds advised by Global Forest Partners LP (GFP), and is a vertically-integrated plantation and sawmill business in the Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions of New Zealand. Nelson Forests employs 101 people fulltime and its business activity is further supported by approximately 350 contractors. . .

World not yet falling apart – Allan Barber:

Much to a lot of people’s surprise, the global economy is resisting the dire predictions of many commentators, just as the New Zealand economy continues to perform much better than businesses are prepared to accept. But it is far from certain whether this just a question of timing or the genuine possibility the predictions are exaggerated. Speculation, based on suspicion and anecdote, appears to be an unreliable guide to what is actually happening, so, while planning for an uncertain future is essential, it would pay not to ignore present realities.

For the agricultural sector, certainties include sheep meat prices at around all time highs, a high milk price, a fairly mild winter following good growth earlier in the year, continuing demand from trading partners, no new tariffs imposed on New Zealand agricultural products, a bullish, if potentially volatile, global economy, a stable domestic economy and an exchange rate which has stabilised at up to 10% off its 2017 peak. All these factors suggest the world isn’t about to end any time soon. . .

Owen River Lodge first fishing lodge to win at NZ Tourism Awards:

Luxury fishing accommodation Owen River Lodge near Murchison is the first fishing lodge ever to scoop a gong at the New Zealand Tourism Awards.

The 2018 Westpac Business Excellence Award, open to New Zealand tourist operators with less than $6m annual turnover, was presented to owner Felix Borenstein at a black tie dinner in Christchurch last night. . .


Rural round-up

September 6, 2018

Daunting report puts trees first – RIchard Rennie:

A landscape full of daunting challenges for the primary sector as New Zealand transitions to a zero carbon economy has been painted in a Productivity Commission report of Biblical proportions.

While by no means confined to agriculture the Low Emissions Economy report studying steps to zero carbon by 2050 puts agriculture at the sharp end of main policy shifts its authors cover.

It calls for major land use change to increase forestry and horticulture.  . .

Kiwi agri women lead the way – Annette Scott;

New Zealand is leading the way when it comes to including women in agricultural businesses, Agri Women’s Development Trust executive director Lindy Nelson says.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment as the sole NZ representative at the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (Apec) 2018 in Papua New Guinea, Nelson was inspired by what she had to offer.

She was presenting as part of the agriculture and fisheries dialogue that had member economies addressing the importance of including women in the agribusiness value chain.

The focus of discussions was exploring practical ways of doing that. . . 

Fonterra split must be debated – Hugh Stringleman:

Further evolution of Fonterra’s capital structure needs discussion by farmer-shareholders, 2018 Kellogg scholar and dairy farmer James Courtman says.

Shareholders first need to settle on the direction of travel and whether the co-operative should be a strong player in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market.

“Or are our values and risk appetite more aligned to producing high-value base products to sell to multinationals who already have strong consumer brands,” Courtman wrote in his Kellogg report.

“Neither option is right or wrong but doing one option poorly due to a lack of capital or misaligned strategy is not a good option for the business.” . . 

Apple and stonefruit industry members disappointed with revised MPI directions:

With one minute before the 5:00pm deadline set by the High Court, MPI has issued revised directions to the affected apple and stonefruit industry members, under s122 of the Biosecurity Act.

The directions appear to be as wide as the previous order, referring to the tens of thousands of apple (Malus) and stonefruit (Prunus) plants previously seized by MPI under s116 of the Biosecurity Act, which was deemed unlawful following a High Court judicial review. . .

Zespri forecasts jump in annual profit as it seeks to maintain value in ‘challenging’ market – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Zespri Group, the country’s kiwifruit export marketing body, expects profit to surge higher in the coming year as it grows volumes and seeks to maintain values in “challenging” markets with higher volumes of low-priced fruit.

The Mount Maunganui-based company reaffirmed its forecast for net profit of between $175 million and $180 million in the year ending March 31, 2019, up from $101.8 million last financial year. It expects to pay a dividend per share of $1.35-to-$1.40, up from 76 cents per share last season. . .

Genetic solutions to pest control – Neil Gemmell:

New Zealand stunned the world in 2016 announcing a goal to eradicate mammalian predators by 2050. The key targets are possums, rats and stoats; species that cause enormous damage to our flora and fauna and in some cases are an economic burden to our productive sectors.

As all of these species were introduced to New Zealand from elsewhere there is little sympathy nationally for any of them and their control and eradication has been a key component of conservation and animal health management in this country for decades. Thanks to the work of many we can control and even eradicate many of these species at increasingly large scales. The success of these programs has seen a variety of ‘pest-free’ offshore sanctuaries formed, such as Kapiti Island and the Orokonui mainland sanctuary where many native species, including kiwi, kōkako, and kākā now have a realistic chance for population persistence and recovery. . .

MPI joins forces with forest industry on biosecurity readiness:

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand Forest Owners Association (FOA) are joining forces under the GIA (Government Industry Agreement) to improve forest biosecurity preparedness.

The first jointly-funded initiative under this partnership will be a forest biosecurity surveillance programme designed to detect unwanted forest pests and pathogens in high-risk places.

FOA and MPI recently signed the Commercial Plantation Forestry Sector Operational Agreement for Readiness under the GIA. This agreement establishes a new way of working in partnership between the two organisations and will see a doubling of efforts to improve forest biosecurity readiness, says Andrew Spelman, MPI’s Acting Director, Biosecurity Readiness. . .

EPA: Views sought on new fungicide to protect arable crops:

The EPA is calling for submissions on an application by Bayer New Zealand Limited to approve a fungicide called Vimoy Iblon for use in New Zealand to protect cereal crops.

The fungicide’s active ingredient isoflucypram, has not yet been approved in any country.

Bayer is intending to market its use to control scald, net blotch, Ramularia leaf spot in barley, leaf rust in barley and wheat, stripe rust in wheat and triticale, and speckled leaf blotch in wheat. . .


Rural round-up

August 17, 2018

Tru-Test to sell businesses to Datamars for $147.9 million – Rebecca Howard

(BusinessDesk) – Tru-Test Corp will sell some of its business to Switzerland-based Datamars for $147.9 million, it said in its annual report.

Tru-Test announced plans to shed the bulk of its businesses, signing a conditional deal to sell its retail solutions and milk meter divisions, which account for about 85 percent of group revenue.

Those businesses include the weighing, electronic identification, contract manufacturing, electric fencing and milk metering operations. All intellectual property – including the Tru-Test name – form part of the deal. . .

Farming educator explains how forecast hot weather could impact farmers and food:

International scientists have released new forecastspredicting higher global temperatures from 2018 – 2022.

IrrigationNZ strongly believes that as the climate continues to vary, many areas of New Zealand will be at increasing at risk of drought and to mitigate this risk, the country must invest in well-designed water storage.

“In hotter conditions crops need more water. Water makes a huge difference to plant growth – for example a wheat field which is not irrigated will only produce half the amount of wheat as a field which is irrigated,” says Andrew Curtis, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ. . . 

Our calving season has finally arrived – Bruce Eade:

The biggest event on every dairy farmer’s calendar is finally here, writes dairy farmer and Southern Rural Life columnist Bruce Eade.

Calving is in full swing for most southern farmers with the middle of August upon us.

The mating decisions and choices we made in October last year are all now coming to fruition.

As I’ve said before, I really enjoy this time of year, seeing the next generation ”hatch”.

Will it be a heifer?

The anticipation, the excitement and the disappointment when it’s a bull is all part and parcel of the season. . .

The ‘cutest sheep in the world’ are now running around in Canterbury – Pat Deavoll:

When North Canterbury farmer Melissa Cowan discovered the valais blacknose sheep on the internet, she thought it was the most endearing animal she had ever seen.

With a black face, ears and feet, a shaggy fringe and beautiful white fluffy fleece it was no wonder the breed had become known as “the cutest sheep in the world”. 

They looked like cuddly toys. Plus they had a friendly temperament. Melissa Cowan had fallen in love.

It wasn’t long before she had talked her husband Hayden Cowan into importing valais blacknose embryos into New Zealand to start a flock. . .

 Swiss immigrant creates piece of pastoral paradise on the Christchurch fringe – Pat Deavoll:

Take a drive out the south side of Christchurch, go around a bend or two, and on the right, no more than a minute from the last house you will find a little piece of pastoral perfection.

Trees, both exotic and native shade small grassed paddocks dotted with plump sheep.  Fantails and tuis dart amongst the treetops. If you are lucky you will see a wood pigeon lumbering through the branches.

This 18-hectare farmlet is the 40-year labour of love of Swiss immigrant Ernst Frei, who brought the property with his wife Renate in 1979 with the dream of converting it into an organic market garden . .

RSE scheme better for business and New Zealand workers:

The tenth annual survey of RSE employers is another win for the New Zealand horticulture and viticulture industries – and New Zealanders.

The latest employers’ survey found that nearly nine in 10 employers had employed more New Zealanders – in addition to RSE workers. On average each of those employers has been able to hire five additional permanent workers, and 20 seasonal workers as a result of their participation in the scheme. . .


Rural round-up

May 5, 2018

Save water and cut effluent – Richard Rennie:

A partnership between Ravensdown and Lincoln University has unveiled technology its creators believe will reduce farm effluent loads significantly while also saving billions of litres of fresh water.

ClearTech, launched this week, has taken the dairy industry’s two biggest issues, effluent losses and water consumption and dealt with both through a combination of simple water purification principles, managed by a computerised controller.

ClearTech puts a coagulant into the effluent when a farm dairy yard is hosed down. It causes the effluent particles to cluster together and sink, leaving most of the water clear and usable.

Ravensdown effluent technology manager Jamie Thompson said there are challenges to getting effluent to clot given the variable pH, turbidity and content of the waste on any given day. . . 

Dairying unexpected but welcome career choice – Nicole Sharp:

Southland-Otago Dairy Manager of the Year Jaime McCrostie talks at the recent regional field day at the Vallelys’ property, near Gore, about her journey in the dairy sector.

Jaime McCrostie never thought she would end up dairy farming.

She grew up on a sheep farm and it was her neighbour who taught her how to milk cows.

She has travelled all over the world and worked in a range of industries, but always seems to come back to the dairy industry. . . 

MediaWorks to broadcast Grand Final of 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year:

A new deal will see MediaWorks broadcast New Zealand’s longest running agricultural contest the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

Under the agreement, an edited version of the 50th Grand Final of the iconic contest will be broadcast on ThreeNow.

ThreeNow is MediaWorks’ free video on-demand streaming service available on smart TVs and mobile devices.

MediaWorks’ Head of Rural, Nick Fisher, said the broadcaster is proud to be partnering with NZ Young Farmers to produce the programme. . . 

Tribute paid upon receiving award – Pam Jones:

An Alexandra man has received national recognition for his services to irrigation in Central Otago, but has paid tribute to the work of “two extraordinary women” as well.

Gavin Dann was one of two recipients of a 2018 Ron Cocks Award from Irrigation New Zealand during its conference in Alexandra recently, for his leadership of the Last Chance Irrigation Company (LCIC) and his work to establish a community drinking water supply.

Mr Dann had been the “driving force” behind a number of initiatives to improve the Last Chance company’s operations, supporting the scheme for more than 40 years, Irrigation New Zealand chairwoman Nicky Hyslop said. . . 

 

Landcorp board gets a refresh – Neal Wallace:

Former Landcorp chairwoman Traci Houpapa was available for reappointment but missed out because the shareholding ministers wanted to refresh the state-owned enterprise’s board, she says.

Her eight-year term on the board, of which three were as chairwoman, has come to an end, along with three other directors, Nikki Davies-Colley, Pauline Lockett and Eric Roy.

Houpapa accepted her appointment was at the behest of the Ministers of State Owned Enterprises Winston Peters and Finance Grant Robertson.

The newly appointed directors are Nigel Atherfold, Hayley Gourley and Belinda Storey.

She said the Landcorp she joined eight years ago was very different to the one she has just left, with a different strategy, focus and operating model. . . 

 

Regional fuel tax will add to the cost of food:

Regional fuel tax legislation, as it stands, is likely to add costs to fresh fruit and vegetables for consumers.

Today, Horticulture New Zealand spoke to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee about its written submission on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill, that is endorsed and supported by a further 18 organisations.

“While in principle, we agree with measures to reduce road congestion in Auckland, we believe there are un-intended consequences of the Bill as it stands; these could include increases to the prices of healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says. . .  . .

Bull finishing farm steered towards a sale:

One of Northland’s most substantial bull finishing farms has been placed on the market for sale.

The 400-hectare property is located on the western outskirts of the township of Kawakawa in the Mid-North, and is held over 24 individual titles in three blocks. The farm’s topography consists of 268 hectares of rolling to medium-contour grazing paddocks, and 108 hectares of flat land – allowing for tractor-access to 95 percent of the property.

The farm also contains 24 hectares of mature pruned pine trees ready for harvesting, and estimated to be worth in the region of $360,000. The freehold farm has been owned by three generations of the Cookson family. . . 

Delegat has record 2018 harvest, driven by increase in NZ grapes – Jonathan Underhill:

 (BusinessDesk) – Delegat Group, New Zealand’s largest listed winemaker, says it had a record harvest this year, driven by an increase in New Zealand grapes, while its Australian harvest fell.

The Auckland-based company said the 2018 harvest rose to a record 40,059 tonnes, as grapes collected in New Zealand rose 10 percent to 38,012 tonnes. The Australia harvest for Barossa Valley Estate fell to 2,047 tonnes from 2,760 in 2017.

“The 2018 vintage has delivered excellent quality in all regions,” managing director Graeme Lord said in the statement. . . 


Rural round-up

May 1, 2018

Dr Terry Heiler’s prestigous career in water recognised with award:

One of New Zealand’s foremost experts in water management and irrigation has been recognised with an award from IrrigationNZ.

Dr Terry Heiler’s career has spanned 50 years and has seen him working in over twenty countries, and picking up two previous prestigious awards. Dr Heiler is now retired and lives near West Melton.

Dr Heiler was born Australia and gained a Civil Engineering Degree with the University of New South Wales. In 1967 he arrived in New Zealand. He initially worked for the NZ Agricultural Engineering Institute where he built a team of soil and water researchers. In 1982 he was appointed Director of the Institute. It worked to introduce new irrigation technology to New Zealand like drip irrigation, and pioneer new computer based design methods for storing flood runoff for irrigation. . . 

New hope for wool – Neal Wallace:

A new yarn made from strong crossbred wool and plant material is being developed by global giant DuPont Biomaterials for use in clothes, upholstery and carpets.

It is in the final stages and DuPont plans to use it at scale aiming at the mid to upper price bracket, global marketing director Renee Henze said on a visit to New Zealand supplier farms.

“The scale of opportunity for the NZ wool industry is massive,” Wools of NZ chairman Mark Shadbolt said though neither party is yet talking dollars or wool volumes. . . 

It’s a good time to be a banker – Hugh Stringleman:

New Zealand agriculture and horticulture and their support industries are enjoying sustained good returns in almost all products, newly appointed Rabobank NZ chief executive Todd Charteris says.

“It is a very good time to come back to NZ and lead the team to guide the clients of Rabobank in their banking needs,” he said.

The short to medium-term outlook for 2018 is for continued profitability onfarm and in the service sector, including good levels of conserved feed for next dairy season. . . 

New Zealand’s apple reputation on the line – Pam Tipa:

Maintaining New Zealand’s reputation for best quality will be tougher with a worker shortage, says Horticulture NZ president Julian Raine.

Optimum quality means picking at the right time so every tree gets picked three or four times, Raine told Rural News, in response to the Ministry of Social Development declaring a seasonal labour shortage across the Tasman region and its earlier declaration in Hawkes Bay.

Nelson-based Raine says seasonal fluctuations happen from time to time where more people are needed to pick fruit than are available. . . 

A tasty tiki tour for tourists:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand have commissioned a giant lamb chop to celebrate National Lamb Day – which takes place on Thursday 24 May. The giant chop set off this morning from Beef + Lamb HQ in Auckland on the maiden voyage of the ‘Lamb and Three Veg Tiki Tour’ which will go via some of the ‘tastier’ attractions across Aotearoa.

Starting at the giant kumara in Dargaville, the chop will pioneer a new tour route for tourists to follow, travelling via the iconic L&P bottle in Paeroa, the big carrot in Ohakune and onto the Wattie’s Pea Factory in Christchurch. . . 

The Search is on for New Zealand’s next top butcher:

Knives are being sharpened as the search begins for the best butchers in New Zealand, with entries for the 2018 Alto Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year competition now open.

With the ability to put New Zealand’s butchers on the world stage, this prestigious competition is the Oscars of the meat industry.

The competition has been running for three decades now with the titles being highly sought after by competitors. . . 

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