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. . .


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