Rural round-up

August 17, 2017

Labour’s knee-jerk ‘clean our rivers’ call needs details so it doesn’t look like a rural-to-urban wealth transfer in the sheep’s clothing of a freshwater policy; On the principles of royalties; And why aren’t we talking nitrates? – Alex Tarrant:

Labour’s water policy announcement had some of the desired effect. “Labour promises to make commercial water bottlers pay,” one major news outlet headlined.

Some coverage even got excited that Labour would get unemployed youth to plant trees and build fences around waterways to ‘help’ the farmers out.

I’ll get that out of the way first, because as Jordan Luck once said, it’s been bugging me: If you can get someone to the skill level required to build stock fences on rural terrain then you’re more than halfway to training up a fully-fledged farmer. That’s no bad thing, given an ageing farming workforce and shortage of labour. . . 

Alarming lack of detail in Labour’s water charge – Andrew Curtis:

Labour’s announcement of a tax water will hit not just the dairy industry but is bad news for all New Zealanders. Labour won’t be drawn on how much the tax would cost. Apparently it may vary by region based on the scarcity and quality of water. And no assessment has been made of how it would affect the average Kiwi.

However, if there’s one thing you can be certain of, it is that like all taxes, it is not actually a tax on the supplier of goods, because like all taxes it will be passed on to the consumer. In the same way that businesses factor in the costs of paying company tax and GST on goods they use, we will all end up paying.

There is an alarming lack of detail around what has been announced. It can hardly be called a policy, or a plan, because all we have to go on is a one page press release. Calls to the Labour Party headquarters asking for more details were fruitless. . .

‘Let’s answer this’ – questions mounting as New Zealanders demand answers on water tax:

‘Let’s Answer This’, a campaign to get key questions on Labour’s proposed water tax answered is gathering momentum – while the fundamentals remain unclear.

The questions were sent to Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern on Friday 11th August by non profit membership organisation Irrigation New Zealand asking for a confirmed response in writing.

The organisation was prompted to act after a one page statement issued by Jacinda Ardern announcing the water tax provided very little detail on what the tax would involve. Key questions that have not been addressed include the impact of the tax on ordinary New Zealanders, what it will cost, who it will apply to and how it might be implemented. . .

Five-star treatment for NZ venison – Lynda Gray:

Venison processor Mountain River is slowly but surely growing Chinese appetites for Kiwi venison through five-star Western hotels restaurants.

At face value the strategy seems illogical but it made perfect sense given most of the diners were Chinese.

“If you’re a high-end Western restaurant and not targeting Chinese diners you won’t survive,” Hunter McGregor, a Shanghai-based importer and exporter said. . .

Dairy processors compete for milk – Sally Rae:

More cautious investment over the next five years is likely as New Zealand dairy processors struggle to fill existing and planned capacity, Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins says.

While capital expenditure in new processing assets stepped up between 2013 and 2015, capacity construction had run ahead of recent milk supply growth and appeared to factor in stronger growth than Rabobank expected.

In a new industry report, Ms Higgins said milk supply had stumbled over the past couple of production seasons and, while the 2017-18 season was likely to bring a spike in production of 2%-3%, the bank expected growth to slow to or below 2% for the following four years. . . 

NZ innovation makes mastitis treatment easier:

· Penethaject formulation a world first

· Locally developed in New Zealand

· Effective treatment of mastitis in dairy cows

A new ready to use antibiotic formulation for treating mastitis that took seven years to develop, register and launch is now available for New Zealand dairy farmers.

Penethaject™ RTU (ready to use) has a unique formulation that requires no pre-mixing. It’s the first time such a formulation has been developed anywhere in the world.

Bayer dairy veterinarian Dr Ray Castle says Penethaject RTU will make it easier for farmers to effectively treat clinical mastitis, a condition affecting 10% – 20% of New Zealand’s 5 million dairy cows every year. . . 

To fit into Silicon Valley wear these shoes – Nellie Bowles:

 Silicon Valley goes through its own unique shoe crazes. There were Vibrams. There were Crocs.

Now comes the Allbird, a knit wool loafer. In uncomfortable times, Silicon Valley has turned to a comfortable shoe. If there’s a venture capitalist nearby, there’s probably a pair of Allbirds, too.

The Google co-founder Larry Page wears Allbirds, according to the shoemaker, as do the former Twitter chief Dick Costolo and the venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Mary Meeker.

Founded by a New Zealand soccer star and a clean-technology entrepreneur, Allbirds makes the sneakerlike shoes from wool and castor bean oil. . .

 


Irrigated areas most swimmable

August 17, 2017

IrrigationNZ has shot another hole in Labour’s water tax policy:

IrrigationNZ is further challenging Labour’s plan to tax water used for irrigation to fund the clean-up of rivers after an analysis of the latest Ministry for the Environment data on water quality showed rivers in areas with irrigation are more swimmable than elsewhere.

The analysis undertaken by IrrigationNZ has compared irrigated area with river quality data for swimming by region. Graphics and maps can be found here. . . 

“By far the region with the least swimmable water was Auckland where 62% of rivers were graded as poor. Auckland was also the only region to have no rivers graded as good or excellent for swimming. The rivers with the worst quality were located within or close to the city’s urban area,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.

“Labour was clear that money from this tax would not be used to fund urban waterway improvements so will the tax actually result in improvements where they are most needed?”

Over 80% of New Zealand’s irrigated land is located in Canterbury, Otago, Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. However, only 4% of Canterbury rivers and 8% of Otago rivers have poor river quality for swimming.

One of those is the Kakanui River where it’s seagulls, not irrigation or farming, which are responsible for the poor quality.

This drops to 1% for Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. In fact all New Zealand regions with high levels of irrigation had fewer rivers graded poor for swimming than the New Zealand average. For example, Marlborough has New Zealand’s third highest proportion of irrigated land, yet has very clean rivers – with 90% of rivers graded as excellent or good for swimming.

By contrast, the country’s least suitable rivers for swimming are located in areas with the least irrigated land. After Auckland, Northland and Waikato had the highest percentage of rivers graded poor for swimming. In both regions less than 1% of their land area is irrigated.

Will tax result in improved rivers?

“Labour has clarified that the irrigation tax would be spent within the same region it is collected from. We would question whether the tax would raise enough money in areas with poor river swimmability to make the improvements promised,” Mr Curtis says.

“For example if $64 million was raised nationally from the tax, Canterbury would receive $41 million of this to spend in its region. However Northland would only receive $700,000 yet it has some of the least swimmable rivers in New Zealand, with 48% of rivers graded poor for swimmability, and only 4% of rivers classified as good or excellent.”

Poorer quality rivers not generally correlated with irrigation

IrrigationNZ also looked at data from the Ministry for the Environment on a range of other key measures of river health including clarity, nitrogen and phosphorus concentration and macroinvertebrate scores and compared these to irrigated land by region.

“When you look at the data it shows that poorer quality rivers are not generally correlated with high irrigation areas. There are a number of locations throughout the country such as Auckland, Waikato and Southland which have low amounts of irrigated land but poor river health. The exception to this would be nitrate levels in Canterbury which are high, but they are also high in a number of other locations with low irrigation,” Mr Curtis says.

“We acknowledge that irrigated land use is one factor which can impact on river health and irrigators are working hard to reduce the impact of their activities meeting strict new requirements such as nutrient discharge limits, irrigation efficiency, riparian protection – through the implementation of audited Farm Environment Plans.

Farmers are doing this themselves with their own funds. They neither need nor want money taken as tax, filtered through central and local government to have what’s left given back to them.

Worse, this tax would take money from farmers who have already done everything necessary to protect waterways and give it to those who have not.

If any farmers aren’t doing what they should be doing, it’s up to regional councils to make sure they do, at their own cost. That doesn’t need a new tax.

However, overall the data simply doesn’t support the idea that irrigation is the sole driver behind poor river quality,” he adds. “This is a misperception that has been heavily promoted to the New Zealand public that is simply not true.” . . .

That’s the sad reality. Anti-irrigation, anti-farming and anti-dairying propaganda has led to the belief that irrigation is the only cause of degraded waterways.

It’s not and it can help improve water quality and ecosystems by maintaining flows during dry weather.

The Ministry for the Environment Our Fresh Water 2017 report has more information on water quality.


Rural round-up

June 19, 2017

The truth about cow poo and other myths – Marc Gascoigne:

 I’ve quite often read or heard over the last few months that each dairy cow produces the waste of 14 humans, which apparently translates into New Zealand having to deal with the waste of an equivalent population of 90 million people.

Often the implication is that all of this waste is washed straight into our rivers and waterways.

Yeah right.

​What is conveniently left out of this argument put forward by our critics is that the vast majority of cow No 2s are deposited straight back onto the land, to be broken down by microbes and become part of the top soil, boosting fertility and being used to grow more grass to feed cows. What a great system for dealing with waste! . . 

Most irrigation is on target – study:

A summer-long on-farm study of irrigation efficiency in the Ashburton area will provide a benchmark for progress.

This is the message from study leader, IrrigationNZ project manager, Steve Breneger.

In partnership with Environment Canterbury, INZ employed post-graduate environmental science students to collect data for four months, looking at how farmers were operating equipment, applying water, scheduling maintenance and monitoring soil moisture and run-off. . . 

Tech aims to get more for less – Richard Rennie:

Farmers’ efforts to cut costs after some tough seasons have not dampened their appetite for adopting technology that will help them produce more from less.

This year’s Mystery Creek Fieldays was dominated by the usual swathe of latest hardware for farm use but agri-tech companies reported farmers most interested in technology to help them generate greater profits from more stripped down, pasture-focused systems.

That was also being pushed harder by regulatory requirements around animal identification and environmental controls, both requiring better technology to keep operations compliant. . . 

Making a beeline for prizes – Hugh Stringleman:

Four years after the concept came to him and on his first time at the National Fieldays Darren Bainbridge won four innovation awards for his electronic MyApiary products.

With co-founder Carl Vink, Bainbridge creamed the awards among 80 entrants with their cloud-based operations management tool for beekeeping.

The custom-built tool was delivered on licence for the required number of users, effectively making MyApiary the IT provider for the beekeeper.

All of the biggest bee companies had shown interest in the service, Bainbridge said. . . 

Fieldays reflects positive outlook for Primary Sector:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has congratulated the National Fieldays Society for another successful event at Mystery Creek in Waikato.

“This year’s Fieldays was another success thanks to hard work from Peter Nation and his team, but also in part due to the positive outlook for the primary sector,” says Mr Guy.

“Many farmers and growers have dealt with some challenging past seasons, so it was great to feel a really positive mood across the many thousands who entered the gates. There’s a strong sense that many will be looking to use their extra forecast revenue to reinvest in their businesses. . . 

Fieldays’ Rural Bachelor 2017: Meet the eight rural hunks :

Yogis, a self-confessed tractor lover and a hitchhiker are among eight rural blokes in the running to win a coveted Golden Gumboot.

The title of Fieldays Rural Bachelor 2017 will be taken out by one young, skilled and single farmer this week.

Hosted at Hamilton’s Mystery Creek, the competition forms a part of National Agricultural Fieldays’ three-day event. . . 

Mathew McAtamney crowned the Rural Bachelor of the Year at Fieldays –  Jo Lines-Mackenzie:

Mathew McAtamney might have the title, he just doesn’t have the girl yet. 

The Fairlie farmer was crowned the Rural Bachelor of the Year at National Fieldays at Mystery Creek on Saturday.

After a week of challenges against seven other men, the 26 year old took the golden gumboot trophy and won a prize pack worth over $20,000, including a Suzuki King Quad 750 4WD. . . 

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If you see myrtle rust call MPI 0800 80 99 66.

 


Rural round-up

May 2, 2017

Young Kiwis needed to help shift NZ’s primary industry focus to environmentally friendly horticulture:

OECD warns New Zealand’s current economic growth model approaching environmental limits

More young Kiwis are needed to roll up their sleeves and help save New Zealand’s environment, particularly our waterways, by participating in careers that expand horticulture as the higher value land use activity of choice. This needs to be given considerable urgency following last month’s warning from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) that New Zealand’s economic growth model is approaching its environmental limits.

Chair of the Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture Education Trust’s ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017 Competition’, Elle Anderson, says she hopes that the OECD’s warning that New Zealand’s economic growth model was approaching its environmental limits will make more young people choose to make a difference with a career in horticulture . . . 

More can be done to protect New Zealand’s waterways:

Protecting New Zealand’s waterways are a priority and dairy is one of many sectors that needs to play a role.

The Ministry for the Environment’s Our fresh water 2017 report released today, Thursday 27 April, identified that more needs to be done to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen and E.coli entering the waterway, in both rural and urban settings.

New Zealand’s dairy farmers have been on this journey for many years now, and the improvements to the quality of their waterways are beginning to show. Over the past five years, dairy farmers have built 26,000 kms of fences to protect waterways on their farms. That’s the equivalent of a journey from downtown Auckland to the steps of the United Nations in New York – and almost all the way back again. . . 

‘Our fresh water 2017’ highlights the need for collective action:

The release of ‘Our fresh water 2017’ is a call to action for all New Zealanders, says IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis. The report measures fresh water quality, quantity and flows, biodiversity and cultural health.

“This report highlights the impact we all have on fresh water resources. I have no doubt it will provoke further finger-pointing at the rural sector, but the reality is, all human activities are placing pressure on our fresh water environments and we must all do our bit to limit and reverse those impacts. ‘Our fresh water 2017’ is a call to action for communities to work together to implement sustainable solutions.”

Mr Curtis said that whilst the report contained some good data on the impacts of certain activities in specific catchments, it was constrained by a lack of consistent data and knowledge gaps – particularly around irrigation. While the report shows 51% of the water allocated by councils is for irrigation, it was not able to determine how much of the allocated water was actually used because data quality and the completeness of records on actual takes is inconsistent. . . 

World Championships big earner for region:

The 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, held in Invercargill in February, was widely heralded as the best event in the competition’s 40-year history.

Now, independent analysis has backed that up, revealing a $6.78 million to $7.48 million economic impact to the Southland economy.

The economic impact report, commissioned by the event and undertaken by Venture Southland, has revealed that international visitors to New Zealand for the event stayed an average of 31.3 days in New Zealand, 14.5 of those in Southland. . . 

Lactoferrin receives GRAS Notice for use in Infant Formula:

Synlait Milk (NZX: SML; ASX: SM1) has been given the green light to export its lactoferrin to the United States for use in infant formula and toddler formula.

Synlait is the second company in the world to receive a GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) notice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use lactoferrin in these applications.

A GRAS notice is added to the FDA Register once a food ingredient is scientifically proven to be safe for its intended use. . . 

US food guru to speak at horticulture conference:

American food and agribusiness guru Roland Fumasi has today been announced as one of the keynote speakers for the Horticulture Conference 2017, on 14 July in Tauranga.

“Roland Fumasi is well-known worldwide for his work for Rabobank’s RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness group,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“He understands the consumer-led market that growers are providing for and the challenges around that, so his presentation will be of great interest at our conference and beyond. . . 

Dairy and lamb to China boost March exports:

Exports rose $446 million (11 percent) when compared with March 2016 to reach $4.6 billion in March 2017, Stats NZ said today.

Exports to China in the March 2017 month were valued at $1.1 billion, up $326 million (43 percent). Milk powder, butter and cheese (dairy), and lamb led the rise. Dairy rose $114 million and lamb rose $57 million.

“China continues to be our top destination for goods exports, and accounts for a quarter of the total dairy exports value,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. “This March, exports to China exceeded $1 billion for the first March month since 2014.” . . 


90% swimmable

February 24, 2017

The Government has announced a target of 90 per cent of New Zealand’s lakes and rivers meeting swimmable water quality standards by 2040, alongside releasing new policy, regulations, information maps and funding to help achieve the new goal.

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“This ambitious plan to improve the water quality in our lakes and rivers recognises that New Zealanders expect to be able to take a dip in their local river or lake without getting a nasty bug,” Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The plan is backed up by national regulations requiring stock to be fenced out of waterways, new national policy requirements on regional councils to strengthen their plan rules on issues such as sewage discharges and planting riparian margins, a new Freshwater Improvement Fund and new maps that clearly identify where improvements are needed.

“This 90 per cent goal by 2040 is challenging and is estimated to cost the Government, farmers and councils $2 billion over the next 23 years. It will make us a world leader in water quality standards for swimming, and that’s important for New Zealand’s growing tourism industry. It will return our rivers and lakes to a standard not seen in 50 years while recognising that our frequent major rainfalls mean a 100 per cent standard is not realistic.”

The target covers the length of rivers over 0.4m deep and the perimeters of lakes greater than 1.5km, which total 54,000km. The plan is about improving the frequency that we can swim in our lakes and rivers, noting that even our cleanest rivers breach swimming water quality standards during storms.

This is a very important point – nature is sometimes to blame for lower quality.

The swimmable target is based on meeting the water quality standard at least 80 per cent of the time, in line with European and US definitions. Currently 72 per cent by length meet this definition, and the target is to increase that to 90 per cent by 2040. This means an additional 10,000km of swimmable rivers and lakes by 2040, or 400km per year.

“The maps I am releasing today provide the most comprehensive and consistent information on water quality for swimming of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes ever published. These will help focus councils and communities on improving their local water quality, as well as help people make decisions about where they can safely swim. The maps are connected to the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa website that provides real-time information on water quality, which is particularly relevant for the fair and intermittent categories.

“The challenge of improving water quality varies significantly across New Zealand. This plan requires improvements in water quality across all regions and all categories. The target not only requires an improvement in areas that are swimmable, ie into the fair category, but also rivers and lakes being moved from fair to good, and good to excellent. Regional targets to achieve the national goals are to be worked through with regional councils by March 2018. Some regional targets will need to be greater than the 90 per cent and others, where it is more difficult to achieve, will be less.

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management is being strengthened to support the new 90 per cent by 2040 swimmability target, as well as changes to address the issues of ecological health and nutrients by:

  • replacing “wadeable” with “swimmable”
  • adding macroinvertebrate monitoring for ecological health
  • strengthening references to “Te Mana o te Wai”
  • clarifying the consideration of economic opportunities
  • requiring instream limits for nitrogen and phosphorus
  • clarifying inclusion of coastal lakes and lagoons
  • clarifying the policy on exceptions
  • strengthening the requirement for monitoring and improving quality.

“The new regulations on excluding stock from waterways are an important part of this plan to improve water quality. The rules progressively apply to dairy, pig, dairy support, beef and deer farms from this year to 2030 relative to the steepness of the country, at an expected cost of $367 million,” Dr Smith says.

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“We are today opening bids for the new $100m Freshwater Improvement Fund and announcing the eligibility and assessment criteria, which closes on 13 April. This comes on top of the $350m already committed by the government, of which more than $140m has been spent on specific river and lake clean-ups.

“This is the third phase of the Government’s work programme to improve New Zealand freshwater management and builds on the NPS introduced in 2011 and the National Objectives Framework in 2014. I commend and acknowledge the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group and the Land and Water Forum, who have worked tirelessly in assisting with these policy developments.”

The detail of the NPS and Stock Exclusion Regulations are open for consultation until 28 April 2017.

Deterioration in most waterways has taken place over many years and can’t be reversed quickly.

Lower standards of water quality have a number of causes, one of which is intensification of farming and Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says farmers are up for the freshwater challenge the new standards pose:

New freshwater reforms will result in 56,000 km more fences protecting New Zealand waterways from stock – enough to go round the world one and a half times, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The new rules on stock exclusion are part of the Government’s plans announced today setting a target for 90% of rivers and lakes to be swimmable by 2040.

“Farmers have made huge progress in recent years to improve their environmental practices and this will be another important step forward. Dairy farmers have already voluntarily fenced off over 24,000km of waterways,” says Mr Guy.

“We know that stock standing in or regularly crossing waterways can do significant damage. While dairy farmers have voluntarily fenced off around 96% of their waterways, we want to extend this to other types of farms as well.

“The proposed national regulation would ensure that dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs and deer are kept out of waterways.

“We need to ensure the changes are practical for farmers, so the exclusions would be implemented in a staged process starting this year through to 2030, depending on the stock type and land slope.

“There are long term benefits for the primary industries and wider economy from these reforms. Overseas markets and consumers increasingly demand a strong environmental performance over and above regulatory requirements. In this context, protecting New Zealand’s natural advantage has never been more important.

“No single organisation or group is solely responsible for improving our water quality. Meeting the target will take a collective effort, but the primary industries have a key contribution to make.

“In the meantime, the Ministry for Primary Industries continues to work with the primary sectors to invest in good ideas which promote environmental best practice. One example is the Farm Systems Change program, which identifies high preforming farms and uses farmers’ networks to spread their knowledge.

“Another is a major programme under the Primary Growth Partnership, called Transforming the Dairy Value Chain. Under this programme effluent management systems have been improved, and every region now has a riparian planting guideline developed in conjunction with regional councils.

“As a Government we are committed to growing the primary industries at the same time as improving water quality. Water storage schemes like Central Plains Water and the Waimea Community Dam help in this by taking pressure off groundwater sources and maintaining summer river flows, delivering both economic and environmental benefits.

“We also know that science will play a major role in improving our freshwater. The ‘Our Land and Water’ National Science Challenge is investing $96.9 million over 10 years into this, hosted by AgResearch and involving six other Crown research institutes.

IrrigationNZ says the outcomes are achievable:

“Achievable outcomes within a reasonable timeframe” is how IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis, described today’s release of the government’s ‘Clean Water’ document. He hoped however that the target of 90% of rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040 didn’t let urban waterways ‘off the hook’.

“Farmers have received the lion’s share of blame for New Zealand’s water quality degradation and despite evidence backing up the contribution cities and industries make to poor water quality, they have largely escaped the finger-pointing. I’m hoping the Government will call every New Zealander to account for water quality, recognising we all contribute to the problem, therefore we must all work together to enact the solution” said Curtis.

Poor water quality is not only a rural problem nor is it solely due to bad farming practices.

IrrigationNZ was pleased the Government had recognised the important economic contribution farmers make to our communities, stating that Regional Councils must consider the economic wellbeing of their community when making decisions about water allocation.

“Farmers and growers make significant investments in irrigation infrastructure and on-farm efficiencies, and the return on that investment is spent in towns and cities throughout New Zealand. We all benefit from irrigation and it’s important councils don’t impose restrictions that negatively impact the viability of our primary sector.” . . 

DairyNZ welcomed the new rules:

“The new stock exclusion requirements for dairy cattle is a strong endorsement of the hard work dairy farmers have done on their farms to protect waterways,” says DairyNZ CEO Tim Mackle.

“The on-farm fencing requirements in the new rules have already been met by 97.1 percent of dairy farmers around the country, and the target by May, a month ahead of the new requirements, is to be 100 percent, with all waterways running through dairy farms will be fenced off and all stock crossings bridged,” he says.

“This means that right now very few dairy cattle have any access to waterways, and in just two months’ time no dairy cattle – that’s zero dairy cattle – should have access to waterways on our farms.”

Dr Mackle says fencing – currently 27,109 kms – is always set back a healthy distance from waterways, varying from farm to farm depending on the soil type and contour of the land.

“This ensures the optimum levels of bacteria, nutrients and sediment are filtered. Farmers also keep cows off sensitive areas in the vicinity of the fenced waterways, for example, in wet weather.”

“There’s still a way to go in some areas, and dairy farmers are well aware of that. We acknowledge that improving New Zealand waterways is a long journey, as today’s announcement recognises. The good news is dairy farmers around the country are leading the way in protecting freshwater on their farms.

“Our dairy farmers can be immensely proud of the work they are undertaking for the environment on their farms, and many are also doing work to improve their surrounding communities – and all New Zealanders, whether they are living in towns and cities, or in rural communities, can also be proud of the efforts of our dairy farmers,” says Dr Mackle.

As part of their commitment to the environment, dairy farmers are also planting vegetation along waterways, and using native plants such as manuka, cabbage trees and flaxes, as well as native grasses, that have superior ability to filter and slow run-off, he says.

“Added to this, all dairy farms now have dedicated effluent management systems with effluent ponds, just like towns around the country. Areas such as the dairy shed and yards drain directly into these systems where the effluent is stored and later used by farmers to fertilise their land.

“It’s also encouraging to see the rates of dairy effluent related prosecutions and abatement notices continuing to decline dramatically, and an improvement in overall effluent non-compliance, which is the lowest it has been in recent years.”

Over the past three years farmers have invested over $1 billion dollars in environmental protection measures, he says.

“About 70 percent of this expenditure has been on effluent systems that feature the latest technology. Farmers are also well along the way in preparing environmental management plans for their farms, working closely with environmental advisors and their local councils.”

Dr Mackle says while a number of forward-thinking farmers began environmental initiatives a decade and more ago, the actions of the past three years are recorded in the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord.

“The accord is an independently audited report. It can be seen as the commitment of every single one of New Zealand’s 14,000 dairy farmers to play their part in helping to ensure that their fellow Kiwis can enjoy cleaner freshwater.”

Full results of year three of the water accord are currently being audited and will be announced in April.

For year two water accord results see www.dairynz/wateraccord

Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman also welcomed  the clean water plans:

“Water is, of course, the lifeblood of horticulture and our commercial growers have been innovating for some time with environmentally sustainable ways of growing healthy, fresh food for all New Zealanders,” Mr Chapman says.

“Growers implement a number of techniques to protect waterways near their properties. These including riparian planting and management adjacent to waterways and silt traps to collect run-off caused by rain and stop anything entering nearby waterways.

“Riparian planting has many benefits, particularly to water quality, but it is also very expensive and growers bear the cost of that.

“It is great to see the Government opening applications for the $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund, and we will certainly be looking at projects that could be part of that to create more and better ways to protect waterways near growing land.

“But it is also important to note that water quality in New Zealand is not solely the domain of people in the primary industries or rural land owners. The bulk of New Zealanders live in cities and they both use a lot of water and create a lot of waste water. So instead of always pointing the finger at those outside the cities, urban dwellers might want to consider what their contribution to clean water in New Zealand might be to help our growers continue to feed them healthy food in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has welcomed the announcement:

“The announcement is generally consistent with some of the Land and Water Forum’s recommendations,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“For the first time, swimmability is the objective in freshwater management.

“We will have transparency regarding which lakes and rivers are in fact swimmable and which are not. This will vary across seasons and places. Regional councils will need to improve degraded systems with a target of achieving 90% swimmability by 2040.

“The standard for what constitutes swimmable rivers and lakes is comparable with the EU Water Framework Directive. Whether the target date is acceptable will become clear during the consultation phase to follow.

“Other recommendations by the Land and Water Forum have been accepted by Government. These include providing greater rigour on nitrate levels and on macroinvertebrates in the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management. However, some of the detail on these issues appears to raise questions that need further exploration.

“One important issue that hasn’t been adequately addressed is turbidity and sediment – water clarity. The Forum is doing more work on this later in the year. . . 

Forest and Bird isn’t impressed:

Forest & Bird has condemned the government’s new water quality standards, warning New Zealanders that they lock in current levels of water pollution and allow for a 5-fold increase in the chance of getting sick from swimming in a river.

“Despite an explicit assurance from Minister Smith that the new water standards would provide for human and ecosystem health, he has failed to deliver on either of these things,” says Forest & Bird CEO Kevin Hague.

Contrary to the overwhelming public concern for the state of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes, the government’s announcement today does not require any improvement to our water quality, except for the very worst rivers.

“If your local river is polluted now, the government does not require that its water quality is improved to a standard that is safe for people and the ecosystem that it should support. Instead, all they propose is that the current situation is maintained,” says Mr Hague. . . 

What would he and his organisation do when nature causes the problems?.

The Otago Regional Council had concerns about only three waterways in January, two alerts were due to high rainfall and the poor water quality in the Kakanui River was caused by birds?

Clean water is one of the measures of sustainability, maintaining clean waterways and improving those with poor quality is a long-term and expensive process but the goal of 90% swimmable is achievable.


Rural round-up

February 7, 2017

Sellers withdraw from wool auction as prices plummet – Sally Rae:

Unprecedented levels of wool withdrawn or passed from the market resulted in the smallest offering South Island wool brokers have presented.

Of the original 13,900 bales put up for auction last week, 2100 were withdrawn on the day as sellers chose to hold, as prices were now well below long-term sustainable levels for wool growers, New Zealand Wool Services International chief executive John Dawson said.

The balance of the offering of 11,819 bales had 64% sold, and the remainder was passed in, Mr Dawson said.

Even the grower resistance could not halt further price slippage for crossbred wool, with lamb’s wool and poorer style fleece again being the most affected, PGG Wrightson Wool’s South Island sales team. . . 

Farmers say plan to regulate privately owned bush is heavy handed – David Burroughs:

Farmers have accused the New Plymouth District Council of “confiscating their land rights” with a plan to regulate areas of privately owned native bush.

Nearly 200 farmers from North Taranaki and further afield filled the Urenui Community Hall on Thursday night to listen to the council’s proposal on Significant Natural Areas (SNAs), with many of them speaking out against the proposal.

Under the plan, around 361 areas would become legally protected, with farmers needing a resource consent to make changes to them, such as building a track or making a hut. 

But many of the farmers said they already took care of the land without the need for regulation and bringing in the new rules was heavy handed of the council. . . 

Marlborough shearer ‘sorted’ for international competition – Mike Watson:

Crutching 1000 lambs could prove the ideal warm up for Marlborough shearer Sarah Higgins as she heads to the All Nations shearing championships in Invercargill.

Higgins is the sole Marlborough shearer competing at the All Nations event which has drawn 400 entries.

“It’s part of my practise run towards the championships,” she said. . . 

Water restrictions affect irrigators too:

They’re as much a part of the traditional kiwi summer as burnt sausages and backyard cricket and despite their late arrival, water restrictions are now in place in most regions. While most of us can accept that our carefully-tended lawn will soon become a pocket square of brown dirt, we tend to get a little bit upset when just down the road we see irrigators operating.

“It’s natural for people to question it” said IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis. “But what they often don’t understand is that irrigators operate under the same regulatory regime that town water supplies do, and that town water supplies actually have a priority – irrigators always get restricted from taking water from a river or aquifer long before towns do.”

However, in urban areas, household restrictions are driven by the infrastructure’s capacity to supply; no town water supply system is built to cope with peak demand,  which is everyone watering their garden at the same time in the height of summer. . . 

Pupils take on farm study:

St Hilda’s Collegiate Schoolpupils have been getting their heads around lamb weights.

The Dunedin school was among 26 nationwide to trial a red meat profit partnership programme last year, aimed at engaging primary and secondary school pupils in farming.

The resources, including assessments within the programme, have received the New Zealand Qualification Authority quality-assured assessment materials trademark, and the programme could be used to gain NCEA credits. It will be rolled out to further schools this year.

St Hilda’s head of maths, John Bradfield, said the school had coincidentally been looking for dairy farming data at the time the RMPP programme “popped across the radar”. . . 

It’s a dog’s life as trial season begins – Sally Rae:

Dog trial season is under way, with a big week ahead in May for the Otago centre.

The South Island championships will be held at Warepa, in South Otago, starting on May 1.

The centre’s first trial for the season was held recently at Lowburn and entries were well up on last year.

It was a particularly good couple of days for members of the Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club, who featured among the prizewinners.

Duncan Campbell, from Earnscleugh Station, won the long head with Zip, while his father, Alistair, was third in the straight hunt with Ra. . .

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Where are the protests?

January 31, 2017

Otago rivers are fine for swimming, except for the Kakanui where the cause of poor water quality, once again, is seagulls.

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows.

Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of December, but readings for those sites at other times and for all other sites have been considered safe for swimming. . .

This summer the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls Bridge is the only site to have its most recent reading in the amber/alert range, recording 510 parts of E. coli per 100ml of water on December 28.

ORC duty director Scott MacLean said there was a large colony of nesting gulls at the site, in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E. coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season.”

The gulls are natives and can’t be culled, but why can’t something be done, after the breeding season, to deter them from returning next year?

If farming, and particularly dairying, was responsible, the usual suspects masquerading as environmental warriors would be calling for action but they have been silent on this.

They have also been silent on the appalling state of Auckland waterways which are unsafe for swimming.

Kerre McIvor points out hygiene and sanitation are one of the basic requirements for a community to properly function and yet New Zealand’s biggest city is being let down badly on that count.

Whenever Auckland gets more than 5mm of rain, rainwater flows into the shared stormwater pipes and flushes raw sewage into streams or straight into the harbour.

These overflows happen at least 12 times a year.

Newsflash, Auckland gets a lot of rain – and the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools of raw sewage pour into our waterways every single time.

It’s appalling. And the problem is not new. . .

No business, farming or otherwise, would be able to continue to pollute in this way, why are councils and why aren’t the usual suspects protesting?

Alan Emerson asks that question too:

We are continually told in the most emotive terms about the health problems with dairy and irrigation but I’d venture to suggest those issues would be absolutely minimal when compared with raw sewerage.

I ask again; where are the protesters?

The ongoing problem of raw sewerage continuing unabated for the next 18 years is infinitely worse than anything our farming industry can do.

I went to the Greenpeace website believing I must have missed something but no. There was a headline telling me to stop seismic blasting. Maybe that causes sewerage to go into harbours and on beaches.

There was also a rant about a bank presumably funding forest destruction. I can see the logic there, destroy the forest, build houses and pollute beaches.

Greenpeace also wants the Huntly coal power plant shut down. Maybe it was polluting the Waikato River.

What irritated me most though was a mealy-mouthed release about the shocking vandalising of a North Otago farmer’s irrigation equipment.

Paradoxically, Greenpeace claimed to be a peaceful protester but could understand the vandalism as being “a sign of overwhelming public frustration about polluted rivers”.

Show me the science. . .

We are told ad nauseum about farming’s supposed threat to our clean, green image. There’s an appalling lack of science behind the accusations but the anti-farming rants are extreme.

Correspondingly, we have the country’s largest city with far more people than all the provinces combined pumping raw sewerage into the supposed pristine beaches of Auckland.

Where are the environmental protesters?

The Green Party, always willing to castigate farming and generally show indecent haste in the process, hasn’t said anything about the crap-covered beaches of Auckland.

On its website it accused National of plundering our fisheries, claimed the recent extreme weather was a sign of things to come and pontificated, naively in my view, that a fresh start was needed for European Union trade agreements.

There was nothing I could find about the scandalous pollution of our pristine Auckland beaches and the compromising of our clean, green image.

Again if they can slag off farmers for whatever reason they will do it with alacrity no matter what the facts may be.

When it comes to our largest city they seem cowed by the number of voters there. . . 

Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO, draws a similar conclusion:

A recent meeting between Irrigation New Zealand and Greenpeace failed to resolve differences because the environmental group needs a polarising issue to preserve its Auckland funding base, Irrigation chief executive Andrew Curtis says.

Greenpeace gave scant acknowledgement of the role of irrigation or that farmers were reducing their environmental footprint.

The group’s true agenda was laid bare soon after the meeting in a press release that was understanding of Auckland dumping millions of cubic metres of raw sewage into the harbour each year while again admonishing the dairy industry.

Curtis said it showed Greenpeace was a fundraising body determined to protect its Auckland funding base.

“That point was highlighted by the press release this week about Auckland sewage flowing into the harbour which said it was a concern but not majorly because the Auckland Council recognised it is an issue.

“Contrast that with its view of dairy farming and the irrigation industry, which is that there is no acknowledgement they have an issue and are doing nothing to improve the water quality. . .

Clean water is a fundamental necessity for human health.

It is an issue for both rural and urban New Zealand.

Farmers have collectively spent many millions of dollars cleaning up their acts to safeguard waterways.

Regional councils take their responsibilities to monitor farms very seriously. They have the right to prosecute farmers and have done so not only for polluting waterways but for pollution which could reach a waterway even if it hasn’t.

Yet city councils are given not just years but decades to bring their sewer and waste water systems up to 21st century standards.

If farmers were causing even a fraction of the problems that Auckland faces, protesters would be strident.

Their silence on the city pollution and slower than snails’-pace action on improving it is deafening.

 

 


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