Rural round-up

September 30, 2019

Our farmers are better than ‘No. 8 wire’ thinkers – Julia Jones:

The much-used Kiwi phrase ‘No. 8-wire mentality’ has long been considered the way we do things in the farming world, but Head of Analytics at NZX Julia Jones is wondering if its value has now expired.

Yes, “No. 8-wire mentality” is cute, and it’s a little bit funny, but what I hear when people say it is: not asking for help, roughly stringing something together without a plan, a rip-shit-and-bust kind of attitude, a default solution and a broken piece of wire holding something together within inches of its life.

I just don’t see how this is something for us to strive towards for the future; we deserve better than being seen as No. 8-wire thinkers, because we are far more than that. . .

Let’s get behind our rural community – Kerre McIvor:

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a column calling for there to be a Cockietober – a month to celebrate farmers and their invaluable contribution to the economy.

I felt, back in 2017, that farmers had got a rough ride during the election campaign, and that farmers were getting it in the neck unfairly. They were being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact that city dwellers are letting literal and metaphorical crap flow into their harbours and rivers. They were being told how to manage their stock by people who’d never set foot on a farm. They were told they didn’t pay their workers enough, they were being told they were destroying the planet by providing milk and meat for consumers, they were told they mistreated their animals.

I thought things were bad two years ago. But it appears things have got much, much worse.

In an open letter to the nation, BakerAg, a rural business consultancy firm, has called for people to get in behind our rural community. Director Chris Garland says morale among the company’s farming clients is as low now as it was in the Rogernomics years of the late 80s and during the GFC. . . 

Jigsaw has four families in picture – Annette Scott:

Four families working together presents challenges but equally it’s provided disproportionate opportunities for the Guild clan on High Peak Station, farm operations manager Hamish Guild says. Annette Scott visited High Peak to learn how the pieces of the large farming puzzle have come together. 

High Peak Station is a spectacular 3780 hectare, high-country farm near the Rakaia Gorge in Canterbury.

The Guild family bought the traditional pastoral farming property in 1973, originally running just sheep and beef with deer added in the late 1970s.

It was a case of having to look at a new way of making the property viable.

“Dad (James) and his brother Colin took up farming High Peak, moving from their family cropping farm at Temuka (South Canterbury) when their father, my grandfather Alastair, decided High Peak was for us,” Hamish said. . .

Farmers ‘dead keen’ to improve water practices – council – Alexa Cook:

A group of farmers near Whakatāne are working with the regional council to try and improve water quality by changing the way they farm.

Agribusiness consultant Ailson Dewes has gathered about 15 dairy farmers on behalf of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to understand more about how their farming systems can impact water quality.

Ms Dewes said the group was facing the issue head-on.

“They are sitting around the table, they are exposing all their numbers in terms of the health of their business, their environmental footprint, the way they farm – and they’re saying ‘we realise the way we farmed in the past is not the way we can farm in the future’.

“They are dead keen to solve problems and find new ways to farm with a lower footprint.” . . 

From Canton to Kerikeri: the varied life of Joe Ngan :

Joe Ngan was born in 1932 in a small village near Guangzhou in southern China.

He’s now 87 and lives near his two kiwifruit orchards in Kerikeri, Northland.

But getting to his home of 40 years was a scary and long-winded affair.

When Joe was two, his mother died while giving birth to his sister, leaving Joe and elder brother Sun virtually as orphans. Their father was working in New Zealand. . . 

No four pounds of beef doesn’t equal a transit-Atlantic flight – Frank Mitloehner and Darren Hudsonnk:

A story in The New Yorker came out this week about Dr. Pat Brown, the founder of Impossible Foods. If readers scan the headline and subhead, they’ll get the gist of what author Tad Friend is trying to say: “Can a plant based burger help solve climate change? Eating meat creates huge environmental costs. Impossible Foods thinks it has a solution.”

That’s unfortunate. It might even be dangerous. In the article, Mr. Friend writes that Every four pounds of beef you eat contributes to as much global warming as flying from New York to London – the average American eats that much each month.

If only. . .


Rural round-up

September 16, 2019

Farmers despair :

Rising stress levels among farmers struggling to digest a deluge of regulatory changes while weathering constant attacks by critics, have community leaders worried.

BakerAg director Chris Garland says morale is as low as he has ever known it and he is seeing experienced, stoic farmers burst into tears, worn down by constant public attacks on the industry while trying to comprehend the impact of new rules.

He is worried about the mental wellbeing of farmers, a view shared by the heads of several rural support trusts.

Rural Support’s national chairman Neil Bateup says demand for help in his region of Waikato has increased. . . 

The increasingly uncompromising Todd Muller – Alex Braae:

National’s new agriculture spokesperson finds himself in one of the party’s most important portfolios, at a time of dramatically increasing tensions in the sector. Will Todd Muller, a man regularly mentioned as a future leader contender, find common ground?

Todd Muller’s obsession with politics began with an American encyclopaedia, which his parents bought from a door to door salesman in 1979. 

The long biographies of US presidents jumped out at him. He copied their signatures, and drew pictures of them. In time, Muller even came to write a book about his future political dreams. 

“The short synopsis is that I go to America when I’m about 21, I become the vice-president of the United States when I’m 28, and then of course some tragedy befalls the president, and I become the president. And I serve as the United States president for 13 consecutive terms.”  . . 

Data and science do the work – Neal Wallace:

The topography of The Ranch in south Otago is steep to rolling hill country but it is managed and performs like an intensive breeding and finishing farm. Farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson tell Neal Wallace much of the performance comes down to decisions based on science and data.

The impact of data on agriculture has been reckoned to be comparable to that of fertiliser.

The challenge is to decipher that volume of data about farm performance and parameters into a workable form and that is where south Otago farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson have an ace up their sleeve.

The farm is owned by Canterbury-born Lincoln University-trained lecturer and plant physiologist Dr David Ivory who has spent about 30 years working for the United Nations on sustainable agricultural programmes around the world and his wife Wichanee. . . 

Let’s get behind our rural community – Kerre McIvor:

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a column calling for there to be a Cockietober – a month to celebrate farmers and their invaluable contribution to the economy.

I felt, back in 2017, that farmers had got a rough ride during the election campaign, and that farmers were getting it in the neck unfairly. They were being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact that city dwellers are letting literal and metaphorical crap flow into their harbours and rivers. They were being told how to manage their stock by people who’d never set foot on a farm. They were told they didn’t pay their workers enough, they were being told they were destroying the planet by providing milk and meat for consumers, they were told they mistreated their animals.

I thought things were bad two years ago. But it appears things have got much, much worse.

In an open letter to the nation, BakerAg, a rural business consultancy firm, has called for people to get in behind our rural community. . . 

Sheep water ban stuns farmers – Colin Williscroft:

Farmers have been broadsided by a rule in a proposed regional council plan that will cost some of them $1 million each.

Greater Wellington Regional Council’s proposed Natural Resources Plan includes sheep among stock to be excluded from waterways throughout the region, including hill country, a rule neither farmers nor the council saw coming.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham said the rule was not raised during the plan’s hearings process.

But the proposal is unworkable. . . 

Launch of the New Zealand Agritech Story:

New Zealand has a new story to tell, one that highlights the nation’s ingenuity, development of cutting-edge technology, and care for its people and place.

The New Zealand Agritech Story provides a compelling way of promoting New Zealand’s agricultural technology internationally, to build awareness and preference for New Zealand solutions and ultimately help more New Zealand agritech businesses succeed on the world stage.

The NZ Agritech Story, launched today, includes a comprehensive suite of free promotional materials that highlight New Zealand’s leading edge in the sector.

Peter Wren-Hilton, the executive director of Agritech New Zealand, said the story would make a key difference for export companies. . . 

Brazil’s fires and biofuels – Jim Steele:

From leaf cutting ants that cultivate fungus gardens to flowers that fool potential pollinating insects into having sex, the magic of rainforest ecology always inspired my love for nature’s creativity. So, it’s no surprise that any and every report of burning rainforests would rally deep concerns across the globe. Nonetheless I am disturbed by dishonest gloom and doom regards recent Amazon fires. NASA reports since 2003 the square kilometers of forest burned each year has dropped by roughly 25 percent. But such good news doesn’t get headlines.

Although the NY Times wrote the fires have no climate connection, meteorologist Eric Holthaus, who writes numerous catastrophic climate articles for Slate and the New York Times, suggested the fires show, “We are in a climate emergency”. As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years, but Holthaus dishonestly tweeted, “The current fires are without precedent in the past 20,000 years.”

To heighten global hysteria, French president Macron and actor Leonardo deCaprio, tweeted photographs of forest infernos. But those photos were taken 20 years ago. Likewise, Madonna tweeted wildfire photos taken 30 years ago, and others tweeted flaming photos from regions far from the Amazon.

Activist vegetarians denounced meat-eaters for deforestation, arguing forests are burnt to create pastures for cattle. But they failed to mention pastures previously created for grazing without deforestation, are now being usurped by biofuel cultivation. Indirectly, it’s the biofuel fad that has driven cattle grazers to carve out new pastures in the rain forests. . . 


In need of govt that knows what it’s doing

August 27, 2019

Kerre McIvor has tuned into a widespread feeling that the government doesn’t know what it’s doing:

She says that the previous National Government felt more like they were in control of the steering wheel.

“This Government, I just get a sense they have no idea what they are doing.” 

She also took aim at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her refusal to answer questions. 

“I don’t get the sense she’s across her job.”

“You would think even she could set the agenda and put it to him and get the people to brief you. Just one solid answer would be fantastic.

“You’re in charge of the country, act like it!” 

McIvor says that Labour probably didn’t expect to be in Government after the last election, but that was 18 months ago and they should be up and running now.

“I get the sense that they are still trying to get their heads around the job, but this is their job. This is what they have been training all their lives to do – be the Government – and they aren’t doing a very good job of it.” 

I happened to tune into Newstalk ZB yesterday morning when this was being discussed. In spite of pleas from McIvor for people to call and counter her view, almost every call and tweet agreed with her.

Labour wasted almost nine years in opposition with in-fighting. It did little to no policy development and the problems with that have been compounded by its coalition partners.

Bill Ralston opines:

. . .It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the lack of planning and joined-up thinking is a result of the fact that the three political parties in charge have wildly disparate views on what should be done, and, in many cases, nothing is done to genuinely address a problem because one or more of them will block the others’ programme.

The only part of Government that seems to be working in high gear is its publicity machine. Press conferences are held, photo opportunities delivered, media releases pumped out and the appearance of action is created. However, when you look closely, too often you see the scheme just announced is largely cosmetic and does not address the core of the problem. Worse, public money is devoted to a cause but there is no advance planning as to how it should be put to best use.

It seems to me that the Government is making it up as it goes along, occasionally content to be seen to be doing something about problems but not really addressing the causes, because the coalition parties cannot agree on policies. . . 

How long before this starts to show in the polls?

 

While the government is floundering, National is working hard to develop policies and yesterday announced its economic discussion document.

Simon Bridges started by explaining something the current government doesn’t understand: why their economy matters:

A strong economy means New Zealanders have more in their back pockets to afford the things that matter to them.

Whether that is putting more food in the table or being able to afford nice things for your kids.

A strong economy also means we can invest in the things that matter to New Zealanders.

But a strong economy, first and foremost, needs confident thriving businesses that are willing to invest in new technologies, create more jobs and pay higher wages.

National recognises that Government does not drive the economy.

The economy is driven by all of the people who have good ideas, get up early, work hard, invest their time and money, take risks and try and build opportunities for themselves and others. It’s driven by the people in this room.

New Zealanders need a Government that backs them to compete on the world stage and provides the foundations they need to get on with doing business.

New Zealanders also need a government that knows what it is doing, where it wants to go and has a plan for getting there, none of which this government does or has.

Some of the commitments in the discussion document include:

  • Requiring all government departments and government agencies to pay their contractors on time and within 30 days;
  • Establishing a ‘Small Business Payments Guarantee’;
  • Repealing 100 regulations in our first six months of office;
  • Eliminating two old regulations for every new regulation introduced in our first term;
  • Requiring quality cost-benefit analysis for any major new regulation;
  • Māori land reform; and
  • Ensuring the Treasury has a greater focus on providing sound advice on the effectiveness of Government spending, identifying wasteful spending and driving higher productivity in the public sector;

We’re also proposing or asking for New Zealanders feedback on:

  • Considering new innovative approaches to infrastructure funding;
  • Pricing mechanisms to manage the flow of traffic that are revenue neutral;
  • Allowing savers to deduct the inflation component from their interest income;
  • Accelerated depreciation of business assets;
  • Removing the ability for Governments to give preferential pay agreements to union members during public sector wage negotiations;
  • Bank account number portability; and
  • Removing all remaining tariffs.

And we’re re-confirming a number of previous commitments, including:

  • Indexing tax thresholds to inflation;
  • Repealing the Regional Fuel Tax;
  • Overhauling the Resource Management Act;
  • Reintroducing targets in health, education and law and order;
  • Encouraging direct investment in productive assets by overturning the Government’s foreign investment changes;
  • Repealing the ban on oil and gas exploration; and
  • Repealing recent Government changes made to the Employment Relations Act, such as removing 90-day trial periods.

Some of this continues work National did in government, some of it is new.

All of it shows a party far more prepared for government and running the country than the ones that are supposed to be doing it now.


Surpluses at risk

August 7, 2018

Treasury is warning the government that forecast surpluses are at risk:

. . . It pointed out the latest set of indicators painted a mixed picture of the economy with wages continuing to grow strongly while retail spending weakened.

It said the slump in business sentiment, a cooling housing market and fears of a trade war could knock the economy and the tax take.

If that happened, the government might be forced to curb its spending plans, Treasury said.

The government keeps saying it’s business-friendly but its actions don’t match its words.

Damien Grant writes about the risk policies like the 10 days leave for victims of domestic pose for your business:

We, the business people of this land, are those who create wealth, build roads and dispense antibiotics at 3am. We are responsible for making the payroll, collecting the State’s revenue and satisfying the tyrannical demands of customers.

We are not responsible for solving this country’s problem with domestic violence. At least, we should not be. When we employ someone we are obliged, by law, to give them 10 paid public holidays in addition to 20 annual leave days and up to five sick days. On average, one day in eight, a Kiwi worker can have off on full pay.

Apparently this isn’t enough.

The Domestic Violence-Victims Protection Bill passed this week. Now an employer, who has the misfortune to employ someone impacted by domestic violence, must gift this person another 10 days paid leave.

Forever.

That’s like providing another whole year’s statutory holiday entitlement for any employee who qualifies.

It does not matter if the employee wasn’t the victim, so long as they were impacted by the violence. Nor does it matter if this crime happened decades before they began working for their current employer.

What employer would question someone’s claim to have been affected?

Once you can prove that you have been a victim of domestic violence you are, forever, entitled to be compensated by those whose only mistake was to offer you a job and you cannot contract out of this right. Which means some employers will quietly avoid employing staff they suspect will seek this new entitlement, limiting the employment options for victims of domestic violence. . . 

National was criticised for not supporting the legislation but it was right to be cautious:

When the bill first came up at Parliament it had a strong National Party backing, but following a select committee process in which amendments were made to reduce an employer’s say in the matter, the party got cold feet.

Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell said that was mostly because of the impact it could have on small-to-medium sized businesses which, he said, could end up in arbitration or strained for time or finance.

“There’s often a second- or third-order effect, and we have to be careful that we understand what those effects may be. At the moment we feel this bill could have an adverse outcome so we’re being very cautious and very careful with it.” . . 

Domestic violence is a scourge but imposing extra costs and uncertainty on all businesses isn’t the solution, especially when, as Kerre McIvoer writes, it won’t help domestic abuse victims: 

I fail to see how this new provision for victims of abuse will save any lives whatsoever.

Every single victim of domestic abuse who has phoned me on talkback over the years has said they were so ashamed and embarrassed by their situation, they couldn’t bring themselves to let friends or family know what was going on behind closed doors. Particularly the men.

The notion of asking for help was anathema to them and abusers know that. Despite the fact that it’s the abusers who should be feeling shame, they are master manipulators.

So the concept of someone who has been knocked about, emotionally and physically, being able to find it within themselves to approach their boss and come clean about their domestic situation seems unlikely.

And it’s not just the financial burden for small- to medium-sized employers that’s most concerning – what about the health and safety ramifications?

If one of their employees tells them they are living with a violent partner then begs them not to tell anyone, and later that employee ends up dead, will the employer be held liable for not divulging that their staffer was at risk? . . 

I absolutely agree that our domestic violence stats are a source of shame and our violent homes are a breeding ground for future offenders. But I really don’t think Logie’s bill is the answer.

And while I don’t have a solution, I would suggest that others do. When Counties Manukau police attend a violent domestic situation, they give it a couple of days to allow all parties to cool off, then go into the home with trained counsellors and try to work out the root of the problem.

The children are asked their opinion – it’s a holistic, wrap-around approach to domestic abuse which gives the people involved the chance to save themselves and their family.

Putting money and energy into that sort of initiative makes a whole lot more sense to me than making businesses cough up 10 days extra leave.

Business is risky.

The more costs and uncertainty the government imposes on businesses, the more risky they become. The more risky businesses become, the less likely they are to invest, the less secure existing jobs become and the less likely new ones will be created.

Less business investment, fewer hours for existing employees and fewer new jobs for would-be workers all result in less tax paid, that means lower surpluses and that in turn constrains government’s ability to fund existing and new initiatives.


Make it Cockietober Kerry McIvor

October 4, 2017

Kerry McIvor is exhorting her readers to be kind to farmers:

I would like to see everybody Kiss a Cockie this month.

Or Fondle a Farmer?

Whatever we decide to call it, let’s all show farmers a little bit of love during October. They deserve a break. 

Farmers, or rather farming practices, came under the spotlight during the election campaign and there was much debate about an urban/rural divide.

There’s no doubt farmers are feeling hard done by.

They’re being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact city dwellers need to take responsibility for the filthy state of the harbours and rivers around them.

There are fewer people in the country than in cities and more rural rivers than urban ones. But a lot more effort has and is being put into improving and protecting water quality by farmers than most urban people individually and by their councils.

They’re being told how to manage their stock by people who have never set foot on a farm.

They’re being told they don’t pay their workers (farm labourers) enough and then told they pay their workers (Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings) too much. 

It is mostly dairy farmers who have come under fire but now sheep farmers are feeling the heat as well. . . 

A British professor of animal welfare who is in this country on a year’s secondment with the Safe says he was appalled at seeing sheep being shorn in Queenstown.

Apparently, the sheep were being manhandled and put into positions that were awkward for them, which, according to Dr Andrew Knight, would have been very stressful.

Then they are sent back out into the cold without their wool.

Would he prefer they were left with their wool to overheat and be more likely to suffer from flystrike or be cast?

The good doctor went on to concede the sheep hadn’t shown any signs of distress.

So how then did he know that they were traumatised?

It would appear Knight has a special insight into the brains of sheep.

He says sheep are stoic creatures that quietly take the treatment they are handed out.

Like little bucolic Buddhas, then. Higher sentient beings with a zen-like capacity to accept suffering and endure.

Or, how about, they show no signs of distress or suffering because they don’t actually bloody feel any?

They’d feel a lot more distress in full wool in the heat of summer and also be far less likely to seek shelter for their new born lambs.

He went on to complain about dogs menacing the sheep when they’re herding them, not actually nipping them or biting them.

He appears to be concerned that the dogs are just being really, really mean to the sheep.

He was also upset lambs are born in cold spring weather.

Lambing is timed to make the most of the grass cycle so ewes get enough to eat while feeding their offspring, lambs get enough when they’re weaned and ewes are in prime condition for tipping.

If the weather is cold, farmers do all they can to ensure lambs survive. The good professor might not appreciate that they did this for animal welfare reasons but even he should be able to,understand the financial incentive for ensuring lambs survive and thrive.

Knight should be made to sit down and watch a season’s worth of A Dog’s Show if he wants to truly understand sheep and herding dog dynamics.

And while he’s watching he could make himself useful, get out the knitting needles and start whipping up a few jerseys for the newborn lambs – which is what some dear old ladies do every year around lambing time.

No wonder farmers are frustrated.

We all want clean water and animals to have a happy and painfree existence before they make themselves useful and become a chop.

If you want to be a vegetarian, be one.

If you don’t want to wear wool, don’t.

But enough with the sanctimony and the smugness. And with the downright misinformation.

Let’s embrace Cockietober and show our farmers we care.

Most farmers care about producing high quality food and fibre using the best practices backed by good science.

They work hard in all weather to look after their stock and land.

The maxim that farmers don’t own their land, they are just caretakers for those who follow isn’t a cliche, it’s a guiding principle.

Thank you for appreciating that Kerre.


Rural round-up

August 28, 2017

Proposed water tax would hit hard, says farming family – Nicki Harper:

The Gray family has farmed on the Ruataniwha plains for more than 100 years and invested heavily in environmental mitigation in recent times.

They say Labour’s proposed water levy policy on commercial water users would hit them hard financially.

Leicester and Margaret Gray and their sons Phillip and Callum and respective families farm 1009 hectares, of which 360 hectares is cropped under irrigation, the remainder is sheep and beef.

Trading as Gray Brothers, they grow and irrigate sweetcorn, peas and green beans for McCains as well as maize and carrot seed, and take pride in their farming practices. . . 

Rift for town and country – Kerre McIvor:

When I was a kid, going to stay on farms with our country relatives was a real treat.

I can still remember, at the age of 7 or 8, the thrill of seeing a lamb being born, on a cold crisp Canterbury morning. In my memory, the amniotic sac was a beautiful, rainbow colour and I can remember feeling both awestruck and completely grossed out.

At another rellie’s farm, I became a dab hand at dodging shitty cows’ tails and putting on suction cups and hosing down the milking sheds after the cows had made their way back to the paddocks. . . 

Sara Addis: Winemaking is art and science

Trinity Hill winemaker and winner of the North Island NZ Young Winemaker of the Year, Sara Addis, hopes her recent win will open a few industry doors. She chats to Mark Story.

What does your win mean for your career?
For me personally, it means so much as it proves to me I have got what it takes to be a winemaker. Career-wise, hopefully my win will help open some exciting new doors in the future and I look forward to seeing what they are. I’m still a student so hopefully, once I graduate, my win will be another string to my bow. My long-term goal is to work down in Central Otago, where my partner Lachy is from, but I’d also love to do some more harvests in France. . . 

Bride horse brings the X-factor – Jill Herron:

Muddy boots, an oil skin vest and a vintage lace wedding dress would seem an odd sort of a work outfit for most people…not for Zara-Lee Macdonald.

The mismatched get-up is necessary as part of preparations for launching her new business, Inspiring Weddings.

Macdonald, originally from Winton, is training Maggie, a seven-year-old Percheron mare, to be a “bride horse” and having the horse well used to fluttering dresses is essential.

Maggie, and a shire horse called Max, will be available as part of the wedding planning service, for the role of carrying the bride – and the groom if he so desires – to the aisle, posing for photographs and adding “x-factor” to background scenes. . . 

World-first technique to ease world avocado shortage :

A world-first innovative plant growing technique that is set to double Queensland’s avocado production and smash the global shortage of avocado trees has received a $636,000 grant through the second round of the QLD Government’s Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships program.

QLD Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch today predicted the initial ‘matched’ investment of less than $1.5 million could return $335 million a year for the state’s economy across the production and supply chain. . .

‘Wow, no cow’: the Swedish farmer using oats to make milk – Tom Levitt:

Adam Arnesson, 27, is not your usual milk producer. For starters, he doesn’t have any dairy cattle. Our first photo opportunity is in the middle of one of his fields of oats.

Until last year all these oats went into animal feed, either sold or fed to the sheep, pigs and cows he rears on his organic farm in Örebro county, central Sweden.

With the support of Swedish drinks company Oatly, they are now being used to produce an oat milk drink – tapping into the growing market for dairy alternatives across the country. . . 

Almond milk: quite good for you – very bad for the planet – Emine Saner:

Sales of the non-dairy milk alternative are on the rise. But the super-healthy nuts – mostly grown in drought-hit California – need millions of litres of water to be produced. Think twice before you pour it on your cereal.

Snoop around the contents of an “eat clean” aficionado’s grocery basket and chances are, among the organic cauliflower and mountain of avocados, you will come across a carton of almond milk. A few years ago, those avoiding cow’s milk because of lactose intolerance or for ethical reasons were drinking soya, but health scares have seen a rising demand for alternative plant “milks”, including rice, hemp and – most popular – almond. This week, Waitrose said almond milk had overtaken soya as its customers’ preferred dairy alternative.

Almonds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. The nuts (or seeds, if you are a botanical pedant) are packed full of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant chemicals, as well as protein, healthy fats and fibre, and eating almonds is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, among other conditions. . . 


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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