Management requires measurement

November 11, 2010

Significant water takes will have to be metered to enable better management of fresh water.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said:

“We can’t manage what we don’t measure,” Dr Smith said. “We know that over the past decade we have doubled the amount of water that can be legally taken from our rivers, lakes and aquifers to 450 million cubic metres per week. That is 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools every minute. We also know we are reaching resource limits in significant areas.  We need to know how much water is actually taken and when if we are to properly manage New Zealand’s hugely valuable freshwater resource.”

The Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010 take effect today and require all new water takes of more than 5 litres a second to be metered. Existing takes of more than 20 litres a second must be metered within two years (10 November 2012), those more than 10 litres a second must be metered with four years (10 November 2014) and all takes more than 5 litres a second within six years (10 November 2016).

“These regulations will hugely improve the information we have on water takes.  We currently measure only 31% of allocated water. These regulations will increase this to 92% in 2012, 96% in 2014 and 98% in 2016,” Dr Smith said.

This is sensible and already happens in many areas.

We take water from the North Otago Irrigation Scheme, which comes from the Waitaki River, underground and from the Kakanui River for irrigation and all of the takes are metered.

“These pragmatic regulations do not apply to small water takes less than 5 litres per second that make up 39% of consents but only 2% of the volume of water taken. Requiring small takes such as households and stock water to be metered could not be justified nationally.

“The Government is providing $90,000 to Irrigation New Zealand to develop guidance about water meters, verification and installation to irrigators so as to ensure the smooth implementation of these new regulations.  We also want irrigators to be well informed as to how to use this information to improve the efficiency of water use.

“These new regulations on water metering are part of a broader programme to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management.  This has included major investments in lake and river clean-ups, toughened penalties and stronger enforcement of resource consents, doubling funding for the New Zealand Landcare Trust, addressing Environment Canterbury’s problems and progressing the work of the Land and Water Forum. This Government recognises how important water will be to New Zealand’s future economic and environmental well being.”

Environment Canterbury and Irrigation New Zealand have welcomed the move.

NIWA’s lake water quality report was also released yesterday and the Minister gave it a could-do-better:

“This report concludes that New Zealand lake water quality compares favourably with Europe and North America but there are signs of real concern,” Dr Smith said. “It is unacceptable that 32% of our monitored lakes have poor water quality and that more lakes are deteriorating in water quality than are improving.

“Lake water quality is worst in low-land intensively farmed areas such as the Waikato and Manawatu.  The Government is ramping up spending on freshwater clean-up initiatives, from $17 million from 2003-2008 to $94 million from 2009-2014.  It is encouraging the lake showing the greatest improvement in water quality is Lake Rotoiti in the Bay of Plenty, proving the success of the Rotorua Lakes Water Quality initiative.”

Sixty-eight lakes had reliable data for the period 2005 to 2009 to enable trends in water quality to be measured.  Nineteen lakes showed deterioration and eight showed improvement.

“The deterioration in lake water quality was worst in Canterbury between 2005 and 2009, making up 15 of the 19 lakes nationwide that went backwards,” Dr Smith said.  “This reinforces the Government’s decision to intervene in water management in Canterbury, and the need to fast-track water plans and rules to better manage pollution.

“The data in this report is not comprehensive and has some gaps. More information is required on why the greatest deterioration in water quality has occurred in catchments with more native than pastoral land cover. The data is also limited to 112 out of 4000 New Zealand lakes, although I am encouraged that the number of lakes being monitored has trebled since 2000.

Federated Farmers welcomed the report as a vindication, albeit grudging, of the work farmers have done to improve water quality in the past decade.

“Turning water quality around is no different from a supertanker.  It takes time but we’re now seeing some positive indicators,” says Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“Over the past decade, we’ve invested massively in effluent management systems and other on-farm improvements.  There’s been a hell of a lot of great work done on-farm and in the industry which goes completely unreported. . .

. . . “This NIWA report raises important questions and we must answer those. . .

. . . “Interpreting these results must be lake specific with multiple factors at play. LakeSPI, for one, is influenced heavily by exotic aquatic plants and fish, which aren’t cows.

“But are farmers denying any impact of agriculture on lake water quality? Of course we’re not.  That’s why we’ve made a massive investment over the past decade and why we’re open to public scrutiny.

“But we cannot be expected to make all the improvements when agriculture is far from all of the problem.

“I, for one, would dearly love to know what’s causing the decline in 40 percent of lakes with ‘dominant native catchment cover’.

“Could it be introduced water fowl, koi carp, aquatic plants and trout perhaps?  NIWA has instead strayed into ‘gosh, it must be farming’, instead of staying science informed. . .

There are many causes for declining water quality. Indentifying them and finding solutions must be based on science and requires the co-operation of land owners, visitors, water users and relevant agencies.


Fresh start with water good start

September 23, 2010

New Zealand has plenty of water but not all of it’s in the right place at the right time; and not all of it is as clean as it should be.

The need for better management of water is clear, the best way to do it is somewhat less so, but the Land and Water Forum’s report, A Fresh Start for Water, is a good place to start.

It was welcomed by Agriculture Minister David Carter and Environment Minister Nick Smith.

“The Land and Water Forum has achieved a first in New Zealand – consensus on a way forward for managing freshwater,” Dr Smith said.

“The Government initiated this collaborative process because the long term success of future water policies relies on broad agreement at a national level. Improving water management is one of the Government’s top environmental and economic priorities. Finding durable solutions to issues of water quality, allocation and storage are essential to a healthy environment and our long-term economic progress.

“All 58 groups associated with the Land and Water Forum, led by its Chair Alastair Bisley, are to be congratulated for the report. Water is such a complex and polarising issue and to reach agreement is a major achievement.”

Getting 58 groups with a diverse range of views to collaborate let alone reach agreement on a report is amazing.

The report says:

It is in all our interests to maintain and improve the quality of freshwater in New Zealand, including instream values. For that we need limits, standards and targets in line with national needs, values and objectives which are applied taking account of the needs, values and objectives of communities. They must address contaminants and flows.

 Setting limits will require us to address degradation in some areas, but will enable more resource use in others. Limits need to be clear enough to achieve certainty, but able to be adapted in the face of new information and new technology development.

It recommends the adoption of a standards framework which:

Stems from a strategic view of water for New Zealand

• Defines national objectives for the environmental state of our water bodies and the overall timeframes within which to achieve them through National Policy Statements (NPS’s) and National Environmental Standards (NES’s) made under the Resource Management Act (RMA)

• Requires regions to give effect to this national framework at regional to catchment (or sub-catchment) level taking into account the spatial variation in biophysical characteristics of their water bodies and their current state

• Within that framework, requires regions to engage communities, including iwi, about the ways in which their water bodies are valued, and to work collaboratively with relevant land and water users and interested parties to set catchment-specific targets, standards and limits

• Maintains regional councils’ control of the use of land for the purpose of the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of water in water bodies and the maintenance of the quantity of water in water bodies and coastal water.

Federated Farmers’ co-spokesman on water issues Lachlan McKenzie says:

The report signals greater use of collaborative processes in water policy-making and implementation at national, local and catchment levels.

“For farmers, this is actually great news because involving landowners in any process is essential where policy outcomes could directly affect their property and what they can do with their land.  Given this, it’s only fair and right landowners take charge of implementing any changes that may result.

“Real progress also starts with decision making and how communities are informed.  Above all else, how the resourcefulness and innovative capacity of New Zealanders to develop local solutions will be tapped into.

“On-farm, farmers have to look at stock and effluent management systems tailored to location, including fencing waterways where practical.  Reducing our effluent disposal risks will lead to better nutrient utilisation and increased pasture growth.

No-one is denying that some farm practices can, and do, degrade waterways. What is often overlooked is that rural people have a personal interest in the quality and quantity of fresh water because the rivers we neighbour provide water for our farms and our homes.

“Yet some activists conveniently seem to look through the impact of New Zealand’s third most numerous large mammal, Homosapien.  This is not a ‘them and us’ blame culture that has coloured perception, but a realisation that we all rely on the environment.

Pollution from human and industrial waste is an issue which needs to be addressed too.

“Collaboration is a useful process that can result in more enduring and widely accepted outcomes, while saving significant amounts of money and time.

“Collaboration, like consultation however, does not equal agreement and there has not been agreement on all the issues identified in the report.

Feds took part in the forum but hasn’t signed up to the report because it wants to consult farmers on the recommendations and get feedback first.

The government is also waiting for feedback.

The report is a good start but there’s a long way to go before it turns into concrete policy.

Water New Zealand’s response is here.

Forest & Bird’s response is here.


Synlait purchase indictment on NZ capital markets

July 20, 2010

 Bright Dairy & Food, China’s third biggest dairy company by volume, has signed up to buy  51% of Synlait’s milk processing subsidiary, Synlait Milk, for $82 million.

The deal is subject to approval in China and here.

Federated Farmers says it’s an indictment on our capital markets.

“After last year’s abandonment of an Initial Public Offering, it’s a damming indictment on our capital markets that Synlait couldn’t rely on New Zealand to provide the investment capital necessary to fund its expansion,” says Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers dairy chairperson.

Another New Zealand company may get a welcome injection of foreign cash too. Singapore’s OlamInternational has agreed to buy PGG Wrightson’s 11.5 per cent stake in New Zealand Farming Systems Uruguay, subject to regulatory approval, and is making a full takeover offer on the same terms.

I will be surprised if this gets the same criticism that a Chinese company’s bid for the 16 Crafar farms has.

Synlait owns farms, but it is the processing arm not the producing one, in which Bright Dairy will be investing and NZFSU  owns land, but in South America, not here.

Many people are not keen on the idea of foreigners taking too big a stake in our land but they’re less likely to be so emotionally attached to these companies.


What’s wrong with Chinese investment in NZ farms?

March 25, 2010

Federated Farmers has an open mind  on the news that a Chinese company wants to buy the Crafer dairy farms.

Reports that Hong Kong listed Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Limited, maybe moving to buy dairy farm assets and milk powder production plants in New Zealand, is a sign that the gate on the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement, swings both ways. . .

. . .”While the ball’s in the Government’s court, assuming this all comes to pass, Federated Farmers wishes to meet with Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Limited sooner rather than later, to understand its strategic direction.

“Whatever happens, New Zealand will remain an attractive investment destination so maybe time has come for us to look at a Ministry of Food Production. 

“It may also help put a floor under farm prices given that in the three months ending February, just 205 farms were sold.  That was down from 276 farm sales in the same three month period in 2009 and 713 for the same quarter in 2008.

I’m not sure that we need another ministry, but a discussion and strategy on food production is a good idea.

The sale might also persuade would-be buyers that the bottom of the market has been reached and it’s time to get the gorse out of their pockets.

Not everyone is so open minded about the idea of Chinese investment here.

There are risks that animal welfare, hygiene and environmental standards might be compromised. But that can happen with any ownership. There are very strict rules about all of those which every owner has to adhere to and breeches of which have stiff penalties.

There are also oppportunities from the plan. If, has been mooted, at least some of the milk will be processed here and shipped as long-life milk rather than powder, that will create jobs for New Zealanders.

Some opposition is based on a blanket aversion to foreign ownership but as Lachlan McKenzie said the door swings both ways.

PGG Wrightson is 30% owned by Agria Corp which is a Chinese company and New Zealand businesses own foreign businesses.

Fonterra has dairy farms in China and Chile and NZ Farming Systems Uruguay owns farms in Uruguay.


Cleaning up dairying

March 19, 2010

The rise is serious non-compliance with the Clean Streams Accord from 12 to 15% is disappointing.

It is particularly concerning when there’s been so much work put into improving compliance within the industry.

However, the response from the industry is encouraging.

Fonterra announced it will check effluents systems on all its suppliers’ farms every year.

DairyNZ has already done a lot of work on the problem:

DairyNZ CEO Dr Tim Mackle says through this investment over the last two years, they have learned a lot more about why many dairy farm systems are non-compliant.

“The design of many systems is such that they are not fit for purpose throughout the year. We have been working with the effluent industry to develop a code of practice and are strongly advocating a warrant of fitness approach so that we correct this fundamental problem.”

Last week DairyNZ and industry partners released for consultation new standards and a code of practice for the design of farm dairy effluent systems.

“We would like to get our effluent systems on all farms to a high standard within the next five years, or sooner if possible.”

Dr Mackle says many farmers are uncertain about what they need to do to be compliant and DairyNZ is working with regional councils to establish effluent compliance checklists to give farmers greater guidance on what needs to be done on their farm.

“Our aim is by doing this we will come away with a better system design and promote systems that work and have a higher standard of rural professionals advising on these systems which will cut costs. We can then focus our efforts on making sure staff know how to work these systems.

“We are serious about getting this right, and are working closely with Fonterra and Federated Farmers on the issue. It’s crucial to our industry’s reputation both nationally and internationally, as well as being essential for the environment,” he says.

Federated Farmers dairy chair Lachlan Mckenzie said the results present a challenge for farmers, but he’s accentuating the positive:

“Yet while our news is disappointing, the dairy industry is fronting it publicly. Disclosing our environmental footprint, good or bad, is all about being open and accountable because our performance is out there for all to see.

“Wouldn’t it be encouraging, for once, if the vast majority of dairy farmers actually got positive reinforcement for the big strides we’ve made.  Farmers may have a right to farm but the good ones, the majority, swear by their environmental obligations.

“We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that 85 percent of New Zealand’s dairy farmers are either fully compliant or guilty of no more than an administrative breach.  This Report really highlights need for greater consistency with the way farms are inspected.

“To take the dairy industry forward, Fonterra, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers want to work with regional councils to develop what may resemble a dairy farm ‘warrant of fitness’ (WoF).

“The concept is just like that for a car WoF.  It’s about setting consistent standards and methodologies that take into account regional variations in soil, climate and topography.  You would never test vehicles the way our dairy farms are currently tested.

Agriculture Minister David Carter isn’t impressed by the results:

“The data from this year’s snapshot tells a totally unacceptable story of effluent management. Regardless of whether this is because farmers don’t have the right tools, don’t know how to comply, or simply don’t care, behaviour has to change.”

Mr Carter says the dairy industry as a whole will suffer through the damage caused to its national and international reputation, unless New Zealand can back up its claims of sustainable dairying with tangible action and evidence.

“You can argue the merits of dairy to our economy until the cows come home – but until every farmer takes responsibility for improving effluent management, the environment and dairying’s reputation will suffer.

“I am putting non-complying dairy farmers across the country on notice. You need to take individual responsibility for this issue and work more effectively with your neighbours, your regional councils and your industry body.

“I am also calling on regional councils and partners of the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord to lift their game. They need to work harder at identifying those farmers who want to comply but need some help, and support them toward compliance. Regional councils also need to be more consistent in their monitoring, and be more rigorous in their application of existing regulations to penalise those flouting the law.

Any non-compliance is unacceptable and recent successful prosecutions by the Otago regional Council have provided salutary lessons for dairy farms in our area.

However, there ought to be some leeway to differentiate between a one-off accident, for example a sprayer breaks down when some leniency could be shown, and deliberate non-compliance which ought not to be tolerated.

Farming families drink the water from rivers and swim in them which provides us with a very high motivation ensuring they are clean.


Feds’ sections spar over Google doodles

October 23, 2009

Federated Farmers Dairy and Meat & Fibre sections are sparring over the competition to design a Google 4 Doodle.

It started when Dairy Section chair Lachlan McKenzie issued a media release calling on people to vote for Molly Ploeg’s entry titled, ‘Moogle Google’: 

 “While more than a little biased, Federated Farmers Dairy gives Molly 10 out of 10 for her ‘Moogle Google’.  We honestly believe this ought to win. . .

“Molly wants to be a dairy farmer when she grows up and is the kind of person we want to see enter our industry.  The fact she attends an inner city school in Avondale is no barrier. . . “

Meat & Fibre chair Bruce Willis countered by encouraging people  to vote for the sheep which feature in all four age-groups of the competition.

He reckons this shows sheep are an integral part of the New Zealand psyche.

“It’s actually inspirational that so many young New Zealanders when asked to define New Zealand show affinity for agriculture. . .

“For me this shows how sheep still stand as an icon for all New Zealand agriculture.

“Agriculture remains the backbone of the New Zealand economy and these entries tell me that it defines our identity as New Zealanders.  That’s something to not just cherish, but to champion,” Mr Wills concluded.

The entries which feature sheep are:

Harrison Dykes’:

Atalya Fakavamoeanga’s:

Samantha Waters’:

Andrei Golovka’s:

 

Ashleigh Brown’s:

And Olivier Bartolomei’s:

You can see all the entries and vote for your choice here.

Backbenches

October 1, 2009

To get to an 8.30 meeting in Wellington this morning I could have got up at 4.45 (which thanks to daylight saving would have felt like 3.45), to drive for a couple of hours to fly from Timaru, fly back this evening and get home after 9pm.

Instead I flew up yesterday and as a bonus was able to go to the Backbencher pub for the filming of Back Benches.

Walking into a strange pub alone is a challenge for an introvert, but Matthew, a Young Nat, started chatting to me while I waited at the bar to order a drink, I then spotted David Farrar of Kiwiblog who was sitting with Will from goNZofreakpower. While I’m dropping names, we were joined by B.K. Drinkwater and a journo turned ministerial press secretary, whose name I won’t drop in case he prefers to remain anonymous.

Federated Farmers President Don Nicolson was there with Dairy section chair Lachlan McKenzie and High Country chair Donald Aubrey.

It’s parliamentary recess and the only MPs I spotted were those on the panel – Wairarapa MP John Hayes from National, United Future’s Peter Dunne and Labour’s Chris Chauvel.

They discussed whether or not New Zealand should become a republic – all three said yes and Will also gave a a considered view in support of that.

A discussion on cycling safety followed then Don got a soap box spot. He spoke on the ETS to which the people at the red tables showed their opposition.

Labour MP Sue Moroney spoke on her plan to increase paid parental leave. That was supported by Peter Dunne & Chris Chauvel but John Hayes pointed out that when we’re already borrowing so much to keep the country going, increasing paid parental leave is unaffordable.

A quiz question seeking the name of an MP went through several clues before a team effort at our table got it – David Farrar called out the answer and was presented with a photo of the Queen signed by the panelists. When asked what he’d do with it, he said he’d use it as a beer mat.

There weren’t many opposing voices but mine was one of them. I oppose it on principle – it’s the only benefit which gives more to people who have most. Women on the maximum wage gets the maximum payment, those on the minimum gets the minimum and women who don’t work enough hours a week, if at all,  get nothing regardless of how low the family income is. It’s a benefit which isn’t based on need.

Filming finished with the panelists speaking straight to camera. Peter Dunne patted himself on the back for extending daylight saving – I resisted the temptation to tackle him on that.

I’ve watched the programme a couple of times, being there was much more fun.


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