Rural round-up

October 2, 2017

The wheat and chaff of synthetic food – Keith Woodford:

It has become fashionable for agri-food commentators to talk of disruptive change. In particular, in recent months there has been much talk about industry disruption that will supposedly occur from synthetic food, with much of that grown in a laboratory.

Until now, I have steered clear of discussing synthetic food, despite often being asked my opinion. But now, I have decided to venture forth.

The simple answer is that synthetic food does not need to be a big concern for New Zealand farmers. The important proviso is that New Zealand farmers, and the associated value chains connecting through to markets, need to focus on consumers who will pay premium prices for products that are the ‘real McCoy’. . .

Hawea Flat water table levels lowest on record:

The Upper Clutha Farmers Group are becoming increasingly concerned about the drain Contact Energy is having on the Hawea Flat water supply.

Lake Hawea’ s water level follows a seasonal cycle which is controlled by Contact Energy to provide electricity supply when demand is at its peak. The Group’s concern stems from Contact’s move to lower operating levels in lake Hawea to generate more electricity.

Traditionally spring is when the lake’s level is at its lowest, however the current level is the lowest since monitoring began. The farming community believe with Contact change of operating levels it is having a far greater effect on the ground water flows through the aquafers in the Hawea Flat region. . .

Westland Milk Products breaks even for 2016-17:

Westland Milk Products has recovered from a loss in the 12 months ended July 31, 2016, to post a break-even profit before tax for the 2016-17 financial year.

The company, New Zealand’s second largest dairy co-operative, said the result represented a total payout to its 342 shareholders of $338.7million, a net average cash payout of $5.18/kgms. . . 

Technology could change the future of food – Alexa Cook:

Rapid change in the food sector could mean eight out of the top 10 global food companies out of business in the next decade, a researcher says.

The Te Hono Stanford University Bootcamp is a week-long intensive programme and this year the focus was how to accelerate New Zealand’s food production in the global marketplace.

Plant and Food Research chief operating officer Bruce Campbell said the message from the US was clear.

“There’s quite significant disruption coming for the food sector. . .

NZ scientists aim to breed super berry – Alexa Cook:

Scientists are investigating the potential for a new commercial crop of a “super” hybrid blueberry.

Plant & Food Research is trying to breed a fruit that combines the taste and growing characteristics of blueberries with the colourful flesh of bilberries.

Bilberries are a small berry from Northern Europe with dark blue-red flesh, but with a thin skin they’re too delicate to grow commercially because the fruit is easily damaged in transit. . .

Ballance Farm Environment Awards give farmers place to share their good stories:

The environment, water quality and urban perception of farming is more important than it’s ever been, says 2017 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards finalist Lyndon Matthews.

“This election has been polarised around water quality. My belief is farmers are doing great stuff but we’re not so good at telling our story. That’s one of the reasons these awards are so important – telling the stories.

“Personally we’ve always been happy to put ourselves up for scrutiny. If it’s a good story we want to share it and if it’s not, we want to learn. Some people are worried about putting their head above the parapet but farmers have to be prepared to open ourselves to scrutiny. More farmers need to show what they’re doing.” . .

 


Burdens win farm environment award

July 2, 2009

Lake Hawea farmers, Richard and Sarah Burden won the NZ Farm Environment Award Trust and MAF Scholarship at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Richard and Sarah farm Glen Dene Station at Lake Hawea, they are also the relatively new owners of the Hawea camping ground.

You can read more about the awards and other winners here.


Who’re you going to call?

January 10, 2009

It’s about four years since a shepherd on Glen Dene Station on the shores of Lake Hawea fell and broke his leg.

Because cell phone coverage was ify and his battery was nearly flat his companion called a mate with a helicoptor who knew the area rather than dialing 111 which he knew would involve a lengthy explanation of their whereabouts.

The chopper arrived quickly and the shepherd was taken to Wanaka for medical help but ACC refused to pay the bill because they hadn’t called emergency services.

Publicity after then-candidate for the Otago electorate Jacqui Dean intervened resulted in a backdown and ACC eventually paid up.

I understand the reason for protocols over rescues but when you’re in the wop-wops time is of the essence and the right way of doing things is often too slow for safety.

ODT journalist Philip Somerville discovered this after his pelvis was crushed by a boat on the shores of Lake Wanaka last year.

The delay in getting help could have cost him his life. 

Somerville writes about the accident  and about the aftermath  in Dunedin Hospital where he spent five weeks as a patient.

St John has admitted failings in the way the 111 call was handled and the ODT editorialises on the problems with the system.

We suspect this tail-chasing lies at least in part in funding: will the patient recovery/rescue – let alone any search – be paid from stretched ACC, health services or police budgets? Clearly, it can be foolish, expensive and wasteful for emergency services to respond to an incident before the true needs are clear.

But the existing arrangements, especially for the southern lakes region where patient recovery from remote locations is often a comparatively lengthy business, are clearly unsatisfactory, as this specific case has demonstrated, and they must be sorted out at senior levels.

When medical emergencies are involved the response must be focused on patient’s needs, not on an erratic and inadequate bureaucratic emergency response system.

When we called 111 when our baby stopped breathing the phone was answered at the local hospital 20 kilometres from home by someone with decades of local knowledge. If we had to summon help now it would be answered in Christchurch by someone who almost certainly wouldn’t know our locality.

When you need help the last thing you want is to be slowed down by bureaucratic hurdles and inadequate training.

Centralising emergency call centres no doubt saves money but it sometimes takes time that could cost lives and that’s why people outside towns aren’t always confident that the best way to summon help is to dial 111.


Still No Crisis?

July 1, 2008

Hawea people are losing patience  with the Government’s refusal to admit there’s a power crisis.

The Government must bite the bullet and tell the nation to make a 10% savings on power or endure public shame if it is not achieved, the Lake Hawea Community Association chairman Errol Carr says.

Lake Hawea residents are on high alert as Contact Energy begins this week to draw down Lake Hawea to the emergency level of 336m for the first time in 20 years.

Mr Carr said the lake level was stable at about 338.1, but a public demonstration was likely if residents’ concerns about low lake levels and environmental damage were not heeded.

“If told, I think the South Island would buckle in and do what they can. The Government is saying there is no crisis, but why are we going to emergency generation?”

Because it’s election year and Labour doesn’t want power cuts.

Lower South Island residents have saved the lowest percentage of electricity, recording 3.2%, according to Transpower statistics.

Upper South Island residents have saved the highest percentage nationally, at 4.1%, and the national average savings is 3.6%.

I don’t know how much power is the difference between 3.2%, 3.6% and 4.1%, nor why the Upper South Island beats the national average. – But it’s easy to explain why savings are lower in the lower south: it’s winter, and the further south you go the colder you get. Here,  around the 45th paraellel, yesterday’s frost still hasn’t thawed from shady places and it’s only .5 degrees outside right now.

Mr Carr said while he did not want older people and those with limited heating sources to suffer, the national average was “pretty mediocre” and there was a lot more that could be done.

He attributed the Government’s reluctance to take leadership to a desire to avoid bad news during an election year.

“We would like to see the Government telling the country there is a problem,” Mr Carr said.

And I’d like to see the Government explaining to the country why there is a problem.


If there’s no power crisis…

June 29, 2008

… why is Lake Hawea  going to be taken below its minimum level to generate more electricity?

Contact Energy will lower Lake Hawea below its statutorily imposed minimum level of 338m above sea level in the next few days, and says it will use the extra water very carefully.

But that was questioned yesterday by the chairman of Lake Hawea Guardians, who said Hawea and its surrounds would suffer for years if the lake falls to 336m.

The company does have resource consent to take the extra two metres – but only when it’s in the national interest to have reserve capacity. Hawea locals are questioning how this condition can be met if there isn’t a crisis.

Guardians of Lake Hawea chairman Grant Fyfe called on the Government to acknowledge that New Zealand faced a power crisis and to take steps to protect the lake. He said an extra 2m would provide only 20 more days of draw-off.

The guardians vehemently opposed any reduction below 338m, he said.

“Hawea is going to suffer the consequences for months or years to come from having a lower lake, but the country as a whole isn’t making any sacrifice.”

Mr Fyfe said minimum operating levels were introduced in the 1970s when the lake fell to 327m, exposing river deltas and causing constant dust storms that carried as far as Ranfurly.

This wasn’t good for the environment or the people in the area. Nor for stock and the dust lowered the quality of wool on sheep which grazed near the lake.

Energy Minister David Parker said the situation at Lake Hawea was a reminder that the environmental consequences of electricity production were borne mostly by people in small, distant communities, rather than in cities.

We know that – but why is Lake Hawea being sacrificed with the consequent detrimental effect on the environment, people and stock, if there isn’t a crisis?


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