Rural round-up

17/11/2020

The wrong investment – Mike Chapman:

House prices across the country have risen nearly 20% to a median $725,000 in the past 12 months. At the same time, New Zealand’s Reserve Bank has announced a $28 billion programme aimed at forcing down borrowing costs and left the official cash rate at 0.25%.

Thankfully though, the Reserve Bank is concerned about the residential property market, with Governor Adrian Orr commenting that the Bank “has seen a marked acceleration in higher risk loans, particularly to investors in the property market”. As a result, the Reserve Bank is considering imposing loan to value ratio restrictions, in a bid to curb risky lending in the residential property market.

Simply put, investing in residential property will not aid New Zealand’s recovery from the current economic downturn. The housing market does not produce products that can be eaten or used by consumers. It does not create jobs, and it does not earn overseas return through exports. It is a wasted investment when what we should be investing in is New Zealand’s economic recovery.

This is, in my view, where the Reserve Bank’s focus should be: enabling significant investment in businesses that will drive our much-needed economic recovery and create jobs. . . 

Counting the toll of the Lake Ōhau fire: Native plants, predator traps went up in smoke – Tess Brunton:

A Lake Ōhau resident says thousands of dollars worth of native plants and 80 predator traps went up in smoke when the fire tore through the village earlier this month.

More than 5000 hectares and multiple properties were burnt in the blaze.

Before the fire, Lake Ōhau was surrounded by dryland with tussocks and shrubs, special plants that could survive the dry summers and bitterly cold winters. Beech forest grew down onto the lakeshore and along three creeks that drain the hills behind the village.

It was home to native birds, lizards and insects. . . 

 

Mission to empower, inspire women – Sally Rae:

When it comes to goals, Steph Matheson dreams pretty big.

Mrs Matheson (27) is on a mission: to make sure women feel they are not alone, that they are confident and comfortable “in their own skin” and that they feel as if they can do anything.

Through Project Steph 2.0, her personal blog, her overarching goal is to spread that message globally online.

It is not all unicorns and fairy dust; her content is realistic and raw as she talks about health, wellness, family and rural living in Gore. . .

Young auctioneer outbids to win coveted title – Annette Scott:

Andrew Sherratt was not just going for the bid, he was gunning for the title when he took up the gavel in the 2020 Young Auctioneer of the Year competition. He talked with Annette Scott.

When Andrew Sherratt was finishing up his studies at Lincoln University he wasn’t certain what career pathway he would take.

But with the prestigious New Zealand Stock and Station Agents’ Association (NZSSAA) Young Auctioneer trophy in hand, he is convinced he eventually made the right decision.

In one of the closest contests yet, Sherratt headed off the seven finalist contestants in the ninth annual 2020 Heartland Bank Young Auctioneer competition held at Canterbury Agricultural Park. . . 

Fruit and vegetable prices squashed in October:

Fruit and vegetable prices fell 5.6 percent in October 2020 as the local growing season picked up, Stats NZ said today.

Fruit and vegetable prices follow a very seasonal trend and typically fall in October, with the lowest prices for the year in summer.

“Warmer weather makes it easier to grow many crops, with higher supply making these products cheaper,” consumer prices manager Nicola Growden said. . . 

50,000 salmon smolt released into Lake Tekapo:

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon and Central South Island Fish & Game Council released 50,000 smolt into the crystal clear waters of Lake Tekapo last week.

The young salmon, which are about two years old, were raised at the nearby Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Ohau hatchery on the Ohau Canal. Last week’s release was part of the Fish & Game Council’s “put and take” programme in Lake Tekapo, developed over the past 10 years.

Fish and Game officer Rhys Adams says the release will “reinvigorate” the salmon fishery in the lake, but they will need time to grow to between two and four pounds.

The tanker load of smolt was taken to the outlet of Lake McGregor on the western shore of Lake Tekapo for release. . .


Feds fired up over fires

07/10/2020

Federated Farmers wants to baa DOC from the high country because sheep do a better job:

The fire risk on Department of Conservation-managed land is being mismanaged and neglected, and needs urgent review, Federated Farmers says.

More than 1600 hectares have been destroyed by the fire at Lake Ohau that also ripped through the small alpine village on Sunday morning. Five weeks ago, around 3000 hectares of trees and scrub were turned to ash.

“It’s not even fire season and we have lost almost 50 homes and over 5000 ha because of fire,” Federated Farmers High Country Chair Rob Stokes says.

“In August we had the Pukaki Downs fires, also burning through DOC land, and now just weeks later another fire, again burning through DOC land. Both these fires were entirely avoidable.

“Lake Ohau residents who have tragically lost their homes must today have serious questions around what fuelled the fire.”

Federated Farmers has held grave fears for many years that locking up high country land without the proper care is dangerous.

In future Feds believes the risk will become even greater as the government’s new freshwater policies and the livestock destocking that will come through unreasonable fencing requirements will kick in. These policies will result in the growth of more combustible vegetation.

“This fire is another red flag; how many do we need?” Rob asks.

The 2012 Report of the Independent Fire Review said vegetation fires were arguably New Zealand’s most significant fire risk.

Destocking hill and high-country farms for conservation purposes has not been thoroughly thought through, Rob says.

“There is simply no science to support destocking. Now people have lost their homes because of mismanagement by DOC.”

Passive grazing of these areas in the past has significantly reduced the fire risk by controlling wilding pines and grasses, which left ungrazed become fuel. It also enabled the landowners and leaseholders to manage other pests while preserving open landscapes.

Feds also wants to forget the cheap shots and get serious about fire risk vegetation:

The destruction at Lake Ohau should light a fire under DOC for early negotiations with farmers on a partnership approach to deal with uncontrolled vegetation on conservation land, Federated Farmers says.

“For Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage to suggest yesterday that Federated Farmers was opportunistic in the wake of the Ohau blaze and just looking for free grazing was a cheap shot,” Feds High Country Chairperson Rob Stokes says.

Her comment that farmers are looking for cheap grazing was a very cheap shot and an uniformed one.

“We have been warning about fire fuel loads on DOC land in the South Island for years.  We have only been opportunistic in the sense that the near-miss to human lives, not to mention the stock loss and serious property damage from Sunday’s fire, was a chance to finally get some traction with the department and the government on this issue.

“Farmers aren’t looking for ‘free’ anything.  They operate commercial businesses and they’re looking for a partnership, with contracts, to try and reduce a serious risk to safety, private property and the environment,” Rob says.

Federated Farmers recognises there are some areas of the DOC estate where it’s totally inappropriate to have livestock.  But in less sensitive areas, low numbers of sheep or cattle can keep combustible grass, scrub and immature wilding pine levels down.

“Australia, the UK and the USA have learned this lesson but in New Zealand we seem to be going 180 degrees in the other direction.  In fire risk areas of those other nations, authorities are inviting farmers to graze livestock on public land – in fact, in some places are paying them to do so.”

On her return from the Climate Smart Agriculture event in Bali last year, former Feds President Katie Milne pointed out that Spain had rejected pressure for reductions in livestock numbers after it was pointed out that with fewer livestock chewing down grass and bush in forested areas, the losses and costs of forest fires already equivalent to around 3% of Spain’s GDP would accelerate.

For farmers, grazing adjacent DOC land can be more of a headache than a gain.  Because the areas are not fenced, mustering is time-consuming and the land is often such that the animals don’t put on much weight.

“Any grazing arrangement might only be for three months a year.  What is the farmer supposed to do with the animals for the other nine months?  That’s why it’s sensible to have long-term arrangements with land-owners immediately adjacent to DOC land, so there’s no costs trucking animals in and so on,” Rob says.

“Federated Farmers welcomes an opportunity to sit down with DOC for a sensible discussion on the practicalities of fire fuel loads on the public estate.” 

At least some of the people who are screaming loudest about the dangers of climate change are the ones who oppose mitigation – irrigation, and farming practices such as light grazing which have protected the high country for generations.


366 days of gratitude

11/09/2016

It started as a reunion of our first flat in Dunedin and grew to include any friends who’d known us when we were students.

Finding a when and where that suited everyone was like herding cats but we eventually agreed on this weekend in Twizel.

Why Twizel? One of our number had suggested Lake Ohau but the lodge couldn’t accommodate us all and Twizel was close.

As the date approached some dropped out and we ended up with the five of us who had flatted together (three hes and two shes) plus three wives, one husband, another friend from Dunedin student days and three children (offspring of one of the former flatmates).

The flatmates and spice have kept in semi-regular contact over the years but most of us hadn’t seen the friend since the weeding of one of our number 32 years ago. That didn’t matter, as we reminisced, laughed, caught up on who’d done what and laughed lots more.

Waking to a cloudless blue sky yesterday we agreed that an expedition to Mount Cook was called for.

Those with little people walked up the Hooker Valley while the rest of us climbed up to the Red Tarns. They’re about 300 metres up via about 1,000 steps which some managed more easily than others, however the view once there was worth it.

red-tarns

mt-cook

We regrouped for lunch after which the parents and little people returned to Twizel to play, four others took a helicopter flight while the rest of us walked up the Hooker Valley (in the hope my theory that if you’ve gone up and down steep hills, a walk over flattish territory keeps you from getting stiff would work, and it did).

This morning we had a long leisurely breakfast before three headed north, five headed south and the other five of us took the long way home via Lake Ohau and the Temple Valley.

temple

Now I’m home again, reflecting on the blessing of friendships which endure, nature’s beauty and the opportunity to explore it with very few other people and oh how I’m grateful for all of that.


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