Rural round-up

June 28, 2018

Improved systems lower dariy’s footprint – Esther Taunton:

The greenhouse gas emissions produced for every kilogram of milk solids have fallen by almost a third in the 25 years to 2015, DairyNZ says.

At a climate change workshop in Taranaki on Thursday, DairyNZ senior climate change advisor Milena Scott said New Zealand’s dairy industry had been increasing its emissions efficiency by an average of one per cent per year since 1990.

Data from the Ministry for the Environment showed that from 1990 to 2015, the emissions intensity of milk solids fell 29 per cent, Scott said. . .

Negative comment undervalues agri-food industry – Sally Rae:

Unbalanced narrative around the agri-food sector is putting both it and the contribution it makes to New Zealand at risk, KPMG global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot believes.

In the latest KPMG Agribusiness Agenda, Mr Proudfoot said that narrative had reached a point where it could not longer be ignored ”as an inconvenience or an annoyance” and it should be considerably more positive.

”It is this sector that pays for the schools, roads and hospitals that the whole community relies upon. . .

Devil in the detail of fresh water management:

Key advice from a water report for the Government should be considered, but the devil will be in the detail says the Federated Farmers representative on the Land and Water Forum (LAWF), Chris Allen.

The LAWF report on preventing water quality degradation and addressing sediment and nitrogen has been released to the Government. The data and 38 recommendations are the culmination of a lot of work from many different groups represented on the Forum, Chris says.

“While there are still a range of views, especially when it comes to nitrogen discharge allowances, the fact is everyone is at the table and working on getting it right.” . . 

Lamb exports set new record:

The value of lamb exports hit a new record of $369 million in May 2018, Stats NZ said today. Higher prices and more quantities of lamb exported boosted this month’s level. The previous high for lamb exports was $340 million in February 2009.

“It has been a strong month for meat exports in general, with both lamb and beef increasing in quantities,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. . .

North Island Māori secure a record slice of kiwifruit market:

Three North Island iwi-based entities have successfully purchased one of New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit portfolios.

Te Arawa Group Holdings (Rotorua); Rotoma No 1 Incorporation (Rotorua), and Ngāti Awa Group Holdings (Whakatane) today announced they are the new owners of Matai Pacific’s vast kiwifruit portfolio.

The large-scale property deal includes three Bay of Plenty orchards covering a total of almost 100 canopy hectares. . . 

Fodder insurance – silage pit – Mark Griggs:

For Talbragar River cattle breeder and grazier Brian Bowman, droughts and floods are not new.

The Bowman family at “Shingle Hut”, Dunedoo, experienced three consecutive floods in 2010 to 2012, wiping out each year’s crop.

Mr Bowman said each flood covering all the river flat country was in November and wiped out 486 hectares of wheat crops in each of the first two and a big canola crop in the third year. . .

This start up can make avocados last twice as long before going bad – Caitlin Dewey:

The new avocados rolling out to Midwest Costco stores this week don’t look like the future of fresh produce. But they’re testing technology that could more than double the shelf life of vegetables and fruits.

That technology, developed by the start-up Apeel Sciences, consists of an invisible, plant-based film that reinforces the avocados’ own skin. The company hopes to expand to stores nationwide — as well as to a range of other produce.

Experts say the product, which has quadrupled shelf life in a lab setting, has the potential to make foods less perishable — with huge boons for consumers, the environment and the food industry. .  .


Rural round-up

August 4, 2016

British wasps could solve NZ problems:

Scientists have a secret weapon in their war against wasps – other wasps.

German and common wasp problems cost New Zealand’s primary industries around $130 million a year, but a parasitic wasp whose larvae feeds off their host before killing it is expected to change that.

It’s an idea that has been used with some success since the 1980s, but scientists have discovered the wasps they’ve used in the past might speak the wrong language.

“In order for the Sphecophaga to go undetected in the nest, they may speak the correct language, or dialect, in order to fool their hosts,” Landcare Research biocontrol scientist Ronny Groenteman said.  . . 

Organic story needs more tale:

Despite the organic sector’s rapid growth kiwifruit growers might need to do even more to maintain the advantages they have in the marketplace, food marketing expert Professor David Hughes warns.  

Hughes, from Imperial College, London, gave growers his take on developments in the booming organic sector that is now topping US$80 billion a year in global sales.  

He spoke at Zespri’s inaugural organic dinner, hosted by the marketer to showcase organic produce and give the industry’s small pool of 80 organic growers insight to global developments. . .  

Preparedness for irrigation season ‘vital’:

With low groundwater levels confirmed by Environment Canterbury today and the outlook for recharge before the coming irrigation season not looking good, irrigating farmers must ensure their equipment and irrigation schedules are up to scratch if they are to survive another dry summer, says IrrigationNZ.

“Preparedness for the coming irrigation season is vital. Poorly operating irrigation systems cost time and water efficiency, not to mention the additional cost to production. Farmers must make sure irrigation systems are operating as efficiently as possible because water resources are already stretched so every drop must be optimised,” says IrrigationNZ Project Manager Steven Breneger. . . 

Change of Chair of the Land And Water Forum:

Alastair Bisley has stood down as the Land and Water Forum’s Chair after seven years in the role.

Soon after the Forum was establishment in late 2008, Alastair was appointed its Chairman to moderate a multi-stakeholder consensus on the challenging issue of freshwater policy reform.

The Forum’s recommendations have formed the basis for decisions by Government and regional councils that are progressively deploying its recommendations. . . 

NZ commodity prices rise for third straight month; dairy, meat lead gains – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand commodity prices rose for a third straight month in July, led by dairy products, aluminium and meat, although the strong kiwi dollar limited the benefits for local producers.

The ANZ commodity price index rose 2 percent last month, bringing its three-month gain to 6.9 percent. In New Zealand dollar terms, prices have gained just 2.5 percent in the past three months and are 5.7 percent lower than in the same period last year. . . .

Nelson company DroneMate launches the ultimate farming drone to New Zealand market:

Nelson company DroneMate is launching a ground-breaking new agricultural farming drone into the New Zealand market that features a multi-application sensor developed by US company Sentera.

Marketed as DroneMate Agriculture, the product costs $5000 (approximately one third of the drone technology currently being used for much agricultural survey work) or $7000 for the deluxe model and is poised to revolutionise the way that aerial survey technology is used by farmers across a range of sectors, including dairy, horticulture, orcharding and viticulture. . . 

Beekeepers swarm to Rotorua for hui:

Māori landowners and honey producers will be buzzing in Rotorua over the next two days (4/5 August) as they attend the He kai kei aku ringa National Māori Mānuka Hui.

Associate Minister for Economic Development Te Ururoa Flavell, who is opening the hui this morning, says there are major opportunities for Māori landowners in mānuka honey because of rising demand and prices.

“New Zealand exports more than $220 million of honey a year and volumes have more than doubled in the last 10 years in response to rising prices. . . 

Big cities dominate early running in NZ young horticulturalist contest:
Search on for 2016 Young Horticulturist of the Year

The New Zealand Young Horticulturist of the Year 2016 competition — traditionally dominated by the regions — has taken a surprising twist this year with the Auckland and Wellington regions making a clean sweep of early results.

The results so far:

• 2016 New Zealand Amenity Horticulturalist competition winner: Jeanette Barker, Auckland Botanic Gardens.
• 2016 Young Grower of the Year, Andrew Hutchinson, AS Wilcox, Pukekohe.
• 2016 Nursery and Garden Industry New Zealand Young Achiever Award, Daniel Howard, Moores Valley Nurseries, Wellington . . 


Rural round-up

November 27, 2015

Rural NZ areas sit on ‘powder keg’ as temperatures rise – Mike Watson:

Rural fire authorities are warning farmers and contractors to check for potential ‘hot spots’ inside machinery and farm equipment as temperatures rise in Marlborough.

Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority chief fire officer Richard McNamara said the rural region was on a “powder keg’ as temperatures rise and hot northwest winds continued to dry vegetation causing significant risk of fire outbreaks.

“It is a real issue, and anyone working with farm machinery and equipment, such as welding or grinding, needs to be aware of the risk of sparks igniting any vegetation nearby,” he said. . . 

Many positives but RMA reforms don’t go far enough:

Federated Farmers cautiously welcomes the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill introduced at Parliament today, but is concerned that proposed reforms do not go far enough.

“What we have is a Bill that looks to make the RMA less costly and cumbersome, and these are positive changes,” says Federated Farmers’ Environment and RMA spokesperson Chris Allen.

“Federated Farmers believes the Bill provides for better plan making and we support the introduction of a collaborative planning approach as long as the right checks and balances are in place, so that this is a robust and productive process.” . . .

Alliance launches new products for Chinese market:

Meat cooperative Alliance Group is launching a new range of market-ready lamb, beef and venison products for the food retail market in China.

Alliance Group has reached an agreement with its in-market partner Grand Farm – China’s single largest importer of sheepmeat – to market the co-branded Pure South-Grand Farm products in the country from next year.

Marketing general manager Murray Brown said with meat volumes going into China becoming more difficult, the company was looking to add value to exports. . . .

Competitive future for “unbroken” NZ dairy – visiting global expert:

New Zealand dairy is well placed to compete in the global market as prices begin to recover in the coming 12 months, a visiting global dairy specialist has told localproducers.

Tim Hunt, New York-based global dairy strategist with international agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says while current market conditions are “extremely tough” for many local producers, the New Zealand dairy sector is “unbroken” and has the fundamentals in place to enjoy a strong, competitive future in the global dairy trade. . . .

Ongoing disruption and volatility in dairy, with winners and losers – Keith Woodford:

In the last two weeks we have seen increasing signs of further disruption and volatility in dairy. First, there was good news with Fonterra announcing that they had turned the corner In relation to enhanced corporate profitability. But then, only two days later, there was another decline on the (GDT Global Dairy Trade) auction – this time of 7.9 percent overall and 11 percent for whole-milk powder.

In the meantime, The a2 Milk Company announced that they were almost doubling their previous estimate of profitability for the coming year, triggering another increase in the share price. Since the start of November through to 24 November the price rose 60 percent on large volumes. . . 

Ruataniwha promoter seeks mix of equity, debt funding – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Co, the developer and sponsor of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, says the $275 million project will be funded with a mix of equity and debt, and is likely to result in a secondary market for water contracts.

HBRIC, the investment arm of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, is in talks with three potential investors and banks about funding. The council is putting up $80 million for an equity stake in a yet-to-be formed irrigation company. The $195 million balance will come from outside investors, bank debt and an expected contribution from the government’s Crown Irrigation Investments, which acts as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure developments. . . 

Cellphone helps save house from Australian bushfire:

An Australian man who saw his farm “explode in a fireball” on CCTV cameras at the property says his house survived because he used his phone to activate a sprinkler system from the other side of the country.

Charles Darwin University vice chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks said the reason his house at the 45-hectare wheat farm on the outskirts of Hamley Bridge escaped the fire was because of his neighbours – and the fact he activated an irrigation system at the property by remote control from Darwin.

Two people have been confirmed dead and more than a dozen injured in the fires which continue to burn north of Adelaide. . . 

Consultation on freshwater management ideas planned:

A report today published by the Land and Water Forum on the next steps needed to improved management of freshwater will be carefully considered by Government and help contribute to a public discussion paper to be published next year, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said today. 

“The Government has an ambitious programme of work on improving New Zealand’s freshwater management.  These ideas on requiring good management practice, of how we can maximise the economic benefit of water within environmental limits, integrated catchment management, stock exclusion and enabling more efficient use of water are a further contribution on how we can achieve that,” Dr Smith says.

“I acknowledge the Forum’s significant efforts in tackling difficult policy challenges and we welcome their recommendations,” says Mr Guy. . . 

Irrigation New Zealand Welcomes 4th LAWF Report:

Irrigation New Zealand welcomes the fourth Land and Water Forum (LAWF) Report.

“The diverse group of forum members have spent a lot of time collaborating to reach the additional recommendations,” said Andrew Curtis, CEO of Irrigation New Zealand. “This has resulted in constructive advice to Ministers for the development of freshwater policy. It’s now time for the government to act.”

“Freshwater is a natural and recurring resource we need to protect, and is a national asset which needs to be properly and carefully managed to bolster our agricultural-led economy. . . .

Barbara Stuart returns to the NZWAC board:

Nelson farmer and outdoor-access supporter Barbara Stuart has been appointed to the Board of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission.

The appointment heralds Mrs Stuart’s second tenure on the board, where she previously served from 2008 to 2011.

New Zealand Walking Access Commission chairman John Forbes said Mrs Stuart had long been a champion of walking access and her return was very welcome. . . .

Farm Environment Trust’s Annual Report Highlights Growth:

The New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust and its flagship event, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, have celebrated another successful year.

Now available on the Trust’s website, the 2015 annual report outlines the organisation’s continued growth through 2015, with another region signing up to the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

“We are delighted to have the Auckland region in the Awards for the 2016 programme,” said NZFE Trust chairman Simon Saunders.

“Having Auckland on board is a huge step towards being able to offer a complete national programme. We are almost there.” . . . 


Blue better for water than Green

July 30, 2014

Green isn’t the best colour for water, Federated Farmers environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie says:

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for freshwater may not have razzmatazz, but arose from that exercise in consensual collaboration called the Land and Water Forum [LawF].  It was the first time industry, councils, government departments and groups from Federated Farmers to Fish & Game, sat down to openly address water issues and find solutions.

At the heart of the NPS are our regional councils, who have been tasked with maintaining and improving water quality while bringing the poorest water quality up to a national minimum standard.  With next to no exceptions, this policy applies to all water bodies whether they are in town or country. This was an essential part of the LawF consensus and the government chose secondary human contact as the national minimum standard.  All of New Zealand’s top water scientists were involved in this.

The Green Party claim they are advocates for the environment and I would have thought they would have welcomed this important piece of legislation; whose intent is to keep New Zealand’s fresh water as the best in the world.

Being a farmer and with so many conflicting claims about water quality you may be dubious about what I am saying.  For an objective ‘warts and all’ water picture, can I direct you to the Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website at www.lawa.org.nz.  It confirms our water quality is generally good, with many rivers and streams improving thanks to farmers’ efforts at riparian protection.

What we know is that most swimming spots monitored by regional councils over the warmer months are generally satisfactory for swimming.  The Greens often claim “60 percent of our water” is unsafe, but a vast number of sites are affected by urban runoff.  

When poor water standards are mentioned too many people blame farming but some of the worst water quality is in urban areas and the result of urban activities.

Now, the Green Party wants to make all water bodies swimmable.   This is disingenuous because of the sheer difficulty and cost of achieving it.

There are 425,000 kilometres of waterways in New Zealand, which would have to meet those swimming standards, 24 hours a day and 365-days of the year. 

The LAWA website states, “rivers and streams in (or downstream of) urban areas tend to have the poorest water quality (the highest concentrations of nutrients and bacteria, and lowest macroinvertebrate community index (MCI) scores).” This is because all our urban storm water systems are designed to use urban rivers and streams to take away all this run-off.  

The Landcare Trust is running a community project to clean up some of the urban streams that flow into the Tamaki River. Regardless of that effort and enthusiasm they will never be able to stop those streams from being contaminated to the extent that they will become safe for swimming. Think of the 150-page NZ Standard for public swimming pools, “to ensure the risk to public health is minimised.”  Most small schools have had to close their swimming pools because of problems maintaining that and other standards.   Trying to apply that standard to all fresh water bodies is a nonsense. 

This is where the Green Party is disingenuous.

When they say ‘all water bodies,’ they really mean only those in the countryside because they do not wish to alarm their core urban constituency.  The Green Party ignores the huge shift in farmers’ attitude towards environmental stewardship and underplays quantum leaps in management and mitigation of farm nutrients, the fencing of waterways, riparian planting, the strategic application of fertilisers and nutrient budgeting and the effects these are having on improving water quality.  The Greens do not mention that many of the sites NIWA test for its National Rivers Network that fail swimming standards are in fact rivers and lakes affected by urban run off. Instead they continue to blame farmers.

There is still more to be done but the imposition of higher standards by regional councils and improvements in farming practices are making a positive difference in many areas.

Farmers like me acknowledge that there is a lot more work we need to do and the vast majority of us are adopting practices and spending tens of millions of dollars a year which, given time,  will sort out our contribution.  But we are not the sole cause or the sole solution.  River quality reports are already showing the benefit of a change in farmers’ attitude toward environmental stewardship, but this narrative doesn’t fit the Green’s script.

The NPS by contrast will be law.  It gives communities the power to decide how much progress needs to be made and over what timeframe. It specifically encourages communities to decide what they want for their rivers and lakes while balancing that with the costs to society and the economy. It has the fish hook that over time, all water bodies will have plans for how they will meet community aspirations, so if the students of North Dunedin decide they wish to swim in the Leith at anytime and the ratepayers of that great Southern town can afford it and are prepared to prioritise that spending over all other, then that is their choice. My guess is the cost will have that city’s burghers muttering darkly at their haggis and prevarication will win.  That’s been the case in most major urban centres. 

The NPS may not have the sexy but implausible sound bite ‘swimmable for all’ but it gives that choice to the community to decide. It is practical, pragmatic and is the law. With water we’re in this together and the NPS underscores that. 

 The idea of being able to swim in every body of water is attractive but expensive and almost certainly an impossible standard to reach everywhere.

Dairying and recent intensification is blamed for poorer water quality but dirty water isn’t new.

My father was a carpenter at what was then Waitaki freezing works at Pukeuri  more than 40 years ago. That’s when the company had to build a huge reservoir to hold water which had to be treated because the water from the Waitaki River, which supplied Oamaru and other smaller settlements, wasn’t fit to wash export meat.

We’ve come a long way since then and while dairying is blamed for the problem it’s also working hard to be part of the solution with initiatives such as Fonterra’s Grassroots Fund:

Fonterra Grass Roots Fund

For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra’s Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com
Photo: For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra's Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com

There is general acceptance of a need to improve water quality in many areas.

The argument is about how far improvements need to go.

National’s policy imposes a a minimum standard.

It leaves it up to communities to decide how much higher they want, and can afford, their water quality to be.

They are the ones with the most to gain from cleaner water and they are the ones who will have to pay for it.

The Green policy sets an impossibly high standard and leaves communities with no choice regardless of their wishes and priorities.

Blue is a much better colour for water than green.


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