Rural round-up

June 19, 2018

In wake of M. Bovis, look after each other

To those who in some way are in the depths of New Zealand’s farming world, or part of the sector in some way, and to those who might not read this because they are not farmers — I’m thinking of us all, writes Mischa Clouston.

This Mycoplasma bovis is colossal. It will reach far and affect many of us in some way. In a huge, indescribable way.

I’m scared for my cattle owner friends; it must be such a heavy weight to carry just now, knowing you could lose so much.I’m scared for fellow managers or milkers; if there are no cows, do we even have a job in the dairy and beef industries? .

I’m worried for the health sector, helping support the strain and worry. But let’s not forget the agribusiness owners whose business is on farms or with product or services for cattle — the small business owners relying on the spending from farmers who may, in time, have little left in their own pots. . .

Otago water rights: ‘It’s time for this to be sorted out’ :

Water is the new gold in Otago and there is a mountain of work to bring water allocation in the area in line with the rest of the country before time runs out.

The Otago Regional Council is working to have the region’s antiquated water take regime brought in line with the Resource Management Act by the October 2021 deadline.

Water rights in Central Otago and parts of the surrounding districts were first allowed as mining rights to aid in the extraction of gold in the mid 19th century. . .

Down to earth and sharing the view glamping style – Sally Rae:

Patrick and Amber Tyrrell are genuinely living the dream.

It sounds a little like something out of a film script:  South African farmer’s son meets Waitaki Valley farmer’s daughter in a co-operative agricultural community in the Israeli desert.

Eventually, they move to the Waitaki Valley, where they build an off-the-grid home with spectacular views, and  focus on getting down to earth — literally. In February last year, Mr and Mrs Tyrrell launched Valley Views Glamping  (glamorous camping) on their property in the foothills below Mount Domett.

“It feels like we’ve found our calling in life,” Mrs Tyrrell said . .

Government needs to rethink Landcorp:

The Government needs to shrink their ownership of farms through Landcorp and use them to give young Kiwi farmers the opportunity to lease and ultimately own some of these farms, National Party spokesperson for Agriculture Nathan Guy says.

“The Government owns massive tracts of productive land through Landcorp, 385,503 hectares – or around six times the size of Lake Tāupo, even though there is little public good from Crown ownership.

“Landcorp not only provides a poor financial return to taxpayers but the Governments’ ownership of these farms is keeping Kiwi farmers out of the market. . . 

Northland farmers gain insights on Queensland beef sector:

Northland sheep and beef farmers Kevin and Annette Boyd were among a group of 20
farmers who attended a week-long educational beef tour in Queensland last month
organised by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank.

The tour featured two days at the world-renowned Beef Australia event in Rockhampton
as well as visits to a range of beef operations throughout Queensland including
Brisbane-based meat retailer Farmer in the City, Grassdale feedlot in Miles, the Roma
saleyards and Emerald-based Clissold Downs (beef trading) and SwarmFarm (agritechnology).

The tour was organised by Rabobank to provide the bank’s local and international beef
clients with an opportunity to network with other farmers and to learn more about beef
operations in Queensland. . . 

Lack of decision support tools in forestry:

Recent comments by officials and “experts” on planting one billion trees, the plight of hill country forestry and woody debris flows, have not touched on the total lack of decision support tools so that farmers and other local forest investors can make the right decisions. Without engaging a costly consultant, farmers are expected to take a risk on a 25-year land commitment in an information vacuum.

Unlike the plethora of levy and government funded systems and tools available to farmers on agricultural decisions, there is next to nothing on forestry. The forest grower levy is mostly consumed by overseas owned forestry corporates looking to protect and enhance their assets, to maintain a social license to operate in a foreign land. As a result the forest levy doesn’t get spent expanding a local forest industry. . . 

Bayer North Canterbury Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018 announced:

Congratulations to Zoe Marychurch from Bell Hill who won the Bayer South Island Regional Young Viticulturist of the Year competition on Friday 15th June.

This is a new regional competition added to the Young Vit competition this year and is open to contestants from Nelson, Canterbury and Waitaki. The winner goes through to represent their own region so Marychurch will represent North Canterbury in the National Final in August.

Four contestants battled it out at Greystone in Waipara – three from North Canterbury and one from Nelson. “The calibre of the contestants was high and it was great to see their enthusiasm and passion for viticulture evident throughout the day” says Nicky Grandorge, National Co-ordinator. They were tested on a wide range of skills including budgeting, trellising, pruning and pests and diseases. . . 

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Rural round-up

June 16, 2018

Cube cleans up farm and orchard footwear – Hugh Stringleman:

Farm and orchard gate footwear cleaning and disinfection is expected to be a growing business for Jacson3 of Hamilton, which launched its portable biosecurity system at the National Fieldays.

Partners Jackie Humm and Russell Knutson, pictured, showed their Jacson Cube for the first time, after 18 months in development.

The product replaces the messy and often ineffective buckets and brushes that are now used on most farms and orchards. . . 

Regulator says Fonterra’s asset beta for calculating milk price ‘not practically feasible’ – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – The Commerce Commission says it is concerned that the ‘asset beta’ Fonterra Cooperative Group uses to determine the farmgate milk price is too low, meaning it ends up paying its farmers a higher price for their milk than would be warranted under the company’s enabling law.

“The impact of this is that Fonterra calculates a higher milk price than would be the case if it used a more feasible allowance for risk in the cost of finance, consistent with other processors,” the commission said in a statement accompanying an ’emerging views’ paper. . . 

Second place still winner for NZ food if branded:

Lincoln University agrifood marketing expert Dr Nic Lees says we need to make more of being second when it comes to international food ratings.

Research from Lincoln University and the University of Florida, showed that most western consumers view New Zealand food as the next best thing to their local products.

However, Dr Lees said we are not taking advantage of this positive perception of the quality and safety of our food products.

“Unfortunately we are missing out on this premium because many overseas consumers are unaware their food originates in New Zealand.” . .

Deer milk wins Innovation Award at Fieldays:

Pāmu’s (formerly Landcorp) focus on innovation in the food business has been recognised at the 50th Fieldays, winning the Innovation Grassroots awards, with its ground-breaking deer milk product.

After three years of trial and testing, with partners Sharon and Peter McIntyre, who farm near Gore, today’s award caps an exciting week for deer milk, with a chefs tasting in Auckland on Monday.

Chief Executive Steve Carden says that deer milk was the sort of innovation that the agriculture sector needs to invest in to make sure we remain competitive. . .

Growing the future of forestry – top scholars rewarded:

Winners of the inaugural IFS Growth Tertiary Scholarship awards have been announced for 2018.

This prestigious scholarship initiative was established by innovative industry specialists IFS Growth, to support exemplar students, in pursuit of a qualification for the forestry industry. The award provides a powerful kick-start into the world of forestry with cash towards course tuition fees, work experience opportunities and entry into the company’s graduate career programme. . .

Sowing seeds of healthy childhood motivation for new charity partnership :

Helping young New Zealanders have the best chance of a healthy childhood is the driving force behind a new partnership between New Zealand’s leading charitable child health research funder and premier seed supplier, Pioneer® brand products.

Pioneer Head of Commercial Operations, Steve Richardson, said that the partnership with Cure Kids is a tangible way that our organisation, as a seed supplier can take an active role in improving health outcomes for New Zealand children. . .


Govt sowing seeds for another ag-sag?

May 7, 2018

Let’s start with something we can agree on: we all want clean waterways.

Where opinion diverges is on how that is to be achieved.

The government thinks part of the solution is in reducing cow numbers:

Environment Minister David Parker told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that in some parts of New Zealand cow numbers may have to be cut.

‘Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.’

It’s not just a cow issue and it’s not just nitrogen and phosphorus as this chart from the Agricultural Research Centre shows:

As I have said many times before, the major contributor to problems in the Kakanui River isn’t farming it’s  seagulls.

Back to Q&A, just like with the government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration, it has no idea about the economic impact of reducing cow numbers:

CORIN This is a massive signal. This is like your oil and gas. This is you saying to the farming sector, ‘You cannot continue with some of your practices in dairying, and we will force you to have less cows.’ What work have you done to look at what the economic impact of that would be? Because we know if there’s a drought, for example, and milk production goes down a couple of percent, it takes off a percent off GDP.

DAVID Mm. Well, I think the Landcorp example is illustrative that it’s not the end of the world for dairying.

The Landcorp example is not a good one because the company’s return on capital is abysmal and it’s propensity for making losses couldn’t be sustained by private businesses.

CORIN Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

DAVID We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses. . . 

It’s not just difficult to model, it’s ignoring the reality that land, climate and soils that suit dairying don’t necessarily suit horticulture.

Jacqueline Rowarth pointed out nearly two years ago, a reduction in cow numbers would have unexpected consequences:

Replacing dairy with horticulture might have some economic merit, but land suitability has to be considered, as does the supporting infrastructure and inputs.

The point about any land-based activity is that it suits the topography and climate, which interact with the parent material to create the soil. Farmers and growers understand the nature of the interaction, and then manage the deficiencies – fertilisers, irrigation, shelters, for instance.

They also consider the infrastructure, processors and markets. Land that can be used economically and environmentally sustainably for horticulture has mostly been converted already.

There are also detrimental environmental impacts to be considered. Research on the Canterbury Plains reported in the media last year indicated that dairy conversions involving fertiliser and irrigation, actually increased organic matter.

The reverse is also true. And when organic matter breaks down, nitrogen is released as is carbon dioxide.

Massey University’s professor Tony Parsons has examined the land-use challenge with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC). He has calculated that at a given N input, dairy produces two to three times as much food, similar or less methane and less than half the amount of nitrogen loss.

He has also shown the use of supplements improves efficiencies. Combined with strategic use of shelters and feed pads, nitrogen losses can be reduced. . . 

A lot of work has been, and continues to be, done into improved practices which reduce dairying’s environmental impact

Keith Woodford says that we need a rational debate about water:

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’.    The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal. . . 

Radical environmentalists and anti-farming groups have done a very good job with the superficiality, rhetoric and shoutingWhat we need now is science and the recognition that problems decades in the making will take time to solve and that improving water quality isn’t as simple as reducing cow numbers.

Currently, there is great confusion between issues of water quantity and water quality.  Dirty dairying has become the catch phrase.  At a public level, distinguishing between nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, bacterial loadings and sediment does not occur.  There is also very poor understanding as to the constraints to cash crop and horticulture production in the absence of irrigation.

The rural community also has to accept that change is necessary. . . 

The rural community, and farmers in particular have generally not only accepted that change is necessary but have poured money into making changes which enhance and protect waterways.

They are aware, as the government and many others don’t appear to be, that water quality isn’t just about the environment, it also has a direct impact on the economy.

It is remarkable how huge swathes of the big-city populations have lost sight of the dependence New Zealand has on its natural resource-based industries. They do not appreciate that destruction of agriculture is incompatible with poverty elimination. . . .

Dairying has revived communities that were dying, creating jobs on farms and in businesses which service and supply them. Schools which were in danger of closing have had their rolls boosted, sports clubs which were in decline have been revived.

It has also provided a huge boost to the national economy, as the biggest or second biggest export earner and a major contributor to the annual tax-take.

The regional slush fund will be no compensation for the destruction of businesses and the people who depend on them. The fund itself will be in danger if the tax take and export income are severely reduced by attacks on farms and farmers.

The Lange-Douglas policies created the ag-sag of the 80s.

Few would argue with the necessity for change and what that government did but this government ought to have learned from the damage done by how they did it.

Farmers aren’t arguing against the need for clean water.

We’re just very worried that the government is sowing the seeds for another ag-sag.

They, and too many other people, don’t understand the economic and social cost of forcing fast changes, especially where they’re not backed by science.


Rural round-up

May 5, 2018

Save water and cut effluent – Richard Rennie:

A partnership between Ravensdown and Lincoln University has unveiled technology its creators believe will reduce farm effluent loads significantly while also saving billions of litres of fresh water.

ClearTech, launched this week, has taken the dairy industry’s two biggest issues, effluent losses and water consumption and dealt with both through a combination of simple water purification principles, managed by a computerised controller.

ClearTech puts a coagulant into the effluent when a farm dairy yard is hosed down. It causes the effluent particles to cluster together and sink, leaving most of the water clear and usable.

Ravensdown effluent technology manager Jamie Thompson said there are challenges to getting effluent to clot given the variable pH, turbidity and content of the waste on any given day. . . 

Dairying unexpected but welcome career choice – Nicole Sharp:

Southland-Otago Dairy Manager of the Year Jaime McCrostie talks at the recent regional field day at the Vallelys’ property, near Gore, about her journey in the dairy sector.

Jaime McCrostie never thought she would end up dairy farming.

She grew up on a sheep farm and it was her neighbour who taught her how to milk cows.

She has travelled all over the world and worked in a range of industries, but always seems to come back to the dairy industry. . . 

MediaWorks to broadcast Grand Final of 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year:

A new deal will see MediaWorks broadcast New Zealand’s longest running agricultural contest the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

Under the agreement, an edited version of the 50th Grand Final of the iconic contest will be broadcast on ThreeNow.

ThreeNow is MediaWorks’ free video on-demand streaming service available on smart TVs and mobile devices.

MediaWorks’ Head of Rural, Nick Fisher, said the broadcaster is proud to be partnering with NZ Young Farmers to produce the programme. . . 

Tribute paid upon receiving award – Pam Jones:

An Alexandra man has received national recognition for his services to irrigation in Central Otago, but has paid tribute to the work of “two extraordinary women” as well.

Gavin Dann was one of two recipients of a 2018 Ron Cocks Award from Irrigation New Zealand during its conference in Alexandra recently, for his leadership of the Last Chance Irrigation Company (LCIC) and his work to establish a community drinking water supply.

Mr Dann had been the “driving force” behind a number of initiatives to improve the Last Chance company’s operations, supporting the scheme for more than 40 years, Irrigation New Zealand chairwoman Nicky Hyslop said. . . 

 

Landcorp board gets a refresh – Neal Wallace:

Former Landcorp chairwoman Traci Houpapa was available for reappointment but missed out because the shareholding ministers wanted to refresh the state-owned enterprise’s board, she says.

Her eight-year term on the board, of which three were as chairwoman, has come to an end, along with three other directors, Nikki Davies-Colley, Pauline Lockett and Eric Roy.

Houpapa accepted her appointment was at the behest of the Ministers of State Owned Enterprises Winston Peters and Finance Grant Robertson.

The newly appointed directors are Nigel Atherfold, Hayley Gourley and Belinda Storey.

She said the Landcorp she joined eight years ago was very different to the one she has just left, with a different strategy, focus and operating model. . . 

 

Regional fuel tax will add to the cost of food:

Regional fuel tax legislation, as it stands, is likely to add costs to fresh fruit and vegetables for consumers.

Today, Horticulture New Zealand spoke to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee about its written submission on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill, that is endorsed and supported by a further 18 organisations.

“While in principle, we agree with measures to reduce road congestion in Auckland, we believe there are un-intended consequences of the Bill as it stands; these could include increases to the prices of healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says. . .  . .

Bull finishing farm steered towards a sale:

One of Northland’s most substantial bull finishing farms has been placed on the market for sale.

The 400-hectare property is located on the western outskirts of the township of Kawakawa in the Mid-North, and is held over 24 individual titles in three blocks. The farm’s topography consists of 268 hectares of rolling to medium-contour grazing paddocks, and 108 hectares of flat land – allowing for tractor-access to 95 percent of the property.

The farm also contains 24 hectares of mature pruned pine trees ready for harvesting, and estimated to be worth in the region of $360,000. The freehold farm has been owned by three generations of the Cookson family. . . 

Delegat has record 2018 harvest, driven by increase in NZ grapes – Jonathan Underhill:

 (BusinessDesk) – Delegat Group, New Zealand’s largest listed winemaker, says it had a record harvest this year, driven by an increase in New Zealand grapes, while its Australian harvest fell.

The Auckland-based company said the 2018 harvest rose to a record 40,059 tonnes, as grapes collected in New Zealand rose 10 percent to 38,012 tonnes. The Australia harvest for Barossa Valley Estate fell to 2,047 tonnes from 2,760 in 2017.

“The 2018 vintage has delivered excellent quality in all regions,” managing director Graeme Lord said in the statement. . . 


Rural round-up

May 4, 2018

Irrigation not an environmental irritation – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 Irrigation can reduce soil erosion.

Of course, the irrigation has to be carefully managed and precision technologies are part of the management. However, there is no doubt that overcoming any drought period during warm temperatures allows increased pasture growth, which is associated with maintenance or an increase in organic matter, which in turn decreases the likelihood of erosion. 

Any increased income resulting from the harvesting of extra pasture or crop can be invested in more environmentally sound technologies. . .

Government-owned farmed tests positive for Mycoplasma bovis – Gerald Piddock:

Landcorp’s Rangesdale Station has been confirmed as testing positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

The sheep and beef property near Pahiatua in North Wairarapa was confirmed as having the cattle disease by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Landcorp (Pamu) spokesman Simon King confirmed the farm had tested positive for the disease and was working with MPI and local veterinary services and were currently culling the impacted herd.

“We had been in touch with neighbouring properties to advise them of the potential that the farm was infected last week, and we held a community meeting on Wednesday to update our neighbours on the situation and the actions Pāmu (Landcorp) is taking. . .

Gathering data on hill country potential, risks – Mark Adams:

Federated Farmers is backing a research project now underway to better understand hill country development practices.  

The end goal is to create a decision tool to aid farmers as they weigh up the benefits, costs and environmental risks of development of their hill country blocks.

Farmers from Canterbury and Manawatu have already shared their experiences on this topic during anonymous interviews conducted by research company UMR.  The next stage of the project, commissioned by Environment Canterbury and supported by Beef & Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers (South Canterbury), involves detailed telephone surveys of 150 farmers in the two provinces. . .

No significant drop in rabbits seen yet – Hamish MacLean:

Counts to establish whether the new strain of rabbit calicivirus has taken hold will begin next week, but Otago landowners expecting to see dramatic drops in rabbit numbers could be in for a wait.

When the impending release of 100 doses of a Korean strain of rabbit calicivirus was announced in March, the Otago Regional Council said the pest population could be cut by up to 40%.

Now farmers are saying they have seen no evidence of the impact of the virus.

Council environmental monitoring and operations director Scott MacLean said post-virus release night counts would begin next week but a potential 40% decrease in numbers of the pest would take time. . .

Eighty per cent of farmers aren’t employing technology to be productive in the 21st century – Pat Deavoll:

A red meat industry group discovered in 2011 that high performing sheep farmers earned more than twice as much for their red meat per hectare of land than lower performing ones,

Furthermore, they produced more than double the amount of lamb per hectare. Why? For many reasons, the group concluded.

Farmers in the lower echelons of productivity were notoriously poor at embracing technology. They also failed to integrate with management systems, failed to connect with their banks, processors and advisors, did not employ measurement and benchmarking strategies, and were terrible at budgeting. An estimated five per cent of sheep and beef farmers used an adequate budget, but 65 per cent didn’t bother with a budget at all. . . .

Agricultural sustainability in a water-challenged year – Roberto A. Peiretti:

I strive for excellence on my farm in Argentina—but this year, I’m delighted to be average.

As we bring in our corn and soybeans this month—remember, our seasons are reversed here in the southern hemisphere—we have no right to expect much of a harvest. This cropping season, our rainfall was far below regular levels. Our plants didn’t receive as much water as they need to flourish as well as they can.

Rather than suffering a catastrophe, however, we’re doing just fine: We’ll enjoy an ordinary harvest.

That’s because right now, our soil never has been healthier. We owe it all to a vision of sustainable farming that is astonishing in its simplicity even as it depends on agriculture’s latest technologies. . . .

 

It’s not #sauvblanc day without #nzwine:

On Friday 4 May New Zealand Winegrowers is ready to celebrate what is shaping up to be most successful International Sauvignon Blanc day yet, with an online digital campaign reaching over 50 million impressions via the hashtags #nzwine and #sauvblanc.

“This is on track to be the biggest social media campaign NZ wine has ever been involved in and it is fitting that it is around Sauvignon Blanc Day – New Zealand’s most exported wine varietal,” says Chris Yorke, Global Marketing Director at New Zealand Winegrowers. . . 


Rural round-up

April 22, 2018

Irrigration industry tries to fix bad boy image at conference :

The head of Irrigation New Zealand recognises the industry has garnered an image as the bad boys in the eyes of many, but they are working to fix it.

About 400 delegates have attended the Irrigation New Zealand conference in Alexandra this week, hearing what the future holds for the agricultural industry.

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said restoring the public image of irrigators was a focus for the industry.

“We are at this crossroads and we have got to find a way forward,” he said. . . 

Landcorp deer milk turned into cosmetics and powder for high end restaurants – Jill Galloway:

Landcorp is milking 80 red deer to make milk powder for high end New Zealand restaurants and skin creams and other cosmetics for Asian markets.

The government’s farming company completed its second season of milking last month. and is due to start milking hinds again when they drop their fawns in November.

Innovation general manager Rob Ford said the hinds were in-fawn at the moment and were not being milked. “The season usually goes from November until February or mid March, the deer are milked twice a day, and the fawns are hand raised.” . . 

It’s time to be moving on – Louise Giltrap:

Parts of this column will sound like a repeat, not because I’m bored or have no opinion on anything, but simply because it’s that time of year.

It’s moving time, which means new jobs, new farms and new homes for some of you.

We have two of our family members on the move this season. Eldest daughter Courtney and her partner William are moving house on the same farm.

They contract milk for William’s parents and are making the move from the worker’s house into the main family home while William’s parents move into town. . . 

Red meat story coming to farmers soon:

We want to provide you with an update on the Red Meat Story, which aims to support the sector to capture greater returns from global markets for farmers.

Last Friday, Beef + Lamb New Zealand hosted a workshop where we presented industry partners with the New Zealand beef and lamb origin brand and a high-level “go to market” strategy.

The workshop included the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Damien O’Connor, the Meat Industry Association, NZ Trade and Enterprise, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade, MPI, Tourism NZ, all major processing companies, and a number of farmers that have been involved in the development of the Red Meat Story. . . 

Salmon key to life for tribe – Hamish MacLean:

In a bid to return salmon to their sacred river, a California First Nations tribe yesterday visited the Hakataramea hatchery where the chinook salmon were first introduced to New Zealand rivers.

Winnemem Wintu hereditary chief and spiritual leader Caleen Sisk was in South Canterbury to learn the history of the Mchenrys Rd hatchery where McCloud River chinook salmon were released into the tributary of the Waitaki River in 1901. The tribe had a sacred connection to the salmon and like the fish, her people had suffered after settlers moved into the forests of northern California. . . 

 

Police join SafeWork campaign to stop quad deaths – Daniel Pedersen:

GRAHAM Brown knows well the dangers of a quad bike.

He was spraying a boundary fence on his property in 2015 when he “looked away at the wrong time, hit a piece of wood and went over.

“I knew I was gone, so I just grabbed hold of the handlebars and clung on,” he said this morning, as SafeWork NSW, NSW police and politicians spilled onto his Springside property to promote quad bike safety. . . 

 

Read the rest of this entry »


Farmers want Molesworth to stay as farm

April 18, 2018

Farmers want the country’s biggest farm Molesworth Station to stay as a farm.

. . .The Department of Conservation started an online survey on the future of Molesworth Station, between Marlborough and Canterbury, in January to gauge public appetite for a radical rethink of the farm.

The survey follows up a 2013 management plan for the 180,000-hectare Molesworth, about the size of Stewart Island, which looked to move the station away from its traditional farming focus to include more recreation and conservation activities.

But Molesworth neighbour Steve Satterthwaite, of Muller Station, said getting rid of farming could create “major ramifications” for the environment.

“As far as Molesworth is concerned, I believe it should continue to be farmed and there’s plenty of reasons as to why,” he said.

Without farming, there could be pest problems and weed issues, as well as a huge fire risk, Satterthwaite said.

Weeds, pests and fires don’t observe farm boundaries.

Any weed and pest management and fire prevention measures farmers do can be nullified if their neighbours aren’t doing their best too.

It was concerning the public could weigh in on the future of the Molesworth and potentially “sway” what happened with the station, he said.

“It really concerns me that unaffected people that have no knowledge of the utilisation of Molesworth and the risk associated with not farming it can potentially have the input to sway the politicians or the decision-makers because of their numerical numbers,” he said.

“We are in the east of dry land zones, and if the fuel was allowed to be completely uncontrolled and public have unlimited access, the risk of a major fire in that environment would be one that would need to be considered seriously.” . . 

Middlehurst Station farmer Susan Macdonald said she would like to see farming at the station continue, with the possibility of providing a little more public access.

She said it was “important” for farming at the station to continue for pest and weed reasons.

“I would like to see it continue to be farmed in harmony with the environment and in harmony with people.

“There’s a lot of land there and I think it’s got a huge value in terms of agriculture.” . . 

J Bush & Sons Honey co-owner Murray Bush said the “status quo” needed to continue into the future.

“I think there is a good balance between public access and farming but not having farming would actually make the property go backwards, I believe, and then it wouldn’t have that same appeal to the public,” he said.

Bush said allowing public access to the station year-round could create a safety risk.

“If you open the road 52 weeks of the year and let people just do what they want … if it was never closed and it was open, there’s no communication up there so unless there’s millions and millions and millions of dollars going to be spent on public access safety … it’s not an environment to be taken lightly,” he said.

“Unless you’re going to employ people on the ground 52 weeks of the year just to look after the tourists, it’s a real issue and I think people underestimate that environment.” . . .

The neighbours’ concerns about changing the balance between farming and access are valid.

The road through Molesworth is closed in winter and can be closed in summer if the fire risk rises.

That is necessary for public safety and to protect the environment.

Molesworth is farmed by Landcorp which makes a very small return on capital but income from the farm offsets the costs of weed and pest control, and grazing reduces the fire danger.

The station generates an income, looks after the environment and allows some public access.

If the area farmed is reduced the income will drop, even if DoC lets commercial concessions for access,  and costs will increase.

Molesworth is the country’s biggest farm and it should continue to be farmed.


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