Rural round-up

July 24, 2015

Certainty underpins healthy community :

Federated Farmers have placed an emphasis the importance of certainty within the primary sector as a key component of a thriving economy.

Speaking at the Local Government New Zealand conference, Federated Farmers president Dr William Rolleston told councils the number one issue facing the primary sector needs was certainty, and with certainty came the ability to make investment decisions that underpinned a thriving economy. 

Rolleston also spoke about the Resource Management Act (RMA), and heavy burden it placed on the rural sector.  . .

Shanghai Pengxin puts all its farms up for sale – Gerard Hutching:

Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin’s total farm assets in New Zealand are up for sale, including 16 farms and a conditional agreement to buy Lochinver Station – but they are unlikely to be sold.

Because the company wants to restructure, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) requires it to offer its assets for sale to New Zealanders.

The 16 dairy farms totalling 7885 hectares are the former Crafar family farms, bought controversially for $200 million in 2012.

They were listed for sale on Trade Me on Sunday on a “price by negotiation” basis and by Tuesday had been viewed 657 times. . .

Paraparaumu farmer is looking to give away his best friend to a loving home – Jessy Edwards:

Brian Arnopp is being eaten out of house and home by his best mate, and it’s finally got too much for him.

So now Mr Bull is going free to a good home.

Arnopp, of Paraparaumu, has looked after Mr Bull since he was left at the 77-year-old’s farm four years ago. . .

Pipfruit industry on track:

The New Zealand pipfruit industry recently regained its position as the world’s most competitive pipfruit industry, making this year’s conference time to reflect, says Pipfruit NZ.

The pipfruit industry, which is due to hold its annual conference in Wellington in August, is one of the fastest growing primary sectors in the country. Exports have increased in value from $340m in 2012 to $536m in 2014. The industry is well on track to reach its $1bn export target by 2022.

Pipfruit NZ says the annual conference will be an important networking and educational event for the industry. . .

Time to show your true nature:

Farmers are being urged to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, which now include the Auckland region.

Entries open on August 1.

Facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust, the awards promote best-practice land management by showcasing the work of people farming in a way that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. . .

Farmers need government to heed ’10 point’ local government plan:

Federated Farmers want the government to give immediate attention to the Local Government New Zealand’s ’10 point plan’ for rates reform.

Federated Farmers Local Government spokesperson Katie Milne says the disastrous dairy payout prices in particular mean farmers want urgent action on inequities in the rates they pay to their local bodies.

“We farmers can’t control international prices. Neither can the government. But the government can legislate rates reform. It all helps, and the sooner the better,” Katie Milne says. . .

Te Karaka student awarded scholarship:

A Te Karaka student has been awarded the Mangatu Blocks and Ravensdown Scholarship, providing three years study at Auckland University.

Roland Taupara Brown completed his secondary schooling at Gisborne Boys High School where in his final year he was named Dux for 2014.

Brown says the scholarship provides him with a unique opportunity to focus on his studies in science and commerce at Auckland University. His Bachelor of Science degree will focus on green chemistry and his Bachelor of Commerce will provide the business disciplines to ensure a balance between environmental and commercial considerations. . .


More tax not answer

February 3, 2015

Local Government New Zealand has launched a funding review paper with options on how councils can raise more money:

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the findings, along with increasing demands from central government policy-makers, means we must take a fresh look at the way local government is funded for the benefits of communities. There is currently a significant shortfall between revenue and expenditure.

“Councils spend approximately 10.5 per cent of all public expenditure, yet they raise only 8.3 per cent of all public revenue,” says Mr Yule. The World Bank, in its recent report on local government finances, describes this as a vertical fiscal gap caused by a “mismatch between revenue means and expenditure needs.”

“As a result, a growing number of councils face financial challenges at a time when demand for infrastructure and services is greater than ever. Local government is also an important contributor to economic growth but the right incentives and resources must be in place to drive this growth,” Mr Yule says.

As part of the solution, LGNZ proposes a principles-based partnership model with central government. This would include central government fully considering the costs and benefits of decisions for local communities and co-funding costs where policy proposals have significant national and local benefit.

“The goal is not to increase the overall tax burden for New Zealand, but rather to determine whether a different mix of funding options for local government might deliver better outcomes for the country,” Mr Yule says.

“The sustainability of local government funding has become an increasingly important policy issue in the face of demographic and economic change. Some metropolitan councils are having to invest heavily in infrastructure to accommodate growth, while others have to maintain and renew infrastructure in the face of declining populations and funding bases.”

“This is alongside increasing community and central government expectations, and increasing impacts from natural hazards and environmental challenges. Earthquakes and flooding events in recent years have highlighted this.”

It is fair comment that successive central governments have required more and passed on more costs to local government.

The goal to not increase the overall tax burden is welcome, but is threatened by some of the options:

The paper elevates the key issues and identifies how present funding frameworks might be improved, and ways to incentivise local government.

It examines options that could sit alongside a property tax (rates) based funding system. Options suggested for discussion include local income tax, local expenditure tax, selective taxes, regional fuel taxes and transaction taxes.

“However, before pursuing fundamental changes to the funding regime, the local government sector needs to assure communities that it is open to innovation in service delivery, to build confidence in the quality of its spending decisions,” Mr Yule says.

Some councils, such as Rangitikei District Council, have already taken steps to develop innovative approaches to address funding gaps. Rangitikei is considering a number of measures to tackle the issue of population reduction. Likely changes to infrastructure by 2046 include a smaller number of council-managed community facilities, with some transferred to community ownership, and a larger network of roads, some in private ownership; along with modifications to its water and wastewater provision.

Other areas are planning for growth. Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District, for example, are collaborating on a spatial plan, called Smart Growth Bay of Plenty, which is a comprehensive, long term strategy to ensure infrastructure is available for new residents. . .

Some councils face challenges of population decline and some face challenges with growth.

But too many councils have been living beyond their means and increasing rates well beyond the level of inflation for too long.

Whatever the questions asked, new and more taxes, whether they are levied by central or local government should not be the answer.

The discussion paper is here.


Rural round-up

April 13, 2014

Drought great time to show some compassion – James Houghton:

Another week and no drought declaration yet it is the second driest year on record in Waikato, and my has it revealed some peoples true colours! Default settings with graziers contracts are being ignored, and cooperatives are pretending there is no drought.

Farmers and graziers need to be working together through times like this. Not allowing for the affects of the drought to be considered and holding graziers to their contracts, can see them loosing money on a daily basis, trying to feed your stock. To expect a grazier to lose money to look after your stock shows no sense of community, which is what gets us through these adverse weather conditions, and could ostracise you in the long run. People do not forget unkindness. It goes both ways – if you are not showing flexibility on your grazing contracts, it could have a detrimental affect for you next time there is a drought, graziers could start charging you 10 to 50 percent more next time round.  It pays to compare that to the money you are saving in the short term, and whether it is really worth it. . .

Changing beef outlook – Allan Barber:

There have been some interesting beef market developments in recent days.

 Of immediate interest is the news of a forecast excess of US exports over production in the second half of the year as against a relatively small increase in production, reported in the USDA livestock supply and demand report which was released yesterday.

 This leads to a prediction of firmer prices for lean beef, although this will coincide with the seasonal downturn in New Zealand production. Australia is expected to be in a good position to take advantage of this situation.

 The other item of interest is the bi-lateral trade agreement between Japan and Australia which will reduce the tariff on frozen beef from 38.5% to 19.5% over 18 years and on fresh beef to 23.5% over 15 years. . .

Dairy Pawn – Milk Maid Marian:

These days, I feel a little like a chess piece; more pawn than queen.

The Australian federal government has rushed into a free trade agreement with Japan that does next-to-nothing to help Aussie dairy break through tariff barriers, even though Japan is hardly known for a growing dairy industry of its own that deserves protection. I don’t know why we were overlooked but a Sydney Morning Herald story quotes Warren Truss as citing “compromises”.

It’s been an interesting few days for dairy. Coincidentally, the ACCC forced supermarket superpower, Coles, to confess that it was lying when it claimed the $1 milk had not hurt dairy farmers. . .

Farmers back major Local Government NZ funding review:

Federated Farmers is fully behind a fundamental review by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) into the way local government and local roads are funded.

“LGNZ deserves praise for tackling a ticking time bomb made up of demographics and an ever narrowing funding base for council services and our local roads,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Local Government spokesperson.

“This affects everyone but it is especially pronounced in our rural districts.

“Federated Farmers is very keen to participate in this review because for years, we have lobbied for alternative funding options over the antiquated narrow property value basis, we use for rating.

“LGNZ’s review is the biggest advance since the 2007 Local Government Rates Inquiry, which emerged from public unease over the rates burden. . .

Meat and fibre’s going green – Jeanette Maxwell :

I have been told by a staff member that a major retirement village operator has specified only nylon carpet for its villages. I don’t want to reveal the name just yet as we will be contacting them, let alone the Campaign for Wool, but it dumbfounds me. 

If it is what I suspect, a spurious concern over linting, then that’s a specification issue.  It seems very strange to deny people the choice of healthy natural fibres especially in a retirement village because natural wool is good for you.

A big benefit of wool is outstanding flame resistance.  Having a high moisture and protein content it tends to extinguish flames and does not melt or drip either like synthetics.  Wool also stabilises relative humidity by absorbing or releasing moisture during periods of high or low atmospheric humidity. That’s a benefit from evolution.

If wool is maintained then it will absorb and neutralise airborne particles and fumes such as formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides.  Wool is also resistant to static build up and being naturally curly, bounces back into shape after being crushed.   . . .

Awards spur on young dairy trainee  – Gerald Piddock:

Entering the Dairy Industry Awards has helped motivate Nathan Hubbard to focus on how he can improve his performance and progress his dairying career.

The 26-year-old, who was recently named Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year for 2014 said he entered the competition to show future employers his dedication to the industry.

“I want to challenge my knowledge against others at the same level that are motivated and thriving to succeed like I am.”

It was the second time he had entered the awards. After not making the top six on the first occasion, Hubbard said he was determined to do better this year. . .

‘Expensive brand beats expensive land’ – Tim Cronsahw:

Dairy farmers need to demand that dairy giant Fonterra invests heavily in brand development if increasing costs are to be offset by high-priced milk products, says a food marketing expert.

Global food and drink industry international speaker Professor David Hughes said New Zealand’s dairy companies had to spend more on developing patented clever dairy brands as domestic milk growth could not continue at its same rate forever.

“If you want to see Fonterra and smaller companies have higher valued products, they have to spend more on branding and research and development, and to do that has to be through brave farmer leadership saying hold on to more [revenue] and invest it on our behalf for our longer term, and don’t send it back to the farm and there would lots of farmers who don’t agree with that,” said Hughes who spoke at the Zoetis Dairy Summit in Christchurch this week. . .

Millar, Clark lead charge for dog trialling glory – Tim Cronshaw:

Every dog has its day, but only a select few will make the final cut at the Tux New Zealand and South Island Sheep Dog Trial Championship trials at Waihi Station near Geraldine next month.

As many as 300 competitors and their canine partners will line up for each of the four main national events in the main feature of the dog trialling calendar. The heading events are the long head and short head and yard and the huntaway events are the zigzag hunt and the straight hunt.

In good form is Stu Millar from Peak Hill Station who, with dog Rose, is the defending champion of the national short head and yard event in Taupo last year.

Canterbury Sheep Dog Trial Association promotions officer Sally Mallinson said the club trials had yet to be completed, but several Canterbury competitors and their dogs were standing out as possible contenders at the South Island and national events. . .

 


Rural round-up

March 20, 2014

Charmaine O’Shea takes 2014 Dairy Woman of the Year title:

Northland dairy farmer and Chartered Accountant Charmaine O’Shea was named the Dairy Woman of the Year last night at a gala dinner held by the Dairy Women’s Network in Hamilton.

With more than 20 years’ dairy farming and financial expertise, O’Shea has played an important role in improving the profitability of the New Zealand dairy industry through strong financial, environmental and people performance.

She is an equity partner in a Maungatapere dairy farm with brother Shayne. The sibling’s robust environmental stewardship and actions to demonstrate best farming practices were recognised last year when they were named the 2013 Northland Supreme Ballance Farm Environment Award winners. . .

Fonterra Launches China-New Zealand Dairy Exchange Centre:

Fonterra today announced the launch of the China-New Zealand Dairy Exchange Centre in Beijing. The Centre is a joint initiative between Fonterra and China’s National Dairy Industry and Technology System to support the sustainable development of the dairy industry in both countries.

“It is a key priority for Fonterra to contribute to the development of the Chinese dairy industry and we believe there is a lot to be gained by both New Zealand and China through the sharing of knowledge, research and dairy expertise,” said Kelvin Wickham, President of Fonterra Greater China and India.

“Both parties have world-class dairy research and know-how so we are very pleased to be playing a key role in bringing this initiative to life,” he said. . .

Local Government-Backed Website for Water Quality:

The local government sector is leading the way to provide New Zealanders with up to date information about fresh water, with the launch of a new website that makes water quality data public.

The Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website www.lawa.org.nz was created by 16 regional and unitary councils that are Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) members, together with the Ministry for Environment, Cawthron Institute and Massey University with support of the Tindall Foundation.

LAWA provides a rich source of data from more than 1100 freshwater sites local government monitors to give the public easy access to water quality monitoring information. It allows users to see levels of bacteria, acidity, water clarity and other parameters in rivers and catchments. . .

The incredible shrinking current account deficit:

While the value of dairy exports has helped New Zealand record a current account deficit in the December 2013 quarter, $900 million less than in the September 2013 quarter, Federated Farmers knows trade agreements are a must to continue this positive trend.

“Our export performance continues to shine and while dairy is leading, it is a story of our superbly resilient primary industries,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“As Westpac Institutional Bank noted, “A sharp rebound in export volumes, after the severe drought in early 2013, led to the strongest seasonally-adjusted goods balance on record.” . .

High Country innovative leaders:

Federated Farmers High Country farmers are keen to work with Environment Canterbury in making the industry sustainable, so that they can continue improving the land, and keeping the iconic landscape pest free.

“Federated Farmers High Country Field Day yesterday saw 140 industry stakeholders and supporters make a pilgrimage through five of the country’s iconic stations, now a far cry from the barren, rabbit filled desert they once were,” says Simon Williamson, Federated Farmers North Otago High Country Spokesperson.

“There has been an enormous amount of work done to transform some of this barren land into productive pastures. A fundamental part of this transformation has been irrigation, which has allowed this land to generate enough income to support 23 families over eight farms, as opposed to just seven families on six farms nine years ago. . .

Support Trust to highlight farmers’ plight – Hugh Stringleman:

Northland Rural Support Trust has called a meeting of central and local government officials and farmer representatives to help west coast farms gripped by drought.

Former tropical cyclone Lusi turned out to be a damp squib, delivering 20mm of rain at most in the western Kaipara regions of Pouto Peninsula and South Kaipara Head, considerably les than the 50-75mm that fell on Northland’s east coast.

Farmers who attended the Northland Agricultural Research Farm annual field day near Dargaville last week heard of the continuing extreme soil moisture deficit, which has been evident since before Christmas. . . .

Verda Deal Gives New Hope To NZ’s Wood Processing Industry:

 A long-awaited turnaround in the wood processing sector has been signaled today by outdoor wood specialist Verda New Zealand Ltd, who announced they are forming a new entity after a successful capital raising exercise.

Local and international investors have come together to form Verda International Ltd (VIL). VIL has purchased all of Verda New Zealand’s assets, brands and IP, and has taken a 47 per cent stake in the company’s sawmill in Napier.

VIL CEO Grant Butterworth, says the deal is the culmination of 12 months of work to form the new entity, attract new investors and finalise the company structure. . .

Lies, damned lies and statistics (surveys) – Willy Leferink:

What would happen if Federated Farmers put out a survey asking respondents to agree or disagree with broad sweeping statements.  I’m thinking along the lines of, ‘do you feel introduced fish species should enjoy significantly more legal protection over native fish?’ What about, ‘should the trout license fee ($121 for an adult) be abolished, with trout and salmon rules aligned with those for saltwater recreational fishing?’

Something tells me one organisation would cry blue murder before exploding in a rage of apoplexy.  So guess what, I am not going down that line. 

Instead, I am going to respond to what I heard Bernard Hickey and RadioLIVE’s Marcus Lush recently say on radio.  Lush said, “we’re becoming more dairy intensive with these great irrigation projects in Canterbury and to a lesser extent Hawke’s Bay…they are all geared for more people going into dairy.” 

Funny then that the sheep and beef guys in Central Hawke’s Bay are going to use Ruataniwha to part irrigate their farms, just like Federated Farmers’ Mid-Canterbury provincial president Chris Allen. . .

Updated dairy cattle code of welfare to include calf management:

Federated Farmers welcomes the consultation process announced by NAWAC late last week, as it updates the Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare.

“There has been a lot of media coverage recently of calves being slaughtered in Chile,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy Chairperson.

“Federated Farmers agrees with most New Zealanders that this sort of behaviour does not belong on New Zealand farms. . .


Free to vote or not

October 14, 2013

Local Government New Zealand is looking at making voting compulsory following a disappointing turnout this year.

There is a danger in that. It will increase the quantity of votes casts but there’s no guarantee it will have any impact on the quality and might even make it worse.

People who are already so disengaged from local body politics they choose to not vote or simply don’t bother are hardly likely to take a more intelligent interest simply because they’re compelled to do something with a voting paper.

I’d prefer councils chosen by a minority of voluntary voters to those chosen by a majority voting under duress.

If we are truly free to vote then we must also be free to not vote should we choose to.


Do we blame postal voting?

October 7, 2013

With less than a week to go voter returns for the local body elections are still underwhelming.

. . . Local Government New Zealand says it looks like voter turnout this year could be the worst on record.

People living in smaller regions are putting some of our main centres to shame. A week out, the centres with the highest voter numbers are central Hawke’s Bay, with 32 percent, Horowhenua, with 31 percent, Clutha, with 32 percent, and Timaru, with 32 percent.

Compare that to the lowest voter numbers. In Auckland only 14 percent of people have voted. Hamilton’s the same, and even the capital’s not much better, with 17 percent.

Dunedin has had the biggest drop in the country, down from 26 percent to just 17 percent.

Marc left a comment on Friday’s post  suggesting voters are deliberately waiting:
I would point out that voting doesn’t close until 12 October, and in the meantime candidates are politicing, withdrawing, being “exposed”, changing their stance, pork barreling, and destroying their credibility. Why would you vote early when the candidate you may vote for can fit into all or any of the above categories? . .
That could have something to do with it.
I had a 50/50 toss up between two candidates in a previous election, voted early then later, but before polling closed, learned something that would have persuaded me to vote for the candidate I didn’t.
That’s one of the reasons I haven’t yet voted but I will, at least for councillors and mayor.
However I think LGNZ is right to blame the system too:
Local Government New Zealand says figures are down almost everywhere and the problem lies in the voting system itself. It says the mail system lacks urgency and excitement, and they’ve made it so easy that nobody’s really bothering to participate. . .

Postal voting makes it easy for people to ignore or lose their papers, forget to post them and to use other people’s votes.
That’s if people get the voting papers in the first place.
Some haven’t yet.
. . .In parts of Auckland, voters are yet to receive voting packs and candidates are concerned delays could alter the election outcome.In other parts, voters have received two sets of voting papers.

Tauranga and Gisborne police are also investigating two incidents.

In Tauranga, 290 voting packs were in two mail sacks that disappeared. In Gisborne, a man purporting to be a council volunteer went house-to-house offering to post completed ballot papers. . .

There is none of the sense of community participation you get by turning up at a polling booth either and this is something those advocating for electronic voting should keep in mind if they mean people can vote by computer from home.
However, it’s not only the voting system to blame.
People are even less engaged with local body politics than national ones and because of that are far less inclined to vote.

Defending democracy no stunt

September 29, 2013

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule says a reward for information about mistakes in election booklets is just a stunt.

. . . Lawrence Yule says that while voters do use the booklets to make their choice, they also get information about candidates from other sources, such as advertisements.. .

Where else they get information from is irrelevant.

If mistakes have been made which could influence the way people vote then the elections are compromised.

The offer of rewards by Franks & Ogilvie is an attempt to find out how serious the problem is in response to the lack of any official investigation.

It’s a defence of democracy not a stunt.


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