Rural round-up

April 20, 2017

Good PR is a self-help exercise – Neal Wallace:

A united agricultural sector needs to promote itself by telling positive farming stories, public relations expert Deborah Pead says.

Industries such as dairy were constantly under scrutiny and having to defend themselves when the correct strategy was to get in first and tell the public what they were doing to address those concerns.

“It is hard to argue when you see a river dried up and farmers are flat-out irrigating but what is the solution? What are farmers doing about it?” . . 

High country community divided by fence plan – Conan Young:

Green groups are outraged at a plan to spend ratepayer money on a fence that would allow iconic high country land to be more intensively farmed.

The 6km fence is proposed for Flock Hill Station, which is leased by a US-based company and contains scenery made famous in 2005’s The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Until now, Coast Range Investments has only been allowed to graze it in a low-level way, so as to have a minimal impact on the landscape and its environment. . . 

Water Fools? – Greening of Mackenzie – Kate Gudsell:

It’s the closest thing New Zealand has to a desert. The Mackenzie Basin landscape is not replicated anywhere else in the country, let alone the world, and it is being changed irreversibly.  

Not just the land is being changed, the once-pristine lakes are showing signs of strain too.  

The area has been at the centre of a 10-year court battle after farmers and landowners opposed tougher development rules proposed by the Mackenzie District Council.  . . 

Stable milk price crucial for strong farming season – Sally Rae:

Rabobank is picking a farm- gate milk price around $6.25 for the 2017-18 season, as it says a figure in that area would finally allow dairy farmers to ”emerge from the woods”.

Global dairy prices were now better balanced than at the start of this season.

This was likely to flow through and create largely stable commodity pricing in the new season, a bank report said.

However, despite the improved market balance, the possibility of further lifts to the current season milk price was limited, report author and Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins said.

The price rally experienced since the second half of 2016 had ”some of the gloss” removed, with stronger-than-anticipated New Zealand production impacting on prices.

Job Seekers drawn to plant – Sally Rae:

Hordes of job seekers from Nelson to Dunedin – including a group of Cadbury employees – converged on Fonterra’s Clandeboye site for a recent recruitment day.

A $240 million mozzarella plant development at the South Canterbury site is under way, creating full-time employment for a further 100 people.

There was a “fantastic” response to the recent recruitment day, with between about 1500 and 2000 people attending. That led to about 700-odd applications for the roles, operations manager Steve McKnight said.

The mozzarella plant, the third at Clandeboye, was the single largest food service investment in the history of New Zealand’s dairy industry. . . 

Cervena seeks its place in the sun – Annette Scott:

Marketing Cervena venison as a lighter summer eating option in Germany will be a challenge but it’s a move Deer Industry New Zealand has confidence in, venison marketing manager Marianne Wilson says.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) had begun marketing Cervena in Germany during the northern hemisphere summer as part of a market development trial. While relatively small the trial was symbolically important, Wilson said.

Traditionally the deer industry had been heavily reliant on sales of venison to the German game trade which was highly seasonal, with demand and prices peaking in the northern autumn and winter. . . 

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Dark sky reserve status for Mackenzie

June 11, 2012

We were amazed by the number of people at the Mount John observatory in the middle of the day a couple of months ago.

The 360 degree views over the Mackenzie Basin justify a visit though the beauty of the night sky requires bookings if you plan to go when it’s dark.

Now the basin has been designated a dark sky reserve it will be even more of a destination.

The newly designated Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve joins a select group of just 17 International Dark Sky Places worldwide, and is only the fourth International Dark Sky Reserve, following on from Mont Megantic in Canada, Exmoor National Park in the United Kingdom, and the NamibRand Nature Reserve, in Namibia.

Steve Owens, chair of the IDA’s Dark Sky Places Development Committee says for many of the other 16 places, tourism was one of the main drivers in their bid for dark sky status and they were already seeing the dividends.

“Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park in Scotland has recently begun to assess the impact of dark sky astronomy tourism in the local economy, and a sample evaluation in the region recently showed that 77% of local guest houses and bed-and-breakfasts had reported an increase in bed-nights due to the dark sky park. The report also stated that the money spent on lighting refits was already paying for itself: for every £1 spent on achieving the dark sky status £1.93 has been generated for the local economy within the first two-and-a-half years.

“Anecdotally too astronomy business is booming, with hotels in Galloway and Exmoor running regular stargazing weekend breaks, meteor watches and astronomy talks. Dark Sky Tourism has become such a big part of the area around Galloway that work is almost complete on a £600,000 public observatory to the north of the park, which will attract school groups, families, and stargazers from far and wide to come and marvel at the beauty of a really dark sky,” Mr Owens says.

The Honourable Margaret Austin, who chairs the Starlight Working Party which has been working since 2006 to get the Mackenzie Basin internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Reserve, says the night sky in the Mackenzie basin is a truly magnificent sight and is particularly fascinating for overseas visitors who come from areas where light pollution masks the stars from view.

“This is a truly exceptional environment, landscape and night sky that we want to protect and promote,” Mrs Austin says.

The designation is the result of six years of hard work and was announced at the third international  starlight conference in Tekapo at the weekend.

Not all locals were supportive of the bid because the reserve status imposes restrictions on outdoor lighting.

However, the economic boost for the area should more than compensate for that inconvenience.

If you google timelapse Tekapo you’ll find several videos which give an idea of just how beautiful the night sky is.


Mackenzie Trust trusts locals

February 15, 2011

The Mackenzie Sustainable Futures Trust proposal is being set up to bring together a variety of interest groups to develop a shared vision for resolving land use issues in the Mackenzie, Ohau and Omarama basins.

The impetus for the trust came from the debate on land use in the area. What happens is of interest to people throughout New Zealand but Environment Minister Nick Smith has said from the start that solutions must be locally driven:

“. . .  this Government believes the best solutions are going to come locally. We see any solutions which are imposed on the community as flawed and will fail.”

He reinforced this at a meeting on Friday:

[He] told the 40 stakeholder representatives present that locals who were concerned they could be ‘out-voted’ by outsiders need not be concerned, as the Trust would not work like that.

“The Government would not support anything unless it had local buy-in, particularly from the district councils,” he said.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean who has responsibility for setting up the trust said she was pleased with the high degree of good will and open mindedness displayed by those who attended.

“Those concerned about personal property rights had their fears allayed when, after an intelligent and constructive debate, the meeting unanimously agreed to add a special statement on property rights as part of the scope of work.

“This includes an assurance that any individual property owner can veto any proposal on or affecting their property rights, but not the working party’s findings.  It was an illustration of the collaborative spirit in action, and bodes well for the future of the process.”

That is a very important step which reinforces the commitment to local solutions the the trust being put in locals to do what’s best for their backyard.

The hard work involved in getting groups like  Forest and Bird, Mackenzie Tourism and Development Trust, Waitaki and Mackenzie District Councils, ECan, Fonterra, Twizel and Omarama communities, mountain clubs, irrigation interests and Federated Farmers engaged and co-operating should not be underestimated.

There are many competing and opposing interests represented by these organisations and Jacqui should be congratulated on getting them to this stage.

The chances of sustainable solutions for the Mackenzie Basin are greatly improved now these diverse groups are talking to each other and working together.


WDC consents for Mackenzie dairying quashed

July 30, 2010

The High Court has quashed resource consents and certificates of compliance which the Waitaki District Council issued for three cubical dairying operations in the Mackenzie Basin.

The Environmental Defence Society, which brought the action, said:

  “Clearly there has been a failure of public policy at all levels. The Government has failed to provide national guidance; the regional council has failed to identify nationally important landscapes; and the two district councils have failed to develop coherent and effective district plans.

“There is now a real window of opportunity to prepare a long-term Strategic Plan for the area. In our view that should be led by the local community but both Environment Canterbury and the Ministry for the Environment should be involved. It needs to look at the landscape, natural values and social and economic development options for the Mackenzie Country over the next 25 or more years.

The court quashed the consents becasue of an error of process, it did not consider the merits or otherwise of the case.

I wonder if opponents to the application realise the applicants could run the same number of beef cattle without having to apply for any consents at all because pastoral farming is a permitted activity?

Resource consent was needed not for the number of animals but the type of farming. Dairying required the construction of housing and disposal of effluent. Neither of these would apply for free range beef cattle.


Their land, our water

January 28, 2010

The paddocks on the side of the road between Tarras and the bridge over the Clutha near Luggate used to be dry and barren for most of the year.

Some of them still are, but others are green and productive, thanks to irrigation.

Which looks better is a matter of opinion but I prefer the green and admire the increased productivity farmers are getting from it.

Some of the irrigated farmland which would have struggled to support a few sheep is now able to feed bulls. These bulls no doubt have the same sort of outputs as dairy cows, but there is a major difference between the Upper Clutha farms and the dairy operations proposed for the Mackenzie Basin and that’s scale.

The bulls grazing paddocks beside the Tarras-Luggate road number in the low 10s. The Mackenzie dairy proposals are for nearly 18,000 cows.

In announcing that he’s calling in the consents for these big operations, Environment Minister Nick Smith said that stock will produce effluent similar to the amount produced by a city of 250,000 people.

That’s an awful lot of waste and helps explains why Environment Canterbury received around 5,000 submissions on the applications for resource consent.

Some were about animal welfare which do not come under the Resource Management Act and I’d be very surprised if any of the concerns were valid. Keeping cattle indoors may not be the way we’re used to farming here but it doesn’t by itself constitute any welfare issues.

Some were about what irrigation and dairying would do to the views. That is entirely subjective, what some regard as beautiful productive paddocks, others will see as blots on the landscape.

Although, it’s not just about how the landscape looks but what’s happening to it. Those travelling through at 100 kilometres an hour don’t appreciate the environmental damage that unrelenting heat and wind can do.

In the January 2-8 Listener, Simon Williamson of Glenbrook Station, was asked about the cost to the landscape of irrigation. He replied:

“I don’t see how it detracts. A green foreground and brown hills. Before it would have been a brown foreground and a dust storm.” *

Many of the other submissions were on the potential threat to water quality and these  submitters are on stronger ground.

Housing the cows as is proposed in the applications allows the farms to have much more control on the dispersal of effluent than if the stock was grazing pasture. But systems are only as good as the people who operate them and can never be fool-proof.

Besides, whether inside or out, these cattle will produce a lot of effluent. The Minster’s appointees will have to be satisfied that there is no danger to water quality from it and that may be very difficult to guarantee.

It is the applicants’ land but their right to do what they will with it doesn’t extend to polluting our water.

* The Williamson quote isn’t online, but the rest of the feature from which it came, Mainland dust-up, is on line and well worth a read.

Update: Federated Farmers media release on the calling in is here.


ECan wants govt to call in dairy consents

January 8, 2010

Environment Canterbury has written to the government asking if it will call in the applications for consent  for intensive dairy farming in the Mackenzie basin because of the potential national impact.

The Government will need to act quickly if it is to follow ECan’s advice, with a decision on two call-ins needed by January 15 and a ruling on the third needed a week later.

Call-ins enable the Government to make a decision, bypassing the lengthy Environment Court process.

The applications have engendered a lot of interest – and more than 3,000 submissions, on the applications.

Many of them may be based on emotion rather than fact and many are based on animal welfare which does not come under the Resource Management Act.

But the content and quality of submissions is beside the point.

People have made submissions and while the consent process may be slow, it will give them an opportunity to have their say.

It is then up to the hearing panel to consider all views and make a judgement consistent with the RMA.

This application may have national implications. Is that a good reason for the government to call it in or is it just an excuse for ECan to pass on the work and let someone else deal with what will be a controversial decision?


MacKenzie dairy development applicant responds

December 17, 2009

Environment Canterbury has recieved more than 3000 submissions on the application for intensive dairy operations in the Mackenzie Basin.

Richard Peacock, a director for two of the companies applying for resource consent for intensive dairying operations in the Mackenzie Baisn has responded to my post on the issue.

Since the post is a few days old and his comment may be missed, I have copied it in full:

Fonterra utilise this farming system in China and believe it to be appropriate there, 75% of dairy farmers in Europe and USA utilise this farming system. If it is environmentally sustainable in these countries why not in that part of NZ that most closely replicates these continental climates. Having travelled widely I encounter reference only to sheep when NZ is mentioned. There is total surprise when it is advised that NZ is one of the largest exporters of dairy products in the world. This farming model works. It reduces feed requirement (30% less in winter). There is total control of effluent discharge. Wet ground, no grass growth, no spreading of effluent on ground. No urine patching (the biggest cause of nitrate leaching, methane can be collected economically and re-utilised on farm to drive plant, equipment (tractors and trucks, surplus power can be fed into the National grid, research is being undertaken to collect CO2 and Nitrous Oxide in the barns, scrub it and store it in the effluent management system. Self sustainability in emissions is potentially achievable and this system should be encouraged. The financial model works at $4.50 per kg of milk solids as cows can be milked during winter to capitalise on winter milk premium, production is 25-30% higher due to less energy expended walking to and fro and the capital cost of the stables are paid for largely by not having to send cows off farm during the 10 week winter period ($300-350 per cow including freight).
The Greens have focused on negative by attacking this farming system as a way to get some oxygen (albeit that it answers all their environmental concerns), people are encouraged to think that free stall stables similar to pigs in crates (nonsense), 3000 submissions have been lodged against the applications on the back of the Greens generated hysteria but Environment Canterbury advise that of those who have submitted only 130 have bothered to view the applicants submissions to understand just what is proposed. I know these things because I am the project director for Southdown Holdings Ltd and Williamson Holdings Ltd, 2 of the applicants.

I encourage all those with genuine interest to view the ECan website and in particular the Farm Environmental Management Plans of SHL, WHL and 5 Rivers prepared by Melissa Robson of GHD. Informed submissions in support are welcome.


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