Rural round-up


Hauraki Plains farmers: ‘We just want some help‘ –  Maja Burry:

Farmers on the Hauraki Plains are banding together and holding socially-distanced shed meetings, as they fight the worst drought seen in the area in decades.

The Hauraki Plains, Coromandel Peninsula and eastern parts of South Auckland haven’t had had any meaningful rain in months. The dry conditions have become so dire in some parts of the Waikato region three district mayors have signed a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, calling for more support.

Ngatea farmers Megan and Michael Webster run 300 dairy cows and 900 diary goats, but this season due to the dry conditions they’ve had to take a financial hit and dry their stock off about a month earlier than usual.

Michael Webster said it had been a very challenging time, with average rainfall well down. . . 

Coronavirus: Kiwis more positive about farming after Covid-19 lockdown – Esther Taunton:

Kiwis are beginning to see farmers in a new light after lockdown, research shows.

Figures from UMR Research show 63 per cent of New Zealanders hold a positive view of sheep and beef farming, an increase of 9 per cent compared to just eight months ago.

Support for dairy farmers has also jumped, rising from 51 per cent to 60 per cent.

Horticulture tops the list with a positive rating of 65 per cent, while ratings for fisheries have clicked over into majority positive territory at 53 per cent, up from 47 per cent. . .

Fish & Game council embraces Feds, ungags boss -David Williams:

Fish & Game is extending an olive branch to Federated Farmers, against the advice of its chief executive. David Williams reports

The national Fish & Game council continues to try and cleanse itself of a tough stance against agricultural pollution, demanding a softer line from staff on public statements as it takes tentative steps to work with lobby group Federated Farmers.

Such a step would be a huge departure for the public body, which is funded by licence fees. It’s an environmental powerhouse which has successfully advocated for a dozen water conservation orders, and is well-known for taking a hard stance on the damage done by dairying.

That stance, pushed by long-time chief executive Bryce Johnson, has continued under successor Martin Taylor, who started in late 2017, just after the last general election. (In one of his first statements, he flayed dairy giant Fonterra’s environmental record, caused by, he said, its “single-minded focus on increased production at all costs, aided and abetted by weak regional councils”.) . . 

Project to explore turning waste into hand sanitiser – Maia Hart:

Turning waste into hand sanitiser is the next project for a research winery based in Marlborough.

The Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) has awarded $84,700 in funding to Bragato Research Institute (BRI) for a pilot study exploring turning grape marc into hand sanitiser.

Grape marc is the stems and seeds leftover after pressing – which in Marlborough can total as much as 46,000 tonnes of waste per year.

The study would look to turn winery waste into ethanol. Any sanitiser made in the initial eight-month study would be bottled and donated to Marlborough health workers and first responders. . . 

Farmers feeling less pressure from banks Feds’ survey finds:

Farmers are feeling slightly more satisfied and less under pressure from their banks, the Federated Farmers May 2020 Banking Survey shows.

Responses to Research First from nearly 1,400 farmers found that the number feeling ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their bank lifted slightly from 68% to 69% in the past six months, and those feeling ‘under pressure’ dropped from 23% to 19%.

“Satisfaction had slipped as a trend since we started this twice-yearly survey in August 2015 and this is the first positive change since then,” Federated Farmers Vice-President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

New Zealand horticulture industry rewarded by outstanding survey result :

A survey showing that New Zealanders rate horticulture more highly than any other part of the primary industry sector is rewarding for fruit and vegetable growers across the country. 

UMR research released today shows that horticulture continues to receive the highest positive rating of 65%.

HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman says he sees the result as a reward for the way fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand.

‘Our growers are some if not the best in the world.  Over the years, the New Zealand horticulture industry has invested heavily in meeting consumer demand for fresh, tasty and nutritious food that is grown, harvested and transported in environmentally sustainable and ways.  . . 

Lag effect means no quick fix


A Fish and Game poll shows New Zealanders want more action on water quality:

Pollution of our rivers and lakes is one of New Zealanders’ top two concerns, according to public opinion poll results.
The findings are contained in a Colmar Brunton poll of a thousand people conducted for Fish & Game New Zealand.

The survey asked people how concerned they were about a range of issues, including the cost of living, health system, child poverty and water pollution.

Three quarters – 75 percent – of those surveyed said they were extremely or very concerned about pollution of lakes and rivers. Only five percent said they were not that concerned.

The only issue people were more worried about was the cost of living, with 77 percent saying they were extremely or very concerned. . . 

Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Martin Taylor says the Colmar Brunton findings show how worried the public is about water pollution.

“These results are consistent with what we saw in the election and show the depth of feeling kiwis have about the loss of what they considered their birth right – clean rivers, lakes and streams,” Martin Taylor says.

“It highlights the urgency with which the government needs to make substantial changes to address the problem,” Mr Taylor says.

“People are fed up by pollution – particular by intensive corporate dairying – which has robbed them of their ability to swim in their favourite rivers and lakes. . .

My favourite lake is Wanaka where there have been no problems for swimmers this summer.

My favourite rivers are the Kakanui and Waitaki, both of which are in dairying areas. There have been no problems in the Waitaki and the high E. coli in a stretch of the Kakanui is caused by seagulls.

Fonterra and Dairy NZ should take note of these results. They show the tens of millions of dollars they’ve spent on slick PR to try and change people’s minds isn’t working,” he says.

Martin Taylor says the state of our polluted waterways is hurting New Zealand’s international image.

Does he not see the irony of saying this in a media release high on emotion and selective in its facts?

“Our clean, green reputation gives us a valuable international marketing advantage, but we have been squandering it.

“Losing our clean, green image means less tourism earnings and lower prices for our sheep and beef exports and other agriculture products. Why should all New Zealand farmers miss out on good returns because of dirty dairying?” he says.

Why should a whole industry be pilloried because of mistakes made in the past? This statement ignores all the work and the money which are being put into remedying those mistakes and ensuring current practices protect and enhance waterways.

Martin Taylor says fixing the problem is not going to be easy.

“This is a major challenge to put right. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse corporate dairy farming’s environmental impact,” he says. . . 

Once again Fish & Game picks on dairying without mentioning the fouling of waterways by water fowl,  didymo which was introduced to New Zealand by fishers, pollution caused by tourists and trampers who urinate and defecate in or near waterways; and the problem of urban water pollution.

There is no dairying near Christchurch’s Avon River which is very polluted nor is there any near Takapuna Beach which was closed to swimmers last week.

The media release also ignores the lag effect which is examined in ‘Lag-effect’ politics and the politicisation of New Zealand farmers: Where to from here?, by Ronlyn Duncan of Lincoln University:

. . In terms of nitrates, the present state of water quality reflects what has occurred in the past and depending on biophysical, geological and management factors, movement into waterways can take decades. Often referred to as the ‘lag-effect’, this means it can take some time before the effects of land use intensification make their way through the groundwater system (Howard-Williams et al., 2010; LAWF, 2010, 2012; PCE, 2012; Sanford and Pope, 2013). Importantly, the same delay applies to improvements in water quality due to better farm practices and the implementation of stricter rules and regulations. Hence, the issue of concern in this paper is that the lag-effect can have potentially unforeseen social and political consequences. . . 

Those social and political consequences include the pillorying of farmers and farming by groups like Fish & Game using selective facts and lots of emotion.

The degradation of water quality is complex.

A lot of the practices doing the damage in urban waterways is still occurring. This could be fixed very quickly if there was the political will to spend the money necessary to deal with waste water and sewerage.

Most of the degradation of rural waterways occurred over a long period of time and in spite of considerable improvements in current farming practices, millions of dollars spent and a lot of on-going work, will take a long time to reverse.

Aged Care still upset with EC


The chief executive of Healthcare providers, Martin Taylor, who said the Electoral Commission is in a “catatonic state  of inaction” earlier in the week repeated his complaints on Jim Mora’s Panel  (part 2)yesterday.

The aged care sector wants to highlight issues of concern but are concerned about breaching the Electoral Finance Act. They sought advice from the EC and were advised to consult a lawyer but because there is no case law they are still in the dark.

The fault lies with the EFA however, I understand Taylor’s frustration when the EC says it won’t make ruling until after the election.

That’s like being told to play a game although you won’t know the rules until the final whistle has blown.

Electoral Commission in “catatonic state of inaction”


The aged care sector doesn’t have a reputation for radical political statements but their representatives have accused the Electoral Commission of lapsing into a “catatonic state of inaction“.

Healthcare Providers says the Commission admitted in its Annual Report that it can’t manage the Electoral Finance Act.

Chief Executive Martin Taylor says the non-profit group now has no guidelines on what it can and cannot say during the election.

He says its important issues around aged care are raised – but he doesn’t know where he stands – and the Commission won’t tell him.

The commission spent $40,000 on an advertising campaign  over the weekend trying to explain the Electoral Finance Act and its requirements but people are still unclear about what they can do and how they can do it.

One of the reasons is that the commission has yet to rule on some questions, including whether or not party logos are election advertisements. Another reason is that it won’t rule on other questions which leaves groups who’ve sought advice no further ahead.

That’s not the commission’s fault. The blame lies with the EFA and the parties which forced it through parliament against the advice of experts, and in contravention of our right to free expression.

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