Rural round-up


Farmers paying on land lost to erosion – Mike Houlahan:

Farmers whose properties are alongside the Waitaki River are irate they are being charged rates on land which has been washed away.

Waimate farmer Gert van’t Klooster lost 4ha of farmland when Meridian Energy spilled water from its hydro-electric storage on the Waitaki in December.

While Mr van’t Klooster could accept that Meridian was operating within its consent, he said he found it much harder to pay Environment Canterbury rates on land which was no longer part of his property.

“I have a bill now from ECan on land which isn’t there. It doesn’t generate any income, and there are mortgages to pay on that land, too,” he said. . .

Slight dip in 2019-20 milk collection – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra’s milk collection last season was slightly down as North Island farmers faced a crippling drought.

However, the 2.1% dip in North Island milk was offset by the South Island where full season collection was up 2.1%.

The cooperative’s total milk production in 2019-20 reached 1,517 million kgMS, down 0.4% on the previous season.

Full season collection for the North Island was 874.6 million kgMS and for the South Island, 642.5 million kgMS. . .

Couple’s flexible approach paying off  – Yvonne O’Hara:

Waimumu sheep and beef farmers Jason and Debbie Smith have a “take it as it comes” approach to farming and it is paying off — despite their operation being affected by Covid-19.

The couple have a 747ha property and this year are fattening 23,000 store lambs as well as running 200 beef cattle under Smith Farming 2018 Ltd, a move made as part of their succession planning.

That is in addition to the 7000 lambs they bred themselves. . .

Agritech has a plan – Tony Benny:

The New Zealand agritech sector is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to grow its exports with $11.4 million Budget funding and despite covid-19 disruption.

Though the launch of the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan in April had to be delayed work has continued behind the scenes to realise the Government’s desire to take NZ farming technology to the world.

“We’ve been talking to the Government pretty much every week over the past three months about the plan,” Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton says. . .

Grain deal gets over the line – Annette Scott:

The arable sector’s biosecurity partnership has been signed.

Five key members have joined forces to form Seed and Grain Readiness and Response to work with the Government to protect the industry from new weed, pest and disease incursions. 

Federated Farmers, the Foundation for Arable Research, the Flour Millers Association, the Grain and Seed Trade Association and United Wheat Growers spent years discussing signing the Government-Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response. . . 

Lockdown reading lessons from New Zealand – John Elliot:

One positive of lockdown is that it has given us the most valuable currency of all which is time,” Katie Piper.

For me, a member of the ‘vulnerable age group’, Covid-19 hasn’t been all bad.

I’ve dusted off the dumb-bells, watched some fabulous programmes on Sky TV and caught up with my reading. Many of the books have been in my possession for years unread.

Some I have read several times. Two of the more interesting came from New Zealand. Their titles, ‘The Intuitive Farmer’ and ‘The Resilient Farmer’ hint at their contents. . .

A Noel Leeming kind of deal


Tweet of the day:

Aaron Bhatnagar@aaronbhatnagar 2h

Laughing at Labour calling Meridian float “a Noel Leeming kind of deal”, when Dad floated Noel Leeming in ’93, it gained 40% on day 1!

Rural round-up


NZ beef carbon footprint study highlights productivity gains

The New Zealand beef industry has completed a study1 examining the full carbon footprint of New Zealand beef, and it highlights significant productivity gains.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand General Manager Market Access, Ben O’Brien says the study was driven by the industry’s sustainability focus and the dual challenges posed by an increasing global population and pressure on the planet’s limited resources.

“We see this study as making a valuable contribution to the global livestock production story and we will be contributing the results of this study to the FAO work programme on environmental performance of livestock food chains.” . . .

A tale of two countries on pest control – Bruce Wills:

Sometimes we Kiwis don’t appreciate how good we’ve got it.

That truth was rammed home to me in a discussion I had with a visiting British academic, Dr Gareth Enticott.

Dr Enticott is looking into lessons that could be taken back to Britain to deal with their Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) problem.

He was also on the West Coast earlier in the week to meet with one of our board members, Katie Milne. . .

Merino mitts a hot seller – Rebecca Ryan:

Tucked away just off Oamaru’s main street is Kate Watts’ boutique studio – the home of her popular range of fine merino fingerless gloves.

 From Auckland to Invercargill, Miss Watts has about 100 stockists of her hand-printed range, but she is thrilled with the way they have taken off in Oamaru.

“The small towns are definitely the biggest part of my business. There’s a surprising number of small towns across the country and that seems to be where we make most of the money,” she said. . .

Ram testing has lifted quality of lamb flock – Jacquie Webby:

In the 10 years since it was introduced, Central Progeny testing has become a recognised tool for New Zealand sheep farmers.

Launched in June 2002, the Central Progeny Test (CPT) helps farmers identify rams that are superior for traits which add value to sheep farming operations.

The tests compare rams by running their progeny in identical environments, allowing a comparison not by environmental conditions but by genetics. . .

Sowing seeds of new hobby – Jacquie webby:

Rural schoolchildren are being encouraged to experience the magic of growing vegetables and fruit trees – helped along by hopefully securing one of two grants from Rural Women New Zealand.

The organisation has joined forces with Meridian, which is funding two $2000 cash grants for schools to buy equipment, seedlings or plants.

National president Liz Evans said knowing how to grow fruit and vegetables was a basic skill that would stand children in good stead during their lives. . . .

Progressive global beef and lamb developments:

While a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report for New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) points towards growing New Zealand agribusiness globally, Craig Hickson, of Hawke’s Bay based Progressive Meats, proves there is opportunity left in our traditional markets.

“While we must maximise the potential of New Zealand’s land resource, there is an inescapable logic about taking our intellectual property and skills globally,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“If we take a leaf from the automotive industry, Toyota now makes most of its vehicles outside Japan. . .

Dairy NZ is calling for applciations for its On-Farm Innovation Fund:

The On-Farm Innovation Fund helps turn great ideas into better on farm  practice. It is aimed specifically at farmers, people who work with farmers and  smaller organisations that would not normally have ready access to innovation  and research funding.

Projects that are funded will demonstrate their success by showing on farm  improvements that can be readily and easily taken up by New Zealand dairy  farmers. . .

System not meter readers at fault?


On Sunday I wrote about the shocked customers  who received power bills for much larger sums than usual and then blamed meter readers for misreading the figures. 

However, it might be the system, not the meter readers, that’s at fault because rural meters are read only every three months and it is possible that estimates made in the other two months were well below actual usage so there was a huge jump when the actual usage was measured.

The Southland Times says the system needs to improve:

Contact Energy is not necessarily to blame if power bills are big and people have trouble paying them. But it is very much to blame if it is operating an estimates-reliant billing system that is needlessly blowing the budgets of southern households to bits by building up ridiculous log-jams of bad news that explode in a huge catch-up bill…

Actual readings, rather than estimates, occur every two months in urban residential areas and every three months in rural areas. The estimates are based on historical usage. The suspicion is now acute that the system is in sore need of recalibration because it is proving a budgeting nightmare…

Meantime, common sense cries out for consumers to read their own meters and phone through the results so that their bills do regularly and accurately reflect the actual consumption. Frankly, it’s easy to learn, easy to do and it saves a whole heap of budgeting trouble.

Mercifully, it also looks like the meter reader has a finite future in any case. Electricity companies, including Contact and Meridian, are installing smart meters nationwide — technology that allows meters to be read remotely. Roll on the day that this chore becomes automated.

For that matter, who among us wouldn’t welcome an environment when there was more widespread competition between electricity retailers outside the major cities, and more use of comparative tools like the PowerSwitch online calculator which, since 2002, has been helping consumers shopping around for the best electricity deal.

A recent Electricity Commission survey found just 13 percent of respondents had even heard of it.

You can find it here.

Sydney seeks self sufficiency and microgeneration



Grahame Sydney  puts the case for microgeneration and self-sufficiency as the solution to our energy needs.

 We’re learning how little control we have over two of our renewables, water and wind: security of supply is never certain. 

 And not just with renewables, a fault which has closed the Otahuhu B power station is expected to take up to four days to fix.

  If Nature refuses to comply – in this case blow steadily – when the market demands it, wind generation, like hydro generation in a dry year, will be treacherous and unreliable, and of scant value to consumers. Large-scale schemes only multiply the problem. If we must have a wind component, let it be in already modified or semi-industrialised landscapes – in the “grey belts”, not the green; on community-need scale and close to demand.

 The Save Central  support group has been established to muster financial support for the Environment Court appeals against Meridian’s monster Project Hayes, but also beyond that immediate task to stir public interest and informed debate about the nation’s woefully ad hoc energy strategy.

 There are many other alternatives to this Think Big degradation of our treasured landscapes … Our best energy security lies not with massive schemes which depend on undependable nature, but with a solid foundation of proven base-load generation, and an additional structure of other sources.


 Sydney suggests geothermal resources, tidal energy, combined cycle plants using gas and geothermal power. He also notes the hypocrisy of exporting coal to countries which haven’t signed up to Kyoto.


 The increased incentive for domestic users to install solar water heating is another welcome sign that energy conservation by homeowners can make a difference, but it must go much further than that: a recent government-backed report in Britain says that with changed policies to encourage microgeneration, the number of homes producing their own clean energy could multiply to one million within 12 years, save enough CO2 emissions by 2030 as taking all trucks and buses off British roads, and produce enough power to replace five nuclear stations.

 The Conservative Party …has policies aimed at a “decentralised energy revolution”, enabling factories, schools, hospitals and households to generate their own electricity through independent solar and micro wind. It might not suit the major generators, but a like policy in New Zealand would be something to be proud of.


 That is the problem with our system – the energy companies have no incentive to encourage independent generation and because they’re SOE’s the Government doesn’t either because that would reduce the dividends it receives.

 Fifteen European countries have “feed-in tariffs” which pay householders for feeding the electricity they produce from microgeneration (e.g. photovoltaic cells) into the national grid. Consequently, 130,000 German homes have solar photovoltaic cells, encouraged by generous government installation grants. It would not be difficult here, but where is the political will? This is what the Greens ought to champion, if the Government will not.


 Why only the Greens? Security of supply trhough increased generation and the financial and environmental benefits of self-sufficiency cross political boundaries.



Within two decades, other technologies under development now will be market-viable: utility solar towers (being developed in the United States), pelamis ocean swell technology, and ceto wave power, to name only three. All, or any one, may come through as highly efficient, and make the sacrifice of the Lammermoors and other valued landscapes even more regrettable.



 Sydney explores the pros and cons of nuclear generation but concludes New Zealand is probably too small and the anti nuclear political mindset would take years to change.



 All energy schemes have negative impacts, and opinions will always vary over which are least damaging, which are most preferable. It’s a question of how you want this country to look, and how you want it to behave. If the nation wants endless supplies of energy to be provided and its undisciplined energy consumption to grow exponentially regardless of the cost to both consumer and landscapes, then we carry on the present path.

 But I suggest there are other, better ways: with the right incentives, New Zealand could lead the world in microgeneration and self-sufficiency; we could champion renewable schemes which do not depend on fickle nature, but utilise dependable base-load resources; we could retain the unspoiled landscapes as we know and admire them for generations ahead; we could learn lessons from the ugly mistakes of other countries, not repeat them; and we should reclaim the energy industry as an essential service, like health and education, and dissolve the present subdivided, competitive format which has failed so spectacularly, to the detriment of all consumers.

New Zealand could and should be thinking carefully about the consequences of decisions made too hastily, taking us on yet another doomed Think Big strategy which fails to live up to the many promises made to usher it in.

 I thought the opposition to wind generation in Central Otago was nimbyism but I am beginning to support some of the arguments against the proposal not least the sense of locating generation as near as possible to where it’s needed.


 I haven’t found a definitive answer to the question of how much energy is lost in transmission but the lowest figure I’ve been given is 20%. Even if it’s half that, it’s silly to waste 10% of what’s generated all day, every day sending power thousands of kilometres from where it’s produced to where it’s used.

 Supporters say more power is needed in the south and cite examples of the Cook Strait cable being used to get power from the North Island as well as too it. I am not sure if that would be needed if water had been conserved in hydro lakes instead of being used for generating power to send north earlier.

 If we want a first world economy, and I do, then we need first world energy supplies. I don’t object to wind generators in general, and I don’t think I’d object if some of the windy hills we own could be used for it. But I am not entirely convinced that the Lammermoor Range is the best place for it.   

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