Rural round-up

August 31, 2017

South Canterbury coastal plan will become operative in September – Elena McPhee:

A change to coastal South Canterbury’s farming rules will come into force next month and despite an initial challenge, farmers say they are now looking forward to helping protect a nationally significant wetland area.

The South Coastal Canterbury Plan Change addresses both water quality and water quantity in the catchment, which includes Wainono Lagoon.

Environment Canterbury councillor Peter Skelton said the schedule set out good farming practices relating to nutrient management, irrigation management, grazing intensively-farmed stock, farm cultivation, and animal effluent. . .

‘Retirement’ is apples for Murray – Yvonne O’Hara:

Former Alexandra retailer Murray Bell has given up heels and soles for Honeycrisp and Jazz.

Mr Bell, 63, retired from his shoe retailing business earlier this year, but relaxing with his feet up has yet to happen.

He and partner Rachel Samuel have Crag-an-oir Orchard, which is 15ha of apple trees on the outskirts of Alexandra.

They originally grew some apricots, but they now focus solely on growing several apple varieties, using organic principles. The orchard is certified under BioGro as part of the Springvale Apple Growers Partnership. . .

TracMap gets room to expand:

TracMap founder Colin Brown addresses the crowd at the opening of the company’s new offices in Dukes Rd, Mosgiel, last week.

The company supplies precision guidance systems to the primary food production industries with the cloud-based system allowing accurate task management and placement reporting for products, people and vehicles in-field. . .

Agrifood sector is tech-savvy but not ready for major disruption:

A new agrifood sector report has found that New Zealand farmers have been quick to adopt smart farming techniques, but few are preparing for major technological disruption.

The report, funded through Microsoft’s Academic Programs initiative and prepared by researchers from the Massey Business School, examined the impact of cloud computing and other potentially disruptive technologies on the sector.

Researchers interviewed both technologists and members of the agrifood industry – and found there was a gap between how the two groups perceive the future. . . 

Red Stag Timber plans to lift production from its Waipa ‘super mill’ to meet demand – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – Red Stag Timber, which developed New Zealand’s first ‘super mill’ a year ago, plans to step up production next year to meet demand in its local and overseas markets.

The Rotorua-based Waipa Mill increased its production of sawn timber to an annual 550,000 cubic metres from 450,000 cubic metres after investing over $100 million in more efficient machinery, transforming the mill, and plans to lift production further to 600,000 cubic metres from next year, general manager Tim Rigter told BusinessDesk in an interview at the Waipa State Mill Road site. . . 

Telco minnow joins giants by winning rural broadband contract:

A no-frills approach has seen Hawke’s Bay-based rural wireless broadband company AoNet Broadband successfully compete with the giants of the industry to win a slice of the Government’s latest rural broadband funding package.

Telecommunications Minister Simon Bridges today announced AoNet Broadband as the Wireless Internet Service Provider for the King Country, making it responsible for connecting homes over an area that includes remote and mountainous terrain.

The appointment is part of a $150 million funding package for telco companies to partner with the Government through Crown Fibre Holdings Limited (CFH) to bring better broadband and mobile services to an increased number of under-served rural areas, state highways, businesses, residents and tourists in New Zealand. . . 

First chilled meat shipments to China – Allan Barber:

According to a press release from SFF the company’s first sea container leaves this week for arrival early next month, claimed by the company to be the first sea freight consignment of chilled product to the Chinese market which has only recently opened up to New Zealand meat exporters. However, I have since been informed that the first shipment from Greenlea arrived on 18th August and a chilled container of AFFCO product is already on the water, arriving on Friday 1st September, with a container of chilled mutton being shipped next week.

According to SFF’s press release the company has already trialled small quantities of chilled beef cuts to food service distributors for high end restaurants and lamb cuts to a multinational supermarket chain. But the sea shipment is planned to test the port and supply chain protocols for large scale consignments of chilled product. . . 

Swiss meat is expensive in dollars, cheap in minutes – Catherine Bosley:

Swiss meat prices are pretty hard to stomach at first glance.

At $49.68, Switzerland tops the ranking for a kilogram of beef leg round. Yet that seemingly eye-watering sum – around 150 percent higher than the world average – gets more reasonable when you factor in what locals get paid: An unskilled worker needs just 3.1 hours to afford it.

The 2017 Meat Price Index is a foray into the study of relative price levels of goods and labor. According to publisher Caterwings, the cost of beef, fish, chicken, pork and lamb in each country’s biggest cities were compared to the minimum wage and then calculations were run for affordability. In those where there is no federal statutory minimum, it used the average pay for unskilled labor. . . 

Allied Farmers posts 60% lift in full-year profit as livestock division outperforms – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – Rural services firm Allied Farmers reported a 60 percent lift in net profit on an improved result from its livestock division, particularly in the second half, and further cost reduction.

The Hawera-based company said net profit was $2.2 million in the year ended June 30 versus $1.4 million in the prior year. Pretax earnings were up 52 percent to $2.4 million, which was ahead of the guidance it gave in June when it forecast a 40 percent gain. . . 

 


Irrigation’s not just for farmers

January 20, 2014

IrrigationNZ chief executive, Andrew Curtis, shows irrigation isn’t just for farmers:

You finally made it out of the office and hit the road for a much-deserved break. Whether you towed a boat, carried mountain bikes or packed the caravan or tent for a quick escape this summer, chances are you took advantage of irrigation infrastructure.

While most of us think of our waterways as natural, the reality is many popular water destinations have been modified to support farming or energy production.  Your annual summer holiday just as likely included a dip in a river or lake that helps generate electricity or waters crops as it was swimming at the local pool.  

Increasingly farmers and irrigation scheme managers are incorporating recreation interests when they design new systems. Event managers and community groups are also recognising the unique potential of irrigation canals and storage ponds for fundraising and thrill-seeking. 

The challenge for those managing irrigation infrastructure is ensuring holiday makers and adrenalin junkies can be safely integrated into commercial operations, without impeding vital irrigation flows. We profile several irrigation schemes working with their communities to provide access to water for activities other than irrigation.

New Zealand’s largest irrigation scheme, the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) is also one of our oldest. Depression-era labour was used initially to build the race which officially opened in 1945.

Several Mid Canterbury community groups already take advantage of the RDR’s 67km of canals – most visibly the ‘Peak to Pub’, ‘Big Day at the Office’ and Frostbusters’ multisport races. 

And this Easter, a new endurance horse-riding event is likely to see riders crossing the canals as part of 36 hours on horse-back in the district.

Ben Curry, CEO of the RDR, says it’s a balancing act providing access, as health and safety as well as operational and insurance issues, need to be taken into account. But the company tries to find ways to accommodate requests.

While swimming is not allowed due to multiple potential hazards within the water (some of which are submerged), fishing, duck-shooting and cycling along the canals are permitted. A local tourism company has just been given approval to offer high-end cycle tours along the RDR close to the foothills, and the Methven Walkway, created by the local Lions group and a well-used visitor attraction, meanders along sections of the race. 

“We had hoped that the RDR would have been included in the National Cycleway network. It’s still an aspiration,” says Mr Curry.

Lake Opuha is the jewel in the crown when promoters cite wider benefits from irrigation. The man-made 700 hectare lake not only provides water for 230 farms, but as the most accessible lake in South Canterbury, is a magnet for local boaties, kayakers and rowers. 

While rainbow trout were found in Opuha River before the dam was built, brown trout and salmon have since been released into the lake.

Opuha Water Ltd CEO Tony McCormick says since it was filled in 1998, the lake has been a popular destination for anglers and boaties.

His irrigation company supports community use of the lake and its related systems where it can.

Fundraising events are common and one of the most colourful is South Canterbury Diabete’s annual duck race held in an irrigation channel on Arowhenua Road. Fairlie Lions has run a duathalon and mountain bike event around the lake for the past two years and before that hosted fishing competitions. Local farmer and Lions member Murray Bell says the lake is the perfect setting. “It’s a great facility and the location is good as it’s convenient.” As a shareholder in the scheme, Mr Bell says he, like other farmers who supported the lake’s development, is buoyed by its success.

“The duathalon is such a small part of it. Any weekend you are there it’s crowded with boats and in the early mornings you watch the rowing clubs turn up.”

Keith McRobie is President of the Timaru Rowing Club and can vouch for Opuha’s value.

“We’ve used the lake pretty much since it was filled. We are quite limited in Timaru with just a 1km stretch of water so it was a Godsend to have something developed just 45km from town.”

Opuha is pretty much rowable year-round as it is sheltered and accessible during most weather conditions, says Mr McRobie.

Having access to the lake for the past decade has improved South Canterbury’s rowing results. “The schools here punch above their weight at a regional and national level. Every year we have one or two national representatives and Opuha is part of the reason.”

Discussions are underway with the irrigation company and supporters about dedicated facilities for rowing at the lake. Currently three Timaru schools leave boats stored on local farmers’ properties but ideally a purpose-built storage shed and rowing ramp will result in the future.

“We’ve had some discussions with the company and we’re very keen to pursue. If you compare us with Auckland or any other major city, 45 minutes is not really a problem,” he says.    

The Lake Opuha Users Group was created when the lake was first formed to initiate extra amenities for visitors and recreational users of the lake.

Committee member David Williams says their biggest project to date has been the building of a boat ramp to create safe access. Before that up to 150 cars would converge on a 300m section of lake edge that offered the easiest access. Now 90% of traffic has been redirected to the boat ramp greatly reducing the potential for mayhem, he says.

As a farmer himself, Mr Williams says the biggest challenge now is ensuring the lake’s recreational popularity doesn’t impact on its delivery of water to shareholders. “One of the biggest problems for Opuha in the future could be the issue of minimum flows. Some of the recreational fraternity would like to see fluctuations in river flows. But at the end of the day it is the irrigators who are paying,” he says.

Another issue, not created by recreational use, but occasionally compounded by poor behaviour by some boaties, is the spread of didymo. The irrigation scheme and recreational users will need to work together to tackle the algal bloom problem in the future, says Mr Williams.

“Irrigation has provided a great facility by putting this lake here. For the recreationalists there has been a big spin off. At the end of the day it’s been very positive for them and the economic value to our community is also positive.”

The Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company prides itself on a strong relationship with its community, says Chairman Chris Dennison.

“We’re very keen to add benefits to the whole community and not just through the economic driver that irrigation brings,” he says.

 Among its initiatives is the ‘Take A Kid Fishing’ day which the company resurrected in conjunction with the Waitaki Irrigators Collective after an absence of many years. 

Using a shareholder’s attractive tree-lined pond already stocked with trout, 700 salmon were released resulting in very happy young anglers, says Mr Dennison. “The farmer kept his pond open for several weeks after the event to allow the public to fish in a controlled environment with pretty good odds. For young people fishing is about catching fish and most of the kids went away with something for dinner.”

The company has also worked with a local high school to provide access for a fast water kayaking course. Kayaking experts created the course on the scheme’s intake channel by placing obstacles within the stretch of turbulent water and hanging gates from overhead wires. “The effects for us are minimal and the school has ended up with a really good course with easy access,” he says.

Irrigation schemes are developed, and largely paid for, by farmers but the benefits from them are shared well outside of farming.

The economic spin-off helps those who work for and service farms.

Environmental benefits include protecting fragile soils from wind erosion and enhanced flows in natural waterways.

And then there are the recreational opportunities outlined above.


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