90% swimmable

February 24, 2017

The Government has announced a target of 90 per cent of New Zealand’s lakes and rivers meeting swimmable water quality standards by 2040, alongside releasing new policy, regulations, information maps and funding to help achieve the new goal.

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“This ambitious plan to improve the water quality in our lakes and rivers recognises that New Zealanders expect to be able to take a dip in their local river or lake without getting a nasty bug,” Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The plan is backed up by national regulations requiring stock to be fenced out of waterways, new national policy requirements on regional councils to strengthen their plan rules on issues such as sewage discharges and planting riparian margins, a new Freshwater Improvement Fund and new maps that clearly identify where improvements are needed.

“This 90 per cent goal by 2040 is challenging and is estimated to cost the Government, farmers and councils $2 billion over the next 23 years. It will make us a world leader in water quality standards for swimming, and that’s important for New Zealand’s growing tourism industry. It will return our rivers and lakes to a standard not seen in 50 years while recognising that our frequent major rainfalls mean a 100 per cent standard is not realistic.”

The target covers the length of rivers over 0.4m deep and the perimeters of lakes greater than 1.5km, which total 54,000km. The plan is about improving the frequency that we can swim in our lakes and rivers, noting that even our cleanest rivers breach swimming water quality standards during storms.

This is a very important point – nature is sometimes to blame for lower quality.

The swimmable target is based on meeting the water quality standard at least 80 per cent of the time, in line with European and US definitions. Currently 72 per cent by length meet this definition, and the target is to increase that to 90 per cent by 2040. This means an additional 10,000km of swimmable rivers and lakes by 2040, or 400km per year.

“The maps I am releasing today provide the most comprehensive and consistent information on water quality for swimming of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes ever published. These will help focus councils and communities on improving their local water quality, as well as help people make decisions about where they can safely swim. The maps are connected to the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa website that provides real-time information on water quality, which is particularly relevant for the fair and intermittent categories.

“The challenge of improving water quality varies significantly across New Zealand. This plan requires improvements in water quality across all regions and all categories. The target not only requires an improvement in areas that are swimmable, ie into the fair category, but also rivers and lakes being moved from fair to good, and good to excellent. Regional targets to achieve the national goals are to be worked through with regional councils by March 2018. Some regional targets will need to be greater than the 90 per cent and others, where it is more difficult to achieve, will be less.

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management is being strengthened to support the new 90 per cent by 2040 swimmability target, as well as changes to address the issues of ecological health and nutrients by:

  • replacing “wadeable” with “swimmable”
  • adding macroinvertebrate monitoring for ecological health
  • strengthening references to “Te Mana o te Wai”
  • clarifying the consideration of economic opportunities
  • requiring instream limits for nitrogen and phosphorus
  • clarifying inclusion of coastal lakes and lagoons
  • clarifying the policy on exceptions
  • strengthening the requirement for monitoring and improving quality.

“The new regulations on excluding stock from waterways are an important part of this plan to improve water quality. The rules progressively apply to dairy, pig, dairy support, beef and deer farms from this year to 2030 relative to the steepness of the country, at an expected cost of $367 million,” Dr Smith says.

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“We are today opening bids for the new $100m Freshwater Improvement Fund and announcing the eligibility and assessment criteria, which closes on 13 April. This comes on top of the $350m already committed by the government, of which more than $140m has been spent on specific river and lake clean-ups.

“This is the third phase of the Government’s work programme to improve New Zealand freshwater management and builds on the NPS introduced in 2011 and the National Objectives Framework in 2014. I commend and acknowledge the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group and the Land and Water Forum, who have worked tirelessly in assisting with these policy developments.”

The detail of the NPS and Stock Exclusion Regulations are open for consultation until 28 April 2017.

Deterioration in most waterways has taken place over many years and can’t be reversed quickly.

Lower standards of water quality have a number of causes, one of which is intensification of farming and Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says farmers are up for the freshwater challenge the new standards pose:

New freshwater reforms will result in 56,000 km more fences protecting New Zealand waterways from stock – enough to go round the world one and a half times, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The new rules on stock exclusion are part of the Government’s plans announced today setting a target for 90% of rivers and lakes to be swimmable by 2040.

“Farmers have made huge progress in recent years to improve their environmental practices and this will be another important step forward. Dairy farmers have already voluntarily fenced off over 24,000km of waterways,” says Mr Guy.

“We know that stock standing in or regularly crossing waterways can do significant damage. While dairy farmers have voluntarily fenced off around 96% of their waterways, we want to extend this to other types of farms as well.

“The proposed national regulation would ensure that dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs and deer are kept out of waterways.

“We need to ensure the changes are practical for farmers, so the exclusions would be implemented in a staged process starting this year through to 2030, depending on the stock type and land slope.

“There are long term benefits for the primary industries and wider economy from these reforms. Overseas markets and consumers increasingly demand a strong environmental performance over and above regulatory requirements. In this context, protecting New Zealand’s natural advantage has never been more important.

“No single organisation or group is solely responsible for improving our water quality. Meeting the target will take a collective effort, but the primary industries have a key contribution to make.

“In the meantime, the Ministry for Primary Industries continues to work with the primary sectors to invest in good ideas which promote environmental best practice. One example is the Farm Systems Change program, which identifies high preforming farms and uses farmers’ networks to spread their knowledge.

“Another is a major programme under the Primary Growth Partnership, called Transforming the Dairy Value Chain. Under this programme effluent management systems have been improved, and every region now has a riparian planting guideline developed in conjunction with regional councils.

“As a Government we are committed to growing the primary industries at the same time as improving water quality. Water storage schemes like Central Plains Water and the Waimea Community Dam help in this by taking pressure off groundwater sources and maintaining summer river flows, delivering both economic and environmental benefits.

“We also know that science will play a major role in improving our freshwater. The ‘Our Land and Water’ National Science Challenge is investing $96.9 million over 10 years into this, hosted by AgResearch and involving six other Crown research institutes.

IrrigationNZ says the outcomes are achievable:

“Achievable outcomes within a reasonable timeframe” is how IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis, described today’s release of the government’s ‘Clean Water’ document. He hoped however that the target of 90% of rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040 didn’t let urban waterways ‘off the hook’.

“Farmers have received the lion’s share of blame for New Zealand’s water quality degradation and despite evidence backing up the contribution cities and industries make to poor water quality, they have largely escaped the finger-pointing. I’m hoping the Government will call every New Zealander to account for water quality, recognising we all contribute to the problem, therefore we must all work together to enact the solution” said Curtis.

Poor water quality is not only a rural problem nor is it solely due to bad farming practices.

IrrigationNZ was pleased the Government had recognised the important economic contribution farmers make to our communities, stating that Regional Councils must consider the economic wellbeing of their community when making decisions about water allocation.

“Farmers and growers make significant investments in irrigation infrastructure and on-farm efficiencies, and the return on that investment is spent in towns and cities throughout New Zealand. We all benefit from irrigation and it’s important councils don’t impose restrictions that negatively impact the viability of our primary sector.” . . 

DairyNZ welcomed the new rules:

“The new stock exclusion requirements for dairy cattle is a strong endorsement of the hard work dairy farmers have done on their farms to protect waterways,” says DairyNZ CEO Tim Mackle.

“The on-farm fencing requirements in the new rules have already been met by 97.1 percent of dairy farmers around the country, and the target by May, a month ahead of the new requirements, is to be 100 percent, with all waterways running through dairy farms will be fenced off and all stock crossings bridged,” he says.

“This means that right now very few dairy cattle have any access to waterways, and in just two months’ time no dairy cattle – that’s zero dairy cattle – should have access to waterways on our farms.”

Dr Mackle says fencing – currently 27,109 kms – is always set back a healthy distance from waterways, varying from farm to farm depending on the soil type and contour of the land.

“This ensures the optimum levels of bacteria, nutrients and sediment are filtered. Farmers also keep cows off sensitive areas in the vicinity of the fenced waterways, for example, in wet weather.”

“There’s still a way to go in some areas, and dairy farmers are well aware of that. We acknowledge that improving New Zealand waterways is a long journey, as today’s announcement recognises. The good news is dairy farmers around the country are leading the way in protecting freshwater on their farms.

“Our dairy farmers can be immensely proud of the work they are undertaking for the environment on their farms, and many are also doing work to improve their surrounding communities – and all New Zealanders, whether they are living in towns and cities, or in rural communities, can also be proud of the efforts of our dairy farmers,” says Dr Mackle.

As part of their commitment to the environment, dairy farmers are also planting vegetation along waterways, and using native plants such as manuka, cabbage trees and flaxes, as well as native grasses, that have superior ability to filter and slow run-off, he says.

“Added to this, all dairy farms now have dedicated effluent management systems with effluent ponds, just like towns around the country. Areas such as the dairy shed and yards drain directly into these systems where the effluent is stored and later used by farmers to fertilise their land.

“It’s also encouraging to see the rates of dairy effluent related prosecutions and abatement notices continuing to decline dramatically, and an improvement in overall effluent non-compliance, which is the lowest it has been in recent years.”

Over the past three years farmers have invested over $1 billion dollars in environmental protection measures, he says.

“About 70 percent of this expenditure has been on effluent systems that feature the latest technology. Farmers are also well along the way in preparing environmental management plans for their farms, working closely with environmental advisors and their local councils.”

Dr Mackle says while a number of forward-thinking farmers began environmental initiatives a decade and more ago, the actions of the past three years are recorded in the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord.

“The accord is an independently audited report. It can be seen as the commitment of every single one of New Zealand’s 14,000 dairy farmers to play their part in helping to ensure that their fellow Kiwis can enjoy cleaner freshwater.”

Full results of year three of the water accord are currently being audited and will be announced in April.

For year two water accord results see www.dairynz/wateraccord

Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman also welcomed  the clean water plans:

“Water is, of course, the lifeblood of horticulture and our commercial growers have been innovating for some time with environmentally sustainable ways of growing healthy, fresh food for all New Zealanders,” Mr Chapman says.

“Growers implement a number of techniques to protect waterways near their properties. These including riparian planting and management adjacent to waterways and silt traps to collect run-off caused by rain and stop anything entering nearby waterways.

“Riparian planting has many benefits, particularly to water quality, but it is also very expensive and growers bear the cost of that.

“It is great to see the Government opening applications for the $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund, and we will certainly be looking at projects that could be part of that to create more and better ways to protect waterways near growing land.

“But it is also important to note that water quality in New Zealand is not solely the domain of people in the primary industries or rural land owners. The bulk of New Zealanders live in cities and they both use a lot of water and create a lot of waste water. So instead of always pointing the finger at those outside the cities, urban dwellers might want to consider what their contribution to clean water in New Zealand might be to help our growers continue to feed them healthy food in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has welcomed the announcement:

“The announcement is generally consistent with some of the Land and Water Forum’s recommendations,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“For the first time, swimmability is the objective in freshwater management.

“We will have transparency regarding which lakes and rivers are in fact swimmable and which are not. This will vary across seasons and places. Regional councils will need to improve degraded systems with a target of achieving 90% swimmability by 2040.

“The standard for what constitutes swimmable rivers and lakes is comparable with the EU Water Framework Directive. Whether the target date is acceptable will become clear during the consultation phase to follow.

“Other recommendations by the Land and Water Forum have been accepted by Government. These include providing greater rigour on nitrate levels and on macroinvertebrates in the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management. However, some of the detail on these issues appears to raise questions that need further exploration.

“One important issue that hasn’t been adequately addressed is turbidity and sediment – water clarity. The Forum is doing more work on this later in the year. . . 

Forest and Bird isn’t impressed:

Forest & Bird has condemned the government’s new water quality standards, warning New Zealanders that they lock in current levels of water pollution and allow for a 5-fold increase in the chance of getting sick from swimming in a river.

“Despite an explicit assurance from Minister Smith that the new water standards would provide for human and ecosystem health, he has failed to deliver on either of these things,” says Forest & Bird CEO Kevin Hague.

Contrary to the overwhelming public concern for the state of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes, the government’s announcement today does not require any improvement to our water quality, except for the very worst rivers.

“If your local river is polluted now, the government does not require that its water quality is improved to a standard that is safe for people and the ecosystem that it should support. Instead, all they propose is that the current situation is maintained,” says Mr Hague. . . 

What would he and his organisation do when nature causes the problems?.

The Otago Regional Council had concerns about only three waterways in January, two alerts were due to high rainfall and the poor water quality in the Kakanui River was caused by birds?

Clean water is one of the measures of sustainability, maintaining clean waterways and improving those with poor quality is a long-term and expensive process but the goal of 90% swimmable is achievable.


Cabinet changes

December 18, 2016

Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes in and outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister Bill English has today announced his new Cabinet line-up which builds on the success of the last eight years and provides new ideas and energy heading into election year.

“Over the last eight years National has provided a strong and stable Government which is delivering strong results for New Zealanders,” says Mr English.

“This refreshed Ministerial team builds on that success and provides a mix of new people, alongside experienced Ministers either continuing their roles or taking up new challenges.

“This new Ministry is focused on providing prosperity, opportunity and security for all Kiwis, including the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

“I am looking forward to working with Paula as my deputy and I am delighted she is taking on the Police and Women’s portfolios.

“As only the second woman Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Paula is well placed to take on the Women’s portfolio and represent the interests of women at the highest level of the government.”

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure, while Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

“Steven and I have worked closely together in the Finance portfolio over the last eight years, and as Economic Development Minister he has delivered strong leadership of the government’s Business Growth Agenda.

“As Infrastructure Minister Steven will have a key role in overseeing the significant investments the government will be making in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have Gerry continue in his senior roles, including Leader of the House, and also to have him pick up the Civil Defence portfolio in which he has provided such leadership during the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.”

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance. Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

“Simon and Amy are two high performing Ministers who are ready to take on more responsibility. I am confident they will work well with Finance Minister Steven Joyce,” says Mr English.

At National’s Mainland conference, Amy told delegates she’d asked for money to be directed into social portfolios because that was the way to address the causes of crime.

She is well qualified for the extra responsibility for social investment.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios, and will play an important role on the front bench.

“All New Zealanders care deeply about the health system, and Jonathan’s focus on ensuring that the needs of people young and old in accessing quality health care is a very strong one.”

Michael Woodhouse has also been promoted up the Cabinet rankings, retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his promotion. He has been a solid performer and I know he still has a lot more to contribute.”

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

“I am keen for Hekia to see through the education reforms which she is well underway on, and she will work closely with other Ministers to ensure there is a smooth transition in May.”

There will also be a transition of ministers in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

This ensures there will be no need for a by-election if he leaves parliament when he’s no longer a minister. It also leaves the door open   for another couple of back benchers to get promotion next year.

Judith Collins takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

“I would like to congratulate Paul and Louise on their promotions which are all well-deserved,” says Mr English.

There are four new Ministers. Alfred Ngaro who goes straight into Cabinet and Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean and David Bennett who have been promoted to Ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

I am especially pleased that Alfred and Jacqui are being promoted.

He was an electrician before entering gaining a degree in theology and has extensive experience in community work. (See more here).

Jacqui is my MP, serving one of the biggest general electorates in the country. She c0-chaired the Rules Reduction Taskforce and was Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism and Local Government.

“The National party Caucus is a tremendously talented one, and as Ministers finish their contribution it’s important for the government’s renewal that we give members of our caucus an opportunity. Alfred, Mark, Jacqui and David have worked hard and performed well in their electorates and as select committee chairs, and deserve their promotions.”

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1 and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour.

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

Mr English said that he expected to make announcements on the two further new Ministers to replace Ms Parata and Mr McCully just prior to their 1 May retirements from the Ministry.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

“I would like to thank Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew for their service to New Zealand as ministers. I am sure they will continue to be great contributors to New Zealand society in the years ahead.”

The full list of portfolios and rankings is here.


Rural round-up

September 15, 2016

No simple answers on water – Smith – Nigel Malthus:

New Zealand is so richly blessed with freshwater that many people do not appreciate its importance to our economy, lifestyle and health, says Environment Minister Nick Smith.

At a guest lecture on the topic, held at Lincoln University recently, Smith said NZ had more freshwater per capita than pretty much any nation in the world.

“The average 2.3 metres of rain falling nationwide each year equates to 145 million litres per person per year,” he explained. “That is seven times as much as Australia, 16 times as much as the US and 70 times as much per person as the UK or China.”

Smith says many of our major export industries depend on freshwater and our rivers and lakes are equally pivotal to our tourism industry. . . 

Sheep milking easier than cows:

Milking sheep is much easier and simpler than cows, but it takes much more dedication and attention, says John Ryrie, sheep dairy manager at Spring Sheep Milk.  

“You need good stockmanship to look after sheep,” he told Rural News.  

A Scotsman, Ryrie has been in New Zealand for the past year as farm manager for Spring Sheep but has been sheep milking in the UK for 20 years. . .  

Young Farmers’ group takes rise in suicides seriously

A farmers’ group is concerned about the risk of suicide for farmers and wants to reach out to help. 

New Zealand society needs to be more upfront talking about suicide, said Terry Copeland of New Zealand Young Farmers.

“Part of it is confronting it. We’ve got to acknowledge that our lives aren’t always happy,” Copeland said. 

“Some people who suffer from depression, or have really bad work or personal stress, or a combination are unlikely to ask for help, but we have to recognise they’re not their usual self.” . . 

RWNZ submission on Government strategy on health of older adults:

RWNZ has lodged a submission on the Ministry of Health’s update of the Health of Older people strategy, urging the Government to give priority to the unique needs of older adults in rural areas.

RWNZ Health spokesperson, Margaret Pittaway says, “The strategy sets out a worthy and aspirational set of goals for the health and wellbeing of older adults for the next ten years, yet it fails to give appropriate attention to the special and unique challenges of ageing in rural areas.”

In its submission RWNZ highlight ongoing barriers to access to older adult health services in rural areas, along with health disparities affecting this population group. ”Implementation of the actions in this strategy must be given special priority in rural areas, in particular the goal of bringing health services closer to home deserves immediate attention in rural areas” says Margaret Pittaway. . . 

A story of change and success in poplars and willows for erosion management:

Trevor Freeman has seen the planting of hundreds of thousands of poplar and willow trees in the Gisborne region.

The retiring Gisborne District Council Chief Science Specialist and former Environmental Services Manager finishes with the Gisborne District Council on August 19. In the past 40 years his role has morphed from land management into environmental services concerned with water, biosecurity, forestry and many other issues as well as his first passion – erosion control.

The biggest event during his tenure was Cyclone Bola in 1988, which left little of the district unscathed and was a stark reminder of the need for trees, either strategically spaced such as with poplars and willows or as a closed forest canopy. . . 

 

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I don’t leave footprints in the sand, I leave boot tracks in the mud.

Final week for NZ wineries to enter 37th Sydney International Wine Competition:

New Zealand wineries have the rest of the week to enter this year’s Sydney International Wine Competition. Entries close on Friday 16 September, with judging samples required by 23 September.

Entry for the 37th Sydney International Wine Competition is capped at 2000 wines, with just over 250 places still available for entry.

Already there is a record entry from international wineries, including Europe, the Americas, Asia and South Africa, and over 350 entries are expected from New Zealand following their stellar performance in 2015. . . 


Rural round-up

September 5, 2016

Research breakthrough to boost native forestry – James Morton:

A scientific breakthrough could replenish vast expanses of our countryside with lush native forest – and offer a lucrative new forestry industry for New Zealand.

Scion researchers have discovered how to grow native trees, including rimu and totara, from cuttings taken from parent trees instead of seeds, enabling them to grow much faster and in larger amounts.

The new technology will be used a multi-million dollar nursery site opening near the Bay of Plenty village of Minginui this weekend, in a partnership with local iwi Ngati Whare. . . 

Sports awards to be ‘rural Halbergs’:

 Brand new awards celebrating sporting excellence among New Zealand’s rural athletes were launched today with organisers positioning the event as the “Halbergs for the rural sector”.

Rural sports associations are invited to nominate athletes for the Norwood New Zealand Rural Sports Awards presented by the New Zealand Rural Games Trust together with strategic partner, Federated Farmers of New Zealand.
 
An awards ceremony and gala dinner will be held at Awapuni Racecourse, Palmerston North on March 10, 2017, the night before the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games at The Square in the city centre, where many nominees will be competing. . . 

More farmers under bank ‘pressure‘ – Sally Rae:

More farmers are experiencing “undue pressure” from their banks and sharemilkers remain the most vulnerable in the sector, the latest Federated Farmers banking survey shows.

Overall satisfaction remained strong, with 80% of all farmers and 78.4% of dairy farmers either very satisfied or satisfied with their banks.

The survey showed sharemilkers were least satisfied. Given the current economic climate, it was no surprise they were the most exposed, Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said.

In relation to overdrafts, 15.8% said they experienced “undue pressure” and 22.2% experienced “undue pressure” concerning mortgages. . . 

The art of the covenant – Guy Williams:

Two years have passed since we learned four high country stations between Arrowtown and Lake Wanaka would be placed under protective covenants, effectively creating New Zealand’s first national park in private hands. Queenstown reporter Guy Williams finds out what is happening on the stations and asks whether the land will be protected and cared for forever.

They are called Mahu Whenua, meaning “healing the land” — four protective covenants covering 53,000ha across four high country stations: Motatapu, Mount Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak.

Their leases were bought between 2003 and 2011 by British record producer and songwriter Robert “Mutt” Lange — in the earlier years with then-wife, Canadian country-pop singer Shania Twain.

Two years ago, the QEII National Trust announced Lange would place 95% of the stations’ area under open space covenants, a decision then-Minister of Conservation Nick Smith hailed as an “extraordinary act of generosity”. . . 

North Canterbury farmer frustrated by mobile technology – Heather Chalmers

Do you have access to high-speed broadband?

If you live in the country then you probably don’t. Cellphone coverage is also probably patchy. And that is significantly holding back farmers, says North Canterbury sheep and beef farmer Dan Shand.

As a former Sydney IT worker and a Nuffield scholar he knows more than most in the agricultural sector about what is possible with mobile technology. He believes it holds the key to a whole wave of advances, both in on-farm decision-making and productivity and in adding market premiums. However, for a number of reasons this potential is being missed. . . 

Happy Valley to set up new A2 milk plant:

South Waikato dairy farmers wanting to join the A2 milk bonanza might have their chance as a new dairy company seeks consent to build a plant near Otorohanga.  

The Happy Valley Milk company was seeking resource consent for the project that would ultimately include two milk driers.  The first would be an eight tonnes an hour drier capable of producing multiple types of milk powders including A2 infant formula.

Project manager Grant Horan said the company was optimistic it could get the consent process through by the end of the year, with an estimated completion date of mid-2018. . . 

 

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Farming noun [fam -ing] the art of losing money while working 400 hours a month to feed people who think yare are trying to kill them.


Small failures

September 1, 2016

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board expects investigations will show a combination of small failures led to the gastroenteritis outbreak in Havelock North.

. . . The DHB’s chief executive, Kevin Snee, said he expected the government’s inquiry would show that there were small problems in the systems and processes used by the DHB, and by the district and regional councils.

He expected this to show that, when aligned, the problems allowed the water supply to become contaminated and people to get sick. . . 

This is so often the case, lots of small things add up to cause a big problem.

Earlier tests pointed to a ruminant animal as the cause of the outbreak.

Even before that was announced the usual suspects were blaming intensive dairy farming, in spite of there being none near the bore supplying the town.

. . . Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said the area near the aquifer was mostly lifestyle blocks and orchards.

He said people needed to take a step back from the speculation.

“We all contribute to bacteria in the environment, birds do, humans do and so do farm animals.

“Last week we saw a crescendo of finger pointing at agriculture, we heard that this was because of intensive dairy farms and the closest dairy farm we can find is 40 kilometres away.”

Mr Rolleston said while the indications did point to a four-legged animal as the source of contamination, that didn’t mean intensive agriculture was to blame.

He said the aquifer in question was a shallow aquifer, which had a greater risk of having its seals breached.

“We’re not saying that agriculture doesn’t create a risk, but those are the risks that the council needs to actually take cognisance of and mitigate.”

Last week the Green Party said any inquiry into the Havelock North water contamination should look at the role of intensive agriculture.

Mr Rolleston admitted agriculture was a risk for water.

“We’re not denying that and farmers have been up to the task. We’ve spent a billion dollars in the last decade fencing rivers and we’re playing our part.” . . 

Environment Minister Nick Smith also says speculation is unhelpful:

Questions have been asked about the culpability of cattle and chicken farmers, as well as a nearby mushroom farm, but Dr Smith says sometimes even the most basic failures could be to blame.

The campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North struck down 5100 people with gastro, closed schools and businesses and has left residents still boiling their drinking water weeks later.

It is a reminder of the E. coli contamination in Nelson where upstream farmers, birds and waterfowl were blamed before testing confirmed the true cause, Dr Smith says.

“It was embarrassingly found that most of the problem was toilets from the council’s library having been wrongly plumbed into the stormwater rather than the sewerage system,” he told crowds at a Lincoln University environment lecture in Christchurch on Tuesday night.

He said the lesson was to be cautious of jumping to conclusions too soon. . . 

He also addressed concerns about measuring water quality, limits on water takes and proposed strengthening of swimming requirements.

Dr Smith warned a goal of making all waterways swimmable, rather than wadeable, were “unworkable” and “impossible” without a massive bird cull.

But the Green Party has criticised that view as baseless.

“He knows, as we all do, that the real and lasting damage to our rivers is from stock in waterways, farm run-off, sewage and intensified dairy farms among others – he just won’t admit it,” Green Party water spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said. . . 

Tests above and below a dam on our farm confirmed birds were at the bottom of poor water quality.

The Otago Regional Council also proved seagulls were to blame for high levels of E.coli in the Kakanui River.

Up until recently, ORC staff and local farmers alike had been baffled about the cause of such high concentrations in the upper Kakanui, particularly during summer.

ORC staff have been concerned about the concentration of the bacteria, as high levels indicate a risk of people swimming becoming ill. The council enlisted the help of local farmers, who provided access to their properties and the nearby river for inspection.

ORC scientists went into the gorge to investigate by helicopter when this inspection failed to identify the source of the bacteria. The culprits − a large colony of nesting gulls − were found in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge. Water quality samples were taken immediately above and below the colony, with divergent results.

Upstream of the colony, the bacteria concentrations were 214 E.coli/100ml, whereas immediately downstream, the concentration was far greater at 1300 E.coli/100ml.

The levels peaked on January 3, at 2400 parts per 100ml of water. ORC manager of resource science Matt Hickey said that according to Government water quality guidelines for recreational swimming areas, those with less than 260 E.coli/100ml should be safe, whereas water with more than 550 E.coli/100ml could pose a health-risk.

Mr Hickey said six colonies of gulls were found in total, on steep rocky faces, where they clearly favoured the habitat for nesting. While they had gone undetected up until now due to their inaccessibility, it was likely the gulls returned each year to breed.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E.coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season,” Mr Hickey said.

These are only two examples which show Delahunty is wrong to say birds aren’t a problem.

That doesn’t mean farming, especially when it’s intensive, is blameless.

There are many causes for poor water quality but many have happened over time and it will take time to get the improvements we all seek.

That is much more likely with the collaborative approach the Minister seeks:

New Zealand had a habit of turning environmental issues into a battle ground with winners and losers where farmers are seen as environmental vandals and environmentalists as economic imbeciles, Dr Smith said.

“I have been trying to lead a culture change at both a national and local level where different water users and interest groups work together on finding solutions that will work for the environment and the economy,” he said.

It doesn’t have to be either a healthy environment or a growing economy.

A collaborative approach, based on science, can achieve both.

Science must also be applied to the cause, and response to, Havelock North’s problems to ensure that a series of small failures doesn’t lead to large-scale gastroenteritis again.


Rural round-up

August 12, 2016

Kiwi world leader in precision farming – Nigel Malthus:

Mid-Canterbury farmer and businessman Craige Mackenzie was recently named the international Precision Farmer of the Year for 2016.

He is travelling to St Louis, Missouri, in early August to receive the award from the US-based PrecisionAg Institute. Nigel Malthus caught up with him before he left.

The award recognises “outstanding people, programmes and organisations making a difference in the precision ag industry”. It is a high honour for a man who was first invited to present a paper at an international conference in 2008 – but who did not then consider himself a precision farmer. . . 

$34-$35 Million FY16 reported earnings forecast for Synlait:

Synlait Milk’s reported net profit after tax (NPAT) for FY16 is forecast to be in the range of $34 – $35 million.

Underlying NPAT for FY16 is forecast to be in the range of $32 – $33 million.

Earnings guidance for the financial year ending 31 July 2016 (FY16) has been provided to clarify market expectations around FY16 performance.

“Our IPO growth projects added the capability and capacity to execute our strategy of making more from milk,” said Graeme Milne, Chairman. . . 

Collaborative group to improve nature protection:

A new collaborative group involving environmental and landowner organisations has come together to improve national policy on protecting nature on private land, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced today at the Environmental Defence Society’s ‘Wild Places’ conference in Auckland.

“New Zealand is globally recognised as a hotspot environmentally for the loss of unique species. One of the most challenging issues for councils and communities is improving the protection of our native species on private land while respecting the reasonable rights of owners to use their land for farming, forestry and other economic activities. This initiative is about bringing environmental groups and landowners together to develop clearer national policy on protecting the plants and animals that make New Zealand special.” . . 

Feds welcome biodiversity forum:

Federated Farmers welcomes the new national biodiversity forum announced by Minister Nick Smith at the Environmental Defence Society conference today.

Federated Farmers spokesperson for biodiversity Chris Allen says we now have the opportunity to come to a common understanding of the pressures and priorities for biodiversity, on land and in water.

“From here we chart a way forward. Part of this will be agreeing on a national policy statement. . . 

Threatened wildlife the winner if National Policy Statement on Biodiversity succeeds:

Forest & Bird is cautiously optimistic that the development of a National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity will help New Zealand’s struggling native wildlife, and streamline the process of protecting the environment.

Minister for the Environment Nick Smith announced today that core stakeholders have been invited to meet over the next 18 months and collaboratively work on a National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.

A National Policy Statement (NPS) is a statutory document that guides and directs the contents of regional and district plans. All regional and district plans must give effect to the policy. . . 

Entries open for the 2016 Rural Women New Zealand Journalism Award:

Rural Women New Zealand is offering the Journalism Award in a partnership with the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators.

The Award recognises the important contribution women make in the rural community, either through their role in the farming sector or to the general rural environment.

The Award encourages journalists to report on the achievements of women living and working in rural communities. The award recipient will demonstrate excellent understanding of issues and effectively communicate women’s responses to farming, family and business challenges, in a way which inspires and informs the audience. . . 

Changes to kiwifruit regulations:

The Government is updating kiwifruit regulations to ensure the industry is best structured for future growth, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

“New amendments to the Kiwifruit Export Regulations will allow Zespri shareholders to consider setting rules around maximum shareholding and eligibility for dividend payments. 

“This will give Zespri more options for managing its shareholding available to any other company operating under the Companies Act, and will ensure that the interests of all shareholders are recognised in any decision affecting them. . . 

Zespri welcomes changes to Kiwifruit Export Regulations:

Zespri welcomes the Government’s announcement that Cabinet has approved amendments to the Kiwifruit Export Regulations.

Zespri Chairman Peter McBride explains these regulatory changes represent the first major review of the regulations since they were put in place 17 years ago.

“The Kiwifruit Regulations have served the industry very well and extensive industry consultation showed more than 97 percent of growers support the industry structure, with minor changes identified to position the industry for the strong growth ahead. . . 

NZKGI welcomes amendments to Kiwifruit Export Regulations:

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI) welcomes today’s announcement by the Government to approve amendments to the Kiwifruit Export Regulations.

These changes will ensure a regulatory structure that supports the sustainable, long-term growth of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry into the future.

The announcement today reflects considerable effort and investment by growers into ensuring the industry has the foundations to sustain its future in good and adverse times. . . 

Pahiatua Farmers Enjoy Participating In Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Wairarapa sheep and beef farmers Tim and Nicola Hewitt are proud of the environmental work on their family’s 724ha (640ha effective) property south of Pahiatua. While they were initially reluctant to enter the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards, they are glad they finally gave it a go.

“We didn’t want to be seen as blowing our own trumpet,” says Tim.

“But ultimately I think farmers have a responsibility to our industry to show that we are trying to do a good job when it comes to the environment.” . . 

New agri-food research centre in Palmerston North:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has today announced that AgResearch and Massey University will jointly build New Zealand’s largest agri-food research centre in the Food HQ Precinct on the Massey University campus in Palmerston North.

As part of AgResearch’s Future Footprint Programme, AgResearch and Massey University are investing $39 million in the Food Science Research Centre and the design for the new buildings is well underway.

“The research conducted at the Centre will span the agriculture sector from farm to consumer, with a focus on dairy and red meat research,” Mr Joyce says. . . 

Association backs ‘thorough’ maunka honey verification – Alexa Cook:

The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association says it can now classify what is genuine manuka honey, which it believes is a world first.

John Rawcliffe, from UMF Honey Association, said clarification around what constituted genuine manuka honey would help protect the brand and identify legitimate honey.

“Everyone who puts the word ‘manuka’ on a bottle is required to ensure that it is, so from any export honey the requirement is to show that you are labelling correctly that it is manuka.

“There have been question marks on how to go about it, and today under the UMF quality mark at least we can say ‘this is manuka’.” . . 

Rodent eradication lies in directed vitamin dose:

Rats die of a heart attack within 48 hours of being sprayed with a new chemical formulation invented by a New Zealand – United Kingdom joint venture.

The formula includes Cholecalciferol, better known as vitamin D3 and used as a health supplement in humans.

But Peter Signal, a director of New Zealand company Advanced Animal Technologies (AAT), says it’s the combination of the chemical formula with a specially designed delivery system, called PiedPiper, that has been shown to deliver outstanding results in trials in the UK, Europe and Kenya. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 11, 2016

Falling NZ lamb numbers may not bolster prices – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – An expected decline in New Zealand’s lamb numbers this season to the lowest level in more than 60 years may not bolster prices amid uncertainty in key markets and as the higher kiwi dollar depresses local returns.

The country’s lamb crop is expected to drop for a second consecutive year this spring, slipping 2.9 percent to 23.3 million, which would make it the lowest lamb volume since the early 1950’s, according to the Economic Service of farmer-owned industry organisation Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

New Zealand lamb prices have firmed at the farmgate, at saleyards and in overseas markets in response to lower supply, according to AgriHQ’s latest monthly data for July. . . 

Cost of dairy products continue to fall:

Food prices decreased 1.3 percent in the year to July 2016, Statistics New Zealand said today. This follows a decrease of 0.5 percent in the year to June 2016.

Grocery food prices decreased 2.9 percent in the year, influenced by all the main dairy products decreasing in price:

  • cheese (down 11 percent)
  • fresh milk (down 3.2 percent)
  • yoghurt (down 9.7 percent) 
  • butter (down 11 percent).

“The price of cheese has continued to fall in the year to July 2016, to its lowest price since October 2009,” consumer prices manager Matt Haigh said. “The average price of a kilo block of the cheapest available mild cheddar cheese was $7.39 in July 2016, down from $9.07 in July 2015.”  . . 

Arable Industry Fares Well After Drought Like Conditions:

The 2016 arable harvest has fared well despite challenges, according to survey results released by the Arable Industry Marketing Initiative.

Federated Farmers arable vice-chairperson grains Brian Leadley says drought like conditions leading into harvest had many farmers concerned with how and what yields may look like this season.

“Survey figures show that while yields were slightly down in places, there were still some exceptional yielding crops.

“Feed wheat yields (343,700 tonnes) were up 7 percent on last season with 70 percent sold so far; sales are well ahead on previous years,” says Mr Leadley. . . 

 

Financial sting from honey bee loss:

New Zealand agriculture stands to lose $295-728 million annually if the local honeybee population continues to decline, according to a new study into the economic consequences of a decline in pollination rates.

One of the co-authors of the study, Lincoln University Professor Stephen Wratten of the Bio-Protection Research Centre, says it is well known that a global decline in the populations of insect pollinators poses a major threat to food and nutritional security. “We’ve lost most of our wild bees in New Zealand to varroa mite, and cultivated bees are becoming resistant to varroa pesticides. Functioning beehives are becoming increasingly expensive for farmers to rent.

We know the decline in bee populations is going to have a major impact on our economy, but we wanted to measure the impact.”   Previous methods of estimating the economic value of pollination have focused on desktop calculations around the value of crops and the dependency of those crops on pollinators. Professor Wratten says the experimental manipulation of pollination rates is a more direct estimation of the economic value of pollination, or ecosystem services (ES). . . 

Funding for Uawa River, estuary clean-up:

 Gisborne’s Uawa River and estuary will get a clean-up with funding of $500,000 from the Te Mana o Te Wai fund, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox announced today.

“The Government is committed to working with local communities, councils and iwi to improve water quality in our waterways. This funding will support fencing, planting, pest control and sustainable farm management practices in the Uawa catchment so as to improve water quality in the river and estuary,” Dr Smith says.

“This two-year, $575,000 project involves a partnership with local iwi, Tolaga Bay Area School, Massey University, the Gisborne District Council and the Allan Wilson Centre. The focus is not only on improving water quality but also on restoring whitebait spawning grounds and using the project for environmental and science education. . . 

  Cardrona Chondola a Game Changer for NZ Ski Industry:

Cardrona Alpine Resort are changing the game for the New Zealand ski industry – installing a $10million combined lift of gondola cabins and chairs in time for the 2017 winter season. The new McDougall’s Express Chondola will be the first cabin-style lift on a ski area in New Zealand, replacing the existing McDougall’s Quad chairlift.

The current McDougall’s fixed-grip quad was installed in 1985, and has been a Cardrona stalwart ever since. The lift is the main access point to all the Cardrona beginner terrain, and runs slowly to load and unload first-time chairlift users safely.

The goal for a new McDougall’s lift is to make it an access lift for the whole mountain and all of Cardrona’s visitors, not just beginners. . . 


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