Rural round-up

June 20, 2015

Environment Commissioner warns water quality is “not out of the woods yet”:

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, today released two reports on water quality, calling for further steps to safeguard the quality of New Zealand’s fresh water.

“To its credit, the Government has invested heavily in developing policy to improve the management of fresh water,” said Dr Wright. “The 2014 National Policy Statement is a major step forward. Some regional councils have already begun to act and there is a real sense of momentum.”

“But we are not out of the woods yet. Some lakes and streams are below bottom lines and many others are not far above them. And in many places, water quality continues to decline.” . .

PCE report constructively points to next steps in water reform:

The Government has welcomed the two reports released today from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on managing New Zealand’s freshwater reforms.

“This report acknowledges the step change in improving freshwater management through the National Policy Statement in 2011 and the addition of the National Standards in 2014, but it also challenges the Government on the next steps. The report is timely in that it can feed into the work we are doing with iwi leaders and the reinvigorated Land and Water Forum. Our plan is to have a discussion document out on the next steps in freshwater reform early in 2016,” Dr Smith says.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has recommended six improvements to the Freshwater National Policy Statement. The recommendations are: . . .

 Federated Farmers supports PCE report:

Federated Farmers welcomes the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report on Managing Water Quality which supports our long held position that the National Policy Statement (NPS) is a major step forward for water management in New Zealand.

Dr Jan Wright has reflected on what has been an effective couple of years since her last report, with a sense of significant momentum in the regions. She has made six recommendations which overall we agree with excluding concerns around the exceptions policy.

Ian MacKenzie, Federated Farmers Environment Spokesperson, says “We agree with the Commissioner’s recommendation for a more strategic approach in prioritising the more vulnerable catchments. To date some councils have spread their efforts too far and thin when they needed to prioritise and make some real progress on the ones that are under the most pressure.” . . .

Landcorp says 2015 earnings ‘on track’ despite weaker dairy prices – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp Farming, New Zealand’s largest corporate farmer, said it doesn’t need to downgrade its earnings outlook in the wake of falling dairy prices remain weak, as it sheltered from volatility by locking in a guaranteed price at the start of the season.

Dairy product prices slipped in this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction to the weakest level in almost six years. State-owned Landcorp in October cut its forecast for this year’s operating profit to a range of $1 million to $6 million, from a previous forecast range of $8 million-$12 million, citing weaker milk prices. However the company said it is protected from some of the recent weakness by taking up Fonterra Cooperative Group’s guaranteed milk price. . .

Grass-fed infant formula venture for Synlait:

Canterbury dairy company Synlait is going into partnership with United States company Munchkin to create a new infant formula.

California-based Munchkin has seven offices around the world, and is a leading manufacturer of infant and toddler products.

Synlait’s managing director Doctor John Penno said the unique aspect of this agreement was the product will be grass-fed.

“We’re differentiating inside the farm gate and in a way that really epitomises the very good things about the New Zealand grazing system. . .

Fonterra debate on the wrong track – Andrew Hoggard:

The argument about how well Fonterra is performing is gathering pace. People are claiming there is a bloated management.  We have politicians calling for the CEO to take a pay-cut.  That CEO has just indicated possible redundancies as an outcome of an internal review.

The view seems to be that a number of support roles in New Zealand need to go and be replaced by people in the market.

Pub talk fixes on how many are earning more than what amount, and then assumes that if the pay is slashed the problem is sorted.

I think we sometimes forget how big Fonterra is.  You don’t pay small wages to top people to run a business like that. A far more sensible discussion for us to be having would be on what Fonterra pays in wages as a percentage of turnover. And then break that down by division.  Then compare with other successful dairy co-ops from around the world and see what lessons we can take. . .

Waikato Seasonal Outlook: A new drought and rainy period forecasting system is giving farmers and other primary producer a chance to adjust schedules to improve production and protect investments and livelihoods.

When it comes to climate risks in New Zealand, the bluster and rage of tropical storms can steal the stage. But what has really garnered attention over the last ten years are the recurring droughts some of which have affected not just regional New Zealand but the whole country. These events can flare up quickly, and can cause considerable economic damage and stress to farmers and the ecosystems under their stewardship.

Drought is often insidious and creeping, intensifying over many months, stunting or killing crops and limiting grass growth and quality as it develops, reducing groundwater levels and river flow and drying out water supplies. It represents a more frequently occurring and persistent climate hazards faced by New Zealand. Conversely, extended rainy periods and the occasional extreme rainfall event characterised by excessively high rainfall totals over a short duration and typically covering small geographical areas can lead to their own set of problems for the country. . .

 


Rural round-up

June 19, 2015

Beef + Lamb New Zealand not able to progress joint market development model:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand won’t be progressing a joint market development model with meat processors in the next commodity levy cycle from 2016-2022.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman, James Parsons said meat processors have decided not to progress the proposed collaborative 50:50 funded market development entity focusing on country of origin promotion. This was a proposition worked up by Beef + Lamb New Zealand in conjunction with meat companies over the past two years.

“We’ve had a lot of dialogue and constructive discussions with processors, considering how market development could be funded and delivered in the future. Naturally, after all the hard work, it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to get agreement. However, we respect processors preference for their own commercially-focused marketing given, they are the ones who sell the product. What became apparent over the two years of one-on-one meetings and workshops with meat companies was the wide ranging views on how we should promote New Zealand’s sheepmeat and beef.” . .

 

Sign dairy prices bottoming out – Sally Rae:

The latest GlobalDairyTrade auction results offers ”the mildest of encouragements” that global dairy prices might be bottoming out, economists say.

While the overall price index was down 1.3% this week, it was also the smallest drop since the latest downturn in prices began in March.

But it still ”shed no real light” on whether prices would recover enough over the course of the season to meet Fonterra’s milk price forecast, Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon said. . .

Mushroom farm faces prosecution  – Simon Hendery:

Long-established Havelock North business Te Mata Mushrooms is being prosecuted on charges carrying a maximum $600,000 fine for multiple alleged breaches of its resource consent.

The Brookvale Rd company has been the subject of regular complaints about the odour it produces which has allegedly wafted over its boundary in breach of its consent conditions.

It has also been accused of failing to build a multi-million dollar building to contain its compost-making facilities – another requirement under its resource consent. . .

Forestry standard part of Govt’s plan to simplify RMA:

A new National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry to simplify and standardise Resource Management Act requirements was proposed today by Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew at Paengaroa Forest in the Bay of Plenty.

“The current system for environmental regulation of forestry is complex and confusing with thousands of different rules across New Zealand’s 78 councils. This proposed standard will simplify the rules and save the forestry industry millions in compliance costs while ensuring environmental issues like wilding pines, protecting spawning fish and erosion are better managed,” Dr Smith says. . .

 

Government decision made on raw milk:

Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew has today announced the Government’s decision to introduce a new policy around the sale of raw milk to consumers.

“Raw milk is a high risk food, particularly for children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“After extensive consultation and review, the Government decision will allow farmers to continue to sell raw milk directly to the public from the farm and via home deliveries.

“I recognise that people feel strongly about their right to buy and drink raw milk. Equally, I am also aware of the strong concerns about the public health risks associated with drinking raw milk and the potential risk to New Zealand’s food safety reputation. . .

Federated Farmers want to see fine print on raw milk:

Federated Farmers wants to see the fine print of the rules around selling raw milk before farmers will know it its worthwhile.

The Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew has announced farmers will still be able to sell raw milk to consumers, and the government will not be implementing plans to abolish raw milk sales, restrict their volume or prohibit home deliveries.

Dairy spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says farmers value having a range of selling options. . .

 

Hort leaders connect with students to grow industry:

Although the number of horticulture students has increased, it is still not enough to satisfy demands. Now, industry leaders are connecting with Massey University in an effort to grow graduates in the sector.

Massey University offers the only horticulture degree course at university level in New Zealand. One of the partnerships it has is with Horticulture New Zealand.

Senior business manager at Horticulture New Zealand Sue Pickering gives a guest lecture to students taking the first-year Horticulture Production paper. . .

Seeka reports record crop volumes handled for 2014-15 harvest:

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries has packed a record number of trays in the just-completed 2015 kiwifruit harvest, handling more than 26.3 million class 1 export trays, compared to 20.0 million class 1 trays in 2014. The total volume of all classes of kiwifruit is expected to exceed 27.4 million trays this year. This compares to the 24.944m forecast to shareholders at ASM held on 28 April 2015.

Both Hayward [Green] and Gold class 1 volumes are up. Total Hayward packed or in store for 2015 is 21.8 million trays compared to 18.1 million in the previous year. Gold volumes in 2015 totalled 4.3 million trays and compare against 1.7 million in the previous year. Seeka also packed approximately 200,000 trays of the Zespri G14 SweetGreen. . .

 


Rural round-up

June 7, 2015

Fed Farmers appeals GMO decision:

Federated Farmers has lodged an appeal with the High Court over a decision allowing Northland Regional Council to regulate the use of genetically modified organisms in the region.

The farming lobby group had previously appealed to the Environment Court over the matter. Last month the court ruled the council had jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act to decide whether GMOs can be used.

The council would do this though regional policy statements and plans.

Federated Farmers’ president William Rolleston was seeking clarification on some points of the decision but would not discuss details because it was before the court. . .

Winners of 2015 Green Ribbon Awards announced:

Project Janszoon has named as the recipient of the Supreme Award at this year’s Green Ribbon Awards, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry announced at the ceremony held at Parliament tonight.

“Project Janszoon has carried out an impressive job restoring and protecting one of New Zealand’s greatest natural assets: the Abel Tasman National Park. Project initiatives include extensive pest and weed control, the return of important plants and animals like rata and kaka and future proofing the project through education and community engagement,” Dr Smith says. . .

 

Maize growers nervous – John Hodge:

Although I’m an optimist I am becoming more aware that maize growers are exceptionally nervous about the future of the industry in New Zealand.

I see problems arising in the future for us and optimist or not I have to admit things are not looking rosy. Having farmed my way through ups and downs for the past 60 years, my optimism has always got me through. So my advice to other growers is to do the same because when we can hope things will come right it makes it bearable.

The drop in payout to dairy farmers has had an immediate effect on their demand for both maize silage and maize grain, which combined with the drought conditions over the last three years, has been hard going. With dairy farmers looking for cheaper options to feed their herds, it’s fair enough that maize farmers are feeling nervous. . .

Continued pressure on wool:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s Marketing Executive, Mr Paul Steel reports that the weakening New Zealand dollar coupled with exporter pressure to meet shipping requirements and limited supply continues to underpin the market.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies came down 2.14 percent compared to the last sale on 28th May.

Of the 6,876 bales on offer, 94 percent sold. . .

 NZ lamb wool price rises to record amid strong demand, limited supply – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand lamb wool prices jumped to a record high amid strong demand from exporters and limited supplies.

Lamb wool climbed to $7.45 per kilogram at yesterday’s South Island auction, from $7/kg at last week’s North Island auction, the highest price that AgriHQ has recorded since it began collecting wool prices in July 2005. The price for clean 35-micron wool, a benchmark for crossbred wool used for carpets and accounting for the majority of New Zealand’s production, held at $6.20/kg for a third week, its highest level since November 2013 and 17 percent above year earlier levels. . .

 Canterbury Seed consolidates cereals partnership with KWS:

Canterbury Seed and cereal breeder KWS UK continue to cement their long standing partnership as the number of New Zealand growers recognising the distinct benefits of the KWS cereal varieties increases.

The relationship now extends to new cereal varieties being evaluated in New Zealand under local conditions at the same time as the varieties being entered into the UK official trials. This is crucial given not all UK varieties will perform in New Zealand and allows for evaluation before moving forward into the local trial system.

During the 2014 – 2015 seasons, Canterbury Seed evaluated five new wheat varieties and seven new barleys – two wheat and one barley variety progressed to New Zealand trials. . .

 

Wellington Gets Set For Big Farm Environment Celebration:

This year its Wellington’s turn to host New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s annual Sustainability Showcase – a premier event on the national farming calendar.

To be held on June 24 in Parliament’s Banquet Hall, the Showcase honours Supreme winners of the 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) and culminates with the naming of the National Winner and the presentation of the esteemed Gordon Stephenson trophy.

New Zealand Farm Environment Trust general manager David Natzke says having the event in Wellington provides the rural community with a chance to celebrate its successes in front of an audience that includes some of the nation’s top decision-makers.

 


Rural round-up

June 4, 2015

Hunter Downs irrigation backing forthcoming – David Bruce:

A new Waimate irrigation scheme capable of providing water to up to 32,000ha now has enough shareholder support to move on to the next stage of investigations after fears in April some farmers might be backing out.

The Hunter Downs irrigation scheme, estimated to cost about $375 million, had sold enough shares to cover 24,000ha in its first instalment of payments. . .

The science behind deer velvet – Jemma Brackebush:

AgResearch scientists are working with Korean counterparts to discover what components of deer velvet may help boost immune systems.

Deer antler products are commonly used in northern Asian countries in the winter to boost people’s immune systems and fight off colds and flus.

Senior scientist Stephen Haines said a major factor in selling deer velvet in key markets like South Korea and China was being able to prove the product does what the marketers claim.

 Manuka Health mulls capital raising options after global launch of new honey products – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – Manuka Health, the functional food and dietary supplement company, is reviewing capital-raising options to help fund a global roll-out of new products said to boost the antibacterial qualities of manuka honey and its pipeline of research and development.

The private company has ruled out a public listing at this stage but chief executive Kerry Paul said it was considering other options including new investors who bring more than just capital to the table.

Manuka Health was founded in 2006 and exports 90-plus products based on propolis, royal jelly, bee pollen, and manuka honey to 45 countries. It has annual turnover of more than $50 million, 80 staff, and is owned by a number of private shareholders including Paul and family interests associated with chairman Ray Thomson, and institutional investors, Milford Asset Management and Waterman Capital. . .

Finalists announced for 2015 Green Ribbon Awards:

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry today announced the finalists for the 2015 Green Ribbon Awards, which will this year mark 25 years of honouring New Zealand’s environmental leaders.

“Over 70 nominations were received across the 10 categories for this year’s awards, and they cover a wide range of environmental initiatives that include protecting our biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, minimising waste, reducing water pollution, preserving the marine environment, educating and inspiring the community, and implementing more sustainable business practices,” Dr Smith says. . .

Maximising profit and environmental protection on NZ pastoral farms:

Agricultural growth agendas are currently based on the idea that more production, at any cost, is the best strategy for higher national GDP. But, it is unclear how these agendas will be fulfilled, given tightening water quality limits and the pressing need to account for greenhouse gas emissions.

Alison Dewes (Headlands Consultancy) says that the combination of volatile economic conditions and enforceable environmental limits will force farmers to reconfigure their farm systems. Farmers will have to demonstrate efficient resource use, minimal environmental effects and robust economic performance to ensure New Zealand’s agriculture sector can thrive and stay ahead of the game. . .

Make the most of Government forestry planting grants; NRC:

Northland farmers and landowners are being encouraged to take full advantage of a Government forestry grant scheme, with the Northland Regional Council advising it also has options to help.

The Government recently re-launched its Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS), announcing it would spend $22.5 million over the next six years subsidising the planting of forests on erosion-prone land.
This scheme previously saw more than 12,000 hectares of new forest planted nationally between 2008 and 2013.
The re-launched scheme, administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), is accepting applications for the next month (SUBS: these close 30 June 2015). . .

Young Butchers Set to Carve up Competition:

Across New Zealand, young butchers are preparing for the battle of their careers in anticipation of the 2015 Alto Young Butcher and Competenz Butcher Apprentice of the Year.

A total of 73 butchery protégées have entered the regional stages of the competition in the hopes of making it to the Grand Final on September 10 at Shed 10 in Auckland.

Competition Organiser, Pippa Hawkins from Retail Meat New Zealand says the event is now widely recognised within the industry with past competitors reaping huge benefits. . .


Rural round-up

May 25, 2015

Extraordinary season for growers as industry gets back on track for growth:

Zespri’s final result for 2014/15 shows an industry that is back on track and revitalized for the strong growth outlook ahead.

The last season has been extraordinary, Zespri Chairman Peter McBride said, with the total fruit and service payment up 17 percent on the previous year to $939 million. Zespri’s global kiwifruit sales reached $1.568 billion, up 16 percent on 2013/14. Export earnings increased by 18 percent to $1.086 billion versus the 2013/14 season. “These strong headline results were achieved because of the effort of growers, the post-harvest sector and the Zespri team onshore and in the markets,” Mr McBride said. . .

Budget 2015: Driving primary sector export growth:

The Government will invest $7.5 million over two years in developing key skills and systems to help boost exports across the primary sector, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

This investment focuses on key initiatives that will help deliver greater economic growth, including:

  • Identifying new farming systems and processes.
  • Building international consumer trust in New Zealand products.
  • Identifying and prioritising opportunities to increase investment, employment and incomes in the primary sector.
  • Encouraging more people to get involved in the primary industries. . . .

Nominations & entries open for South Island Farmer of the Year:

Nominations and entries are open for the 2015 Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year competition, and organisers are hoping for another record year.

Foundation Chair Ben Todhunter says, “Last year we had record entries followed by the most popular winner’s field day in the history of the competition when more than 400 people turned up to tour Patoa Farms.”

The competition offers a top prize of a $20,000 travel grant to undertake further farm study or pursue farm business opportunities, plus four $5000 awards for the best performers in specific areas such as resource management, consumer awareness, innovation and human resource management. . .

Smart agriculture: What resilient farmers do differently – John Janssen:

Falling milk prices have seen renewed discussion about the tough times ahead for those in the dairy sector, and as such it seems a timely opportunity to share some insights into how farmers can put themselves into the best possible position to overcome the challenges ahead.

Adaptability and resilience have become critical to successful agribusiness ventures and we see time and again that the most profitable and resilient businesses are the ones where the decision-making over a period of time has been of a high standard. . . .

Weaker NZ Dollar Helps Wool Prices:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s Marketing Executive, Mr Paul Steel advises that a weaker New Zealand dollar compared to the last sale on 14th May, kept prices high despite a significant increase in the rostered quantity. Steady demand and exporters struggling to source enough wool to meet shipping requirements added extra strength to the market.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies eased 1.97 percent week on week.

Of the 9,733 bales on offer, 91.4 percent sold. . .

$41.2m for resource management, water reform:

The Government is committing $41.2 million in Budget 2015 to deliver on its priorities for the environment, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

Budget 2015 will invest an additional $20.4 million over four years to provide greater national direction and support to councils in implementing the resource management reforms.

A further $4 million will go towards supporting the Environmental Protection Authority’s role to implement the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) legislation in 2015/16. An additional $16.8 million is allocated to support the Government’s programme of improving the management of freshwater. . .

 


Targeting earthquake risk

May 11, 2015

Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced a targeted approach to building regulations for earthquake safety at the National Party’s Mainland conference yesterday:

“The priority in developing this earthquake strengthening policy for buildings is public safety and minimising future fatalities. We also need to ensure the response is proportionate to the risk, that the costs are minimised and that we retain as much of our built heritage as possible,” Dr Smith says.

The four significant changes to the policy are:

  • Varying the timetable for strengthening relative to earthquake risk
  • Prioritising education and emergency buildings for strengthening
  • Reducing the number of buildings requiring assessment; and
  • Introducing new measures to encourage earlier upgrades.

“The timeframe for identification and assessment of five years and strengthening of 15 years is to be varied relative to seismic risk. The return period for a significant earthquake (MM8) ranges from 120 years in Wellington, to 720 years in Christchurch, to 1700 years in Dunedin, and only once every 7400 years in Auckland. New Zealand is to be categorised into low, medium and high seismic risk zones with timeframes for assessment of five, 10 and 15 years and strengthening of 15, 25 and 35 years,” Dr Smith says.

“Education and emergency buildings will be targeted by requiring that in high and medium seismic risk areas they be identified and strengthened in half the standard time. We are prioritising all education buildings regularly occupied by 20 people or more. We also want to ensure buildings like hospitals can maintain services in the aftermath of a significant earthquake.

“The scope of buildings requiring assessment is to be reduced from an estimated 500,000 to 30,000. We are excluding farm buildings, retaining walls, fences, monuments, wharves, bridges, tunnels and storage tanks. The new methodology for identifying earthquake-prone buildings will ensure the focus is on older buildings like unreinforced masonry that pose the greatest risk.

“Building owners are to be encouraged to upgrade their buildings ahead of the allowable timeframe by establishing a web based public register and requiring notices on such buildings highlighting the level of risk. There will also be a new requirement to strengthen earthquake-prone buildings when doing substantial alterations.”

The Government also confirmed that the earthquake-prone building definition as being less than 34 per cent of the new building standard (NBS), a 10-year extension for listed heritage buildings, and exemptions from strengthening for low risk, low occupancy buildings, would remain in the policy.

“The effect of these policy changes is that buildings like schools, universities and hospitals in high and medium seismic risk areas will have to be upgraded more quickly, but buildings in low risk areas like Auckland and Dunedin more gradually. This more targeted approach reduces the estimated cost from $1360 million to $777 million while retaining the safety gains. The policy will result in an estimated 330 fewer deaths and 360 fewer serious injuries from earthquakes over the next century,” Dr Smith says.

“The select committee is considering the Bill and will be reporting back to Parliament in July with passage later this year. We will also be consulting on the detailed regulations like the assessment methodology, the Earthquake-Prone Buildings Register, the building notice requirements and the definition of substantial alterations.

“There are no easy answers to the seismic risk posed by thousands of older buildings in New Zealand. We cannot completely eliminate the risk to life, nor save every heritage building, nor avoid a bill for hundreds of millions in upgrading. This is the most comprehensive policy of any seismically active country for dealing with older buildings and strikes the right balance between safety, cost, heritage and practicality.”

The Minister’s full speech is here.

The schedule of the revised timetable by location is here.

A map of the new zones is here.

This policy is pragmatic and practical and has been greeted positively.

The Construction Strategy Group says it is realistic:

The targeted risk-based policy adopted by the Government toward strengthening of earthquake-prone buildings appears realistic for the circumstances with which the country is dealing says the Construction Strategy Group (CSG).

Chairman of the CSG, Geoff Hunt, said today that in adopting a measured position reflective of the realities that earthquake risk in New Zealand varies significantly between regions the Government was taking a realistic approach.

“A policy which puts aside more onerous and unreasonable requirements for upgrading commercial structures in low risk regions, and disposes of top level upgrades for little-used farm sheds and such buildings as isolated rural country churches, is practical and sensible,” he says.

“The CSG has long advocated a policy that takes account of risk factors. It is supportive of the intention to set a ‘must upgrade’ base line of 34 percent of today’s new building standard. The new time frames for upgrading earthquake-prone structures are also helpful in bringing cost factors into line with affordability.

“The regional categorisation of regions into low, medium and high risk zones will allow local government to take a realistic policy approach.

“The openness to public scrutiny of a building’s earthquake resistance status is also helpful to public safety. It will also ensure constant pressure on building owners with at risk buildings to have them brought up to speed sooner rather than later.

“Priority focus on upgrading the 30,000 most at risk buildings and on upgrading schools and hospitals is a matter of necessity.”

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the move was positive:

He said strengthening must still go ahead, but he was pleased Dr Smith had listened to the concerns of southern councils which had lobbied him ”intensively” for two years for change.

”To his credit, he’s listened to those concerns and yes, he will [now] adjust according to [earthquake] risk,” Mr Cull said when contacted last night.

Mr Cull said the ”one size fits all” edict had been detrimental to the lower South Island because of the large number of older buildings.

”Basically, it would have been uneconomic to fix [earthquake proof] them and a lot would have had to be demolished,” Mr Cull said.

The first policy proposed for earthquake safety measures took no account of risk.

Owners of historic buildings in low risk areas like Oamaru and Dunedin would have been forced to demolish their buildings because they would not have been able to do meet the proposed standard in the proposed time.

This policy takes a much more balanced approach based on risk.

It doesn’t mean that earthquakes won’t strike low risk areas nor that a quake won’t kill people.

The Minister rightly says We cannot completely eliminate the risk to life, nor save every heritage building, nor avoid a bill for hundreds of millions in upgrading.

This policy balances risk and cost.


Seizing blue green initiative

April 13, 2015

Environmental issues concern people across the political spectrum and solutions are not the preserve of the political left.

Environment Minister Nick Smith recognises the opportunity to seize the blue green initiative:

. . . There is more fresh thinking going on in National about how New Zealand can better manage its rich heritage of natural assets than any other party.

It was a telling comment during Election 2014 when the Greens co-leaders stated their preference for ministerial offices, with one wanting Social Development and the other Economic Development.

And there has been a vacuum in Labour thinking on environmental issues from Opposition. There was not a single major environmental plank from Labour in either of the 2011 and 2014 elections. The portfolio once attracted Labour heavyweights like Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Helen Clark in the 1980s, but their last Environment Minister Trevor Mallard was given the role as punishment for heavyweight behaviour of a different kind, with a bit of biffo with Tau Henare. There have been 10 spokespeople since.

With the Greens being distracted over leadership and identity, and Labour showing little interest in these issues, we have an opportunity to go after the Greens soft vote.

Our principles of marrying good economic and environmental policies; of underpinning our policies with good science; and of moving from a polarised conversation on environmental issues to a more collaborative approach – we can appeal to New Zealanders’ practical, down-to-earth brand of environmentalism.

Environmental protection and enhancement and economic development aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s not only possible to have both, economic growth is essential to fund environmental initiatives.

Principles are important but it is results that matter most. Let me highlight 10 achievements that we have been able to deliver on in Government.

The first is this new Aotea Conservation Park opened yesterday on Great Barrier Island and championed by local MP Nikki Kaye.  We are protecting 12,000 hectares and New Zealand’s largest possum- and stoat-free forest, and some of the best stands of Maggie’s beloved kauri trees. Our $2.5 million investment in the new Aotea track opens up new opportunities for eco-tourism on the island.

The second achievement I want to highlight is our progress on marine protection. We’ve created a record number and area of new marine reserves. We are also the first Government to formally protect surf breaks, of which we have gazetted 17.

We are the Government that created the Environmental Protection Authority and a proper system for managing environmental effects in New Zealand’s huge Exclusive Economic Zone. Prior to our administration, many activities including deep sea drilling were allowed without any environmental assessment.

We also should take pride in the progress we have made in insulating over 300,000 old, cold, damp homes. The benefit from this energy efficiency initiative is not just in savings in power bills and greenhouse gas emissions, but in warmer homes and healthier families.

Nor should we be at all defensive about our progress in climate change policy. This area is notoriously difficult politics as you see in Australia where it has tripped up three consecutive prime ministers.

We successfully landed and implemented our moderated ETS in July 2010. Its initial impact has been small, with the carbon price being so low, but it is now $6.40, and is a sound platform on which to step up our efforts on climate change.

We should celebrate the progress we have made towards meeting our renewables target of 90 per cent by 2025. This is particularly telling in that through the previous two decades, New Zealand went backwards. Our policy prescription of time-constrained national consenting for major projects, genuine competition in electricity generation, and our policy of discouraging thermal generation with the ETS is working well.

Bluegreens have been at the forefront of our agenda to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management. When we came to Government, there was not even a requirement for those like irrigators extracting water from our lakes, rivers and aquifers to even meter what they took. We changed that with national regulations in 2009 in the spirit of you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Talk of a National Policy Statement (NPS) on freshwater started in 1995 but it had gone nowhere. The Land and Water Forum helped us deliver the first NPS on freshwater in 2010 and the limit setting and minimum standards in 2014.

And we have put our money where our mouth is. We’ve committed over $350 million to clean-up initiatives, a fivefold increase on predecessors and in much more constrained financial times. We are getting real results in lakes like Rotoiti, Taupō and Waituna. Over 20,000 kilometres of rivers have been fenced.

We have also been making good progress on air pollution with the air we breathe today being the cleanest on record.

In 2009, we introduced tighter environmental standards on new and second-hand imported vehicles and toughened them again in 2012.

Fuel standards have been improved, reducing the sulphur content from 150 parts per million in 2008 first to 50ppm, and then to 10ppm.

We have also funded 40,000 conversions to cleaner home heating. These air quality improvements are saving over 100 premature deaths per year, and are more significant than more highly reported reductions in the road toll or homicide.

One of our most challenging environmental issues is the loss of so many of our native species, and particularly our birds. There was a time when the principal threat was hunting and loss of habitat, but the threat today is the stoats, rats and possums that kill 25 million of our native birds each year.

Our ninth significant achievement is Battle for our Birds, the largest pest control initiative totalling over one million hectares last year.

The tenth achievement I want to note is the New Zealand Cycle Trails. I confess that this initiative, unlike the others, did not have its genesis at a Bluegreens Forum, but came from the Prime Minister and his 2009 Job Summit. Members like Jacqui and Scott will attest to the success of these Cycle Trails in rural communities.

I list these 10 significant achievements to remind ourselves how far we’ve come, but also to inspire our work programme going forward.

The public banks political achievements and then wants more and the government has more:

The next significant initiative is the passage of the Environmental Reporting Bill, and the publishing in July of Environment Aotearoa.

New Zealand is the only OECD country to not have a statutory framework for environmental reporting. It is an anomaly out of step with our clean green brand. This new Act will rightly put our environmental management under scrutiny and improve the integrity of brand New Zealand.

We should not underestimate the power of open reporting systems to improve performance. This new Act is the environment equivalent of Ruth Richardson’s Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1993. Prior to these financial reporting requirements, New Zealand had one of the worst records of public finance management, but in the 20 years since we have moved to one of the best. It is also consistent with this Government’s National Standards policy in education, requiring the open reporting on student achievement.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act has led to better public financial management and far greater transparency. A statutory framework for environmental management should have similarly positive results.

The environment information is to be framed around five six-monthly reports covering air, atmosphere and climate, freshwater, land and marine domains, and a comprehensive State of the Environment report summarising all five domains, produced at three-yearly intervals. The reports are to be produced jointly by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment, with the three-yearly report audited by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

This initiative is also part of our plan to strengthen New Zealand’s environmental institutions. The model we have been developing, not indifferent to the role of Treasury, the Reserve Bank and the Auditor-General, is a strong policy-focused Ministry, an independent regulator with the EPA we established in 2010, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment as the system auditor.

The second big reform we want to advance in this term of Parliament involves Maggie, Nathan and I in a substantive reform of New Zealand’s system of marine protection, of which we had an entrée with this morning’s panel discussion.

We should be proud of National’s heritage, being the first country in the world to legislate for no-take marine reserves in 1971, but the Act is now outdated.

It does not provide for marine protection in the huge Exclusive Economic Zone. The process for establishing reserves is cumbersome and divisive. Nor is there adequate recognition of Māori interests.

The most exciting part of the reform is providing for a range of different types of Marine Protected Areas, as has become best international practice. Our new Act will enable us to declare, as now, areas to be fully protected as marine reserves, but will also allow recreational-only fishing parks, species-specific sanctuaries, as well as seabed reserves.

This work is the logical next step to our new EEZ laws, and parallels the evolution of our regulatory system on land.

The EEZ law is about setting the rules of economic development, the ocean equivalent of our RMA. The new Marine Protected Areas law is the equivalent of our National Park and Reserves Act.

Our ambition with our fisheries quota management system, our new EEZ law and this new Marine Protected Areas law is for New Zealand to be a world leader in the responsible use and conservation of the ocean environment. The next step in this work will be releasing a discussion document.

Bluegreens recognise that the RMA is New Zealand’s most important environmental law, covering the management of water, air, biodiversity, land use, noise and the coast, as well as all the complexities of urban development, covering subdivision, building height and shading restrictions, and the provision of the transport, communication and water infrastructure to make our cities function.

In our first phase of reforms, we set up the EPA and a system for national consenting that is working well. We put together rules on councils to process consents on time that has seen late consents plummet from 15,000 per year to under 1000 per year. We passed specific law to prevent the misuse of the RMA for restricting trade competition. The more difficult issues over urban development, infrastructure and Sections 6 and 7 were put off to specialist technical advisory groups.

Pulling this advice together into a Bill that we can secure a majority in Parliament has always been challenging and even more so since the Northland By-Election but I am still confident we will be able to progress substantive change. To that end we are continuing discussions with our confidence and supply partners consistent with the direction of reform I outlined in my speech at the beginning of the year.

It is not my intention to recite those 10 priorities for National, but I do want to reemphasise the direction of travel.

The first key change is improving the plan-making process. The current Schedule 1 process is cumbersome, costly and is not serving New Zealand’s environment or economy well. It takes an average of seven years to produce a plan change, when a sector like housing can go from boom to bust in just three years.

We keep having to pass special legislation to get around these problems. We had to do it to get some limits on water takes in Canterbury, to get a new unitary plan for the consolidated Auckland councils, to get a plan for Christchurch’s rebuild and through the Special Housing Areas to get some progress on Auckland’s housing shortage.

I am a strong enthusiast for the collaborative process recommended by the Land and Water Forum for water plans, but am also keen to enable use of this sort of approach to a wider range of resource management issues.

The second key directional change is stronger national direction and standardisation. Very few National Policy Statements or National Environmental Standards have been advanced over the 25-year history of the Act. We’ve done more in the last five years, than in the last 20, and have more in the pipeline.

We are currently consulting on a new National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities. It has been attacked by the Greens as undermining the environment and community consultation, but we are not going to progress a world-class communication network with each of our 67 councils having different rules on what sort of wi-fi panel, street cabinet, antennae or microwave communications tower is allowed.

We will also finalise a National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry this year.

Our phase two reforms will strengthen national standards and policy statements, and require councils to use standard planning templates so they get to decide where different rules apply, but the rules are standardised nationally.

Another key element of our reforms is how we balance between the rights of a person to reasonably use their property, and the wider community and environmental interests.

I have no difficulties with rules that limit intensification of land use where it results in pollution of public waterways or saying to a landowner you can’t remove a hundreds-year-old kauri tree. But how far should it go? I have constituents being denied consents for a home because the living areas face the sun rather than the street on the basis that there is a public good in them keeping an eye on the safety of the neighbourhood. I have another where the fence is deemed unacceptable because the gap between the pallings is too small. We do need to put some limits on how much we micro-regulate people’s lives.

We are a party that believes it is Government’s role to protect the environment but we also believe this should be limited and done in such a way that we don’t unduly interfere in people’s lives. We need new provisions that waive the need for resource consents where the environmental effects are negligible.

The issue of how we improve the way we deal with natural hazards, urban planning, housing affordability and infrastructure are key subjects in our discussions with our support parties.

The most straightforward should be increasing the status of significant natural hazards.

We will be doing a disservice to the people of Christchurch if we do not heed the lessons of the RMA policy failures of allowing new subdivisions in areas like Bexley, where the liquefaction risk was known and identified but ignored.

Kiwis value their environment, but they are practical people who recognise that we live in one of the most geologically active countries in the world with risks from earthquakes, floods, volcanic activity and landslides, and that our systems need to better manage these risks.

The most difficult issue to resolve is how we address the challenging problems around growth of our urban communities and housing affordability

The Special Housing Areas mechanism is working successfully by bypassing the normal RMA process. This law expires in September 2016 and we need to find a way in this package of reforms to maintain this momentum. Auckland’s housing supply issues go back over a decade, and will take many more years to resolve.

The underlying issue is that the RMA is not well-designed for dealing with urban issues. Most countries have a separate planning Act to resolve these. When we passed the RMA in 1991, we assumed other countries would follow suit and put their planning and environmental laws into one. It hasn’t happened, for the reason that it is not a comfortable fit. Dr Phil McDermott, a former Professor of Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University, has recently written a paper on the case for new thinking in this area, suggesting separate resource and urban planning law. It is not an issue we should consider in this second phase of our RMA reforms, but is something Bluegreens need to think about in the longer term.

I want to conclude with comments on water reform.

Last week we reinvigorated the Land and Water Forum to advance the next stage of work in improving how we manage freshwater.

The most important goal will be in supporting the implementation of the National Policy Statement at regional and catchment level.

We have two further policy commitments on freshwater to deliver on this term.

The first is in developing a $100 million fund to support the retirement of buffer zones around sensitive lakes and rivers.

The second is on delivering a requirement for all dairy cattle to be excluded from waterways by 1 July 2017. The devil is always in the detail of such policies. We want to work with the Forum in ensuring this is done in a way that is both practical and effective. . .

Practical and effective – that is a good foundation for good policy.


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