Rural round-up

20/09/2018

Scratching beneath the surface of Fonterra’s accounts – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s loss of $196 million for the year ended 31 July 2018 has left nowhere for the Fonterra Board to hide. Wisely, it has chosen to take the loss on the chin. In line with this, it has completed the jettisoning of CEO Theo Spierings. Two of its most experienced directors (Wilson and Shadbolt) are also departing.

Fonterra plans to now take stock of the situation before charting a path to the future. However, the latest Fonterra communications at farmer meetings are emphasising debt reduction.

A black and white sort of a guy
New Chairman John Monaghan has been described to me as a black and white sort of a guy. That might be exactly what Fonterra needs; someone who calls a spade a spade and cuts through the public relations massaging that bedevils Fonterra
. . .

Synlait nearly doubles profit in tenth year of operation:

Synlait has reported a net after tax profit (NPAT) of $74.6 million, almost double the NPAT of $39.5 million announced for the same period last year.

The results for the financial year ending 31 July 2018 (FY18) were achieved in a period of large investment, and a renewed focus on the future.

An increase in finished infant formula sales helped to drive this profit, which was enabled by a number of investments in the blending and consumer packaging space. . .

Comedy night to highlight rural wellness:

A group of Kiwi comedians are set to hit the road for a series of shows designed to get farmers off the farm and laughing.

Farmstrong, a group which promotes rural wellness, has helped organise five further comedy nights after a successful sold-out first show in Waikato.

The initiative is also supported by NZ Young Farmers and the Rural Support Trust. They say it aims to help highlight the issue of mental health and wellbeing, and are a way for farmers to take a break. . .

Apropos of this, Farmstrong has a wellbeing check list.

New boss aiming for more talent – Pam Tipa:

To hit targets and ensure a flow of young talented people coming into agriculture requires connecting with everybody.

This is the view of Lynda Coppersmith (48), who takes over as Young Farmers chief executive on October 1.

”If that means we need to do more to connect with women and show young women there is a career path, then let’s do it,” says Coppersmith. . .

Waimea Dam Bill widely supported at first reading:

Support has been welcomed from National, Labour, NZ First and Act parties for the introduction of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill that saw 112 votes in support to eight opposed and its referral to the Governance and Administration Select Committee, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“This Bill is the last critical piece of work required to enable the construction of this dam in the Lee Valley and resolve the long term problems of water security and river health on the Waimea Plains. The project has full resource consents and the $100 million in funding required from horticulturalists, Government and Council. This Bill is about resolving the issue of access to the land for the reservoir in the Mount Richmond Forest Park. . .

Urgent cull of South Island’s Himalayan tahr population ordered by Conservation Minister – Holly Carran:

The Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has ordered an urgent cull of the Himalayan tahr population across the central South Island, claiming the numbers have reached destructive levels.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) wants to remove 10,000 tahr on public conservation land, including the Westland/Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks, over the next ten months. 

The Tahr Liaison Group – made up of organisations with hunting interests and Ngāi Tahu, will help reduce the numbers by hunting an extra 7500 – overall halving the population if successful.  . .

Walking Access Commission appoints new Chief Executive:

The Walking Access Commission, the Government’s expert agency on public access to the outdoors, is pleased to announce the appointment of Ric Cullinane as its new Chief Executive.

Mr Cullinane has been the Commission’s Operations Manager since 2010, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his new role. . . 


Property rights don’t discriminate

23/07/2018

The headline says  Controversial TV star expects millions to give public access to South Island station.

Taxpayers could be forced to pay millions of dollars in compensation to disgraced TV host Matt Lauer to guarantee public access to his high country station.

Lauer has partly opened up Hunter Valley Station to the public, complying with conditions set by the Overseas Investment Office when he bought the farm last year.

But the Department of Conservation and the Walking Access Commission are now pushing for unfettered access for trampers, hunters and tourists to a 40km unsealed, lakefront road that runs through the property.

That’s likely to cost taxpayers – with Lauer threatening court action and refusing to waive compensation.​

The Walking Access Commission has applied to the Commissioner of Crown Lands for an easement (or right of way) over the track, which runs along Lake Hawea. The Commission is balking at paying big money to “a very wealthy American with a tarnished reputation”, official documents say.

Property rights don’t depend on the person who owns it, their nationality or their wealth.  They don’t discriminate.

Lauer’s company Orange Lakes Ltd owns the lease to the $13 million, 6500-hectare property – but the Crown still owns the land. It would mark a legal first if an easement was granted against the wishes of a lessee. 

Lauer is legally entitled to be compensated for the easement – and Federated Farmers has swung its support behind him, fearful of the precedent if he were forced to grant access for free.  . . 

The headline would have been more accurate had it been: pastoral lessee expects compensation for loss of  property rights.

But most people don’t understand pastoral leases, tenure review and the attendant property rights.

Keith Woodford explains them in a post headlined high country tenure and the right to quiet enjoyment:

. . .The idea that it is all a big rip-off is now firmly embedded in the public psyche.  Supposedly, the officials have messed it up under both National and Labour led governments, selling off our birth-rights to access these so-called public lands. Even worse, those benefits have at times accrued to foreigners.

Missing from the debate has been an understanding of New Zealand land law, and the powerful bundle of rights held by leasehold runholders. In particular, runholders hold blocking rights which, in perpetuity, prevent the public from accessing their leased lands.

Under a pastoral lease, the crown owns the land exclusive or improvements. All improvements, including soil fertility, pasture, fences and buildings, and the rights any private property owner has to exclude the public are the lessees’.

Rectifying this situation, and bringing fragile mountain lands into the conservation estate, has been a major driver for land-tenure reform.  Gaining public access via reserves and covenants to some of the lower country adjacent to the big South Island lakes has also been important.

The way this has been done is via a trade-off. Runholders give up all of their rights to some areas, typically the high country, with additional rights given to them for other areas. The balance of transferred land rights then determines the net payment in either direction to ‘square things off’. . . 

If the value of the land and accompanying rights lessees surrender is less than what they gain, they pay the crown, if what they surrender is of greater value than what they retain, the crown pays them.

The distinctive characteristic of land ownership is that there are multiple forms of tenure, each with its own ‘bundle of rights’. Whereas the general public thinks that freehold tenure is ‘ownership’ and that leasehold tenures are ‘not ownership’, this is not what the law says. Underlying all of the land tenures is the notion that the ‘Crown’, on behalf of all of us, has power as to what can and cannot be done with the land. . . 

A key right within the leasehold bundle is the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’.  It gives leaseholders an absolute right to exclude the general public from that land, and to on-sell that right to future leaseholders. It means the public can be locked out in perpetuity. That exclusion relates not only to the high country, but to accessing, via runholder land, the shores of the big South Island lakes.

In some respects, this access situation is not greatly different to access rules between a tenant and the freehold owner of a suburban house. Although the landlord holds freehold title, this landlord has no right to have a picnic on the front lawn. If the landlord wishes to inspect the property, then prior notification is required.

There is a misconception that size makes a difference to access. But the right to privacy on, and the quiet enjoyment of, property is the same whether it’s a town section of a few hundred square meters, or a farm of many thousands of hectares.

It’s not just a matter of privacy, it is also a matter of safety. Farms are working businesses. For the sake of their stock, and the safety of visitors, farmers have the right to say who can access their property.

These rights to quiet enjoyment have been greatly underplayed in public discourse. As a result, a key feature of tenure review, being the opening up of our mountain lands to all of us, and accessing the shores of the big lakes, has also been underplayed.

In part, the underplaying has been because experts coming from overseas have not appreciated the rights which are specific to New Zealand law. For example, it is a very different situation than exists either in England, where there is ‘rights to roam’ legislation, and also very different to the public-access rights within America’s so-called public lands.

There are calls here for the ‘right to roam’ but the experience of farmers in the UK where it operates gives plenty of ammunition for farmers here to fight to retain their property rights.

Way back in 1948 at the time of the relevant Land Act, access by the public to these New Zealand mountain lands would not have seemed important. Even in the 1960s when I started my own tramping and mountaineering journeys amongst our mountain lands, those of us with such interests were very much in the minority.

In those days, if we wished to travel across runholder land we would simply call in at the homestead – a somewhat grand term for what were often in those days very simple houses – and ask permission. It was never refused.

Over time, the friendly relationship between runholders and walkers has changed.  The number of walkers has greatly increased. And so, more and more runholders have applied their legal right of quiet enjoyment, blocking out the rest of us.

If you have a very few hundred people visiting your property the small minority of trouble makers is tiny. When many thousands are visiting the proportion of trouble makers might be small but the number and the problems they cause are bigger.

Within the public discourse, there have also been elements of what I call ‘noble cause corruption’.  This is where a noble cause leads to information being miscommunicated, either consciously or subconsciously, to buttress the noble cause.

In the case of high country land tenure, the miscommunication has been to ignore the legal rights relating to quiet enjoyment.  Whereas the officials administering the tenure process have to work within the law and take account of the respective bundle of rights, the media is not so constrained.

This has meant that the media has been able to highlight a story of freehold rights for the lower country being granted to the runholders for an apparently small price, without making it clear that it is actually only the balance between perpetual lease rights and freehold rights that the Crown has sold. In essence, the Crown’s freehold rights were to collect a modest annual rental from the leaseholder and not much more. In contrast, when some runholders, now with freehold rights, chose to on-sell the property, they were actually selling the combined rights including their prior perpetual access and use rights.

Those rights belonged to the lessee not the government. Any owner, regardless of nationality or wealth has a right to be compensated should they surrender or lose them.

For more not his issue see:

How leasehold values have influenced high country reform.

Who owns the high country?

AndDepartment of COnservatio

Last of the Southern Man


Rural round-up

27/11/2015

Rural NZ areas sit on ‘powder keg’ as temperatures rise – Mike Watson:

Rural fire authorities are warning farmers and contractors to check for potential ‘hot spots’ inside machinery and farm equipment as temperatures rise in Marlborough.

Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority chief fire officer Richard McNamara said the rural region was on a “powder keg’ as temperatures rise and hot northwest winds continued to dry vegetation causing significant risk of fire outbreaks.

“It is a real issue, and anyone working with farm machinery and equipment, such as welding or grinding, needs to be aware of the risk of sparks igniting any vegetation nearby,” he said. . . 

Many positives but RMA reforms don’t go far enough:

Federated Farmers cautiously welcomes the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill introduced at Parliament today, but is concerned that proposed reforms do not go far enough.

“What we have is a Bill that looks to make the RMA less costly and cumbersome, and these are positive changes,” says Federated Farmers’ Environment and RMA spokesperson Chris Allen.

“Federated Farmers believes the Bill provides for better plan making and we support the introduction of a collaborative planning approach as long as the right checks and balances are in place, so that this is a robust and productive process.” . . .

Alliance launches new products for Chinese market:

Meat cooperative Alliance Group is launching a new range of market-ready lamb, beef and venison products for the food retail market in China.

Alliance Group has reached an agreement with its in-market partner Grand Farm – China’s single largest importer of sheepmeat – to market the co-branded Pure South-Grand Farm products in the country from next year.

Marketing general manager Murray Brown said with meat volumes going into China becoming more difficult, the company was looking to add value to exports. . . .

Competitive future for “unbroken” NZ dairy – visiting global expert:

New Zealand dairy is well placed to compete in the global market as prices begin to recover in the coming 12 months, a visiting global dairy specialist has told localproducers.

Tim Hunt, New York-based global dairy strategist with international agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says while current market conditions are “extremely tough” for many local producers, the New Zealand dairy sector is “unbroken” and has the fundamentals in place to enjoy a strong, competitive future in the global dairy trade. . . .

Ongoing disruption and volatility in dairy, with winners and losers – Keith Woodford:

In the last two weeks we have seen increasing signs of further disruption and volatility in dairy. First, there was good news with Fonterra announcing that they had turned the corner In relation to enhanced corporate profitability. But then, only two days later, there was another decline on the (GDT Global Dairy Trade) auction – this time of 7.9 percent overall and 11 percent for whole-milk powder.

In the meantime, The a2 Milk Company announced that they were almost doubling their previous estimate of profitability for the coming year, triggering another increase in the share price. Since the start of November through to 24 November the price rose 60 percent on large volumes. . . 

Ruataniwha promoter seeks mix of equity, debt funding – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Co, the developer and sponsor of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, says the $275 million project will be funded with a mix of equity and debt, and is likely to result in a secondary market for water contracts.

HBRIC, the investment arm of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, is in talks with three potential investors and banks about funding. The council is putting up $80 million for an equity stake in a yet-to-be formed irrigation company. The $195 million balance will come from outside investors, bank debt and an expected contribution from the government’s Crown Irrigation Investments, which acts as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure developments. . . 

Cellphone helps save house from Australian bushfire:

An Australian man who saw his farm “explode in a fireball” on CCTV cameras at the property says his house survived because he used his phone to activate a sprinkler system from the other side of the country.

Charles Darwin University vice chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks said the reason his house at the 45-hectare wheat farm on the outskirts of Hamley Bridge escaped the fire was because of his neighbours – and the fact he activated an irrigation system at the property by remote control from Darwin.

Two people have been confirmed dead and more than a dozen injured in the fires which continue to burn north of Adelaide. . . 

Consultation on freshwater management ideas planned:

A report today published by the Land and Water Forum on the next steps needed to improved management of freshwater will be carefully considered by Government and help contribute to a public discussion paper to be published next year, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said today. 

“The Government has an ambitious programme of work on improving New Zealand’s freshwater management.  These ideas on requiring good management practice, of how we can maximise the economic benefit of water within environmental limits, integrated catchment management, stock exclusion and enabling more efficient use of water are a further contribution on how we can achieve that,” Dr Smith says.

“I acknowledge the Forum’s significant efforts in tackling difficult policy challenges and we welcome their recommendations,” says Mr Guy. . . 

Irrigation New Zealand Welcomes 4th LAWF Report:

Irrigation New Zealand welcomes the fourth Land and Water Forum (LAWF) Report.

“The diverse group of forum members have spent a lot of time collaborating to reach the additional recommendations,” said Andrew Curtis, CEO of Irrigation New Zealand. “This has resulted in constructive advice to Ministers for the development of freshwater policy. It’s now time for the government to act.”

“Freshwater is a natural and recurring resource we need to protect, and is a national asset which needs to be properly and carefully managed to bolster our agricultural-led economy. . . .

Barbara Stuart returns to the NZWAC board:

Nelson farmer and outdoor-access supporter Barbara Stuart has been appointed to the Board of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission.

The appointment heralds Mrs Stuart’s second tenure on the board, where she previously served from 2008 to 2011.

New Zealand Walking Access Commission chairman John Forbes said Mrs Stuart had long been a champion of walking access and her return was very welcome. . . .

Farm Environment Trust’s Annual Report Highlights Growth:

The New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust and its flagship event, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, have celebrated another successful year.

Now available on the Trust’s website, the 2015 annual report outlines the organisation’s continued growth through 2015, with another region signing up to the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

“We are delighted to have the Auckland region in the Awards for the 2016 programme,” said NZFE Trust chairman Simon Saunders.

“Having Auckland on board is a huge step towards being able to offer a complete national programme. We are almost there.” . . . 


Follow the Kiwi Way

02/01/2015

People are encouraged to ‘follow the Kiwi way’ over the holidays by showing respect for neighbouring landholders when accessing the country’s beaches, forests, rivers and mountains.

New Zealand Walking Access Commission Chief Executive Mark Neeson said New Zealand’s striking outdoor environments provided fantastic opportunities for people to get out and enjoy themselves this summer but understanding how to act responsibly in these areas was necessary to maintain New Zealand’s special access culture.

“Most landholders are happy to grant access across their property when asked. However, it is important that people using the outdoors for recreation repay that trust by acting responsibly.

“People who are unaccustomed to rural life are often unaware of behaviours we take for granted. A little extra knowledge can make all the difference.”

Mr Neeson said the New Zealand Outdoor Access Code, available on the New Zealand Walking Access Commission’s website, offered practical advice and information for accessing the outdoors, including simple steps like asking permission before crossing private land, walking in single file around stock and leaving gates as they are found.

People planning trips into the outdoors this summer could also make use of the Walking Access Mapping System – a free online tool developed by the Commission to help people identify publicly accessible land.

Research conducted by the Commission last year found that 92 per cent of New Zealanders had been in the outdoors for recreation during the past 12 months, with picnics and family outings as the most popular outdoor recreational activity (66 per cent), followed by short walks (63 per cent) and swimming (49 per cent).

The Walking Access Code is here.

The access mapping tool is here, though it’s still a work in progress.

Most visitors adhere to it without the need to be told, respecting property rights and sticking to the exhortation to take only photos, leave only footprints.

It’s usually just a few who deliberately or through ignorance, let the majority down.

 

 


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