Rural round-up

February 1, 2017

Space-generated data could boost crops, save thousands:

Space-generated data will create more efficient irrigation and maximise crop yields, potentially saving farmers thousands of dollars, Alexandra farmer Gary Kelliher says.

Mr Kelliher is an implementation group member of the planned Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST) in Alexandra. He said having continual and improved access to space-generated data would allow for more efficient irrigation and greater crop yield,  and that better imagery and  daily information about plant density and health, biomass and fire risks would be some of the key possibilities for farmers once the centre  was established.

“The application possibilities are endless,” Mr Kelliher said. . . 

Border dyke system improving soil health at Masterton waste water plant – Piers Fuller:

Branded as “dinosaur technology”, fears about the effectiveness of Masterton’s $50 million waste water scheme’s irrigation system have  been proven unfounded.

Before the installation of  the border dyke scheme there was heated debate as to whether the method would destroy the soil quality.

Now fully functional, monitoring has shown that the 72 hectares of ground is doing a good job at absorbing the waste water and the soil quality is improving, after it was extensively excavated for border dykes. . . 

Young beekeeper ‘busts his arse’ to get where he is today – Pat Deavol:

Anyone who works a 12 hour day and lives on a work site is dedicated to their profession.

James Malcolm has lived this life for a decade, but the graft and commitment have paid off. At 28 he owns Natural New Zealand Honey Ltd, a beekeeping operation tucked under the tussock and beech-covered foothills of North Canterbury, with 3500 hives, a beekeeping HQ, and 16 full-time staff.

Backtrack 10 years ago and Malcolm had just completed a Diploma of Agriculture at Lincoln University and was helping out his father on the family cropping farm near Ashburton.  . . .

Young shepherd to represent NZ:

A passion for Angus cattle has seen Mount Linton Station shepherd Allen Gregory selected to attend the World Angus Forum in Scotland.

Originally from Gore, Mr Gregory is one of eight young Angus enthusiasts who will travel to the forum later this year,  representing New Zealand.

Last year, 12 people  took part in the selection day  run by Generation Angus.

“It was a mixture of theory and practical. We did some showing and some judging and we also had to write an essay,” he said. . . 

Farm course gets NZQA tick:

A programme designed to engage primary and secondary school students in farming can now be used to gain NCEA credits.

The resources, trialled in 10 primary and 16 secondary schools last year, help students learn more about the sector and promote awareness of the wide range of career opportunities.

It was developed by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), a Primary Growth Partnership programme working to help the red meat sector increase productivity and profitability.

Resources, including assessments within the programme, have now received the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) Quality Assured Assessment Materials (QAAM) trademark. . . 

Oceana sets 500,000oz gold target – Simon Hartley:

Oceana Gold has boosted its exploration and capital expenditure programme for 2017 to $US252 million ($NZ345.9 million), as it targets more than 500,000oz of gold in a calendar year for the first time in its 27-year history.

Its Macraes mine in east Otago has been the mainstay of operations for decades, and while other Oceana mines are challenging its production dominance, it is getting its fair share of exploration, works and expansion funding within the wider group during 2017.

Oceana, now the country’s largest gold miner accounting for about 98% of output, produced within guidance 416,741 oz of gold in 2016 overall, and 21,123 tonnes of copper from Didipio in the northern Philippines, the latter commodity a by-product of the gold mining which hugely offsets production costs. . . 

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It’s better to sit in a tractor and think about anything than to sit anywhere else and think about farming.


Bad and good

January 9, 2014

Yesterday’s ODT led with the bad news of job losses at Macraes mine.

That’s followed up by today’s story of more job losses in firms which service and supply the mine.

Yesterday’s paper also had the good news story of Shell’s decision to drill in the Great South Basin.

This is how life goes. Good things happen during bad times and bad things happen during better times.

But the outlook for those people who have lost jobs or business because of Oceana Gold’s slow-down at Macraes is better now the economy is improving than it would have been even a year ago.

It would be better still if Dunedin was showing a warmer welcome to Shell.

The city is vying with Invercargill to be Shell’s base and mayor Dave Cull is at best lukewarm:

. . . Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull – who remained personally opposed to the increasingly difficult search for fossil fuels – said he was nevertheless ”cautiously optimistic” the city could benefit from Shell’s plans.

He was encouraged the company was prepared to invest up to $200 million in its search for natural gas, and not oil, off the city’s coast.

However, with the test drill not scheduled until 2016, and any full-scale extraction – if it eventuated – a decade away, he cautioned against too much excitment, too soon.

”What comes out of it, in terms of job creation and business and economic development, will depend on the size of what they find.

”If they are going to be drilling, this is pretty good, and clearly Dunedin is very well placed to offer the services and facilities that they might need,” he said. . .

Two councillors are even less enthusiastic:

. . . including Cr Aaron Hawkins, who said the council had a ”moral obligation” to protect the interests of future generations.

”I don’t think it’s fair to clamour over a few jobs now and leave our grandchildren to pick up the tab environmentally and economically.

”Frankly, I think that’s a very selfish way of looking at economic development.”

Cr Jinty MacTavish agreed, saying the city would not spend money to try to attract the ”unethical” tobacco industry, and should avoid the oil and gas industry for the same reasons.

”It’s an unethical business and I wouldn’t like to see Dunedin setting out to attract it.” . . .

Contrast this with the reaction from Invercargill.

Yesterday’s Southland Times devoted its whole front page to telling the story – consortium backs $200m basin well –  and followed up with enthusiastic welcome for drill plan.

Today’s story is headlined drilling holds promise of job bonanza.

Shell will make its decision on where it’s based on a variety of factors, one of which will be the attitude of the city.

In good times and bad, you have to do what you can to help yourself.

Invercargill is doing that, Dunedin must do better.


Rural round-up

July 28, 2013

Macraes project praised – Dene Mackenzie:

Hopes are high the review of Oceana Gold’s operations – particularly of its Macraes gold project – will not cut deeply into the Otago economy.

Otago Chamber of Commerce president Peter McIntyre said yesterday many people in Otago were not aware that such a constructive mining sector operated within the region.

Macraes was estimated to be worth around $100 million annually to the regional economy. . .

Water collectives recommended – Sally Brooker:

Farmers need to continue with collective ventures for better water quality, Federated Farmers says.

The theme of partnership for water progress was discussed by a panel at the federation’s national conference in Ashburton on July 4. Speaking first, former Rotorua-Taupo federation president Neil Heather said collaboration produced ”powerful action”.

He outlined the gains made in cleaning up Lake Rotorua’s water pollution, saying farmers needed to become informed. . .

Fewer cows can mean better profits – Sally Brooker:

The traditional approach to determining stocking rates needs to change, DairyNZ representative Chris Glassey says.

Presenting a paper at the recent South Island Dairy Event at Lincoln University, he said incoming nitrogen limits would force change.

”The optimum stocking rate is never a constant. This paper challenges the belief that more cows means more profit.” . .

Kiwi shearers fleece British opposition in test series – Ruth Grundy:

The two-man New Zealand shearing team has won the British leg of its northern hemisphere series.

Rowland Smith, of Hastings, and Tony Coster, of Rakaia, beat Ulster at the Rickamore Shears in Ireland on July 13,notching up the third win on their four-event 2013 Elders Primary Wool United Kingdom Tour.

The pair opened the UK series a fortnight earlier with a loss to Scotland at Lochearnhead Shears but quickly bounced back with two wins over England. . .

Bee numbers on the rise – Tim Cronshaw:

Commercial bee numbers are on the rise in spite of the varroa mite disease which has plundered wild bee stocks.

Bees in managed hives were hit hard by varroa, but hive treatment has allowed them to withstand the disease and their numbers have grown as demand for honey production and pollinating crops has increased.

Registered beehives are up about 7 per cent to 450,000 from last year and rising since 2005 along with increasing numbers of registered beekeepers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury chairman Barry Hantz said good prices for manuka honey had encouraged beekeepers to put in more hives, particularly in the North Island. . .

Didymo find ‘gutting’ – Rebecca Fox:

The battle to keep Fiordland didymo-free has been lost.

The invasive algae has been discovered in the remote Large Burn valley.

Western Fiordland was one of the ”last frontiers” to remain free of didymo in the South Island, despite it being originally discovered in the nearby Waiau River in 2004, Department of Conservation freshwater ranger Lyndsay Murray said yesterday.

”It’s pretty gutting really. It’s the first confirmed positive sample of a waterway west of the divide.” . . .


More gold in them thar hills

July 14, 2010

Oceana Gold has confirmed the discovery of significant additional gold reserves in the Frasers underground mine,  near Macraes in East Otago.

Results to date are expected to extend (the) indicated resource boundary and therefore extend P2 Deeps reserves”, with the potential for an extra 18 months of mining operations at the mine, near the Macraes goldmine.

OceanaGold announced inferred resource of more than 0.5Mt last September in the P2 zone, with around 40% of that upgraded to provable reserves, with mine development starting in March.

The results from the latest drilling “appear as good or better than the current Panel 2 mining area.”

“It is expected that a significant portion of the current inferred resources will be upgraded to indicated resources and then integrated into the mine plan,” OceanaGold said.

The Macraes mine has created dozens of jobs with the positive financial and social spin off for the East Otago community.

Among the conditions of the company’s resource consent is a requirement about leaving the land in good condition when the mining is finished so the environment will be no worse, and possibly better than it was before mining started.

In a past life I wrote a newsletter for a company which serviced the mine and had to do research on the process of extracting gold for a story.

I’ve forgotten the details  but remember that improvements in technology had enabled the company to extract tiny amounts of the metal from large amounts of rock. That was more than 20 years ago, no doubt the process has got even better since then.


Gold in Otago ground and bottle

April 22, 2009

Oceana Gold reports promising finds of higher quality gold after test drilling  at its Macraes goldfield.

Mining and associated work by Oceana Gold  has revitalised the wee East Otago town of Palmerston (NB that’s just Palmerston, not to be confused with the slightly bigger settlement in the other island which requires a North in its name).

Further inland, a British honeymoon couple must have thought they’d found gold when they discovered a bottle of Gibbston Valley’s 2000 pinto noir at Gantley’s Restaurant in Queenstown because they paid $1000 for it.

Restaurant co-owner Brent Rands said yesterday the last bottle he sold was last year for $750 and with very few bottles remaining he increased the price to $1000 in January. “I thought, it’s getting so scarce now if it’s gonna go it’s gonna go …”

Let’s see, $1,000 for 750 mls equals . . .  a lot per litre.


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