One rule for councils

June 19, 2019

Queenstown Lakes District Council is seeking consent to spill waste into Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka Hawea and Hayes, the Kawarau, Shotover, Clutha, Hawea, Cardrona and Arrow rivers and Luggate Creek. :

The Queenstown Lakes District Council wants permission to discharge wastewater overflows into freshwater, or on to land, for 35 years.

The Otago Regional Council has publicly notified the consent application, at the district council’s request, seeking to authorise district-wide wastewater network overflows, which happen occasionally and cannot be entirely prevented.

The district council’s application said despite overflows not being a “new or proposed occurrence” they are not presently authorised under the Resource Management Act 1991. . .

The council has been fined for previous discharges.

The council’s consent application said overflows were primarily caused by things like fats, sanitary items, wet wipes and building materials incorrectly put into the system, containing 421km of pipes and 65 pump stations, or from root intrusion from trees growing near pipes.

They caused blockages and breakages the wastewater network, which carries more than 4.65 million cubic metres of wastewater a year, restricting it from flowing freely.

That could result in a build-up of pressure in the system and if overflows could not occur at manholes or pump stations, there was a risk the wastewater could “blow back” into private property, through toilets, showers and sinks. . .

Overflows typically happened at manholes and pump stations where they either flowed overland directly into water bodies, or overland into “catch pits” and the stormwater network, before ending up in water bodies.

“This is reflective of all wastewater networks and illustrates that overflows cannot be entirely prevented, or their locations know prior to their occurrence,” the application said.

It’s true that not all overflows can be prevented but that excuse wouldn’t wash for farms or other businesses.

The council aimed to reach the location of an overflow within 60 minutes of notification – the median response time in 2017-18 was 22 minutes.

After the site is made safe the crew works to restore the service.

The 2017-18 response time was 151 minutes, compared to the key performance indicator of 240 minutes.

While the council’s wastewater network was relatively young, it planned to spend $105 million between 2018 and 2028 on pump stations, pipes and treatment plants.

However, the predominant cause of wastewater overflows was not age-related infrastructure failure, but foreign objects in the systems.

“This means that it is important to educate the community that the wastewater network is made to transport human waste, toilet paper, soaps and grey water only, and that any thing else contributes to blockages and breakages that cause overflows and may affect the integrity of the system.”

Cooking fat shouldn’t be put down a sink and sanitary protection, disposable napkins and wet wipes aren’t meant to be flushed down loos.

The blockages which result from people doing the wrong thing can’t be blamed on the council but there’s got to be a solution that takes less than 35 years.

Visually, the application said “public perception” of raw wastewater directly entering a freshwater environment from an overflow was not expected to be “favourable or acceptable to those that live, work and play in the Queenstown Lakes District”.

“As such, a wastewater overflow event, regardless of the location, has the potential to introduce adverse visual effects …  while it is acknowledged the adverse effects cannot be entirely avoided, they are mitigated and remedied to a degree that the effects can be considered more than minor, but less than significant.”

Overall, with the implementation of proposed conditions, the adverse ecological effects of “infrequent, short-term wastewater overflows to freshwater environments”, were considered to be “more than minor in localised environments, but overall no more than minor”. . . 

Minor and localised the effects might be but again that wouldn’t wash for other businesses.

When farmers have been taken to court for effluent spillages that could enter a waterway it is difficult to accept that a council could get permission for overflows, even thought they’re occasional, localised and minor for 35 years.

It looks like one rule for councils and another for the rest of us.


Rural round-up

May 2, 2019

Wearing wool is better for skin than synthetics -Heather Chalmers:

Wearing natural fibres like wool is not only better for the environment, but also your skin health, research shows.

AgResearch bio-product and fibre technology science team leader Stewart Collie said wool was the world’s most sophisticated fibre in terms of its structure and composition. “These give the wool fibre its amazing functionality.”

For the skin health project, AgResearch created special garments that had the upper back portion split in two, with one half made from wool and the other polyester. . . 

Primary Teacher and passionate environmentalist named Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year:

Primary Teacher and passionate environmentalist Trish Rankin from Taranaki is the 2019 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year.

The prestigious dairy award was announced the Allflex Dairy Women’s Network’s conference gala awards dinner in Christchurch this evening.

The other finalists were Kylie Leonard who farms north of Taupo, Julie Pirie from Ngatea in the Waikato and Southlander Emma Hammond. . . 

Dung beetle role in protecting waterways – Jono Edwards:

Dung beetles could provide the helping hand the region needs for disposing of farm faeces and protecting waterways, Otago Regional councillor Andrew Noone says.

Cr Noone said he was first introduced to the use of the bugs for managing animal waste on farms by a member of the public.

He is now pushing for the council to investigate their usefulness and potentially bring in subsidies for their wider introduction in Otago.

The beetles create small balls out of the manure and bury them in the ground which helps it to break down. . . 

High country steers the stars – Alan Williams:

Weaner steers sold very strongly at the annual Coalgate high-country calf sale in Canterbury on Wednesday.

A lot of calves sold for moe than $3.70/kg and up to just over $4 as buyers sought high-quality offerings from farm stations that have built excellent reputations.

“It’s our best steer sale so far,” Hazlett Rural general manager Ed Marfell said.

It was also one of the last sales of the weaner season in Canterbury and buyers decided they were better to pay up rather than risk missing out.

“We’ve got these renowned stations, great reputations and repeat buyers keep coming back,” Marfell said. . . 

Studs join in for bull walk:

Bull buyers are being promised value, variety and volume at next week’s King Country Big Bull Walk.

“That’s our tagline. We’re a big area and we’re telling buyers from outside King Country that if they come to our sales they will find something that suits them,” co-ordinator Tracey Neal said.

The walk is a series of open days on stud farms on May 6, 7 and 9 ahead of the on-farm sales in the last week of May. Neal reports good interest.

About 500 rising two-year bulls will be shown at18 studs taking part and about 330 of them will be offered at the on-farm sales held by 13 of the studs. The other studs will sell their bulls in the paddock or through sale yards.  . . 

Shift to managing individual sheep – Yvonne O’Hara:

There is a global shift to managing sheep at an individual level rather than a flock level, Lincoln University’s Professor in Animal Breeding and Genetics Jon Hickford says.

Prof Hickford said EID tags and scanner technology allowed the recording of an individual animal’s performance and production values throughout its life.

The technology would be a useful tool to improve overall production for commercial flocks, he said.

”Rather than having a flock of nameless individuals, every sheep has their own identity.” . . 

Water prices are ‘selling farmers down the river’ – Tony Wright:

Another day’s heartless sun is sinking to the horizon, not a cloud in the sky, and Mick Clark’s nuggety body is throwing a long shadow over his parched land north of Deniliquin.

The feedlot that not so long ago held 1000 fat lambs is empty. There is no crop planted on the property that has been in his family’s hands for three generations.

“I’ve parked all the farm equipment up in the sheds and I’ve gone and got myself a job driving a tractor for a bloke,” he says.

Mick Clark has made a vow.

“So far as I’m concerned, the supermarket shelves in the city can go empty,” he says. “I’m not going to spend $600 a megalitre of water to keep farming just to go broke.” . . 

Science shows Kiwi cows have the edge on their US cousins – Glen Herud:

Did you know that New Zealand cows are smarter than American cows?

That’s a potentially defamatory statement but if I ever get sued by a litigious group of American dairy farmers or their cows, I think I’d have the proof to defend myself in court.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 75 per cent of US calves are raised in individual pens or hutches.

The calves are separated from their mothers and put into a little pen with a shelter at one end and milk teat or bucket at the other end. They spend their first eight weeks in this pen by themselves until weaning. . . 


Mayor doesn’t understand democracy

April 26, 2019

The Labour Party plans to stand candidates for Dunedin City and the Otago Regional Councils at this year’s election:

. . .Labour representatives in Dunedin did not respond to Otago Daily Times requests for comment about their plans yesterday, but some city councillors expressed concern.

That included Cr Christine Garey, a first-term councillor and potential mayoral candidate, who believed there should be no place for party politics around the council table.

”I don’t believe they belong … I think it muddies the waters hugely.

”It shouldn’t be about party politics at grassroots level,” she said.. ..

Cr Jim O’Malley also opposed the development, saying party affiliations caused politically-aligned councillors to caucus before votes, and Labour’s move could encourage other parties to follow suit. . .

Local body representation is better served without party politics.

That is reinforced by this from Dunedin’s mayor:

Mr Cull said he had also heard ”murmurings” of Labour’s plans, but was not against them.

While such a move could create issues, if councillors were told how to vote by their party, the discipline imposed by a party could also be positive, especially if a party-affiliated councillor got ”completely out of order”.

”Independent candidates, as we know, are not answerable to anybody.”

Cull has had well publicised problems with at least one councillor.

If he thinks he needs party representation to help him with council discipline, he’s admitting to his own leadership failings.

But worse, he’s showing he doesn’t understand democracy.

Councillors should be answerable only to the people they represent, the voters who put them there.

The mayor thinking party membership would help if a councillor got out of order shows party-affiliated representatives would be answerable first to the party not the people.

That’s a compelling argument against party affiliation in local bodies.


Rural round-up

December 27, 2018

Leave the water rules to locals – Neal wallace:

When water arrived in Maniototo 34 years ago it not only transformed the region’s dryland farms but also Geoff Crutchley’s views on water management.

Crutchley was initially reluctant to become involved in the murky world of water and irrigation management but was prodded into action in response to what he considered inflated water prices being demanded by the precursor to the Maniototo Irrigation Company.

So began an involvement that continues today but which has challenged some of his previous views while shaping others.

His experience has formed views on three issues in particular. . . 

Wilding pine effort set to triple – Jono Edwards:

The attack effort on Otago’s wilding pines seems set to treble.

Over the past year, $1.8 million was spent controlling 332,000ha in the region through the Ministry of Primary Industry-led wilding conifer control programme.

At a recent Otago Regional Council meeting, chief executive Sarah Gardner said she was told by ministry staff the work would soon triple.

This was echoed by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group.

Ministry Wilding Conifer Programme manager Sherman Smith said phase one was 85% complete and planning for the second phase was under way. . . 

Improving farm performance – one effluent pond at a time – Jim van der Poel:

As a dairy farmer, I take great pride in looking after my farm – its animals, the grass under their feet, our team and how we protect the environment. Every aspect contributes to a successful business.

So, like many farmers, I am disappointed when a few let down the majority. There have been some instances this year of poor effluent compliance, despite many farmers doing great work in this space.

All dairy farmers have a responsibility to manage the effluent from their cows and it is taken seriously by the vast majority who are investing in reliable, sustainable farm systems. . . 

Ex-director suggests Fonterra suspends dividends – Sudesh Kissun:

A former Fonterra director says the co-op could suspend dividends to shore up its balance sheet rather than sell key assets.

Greg Gent says farmers and investors would understand if the co-op suspended dividends to get its books in better shape. And it could suspend dividends and sell some assets that don’t align with its new strategy.

However, he wants to see the co-op’s strategy before decisions are made on selling assets. . . 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2018 – Jamie Mackay:

The Country radio host Jamie Mackay takes a look at the highs and lows for rural New Zealand in 2018.

The Good:

The weather:

This time last year much of the country was in a screaming drought – a farmer’s worst nightmare. Although Mother Nature absolutely forgot to turn the tap off in November and early December, at least once we dry out there will be grass for Africa and for more than quite a few sheep, cattle and deer.

Mycoplasma bovis:

Twelve months ago many were resigned to living and farming with bovis. If a week’s a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in farming. I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest bovis is beaten but we’ve given it a hell of fright in 2018. . . 

Bird veteran still has pluck – Alan Williams:

The glamorous part of the year is over for long-time poultry exhibitor Doug Bain.

After several months of winter and spring shows around the South Island with a lot of ribbons and accolades it is back to the real work of breeding hens and ducks for next year.

“You need to have a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a hobby for me,” the 82-year-old says.

He doesn’t keep count of the birds he breeds and has no preferences. 

“I like them all.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 28, 2018

The dam that divides a dry district – David Williams:

A South Island council faces a stark choice – build an expensive dam with considerable financial risks or immediately impose water restrictions that will cripple some businesses. David Williams reports.

It was during the summer of 2000-2001 that the effects of over-allocation of water from the Waimea River, at the top of the South Island, became abundantly clear.

With only a sprinkling of rain over five months, the river dried up. Unprecedented water restrictions came in for the Tasman district and neighbouring Nelson. Commercial growers on the Waimea Plains couldn’t irrigate to grow and ripen their produce. Economic losses were thought to be in the millions of dollars. . .

Water plan fan gives ORC a peek – Sally Rae:

Simon Davies has always thought a little outside the square.

With a background outside of the farming industry, the Otago Federated Farmers president acknowledged he might have a different approach from some farmers.

Last week, Otago Regional Council staff from policy, compliance, science and communications visited the Toko Mouth property Mr Davies farms with his wife Joanna.

It had been something he had been wanting to do since taking over the role earlier this year, he said — to get ORC staff on farm to see first hand the practical steps he was taking around water quality. . .

Multi-talented with attitude – Glenys Christian:

Lisa Kendall reckons she does a little bit of everything when it comes to hiring out her skills for farm work. But she’s also a competitor, scholar, researcher and consultant and is a passionate champion of animal welfare who wants to work toward farm ownership. And though she’s starting with a small sheep milk venture she already has ideas about diversification into cheese and a cafe. She told Glenys Christian about her life. 

Lisa Kendall’s two sisters say she’s crazy. 

But both of them have already expressed their strong interest in getting involved in the sheep-milking farm with attached cheese-making and cafe facilities the 26-year-old is planning in the near future. . . 

From Darfield to Dongguan – Fonterra dials up value add:

Fonterra’s new cream cheese plant in Canterbury has started production and is set to manufacture up to 24,000 metric tonnes of cream cheese annually, bound for China.

China’s changing demographics have driven a surge in popularity for Western foods. The 20kg blocks of cream cheese from Darfield will meet growing demand for bakery goods, like cheese cakes and cheese tarts.

Susan Cassidy, General Manager Marketing, Global Foodservice, Fonterra, says growth in China’s middle class, rapid urbanisation and changing consumer tastes have contributed to explosive growth in the number of consumers wanting New Zealand dairy. . . 

Dr Tom: giving hope to Aussie farmers – Dr Tom Mullholland:

They call Australia the lucky country, but I’m not sure how the global warming dice is rolling for them at the moment. All of New South Wales – that’s 100 per cent – is officially gripped in a drought, which for some regions has been going on for six years.

Apparently, they have hit 99 per cent before but this is the first time they have cracked the ton. It’s not a record you would wish on anybody. I wonder, when does a six-year drought become the local weather?

I was pleased to be invited to speak to a couple of communities in the Outback on my Healthy Thinking strategies on how to manage the top paddock between the ears. As a doctor, I also speak on how to look after your physical, mental and social health. . . 

If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer – Isabelle Tree:

Veganism has rocketed in the UK over the past couple of years – from an estimated half a million people in 2016 to more than 3.5 million– 5% of our population – today. Influential documentaries such as Cowspiracy and What the Health have thrown a spotlight on the intensive meat and dairy industry, exposing the impacts on animal and human health and the wider environment.

But calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.

Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. . .


Rural round-up

June 19, 2018

In wake of M. Bovis, look after each other

To those who in some way are in the depths of New Zealand’s farming world, or part of the sector in some way, and to those who might not read this because they are not farmers — I’m thinking of us all, writes Mischa Clouston.

This Mycoplasma bovis is colossal. It will reach far and affect many of us in some way. In a huge, indescribable way.

I’m scared for my cattle owner friends; it must be such a heavy weight to carry just now, knowing you could lose so much.I’m scared for fellow managers or milkers; if there are no cows, do we even have a job in the dairy and beef industries? .

I’m worried for the health sector, helping support the strain and worry. But let’s not forget the agribusiness owners whose business is on farms or with product or services for cattle — the small business owners relying on the spending from farmers who may, in time, have little left in their own pots. . .

Otago water rights: ‘It’s time for this to be sorted out’ :

Water is the new gold in Otago and there is a mountain of work to bring water allocation in the area in line with the rest of the country before time runs out.

The Otago Regional Council is working to have the region’s antiquated water take regime brought in line with the Resource Management Act by the October 2021 deadline.

Water rights in Central Otago and parts of the surrounding districts were first allowed as mining rights to aid in the extraction of gold in the mid 19th century. . .

Down to earth and sharing the view glamping style – Sally Rae:

Patrick and Amber Tyrrell are genuinely living the dream.

It sounds a little like something out of a film script:  South African farmer’s son meets Waitaki Valley farmer’s daughter in a co-operative agricultural community in the Israeli desert.

Eventually, they move to the Waitaki Valley, where they build an off-the-grid home with spectacular views, and  focus on getting down to earth — literally. In February last year, Mr and Mrs Tyrrell launched Valley Views Glamping  (glamorous camping) on their property in the foothills below Mount Domett.

“It feels like we’ve found our calling in life,” Mrs Tyrrell said . .

Government needs to rethink Landcorp:

The Government needs to shrink their ownership of farms through Landcorp and use them to give young Kiwi farmers the opportunity to lease and ultimately own some of these farms, National Party spokesperson for Agriculture Nathan Guy says.

“The Government owns massive tracts of productive land through Landcorp, 385,503 hectares – or around six times the size of Lake Tāupo, even though there is little public good from Crown ownership.

“Landcorp not only provides a poor financial return to taxpayers but the Governments’ ownership of these farms is keeping Kiwi farmers out of the market. . . 

Northland farmers gain insights on Queensland beef sector:

Northland sheep and beef farmers Kevin and Annette Boyd were among a group of 20
farmers who attended a week-long educational beef tour in Queensland last month
organised by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank.

The tour featured two days at the world-renowned Beef Australia event in Rockhampton
as well as visits to a range of beef operations throughout Queensland including
Brisbane-based meat retailer Farmer in the City, Grassdale feedlot in Miles, the Roma
saleyards and Emerald-based Clissold Downs (beef trading) and SwarmFarm (agritechnology).

The tour was organised by Rabobank to provide the bank’s local and international beef
clients with an opportunity to network with other farmers and to learn more about beef
operations in Queensland. . . 

Lack of decision support tools in forestry:

Recent comments by officials and “experts” on planting one billion trees, the plight of hill country forestry and woody debris flows, have not touched on the total lack of decision support tools so that farmers and other local forest investors can make the right decisions. Without engaging a costly consultant, farmers are expected to take a risk on a 25-year land commitment in an information vacuum.

Unlike the plethora of levy and government funded systems and tools available to farmers on agricultural decisions, there is next to nothing on forestry. The forest grower levy is mostly consumed by overseas owned forestry corporates looking to protect and enhance their assets, to maintain a social license to operate in a foreign land. As a result the forest levy doesn’t get spent expanding a local forest industry. . . 

Bayer North Canterbury Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018 announced:

Congratulations to Zoe Marychurch from Bell Hill who won the Bayer South Island Regional Young Viticulturist of the Year competition on Friday 15th June.

This is a new regional competition added to the Young Vit competition this year and is open to contestants from Nelson, Canterbury and Waitaki. The winner goes through to represent their own region so Marychurch will represent North Canterbury in the National Final in August.

Four contestants battled it out at Greystone in Waipara – three from North Canterbury and one from Nelson. “The calibre of the contestants was high and it was great to see their enthusiasm and passion for viticulture evident throughout the day” says Nicky Grandorge, National Co-ordinator. They were tested on a wide range of skills including budgeting, trellising, pruning and pests and diseases. . . 


Rural round-up

May 3, 2018

Some immunity to virus confirmed – Pam Jones:

Central Otago farmers are still being encouraged to remain patient while the K5 variant continues to takes hold among the rabbit population, even though it has been confirmed some rabbits will be immune to the virus.

The Otago Regional Council announced the first rabbit deaths from RHDV1 K5 earlier this month, saying it was “excellent news” and patience from landowners had been “paying off”.

Omakau farmer and Federated Farmers high country Central Otago chairman Andrew Paterson said at the time it was important landowners were patient, as the regional council had warned interfering with the release programme could limit the spread of the virus in the long term and allow rabbits to build an immunity to the new strain.

Farmers threaten to shoot drones spooking animals:

Horse riders and farmers fed up with unmanned aerial drones traumatising animals want to start shooting them “out of the sky”.

After a Dannevirke horse-rider posted on social media about being harassed by a drone operated by an unseen person, a host of people suggested drones should, and could, be shot if they flew over a farm and were worrying animals.

When approached by Hawke’s Bay Today to clarify whether a drone could be legally shot at over a farm, the Police said a number of agencies, including CAA and the Privacy Commissioner, had a role to play in relation to the use of drones. . . 

Mangarara Family Farm tackles predators with high-flying support:

When Greg Hart’s family moved to Mangarara Station in Central Hawkes Bay in the mid 1990s, they shot 3 possums on their first night at the property – in a cabbage tree growing at the front door. How times have changed. Greg has now taken over the farm from his parents and his oldest son George, 14 years old, has never seen a possum on the farm.

“The Hawkes Bay Regional Council had a massive campaign to eradicate possums,” Greg explains. “They did an outstanding job. They did the initial knockdown and we do the ongoing control with bait stations. . .

Arable farmers consider their options after tough summer season:

Having come through a tough summer for growing crops and with current market signals muted, it appears arable farmers are pulling back on planned autumn plantings.

“The flat prices of the last few years are now rebounding a bit but growers remain hesitant to plant massive areas,” Federated Farmers Arable executive member Brian Leadley said. . .

Four vie for Horticulture New Zealand Board

Four candidates will vie for two positions on the Horticulture New Zealand Board as elections open today, with voting closing on 28 May 2018.

“We haven’t had such a strong contest for some time and the calibre of candidates is an indication of how well horticulture is doing and the high profile the industry is enjoying on the back of that success,” Horticulture New Zealand President Julian Raine says. . .

‘All we want are fair rules for farmers’ – Scott Kovacevic:

BEEF producer Ivan Naggs fears coastal farmers will find themselves hog-tied by red tape if new draft vegetation legislation becomes a reality under the State Government.

Mr Naggs, who has been a member of the Gympie and District Beef Liaison Group, said these laws had the potential to place severe restrictions on their operations.

Small farmers in particular would be left exposed. . . 


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