Rural round-up

November 14, 2017

Landpro director gets time away – Sally Rae:

Otago’s Solis Norton and Kate Scott were recently named among the latest crop of Nuffield scholars. They talk to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae about their work and the adventure that lies ahead.

Kate Scott quips that Landpro — the Central Otago-based planning and surveying company she jointly founded a decade ago — is “taking over the world, one small regional town at a time”.

From a staff of one to about 30 now, the business expanded  incrementally as its reputation grew, with more people and disciplines added, and there were long-term goals to maintain that growth.

An office was established in Cromwell 10 years ago and there were now also offices in Gore and New Plymouth. . . 

Passionate about energy – Sally Rae:

“It will be an adventure.”

So says Solis Norton, of Port Chalmers, who has been named a 2018 Nuffield scholar, along with Simon Cook (Te Puke), Andy Elliot (Nelson), Turi McFarlane (Banks Peninsula) and Kate Scott (Central Otago).

He expected it would be a  very busy time but  was looking forward to making the most of the opportunity.

Dr Norton grew up in Dunedin’s Northeast Valley and went to Massey University, where he completed a bachelor in agricultural science degree in 1996, a masters degree in applied science and then a PhD in the epidemiology of Johne’s disease in New Zealand dairy herds. . . 

North Island leaders up for Australasian agri-business award:

Three diverse and inspirational young agribusiness leaders have been selected from across Australasia as finalists for the 2018 Zanda McDonald Award.
The award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour for the industry, recognises agriculture’s most innovative young professionals from both sides of the Tasman.

Lisa Kendall, 25, hails from Auckland, and is owner/operator of Nuture Farming Ltd, a business she established to provide agricultural services to people in and around her home city. She was a Grand Finalist in the 2017 FMG Young Farmer of the Year, and took out the People’s Choice Award, the AgriGrowth Challenge and the Community Footprint Award. Kendall plays an active role in schools, encouraging urban students to consider the career opportunities in agriculture. She is also vice-chair of the Franklin Young Farmers Club. . . 

Joint efforts on water quality – Rebecca Nadge:

The Otago Regional Council is working with Central Otago farmers in a bid to monitor and improve water quality in the area.

At a meeting in Omakau last week, local farmers discussed the strategy with ORC environmental resource scientist Rachel Ozanne and environmental officer Melanie Heather.

The plan involves ongoing testing of water at Thompson’s Creek in a cross-section of three tributaries, as well as regular monitoring in Waipiata and Bannockburn.
Ms Ozanne said the project would continue until May, with testing carried out on a fortnightly basis. . . 

Strong interest shown for Future Farm programme:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s search for a “Future Farm” is in its final stages and farmers are being urged to get in touch if they’re interested in being part of this unique programme.

B+LNZ is seeking to lease a hill country sheep and beef property with around 6,000 stock units for the Future Farm, which will trial new technologies and farm systems. . .

TPP agreement safeguards New Zealand’s export sector:

Federated Farmers congratulates Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the coalition government for recognising the importance of free trade to New Zealand.

Following a frenetic few days of negotiations at the APEC summit in Vietnam, the New Zealand Trade delegation has succeeded in brokering agreement with 11 countries from the Asia-Pacific region- to move the deal forward.

Federated Farmers thanks all the Ministers and officials involved for their dedication and resolve. . . 

CPTPP important to maintain competitiveness:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) is welcoming the progress made towards realisation of a TPP agreement (now referred to as CPTPP).

“Timely implementation of the CPTPP market access arrangements is necessary to ensure New Zealand exporters do not end up at a tariff disadvantage into one of our largest dairy markets” says DCANZ Executive Director Kimberly Crewther

The trade dynamic for dairy in the trans-pacific region has evolved in recent months with the European Union and Japan concluding negotiation of an FTA agreement which delivers market access gains to European dairy exporters similar to those agreed for New Zealand under TPP.  . . 

Cultivate With Care After Big Wet – Bala Tikkisetty

Following the wettest winter on record, farmers are currently cultivating their paddocks for pasture or crop rotation.

As they do so, it’s important to be aware of and manage the associated environmental risks.

Sediment and nutrients from farming operations, along with erosion generally, are some of the most important causes of reduced water quality and cultivation increases the potential for problems. . . 

Argentina is saying hello to the world again – Pedro

We’re saying hello to the world again.

That’s the simplest way to understand last month’s elections in Argentina, in which the party of reform-minded President Mauricio Macri made important legislative gains, picking up seats in both chambers of our Congress.

 

As a farmer in Argentina, I’m pleased by this political victory—but I’m even more encouraged by what it means for my country’s general direction.

For too long, we’ve faced inward rather than outward. Although Argentina grows a huge amount of food and depends on global trade for its prosperity, we have behaved as if none of this mattered. The previous government slapped huge export taxes on farm products and didn’t consider the consequences. We stepped away from the world market.

This wasn’t my decision, but rather the decision of former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the head of the Peronist Party. When she took office a decade ago, export taxes were already high—and she worked to raise them even more.

The American President Ronald Reagan once made a wise observation: “If you want less of something, tax it.” . .

Vietnamese farmers flourish in the Northern Territory to become Top End’s top growers – Kirsty O’Brien:

Michael Quatch arrived in Australia as a refugee of the Vietnam War. Now he is one of the most successful growers in the Northern Territory.

During picking season, work starts well before sunrise and does not end, but Mr Quatch is not complaining — he snags a few hours of rest here and there as he works hard to get the fresh produce from his farm at Lake Bennet in the Top End onto supermarket shelves.

The 45-year-old is the biggest hydroponic farmer in the Northern Territory, running 16 hectares of shaded cropping mainly producing tomatoes and cucumbers.

But Mr Quatch had to overcome obstacles difficult to fathom when you first meet this jovial, optimistic farmer. . . 

 

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Water policy inconsistent, unfair

August 14, 2017

Labour’s environment spokesman David Parker showed up yet more flaws in the party’s water tax policy on Q&A yesterday:

. . . No, look, you know, if there’s a cost of cleaning up our rivers, cos I think it’s your birthright and mine to be able to swim in our local river in summer, and for our kids to put their head under without getting crook, there’s a cost to that cleanup. As Nick Smith said last week, he thought that the cost for central government was going to be about $100 million per annum. Now, who should pay that? Should we tax pensioners? Or working people? Or should the farmers who are polluting make a contribution?  . . 

As a general rule, polluters should pay and farmers who pollute now do pay if successfully prosecuted by regional councils. Prosecutions can be not just for actual pollution but also for potential pollution from, for example, effluent spills which could reach waterways, even if they don’t.

But problems with waterways aren’t always the result of current practices, they’ve built up over years, even decades. It is unfair to tax all irrigators now for damage done in the past for which many wouldn’t have been responsible.

It is equally unfair to tax irrigators who aren’t contributing to pollution to clean up after those who are and to tax those in one area to repair damage done in another.

This tax isn’t going to be levied just on polluters it’s going to be levied on all irrigators no matter how good their farming practices and environmental stewardship are.

Then there’s the inconsistency of charging some commercial water users but not all:

. . . CORIN Here’s the thing – you’ve targeted farmers. But why are you giving an exemption to Coca Cola and various other businesses in the cities?

DAVID Well, what we’ve said is that domestic and stock water will never pay. We’re not interested in the municipal sources of water. You know, Coca Cola, they already pay a dollar per cubic metre or a dollar per thousand litres to the Auckland Council for the water they drew. We’re not going to charge them twice. . . 

Good grief! Does he think irrigation water arrives at the farm gate for free?

To get water from the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC), farmers have to buy shares and pay a cost of about $80 $800 per hectare per year. That covers the infrastructure and delivery costs, which are the same costs Coca Cola pays for council water.

If Labour isn’t going to charge Coca Cola twice, why is it going to charge farmers twice?

. . .CORIN But it does feel, there will be many in the farming sector who will be frustrated and feel they’re being singled out.

DAVID It is them who are polluting our rivers, so I don’t know how that’s unfair.

CORIN Well, they’re certainly a contributor.

DAVID Well, no. Let’s deal with one of the issues that Steven Joyce said. He said, ‘Look at the cities.’ You know, over the last decade, cities have improved their quality.

CORIN But they do pollute waterways as well.

DAVID Not nearly as much as they did in recent decades. And who’s paid for the cost of that cleanup? The people in the cities. They’ve paid for better sewerage treatment; the factories have cleaned up. And over those same decades, the rural sector rivers are getting worse. Now, who should pay? Should the polluter pay or should we tax pensioners? . . 

It doesn’t matter how many times or different ways he says it. Problems have built up over decades and not all are caused by those irrigating now.

Most farmers have changed their practices to stop pollution, to repair damage and enhance waterways.

Labour’s policy won’t give them any credit for that, will charge all irrigators regardless of whether or not they are causing problems, and will tax farmers in one place to clean up water in another.

And not all the problems in rural rivers are caused by irrigation.

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows.

Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of December, but readings for those sites at other times and for all other sites have been considered safe for swimming. . . 

This summer the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls Bridge is the only site to have its most recent reading in the amber/alert range, recording 510 parts of E. coli per 100ml of water on December 28.

ORC duty director Scott MacLean said there was a large colony of nesting gulls at the site, in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

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

Other amber readings were recorded in the Taieri River at Outram on December 12 and 19, and in the Taieri River at Waipiata on December 15.

Mr MacLean said the Outram spikes were caused by high river flows on December 12 and heavy localised rainfall on December 19, and the Waipiata spike was caused by rising flows at the time of sampling, due to rainfall on December 12.

Readings at both sites had since fallen to the green band of fewer than 260 E. coli parts per 100ml of water, which was considered very safe for swimming, Mr MacLean said. . . 

Seagulls and heavy rain, not irrigation, caused spikes in pollution and the poor water quality after the rainfall lasted only a few days. Nature caused that problem and nature fixed it without any political interference or tax.

And not all councils have paid for better treatment.

The state of the Invercargill City Council’s stormwater system has been called a “dirty little secret” that has been allowed to exist for years.

Federated Farmers had a crack at both the city council and Environment Southland about the city’s stormwater system at a resource consent hearing on Thursday.

Federated Farmers executive David Rose, at the hearing, said: “It was a revelation to us, this dirty little secret in Invercargill hidden from Invercargill ratepayers, how rundown the stormwater system is”. 

“The ratepayers of Invercargill are our cousins, our family and our friends. It’s a big shock to the farming community also.”

In the council’s own evidence, it accepts stormwater was contaminated with sewage, Rose said. 

The council has applied to discharge water and contaminants from stormwater systems into surface water bodies and into open drains, for a term of 35 years. 

A total of 147 discharge pipes draining to the Waikiwi Stream, Waihopai River, Otepuni Stream, Kingswell Creek and Clifton Channel are covered by the application. 

But Environment Southland says the consent should be turned down, because receiving waters and the New River Estuary will be effected. 

Environment Southland principal consents officer Stephen West’s report says, “With the known sewage contamination of the stormwater network, including the engineered overflow points, it is likely that the discharges will have more than minor adverse effect on the environment”.

Effects on water quality within the receiving waters and in the New River Estuary appeared to be more than minor, it says. . . 

No farm would apply for consent which would allow it to pollute waterways for 35 years.

But there’s nothing to be gained by widening the rural-urban divide as Labour is attempting to.

We all want clean water.

That won’t be achieved by Labour’s policy which will raise issues around Maori ownership of water.

The most effective way of improving water quality on or near irrigated farms is for farmers to make changes on-farm and to invest in new technology. Labour’s policy takes money from productive uses like that and channels it through a bureaucracy. In doing so it takes responsibility and accountability away from farmers and worse provides a disincentive for them to make improvements to their practices.

So far the announcement has raised more questions than it answers:

“The Labour Party’s glib and misleading announcement this week about a new water tax was disappointing for all New Zealanders,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive, Andrew Curtis.

“Farmers are clear that a tax on irrigation would affect all New Zealanders through higher food prices but Labour has failed to address this, even though many of their voters cannot afford to pay more for groceries,” he says.

“We think the tax is inconsistent in treating water used for irrigation differently to other types of commercial water use and there are a range of complex issues associated with how it would be implemented which appear not to have been thought through at all,” he adds.

“Kiwis have a right to understand the tax before they vote.”

IrrigationNZ requests that Labour provides written answers to the questions below so that voters can understand the impact of this new tax on all New Zealanders.

“Labour – Let’s Answer This” – New Zealanders deserve answers on water tax!” 

What is the impact of Labour’s water tax?

  1. How much tax will be charged per unit of water?
  2. Who will be charged?
  3. What impact will the tax have on price increases for food eg fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, beer, bread, wine, ice-cream, and how will poorer households afford price increases?
  4. How many jobs would be lost across New Zealand due to our food becoming unaffordable at home and not competitive internationally?
  5. How will a water tax enable local communities to implement solutions to their environmental issues?

How is Labour’s water tax fair?

  1. Who owns New Zealand’s water?
  2. Who will the tax be paid to?
  3. Why is it fair to tax some types of commercial water use and not tax others?
  4. Exporters already pay income tax – why should they pay twice?
  5. Why is Labour not going to introduce a sewage tax in town water supplies when the Our Freshwater 2017Report found that E.coli and nitrate-nitrogen concentrations are highest in urban catchments?

How is Labour’s water tax proposal workable?

  1. If the tax varies depending on water scarcity, water quality and weather conditions then how many different tax rates will there be?
  2. Which organisations have you consulted on the tax?
  3. Can Labour confirm that those affected by the tax will set the new tax level as suggested by the Leader?
  4. If tax payers have a different view to Labour will the tax payers’ view prevail?

How will Labour’s water tax address the impacts of climate change and existing investment?

  1. How will taxing water used to grow food increase New Zealand’s resilience to climate change?
  2. Over the last 5 years there has been $1.7 billion investment in modern efficient irrigation infrastructure – what impact will the tax have on this?

Honest answers to these questions would kill the policy, which is what it deserves for being so inconsistent and unfair.

Water quality is an issue all over the country, not just where there’s irrigation and it can be more of an issue when the water falls straight from the sky as rain than when it’s controlled through irrigators.

All farmers should, and most do, play an important role in improving the health of waterways.

Picking on just some of them with a tax will hinder the good work already being undertaken, provide a disincentive to do more and open a can of worms over water ownership.


Rural round-up

July 24, 2017

Help sought for flood-hit farmers – Timothy Brown:

The Otago Regional Council is calling on any farmers in the wider region able to offer support to those affected by the weekend’s deluge to contact Federated Farmers.

Dozens of properties on the Taieri Plains remain evacuated with paddocks and pastures inundated with water from a wild storm that began on Friday afternoon.

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said on Sunday it would be a difficult road ahead for farmers affected by the downpour and they would need assistance from the wider rural community.

“Federated Farmers is seeking assistance with feed and grazing,” he said. . . 

NZ the home of real free-range meat – Rod Slater:

The arrival of alternative proteins creates an opportunity for New Zealand to sell its natural pasture-to-plate story, says Beef + Lamb NZ marketing supremo Rod Slater.

 I want to address a certain issue that’s been driving plenty of chatter, both among those in the industry and those interested in food, our environment and our economy, and that’s the rise of alternative proteins.

There is no denying that this conversation, which is not just isolated to New Zealand, is gaining momentum and given the speed in which our current world operates we have no choice but to take notice of it.

However, I’m a huge believer that in every challenge lies a greater opportunity and I believe that if we adapt at speed we can make the most of the situation facing our industry. . . 

Meat substitutes’ rise a danger to NZ farmers – KPMG – Alexa Cook

New Zealand farmers could be under threat from a rise in plant-based products that mimic animal products such as burger patties, KPMG says.

Its global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot, said he has been to Silicon Valley and seen firsthand what alternative proteins were on the menu.

Mr Proudfoot said New Zealand meat and dairy producers needed to identify what level of risk the products presented for their industry and plan accordingly.

The threat of vegetarian alternatives to meat products was looming as companies were beginning to create products that would genuinely appeal to consumers, Mr Proudfoot said. . . 

Dairy beef profitable for beef and dairy – Allan Barber:

For well over 20 years one of the largest challenges in the meat industry has been dairy farmers’ lack of recognition of the opportunity to make more money from their calves by selling them to calf rearers for beef production. There have always been calf rearers willing to stick their neck out and buy calves, but this was highly dependent on both beef and milk price. But for dairy farmers it was easier to select their replacement heifers and put the rest on the bobby calf truck, rather than find rearers to take the bull calves or keep them on the farm for up to three months.

The importance of dairy beef has been inevitable ever since the dairy industry started to increase in size at the expense of the sheep and beef industry which was forced to retreat further up the hillside to land unsuitable for other farming types. 70% of cattle born in New Zealand are born on the dairy farm and dairy cows now outnumber beef cows by about five to one which makes it essential to encourage the dairy industry to assume a significant role in breeding replacement beef cattle. . . 

New Zealand Landcare Trust regional coordinator Annette Litherland ready for top of the south challenge – Jeffrey Kitt:

They are big shoes to fill after 18 years, but Annette Litherland says she is determined to continue the fight for farmers and the environment.

Annette has taken over as the New Zealand Landcare Trust regional co-ordinator for Nelson and Marlborough, taking the top job from Barbara Stuart following her retirement.

Barbara worked for the trust since 1999, finding her niche in helping farmers reduce their impact on the land and seeing a huge shift in attitudes about sustainability. . . 

LIC full year results announcement:

Farmer-owned co-operative, Livestock Improvement Corporation Limited (NZX: LIC), announces its financial results for the year ending 31 May 2017.

As forecast in the half year result in February, LIC has returned to a modest level of profitability in the 2016-2017 year.

Strong performance in its core services of artificial breeding and herd testing, and a reduction in operating costs across the business all contributed to a positive result and a return in value to all shareholders. . . 

Great progress with PEFC Eco-Certification of NZ forest practices:

Illegal forest management practices are a global problem. Governments and markets around the world are increasingly requiring proof of legality for harvested wood products. This has created a demand for labelling and endorsement of sustainably managed and legally harvested forest and wood products.

The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is an eco-certification system that is recognised as providing assurance of legality and sustainability and is increasingly required for access to some of NZ’s major markets. . . 

Agricultural Census a valuable resource to farmers and wider primary sector:

This year’s Agricultural Production Census is an important survey that assists all farmers and the primary sector says Federated Farmers.

Farmers are generally bombarded with questionnaires and surveys and replying can be time consuming, but the Federation recommends that members take time to fill in the census and answer the questions accurately.

The compulsory survey, conducted every five years by Statistics New Zealand, is a valuable outlet for monitoring industry trends and a resource used by local authorities. . . 

Australian MPs visit to discuss biosecurity and water use efficiency:

A delegation from the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources is visiting New Zealand 23-27 July 2017. The visit is part of an annual exchange of select committees between New Zealand and Australian Parliaments.

New Zealand’s Speaker, Rt Hon David Carter, is pleased to host this visit.

“The Australia-New Zealand agriculture and science relationship is very significant. This visit will enable the parliamentary delegation to cover important inquiry topics for Australia with New Zealand’s Primary Production Committee members as well as New Zealand academic, farming and business sectors. It is an opportunity to share information of mutual benefit.” . . 

Government funding wetland enhancement project:

Hohepa Hawke’s Bay has been awarded nearly $175,000 from the Government’s Community Environment Fund to restore and increase a wetland adjacent to the Taipo Stream in Napier, Associate Minister Scott Simpson announced today.

Hohepa Hawke’s Bay is owned by the Hohepa Homes Trust, which has provided homes, education and vocational services in Hawke’s Bay to people with intellectual disabilities since 1957.

“The wetland is an important natural habitat for many native and endangered species. The two-year Lower Taipo Stream Environmental Enhancement project will increase the wetland by at least 6 hectares, providing additional habitat for the nationally endangered matuku or Australasian bittern,” Mr Simpson says. . . 

It’s not all gold for some kiwifruit growers:

Despite what people might believe, some kiwifruit growers are a long way from recovering from the 2010 Psa-V outbreak which devastated the kiwifruit industry in New Zealand, Te Puke kiwifruit grower Alistair Reese said today.

“It really concerns me that a lot of the commentary about the kiwifruit industry is that Sun Gold (“G3”) has been the ‘saviour’ post PSA, and that the industry is now doing very well because of the new varieties. . . 

Can New Zealand repeat stellar success in 2017 Sydney International Wine Competition? Entries invited from NZ wineries for 38th Competition:

New Zealand wineries are expected to holder even greater sway in this year’s Sydney International Wine Competition, following the huge success of Kiwi producers in the 2017 judging.

Entries for this year’s Competition – the only international wine show that judges all its finalists in combination with appropriate food – can be made up till 15 September, with judging in mid-October and provisional award and trophy winners notified by the end of October. . . 


Mooving from Gypsy Day

May 29, 2017

The milking season goes from June 1st to May 31st and the change of season means a change of farm for hundreds of dairy owners, sharemilkers, managers and staff.

The changes result in big and small movements for people and stock on what has been know as Gypsy Day.

But the Otago Regional Council now deems that term too offensive:

On Wednesday, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) issued a statement under the heading “Gypsy Day preparations bring reminder to reduce effluent spillage”.

That prompted a rebuke from Dunedin City councillor, Aaron Hawkins, who said “I think it’s remarkable that in 2017 something called ‘Gypsy Day’ could still exist”.

“The word ‘gypsy’ is commonly used as a slur against Roma people, but even putting that aside, drawing a comparison between herds of cattle and any ethnic grouping I would have thought was pretty offensive.

“Even if it is entrenched in common usage, I’d like to think that a body like the ORC would show some leadership by using more inclusive language.”

Asked for a response, ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker told Stuff  “The term ‘Gypsy Day’ might be still in common use within the farming community as a short-hand term for the mass movement of stock, but it has undertones that aren’t in tune with New Zealand society today”.

“ORC won’t be using the term in the future.” . . .

The Oxford dictionary  defines Gypsy as travelling people traditionally living by itinerant trade and fortune telling but it adds that it is also applied informally to a nomadic or free-spirited person.

Language evolves and terms which were once offensive become acceptable, others which weren’t acceptable become offensive.

Gypsy Day hasn’t been used derogatively, it was just coined to describe the annual movement of people and stock.

However, DairyNZ now uses Mooving Day.

Company senior communications and engagement manager Lee Cowan said an informal move to change the name happened several years ago “as we felt it better reflected what actually happened on 1 June”.

“The origin of the term probably goes back to the days when the majority of farmers and sharemilkers walked their cows to the new farm rather than trucking them as they do now.

“This meant there were a lot of farmers and cows walking along the road on changeover day which got colloquially known as Gypsy Day,” Cowan said.

“In terms of the use of the term Gypsy Day; some farmers still use the term informally as this is the term they would have grown up with, but positively we are seeing greater uptake of the term ‘Mooving Day’, he said. . . 

The antipathy to Gypsy Day could be described as political correctness or it could be accepted that language mooves with the times.


Where are the protests?

January 31, 2017

Otago rivers are fine for swimming, except for the Kakanui where the cause of poor water quality, once again, is seagulls.

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows.

Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of December, but readings for those sites at other times and for all other sites have been considered safe for swimming. . .

This summer the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls Bridge is the only site to have its most recent reading in the amber/alert range, recording 510 parts of E. coli per 100ml of water on December 28.

ORC duty director Scott MacLean said there was a large colony of nesting gulls at the site, in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

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

The gulls are natives and can’t be culled, but why can’t something be done, after the breeding season, to deter them from returning next year?

If farming, and particularly dairying, was responsible, the usual suspects masquerading as environmental warriors would be calling for action but they have been silent on this.

They have also been silent on the appalling state of Auckland waterways which are unsafe for swimming.

Kerre McIvor points out hygiene and sanitation are one of the basic requirements for a community to properly function and yet New Zealand’s biggest city is being let down badly on that count.

Whenever Auckland gets more than 5mm of rain, rainwater flows into the shared stormwater pipes and flushes raw sewage into streams or straight into the harbour.

These overflows happen at least 12 times a year.

Newsflash, Auckland gets a lot of rain – and the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools of raw sewage pour into our waterways every single time.

It’s appalling. And the problem is not new. . .

No business, farming or otherwise, would be able to continue to pollute in this way, why are councils and why aren’t the usual suspects protesting?

Alan Emerson asks that question too:

We are continually told in the most emotive terms about the health problems with dairy and irrigation but I’d venture to suggest those issues would be absolutely minimal when compared with raw sewerage.

I ask again; where are the protesters?

The ongoing problem of raw sewerage continuing unabated for the next 18 years is infinitely worse than anything our farming industry can do.

I went to the Greenpeace website believing I must have missed something but no. There was a headline telling me to stop seismic blasting. Maybe that causes sewerage to go into harbours and on beaches.

There was also a rant about a bank presumably funding forest destruction. I can see the logic there, destroy the forest, build houses and pollute beaches.

Greenpeace also wants the Huntly coal power plant shut down. Maybe it was polluting the Waikato River.

What irritated me most though was a mealy-mouthed release about the shocking vandalising of a North Otago farmer’s irrigation equipment.

Paradoxically, Greenpeace claimed to be a peaceful protester but could understand the vandalism as being “a sign of overwhelming public frustration about polluted rivers”.

Show me the science. . .

We are told ad nauseum about farming’s supposed threat to our clean, green image. There’s an appalling lack of science behind the accusations but the anti-farming rants are extreme.

Correspondingly, we have the country’s largest city with far more people than all the provinces combined pumping raw sewerage into the supposed pristine beaches of Auckland.

Where are the environmental protesters?

The Green Party, always willing to castigate farming and generally show indecent haste in the process, hasn’t said anything about the crap-covered beaches of Auckland.

On its website it accused National of plundering our fisheries, claimed the recent extreme weather was a sign of things to come and pontificated, naively in my view, that a fresh start was needed for European Union trade agreements.

There was nothing I could find about the scandalous pollution of our pristine Auckland beaches and the compromising of our clean, green image.

Again if they can slag off farmers for whatever reason they will do it with alacrity no matter what the facts may be.

When it comes to our largest city they seem cowed by the number of voters there. . . 

Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO, draws a similar conclusion:

A recent meeting between Irrigation New Zealand and Greenpeace failed to resolve differences because the environmental group needs a polarising issue to preserve its Auckland funding base, Irrigation chief executive Andrew Curtis says.

Greenpeace gave scant acknowledgement of the role of irrigation or that farmers were reducing their environmental footprint.

The group’s true agenda was laid bare soon after the meeting in a press release that was understanding of Auckland dumping millions of cubic metres of raw sewage into the harbour each year while again admonishing the dairy industry.

Curtis said it showed Greenpeace was a fundraising body determined to protect its Auckland funding base.

“That point was highlighted by the press release this week about Auckland sewage flowing into the harbour which said it was a concern but not majorly because the Auckland Council recognised it is an issue.

“Contrast that with its view of dairy farming and the irrigation industry, which is that there is no acknowledgement they have an issue and are doing nothing to improve the water quality. . .

Clean water is a fundamental necessity for human health.

It is an issue for both rural and urban New Zealand.

Farmers have collectively spent many millions of dollars cleaning up their acts to safeguard waterways.

Regional councils take their responsibilities to monitor farms very seriously. They have the right to prosecute farmers and have done so not only for polluting waterways but for pollution which could reach a waterway even if it hasn’t.

Yet city councils are given not just years but decades to bring their sewer and waste water systems up to 21st century standards.

If farmers were causing even a fraction of the problems that Auckland faces, protesters would be strident.

Their silence on the city pollution and slower than snails’-pace action on improving it is deafening.

 

 


Small failures

September 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Rolleston admitted agriculture was a risk for water.

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

Environment Minister Nick Smith also says speculation is unhelpful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Green Party has criticised that view as baseless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

August 30, 2016

Pet theories don’t make water safer:

Federated Farmers urges the public to apply some good old-fashioned common sense and scrutinice the statements of activists as they push their anti-farming agendas in the wake of the Havelock North water-borne gastrointestinal disease outbreak.

Top of the list would be Dr Mike Joy’s statements on The Nation last Sunday where he said:

“’Central and local government had allowed massive intensification [of dairying] that had caused the problem’ when in fact the closest dairy farm we can find is some 40 kilometres away”, Federated Farmers president Dr William Rolleston says.

Or his statement that “animals have to come out of agriculture”.

“The sanity of this statement for New Zealand can stand on its own merits.

“In the context of this bacterial episode he said that ‘over time you find it deeper and deeper and deeper [in the groundwater]’ when it is known that as water penetrates the ground, bacteria are progressively filtered out and their survival diminishes.” . . .

GoodYarn mental health scheme award winner – Sally Rae:

A rural mental health initiative developed by WellSouth has received international recognition.

WellSouth’s health promotion team was named joint winner of best mental health promotion/mental illness prevention at the Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Services Conference in Auckland for its GoodYarn programme.

GoodYarn was developed specifically for farming communities to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of stress and mental illness, to give people the confidence to talk with someone when they were concerned, and to know where to get help. . . 

Farmers: we will fight for livelihoods – Tim Miller:

Farmers in Tarras are prepared to go all the way to the Environment Court to protect their livelihoods.

Members of the Lindis Catchment Group voted at a meeting in Tarras last night to  appeal the Otago Regional Council’s decision to set a minimum flow rate for the Lindis River catchment at 900 litres per second from October 1 to May 31 every year.

Committee member and local farmer Bruce Jolly said 26 members of the catchment group voted unanimously in favour of appealing the decision. . . 

 

Cattle theft would’ve need 10 trucks – Federated farmers:

A possible theft of 500 dairy cows from a Canterbury farm has stumped police investigating their disappearance.

Pennie Ormsby-Saunders told Newshub she has a herd of 1300 cows but last week noticed more than a third of them were missing.

Rick Powdrell from Federated Farmers says stock thefts are a concerning trend.

“In recent times there’ve been a number of thefts in that area. Now whether these are connected, we don’t know. . . 

Stand built for world champs – Sally Rae:

Four South Otago men will have little time to admire their handiwork when the world’s best shearers and woolhandlers converge on Invercargill next year.

Since May, Otago Shears committee members Bruce Walker, Ken Payne, Neville Leslie and Geoff Finch have spent 130 hours preparing the shearing stand for the Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling championships.

About 4500 sheep will be shorn by competitors from about 30 countries at ILT Stadium Southland from February 9 to 11. . . 

US ag exports expected to rise by $6 billion in 2017:

US agricultural exports are expected to rise in 2017 from 2016 levels, largely due to higher exports of oilseeds and products, horticultural products, cotton, and livestock, dairy, and poultry.

According to the latest Outlook for US Agricultural Trade Report from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service, agricultural exports in fiscal year 2017 are projected at $133.0 billion, up $6.0 billion from the revised fiscal 2016 forecast of $127.0 billion.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “These numbers once again demonstrate the resiliency and reliability of US farmers and ranchers in the face of continued challenges. . . 


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