Rural round-up


Producing more and more milk not New Zealand’s future: Landcorp head:

The chief executive of Landcorp, Steven Carden, on TV One’s Q+A programme says the business is reviewing all land conversions and looking for alternate uses for land that are economically more viable, and environmentally more suitable, than dairy farming.

“I think if you look at Landcorp – and we farm throughout the country – we are looking at all of our land portfolio and thinking, “What is the right land use for it?” And I think what we’ve found is that we can’t really find dairying as the justified new additional land-use conversion option,” he told Corin Dann.

“So we are looking at alternatives. I think New Zealand can sustain a few more cows, so long as there are the farm systems set up to do that. So people are looking at herd homes and other farm infrastructure which would require us to farm quite differently but allow us to produce more milk. Having said that, that’s not our future, I don’t think, as a primary-sector country, to just produce more of a commodity product like milk, necessarily.” . . 

Rustlers slit pet cow’s throat, take legs for meat – Phillipa Yalden:

The grisly slaughter of a pet dairy cow that was dismembered for meat has left a South Waikato farming couple fearful.

Thieves armed with a gun and knives broke into Bev and Trevor Bayly’s 172-hectare farm early one morning and slit the throat of their “friendly” Jersey.

When attempts to shoot the cow dead went wrong, the rustlers took to the animal with knives, cutting off the legs before leaving the carcass behind at the property between Wharepapa South and Arohena, near Putaruru. . . 

Shanghai Maling bid to buy Silver Fern Farms stake under consideration by Upston, Bennett – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office has sent its recommendation on a proposal for China’s Shanghai Maling Aquarius to acquire a half stake in Silver Fern Farms, New Zealand’s largest meat processor, to the relevant government ministers for a decision.

Land Information Minister Louise Upston and Associate Finance Minister Paula Bennett received the documentation from the Overseas Investment Office last week, and are now considering the application, spokesman Harley Thorpe said. The Ministers are aware of the Sept. 30 deadline Shanghai Maling and Silver Fern Farms had set for the deal and have that in mind, he said. . . 

Boom time for ag robotics:

Robots and drones have already started to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. And now a new report is predicting the agricultural robotics industry, now serving a $3 billion market, will grow to $10 billion by 2022.

The report, by IDTechEx Research in Britain, is called Agricultural Robots and Drones 2016-2026: Technologies, Markets, and Players. It analyses how robotic market and technology developments will change agriculture, enabling ultra-precision farming and helping address key global challenges.

It describes how robotic technology will enter into different aspects of agriculture, how it will change the way farming is done and transform its value chain, how it becomes the future of agrochemicals business and modifies the way we design agricultural machinery. . . 

Helicopter’s beacon leads to farm rescue :

The pilot of a weed-spraying helicopter used his emergency locating beacon to raise the alarm about a seriously injured farm worker in the central North Island.

The pilot was about to start his spraying job on a farm near Ohura, west of Taumarunui, on Monday when he noticed a man on the property had apparently fallen from his horse. . . 

Lake snot the ‘new didymo’ :

Lake snot will have to be treated like a new didymo, says the Otago Regional Council, which has begun a two-year study into the spread of the algal slime.

The slime – also known as lake snow – was first found in Lake Wanaka in 2004, and has since been found in Lake Coleridge and Lake Wakatipu.

The lake snot has clogged up fishing lines, boat intakes and Wanaka’s laundromats, and has led the Queenstown Lakes District Council to install a filter on the Wanaka town water supply. . . 

Lamb day-care proves a hit:

A primary school north of Auckland has seen its roll surge in recent weeks with the opening of an unusual daycare.

Waitoki School near Kaukapakapa has built a daycare pen for lambs and is encouraging its 90 pupils to fill it with their own woolly companions.

“We have about seven to nine lambs on site at the moment. The kids bring them along and it’s their job to raise them, look after them and feed them,” said the school’s principal Chris Neison.

The lamb daycare was built in mid-August by a team of teachers, parents and grandparents. . .

Native Tree Plan Shows Positive Face of Scion’s Research:

The commercial propagation of indigenous trees in Ngati Whare’s new nursery in Minginui is an exciting development for all New Zealand and shows the benefits of ethical research that does not require release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms into the environment. [1]

Scion has been helping with the project by developing vegetative cuttings using leading edge technology that reflects community values. Ngati Whare and Scion are to be congratulated. This shows the acceptable face of Scion’s work and does not involve transgenic organisms or genetic engineering. Scion had earlier success with the propagation of seeds from the rare taonga plant Ngutukākā (white kaka beak), which have been planted on the ancestral lands of Ngāti Kohatu and Ngāti Hinehika. [2] . . 

Minister Goodhew on food safety visit to China:

Food Safety and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew will travel to China today for bi-lateral meetings and to open a new Fonterra dairy facility in the Shanxi Province.

“The relationship between New Zealand and China has never been stronger, and it is crucial for our economy that we maintain that strong relationship in food safety,” says Mrs Goodhew.

While in Beijing, Mrs Goodhew will meet with Vice Minister Teng Jiacai of the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) for the third Joint Food Safety Commission meeting, to build upon the shared goal for increased communication and cooperation between the two countries. . . 

Events to help make the most of ‘money months’:

DairyNZ’s Tactics for Spring events kicked off in the Waikato last week, aimed at helping farmers manage their pasture during the most productive time of the year on-farm.

The nationwide events are taking place in September and October, the beginning of the ‘money months’ when more pasture will be grown and more milk produced than any other time of the year.

With uncertainty around where milk prices will go DairyNZ research and development general manager Dr David McCall is urging farmers to focus on what they can control. . . 

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The most memorable days end with the dirtiest clothes.

(that’s not a job that usually dirties clothes and I’m not sure why he’s using a ladder).

New winery future-proofs Rockburn Wines in Central Otago:

After leasing premises at the industrial McNulty Road site for 10 years, the team at Rockburn Wines recently completed their first vintage at their new winery in Ripponvale Road, Cromwell.

The award-winning producer acquired the existing winery site in September last year to meet increasing demand and future-proof its operation.

“Due to rapid growth and remarkable popularity of our wines, we were forced to outsource some processes in previous years due to capacity shortfalls. We’re very pleased to bring everything back under one roof from this vintage onwards. The old McNulty Road winery was getting near breaking point and we’re thrilled to have found a site at Ripponvale Road that sets us up for further growth,” says Paul Donaghy, General Manager of Rockburn Wines. . . 

Different rules for councils and farms


Federated Farmers Otago Dairy Chair Stephen Crawford writes on different environmental standards for councils and farms:

As a farmer I have been increasingly concerned by the lack of consistency between council treatment of urban and rural users when it comes to the actions taken under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

We have all seen farmers prosecuted in the Environment Court for breaches under the RMA, for matters such as effluent discharges that “may enter water”.

These are the critical few words found in the RMA that most prosecutions are based on (“…and may enter water”). What that means is that the contaminant didn’t necessarily enter water or cause pollution, it just “may” have been able to enter water – and that’s a big difference. . .

Is there any other area where the potential to do something wrong is treated as if you have actually done something wrong?

If you were in a pub with car keys in your pocket you may drive when you shouldn’t but you may also walk, call a taxi, get someone else to drive or find another way home but you would not be charged because you may drive.

Of course it’s not always that simple. In some cases, contaminants from farms do in fact enter water. That cannot be condoned and depending on the circumstances, the Environment Court may be the appropriate course of action.

Last spring, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) boss Peter Bodeker went to media, stating that recent dairy inspections in Otago were not good enough and that an unacceptable number of breaches had been found.

If you watched 7 Sharp on Tuesday night, you will see some of our most popular swimming beaches in are unsafe to swim in due to the overflow sewage systems that some city councils’ use, there is no “may” about it.  So let’s compare these on-farm breaches of the RMA to those in the urban sector.

Last November, media reported that in Cromwell 3,500 litres of untreated waste had entered Lake Dunstan. In response, the ORC determined that no action was required.

Over recent months and years, Queenstown Lakes District Council has had numerous untreated spills into the lake, and not a single prosecution has eventuated to date.

Apart from the fact that a major tourist destination’s image is being tarnished by the site of untreated sewage flowing on streets and into the lake, that waste is entering water and is simply bad for the environment.

If Queenstown was a farm, there would be a huge public outcry for it to be shut down until major improvements could bring it up to appropriate standards.

Other towns around the country actually have consent to pollute on a daily basis.

Milton is just one example.  It has been issued consent by the ORC to intermittently discharge 9,150 cubic meters per day of untreated wastewater mixed with storm water to the Tokomairiro River.

This discharge permit expires on December 31, 2017. But don’t worry; part of the consent approval includes a diagram for a sign to be erected, saying “Danger. Keep Out. No Swimming”.

Other New Zealand towns also have consent to discharge untreated or partially treated waste to land “in a manner that may enter water”. Interesting that those towns have these discharge consents approved by councils, when this is the same standard for which farmers are being prosecuted.

For many coastal towns the solution is simple, just put waste out to sea in a longer and ever extending pipeline. Well at least it doesn’t get to freshwater that way, although as we’ve seen recently, the impact on many of our beaches is not something to be proud of.

It is one rule for council discharges, and a completely different rule for farmers and I’m convinced the environment doesn’t notice the difference.

To people living in urban New Zealand, you have been “sold” a story comprising limited science based on a successful and catchy slogan, “dirty dairy”. And from that was born the misconception that most pollution is from farms.

Regional councils around the country continue to turn a blind eye to blatant urban pollution, both within discharge consent parameters and through unconsented spills into our lakes and rivers.

Farmers don’t expect any special treatment. We have a huge responsibility in looking after our environment. But nor do we expect to be targeted and singled out by regional councils.

All we ask is that in the interests of our environment, we have a more level playing field.  Currently what we have is anything but.

Farmers live near to, swim in and drink from the waterways which border their farms giving them a very personal interest in ensuring they are clean.

We’re not asking for special treatment we are asking for fairness.

Discharges which may enter a waterway should not be regarded in a similar way to pollution which does enter a waterway and councils shouldn’t get special treatment when others appear to be treated with far less leniency.

Rural round-up


Irrigation benefits all clear – Andrew Ashton:

The benefits North Otago communities continue to receive from local irrigation schemes have been highlighted to two Government Ministers.

The Waitaki Irrigators Collective (WIC) yesterday invited Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew to tour irrigation schemes across North Otago, and Mr Guy said the tour, which took in farms and irrigation schemes between Weston and Glenavy, had reinforced the ”huge benefits” of irrigation to North Otago. . . .

Another benefit to the area would be if New Zealand’s sharpest town, #gigatownoamaru becomes the Southern Hemisphere’s first #gigatown.

– Allan Barber:

When Eoin Garden retires as Silver Fern Farms’ chairman at the AGM in December, both cooperatives will have had a change at the top within three months of each other. So the big question is whether this will make any difference to the way they operate: will there be a significant change of culture and leadership from the top or will it be much the same as before?

The Meat Industry Excellence Group is obviously hopeful of getting its preferred directors elected to the SFF board with Richard Young, MIE’s chairman until recently, and Poverty Bay farmer Dan Jex-Blake resigning from MIE to stand for election in their respective wards.

There is also one MIE aligned candidate standing for the Alliance board, long time supplier Don Morrison, although Fonterra director John Monaghan was keen to stand, but was rejected by the Alliance board under the terms of the company’s constitution. MIE chairman John McCarthy says “this is a real slap in the face for Alliance shareholders” who want to see change and in his opinion “is typical of what’s wrong with the meat industry.” . . .

Irrigation progress welcomed in Otago and Rangitikei:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming new investment of $750,000 into irrigation projects in Central Otago, and $100,000 in the Rangitikei, coming from the Government’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF).

“There is major unrealised potential across the country for further irrigation development, and these two projects will help unlock that.

“This is about creating jobs and exports, particularly in provincial New Zealand. It will play a major part in realising the Government’s goal of doubling primary sector exports by 2025.”

The Central Otago funding will go towards backing the next stage of the Manuherikia Catchment Strategic Water Study. . .

Scientists redesigning orchards to increase fruit production:

Research that will literally shed more light on fruit trees could revolutionise the way crops such as apples are grown.

Plant and Food Research scientists are investigating new orchard planting systems, putting to the test the theory that trees and vines that receive more light could produce a lot more fruit.

Research leader Stuart Tustin says it could mean completely changing the way orchards are designed to allow more light to reach the trees’ canopies. . .

Dr Nigel Perry wins NZIC prize:

Plant & Food Research’s Dr. Nigel Perry has been awarded the 2013 New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Prize for Industrial and Applied Chemistry. Dr Perry was recognised for his focus on the discovery and development of biologically active natural products.

With his colleagues in Plant & Food Research and the Chemistry Dept of the University of Otago, he has combined fundamental chemistry knowledge with a drive to establish practical applications. Nigel works with medical and agricultural researchers, Māori groups, and New Zealand and international companies.

He is an inventor on six patents, including one on an insect attractant now in commercial use around the world. Much of this work is documented in confidential technical reports to clients, but he has also published many papers on applied chemistry, on three main themes: . . .

New funding for plant science:

Plant & Food Research has received funding for two projects in the latest Marsden fund which will study how plants grow and adapt, fundamental science that will ultimately inform future crop breeding and growing practices.

One of the projects will investigate how ancient plant ancestors may have adapted to an environment with high UV radiation, providing better understanding of how plants may respond to future climate change.

“The emergence of plants onto land was one of Earth’s major evolutionary events, but at that time the environment had a number of challenges, including high levels of damaging UV radiation,” says Dr Kevin Davies. “Our research will look at liverworts, the closest living relative of the first land plants, and study how these plants adapt the production of pigment molecules to counteract the effects of UV. This will, in turn, provide some understanding of how plants may adapt and respond to shifts in environmental conditions as a result of predicted global climate change.” . . .

Wakatipu partnership to target wilding pines:

A partnership between DOC, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, LINZ and the local community aims to clear thousands of hectares of wilding pines in the Wakatipu Basin over the next five years, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“Wilding pines are a significant risk to the natural ecology of the Wakatipu Basin. This partnership is about stepping up the efforts to control these tree weeds and protect the landscapes that make Queenstown such an iconic visitor destination,” Dr Smith told a meeting of the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG) in Queenstown this evening.

“This project illustrates the benefits of DOC’s new focus on partnering with others to deliver conservation gains. These tree weeds are as much of a problem on private and council land as they are on public conservation land. It makes sense that we have a co-ordinated effort to control their spread, maximise the use of new technology, and work together to roll back the infestation,” he says. . .

Bigger is better for QLDC


The group wanting to split Wanaka from the Queenstown Lakes District Council should be careful what it’s wishing for.

QLDC had a nil rates increase this year. Deputy Mayor Lyal Cocks said the split would lead to at least a 6.3% increase in Wanaka rates.

Local government is an increasingly complex and expensive beast.

Duplicating services and overheads and spreading the cost over a much smaller rating base would be stupid.

Bigger isn’t always better but it is in the case of the QLDC.


If one council can do it . . .


Queenstown Lakes District Council has voted for an average overall rates increase of 0% and mayor, Vanessa van Uden, says it’s sustainable.

The council has a relatively small but rapidly growing population and a larger proportion than average of absentee owners.

If it can cater for its residents and future needs with a sustainable zero percent rates rise, why can’t other councils follow this good example, or at least keep increases to below the rate of inflation?

Will polls influence vote?


In general elections advertising or polling which might influence voters is not permitted after midnight on election eve.

With postal voting for local body elections campaigning and polling continues after the ballot papers have been distributed.

The ODT published a poll  last weekend of Clutha, Central Otago, Waitaki and Queenstown Lakes Districts which showed a couple of close results but will it influence the vote?

In Clutha Juno Hayes, the sitting mayor, had 34.8% with challengers Hamish Anderson and Bryan Cadogan tied on 31.3%.

In Central Otago sitting mayor Malcolm Macpherson had 38.7% support with Tony Lepper on 37.8% and Jeff Hill on 23.4%.

The Clutha race appears to reflect dissatisfaction with the incumbent but the split in the opposition may let him slip through. However the poll had a margin of error of 11.4% so it’s still anyone’s race.

In Central results show those who support the incumbent should vote for him and those who don’t you’d have a better chance of unseating him if they vote for Lepper than Hill.

In Queenstown Lakes Vanessa Van Uden received 62.5% support with Simon Hayes on 32.8%. In Waitaki sitting mayor Alex Familton had 54.8% support with current deputy mayor Gary Kircher gaining 37.5%.

Both should give the leaders some comfort but with margins of error of 9.6% in Queenstown Lakes and 9.3% in Waitaki there  is still the possibility of an upset.

Did the poll influence my vote? No, I posted my ballot paper on Tuesday after reading the results but they didn’t show change my mind over who I was supporting.

However, had I not already decided who I was supporting the poll may have been a factor I took into account.

UPDATE: The NBR quotes AUT University’s Institute of Public Policy director David Wilson who says those worried about the influence of polls shouldn’t underestimate voters.

DOC duo dock rata


When the Queenstown Lakes District Council discovered a protected rata tree on Pigeon Island in Lake Wakatipu had been pruned by a chain saw it was not amused.

It wanted to prosecute the person or people responsible for attacking the 100 year-old tree.

Then the culprits confessed. They were DOC workers who’d been working on the island and had cut what they thought was dead wood from the tree to replenish the wood supply in the hut they’d been staying in.

The council decided not to prosecute but the men were disciplined and required to pay $1500 towards the cost of the investigation.

DOC’s often hard line approach to safeguarding native flora isn’t always appreciated by the public and there’s been little sympathy for the culprits.

The Southland Times opines:

. . . it is hard to imagine anything quite as extravagant as them being such a target for every wit and half-wit in the district, or the furrowed-brow reproach of their suddenly put-upon workmates in the department, who inevitably get roped in to the climate of public commentary.

No doubt their faces were as red as the rata flowers.

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