Rural round-up

December 21, 2018

Taratahi agri training operator in interim liquidation – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – The Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre has been placed into interim liquidation at the request of its board of trustees as declining student numbers saw its funding drop faster than it could cut costs.

The High Court yesterday appointed David Ruscoe and Russell Moore of Grant Thornton as interim liquidators after the board sought to protect the position of its staff, students, creditors and other stakeholders, the accounting firm said.

Taratahi is a private training establishment, employing 250 staff, and educating 2,850 students this year. It owns and manages eight farms across the country. . . 

IrrigationNZ welcomes new chief executive:

IrrigationNZ has appointed Elizabeth Soal as its new Chief Executive.

“IrrigationNZ has recently adopted a new strategy which focuses on creating an environment for the responsible use of water for food production. As part of the strategy we will be focusing on advocacy, encouraging innovation through sharing ideas and adopting new technology, developing a robust information base, bringing the irrigation sector, researchers and decision makers together to make better decisions for our future and creating world‑leading irrigation standards,” says Nicky Hyslop, IrrigationNZ Board Chair.

“Elizabeth has a strong background in water management, law and policy and she will help contribute to all of these goals but she is particularly well qualified to contribute to national discussions as we seek to achieve solutions to complex issues around water allocation which result in good outcomes for both communities and the environment.” . . 

Feds welcome new IrrigationNZ chief executive:

Federated Farmers welcomes Elizabeth Soal as the new chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand.

Federated Farmers maintains an excellent working relationship with Irrigation New Zealand,” Feds water and environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

Elizabeth has the credentials and background, including her strategy and policy work for the Waitaki Irrigators Collective, to help ensure INZ continues its excellent work.” . .

Federated Farmers disputes E Coli claims – Eric Frykberg:

There is no proof that E. Coli found in three Canterbury rivers came from cows, according to Federated Farmers.

Research commissioned by Fish and Game found dangerous pathogens in three Canterbury rivers – the Ashley, Selwyn and Rangitata.

Fish and Game insisted the cause was leaching from dairy farms.

But Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen said the problem could be caused by wildlife, or human activity, as well as from animals. . . 

Research suggests we should take a harder look at the benefits of organic foods – Point of Order:

The Green Party’s food policy may need revisiting, in the light of research published in the past week.

The policy was introduced in May 2017 by Green Party MP Mojo Mathers, who lost her list place in Parliament at the general election.

How we produce, distribute and consume food is of critical importance to growing resilient healthy communities, minimising our ecological footprint and maintaining a
stable economy, she said.  That’s why food policy lies at the heart of Green policy. . . 

Reflections on the year that was – Allan Barber:

From a New Zealand domestic perspective the attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis has had the biggest impact on farming, most of it focused on the relatively small number of properties forced to cull their entire herd, some of it directed at those properties under surveillance or Notice of Direction, and some of it on the agricultural service industry, including meat processors, cartage contractors, stock agents and saleyards, as well as calf clubs and A&P shows.

MPI is cautiously optimistic the disease can be eradicated which would be the first time any country has achieved such an outcome. However there is still plenty of water to flow under the bridge before anyone can say with confidence that the hitherto impossible has been achieved. 2019 will almost certainly be the year we know for certain, one way or the other. . . 

Guy Trafford finishes 2018 with a GDT review, news of a new Fish & Game river survey, calling out plant-based-milk, and an update on the MPB eradication – Guy Trafford:

An ever so slight increase in the Global Dairy Trade price for whole milk powder with a +0.3% lift. It may not put much of a smile on farmers faces but at least it is a not a drop.

Overall the GDT went up by +1.7% with both butter and cheddar making gains with lifts of +4.9% and +2.2% respectively so not such a poor result. With this now being the second – be they small – lift in a row and we have to go back almost 12 months before we had a repeat of two consecutive sales lifting. Dairy Futures had predicted a higher 3% lift in WMP for this period and with volumes sold down 0.7% on the previous sale, which was also down, the remainder of the season still looks precarious. The next sale is on the 2nd of January 2019. . . 

New captain for 2019 Meat Blacks:

One of the final jobs of 2018 is to take a look at the 2019 Meat Blacks team that will lead the sector next year.

There haven’t been too many adjustments to make, though the sector has had a couple of big retirements from the leadership, lock Sir Graeme Harrison (ANZCO) and number eight James Parsons (B+LNZ Ltd) have departed this year. Linesman Martyn Dunne also retired from MPI and has been replaced by Ray Smith, fresh from Corrections (Ed: appropriately!).

As a result, we have a new captain Murray Taggart (Alliance), promoted from vice-captain, and new vice-captain Tony Egan (Greenlea Premier Meats) to lead the team. . . 

T&G Global profit dented by cheaper tomatoes, small grape harvest  – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – T&G Global says its annual profit will more than halve this year after cheaper tomatoes and a weather-affected grape harvest in Peru dented earnings.

Net profit will be $8-10 million this calendar year, down from $22.6 million in 2017, it said in a statement.

Lower tomato prices affected T&G’s covered crops unit while its Peru grapes division dealt with a smaller harvest, it said. . .


Irrigation greener option

May 25, 2016

Greenpeace is highly critical of the decision to provide funding for irrigation in Canterbury.

. . . Genevieve Toop, Greenpeace’s agriculture campaigner, said:

“The government is throwing away millions of dollars on this controversial industrial irrigation scheme which will pollute our precious rivers.

“Millions of tonnes of pollution ends up in our rivers already. And this will only get worse if government departments like MPI throw taxpayers’ money at irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water that expand the industrial dairy sector.

“Ecological farming is much better for our rivers, our land and our international reputation. It’s this that the government should be backing, not some failed industrial agriculture model which is polluting our rivers.” . . 

IrrigationNZ counters her arguments:

IrrigationNZ welcomes government funding of $7.85 million for Canterbury irrigation projects that will help lift the water quality of Lake Ellesmere and groundwater in the Hinds area.

The Central Plains Water scheme has been injected with $6.64m to help get its next stages through to construction, and $312,000 has been puttowards a pilot study for aquifer recharge in the Hinds area which aims to restore spring-fed stream flows and alongside address groundwater nitrate issues.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said the Hinds recharge project was particularly exciting because it was the first time techniques commonly used overseas would be used to improve water quality.

“The trial – a first in New Zealand – will use clean Rangitata River water to soak into the aquifer in an area of high nitrate concentrations, diluting the nitrate, whilst also providing better reliability for groundwater takes, and stream flows”, said Curtis “

This alongside the move to Good Management Practice through Audited Farm Environment Plans will allow natural ecosystems to regenerate,” said Curtis. 

Pollution from intensive farming happened over time and it will take time to improve water quality but that’s not an argument to oppose irrigation when better management and independently audited farm environment plans will protect and enhance waterways.

The water will come from the Ashburton District Council’s unused stock water allocation via the Rangitata Diversion Race and Valetta Irrigation Scheme. Groundwater, surface water and climate monitoring will be built into computer models to distinguish the trial effects from other water influences.

“Managed aquifer recharge is used a lot in the United States to replenish aquifers, but is new to New Zealand. This trial is about replenishing aquifers and diluting nitrates. It could be a great tool going forward with excellent environmental outcomes. The success of the trial could lead to it being used in other catchments in New Zealand.”

The project is expected to bring many benefits to the Ashburton community including economic, environment and recreation, said Curtis.

IrrigationNZ also welcomed the announcement by Minister Guy that responsibility for the Government’s irrigation programmes will change in July when Crown Irrigation Investments Limited takes over grants for the development of regional irrigation schemes. This role was previously carried out by the MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund that continues to be involved in supporting early stage strategic water studies and smaller irrigation scheme developments.

Curtis agrees it makes sense to link the Government’s irrigation investment agency more closely to developing schemes, they have much expertise and their help and advice is welcome in setting up the commercial side of community water storage projects as this is one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome. “In the past we have often commented that the two government organisations involved in irrigation should be joined at the hip so this makes much sense,” said Curtis.

Bigger irrigation schemes, particularly those with water storage, are better for the environment than individual farmers pumping underground water.

The bigger schemes use less power and replenish aquifers rather than taking from them.

Of course Greepeace would prefer no irrigation at all and is blind to the economic environmental and social benefits it brings.


Opuha shutdown reinforces need for more storage

February 25, 2015

The Opuha dam has provided water for irrigation, recreational users and wildlife since 1998.

But irrigation has to stop today:

. . .The Opuha Dam serves 250 farmer-shareholders, who have 16,000ha under irrigation.

“We have reached the bottom of the bucket,” Opuha Water chief executive Tony McCormick said in circular to members. By Wednesday the lake will be at 371m with a little under 1.5 per cent storage remaining, he said.

As part of an agreement to reduce the minimum Opihi river flows in early February, Opuha Water will cease irrigation and the last remaining storage will be used to try to keep the river flowing for the next 10 to 12 days, he said.

The lake level is falling at just over half a per cent a day, he said.

“There have been several small rain events in the area over the last fortnight but they have had very little effect on inflows to the dam and in the catchment generally,” McCormick said. . .

The lack of water will have environmental, economic and social implications and reinforces the need fro more water storage, a need that will be partially met by a new storage lake:

A man-made lake that could hold enough water to fill 12,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools is planned to supply more reliable irrigation in Canterbury.

The lake would likely hold 30 million cubic metres of water with storage options ranging from 5m/cum to 100m/cum and was expected by managers of the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) to go to the resource consent stage by the end of the year.

A 30m/cum development would cost $120 million and depended on irrigator and bank backing and the support of the community and nearby neighbours.

RDR managers said initial support was from farming, hydro, environmental, Maori and government groups. They have been told to “hurry up” and get on with the project as drought hits farmland around Lake Opuha in South Canterbury.

A large lake would open up the possibility of supplying water to South Canterbury farmers as well as the four irrigation schemes and hydro-generation the RDR has serviced over the past 70 years in Mid Canterbury.

The lake would be developed on Ruapuna farming land next to the Rangitata River, about 10 kilometres  downstream of the RDR canal intake, most of which was already owned by the company.

RDR management chief executive Ben Curry said the business case for building a large water storage pond had become more compelling because of drought on Canterbury’s east coast.

He said RDR managers had been working on the project for four years, buying the farm in 2009, and believed the time was right to move forward.

“We only have to look at what is happening with the Opuha to see the need for water storage and we are looking at creating something which could have a regional context to it. We could build a relatively modest storage pond of 10m/cum which would serve it’s purpose and we could get a digger in and get the job done, but … there is opportunity because of the locality we have chosen on the boundary between South and Mid Canterbury that could serve the region.”

Curry said the pond could relieve some of the pressure from rivers off Lake Opuha and help recharge lowland streams and aquifer water.

The project would likely be funded mostly by debt, he said. . .

Irrigation New Zealand is supportive:

Tomorrow’s early cessation of irrigation from Lake Opuha reinforces the need for further storage infrastructure like the Klondyke Storage Pond proposal being launched today by the Rangitata Diversion Race Management Ltd (RDRML), says IrrigationNZ Chairwoman Nicky Hyslop.

“It’s devastating for South Canterbury that Lake Opuha can no longer support irrigation for the remainder of the season. The Opuha Water Team has done everything they can to eke out supply, but without rain they have no further options and any remaining water will need to be diverted to maintain the health of the river,” says Mrs Hyslop.

“Opuha’s early shut-down reinforces again how water-short South Canterbury is and illustrates the need for a wider network of water storage infrastructure across the region to enable reliable water supply during dry periods,” she says.

“IrrigationNZ applauds today’s announcement by the RDRML of its intentions to build a storage pond at Klondyke in the Mid Canterbury foothills. As well as improving security of supply for Mid Canterbury irrigators, this project has the potential to deliver water south which would be of huge benefit to South Canterbury farmers,” says Mrs Hyslop.

“IrrigationNZ supports further investigation of this proposal as New Zealand needs to be thinking laterally about how we redistribute water resources in the most effective manner. The RDRML Klondyke Storage Pond project is a fantastic first step in this direction,” says Mrs Hyslop.

I ran into a friend with a business in Oamaru yesterday. She said they had been expecting a slow-down and it had come as a result of the lower dairy pay out and the drought.

Most North Otago irrigation schemes are fed from the Waitaki River which gives 99% reliability but some people rely on other schemes which have imposed restrictions and not everyone in the district has irrigation.

In South Canterbury, the impact of the drought has been more severe because of wider irrigation restrictions.

Droughts are an ongoing concern for farmers on much of the South Island’s east coast and increase water storage is the answer to that problem.


Water waste

May 8, 2010

When we crossed the Rangitata and Rakaia Rivers last Friday they were in flood, braids joined as the water flowed bank to bank.

The occasional high flow can be good for river health, flushing it out but I don’t think it needed as much as it was getting last week to do that job.

Diverting some of the water at high flow into storage would provide water for recreation and irrigation without doing any harm to the river.


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