Rural round-up

April 19, 2020

Dairy farmers committed to water quality – Sudesh Kissun:

Dairy farmers are committed to protecting New Zealand’s environment and taking action on-farm to support that, says DairyNZ.

DairyNZ strategy and investment leader for environment, Dr David Burger says the dairy sector is on the journey to improve and protect water quality outcomes.

His comments came at the release of Our Freshwater 2020 report, highlighting New Zealand’s environmental challenges and where we can all play our part.

“Our farmers have been working toward this for over a decade. We are continuing to do more every year,” says Burger.  . .

Demand in China good news for Fonterra :

China’s economy is “slowly returning to normal”, a fact that is reflected in last week’s positive Global Dairy Trade auction, says Fonterra’s Chief Financial Officer Marc Rivers.

“Chinese participation [in the GDT] was pretty strong and it gives us some hope. China’s experience with Covid shows us that overall demand for dairy does recover” Rivers told The Country Early Edition’s Rowena Duncum.

Fonterra was also beginning to see demand for “out of home consumption” returning, as China started to open up more restaurants, said Rivers. . . 

NZ economy – sapped by Covid-19 – gets a lift from exports helped by kiwifruit – Point of Order:

The Covid-19 pandemic has savaged   several   of  New Zealand’s major  foreign exchange  earners,  particularly  tourism.  Even those still  trading  into  markets  that have   held up  well   face  an uncertain  outlook.

Yet the red  meat industry, whose exports earned NZ $9bn last year, and  the  $3bn  kiwifruit   industry  look as if they will be up there with the dairy  industry  as vital  props  underpinning  the  NZ  economy over coming years.

For  meat  producers, after the significant drop at the beginning of the year from the combined effect of Chinese New Year and Covid-19,  the return of China to the market, has been a positive factor compensating for the pandemic-led disruption to traditional European and North American markets. . . 

Lack of market access still a concern for growers in level 3 response – Tracy Neal:

The country’s fruit and vegetable growers say moving to level 3 on the Covid-19 scale will ease pressure on some in the sector, but many consumers still won’t be able to get their greens.

From later next week businesses and industries not considered essential, but able to demonstrate they can operate safely, could be back up and running if the government announces on Monday a move to level 3.

Head of Horticulture New Zealand, Mike Chapman, said that was good news for orchard development programmes as construction, trades and manufacturing look set to be revived. . .

Covid-19 level 3 hunting ban:

The New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association Inc (NZDA) is disappointed that hunting has seemingly been blanket banned following the Government’s release of its Covid-19 Level 3 guidance yesterday.

The NZDA is calling for a re-think and further clarification by Government and strongly recommends that hunting should be permitted at Level 3 subject to the overriding health and safety guidelines imposed on permitted activities and adherence to the “keep it local” and “apply common sense” principles stated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

NZDA National President, Trevor Chappell says, “There are many elements that make up hunting and that needs careful consideration by Government. The NZDA is open to consultation and can help draft a framework for hunters. NZDA also strongly advises that Government urgently seeks the input of the Game Animal Council, Fish & Game, Mountain Safety Council, Professional Guides Association and others like the NZDA who each can offer a deep understanding on the subject because we all represent different stakeholders in the hunting industry”. . .

Economic recovery from Covid 19 through development of infrastructure – Primary Land Users Group:

Currently New Zealand is in the early stages of an economic crisis due to the advent of the Coronavirus and its effects through the level 4 Emergency lockdown provisions and others.

The current coalition government is proposing taking direct action to support the economic recovery from the effects of the lockdown by using infrastructure development in what they are calling “shovel ready projects” to stimulate the national economy.

This is in effect a brilliant strategy “Yeah Right”.

Anybody that truly believes this strategy will give the desired results must be totally divorced from the actual reality of New Zealand’s development constrictions with the most influential one being the Resource Management Act. . .  . . 

NZDIA national judging programme to continue:

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) are pleased to announce that Nationals Judging 2020 will continue, within the guidelines of Covid-19 restrictions.

“After consulting our finalists, national sponsors and stakeholders, we have carefully designed a robust judging process that will enable a fair and level playing field, minimise stress to entrants and focus on finding the best farmers,” says NZDIA General Manager, Robin Congdon.

“Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, finalists will be asked to submit their presentations for judging digitally and speak with the judges online rather than face-to-face.” . . 

South Island salmon harvest survey to start:

South Island salmon anglers are being asked for their help in the first east coast wide salmon harvest survey.

The Nelson/Marlborough, North Canterbury, Central South Island and Otago Fish and Game Councils are asking anglers to actively participate in the annual sea-run salmon harvest survey that is about to be undertaken.

The survey comes at a critical time when sea run salmon populations are at depressed levels and the Covid-19 alert level restrictions may compromise the ability of Fish & Game to undertake annual population monitoring in the field, like helicopter-assisted spawning surveys. . . 

 

 


Not the time for contentious legislation

April 7, 2020

The government is, rightly, expecting the opposition to support it through the lockdown.

In return it ought to hold back on contentious legislation.

Instead we have this:

The Government is using Parliament’s select committee process to sneak climate change provisions into the Resource Management Act, National’s RMA spokesperson Judith Collins says.

“A recently-released report by the Environment Select Committee recommends several changes to the Resource Management Amendment Bill, including provisions for climate change considerations in RMA decisions.

“These late changes are an abuse of the select committee process because they were made after public feedback was called for, meaning submitters have not had the opportunity to properly consider the new bill.

“The climate change considerations were not in the original bill, and it appears only some of the people who submitted were aware of them.

“The amended bill also gives submitters the right to cross-examine each other during RMA applications. This would significantly increase the time and cost of hearings.

“The Government’s expert review panel is likely to recommend significant reform when it reports back in May so it makes no sense to proceed with these changes now.

“Last week, Environment Minister David Parker said he was working on ways to improve the speed and certainty of consenting. This bill will have the opposite effect.” 

Could there be a worse time to add such contentious provisions to the Bill?

Now is not the time to be adding contentious, expensive and time-consuming hurdles to the RMA.

Now of all times, the government should understand the need to relook at everything that could hamper the recovery.

When the lock down is over we’ll be facing a new, and much poorer, normal. We need to be reducing red tape and simplifying regulations not adding to it and complicating them.


Rural round-up

April 6, 2020

Parker’s readiness to relax the RMA rules should be extended to freshwater constraints on farmers – Point of Order:

Environment  Minister   David  Parker  has directed  officials to find ways  to fast-track consents  for infrastructure and  development  projects. He says   his  goal  is to  help create a pipeline of projects  so that some can  start immediately once  Covid-19 restrictions  are  lifted “so people can get back into work as fast as possible”.

Parker sees the Covid-19 pandemic as a serious global crisis that will have a wide ranging and lasting impact on almost every part of  the economy for some time.

He recognises many New Zealanders have lost their jobs, or may do so in coming months, and many businesses are doing it hard. . .

Pork Industry leaders continue talks with government over surplus problem

Government officials and pork industry leaders have met again today via conference call to try and resolve concerns about a looming animal welfare crisis facing the sector.

As RNZ reported during the week, the pork industry has been getting increasingly worried about the growing number of surplus pigs on farms that cannot be sent to independent butchers. It has been urging the government to help.

Last night, the government decided butchers will be allowed to process pork, but only to supply supermarkets or retailers that are allowed to open.  . .

Milk tankers get clear run – Annette Scott:

The day of a milk tanker driver is different under covid-19 but without the traffic jams and roadworks it’s a lot easier.

Fonterra lower North Island depot manager Paul Phipps said being an essential service means milk is still being collected and processed and collection volumes are not wildly different to previous seasons.

That’s also considering this season’s challenges that have included a significant drought in the North and flooding in the South.

“Being an essential service means we are busy. We take our status as an essential service very seriously. . . 

New Zealand’s apple and pear harvest continues under strict rules:

Like many other horticulture sectors, the 2020 harvest of New Zealand’s apple, pear and nashi crop is well underway, with more than 14,000 workers harvesting around 600,000 tonnes of fruit destined for domestic and global consumers, and for processing.

The government has deemed the production and processing of food and beverages as an essential service, which means that the picking, packing and shipping of fruit can continue but with very strict protocols in place.

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc chief executive Alan Pollard says that the industry understands and acknowledges the privileged position it is in, particularly when other businesses cannot operate.   

Straight Off The Tussock chapter 3 – Tim Fulton:

A continuation of a family story, as first told in 2005 – Straight off the Tussock

James Fulton, Jack’s grandfather, was a teacher on the Isle of Bute, half an hour by ferry from Glasgow. The island is only about eight by four miles wide but when he was headmaster there at Rothesay in about 1845, the school had around 1000 children, stuck out in the Firth of Clyde.

  In 1847, James was appointed director of Edinburgh’s historic Moray House, Scotland’s first teachers’ college and the first in the world to train women. A year later, the institution took a dramatic turn when it mounted a rebellion against the Church of Scotland. Moray House – now part of the University of Edinburgh – started in 1618 and it became a training college in 1813, when the Church of Scotland established a sessional school in the city. In 1835, that school became the Edinburgh Normal and Sessional School. In 1843, however, the disruption of the churches led to the foundation of The Free Church Normal and Sessional School nearby, while the Church of Scotland continued separately. In 1848, one year after James moved there, pupils and teachers of the Sessional School carried their desks down the Royal Mile to the new premises at Moray House. . . 

Food waste costs agriculture billions – Kim Chappell:

THIRTY ONE per cent of produce is being wasted before it even gets off farm – that’s lost income for farmers and lost product for supermarket shelves.

But the $1.1 billion to $2b wastage doesn’t have to be this way – there are gains that can be made to boost farmers’ returns per hectare which will in-turn boost the product hitting supermarkets and reduce waste.

In these times of high-demand as people panic-buy on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the solutions are already coming into play by necessity, in what is possibly the only silver lining to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, says Food Innovation Australia Limited special adviser Mark Barthel, one of the voices behind the Roadmap for reducing Australia’s food waste by half by 2030 . . 

 


Recovery requires short cutting consent process

April 2, 2020

The drought that has covered most of the country has reinforced the need for more irrigation and shows the need for  water infrastructure to be part of the  government’s call for infrastructure projects to kick-start the post-Covid-19 recovery:

IrrigationNZ supports the Government’s decision to ready infrastructure projects for construction following a return to normal in New Zealand as part of efforts to boost the economy. IrrigationNZ notes that water infrastructure has been included in this.

The pandemic and the lockdown have demonstrated how important the food and fibre sectors are to our country, to put food on the table and also to support our economy,” Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal says.

Covid-19 has inflicted near-mortal damage on tourism and export-education and highlighted, yet again, the importance of primary production. Farming, horticulture and viticulture would do even more with better water infrastructure.

‘’It is therefore not only a huge relief for the primary industries sector to see water included as essential infrastructure but also extremely prudent.  Not only will investment in water infrastructure projects create jobs during the construction phase, but they will also support the longer-term resilience of our economy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and while health and wellbeing are the number one priority, planning ahead for the post-pandemic New Zealand is essential,” Ms Soal says.

The economic and social costs of dealing with the pandemic, the shutdown and the recovery will hold back the country for years.

Primary production and the businesses which service and supply it, and process its produce, will be more important than ever.

“In the last few decades, water infrastructure projects have typically been funded largely by local communities and end users.  As the effects of the pandemic affect regional economies on a scale we have not seen before, increased central government funding will be critical from now on.  High levels of co-funding at the local level will simply no longer be feasible” said Ms Soal.

“We also need to consider how certain processes the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act will affect the viability of projects” says Ms Soal. “For example, it is currently unclear how annual planning processes will occur or how resource consents can be fast-tracked to get projects ‘shovel-ready’ in a short time frame.  Consenting processes for major projects generally take years, not weeks” said Ms Soal.

If the economy is to get up to speed as quickly We need to create the jobs and earn the export income that will fuel the recovery. New projects, including irrigation, that will do this can’t be hamstrung by the current time consuming and expensive consent process.

After Cyclone Bola, then- Prime Minister David Lange ordered the army to construct a Bailey bridge without resource consent.

The government must find a way to enable short cuts to consent processes to allow infrastructure projects to start in weeks to a very few months not years.

That doesn’t mean ignoring the requirement to maintain high environmental standards. There are enough irrigation schemes that have improved economic, environmental and social sustainability already operating on which the standards for new ones could be based.

When the state of emergency is over and alert levels end, we’ll be faced with a new normal that will leave the country much poorer than it was just weeks ago.

We can’t afford to have repairs to the economic and social damage inflicted by Covid-19  and the response to it, hampered by torturous consent processes that held back development in the old normal.


Westpower hydro decision shows need for better process

August 30, 2019

The government’s decision to stop the Westpower Hydro scheme shows the urgent need for a better consenting process:

“The cancellation of the Westpower hydro scheme concession under the Conservation Act after years of community engagement has significant implications for the review of the resource management system that is about to commence and underlines the need for an improved system for planning consents,” says Paul Blair, the new CEO for Infrastructure New Zealand.

“Westpower, the locally owned electricity distributer and generator for Westland, had hoped to build a 20 MW hydro scheme on the Waitaha river on the South Island’s West Coast.

“The scheme would have improved resilience of electricity supply, was aligned with national carbon reduction priorities and would have injected millions of dollars into a part of the country whose traditional industries are under significant pressure.

An old joke asks: what do conservationists do if they see and endangered bird eating a threatened plant?

In this case conservation decided the natural beauty of the river trumped the need for renewable energy which gives credence to those opposed to declarations of climate emergencies.

“But it also would have reduced water flows along a pristine river, impacting recreational activities, and impacted the natural character of the area.

“This was always going to be a difficult decision, but the fact that a local company spent millions of dollars before a line call from a Cabinet Minister cancelled the proposal shows how tenuous and uncertain the consenting process is in New Zealand.

Is it any wonder we have such low productivity when so much time and money is wasted like this?

“Though this was a Conservation Act process, this is an excellent case study for the RMA review panel chaired by retired court of appeal judge Tony Randerson.

“How do we develop a system to optimally trade off the wider social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits of a proposal versus negative environmental effects?

“How do we balance local aspirations to grow and prosper against national objectives to retain areas of national significance?

“How do we provide guidance or accelerate decision making so that economic and social uncertainty, waste and frustration are mitigated, along with environmental impacts?

“In a better system, the need to expand renewable energy supply would have been part of a coordinated regional plan for Westland, led by the region, supported by central government, iwi and local communities, and linked to a wider programme designed to enhance regional wellbeing.

“National concerns about the significance of the Waitaha river would have been tackled through a collaborative planning process and either the effects mitigated or alternatives developed.

“That would have saved everyone a lot of time and cost and instead of wondering ‘what next?’ Westland would now be implementing an agreed strategy to lift incomes and improve the environment,” Blair says. 

Conservation concerns have stopped mining and forestry on the West Coast, now they’ve stopped the hydro project which could have provided jobs, renewable energy and energy security.

Whether or not the decision is the right one, the long and expensive process that preceded it is wrong and must be addressed through RMA reform.

 


Rural round-up

July 27, 2019

Huge challenge facing RMA review panel:

Federated Farmers believes the Government has set a substantial challenge in its announcement of a review into the Resource Management Act.

The organisation agrees with Environment Minister David Parker that because of frequent amendments, the RMA is now overly cumbersome, costly and complex.

“The review will be no easy task. It will need to consider wide and diverse opinions and concerns. There are few organisations which have been more intricately and routinely involved in resource management processes across the country since the Act first came into force than Federated Farmers, so we consider our active input on the review panel will be vital,” Federated Farmers resource management spokesperson Chris Allen says. . .

Eliminating ‘M bovis’ tough but correct call – Peter Bodeker:

The Ministry for Primary Industries remains confident it can eradicate M.bovis from New Zealand,  Peter Bodeker says.

July marks two years since Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand, kicking off the largest biosecurity response we’ve ever seen.

Along with the entire country, Otago has been affected – facing immense challenges in dealing with this disease, and the ongoing effort to eradicate it. . .

More Miraka farmers win for excellence :

Miraka’s insistence on sustainable farming practices has shown results in more farms winning honours in the recent Te Ara Miraka farming excellence awards.

“Since establishing the awards four years ago we’ve started to see significant change in on farm practices,” says Grant Jackson, general manager milk supply. “

We’re not just meeting the regulations, that’s mandatory for us. Rather we’re going over and above, to achieve excellence in animal welfare, sustainable land management, looking after employees and premium quality milk.”  . . 

Young Farmer passionate about improving dairy’s environmental footprint :

A pair of fantails flit above Robert Barry’s head as he bends down to inspect a predator trap at the base of a totara tree.

The towering native is in a pristine bush block on a farm owned by the BEL Group near Waipukurau in central Hawke’s Bay.

The eight-hectare block is protected by a Queen Elizabeth II Trust covenant and is dotted with almost a dozen traps. . . 

Tenure agreement reached for Canterbury high country station

A tenure review agreement has been reached for the North Canterbury high country station, Island Hills.

Under the soon-to-be scrapped tenure review process, leased high-country Crown land can be signed over to farmers, provided they set aside areas for conservation.

Land Information New Zealand said 1600 hectares would be transferred to the Crown as conservation estate and 3200 will be freehold subject to conservation covenants, that restricts activities such as grazing and vegetation clearance.

The remaining 200 hectares would be freehold without restrictions. . . 

How do riparian strips fare long term – Bert Quin:

Could our riparian systems become overloaded and therefore useless? Riparian strips are correctly promoted as useful tools for reducing environmental pollution, especially for their ability to filter out faecal bacteria and sediment before these enter streams. But there is much more to it, writes Bert Quin.

Many frequently made claims for the ability of riparian strips to improve water quality are based on very short-term studies only. This is particularly true of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) removal.

Unfortunately, we are now in the days of emphasis on short-term, quick-results trials that lend themselves to publication in many different journals to ensure more cash from equally short-sighted funding organisations and companies with vested interests. . .


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.


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