Higher standard for cows than people

January 8, 2020

A lack of loos on DoC tramping tracks is a problem that needs urgent attention.

A public toilet should be added at the Ben Lomond Saddle or the area’s impressive tourist reputation risks being flushed away, MP Hamish Walker warns.

Mr Walker, the Clutha-Southland MP, said the Department of Conservation needed to act and install the much-needed toilet.

About 35,000 people walked to the summit annually and this number was growing each year.

“As the track’s popularity continues to increase this issue will get bigger,” he said.

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) southern convener Peter Wilson agreed with Mr Walker’s suggestion, but emphasised that the funding for the toilet should come from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and not from Doc’s own hard-pressed resources.

It’s a timely suggestion,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Walker said the matter “needs to be sorted now with the installation of a toilet to future-proof the track and protect the natural environment”.

The necessary infrastructure was not in place, and there was “a major environmental problem developing, with piles of human faeces and toilet paper spread across a large area, getting worse every year”, he said.

Landowners voluntarily offered access to members of the public, but the growing mess could jeopardise this access, he warned.

Mr Wilson, a former Dunedin resident who is immediate past FMC national president, said a toilet needed to be installed to prevent environmental damage at the 1326m saddle, near Queenstown. . .

Roys Peak has a  similar problem with human waste.

The property owner next to the Roys Peak Track in Wanaka has vowed to keep advocating for more toilets to be installed along the popular Department of Conservation day walk, despite the Minister for Conservation assuring him that inappropriate toileting behaviour was on her radar.

On November 25, John Levy wrote to minister Eugenie Sage asking for the “very important health issue” of only two toilets, one at the start and one at the summit on the 16km return, to be addressed.

In the past year Doc recorded 81,350 people had walked the track, an average of 222.8 people a day.

“If the Mt Roy track was a restaurant, cinema or any other business in Wanaka, the Queenstown Lakes District council would require 47 toilets, not just two,” Mr Levy said.

If anyone else tried setting up a business catering to the public with too few loos they would not get consent. If anyone else had an attraction which couldn’t cater for the number of visitors it would be required to restrict numbers or upgrade to cope with them. Why is DOC not held to the same standard?

On December 16 Mr Levy received a reply from Ms Sage, in which she acknowledged “inappropriate toileting is unacceptable and of concern” but it was a national issue for Doc and not restricted to the Roys Peak track, she said.

“Encouraging behaviour change of our visitors requires a multi-agency approach across New Zealand … there was a significant focus [last year] on promoting responsible visitor behaviour, which had a significant reach and impact,” she said.

Trying to change tourist behaviour was “asinine”, Mr Levy said.

“It is like saying we only have one toilet at the cinema or restaurant and everyone can just hold it until they get home.” . . 

Educating tourists on toileting while tramping is only a very small part of the solution. It is completely unrealistic to expect people to either hold on or carry a trowel and bury their waste on popular tracks like those up Ben Lomond Saddle and Roy’s Peak.

Last time we went up Roy’s Peak it took us 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to the top. We carried  along the ridge, up Mount Alpha then down to Spotts Creek, finishing in the Cardrona Valley where we’d left a car the night before.

This is the Skyline Track which the DOc website says takes 10 to 11 hours.

This challenging tramp begins with the track to Roys Peak (1578m). From the peak, follow the ridgeline towards Mt Alpha (1630m). A short narrow section of track around rocks before the climb to the highest point has a steep drop off on one side and requires care when crossing.

From Mt Alpha the track descends through snow tussock to a 4WD farm track before reaching a signed junction. A poled track from this junction drops down into Spotts Creek then out to the Cardrona Valley Road and car park. Though this description has the track starting with Roys Peak Track, the Skyline Track can be walked in either direction.*

We did the tramp in 7 1/2 hours, our son-in-law did it last week in a bit more than half that time.  But even that would be too much without at least one loo stop for most people, especially if it’s a hot day and you’re making sure you stay hydrated.

These are DoC tracks and it’s their responsibility to ensure that they’re not polluted with human effluent, in exactly the same way that farmers have a legal responsibility for dealing with effluent from dairy sheds – with very expensive consequences should they get it wrong.

As it stands, there’s one standard for tourists and another much higher one for stock and for the sake of both human and environmental health, that is simply not good enough.

* The Skyline Track can be walked in either direction but I’d advise starting at Roys Peak, even though it’s a steeper climb than going the other way.  There are some steep and scrabbly stretches between Roys Peak and Mount Alpha and it’s easier going up these than down. Once at the top of Alpha it’s a reasonably gentle descent into the valley which is much easier on joints and braking muscles than the steep one down from Roys Peak.


Light rail to Roys Peak?

December 30, 2019

The car park at the bottom of Roys Peak is overflowing – again:

As the resident population in Wanaka multiplies by a factor of three during the Christmas-New Year week, so does the number of cars and vans parked illegally outside the Roys Peak track car park along Mt Aspiring Rd.

Yesterday, the Department of Conservation 100-space vehicle park at the start of the one-day 16km return walk overflowed into the adjacent road verge for up to half a kilometre north.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when boat owners launch their boats into Lake Wanaka and many used the Glendhu Bay boat ramp.

At times, cars towing boats had to drive on the other side of the road to avoid the cars and vans parked illegally on the edge of Mt Aspiring Rd. . . 

The park was enlarged a couple of years ago but still isn’t big enough for holiday crowds. It won’t help that two other popular tramps – Rob Roy Glaciar and Rocky Point – are closed.

But don’t panic, the Minister of Conservation has a solution:

On a recent visit to Wanaka, Ms Sage said she was aware of the popularity of Roys Peak and the parking congestion issues and was considering introducing a charge for private vehicles in the car park as a way to increase the use of public transport to and from the hike.

Who would police the parking and how much would parking fees and fines have to be to cover the costs of the policing?

What public transport would that be and how would it be scheduled to cope with all the people who start and finish the tramp at all hours of the day and night?

There are taxis in Wanaka but using them would double the number of trips to and from the bottom of the hill.

The only buses go to and from Wanaka to other towns, nowhere near the track which is on a no-exit road that ends at Aspiring Station.

And surely even a Green MP wouldn’t be considering light rail from Wanaka to Roys Peak.

That leaves walking, biking, running or driving. Most people will consider going up and down the hill enough exercise and still opt for driving whether or not there are enough parks.


Rural round-up

February 16, 2019

How this tiny New Zealand company is producing the best beef in the world – Katie Chang:

With wellness on the tips of everyone’s lips, seeking the best ingredients available – turns out, there’s truth to the adage “you are what you eat” – has never been a greater priority. While picking plum produce is fairly straightforward, making educated decisions about beef, unfortunately, isn’t so cut and dry. And here in the United States – where the average American was expected to down over a record-breaking 222 pounds of meat (including beef) in 2018 – it can be downright confusing.

Need proof? Head to the produce aisle of your favorite grocery store, pick up any vegetable or fruit, and look for its sticker. . . 

Are social media influences hurting our Ag industry? – Cheyenne Nicholson:

My guilty pleasure in life is watching mummy vloggers on YouTube. I’m a big fan of mum hacks, cleaning hacks and watching strangers go on lavish holiday. In the days when I first met hubby I could also occasionally be snapped watching a makeup tutorial or two as well.

On Monday morning while the babe was asleep and I was enjoying my morning coffee I clicked onto the latest video of one of my favorite mummy vloggers. All was well. Until she said “I still give my daughter (who is 1) formula because I’ve heard cows milk has pus and blood in it and I’m not sure what to do.” . .

Close calls spur farmer into action – Sean Nugent:

The view from Roys Peak is something special, but it is becoming ”dangerous” for visitors to experience it, the landowner says.

The track’s 100-space car park, barely a year old since being upgraded in late 2017, is bursting at the seams.

Each day it bulges and spills out on to the narrow Mt Aspiring Rd, and even the neighbouring farmland.

Department of Conservation senior ranger Annette Grieve said 83,296 people used the track last year, including an average of 480 daily visitors in December.

While the obvious solution to the parking woes would be to expand, Ms Grieve said there was no public conservation land left next to the car park to do so.

At least not now. . . 

Retiring Young Farmer contest  board members leave impressive legacy :

Two long-serving members of the board overseeing the FMG Young Farmer of the Year are set to retire.

Cole Groves, 32, and Dean Rabbidge, 33, will step down from the NZ Young Farmers Contest Board in July.

The pair first joined the committee in 2014, and both have a long history with the national agri-business contest. . . .

 

America can’t move its cheese – Lauren Justice:

Cheese, which has a limited shelf-life, is less valuable once it spends weeks in cold-storage, and producers are concerned that the glut and price drop that has come with it could eat into profits. Spot market prices for 40-pound blocks of cheddar fell around 25% this year from 2014 prices, while 500-pound barrels typically used for processed cheese declined 28%.

Cheese exports have suffered since Mexico and China, major dairy buyers, instituted retaliatory tariffs on U.S. cheese and whey. Cheese shipments to Mexico in September were down more than 10% annually, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council trade group, and shipments to China were down 63% annually. . .

Rapid gene cloning technique to transform crop disease protection  :

Researchers have pioneered a new method which allows them to rapidly recruit disease resistance genes from wild plants and transfer them into domestic crops.

The technique called AgRenSeq or speed cloning has been developed by John Innes Centre researchers alongside colleagues in the United States and Australia to speed up the fight against pathogens that threaten food crops worldwide.

It enables researchers to search a genetic “library” of resistance genes discovered in wild relatives of modern crops so they can rapidly identify sequences associated with disease fighting capability. . .


Rural round-up

January 4, 2018

Wanaka fire will take days to put out – Sam Nugent:

Wanaka residents woke to see the fire on Roys Peak had reignited on two separate fronts overnight.

Since first light eight helicopters with monsoon buckets have been attacking the fire.

Fire crews from Wanaka, Hawea, Luggate, Dunstan and Arrowtown have been working overnight to protect homes on the outskirts of Wanaka from a blaze which authorities say could take at least two days to put out.

Around 3am, after the fire flared up again late yesterday evening, crews and police were preparing to evacuate about 30 homes as well as the occupants of the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park as a precaution due to a wind shift.

However, conditions had changed again and as at 4.30am the fire was not currently burning towards houses. . . 

Fed Farmers urge govt to reconsider irrigation loans – Conan Young:

The new government is being urged not to follow through on its promise to cancel any new loans to irrigation schemes.

Its predecessor pledged $400 million from the sale of state assets towards helping schemes get off the ground as a way to boost economic growth, but all of that was about to end.

Picking up on discontent among voters over declining water quality, Labour campaigned on a water levy on farmers using irrigation and promised to wind up Crown Irrigation Investments, the company that was formed to provide bridging finance to irrigation schemes. . .

Fonterra lowers NZ milk collection forecast for this season on dry weather – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group expects to collect 3 percent less milk from its New Zealand suppliers this season than it did in the prior season as dry weather stunts grass growth and lowers milk production.

Auckland-based Fonterra revised its forecast for its New Zealand milk collection for the current 2017/18 season to 1,480 million kilograms of milk solids, down 3 percent from the 1,525 million kgMS it collected in the 2016/17 season, it said. In December it had forecast milk collection would be in line with the previous season. . . 

Rabobank Analysis – GDT Event 203:

Commentary
A mixed result in the commodity bag overnight; but generally a positive auction for New Zealand farmers with the average price index at the GDT auction for up 2.2%. Importantly, the WMP index was up 4.2% taking it to its highest level since October 2017. A total 25,400t of product was sold.

As many of you would be aware, Fonterra has revised its milk intake for the 2017/18 season twice in the past few weeks. Right now Fonterra are predicting milk intake of 1,480 million kgMS – which is down 4% on the 2016/2017 season. The risk of drought flagged in the latest GDQ has clearly come into play. . . 

The hidden powers of a sheep – Judith D. Schwartz:

While the fashion industry continues to produce more and more clothes made from synthetics, we’ve ignored the wonders of wool. Not only is wool unusually cozy and durable, but its creators (the sheep) can also help regenerate the world’s drying, fire-prone landscapes. The good news: a wool revival seems to be underway.

In the early nineteenth century, 70 percent of the forests in my home state of Vermont were cleared, primarily for sheep farming. Vermont’s “merino mania” had begun just a few years earlier, in 1809, when William Jarvis, U.S. Consul to Portugal under Thomas Jefferson, took advantage of Spain’s turmoil under Napoleon’s invasion to import 200 of Spain’s prized Royal Escorial flock. It turned out that our rocky soil and hilly terrain suited sheep farming just fine; Jarvis soon smuggled in more and more Spanish sheep, and, for a time, Vermont became the center of the American wool trade.

At its peak, in 1840, the industry supported more than 100,000 sheep in the town of Bennington, where I live. Our own property was reportedly once a sheep farm. We still have sections of stone wall that marked the pasture boundary. Today there’s barely a handful of small sheep farms left in the county. So, too, with the wool industry at large. Across the country, wool mills—once an American mainstay—have all but disappeared. . . 

Dairies are awash in organic milk as consumers flock to alternatives – Heather Haddon & Benjamin Parkin:

Organic milk sales have cooled as the very shoppers who drove demand for the specialty product not long ago move on to newer alternatives, leaving dairy sellers and producers grappling with oversupply.

A yearslong surge in demand prompted food companies and dairy farmers to invest in organic production, which requires eschewing pesticides and antibiotics and allowing cows to graze freely. Now organic milk supplies have ballooned just as demand has stalled. Many shoppers have moved on to substitutes such as almond “milk” . . .


Reckless

January 4, 2018

A man has been charged after a drone grounded eight helicopters involved in fighting an out-of-control blaze in Wanaka yesterday:

The large fire broke out on Mt Roy just before 3pm and spread rapidly on the parched hillside overlooking Wanaka. Helicopters carried monsoon buckets between Lake Wanaka and Mt Roy to douse the flames.

But  police said the eight choppers battling the blaze had to be grounded for 15 minutes when the drone was spotted. . .

Wanaka Area Response Manager Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell said flying a drone where helicopters were working was reckless and it was a timely reminder for drone operators to think before they flew.

“Not only did the grounding of the helicopters cost money and valuable time in the efforts to extinguish the blaze, it put the safety and lives of the helicopter pilots at risk,”  Sgt Grindell said.

Stronger words than reckless could be applied to this.


366 days of gratitude

August 22, 2016

I spent the weekend in Wanaka and decided to make the most of two spare days by improving my fitness.

On Saturday I went up Mt Roy (that’s what the locals call it but maps have it as Roy’s Peak).

I was wearing walking shoes rather than tramping boots with decent grip and after about 45 minutes in snow and 20 or so minutes from the top decided that even with walking poles it was too slippery to continue.

The view from there was still pretty good.

mtroy

Mt Roy

Yesterday I walked to Glendhu Bay and back, a distance of nearly 30 kilometres which took about 6 1/2 hours.

Today my legs are letting me know I’ve had a pretty good workout but the endorphins that come from it more than compensate and I’m grateful for that.

 


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