Rural round-up

November 27, 2015

Rural NZ areas sit on ‘powder keg’ as temperatures rise – Mike Watson:

Rural fire authorities are warning farmers and contractors to check for potential ‘hot spots’ inside machinery and farm equipment as temperatures rise in Marlborough.

Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority chief fire officer Richard McNamara said the rural region was on a “powder keg’ as temperatures rise and hot northwest winds continued to dry vegetation causing significant risk of fire outbreaks.

“It is a real issue, and anyone working with farm machinery and equipment, such as welding or grinding, needs to be aware of the risk of sparks igniting any vegetation nearby,” he said. . . 

Many positives but RMA reforms don’t go far enough:

Federated Farmers cautiously welcomes the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill introduced at Parliament today, but is concerned that proposed reforms do not go far enough.

“What we have is a Bill that looks to make the RMA less costly and cumbersome, and these are positive changes,” says Federated Farmers’ Environment and RMA spokesperson Chris Allen.

“Federated Farmers believes the Bill provides for better plan making and we support the introduction of a collaborative planning approach as long as the right checks and balances are in place, so that this is a robust and productive process.” . . .

Alliance launches new products for Chinese market:

Meat cooperative Alliance Group is launching a new range of market-ready lamb, beef and venison products for the food retail market in China.

Alliance Group has reached an agreement with its in-market partner Grand Farm – China’s single largest importer of sheepmeat – to market the co-branded Pure South-Grand Farm products in the country from next year.

Marketing general manager Murray Brown said with meat volumes going into China becoming more difficult, the company was looking to add value to exports. . . .

Competitive future for “unbroken” NZ dairy – visiting global expert:

New Zealand dairy is well placed to compete in the global market as prices begin to recover in the coming 12 months, a visiting global dairy specialist has told localproducers.

Tim Hunt, New York-based global dairy strategist with international agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says while current market conditions are “extremely tough” for many local producers, the New Zealand dairy sector is “unbroken” and has the fundamentals in place to enjoy a strong, competitive future in the global dairy trade. . . .

Ongoing disruption and volatility in dairy, with winners and losers – Keith Woodford:

In the last two weeks we have seen increasing signs of further disruption and volatility in dairy. First, there was good news with Fonterra announcing that they had turned the corner In relation to enhanced corporate profitability. But then, only two days later, there was another decline on the (GDT Global Dairy Trade) auction – this time of 7.9 percent overall and 11 percent for whole-milk powder.

In the meantime, The a2 Milk Company announced that they were almost doubling their previous estimate of profitability for the coming year, triggering another increase in the share price. Since the start of November through to 24 November the price rose 60 percent on large volumes. . . 

Ruataniwha promoter seeks mix of equity, debt funding – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Co, the developer and sponsor of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, says the $275 million project will be funded with a mix of equity and debt, and is likely to result in a secondary market for water contracts.

HBRIC, the investment arm of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, is in talks with three potential investors and banks about funding. The council is putting up $80 million for an equity stake in a yet-to-be formed irrigation company. The $195 million balance will come from outside investors, bank debt and an expected contribution from the government’s Crown Irrigation Investments, which acts as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure developments. . . 

Cellphone helps save house from Australian bushfire:

An Australian man who saw his farm “explode in a fireball” on CCTV cameras at the property says his house survived because he used his phone to activate a sprinkler system from the other side of the country.

Charles Darwin University vice chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks said the reason his house at the 45-hectare wheat farm on the outskirts of Hamley Bridge escaped the fire was because of his neighbours – and the fact he activated an irrigation system at the property by remote control from Darwin.

Two people have been confirmed dead and more than a dozen injured in the fires which continue to burn north of Adelaide. . . 

Consultation on freshwater management ideas planned:

A report today published by the Land and Water Forum on the next steps needed to improved management of freshwater will be carefully considered by Government and help contribute to a public discussion paper to be published next year, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said today. 

“The Government has an ambitious programme of work on improving New Zealand’s freshwater management.  These ideas on requiring good management practice, of how we can maximise the economic benefit of water within environmental limits, integrated catchment management, stock exclusion and enabling more efficient use of water are a further contribution on how we can achieve that,” Dr Smith says.

“I acknowledge the Forum’s significant efforts in tackling difficult policy challenges and we welcome their recommendations,” says Mr Guy. . . 

Irrigation New Zealand Welcomes 4th LAWF Report:

Irrigation New Zealand welcomes the fourth Land and Water Forum (LAWF) Report.

“The diverse group of forum members have spent a lot of time collaborating to reach the additional recommendations,” said Andrew Curtis, CEO of Irrigation New Zealand. “This has resulted in constructive advice to Ministers for the development of freshwater policy. It’s now time for the government to act.”

“Freshwater is a natural and recurring resource we need to protect, and is a national asset which needs to be properly and carefully managed to bolster our agricultural-led economy. . . .

Barbara Stuart returns to the NZWAC board:

Nelson farmer and outdoor-access supporter Barbara Stuart has been appointed to the Board of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission.

The appointment heralds Mrs Stuart’s second tenure on the board, where she previously served from 2008 to 2011.

New Zealand Walking Access Commission chairman John Forbes said Mrs Stuart had long been a champion of walking access and her return was very welcome. . . .

Farm Environment Trust’s Annual Report Highlights Growth:

The New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust and its flagship event, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, have celebrated another successful year.

Now available on the Trust’s website, the 2015 annual report outlines the organisation’s continued growth through 2015, with another region signing up to the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

“We are delighted to have the Auckland region in the Awards for the 2016 programme,” said NZFE Trust chairman Simon Saunders.

“Having Auckland on board is a huge step towards being able to offer a complete national programme. We are almost there.” . . . 


Rural round-up

May 2, 2015

Trelinnoe treads lightly on the environment – Kate Taylor:

From crutching sheep at home on the farm to meeting the world’s top farming politicians, the passion Bruce Wills has for all facets of farming is evident from the moment you meet him.

His brother Scott is the other side of the coin, a man of few words, until you ask him about the farm’s stock policies, then the same passion is evident.

They both love Trelinnoe – an 1134ha hill country farm carved out of the scrub by their parents and an uncle through the 1950s and 60s. . .

Ruataniwha irrigation scheme gets 15 years to sort water quality – Pattrick Smellie:

 (BusinessDesk) – A revised decision from the board of inquiry considering the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme relaxes water quality conditions that were previously regarded as unworkable. It gives irrigators 15 years to find ways to manage nitrogen levels in the Tukituki River to very low levels.

The board’s original decision, released last June, set a maximum level for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) downstream from the scheme of 0.8 milligrams per litre, a level consistent with the highest quality freshwater bodies under the government’s recently updated National Policy Statement on freshwater management, and at odds with DIN levels in the river today.

To get around that, the decision created an exemption for some 615 farms to discharge higher levels of nitrogen, leading to successful appeals from a range of environmental groups who argued the board had created a “factual fiction” by setting a high standard that would not then be expected to be met. . .

 

IrrigationNZ says Board of Inquiry decision on Tukituki ‘reasonable’ but far from practical for farmers:

“The Board of Inquiry for the Tukituki Catchment has reached a reasonable decision in what has been a long process,” says Andrew Curtis, CEO of IrrigationNZ. “But it is a far from practical outcome for farmers and the regional economy. We believe nutrient limits set for the Tukituki system remain unrealistic for what is a productive working agricultural landscape.”*

IrrigationNZ does however recognise the positive step taken in the decision to exclude some hill country farms, forestry, orchards and lifestyle blocks from having to gain consents, but points out that the reality is the majority of commercial enterprises will still require one. . .

 

Alliance Group Targets 3,300 Tonne Carbon Reduction:

One of the world’s largest processors of sheepmeat, Alliance Group Limited, aims to reduce carbon emissions by 3,300 tonnes over the next three years, as part of a new energy management agreement with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

The agreement, announced in Southland today by Alliance Group Chief Executive David Surveyor and EECA Chief Executive Mike Underhill, includes a thermal and electricity energy use reduction of approximately 10 Gigawatt hours per annum by 2017. This is the equivalent annual energy use of about 960 households.

David Surveyor says reducing the company’s energy use makes good business and environmental sense and that the new partnership with EECA is the next phase of Alliance Group’s energy management journey. . .

Synlait Milk ingredient will help to significantly enhance sleep:

Synlait Milk has commercialised a dairy-based milk powder ingredient that is clinically proven to enhance sleep.

Results from an independent clinical trial of iNdream3 have proved its efficacy as a sleep promoting ingredient.

iNdream3 is made from melatonin-rich milk collected in the hours of darkness, when cows naturally produce increased concentrations of melatonin in their milk

“We’ve been developing this product for several years and this clinical trial is a major milestone in proving the ability of iNdream3 to improve sleep,” said Dr Simon Causer, Synlait’s Research and Development Manager.. . .

Maori farm vitally important for community:

A Northland sheep and beef farm in the running for the top Maori farming award has impressed the judges with its strong ties to a small local community.

Paua Station is one of three finalists for the Ahuwhenua Trophy and as part of the awards is hosting an open day today.

The almost 3,000 hectare station lies just south of Cape Reinga, about 80 kilometres north of Kaitaia, and surrounds the small community of Te Kao.

It is owned by Parengarenga Incorporation, whose general manager, John Ellis, said the running of the farm was very much centred around the community. . .

Dairy Awards Finalists in Auckland for Annual Awards:

The 33 finalists in the 2015 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are in Auckland, where the winners of the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year will be announced on Saturday night.

“The national awards is a big deal for these finalists – they’ll meet some key industry people, develop lifelong friendships and important networks, and be exposed to opportunities that’ll propel their career forward,” National Convenor Chris Keeping says.

Judging has been taking place during the past two weeks, as judges have visited the sharemilker/equity farmer and farm manager finalists on their farms. However, the final judging component will take place tomorrow when all finalists will participate in an interview. . .

Country’s Top Steaks Make The Cut:

Following today’s semi-final taste test, the 20 most succulent steaks in New Zealand have been named as finalists in the 2015 Beef and Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin Competition.

A panel of 12 well-known foodwriters and chefs, including Kerry Tyack and Julie Biuso, tasted a total of 69 sirloin steaks, judging each one on taste, tenderness and aroma, to find the top four for each class.

Semi-final judge, Kerry Tyack says as a returning judge, he was reminded of the outstanding quality of New Zealand beef.

“Although the steaks vary in taste, texture and appearance, they’re all of a consistently high standard,” says Tyack. . .

Hawke’s Bay Harvest Bodes Well for a Stellar 2015 Vintage:

The Hawke’s Bay wine region looks set to enjoy its third consecutive year of great vintages.

With picking nearly complete, Hawke’s Bay grape growers and wine makers are optimistic that this will be another good year, following exemplary vintages in 2013 and 2014. Hawke’s Bay is the first region to forecast the quality of this year’s vintage following harvest.

“Most would be considering this to be a very good, solid vintage,” Michael Henley, Chair of the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association (HBWG) and CEO of Trinity Hill Wines, says. . .


Yes – with conditions

June 26, 2014

The Hawkes Bay Regional Council has given a conditional yes to supporting the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

A $275 million dam and irrigation scheme proposed for Central Hawke’s Bay is a step closer after Hawke’s Bay Regional Council voted this morning to invest up to $80 million in the scheme provided a number of conditions are met over coming months.

Regional councillors voted 6-3 in favour of proceeding with the investment of ratepayer money in the dam based on conditions including that investment is finalised from other investors, contracts are signed with water users to take a sufficient amount of initial water from the scheme and “satisfactory” environmental conditions are handed down from a board of inquiry that has been considering consents for the project.

Debbie Hewitt, representing Central Hawke’s Bay on the regional council, said the project would address farming and social issues in the district and leave a legacy for future generations. . .

One of the conditions is getting farmer support, which ought to be a no-brainer:

A Central Hawke’s Bay farmer is delighted the regional council will put millions into the Ruataniwha Dam scheme. . .

Jeremy Greer’s family operate an 800 hectare farm, but can only water up to 200 hectares at the moment.

Mr Greer says today’s decision is another step in the right direction.

He says it will ensure drought protection and increase production. . .

A number of conditions still have to be met, including finding other investors and ensuring local farmers sign up to the scheme.

Council chair Fenton Wilson says he’s confident they will come to the table with their wallets.

“The community’s got to do its bit now. We’ve got to get commitment and signed contracts unconditional for minimum 40 million cubic metres of water and that work’s ongoing.”

Wilson says this shows other investors and farmers the scheme can be a viable project.

The dam still has to clear several hurdles before it gets the full green light – including the Board of Inquiry’s final decision due in the next 48 hours. . .

Hawke’s Bay Federated Farmers’ Kevin Mitchell says farmers look to the next generation when it comes to investing in the land.

“Droughts are coming more frequent on this side of the East Coast of the North Island.

“To have that water available to build resilience in your farming systems is absolutely vital.”

Droughts have a devastating impact on farms, farmers and those who work for, service and supply them.

But production isn’t just reduced in bad years. When a region is drought-prone farmers have to farm conservatively because they can’t rely on getting enough rain when they need it.

A reliable water supply with irrigation not only provides insurance against droughts it will also enable much better production in average and good years.

There are environmental benefits too – irrigation helps reduce soil erosion and can ensure minimum flows in waterways.

 

 


Rural round-up

May 27, 2014

HBRIC hopeful Ruataniwha scheme can be saved – Tim Fulton:

The council-controlled company promoting the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme reckons it still has a good chance of getting farmers into a bankable project on its three-month deadline.

Farmers were uncertain about the impact of the draft Tukituki catchment plan changes but they hadn’t been scared off, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) chief executive Andrew Newman said.

HBRIC’s immediate problem was that while the Ruataniwha dam had been granted the consents it needed, the proposed Tukituki plan changes didn’t allow the scheme to work, he said.

“I think it’s reasonable to say the decision has had some unintended consequences and a level of ambiguity in it, when viewed in aggregate.” . . .

World Young Shepherds round:

EIGHT YOUNG Kiwis are heading to Lincoln, July 3-5 to compete in the preliminary round of competition at the World Young Shepherds Challenge.

The top two performing competitors will go on to represent New Zealand at the final in France, September 28 – October 4.

“The World Young Shepherds Challenge is a fantastic event, showcasing a vital industry and a range of young people from around the globe who have a major contribution to make to the international sheep industry,” says Beef+Lamb New Zealand chief executive, Dr Scott Champion. . .

Life a blur of activity for radio host:

As the new voice behind the Southern Farming show, Balfour man Jonny Turner is now making his mark on the Hokonui radio station.

His rural background began in the small Northern Southland community and has played a great influence on his getting involved with radio, as well as his passion for horse racing.

Growing up in Balfour on a mixed farming property, Mr Turner had always had a rural background and he had wanted to get involved with radio. When the opportunity arose he could not have been happier. . .

Tall order for responsible publicans:

Jill Derbyshire and husband Peter have been at the Royal Hotel, Naseby, for more than two years and are keenly aware of their host responsibilities under the law.

Mrs Derbyshire said hoteliers were the first in the firing line if something went wrong.

”We could lose our licence,” Mrs Derbyshire said.

One of the tools they use is an incident book, in which they and their staff protect themselves by recording any interactions they had with patrons about suggesting they use the courtesy coach or that they be driven home, or if they had been argumentative in the bar.

”If something happens and they have been in the bar beforehand, it is there,” she said. . .

Funding sought to get young into agricultural jobs

Venture Southland is looking for up to between $200,000 and $300,000 in funding, or in kind, over three years for its Southland Futures project, a strategy designed to help the region’s unemployed young people into jobs in the agricultural sector.

Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said it had surveyed 600 Southland pupils last December, and found that few were considering careers in the agriculture or agricultural services sectors.

The organisation found young people and Work and Income clients did look at agricultural jobs in a positive way, apart from the long hours, but often lacked ”direct experience of the industry”. . .

DPI streamlines water bureaucracy

WATER bureaucracy in NSW is being streamlined, with three organisations being combined into one under the Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Currently the responsibility for water is shared throughout DPI by specific offices – the NSW Office of Water, Sydney Catchment Authority and the Metropolitan Water Directorate.

Now, the DPI is consolidating these parts into a new look Office of Water aligning the water policy and planning, regulation and monitoring and evaluation for all water in NSW. . .

 Irrigators slam water shake-up – Mike Foley:

NSW Irrigators has slammed the NSW government’s decision to remove the role of Water Commissioner from the state’s bureaucracy, in a departmental shake-up announced today.

“It is appallingly bad timing to abolish the Water Commissioner role now,” NSW Irrigators chairman Richard Stott said.

Mr Stott said planning for water recovery infrastructure projects, under the national Murray Darling Basin Plan, are are at a critical point.

“To abolish the position of Water Commissioner when the current incumbent probably has the most knowledge of how the Basin works and how NSW can best meets its water recovery commitments under the Plan is very short-sighted,” Mr Stott said. . .

Grant helps school tree plan – Michele Ong:

Ahititi School is seeing its dream garden come to fruition thanks to a generous grant.

The school received a $2000 grant from the Rural Women New Zealand and Farmlands to help with its gardening plans, such as buying trees to attract native birds, bird feed, and also “bee-friendly” trees.

Principal Chris Richardson said the school was “really pleased” with the grant which would help further add to the school’s orchard, which includes nashis, plums and apples.

Richardson said the school has not been “troubled by possums”, which was a bonus. . .


Who are denialists now?

April 24, 2014

Federated Farmers’ Hawkes Bay president Will Foley asks, who are the denialists now?

RadioLIVE recently ran an online poll asking its listeners if they were frightened of climate change.  To the shock of host Marcus Lush, two-thirds of respondents apparently said no, they’re not.  I would have said yes.

As some groups are cock-a-hoop over tough consent conditions imposed on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme and others think them lax, you have to wonder if this public climate weariness has spread to them too.

What it all means for the viability of Ruataniwha won’t be known until the 700-page decision is crunched but what I know is this.  If the scheme does not progress it won’t affect Green Party MP’s in their air conditioned offices or the paid Wellington staff at Forest & Bird.  They don’t have to worry about the El Nino being talked about for spring.  They don’t have to watch our region increasingly turn into a retirement village while our young drift to Auckland or Australia.  They don’t have to deal with crime since Hawke’s Bay bucked the national trend last year.

I cannot understand why some are so hell-bent on derailing a scheme, which gives Hawke’s Bay its best shot at adapting to a changing climate. Federated Farmers hosted Dr Russel Norman at the South Island’s Opuha water storage scheme a few years ago.  Memories seem short unless you are a politician.

With a medium level of confidence the climate experts say that average rainfall on the east coast will decrease this century.  This will lead to lower flows of the Makaroro River, Waipawa and Tukituki Rivers. The International Panel on Climate Change warns that by 2040, the East Coast can expect to double or even triple the time spent in drought.  This is our future unless we adapt and that means new pastures, crops, technologies and even animals.  Above all, adaption means storing water like that proposed by Ruataniwha.

I will be blunt to make a point; the shit in the Tukituki during summer low flows has mostly been human.  Up to 70 percent of phosphorous loading during low flows had come from the wastewater plants of Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane and Takapau.  That’s thankfully changing with upgrades in hand while the allocation regime will put more water into the Tukituki during summer.

Ruataniwha could do more.  It could put a quarter of a billion dollars into those towns each year providing councils with the means to meet increasing drinking water standards.  This proves that the environment and economy are flipsides of the same coin.  If there’s no scheme, there’s no dam supported flushing and little additional money to upgrade existing plant.  Can anyone tell me the environmental win in that?

Is it just me or has the media and Ruataniwha opponents overlooked the IPCC’s warning that New Zealand is underprepared for a changing climate.  If anything, there seems to be outright denial since these groups seem to believe our rivers in 2040 will be exactly as they were in 2014.  It is not like the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company got a muppet to look into climate issues and Ruataniwha either.  Victoria University’s Dr James Renwick happens to be an international expert in this field.

While dryland places like North Otago have been averaging twice their normal rainfall over the past five years, in the same timeframe, we’ve had three droughts and it is dragging Hawke’s Bay down.  Out of 67 councils in the last census, Hastings District slipped nine spots to 30th spot, Napier went back one to 31st while Central Hawke’s Bay District dropped to 58th – losing 1.8 percent of its usually resident population.

If Ruataniwha’s consents are so tough they are Clayton’s ones, then it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the environment.  As the climate warms so will the waterways while the volume going into them drops. While that’s great for algae it doesn’t sound so flash for introduced trout or native fish and birds. 

While we can expect less intense rainfall we can store what falls and that’s the beauty of Ruataniwha and the secret recipe of our economy; just add water.

So is Ruataniwha perfect, probably not, but what is?  Do I have the information to make an informed investment decision? That now hinges on the consent conditions attached by the Board of Inquiry.  Yet debating the principle of storing water, given towns and cities do it, is a bit like debating the wisdom of sunblock, dumb. 

If we accept the climate is changing then we need to store water and adapt how we currently do things.  If you deny the climate will ever change then I guess you won’t be at the National Aquarium of NZ on 6 May, where NIWA’s Dr Andrew Tait is talking at 730pm on The Climate and Weather of Hawke’s Bay.

New Zealand makes a tiny contribution to green house gases.

No matter how hard we try to reduce emissions, we are at the mercy of other countries whose emissions are much greater.

We can continue to do our bit but we must also prepare to adapt to whatever nature throws at us.

If, as is predicted, parts of New Zealand will be hotter and drier, then water storage schemes like Ruataniwha which will enable irrigation and maintain minimum flows in rivers, are not just sensible, the economic, environmental and social benefits they provide.


Don’t let this chance go by HB

April 16, 2014

Dear Hawkes Bay,

You have moved a step closer to drought-proofing a significant area of productive land with the release of a draft decision  granting 17 resource consents for the $265 million Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme by the Tukituki Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has proposed building the dam as a way of alleviating drought problems and boosting the local economy through improved primary production on the Ruataniwha Plains near Waipawa and Waipukurau.

The project would involve the construction an 83-metre-high concrete dam on the Makaroro River to store water for irrigating 25,000 hectares of land across the plains. . .

In its decision the board granted the 17 resource consent applications relating to the dam and water storage scheme, subject to conditions.

It allowed the plan change based on a detailed set of conditions including limits on nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Tukituki catchment. . .

The decision pleases the Iwi:

Irrigation New Zealand says the decision is bold and encouraging:

Chief Executive Andrew Curtis says the decision was welcome news – particularly following the organisation’s biennial conference in Napier earlier this month where benefits of the scheme were discussed and attendees were assured of steps being taken by the industry to protect New Zealand’s water quality. This includes initiatives such as SMART irrigation (www.smartirrigation.co.nz) to ensure smart and sustainable farming is practiced in New Zealand.

“Seeing first-hand the drought that is starting to crush many parts of the North Island we can only conclude that Ruataniwha is not only overdue, but essential if the Hawkes Bay is to survive. Creating and investing in water storage throughout New Zealand needs to continue to be a priority for the Government, particularly on the East Coast, which the recent UN Climate change report confirms will only get drier.”

In response to the EPA’s decision to turn down the Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s proposed ‘single nutrient’, Mr Curtis says this aspect of the decision wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“Phosphorus and nitrogen, along with sediment and riparian stream protection all need to be managed to protect water quality – each aspect is covered through the Farm Environment Plan approach to be implemented as part of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.”

“The EPA’s decision is a positive step to New Zealand unlocking its renewable resources for the benefit of all. It’s now down to the local farming and business communities to get on board – both as investors and also to increase initial uptake,” says Mr Curtis.

Federated Farmers says the scheme has now got to second base:

With the Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme getting the tick from a Board of Inquiry appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the concept of water storage has passed a major milestone but a greater one is to ensure it is financially viable.

“You could say Ruataniwha has now got to second base,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“First base was getting Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s leadership to take it forward while second base was the Board of Inquiry.

“Third base will be the scheme’s all-important financing and whether the nutrient limits make it viable for farmers to invest. It also has to be analysed to make sure it still works within the regional plan too.

“If these all stack up then it will be a home run once construction hopefully starts.

“Federated Farmers believes water storage is core economic, cultural, social and environmental infrastructure for a changing climate. . .

My farmer and I were in Hawkes Bay a couple of weeks ago with the Pastoral Management Group. We were briefed on the scheme and taken to the site.

The next day the two of us were asked to speak to farmers at Onga Onga.

My farmer finished his comments with a challenge:

“Go home tonight and think ahead 30 years. What will your grandchildren be saying?

“Will they be thanking you for being visionaries, of will they be saying you were silly old bastards?”

If you don’t grasp the opportunity you’ve got future generations will be thanking you, if you don’t, those who are left will be wondering how you could have been so stupid.

We have seen irrigation transform North Otago.

Ours was the first farm in our valley to get water and during droughts it used to stand out like a blot of green ink on parchment. Now, thanks to the North Otago Irrigation Scheme it’s the few dry paddocks which stand out.

This scheme, like yours, wasn’t cheap.

But drought’s expensive too and it’s not just drought that costs.

Have you every worked out what you lose by having to farm conservatively in the okay and good years because you can’t rely on getting enough rain?

The returns from reliable production in good years and bad more than justify the expense and the financial benefits aren’t confined to farms.

The people who work for us, service and supply us have benefited too, no longer subject to the boom and bust cycles which followed the vagaries of the weather. The wider district and the country are better off because we have water when we need it.

Imagine how much more prosperous towns like Waipukerau would be if you had water when and where you need it.

The benefits aren’t just financial, they’re environmental and social too.

We have fragile soils which blew over from the Waitaki Valley. They used to keep blowing in droughts, now they stay put.

The Waiareka Stream which was little more than a series of stagnant ponds much of the time now flows cleanly all year and native wildlife has re-established in it.

The NOIC scheme was the first to require environmental farm plans from all its shareholders. These are independently audited each year and supply of water is dependent on passing that audit.

Water has brought a social transformation too.

There were four houses on our farm and those of our two closest neighbours before we got water. Now there are 14 and we’re building a 15th.

My farmer and I are the oldest in any of those houses by more than a a decade. Most others are early 30s or younger and several of them are having children.

The average age of the district has plummeted as a result and for the first time since the ag-sag of the 1980s farmers’ adult children are returning home.

Most of the farms which have got water here have converted to dairying. But there is also cropping, most notably a large-scale operation which specialises in bird seed.

The conditions in the resource consent for Ruataniwha might preclude dairying for most of you but  your climate gives you the potential for many other land-use options not available to us down here.

You already know what you can grow when the weather favours you. With irrigation you’ll be able to do all that and more whatever the weather.

The Ruataniwha scheme is providing you the opportunity to do something not just for yourselves but for your province and for the future.

Don’t let this chance go by, Hawkes Bay.

Your grandchildren are depending on you.


Trust Power pulls plug on Rutataniwha

March 28, 2014

Trust Power has pulled the plug on a potential investment in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

. . . The power company terminated its memorandum of understanding with the council subsidiary, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC), and Ngai Tahu Holdings, under which it would have invested between $50m and $60m of the total cost of the project.

“Trustpower has determined that it will not be possible to invest within its risk and return framework for a project of this nature,” the company said.

HBRIC said it “remains strongly of the view that the scheme offers the Hawke’s Bay community both significant environmental and economic benefits and that subject to securing contractual commitments to take water that the scheme will prove financially viable.”

HBRIC would continue to negotiate with Crown Irrigation Investments and recommended this week that council should invest up to $80m in the scheme. It was also looking for expressions of interest from investors in the region to participate in the scheme.

Trustpower’s general manager, operations, Chris O’Hara, said while there was clearly sufficient short-term appetite for the scheme to justify its construction, the long-term uptake by farmers and other irrigators was not strong enough for TrustPower to feel comfortable committing shareholders’ funds.

“Projected cashflows were not meeting a rate of return that would meet shareholder expectations,” he said. . .

Irrigation schemes have long term returns, they don’t usually generate much in the way of cash flow

The loss of a potential investor of that size is a setback but it does provide other opportunities:

Farmers and businesses in the Hawkes Bay need to act quickly to fill the investment gap opportunity left by TrustPower’s exit from the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

“There’s a wonderful opportunity here for Central Hawkes Bay farmers and businesses to get behind the dam to make it work. The Central Hawkes Bay community is now able to be a significant investment partner and take ownership of this project to really drive it forward,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

While some parties may naively present TrustPower’s withdrawal in a negative light, Mr Curtis says it was very common for irrigation schemes to have changing investment partners in the development stage and that TrustPower had only signed a memorandum of understanding.

“The benefit is that the withdrawal allows more local farmers and businesses to buy into the scheme and we know from history that local people driving local solutions always turn out to be the best for the community in the long run,” says Mr Curtis.

“The Hawkes Bay really needs this scheme to proceed as there’s nothing else of significance on the table that would have the ability to reinvigorate the Central Hawke’s Bay economy, create jobs and generate new business opportunities. You only need to look at the looming drought in the Waikato and Northland to see how the provinces suffer when rainfall is low in consecutive years. This is why it is so important to have the right irrigation infrastructure in place to mitigate environmental impacts. The flow-on effects are felt by everybody, not just those working in agriculture.”

“The Ruataniwha scheme is exactly the sort of irrigation scheme New Zealand needs to bring new life to regions like the Hawkes Bay, allowing many of its rural towns to thrive again,” says Mr Curtis.

“IrrigationNZ encourages all potential investors in the Ruataniwha scheme to come to our conference being held in Napier for the first time in just over a week’s time (7th-9th April). You’ll find out everything you need to know about the benefits of investing in water management and how other regions in New Zealand have progressed their water schemes. It couldn’t be timelier to bring an irrigation expo and global irrigation experts to the Hawkes Bay as we’ll be discussing Ruataniwha within a wider debate looking at the future of irrigation in New Zealand.”

Hawkes Bay is drought-prone.

The RWSS would provide very effective insurance against dry weather with significant economic, environmental and social benefits.

The long term pay off from irrigation is immense but it takes a big commitment up-front to get it off the ground.


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