Rural round-up

February 3, 2016

Booklet kicks off Fonterra structure review – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra’s farmer-shareholders have received a preliminary booklet on the co-operative’s governance and representation, raising many questions but not providing answers.  

It begins a five-month journey to a revised structure more appropriate for Fonterra’s size, complexity and global ambitions.  Farmer-shareholders will be expected to contribute to the review and vote on the final proposal in May. . . 

Rabobank announces new head of Food & Agri Research:

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group has announced the appointment of Tim Hunt as new General Manager of its Food & Agribusiness Research (FAR) division.

Mr Hunt takes on the role after five years with Rabobank in New York, where he served in the international position of Global Strategist – Dairy.

In his new role, Mr Hunt will lead Rabobank’s highly-regarded food and agri commodities research team – comprising 10 specialist analysts – in New Zealand and Australia. . . 

Alliance drafter has eye for winner – Sally Rae:

Warwick Howie received a little good-natured ribbing when he won the Paddock to Plate competition at the recent Otago-Taieri A&P Show.

Mr Howie, a drafter for Alliance Group, laughed that he had ‘‘copped a bit of flak” following the victory.

The competition, which attracted 41 entries, has become an annual fixture at the show, with proceeds going to the A&P Society. . . 

Course already tidy for Legends – Sally Rae,

When it comes to maintaining the Tokarahi golf course, greenkeeper Marty McCone has the same philosophy as for his farm – he likes it tidy all the time.

So preparing for this month’s PGA Legends Tour, which is returning to Tokarahi for the second year, did not require an extraordinarily massive effort.

‘‘I try and keep the course up to speed all the time. There’s a lot of little things you do to have it really tip-top,” Mr McCone said. . . 

Synlait revises milk price forecast to $4.20:

Synlait Milk has revised its forecast milk price for the 2015 / 2016 season from $5.00 per kgMS[1] to $4.20 per kgMS.

Chairman Graeme Milne said the revision is driven by the sustained low global commodity prices since September 2015, and a view that the recovery will be slower than anticipated.

“Our previous forecast of $5.00 kgMS expected prices to recover somewhat by this stage in the season, however this hasn’t happened and our revised forecast reflects this,” said Mr Milne. . . 

World Wetlands Day celebrated:

World Wetlands Day is a chance for New Zealanders to find out more about some of the country’s most important natural treasures, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry and Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner say.

To mark the day the Department of Conservation has released a new online resource,Our Estuaries, to help people explore and look after the wetland environment.

“New Zealand has more than 300 estuaries, and they are home to a wide range of native plants, fish and birds,” Ms Barry says. . . 

Rethink needed over dairy farm planting incentives:

The cost and benefits of planting trees to help mitigate environmental effects of dairy farming need to be shared by us all for it to succeed, a new study says.

Evaluation of an agri-environmental program for developing woody green infrastructure within pastoral dairy landscapes: A New Zealand case study says Government incentive programs are ineffective in overcoming barriers to planting such as the higher cost and slow growth of native plants, and the perception of planting being of little direct benefit to farmers’ operations.

Lead author, Lincoln University Landscape Ecology Senior Lecturer, Dr Wendy McWilliam, says the Government and the dairy industry need to work closely together to develop and maintain a landscape-scaled woody vegetation network on both private and public land. . .

Forestry show NZ way to better safety:

A sharp drop in forestry deaths and serious injuries after a massive safety overhaul in 2014 shows what can be achieved when an industry joins together to make improvements, the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum says.

The fall is welcome and sets an example for other industries to follow, says Forum Executive Director Francois Barton.

“Forestry has shown us some of the things that need to be done to bring down high fatality and serious injury rates in an industry,” Francois says. . . 

Good Progress – But More Work to Do to Make Forestry Safe:

A reduction in deaths and serious injuries in forestry since 2013 is encouraging but there is more work to be done yet, the Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC) says.

WorkSafe figures show serious injuries halved to 78 in 2015 from 160 in 2013, FISC National Safety Director Fiona Ewing says.

“The trend is going in the right direction but we can’t rest on our laurels. Three forestry workers died in 2015. That’s well down on the 10 who died in 2013 but it’s up from just one in 2014.. . .

Irrigation scheme loan approved:

An $8 million loan from the Selwyn District Council means design of stage two of a multi-million dollar irrigation scheme can go ahead.

The council approved the loan to Central Plains Water last month, with the money expected to transfer over next week.

But a community group told RNZ News rate payers should not be lending money to fund a private shareholder scheme. . .

Ruataniwha Dam: Investor mix still being finalised:

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment company (HBRIC) says work on getting farmers to sign up to buy water from the proposed Ruataniwha Dam is on hold until the project’s investor mix becomes clearer.

HBRIC has been looking for institutional investors to put money into the dam since Trustpower and Ngai Tahu pulled out in early 2014, saying the risks surrounding the dam were too high and the returns too low.

The company said it had countersigned contracts for 31 million cubic metres of water with a minimum of 45 million cubic metres needed to be sold to make construction financially viable.

It said finalising the investor mix for the Ruataniwha Dam was its current focus. . . 

Global slump in fert prices benefits NZ farmers:

New Zealand farmers stand to benefit from significant savings on their farm nutrient inputs with Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ latest round of price reductions, effective 31 January.

The price review sees urea drop $50 to $525, DAP reduce $25 per tonne, sulphate of ammonia by $15 and potash by $10. These changes will flow through to product blends.

Ballance CEO Mark Wynne says the move comes on the back of a global slump in fertiliser prices, driven by strong supply and soft demand. . . 

Lowest urea price since 2007:

Farmers stand to benefit from a $50 per tonne saving for urea from 1st February, when Ravensdown will drop its prices.

Chief Executive Greg Campbell says he is pleased that Ravensdown is again leading on a price reduction for farmers who are facing increasing costs in many aspects of their business whilst their returns are under pressure.

“We said it not long ago, with our recent superphosphate cap,” Greg says, “that we are about delivering all-year value to our shareholders, and we’re demonstrating it again with urea and other products.” . . 


Country roads aren’t motorways

March 31, 2014

Rural Canterbury areas are campaigning to get motorists to slow down on country roads:

Selwyn District Council says the “country roads are not motorways” campaign has come about after 187 crashes in the district from 2009 to 2013, in which speed or driving too fast for the conditions were a contributing factor.

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Photo: IS 100k OK CAMPAIGN

Eight people died in those crashes and 33 received serious injuries.

Of all the speed related crashes during that period, 86 percent were on the open road.

The speed limit is a maximum not a target and drivers have a responsibility to drive to the conditions.

Narrower, windier roads which may or may not be sealed require a lot more care than many motorists, accustomed to little more taxing that Sate Highway 1, give them and 100 kph is often not OK on them.

But it’s not only visitors who speed. Locals and frequent users including stock can get a bit complacent and go faster than they should too.

That said, I’ve seen some very careful and considerate behaviour from Fonterra tanker drivers.

One summer evening I was at the top of a hill when I spotted a tanker on a farm track heading for the road a few hundred metres ahead.

I crept down the hill, round the blind corner, up the other side and found the tanker waiting patiently in the gateway for me to pass.


Where dairy farming is going

September 12, 2011

The $11.6 million cleanup of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere will be a collaborative effort by central government, Ngāi Tahu, Environment Canterbury, Fonterra, Selwyn District Council, Lincoln University and the local community.

In announcing the initiative, Environment Minister Nick Smith said:

“Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is New Zealand’s most polluted lake and a co-ordinated cleanup is overdue. This plan involves changes to the Water Conservation Order, millions of dollars to fund clean up work, changes to farm practices in the lake’s catchments, riparian planting and relationship agreements to keep the work programme on track,” Dr Smith said . . .

“$11.6 million is being committed to clean up the lake made up of contributions of $6.1 million from the Government, $3.5 million from Environment Canterbury, $1.3 million from Fonterra, $500,000 from Ngāi Tahu and the balance from the Selwyn District Council, Waihora Ellesmere Trust and Lincoln University. There will also be a substantial commitment to the clean up from local volunteers.

“This is the most significant fresh water clean up project New Zealand has undertaken because of the severity of the pollution and the size of the lake. It has taken 50 years for it to get into this mess and it will take a long-term commitment to put it right. The significance of today is that Ngāi Tahu, farmers, community representatives, local, regional and central government, as well as New Zealand’s largest company, are committed to working together to drive the changes needed to reduce pollutants entering the lake and put it on the road to recovery. . .

Writing about the project in the Sunday Star Times, (not online) Federated farmers president Bruce Wills said the rehabilitation provides a template farmers can back.

Instead of finger pointing, government, iwi, industry, councils and farmers are working together . . .

Te Waihora needs only a little of the immense wealth farming ahs generated for the country over these decades to be put back into it. But Te Waihora also needs action of the 15,000 pest Canada geese estimated to be there – each Canada goose is like having a sheep living ont he water.

It’s why are farmers are saying that lake Ellesmere represents where dairy farming was. Te Wiahora is about where dairy farming is going. It will mean undoing decades of damage from a less enlightened time, there’s no such thing as ‘the good old days’ with farm environmental practice.

A Canterbury spirit can be seen with Fonterra Cooperative Group joining farmers in working for the lake. Te Waihora indicates a dairy industry that’s facing up to the past but is working with the community for a common future.”

While not all farmers and farming practices in the past were unsustainable, it is true that too many were.

We can’t change that but we can ensure we do better in the future.

If the  Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere clean-up is successful it could provide a model for other areas to follow.


Local body inaction leaves many in limbo

August 6, 2011

Earthquake Recovery Minister has delivered a pointed message to Canterbury local authorities:

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Government is unwilling to tolerate undue delays over resource consents for new Christchurch subdivisions.

Mr Brownlee says local authorities cannot afford to have a business-as-usual approach to consenting subdivisions.

It sounds like the Minister is losing patience and if what I’ve been hearing is true he is justified.

His comment is aimed at Christchurch City Council, the Selwyn and Waimakariri District Councils, Canterbury Regional Council and Christchurch Motorways. But the worst of the damage is in the CCC area and that appears to be where the least is happening.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker did a very good job as the public face of the city immediately after the large earthquakes. But leadership requires more than reassurance.

People living in desperate situations are in limbo and council inaction is partly to blame for that.


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