Keeping waterways clean

03/10/2008

A report by Fish and Game and Forest and Bird concludes that the Dairy and Clean Streams Accord:

 has failed to achieve its major goal to reduce the impact of dairying on the quality of New Zealand’s streams, rivers, lakes, goundwater and wetlands.

Susie McKeague, Otago Regional Council  manager of land resources said that in South and West Otago there was a declining trend in ammonia as a result of fencing and planting along waterways, the Clutha River was clean because the volume of water diluted contaminants but water quality in small streams and tributaries was deteriorating.

She put this down to intensive farming on wet soils. Fencing and planting along waterways to keep animals away from them helps prevent run off, but dung and urine move through the soil structure and leach into waterways. One solution to this would be more use of feed pads, particularly in winter when it rained more, so that animals weren’t on the paddocks when they were soaked.

North Otago waterways are cleaner than those further south and Susie put this down to a drier climate and the Environmental Farm Plans which are a requirement for every farm which gets water from the North Otago Irrigation Company.

“The EFPs are the best choice for environmental protection and they are driving good practice more than anything in other areas,” she said.

Susie said that it would be impossible to protect waterways from pollution during floods but at other times it was necessary to capture everything on farm or have remedies if more nutrients than desirable leached into water.

“For example, if phosphorus makes algae grow then we need something to reduce any concentration of phosphorus.”

Susie believes that the best way to solve any problems is to tell farmers what the issues are and leave them to find solutions.

“They have the best ideas to achieve what’s needed. Farmers are switched on, well networked and they know how to find answers.

“EFPs are making a difference in areas we didn’t anticipate and are leading change. Farmers are monitoring soil moisture, irrigation scheduling and effluent disposal and have a real desire to get it right.”


Otago phosphate could save $1b

12/09/2008

Rising world phosphate prices could make a South Otago supply  economically viable and save farmers $1 billion a year in imported phosphate rock.

Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative chief executive Rodney Green said yesterday, that the Clarendon deposit had become viable as the world price of phosphate rock soared from $75 a tonne in 2007 to $740 a tonne now, as countries shored up supplies of the mineral to increase their food production.

Phosphate is a crucial component in many fertilisers, and New Zealand uses about one million tonnes a year.

Mr Green said the resource could yield 34 million tonnes, enough to make Ravensdown self-sufficient in superphosphate for 22 years.

“This opportunity could be a boon to farmers and could result in the New Zealand economy becoming self-sufficient in phosphate rock, saving $960 million on current prices in foreign exchange a year,” he said.

A three-month investigation will be undertaken to confirm the viability of the deposit which was discovered in 1902 and mined until 1924, then again during World War II when Japan occupied Nauru.

The resource covered 450ha on eight Clarendon farms, and initial work was focused on determining its quality and quantity.

“There is a pretty strong imperative to get this going as soon as we can,” he said.

Mr Green said the world had plenty of phosphate, but China and Togo had imposed export taxes to ensure there was sufficient for their food production needs, while the other main sources in Morocco and Russia were isolated and transport costly.

In contrast, the Clarendon deposit was 3km from State Highway 1 and the main trunk rail line and 40km from the company’s Ravensbourne fertiliser works, slashing shipping costs to a fraction of the current $180 ($US120) a tonne.

Because of the age of the titles, the various mineral rights were privately owned by the landowners and Blackhead Quarries.

All were supportive of the investigation, Mr Green said.

One of the landowners, Tony McDonnell, who lives in Phosphate Rd, said agriculture and the country needed a local fertiliser resource to ensure the sector continued to underpin the economy.

He used 300 tonnes to 400 tonnes of superphosphate a year on his farms, but soaring international prices had made it a costly input.

“If it proves to be big, this would be a large operation and would bring a lot of money into the Otago economy,” he said.

Phosphate fertiliser has increased $300 a tonne since March and it’s one of the biggest items in most farm budgets. If the South Otago deposits are viable it will create jobs in the area. It will also have a wider benefit by and reducing our reliance on imported phosphate which will become even more expensive as our dollar falls in value.


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