Taranaki landfarms fit for purpose

October 5, 2013

An investigation  commissioned by the Taranaki regional Council has found that landfarms are fit for purpose.

Doctor Doug Edmeades of AgKnowledge  who undertook the investigation found:

1. Waste products (rock cuttings and drilling muds) from the oil exploration industry in Taranaki are being incorporated into  re-contoured formed sand dunes and re-sown back to pasture (a process referred to as Landfarming). This process is controlled by resource consents issued by the Taranaki Regional Council. Three Landfarms have been completed to date and are now being farmed commercially (2 under irrigation).
 
2. The drilling muds contain potential contaminants: petrochemical residues, barium, heavy metals and salts. The question arises: are these reformed soils ‘fit-for-purpose’ – in this case pastoral farming and especially dairy farming.
 
3. As required by the consents regular soil samples were collected and analysed during the disposal process. These results were summarised and examined relative to the permitted limits for the various potential contaminants.
 
4. The completed sites were visited and the pasture and soils inspected. Soil and pasture samples were collected and analysed for all potential contaminants. These results were compared to the properties of normal New Zealand pastorals soils.
 
5. It is concluded from this body of evidence that these modified soils are ‘fit–for-purpose”. The concentrations of: nutrients (macro and micro), heavy metals and soluble salts in these soils and pasture are similar to normal New Zealand soils. The form of barium present is as environmentally benign barite, and there is no evidence of accumulation of petrochemical residues.
 
6. The process of Landfarming these otherwise very poor soils, together with appropriate management (irrigation, fertiliser and improved pastures) has increased the agronomic value of the land from about $3-5000/ha to $30-40,000/ha.
 
Federated Farmers had earlier called Green Party concerns about these properties as scaremongering and is buoyed that an independent scientific investigation has confirmed these farms are not only safe, but may be better for the environment.
 

“Federated Farmers congratulates Taranaki Regional Council for commissioning Dr Doug Edmeades of AgKnowledge to test landfarming,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.

“If you happen to be a farmer with less than even pasture or soil quality, then the cliché, ‘One man’s trash is another’s treasure,’ very much applies. Landfarms recycle the mud, rocks and clay that comes from mining so is smart recycling.

“The blending of this material into the sand makes it worthwhile to add fertiliser and to put in place irrigation infrastructure. Simply put there is soil.

“These landfarms are also monitored and tested by Taranaki Regional Council and Dr Edmeades study vindicates both the concept and the council’s monitoring approach.

“That’s why the negative claims made about landfarms in Taranaki were so thin they could model in Paris.

“Dr Edmeades is a scientist who has completed an ANZAC Fellowship and was National Science Program Leader (Soils and Fertiliser) for AgResearch. In 1997, he established his own science consulting business, which became AgKnowledge.

“Dr Edmeades is an expert in his field. His report concluded that landfarming made sandy and highly erosion prone coastal farmland, ten times better for dairy farming. That is both an economic and environmental win since these farms previously had poor soils.

“Because of the value and productive uplift from landfarming, it has allowed better management practices to be adopted.

“His report found that the concentrations of heavy metals in the landfarms were at the low end of the range, when compared to soils from various regions in farmed and non-farmed areas. That is a positive.

“While hydrocarbons were found on the most recently completed landfarm, Dr Edmeades said these levels would decline as soil microbes broke them down.

“Being a farmer, I know that earthworms are a strong indicator of soil health and Dr Edmeades found them in large numbers. That’s a key thing for me because he described earthworms as a soil scientist’s ‘canary in the mine’.

“At least we now have a robust independent scientific report saying that landfarming is not only safe but can be environmentally positive. That’s why we need to base discussion on hard facts and evidence and not for short-term political gain,” Mr Leach concluded.

Fonterra had stopped taking milk from new properties on land farms because of the cost of tests.

The perception of a safe clean dairy industry was also a factor.

Perception beats reality – it will probably beat the science because those dark green anti-dairy campaigners only back the science which suits their case.


Rural round-up

June 17, 2013

40% productivity rise realistic – Sally Rae:

On-farm productivity gains in the New Zealand sheep industry over the past 25 years have been an ”extraordinary story”, AbacusBio consultant Dr Peter Fennessy says.

Productivity, which drove profitability, had been increasing at about 2.5% a year, which he attributed to a combination of genetics and management.

There had been genetic improvement through consolidation of the ram-breeding sector and larger ram-breeding flocks, and uptake of new technology (rams and pasture) and better pasture management. . .

Working within cap on nitrogen – Sally Rae:

“As a nation, we cannot continue to have conversations about protecting water quality without having a parallel set of conversations that redefine the New Zealand farming business model.”

So says Taupo farmer and entrepreneur Mike Barton, who, when faced with what was effectively a cap on stock numbers, sought to increase the value of the product he produced.

A nitrogen cap was imposed on farmers around Lake Taupo to protect its water quality, with 35,000ha of land now covenanted for 999 years to remove 20% of manageable nitrogen. . .

Fonterra invests further $30m into Whareroa:

Fonterra has announced a further $30 million investment to expand its Dry Distribution Centre at its Whareroa site in Taranaki.

This follows a $23 million upgrade of the Whareroa coolstores last year, bringing the total capital investment in the logistics infrastructure on site to more than $50 million since 2011.

Fonterra Director of Logistics, Mark Leslie, says the project is part of Fonterra’s overall drive to simplify their supply chain and reduce the associated costs.

“These investments are part of a strategy to deliver more products, more directly to ports for export. . . “

Fieldays; washer cleans up– Jackie Harrigan:

Taranaki dairy farmer Simon Washer made a clean sweep of the Fieldays Rural Bachelor of the Year Competition for 2013.

After a busy week of an Amazing Race through the North Island followed by a series of eight challenges at Mystery Creek, 25-year-old Simon won the People’s Choice Award – having built his Facebook following to more than 700 likes – before being presented with the Golden Gumboot Award for overall Rural Bachelor of the Year.

Simon is sharemilking in coastal Taranaki and a motor-cross and trail riding fan who is also involved in Young Farmers and chairman of his local club. . .

Green’s Taranaki claims poppycock – Harvey Leach:

What we saw on TV3’s Campbell Live about landfarming in Taranaki and then got from a Green Party media release was straight out of the conspiracy theorists’ playbook.

The Green Party called on Fonterra to stop taking milk from land in Taranaki that it said had been spread with oil and fracking waste, which included toxic chemicals.

This divides things into “everyone even remotely involved-qualified versus me”. In our case, those remotely involved-qualified were landowners, Fonterra, Taranaki Regional Council, petroleum companies and the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association. The “me” in this story was the Green Party of Dr Russel Norman. . .

 


Facts counter political opportunism

June 5, 2013

TV3’s story on cows grazing on landfill was an example of emotion trumping facts and it provided an excuse for the Green Party to seek more publicity.

Fortunately Federated Farmers has the facts to counter their political opportunism:

Federated Farmers Taranaki is concerned the Green Party’s scaremongering over rehabilitated landfarms is putting at risk New Zealand’s number one merchandise export.

“Politicians and political parties have a higher duty when it comes to what they say or do,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.

“The Green Party media release I saw is like going into a packed theatre and yelling fire. I think we are hitting new lows in politics when the sum total of a political party’s research effort is a television news segment.

“Unlike that party, Federated Farmers has asked questions and knows there is a double testing regime in place for rock cuttings and clays.

“Taranaki Regional Council is incredibly rigorous in what it does. The Council tests ground conditions to ensure things are as they should be. Fonterra further tests for contaminants when it collects milk to ensure integrity of the entire milk supply chain.

“The science is clear; there is no issue here. Of course you don’t want the truth to get in the way of a bad story.

“Politicians misrepresenting the truth is low-ball stuff. They are calling into question the integrity of a major regional council which is the most experienced we have in dealing with oil and gas.

“It also puts at risk our $12 billion dairy export industry by questioning the integrity of our major dairy exporters. We are being ankle-tapped by politicians who get paid by our hard work and that of other hard working kiwis. We deserve much better.

“Farmers will be predictably disappointed in the Green Party because they seem willing to throw decent hard working people under a bus to get a cheap headline. It is nasty politics spun at its worst,” Mr Leach concluded.

New Zealand has a well deserved reputation for food safety and animal health and welfare.

It could very easily be sabotaged by people and parties will to put political opportunism ahead of the facts in this manner.


Rural round-up

May 14, 2013

Bee decline worries unjustified says honey producer:

A New Zealand honey producer and exporter says there’s too much unjustified doom and gloom about the health of the world’s bees.

Reports of wide-spread bee losses and colony collapses in Europe, Asia and North America have raised the alarm about the survival of honey bees.

The European Union has recently banned a group of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides.

However, Airborne Honey managing director Peter Bray says global honey statistics show bees are actually doing well.

He says world honey figures show beehive numbers and honey production per hive are up, and world trade is increasing. . .

Taranaki recognised for riparian management:

Taranaki’s flagship riparian management programme, which has “gone the extra mile” in developing relationships with dairy farmers, has been recognised for its outstanding contribution to protecting the environment.

 The Taranaki Regional Council programme is a finalist in two categories of the Ministry for the Environment’s 2013 Green Ribbon Awards: the Caring for Our Water and Public Sector Leadership categories.

Environment Minister Amy Adams announced the finalists in 11 award categories last week. . .

Crusoe wheat variety set to make dough for break makers – David Jones:

When Robinson Crusoe was cast away on his tropical island he would have probably found good use for the breadmaking wheat that is his namesake, to aid his survival until rescue.

The promising eponymous milling variety, named after Daniel Defoe’s hero, could now be delighting growers and breadmakers alike and be the future foundation of the British loaf.

From deserted isle to Kent’s sparsely populated Romney Marsh, one bread wheat grower is planning for the variety to take a big slice of his farm this autumn. . .

Fonterra Tankers Get a School Milk Makeover:

Fonterra Tanker Drivers Mike Courtney, Ian McKavanagh and Jess Drewet with one of the new Fonterra Milk for Schools tankers.

From this week, Fonterra drivers will be hitting the roads in 14 brand new Fonterra Milk for Schools themed tankers.

Fonterra Tanker Driver, Jess Drewet, says the team is excited to get behind the new wheels.

“Not only are these completely new vehicles, they are displaying something of which our team is really proud. When you drive as much as we do, you get quite attached to your tanker, and the team can’t wait to get out on the roads and show the new ones off,” says Mr Drewet. . .

Agriculture extravaganza in Fielding:

Feilding’s Manfeild Park has become a sort of one stop shop for beef and sheep farmers this week.

Three farmer events that have been running for years in Manawatu are being rolled into a single four-day extravaganza.

The Aginnovation programme began on Saturday with Future Beef New Zealand, an event designed to encourage young people into the beef industry. . .

Argentine farmers expected to plant more wheat this coming season

Argentina will plant more wheat this season than last year because of farmer-friendly adjustments to the government’s export policy and the bad luck that growers had last season with alternative crops such as barley, a key grain exchange said.

At a time of rising world food demand, the grain-exporting powerhouse can expect 3.9 million hectares to be sown with wheat in the 2013/14 season, up from 3.6 million planted in 2012/13, the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange said in its first wheat area estimate of the year. Planting starts next month.

“Our survey of growers shows a clear improvement in terms of intention to sow wheat,” the exchange said in a statement. “This improvement is due primarily to the poor experience that growers had with alternative crops (mostly barley) last season.” . . .

The Frankenchicken kerfuffle – Moon over Martinborough:

“I want us to raise chickens for meat,” CJ said. “Like proper farmers.”

“Seriously?” I said. “When you wanted to breed pigs for meat you fell in love with the pigs and ended up screaming, ‘I will never eat their babies!’ Remember?”

 “That was different. That was pigs.”

It turns out CJ had already arranged to pick up five meat birds from our friend Claudia. He was trading them for our olive oil. . .


Rating the Councils

June 11, 2009

The Ministry for the Environment’s two yearly Resource Management Act survey of local authorities showed a big difference in performance among councils.

In 2007/8: 

  • 51,960 resource consent applications were processed through to a decision.
  • 0.74 per cent (385) of resource consent applications were declined.
  • 4.7 per cent (2409) of resource consent applications were publicly notified.
  • 1.9 per cent (975) of resource consent applications were notified to affected parties only (limited notification).
  • 69 per cent of resource consent applications were processed on time.

The councils which were best at processing consents on time were:

Stratford District Council processed 97 applications and 100% were processed on time.

Buller District Council 130 – 100%

Taranaki Regional Council 401 – 100%

Matamata Piako District Council 281 – 99%

Waitaki District Council 157 – 99%

Kapiti District Council 317 – 99%

Western Bay of Plenty District Council 431 – 99%

Northland Regional Council 904 – 99%

Wellington Regional Council 703 – 99%

The worst performing were:

Environment Canterbury which processed 3,374 applications and managed only 29% on time.

Westland District Council 183 – 30%

Far North District Council 609 – 37%

Waimate District Council 70 – 41%

Carterton District Council 106 – 42%

Auckland City Council  5,434 – 45%

Whakatane District Council 287 – 45%

Gisborne District Council 525 – 50%

The Waitaki District lies within the boundaries of two regional councils – Environment Canterbury and the Otago Regional Council.

Anecdotal evidence which points to major frustrations with Canterbury and fewer problems with Otago is supported by this report. Environment Canterbury was the worst in the country at processing consents  on time and Otago which processed 734 managed to do 67% on time.

The table with results for all councils is at the link above.

The full report is here.


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