Rural round-up

July 27, 2019

Huge challenge facing RMA review panel:

Federated Farmers believes the Government has set a substantial challenge in its announcement of a review into the Resource Management Act.

The organisation agrees with Environment Minister David Parker that because of frequent amendments, the RMA is now overly cumbersome, costly and complex.

“The review will be no easy task. It will need to consider wide and diverse opinions and concerns. There are few organisations which have been more intricately and routinely involved in resource management processes across the country since the Act first came into force than Federated Farmers, so we consider our active input on the review panel will be vital,” Federated Farmers resource management spokesperson Chris Allen says. . .

Eliminating ‘M bovis’ tough but correct call – Peter Bodeker:

The Ministry for Primary Industries remains confident it can eradicate M.bovis from New Zealand,  Peter Bodeker says.

July marks two years since Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand, kicking off the largest biosecurity response we’ve ever seen.

Along with the entire country, Otago has been affected – facing immense challenges in dealing with this disease, and the ongoing effort to eradicate it. . .

More Miraka farmers win for excellence :

Miraka’s insistence on sustainable farming practices has shown results in more farms winning honours in the recent Te Ara Miraka farming excellence awards.

“Since establishing the awards four years ago we’ve started to see significant change in on farm practices,” says Grant Jackson, general manager milk supply. “

We’re not just meeting the regulations, that’s mandatory for us. Rather we’re going over and above, to achieve excellence in animal welfare, sustainable land management, looking after employees and premium quality milk.”  . . 

Young Farmer passionate about improving dairy’s environmental footprint :

A pair of fantails flit above Robert Barry’s head as he bends down to inspect a predator trap at the base of a totara tree.

The towering native is in a pristine bush block on a farm owned by the BEL Group near Waipukurau in central Hawke’s Bay.

The eight-hectare block is protected by a Queen Elizabeth II Trust covenant and is dotted with almost a dozen traps. . . 

Tenure agreement reached for Canterbury high country station

A tenure review agreement has been reached for the North Canterbury high country station, Island Hills.

Under the soon-to-be scrapped tenure review process, leased high-country Crown land can be signed over to farmers, provided they set aside areas for conservation.

Land Information New Zealand said 1600 hectares would be transferred to the Crown as conservation estate and 3200 will be freehold subject to conservation covenants, that restricts activities such as grazing and vegetation clearance.

The remaining 200 hectares would be freehold without restrictions. . . 

How do riparian strips fare long term – Bert Quin:

Could our riparian systems become overloaded and therefore useless? Riparian strips are correctly promoted as useful tools for reducing environmental pollution, especially for their ability to filter out faecal bacteria and sediment before these enter streams. But there is much more to it, writes Bert Quin.

Many frequently made claims for the ability of riparian strips to improve water quality are based on very short-term studies only. This is particularly true of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) removal.

Unfortunately, we are now in the days of emphasis on short-term, quick-results trials that lend themselves to publication in many different journals to ensure more cash from equally short-sighted funding organisations and companies with vested interests. . .


Property rights don’t discriminate

July 23, 2018

The headline says  Controversial TV star expects millions to give public access to South Island station.

Taxpayers could be forced to pay millions of dollars in compensation to disgraced TV host Matt Lauer to guarantee public access to his high country station.

Lauer has partly opened up Hunter Valley Station to the public, complying with conditions set by the Overseas Investment Office when he bought the farm last year.

But the Department of Conservation and the Walking Access Commission are now pushing for unfettered access for trampers, hunters and tourists to a 40km unsealed, lakefront road that runs through the property.

That’s likely to cost taxpayers – with Lauer threatening court action and refusing to waive compensation.​

The Walking Access Commission has applied to the Commissioner of Crown Lands for an easement (or right of way) over the track, which runs along Lake Hawea. The Commission is balking at paying big money to “a very wealthy American with a tarnished reputation”, official documents say.

Property rights don’t depend on the person who owns it, their nationality or their wealth.  They don’t discriminate.

Lauer’s company Orange Lakes Ltd owns the lease to the $13 million, 6500-hectare property – but the Crown still owns the land. It would mark a legal first if an easement was granted against the wishes of a lessee. 

Lauer is legally entitled to be compensated for the easement – and Federated Farmers has swung its support behind him, fearful of the precedent if he were forced to grant access for free.  . . 

The headline would have been more accurate had it been: pastoral lessee expects compensation for loss of  property rights.

But most people don’t understand pastoral leases, tenure review and the attendant property rights.

Keith Woodford explains them in a post headlined high country tenure and the right to quiet enjoyment:

. . .The idea that it is all a big rip-off is now firmly embedded in the public psyche.  Supposedly, the officials have messed it up under both National and Labour led governments, selling off our birth-rights to access these so-called public lands. Even worse, those benefits have at times accrued to foreigners.

Missing from the debate has been an understanding of New Zealand land law, and the powerful bundle of rights held by leasehold runholders. In particular, runholders hold blocking rights which, in perpetuity, prevent the public from accessing their leased lands.

Under a pastoral lease, the crown owns the land exclusive or improvements. All improvements, including soil fertility, pasture, fences and buildings, and the rights any private property owner has to exclude the public are the lessees’.

Rectifying this situation, and bringing fragile mountain lands into the conservation estate, has been a major driver for land-tenure reform.  Gaining public access via reserves and covenants to some of the lower country adjacent to the big South Island lakes has also been important.

The way this has been done is via a trade-off. Runholders give up all of their rights to some areas, typically the high country, with additional rights given to them for other areas. The balance of transferred land rights then determines the net payment in either direction to ‘square things off’. . . 

If the value of the land and accompanying rights lessees surrender is less than what they gain, they pay the crown, if what they surrender is of greater value than what they retain, the crown pays them.

The distinctive characteristic of land ownership is that there are multiple forms of tenure, each with its own ‘bundle of rights’. Whereas the general public thinks that freehold tenure is ‘ownership’ and that leasehold tenures are ‘not ownership’, this is not what the law says. Underlying all of the land tenures is the notion that the ‘Crown’, on behalf of all of us, has power as to what can and cannot be done with the land. . . 

A key right within the leasehold bundle is the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’.  It gives leaseholders an absolute right to exclude the general public from that land, and to on-sell that right to future leaseholders. It means the public can be locked out in perpetuity. That exclusion relates not only to the high country, but to accessing, via runholder land, the shores of the big South Island lakes.

In some respects, this access situation is not greatly different to access rules between a tenant and the freehold owner of a suburban house. Although the landlord holds freehold title, this landlord has no right to have a picnic on the front lawn. If the landlord wishes to inspect the property, then prior notification is required.

There is a misconception that size makes a difference to access. But the right to privacy on, and the quiet enjoyment of, property is the same whether it’s a town section of a few hundred square meters, or a farm of many thousands of hectares.

It’s not just a matter of privacy, it is also a matter of safety. Farms are working businesses. For the sake of their stock, and the safety of visitors, farmers have the right to say who can access their property.

These rights to quiet enjoyment have been greatly underplayed in public discourse. As a result, a key feature of tenure review, being the opening up of our mountain lands to all of us, and accessing the shores of the big lakes, has also been underplayed.

In part, the underplaying has been because experts coming from overseas have not appreciated the rights which are specific to New Zealand law. For example, it is a very different situation than exists either in England, where there is ‘rights to roam’ legislation, and also very different to the public-access rights within America’s so-called public lands.

There are calls here for the ‘right to roam’ but the experience of farmers in the UK where it operates gives plenty of ammunition for farmers here to fight to retain their property rights.

Way back in 1948 at the time of the relevant Land Act, access by the public to these New Zealand mountain lands would not have seemed important. Even in the 1960s when I started my own tramping and mountaineering journeys amongst our mountain lands, those of us with such interests were very much in the minority.

In those days, if we wished to travel across runholder land we would simply call in at the homestead – a somewhat grand term for what were often in those days very simple houses – and ask permission. It was never refused.

Over time, the friendly relationship between runholders and walkers has changed.  The number of walkers has greatly increased. And so, more and more runholders have applied their legal right of quiet enjoyment, blocking out the rest of us.

If you have a very few hundred people visiting your property the small minority of trouble makers is tiny. When many thousands are visiting the proportion of trouble makers might be small but the number and the problems they cause are bigger.

Within the public discourse, there have also been elements of what I call ‘noble cause corruption’.  This is where a noble cause leads to information being miscommunicated, either consciously or subconsciously, to buttress the noble cause.

In the case of high country land tenure, the miscommunication has been to ignore the legal rights relating to quiet enjoyment.  Whereas the officials administering the tenure process have to work within the law and take account of the respective bundle of rights, the media is not so constrained.

This has meant that the media has been able to highlight a story of freehold rights for the lower country being granted to the runholders for an apparently small price, without making it clear that it is actually only the balance between perpetual lease rights and freehold rights that the Crown has sold. In essence, the Crown’s freehold rights were to collect a modest annual rental from the leaseholder and not much more. In contrast, when some runholders, now with freehold rights, chose to on-sell the property, they were actually selling the combined rights including their prior perpetual access and use rights.

Those rights belonged to the lessee not the government. Any owner, regardless of nationality or wealth has a right to be compensated should they surrender or lose them.

For more not his issue see:

How leasehold values have influenced high country reform.

Who owns the high country?

AndDepartment of COnservatio

Last of the Southern Man


Private property is private regardless of size

April 19, 2018

Increasing numbers of visitors are increasing problems for landowners who may restrict or refuse access.

This was one of the issue identified by Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa in the South Island High Country Access Report.

One landholder, who has a popular walkway that crosses his property, spoke of the numbers of people increasing from approximately 30,000 per year in 2013 to an expected 70-100,000 people in 2017.

While most private landholders, the Department of Conservation and local authorities all agreed that the percentage of poorly behaved visitors wasn’t getting worse, the number increases mean the impact of poor behaviour is still growing.

One noted issue was the impact of the internet making it harder to predict which walks/areas will become popular – one viral Instagram post or YouTube video can result in thousands more people coming to a place previously only known to locals.

Increased numbers and unpredictability are also making landholders warier of opening new access points. A farmer happy to have a track with 1000 people per year might be less willing to do so if they are fearful they will instead have 20,000 people per year.

With more people you get more problems with people who don’t understand outdoor etiquette – leave gates as you find them, don’t disturb stock, take only photos, leave only footprints. . .

Friends have a musterers’ hut near a walking trail. Trampers found the key, went into the hut, turned on the gas, used it and left it on, left rubbish then posted where to find the key on social media.

Many interviewees pointed out that numbersin themselves are not necessarily a bad thing, but rather it is the unpredictability and thelack of control over where people go that can cause problems. Positives of increased numbers include more money owing into regions, and more opportunities for farmers to diversify their income streams to help subsidise bad years in their core operation – such as accommodation on trails, concessions for guided tours, and more. . . 

The lack of appropriate infrastructure to go along with tracks and trails was noted repeatedly, in particular a lack of toileting facilities and the impact that has on the environment. . . 

Who pays for the infrastructure and attends to its upkeep? Landowners who get no return for access don’t want to, nor do councils with small rating bases when most of the visitors aren’t ratepayers.

The report looks at the different wants of cyclists, mountain bikers, day walkers, trampers, horse riders, hunters and fishers and then summerises:

A focus on public access, and the associated infrastructure, is necessary to ensure that locals and domestic tourists can experience and enjoy New Zealand’s great outdoors, and that tourists have a positive experience that turns them into ambassadors for our tourism industry. As well as economic development opportunities, easy and  enjoyable public access opportunities can benefit public health through increased exercise and active transport methods. 

In order to achieve the full benefits, the areas that need to be addressed are:

Numbers
Create new access opportunities through the area, with a focus on opportunities that will prove attractive to people currently using tracks and trails that are over or near capacity. Also focus on activities that are currently under catered for, such as horseriding. 

Pilot new methods of digital and other communication to help direct tourist traffic to areas that have capacity, and away from areas that are over capacity.

Find solutions to manage access, in particular on working farms and in sensitive conservation areas, to ensure negative impact is minimised.

Infrastructure
New funding streams, in particular for lowratepayer base councils, to enable central and local government agencies to build appropriate public access infrastructure such as toilets and carparks.

Clarify who is responsible for access infrastructure where private landholders have gifted secure access, and on tracks and trails that cross multiple land tenure types.

Explore funding options for ‘less sexy’ maintenance and infrastructure that volunteer groups currently find it difficult to fundraise for.

Collect better data that allows for more reliable future modelling, so infrastructure can be built ahead of or alongside increasing demand, rather than always playing catch-up.

Information
Creation of a single, trustworthy digital source of information on where people can go in the outdoors and what they can do there, regardless of land ownership.

Integration of safety information where necessary in this information source.

Behaviour
Funding to address systemic behaviour issues, such as rubbish bins, multi-lingual signage etc.

Explore resources targeted at international tourists on appropriate behaviour – perhaps in conjunction with airlines or rental car companies.

A focus on education at a school and university level to teach people about how to behave in the outdoors from a young age so it stays with them for life.

Connections
Coordination between agencies to do landscape level planning for tracks and trails, to connect existing ones to each other, to local amenities and to population centres, with the authority to work alongside the Department of Conservation, local government, iwi and community groups to coordinate planning and activities.

A role for this agency in Tenure Review and Overseas Investment Act processes, as key ways of creating new access.

That is all very reasonable but overlooks one very important fact.

Private property is private property regardless of size.

No-one would expect open access for recreation on a small private section in town but some don’t understand they aren’t entitled to do that on bigger properties in the country.

Rural landowners has the exact same right to quiet enjoyment of their properties and the exact same rights to allow, restrict or refuse access as urban property owners.

That many are becoming increasingly less open to public access isn’t helped by politically anti-farmer rants like this from Fish and Game although it is calling for curbs on tourism numbers in the high country.


Rural round-up

September 21, 2015

Welcome boost to rural mental health:

New funding from the Government to help rural communities deal with an acute mental health situation is welcome, says Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa NZ (RHANZ) chairperson Dr Jo Scott-Jones.

But the problems are longstanding and go beyond the pressures of a low dairy payout, he says. 

Increased training measures are part of a one-off $500,000 funding boost for mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities, announced by the ministers of health and primary industries. . . 

Let’s break the silence – Matt Linnegar:

I WOULD not be the first nor last person to be astounded by the recent spate of attacks against women in this country. That men, often husbands and fathers could exact such terrible damage or in some cases kill their partners, wives or daughters is beyond comprehension and sickens me to the core.

The latest sad episode splashed across this week’s media forced me to set aside my cup of tea and say “well what are you doing about it”?

It goes without saying that I do not accept any form of violence against women be they my wife, daughter, mum, sisters or anyone else. I have at times spoken out when I have seen evidence of some form of violence against women taking place and in one incident, had to use physical restraint while intervening. But I am also guilty of swallowing the words that should have been uttered – no, loudly declared – at other times.

So a silent declaration to self this morning – never again.

While such a declaration is a very personal one, broadly speaking we can only have an impact if everyone (or the vast majority of people – in particular men) do the same. While this goes for all Australians, I would like to pay particular attention to rural, regional and remote Australia. In terms of my work at the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, this is where our focus lies. We have a network of over 1000 leaders – men and women – across the country and primarily in rural, regional and remote communities. . . 

Farmers at breaking point after thefts, rustling rise – Phillipa Yalden:

Rising rates of rustling and farm thefts are pushing farmers to breaking point but police urge farmers not to take matters into their own hands. 

Dead cows have been stripped and lambs left orphaned in a spate of rustling and poaching from Waikato farms. 

Farmers are fed up with not only the thefts of stock, but prized equipment in what police say is a seasonal rise in rural crime.  . . 

Cost-cutting to outlast downturn – Glenys Christian:

Almost half of Waikato dairy farmers will keep cutting milk production costs even when returns lift, a field day survey has found.

Improving the cost of production this season was a priority for 60% while 23% were targeting an increase in pasture growth.

Just 8% said they would reduce the cost of supplements while none intended to increase stock sales.

A further 8% voted for other strategies, such as increasing off-farm income by letting their bach. . .

Mackenzie Basin farmers feel tenure review and nutrient rules have shut down land options – Tim Fulton:

Tenure review has given Mackenzie Basin farmers freehold land which they can’t fully develop because of nutrient management rules, says Simon’s Pass farmer Martin Murray.

He and his wife Penny have waited 17 years for permission to irrigate 500ha of Maryburn Station, their property in the middle of the Mackenzie Basin. To get a breakthrough, the owners needed to settle with “all the objectors” including the Mackenzie Guardians group.

Fighting for resource consent to irrigate had been expensive. Maryburn Station had spent $400,000 in legal and regulatory fees over the years, Martin Murray said. . . 

Future agri-leaders finalise UN declaration:

Young agriculture leaders from across the world have created a global call for action to help solve the pressing issues facing agriculture and food security.

In August 100 young thought leaders, aged 18-25, from 33 nations met in Canberra as part of the Youth-Ag Summit, where they discussed the role science and modern agriculture play in feeding a hungry planet.

During the week, the delegates voted on which themes they felt were most important, those with the overall highest priority formed the basis of the Canberra Youth Ag-Declaration. . . 

A Norfolk farmer has put 185 tractors up for sale:

Proud master of all he surveys, Norfolk farmer Paul Rackham takes us to Shed 9. From the outside, Shed 9 looks like just another grain store.

Inside it’s different. Inside, Shed 9, of Camp Farm, Roudham, near Thetford, is a cornucopia of tractor delights.

Filling nearly all its 55,000 square feet, tractors – veteran, vintage and classic – stretch as far as the eye can see.

There is a 1916 Saunderson Universal G, a 1941 Fordson N with row-crop conversion, a 1925 British Wallis (flat bonnet version!) . . .


How much high country do we need?

May 15, 2012

The ODT sums up the issues around pastoral leases well and concludes:

High country farmers could be forgiven for feeling they have been under siege in recent years, that their way of life and knowledge and – perhaps most significantly their intergenerational attachment to the land – was being disregarded by some.

The key issue is surely what is best for the land and its greatest immediate threat is from the spread of wilding conifers, broom and rabbits

At a time when the Department of Conservation is having its budget squeezed, it makes sense to rely more on the emotional attachment and land management skills of those on the land.

Legislation governing tenure review has returning land to the state as the preference but that isn’t necessarily best.

Huge tracts of high country are already locked up in the conservation estate, some of it is of low conservation value and all of it is expensive to maintain.

Land, flora and fauna can be and are conserved under private ownership at little or no cost to the taxpayer.


Rural round-up

April 2, 2012

What is gunna happen – Gravedodger:

In the last month I have been fortunate to access a couple of reasonably inaccessible bits of the SI High Country, The Middle Clarence Valley and last weekend country around the Pahau and Dove Rivers in Nth Canterbury.

The two areas have been or are involved in “Tenure Review”, or as one wag described it Ten Year Review. A process where the Crown negotiates the retirement of some of the land in the CRL, Crown Renewable Lease, and the Leaseholder gains a Freehold Title to some of the more productive areas. One thing that becomes apparent is the retired land is exposed to major problems from weed and animal pests as the control of them exceeds DOC’s abilities and resources and the land that is retained for pastoral use is still being managed and will be kept relatively clear of gorse, broom, blackberry, briar and animals such as possums, ferrets, pigs, rabbits and deer. . .

(He’s got some stunning photos which you’ll see if you click the link above).

Leaving the farm – Offsetting Behaviour:

Bill Kaye-Blake says there’s not much that can be doneabout long-term trends towards rural depopulation. And he puts rural New Zealand especially on the wrong side of broader trends:

Technology isn’t going to be the saviour of rural New Zealand. We’ve been hearing for years that new communications technologies (will) allow us all to work from home, the cafe, and the beach. We do that to some extent. A few people do build business empires on the back of broadband. But we also spend lots of time in our offices, seeing and talking with our co-workers. One of the interesting economic geography arguments I’ve seen is that technology is making face-time more valuable. As a result, work that requires us to spend time with each other is becoming more highly paid, and work that can be made routine and parceled out in bits and bytes is becoming less valuable. New Zealand is on the wrong side of that trend, and rural areas even more so.

Let’s take the agglomeration economic geography arguments as starting point. Tech is more a complement to big cities than they are a substitute for face to face interactions. Who gets the strongest benefit from this in a world that’s mostly free-trading? Big global cities, not Auckland. Our small size makes us, over time, less competitive in sectors that compete with international big-city industries; our comparative advantage then pushes farther towards agricultural production. . .

If dairy farmers want to farm in the black they need to be green – Passture to Profit:

The NZ dairy industry is in a very interesting place right now. On one hand they generate serious export dollars; their contribution to the national income is undeniable. The wealth generated by dairy products means that most New Zealanders enjoy a good standard of living. On the other hand they are viewed by increasing numbers of thinking New Zealanders as exploiting our natural resources to the detriment of the environment. Sir Paul Callaghan spoke at the “StrategyNZ: Mapping our Future conference” in March 2011, pointing the finger at dairy farmers but also illustrating the economic reality.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCAyIllnXY&feature=related

Dairy farmers have a real challenge: – to produce milk but to reduce the impact on the environment. . .

New Zealand a place where talent wants to live and proudly farm – Pasture to Profit:

“New Zealand…A Place Where Talent Wants To Live” this was the NZ strategic vision that Sir Paul Callaghan(New Zealander of the year 2011 & ex Massey University Scientist) spoke so passionately about before his death last week. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCAyIllnXY&feature=related  Sir Paul Callaghan was a world class scientist, leader & a passionate advocate for a better more prosperous New Zealand. He was a great orator & he had a vision of a “knowledge driven economy” based on excellence & research & development . . .

Schedule setting process as much art as science – Allan Barber:

The weekly schedule setting process is a hallowed meat industry tradition which determines what farmers will receive for their livestock during the week beginning with the Sunday evening phone calls from buyers.

The process itself remains almost a total mystery to those on the receiving end, but it delivers certainty of livestock value in any given week. It enables a farmer to decide if it’s time to sell or worth hanging on another week or two, provided there’s enough feed and value to be gained from holding on.

The lead up to the weekly schedule is a fairly complex set of inputs to arrive at an assessment of what each species and grade are actually worth to a meat processor and exporter at the moment of purchase. That is the first slightly unusual thing to observe about the process: the procurement price does not equate to the final selling price, which will only be known at a whole variety of different times in the future when the various cuts and components of the livestock have been sold. . .

Dairy restructuring Ammendment Bill attracts differing views – Allan Barber:

Fonterra chairman, Henry van der Heyden, says that monitoring the milk price is not necessary, but “we can live with it”, particularly with Commerce Commission oversight, while Simon Couper, Fonterra Shareholders’ Council chair, believes it to be draconian with the potential over time “to destroyNew Zealand’s biggest, most successful and most important export industry.”

Federated Farmers’ dairy section head, Willy Leferink, inclines more to Couper’s view than van der Heyden’s, stating that Feds look forward to submitting on the bill at the Select Committee stage, because “If the policy settings for milk pricing at the farm gate become arbitrary, then it’ll not only shoot our largest export industry in the foot, it will directly affect the price consumers pay for their milk,” he warned. . .

Otago dairy award judges give winning advice:

Entering the Otago Dairy Industry Awards three times has set James and Helen Hartshorne on a pathway to success – with the couple claiming the region’s top prize, the 2012 Otago Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year.

“The judging feedback showed us that although we were competent at running the practical side of our farm, we would gain huge benefit from a better understanding of and an ability to analyse the financial and business side of our operation,” the Hartshornes said.

“And as a result of contacts made through our judging panels we secured our first 50:50 sharemilking job.”

The couple won $16,600 in cash and prizes at last night’s awards held at Balclutha Memorial Hall. The 2012 Otago Farm Managers of the Year, Gareth and Angela Dawson, and 2012 Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year, Richard Lang, were also announced. . .

Southland dairy winners share strengths:

The big winners at the 2012 Southland Dairy Industry Awards are newcomers to the province, who share common interests and business strengths.

Winton 50% sharemilkers Billy and Sharn Roskam won the Southland Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year title and Edendale contract milkers Hannes and Lyzanne du Plessis won the Southland Farm Manager of the Year contest.

The 2012 Southland Dairy Industry Awards were held last night at Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill. The other major winner was Robert Ankerson who won the 2012 Southland Dairy Trainee of the Year title.

Both the Roskams and du Plessis’came to Southland to further their dairy farming careers, and say their teamwork is a key to their farm business success. . .

Small farmers fear squeeze by corporate owners:

Some farmers fear they are being squeezed out of the property market by corporate owners with better buying power.

As dairy farms become larger and more expensive, corporate ownership is becoming more prevalent.

Federated Farmers dairy chairperson Willy Leferink says corporate owners tend to own more than one farm and can use their buying power to negotiate hefty discounts. . .


Where has all the tussock gone?

February 10, 2012

A couple of years ago I asked where had the tussock gone?

There is even less tussock on the hills at the summit of the Lindis Pass now.

This land has been returned to the crown under tenure review and is managed by DOC.

The aim of the Lindis Pass Conservation Trust is to rid Lindis Pass Reserve of weeds, so that the snow tussock (Chionochloa rigida) can be enjoyed in its full glory. 

When it was farmed it was covered in tussock, now as these photos show it is not.

Is it an accident or deliberate?

Could the lack of stock and fertiliser have let hieracium and other weeds crowd out the tussock?

Does it mean that some of this sensitve land is really better farmed than not?

What’s going to save the hills from erosion by wind, rain and snow now the tussock cover has gone?


Twigs and Tweets twitty idea

August 1, 2010

Federated Farmers didn’t go so far as to call Forest and Bird’s suggestion that the government created a dryland bird park in the Mackenzie basin twitty, they had a much better idea.

Feds has invited F&B to go onto the open market and buy land for the park itself

I’m taken aback by how misinformed Forest & Bird seem to be about High Country farming, conservation and tenure,” says Graham Reed, Federated Farmers High Country chairperson.

“By 2008, High Country farmers had voluntarily protected over 13,000 hectares in 42 QEII National Trust covenants around Central Otago, Waitaki, Queenstown-Lakes and the Mackenzie.

“I’m reliably told that Black Stilts are actually thriving with irrigation. Even if we put together all the irrigation we have or is planned, this comprises less than five percent of the Mackenzie.

“The landscape is already modified after 150 years of grazing. Without livestock, Forest & Bird won’t end up with a drylands park, but a park for rabbits, hieracium and wilding conifers.

“Yet I doubt many farmers would have an issue with Forest & Bird if it raised money from its supporters to buy High Country farms on the open market. Except Forest & Bird’s advocacy people expect the taxpayer and the State to do its bidding for it.

As many a farmer has discovered, buying the land is only the start of the expense and at least they have income to offset the expenditure.

We already have about half the South Island in conservation land and can’t afford to look after that properly. Even if the economy was in much better shape it would be reckless to add the expense of buying and maintaining yet more conservation land to the national accounts.

Instead of looking to the state, Forest and Bird should look to their own resources and work with landowners to protect habitats for birds.


Where have all the tussocks gone?

March 17, 2010

If you’re as casual about details as my farmer and I are and travel a route often you don’t necessarily register changes.

But for several months now every time we’ve gone over the Lindis Pass we’re sure that we’re seeing fewer tussocks.

The hills we remember being covered in gold are rapidly going bald.

This can’t be blamed on stock. The land was retired under the tenure review process and is now part of the conservation estate under DOC’s stewardship.

Is this a conincidence or the cause?

Could it be that the stock, rather than harming the tussock helped preserve it?

Did sheep and cattle graze species which compete with tussock and/or did their dung provide nutrients for the tussocks themselves or bugs which fostered tussocks and frustrated competitors?

Is something attacking the tussock?

Or are our memories faulty and were the hills never gold?


Doc not always access-friendly

September 19, 2009

One of the reasons cited for surrendering pastoral lease land to the crown is that the public will have better access than when it’s under private control.

However, that’s not always the case.

Friends went through tenure review. Part of the land that went back to the crown had been used for an annual mountain bike race. It had been run for years and the farmers had never charged the organisers.

Once the land came under Doc control the race organisers were charged for access which meant they then had to charge race participants more. The race then became too expensive for some people and the organisers were considering canning it.

Doc may well be acting in a fiscally responsible manner in trying to offset some of the costs of looking after the vast tracts of land which had been taken back under public control. As a taxpayer I don’t have a problem with that, but it does show that when it comes to access the theory that public ownership = good and private ownership = bad isn’t necessarily so.

Apropos of this, the ODT reports that film makers are complaining that filming on land administered by DOC is becoming increasingly fraught.

Filming on conservation land is becoming so difficult that some parts of The Lord of Rings movies would not be able to be filmed if they were being made today, Film New Zealand chairman Julian Grimmond says.

That film and others which showcase New Zealand’s stunning scenery are wonderful advertisements for the country which attract tourists. It would be a pity if access problems compromised this wonderful opportunity for free publicity.

Not all of land suitable for filming is under Doc control and film makers may be able to find alternative sites. But given the transient nature of filming you’d think it would be possible to allow access without compromising any conservation values or causing any serious conflicts of interests with other visitors.


Hope for the high country

August 27, 2009

The government’s  announcement of a fresh approach to pastoral leases gives hope for the high country.

The new direction for Crown pastoral land strikes a balance between economic use and environmental and cultural values, say Agriculture Minister David Carter and Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson.

The government’s three-prong plan aims to have effective stewardship of the land, better economic use and improved relationships with lessees and high country communities. 

Under the previous administration ineffective stewardship developed when too much land was put under DOC which had insufficient resources to look after it properly; economic use was compromised and relationships with lessees and high country communities were in a very poor state.

The new plan confirms the government’s commitment to basing pastoral leases on the capital value of land. It also rescinds the previous government’s policy which prevented the freeholding of any pastoral leasehold land under tenure review if even a small part of the property was within five kilometres of lakes.

This was inflexible and reduced the potential gains from diversification of land-uses enabled by freeholding. What happens to land if the owner wishes a change of use should be dealt with under the resource consent process and district and regional plans, not through tenure review.

“Labour’s policy was driving more and more land into the DOC estate, with the assumption that the Crown could better look after the land than farming families,” says Mr Carter. “This Government’s direction will maximise the best conservation and economic gains from each tenure review.”

Mr Williamson says the plan recognises the value New Zealanders place on lakesides and landscapes, and promotion of public access to the high country remains part of the tenure review programme.

“Safeguards are in place, including oversight of tenure review funding, to ensure these values are protected by tenure review and pastoral lease management,” the Ministers say. 

Tenure review under the previous government had been slowed down by a requirement for Commission of Crown Lands to report to the Minister of LINZ on all tenure review proposals. The plan recommends that preliminary proposals no longer go before the minister which will speed up the process.

The paper Crown Pastoral Lease 2009 and beyond is here.

The Cabinet minute on the paper is here.

Background and archived documents on the issue are here.


Passive maintenance threatens high country

February 15, 2009

febrero-0211

Whether this  is iconic New Zealand landscape which should be in public ownership and under public control is a matter of opinion.

The previous government thought so and took an aggressive approach to retiring much of the South Island high country from pastoral farming and putting it under the care – and I use that term loosely – of DOC.

This property is privately owned by people who graze it and undertake extensive weed and pest control. A lot of the neighbouring property was surrendered during the tenure review process and instead of being actively managed by pastoral lessees it’s being passively managed by DOC.

That means pest control is largely left to hunters who are given licences to shoot given areas. Their aim is sport not the good of the land, so many selectively cull to ensure enough pigs, deer and other animals will survive to breed so they have something to kill next time rather than aiming to eradicate them.

Weed control doesn’t seem to be happening at all as the land is left to revert back to its natural state.

But natural now isn’t the same as natural before people arrived so introduced species like gorse, broom and hyracium are winning the battle with tussock and other native plants and also increasing the risk of fire.

The photo above was taken in North Canterbury last Wednesday and it was very dry but grazing and weed control have kept the growth down. The growth on the neighbouring land has gone unchecked and it’s a significant fire hazard.

Misguided regulations on tree planting and conservation are thought to be party responsbile for the dreadful loss of life and property from the Australian bushfires.

There are fewer people and animals in the South Island high country, but they, the buildings and the land are also at risk  because of policies based on emotion and politics not science.

P.S. In related posts on the Australian fires  Not PC  found a house that was saved when the law was ignored and one which was lost because it was obeyed; Poneke says green lobby demands were partly to blame for the fires and Solo asks can we get angry now?


Feds’ election wish-list pt 2

November 4, 2008

Federated Farmers’ election manifesto is 42 pages long.

I looked at the first 16 pages a couple of posts back, and continue from page 17:

* Employment legislation particularly the Employment Relations Act and Holiday Act, to be reviewed with a view to reducing compliance costs and encouraging labour market flexibility and productivity.

* The minimum wage retained at its current level (ie adjusted only for inflation).

* Paid parental leave to remain unchanged.

I agree with the first two points, but have philosophical difficulties with PPL because I don’t believe having a baby by itself is sufficient reason to require tax payer assistance. Giving money to a couple earning six-figure salaries when so many people are in desperate need of help shows the government has its priorities wrong.

* A robust efficient regulatory regime that provides assurances to consumers, both in New Zealand and overseas, of food safety.

* A continuation of voluntary country of origin food labelling.

Our reputation for producers of safe food must be maintained.

A growing number of consumers, and I’m one of them, want country of origin labelling  (COOL) where practical but I think that should be driven by consumers. If we opt for COOL food the people who sell it will soon get the message but that doesn’t need government intervention.

*  Acceptance of the principle and application of gene technology in agriculture, providing appropriate controls exist.
* Support of the regulatory frameworks established to scientifically assess and manage any risks to the health and safety of people and the environment from the application of gene technology.

* Recognition by the state that gene technology can provide benefits to New Zealand producers.

* Endorsement of individual farmers’ right to determine what technologies are used in their farming systems.

* Enshrining consumers’ right to information relating to the products they are purchasing by way of active risk communication by regulatory bodies and the supply of information to underpin consumer confidence.

* Recognition gene technology involves significant issues of intellectual property and the need to ensure this property is protected globally.

Gene technology is an area where emotion often beats science. This policy rightly recognises the need for regulation, safeguards and communication.

* Recognition of the property rights of affected land owners and lease holders.

* Continuation of the Tenure Review process with objective evaluations of Significant Inherent Values (SIVs).

* More recognition given to the use of protective mechanisms for SIVs as provided for in the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 (CPLA).

* Where large areas of land have both productive and environmental values, greater use of ‘sustainable management covenants’ under freehold titles as provided for in the CPLA.

* Amenity values be excluded from pastoral lease rent reviews.

They’ve got my vote on all of these points which address areas where Labour has caused hassles and heartache.

* Recognition that farming is a skilled occupation by Immigration New Zealand.

* Increased flexibility in immigration policies.

* Inclusion of more farming categories on the occupational skills shortage list.

Immigration policy needs to acknowledge that overseas experience isn’t necessarily helpful here and that attitude and work ethics are often more important than relevant experience.

* Review of the Local Government Act 2002 and local government funding to define council core functions.

* Councils to be given the flexibility to decide representation arrangements.

* More consistency in the process of setting user charges (eg dog registration).

* Any changes to dog control laws not to impose unreasonable impositions and costs on responsible owners of farm working dogs.

Yes again to all of these points.


Nat’s ag policy announced

October 23, 2008

National’s policy of voluntary bonding of doctors, nurses and midwives will be extended to rural vets.

This is one of the initiatives announced by agriculture spokesman David Carter  when he released the party’s agriculture policy today.

 

 It is envisaged that the cost of such a scheme would be in the order of $1.5 million in the first year, rising to $3 million in the second, and $4.5 million in the third year. The costs will be met by achieving savings within the existing funding for the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry.

Related initiatives include:

 

 * Consider the establishment of rural scholarships to encourage more students from rural backgrounds to study veterinary science.

* Work with Massey University, NZVA, veterinary professionals, and the wider rural sector to address the structural problems contributing to the rural veterinary shortage.

 

National will also take a less less bureaucratic approach to the funding of research & development.

 

Unlike Labour’s Fast Forward Fund, National’s policy locks in a consistent funding regime that doesn’t have the uncertainty attached to it that Labour’s model does.

National is committing $210 million to R&D over the next three years, while Labour is projecting a spend of about $135 million. National will wind up the Fast Forward Fund and:

* Establish an international centre for research into greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, at the cost of $20 million a year.

* Increase funding within Vote RS&T for primary sector and food research of $25 million a year.

* Increase funding for research consortia in the primary and food sectors of $25 million a year.

 

Tenure review has been a source of growing anger among pastoral lessees so National’s more balanced approach is welcome:

 

National is also supporting the principal of Tenure Review, but believes a new approach is needed to restore confidence in the process and ensure that the intent of the Crown Pastoral Land Act is fulfilled. National will:

 

* Implement voluntary, good-faith negotiations between run-holders and government.

* Ensure that the setting of high-country rentals is tied into the earning capacity of the farm property and is such that run-holders can continue to maintain properties at an acceptable level.

* Recognise that high-country run-holders can be as effective in their stewardship of the land as the Crown

The full policy is here.


Get Doc back to the bush

August 11, 2008

Given the aggressive approach the Department of Conservation has taken to the tenure review process I have a lot of sympathy with this statement:

“DOc was never meant to be a Department of Economic Destruction. Get it out of the courts and back into the woods where it belongs.”

It comes from Owen McShane in the National Business Review.


We’re Wearing Their Wool Here

June 18, 2008

The New Zealand Merino Company is having to source wool from Australia to fill contracts because tenure review has reduced the number of sheep able to be run in the high country.

It is ironic that tenure review forces farmers to farm more intensively, sometimes with irrigation, and then they are criticised because of the change this has on the landscape.

If the Government wasn’t forcing farmers to relinquish so much of the tussock land requried for summer grazing there would be less need for intensification.

 


Increase for Doc weed & pest control

June 13, 2008

The Government’s decision to boost spending on weed and pest control on public land is welcome, if overdue.

The extra $5.3m promised sounds good but it’s over four years and I don’t know if that’s enough. Neighbours of Doc land (and we are) have long compalined about the poor level of weed and pest control and the complaints have got louder as tenure review has increased the amount of land under Doc control.

Figures released last year show Doc manages 6.5 million ha, or 42%, of the South Island land mass, and two million ha of the North Island, or 17%.

Overall, 31% of New Zealand is managed by Doc, an estate that was growing. Linz figures released last week reveal Doc had gained an extra 178,000ha of the South Island high country to manage as a result of tenure review of Crown pastoral lease land, or 48% of land that has gone through the process.

The argument over whether Doc would be better concentrating on current responsbilities rather than stretching shrinking resources – staff and capital – over more land is continuing.


DOC cutting staff

April 22, 2008

DOC is getting rid of 56 staff after overspending its budget by $8 million.

 

I wonder how much of that overspend is attributable to the increase in the DOC estate as a result of the tenure review process?

 

I have tried unsuccessfully to find out how much DOC budgets for weed and pest control, repairs and maintenance on the extra land it has taken over. Whatever the amount, I have contradictory concerns about it: first that it is costing tax payers too much; and second that it isn’t enough to do the job properly which will lead to an increase in pests, weeds and fire danger on DOC land and neighbouring properties.

 

Labour and its Green allies believe that state ownership is the best way to protect the high country and have spent a huge amount acquiring vast tracts of land. Tax payers would get better value and the land would be better protected if DOC worked with farmers instead of trying to spread their overstretched resources across even more land.

 

The tax payer bears the cost of buying the land and then has to pay for maintaining it, a cost previously covered by the farmer.

 

I’d back farming families who have stewarded vulnerable high country eco-systems for generations to do a better job than an overstretched Government department, and at no cost to the tax payer.

 

Declaration of bias: we own a pastoral lease property but are not undertaking tenure review.


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