Rural round-up

11/05/2022

Leave rural water schemes alone – David Anderson:

Rural water schemes need to be exempted from the Government’s proposed Three Waters reforms.

That’s the belief of West Otago farmer and member on the Glenkenich rural water scheme Hugh Gardyne. In a submission to the Rural Water Supplies Technical Working Group on the impacts of the Three Waters reforms, Gardyne says, “the objectives of virtually every stratum of Three Waters reform are contrary to the achievements and intent of rural water schemes”.

He argues that because rural water schemes (RWS) vary so much, it is so impossible to get consensus and “one size does not fit all”. The working group was set up by Local Government Minister and architect of the reforms Nanaia Mahuta to work with officials from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and Taumata Arowai to develop policy options and advice in respect of rural community schemes around the new water entities proposed in her Three Waters reforms.

It was expected to report back to DIA at the end of April. . . 

Feds: inflexible FPAs are a solution looking for a problem :

Federated Farmers is joining the fight against yet another case of politicians intruding with unnecessary, inflexible, one-size-fits-all legislation – this time over workers’ wages and conditions.

“There’s nothing fair about so-called Fair Pay Agreements,” Federated Farmers national board member and employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“They’re just a straightjacket that lock employers and employees into a national set of pay and conditions rules that might suit a minority but remove all ability of businesses and staff to agree on terms that suit their own needs and local conditions.”

The threshold for initiating an FPA is 10% of workers or 1000 workers in the identified group, whichever is less. Once an FPA is agreed, all employers and employees across an entire industry or occupation are locked into the conditions of that FPA. . .

Stop restricting food production – Peter Buckley:

Under the Paris Accord on climate change, Article 2 (b) states:

The aim of the agreement is to have a stronger response to the danger of climate change; it seeks to enhance the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change through:

(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; . . 

Concern draft code will hurt piglet welfare – Colin Williscroft:

The recently released draft welfare code for pigs will not only have a negative effect on farmers and piglet welfare, it will also affect the staff who look after them and consumers who want to buy fresh NZ pork, Manawatū pig farmer Andrew Managh says.

The recently released draft welfare code for pigs will not only have a negative effect on farmers and piglet welfare, it will also affect the staff who look after them and consumers who want to buy fresh NZ pork, Manawatū pig farmer Andrew Managh says.

Managh, who farms about 700 hectares near Halcombe, with about 6000 pigs on the property on any given day, says despite the draft code seeking to improve pig welfare, in a practical sense it means farmers are being asked to invest money into something that will not achieve that goal.

He says under the proposed changes, farrowing pens at his and his wife Geraldine’s Ratanui Farm property will need to increase from their current 4.5 square metres to 6.5m2 and he can’t see the benefit in that. . . .

Southland turns a corner as dry conditions ease in the region :

The drought conditions plaguing Southland farmers have eased, after some much-needed rain in the region.

NIWA’s latest hotspot watch shows dry conditions have lessened after rain in the region, though it is still dryer than usual for this time of year.

As of 3 May conditions were dry in parts of the upper South Island, much of Otago, eastern Southland, and Stewart Island, NIWA’s New Zealand Drought Index map showed.

Eastern Otago was also very dry, NIWA said. . .

A dog’s journey: my road to recovery – Steve Wyn-Harris:

I know I usually only write one column at the end of the year, but I’ve had a terrible time and just need to share.

It all started back in early February.

Steve, the boss and my mate, noticed I was a bit off. I’m usually full of beans but wasn’t feeling myself.

So, he rested me for the week. . .


One big mistake

14/03/2022

Our water is supplied by the oldest rural water scheme in the country.

Before it was established, farms didn’t just run out of feed for their stock when droughts struck, they ran out of water for people and animals too.

The need for a reliable source of water was solved by the rural water scheme that pumped water into tanks and then fed it through pipes under pressure to troughs and houses. The success of the Windsor scheme prompted other areas in the district and further afield to follow its example.

The North Otago schemes were gradually taken over by the Waitaki District Council but requirements for stricter regulations on water quality led to a trial with four of the schemes taking back control under one organisation.

. . . Corriedale Water Management Ltd was formed when the Waitaki District Council rewrote its water bylaw four years ago.

A “fundamental” philosophical difference separated the way its users wanted to operate and the way council-owned water schemes were expected to work, chairman Bill Malcolm, of Airedale, said.

A trial was agreed to in December 2013, and the company — set up to take over the operational management of the Awamoko, Tokarahi, Windsor, and Kauru Hill water supplies — worked to meet “ever increasing compliance requirements” and still believed in the benefit of “consumer-driven decision-making and hands-on operation”.

“It’s from the ground up, rather than a few people at the top driving things,” Mr Malcolm said.

“They [the council] see a large-scale contractor as the way to go, and we see caretakers.”

The local knowledge of where pipes were in the ground meant less mucking around when a fix was required and the company’s two employees and one contractor kept costs down, he said.

The company’s four rural schemes cover an area of about 50,000ha, serve about 1150 people and, by a conservative estimate, about 75% of the water is used for stock. . . 

The trial was successful, the company still operates and we have a reliable supply of clean water.

Every now and then after very heavy rain we get notification to boil water. That usually only lasts a few days until the river runs clear again.

When we have a problem we know who to ring to get it sorted. It’s a local call to someone who knows the scheme intimately and the the problem gets sorted, quickly.

I have far more confidence that the scheme will continue to deliver clean water at a reasonable cost as it is, than I have in the expensive, multi-headed bureaucrat-heavy monster that Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is trying to inflict on the country.

She has admitted she got two parts of the Three Waters proposal wrong:

“There are two areas of the Three Waters reform programme that I underestimated, and I acknowledge that’s my responsibility.

“The first one is I underestimated that the public really knew what was happening with pipes under the ground, and they had a lot more knowledge of the trade offs councils were always making in relation to what gets spent above the ground, what gets spent below the ground,” Mahuta said. . . 

That might apply in some places, but not here. We are rated for our water scheme, and we know what it costs.

Then there was the expensive and puerile advertising campaign.

“There was a high level of sensitivity from local government around that campaign because they felt that they were getting blamed for something and I acknowledge that decades of underinvestment in water infrastructure is within the council purview but perhaps the advertising campaign wasn’t the best way to tell the message,” she said.

Not every council and every water scheme has suffered from underinvestment.

“Again, those are two areas that I underestimated that I got wrong, and I accept responsibility for that,” Mahuta said. . .

If only that was all that was wrong, it’s not.

The whole proposal is one big mistake and the Taxpayer’s Union explains how the proposals by the working group that was supposed to improve it, have made it worse.

When the Government announced last year it would delay the Three Waters legislation, they appointed an “independent” Working Group to provide recommendations on ways to make the legislation more palatable for local councils. At the time, we called it out as anything but independent. The Working Group itself was 50/50 co-governed, and of the Mayors appointed to represent the interests of local government it was stacked in favour of the very few who were supporting the Government’s proposals.

Today the Working Group has released its recommendations.

Under the recommendations, councils would still not have anything close to proportionate representation on the four “Regional Representation Groups” that appoint the selection panel that appoints the board members for the new entities. For example, Auckland Council would have just four of 14 seats for the northern group, despite having 90 percent of the region’s population and contributing the lion’s share of the assets.

As we predicted, the Working Group has backed Nanaia Mahuta’s co-governance model that will see half the seats for each region held by iwi/hapū members, giving iwi an effective veto right over every major decision.

Here are some of the key recommendations:

⚠️ Fresh off the back of the infamous $4 million “Better Water” television ad campaign, the Working Group wants another new public communications campaign to explain “need for change” to New Zealanders.

The first proposal is for propaganda  an advertising campaign, to explain the need for change, but we don’t all need to change and none of us need the change that’s proposed.

⚠️ Councils would now hold shares in the new water entities. This is clearly an attempt to ward off accusations that Three Waters is an asset grab. But it’s yet another deceit: regardless of their shareholdings, councils (and therefore ratepayers) will still be stripped of all the crucial rights of control that define ownership. Councils won’t be allowed to receive a return from the water entities, yet that is specifically allowed for Mana Whenua groups. In short, the “ownership” of shares will be meaningless.

It is ownership in name with none of the rights that true ownership confers on owners.

⚠️ Further, the Working Group has suggested adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to the scheme, in the form of new “sub-regional” groups representing smaller councils and iwi. This would mean five layers of bureaucracy in total separate ratepayers from water services: councillors, the co-governed sub-regional representative group, the co-governed Regional Representative Group, the Selection Panel, and the water entity board.

If the answer is more bureaucracy, they’ve asked the wrong question.

⚠️ The Working Group also wants to establish a new Water Services Ombudsman, with a “tikanga-based dispute resolution process”. And they have demanded a new policy consultation process between the Crown and its Treaty partners, separate from public consultation. . . 

That’s more bureaucracy, more costs and less accountability.

Together, these ideas intensify the absurd complexity of the scheme. The whole thing stinks of “jobs for the boys” that will ultimately cost ratepayers.

Nanaia Mahuta and her Cabinet colleagues will now “consider” the recommendations before unveiling the legislation that will be put before Parliament. From our perspective, there is nothing to consider: Three Waters cannot be salvaged.

RNZ has the full 47 recommendations here.

The proposal would lead to higher costs, more bureaucracy and loss of local control. It cannot be salvaged but it could be bulldozed.

The Taxpayers’ Union has a petition urging the government to abandon these costly, undemocratic proposals. You can sign it here.

It is also backing the Water Users’ Group that has filed an application for judicial review with the High Court on the basis that the co-governed Three Waters scheme is based on an invented and incorrect interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

. . .If the Water Users’ Group wins, it will knock back the radical interpretation of the Treaty that underpins He Puapua and is driving co-governance across the local government, health, and resource management sectors. . . 

You can donate to support the legal action at the link above that paragraph.

A win wouldn’t just torpedo Three Waters, it would put a stop to the ever increasing Treatyfication and the racism and divisiveness that it is spawning.


Three waters word soup

02/12/2021

The Taxpayers’ Union recorded a lengthy interview with Nania Mahuta in an attempt to address concerns about proposals including ratepayer input, iwi veto power, and forecast costs.

If you’ve got a spare half hour and are fluent in word soup, you can listen to the interview here.

Matt Burgess listened and this is his interpretation:

Taxpayers’ Union: How does taking water assets off councils save money?
Nanaia Mahuta: Because of economies of scale. We need to solve under-investment. Water has to be financially sustainable. We’re not taking the assets.

What do mean you’re not taking the assets? Councils lose ownership except in name.
Councils will own the assets. We have to prevent privatisation. Economies of scale.

What ownership rights will councils have?
Councils will set strategic performance expectations. There will be good governance. Water won’t compete with other council services for funding.

Can you rule out iwi groups receiving water royalties?
We have to prevent privatisation. Iwi cannot sell the assets. Iwi care about the long term.

You said iwi won’t have a veto right. But iwi will be 50% of boards and major decisions require a 75% majority. So, iwi hold a veto, correct?
No.

Given 61 of 67 councils oppose your reform, how has consultation shaped your reform?
First, we need public ownership. Second, we must prevent privatisation. Third, we need solutions. Fourth, we want good governance.

Will ratepayers be represented on the working group?
Only through councils.

You signed off a Cabinet paper on the reform on 18 October. Four days later, your office received a summary of council submissions. Was your consultation a sham?
I received regular feedback from DIA and LGNZ through that period.

Why are the reforms so unpopular?
The current system does not work.

61 of 67 mayors oppose your reform.
It’s about the ratepayers.

Ratepayers hate your reforms. Have you seen our poll? It’s three to one against.
It’s about economies of scale.

Castalia has rubbished your cost modelling.
Castalia accepts privatisation. We must prevent privatisation.

Your cost savings are based on Scottish data which was not adjusted for New Zealand.
It was adjusted.

You are promising operating cost savings of 50% and [up to 9,000] more jobs in water. How does that make sense?
Economies of scale. Better funding.

You only looked at new statutory entities, not the existing Council Controlled Organisations (CCO) model. Why?
Because water needs to be able to borrow off council balance sheets. There is no way to do that with a CCO. Economies of scale. Prevent privatisation. Good governance. Affordable services.

Why is the Treaty relevant when we’re talking about pipes not water?
Excellent question. Iwi will achieve better environmental and drinking water outcomes for the whole community.

How are Māori more connected to the environment than anybody else?
They’re not. But Māori are very connected to the environment.

Why not leave water with councils and guarantee their debt instead?
Economies of scale.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
So, in summary, Three Waters is about alleged scale economies and thwarting a privatisation nobody wants.

Three Waters is also about the abuse of political power, a very flawed process and, as highlighted in this interview, a Minister who can’t adequately address legitimate concerns about it.

Hat Tip: Kiwiblog


The right of reply Stuff won’t publish

20/11/2021

An email from Taxpayers’ Union explains:

Last Sunday, Stuff and the Sunday Star-Times ran a piece from the Senior Journalist, Andrea Vance, accusing the Taxpayers’ Union and other groups opposing Three Waters of encouraging a “nasty undercurrent of racism”.

The column was clearly a smear, designed to shut down legitimate concerns over the proposed governance of Three Waters.

You have seen our advertising, and the Three Waters campaign. While we have pointed out the fact that the Government is proposing co-governed water entities, it has not even been our main point of criticism. Similarly, our questioning of Minister Mahuta on our recent podcast was respectful.

We cannot allow debate to be silenced by shrill calls of ‘racism’ just for mentioning, or asking questions about the implications of, co-goverance. We cannot let the media shut-down reasonable questions and debate by shouting racism. That sort of dishonest framing only leads to polarisation and distrust of the media. We need to make a stand.

We figured we deserve a right of reply, so I drafted an opinion piece in response. But Stuff refused to publish it, suggesting we write a short (no more than 150 word) letter to the editor instead.

No thanks. Vance’s piece (nearly 800 words spread across two pages of last weekend’s paper) contains serious accusations and sweeping statements about complex legislation. It deserves a proper response.

So we tried something different: we booked space to run my response, in full, as a paid half-page ad in the Sunday-Star Times. But when we submitted the design, we were told “we will not be publishing this” without further explanation.

It appears Stuff are quite happy to take money from the Government to promote co-goverance, but won’t take money from advertisers who want to respectfully respond to being accused of racism for opposing Three Waters.

This is what Stuff won’t publish:

Irresponsible to label Three Waters critics racist

In her drive to ram through the Three Waters reform package, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has been aided by commentators eager to write off opposition to reform as scare-mongering or even racist. There is perhaps no better example than Andrea Vance’s recent column.

Vance dismisses councils who have protested the theft of assets. She argues it’s not theft because – as the Government says – water assets will still ‘belong’ to local communities, just with some loss of control.

What does Vance think ownership means? Here’s how Gary Judd QC puts it: “Legal scholars argue about what is meant by ownership, but it is certain that if one has no rights in relation to a thing — e.g., no right to use it, to enjoy it, to gain a return from it, to dispose of it, to destroy it, to control it or to control its use — one does not own the thing.”

It’s like a car thief writing to say how much they’re enjoying ‘your’ set of wheels. Nice of them to say it’s yours, but that doesn’t fill the hole in your garage.

Vance’s relaxed attitude toward theft is not, however, what prompted me to write this column.

Vance makes a serious accusation: certain groups are exploiting fear by playing the race card. She even names the groups – Hobson’s Pledge, the Opposition parties (presumably National and ACT), and your humble Taxpayers’ Union are singled out as encouraging a ‘nasty undercurrent of racism’.

This demands a response.

It is true that these groups have highlighted or protested the co-governance model which will see iwi join with councils on a 50-50 basis to appoint the representative groups that form the ‘community voice’ under the new regime.

It is also unfortunately true that any debate over co-governance will spur a bitter minority of New Zealanders to voice anti-Māori rhetoric. (Credit to the interns who have to moderate such comments on the Taxpayers’ Union Facebook page.)

But it is not true that merely raising the issue of co-governance equates to race-baiting. Co-governance is an important aspect of the Three Waters proposal, and its implications require scrutiny.

Iwi will bring distinct values and interests to the water board table. What are the financial implications – which will be borne by all ratepayers – of iwi using their 50 percent input to advance these interests? What protections will there be from what economists call ‘rent seeking’?

To what extent will iwi have control over water pricing and investment under a model that confers iwi half the votes, while the other half are given to councils that are themselves introducing co-governance through Māori wards?

And doesn’t the requirement for a 75 percent vote on any major decisions result in an effective iwi veto right? It certainly looks that way to us, but Mahuta was at pains to deny it during an interview on the Taxpayers’ Union podcast.

There are major problems here that require attention in the media and Parliament. And none of the problems here have to do with the fact that iwi representatives are Māori. The problems lie in an elevated level of control exercised by a chosen set of interest groups above any other unelected entities.

In fact, conflating issues of iwi governance with issues of race only makes it easier for those best-connected iwi that are given seats at the table to claim that they represent all Māori, while less-connected Māori communities are shut out.

Co-governance is far from the only problem with the Three Waters reforms. Iwi representation is just one aspect of four levels of bureaucracy that will separate all ratepayers – including Māori – from the valuable water assets we’ve all paid for. But co-governance does seem to be the issue that sticks in the noses of liberal commentators weighing up which side of a policy debate is the side of virtue.

Whenever the Taxpayers’ Union mentions the words ‘co-governance’, we expect an instinctive lashing out from advocacy groups on the political left. But political journalists have greater power – the ability to set the boundaries of mainstream debate – and therefore greater responsibility to avoid accusations like that of racism, which serve to shut down substantive concerns over major reform from reasonable people who fear being branded bigots.

Stuff has insisted that its decision to accept funding from the Government’s Public Interest Journalism Fund does not make it beholden to the Government. That’s great to hear. But anyone who cares to check can read the Government’s five stated goals for the fund. The third goal: ‘Actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi’.

Vance’s column will have done little to mend perceptions that, at least when it comes to Three Waters, the media is influenced by Government funds.

Stuff’s refusal to print this right of reply as an op-ed of advertisement is an example of the lack of balance that gives credence to the growing belief in media bias.

It is a private business which has the right to publish, or not, as it sees fit.

But in playing the racism card, showing disdain for diversity of opinion and not allowing an organisation maligned by one of its columnists to argue back, it is doing its readers a disservice, damaging its own reputation and leading credence to the belief it has been bought by the government.

It is censorship like this that means, as Karl du Fresne says, no-one should be surprised by the backlash against the media.

 


Rural round-up

01/11/2021

Feds remain opposed to ‘Three waters’ reform – Sudesh Kissun:

The Government’s decision to push through its ‘Three Waters’ reforms despite widespread opposition is being slammed by farmers and politicians.

Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says the government’s announcement that Three Waters will be mandatory is a huge call.

“Federated Farmers, a majority of local authorities and many New Zealanders have voiced serious misgivings over the government’s plans for council three waters assets to be transferred to four new mega entities,” says Hoggard. 

“We remain opposed to this plan.” . . .

Blue River Dairy ranked number one in business growth :

Southland-based nutritional products manufacturer Blue River Dairy has taken out the top spot on Deloitte’s 2021 Master of Growth Index.

The rankings for the Deloitte Fast 50 and Master of Growth Index were released on October 28. The accolades recognise businesses that have shown significant growth over the past either three (Fast 50) or five years (Master of Growth). The Master of Growth Index, made up of the 20 fastest growing established businesses, is determined by revenue growth percentage.

Blue River Dairy has reached a staggering 1502% growth since 2017 – the highest percentage in the Index’s history and more than twice the growth of previous winners.

Blue River Dairy developed the world’s first sheep milk nutrition products using exclusively sheep milk protein and today manufactures nutritional products using milks from three different species—sheep, goat and cow. . .

Entrepreneurial farmers use own wool to make blankets, yarn – Country Life:

Angus cattle and merino sheep graze happily at The Grampians, a scenic 3100 hectare station near Culverden that goes from 300 to 1500 metres above sea level.

Third generation farmer Jono Reed has always had a fascination with bulls and cattle. He was only 14 when he started an Angus stud on the property.

“They’re an efficient animal that’s gutsy and can handle the hard times,” he says.

Now known as Grampians Angus, the stud now sells 40 to 50 bulls a year.  In the last on-farm sale the bulls averaged $11,000 each. . . 

Start-stop beginning as contracting season gets under way – Gerald Piddock:

Wet unpredictable weather has meant a sluggish start to the season for the country’s rural contractors.

Spring is one of the busiest times of the year for the industry as they cut pasture for silage and plant summer crops.

Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) president Helen Slattery says heavy rain in parts of Northland had delayed work to get maize in the ground.

“They have had very intermittent and small windows where they have been able to do harvesting and planting,” Slattery said.

Northern Waikato had also been wet, while eastern parts of the region were dry and cold, which she says had delayed pasture growth for cutting grass silage. . . 

Pastoral opportunity assured with Lagoon Hill:

Sheep and beef farmers keen to invest in a quality pastoral property without the intense price competition from foresters have that opportunity in the Wairarapa this spring.

Martinborough property Lagoon Hill at Tutirimuri offers the opportunity to enter or expand a holding in a pastoral breeding unit at a realistic price level, thanks to its covenanted title.

Originally part of the much larger Lagoon Hill station that totalled 4,200ha, today’s title represents the portion of the property remaining in pasture after the rest underwent forestry conversion by its new owners in 2019.

The remaining 654ha includes the property’s original and substantial infrastructure assets. Conditions of its subdivision from the original title are that it remain in pasture and livestock farming for 25 years. . . 

Kaipara block offers potential with lifestyle:

A bare block presenting a blank canvas for home building and horticulture while offering a coastal lifestyle near Dargaville is attracting strong interest in a buoyant rural Northland property market.

The 7ha Redhill Road property at Te Kopuru offers purchasers the potential to capitalise on the district’s developing water reservoir scheme for high value horticultural production.

The easy contour property is presently run as a grazing block. But vendor Sam Biddles says the potential for horticultural development has been heightened, thanks to the nearby Kaipara Water Scheme which is part of the larger Te Tai Tokerau reservoir scheme that includes four major dam sites around Northland. . . 


Stop Three Waters

27/10/2021

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a campaign to stop the government’s three waters reform:

The campaign launch comes on the same day that Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced a working group to tweak the reforms with an eye to forcing them on all local councils.

  • The Union has prepared a 30-second television ad and is crowd-funding to air this on prime time television and online. This ad is available to journalists upon request.
  • A campaign hub has been launched at www.StopThreeWaters.nz that presents key reasons to oppose the reforms. This site is supported with Google ads so it appears alongside the Government’s taxpayer-funded campaign site.
  • More than 65,000 New Zealanders have signed the Union’s petition against the reforms. The Union is updating these individuals and is ready to deploy them during any consultation period.
  • More than 20,000 New Zealanders used the Union’s email tool to contact their local councillors about the reforms. The Union will be launching a new email drive in the coming weeks, targeting Government MPs.
  • The Union has commissioned Curia polling showing 56% of New Zealanders oppose the proposed reform, versus just 19% in support and 24% unsure.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke says, “Opposition to Nanaia Mahuta’s multi-billion dollar asset grab is already broad, energised, and well-resourced. With the Government now forcing these changes on local councils, the backlash will only intensify. We are calling on the Prime Minister to read the room and announce a CGT-style captain’s call to eject her Local Government Minister’s reforms entirely.”

New Zealanders concerned about the reforms can chip in to the campaign fund at www.taxpayers.org.nz/donate_three_waters.

The government’s proposals for three waters will add costs and bureaucracy, steal local assets and remove local control.

There are far better and less expensive ways to ensure that we have clean water.


Rural round-up

24/10/2021

Stop carbon farming! :

Beef+Lamb NZ says current Government policies will see too much carbon forestry planted and urgent change is needed.

Last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw released a discussion paper aimed at helping shape NZ’s emissions reduction plan. BLNZ says the paper contains a slight shift in how the Government is talking about the role of carbon-only exotic forestry in addressing climate change.

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that fossil fuel emissions must be reduced, rather than continually offset,” says chief executive Sam McIvor.

“The discussion document indicates any decision on changing the ETS rules would come by the end of 2022. We’re concerned that’s not fast enough given the scale and pace of land conversion happening.” . .

Water entity concerns run deep – Andrew Hoggard:

Federated Farmers joins the many council-elected representatives and citizens up and down the country urging the Government to go back to the drawing board on reform of its three waters delivery.

It’s clear that billions of dollars of investment are needed to get drinking water, stormwater and sewerage infrastructure up to scratch. However, there are too many flaws and question marks over the proposed four new mega entities for the Government to just press ahead.

A range of deep concerns with the proposed model have been raised in the provinces, chief among them the risk rural voices and needs will be swamped in the enlarged set-ups. Right now we have a direct say in the appropriate level of investment and priorities for water infrastructure via our local council.

If our elected representatives don’t deliver, we can eject them at election time – and they know it. . . 

Farming the future – trading on animal welfare and emissions not tariffs – Hugh Campbell:

This week’s NZ-UK free trade agreement helps unveil what the future holds for New Zealand farming as the sector becomes increasingly diverse, in the final of our three-part series on rural politics

There is a lot of history to live up to in the current moment of farmer politics in New Zealand. Understanding the sheer scope and breadth of pastoral farming power through much of the 20th century provides the essential backdrop for understanding the current moment of farmer protests in 2021.

But we are in the midst of a massive transition away from a time in which pastoral farmers were in total control of their own futures and had unfettered access to the machinery of government. Farmers haven’t lost their power in New Zealand, but it is sometimes a bit opaque as to how that power is becoming re-aligned. . .

Alliance to announce rise in trading profit – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group will post an increased trading profit when it announces its full-year financial results later this year, chief executive David Surveyor says.

Last year, the company had an underlying profit of $27.4 million for the year ended September 30 which, when adjusted for one-off events (donning and doffing), brought it down to $7.5 million before tax.

Addressing a virtual supplier roadshow yesterday, Mr Surveyor said the issue all year was not about the ability to sell but about shipping product.

Supply chains had been ‘‘greatly disrupted’’ due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and global supply chain issues had become the new normal. . .

Wool overtaking synthetic for carpet – Shawn McAvinue:

The tide is turning for the sales of woollen carpet, a Southern retailer says.

A national roadshow about a proposed merger between Wools of New Zealand and Primary Wool Co-operative made its final stops in the South last week.

The companies have been getting New Zealand strong wool from its shareholding farmers made into carpet in Turkey, which had been on sale at Flooring Xtra shops in New Zealand for a couple of months.

Alexandra and Cromwell Flooring Xtra owner Paul Rillstone spoke at the roadshow stop in Lawrence. . .

WA’s Cara Peek named Rural Woman of the Year

Cara Peek, a Broome-based lawyer, social innovator and co-founder of Saltwater Country, has been named the 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner for her work in driving employment opportunities for First Nations people in remote Australia.

Cressida Cains, artisan cheesemaker and a passionate dairy industry advocate from New South Wales was announced as the award’s National Runner Up.

Due to COVID-19, the national Rural Women’s Award ceremony was postponed last year. . . 

 


Govt turns democracy into demockracy

04/10/2021

Can you join the dots between these two undemocratic moves by the government?

Last week it conceded that consultation on Three Waters is a farce:

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s promises to listen to councils were clearly just lip service after she all but confirmed that her Government will proceed with forcing the Three Waters Reforms on every council in New Zealand, National’s Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says.

“In Parliament yesterday the Minister extolled the apparent virtues of an ‘all-in’ legislated approach to Three Waters reform, clearly paving the way for legislation to come.

“An ‘all-in’ approach would see every council in the country lose their existing control of their water assets, which would then be centralised within one of four new regional water entities.

“If an ‘all-in’ approach was the Minister’s foregone conclusion, why has she wasted councils’ time by pretending to seek their views through a farcical engagement process, and making them go to the trouble of submitting feedback before today?

“The Minister’s sales pitch is a clear admission that she has already decided to forge ahead and make the reforms compulsory.

“National has been warning councils and communities for months that this outcome would be inevitable.

“We will keep fighting the Three Waters asset grab with everything we’ve got. We encourage every New Zealander to sign our petition to stop it.”

The government also rushed through, under urgency, the first reading of a Bill that would give itself the power to delay local body elections :

 The Government must urgently explain why it wants to give itself the power to delay next year’s local body elections limitless times through to 2023, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon say.

“The Government is currently able to adjourn a local election for up to six weeks in a local body election year.

“In a bill introduced to Parliament only yesterday, and now rushed through its first reading under urgency, the Government wants to empower itself to adjourn polling day multiple times without constraint – and not just in an election year, but the year after as well.

“It would mean that the Government could delay every local body election next year, all the way through 2023. No wonder the Minister didn’t mention it in his First Reading speech.

“This would be a major change and a threat to local decision-making – yet Labour are forcing the bill through a shortened select committee process which will allow almost no proper public consultation.

“Granting this power under the cloak of Covid-19 is egregious.

“Local body elections are conducted by postal ballot, not by in-person voting. The Government has ample time to prepare for the 2022 local elections and the existing ability to adjourn them if required due to an Alert Level change.

“What does legislating this draconian and overreaching power now, a year out, imply about Labour’s confidence in their own Covid-19 response?

“The Government is under massive pressure over the Three Waters Reforms and their relationships with councils are already severely strained. This latest proposal will only pour fuel on the fire.

“Councils and communities will rightly reject this move for the assault on local control that it is – especially with Labour ramming it through Parliament under a truncated process.

“New Zealanders won’t accept another attempted power grab from the Beehive.

“National will keep fighting Labour’s attempts to diminish local democracy. We must keep the ‘local’ in local government.”

Steven Joyce says the government is getting too big for its boots:

. . . For good measure the same bill will give minister Chris Hipkins the unfettered right to postpone next year’s local government postal elections for up to a year.

But the biggest over-reach of all so far is minister Nanaia Mahuta’s threat to confiscate water infrastructure assets owned by ratepayers without fair payment, in order to create four new corporate water entities around the country.

She is also refusing to provide shares in or direct oversight of those entities back to local councils.

That is a travesty.

There are good arguments for water reform, and some amalgamations into regional entities that can borrow money to invest in assets makes sense. But confiscating the assets of any organisation not owned by central government is going several steps too far.

These are all signs of a government getting too big for its boots. The impression is worsened by the expensive wall-to-wall propaganda, sorry — advertising, being employed to sell the water reforms and other contentious policies like the gold-plated tram for Auckland’s inner west. Covid-19 publicity is legitimate, political propaganda is not.

A year after being handed an old-style first past the post result, and having possibly developed a taste for bossing people around during the Covid response, the current Government is regularly behaving like its Muldoon-style predecessors. . . 

Would it be overly cynical to join the dots between a Minister who gives every appearance of planning to force the Three Waters plan on councils, whether or not they want it and the government giving itself the power to delay local body elections?

The government is turning democracy into demockracy.


Plea to pull plug on Three Waters proposal

28/09/2021

National has launched a petition calling on government to pull the plug on its Three Waters proposal:

Labour must listen to the multitude of mayors pleading for the Three Waters plans to be dumped, National’s Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says.

“With an overwhelming majority of councils not onboard, the Government’s programme is in dire straits and its four entity model is floundering fast.

“Only a handful of mayors have explicitly supported the reforms, while the remaining 60-odd are not on board. Many are in fact urging the Government to suspend the process because they have not had adequate time to digest the detail or consult their communities.

“The South Island entity D is in serious doubt, with mayors from across the West Coast, Canterbury, Otago and Southland writing to the Minister and asking for a pause.

“The northern entity A has all but fallen apart, with Far North and Whangārei already gone and the remaining two councils, Auckland and Kaipara, in strong opposition and likely to leave next.

“Meanwhile, Hawke’s Bay mayors are against the reforms and other councils throughout entities B and C in areas like the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Manawatū are hitting the brakes.

“It’s no surprise mayors are rebuking the Government’s woeful consultation timeframe and apparent need for speed.

“National has consistently said that the supposed benefits and cost savings haven’t been adequately explained to the public.

“We oppose the Three Waters Reforms. The touted scale benefits are unrealistic, ratepayers would end up cross-subsidising neighbouring areas, and the entities would strip power from communities and steal control of their water assets.

“The Government must heed the mayors’ calls and at a bare minimum, pause the programme immediately.

“I would encourage them to go one step further and dump the Three Waters plan altogether. We must keep the ‘local’ in local government.”

Christchurch City Council has joined the majority opposed to the plan.

The Christchurch City Council has voted to inform the Government it strongly opposes the proposed entity-based model for water services. . . 

Councillor Sam MacDonald said advice from staff shows how fundamentally flawed the model is.

“What’s really alarming with this is, there has been millions of dollars spent on consultants and what have we really got? We’ve basically shown Government doesn’t understand how local councils operate,” he said. . . 

Just think how much good those millions could have done had they been spent on improving water infrastructure instead.

National’s petition has attracted nearly 25,000 signatures in three days, Christopher Luxon says.

“Kiwis are making it clear they don’t support Labour’s centralisation and control agenda.

“The Government’s model of four water entities would strip control from communities and erode local democracy, putting ratepayer accountability at arm’s length.

“The significant and immediate response to our petition shows New Zealanders won’t accept the brazen theft of water assets they’ve paid for decades to own.

“We agree that every New Zealander deserves clean, safe water. But Labour’s deeply flawed entity model is not the way to get there.

“The Government looks set to ram through their plan at any cost – including making the reforms compulsory for councils, if that’s what it takes.

“National is calling on all Kiwis to sign and share our petition, demand the debate on Three Waters, and tell the Government they can’t force their asset grab on New Zealand.”

You can sign the petition here.

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith gives his views on the proposals:

This is my journey with three waters so far.

Government decides that clean water is a priority for every New Zealander, that is a government decision.

Government starts by legislating a water regulator and makes it mandatory to enforce the standard that Govt has decided upon for the supply of drinking water.

It is basing its’ decisions on the Scottish water model.

This is where I saw the first crack appear.

The regulator must ensure that all users of water get the same treatment across New Zealand.

It’s again a one-size-fits-all for everybody that uses water, no matter if you are rain fed or aquifer fed. A big difference Coasters.

The question of what it will cost ratepayers has not been considered as a priority.

Can New Zealand afford a gold-plated water management regime?

Would a bronze or Silver Plate model have been a better first step.

The regulator has already indicated he has the power of enforcement, and he will use it. I wonder what that means? . . 

Bruce Smith again:

. . . At the LGNZ conference a $2.5 billion incentive was announced by the Prime Minister to encourage councils to opt into the government three water proposals.

Westland District Council was to receive $11 million which we were advised could be used on any project and not confined to three waters. Its stated purpose was to ensure Councils were no worse off after their three waters functions and assets were removed by government.

Nothing was mentioned about strings attached by the Prime Minister in her speech.

On the second day of the conference, we were informed the money would become available in July of 2024.

It could be spent on projects consulted and approved by iwi and was not confined to three waters investment.

It was subject to councils joining the government masterplan for three waters reform.

This included the transfer of Councils three water assets to one of four companies to be established to control the allocation of water, the assets transferred by Councils, and the funding of the current and future three water supplies.

It was clarified that Maori would be granted membership and voting rights of 50% of the governance groups that controlled the three water activities and future strategic direction of each of the four entities.

The voting would be 50% Maori and 50% councils who had transferred 100% of the assets to the operating companies.

This government proposal gives Maori who makeup at June 2020 10.4% of the West Coast population and 16.7% of the New Zealand population according to statistics NZ.

Maori in commercial terms gets the right of Veto in perpetuity from government.

This is an unorthodox proposal where 100% of the population have paid for the existing assets and will be paying 100% of all future water costs.

Amongst the conversations it was observed how undemocratic this proposal was. It was noted that the proposal would create a real backlash in our communities. An unintended consequence or is it a further implementation of the HE PUAPUA report. . . 

 

 


3 Waters process isn’t legal?

08/09/2021

Peter Dunne thinks Three Waters is  dead in the water :

The government’s plan to overhaul the regulatory and supply arrangements for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – the so-called Three Waters Plan – looks to be close to dead in the water. . . 

The overall picture that has emerged has been one of serious deficiencies and variability in our overall water management system. From both from an environmental and water quality perspective, there are no consistent overall quality and management, let alone co-management with iwi, systems in place.

In its response, set out in legislation nearly a year ago, the government has proposed splitting the country into four regions, and establishing stand-alone water management agencies in each region to take over the assets and responsibilities of the 67 local councils currently responsible.

However, as might be expected, there has already been strong push-back to the government’s plans. Not surprisingly, local authorities do not take kindly to being told by central government they have to give up control and ownership of assets they have long regarded as their own, or that they believe they are managing well. Already, the Labour-aligned Mayors of Auckland and Christchurch – two of the country’s largest local authorities – have come out against the plans. They are not alone – other Mayors have been similarly outspoken.

Yet, not unreasonably, the Minister of Local Government made the point at the time the legislation was introduced that it would only work if every local authority bought into what was being proposed. A year since the legislation was introduced and after much ongoing debate, the prospect of a uniform response seems further away than ever. But the need for a better approach to both managing water resources and ensuring ancient pipework is upgraded in a timely manner grows stronger every day. . . 

Southern mayors have asked the government to his pause on the plan.

Canterbury mayors also want a pause  , Hawkes Bay leaders are asking for a rethink, and the Far North District Council has opted out.

The government is trying to bypass councils by going straight to the public with a flood of advertisements that, like all propaganda, are much higher on emotion than facts.

While there’s been a lot of money put into that communication, there has been little if any consultation with ratepayers and residents which Southland MP Joseph Mooney says isn’t legal.

. . . The Government must hit pause on these landmark reforms and then address council concerns by engaging with them and the public in a free and transparent conversation on the merits of the 3 Waters Reforms.

It’s not only the right thing to do and the sensible thing to do, it’s the lawful thing to do.

The Local Government Act has a process to ensure democracy across New Zealand’s regions by making it a legal requirement for councils to consult their communities and their ratepayers on major changes to their priorities and their resources.

The Government’s handling of the 3 Waters process has ignored that legal requirement.

Pausing the 3 Waters process would allow councils to fulfil their legal obligations by giving them time to engage their communities.

The Government first has to give councils all the information they need, so that councils can have meaningful consultation with their communities.

Together with a proper dialogue from the Government, councils will be able to make informed decisions on the future of their water assets. . . 

The government has tried to sell its plan for central control with a $2.5 billion sweetener.

The government plans to splash $2.5 billion on ensuring the Three Waters reform programme leaves no council worse off.

That might work in the short term but the bureaucracy and inefficiency that comes with central control would cost more in the long term.

Some councils have major problems with their water quality and infrastructure. Some don’t and are being lumped in with the poor performers. The money would be better spent helping councils solve their water problems.

Then the government could ensure none go backwards by requiring them to undergo infrastructure audits every year.

That would allow councils to retain ownership and control of their assets while ensuring that they looked after them properly.


Rural round-up

11/08/2021

Southland farmers raise concerns about Australia luring workers across the Tasman

Australia is providing financial incentives to lure New Zealand immigrant dairy workers across the Tasman.

Southland Federated Farmers sharemilker chairman Jason Herrick said the incentives amounted to thousands of dollars, including relocation costs and bonuses for staying in jobs at least eight weeks.

And they will be re-united with family currently still overseas.

Herrick said immigrant workers on his farm were telling him almost daily of workers leaving New Zealand – although he acknowledged that had slowed a bit with Covid-19 issues. . .

Water reforms could heavily impact rural New Zealand – Annette Scott:

The Government’s intention to reform local government water services into multi-regional entities has the potential to impact heavily on rural communities.

In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform programme, a three-year programme to address the challenges facing council-owned and operated three water services.

Government is proposing to establish four publicly-owned entities to take responsibility for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure across New Zealand. The Government has considered the evidence and proposes that four large water entities will create an affordable system that ensures secure delivery of safe drinking water and resilient wastewater and stormwater systems.

At present, 67 councils provide most of the country’s three waters services. . .

Water reform details scarce – Neal Wallace:

District councils are questioning the lack of detail with the Government’s Three Waters reforms, but are so far reserving judgement.

Its proposal creates four publicly-owned water companies to manage drinking, waste and stormwater assets, along with debt appropriated from 67 councils.

Mayors are frustrated the Government is not listening to their concerns, evident by being given just eight weeks to provide feedback on the proposals.

Other concerns included consultation, the speed of the reforms, local input into the new entity’s decisions, asset valuation, what happens to councils who decline to join the new entities and how communities decide whether or not to be involved. . .

Spring lambing percentages expected to dip – David Hill:

Spring lamb numbers are expected to be down around the region.

North Canterbury scanning contractor Daniel Wheeler said scanning results had been mixed around the region and the season’s drought had taken its toll.

The Amberley-based contractor pregnancy scanned ewes in the North Canterbury and Ellesmere areas.

He estimated scanning percentages were down about 10 to 20%. . .

New T&G company VentureFruit to develop new berry and fruit varieties :

Fruit and vegetable producer and marketer T&G Global is launching a new business to develop and commercialise new fruit varieties.

The new company called VentureFruit will focus on new varieties of boysenberries, blackberries, blueberries, hybrid berries and other fruit trees.

Coinciding with its launch, VentureFruit has signed two key partnerships. It is co-investing alongside science organisation Plant & Food Research in a range of new berries, of which VentureFruit will be the exclusive global commercialisation partner.

In addition, it is also partnering with Plant IP Partners to test and evaluate new varieties of apples which have been bred in New Zealand. . . 

 

 

Farmers urged to push 2021 Love Lamb Week campaign :

Sheep farmers are being encouraged to get behind next month’s Love Lamb Week to help promote the sector to the general public.

The UK sheep sector is preparing to celebrate another Love Lamb Week at the beginning of September following a year of market turbulence.

Farmers are being encouraged to spur on their local community to get involved in promotional activities for the annual campaign.

Now in its seventh year, Love Lamb Week, running from 1 to 7 September, encourages the domestic consumption of UK lamb at its peak season of availability. . . 


Central control freakery

02/07/2021

First they came for the polytechs, took away their independence and imposed central control.

Then they came for the health system and are in the process of imposing not one but two authorities with central control – one for Maori and one for the rest of us.

Now they’re coming for water, taking it from councils and imposing control from four new and much larger authorities.

One supposed benefit of the three waters plan is saving money, which is laughable:

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the removal of local democratic control over water assets and says that regional cross subsidisation is a recipe for gold plating and higher costs.

Reacting to the details of the reforms announced this morning, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“The claim this will save ratepayer money is laughable. It will see Auckland water users funding Rolls-Royce water treatment plants in the far north, and force gold plated solutions onto tiny communities. We don’t often say Phil Goff is right, but on this, he is bang on with his warnings.”

“Even worse, these proposals remove the ability of ratepayers to hold the water bodies to account. They’re going to be able to impose huge costs, without being accountable, even indirectly, to the communities who will pick up the bills.”

“The proposed matrix of committee and iwi governance is a bugger’s muddle.”

“The claim that councils will still own the assets is worthless and true in name only. They won’t be able to do a thing to sack or govern the water assets local communities have paid for.”

The Minister said ratepayers would save money. If councils are no longer responsible for three waters they might. But if water charges aren’t levied on ratepayers they’ll be levied on water users or taxpayers.

The bill might come from a different entity but we’ll all still be paying, and almost certainly paying more than we do now.

That is just one reason the proposed water reforms are unconvincing:

While there’s a clear case for change in our Three Waters sector the Government’s plan isn’t compelling, and the model of four regional entities comes with several problems, National’s Water spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“The problems with Three Waters are complex, National recognises that, and we understand the need for change. But the proposed solution will end up with more problems than solutions.

“The benefits of scale are not convincing. Water services are not like the power grid – they are individual assets that are distanced and difficult to network. Yet the whole premise of four water entities assumes significant scale benefits.

“The result will be large service organisations that won’t work together or create any savings. The last thing New Zealanders need is more bloated bureaucracies.

“We have yet to see a thorough implementation plan. How will the water assets of communities like Kaikōura and Bluff, some 800km apart, be practically networked and merged into one entity?

“Ratepayers face losing local control of the assets they’ve paid for over generations, while being asked to foot the bill for poorer-performing neighbours – all while getting no guarantee that the service will materially improve,” Mr Bridges says.

Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says meanwhile the Government’s relationship with councils is unravelling by the day.

“Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s officials have been busy eroding any goodwill from councils, running negative ads claiming councils are doing a bad job managing Three Waters and refusing their requests for information. Mayors and councils say they are feeling dumped on and undermined.

“Council confidence is falling. Whangārei District Council has been the first to pull out before the programme has even got off the ground. The mayors of Auckland, Christchurch and Napier are making the same sounds.

“The reforms were designed to be voluntary for councils but if more continue to opt-out, there is a very real risk the Minister will make participation compulsory and force councils to surrender their water assets.

“National supports a water regulator with greater power to set and enforce standards.

“We believe we should be enhancing Three Waters capability and incentivising change where it is led locally and able to happen organically – not mandated by the Beehive.

“These reforms are showing the same ‘we know best’ attitude and amalgamation agenda that we’ve seen from the Labour Government in vocational education and DHBs. Change must be led by councils and communities,” Mr Luxon says.

The water reforms, like those imposed on polytechs, punish the good performers.

There is a better way than central control freakery:  leave the good performers to carry on as they are and  help the under-performers follow the examples of those councils that are doing so much better.

While doing that, require auditing of local authorities to not only look at finances but infrastructure too. That way repairs, maintenance, upgrades and replacements won’t be able to be overlooked in favour of other less essential, but possibly more politically attractive, projects.


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