Rural round-up


IPCC Mitigation Report redefines agriculture as ‘green tech’:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Mitigation Report places New Zealand in a very good position so long as the policy nexus supports the carbon efficient production of food.

“The IPCC’s Mitigation Report projects that emissions from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use could, by 2050, be half of what they were in 2010,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“In the IPCC’s Mitigation Report summary for policymakers, agriculture is seen as being positive because it “plays a central role for food security and sustainable development”.

“We think the IPCC has come a very long way from 2007. There is an increasing alignment between climate change and food insecurity, arguably, the two biggest challenges our species will face this century. . .

Tukituki decision a win for water quality and farming:

The draft decision by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) on the Tukituki Catchment proposal represents a significant win for freshwater management and the urgency of a transition to environmentally sustainable agriculture in New Zealand, says Fish & Game NZ.

Fish & Game lead the evidence presented against the most contentious issue in front of the BOI which was Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s proposed “single nutrient management” approach – this focussed only on the management of phosphorous and set instream nitrogen limits at toxic levels. . .

Kiwi on the farm:

The sight of kiwi scratching the grass on Richard Gardner’s farm near Kaipara is now a common sight, thanks to his family’s dedication to a restoration project in the area.

Richard Gardner says they’ve been controlling pests in a fenced-off area of bush on his land and last year decided to introduce kiwi back into the area for the first time in 50 years.

He says his sister, Gill Adshead, and her husband, Kevin, were initially behind the restoration of 400 hectares of native bush, which is now home to kiwi. . .

Barns could give us the best of both worlds – James Houghton:

In a recent column by Sir David Skegg, he says we need to stop pretending that we can have our cake and eat it too. Whilst right now that may not be the case it is definitely a possibility.

Right now we are working to get the balance right between the environment and economy. Yes there is intensification and with that comes responsibility. Farmers are upgrading their infrastructure to keep within the acceptable limits, which involves nutrient budgets, cattle housing, new technology, and overseer programs. Overall New Zealand dairy farmers are investing a conservative $3 billion into improving their environmental impact, which is nothing to snort at. For each individual dairy farmer that equates to about a $250,000 investment, you can say we are taking every practical step to improve our environment.

It is all well and good to say we need a balance between meeting the Government’s target of doubling our exports by 2025 and maintaining and improving our water quality – everyone will agree with you here, but who sets that balance? It comes down to where your priorities lie, and everyone’s priorities are different. . .

Whitebait partners look for solutions:

Waikato-Tainui, local marae, councils and agencies are working together to better manage whitebait fisheries at Port Waikato following the compilation of a new report.

The report is the result of an initial scoping project to better understand the complex and inter-related resource management issues around whitebaiting in the lower Waikato River. The area has traditionally been a plentiful source of whitebait but over the years more and more people are seeking to gather the delicacy there.

With more people comes increased pressures for space to build stands, an increase in the number and size of baches and associated pressures such as sewage management, and a growing amount of whitebait being taken.  . .

Alps trail activity booms – Rebecca Fox:

In its first ”official” season, activity on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is much higher than the forecast.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said monthly trail counter readings from September 2013 to February this year show 3604 cyclists used the Lake Ohau Lodge section of the trail, 4815 cycled the Lake Pukaki section and 3646 passed the Ohau Weir section.

”The numbers are fantastic … they are higher than what was forecast,” Mr Gaskill said.

”In a lot of ways, it’d be hard to imagine how things could have gone a lot better [this season].” . . .

Feed statistics reflect the growth of New Zealand dairy production:

Annual Feed Production Statistics compiled by the New Zealand Feed Manufacturers Association (NZFMA) for the year 2013 reflect the changing face of feed production. Based on figures supplied by NZFMA member companies nationwide, the NZFMA annual statistics report the total tonnages of manufactured animal feed and the tonnages of raw materials used in the production of compound feed in New Zealand. (Compound feed is heat-treated feed produced in a feed mill in pellet or mashed form.)

In 2013, compound feed production increased by 2.8% to 991,027 tonnes and raw material usage rose by 4.1% to 983,440 tonnes. The four main grains used were wheat (58.8%), barley (17.4%), sorghum (12.2%) and maize (10.3%). The majority of compound feed was produced in the North Island (65.3%). 86% of compound feed is currently produced in bulk form and 14% is bagged. . .

Crusading conservationists


The Opposition is doing its best to land a blow on Conservation Minister Nick Smith but not making any headway.

At Question Time yesterday he just stuck to the facts –

I can only quote Doris Johnston, the Deputy Director-General of Conservation, and she said this: “He never saw the draft submission that everyone’s been talking about. It was never provided to his office. It was an internal working draft by [Department of Conservation] staff …”. I think that is pretty clear. . . .

Again I quote Doris Johnston, the Deputy Director-General of Conservation, who was very well respected under the previous Government in that role. She said this: “The Minister did not play any role in my decision making. He never told me his view.” So how could it be possible for them to have drawn any conclusion about my view? I simply asked for a full briefing and a copy of the submission. . . .

The answers also revealed concerns in the Department:

. . . Can I quote directly from an email from a senior Department of Conservation planning manager, who said this before the submission was finalised: “I’m a bit concerned that from a manager’s perspective, the issue about whether we should be involved in the plan change.” That is, there were senior managers in the Department of Conservation who did not agree with the draft submission.

Those concerns have prompted a review of the submission process by DoC:

The Director General of Conservation Lou Sanson says he has asked for a review of the department’s process for dealing with its submission on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal.

Mr Sanson says he stands by the decision taken by his senior managers not to submit on the wider environmental aspects of the proposal and says the Minister did not direct DOC about the submission it was making.

Mr Sanson says he does have questions about the time frames for making final decisions on the submission.

Mr Sanson says he has also initiated an internal investigation into the unauthorised release of a departmental email in connection with the submission.

He says the release of these emails calls the department’s integrity into question and he has asked an independent reviewer to look into this issue. . .

Labour is blaming the leak on low morale in DoC.

It is more likely to be confusion over the role of crusading conservationist and public servant.

This problem was raised by former States Services Commission Mark Prebble in an interview with Kathryn Ryan:

“Public servants have to implement the policies of the government of the day

Many people come to government to try to support a good cause. They don’t realise the one who has to determine which good cause is to be supported is the democratically minister of the day. And quite a lot of departments, not slinging off at their professionalism but say DOC, you get a lot of people who join DOC because they know they want to save a kakapo and if not a kakapo it will be the lesser spotted whatever. And if the lesser spotted whatever is not on the minister’s list of priorities they’ll find it hard to do.

A key part of the role of senior public servants is to explain to them well it is the minister who has to take the heat in public about that and the public servant really isn’t just employed to follow their own interests and if they want to follow their interests they can go and work in the private sector like anyone else. . .

. . . No public servant should be zealous about the particular cause they’re interested in. They should be zealous about democracy and respecting the law. . .”

He gave DoC as an example of people who join with an agenda which might not be that of the government which they are there to serve.

Federated Farmers also criticises the draft:

Federated Farmers is unsurprised a draft Department of Conservation (DoC) report on the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme never advanced beyond draft status.  The Federation instead believes publicly accessible information needs to lead the debate.

“I would have thought our politicians would have learned from the recent C. botulinum scare that the only report which counts is the final one,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson. 

“Instead of shadow boxing over what a draft DoC report may have said, we need to focus on the facts and the detailed amount of evidence, which is publicly accessible. 

“Take the Section 32 report on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.  This identifies the source for up to 70 percent of phosphorous (P) loading at times of low flow in the Tukituki as being the four urban wastewater treatment ponds, servicing Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane and Takapau.

“So if you genuinely want to stop the Tukituki from “running green,” then upgrading wastewater plants seems an obvious place to start.  That is underway but it also takes money; the kind of money economic activity generated by water storage delivers.

“But don’t take my word for it.  Read the backgrounders that are available from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s website I would also encourage doubters to read up on Canterbury’s Opuha Dam because it has exceeded all environmental and economic expectations.

“This is why we take issue with the suggestion Ruataniwha is open slather with few controls.  That’s insulting to anyone who takes freshwater management seriously.  There is also a package being put in place, which puts greater expectations on farmers and townships alike.

“That’s the kind of community-led ownership of freshwater management that reforms underway are looking to encourage. 

“It also baffles me that those who speak loudest about ‘collaboration’ and ‘democracy’ become combative when they don’t get their way.  Or rather, when they don’t think they’ll get their way.

“If you don’t trust my words about the volume of work being put into Ruataniwha, just read the evidence submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It shows you how the applicant has little to hide,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.

Water quality is an important consideration but opposition must be based on facts not an anti-farming, anti-irrigation bias.

Experience in North Otago shows improved water quality because of improved water flows during dry periods combined with compulsory environmental farm plans for anyone taking water through the irrigation company.

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