Dry rivers show need for water storage

November 20, 2018

It’s not yet officially summer but two Hawkes Bay Rivers have already dried up:

Some businesses and farmers in Central Hawke’s Bay may start rationing water as parts of the Waipawa and Tukituki rivers are already bone dry.

It comes as figures obtained by RNZ show the top six water consent holders in the district are using more than half of all allocated water from the Ruataniwha Aquifer and rivers.

Surface water user group chair Alastair Haliburton said around 40 consent holders were considering rationing and rostering their water supplies this summer because of concerns that river levels were so low.

His own company, Medallion Pet Foods, which employed 14 people in Waipukurau, could go bust if it does not get enough water.

“If we don’t get water we can’t manufacture and the doors close,” Mr Haliburton said.

Other businesses would be affected by the rationing, he said.

“It means that some crops probably won’t be planted, or yields will be lower, livestock productivity is going to be lower … essentially it means a scaling back of commercial activity.” . . 

Ongaonga farmer Alistair Setter was also worried about getting enough water for his crops this summer.

A section of the Waipawa River near his home dried up in mid-October.

“On a dry year it might dry up around Christmas time but it’s never done this before,” he said. . . 

Over allocation of water from aquifers is widespread.

Rationing is one solution, water storage is another.

Building dams to hold water when it’s not needed to release it when it is needed has both environmental and economic benefits.

Water from dams can be used to maintain minimum flows to protect and enhance water life when there’s insufficient rain. The water can also be used for manufacturing and irrigation.

Irrigation also helps recharge aquifers.

Forecasts warn of more hotter, dryer summers. Central and local governments ought to be planning for that and more water storage should be part of their plans.

Building dams is expensive but so too are the economic, environmental and social costs of dry rivers and water rationing.


Rural round-up

May 2, 2015

Trelinnoe treads lightly on the environment – Kate Taylor:

From crutching sheep at home on the farm to meeting the world’s top farming politicians, the passion Bruce Wills has for all facets of farming is evident from the moment you meet him.

His brother Scott is the other side of the coin, a man of few words, until you ask him about the farm’s stock policies, then the same passion is evident.

They both love Trelinnoe – an 1134ha hill country farm carved out of the scrub by their parents and an uncle through the 1950s and 60s. . .

Ruataniwha irrigation scheme gets 15 years to sort water quality – Pattrick Smellie:

 (BusinessDesk) – A revised decision from the board of inquiry considering the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme relaxes water quality conditions that were previously regarded as unworkable. It gives irrigators 15 years to find ways to manage nitrogen levels in the Tukituki River to very low levels.

The board’s original decision, released last June, set a maximum level for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) downstream from the scheme of 0.8 milligrams per litre, a level consistent with the highest quality freshwater bodies under the government’s recently updated National Policy Statement on freshwater management, and at odds with DIN levels in the river today.

To get around that, the decision created an exemption for some 615 farms to discharge higher levels of nitrogen, leading to successful appeals from a range of environmental groups who argued the board had created a “factual fiction” by setting a high standard that would not then be expected to be met. . .

 

IrrigationNZ says Board of Inquiry decision on Tukituki ‘reasonable’ but far from practical for farmers:

“The Board of Inquiry for the Tukituki Catchment has reached a reasonable decision in what has been a long process,” says Andrew Curtis, CEO of IrrigationNZ. “But it is a far from practical outcome for farmers and the regional economy. We believe nutrient limits set for the Tukituki system remain unrealistic for what is a productive working agricultural landscape.”*

IrrigationNZ does however recognise the positive step taken in the decision to exclude some hill country farms, forestry, orchards and lifestyle blocks from having to gain consents, but points out that the reality is the majority of commercial enterprises will still require one. . .

 

Alliance Group Targets 3,300 Tonne Carbon Reduction:

One of the world’s largest processors of sheepmeat, Alliance Group Limited, aims to reduce carbon emissions by 3,300 tonnes over the next three years, as part of a new energy management agreement with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

The agreement, announced in Southland today by Alliance Group Chief Executive David Surveyor and EECA Chief Executive Mike Underhill, includes a thermal and electricity energy use reduction of approximately 10 Gigawatt hours per annum by 2017. This is the equivalent annual energy use of about 960 households.

David Surveyor says reducing the company’s energy use makes good business and environmental sense and that the new partnership with EECA is the next phase of Alliance Group’s energy management journey. . .

Synlait Milk ingredient will help to significantly enhance sleep:

Synlait Milk has commercialised a dairy-based milk powder ingredient that is clinically proven to enhance sleep.

Results from an independent clinical trial of iNdream3 have proved its efficacy as a sleep promoting ingredient.

iNdream3 is made from melatonin-rich milk collected in the hours of darkness, when cows naturally produce increased concentrations of melatonin in their milk

“We’ve been developing this product for several years and this clinical trial is a major milestone in proving the ability of iNdream3 to improve sleep,” said Dr Simon Causer, Synlait’s Research and Development Manager.. . .

Maori farm vitally important for community:

A Northland sheep and beef farm in the running for the top Maori farming award has impressed the judges with its strong ties to a small local community.

Paua Station is one of three finalists for the Ahuwhenua Trophy and as part of the awards is hosting an open day today.

The almost 3,000 hectare station lies just south of Cape Reinga, about 80 kilometres north of Kaitaia, and surrounds the small community of Te Kao.

It is owned by Parengarenga Incorporation, whose general manager, John Ellis, said the running of the farm was very much centred around the community. . .

Dairy Awards Finalists in Auckland for Annual Awards:

The 33 finalists in the 2015 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are in Auckland, where the winners of the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year will be announced on Saturday night.

“The national awards is a big deal for these finalists – they’ll meet some key industry people, develop lifelong friendships and important networks, and be exposed to opportunities that’ll propel their career forward,” National Convenor Chris Keeping says.

Judging has been taking place during the past two weeks, as judges have visited the sharemilker/equity farmer and farm manager finalists on their farms. However, the final judging component will take place tomorrow when all finalists will participate in an interview. . .

Country’s Top Steaks Make The Cut:

Following today’s semi-final taste test, the 20 most succulent steaks in New Zealand have been named as finalists in the 2015 Beef and Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin Competition.

A panel of 12 well-known foodwriters and chefs, including Kerry Tyack and Julie Biuso, tasted a total of 69 sirloin steaks, judging each one on taste, tenderness and aroma, to find the top four for each class.

Semi-final judge, Kerry Tyack says as a returning judge, he was reminded of the outstanding quality of New Zealand beef.

“Although the steaks vary in taste, texture and appearance, they’re all of a consistently high standard,” says Tyack. . .

Hawke’s Bay Harvest Bodes Well for a Stellar 2015 Vintage:

The Hawke’s Bay wine region looks set to enjoy its third consecutive year of great vintages.

With picking nearly complete, Hawke’s Bay grape growers and wine makers are optimistic that this will be another good year, following exemplary vintages in 2013 and 2014. Hawke’s Bay is the first region to forecast the quality of this year’s vintage following harvest.

“Most would be considering this to be a very good, solid vintage,” Michael Henley, Chair of the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association (HBWG) and CEO of Trinity Hill Wines, says. . .


Who are denialists now?

April 24, 2014

Federated Farmers’ Hawkes Bay president Will Foley asks, who are the denialists now?

RadioLIVE recently ran an online poll asking its listeners if they were frightened of climate change.  To the shock of host Marcus Lush, two-thirds of respondents apparently said no, they’re not.  I would have said yes.

As some groups are cock-a-hoop over tough consent conditions imposed on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme and others think them lax, you have to wonder if this public climate weariness has spread to them too.

What it all means for the viability of Ruataniwha won’t be known until the 700-page decision is crunched but what I know is this.  If the scheme does not progress it won’t affect Green Party MP’s in their air conditioned offices or the paid Wellington staff at Forest & Bird.  They don’t have to worry about the El Nino being talked about for spring.  They don’t have to watch our region increasingly turn into a retirement village while our young drift to Auckland or Australia.  They don’t have to deal with crime since Hawke’s Bay bucked the national trend last year.

I cannot understand why some are so hell-bent on derailing a scheme, which gives Hawke’s Bay its best shot at adapting to a changing climate. Federated Farmers hosted Dr Russel Norman at the South Island’s Opuha water storage scheme a few years ago.  Memories seem short unless you are a politician.

With a medium level of confidence the climate experts say that average rainfall on the east coast will decrease this century.  This will lead to lower flows of the Makaroro River, Waipawa and Tukituki Rivers. The International Panel on Climate Change warns that by 2040, the East Coast can expect to double or even triple the time spent in drought.  This is our future unless we adapt and that means new pastures, crops, technologies and even animals.  Above all, adaption means storing water like that proposed by Ruataniwha.

I will be blunt to make a point; the shit in the Tukituki during summer low flows has mostly been human.  Up to 70 percent of phosphorous loading during low flows had come from the wastewater plants of Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane and Takapau.  That’s thankfully changing with upgrades in hand while the allocation regime will put more water into the Tukituki during summer.

Ruataniwha could do more.  It could put a quarter of a billion dollars into those towns each year providing councils with the means to meet increasing drinking water standards.  This proves that the environment and economy are flipsides of the same coin.  If there’s no scheme, there’s no dam supported flushing and little additional money to upgrade existing plant.  Can anyone tell me the environmental win in that?

Is it just me or has the media and Ruataniwha opponents overlooked the IPCC’s warning that New Zealand is underprepared for a changing climate.  If anything, there seems to be outright denial since these groups seem to believe our rivers in 2040 will be exactly as they were in 2014.  It is not like the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company got a muppet to look into climate issues and Ruataniwha either.  Victoria University’s Dr James Renwick happens to be an international expert in this field.

While dryland places like North Otago have been averaging twice their normal rainfall over the past five years, in the same timeframe, we’ve had three droughts and it is dragging Hawke’s Bay down.  Out of 67 councils in the last census, Hastings District slipped nine spots to 30th spot, Napier went back one to 31st while Central Hawke’s Bay District dropped to 58th – losing 1.8 percent of its usually resident population.

If Ruataniwha’s consents are so tough they are Clayton’s ones, then it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the environment.  As the climate warms so will the waterways while the volume going into them drops. While that’s great for algae it doesn’t sound so flash for introduced trout or native fish and birds. 

While we can expect less intense rainfall we can store what falls and that’s the beauty of Ruataniwha and the secret recipe of our economy; just add water.

So is Ruataniwha perfect, probably not, but what is?  Do I have the information to make an informed investment decision? That now hinges on the consent conditions attached by the Board of Inquiry.  Yet debating the principle of storing water, given towns and cities do it, is a bit like debating the wisdom of sunblock, dumb. 

If we accept the climate is changing then we need to store water and adapt how we currently do things.  If you deny the climate will ever change then I guess you won’t be at the National Aquarium of NZ on 6 May, where NIWA’s Dr Andrew Tait is talking at 730pm on The Climate and Weather of Hawke’s Bay.

New Zealand makes a tiny contribution to green house gases.

No matter how hard we try to reduce emissions, we are at the mercy of other countries whose emissions are much greater.

We can continue to do our bit but we must also prepare to adapt to whatever nature throws at us.

If, as is predicted, parts of New Zealand will be hotter and drier, then water storage schemes like Ruataniwha which will enable irrigation and maintain minimum flows in rivers, are not just sensible, the economic, environmental and social benefits they provide.


Rural round-up

February 25, 2014

Sewer discharge called a disgrace:

A leading Hawke’s Bay wine industry figure says sewerage pouring into Hawke’s Bay’s rivers is a disgrace and potentially damaging to the region’s food and beverage producers.

The group Friends of the Tukituki is threatening legal action if the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council is unable to meet new resource consents for discharging town sewerage into the Waipawa and Tukituki Rivers.

It says the brown smelly discharge currently going into the rivers is unacceptable.

Central Hawke’s Bay District Council says the discharge is within its resource consent, and is confident a new sewage plant will be operating by October which will discharge crystal clear water. . . .

Minister flags Maori land potential:

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has highlighted the potential for Maori agribusiness as part of the Government’s goal of doubling primary sector exports by 2025.

The ministry now forecasts the sector will earn $36.5 billion this season – up nearly $5 billion on the last forecast six months ago.

Of the 1.5 million hectares of Maori land, only 300,000 hectares is in full production. . .

East Coast first to host Environment Awards – RivetettingKateTaylor:

The first regional dinner has been held for the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The East Coast awards, covering the geographic area of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and the Gisborne District Council, were announced in Gisborne on Thursday.  It’s the fourth year of the awards but the first time hosted by Gisborne.

Well done to all those who entered…. and (drum roll please) the winners were Rob and Sandra Faulkner and Bruce and Jo Graham from the 600ha property, Wairakaia, which can be found on both sides of SH2 at Muriwai, south of Gisborne. . .

From the Lip – Pulse of rural NZ at field days – Jamie Mackay:

What follows are some random observations from the past fortnight and some pretty cool stuff that’s happened in rural New Zealand:

1. Tis field-day season. A couple of weeks ago it was the Southern Field Days at Waimumu. This week it’s the Northland Field Days at Dargaville and in a couple of weeks it’s off to Feilding for the Central Districts Field Days.  Between that and Horse of the Year in Hastings, the PPP Farming Conference in Queenstown, the inaugural Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards in New Plymouth and the Rolling Stones in Auckland, I think I’ll just set up camp at the airport over the next six weeks.

I shouldn’t complain though, because it’s at these field days you get the real pulse of rural New Zealand and it’s fair pumping out there at the moment.  Even though I’ve been attending the Southern Field Days for 20 years – it was the first gig I did in radio – Waimumu is still a revelation. It’s a “Mini Me” of Mystery Creek, only better.  It’s Dargaville’s turn to impress this week. . . .

 

 

Milksmart events make farmers do the maths :

MilkSmart events, where farmers are shown practical ways to reduce milking times, are doing the rounds again this year.

DairyNZ have made some changes to the topics after farmer feedback.

The topics include stockmanship, milking efficiency, cow flow, milking skills, mastitis management, smart dairy design, people management, smart water use and more.

Events were run in Morrinsville and Tokoroa last week.

Sessions were designed for one of three experience levels – those who are new to dairying, operational managers, and senior decision makers or farm owners. . . .

Fonterra Announces $32 Million Foodservice Expansion in Eltham:

Fonterra today announced a $32 million expansion of its slice-on-slice cheese capacity at its Collingwood Street site in Eltham, Taranaki.

Slice-on-slice cheese is used extensively in quick service restaurants for products such as hamburgers and sandwiches.

Work will start in early 2014 and is expected to be completed in mid-2015. When complete, the expanded plant will deliver both increased capacity and improved processes to meet growth in global demand from Fonterra’s foodservice customers.

Fonterra Director of Foodservice, René Dedoncker, said the investment demonstrated the Co-operative’s drive to grow its business in the high-value foodservice industry. . . .

BEC Feed Solutions Set to Taste New Zealand Market:

BEC Feed Solutions Australia has cemented its commitment to the New Zealand agricultural market with the opening of a New Zealand trading arm, BEC Feed Solutions NZ.

The move was prompted by New Zealand’s rapidly developing animal production market and thriving dairy industry, which has seen a 70% growth in dairy production over the past 20 years[1]. This, coupled with the dairy industry’s growing preference for supplementary feeding over a solely pasture-based system, provides a sound platform for BEC – Australia’s largest independent animal pre-mix manufacturer – to officially enter the New Zealand market. . .


Clean rivers everyone’s responsibility

June 5, 2012

The headline says Dirty dairying laid bare.

It’s only when you get well down the story that you find out:

The number of convictions fell from 51 in 2008-09 to 18 in the year to date. Abatement notices and infringement notices have also decreased, from 537 to 329 and 500 to 330. 

That’s still too high but it is still a small minority of the thousands of farms which are causing problems and as Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says farming isn’t the only source of water pollution:

Farmers wanted to do their fair share, but they were receiving the lion’s share of criticism when environmental degradation was more widespread, he said. 

“Farmers acknowledge our farming systems have an impact on the environment and there is no question about that. We want clean water too and we are happy to be part of the solution and be engaged fully. What needs to be more of this conversation is urban New Zealand also has an influence.” 

We drink this water so have a very real interest in ensuring it is potable.

He said sewage treatment plants flowing into urban towns and rural centres seemed to gain less attention than the effect of farming on the environment. 

    The treatment of human waste has come under more pressure as the population of New Zealand has increased 25 per cent with an extra 900,000 people over the past 20 years. 

    Wills said the Tukituki River in Hawke’s Bay was an example of the urban influence, with 50 per cent of the phosphorus coming from the oxidation ponds from nearby towns. 

    “We don’t hear about this conversation often. We hear about the bloody dairy farmers again and stock in the waterways. That has to change, but we just want the community to recognise it’s not just the rural community [contributing] to degraded water.” 

Bad practices with urban waste isn’t an excuse for farmers to get away with not complying with discharge conditions.

But let’s have a bit of balance – the responsibility for ensuring we have clean waterways doesn’t just lie with farmers.


Greens get it wrong on dariying

May 26, 2008

A fertiliser rep who moved here from Scotland told me the biggest threat to New Zealand exports was the British tabloids. He reckoned just one photo of a cow in a stream could seriously damage the reputation of our farms and consequently our markets.

 

We don’t have to wait for the tabloids to come to us, The Hive  points out the Greens are doing the ground work for them with this press release   on the risk from “dirty dairying”.

“Industrial dairying, or agricultural intensification, is leading to a decline in water quality across the country, as revealed in the suppressed Chapter 13 of the Ministry for the Environment’s State of the Environment report earlier this year,” says Dr. Russel Norman, Green Co-leader.

“If we want to gain an EU eco-label we will need to clean up the effluent and nutrients running into our rivers and lakes leaving them ecologically decayed, not to mention dangerous for our kids to swim in.

“Our economic future is linked to our environmental husbandry. We need to look after the land and the rivers if we expect others to pay a premium for our produce.”

I agree we need to look after our land and rivers but this release doesn’t acknowledge that most of us do. A couple of weeks ago Ag Research held a field day on our property. One of the speakers was Otago Regional Council Land Resources Officer Susie McKeague who said that North Otago generally did not have a problem with water pollution.

 

Among the reasons for this were the environmental farm plans which are mandatory for anyone taking water from the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC).  In a first for NZ the plans were a condition of the resource consent for the scheme. The plans ensure efficient use of water, control of run off, careful dispersal of effluent, fencing of water ways, riparian planting and other measures to protect the soil and water. They are independently monitored each year by the North Otago Sustainable Land Management Groups (NOSLaM)

 

New Zealand isn’t perfect and farmers have a big role to play in protecting our air, soil and water but there is nothing to be gained by ill-informed comments like these:

 

Federated Farmers and much of the Government are still in denial about the declining quality of our natural water bodies. Good farmers doing the right thing are being punished by industrial dairy companies making a fortune trading on our clean and green reputation. But if we don’t force industrial dairy to clean up its act then our clean and green reputation will end up tarnished which will damage all our exports, including tourism.”

 

Federated Farmers are not in denial, and while I can’t speak for all Regional Councils nor are the ORC and Environment Canterbury. Last month the ORC took three dairy farmers to court for breeching the council water plan with effluent discharges.

 

While there is no room for complacency and still room for improvement the Greens are behind the times with this press release. However, if they are genuinely concerned about water quality they could agitate for action on the Tukituki River in Hawkes Bay into which thousands of cubic metres of only partially treated urban sewage is pumped each day.


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