Rural round-up

08/12/2013

Another 385ha to be irrigated by scheme – David Bruce:

The North Otago Irrigation Company is expanding again, and will next week add another 385ha to a scheme that started with a 10,000ha first stage.

That initial investment of $67 million commissioned in 2006 to ultimately bring irrigation to 26,000ha on the North Otago Downlands, Waiareka Valley and eventually the Kakanui Valley has now grown to an asset of $75 million.

The new expansion, worth $3.5 million, has been financed by a combination of shareholder equity and company borrowings. . . .

Perfect country for sheep, paradise for rabbits too… – Timothy Brown:

The story of Earnscleugh Station was told at a field day at the property last month. Reporter Timothy Brown went along to hear how a rabbit-plagued desert was transformed into an award-winning showcase of farm management.

Earnscleugh Station stretches across 21,000ha of rugged Central Otago landscape. 

The station rises from 170m above sea level to 1850m, and has bitterly cold winters and hot dry summers – perfect sheep country.

Unfortunately for the Campbells – the owners of the station – it is also perfect rabbit country. . .

Fruit research aims for yield boost – Yvonne OHara:

A new research programme for pipfruit, kiwifruit and summer fruit is expected to see potential yield increases of between 50% and 150% by 2025.

Plant and Food Research (PFR) was given $8.3 million over six years by the Government, along with a 20% industry buy-in, in August, to redesign orchards from the ground up.

PFR business manager Declan Graham said the programme, Future Orchard Planting Systems (FOPS), was designed to increase the productivity and efficiency of the industry and that included expanding the kiwifruit and pipfruit sectors to $4 billion, up from the present $1.5 billion, by 2025. . .

Lack of pasture persistence a recurring theme:

IN THE 2007/08 drought Wayne Reynolds’ cows chewed covers down to four clicks and average cover across his 154ha effective farm was just 1190kgDM/ha.

Production that season dropped from 1200kgMS/ha to 1000kgMS/ha and despite immediately reseeding nearly half the farm, and a quarter of the farm annually after that, it didn’t recover.

“Milksolids were static despite our best efforts, bringing feed in and renewing the pasture of the farm,” he told the New Zealand Grassland Association’s conference in Tauranga earlier this month. . .

Attempt at shearing record:

WAIKARETU SHEARING record-holding husband and wife Sam and Emily Welch are rewarding the loyalty of their workers by helping them also get their names into the books with a five-stand lamb shearing record near Auckland this month.

The two and shearing contracting partner Tony Clayton-Greene are organising The Cavalier Woolscourers Ltd eight-hour, five-stand World Lamb Shearing Record attempt for the unclaimed eight-hour tally record at Cashmore Farms in Kawakawa Bay, between Clevedon and the Firth of Thames, on December 10. This is the closest to Auckland an event like this has ever been held. . .

Foaly Moley! – Jillaroo Jess:

This year, we only have had 3 Australian Stock Horse foals born on the property. It’s definitely quality over quantity though, they are beautiful. First born was a flashy chestnut colt with a big baldy face (lots of white) and 3 white socks who we named Coolrdige Kidman – after a famous Australian cattle baron. Next, a lovely little bay filly with a bucket load of attitude named Coolridge Karijini – a beautiful desert in Western Australia. Finally, a leggy black filly called Coolridge Khaleesi – I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones!

In case anyone is interested in Australian Stock Horses, and follows their breeding, all three are by Kooloombah Confidence, a very handsome red dun stallion. Confidence, and all of the mares are bred to Campdraft, which is an Australian horse sport with cattle, where you must first cut out a beast in the ‘camp’, then take it out into the arena and bend it around two posts and through a gate. These foals all have great breeding and we are looking forward to seeing their natural ability under saddle. I’m currently in the process of building a website for our horses and will have it finished in the coming months. Once breeding season is over I’ll have more time to get things happening. . .

Thousands attend official opening of world’s largest drier:

Thousands of Cantabrians joined Fonterra today to celebrate the official opening of the world’s largest milk powder drier at the Co-operative’s Darfield site.

The milk powder drier, which has already produced more than 50,000 metric tonnes of whole milk powder since it kicked into gear, was officially opened by Selwyn Member of Parliament and Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams as part of a public open day.

Fonterra’s Director of New Zealand Operations, Robert Spurway, said the completion of Darfield’s second stage was great for the local community and means that Fonterra can make the most of the Co-operative’s milk produced in the South Island. . .


And one woman

25/04/2013

When the people of the Waiareka Valley who died in active service are honoured we remember 76 men and one woman.

She was Isobel Clark, one of 10 nurses who lost their lives when the troop transport ship Marquette was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915.

She was only 30 years old.

She trained at Oamaru Hospital and a wall plaque which honours here was saved from the old building and is now on the wall in the new hospital.

She is also remembered by a memorial oak.

The other nurses who died in the sinking were: Marion S Brown, Catherine A Fox, Mary Gorman, Nona M Hildyard, Helena K Isdell, Mabel E Jamieson, Mary H Rae, Lorna A Rattray and Margaret Rogers.

The Christchurch Nurses Memorial Chapel was built in memory of those who died on the ship.

 


Tourists good, cement bad?

20/08/2011

Holcim began investigating building a cement plant in North Otago’s Waiareka Valley nearly 30 years ago but pulled back after the 1987 share market crash.

The company returned for further investigations and plans a few years ago. This time it got consent and the New Zealand  division put a proposal to the international board in Switzerland, but still we wait for a decision:

Oamaru leaders have been expecting a final decision this week at Holcim’s international board meeting in Switzerland.

Holcim New Zealand says the meeting did review the project, but did not make any final decisions.

The $400 million plant would employ about 120 people. That would make a significant economic and social contribution to North Otago and strict conditions on the building and operation would safeguard the environment.

In spite of that the plans have engendered vigorous opposition and among the arguments against the development were that it would threaten tourism.

We passed a cement plant while driving through a national park near Banff in the Rocky Mountains last month . We didn’t know it was there until we were almost upon it and it didn’t appear to be having a negative impact on tourism.

Those opposing the plant also argued that tourism would be better for the economy and environment than a cement plant.

I wonder how many tourists it would take to generate 120 fulltime jobs and what impact transporting, accommodating and feeding them would have on the environment?


Irrigation funding

26/08/2008

The Government’s finally come up with some money to help investigate  community irrigation and water storeage schemes.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has allocated $390,000 under its Community Irrigation Fund to seven schemes, including the Strath Taieri Irrigation scheme, Dairy Creek Irrigation scheme, Mount Ida Dam and Tarras Community Water Scheme.

Two others are in Canterbury and the other in the Wairarapa.

MAF director-general Murray Sherwin said in a statement the $6.4 million fund aimed to help rural communities adapt to climate change and reduce the risk of water shortages.

The money can meet 50% of valid costs and can be put towards paying for support staff, promotional and communication activities, developing a prospectus for potential investors, investigating funding arrangements, facilitating farmer investment and to investigate multiple use of water.

This is great news and long overdue. No-one expects the tax payer to contribute to on-farm costs but the development of community irrigation schemes should be treated like other infrastructure with a public benefit.

When the North Otago Irrigation Company was doing the ground work for its scheme to pump water from the Waitaki River then pipe it under pressure to irrigate up to 20,000 hectares in the Waiareka and Kakanui Valleys there wasn’t a cent of government money available.

Then Minsiter of Regional Development Jim Anderton met NOIC directors several times, accepted there was no better form of regional development foe the area, and each time he promised some assistance but never once delivered.

The NOIC Scheme which opened two years ago has provided an amazing economic, environmental and social boost not just to the valleys but the wider District too with flow-on benefits for the national economy. It would have been a bit easier for all concerned had their been the financial assistance MAF is now providing.


Consent Appeal Off Track

08/07/2008

While debate rages over KiwiRail nationwide, North Otago has a local argument over whether a disused line should be re-opened to allow trains to run at all.

A branch line used to run from the limeworks on the outskirts of Weston to Oamaru. It was closed in 1997 and the lines were lifted a couple of years later but its owner, then NZ Railways, retained ownership in case it was needed for a cement plant.

However, when the Waitaki district plan was reviewed in 1993 the designation wasn’t properly recorded. OnTrack now needs it redesignated because it’s the best means of transport for Holcim NZ  if its plans for a new cement plant in the Waiareka Valley come to fruition.

The new plant would be a $400m investment for Holcim but its plans have not been greeted with universal enthusiasm and the Waiareka Valley Preservation Society  was set up to oppose the proposal.

Resource consent was granted in February but both Holcim and the WVPS have lodged appeals – the former over some of the conditions, that latter over the approval.

OnTrack’s application to redesignate the line came in the middle of all this and the WVPS submitted against it. Independent commissioner Allan Cubitt recommended that approval be given and because OnTrack is a requiring authority under the Resource Management Act it makes the final decision. Not surprisingly it accepted the commissioner’s recommendation but now the WVPS, which submitted against the application, is appealing that consent too. Their appeal will be considered with the others on Holcim’s proposal in the Environment Court.

We farm next to the site for Holcim’s plant and another of our properties neighbours the company’s sand pit, which will be used if the cement works go ahead. 

I submitted in support of Holcim’s proposal at the resource consent hearings. I’ll cover the details in a future blog, but the short argument is that there would be substantial economic and social benefits for the district if the cement works go ahead; and RMA conditions will safeguard the environment.

As for the railway line, I crossed it several times a week when it was open before and can’t recall any problems then. People who have built beside the rail corridor since the track closed will have concerns; but once they get used to them they’ll hardly notice a few trains a day – and they will not run at night.

I think the WVPS objections have more to do with the society’s opposition to Holcim than the reopening of the railway line. And that’s one of the frustrations with the RMA – it allows people objecting to one thing to object to another in the hope of stopping the first.


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