Rural round-up

January 29, 2019

Book charts history of Young Farmer contest – Sally Rae:

For 50 years, the Young Farmer of the Year contest has been part of the fabric of New Zealand’s rural sector.

Dubbed “the challenge second only to the land”, it tests the knowledge and skills of the country’s young farmers.

To mark the milestone, Hawke’s Bay writer Kate Taylor has recorded the contest’s history in 50 Years Young — A History of the Young Farmer of the Year.

But it is more than just a comprehensive history; it contains interviews with various winners, finalists and organisers, and is peppered with interesting and amusing anecdotes. . . 

Farmer shocked heifers missing – Hamish MacLean:

A North Otago dairy farmer says he is in a state of disbelief after realising 60 rising 2-year Friesian heifers had been taken from his farm.

Russell Hurst, of Awamoko, said the animals, taken between the week before Christmas and New Year’s Day, could be worth $100,000.

He and his staff went ”around and round the farm in circles” double-checking the mobs on the 2500ha farm to make sure the animals had been stolen.

”It’s just disbelief, really,” Mr Hurst said. . . 

Restrictions loom for river irrigators in Marlborough – Matt Brown:

New Zealand’s largest wine region could soon be facing water restrictions as record-high temperatures affect rivers.

The Rai, Waihopai and Wairau Rivers’ minimum flow rates were rapidly being approached and surface water “takes” were expected to be halted by the end of next week.

Marlborough District Council hydrologist Val Wadsworth said it was trying to “forward forecast” on the current rate of flow decline, but it was difficult to be concise. . . 

Pioneer works with maize insurer – Richard Rennie:

The country’s largest maize seed supplier is working with an insurance company to settle losses incurred after seed treatment failure in some hybrid varieties this season.

Early in the maize planting season late last year a number of growers in Waikato and Northland reported stunted crops post-germination, prompting some to replant crops before mid December.

Pioneer’s investigation team head Raewyn Densley said a number of growers have . . 

Taranaki honeymoon: whacking possums – Jamie Morton:

Forget Paris: for one newlywed couple, there’s no better honeymoon than killing possums in Taranaki.

Fresh from their wedding, Andrea and Max Hoegh are working at the frontline of New Zealand’s first large-scale possum eradication operation.

The biggest pest-busting project of its kind in the country, Towards Predator-Free Taranaki divided the region into pizza-slice sections around the mountain, with work kicking off in the New Plymouth area. . . 

Your dinner’s in the lab – the future of ‘cell-based’ meat – Gwynne Dyer:

“Right now, growing cells as meat instead of animals is a very expensive process,” says Yaakov Nahmias, founder and chief scientist of Israel-based startup Future Meat Technologies. But it will get cheaper, and it probably will be needed.

The global population is heading for 10 billion by 2050, from the current 7.7b. Average global incomes will triple in the same period, enabling more people to eat meat-rich diets. . .

 


Water policy inconsistent, unfair

August 14, 2017

Labour’s environment spokesman David Parker showed up yet more flaws in the party’s water tax policy on Q&A yesterday:

. . . No, look, you know, if there’s a cost of cleaning up our rivers, cos I think it’s your birthright and mine to be able to swim in our local river in summer, and for our kids to put their head under without getting crook, there’s a cost to that cleanup. As Nick Smith said last week, he thought that the cost for central government was going to be about $100 million per annum. Now, who should pay that? Should we tax pensioners? Or working people? Or should the farmers who are polluting make a contribution?  . . 

As a general rule, polluters should pay and farmers who pollute now do pay if successfully prosecuted by regional councils. Prosecutions can be not just for actual pollution but also for potential pollution from, for example, effluent spills which could reach waterways, even if they don’t.

But problems with waterways aren’t always the result of current practices, they’ve built up over years, even decades. It is unfair to tax all irrigators now for damage done in the past for which many wouldn’t have been responsible.

It is equally unfair to tax irrigators who aren’t contributing to pollution to clean up after those who are and to tax those in one area to repair damage done in another.

This tax isn’t going to be levied just on polluters it’s going to be levied on all irrigators no matter how good their farming practices and environmental stewardship are.

Then there’s the inconsistency of charging some commercial water users but not all:

. . . CORIN Here’s the thing – you’ve targeted farmers. But why are you giving an exemption to Coca Cola and various other businesses in the cities?

DAVID Well, what we’ve said is that domestic and stock water will never pay. We’re not interested in the municipal sources of water. You know, Coca Cola, they already pay a dollar per cubic metre or a dollar per thousand litres to the Auckland Council for the water they drew. We’re not going to charge them twice. . . 

Good grief! Does he think irrigation water arrives at the farm gate for free?

To get water from the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC), farmers have to buy shares and pay a cost of about $80 $800 per hectare per year. That covers the infrastructure and delivery costs, which are the same costs Coca Cola pays for council water.

If Labour isn’t going to charge Coca Cola twice, why is it going to charge farmers twice?

. . .CORIN But it does feel, there will be many in the farming sector who will be frustrated and feel they’re being singled out.

DAVID It is them who are polluting our rivers, so I don’t know how that’s unfair.

CORIN Well, they’re certainly a contributor.

DAVID Well, no. Let’s deal with one of the issues that Steven Joyce said. He said, ‘Look at the cities.’ You know, over the last decade, cities have improved their quality.

CORIN But they do pollute waterways as well.

DAVID Not nearly as much as they did in recent decades. And who’s paid for the cost of that cleanup? The people in the cities. They’ve paid for better sewerage treatment; the factories have cleaned up. And over those same decades, the rural sector rivers are getting worse. Now, who should pay? Should the polluter pay or should we tax pensioners? . . 

It doesn’t matter how many times or different ways he says it. Problems have built up over decades and not all are caused by those irrigating now.

Most farmers have changed their practices to stop pollution, to repair damage and enhance waterways.

Labour’s policy won’t give them any credit for that, will charge all irrigators regardless of whether or not they are causing problems, and will tax farmers in one place to clean up water in another.

And not all the problems in rural rivers are caused by irrigation.

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows.

Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of December, but readings for those sites at other times and for all other sites have been considered safe for swimming. . . 

This summer the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls Bridge is the only site to have its most recent reading in the amber/alert range, recording 510 parts of E. coli per 100ml of water on December 28.

ORC duty director Scott MacLean said there was a large colony of nesting gulls at the site, in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E. coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season.”

Other amber readings were recorded in the Taieri River at Outram on December 12 and 19, and in the Taieri River at Waipiata on December 15.

Mr MacLean said the Outram spikes were caused by high river flows on December 12 and heavy localised rainfall on December 19, and the Waipiata spike was caused by rising flows at the time of sampling, due to rainfall on December 12.

Readings at both sites had since fallen to the green band of fewer than 260 E. coli parts per 100ml of water, which was considered very safe for swimming, Mr MacLean said. . . 

Seagulls and heavy rain, not irrigation, caused spikes in pollution and the poor water quality after the rainfall lasted only a few days. Nature caused that problem and nature fixed it without any political interference or tax.

And not all councils have paid for better treatment.

The state of the Invercargill City Council’s stormwater system has been called a “dirty little secret” that has been allowed to exist for years.

Federated Farmers had a crack at both the city council and Environment Southland about the city’s stormwater system at a resource consent hearing on Thursday.

Federated Farmers executive David Rose, at the hearing, said: “It was a revelation to us, this dirty little secret in Invercargill hidden from Invercargill ratepayers, how rundown the stormwater system is”. 

“The ratepayers of Invercargill are our cousins, our family and our friends. It’s a big shock to the farming community also.”

In the council’s own evidence, it accepts stormwater was contaminated with sewage, Rose said. 

The council has applied to discharge water and contaminants from stormwater systems into surface water bodies and into open drains, for a term of 35 years. 

A total of 147 discharge pipes draining to the Waikiwi Stream, Waihopai River, Otepuni Stream, Kingswell Creek and Clifton Channel are covered by the application. 

But Environment Southland says the consent should be turned down, because receiving waters and the New River Estuary will be effected. 

Environment Southland principal consents officer Stephen West’s report says, “With the known sewage contamination of the stormwater network, including the engineered overflow points, it is likely that the discharges will have more than minor adverse effect on the environment”.

Effects on water quality within the receiving waters and in the New River Estuary appeared to be more than minor, it says. . . 

No farm would apply for consent which would allow it to pollute waterways for 35 years.

But there’s nothing to be gained by widening the rural-urban divide as Labour is attempting to.

We all want clean water.

That won’t be achieved by Labour’s policy which will raise issues around Maori ownership of water.

The most effective way of improving water quality on or near irrigated farms is for farmers to make changes on-farm and to invest in new technology. Labour’s policy takes money from productive uses like that and channels it through a bureaucracy. In doing so it takes responsibility and accountability away from farmers and worse provides a disincentive for them to make improvements to their practices.

So far the announcement has raised more questions than it answers:

“The Labour Party’s glib and misleading announcement this week about a new water tax was disappointing for all New Zealanders,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive, Andrew Curtis.

“Farmers are clear that a tax on irrigation would affect all New Zealanders through higher food prices but Labour has failed to address this, even though many of their voters cannot afford to pay more for groceries,” he says.

“We think the tax is inconsistent in treating water used for irrigation differently to other types of commercial water use and there are a range of complex issues associated with how it would be implemented which appear not to have been thought through at all,” he adds.

“Kiwis have a right to understand the tax before they vote.”

IrrigationNZ requests that Labour provides written answers to the questions below so that voters can understand the impact of this new tax on all New Zealanders.

“Labour – Let’s Answer This” – New Zealanders deserve answers on water tax!” 

What is the impact of Labour’s water tax?

  1. How much tax will be charged per unit of water?
  2. Who will be charged?
  3. What impact will the tax have on price increases for food eg fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, beer, bread, wine, ice-cream, and how will poorer households afford price increases?
  4. How many jobs would be lost across New Zealand due to our food becoming unaffordable at home and not competitive internationally?
  5. How will a water tax enable local communities to implement solutions to their environmental issues?

How is Labour’s water tax fair?

  1. Who owns New Zealand’s water?
  2. Who will the tax be paid to?
  3. Why is it fair to tax some types of commercial water use and not tax others?
  4. Exporters already pay income tax – why should they pay twice?
  5. Why is Labour not going to introduce a sewage tax in town water supplies when the Our Freshwater 2017Report found that E.coli and nitrate-nitrogen concentrations are highest in urban catchments?

How is Labour’s water tax proposal workable?

  1. If the tax varies depending on water scarcity, water quality and weather conditions then how many different tax rates will there be?
  2. Which organisations have you consulted on the tax?
  3. Can Labour confirm that those affected by the tax will set the new tax level as suggested by the Leader?
  4. If tax payers have a different view to Labour will the tax payers’ view prevail?

How will Labour’s water tax address the impacts of climate change and existing investment?

  1. How will taxing water used to grow food increase New Zealand’s resilience to climate change?
  2. Over the last 5 years there has been $1.7 billion investment in modern efficient irrigation infrastructure – what impact will the tax have on this?

Honest answers to these questions would kill the policy, which is what it deserves for being so inconsistent and unfair.

Water quality is an issue all over the country, not just where there’s irrigation and it can be more of an issue when the water falls straight from the sky as rain than when it’s controlled through irrigators.

All farmers should, and most do, play an important role in improving the health of waterways.

Picking on just some of them with a tax will hinder the good work already being undertaken, provide a disincentive to do more and open a can of worms over water ownership.


Rural round-up

April 4, 2012

All hands on deck to restore the waterway

The Waihopai River is suffering from severe sedimentation. What is being done to bring the Southland waterway back to better health? Shawn McAvinue reports.

Eels and freshwater crayfish from the Waihopai River in Woodlands were fair game for Mike Knight when he was 12.

Now 33, he wants the river to remain a happy hunting ground for his three children.

So 11 days ago, the former Woodlands School pupil rallied the whole school to plant 230 trees across half a hectare of the 256ha of dairy farm where he and his wife Vicki contract milk 700 cows. . .

Scary’ One Plan faces appeal – Jill Galloway:

Federated Farmers national dairy vice-chairman and Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard says the One Plan has been “scary” for dairy farmers.

Federated Farmers is appealing parts of the One Plan to the Environment Court.

The plan is an environmental blueprint for water, land, biodiversity and air, with all consents for farmers rolled into one.

Horizons Regional Council said most of the outstanding issues were resolved at mediation. But in regards to water, there were still outstanding nutrient management problems and land management issues, such as the regulation of dairy farming and intensive farming activities, which were going to the Environment Court.

Mr Hoggard said when the One Plan was first discussed in 2005, dairy farmers thought it would be a non-regulatory approach, so they were “OK” about it. . . .

Migrants guides soften shock – Sally Rae:

Two new guides to help migrant dairy workers and their employers work together more successfully have been launched.   

 There are now about 1500 migrant dairy workers in the country, making up 6% of the workforce, with the majority from the Philippines.   

Demand had increased in recent years, as it had proved difficult to attract and retain local workers in some parts      of rural New Zealand, Immigration and Associate Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said .   . .

1986 winner says contest fantastic – Sally Rae:

Russell Whyte knows exactly the pressure the seven grand    finalists in the National Bank Young Farmer Contest will be    feeling when they arrive in Dunedin this month.   

Mr Whyte, now living in Christchurch, won the Young Farmer of      the Year title back in 1986 – the last time Dunedin hosted      the grand final.   

He described it as a “fantastic” experience, which was  followed by an “amazing opportunity” to travel to the UK, as      part of the prize package, which also included a tractor and  motorbike.   . .

Mill links paddock, plate – Gerald Piddock:

Plans for a new flour mill in Washdyke will give Canterbury grain growers control and opportunities to add value to their product.

The mill is being built by Farmers Mill, a new company set up by South Canterbury grain storage company Grainstor.

General manager Dave Howell said it was thought to be the first new mill built in New Zealand in 25 years.

It will be a showcase with state-of-the-art equipment not seen before in New Zealand, designed to mill soft wheat to a higher standard than some older equipment.

It will produce premium biscuit, baking and bread flours to the specifications of high-end customers.

“There are no New Zealand-owned mills and we wanted to have some control and add value over our own product that we grow,” Mr Howell said. . .

Shrek: the next generation – Matthew Littlewood:

WOOLLY WANDERERS: This merino pair, dubbed “Shrek’s cousins”, were discovered near the bottom of Ferintosh Station about a fortnight ago. While one has since been shorn, the other will be losing his fleece at the Mackenzie Highland Show on Easter Monday.

Ferintosh Station are making sure that two of their residents do not have the wool pulled over their eyes.

Pastoral lease-holders Marion and Gilbert Seymour spotted two wandering merinos near the bottom of the station about a fortnight ago.

It appeared that neither of them had been shorn in nearly seven years.

“We knew they were around somewhere, but we managed to capture them only recently,” Mrs Seymour said.

“They were quite docile, and couldn’t move very fast, because they were carrying a lot of wool.”

Mr Seymour, who is in his 80s, has already given one of the pair a decent haircut, but its mate will go under the clippers at the Mackenzie Highland Show in Fairlie on Easter Monday. . .

Argentines embrace change – Shawn McAvinue:

Are success and happiness possible in the Southland dairy industry? Shawn McAvinue talks to a 2012 Dairy New Zealand Dairy Awards finalist who’s working hard to achieve both.

When Argentine Leo Pekar and his partner Maricel Prado arrived in Southland 10 years ago to work on a dairy farm, they were welcomed with two months of solid rain. But the New Zealand Dairy Awards regional finalist wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

When they arrived in March 2002, they had little money and only thin PVC jackets to protect them from the heavy rain.

“I would get up at 4.30[am] and think, `what am I doing here’?”

The 35-year-old admitted he was not a morning person but his goals got him out of bed. . .

Grape crop down but hopes high – Gerald Piddock:

Waitaki winemakers will have a later than usual harvest this year after enduring a cold wet summer.

From late January in the Waitaki, it turned into a cold summer, making it a very difficult season for wine growers within the region, Waitaki Valley Wine Growers Association chairman Jim Jerram said.

It was a late harvest in wine producing regions across the country and the Waitaki was no exception.

“It was one of the coldest February’s on record and there was not a lot of sun.

“That has been the case for the whole eastern side of the country.”

Grape harvesting usually takes place in late April-mid May in the Waitaki. . .

Leadership lessons – Shawn McAvinue:

A free rural leadership course is set to give priceless results to the future leaders of the Southland rural sector.

Farmers Mutual Group Gore rural manager Sharon Paterson said she enrolled in the 2011 Generate rural leadership course to gain confidence.

She sells insurance for FMG in Gore and lacked confidence when cold-calling potential customers.

“Although I looked confident, I lacked a lot underneath. Now I just waltz up anyone’s drive to talk about insurance.” . . .

Onion harvest hit hard – Gerald Piddock:

Central Canterbury onion growers will have one of the worst harvests in 10 years.

The cold wet summer has slashed yields and delayed getting the crop off the ground.

Levels potato and onion grower Tony Howey said the poor crop along with the falling international markets made it a season for him to forget.

“About three years out of five you have a bad year, about two years out of five you might have a good year and probably once every 10 years you have a disaster, and this is that year.”

Trees on farms – exploring hill country options:

Following successful workshops in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, the next Trees on Farms workshop will be held on the King Country property of Barrie and Jude Tatham, and will explore the role of trees in hill country farm management, particularly in marginal or less productive areas.

Barrie and Jude own a 500 ha drystock farm near Piopio, which they operate in a share-farming arrangement with Kieran and Shona Bradley, running cattle, dairy grazers and sheep. The Tathams are previous Waikato Farm Environment Award winners, and their farm is notable for the diversity of species they have planted for nutrient buffering, stock shade and beautification. . .

Farmers getting better at growing meatier lambs:

Initial results from a large-scale meat testing programme show New Zealand farmers are getting better at producing the sorts of lambs that overseas customers are looking for.

The testing programme is part of the Farm IQ project, a joint venture involving Silver Fern Farms, Landcorp and PGG Wrightson.

The seven year sheep, cattle and deer research programme aims to turn the red meat industry’s traditional production-led approach into one that is market-led and focused on consumer needs.

DairyNZ urges farmers to prepare for animal tracing scheme:

Dairy farmers are being urged to prepare early for the introduction of a new animal identification and tracing scheme, especially if they’re planning stock movements over the winter period.

The recently adopted NAIT legislation (National Animal Identification and Tracing) introduces new obligations for farmers under the scheme from July 1 this year.

After this date, all cattle being moved will need to be wearing a NAIT approved electronic tag. Anyone in charge of animals and animal movements will need to be registered with NAIT.  . .

Primary industry training organisations to merge:

The Seafood ITO and the NZITO (meat and dairy sector) have today signed a Memorandum of Intent to investigate a full merger of the two organizations.

The merged entity will service a workforce of over 60,000 people nationally, covering three key export industries – meat, dairy and seafood.

These are all strategically important export industries.  The idea of an integrated primary sector ITO has been in the minds of both organisations for some time, and this is a significant step on the way. . .

T&G appoints new senior management team, directors:

Turners & Growers, the local fruit marketer, has announced new senior management and directors from new majority parent BayWa Aktiengesellschaft, and tapped local boardroom heavyweight John Anderson as an independent director.

The company confirmed the intended appointments of BayWa representatives Klaus Josef Lutz and Andreas Helber as directors, with Lutz taking up the role of chairman. Former National Bank head Anderson and Fonterra Cooperative Group director John Wilson have also been appointed independent directors. Jeff Wesley, Brian D’Ath and Christina Symmans resigned from the board on March 7.

T&G also announced plans to review the fruit marketer’s operation, which will be conducted by senior management. . .

The people’s champion retired:

The curtains have come down on the career of one of the most admired horses seen in New Zealand in recent years, the people’s champion Sir Slick (NZ), who had his final race in Awapuni at the weekend.

Now ten years old, Sir Slick (Volksraad x Miss Opera) showed that he was ready to settle into the green pastures of retirement when he ran home at the tail of the field in the Group 3 Awapuni Gold Cup.

Few would disagree there was a more fitting race for Sir Slick to finish his career on, having contested the Awapuni Gold Cup six times and winning it on three occasions: in 2007 (by 4.5 lengths), 2008 and 2010, and running second in 2009. . .


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