Rural round-up

12/08/2021

Farmers struggle after floods – Nigel Malthus:

A Wesport mother and daughter team, who only recently bought a small dairy farm bordering the Buller River, are just one of many still struggling to get back on their feet after the huge flood of mid-July.

Lisa Milligan and her mother Karen took on the 70-hectare property about 5km upstream from the town on June 1. One July 17, almost the entire farm was flooded, with water covering the pastures, running through the milking shed and other buildings and lapping around the house.

Milligan says they knew when they bought the farm that a couple of low areas got water through them when the river flooded, “but not 99% of the farm. It was massive.”

She told Rural News the flood was at levels no one in the district had ever seen. . .

No resolution to labour nightmare – Peter Burke:

Meat Industry Association (MIA) boss Sirma Karapeeva says she struggles to see how much more automation can be introduced into the meat industry to resolve the present labour shortages.

Karapeeva says many people seem to think that automation is the silver bullet that can compensate for labour shortages in the industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I struggle to see how that is possible. In the red meat sector, we have already done all that we can do in terms of the lower hanging fruit in automation,” she told Rural News.

“The big pieces of automation are already in place and the next areas of automation that could be developed are really challenging because you are dealing with the natural product – meat.” . .

New RSE season will be tough amid pandemic – researcher – Christine Rovoi:

Many Recognised Seasonal Employers expect they will struggle to survive the 2021-2022 season unless they can refresh and increase their RSE workforce through new recruitment.

More than 300 stakeholders in New Zealand’s RSE scheme gathered in Nelson last month for the 14th annual industry-led conference ‘RSE: The Post-Covid Future’.

A New Zealand-based researcher said compared with the last RSE conference in Port Vila, Vanuatu in 2019, which focused on sustainable growth of the RSE scheme to support expansion of New Zealand’s horticulture industry (including wine), this year’s meeting was a “sobering event”.

Australia National University research fellow Charlotte Bedford said the conference had possibly the largest turnout of RSE employers, contractors, industry representatives and other stakeholders for several years. . .

West Coast farmers say plan to sacrifice their land bad idea – Lois Williams:

A landowner whose family farmed near Franz Josef for decades says it is not the best idea to let the river have its way on the south bank, as the government and councils are now proposing.

The West Coast Regional Council originally pitched a plan for a $24 million upgrade of the stopbanks on both sides of the river, but that has since been scaled back to $12m, the bulk of the work on the north bank of the Waiho River to protect Franz Josef village.

On the south bank, the stopbanks would be kept up only as far as Canavans Knob, and eventually, the river would be left to fan out over its natural flood plain, wiping out the airfield, several farms and a number of houses now protected by the ‘Milton and Others’ stopbank.

Derrick Milton, whose family helped to build and pay for the stopbank 36 years ago, says if the river is allowed to have its way it will shift its bed south to Docherty’s Creek and make it very difficult to rebuild the state highway as planned. . . 

Shear inspiration – Nigel Beckford:

Rowland Smith is one of New Zealand’s best known shearers. He’s set world records and won both the NZ Shears and Golden Shears numerous times. Farmstrong asked him how he looks after himself in such a physically demanding occupation. 

Shearing’s in the blood for Rowland Smith – his father and brothers were shearers, and shearing had taken him all over the world – Latvia, Finland, USA, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

“Shearing’s a great job because you’re out there doing it every day, you’re not stuck in an office. I’ve travelled the world for years on the back of a handpiece,” he says.

Shearing is unique in that as well as being a job, it’s also a competitive sport. Iconic events like the NZ Shears in Te Kuiti and the Golden Shears in Masterton attract hundreds of competitors and large crowds each year. . .

Farmers look to local products as fertiliser prices skyrocket – Sally Murphy:

Farmers are turning towards New Zealand-made fertiliser as Ravensdown and Ballance Agri Nutrients report soaring price increases.

Ballance general manager of sales Jason Minkhorst said the price of DAP fertiliser had doubled in the last year and while the company absorbed some of the cost, the price farmers paid had gone up by about 55 percent.

“Several things are pushing up the prices, to describe it as Covid is to simple, there’s increased demand for food and particularly for meat and dairy products and a key input to producing food is obviously fertiliser,” Minkhorst said.

“Another driver is that Chinese factories and most fertiliser comes from China, have been told to focus on the domestic market to assure food security for China. And then the last driver is this seasonal purchasing supported by subsidies in countries like India and Brazil that’s also putting pressure on prices at the moment.” . .

Seeking skills to reap bumper crops – Andrew Weidemann:

Another big crop is forecast to be harvested across Australia this year, worth an estimated $15 million for the broadacre grains sector.

But coronavirus is again presenting significant hurdles for the industry to overcome.

There is no point repeating what we already know about the personal inconvenience and business frustrations caused by extended lockdowns in different states.

But for many Grain Producers Australia (GPA) members, a significant and immediate challenge stemming from the global COVID-19 pandemic is securing farm labour. . .


Govt destroys jobs

14/07/2021

How frustrating is this?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has shut down a West Coast goldmining exploration venture that was injecting $500,000 a year into the local economy and according to the miner had the potential to create 12 well-paid jobs.

Peter Morrison, who owns farms in Canterbury and on the West Coast, has invested about $2 million over the past year, looking for gold – and finding it – on a 500ha block he owns near Inangahua Junction.

Morrison was working under an exploration permit, employing three skilled operators and local contractors on the 1ha site to evaluate the potential for a full-scale alluvial mine.

“We applied a year ago for a mining permit but we’re still waiting … in the meantime we’ve been doing the feasibility work … trying to work out if it would be economic to go all in.”

A year to process a permit? Isn’t MBIE supposed to be encouraging business?

But after being told by MBIE he was breaching the exploration permit and threatened with massive fines, Morrison has been forced to pull the plug.

“This has been going on for months … I’ve had my lawyer look at it and he can’t see what this alleged breach is — all they say is that the hole’s too big,” Morrison said.

Neither of the two local councils have a problem.

The Buller District Council and West Coast Regional Council both said there were no issues with the land use and resource consents they issued for the site, and Morrison had paid the required surety bond.

But after more pressure from officials two weeks ago Morrison reluctantly laid off his three staff.

“I’m sorry to lose them, they were a very skilled team. I doubt I’ll get them back. And those were $100,000 a year jobs.”

Four MBIE officials had turned up twice in one week and been “very aggressive”, he said.

“They walked around looking grim and grilling my staff and saying it was pretty big for an exploration. But it’s just a tiny fraction of the 500ha permit,” Morrison said. . . 

If anyone’s got grounds for looking grim it is Morrison and his staff.

“We’ve kept all the records, we’ve complied with all our resource consents — and we’ve been harassed out of business.

“They just keep saying it’s too big … the biggest exploration site ever seen in New Zealand. But the exploration permit doesn’t set any size or volume limit. And if they want me to have a mining permit, well they’ve had a year to process the application and so far — nothing.”

An MBIE spokesman said Morrison’s application for a mining permit was being evaluated but there was a backlog of applications.

“There was a sizeable increase in the number of applications for all permit types last year, especially in the wake of the lifting of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Applications for gold-related permits really took off, largely driven by a high gold price.” . . 

The number of bureaucrats in Wellington has increased markedly since Labour got into government. If only some could be working on applications like this to help businesses and employment.

The permit queue had grown rapidly in the last few months of 2020, and officials were trying to deal with it as quickly as possible, the spokesman said.

But Morrison’s application has been in for more than a year.

The ministry did not explain precisely how Morrison had broken the rules, but said exploration permits allowed data gathering over small, specific areas to test if the resource was commercially viable. . . 

When they didn’t explain, was that because they couldn’t or wouldn’t? Either way it’s an appalling way to treat a business.

Inangahua Community Board chairman John Bougen is calling on the ministry to explain exactly why it shut down the venture.

It was deeply disappointing to have a potentially productive private enterprise closed by officials from afar, in a community that badly needed industry and employment, the Reefton businessman said.

“These were high-paying jobs for skilled workers, and MBIE has just pulled about half a million dollars in wages a year out of our community, when you count the contractors as well.”

The West Coast is one of the areas most in need of economic stimulus in the country.

The government, and its employees, should be doing everything possible to help businesses, not shutting them down.

“Pete Morrison was investing in our community and we need to encourage new industry, not strangle it with red tape,” Cr Bougen said.

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said he would be concerned if Morrison’s operation had been shut down unnecessarily.

“You would assume the ministry had good reason; that there had been a breach of the permit or whatever.”

A ministry spokesman confirmed the permit Morrison was working under did not limit the size of the operation, but he believed officials were concerned that mining was taking place rather than exploration.

If the permit didn’t limit the size of the operation, where’s the breach?

National Party list MP Maureen Pugh said the shutdown was the worst possible news for the community and was avoidable.

“It’s a disgraceful outcome and I’m truly sorry for Mr Morrison, that he’s been treated this way — plus we have lost jobs, not something we can afford to have happen on the West Coast.”

The permit process had been a challenge for many miners for years, Pugh said.

“It is becoming more and more obvious that the Government and its ministries are not performing well and as I see it, there are no consequences for poor performance, so standards slip.” . . 

Any private business that treated its clients like this wouldn’t survive.

The Ministry is under no threat but it’s poor performance has killed off a business and the highly skilled jobs it supported.

This is a very sorry example of so much that’s wrong with the government and its entities.


Rural round-up

01/05/2020

Broadband money ‘just a drop’ – Gerald Piddock:

A $15 million fund for ultra-fast broadband in rural areas is not enough to improve the technology for farmers.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” Technology Users Association chief executive Craig Young said.

The Government money will upgrade some existing mobile towers and wireless backhaul that connects remote sites and for the installation of external antennae on houses to improve coverage. . .

Winter grazing drought hits farms – Gerald Piddock:

North Island dairy farmers are struggling to find graziers to take their cows over winter because many don’t have enough feed.

The effects of the drought across Hawke’s Bay, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu mean demand for graziers outweighs supply this autumn. 

Waikato Federated Farmers dairy chairman Ben Moore said farmers are getting calls from graziers saying they cannot take their cattle as planned.  . .

West Cost Regional Council reverses wetland decision – Lois Williams:

The West Coast Regional Council has reversed its controversial decision on wetlands – giving relief to sphagnum moss harvesters around the region.

The council rejected recommendations in February on a change to the regional plan, identifying significant wetlands and giving them additional protection.

The change would also have taken some wetlands off the list and made moss harvesting a permitted activity in those areas. But the council’s resource management committee voted against it, saying the plan change did nothing for other private landowners whose properties were still on the list. . . 

Forest Growers Levy Trust commits to support industry:

The New Zealand Forest Growers Levy Trust is anticipating borrowing and using reserves to maintain as much of its yearly work programme as possible.

The Trust has decided today (29 April eds) to reduce its work programme by a million dollars, following disruption to forest exports and production caused by the international spread of coronavirus.

But the Chair of the FGLT, Geoff Thompson, says it’s anticipating covering an even larger fall in its revenue and is planning on using reserves and borrowing so as not too significantly disrupt its funding of industry good activities. . . 

Kiwifruit gives March exports a golden glow:

Exports hit a new high in March 2020, driven by kiwifruit, dairy, and meat, even as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, Stats NZ said today.

The value of total goods exports rose $215 million (3.8 percent) from March 2019 to reach $5.8 billion in March 2020. This was a record for any month – the previous high was in May 2019.

The increase in total goods exports reflected a bumper kiwifruit harvest and higher prices for milk powder and meat. This rise was partly offset by a fall in log exports, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. . . 

US could be weeks from meat shortages with shutdowns spreading – Michael Hirtzer and Tatiana Freitas:

Plant shutdowns are leaving the U.S. dangerously close to meat shortages as coronavirus outbreaks spread to suppliers across the nation and the Americas.

Almost a third of U.S. pork capacity is down, the first big poultry plants closed on Friday and experts are warning that domestic shortages are just weeks away. Brazil, the world’s No. 1 shipper of chicken and beef, saw its first major closure with the halt of a poultry plant owned by JBS SA, the world’s biggest meat company. Key operations are also down in Canada, the latest being a British Columbia poultry plant. . . 

 


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