Rural round-up

July 21, 2017

Surrender now and we’ll pay a huge cost in future – Will Foley:

If the dam is dead, as its opponents are claiming, we’ve missed a great chance to smooth the jagged edges of Mother Nature.

Right now, Hawke’s Bay is sodden. A welcome but uncharacteristic (in the current weather pattern) wet autumn set us up to be wet right through the winter and that’s exactly how it’s playing out.

We’ve swung from one extreme to the other; as recently as February we were fretting about another dry summer. . .

Patangata Station shortens supply chain and buys own butchery – Kate Taylor:

An overheard conversation led to a Central Hawke’s Bay farming couple diversifying into retail butchery. Kate Taylor reports.

The market wants to know where its meat comes from, say Duncan Smith and Annabel Tapley-Smith, the owners of Patangata Station and the new owners of Waipawa Butchery.

“When people buy meat from Waipawa Butchery they now know it’s finished at a farm just 10 minutes up the road,” says Smith.

The couple took over the butchery at the beginning of the month. It was sold by 77-year-old Murray Stephens who had worked there for 60 years and owned it for 40. The Smith family has been farming in Central Hawke’s Bay for just as long and has been shopping at the butchery for many years. . . .

Variety is the spice of life on Miranda Farm – Andrea Fox:

If Waikato agroforester and dairy farmer Graham Smith could bottle his energy, he’d make a killing.

Running four businesses from his 37 hectare farm in the Korakonui area, 25km south east of Te Awamutu isn’t enough: he’s about to launch a fifth, and just for fun, excavate a submerged ancient forest and create a little sport museum.

Profitably milking 80 crossbred cows provides the base for all these entrepreneurial efforts, but it’s growing an unusual tree with multiple uses and benefits that sets him apart and proves it is possible to make a small farm a good earner. . .

Researcher using milk protein to help regrow human muscle – Amy Wiggins:

Milk could be the key to helping regrow muscle and eventually body parts.

A Canterbury University PhD student is using milk protein to create biodegradable films with 3D imprints in the shape of muscle and bone cells on them in the hope they may influence the shape and growth of cells.

Azadeh Hashemi is focused on creating those films using casein – one of the two proteins found in milk – so they are biodegradable and would not need to be removed if used as an implant. . .

New animal welfare regulations progressed:

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has confirmed 46 new animal welfare regulations will be developed this year.

“Changes we made to the Animal Welfare Act in 2015 have allowed us to create directly-enforceable regulations. This has given the Act more teeth, and creates more tools to deal with mistreatment of animals,” says Mr Guy.

“These 46 regulations include stock transport, farm husbandry, companion and working animals, pigs, layer hens and the way animals are accounted for in research, testing and teaching. . . 

New app to measure success of wildings control:

For the first time, authorities fighting the spread of wilding conifers will have a complete picture of infestations throughout the country, says Minister for Land Information Mark Mitchell.

“Land Information New Zealand has developed the Wilding Conifer Information System, a web-based mapping and monitoring tool, to ensure control of this invasive species is carried out in the most efficient way possible,” Mr Mitchell says. . .

Seafood New Zealand applauds paua relief package:

The Government’s financial assistance package for the Kaikoura commercial paua divers has been welcomed by Seafood New Zealand chief executive Tim Pankhurst.

“The package will help support paua divers in Kaikoura who have been under considerable financial stress since last year’s earthquake,” Pankhurst said. . .

Carrfields acquires Farmlands’ livestock business:

Carrfields Livestock has grown to a national heavyweight player in its sector following the purchase of Farmlands’ livestock business this month.

Under the deal, Carrfields Livestock has acquired Farmlands’ entire livestock business, which includes a team of nearly 30 agents mainly based in the South Island.

This extends Carrfields’ coverage of the livestock market to all major regions of New Zealand, said Donald Baines, General Manager Carrfields Livestock. . . 

Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2017 announced:

Congratulations to Ben McNab-Jones from Urlar who became Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2017 on 20 July. This is the second year McNab-Jones has entered the regional competition and he is over the moon to be going through to the National Final to represent the Wairarapa.

Congratulations also to Scott Lanceley who came 2nd. Lanceley is currently self-employed and contracting to different vineyards within the region. Congratulations also to  from Te Kairanga who came 3rd. . . 


Anti-farming bias won’t wait for facts

August 24, 2016

Contamination of Havelock North’s water supply is a serious health issue which has prompted the government to undertake an inquiry.

In announcing the draft terms of reference for it, Attorney General Christopher Finlayson said:

“It is important that New Zealanders have confidence in the quality of our drinking water, and the independent inquiry will ensure we have a clear understanding of what happened in Havelock North,” says Mr Finlayson.

“Cabinet has today agreed to initiate a Government inquiry which will report to me as Attorney General.

“The inquiry will look into how the Havelock North water supply became contaminated, how this was subsequently addressed and how local and central government agencies responded to the public health threat that occurred as a result of the contamination.

“The terms of reference are very wide and will include any lessons and improvements that can be made in the management of the water supply network in Havelock North and, more broadly, across New Zealand.”     

Cabinet will consider over the coming weeks who will lead the Government inquiry.

The inquiry will be undertaken under the Inquiries Act 2013. This will ensure it follows a clear statutory process and will have a range of powers such as the ability to call witnesses.

The need to wait for facts hasn’t stopped the usual anti-farming suspects rushing to blame farming in general and dairying in particular for the contamination and using it as an excuse to call for the end to irrigation development.

Federated Farmers’  Hawke’s Bay president Will Foley said while there was some livestock farming in the area it wasn’t intensive:

. . . Basically in terms of the area around Havelock North there just isn’t intensive livestock farming.

He said farmers were watching the situation but there had not been any discussions yet.

“Really we’re just waiting to see some more clear evidence as to how the contamination occurred. And then if it was something related to farming livestock, then we can react to it then and I guess change practises if that’s what it turns out to be.”

IrrigationNZ points out that a focus on science and proven solutions is needed in the response to the Havelock North water crisis.

“IrrigationNZ is very concerned, as is everyone else, about the situation in Havelock North. However, we are surprised by some of the accusations now being made around intensive livestock and irrigation, particularly as the area surrounding the water supply well is dominated by orchards, cropping and low intensity livestock.”

“Before jumping to conclusions we first must understand the facts. A thorough inquiry will establish how groundwater in the area has become contaminated but this will take time. In the short term we should be moving towards best practice when it comes to protecting public water supplies from contamination,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO.

Fact 1;

Pathogen contamination almost always results from a point source or a preferential flow scenario.

“The issue will likely be either a preferential flow scenario down the side of an old well case (particularly around older bore casings), a poorly constructed or sealed well head or backflow (contamination making its way directly into bores). Another scenario could be point source from the stock piling of manure. During periods of heavy downpour, contaminants can move through the soil and then there is a risk,” says Mr Curtis.

Fact 2;

Grazing livestock or irrigation are unlikely to be the cause.

“The Havelock North end of the Heretaunga plains is an area of low intensity livestock. Dominated by orchards and seasonal cropping, with sheep grazing in winter there is no dairy or intensive livestock,” says Andrew Curtis.

Livestock grazing is extremely unlikely to have caused this issue – the pathogens don’t make it through the soil, the soil acts as a filter – research work undertaken by ESR has previously shown this to be true.”

Solutions to prevent contamination of groundwater?

Proven solutions include good management practice at both the supply point and any nearby wells.

“Well head protection is essential for all bores and this needs to be better enforced for older bores. Additionally, we need to be looking at requiring back flow protection where applicable. INZ has produced guidelines for backflow prevention that are based on international best practice for agriculture. On top of this, the council needs to be managing nearby point sources where, if heavy rain occurs, leaching could result. Basically all wells near public water supplies should be properly protected.”

“A best practice approach to managing the threats to public water supplies needs to be implemented across New Zealand. There will always be risks from avian, ruminant and human sources so we need to be identifying all the contamination pathways. We need to let the experts get on with their jobs and not take cheap shots with un-informed accusations,” says Mr Curtis.

It’s understandable for the people of Havelock North to be upset about their water and everyone wants to know what caused the problem and what can be done to prevent it happening again in the area or anywhere else.

But that’s not an excuse for the usual suspects to use the issue for their own political agenda without waiting for the facts. In doing so they’re show their anti-farming bias.

We could forget about feeding people and earning the export income we need for a happy, healthy, well functioning country as those of a very dark green persuasion would have it.

We could produce a lot more food and seriously degrade the environment with no concern for the future, a path for which I haven’t heard anyone advocate.

Or we could use science to produce food sustainably which requires good environmental practices based on science.

If poor farming practices are degrading the water we can do something about it but let’s wait for the inquiry and base any required action on the facts.

 


Rural round-up

April 28, 2016

Farming salaries holding firm despite tough conditions:

Dry stock farmers’ salaries have seen strong growth in the last year, according to Federated Farmers and Rabobank’s 2015/2016 employee remuneration report.

Despite tough times and low inflation, most sheep, beef and grain farmers have been able to provide higher average salaries on a year ago – illustrating real income increases for many farm workers at all levels of experience and responsibility.

Salaries in the dairy industry have remained stable, but for the first time there has been a very small decrease in the value of extras farmers provide their staff, such as firewood and internet access, pushing the total value of their package (TPV) down. . .

Farm Environment Competition Produces Great Crop Of Supreme Winners

Left to Right: Roger Landers and Matt Kelbrick (Taranaki), Graham and Marian Hirst (East Coast), Shane Gibbons and Bridget Speight (Southland), Joe and Suz Wyborn (Canterbury), Richard and Dianne Kidd (Auckland), Daniel and Reidun Nicholson (Greater Wellington), John Hayward and Susan O’Regan, (Waikato), Brendon and Paula Cross (Otago), David and Adrienne Hopkins & Ben and Belinda Price (Horizons), Dennis and Rachelle O’Callaghan (Northland), Leighton Oats and Matt Nelson (Bay of Plenty).The 2016 Ballance Farm Environment Awards have delivered an outstanding line-up of Supreme winners from the eleven regions participating in the prestigious competition.

Auckland is the latest region to join the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, with Helensville sheep, beef and forestry farmers Richard and Dianne Kidd claiming the region’s first Supreme title. Fellow sheep and beef farmers Dennis and Rachelle O’Callaghan, Taipa, were Supreme winners in Northland, with large scale kiwifruit operation BAYGOLD Ltd, Paengaroa, winning in the Bay of Plenty. . .

Federated Farmers thrilled Ruataniwha scheme now in position to proceed:

Federated Farmers is thrilled the Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme in Hawkes Bay has made another significant step towards hitting the go button, after it was confirmed sufficient water sign-up will make the scheme cash positive.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) announced yesterday it has 196 Signed Water User Agreements, the numbers needed for the project to proceed.

Federated Farmers Hawkes Bay Provincial President Will Foley says the dam will preserve the inter-generational nature of family farming in the Hawkes Bay. . . 

Dog stays with dead farmer:

The body of an 87-year-old farmer who went missing in rugged Far North bush was found after searchers spotted a dog which had stayed near his side all night.

The man was last seen about 1pm on Monday when he left home on his quad bike to check farm equipment on his Topps Access Rd property, just south of Kaeo.

Family, friends and neighbours began a search when neither he nor the dog returned. They called police when there was still no sign of the pair by 8pm.

The cattle dog, which was described as small and normally timid, was understood to belong to the man’s daughter but followed him everywhere he went. . . 

Love of farming is in the DNA – Kate Taylor:

University student Olivia Ellis works every time she goes home for a visit. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Home is a 320-hectare farm, Papawai, on State Highway 50 between Onga Onga and Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay… home also to parents Richard and Helen Ellis.

They’ve been there since 1995 when Olivia was a toddler, along with big brothers William, who after qualifying as a builder is now shepherding near Timaru, and the late George, who worked for WaterForce in Ashburton before a truck crash in 2014. . . 

GlobalDairyTrade moves to 24/7 online trading:

The global dairy trading platform owned by Fonterra is to expand further into online trading.

GlobalDairyTrade (GDT), though owned by Fonterra, acts independently as one of the world’s leading dairy trading platforms.

As well as its fortnightly auction, the company offer a new way for customers to trade in the 66-billion litre international dairy market. . . 

Dairy co-op Murray Goulburn cuts milk prices, MD Gary Helou departs – Nikolai Beilharz:

Australia’s largest dairy processor Murray Goulburn has announced it will cut its milk price for suppliers, with managing director Gary Helou also announcing his departure.

The dairy co-op says it is no longer feasible to pay $5.60 per kilogram of milk solids, and now expects to pay between $4.75-5 per kilogram, a drop of around 10 per cent.

MG says it will introduce milk support payment programs to give suppliers an equivalent milk price of $5.47 per kilogram. . .

What farmers in other countries get paid for milk – Charlie Taverner:

The dairy crisis is hurting farmers across the world, as production far outstrips any rising demand.

Farmers Weekly looks at the farmgate prices and milk production levels around the world and considers how milk producers are coping in different countries.

See a snapshot of farmgate prices in the graphic and read the detail for each country below.

See also: How UK dairy producers can compete globally

UK

The UK’s strength is a big liquid market — but that means dairy farmers are divided.

The average milk price of 23.13p/litre in January hides a great split. . . .

Soils big win buried in the science – Mike Foley:

AUSTRALIA’S approach to soil must dig deeper if our agriculture sector is to keep pace with its competitors.

Government policy has for too long taken a narrow focus on soil, prioritising funding for research aimed at enhancing environmental outcomes, as opposed to research that delivers productivity gains.

That’s according to soil researcher Andrea Koch, formerly of the United States Study Centre’s soil carbon initiative. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 6, 2015

Project to reduce nitrate levels in Ashburton:

A project looking to reduce nitrate levels in groundwater around Ashburton is underway.

The Hinds Drains working party was exploring ways to address what it said were consistently high levels of nitrates in the lower Hinds Plains’ groundwater.

The working party was helping the Ashburton Zone Committee, which was responsible for local water management, with recommendations on minimum flows and water allocations.

Committee chair Donna Field said a Managed Aquifer Recharge, or MAR, project was being explored to manage declining water quality and quantity in the catchment. . .

Delays at slaughter houses:

Dry conditions throughout much of the country means some cockies are now facing long waits to get their stock slaughtered, a Hawkes Bay farmer says.

Federated Farmers Hawkes Bay president Will Foley said the long delays were piling more pressure on farmers who were trying to offload stock.

Mr Foley said huge stock numbers were being sent to the meat works and that was creating a big backlog. . .

ANZ AgriFocus forecasts farmgate milk price of $4.50-to-$4.70/kgMS – Fiona Rotheram:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s farmgate milk price may be $4.50-to-$4.70 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2014/2015 season with dairy incomes a key downside risk for the economy, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group’s AgriFocus report says.

That compares with the AgriHQ seasonal farmgate milk price of $4.55/kgMS and Fonterra Cooperative Group’s December forecast of $4.70/kgMS, which was down 60 cents on its earlier estimate following a halving of dairy prices during the season.

In its latest Agri Focus report, the bank’s economists said this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction, which led to a larger-than-expected jump in the price of whole milk powder to US$3,042 per tonne from US$2,758 two weeks ago, suggests the tide has turned for dairy prices. The question is whether the bounce will be strong enough to ward off further cuts in the 2014/2015 outlook. . .

 

Minimal impact to farm price values from falling commodity price index:

A drop in the latest primary produce commodity price index will have little effect on the valuation matrices many farmers will use for base data when calculating their potential rural property purchasing levels, according to a senior figurehead in the real estate industry.

The latest ANZ Commodity Price Index released this week recorded an overall 0.9 percent fall in January – the 11th consecutive monthly decrease in the index, which is now down some 18.8 percent over the past 12 months. . .

Walter Peak Land Restoration Project:

Real Journeys is embarking on large scale restoration of its land at Walter Peak to ensure visitors continue to have an authentically New Zealand experience.

Almost 90 hectares of wilding Douglas Fir will be removed by logging or spraying (around 40 hectares of the area consists of dense trees – the rest are scattered) in partnership with the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCCG) and Department of Conservation. A further 30 hectares of land will be cleared of invasive weeds such as broom, gorse and hawthorne.

Commercial Director, Tony McQuilkin is behind the move, which he says is both exciting and necessary for a company with a proud tradition in conservation and as a responsible landowner. (Real Journeys purchased 155 hectares at Walter Peak in December 2013.) . . .

 

 


Rural round-up

October 31, 2014

Seasonality drives the red meat industries – Keith Woodford:

I have previously described the challenges that seasonality creates for the dairy industry. For New Zealand’s red meat industries, those issues are even more constraining. It is a key part of the reason why restructuring the meat industry is so challenging.

Sheep are designed by nature to give birth in the spring, and their fertility is much reduced at all other times of the year. Given that the market predominantly wants carcasses of 17 – 20 kg, this means that most lambs are ready for slaughter between December and April, with the peak slaughter in a shorter period from January to March.

In practical terms, this makes impossible the development of a mainstream consumer products industry based on a 12 month supply of chilled lamb. Trying to configure the national industry in this way would lead to exorbitant production costs. . . .

Dam could lift region’s GDP by $54.5m:

A new report shows the gross domestic product of the Nelson Tasman region could be lifted by more than $54 million if a proposed dam is built.

The analysis by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has been released during a public consultation of Tasman ratepayers into the possible funding models for the Waimea Community Dam.

The report’s author, senior economist Peter Clough said his analysis suggested the benefits of the dam would more than cover the cost of its construction.

Nelson Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said the Lee Valley project definitely stacks up. . .

Details about next Tuesday’s Ruataniwha water event:

Federated Farmers and Irrigation NZ have released more details about the free “Ruataniwha – it’s Now or Never” event, taking place from 7pm next Tuesday (4 November), at the Waipawa/Central Hawke’s Bay Municipal Theatre. 

“It is definitely not going to be a theoretical discussion about economic models, but real world examples of farmers and schemes with costs similar to what the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme proposes,” says Will Foley, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay.

“Instead of talking about an economic model, we’re bringing up farmers involved in the comparable cost North Otago Irrigation Company scheme and Mid-Canterbury’s BCI scheme.  . .

Sheep, beef farmers want big changes – Sally Rae:

West Otago sheep and beef farmers Nelson and Fiona Hancox want farmers to ”stand up and be counted” and take charge of their futures.

The couple, who are both passionate about the red meat industry and are involved with various groups and industry bodies, believe it is time for farmers to take control.

Mrs Hancox was nominated to attend the 2014 Rabobank Global Farmers Master Class in Australia next month, where she would have been joining farmers from around the world. . .

 

Maori agriculture selling itself short – Gerald Hutching:

Maori agriculture has “huge” potential for development but only 20 per cent of farmland is well developed, 40 per cent is underperforming, and 40 per cent is under-used, says a Massey University academic.

Lecturer and researcher and Kaiarahi Maori Dr Nick Roskruge said about 720,000 hectares of Maori land was farmed, returning $750 million a year, but its short-term potential was $6 billion.

Maori are most strongly represented in the sheep and beef cattle sectors, with dairying becoming increasingly important. About 15,000 Maori are employed in the sector. . .

Capitalising on a perfect partnership on-farm – Jon Morgan:

Rambunctious is the best name for this ram. He’s a big bruiser, used to getting his own way, and he doesn’t like being manhandled.

He struggles out of Peter Tod’s grip and makes a break for freedom. But the Otane farmer’s determination is stronger and the ram is wrestled into submission for a photograph.

He is picked out from a small mob as the most photogenic because of his open face, long back, well-shaped legs, sound feet, and meaty hindquarters. . .


Rural round-up

July 19, 2014

Regen owner named Mumtrepreneur of the Year:

Wellington businesswoman Bridgit Hawkins has been named Fly Buys Mumtrepreneur of the Year in the Fly Buys Mumtrepreneur Awards.

Hawkins’ business, Regen Ltd, helps dairy farmers manage a key issue – disposing of cattle effluent. The company has developed software that turns data, including soil moisture, temperature and rainfall, into a simple daily recommendation that’s sent to the farmer by text message.

Since Regen launched in 2010, the company has helped hundreds of farms across the country manage effluent disposal efficiently and its customer numbers have doubled year on year. . .

$107.5m to Lincoln University science rebuild:

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce today announced that the Government has approved in principle to provide up to $107.5 million in capital funding toward the rebuilding of Lincoln University’s science facilities destroyed in the Canterbury earthquakes.

“Lincoln University suffered very significant damage in the Canterbury earthquakes, and this money will assist the university with its rebuild programme and help it get back fully on its feet. Lincoln is focused on growing its undergraduate enrolments and the rebuild of its key facilities is the next stage in returning it to sustainable operations”, Mr Joyce says.

Lincoln University lost more than 40 per cent of its academic floor space in the Canterbury earthquakes, including much of its facilities for science teaching and research. The rebuild will involve demolishing the badly damaged Hilgendorf and Burns buildings, and replacing them with modern facilities. . .

Federated Farmers on Ruataniwha appeal:

While Federated Farmers did not lodge an appeal with the High Court against the Board of Inquiry decision on the Ruataniwha Dam and the associated Plan Change 6, it is now considering options in light of Hawke’s Bay & Eastern Fish & Game Councils lodging an appeal.

“Federated Farmers principal interests are in the plan change rather than the dam, which was given consent to proceed,” says Will Foley, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay Provincial President.

“I cannot comment on the merits of Fish & Game’s appeal until we see it next week.

“Since we now know of Fish & Game appeal, we must now reconsider the best way forward.  I need our members to know that we do have options.

“It seems farcical since the news today says Kiwi farmers will have to make big changes to cope with climate change, following release of the International State of the Climate report.  Yet more reasons to store water. . . .

Looking for the South Island’s next top farmer:

The South Island’s next top farmer is out there and Federated Farmers wants to see farmers nominated for the 2014 Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year award. The 2013 award being won by the winemaker, Peter Yealands.

“New Zealand farming does not celebrate success enough,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers National President.

“As the farmer-comedian Te Radar told us at Federated Farmers’ National Conference, we do not take time to stop and appreciate just how good our farmers really are. . .

Levy vote about capturing wool’s value –  Chris Irons:

In recent news, one might think that sheep farming is all about red meat, but the sheep farmer’s story is not all about protein. We farm a dual purpose animal and whilst the red meat side is performing, its fibre counterpart has yet to reach its full potential.

Sheep farmers are world leaders in producing fibre; supplying 45 percent of the world’s carpet wool, we are the world’s third largest wool exporter. To capture that value behind the farm gate and building the industry’s worth of $700 million, we need a Wool Levy.

The Wool Levy Consultation has been officially launched, and the Referendum will be voted on the 10th October. Imagine the possibilities, with the average value of our raw wool exports having increased by 38 percent from 2010 to 2014. . . .

Rural elderly communities to struggle – report:

An ageing population where deaths outnumber births will be a challenge for rural communities who won’t be able to afford the services they need, according to analysis of New Zealand census data.

The challenges of adapting to an older population are highlighted in the Our Futures report, by an expert panel at the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Panel chairman, Professor Gary Hawke, says the review is a unique multi-disciplinary approach that looks at the big picture.

“We wanted to highlight what an evolving New Zealand society might look like, what is underlying these changes, and the challenges and opportunities these present.” . . .

Mixed fortunes at wool auction:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that the South Island auction offering 10,122 bales this week received varied support despite a weaker New Zealand dollar compared to the last sale on 10th July.

The weighted currency indicator was down 1.11 percent with 81 percent of the offering being sold.

Steady demand from China underpinned the Fine Crossbred sector, however most carpet wool types eased as contracts in this area have been harder to conclude recently. . .

Value Creation and Environmental Sustainability for Marlborough Wine Industry By-Products:

Marlborough’s wine producers have come together with the Marlborough District Council in a new collaborative approach to the management of grape marc disposal, to generate a new, commercially viable and environmentally sustainable product from grape waste.

Facilitated by the District Council, participating wine companies have formed the “Marlborough Grape Marc (MGM) group” to advance a proposal for an environmentally sustainable use of the wine industry’s waste streams.

The MGM group is chaired by Eric Hughes of Pernod Ricard Winemakers with representatives from Cloudy Bay, Constellation Brands, Delegat’s, Giesen, Indevin, Matua, Mount Riley, NZ Wineries, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Saint Clair and Villa Maria. The group members generate approximately 80% of the wine production in Marlborough. MGM is an open collective, it is hoped that further companies will join and support this industry wide initiative. . .


Do you hear the people . . .

June 21, 2014

Protests by the usual suspects on the left aren’t unusual.

It takes a lot more than the usual disgruntlements to get other people on to the streets in any number which makes yesterday’s Don’t Damn the Dam rally a serious sign of popular support.

RivettingKate Taylor recorded the rally in words and photos:

CHB people gathered in Waipukurau in their droves this morning to support the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. The dam.

I was going to say hundreds of people lined the streets, but I really have no way of quantifying how many people were there. Watch the news tonight – they might tell you. Suffice to say, in Kate terms, there were lots and lots.

Farmers, bankers, fertiliser reps, spreader drivers and two former regional councillors Ewan McGregor and Kevin Rose, who are probably secretly glad the decision is not up to them anymore.

There were tractors, utes, motorbikes, stock trucks and a few huntaways. . .

After clogging up the state highway system for a wee while, the vehicle possession (bigger than the annual Christmas parade but no Santa!!) parked up and the “green space” on “post office corner” was filled with claps and cheers for Mr Streeter and Mr Heaton, HB Federated Farmers president Will Foley and local fifth-generation farmer (and CHBDC district councillor) Andrew Watts. We also heard from someone from Timaru who had seen the growth in South Canterbury from the Opuha dam and resulting irrigation systems. . . .

I think the someone from Timaru was Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston.

Feds is firmly behind the project, but Hawkes Bay provincial president Will Foley is concerned about nutrient limits:

Last month, Massey’s Dr Mike Joy told a Canterbury audience, “The nitrate toxicity in some waterways is 10 times the safe level already. We have gone from safe levels of 1.9 millilitres a litre, to 3.8ml/l in Canterbury.”

With the Tukituki Board of Inquiry proposing a limit of 0.8 milligrams per litre for dissolved inorganic nitrogen, it would seem contradictory, but its draft decision is about a very different limit – what it believes is good for ecosystem health.  And on the nitrate toxicity score, the draft National Objectives Framework has set 6.9ml/l as the bottomline and the Tukituki is not even remotely close. 

So let’s park Dr Joy and focus on what we all want to achieve for the Tukituki. 

That means remembering why we started out in the first place.  It was to tackle an algae that’s been with us forever called Periphyton.  Everyone agrees it’s a problem so what’s the solution?

We get Periphyton because the Tukituki is a rocky river running warm during summer low flows.  Its growth is exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus so Hawke’s Bay Regional Council came up with a three-pronged approach hitting phosphorus, managing nitrogen and increasing water flows. 

In all the debate since, this environmental solution with strong economic benefits has been parked out of sight.

You can only increase water flow during summer by storing rainwater and that’s where Ruataniwha comes in.  This extra water helps to cool the Tukituki during summer while flushing it of Periphyton.  That’s been the experience of South Canterbury’s Opuha scheme on a similar river. 

We’ve had a similar improvement in the Waiareka Creek from the North Otago Irrigation Company scheme.

It used to be little more than a series of stagnant ponds. Now with guaranteed minimum flows from irrigation water it runs clean and wildlife has re-established.

Another experience is the economic boon Opuha has been to South Canterbury.

Yet during the Board of Inquiry, Dr Joy’s colleague Dr Death, helped to shift the focus off Periphyton and towards the stream life of rivers using a model developed for the Manawatu; a very different river to our Tukituki. Arguably, that’s how a limit of 0.8mg/l entered the minds of the Board of Inquiry, but how many invertebrates found in water doesn’t correlate to any one nutrient. 

Ironically, it was Fish and Game’s Corina Jordan who confirmed that while nitrogen and clearly phosphorus have impacts, so does river flow, sediment, light intensity and temperature.  The upshot being that there is no straight line relationship between a limit of 0.8mg/l and invertebrate health. 

Farmers like me are not in denial because Federated Farmers is okay with having a number, but that number must be an indicator and not chiselled into granite.  Especially since that number was derived from a model not validated for the Tukituki River and especially since Dr Death’s use of the Macroinvertebrate Community Index happens to be an indicator itself.

The Hawke’s Bay community needs a solution but the proposed limit of 0.8mg/l is so blunt, it makes Ruataniwha untenable. 

The Port of Napier is right to call Ruataniwha a game changer for the entire Hawke’s Bay region.  Before Ruataniwha’s viability was compromised we were talking about a quarter of a billion dollar boost each and every year.  If 0.8 remains as a hard limit, it not only kills the dam but means the region going forward will become $50 million poorer each year.  

Unless 0.8 becomes an indicator it will seriously compromise all the farming we currently have.  We’re not just talking sheep and beef but the guys who grow crops, the guys who run orchards, those who milk and even the guys who grow the grapes our region is famous for.

A hard limit of 0.8 means no Ruataniwha leaving us with Periphyton, a worsening economy and increasingly, rivers suffering from ever lower and warmer flows due to drought.  If farms convert to forestry we can possibly add sediment to that list.  Can anyone tell me what the environmental or community upside is? 

Dr Doug Edmeades wrote recently, “the best pieces of advice I was given as a young scientist: ‘Edmeades, I do not give a damn for your opinion what are the facts.”  Opinion seems the basis for 0.8mg/l but it is fact that it’s 14 times more stringent than the international standard for drinking water.  Don’t damn our dam.

Water storage and the irrigation it enables can improve both water quantity and quality.

It provides recreational opportunities and a significant economic boost. Farmers will make the biggest investment and take the biggest risk but as the people rallying yesterday obviously realise the benefits will flow right through the community in more jobs and more business opportunities with the economic and social boost that will bring.

The people of Hawkes Bay spoke through their support for the rally yesterday.

The Regional Council will show whether or not it heard them when it makes it decision on supporting the project, or not.


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