Opinion: Comments on Hawke's Bay dam proves Greenpeace 'out of touch', says Irrigation NZ

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By Nicky Hyslop, IrrigationNZ Chairwoman

Greenpeace’s article on July 26 regarding drought and irrigation shows just how out of touch its campaigners are with what is really happening in New Zealand’s rural communities and on farms.

I agree with Greenpeace that droughts cause serious problems for farmers and communities but to suggest that we are only about irrigation and dams is wrong.  Water storage has benefits for all – whether that is for residential supply, stock water, environment, irrigation, or recreation. Irrigation and good-practice farm management are the ultimate tools for resilience against the ravaging impacts of drought.

Irrigation will not be an option for all farmers due to water availability and for dryland farmers, they must rely on appropriate farm management technics and policies to continue to adapt to climate change ahead.

Having irrigated farms in a district actually provides options to dryland farmers in dry seasons – they can continue to purchase stock from these properties (and therefore hold up prices) and provide invaluable supplementary feed or grazing options.

Irrigated farmers need to also continue to incorporate farming management tools and policies that make the best use of the precious water they use.

Opuha Dam is a great example of just how valuable water is to communities

Opuha Dam experienced the driest season in 80 years in 2014/15 and yet it continued to supply water to farmers until February 20 when they were then 100 percent restricted. This was invaluable and enabled farmers to get through the majority of their production season.  What is even more important is that the Opuha Dam kept the river running providing invaluable habitat to fish and aquatic life. In fact, fish were salvaged from other local rivers and streams and put into the Opihi to survive the drought in the district.  If the Opuha Dam was not there, the river would have run dry from early January – a disaster for all – the environment and the district’s economy.

Just ask North Canterbury farmers how devastating continuous dry conditions can be despite all their best efforts in regards to dryland farm management including drought tolerant grass species, and dry season stock policies – no rain, no grass growth, no feed for stock.  What these farmers would give to have access to water even just for a small corner of their farms.

Irrigating farmers do not suck our rivers and streams dry. The majority, and soon all, rivers and streams in New Zealand will have minimum environmental flows. In dry seasons when these flows are reached irrigators and other water users must stop taking water – this is to protect the health of our rivers, something farmers also recognise as important.

Irrigation is not just about dairy farms – only 50 percent of the irrigated area in New Zealand is used by dairy farms. The balance is used by a wide variety of land uses including sheep and beef, deer, viticulture, horticulture and arable.

Greenpeace is ignorantly unaware of all the good work being done by regional councils and just as importantly by local communities. Together at the grass roots we are working through ways in which water quality will be maintained or improved over the next 10 to 20 years.  This is not just about farmers doing their bit but all New Zealanders. Locals know what they want for water quality in their districts and we all need to get behind these collaborative initiatives to ensure we achieve sustainable outcomes that create a beautiful prosperous resilient New Zealand for all.


Opinion: Drought is real, but dams in Hawke's Bay and Canterbury not the answer, says Greenpeace


BY Genevieve Toop

There’s no question about it - drought is causing serious problems for our farmers and communities.

So what do we do about it? Dams and irrigation are often touted as the best way to deal with increasing dry spells, especially in regions with low rainfall. But what’s actually happening is water captured for irrigation in New Zealand isn’t just being used to help tide farms over during droughts. It’s being used to intensify farming.

So what happens if droughts keep getting worse, and the irrigated water that allowed farms to intensify is no longer there? We only need look to Opuha dam in Canterbury to see how this critical problem plays out.

The Opuha dam was built in 1998 with the promise of helping farmers through the tough droughts that had been hitting Canterbury. In the summer of 2015, it dried up completely. All irrigation takes were shut off and 250 farmers were left high and dry. The summer 2016 takes were then restricted by 50%. The dam’s made the situation worse for many farmers, because they’ve intensified off the back of it and are now reliant on that water.

Even typically pro-irrigation groups like Federated Farmers have raised these concerns. Fed Farmers South Canterbury president Ivon Hurst is quoted as saying: "Ironically, it's those with irrigation that are likely to be the worst off because of course they're stocked up to the limit and have high standing costs so when they do get caught without water, they are in real trouble."

Irrigation schemes create more intensive industrial dairy farms which causes huge amounts of pollution in our rivers, two-thirds of which are already too polluted to swim in. These schemes also suck up water from our our rivers and aquifers, water that needs to stay in those rivers to maintain their ecological health.

And as we are now sadly witnessing many of our dairy farmers under increasing financial stress, economists have begun questioning the intensification model that’s enabled by irrigation: Over the past 15 years, dairy intensification has led to $38 billion worth of debt, and in the 2014/15 season the Reserve Bank estimated that 50% of dairy farmers weren’t breaking even.

The Opuha model shows us that dams aren’t the answer to drought. Economists tell us the industrial dairying model is causing our farmers to go broke. Scientists tell us that irrigation means more agricultural intensification which causes more freshwater pollution.

Yet right now, there are several think-big irrigation schemes planned around the country, including Ruataniwha dam in Hawke’s Bay and Central Plains Water in Canterbury.

There’s a better way to deal with drought. Instead of creating water-hungry industrial dairy farms in low rainfall regions, we can use methods and systems of farming that create resilient, drought resistant farms, and don’t rely on taking huge amounts of water from our fragile river ecosystems.

These ecological methods can reduce farmer debt and dependency, and increase relative productivity and income. Better yet they avoid river pollution, meaning clean waterways we can all swim and fish in.

You can find out more about drought-resistant farming here.

Genevieve Toop is a food and agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace New Zealand.

Bostocks investing in new apple varieties in Hawke's Bay

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Bostock New Zealand Orchard Managers Shane Crawford and Craig Treneman planting new apple varieties in Hawke’s Bay. Supplied.

New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand, has been making the most of the sunny Hawke’s Bay winter weather, at times planting about 4000 new apple trees each day.

Read more: Bostocks investing in new apple varieties in Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay does well at the New Zealand Shearing Championships at Te Kuiti


Photo: Supplied


Shearing: Open final (20 sheep): Rowland Smith (Hastings) 15min 43.4sec, 58.42pts, 1; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 15min 29.61sec, 58.831pts, 2; Gavin Mutch (Whangamomona and Scotland) 15min 44sec, 60.65pts, 3; David Buick (Pongaroa) 15min 43.83sec, 60.792pts, 4; Mark Grainger (Ye Kuiti) 15min 34.11sec, 61.806pts, 5; Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 16min 43.7sec, 65.435pts, 6.

Read more: Hawke's Bay does well at the New Zealand Shearing Championships at Te Kuiti

Farmers told beekeeping companies are offering cash to farmers in Hawke's Bay to put hives on their farms


Rurals has been told beekeeping companies from Wellington and the Wairarapa are offering cash to farmers in Hawke's Bay to put hives on their farms, but are not putting them far enough from businesses such as Arataki and Kintail, which have been on the land for many years.

Read more: Farmers told beekeeping companies are offering cash to farmers in Hawke's Bay to put hives on...

Hawke's Bay residents back GM Free campaign


More and more Hastings residents are getting behind a campaign to keep Hastings GMO Free as the fundraising drive hits $40,000.

Lots of people have donated money and given sites for signage as the campaign picks up momentum.

Pure Hawke’s Bay Member and Pastoral Farmer Will MacFarlane says it’s heart warming to see the overwhelming support and passion from Hastings residents to keep their region GMO Free.

"In less than a month we have built some strong support, but we have a long way to go to raise the $150,000 needed to legally fight to keep our region GMO Free."

This weekend the campaign team spent hours banging up billboards around the city.

"We spent the weekend putting up signs around the city and received a really positive response in Hastings. As we are getting the message out there, people are recognising that it’s important to support the fight to keep Hastings GM Free. Hastings people understand that preserving our GM free status will benefit everyone, not just food producers.

Last year, backed by leading Hawke’s Bay food producers, Hastings District Council became the first in New Zealand to secure the territory’s GM Free food producer status under the local plan. While this initiative enjoys overall support from producers and the wider community, Federated Farmers is challenging the Hastings decision in the Environment Court, despite many pastoral farmers, objecting to this move.

Mr MacFarlane has an Angus Bull Stud and says the economic opportunity is significant.

"All business is based on trust and we have to play to our strengths. We have a huge advantage in Hastings because we can now officially say we are GMO Free thanks to the Hastings District Council decision. This adds a lot of value to our products overseas."

Mr MacFarlane supplies Waitrose and says one of the fundamental requirements when he exports meat is being GMO Free.

"Waitrose has GMO Free requirements and we must meet them. We can only get our products into Waitrose if we’re GMO Free so to get certification is big for us.

"As a farmer it’s our point of difference in a very competitive market. We can stand proud and assure consumers that we are breeding and growing our animals naturally in a pure environment."

Mr MacFarlane along with over 100 other growers, pastoral farmers and exporters are on a mission to drum up support to protect the regions high value food exports.

Pure Hawke’s Bay will be backing Hastings District Council in the Environment court and has started a significant fundraising drive to raise the $150,000 needed to put forward a winning legal case.

"The response has been great and we are very humbled by the generosity of the Hawke’s Bay community who believe in a GMO Free region. But we have a long way to go and we are encouraging the people of Hastings to get in behind us."

"We are confident we can secure Hastings’ valuable GM Free status in law, but wider financial support is crucial to building a strong case to win this legal battle."

Mr MacFarlane says Pure Hawke’s Bay is keen to hear from anyone keen to put a GM Free sign on their property or support the campaign financially.

The group has set up a website page where people can become a GM Free Supporter and donate.

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