Water storage 'politicisation' decried

The Shag River won the grand award at the inaugural New Zealand River Awards in Wellington last year. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
The Shag River won the grand award at the inaugural New Zealand River Awards in Wellington last year. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink used Fonterra's opening farm-gate milk-price forecast to yesterday lambast what he called the ''politicisation of water storage''.

The opening forecast for the 2014-15 season of $7 per kg of milk solids was ahead of Federated Farmers' estimates and was a pleasant surprise, he said.

''If it sticks, it will rank as the fourth-highest payout in Fonterra's history. The upshot is that we are going from a near record payout to a pretty good forecast.

''Where's the bad news in that? This payout and next season's forecast is an economic bonanza,'' he said.

However, there were two dark clouds, one being a possible El Nino drought later this year, which could ''whack'' New Zealand and Californian production.

''This El Nino risk points to a second dark cloud and that's the politicisation of water storage. It seems nuts that rainwater storage, so beneficial to the primary industries, regional economic development and even those in Grey Lynn, is being painted as a bad thing.''

What seemed equally strange were proposed nitrate levels for the Hawkes Bay Ruataniwha scheme being 14 times more stringent than the international standards for drinking water, Mr Leferink said.

If that proceeded unchecked, it meant ''farmergeddon'' not only for dairy farmers but also horticulture, viticulture, sheep, beef and goats - all industries bar apiculture, fishing and forestry.

Dairy farmers were trying their best to use payouts to become better employers, improve health and safety and invest in their farm environment.

Good work took time and from Lake Rotorua to Otago's Shag River, signs of improvement could be seen, he said.

''It's why we are upbeat on the payout and the forecast but far less upbeat about where policy and politicians may be taking us.''

More union irrelevance, distortion

Unions miss the target again Rob. That won't help dairy farmers because running a dairy farm on the minimum wage workers you refer to doesn't work because staff turnover is high and you spend the whole time training staff and fixing mistakes. Like all industries there are some that don't pay well but a smart worker will soon find a better farm to work on - usually with free accommodation and $47,000 a year which is really good going for previously unskilled (and often young) people. Often meat and firewood is included. There are also good career prospects and clear pathways to farm ownership. 

Really good income?

Is this the "really good income" you are referring to sv3nn0?



A few points for TLAM:

- The Farmageddon novel you refer to is against soya fed animals and advocates grass fed animals like we have in NZ.
- Employment is up in dairying areas and providing really good income and usually free accommodation to previously unskilled and uneducated people.
- Mr Leferink refers specifically to Ruataniwha standards as being overzealous and out of line with other standards around the country. Look locally at the Plan Change 6A and you will see the farmers genuinely engaging. He also states something that is not acknowledged enough - poor farmers can't afford to look after the environment but the current farmers are making money and reinvesting it in their property to increase production and protect the environment. This is a fact often overlooked by certain extremists who would have you believe farmers don't care about their animals or environments.
- OIO statistics show that less than 1% of farms are foreign owned. Even if you fudge the figures the most you can get is 3% which leaves the rest of the corporate ownership locally based and farmer owned.

It's important to look at the full story before passing comment.



It is interesting and highly ironic that Willy Leferink uses the term Farmageddon.  A new book out has exactly that title, reviewed here by Colin Tudge, an old visitor to Otago University. 

However, the book talks of the Farmageddon of industrial high-energy agriculture with its downward trending prices, the loss of small farms & rural employment, the rise of corporate politically powerful agribusiness, and the pollution of our place for the profit of those that no longer live there.  

Willy's Farmageddon is the horror of not having the right to pollute more - for free - at our expense - for their profit. Terrible, isn't it. 

Willy's drinking water comparison is ludicrous.  No one is talking about a potable water standard.  That is just Fed Farmers  and Irrigation NZ spin.  The Board of Enquiry has effectively said 'go for your life with the dam, just don't make the rivers any worse than they are now'.  And they are not as good now as they were when I swam in them as a child in the 70s.

Willy is identifying the wrong Farmageddon.  But yes, it is political.  People want their children to swim in our rivers.  Our rivers, Mr Leferink.

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