The Shag River won the grand award at the inaugural New
Zealand River Awards in Wellington last year. Photo by
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