Friday, May 30, 2008

New MAF Brochure

MAF have put out a new drought brochure: Meeting the Challenges Key Points for Getting Through Droughts. Go to

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beyond Reasonable Drought Fielday

Focus and energy beat drought despondency
By Penny Wardle
A small farming community in one of the driest farming districts of New Zealand, this month shared their journey towards farming through climate change.

The ‘Beyond Reasonable Drought’ field day on May 14, attracted 420 people to Marlborough’s Starborough-Flaxbourne district on the east coast between Seddon and Ward. In a super-sized marquee on the Avery family’s Bonavaree Farm, they heard about the challenge issued by since deceased farmer, John ‘JL’ Peter, to acknowledge damage being done to their dryland hills through drought and discover sustainable ways of farming.

A drive through Bonavaree’s flats and downs was confirmation that John’s challenge was acted on. After a mercifully moist autumn, the property was a picture of productivity.

Bonavaree operations manager, Fraser Avery, was anticipating a record scan in the ewes; a prediction which came to pass the following week when two tooths grazed on lucerne recorded 175% and the main mob (mated on the hills) 171%.

Just across the road at the Grassmere saltworks, the 481mm average rainfall from 2001 to 2007 was likely to be lower than all decadal averages since 1890, Alan Porteous of NIWA’s National Climate Centre told an audience of farmers and agricultural industry representatives from Northern Hawke’s Bay to South Otago.

“Adaptation is an interesting process,” says Fraser’s father, Doug. “You don’t know how good it is until you get there.”

First step was acceptance
Doug’s first step towards tackling the impact of drawn-out drought on Bonavaree, was accepting that to farm on as usual risked destroying not only the family’s farm business but ultimately, their land. That provided plenty of incentive for the next step, of sitting down with farmers in the district and calling for outside help.

First on the scene was then NZ Landcare Trust CEO, Don Ross, who helped the group put their ideas on paper and apply for funding to attract professionals to the project. The Sustainable Farming Fund accepted the Starborough-Flaxbourne Soil Conservation Group’s application, and the project kicked off.

The field day was a bringing together of the expertise and inspiration. Guest speakers included consultants involved with the project and primary sector visionaries who encouraged dryland farmers facing climate change to look forward to opportunities including irrigation and carbon farming. Information ranged from advice on recognising climatic risk periods and shifting farm production to the most reliable months, to a eulogy to the native plants that had survived not only the heat and wind of this dry coastal district but also root-raking and fire.

A highlight for many was a rigorous question and answer session between Professor Derrick Moot of Lincoln University and Fraser Avery. The wonderful results achieved by changing management of lucerne was their theme, from harvesting seed and supplements to direct rotational grazing by multiple birth ewes through winter until finished lambs are trucked to the works.

It’s a regime that’s seen triplets growing faster than singles, said Fraser.

There’ve been plenty of challenges along the way, especially loss of ewes to bloat as they adjusted to the new feed. In the first year 100 died, mostly two tooths, and Doug was more than ready to walk away from the experiment. However, this year losses were down to 10, which should be seen in the context that drought too causes sheep deaths, said Derrick.

Red gut had been a minor problem in this dry climate but could be worse in wetter districts, Derrick cautioned.

Bonavaree now follows an annual cropping rotation, from grass to Omaka barley to fallow to lucerne. The key to establishing the barley crops is a summer fallow, taking some spring moisture in the soil to autumn.

Some take-home lessons from Fraser also included taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to farming, and understanding that less ewes can mean more lambs. The Bonavaree Corriedale flock has been crossed with Highlander rams, for a greater focus on meat and to maximise spring growth rates.

Human response impresses
“What impressed me the most about the field day was the positive human response to a seemingly desperate situation, particularly since it’s yielded so much” says Hawke’s Bay Regional Council land resources officer, Peter Manson. “Focus, energy and perseverance - what an inspiring family to be involved with.
“Secondly, there are solutions to severe climate and soil challenges. The Averys have applied new thinking to establishing and managing old tools – fodder plants and crops - better, for the purposes of livestock production.”
The third lesson for Peter, was the apparently successful use of saltbush and tagasaste fodder crops as part of a high performance system along with erosion control on north-facing slopes.
“I'll be interested to watch that space and see how they develop the system to a point where the steeper, erosions prone hills also become relatively productive on a larger scale, at the same time fitting in with the lucerne/pasture/cereal feed crop system on the easier country.”
Doug acknowledged that at current costs ($1680/ha for raising plants, ripping and planting but excluding fencing), saltbush is not yet a viable option for restoring hill country. However, he’s now looking into broadcasting saltbush seed as an alternative.

“Saltbush is the only plant I’ve ever seen which likes our impoverished faces,” says Doug. “Our sheep love it and under its canopy grows the next generation of restoration. We are still two ticks short of the answer, but this ‘halimus’ plant is the one to work with.”

Fittingly, Don Ross was given last word at the field day, urging the wider farming industry pick up on the progress made through a positive approach then to “think smarter about how to work with and support farmers.”

Summaries of all papers given at the field day are available on the Marlborough District Council website, and a booklet summarising project findings will be posted at the end of July.

Monday, May 5, 2008

SPCA to receive $300,000 to help with animal welfare

The SPCA is to receive $300,000 from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to help assist and advise on animal welfare following this year's drought.
Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton announced the contribution at the SPCA conference over the weekend. The conference celebrated the national organisation's 75th jubilee.
Until now the only government funding SPCA receives is for training SPCA inspectors. SPCA's involvement in farm animal welfare work has increased recently, especially because of the drought.
There are around a hundred SPCA animal welfare inspectors, many of whom are voluntary. Last year they received and investigated eleven thousand complaints about animal mistreatment, and laid nearly 200 charges against 84 defendants. The value to the government of SPCA's animal welfare enforcement is estimated at $5 million a year.
"One impact of the drought that hasn't had as much attention has been the effect on animals," Jim Anderton said.
"Stressed farm conditions can put pressure on animal welfare conditions. At the very least it puts a higher priority on us to get out into the community and support farms to maintain a high standard of care for their animals. The SPCA has a leading role in this.
"I think this funding signals the Labour-Progressive Government's commitment to ensuring that the valuable work of the SPCA in making a difference to animal welfare in New Zealand is supported and continues."
The funding for SPCA will come from savings within existing MAF baselines. MAF officials are due to meet with the SPCA on 13 May to finalise details of how the funds will be utilised.

Contact Jim Anderton on 021 777 680

Friday, May 2, 2008

Light at end of Tunnel - National Bank

Media release
For immediate release
2 May 2008
Light at the end of the tunnel for farmers, says National Bank
Farmers affected by drought may take up two years to recover financially, says Charlie Graham, General
Manager of Rural Banking, National Bank.
But they are a resilient group who are very good at adapting to changing conditions, planning and putting in
place strategies to protect their business, he says.
“Farmers’ resourcefulness can never be underestimated. We take a long term view of farmers’ viability and
we are confident in their capability to work through a difficult season like this one, and recover strongly now
the rain has arrived,” said Mr Graham.
The financial consequences of this drought will be significant particularly for sheep farmers. “However
farmers are in a much better financial position to handle this drought than previous droughts because of their
strong equity positions,” says Charlie Graham. “REINZ figures show the median farm sale price is up 41%
from a year ago.”
The National Bank has a positive outlook for the rural economy – international demand for food is set to
outstrip supply, and while input costs have increased there have been strong price increases for a broad
range of commodities. “Prices for meat protein are finally improving.”
Charlie Graham says that the psychological impact of drought is an important factor to bear in mind. “For
affected farming families, the Rural Support Trusts provide valuable support. Many of us find it difficult to ask
for help, but that’s what the Trusts are there for.”
“Often the most debilitating aspect in these situations is that personal goals are not being met. It becomes
hard to focus on the next the season and look ahead. But past experience tells us this is what we need to
do – focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Charlie Graham suggests farmers assess their current positions, put a recovery plan in place, and then
continually monitor and review the plan. “A farm budget and cashflow should be prepared for the next one to
two years to understand the financial impact the drought has had. The process will help crystallise a sound
plan. It may be necessary to re-evaluate livestock policies and farm management systems. From there you
will know what financial accommodation you may need.”
Corporate Affairs
23 – 29 Albert Street
Private Bag 92210
Auckland Mail Centre
Phone: (+64 9) 3744 235
Fax: (+64 9) 3744 250
If you do not receive all pages please telephone or fax immediately.
Financial actions that can be taken include re-financing seasonal debt to core term debt, and changing to
interest only loans. It may involve additional borrowing to finance capital expenditure that reduces the
exposure of the business to droughts in the future.
“We encourage people to talk to their bank as soon as possible and tell them how you see your position.
Examine all options and seek advice from those you respect and trust.”
The National Bank is New Zealand’s largest rural lender, and with a 400-strong team, well equipped to assist
farmers work through the financial implications of the drought.
“Our primary focus is to work with affected clients to help them understand and assess their financial
position, and support them through the current difficulties,” said Mr Graham.
- ends -
For more information contact:
Jess Malcolm
External Communications Manager
The National Bank
09 374 4235
0272 752 834

Government Assistance Measures Available for the Drought

Information and communication Status of Assistance
0800 numbers
information and
Inland Revenue has an Emergency Helpline to help
anyone with tax queries and disseminate advice.
Inland Revenue’s Emergency Helplines are open
Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm, Saturday 9am – 1pm.
0800 numbers
information and
MSD has a Government Helpline for anyone wanting
information and access to services such as financial
assistance, stress counselling and other advice.
MSD MSD has activated the Government Helpline 0800
779 997.
As at 12 April, the line has received a total of 78 calls
since its activation on 14 February. For the week,
Monday 14 April to Saturday 12 April, the line
received 23 calls.
Costs are met to enable dissemination of key
information to the media for publication/broadcast.
MAF MAF has prepared a drought brochure. This was
included as a two-page insert in the March 18 edition
of Rural News. This brochure is also being
disseminated through the Rural Support Trusts.
MAF will be developing a 2-page spread on pasture
management and publicising this through the
Farmers Weekly / Rural News. This information will
include tips for farmers on what to do/not to do, best
ways of re-establishing permanent pastures on easy
& hill country and contact numbers for further advice.
MAF has released a media statement on animal
welfare. This will be included in the 22 April edition of
Farmers Weekly.
Individual and family support Status of Assistance
Late election of
provisional tax
Inland Revenue accepts late estimates of provisional
tax from those significantly affected by an adverse
Currently available. Recent feedback from Inland
Revenue suggests this assistance is the tax support
most requested by farmers.
Income equalisation
Enables farmers to smooth taxable income from year
to year by making deductible deposits to an income
equalisation account. Inland Revenue has several
discretions, including late deposits and early refunds
on a case-by-case basis.
Currently available.
Self Assessed
Adverse Events
Income Equalisation
Enables individuals who have money deposited in the
income equalisation scheme to make an early
withdrawal or deposit funds arising from forced sale of
Currently available.
Additional flexible
tax provisions
Inland Revenue can look at tax relief to taxpayers on
a case-by-case basis, including:
• Financial relief if the taxpayer is in ‘serious
hardship’. This allows taxpayers to enter into
instalment arrangements of Inland Revenue to
write off underlying tax in certain circumstances.
• Waiving penalties on late tax payments and
• Allowing taxpayers to make late re-estimations of
provisional tax.
• Waiving use-of-money interest on late tax
Currently available.
Working for families Inland Revenue can look at instances where the Inland Currently available.
Tax Credits income has reduced or changed to ensure the
farming family received the correct entitlement, and
whether the frequency / date of the payments can be
New Start Grants A one-off grant for families to permanently leave
commercial farming activities where the farm is no
longer viable.
MAF Under assessment.
Rural Assistance
This assistance is available to individuals who derive
the principal income directly or indirectly from a landbased
industry and are not producing sufficient
income to meet essential living costs. Individuals must
be either exiting the land-based industry or
considering its ongoing viability. Income and assets
tests apply.
MSD To date, 12 Rural Assistance Payments have been
provided (Central North Island:1, Waikato: 9, Bay of
Plenty: 1 and Canterbury: 1).
Psychosocial support such as counselling can be
made available.
MSD Funding of $50,000 has been approved for Victim
Support to provide psychosocial support.
Local qualified and experienced counsellors are
available to talk to people affected by the drought.
These services are free and are administered
through Victim Support.
Benefit payments Financial assistance may be available to individuals
who meet certain criteria. For example, the
Unemployment Benefit for people who are
unemployed and available for work, or an Emergency
Benefit for people who meet an income and asset test
and are in hardship.
MSD This assistance is currently available.
Special Needs
This is a one-off payment for an essential need e.g.
food, clothing
MSD To date, 11 Special Needs Grants have been
(Central North Island: 4, Waikato: 5 and Taranaki: 2).
Other financial
Depending on individual circumstances other financial
assistance may be available
MSD This is assistance is available on a case by case
basis. Assistance provided to date includes offers of
alternative seasonal work and childcare.
Job search support MSD can assist farmers, their spouses and workers in
allied industries affected by the drought find off-farm
MSD This assistance is currently available.
Local Recovery Assistance
Assistance activated
Grants to Rural
Support Trusts
Grants to assist Rural Support Trusts in providing
support to primary producers.
MAF MAF is engaging with the Rural Support Trusts in the
Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu, the
East Coast, Nelson / Marlborough, North Canterbury,
South Canterbury, Otago and Southland.
Transfer Grants
Grants to provide assistance for education and
technical advice on recovery options relating to
financial and contingency planning, including animal
welfare. The grants can be used for activities such as
technology transfer workshops and brochures and
advice material.
MAF MAF has provided funding for Meat and Wool New
Zealand drought management seminars, and have
directly funded some Individual seminars/field days.
Dairy NZ has been very active carrying out a number
of field days on drought management, and is shortly
to start another round advising on winter
MAF is currently in discussion with Rural Women NZ
for them to provide some localised seminars for
farming women.
Funding for shed
meetings and
morale boosting
Funding can be made available to assist with local
community events aimed at boosting morale.
MAF provided assistance for transport to the Tui
‘Drought Shout’ in the Wairarapa held on 9 April.
MAF is liaising with Rural Women of New Zealand to
potentially fund 2 of morale-boosting events in
Waikato and Canterbury.
The Government will provide funding to Rural Support
Trusts for Agricultural Recovery Coordinators as
needed. The coordinator’s main role is to co-ordinate
MAF There are Agricultural Recovery Facilitators in:
• North Canterbury.
(regional) the response and recovery initiatives.
• South Canterbury.
• The East Coast.
• Taranaki.
• Manawatu.
• The Bay of Plenty Waikato (6).
• Southland.
• Wairarapa.
Recovery Facilitator
The Government may appoint an Agricultural
Recovery Facilitator at the national level. The
facilitator’s main role would be to work with MAF and
help to co-ordinate the response and recovery
MAF Les Hill is the appointed National Agricultural
Recovery Facilitator.
Rural Case
Work and Income has identified Rural Case Managers
to proactively engage with farmers and industry
workers in all drought affected regions.
MSD The Rural Case Managers are mobile.
Volunteer costs Costs are met for volunteer travel and accommodation. MAF Under assessment.
Financial and
business planning
advice grants
The National Drought Committee discussed the need
for these grants and decided they were not required
at this stage.
Feed availability Assistance activated
Feed survey MAF commissioned a national feed availability survey.
• MAF may also have a role in ensuring the
continuity of the feed supply.
MAF The final analysis has been completed and the
results are available on the website. The analysis
has also been provided to all grain companies.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jim Anderton - Years to recover fully from drought

It will take years to recover fully from this year's drought, even though recent rains have restored soil moisture in many parts of the country, agriculture minister Jim Anderton told a field day at a South Canterbury Monitor Farm today.
A national drought meeting yesterday reviewed the latest information on the drought and Jim Anderton said there were good news stories at last.
"The good news is that soil moistures around most of the country have improved.
"Though the rain has fallen now, and though the ground is wet again, these times are still tough. Many farmers cut stock levels early. Conservative decisions helped to reduce pressure on feed but it takes time for those stock levels to recover.
"The most serious concern now will be feed over winter. Because the drought has already tolled, feed levels will be low. Prices for feed could rise and inflict new pain.
"Far beyond the economic costs there are also human costs. There are stressed farmers out there and I recognise we need to do what we can to support them. We need to be strong enough to care about others."
Jim Anderton said the network of rural support trusts worked well in supporting communities through the drought.
"I am pleased that last year I took a decision to gain extra funding for rural support trusts in the budget. We provided extra strength just as it was needed.
"The support networks are pushing on to try to ensure everyone who is stressed from the drought receives help they need. There are some farmers who haven't accessed support or been to the community briefings. We can still reach them. Information is being sent through every channel we can think of."
Contact Jim Anderton on the road via Kevin Steel on 0298 940 609

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

National drought - key contacts

National drought – key contacts

MAF Regional Contacts

For assistance and advice, the following MAF regional contacts are available:

Phil Journeaux
07 957 8314
029 957 8313

John Vaney
07 921 3400
029 921 3407

Gillian Mangin
06 974 8814
029 974 8811

Rebecca Williams
04 894 0100
029 894 0680

Chas Perry
03 543 9182
029 943 1025

John Greer
03 943 1703
029 943 1706

Trish Burborough
03 951 4700
029 951 4716

MSD Regional single point of contact

Bay of Plenty
Jacqui Arstall
07 921 8061

East coast
Alan Boult
06 974 8246

Julie Dolan
07 957 1553

Terry Curran
06 968 6640

Michelle Reiri
06 9521429

Mere Wetere
03 9897069

Nicki Goss
03 9614305

Teesh Payn
03 9487722

MSD Drought Case managers

Lance Taylor
07 957 6748
029 237 9057

Hamilton East
Vicki Dance
07 957 6683

Bay of Plenty
Helen Rastrick
07 921 8087

Bay of Plenty
Lyn Savage-Morris
07 901 8564

Bay of Plenty
Bev Norton
07 901 8552
029 273 6575

Bay of Plenty
Gerry Brons
07 921 8187
029 200 6220

Bay of Plenty
Julie Hill
07 921 8005
029 257 8385

Bay of Plenty
Marie Rolls
07 922 9401
029 275 0221

Bay of Plenty
Roberta Ripaki
07 922 6320
029 242 6701

East Coast
Sally Araipu
06 904 5522

East Coast

Mary Collins
06 904 5526

Terry Curran
06 968 6640

Linda Paterson
06 968 6703

Malcolm Carson
06 965 8014

Graeme Roberts
06 946 9129
029 251 7754

Lisa Kerr
06 946 9151
029 200 3405

Tina Hemi
06 946 9132

Dave Wilson
06 952 9014
029 287 7176

Kevin Salmons
06 949 8723
029 650 0541

Lynn Currie
06 949 8738
029 274 6048

Marie Streeter
06 901 4082

Palmerston North
James Etuale
06 952 0316
029 284 2779

Mark Berthelsen
03 989 7070

Michael Friel
03 909 0479

Alexandra, Queenstown
Annette Harris
03 901 6911

Kerry Lundy
03 956 7807
029 238 4553

Karen Bird
03 904 0883

Sue Moseby
03 902 0656

Glyn Emmerson
03 948 7754