How leasehold values have influenced High-Country reform

Some 20 percent of the South Island is what is commonly called the ‘High Country’.  These are the pastoral lands that lie to the east of the alpine spine that runs the length of the island.

These are also the lands that the Government, following the 1948 Land Act, ‘alienated’ (to use the legal term for privatisation) via perpetual leases for pastoral purposes.

More recently, the Government has been buying back the leasehold rights to the higher country on some of these properties, and converting the leasehold tenure to freehold tenure on the more productive country.

High-country tenure reforms are important for all New Zealanders. This is because of the scale of this land and its importance, not only for pastoralism, but also for landscape values, tourism, recreation, conservation and also as a water resource.  In a democracy, we all need to have an understanding of what our Governments – past, present and future – are doing on our behalf. Continue reading

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Posted in Land and water, The High Country | Leave a comment

High Country Tenure and Quiet Enjoyment

The New Zealand high country has been undergoing remarkable changes in land tenure over the last 20 years.  Much of the marginal pastoral land has moved into the conservation estate, and much of the better pastoral land has shifted from leasehold to freehold.  However, the process has been mired in controversy.

The argument against land tenure reform has been led by Dr Ann Brower, until recently from Lincoln University and now from Canterbury University. Dr Brower has argued that runholders have been granted superior land-tenure rights on the lower country that have led to inappropriate land-use developments, which in turn have led to major windfall benefits for private individuals. In particular, the runholders have been able to sell their new rights for huge capital gains. Continue reading

Posted in Land and water, Outdoors with nature, The High Country | 4 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis is unlikely to go away

It now seems likely that Mycoplasma bovis is in New Zealand to stay. Just like the rest of the world, we must learn how to live with it. We do not yet have to give up totally on hopes of eradication, but eradication is looking more and more unlikely.

The control program has suffered from incorrect information and poor communication, and there is much to be learned from that. These information flaws have affected farmer and public attitudes. In some cases, this has created additional and unnecessary stress, and unfair criticism of individuals.

However, the probability is that these flaws have not affected the success or failure of the eradication program. The chances are that Mycoplasma bovis has been here for some years, in which case eradication was always going to be impossible. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 5 Comments

Dairy on-farm debt leaves little headroom

The latest statistic for on-farm dairy debt held by banks was $40.9 billion at October 2017. This equates to $22 per kg milksolids.

Despite the major upturn in dairy prices of more than 50 percent that occurred between July and December 2016, and with those improved prices then holding through much of 2017, there were lags for the increase to flow through into farm incomes. Debt therefore continued to climb through to July 2017 reaching $41.2 billion. It then declined by $285 million in the four months through to October 2017. Looking back ten years, the dairy debt remains more than double the 2007 figure of $18.8 billion.

The recent decline in debt is surely a positive sign, but in the greater scheme of things the recent decline is modest. Key questions remain as to the long term financial stability of the dairy industry. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy | 1 Comment

How can we make dairy sustainable?

The big challenge for New Zealand dairy is how it can become sustainable in the coming decades. This sustainability includes both financial and environmental sustainability. And it needs to occur in the context of both scepticism and some antipathy from within the urban community.

One of the challenges for our new Government is to come to terms with the extent to which dairy and indeed the broader pastoral industries provide a key pillar that underpins the export economy. Without a vibrant export economy, there is no practical way we can address poverty and inequality within Zealand.   However, that is not the way that many New Zealanders currently see it.  And therein lies the challenge. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Land and water | 23 Comments

Mycoplasma riddle is far from solved

For most New Zealand dairy farmers, the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in South Canterbury is now little more than background noise.  However, dairy and even beef farmers would be wise to recognise that it could still be lurking anywhere in New Zealand, waiting for the right circumstances to strike.

The whole saga of the outbreak has been poorly communicated.

The starting point for error has been the widely reported falsehood that it is on intensive confinement farms owned by the van Leeuwen Group.   In fact, the disease has not been detected to date on any of the four robot-milked free-stall farms owned by this family. Rather it is on five outdoor farms that they own. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 6 Comments

The challenges of disseminating A1 and A2 beta-casein research

Those of us involved with research relating to A1 and A2 beta-casein know all too well the challenges of publishing and disseminating that research.  Given the extent to which beta-casein research challenges established positions, some of which are held by powerful entities, there are lots of speed bumps.

Events of recent weeks have once again illustrated some of those challenges. I lay out one such example below.      Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, China, Science ethics and communication | 7 Comments