Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Fact and fantasy

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  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    Make the commute expensive.

    That has to be the most utterly fucking stupid suggestion I've read yet. Make commuting by private vehicle expensive, by all means, but it's completely unrealistic to demand that people live near where they work, especially in a city where most housing is unaffordable at the entry level and the stuff that is affordable is nowhere near centres of employment.

    As an example, partner's sister and BiL bought in Drury, because that's about all they could afford, but he works in the city. They couldn't afford to buy in the city, or close to the city. Are you recommending that he give up his moderately-well paid job in order to get a more menial position closer to home? Or recommending that they forego ownership in order to live closer to town? They have no available middle ground.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    Depopulating Auckland is a plan I’d never considered…. hmmm, that might work.

    At the thorough expense of our economy. Density brings value of employment. The highest-value employment in the whole country is in Auckland's CBD, by a very large margin (from memory it's about 30% higher than the number two). If we're to have a hope of growing our way out of this economic rut into which National has run the country, it will be completely counter-productive to spread our only real city all over the countryside. The agglomeration benefits to economies are thoroughly established, and it's only ignorant hicks like Brownlee and Joyce who think the solution to our economic woes is more farming and Canterbury and urbanising the whole stretch from Hamilton to Whangarei.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Stewart,

    Why do you feel the need to question the commitment and motives of someone you have never met but has been lauded by a friend as an environmentally ‘right-on dude’?

    I felt the need to clarify because you left his true motives open to interpretation. He'd hardly have been the first to do the letter of the law and wave that about as a demonstration of how that was the truth of his beliefs about caring for the environment when, really, it was the ranting about how much caring for the environment costs that was the truth.
    If he's actually caring about the environment, then good on him. I'm just cautious when confronted with someone who bitches loudly about how much it's costing them to comply with the law but holds up their compliance as a certificate of how they're a good citizen.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Stewart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Just came across as a bit snide.
    No worries. He's a top bloke.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report

  • DexterX,

    There is nothing wrong with questioning values or points of view - the real problems are two fold 1) when one has none or 2) holds them and does nothing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report

  • Ross Mason,

    So lets get to the crux of why farmers (seem to) want to forever strive for the production gold:


    This one is all about the wonderful banks offering that wonderful interest protection racket.

    And this one is all about how much we owe: The odd $48Billion.


    Not bad for a few thousand farms eh?

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report

  • Robert Fear,

    When reading the Herald this morning I discovered a quote from Dr Joyce:

    "One cow produces 14 times the human equivalent..." - so in doing the sums -

    14 x approx no. dairy cows (6.2 million) + 12 (just a guess) x approx no. of beef cows (3.8 million) + humans ( 4.4 million) = 136.8 million human equivalent waste producers - HEWP* (ignoring the other domestic animals).

    Our population density of 16.4 person per square km becomes 511 HEWP per square km.

    When compared to the human population and density of the UK, 63 million and 268 per square km respectively, the scale of the challenge on dealing with the waste takes on a whole new perspective.

    BTW, the UK's HEWP is 588 per square km, though there's a few more people contributing to dealing with it. In contrast, Japan's HEWP is 381 vs human density of 337 per square km.

    *Not exactly scientific I know but I thought it was an interesting way of considering all of the shit being produced.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2008 • 3 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    At the thorough expense of our economy

    Of course. I really should put <sarcasm> on the appropriate comments to make it clear that I don't think depopulating my city is a good idea. In fact, I'm not a fan of making things more costly just to change people's behaviour at all. Not when the justification of the cost isn't tied in to the "cost" of whatever it is you're trying to discourage. I'm a carrots guy, sticks, not so much.

    If you want dense urban living, the place to start is housing. It doesn't matter how punitive you get on transport, if there's nowhere good/affordable to live in the center then people will commute. You don't build houses buy taxing cars, that's ridiculously circuitous.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Kyle Matthews,

    For most enough is enough.

    Despite hundreds of years of evidence that this isn't actually the case for most?

    Yes, if we say to farmers (or any other profession) you can earn twice as much profit per unit, would you like to have the same number of units or half as many, they'll all cut back.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,


    I’m a carrots guy

    me too...
    :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Farmer Green,

    That’s slightly encouraging even if 92 of them were from Farmer Green who will shortly depart fom here, taking with him the realisation that the rural/urban divide is a formidable obstacle ;

    I've appreciated your input and hope you're not leaving because of perceived antipathy. I don't know what kind of engagement you expected, in a thread that is primarily about the question of whether NZ is 100% Pure or not. There aren't a whole lot of farmers in the commentary pool here, although there are quite a few scientists. Your efforts sound righteous, and not totally isolated either - I've met a few Kiwi farmers who have made the effort to transition to permaculture principles.

    I think you're most likely very much aligned with predominant views here, and if there's any trouble, I'd say it's come from the manner of engagement. You've kind of laid out your whole world view across a number of posts, and there is much to agree with, and disagree with in there, but the point is, it's too much, too untargeted to get the detailed feedback you seemed to want. I'd be surprised if many people here didn't think that dropping your stocking levels isn't righteous-as, for example, but the waters get muddied when you suggest that you're looking forward to global warming. You're not going to have too many people here thinking that's cool, because it's not just your farm at stake.

    But yes, rural/urban is quite a divide. To me, that's a pity, because we are in it together, as a nation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    dropping your stocking levels

    I appalud that. It's the solution that FedFarmers and their pals in govt don't mention when seeking reasons to delay doing anything to make their practices more sustainable. 'We need new technology' they wail. Media swallows it hook, line and sinker.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • andin, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Farmer Green hopes that those concerned with the ecology of Godzone now have a glimmer of hope that not only is a better environmental outcome possible, but that desirable economic and social benefits would also flow from the necessary changes.

    Theres always hope, the trouble is the longer its left the more that has to be done. And politicians and business leaders would rather the public stayed out of it when it comes to all that high powered negotiating stuff. Are we supposed to just do as told? mmm? And as for dropkicks statements like those from Plunket and Unsworth, mouthpieces much!
    You havent laid out a very good case for those economic and social benefits flowing from the necessary changes tho’.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    Just FYI, I've revisited the original topic with links to Saturday's Media3 show and a look at Mike Dickison's critique of Mike Joy's use of the PLoS One study.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Alan Thatcher, in reply to Mike Dickison,

    We're also #1 in the world for endangered animal species—which means birds (because we have hardly any mammals or amphibians). NZ does have quite a few threatened bird species, most of which we can't blame on current National government policies. I don't think the number would be much different if DoC had had adequate funding for the last 20 years, because species decline and recovery is a slow process. We're #1 because we're a small island country, which always increases the number of endangered species "

    "This is actually not correct. We have a large number of threatened species because of habitat degradation, meaning inappropriate land use, polluted waterways, poor fishing methods (sea lions, Hectors dolphins) and most of all, a severe introduced pest problem, especially possums and goats. Time and time again it has been demonstrated that natural ecosystems bounce back astonishingly quickly if the pressures are removed. So, yes. It is all down to the government, not only through inaction on addressing any of these issues (and of course slashing DOC funding) but actually actively working to increase pressure on ecosystems and undermine efforts by others to mitigate the effects.

    Stratford • Since Dec 2012 • 2 posts Report

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Alan Thatcher,

    Gidday Alan , nice to see you here. If you feel so inclined, and can wade through the superfluity, Farmer Green would appreciate any feedback you might offer, particularly on the economic aspects of the drastically lowered stocking rate, and the added-value proposition.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report

  • Farmer Green,

    Sorry about the order of these, which is reversed from the order in which they were posted: I realised part way through the cut and paste that I was doing it all wrong. Read from the bottom up.

    5) ” ; the trifecta is “clean green and fresh”.
    It is fresh product ; cultured food; stability achieved by acidification, not by water removal and drying.
    Shelf life from manufacture is 12-16 weeks . The destination is nearby Asia by seafreight.
    The limit to sales is the amount of supermarket shelf space that you can occupy every day, so the production in your lowest month is your limiting factor for total sales. You want it as flat as possible.
    And if you produce more than your allotted shelf space then you are forced to turn the fresh raw milk into a longer-life , lower-value product , like powder.
    We had such an industry in Godzone once ; it was the first thing to be abolished when the current shemozzle was first mooted.

    The reason we have to produce all the milk when it is cheapest to do so (seasonally)is because we are turning it into low value commodities.
    Remember where the dairy industry is coming from; we once aimed to be the cheapest producer in the world. The corollary is that our farmers were the lowest paid. All of that has changed (and Britain joined the ECC) but we didn’t redesign the industry to suit the changed conditions.
    Your last sentence alludes to the factor of utilisation; all the plant is running all the time. At the moment factories costing $300 million or more lie idle for three months.”

    4) Q: “Why wouldn’t this just lead to more intensification and more conversions to dairy?”

    It is not necessary to intensify this industry because it is sufficiently profitable. You assume that farmers are driven by something other than mere survival. That is prejudice. Sure there are some pigs , but that is human nature. For most enough is enough.
    There is not enough suitable land in N.Z. to support the present cow population at the reduced stocking rate in the FG model. Indeed some of the land recently converted to dairy is completely unsuitable when appropriate environmental constraints are imposed , as they will be.
    So there is no way to get up to 6 million cows at 0.5 cows / hectare and still comply with environmental constraints.
    In any case you are missing the point that it is the number of cows /Ha that is the problem ; not the number of Ha or the total number of cows.

    3) “The theoretical calving pattern for dead flat daily production throughout the year is all cows calving January-June.
    No cows calving in Spring ; the worst possible time to calve cows and the toughest on calves, and definitely the worst possible time to have high stock densities.
    The figures used are from a real example; the major difference is that all the water was left in the milk; milk is 86% water. Check out a litre of natural yoghurt (additive -free) in a supermarket ; retail will be over $6/litre.
    The example uses just under $3/litre for the gross realisation to the dairy company. In fact on a C&F basis $4 -$4.50/litre is possible but $3 is good enough for the purpose of this example.This is what added-value is all about. Milk powder doesn’t cut it.
    Why do you mention the beef? Bobby calves?
    I haven’t mentioned the on -farm situation; my approach has been solely to show that we can reduce the impact on waterways while raising the amount of money coming into the country , so that we can afford to save what’s left of the conservation estate
    But on -farm , it is basically producing half the milk for double the price. Again , taken from an actual example.”

    2) “The industry currently sells 20 billion litres , produced by 6 million cows (3300 litres/cow), at a gross realisation of about $20billion.
    FG ’s model has 1.5 million cows producing 10.5 billion litres on a year-round basis(7500 litres /cow) for a gross realisation of $30 billion.
    The stocking rate has dropped from 2cows /Ha to 0.5 cows/Ha. The nitrogen loss to ground water has been substantially reduced.”

    1) “But it could be very good news for farmers if it was “clean , green and fresh” added-value products coming from the low-impact agriculture.
    Low impact is the easy part which takes care of the environmental sustainability (in the relative sense).
    The added-value requires the dairy industry to abandon seasonality , and to produce milk all year round (at the very low stocking rates) so that fresh cultured foods (yoghurt , sour cream , cottage cheese, other cheeses etc ) can be made daily for shipping to the rich (top 10%) Asians.
    Year- round production also addresses the rebuilding of rural social capital, the destruction of which has occurred over the last 40 years of dairy company amalgamations and centralisation of processing.”

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report

  • Farmer Green, in reply to BenWilson,

    I apprehend that you may be inadvertently misconstruing my meaning there . It is just semantic variation.
    Here’s what I said;
    “To say that ““The globally averaged surface temperature peaked in 1998, and has been on a slight downward trend since then”
    is not to deny that global warming continues.”

    I was n’t using the term “global warming” in the cult sense (DACC or CAGW); I was referring to the measured (Had crut data reported by the British Met. Office) increase in the AVERAGE GLOBAL AVERAGE T over the last 140 years of 0.055 deg. C./decade.

    It would be a good thing if that were to continue
    As you probably know the rate of increase in G.Av. T. has slowed to 0.03 deg. C. /decade for the period beginning 1997 to the present. (Had Crut)

    If that (0.03/decade) continues until 2030 then the rate must increase to about 0.07 deg. C. /decade from 2030- 2060 if the long term trend is to be maintained at 0.055/decade.

    That is the global warming that I would like to see continue.
    Anyone who farmed through the Pinatubo and Mt Hudson years knows that the alternative to global warming is not good.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report

  • Alan Thatcher, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Hey Farmer Green
    I have said many times that Fonterra's reliance on milk powder is both stupid and dangerous (for farmers that is). It is a highly energy intensive product with a very large carbon footprint and has led Fonterra to lobby hard (and very successfully)against any control or costs placed on factory emissions. The problem is, it's so easy - all they have to do to sell it is run an internet auction, no more difficult than selling something on TradeMe, and no worries about customer perceptions of dirty dairying. And look at the other NZ dairy products sold out there - butter that won't spread out of the fridge and crap industrial cheese. There are some good cheeses made here, but not if Fonterra is involved and you sure need deep pockets. Contrast this with Germany, the largest cheese exporter in the world, a fantastic range at reasonable prices. And don't get me started on the Fonterra organic milk processing and marketing fiasco...

    So to comment on your scenario. Firstly, as you may have gathered from the above rant I am very much in favour of broadening the product base (assuming Fonterra is capable of handling the marketing, but let's not go there...). Fresh product into Asia sounds reasonable. Certainly a stocking rate of 0.5 cows/Ha would help solve a lot of environmental issues and they'd be well fed - does need good quality feed though and getting an average yield of 7500 L on pasture only sure needs good quality. My main question would be how would you envisage managing pastures under such a scenario while minimising time with a tractor and a mower?

    Stratford • Since Dec 2012 • 2 posts Report

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Alan Thatcher,

    ” how would you envisage managing pastures under such a scenario while minimising time with a tractor and a mower?”

    There are ALWAYS dry cows when one milks year-round; they are a potent pasture management tool to achieve the desired residual dry matter covers.
    Additionally , milking for 365 days without nitrogen , PKE or “dairy support” (I just love that term) requires a reserve of home made supplement; typically 6-9 months supply of pit silage is necessary to maintain steady production through hell and high water (droughts and floods).
    So feed conservation is another pasture management tool to replace the grazing pressure/high stocking rate that is normally used to maintain pasture “quality”.
    Farmer Green’s observation is that cows on the so called " quality" pasture that is common in Godzone could make a reasonable attempt at shitting through the eye of a needle.

    Of course it is not just quality feed that would be required ; the breeding objectives currently employed by LIC are quite unsuitable for this scenario. Breeding for high BW produces exactly the opposite of what is required , i.e it produces a cow more suitable for milk powder production. PW = powder worth , right? :-)

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Farmer Green,

    I was referring to the measured (Had crut data reported by the British Met. Office) AVERAGE increase in the GLOBAL AVERAGE T over the last 140 years of 0.055 deg. C./decade.


    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report

  • mccx,

    You assume that farmers are driven by something other than mere survival. That is prejudice.

    It's not prejudice, and it's nothing to do with some reified rural/urban divide. It's the way the existing economic and sectoral structure of the industry work. Some farmers may be driven by something besides economic interests, but even when farmers own their operation they often don't have complete autonomy in their farm management decisions. If a farmer want to take on debt are banks going to be as willing to lend for a less profitable operation? Will farmers who don't maximize profit be priced out of the land market? Getting better environmental performance out of farming doesn't just take farmers, it requires change in the sector and government as well.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2012 • 36 posts Report

  • Farmer Green, in reply to mccx,

    Have you ever thought that education would be a more useful tool for promoting change than anything that you have suggested above?

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report

  • mccx, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Yes, I thought that at one time, then I spent 10 years working in rural economies and changed my views on how landowners and rural dwellers manage land and the environment. "Education" can affect this if it's done by trusted parties in a manner that connects to how rural land managers see their situation. Many other things besides education matter too though, often more.

    I'd also say that if an urbanite came along and said that what rural land managers needed was more "education" it would get a lot a hackles raised rather quickly.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2012 • 36 posts Report

  • Farmer Green, in reply to mccx,

    We may have very different ideas about the nature of education; diametrically opposite perhaps.
    FG regards education as a drawing out process, e-ducare,(L) to lead from; to draw out.

    Whereas you seem to regard it as a process of imparting “knowledge”. I may be reading too much into your comment.

    Farmers want to do better ; they have the potential to do better ; they can find the means to do so within themselves. It is there to be drawn out; dangling carrots will help their progress towards a new paradigm. But they have to create that paradigm themselves if they are really going to own it, and tailor it to their individual situations.

    As you observe , any other sort of approach would be seen as arrogant.
    It is actually impossible for an outsider , even another farmer , to understand the intricacies of an individual farm . Alan Savory’s book ” Wholistic Resource Management” devoted a lot of space to this problem. Even teams of multi-disciplinary analysers could not arrive at the same view as the view held by someone inside the farm “organism”.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report

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