Nature has shown it definitely has the upper hand. Soil carbon science may challenge some current practices. The Government's freshwater proposals have some councils worried about how they are going to pay

Nature has shown it definitely has the upper hand. Soil carbon science may challenge some current practices. The Government's freshwater proposals have some councils worried about how they are going to pay

Over the last week or so, nature has really shown what it can throw at us.

The flooding effectively cut the South Island in half. And there was real irony of it disrupting irrigation schemes at a time when little or no rain fell on the Canterbury Plains at a time when strong winds were sucking up moisture at 5-8 mls per day.

The Central Plains scheme which provides water to over 60,000 ha in the Selwyn district has been shut down for the best part of a week due to the Rakaia River water flows damaging the canal intake and compounded by the river stream shifting course.

Dairy farmers are expecting to have to feed out baleage up to and through Christmas to try and maintain cow production and regain pasture covers. It was not long ago that irrigators were on restrictions due to a lack of storage in lake Coleridge.

The West Coast seems to have found a way to increase tourist takings by locking them in for long periods (!) If the last week is an indication of what is to come under climate change then you can keep it. Unfortunately, it is what scientists have been warning us is the likely outcome of climate change for the future. Up until recently many (self-included) have been feeling somewhat smug as New Zealand seemed to be missing many of the extremes and able to capitalise on others misfortunes. Our situation is relatively minor on the scale of what is afflicting many other countries, however, the costs on repairing infrastructure is rapidly mounting and that is without trying to make our transport infrastructure more robust, something which is becoming obvious as needing to happen, particularly to maintain access for the more isolated communities.

If the weather was not enough nature showed her harsh side with the tragedy at Whakaari-White Island, and on Tuesday, Gisborne had a moderate earthquake. All in all it makes our place here look pretty precarious.

Soils as a carbon sink

Related to the climate change issues is news coming out of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Research Centre (NZAGRC) that a start is being made to ascertain what is actually happening with the carbon content in New Zealand pastoral soils.

Starting with benchmark sampling from representative soils throughout the country the study then intends to see how soils are changing over time. Lead scientist Dr Harry Clarke says for flat land the current evidence is that the soil carbon content has not changed over the last 30 or so years.

Given the number of farmers who have changed from full cultivation to direct drilling with preserving soil carbon as one of the main incentives for doing this, I hope he is wrong otherwise many farmers have been led down the wrong path.

Also given the increase in irrigation in the last 30 years it is hard to imagine that the carbon levels have not improved given that pasture production on the same piece of land has doubled in many cases. Oddly enough he says it is perhaps on hill country where increases may have been occurring.

Despite questioning some of the starting premises, it is an important study to get under way especially as the drive to put a price on carbon increases. Farmers need to look under every rock to ascertain what their true impact is, and it may be that the soils can provide some real benefits to the debate. Let’s hope getting answers does not take too long.

Early starts undermined

The freshwater requirements the Government released back in September is creating some tensions within Regional and District Councils. Horizons in the Manawatu/Whanganui regions is in the process of releasing their “One Plan”  which has been ”years in the making only to have to dump it as it does not fit with the proposed government requirements.

At the local level the Gore District Council are looking at a $60 million bill to meet their obligations, and that is just for the township. As time progresses it is likely many more councils will have some serious considerations to debate with ratepayers and ultimately with the government. Apparently and despite the short and untimely timeframe for the consultation process over 1,700 submissions have been received regarding the proposals. Whether it results in changes remains to be seen.

The rural sector will be overjoyed (sarc) that our major centres now (via Vodafone) have access to the 5G network for cell phone coverage. Many outside those centres would still settle for just getting a slightly improved access to 3G. (The current 1 bar of signal galls especially with no sign of any real improvement.)

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

Is it me, or are we dealing with more extreme weather events?

Might be time to reconsider the approach to growth, and it looks like it costs more than it delivers.

Probably 1000x more extreme weather events, I don't even think they used to have extreme weather in the past, I can't even remember it being this bad.

Shush! Quiet thee. The invisible hand does smite philistines who question the hands guidance!

The Rangitata river has stayed the same for millions of years, clearly this unprecedented event is the result of the climate emergency crisis. This is the indisputable proof that everything the climatists predicted is actually happening and we have 12 years left to live.

The entire Canterbury plains are a flood plain. The IPCC report I imagine you are loosely referring to actually said we have 12 years to act on turning emissions around, otherwise the consequences will become increasingly dire. Twelve years and we are all dead, is just regurgitated denialist drivel!

Skudiv - From Environment Canterbury website; 1 in 10 year flood on the Rangitata, 2324 Cubic metres per second; peak flow recorded in previous seven days, 2307 cubic metres per second. The last major flood on the Rangitata was in 1995 when similar damage occurred.

And the earliest settlers' torching of the entire East Coast South Island lowland forest, has to be factored in.....burnoffs even in the high country.

Changes in vegetative cover.....

Soil carbon will be interesting. Eroding hill country should be worried I would think. To have soil carbon you need soil. Going on the soil lost every year in many regions it could be a shock coming for many. Be interesting to see what the science shows and if not good what happens.

Guy, you have a typo - there were over 17,000 submissions not 1,700. ;-)

The CPW scheme was full of risks, the cost, the lake storage, the intake. Not sure how paying $1000 per ha sub and not having water when you need it equates. When stage one was going alone the farmers got restrictions so I dont know how adding stage 2 helped. The maths was always dodgy to me.
The west coast has lost land and bridges for a century...they have fast rivers.If you drive south of the Rangitata yo see flood channels through all that stony ground. Houses buildings and irrigators got damaged so I dont know how the insurer feels about that....not built in a sensible place. Floods do happen.

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are diving so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.