The environment has a significant impact on farming and rural communities, and as our environment changes farmers are increasingly at risk of the impacts that this change brings. Often something that is overlooked is the impact an earthquake can have on rural communities, this of course adds to already trying conditions that many face.
At midnight on 14 November 2016, a magnitude 8 earthquake struck in the Kaikoura region, Ruptures occurred on multiple faults from the North Canterbury High Country to Kekerangu North of Kaikoura, that earthquake has been described as the most complex earthquake ever studied, it caused substantial and wide-ranging land damage across large areas of the North Canterbury hill and high country.
Immediately obvious impacts included damage to farmhouses and buildings, fences, water systems and access tracks. Stresses on people and livestock were very evident, both in relation to the immediate impact of the event, and the sudden unexpected loss of stock water infrastructure and loss of road access for some months after.
The Papatea Fault, one of 24 in the region that ruptured along a system of right-lateral strike-slip faults, in the Kaikoura region, these faults transfer slip from the right-lateral Alpine Fault.
Due to the Kaikoura earthquake there is evidence that the Wairarapa fault line to the north has increased pressure and is at risk of rupturing.
The Wairarapa fault line is responsible for New Zealand's most severe earthquake since colonisation. In 1855, a 8.2 magnitude earthquake caused severe damage across the region and generated a tsunami, so it is important and relevant for all farming communities throughout New Zealand to learn from events caused by the Kaikoura earthquake.
This week on Factum-Agri we move to the Wairarapa to discuss climate change and the impact this is having on one farming operation.
William Beetham is experiencing climatic change, winters are starting to get warmer with less frost events and less average annual rainfall, around 200 mills less of rain is falling on average on his property. Changes to his farming system have been made to accommodate environmental change as well as changes in market conditions and regulatory requirements.
Typical trading periods have changed and there is a focus on farming the shoulder seasons more when feed supply is typically at it’s highest, William finds that Autumn is his biggest risk and Spring feed is reliable even in the toughest years.
Petra Pearce from NIWA talked about the variations of the different areas or zones within the region. Temperatures have increased which supports William's log book entries, reducing frosts and increasing growing days will become more prevalent according to the NIWI’s prediction, NIWA’s predictions also suggests that as sunshine hours increase and we continue to warm we will eventually see increased prolonged drought periods.
Summer 2017-2018 saw Masterton have it’s hottest summer on record and it’s hottest day on record was in January of 2018 which was a blistering 35.4 degrees.
There is no doubt global warming is and will continue to provide challenges for New Zealand farmers.
What is quite interesting is the sheep and beef sectors. Greenhouse Gas Emissions have been reducing each year. By 2015 this sector's Greenhouse Gas Emissions were -19% below the 1990 baseline used internationally.
This has been achieved through a combination of decreasing sheep numbers, from a high of 70 million in the 1980s to around 29 million in 2015, and steady improvements in productivity and performance have resulted in almost the same amount of sheep meat being produced.
Productivity improvements include higher lambing percentages, faster finishing, and higher carcase weights because of improved genetics, better forage species and feed management.
Not only have total emissions reduced but the amount of Greenhouse Gas Emissions produced per kilogram of meat has continued to reduce at the rate of about -1% per year.
Beef cattle have had a similar reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions produced per kilogram of meat. While there is still work to be done, realistic goals and targets that are workable should be set and equally policy makers need to look at the great work and improvements that have been achieved in recent times, acknowledge the improvements they are there and support and encourage an industry that, quite frankly, does more for New Zealand than any other.
To get the full story listen to or download the podcast above.
Angus Kebbell is the Producer at Tailwind Media. You can contact him here.