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Flood affected dairy farmers are not only facing years of reconstruction, but the region-wide loss of winter feed reserves. These are the farmers producing more milk with fewer cows and the world's lowest emissions

Flood affected dairy farmers are not only facing years of reconstruction, but the region-wide loss of winter feed reserves. These are the farmers producing more milk with fewer cows and the world's lowest emissions

About the only positive thing that could be said about the Canterbury floods is that at least the vast majority of dairy farmers have dried their cows off for the season. This allowed farmers to get cows to safer ground without the added complication of having to milk as well.

With the season over, dairy farmers were looking forward to a profitable next season and a break over the drying off period. For many this is now a distant dream with generations of development work now washed away and a winter of hard work ahead.

I have always felt that when it comes to mental stress it is hard to get past droughts as the leading cause of worry. But at least with droughts once the rains do come then nature tends to do the hard work for you. Floods are a whole different scenario.

Stressful to the extreme while happening, although normally for a limited period. Then when the water subsides there's a whole lot of graft and decision making on how best to rectify the situation and get properties into a productive state and able to support animals again.

While the focus has been on dairy farms, the flooding also affected livestock and arable as well with the Lees Valley (against the ranges North of Oxford) still isolated as are farms up the Rakaia Gorge.

Perhaps the biggest compounded aspect of the floods is the amount of feed destroyed for animals to get them through the winter and beyond. As a result of the dry summer and autumn feed in the form of baleage and hay was in short supply before the droughts and what was being traded was selling for a premium. Most farmers produce their own saved feed to avoid being reliant on traded feed but there are most years still a reasonable surplus being traded among livestock owners to top up supplies.

This year prior to the floods there was next to none.

As plenty of photos and TV scenes have shown, large amounts of crops (kales etc) and stored bales have been washed away and crops flattened and buried under silt. No doubt the farming community will rally around to try and make the best of a bad situation by making feed available from other areas, provide grazing and help each other restore what damage to farms they can. But for the Canterbury province it is going to take more than a season to put the impacts of this behind it.

With the government declaring a (medium) adverse event, $500,000 has been freed up for Rural Support groups to assist. While the amount has been called “paltry” it is probably too soon to try and assess what and where the real needs are and so more government assistance will be required.

After Bola the government of the day was generous in what it provided in cash support to many of those affected by the floods. However, after the event was over and repairs done the general tenure of the day was that financial support of the scale the Gisborne region received at the time would unlikely to be repeated. As a result, New Zealand farmers have become (if they were not already) more resilient to natural events and not reliant on Government handouts. (New Zealand Farmers receive the least financial support of any OECD country).

The Christchurch earthquakes perhaps tested the government attitude to offering financial support although what came from government was more in the form of supporting failed insurance companies (AMI) and funding to support councils and provide funding for “cornerstone projects”.

So, what can those affected this time around?

Government likely will provide assistance for roading and destroyed public infrastructure, put more funding into the Rural Support networks to help with stress and mental health, perhaps assist in helping to get labour to get fences and buildings cleaned up, not that there is a lot of available labour. But beyond this I wouldn’t be holding my breath. It is no longer the New Zealand way, good, bad or otherwise.

What casualties emerge from this be it urban or rural will take time to reveal. The rest of the country must be getting a bit tired of Canterbury continually hogging the limelight. But I can assure them we could do without it (except perhaps regarding rugby).

Dairy update

The GDT took place again this week and very little movement occurred with WMP, SMP and Cheddar all down by -0.5%. Butter is a little concerning dropping -5.4% which has it now at levels similar to January 2021.

With the season all but over it is looking likely that total milk production will be up around 2.5%, setting a new national record. This is particularly heartening given that cow numbers are decreasing and generally inputs are lower.

Perhaps this is a signal that dairy farmers are responding to calls to feed less cows more and everyone is winning.

Given that this week includes “World  Milk Day (setup by the FAO who recognise the value of milk in diet) Dr Tim Mackle CEO of DairyNZ was quick to point out that dairy products in New Zealand have lower emissions footprints than our competitors and financially contributes around “with flow-on effects have meant the total economic contribution from dairy was around $42 billion this season”.  

So, while recognising there is still considerable movement to be had in areas it is difficult to see how New Zealand’s standard of living could be maintained without it.

Dairy prices

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It is a bit tough to kick somebody when they are down, I admit, but, as these floods have graphically demonstrated, farmers are the ones with far more at stake when it comes to global warming. You would think therefore that rather than complaining about the very modest (too small) reductions in emissions that the Climate Change Commission is expecting from them, they would be getting right in behind the efforts and do everything that they can to exceed these goals. Having said all that, in the immediate term, our sympathy has to go out to these farmers dealing with what must be for some an absolute nightmare

If it's good enough for rate payers to all chip in for coastal property owners........

What an absolute fool of a judge. Talk about King Canute.
At what point does their responsibility end? When the ocean has risen 1 m, 10 m, 100 m. Yes it could rise by that much!!!!
People need to take responsibility for there own decisions as to where they build and buy houses and how much they are prepared to pay given the risk. The end point of that decision is that the councils and government will take all the responsibility for peoples foolish acts. There is no end to that or motivation to act prudently. Again I say, what an idiot.

Actually the largely and long misunderstood King Canute earned his fame as a demonstration to his courtiers that he was not omnipotent as per their repeated supplications. Something like “ see the King cannot command back the tide.” But as for some of our judges and their judgements, well that’s another story indeed.

Killjoy. An idiot king exhibiting his profound arrogance is far more entertaining. If climate change generated sea level rise is 'settled science' why then are councils pussy footing around inundation warnings on titles and allowing residents to blackmail them into not doing so ? Finally, in ChCh there are 1/ 200 year flood rules for finished floor levels in new housing and it is starting to progressively have the desired mitigation effect. Insurers are also playing their part by gradually reducing cover and the banks are coat tailing. Councils need to grow a pair and stop pandering to relatively small groups of vocal blackmailing constituents. They are neglecting their duty to future citizens and property owners by their kicking of the can down the road.

Given the devastation from the 2010/11 eq’s, the liquefaction from say Richmond east & north to Kaiapoi, it could be argued that that land was never exactly suitable for suburban development. An alluvial plain, a virtual swamp, that there, was the newest and least settled land by nature itself. But on your other point. It is not only the vocal minority constituents at play, it is as well the very nature and presence of this element in the council itself. The point is if there is even a 30% turnout at the local body elections, then 16% of the electors can come to hold sway with their ideology, thus those elected and those that are elected influencing policy and appointments accordingly. Birds of the feather flock together. The whole damn shooting box has, in other words, been hijacked.

Yes, I agree. The likely incidence of liquefaction in tech following an EQ was identified decades before in a study by engineer Ian McMahon. His predictions were uncannily accurate and widely known. To be fair to the CCC, it tried at times. EG they opposed a crazy estuary side subdivision but developers with more financial clout and resources muscled it through the courts. It was duly completely wrecked in the CHCH EQ. Exactly as predicted. We know for a certainty that sea levels will rise and retreat eventually forced on coastal communities. For the reasons you set out local councils cannot act objectively. Central government is now the only option but would the judiciary, many of whom are captive to the prevailing socialisation of risk and consequences zeitgeist, have the capacity and courage to deliver the practical reality that needs to be applied ? I very much doubt it.

Flood protection is already a regional council function - and hence funded via regional council rates. And as the article suggests, the costs are not evenly spread across the general rate - instead targeted rates are used. The more vulnerable the land - the higher the flood protection rate is set. I imagine they will use a similar methodology with respect to targeted rates for the installation of infrastructure to protect coastal assets.

The big question is whether the costs can be spread across generations of property owners, as was the case for the Raumati South Seawall when it went in under the old Borough Council rating system.

Compensating private landowners for 'managed retreat' is another whole ball game (i.e., the CHCH Red Zone scenario) - one that I personally don't think should be applied. Too costly, let alone practical. NZ is a highly hazardous place :-)!

Given the long time frames involved and relatively short life span of residential housing in NZ, gradual and less painful retreat from most vulnerable areas is feasible - provided policy decisions are made soon. The eastern suburbs of ChCh offer a textbook guide. Houses with floors below various mandated site specific levels are progressively reducing in relative value, how much depending on the extent to which the floor is under the level prescribed for that address. I know someone who has taken a $200K value haircut on his 20 yr old previously $900K house after the CCC put his section in a flood management area. His insurance flood excess has gone up. He's pissed off but like most, accepts it as a reality. The market has adjusted, the world didn't end. But apparently the good burghers of Raumati deserve better than being confronted in this way with unpleasant reality.

Yes, gradual retreat based on market (price) signals is best to my mind as well. But it is so very gradual - meaning people don't go willingly, at all. Look at the situation at Selwyn Huts - and these folks don't even have clear title to that land;

They should have been moved on long ago;

And the example you gave, did not prevent another owner from buying the property - so the 'problem' of living in a flood zone simply changed in person, not in hazard avoidance practicality.

Kate - our farm is in the Selwyn River one in a hundred year flood path. We suffered only very minor damage in the recent flood. We do not pay any special rate to either the local council or the regional council. The only special rates I am aware of are where a group of landowners agree to pay the regional council to maintain a common drain or stream.

Gosh, glad to hear you didn't get hit as hard as many. That's interesting - and unusual. Does your Regional Council break down your rate charges by category of the service provided? If not, it's very hard to know whether or not your proximity to the hazard was/wasn't taken into account. It's not just rural properties that I have seen target rated - for example, in CHCH city I'd have thought the RC would stratify flood protection charges - for example those properties in the Port Hills would pay a lower on-the-dollar value for flood protection than those living on the Avon River corridor.

GIS systems are so sophisticated these days, that any council not responsibly rating in this way needs to modernise.

Even if NZ moved to zero emissions tomorrow it would make no difference at all while China and the USA make up half the worlds emissions on their own and will just continue to drag their heels on lowering theirs until the cows come home. Total waste of time and it will be very costly if NZ gets dragged into any form of compliance. Wise up Kiwi's before its to late.

That being the case, farmers had better get used to running their farms with increasingly nightmarish weather.

Not sure why we expect the farmers alone to create more with less. As one industry expert puts it, NZ is in the business of global food ingredients, not milk.

Getting more local manufacturers to use these ingredients and move their products up the export value chain will not only enhance our economic productivity and boost exports but also remove provide more margin certainty to farmers who will no longer be completely reliant on commodity market fluctuations.

Dairy or tech, our economy fails to extract max value from small wins by operating in silos at a time when more successful economies are building hubs with interdependent industrial networks.

Except those industrial networks have been built off the backs of heavy coal and oil use. NZ has been mothballing any industrial networks we had for decades in favour of getting more coal burnt overseas and shipping raw materials out and produced stuff back in. The NZ govt openly prefers and over funds any policies and initiatives that leads to a triple fossil fuel threat literally over seas in the efforts to remove any industrial development that could use renewable energies in NZ. They brand it as being "green". In fact there is now an entire commission dedicated to increasing the fossil fuel dependency on overseas industrial networks called the Climate Change Commission. Who have in their short time done more to increase reliance on fossil fuel wastage.

Those greenies virtue-signal their way into Parliament without a real world understanding of the hard sciences and applied tech they so whole-heartedly endorse as perfect solutions to climate change.

Take the Green party for example, all 9 members have art degrees and the most qualified of them in level of study has a PhD in sexual fluidity.

James Shaw is convinced NZAS' closure will be a win for NZ. I doubt he knows to electrify the world's fleet and run more trains, the world needs a lot more steel and aluminium.

Well come 2023, the way it looks at present, the Greens will be required by Labour to form a government. All credit to them, thwarted last time, they are playing the long game, patiently & conservatively, cabinet positions are within reach. Then all and sundry pent up, will burst through the gate from left field. Those concerned with what’s going on now with this Labour lot, well they ain’t seen nothing yet.

And a phenomenal amount of rare earth minerals.

The Greens are the most pro-mining party in parliament long as it happens in another country (with lower environmental standards and labour protections).

Battery trends are away from rare earths and cobalt because of cost and worker exploitation, you may be either exaggerating or short sighted.
Commonly used is Lithium Iron Phosphate and rare earths aren’t much part of that.

Rare earth elements are used in a broad range of technologies, not just batteries. A single wind turbine can use 600kg of rare earth metals.

Consider this
There’s a persistent myth about wind turbines that just won’t seem to go away despite reality running to the contrary: they need rare earth materials to generate electricity.

For those not acquainted with rare earths like neodymium and dysprosium, they’re used in products from your iPhone and computer to flat screen TVs and certain types of batteries.

While they can be difficult to mine, rare is a misnomer: they exist in abundance throughout the earth’s crust.

Many people think rare earths are also a necessary component of wind turbines, but the facts find otherwise: only about two percent of the U.S. wind turbine fleet uses them, and that number shouldn’t change much in the years to come.

The vast majority use conventional electromagnets made of copper and steel, and companies that have used rare earths in the past are actively working to reduce their levels of use.

Hopefully banks will be there to support their farmers.

Those farmers pushed for a usurpation of democracy, to enable their fossil-energised (and therefore temporary) profitability to be increased.

They have avoided all responsibility for Climate - can down the road territory.

If their banks walk away, or direct them to practice more resilient farming (goes for all of us - local Govt too), good on them.

I see where you are coming from PDK but I struggle to see what resilient farming is, as farming or food production in general is depleting in one way or another. Even when the earliest farmers cleared areas of forest to grow crops then walk away it took many years to replace nutrients. That was the beginning of the depletion, to my mind the answer is as elusive as ever.

When you say farmers what you're really talking about are the supermarket goers who just want the cheapest meat, veg, fruit, grains etc. No different to pretending China is the big emitter when we're buying widgets out of their factories.

Hi pdk - an interesting idea you may not have come across yet;

Found these floods interesting for the fact the worst areas appear to be the foothill smaller rivers not the large main rivers.
I have spent a good chunk of my farming on flood plains, both stop banked and not and one where the regional council hav spent $100sk shifting shingle for no reason other than wanting to spend $100sk shifting shingle. My reality has always been that these floods are going to happen as the river owns and controls the flood plain, climate change is irrelevant as is any other changes humans induce.
Canterbury is one big flood plain owned by the rivers and they will go where they want, and if that's your farm no amount of government help will stop it. The movement of shingle and silt is a natural phenomenon (as is massive downpours) and confining it will simply shift the problem.