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Farmers 'more comfortable'
with fracking following report
Reassuring: Federated Farmers says the just-released report on fracking should allay
the rural sector's fears concerning the technique.
Federated Farmers has cautiously
welcomed the Parliamentary
Commissioner for the Environment's
(PCE) interim report on hydraulic
fracturing, tabled last week in
Anders Crofoot, the body's energy
spokesman, says he has been keep-
ing an eye on the PCE proceedings,
because land-based minerals explo-
ration will often occur on or near far-
For farmers the key issues associ-
ated with the practice include land
access and compensation, as well as
any risks the technique may pose to
the quality of ground and surface
However, the report states that
though contamination of ground or
surface water is possible, the prob-
ability is very unlikely''.
The PCE found the distance
between where fracking occurs and
aquifers can be as much as one to
However, there can be shallower
fracks and I guess this underscores
why she does recommend keeping a
watching brief,'' he said.
The report stresses that we frack
well in New Zealand, but describes
regulation and oversight as
labyrinthine, so clearly there is a
role for Government to ensure
regulations are fit for purpose.
In all, though, I can say that
Federated Farmers now feels more
comfortable with the technique.''
National's MP for Kaikoura, Colin
King, says it's about time the facts of
fracking were discussed, as opposed
to the lot of hype from environ-
mental lobby groups about all
manner of scary things that [it] was
supposed to be responsible for;
everything from flaming tap water to
polluted drinking water and an
increase in earthquakes''.
No-one is denying the importance
of protecting our environment, and if
fracking was to make our country-
side toxic, there would he a huge and
justifiable outcry,'' he said.
However, the commissioner's
report has found that the environ-
mental risks associated with frack-
ing can be effectively managed
through operational best practice
and regulation. It is, in fact, a viable
way of harnessing our resources and
can be managed safely.''
However, the Green Party has
renewed its call for a moratorium on
hydraulic fracturing and says that
the fact the report cannot absolutely
guarantee the safety of the tech-
nique in New Zealand is an indi-
cation that it should not proceed.
The PCE's report does not say
that fracking in New Zealand is safe;
it concludes that fracking companies
do not have a social licence' to oper-
ate and that the regulation is frag-
mented and light-handed,'' the
party's energy spokesman Gareth
Hughes said. The PCE has said
fracking can be effectively managed
if best practice is enforced through
regulation, but at this stage, she
can't be confident that operational
best practices are actually being
implemented and enforced here.
To a considerable extent, compan-
ies appear to be not only regulating
themselves, but also monitoring
their own performance.''
He is urging the Government and
councils to take a safety-first
approach and put a halt on fracking
until there are stronger regulations.
Given that the oil and gas isn't
going anywhere, why allow fracking
to continue in the absence of a
guarantee that world-best practice is
being implemented in New
The Business Innovation and
Employment Ministry is preparing a
full response to the PCE findings.
This will inform the commissioner's
final report, due in mid-2013.
Whole farm approach improves profit
Listening to world-renowned expert
Arden Andersen talk on biological
growing practices has helped many
New Zealand farmers and growers
join the dots'' to discover ways to
grow healthier produce and improve
their bottom lines.
American Dr Andersen will be
back in New Zealand early in the
new year on a four-course speaking
tour; two focusing on soils being held
in Ashburton and Taupo, and two on
human health in Havelock North
Nicky Watt is an Ashburton dairy
farm manager and farm consultant
with a BAgSci degree. She and hus-
band Andrew have gained positive
economic returns from introducing
biological agriculture practices after
she attended an Andersen course
four years ago.
Profitability is up and the fact the
couple were 2012 finalists in the
New Zealand Dairy Business of the
Year competition, taking both the
environmental and people manage-
ment awards, attests to the fact they
are in the elite of New Zealand far-
The Watts have a peak of 3000
cows on the 810 hectares they run
under a biological programme.
Theirs is a very scientific approach
with cut cage trials showing far bet-
ter nutrient cycling, far better
response to the reduced amount of
nitrogen fertiliser applied, and 20 to
25 per cent greater pasture growth
rate from foliar sprays.
Ours is a whole farm approach
and it is driven by economics. Hav-
ing said that, listening to Arden
opened my eyes to how complacent
farming had become; it is amazing
what the soils can do if they are
treated right,'' says Mrs Watt.
Biological agriculture focuses on
re-establishing mineral balance and
enhancing beneficial microbiology in
the soil and is applicable to all pro-
A conservative estimate is that
100,000 hectares of land is being far-
med by biological principles by hun-
dreds of farmers across all agricul-
The approach uses both conven-
tional and organic farming methods
and combines chemistry, physics,
biology and microbiology, with the
use of sound agricultural manage-
These practices include full spec-
trum mineralisation and supporting
microbial diversity that leads to
rapid increases in humus, reduced
use of petrochemical inputs, and
results in nutrient-dense food.
Biological management of soil
increases availability of balanced
minerals, making it possible for pas-
ture or crops to be more nutritionally
dense, all the while sequestering car-
bon in the soil for better water reten-
Dr Andersen will be conducting
courses in New Zealand in February.
Stats show best
The last dairy season was the best on record,
latest figures from Livestock Improvement Cor-
poration (LIC) and DairyNZ confirm.
The 2011-12 season will go down as the most
productive thanks to strong pasture growth, with
milk flows rising 11.3 per cent on the previous
In other milestones, average production per cow
hit a record of 364 kilograms of milk solids, and
milk production per hectare hit 1028kg, beating
the 1000kg mark for the first time.
Twenty per cent more cows being milked
nationwide saw dairy companies process 19.1 bil-
lion litres of milk in the year to May 31, 2012,
containing 1.69 billion kilograms of milk solids.
Total cow numbers increased by 105,500 to 4.6
million, compared to the previous year.
The number of herds increased by 63 to 11,798,
the fourth consecutive season of small increases.
Herds under sharemilking agreements fell to 4034
herds, comprising 34 per cent of the total.
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