NZ Organics thrives against odds

Seager Manson of Nelson

The continuing growth in the organic produce market through tough economic times shows the burgeoning strength of the sector, says Nelson organics pioneer Seager Mason.

The latest research from the University of Otago and the Agribusiness Group shows sales of organic food and beverage grew 25 per cent in the past three years, from $275 million in 2009 to $350m in 2012.

Mr Mason, an organic farmer and shop owner and former BioGro technical director, said even he was surprised at the average growth rate of 8 per cent a year, given it had been achieved during a global recession when demand for high-quality foods had been depressed. “I’m very pleased to see those figures.”

Read the whole story: Nelson Mail

RMA onslaught must stop, warns Forest & Bird

Environment Minister Amy Adams’ latest Resource Management Act reform proposals, published for discussion today, are a head-on assault on the Act and must be stopped, says Forest & Bird.

“New Zealanders need to be deeply concerned about these proposals, which take apart important protections for the places where we live, and challenge communities’ right to be heard in their own plan-making,” says Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate, Claire Browning.

“The proposals are even more significant than the government’s former ideas about mining our national parks. They’re about managing natural resources all over the country, where New Zealanders live every day,” she says.

The proposals would see a disturbing level of hands-on ministerial control and, in several respects, will tend to marginalise or inappropriately constrain the involvement of submitters and communities in local resource consenting and plan-making.

The Bill would significantly extend central government’s powers to intervene in planning processes, and direct local councils, including allowing the Minister to directly amend an operative plan.

“Already, we can see this approach illustrated in the new planning requirements for trees currently proceeding through Parliament, where communities will be directed about what they are not allowed to do – we’ve seen it in Canterbury and, more recently, in provisions for the first Auckland plan,” Claire Browning says.

If the proposals are implemented, regulations could direct non-notification as a standard for some activity types – mining and mineral exploration, for example, meaning communities would have no say.

Claire Browning says Forest & Bird was particularly disturbed by the bald and false assertion that today’s values and priorities are not well-enough reflected in the Act, based on flawed advice previously comprehensively challenged by a coalition of all main environment groups, and resource management experts.

The economic value of environmental protection, and our clean green brand, has grown enormously since the Act came into force, 22 years ago.

“The Minister is now proceeding with what has been the plan all along: rewriting some of the Act’s most important provisions, as well as altering its core philosophy. Mrs Adams has repeatedly stated her desire to go back to first principles, but she is doing so without bothering to undertake the very comprehensive process of getting a bipartisan mandate that was done before 1991,” Claire Browning says.

Tools already available under the existing legislation had not been developed to full effect. “The Minister has neglected these options: it seems to be about imposing her preferred solution on us all, and writing that power into law for the future,” Claire Browning concludes.

Joint Statement on Proposed Reforms to Resource Management Act

Ecologic Foundation
Fish and Game NZ
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc.

Major environmental and recreation organisations are deeply concerned about key features of the proposed reforms to the Resource Management Act announced today.
Speaking together with Fish & Game and Forest & Bird, Ecologic’s Guy Salmon said that the proposals downgraded environmental values, but the Government did not have a mandate for this. The proposals would undermine some of the Act’s most basic provisions, and change its core philosophy.

In addition, the proposals impose disturbing, hands-on Ministerial controls on a system whose key value to New Zealanders has always been the way it provides independent scrutiny of environmental impacts.

“At present, independent panels of local commissioners, supported by the oversight of Environment Courts, are able to hear and evaluate evidence, and develop plans that reflect their communities’ values.

“Under these proposals, the independence of the system will largely be lost, and Ministers will be able to impose in specific areas the outcomes that are judged in Wellington to be the right ones.”

Sam Judd: Easy resolutions for the planet

Basket of fresh veggies

Source: NZH, Photo by Liesl ♥

Resolution 1: Use it again, Sam

Many people out there think that just recycling is enough to do their bit in the battle against waste. Most recycling is inefficient and only about 20% of what can be recycled actually is. Re-usable products are far better and you can start with the easy ones: water bottles, shopping bags for your produce and, if you are an avid coffee drinker like me – Project Jonah will sell you a Keep Cup.

Resolution 2: Become a rainmaker

You can harvest precious rainwater from the roof of your house. This takes the pressure off the mains supply – which is a good thing – and will save you on your water bill. Check out Barry’s Barrels for a very nice looking tank and easy system to do this at home yourself.

Resolution 3: Eat local and seasonal food

Avoid the crazy food miles involved in bringing imported produce and support your local community by heading down to the farmers markets. Even better, start a local food enterprise and deliver it using this clever software.

Resolution 4: Grow your own happiness

Gardening is very therapeutic, good for reducing stress, an excellent way to save money and it is extremely satisfying to pull fresh produce out of your backyard and feast on it with glee. Learn how to grow food and teach your children (if you have them) the same, as well as cooking.

Resolution 5: Stick your thumb out

Rather than sitting in traffic by yourself every morning, ridesharing is a great way to save money on fuel and meet people to keep you company on the trip into work. Jayride is a great site for this and there is also the rapidly expanding network started by clever people in government.

Resolution 6: Everybody move to the back of the bus

You can save a huge amount of fuel and money by taking public transport. If we filled up all the buses that are out there, there would be less traffic (meaning less road rage – a huge bonus in my view) and fewer emissions too.

Resolution 7: Your trash to someone’s treasure

Rather than just throwing your old stuff that still can be used away, sign up for Freecycle and post it up on there. People who actually need that item can see your post, contact you and come and get it. The particularly good thing about this is that you can avoid driving to the transfer station and make someone’s day just that wee bit happier.

Resolution 8: Naturally of the cloth

Try to avoid buying synthetically-fibred clothing this year. Every time you wash polar fleece clothes thousands of pieces of micro-plastics enter the ocean through the wastewater to be eaten by fish. Natural fibres like merino wool, bamboo and organic cotton look better, feel better and are better for the environment too. I mean really, those fleecy trackpants may be comfortable, but probably shouldn’t be used in public situations.

Sam Judd: Top ten eco-friendly gifts

The onslaught of hurried shoppers spending a heap of their hard-earned cash on unnecessary gifts that are invariably wrapped in single use plastic is about to ensue.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Check out my top ten gift ideas that are both easy on your wallet and easy on the planet.

Read the full story here »

How do you know if a brand’s ethical claims are fair?

Fairtrade on branding ethics

Check out this clever and informative page on the Fairtrade website looking at the issue of branding and labelling.

NZ tops British holiday destination survey

Beach at Kaiteriteri Nelson, New Zealand

New Zealand is the best holiday spot in the world, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Aotearoa edged out the stunning Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean and also South Africa to be voted best destination in a poll of 17,000 readers.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the accolade was a huge honour.

“It’s great news for us to know that even in these tough economic times, long-haul destinations like New Zealand are obviously still so important and inspiring.”

He cited last year’s Rugby World Cup and the upcoming world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as highlights on the tourism calendar.

The latest visitor figures reveal New Zealand short-term visitor numbers fell in September compared with a year earlier, which was bolstered by the Rugby World Cup.

China overtook the United States as the third-largest visitor source.

Some 179,100 short-term visitors arrived here last month, down from 219,900 visitors in September 2011, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Figures released this week showed total guest nights at short-term accommodation fell 3.6 per cent to 2.11 million in September, compared with the same month a year earlier, and were down 1.4 per cent from August.

Air New Zealand announced last week that it was axing its service to Britain through Hong Kong, which will have lost tens of millions of dollars when it closes after six years next March.

Air New Zealand deputy chief executive Norm Thompson said there had been a “softening” in visitor numbers from the UK and Europe.

But those travellers came for three or four weeks rather than days, offering good value to the economy.

Mr Thompson was not surprised to see New Zealand top the poll.

“The coastline, the cuisine, the people – people have a good experience here. When you start getting mentions [like this poll] and the added exposure of The Hobbit, then we would hope to reverse the reduction in visitors from that part of the world.”

The poll also ranked Air New Zealand the third best long-haul airline. Mr Thompson said that was testament to the people who worked for the company.

Tourist hotspots

Favourite worldwide country
1 New Zealand
2 Maldives
3 South Africa

Favourite long-haul airline
1 Singapore Airlines
2 Emirates
3 Air New Zealand

Source: Daily Telegraph, poll of 17,000 readers


See also: NZ best country in world for business – Forbes

Study on Manuka honey divides experts

Jar of Honey

Source: NZH

More than half the brands of manuka honey tested in a university experiment did not match the pollen count promised to shoppers on the label.

The results have divided experts – the honey industry claims the test is not reliable but consumer advocates want labels to mean what they say.

Lincoln University PhD student Patchanee Boontaganon made a physical and chemical analysis of 74 supermarket honey brands.

She found that 29 out of 64 “mono-floral” samples, such as manuka honey, were not true to label based on their pollen count.

The remaining 10 honeys in her sample each came from more than one plant.

Fewer than half of the 26 manuka honeys were true to label, something Ms Boontaganon said could erode consumer confidence in the pricey product.

Manuka honey’s high levels of antioxidants and hydrogen peroxide – which aid its antimicrobial or bug-killing activity – have driven consumer demand and make it more expensive than other products.

Read More »

Alliance calls for urgent ban on shark finning

Matt Watson makes the NZSA message clear, at Kelly Tarlton's Sealife Aquarium

The ITM Fishing Show host Matt Watson says shark finning is a disgusting practice and is calling on the government to ban the practice in New Zealand.

Earlier today, Matt Watson helped launch a campaign by the newly-formed New Zealand Shark Alliance (NZSA) at Kelly Tarlton’s Sealife Aquarium to encourage New Zealanders to support their bid to ban shark finning on our waters.

Global shark populations have plummeted over the past 50 years, and the estimated 73-100 million sharks caught every year only for their fins, is contributing significantly to the decline.

Ninety-eight nations, including Australia, Canada, Ecuador and members of the European Union, have already banned shark finning. New Zealand is not one of them.

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Dole faces pressure over Ethical Choice brand

Dole's controversial 'ethical choice' labelling


Company accused of seeking to “escape scrutiny and potential challenge” by trademarking own version of Fair Trade label

A number of reports in New Zealand have claimed that fresh produce group Dole Asia Fresh Produce – recently sold by US multinational Dole Food Company to Japanese firm Itochu Corp – has lodged a trademark application in the country for its Ethical Choice brand.

The New Zealand branch of Fair Trade is understood to have officially registered an objection to the move, which international charitable organisation Oxfam said would enable Dole to “escape scrutiny and potential challenge” with regard to the brand.

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NZ falcon wins Bird of the Year


The New Zealand falcon (karearea) has been crowned Bird of the Year in Forest & Bird’s eighth annual poll.

This year 10,292 votes were cast in this fiercely contested poll, with the karearea snatching 1261 votes in total, followed by the kokako (965) and the ruru (663).

“The karearea is a bird that’s most worthy of the title Bird of the Year,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“As well as being a top predator that can reach speeds of up to 230km an hour and catch prey mid-flight, it’s a great romantic. During courtship, couples will perform an aerial ballet, swapping food mid-flight, performing mock attack dives or spiralling gracefully landward.”

Despite being an aerial daredevil, it is vulnerable to predation when nesting on the ground and is listed as ”threatened”.

A recent Department of Conservation study suggests that adult falcons are less able to defend their nest from predators than previously thought. “The NZ falcon nests on rocky ledges or on the ground, making it particularly vulnerable to predators such as cats, hedgehogs, stoats, weasels and possums.”

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UC Researcher: Too many eco-labels ‘green washing’ products

Pavel Castka UC profile

Press Release: University of Canterbury

A Canterbury University researcher is slamming consumer goods companies for green-washing supermarket shelf items with a flood of eco-labels.

College of Business and Economics research director Pavel Castka said there were so many labels with products claiming all sorts of environmental and social issues that it was difficult to distinguish, which one to trust.

There were two mains categories of eco-labels to look out for, one less and one more trustworthy, he said.

“A food producer may label their chips are ‘all natural’ but what does it mean? Well, it is often very hard to tell.

“Then there are eco-labels by independent labelling schemes. These are labels that are independently audited and issued by third parties. For instance, for a product to display the Fairtrade mark it must meet the international Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards which are set by the certification body Fairtrade International.

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