Drip, drip, drip…

Written By: - Date published: 9:59 am, January 30th, 2018 - 112 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, water - Tags: , , , ,

This shit keeps getting real.

A few weeks ago Dave Kennedy reported on his 25 year old Southland 1/4 acre garden where the trees are dry stressed and on the verge of dying (Local Bodies: Climate Change Just Got Personal),

Invercargill usually expects around 1,150 mm of rain over a year, but in 2017 we received around 750mm, less than two thirds of a normal total. Last October Invercargill sweltered with a record breaking 25 degrees and since then we have been averaging in the 20s. Over the past week temperatures have pushed the mercury in our gauges to over 32 degrees, the hottest ever recorded for almost 100 years of data. The average high over the Summer months is normally only 18 degrees and anything over 20 degrees is celebrated. We are currently celebrating the occasional day under 20.

At 46 degrees latitude south, New Zealand’s southern most city has regularly been experiencing similar temperatures to cities near the equator. When we were sizzling at 32 degrees, we equaled Cairns, were 2 degrees warmer than Jakarta and Suva and 6 above Nairobi. These cities are used to such temperatures and their ecosystems have adapted to it, it has been a severe shock to ours.

Southland is a wetland (or was until settlers drain it). Here’s a picture of the lower catchment of the Oreti River (read on for the additional significance of this),

Dave goes on to write about the impact on his quarter acre garden and putting that in the context of climate change and who’s responsible. It’s worth a read.

As of Sunday just past, people in Invercargill and Bluff are no longer allowed to water their gardens,

Water restrictions in Invercargill will tighten further on Sunday, with a total ban on outside water use.

This ban includes hand-held hose, watering cans and buckets, which were allowed under the previous restrictions.

The council was required to impose water restrictions by the conditions of their permit to use the Oreti River.

Initial water restrictions were imposed on Tuesday when the flow of the river dropped to 4 cubic meters per second.

The new water restrictions are triggered by the flow dropping to 3.2 meters per second, which was “inevitable” by Sunday, Murray said.

“Things have deteriorated very quickly.”

The restrictions were likely to remain in place for “most of the summer, if not the complete summer” he said.

The Invercargill City Council says it will be enforcing the restrictions. The council is asking residents to report any breaches of the new restrictions, and their website says a fine of up to $20,000 can be imposed (although it doesn’t say under what conditions). Contrary to statements in the media the ICC’s website (PDF) says that people can use grey water from their house to water their garden.

I’m hoping that the council will use discretion when it comes to enforcement e.g. for people that are disabled or elderly and can’t manage buckets of grey water, as well as low income people who are reliant on their home gardens for food.

ICC are saying they are mandated to do this because of consent on their water take from the Oreti River. But in the meantime businesses are still allowed to do things like wash cars, and there appear to be no instructions to reduce household use e.g. shower every second day instead of every day (although some people will be using showers to keep cool).

There is something deeply wrong with allowing businesses to wash cars when making it illegal for people to water their vege gardens and trees. In the age of climate change, trees in particular should be a priority, but so should local food. This is about preserving resiliency. The priorities here point to our regulations being written for a different age.

Personally, I’d risk the threat of a fine and court action if it meant saving food trees that I can’t replace. As food forester Robert Guyton pointed out about the Southland drought,

I imagine much of the harm is lagging and will appear later, even when conditions improve. Young trees starved of water may never become robust enough for a long life. I think we can’t see the extent of the harm. I wonder about the delicate organisms that have no buffer and for whom there is no turning back; mountain butterflies, rockpool shrimps, etc.


The ICC are warning that the situation is likely to get worse, and if it does then businesses that rely on large water use may have to close (see PDF link above).

Meanwhile, up country in that other bastion of high rainfall, a drought was declared in parts of the West Coast this month,


Niwa’s soil moisture deficit charts compare the historical average, Jan 2017, and Jan 2018 (also a good graphic of what is happening in Southland).

Stuff reported earlier this month,

Prolonged dry conditions have prompted the Government to declare a drought in two districts of the South Island’s West Coast.

An “extremely wet winter” left many farmers unable to grow pasture or crops for spring. The early and unusual dry start to summer “turned West Coast pastures from swamp to concrete”, he said. “We are keeping a watching brief on neighbouring areas.”

It is the second time the Buller and Grey districts have been declared as being in droughtthe first was in April 2013.

[my emphasis]

They’ve since had some rain on that part of the Coast, and I’m guessing things aren’t as bad as they were. The thing that interests me as well as the West Coast having drought, is the change in conditions from spring to summer and the impact on the land. This is the stuff we should be preparing for, and we’re not. We’re still largely assuming that things are going to be ok, or that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with.

At this point I’d like to pre-empt arguments that no single event can be blamed on climate change. I. don’t. care.

I find it ludicrous to even go down that track now, because everything we experience happens in the context of climate change. It’s not something for the future, it’s what is happening now. So the drought on the West Coast, or the 40C temperatures forecasted for parts of NZ this week, or the disabled woman who died in Christchurch this week from hyperthermia… if you think it’s relevant to argue over whether climate changed caused those or not, instead of accepting that climate change is a significant contributing factor and moving on to what are we going to do about it, then I’m saying fuck that reductionist shit*. Are we really going to wait until we have multiple deaths every summer (and winter) before we do something? Or wait until NZ starts getting crop failures? How many people have really taken on board that by the time we get to that point, it will be too late?

(*it’s also the same disconnected bullshit that let NZ argue for a decade about how to measure poverty instead of doing something about it).

It’s worth keeping an eye on Cape Town, which is on the cusp of becoming the first major city in the world to run out of water. People are being warned to “save water as if your life depends on it” in order to prevent the town water supply being switched off (Day Zero has been moved forward to April 12). Cape Town has been in serious drought for 3 years. Local govt have been asking people to conserve water, and have been ignored. Premier Helen Zille,

“No-one should be showering more than twice a week at this stage. You need to save water as if your life depends on it because it does.”

Last year, Ms Zille revealed that she was showering once every three days. “I regard oily hair in a drought to be as much of a status symbol as a dusty car,” she wrote in a column.

Good for her, and for the reminder of what actually matters.

Running out of water couldn’t happen here, right? What I’d like to know is what happens if Southland had a drought 3 years in a row? Are there people at the regional and district councils asking these questions? Are they making plans? And what happens when at the end of the drought we’re still in climate change and we have another set of droughts in a few years? The whole game has changed, and there is no way back to normal now.

I’m not suggesting that Southland will experience what Cape Town is. I’m saying that we too have been warned and it’s time we started thinking through the shit that’s real. That means not just adapting around the changes, but doing everything we can to prevent the worst case scenarios of climate change.

As a post-script to that, Metvuw are forecasting a weather bomb for the South Island in a few days that will bring much needed rain. I really hope this eventuates for all our sakes. However this is the predicted climate change scenario for much of NZ. Increased rain but a longer time between rain events (PDF). In other words, drought/flood cycles. One of the problems with such cycles is that land becomes so dry that when it does rain the water just runs off instead of soaking into the ground, and it takes topsoil with it. What we need to be doing there is massively upskilling on passive water harvesting and regenerative agriculture which is more resilient to such cycles.

(front page photo is Cape Town’s water catchment dam).


Moderator note: I don’t allow climate change denial under my posts. That’s conventional denial, but also includes assertions that its too late to do anything and we’re all going to die. I write about climate change so that we can be informed and  to take action. If you are not on board with that, please refrain from commenting. 

112 comments on “Drip, drip, drip… ”

  1. Ad 1

    I have been up in the far north for the last three days and the dairy farmers I talked to say it’s the best season many of them have ever had.

    Usually I go up there in summer and it’s pretty brown by now.

    Also I noticed a lot of the land around Houhora has turned into avocados. Sure hope the tree belts hold up for the inevitable tropical storms.

    • Rosemary McDonald 1.1

      They have had rain, rain and more rain in the Far North this summer…lucky buggers.

      To my knowledge…only two dairy farms north of Houhora…

      While you were admiring the ever expanding avo industry Ad, did you happen to catch up with this local issue?




      “It is not acceptable in a project of this size that the experts should be making calculated guesses about the most basic datum levels and be so inaccurate. It is impossible to have faith in such a model when local residents find errors that the so-called experts have missed.

      The Aupouri aquifer is one of the last pristine groundwater sources in New Zealand. The possibility of increasing nitrate levels affecting the aquifer has already been raised.

      Contamination from areas of high-intensity land use will eventually impact on the aquifer, as has happened elsewhere in this country and all over the world.

      The aquifer water should be used for human and animal consumption first and foremost, and used with great care for any other purpose.”

      • Ad 1.1.1

        Ta for links.

        Farmers I talked to were from Kaeo to Ahipara.

      • Shona 1.1.2

        @ Rosemary MacDonald
        There are 5 Dairy Farms between Ahipara and Kaitaia.

        • Rosemary McDonald

          Are you including the Landcorp/ Te Rarawa/ Ngai Takoto farms along Sandhills Road?

          I’d guess more than five…but I was referring to Houhora North earlier…

          • Shona

            Also the small private holdings at Pukepoto and just as you head into Kaitaia from the west. Kaitaia had it’s own milk supply for 30 or 40 years ma be more supplied by these farms. Top Milk was bought out and shut down by Fonterra.
            There are also 4 Dairy Farms at Takahue where there used to one. Broadwood which was strictly pastoral farming 30 years ago now has at least 4 Dairy Farms.

            • Rosemary McDonald

              We spend quite a bit of time up there. We will do the loop out to Ahipara to give wheelchair batteries a good charge through the inverter. My partner was trying to count from memory the various dairy farms along that route. I’m normally concentrating on the road. 😉 We keep meaning to ‘do’ Takahue…but have had varying opinions about the wisdom of beetling through in our Bus. We are counting the days before we can return…Hamilton is pretty crap, winter and summer.

              The intensification of horticulture in the FFN though is becoming a bit of a worry. Yes, jobs. But there will be a limit reached where adverse effects outweigh the benefits.

            • Brigid

              I wondered what happened to Top Milk. When I lived at Takahue in 1969 there would have been maybe 6 farms between the school and H.W. 1. Those were the days, though, when herd numbers rarely exceeded 200.

    • esoteric pineapples 1.2

      And the following year it might be the opposite. Agriculture and life in general can’t handle extremes of variability as well as extremes.

    • faroutdude 1.3

      I just travelled through the Awatere Valley & Molesworth Station. The place is looking fantastic and green, cattle in beautiful condition. Speaking to a DOC guy up there he said he’s never seen it in such great shape.
      In Blenheim a couple of days later – anticipating a huge crop of grapes due to plenty of rain & plenty of sun.
      Wairarapa Coast (traditionally hugely dry) over Xmas/NY. Lush grass, tons of green feed.
      So these conditions are not widespread.

      • Ad 1.3.1

        Agreed, but as Esoteric points out, the real point is that rainfall is more untrustworthy for agriculture.

        Not much fun having massive bursts of rain in Blenheim when all it doe sis split your grapes close to harvest. Unhelpful.

      • weka 1.3.2

        I gather that some otherwise dry places aren’t in serious drought, but how much of what you saw is due to irrigation from the aquifer or local rivers?

      • Gabby 1.3.3

        Well that’s just spiffing.

      • mauī 1.3.4

        Wairarapa Coast (traditionally hugely dry) over Xmas/NY. Lush grass, tons of green feed.
        So these conditions are not widespread.

        You mean to say everything is just like it always was..?


        2017 WEATHER FACTBOX


        Castlepoint recorded its highest extreme temperature in 45 years of 29.7 degrees Celsius on December 5.

        Martinborough recorded its lowest daily temperature in 31 years of 1.8C on February 9.

        Masterton recorded an annual average overnight low temperature of 8.3C – 1.9C above average – it’s third warmest annual overnight average in 111 years.


    • Shona 1.4

      The Avocados have been there for more than 30 years Ad. All these avocado orchards use bores drilled into the Te Hiku aquifer. This aquifer is fed from the Doc estate at Herekino and Pukepoto. It has only just recovered from the last drought 9 years ago.The aquifer is being drained due to the cavalier attitude of the Regional council and the greed and stupidity of the Far North District Council allowing a population explosion to occur in the North without providing ANY infrastructure.We have a Mayor who possesses all the vision of a visually impaired cyclops on LSD.( John Carter) Fuckwittery abounds at local government level in NZ. I have no confidence in any of our political representatives to achieve even basic systems ( transport , health care, flooding protection, water reserves) for dealing with the realities of climate change.

  2. Carolyn_Nth 2

    Definitely business cars should not be being washed – my car is in a state right now because of hot weather, and being parked under trees, with not enough rain to wash away debris. But it seems a waste of Auckland water to go to the car wash each week or 2.

    I can understand doing without showers when the situation is extreme as in cape Town.

    But in current social and working contexts, I would find it hard to do without one shower a day, let alone two – so much sweating in my Auckland flat. And sometimes the work air conditioning isn’t that flash.

    • Whispering Kate 2.1

      Haven’t you heard of standing at your bathroom wash basin and using a sponge or face cloth – wiping it all over your body with tepid/cool water – its cleansing, cooling and works wonders. Uses hardly any of our precious water and has a magic result – feeling cool – simple.

      • Carolyn_Nth 2.1.1

        I have done that in the past – messy. But not very easy in a small studio apartment. And not sure it gets me that clean, though.

      • Rosemary McDonald 2.1.2

        Or just a wet guest towel vigorously applied to the sweaty bits…

        I had my first shower in a week last night….bliss it was…and truly appreciated.

        There’s a new normal coming Carolyn_Nth, and two showers per day will not be it.

        • Carolyn_Nth

          Sweaty bits are all over…. in my hair… then there’s the clothes to be washed. It’s all pretty unpleasant.

          • Rosemary McDonald

            “….all pretty unpleasant.”

            I would recommend people wanting to raise their consciousnesses about their personal water usage should live in a Bus, on the road, for a while.

            Made much easier for us being dependent entirely on rain water collected from the roof for our domestic supply.

            On a very limited income so phoning for a truck load of water is a last resort.

            I have long thick hair, and the old squirty bottle of water gives an excellent freshen up, clothes, unless soiled, can be freshened up by hanging outside over night.

            Remember…in days of yore, and of voluminous clothing of many layers…there were no automatic washing machines and dryers. Hair washing was a special event.

            Somehow, they not only survived, but overcame the niceties that seem to dictate our social interactions these days (like deodorant, and hair products and the like) to form relationships and breed…

            • Carolyn_Nth

              I will give up the showers when it becomes absolutely necessary. And when everyone at work is doing the same. i am sensitive to the fact I work with members of the public – and as weka says, Auckland is very humid.

              I grew up sharing bath water with my brothers. We had no washing machine or hair dryer, etc.

              But that was the norm, then. I rarely use a hair dryer, and often just run water over my short hair.

              But I save water in other ways – limited toilet flushing. not keeping taps running, etc.

              If I have a wash down it requires a big bowl in the shower cubicle, and it isn’t so easy with a slight disability.

              What may seem relatively easy for some people, is not necessarily the same for others in different contexts.

    • weka 2.2

      I think the issue is more that council saying no water use outside, but isn’t saying conserve water inside. If I was in Southland I’d be watering the garden (very carefully) and using a bucket bath every few days. My reading of it is that it’s easier for the council to enforce no outside use be because neighbours can dob people in.

      Southland doesn’t have the humidity that Ak does. Sustainability requires local responses 🙂 (solutions in Ak would be different).

      But things like not letting the tap run when we rinse your dishes or brush our teeth are things we should all be doing now anyway.

      It’s about how not to end up in the situation that Cape Town is in.

  3. Cinny 3

    One would think any growing food should be allowed to hand water their gardens. Put a ban on water blasting or golf course irrigation etc.

    I wonder how much water Rio Tinto uses down there?

    Solar panels would help as a back up to the hydro lakes.

    Indoor food growing warehouses should be in the works re future planning.

    • Stuart Munro 3.1

      “I wonder how much water Rio Tinto uses down there?”

      Probably not that much. Typical aluminium smelters use a lot for the Bayer process http://bauxite.world-aluminium.org/refining/process/ which extracts alumina from the bauxite, but the Comalco operation doesn’t do that – it imports alumina.

      The other parts of the process, baking anodes and the aluminium production process, are high temperature reductions. They don’t require water for the process itself, nor is water needed for cleaning in the way it is for dairy processing or freezing works.

      • Cinny 3.1.1

        Awesome, thanks for explaining about aluminium smelters Stu, have learnt something new today.

        Wonder if there are restrictions on the dairy farmers re the water, because if everyone does a little bit to help it makes a difference.

        On the upside, it’s good to have a government that are into investing in R&D as there must be better ways in factories and in farming process so as not to use as much water.

    • Solar panels would help as a back up to the hydro lakes.

      Actually, the idea is that the hydro-lakes become the back up to the solar and wind.

      Indoor food growing warehouses should be in the works re future planning.

      Yep. Government should be doing R&D on large buildings that can house vertical farming. Looking at ways to bring the farms into the cities so that the farms can be returned to the wild.

  4. Bill 4

    The fact that business and its interests are being favoured and accommodated while people are being compelled to change their behaviour says it all really.

    I made this related comment on Open Mike.

    Bottom line is that we have put in charge , or given management responsibilities, to people who can’t see that they are prioritising economic integrity in the short term over maintaining a globally integrated human civilisation in the medium to long term.

    What’s the circuit breaker? Is there one?

    And even if some circuit breaker is flipped, and given that we can’t reverse the damage already done, how do we negotiate the future?

    Just by way of example of what I’m meaning, I brought up a topographical map of the Mavora Lakes (source for the Oreti). And what I saw was many feeder streams and burns coming down from the mountains. Funnily enough, one of the ministers mentioned in that Open Mike comment linked above, was saying there is presently no snow anywhere on the Southern Alps. So, bye bye feeder streams while (in the near future) all that salty water comes washing into the catchment area…..??

    • weka 4.1

      Mavora is also the same general area that the Whitestone catchment is in. That’s the Quite link in the post, they’re having to go in an rescue various fish species that are trapped in pools due to low water levels. Not that that is completely unusual in NZ, and much of that is due to deforestation which dries out the land and exposes water to more heat. But it’s part of the picture.

      “was saying there is presently no snow anywhere on the Southern Alps”

      Um, that’s not true. It is true there is significant lessening of permanent snow/ice more than is usual for this time of year (it always lessens and then increases in the winter). But there is still snow on the Southern Alps. I’d be interested to know what they were referring to.

      • Bill 4.1.1

        Funnily enough, I’ve just been off scooting around whatever web-cams I can find of the Southern Alps. And some of those definitely show snow on some peaks or corries. So I’ve no idea what he was meaning when he said there was “no snow”.

        Maybe he meant there was significantly less – ie, that areas where permanent snow cover would be expected are now exposed? I’ve no idea. He did say he had been reading about it on the way down and I’ve tried searching on-line for any such article. But to be honest, I’m over trying to avoid tourist related ski field stuff.

        Whatever he actually meant to say, if permanent snow and ice cover on the Alps is disappearing, then any rivers dependent upon seasonal melt are going to dry up.

        • weka

          he might have been referring to this,

          Thousands of tonnes of rock are coming off mountains in the Mount Cook alpine region, local guides say.

          Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger Ray Bellringer said the area’s iconic Mount Footstool was “completely bare of snow”, which was abnormal for this time of year. Rockfall events of this degree normally occur around late-February.


          That’s experienced mountaineers commenting on the Mt Cook region.

          The area endured a particularly dry spring and summer, which would likely mean recovery of lost glacier ice could take years, McKinley said.

          Bellringer said the 2017 rainfall in the area was two-thirds what it should have been.

          “We only had 2800mm of rain in 2017, and we would normally get 4000mm on average. So that’s a longer term issue. The rainfall is way down and you can see that very clearly in Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo,” he said.

          Pukaki and Tekapo are header lakes for the Waitaki dam scheme.

          Then right at the end 😉

          “The height of the snow is dropping so it’s exposing the rock, which we’ve never seen before. It’s the whole issue around climate change and how much human impact there’s been. There’s definitely strong evidence of climate change. It’s quite profound.”

    • Keepcalmcarryon 4.2

      Point of order , the Mararoa river drains the Mavora lakes and empties to the Waiau river.
      The mountains there about are not the southern alps either and don’t hold a lot of snow this time of year ordinarily.
      Yes woefully short of rain this year in that area.

      • Bill 4.2.1

        Thanks “keepcalm..”, my geographical knowledge when it comes to NZ is absolutely shit.

        The general point about seasonal melt and any dependent river flow still holds though.

  5. RedLogix 5

    Southland now relying on an ‘ex-tropical weather bomb’ for it’s summer rain-fall? That’s essentially a monsoonal pattern.

    It is of course related to sea temps around the South Is (West Coast esp) being a good 6 degC higher than normal. That’s a hell of a lot more than can be explained by any simple linear energy absorbtion mechanism, and I very much wonder if the component of the Great Oceanic Conveyor Belt Current that normally eddies up deep cold water along that coast has not shut down. (The people who will know about changes to this current first will be the squid fishers who routinely work this area.)

    If so, then this current may not necessarily re-establish itself anytime soon, and this pattern of much hotter weather in the SI could become the new normal.


    • Sam 5.1

      But no one says “97 percent of publishing climate scientists.” They say “97% of scientists.”

      One category is narrowly limited to people who know things; the other includes talking heads

  6. adam 6

    Seems my assertion there are no political solution to this, are playing out in southland.

    The political solution purposed, are ridiculous, and in this case, somewhat stupid.

    Wouldn’t the best thing be to save water be the shutting down of the aluminium smelter till the crisis is over. Until we acknowledge business as usual is the reason we are in this mess, then run off like the mad hatter and offer special treatment to business – there are no political solutions.

    • weka 6.1

      I doubt that Tiwai uses huge amount of water relative to other industry in Southland, but someone can look that up. Dairying would be my pick for one of the bigger users. Probably horticulture (there’s a tulip farm there I think). Don’t know where the rural sector gets its water from though.

      Not sure what you mean by political solution. If they went against their consent process, I assume that’s in breach of the RMA. The RMA is useful. I didn’t have time to look up if the consent stipulates the order in which they have to do restrictions (e.g. domestic outside use first). But I’m glad they’re doing *something, because otherwise the river would be fucked.

      • There’s discussion in the Council around who should pay for monitoring and science needed around irrigation in Southland – who should pay? Presently, general ratepayers, city-folk included, pay for work done on farms, mostly dairy; fair/unfair?
        I’m very interested to hear from people about this situation (the dairy industry, through it’s embedded councillors, are digging in their heels).

    • Andre 6.2

      Uhh, what does the operation of the aluminium smelter have to do with the water crisis in Southland?

      • AsleepWhileWalking 6.2.1

        Power supply

        • Andre

          How so? Te Anau and Manapouri drain into the Waiau river, which is a long way west of the Oreti. So even if they took the hundreds of cumecs the Manapouri Station uses and dumped it back down the Waiau, it wouldn’t help Invercargill or anyone else in the Oreti basin area.

          • weka

            I agree it’s not relevant to the Invercargill water supply. It is relevant to the rest of NZ though in terms of drought, electricity usage, and sustainability. We can’t keep growing. When Tiwai shuts we will get a reprieve as that frees up the power for other uses, but the hydro lakes are vulnerable to climate change and increasingly so over time.

            (Manapouri scheme dumps into Doubtful Sound not the Waiau. The Waiau has a control gate on it to regulate the Lake Manapouri level)

            • Andre

              Solar power is dropping in price so quickly it can’t be far away when it becomes cheaper to build a concentrating solar power plant* somewhere close to where the bauxite is produced in Australia and refine it there, rather than shipping it to a small island in the middle of nowhere then shipping the refined aluminium back out again.

              *Probably needs to be a concentrating thermal plant rather than photovoltaic since a concentrating plant can store heat for 24hr operation.

              • Stuart Munro

                It’s unlikely at present. There was a glut of aluminium in the wake of the GFC that closed a number of longstanding smelters, just as a handful of new large ones came onstream in the Gulf. (taking advantage of cheap electricity and petroleum pitch) Then major bauxite suppliers (China & Indonesia) began to reserve their output for local production.

                Although temperature plays a part, electricity is crucial to the metal side of the operation, and reducing fuels like coke and pitch are key elements of anode production, which controls extraction efficiency. Aluminium is fairly well down the list of metals that could be solar smelted using contemporary processes.

                • Andre

                  Concentrating thermal plants produce electricity by heating something like molten salts to high temperatures, then transferring the heat to steam to drive conventional steam turbines. The heat in the molten salt can be stored to produce electricity on demand. In contrast, PV systems only produce electricity when the sun is shining, so need batteries or something like pumped hydro to store the electrical energy.


              • Solar power is dropping in price so quickly it can’t be far away when it becomes cheaper to build a concentrating solar power plant* somewhere close to where the bauxite is produced in Australia and refine it there, rather than shipping it to a small island in the middle of nowhere then shipping the refined aluminium back out again.

                It’s already cheaper and I’m sure that they’ve been producing aluminium in Australia for a long time.

                • Andre

                  If we’re damn near giving away the Manapouri electricity for free, then building the solar electricity in Australia has to compete just with the shipping cost to and from NZ. The cost of building and/or operating a fossil electricity plant doesn’t really come into it, unless that’s cheaper than the shipping cost.

                  • Australia already produces far more Alumina than it uses. Better than 3/4 of it is exported.

                    If they built the solar power and the refineries they could use it all and then we’d be left with having to either import the finished aluminium or developing our own bauxite extraction and processing.

                    I’m certainly not averse to doing the latter but the only bauxite deposit that I know of in NZ is in Northland, is only ~20 million tonnes, and, IIRC, we would have to remove the Brynderwyn Range to get it all efficiently.

                    If we ended up importing the finished aluminium then the transport would still be there but there’d be less of it.

                    • greywarshark

                      I like being able to carry my ladder to where I need it for checking on the house – it’s aluminium light and strong.

                    • Andre

                      Nothing the matter with importing refined aluminium rather than importing alumina and refining it here. After all, half the mass of the alumina is the oxygen that has to be stripped away from the aluminium, so the shipping should be a lot cheaper. And if it’s refined in Oz using solar electricity, freeing up the Manapouri electricity for other uses here, looks like a winner all around to me.

    • Antoine 6.3

      You can’t just ‘shut down the smelter until the crisis is over’, it doesn’t work like that.


      • adam 6.3.1

        Case in point.

      • Paul Campbell 6.3.2

        Let’s shut it down permanently – use the excess to shut down all coal and gas generation (note: needs a tie line from Roxburgh to Benmore)

        • Stuart Munro

          Alumina supply cost is always going to make that plant marginal. Carbon fibre might be a decent replacement option – there are some process similarities.

          • Pat

            ‘… there are some process similarities.”


            • Stuart Munro

              Carbon fibre manufacture is also a high temperature reduction process.

              • Pat

                think the only similarity is the requirement for energy to produce heat.

                • Stuart Munro

                  It’s not the smelting process but the anode curing that resembles carbon fibre manufacture. http://www.boynesmelters.com.au/6/The-smelting-process

                  • Pat

                    anode production is a real stretch for comparrison

                    • Stuart Munro

                      Both involve curing carbon substrates at high temperatures in reduction for extended periods until their properties change. They even use similar substrates in some instances.

                    • Pat

                      25 million!…the last upgrade at Tiwai (1995) was budgeted for 120 million (1995 dollars) ,,,and blew out…ironically one of the major causes of the cost overrrun was faulty anode production (though not the carbon/pitch)

                  • Pat

                    anode production is a relatively minor(though critical) part of the aluminium production process however …..as i said a bit of a stretch but its a not a big deal. Think it safe to say that when Tiwai closes we wont see a carbon fibre production plant spring up on the site.

                    • Stuart Munro

                      Anode production is actually critical to pot efficiency and thus profitability. They don’t bake them for getting on for a month for kicks.

                      Yes, it safe to assume that when Tiwai closes no-one will set up carbon fibre – Rio Tinto has no interest in it, and a carbon fibre startup runs to around $25 million. Just another high-tech industry that will pass NZ by under neo-liberal governance.

                • Andre

                  Pretty much. Aluminium production actually requires the electricity to electrolytically separate the oxygen from the aluminium atoms as well as a lot of heat energy to melt stuff. Carbon fiber production just needs heat, could be electric, fossil, solar, … I can’t think of any other commonality of materials, processes, or capital equipment.



                    • Andre

                      Fair enough. But pitch carbon fibre is rare and only used for very specialist grades. Such as ultra-ultra-high modulus and/or high thermal conductivity when their lowish strength doesn’t much matter. That generally means satellite-type applications. I’ve heard of people putting some into ultra-expensive sporting goods, but the results haven’t turned out well.

  7. esoteric pineapples 7

    Meanwhile Donald Trump has just whacked a 20 percent tariff on solar in the United States to kill it dead in the water despite the fact that the solar industry is growing at 17 percent faster than the average sector in the United States.


  8. Sparky 8

    Corporate welfare, the new socialism…..

  9. exkiwiforces 9

    This was on the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent last night and is worth watching. As Eric Campbell last visited Greenland 10 years ago and the amount of change that has happen is unreal. What I found interesting was the effects on farming and the change to fishing as fishing in and around Greenland makes up for 80% of its economy and needless to say I was gob smack at what they are now fishing since Eric Campbell’s last visit. Which goes back to Ad’s post about NZDF and climate change.



    This is really a shocking piece of reporting by and Stuff and RNZ


    And if you really want to know why Darwin is cooler than everywhere else in Australia at moment is because the wet season is in full swing atm and we have had rain falling almost non-stop for 2weeks now with rainfalls totals in some areas getting smash, for example since 9am yesterday Darwin Airport has had so far 150mm. Dissipate the fact that rain season start a month late than normal as the wet season usually start around December not January and so far no cyclones touch wood.

  10. Ad 10

    Did anyone notice this from Fran O’Sullivan last Friday re Fonterra’s second terrible investment in Chinese dairy?


    Since Fonterra is the primary driver of New Zealand’s dairy and hence water demand and water pollution, Shaw or Parker or Jones or anyone in the government need to urgently do a review of where diary is driving this country.

    It’s high time this government reviewed the Fonterra enabling legislation.
    That is what is squeezing us dry.

    • weka 10.1

      Actually climate change is squeezing us dry, but I agree Fonterra are at the head of the line when it comes to evil fuckers pushing us towards disaster.

      Someone might want to look up the amount of dairying on the Oreti catchment. Am hoping Robert might pop up soon with some comment.

    • Since Fonterra is the primary driver of New Zealand’s dairy and hence water demand and water pollution, Shaw or Parker or Jones or anyone in the government need to urgently do a review of where diary is driving this country.

      Capitalism always destroys the civilisation that it arises in.

  11. Macro 11

    Meanwhile in India over 1 billion people have been living with a water crisis for years.

    The drought in Southland is what we have been facing almost every year in the Waikato for the past decade or so. This year – water bombs have relieved the situation somewhat and farms have not browned off as yet – but the higher temperatures cause increased evaporation and what soil moisture that does remain after the rains is quickly lost.
    Recent examples of drought in the Waikato region include:
    2007- 2008: A drought event lasted from November 2007 to April 2008, during which the Waikato experienced its driest January in a century. A shortage of feed caused by the drought increased the price of silage to four times its normal rate. The cost of the drought was believed to be $1.5 billion to the Dairy sector alone. The economic effect of the drought was one of the factors that threw New Zealand’s economy into recession by mid 2008.

    2009: The Waikato experienced a dry spring, the effects of which were compounded by the previous drought of 2007-2008.
    2010: Waikato had two dry springs, which resulted in a double drought. The drought led to the owners of the Waikato River hydro scheme, Might River Power, announcing a 10 per cent drop in hydro production for the December quarter. Dairy farmers were estimated to have lost an average $100,000- $150,00 in income over the previous three years due to consecutive drought events.

    2012 – 2013

    • Rosemary McDonald 11.1

      “2007- 2008: A drought event lasted from November 2007 to April 2008, during which the Waikato experienced its driest January in a century. ”

      During this time we were still selling surplus free range eggs at our gate on a major route SW of Hamilton.

      A farming family from Australia stopped by. They had received funds from a rural support charity set up to give drought stricken farming families a break.

      They reckoned that the Waikato was as dry, if not drier, than back home in Aus.

      Many lessons learned during that 2007-2008 drought.

      • Macro 11.1.1

        Ahh! You’ll be getting it hot at the moment The central North Island is having temps almost as hot as central Otago. Did you get one of those thunderstorms that worked their way down the country? We were watching them from our lounge window which has a 180 degree view over the Firth and the plains, and saw them working their way down south – but not a drop here unfortunately. Still the rain water tank which we use for the garden and drinking (the local tap water here is simply foul!) is 2/3 full still so watering in the morning and evening keeps the plants going.

  12. Andre 12

    I’ve no idea how many car wash places in Southland recycle their water. If they’re not charged for it, then probably not many. But recycling water is a common and easy thing to do at a commercial vehicle washing station. So allowing car washing businesses to continue operating may or may not be the waste of water it appears at first glance.

    • weka 12.1

      I guess that would depend on how many people use them, and how efficient they are. Still seems a ridiculous use of water when there are trees dying.

      • Robert Guyton 12.1.1

        Wait till you read about the City council water-blasting the exterior of the museum…

        • weka

          hmm, well I was trying to be kind to the council, but perhaps a follow up post is needed that is more strongly worded and headlined.

  13. This is the stuff we should be preparing for, and we’re not. We’re still largely assuming that things are going to be ok, or that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with.

    The farmers don’t plan for when drought strikes. If they did then the government wouldn’t have to keep dishing out hundreds of millions of dollars in relief to the farmers.

    What they seem to be doing is looking at the nice, wet years and then plan everything around those rather than looking at the long term and planning around the fact that droughts will happen. That there are going to be years when they won’t be able to maintain their farms at the levels that they can when it’s wet.

    The thing is, farms should be at the level that dry conditions dictate all the time because we don’t actually know when a drought will hit.

    At this point I’d like to pre-empt arguments that no single event can be blamed on climate change. I. don’t. care.

    Climate change is making that lack of foresight by the farmers even worse.

    So the drought on the West Coast, or the 40C temperatures forecasted for parts of NZ this week, or the disabled woman who died in Christchurch this week from hyperthermia… if you think it’s relevant to argue over whether climate changed caused those or not, instead of accepting that climate change is a significant contributing factor and moving on to what are we going to do about it, then I’m saying fuck that reductionist shit*.

    They’re clutching at straws. They want to be able to continue doing what they’ve always done and the only way that they can do that is by a) saying that things aren’t changing and b) that, even if they are, it’s not their fault.

    Running out of water couldn’t happen here, right?

    That does seem to be the belief by many. I know people who have that attitude, that belief, and these are people who have worked farms during droughts and lived through water restrictions in Auckland.

    They’re under the delusion that NZ will always have enough water and thus it doesn’t matter how much water that they waste.

    One of the problems with such cycles is that land becomes so dry that when it does rain the water just runs off instead of soaking into the ground, and it takes topsoil with it.

    And one of the really good ways to fix that is to dig large, deep holes that fill up with water when it rains and helps recharge the ground water. They’d have to be fenced and riparian planted and so you can imagine the whinging by the farmers if it was even suggested as they look at the loss of income if they don’t have the entire farm covered in crops/animals. Of course, when the drought hits they’ll be whinging to the government who’ll end up bailing them out – yet again.

      • greywarshark 13.1.1


        Cape Town sits in an arid part of the world and has endured a severe drought recently, although drought is nothing new in the Western Cape, he says.

        At the moment the average Cape Town citizen is surviving on 80 litres a day. On 1 February that drops to 50 litres. On 21 April the water will run out – what locals are calling ground zero
        “That’s the kind of water that a refugee would survive on in a refugee camp, although they would have proper logistical support to get the water to the people.”

        He says the reality is Cape Town will go back to the medieval times after April with citizens collecting water from 200 wells in the city and carrying it back to their homes.
        “That is the stark reality of ground zero in Cape Town.”
        And the city will stop functioning.

        “Your sewage now blocks up because you are unable to flush toilets.
        “You have an office complex that can no longer function, a bank that can no longer function, a school that can no longer function.”

        Two hundred water-gathering points have been identified in the city, but he says public transport is poor and traffic chaos will ensue.

    • Keepcalmcarryon 13.2

      Yes true Draco except the price for land is such that destocking to farm conservatively as used to be more common, is no longer economic. Those high land prices favouring intensification are ultimately agreed by bank valuers.
      The farmers like house mortgage holders, are being farmed by the banks.
      The actual farming enterprise isn’t – it is to maximise capital gain of the farm.( convert to dairy irrigate yadayada)
      Note that nowhere in this horrible but true equation is there a mention of economic let alone environmental sustainability.

  14. Climate change combined with increased water draw mainly due to irrigation for dairying but also increased urbanisation with higher expectation of water usage is going to cause crises here in NZ that we are not remotely prepared for. Here in North Canterbury we had 3 years of drought – until last winter which was incredibly wet and now, when usually we’d be worried about no grass, extreme fire risk and stressed trees, we’re up to our knees in clover and our water tanks are brimming. I’ve never seen our place this lush at the end of January. I’ve picked mushrooms recently; toadstools are growing like its spring; it’s incredibly humid; we’ve had heavy, soaking dews every night even when we had a period of 49 days with no rain in Nov/Dec. It’s crazy. And in the usually wet south – they’re like we were for 3 years.
    We have to change how we manage our water. We use drinking grade water to flush our toilets, water our lawns, wash our cars and clothes. I can accept that for bathing given the risk of water borne pathogens from baths or showers but it’s beyond stupid that we are still so water profligate we use potable, reticulated water on our gardens, to flush our toilets and wash our cars. Councils keep granting consents for big housing developments despite facing difficulties in supplying decent quality drinking water for existing residents. ECAN keeps issuing irrigation consents despite the mounting evidence that the draw on aquifers is destroying water quality. There has been no future-proofing such as requiring new builds to incorporate rain water capture to at least water gardens and no effective monitoring of water use by big users such as dairy farms. The widespread use of crap components, plumbers who don’t check water analyses and fit sacrificial anodes as standard in hard water areas such as we have now become – has led to widespread retrofitting of water softeners – each of which will use around 5kgs of salt to soften 10k litres of water – about 5 – 7 days’ use. Some of that salt goes into the drinking water and the rest of it and the ions it has exchanged with go into the sewage in towns or out onto land or storm water systems on rural properties. For most people it’s out of sight, out of mind – and that has to change.

    • greywarshark 14.1

      Hey TWW remember paragraphs. Splitting up your thoughts into mind-handy bits would be good for grasping your points.

  15. The Fairy Godmother 15

    We pay for our water in Auckland which certainly encourages conservation. I won der if it would be fairer if households and businesses got a base amount free but after that were charged. This would mean No one was deprived of drinking water and basic washing water but would cause people to think seriously about using it for washing cars and encourage recycling for instance shower water onto the garden.

    • adam 15.1

      Renters have very little options to collect, then use grey water.

      • Carolyn_Nth 15.1.1

        Especially those of us that live off the ground in blocks of flats.

        Also, I’m no longer able to hand wash my car. So, either I pay someone to handwash, or go to the car wash. Neither option is easy to do with my own grey water.

  16. greywarshark 16

    Fairy G
    That sounds practical, encourage water auckland to do that all you up there.

    Here is another thing on water from The Press today written by a Charlie Mitchell. He or she seems to have done a very good job of reporting, from my fairly uninformed understanding.


    ANALYSIS: In a strange press release earlier this month, a new social media campaign called Swim Fresh announced its song of the summer: “We’ll be fine”, by Wellington band Clicks….

    Its Twitter account appeals to celebrities to share their favourite New Zealand swimming spot (Justin Bieber is one of many yet to respond). Its website features a large banner which reads “Rivers are good for you” and a cartoon mascot, a kōura, donning a snorkel.

    A few days after crowning its song of the summer, the campaign hit the mainstream media when it released the results of a public survey declaring many New Zealanders were not swimming in rivers, primarily due to water temperature.
    It light-heartedly concluded the nation had become “soft”; its press release appeared almost verbatim as news stories in several media outlets, repeating the line that Kiwis were not swimming in rivers, and that it was primarily because they were cold.

    Trivialising an essential matter! Just disgusting how some people can latch onto anything that gushes money, and drink deeply at the fountain! I see this guy’s little spin business has Massey students working for him; learning the trade? It doesn’t reflect well on their ethics and their uni

    As for NZs being soft, afraid of entering the river because it’s too cold. Words fail me. But I can’t help a hollow laugh coming on.

  17. McFlock 17

    I’ve been thinking a bit about my home – classic weatherboard, designed for a temperate climate.

    Iron roof.

    Bloody hot – insulation might help to a certain degree, but what it really needs on days like these is a sun shade or even ventilation layer over it, like they do in tropical climates.

    Crops and water suffer under climate change, but a lot of our homes aren’t suited to it, either.

    • weka 17.1

      Yes, although I think retrofitting houses is relatively straight forward once the political will is there (and finance). Fixing a long term drought is very hard once it’s got going, especially if they’ve fucked with the water table.

      • cleangreen 17.1.1

        100 % said weka,

        “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

        We should have been preparing for this 20yrs ago, – now we are sitting on the edge of the cliff.

        Best cut carbon emissions for a start.

        Transport emits 40% of all carbon emissions so use rail and all possible electric vehicles.

        Funny that today on RNZ the road freight industry were worried about the money they will loose to maintain the truck routes – road repairs as electric cars enter the picture.

        So we need to use far more than only 6% of all freight on rail pronto;

        Sorry you diesel monkeys who currently carryover 90% of all freight, so best sell that truck while you can.

    • Andre 17.2

      A lot of the heat transfer from roof to ceiling happens by radiation. If there’s no air circulation, then there won’t be much convection and still air is a really crap heat conductor (most insulation works just by trapping layers or pockets of still air). So insulation helps, particularly shiny reflective types of insulation that cover the joists as well.

      Attic fans are commonly used in the US to draw the hot air out of the roof space and replace it with cooler outside air, but there’s some dispute about how much help they really are. At an extreme, they may even make things worse by stirring the air up and increasing the convective heat transfer.

      Painting the roof a light colour also helps keep the house a wee bit cooler, as well as being surprisingly effective against general global warming by just reflecting more of the incoming solar radiation..

      • greywarshark 17.2.1

        Looked at some houses overseas (place in Karamea too) with grass growing over the roof. What is that like for insulation. Does one have a goat ramp to keep it growing to a tidy effect and healthy I wonder.

        • Andre

          They tend to be pretty good.

          The thermal conductivity of the soil is highish, but the grass intercepts the incoming solar radiation before it gets to the soil. Plus the soil has very high thermal mass so it regulates temperature well over periods of days or even weeks. A lot of traditional building techniques in hot areas use similar ideas. They tend to perform well in cold winters, too.

          It’s not really feasible to retrofit to an existing house, though.

          • greywarshark

            I am thinking that citizens that are forward-looking and who have observed the pathetic inability of government to use its finances to provide useful information places for citizens to get technical advice, might like to link together and set up their own sites.

            Then agencies like BRANZ who have become business or profit oriented can languish in their air-conditioned offices, and people can hold workshops that all can afford to attend and register with an information agency that can be contacted for further advice.

            And there would be forums on line so that others could pick up the valuable information and all this would be affordable and accessible. We have been
            mucked around with by the sort of government that has been able to insert itself into our polity and we have been outmaneouvred by people with deeper pockets than us. The constant trend is to limit our opportunities for self help, and we are told that new apps will do this, and new machinery that, and laws prevent us doing simple things ourselves where there is little risk of problems.

            ACC is trying to make DIY an insurance risk and regulations are increasing to mop up the unemployment of university trained people with no businesses to work for. So join a quango, and preach purity to the masses and compliance rules that would be similar to those of a facility making sensitive and risky materials.

            This desire to sell us all we need so we lose our own skills and ability to do the No.8 wire imaginative stuff of old is just the sort of learned helplessness that they in power, accuse the welfare beneficiaries of. Talking different things out of each side of their mouths – RWs, they can’t be trusted to behave fairly or decently or respectfully to the left, and even to their own adherents, who don’t yet understand they can be expendable too.

    • Carolyn_Nth 17.3

      My flat has a flat roof, so as well as the side of it with a window facing the afternoon sun, I think it’s a major sun trap. It was meant to be a bit cooler in Auckland today, but it isn’t, and sun is shining.

      The flat roof means it can’t be insulated.

      So now I’m melting, pissed off I don’t have the energy to do much…. again… and am feeling fractious.

      • Brigid 17.3.1

        If you flat was built after ceiling insulation was mandatory it will be insulated. The insulation sits between the joists above ceiling paneling and below roofing material.

        I sympathise with your feeling fractious, me too. And very pessimistic, reading all these posts, that any government will do anything useful.

        • Carolyn_Nth

          My flat was assessed last year for insulation in order to comply with the new law. The law does have an out which says that it must be done where possible. The assessment concluded it’s not possible for my flat. It has been entered into the annual tenancy renewal agreement I got at the end of last year, along with a statement saying there is no insulation.

    • jcuknz 17.4

      When I built my retirement home I clad it with stone from the local quarry about a Km down the road …. obviously for me a cheap cladding source at the time.
      This summer I have noticed particularly that the downstairs rooms are quite cool while upstairs , clad with timber, are stinking hot.
      I also did my ‘pet’ double glazing which is 3mm acryllic which also helps down here where I’m living because I cannot climb the stairs easily. I think this is an expensive project but I was interested in comfort and not saving money when I started and noticed immediately the reduction in heating required as I gradually D/G the house starting with the living room I mostly used then … these days I have retreated downstairs to effectively a pensioners’ single room flat because the stairs are too much for me 🙂
      Hope this gives folk an idea. The cladding is a normal facade on a timber frame. While the acrylic is mounted on 40x20mm timber to create a generous air gap on non opening windows and direcctly onto the frames of opening windows …. I used recycled timber windows from folk who converted to aluminium frames …. silly folk IMO 🙂

  18. cleangreen 18

    Carolyn drink plenty of water at this time please.

  19. Pat 19

    Heard Alex Mayor on radio this afternoon…soil temp 26degrees!

  20. eco maori 20

    There you go did ECO Maori tell everyone that shonky key and bill put OUR whole country in jeopard just to please shonky USA banker and oil barron m8.
    By ignoring the advice OUR scientist gave them. It would have been a better scenario to have a plan to mitigate climate change like in December we all Conservative our water use to get us through these hottest days of the year we have just started. Plan for wilder weather a lot of new houses and infrastructure has been built wrong and located on the most vulnerable site. This is one of the reasons I attack shonky and bills farcical imagine as they were not fit to run OUR COUNTRY.
    TVNZ 1 NEWS had a excellent presentation on how hot it is down south island record breaking heat Ka pai 1 news.
    Ka kite ano

  21. jcuknz 21

    It is convenient to blame Key and English but the country largely followed their lead so we have nobody to blame but ourselves …. we repeatedly elected them 🙂
    I knew nothing about house building when I started but the info was there for me … “Your engineered house” by an american and the NZ Building regs of the 1960’s kept me on track with my helpful bldg inspector of the day.

    • Brigid 21.1

      “we repeatedly elected them ”
      What’s this ‘we’?
      I’ve never voted for National, Labour only once, a thousand years ago.

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