Page 1



issue 57

A solar power system update: grid-connected systems p.6 Tree management: when trees can take over p.3 Landscaping: back to the border — 2010 revisited p.9 Livestock: buying and selling p.12

story on grid-connected solar power

and help our readers connect and share ideas. More on that topic next issue.

systems based Helen Martin’s interview with Jeroen Brand of Alphatron Pacific. Grant McKechnie explains the finer points of border control – I can’t believe

As rural landowners we all love to have large trees but over the years they can become a liability. That certainly became the case with trees lining our driveway, so when a Trim Notice came from Vector I followed up to find out how we could tackle them without huge expense. To our relief Treescape, the company contracted to carry out the work, confirmed we could declare ‘no interest’, which meant they would take care of the ongoing management as the trees encroached on power lines. After talking with Helen Martin about this and her experience, we decided it would be timely to feature tree management in this issue. Since our article on solar hot water heating featured last issue (56), it seems hundreds of readers visited our website to view the full article online. We have

Farmlands Trading Society Limited FAR21421


Coping with growth...

continued that theme this issue with a


Grant wrote about that last in 2010. We all want fast growth, so how can we help the plants along? It’s been 6 years since we planted our border and back then the urge for fast growth was there in spades. We planted too close and now we are having to take some trees out to give others breathing space. Lastly, livestock broker Duncan McNab shares with Helen Martin how he handles the stock buying process. As part of this feature I also caught up with Lowline cattle breeder David Clee to hear about the big impression these wee Angus beefers have made on farmers and lifestylers. Our new website will be up and running in the next few weeks – we’re going to make it easier to access past articles online

For the month of September we are clearing out our Winter Apparel range. Look for the YELLOW STICKER while you are shopping at any Farmlands branch to take advantage of a great deal on selected winter lines!

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Neville Walker – Editor & Publisher Visit for a FREE subscription Letters or enquiries to Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle, RD Marketing Ltd, RD1, Kaukapakapa. Phone 09 947 3580. Email: Advertising enquiries: Marlene Brown 021-854-946 Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle ©2012. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form without permission of the publisher is prohibited. No responsibility accepted for any direct or indirect consequences arising from reliance on any content within Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle. Editor: Neville Walker. Sub Editor: Helen Martin. Writers this issue: Helen Martin, Neville Walker, Grant McKechnie. Cover photo: The Wood residence, Dairy Flat (courtesy Alphatron Pacific). Designer: Dan Stenhouse, Bgraphix. Printing: PMP maxim.




By Helen Martin

Having come to live in the country because we wanted to plant lots of trees, it’s taken us a few years to face the fact that we really needed to chop some down. The many poplars that were on our place when we arrived do a great job providing a home for scores of birds in spring and summer, that’s the positive side, but the negatives were getting serious – they’re weed trees, we’ve discovered, that succour like crazy in their efforts to take over the world, grow very fast then

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fall over, having quietly but inexorably rotted from the inside. We decided to start our cull by getting rid of the poplars leaning alarmingly over the driveway and, after chewing over the ifs and buts of doing the massive job ourselves, made the sensible choice and called in the experts.

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We’d bought the occasional truckload of mulch from Treescape and people we talked to said they were efficient and reliable, so we called them in for a quote. When the three arborists turned up to do the job – 10 trees were to be felled and the stumps poisoned in a day, they ended up felling 15 - the ground underfoot was as soggy as a Louisiana swamp. It was fascinating watching the men at work, darting up and down the slippery slope, taking turns to carry out the different tasks (I loved seeing the bloke up the tree roped to the upper branches as he confidently wielded his chainsaw) and constantly in communication with each other – I could see safety was the number one priority. We were really pleased with the job, not least because as well as having our trees felled we were left with a big pile of mulch for the garden and,

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beyond having to deal with the many timber rounds, very little clearing up was needed.

Treescape Wanting to know more about rural tree management issues, I met with Bryson Middleton, Business Manager of the Kumeu branch of Treescape. The first thing I learned was that, far from being just a local business, Treescape employs 200 people at branches in NZ (both islands), and 200 in Brisbane, Australia and has specialised divisions for land clearing, utilities, council contracts and residential jobs. There’s also an environmental division involved in weed control, native re-vegetation projects and consultancy work. I had thought that felling unwanted trees and selling the mulch was their core business but, as Bryson explained, their

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brief also includes weed eradication, stump grinding, pruning and transplanting mature trees (some weighing up to 140 tonnes!). As well as servicing private properties, Treescape have tree maintenance contracts with local councils, looking after trees in parks, for example. One major contract affecting all New Zealanders involves maintenance of the Kiwi Rail corridor. As it is part-owned by Vector, which has responsibility for the corridor, Treescape has the contract for spraying weeds, moving trees and re-vegetation of the corridor with natives.





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When it comes to dealing with dangerous trees, Bryson explained, problems can arise when people opt to do the job themselves or use unauthorised arborists, who are often untrained, to do the work. By law, it is the tree owner’s responsibility to keep trees clear of power lines, but the actual clearance work is best done through a well-established company such as Treescape, which works with Vector on keeping the lines safe. So, if you have a tree you consider a danger you contact Vector, who then organise Treescape to carry out the work. The good news is that Vector is obliged by law to pay for the first cut. At that stage a property owner (this can be an individual or a council) has the option of having a tree either removed or trimmed. If they choose to have it trimmed, they must pay for any ongoing trimming needed in later years. If a tree owner declares “no interest” in a tree (because it was self-sown, for example) any further decisions about its fate are made by Treescape. Having watched our poplars run rampant it was no surprise to hear Bryson say that there’s no point in trimming a poplar tree because it’ll be back in the power lines within a couple of years.

Avoiding tree trouble When it comes to chopping down trees, the tree protection rules in the Auckland region are complicated, to say the least. Formerly, the district councils all had their own tree protection rules. Under the new Auckland City Council, from 1 January, 2012 a lot of those rules have been revoked, but it still depends which part of the city you’re in, for example in the Rodney area most of the rules are still in force, while in Waitakere about half of them have gone. As always, prevention is better than cure. People planting up a lifestyle block wanting to get tree cover as soon as possible should get expert advice before planting as every site is different, said Bryson. You need to plan carefully the choice of tree species and planting positions so you end up with healthy trees that are suitable for the purpose you have in mind.


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Powerlines RRL editor Neville has had a very positive experience with Treescape clearing trees from his power lines, and I was interested to hear what Bryson could tell me about the process. The main issue is that if trees touch lines they can cause power outages. Sometimes fires occur when lines sag onto branches in the heat of summer. Because there’s been a lot of ‘inappropriate’ planting done in the past, Bryson told me, about 90% of the time outages are caused by exotic trees - poplars, gums, willows, sheoaks, conifers, pines etc. Slower growing natives are less worrisome as they tend to just burn in the lines, but they can be a safety issue if people climb the trees.


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Eco Lifestyle


A solar power system

update By Helen Martin

New Zealand’s uptake of solar power systems is very small on an international scale, but it is very fast growing. Proofa Motivation for installing a system can vary. People wanting

lighter footprint on the planet like solar power because it produces

when you’ve decided to install solar power in your home can seem

no emissions (and emissions resulting from makingDate: the equipment

daunting. Having been significantly developed in the past five

are recouped within a year.) There’s also the issue of cost, as power

years, what was true about solar power formerly is not necessarily

No. of Pages:



Sheetprices for continue Ad Booking # But the choices to be made to spiral upwards.


Experience makes the difference Phone:

decreased considerably. To sort out fact from fiction, I caught up with Jeroen Brand, Managing Director of Alphatron Pacific, a

Fax Number: company that numbers grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) Proof Sheet for Ad among Booking # its many energy products. Proof Sheet for panels Ad Booking # Size:

on: Attn:

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Date: From:

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Region: Region: Price: Grant Dixon Price:

The off-grid system

Date: Alteration required No. of Pages:

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true now – for example the cost of a solar power system has now

Fax Number:

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Size: Grant Blackbourn Size:

Simon Withers


Initially, solar power systems involved the owner bypassing the national grid, installing panels that feed into a large battery bank, and installing a diesel generator as back-up for when there is little sun. That system is still available, Jeroen tells me. It might be

chosen Advertisement is iscorrect: Yes Alterationrequired required correct: Yes m mm by home-builders who want to be independent of the grid With theAdvertisement team at Withers Co having served theAlteration Rodney •& We specialise in taxation advice and or who, because of their remoteness, have no access to it. Others Signed: Date: Signed: Date: services to farmers community for over 40 years you can rely on us and for lifestyle advice on block owners. may be within reach but would rather spend their money on an maximizing returns, minimizing tax, tax effective structures, Expert knowledge on thetotaxation business start ups for all types• from Farming to Service Retail. off-grid system than pay the costs of grid connection. On the of landsales and subdivisions. specialise andand •• We We specialiseinintaxation taxationadvice advice We have the experience and the knowledge. services to farmers and lifestyle negative side, a battery bank can cost as much as $35,000 and has • Advice on the best structure for services to farmers and lifestyle block owners.

block owners. Partnership. you - Company, • Expert Trust, knowledge on the taxation

CallWithers us for a FREE interview. & Co Ltd Withers & Co Ltd

• of Expert knowledge on the taxation landsales and subdivisions. of landsales and subdivisions. • Advice on the best structure for • you Advice on the best for - Company, Trust,structure Partnership. you - Company, Trust, Partnership.

23 Neville Street 23 Neville Street, PO Box& 113, Withers Co LtdWarkworth. PO Box 113, Warkworth. Withers & Co Ltd 23 Neville Street Phone (09) 425 8599 Fax (09) 425 7565 PO Box 113, Warkworth. 23 Neville Street Freephone: 0508 948 4377Warkworth. Email: PO Box 113,0508 Freephone: 948 4377 Fax: (09) 425 7565Freephone: Fax: (09) 425 7565 ServingServing Rural 0508 948 4377 RuralClients Clients & South Is.)Since1969 Since1969 Email: Fax: (09) 425 7565 (North (North & South Email: ServingIs.) Rural Clients Email:



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a life of only about 13 years. Also, in using this system there is no possibility of selling your excess power back to the grid.

The grid-connected system As Jeroen explains, if you’re in a house that is, or can easily be, connected to the grid, it’s cheaper to choose a grid-connected

• We specialise in taxation advice and services to farmers and lifestyle We specialise advice and We• specialise inin taxation taxation advice block owners. services to farmers and lifestyle • Expert knowledge on the taxation blockto owners. services farmers and lifestyle


Lines company, Waipa Networks commissioned Alphatron to install grid-connected crystalline PV panels. Visit

system where the total cost is buying the equipment and having it installed on the roof. There is the added advantage that you can sell excess power back to the grid. Further clarification from Jeroen includes: The system: The photovoltaic panels which capture the sun’s energy and feed it by cable to an inverter come in various forms, including varieties that are integrated into the building. The glass crystalline panel system, while not integrated into the building, has the advantages that it is cheaper and that it needs less area for the same amount of power. The PV system is connected by cable to a switchboard, which is connected on the house side of the meter, and converts the power from DC to AC power. System costs: A typical residential system using glass crystalline PV panels is around $7000 – $15000 installed. Installation approval: You have to apply to the lines company for connection to the grid. When installing a grid-connected PV system a good place to start is to search ‘distributed generation’ on the website of your local lines company. Here you will find the application forms for connecting to their lines. Approval will be granted if the installation meets the NZ standards. Lines companies are generally very supportive of the technology because it provides relief for the network. You also tell your power retailer about the installation and ask them to buy back the power. To enable them to do this, they’ll come out and install an export meter.



The Wood's home near Dairy Flat is totally off-grid.

How it functions: The system is fully automatic. Energy from the sun feeds electricity into your switchboard and the electricity you generate is used by your appliances and lights. If you use more electricity than your solar generates, the additional power comes from the grid. When no gadgets or lights are switched on, the power generated by the sun flows back into the grid. If the public grid shuts down, even though you have solar on the roof, you still haven’t got power. For safety reasons, if the grid goes down, this system shuts down because you don’t want to liven up the power cables at the other end where someone might be working. Power costs: Your power bill will show your imports and credits. When you divide the total kilowatt (kWh) hours the system will generate over a typical life of 25 years, the price per unit is between 10c and 15c plus GST. This a lot cheaper than the 26c to 30c you pay importing from the grid. When the house is empty

Alphatron's head office in the Netherlands is a commercial application that is grid-connected.

(because you’re at work or on holiday) you are automatically selling your power back to the grid. But there is a possible catch.

can’t wind your meter back). Ideally you want the system not to

If the power retailer doesn’t pay you for it, or pays a lower price,

generate more than your base load, because in future we don’t

it becomes harder to make a financial case for solar power. At the

know if Meridian and Contact Energy or any other power retailer

moment Meridian still pay one for one but they’re hinting they

is going to pay for the power that goes back onto the grid. The best

may eventually no longer buy it at retail price. (In New Zealand

bang for your buck is when you consume the power yourself so

the export has to be metered separately from the import so you

every kWh hour is worth retail price to you.

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efficient access to In this issue I’m taking a look backwards. My article for the July 2010 Rural Lifestyle storage space was on the layout and planting of a mixed border across our roadside paddock. A prime objective of the planting was privacy from the road as we had recently taken out some 25-year-old pittosporums which had got a bit tatty. But another aim was for the border to eventually become part of the extended garden.

— and I’m not pointing the finger here This month’s article was prompted in part because of frequent customer comment because I’m as guilty as anyone else. Of in the nursery along the lines of “we want course we all want to see results quickly. them to grow fast”, followed by “the ones However, having said that, I also know the I planted last year have hardly grown at Custom-made sliding Warmer in Winter / all”. The sentiment is the of course orsame, bi-folding Wardrobe other side of the story: usually, the plants

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June 2010: the newly planted border.

August 2012: two years on and the plants are going well.

are ticking along quite nicely, but you don’t notice it when you’re looking at them every day. The proof of this is in our border, two years on.

We’ve lost a few plants, some to the mower (operator error, no

It has exclusively NZ native plants but is not a re-vegetation planting. In the mix I used many cultivars, as opposed to solely seedling grown varieties as you would use in a re-veg project, and the inclusion of plants such as coloured flaxes, coprosmas, and pink and red-flowered ornamental manukas adds interest and variety.

2010 when the planting was new, to the latest photo, you can see

We planted in June 2010, using around 100 plants in a curving border 40m long and varying in width from 2m at the narrowest point at one end to 20m wide at the other end.

in the 2010 photo, are today 1.5m to 2m tall and 2m wide. Now,

names will be mentioned) and a couple to natural causes, but mostly they have done well. If you compare the photo from June the volume of each plant has increased three or four-fold. For some, their measured height might not have increased much, but their overall size has. Some have increased in height quite spectacularly. The swamp flaxes (Phormium tenax), so small when first planted that they aren’t visible behind the existing puriri though, they’re hidden in the 2012 photo by all the growth the puriri has put on.

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In 2010, I regaled you with the puriri’s tale of woe, battling frosts, horses and cattle over the years. In 2009, it was hit by 26 frosts in succession, followed up by a steer trying to ring-bark it. As you can see in the presentday photo, it has recovered amazingly well. And to think, I nearly chopped it out. The kahikateas have also surprised us with their turn of speed. They’re a classic case of a plant commonly thought to be slow growing, but the three in our border have put on 1.5 to 2m in height, and doubled their trunk diameter. Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' adds colour in the border.

Since we planted the border, our maintenance has consisted of regular release spraying to keep the weeds and grass off the plants, and mowing or weed-eating in between the plants. As well, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve gone around and trimmed (with hedge-clippers) plants such as the coprosmas, flowering manukas, pittosporums, hebes and any others inclined to get a bit leggy if you let them go.

plants on the edges (coloured flaxes, grasses, dianella) were 50cm to 1m apart, and the big trees (kauri, kahikatea and titoki) 5m apart. If I had planted closer they would be starting to grow into each other by now and smothering the weeds in between, reducing the on-going maintenance.

that as soon as we got the kikuyu under control, the plants’ growth accelerated. It was a reminder that kikuyu is a real plantinhibitor, and can smother young plants if given free rein.

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Buying and selling

livestock By Helen Martin

For the newcomer to country life the business of buying and selling stock can be something of a mystery. How do sheep and cattle farmers stock their farms and how can

Well that’s one way of doing it. There are sale yards all around

life stylers get started with a few sheep or cattle? To find out,

the country and there are sales every week or every fortnight,

Helen Martin talks to Duncan McNab, who with his wife Jinny

except when there are public holidays. In Rodney there are yards

has brokered livestock all over the North Island for the past 25

at Kumeu and in Wellsford. As well as having regular sales they

years, turning over thousands of animals annually. By his estimate,

also have special fairs, for example there are ewe fairs where sheep

80% of the stock they broker is cattle, the other 20% are sheep.

are sold for breeding. The down side of this method of buying

As a city slicker I always thought that cattle and sheep are bought

and selling is that the livestock have to be transported to and from

and sold at sale yards. Is that right?

the yards. That can contribute to their losing condition, especially


• Sale and purchase of livestock • Advice on stock management • Design of stock yard and loading facilities • Advice on water reticulation, fence layout and shelter belts

Duncan McNab | Mob: 0274 950 208 Home: 09 420 9966 | Email:

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when they have to be kept overnight in yards with concrete floors. Sometimes I buy from a yard for a client if I can’t find what they want elsewhere. For example, if someone wants 50 in-calf Angus heifers I might end up buying them from a sale yard. So how does selling process work when you use a broker? We have a client base, with new clients coming on all the time. So a farmer or lifestyle block owner wanting to sell some livestock will call me and I’ll find a buyer. I assess the animals’ weight and condition and work out a fair price according to the breed. Occasionally they’re weighed using a weigh truck, but mostly the assessment is done by eye, which is a skill you develop over years of practice. Then I draft the livestock in the yards (single out the ones that are to be sold) – if any have a defect, like an undershot jaw, or eczema, I don’t buy them. I always have a team of 4 or 5 dogs for rounding up the animals. When the stock need new micro chipped ear tags I’ll spend a few days putting in ear tags. Then I organise for the stock to be trucked to the buyer. Do you ever buy livestock on spec? Never. We do have our own livestock I buy and sell, but I’m not a dealer, I’m a broker. Are there times when the work dries up? It’s hugely seasonal and the weather can have a big effect. Last summer, for example, people hung onto their stock because with all the rain we had they needed the animals to keep the grass down. If there’s a dry summer people will get rid of their stock and have a break from buying until the rain starts again. Spring is always the busiest time. What do you enjoy about brokering stock? I really love cattle. I love the variety of the work, and it’s great being outdoors. We’re about to expand the business by taking on more staff and we’ve just re-branded – our new name is Shut the Gate!: Land Use Consultants. It’s a competitive business, so you’ve got to stay on your toes.

Rancho Radiata Lowlines Last year, when I interviewed local cattle breeder David Clee, I commented that his paddocks must look a lot better than ours as he runs the lighter Lowliness. Now spring is here his enquiry rate is up, with farmers and lifestylers looking to re-stock with a quality breed that creates less mud and pugging. He pointed out another benefit of the breed, which is that farmers looking for quality bulls to put over their herds for next year should consider Lowlines as they produce low birth weight, fast growing, beefy calves with all dairy and beef breeds. David has a number of high quality 22-month old bulls ready to go now. As Lowline herd numbers are small, the good bulls are sought after. Crossing Lowliness with other beef breeds produces compact, 100% beef (see our September issue 48 via Whether you want to use them as mowers, breeders or home kill, David can supply rising 1 and 2 year registered and commercial purebred Lowline and Lowline Cross animals. When I suggested he offer a deal for our readers who are looking to buy stock, David agreed to provide free delivery for two or more animals in the Rodney area.


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Super Specials − Quality RT Stock Manuka, Kanuka, $75+gst/100 or $650+gst/1000 Also Tenax flax, Cordyline, Coprosma robusta, $95+gst/100 or $900+gst/1000. Price per species and forward orders only. Other sizes also available. Enquire for details.

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per issue! Deadline for September issue is 24 August. For rates and availability, email or phone 09 420 4660 / 021 377580 or Marlene on 021 854946

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S E R V I C E D irec t o r y REGISTERED VALUERS Lifestyle Block Specialists for Southern Rodney.

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34 years experience


09 414 7170 09 414 7180 0274 953 163 09 420 4776

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COLIN HAWKEN FENCING DESIGN AND BUILD Farms • Lifestyle Blocks • Domestic Deer • Post & Rail • 7-Wire • Stock yards • Property Fencing Plans • Mulcher mowing • Digger hire

Ph/Fax 09-420 3107 Mob: 0274-902 516 email: Garden and Lifestyle Block Specialists


- Plant Centre - Plant Nursery - Landscape Design - Planting - Re-vegetation - Fruit tree specialists We grow a huge range of plants suitable for the Auckland region Book a detailed site assessment and report now for only $195 Enjoy our garden centre, and take a walk on our 1km sculpture and garden trail. Over 60 sculptures by leading NZ artists. 2012 exhibition now on.

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Open 7 days 9am to 5pm Established 1988

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Need Sales? Talk to us now... Deadline for October issue is 24 September. Deadline for November issue is 26 October. For rates and availability, email or phone 09 947 3580 / 021 377 580 or Marlene on 021 854 946. Don’t delay – space is limited.

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ALBANY MOWERS & MACHINERY Albany Albany Village. 09-415 9756 KAIWAKA MOTORCYCLES Kaiwaka Mangawhai Rd, Kaiwaka. Ph 09 4312127 KUMEU CHAINSAW & MOWER SERVICES Kumeu 377 SH 16 (Main Road), Huapai. (1km past Huapai Tavern) Phone: 09 412 8109 6-10 Parkway Dv (Off Constellation Dv) Mairangi Bay 09 443 2436

September Rural Lifestyle Magazine  
September Rural Lifestyle Magazine  

September Issue Rural Lifestyle Magazine