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Minister Hails Agricultural Aviation Innovation

Media Statement
14 October 2004

Minister Hails Agricultural Aviation Innovation

Agriculture Minister JimSutton today praised the Agricultural Aviation Association for its commitment, in conjunction with the Sustainable Farming Fund, to ensuring fertilizer was not wasted, thus reducing environmental concerns.

Mr Sutton told the association's conference in Masterton that aerial topdressing to fertilise paddocks was one of those innovations that bought about a great leap forward in New Zealand agriculture.

"Our country is a young one, geologically. We're not blessed with the mineral resources of some other countries. Mineral deficiencies have determined land use in many areas.

"Your members have played a huge role in growth and success of our primary industry exports."

Mr Sutton said it was estimated that agricultural aviation operations added a further $2 billion to the value of New Zealand's export commodities each year.

"Almost certainly, this is an under-estimate."

He said the association's theme for this year's conference ? "Precision and Agricultural Aviation" - was an apt one.

"I'm told operators have achieved a dramatic reduction in spray drift incidents over the past 8 years, down from 25 incidents to just 2 incidents in the year ended June 2004

"New GPS and Geographical Information System technology and the industry Codes of Practice are leading to the more accurate, precise and even placement of fertiliser and sprays. I cannot emphasise enough the potential gains this offers in terms of relationships with the community at large."

Mr Sutton said the association had a project, part funded by the Government's Sustainable Farming Fund, which will result in the development of a new code for aerial application of fertiliser to be known as The Spreadmark Code of Practice for the Aerial Application of Fertiliser.

He said research and development was an important part of an industry's commitment to the future.

"The Spreadmark Code of Practice for the Aerial Application of Fertiliser will be an industry wide document for the NZAAA. Currently the Association operates an accreditation scheme that requires audited conformance with a number of codes. The code resulting from this project will be one of those codes. By requiring aerial operators to be accredited as a condition of permitted activity in their resource plans, Regional Councils will have the necessary confidence that the environmental issues addressed through their resource plans with respect to fertiliser application (by air) can be met.

"This will provide evidence that the requirements of clients are being met in terms of precise and even aerial fertiliser application as part of the economic and effective use of fertiliser.

"It will also demonstrate that the requirements of regional council resource plans in terms of minimisation of adverse environmental impacts are being met, particularly with respect to contamination of water."

It's expected this code will be delivered on time by July next year.

By July 2005, the Spreadmark Code is to be written into the association's accreditation programme, new audit protocols confirmed and requirements written into a combined agricultural and chemical rating validation programme.

"I'm told this is your association's first research project, and I congratulate you on moving down this path. Research and development, and the innovation that comes from that, are important if you are to remain competitive these days."

ENDS


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