Lenticular cloud over Central Otago

Lenticular cloud is common when the wind is right over Central Otago, and we get a few on the coast as well. And they can occur around the country. Some of them look a bit like one might imagine to be a flying saucer.

They form when westerlies blow over the mountains.

This one is sort of typical (they vary a lot).

But this stack of venticular cloud photographed by an airline pilot is way out of the ordinary.

But this from last year is also pretty cool:

Moa footprints found in Central Otago

Moa footprints have been discovered in the Kyeburn river bed in Maniototo (Central Otago). They are thought to be millions of years old.

Kyeburn marked, near Ranfurly and Waipiata

Kyeburn is an area with the river flowing through it. When travelling inland coming out of the Pigroute you cross the Kyeburn River just after the turnoff south to Middlemarch.

Video of the footprints:

Ian Griffin is Director of Otago Museum.

ODT: Moa footprints found in river

Ranfurly man Michael Johnston ended up making a discovery of international significance, putting the Maniototo into the record books by finding a series of fossilised moa footprints millions of years old.

The footprints were the first moa prints to be found in the South Island and a “glimpse into the past before the ice age”, Prof Ewan Fordyce, of the University of Otago’s department of geology, said.

The imprints were found in the bed of the Kyeburn River, about 15km from Ranfurly, and their discovery was thanks to “an amazing coincidence of circumstances”, Dr Mike Dickison, a moa expert, said.

“I’m amazed at the luck of finding them – catching it in this very brief window between being exposed and being scoured out, and then that somebody happened to be fossicking around and went for a swim and noticed them.

“If any one of those things hadn’t happened, we would never have known they were there, and it makes you wonder how many other moa prints are buried or destroyed, or no-one knows they’re there.”

The imprints were thought to have been exposed by significant flooding in the Maniototo late last year, and it was likely they would not have survived another flood event, Otago Museum natural science assistant curator Kane Fleury said.

Seven clear footprints were found, each about 30cm by 30cm, and an action, preservation and excavation plan for the footprints was immediately prepared.

Dr Dickison said it was likely the moa would be a new species from a branch of the “moa family tree” from millions of years ago, and was most likely a medium-sized moa, which could be similar to the upland moa.

More from Stuff:  Tractor driver finds South Island’s first moa footprints in Otago river

I’m surprised this is the first fossilised moa footprints found in the South Island. There have been plenty of moa bones and remains found. From The Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Fossils

The founder of Canterbury Museum, Julius Haast, collected many moa bones and published papers on his discoveries. Most of these early finds came from dunes, swamps, Māori middens (rubbish heaps) and caves. In Central Otago, caves containing mummified moa with preserved soft tissue were found.

The footprints will add to the moa record.

Central Otago mayor to Labour on water tax

Regions that rely on water for irrigation were always going to be concerned about any proposals to tax water.

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan has posted on Facebook about his opposition to any water taxes, and has included an open letter to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern.

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You will no doubt be aware that the Labour Party has raised the idea of a tax on irrigation and have put up a 2c/1000 litre tax rate.

I believe that this is grossly unfair to Central Otago; New Zealand’s driest district. Figures supplied to me have put the cost if introduced at that rate to our District’s economy at $6,000,000 per year. This could put marginal enterprises over the edge and make some of our top-end products (pinot noir springs to mind) uncompetitive.

I have written to Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern today to express these concerns. The text of the letter is below.

16 August 2017

Jacinda Ardern
Leader of the Opposition
Leader, Labour Party New Zealand
Parliament Buildings

Dear Ms Ardern


I write to you as the Mayor of the driest District in New Zealand, which is also one of the primary revenue earners for the country from the production of stonefruit, pipfruit, wine, meat and fine wool.

Central Otago is also one of the most pristine Districts in the country and it is my full intention as Mayor to support measures to keep it that way.

As we are the driest District; much of the export earnings created by our producers rely on irrigation and many in my rural community have met the announcement by the Labour Party of the proposed tax on water used for irrigation with fear and dismay. A calculation of the effect of the proffered 2c/1000 litres on Central Otago’s economy makes it easy to understand why.
Figures supplied to me by the Otago Water Rights User Group (OWRUG) show that there is approximately 40 000 hectares irrigated at present in the Central Otago District. Proposed expansion of irrigation could add 10,000 to 15,000 further hectares within the next 10 years. Irrigation is essential in this area not just for the obvious green growth that water provides but for frost fighting in the horticulture and viticulture sectors as well.

In an average season in Central Otago, OWRUG estimates that an average Central Otago irrigated property would use 750 mm of irrigation water a season per hectare. At $0.02/m3 (or 1000 Litres) your proposed tax cost would cost the producers in this District $6,000,000 per year over the 40,000 hectares currently in production. The fruit growing industries (including grapes for wine) will generally use well in excess of that amount as they rely on irrigation to protect the year’s crop from frost.
By way of example at a smaller level, I have been told by a local farmer that his family sheep and beef farm of 350 hectares would be facing an extra $52,500 in tax per year.

Irrigation water presently is far from cheap. Pumped piped pressure water currently costs about $800-1000/ha annually which comprises power, administration, maintenance and debt. The cheaper option of gravity water race where available currently costs about $100-300/ha annually.
New schemes such as the proposed lifting of the Falls Dam on the Manuherikia River is estimated to cost about $250/ha annually with pumping done on farm likely to be an extra $150/ha power cost, making for approximately $400/ha in costs. The expansion of irrigation in Central Otago that is currently in train, which will add significantly to my District and New Zealand’s earnings through stone and pip fruit exports amongst other industries, will become marginal to the point of unviable if your tax is introduced as proposed.

I accept that New Zealand’s waterways have been degraded through the impact of intensified land use and that, as a Nation, we must address that issue. I also accept that there is no such thing as a tax that will seem fair to all those being taxed.

However; your proposal is, in my view, grossly unfair on Central Otago for the following reasons:

• The proposal is a reverse tax on rainfall. Central Otago producers must store water in winter to cover the shortfall in summer. Wetter areas do not have to do this at all, or to the same extent. The amount of tax that will be paid by the producers in my District will therefore be determined not by usage of water through irrigation, but by the lack of rainfall here.

• Central Otago is not an area with significantly degraded waterways which can be taken as another sign that irrigation on its own does not have major negative environmental impacts. I have attached a map produced by the Otago Regional Council, which shows that only two of the 20 waterways described as having “poor” water quality are in Central Otago, and these are very small catchments. The effect of the tax as proposed by your party will be to tax this District disproportionately heavily and then apply those funds to the Otago Regional Council to repair waterways throughout the whole District. This is blatantly unfair.

• Your proposed tax also makes an incorrect assumption that the volume of water used matches the impact of water use. The environmental impact of taking large amounts of water for irrigation is arguably less than the environmental impact of taking lesser amounts of water for other purposes. By way of example; a very large amount of water applied to frost fighting in this District is essentially just delayed rain and has no detrimental impact on the environment whereas a comparatively small amount used in a dairy wash-down could (if not have a vastly greater impact.

At a Local Government New Zealand Rural and Provincial meeting last year, Finance Minister Stephen Joyce stated that he attributed New Zealand’s ability to ride the effect of the slump in dairy prices successfully as being due to growth in horticulture, viticulture and tourism. Central Otago excels on the world stage in horticulture and viticulture and will provide even more to the New Zealand economy if planned irrigation expansion goes ahead. Should your tax proposal become law; I am told much of this expansion will not get off the ground.

In addition; I am advised that the extra cost the tax would impose may lead current non-dairy operations to convert to dairy in this District to remain viable. If (as many claim) the dairy industry is a significant contributor to the issues facing our waterways, it would be a dreadful irony if the tax designed to improve waterways causes an increase in the industry many blame for much of the problem.

No matter what the result of September 23; I offer an invite to you to come to Central Otago and see for yourself the balance we are striving to achieve between the needs of the environment and the needs of the families who work the land to make a living.

Yours sincerely

Tim Cadogan
Central Otago District Council

Easter trading in Central Otago

The new Easter trading law has allowed the Central Otago District Council to enable Sunday trading for the first time.

Up until last year there was a glaring anomaly with Easter trading in Central Otago. Queenstown had special dispensation and was able to trade, while nearby towns were banned from Sunday trading like most of the rest of the country.

ODT: Businesses get green light for Easter trading

Central Otago businesses can now take advantage of Easter Sunday crowds.

In August, the Government passed the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Act 2016, which lets local authorities choose whether to allow Easter Sunday trading.

The Central Otago District Council yesterday adopted an Easter trading policy, after approving it in draft form in November.

After the meeting, Mayor Tim Cadogan said the move would promote the region as a place to visit on holidays.

”Easter is obviously a prime time for that. We need to give our businesses the opportunity, if they wish, to get their staff to open the doors and make money while there are people in town.”

From looking at submissions and social media, it appeared opposition to the policy was not strong, he said.

Last year the council received 295 replies to an online survey on the policy, about 70% approving of the change. In December it received five supporting and two opposing submissions.

Central Otago is a popular Easter destination, especially every second year when the Warbirds Over Wanaka air show is held. It made no sense that Queenstown could trade normally on Easter Sunday and the rest of the area could not.

Wanaka is not covered by Central Otago, it is in Lakes District along with Queenstown, but that should be a done deal too.

Stuff: Long awaited Wanaka Easter trading closer to reality

Queenstown Lakes District Councillors barely spoke before adopting a policy to allow Wanaka businesses to trade on Easter Sunday.

Cr Penny Clark said it was a “excellent proposal” before mayor Jim Boult asked whether there was any debate.

There was no response and the proposal was immediately accepted. It must now go through a public submission process.

The proposal follows years of lobbying by the Wanaka business community to be allowed to trade on Easter Sunday and Easter Friday.

Unlike neighbouring Queenstown where an exemption is in place, most businesses in the busy tourist resort have been subject to law forbidding them from trading on the traditional religious holiday.

The old law with limited exemptions was a nonsense.

Pro versus anti business

Today’s ODT editorial highlights Contrasting councils – one pro business, the other with a growing anti-business reputation.

A significant amount of government money is being invested in creating the Centre for Space Science Technology which will be based in Alexandra.

In total, the Government is spending up to $14.7 million over four years for the new institution with additional funding from industry. It will operate as a private, independently governed organisation.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says the centre will undertake research to explore the use of space-based measurements and satellite imagery unique to New Zealand to meet the specific needs of regional industries.

It will establish an international satellite data exchange and collaborate with leading researchers and businesses, both in New Zealand and abroad, to design, build and launch New Zealand’s first fleet of cube satellites.

In its proposal to establish a regional research institute, the Centre for Space Science Technology presented a strong business case to support the development and growth of New Zealand’s space economy by filling critical gaps in the collection and processing of New Zealand’s satellite data.

Not surprisingly, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan called the announcement a game changer. The deal is expected to boost Alexandra’s economy by an estimated $2.8 millon to $3.6 million in the first three years and was up there, next to the gold rush.

Half of the 70 to 80 jobs to be created will be in Alexandra. The Central Otago District Council provided seed money of $20,000 for the project, something which will be repaid time and time again from the establishment of the centre.

Good on the Central Otago District Council for actively seeking and getting something of benefit to the region.

In contrast…

…the attitude of the nine members of the Dunedin City Council who quickly showed their so-called green credentials on the same day of the Alexandra announcement.

Those nine councillors voted to call on the Government to place a moratorium on deep-sea oil and gas exploration and extraction. Only four members of the council understood the implications of the vote.

The council is again proving itself to be not business friendly. Sadly, those 11 members do not understand the landscape on exploration has changed.

Putting up the not welcome sign enhances Dunedin’s reputation of a difficult place to do business. Any benefits through jobs or providing supplies to a drilling rig offshore will go to another city or town.

Dunedin has had a reputation as a difficult place to start new business for some time. The council seems to have become dominated by utopian activism. Without the University Dunedin would be going backwards rapidly – which seems to be what a vocal minority want.

They fail to understand that a ‘sustainable’ city needs to sustain a healthy business environment.

Sweeet victory

In another rugby final today: Cromwell wins title for first time in 35 years

Not since 1981 has Cromwell rugby tasted a victory so sweet.

The premier side was crowned the Central Otago champion after an intense 21-18 victory over Maniototo at Alexandra on Saturday.

Players were overcome with emotion at the final whistle, some even shedding a tear in the moments after.

Cromwell players pose with the trophy following its win over Maniototo in the Central Otago premier rugby final at Alexandra.

Great to see this result.

I know how sweet a victory like that can be – I was playing for Cromwell when they last won in 1981.

I might try and find an old photo.



Extending Central Otago cycleways

The rail trail cycleway through Central Otago, from Middlemarch to Clyde, has been hugely successful, for cyclists, for tourists and for rural towns that had previously been struggling.

More trails have also been established, the Roxburgh Gorge trail south of Alexandra, the Clutha Gold trail And Queenstown trails.

The Government has just announced funding to supplement local funds that will link these trails, making an extensive cycleway network.

The most significant of these extensions will link the current rail trail terminal at Clyde via the Cromwell Gorge to Cromwell and on through the Kawarau Gorge to the Queenstown trail.

The Cromwell Gorge trail has been considered for some time. I was involved in a small way in checking it out about 1998 but it was then put in the too hard basket.

Stuff: Central Otago multi-million dollar cycle trail project gets financial backing

A $26.3 million project to connect Central Otago’s trail network and create 500 kilometres of continuous trail network will be a “game changer” for the region.

Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key announced at a function in Bannockburn on Sunday the Government would commit around $13 million towards the project, with the Central Lakes Trust contributing $11.15m and the Otago Community Trust contributing $2m.

“The proposal to create a 536kim continuous cycle trail network by linking four existing Central Otago Great Rides – the Queenstown Trail, the Otago Central Rail Trail, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail – is the type of enhancement to the Great Rides we want to encourage.”


This also shows a proposed trail from Cromwell to Luggate and presumably on the Wanaka and while that would be worthwhile I don’t think it will be as scenic a ride as the gorges.

Once this network is complete there will be one major missing link – Middlemarch to Dunedin. I don’t know if anything has been considered there but it would be challenging, the railway line is still used and the existing road is very up and down.


Chinese ski agreement good for Central Otago

On his trip to China Minister of Tourism John Key has witnessed the signing of a ‘memorandum of understanding’ between the Chinese Ski Association and the Winter Games NZ Trust that could bring big benefits to Central Otago skiing and tourism in general.

ODT reports: China partnership ‘momentous step’

A ground-breaking agreement between the Winter Games NZ Trust and the Chinese Ski Association could be worth millions of dollars to the Central Otago economy.

Real Journeys chief executive Richard Lauder said a memorandum of understanding between the association and the Winter Games NZ Trust, signed in China on Tuesday night and witnessed by Prime Minister John Key, was ‘‘pretty important” in the promotion and development of New Zealand as a skiing destination for the Chinese.

The company bought Cardrona Alpine Resort in late 2013 and over the past two years had been working to attract the Chinese market.

The resort had an agreement with the Wanlong Ski Resort, near Beijing, on employing and training ski instructors.

The Chinese national freestyle team also used Cardrona as a training base during its off-season.

Winter Games NZ Trust chief executive Arthur Klap described the deal as a ‘‘momentous step” for snowsports in New Zealand.

Under the agreement, the association will use New Zealand as its training base and the Winter Games as its competition base during northern hemisphere summers from 2017 to 2021, in preparation for the Winter Olympics being held in Beijing in 2022.

Lake Wanaka Tourism business development executive Geoff Mark said the MoU would reinforce the interest in New Zealand ‘‘as a whole” and would help develop the emerging Chinese ski market, which had begun to grow over the past couple of years.

‘‘If people in China are looking at skiing overseas, they will choose New Zealand.

‘‘The spin-offs for [Queenstown Lakes] in particular will be major and worth millions of dollars to the region.”

Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin said WGNZ was established as ‘‘a key event on the global snow sports calendar”.

‘‘This partnership will deliver real benefits for both countries.”

Tourism in general and especially Chinese tourism is booming, and is one of New Zealand’s biggest economic successes.

It’s not something the Minister of Tourism gets much public credit for. Key is criticised for swanning along and not doing much of importance.

Stuff reported in December: International tourism overtakes dairy to regain top spot as our biggest export earner

Tourism’s $13.5 billion in export earnings has put it ahead of the dairy industry for the first time in five years as the visitor boom continues.

The Tourism Industry Association (TIA) said the figure, drawn from Statistics New Zealand data, was based on the estimated spend by all international visitors, plus airfares. It excluded international students studying here for more than 12 months.

Annual dairy exports totalled $13 billion for the year ended September 2015.

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said tourism and dairying were both vital to the New Zealand economy, and the recent dramatic growth in international visitor spending highlighted tourism’s important role.

Andrew Little has just appointed Labour’s new shadow cabinet spokesperson Kris Faafoi as Spokesperson for Tourism.

Meanwhile Stuff reports today: Tourism from China will likely outstrip infrastructure, says John Key

Prime Minister John Key is betting his “bottom dollar” that Chinese tourism to New Zealand will reach one million a year, but it is unlikely there is the infrastructure to the numbers.

The “good new part of the story” was tourism had picked up the slack, whereas other parts of the economy had been “a bit softer”, said Key.

“If you think about things like Chinese new year, they’d been a massive boon and extension of the general peak period. There’s no question that we actually do need to build more infrastructure.

“So the air connectivity part of the equation was lifted dramatically, and we’ve seen lots of new carriers return to New Zealand. The point about the infrastructure at the peak is right, we need to build more of that.”


Tar and cement

Yesterday someone asked me if I remembered the song Tar and Cement. It was only vaguely familiar, but when I found it and played it on Youtube I remembered it, but not the singer Verdelle Smith. A very pleasant and catchy song.

It’s actually a rewrite of an Italian song called Il ragazzo della via Gluck (The boy from Gluck Street). It was just a song in the old days, but now it has quite a lot of feeling and meaning for me.

The town I came from was quiet and small
we played in the meadows where the grass grew so tall
in summer the lilacs would grow everywhere
the laughter of children would float in the air

I remember lilacs and meadows (paddocks) – this is my early childhood:


As I grew older I had to roam
far from my family, far from my home
into the city, where lives can be spent
lost in the shadows of tar and cement.

I first moved to Dunedin, which was the ‘big smoke’ to me (but now provides ready access to open fields). Then I moved to Auckland through my work.

And every night I’d sit alone and learn
what loneliness meant
up in my rented room above the world
of tar and cement.

It wasn’t quite like that. I lived in a suburban house with a Tongan called Seff, and with Kojak, who ended up being one of the victims of the Pike River mine.

But I did feel loneliness in Auckland, amongst so many people, and vast areas of tar and cement.

Many years later my work took me to New York for a short time. I spent a day off in Manhattan, on my own amongst the crowds. When I first emerged from the bowels of Penn Station an Irish guy asked me for directions, that was funny.

That’s about 32nd Street. I wandered south, counting the streets down. Then I found there were still more streets, unnumbered. Wall Street was eerily empty on a Saturday.

I went to the Trade Centre site and that felt spooky, so I quickly left and headed back up north.

My last sight to see that day was the Empire State Building. It was full of people who spent most of their time waiting in queues.After a couple of hours and four or five queues I made it to the main viewing level, you could get higher but that was one queue to many.

I spent some time gazing over the myriad of glazing, tar and cement. And suddenly I felt very lonely, and just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Many years later, tired at last
I headed for home to look for my past
I looked for the meadows, there wasn’t a trace
six lanes of highway had taken their place
where were the lilacs and all that they meant
nothing but acres of tar and cement.

That’s not quite the same for me, but the place I grew up is vastly different now due to ‘progress’, the Clyde Dam flooded much of my childhood roaming ground. But it’s still easy to get away from it. I lived back there in the nineties.

One night I decided to go for a walk up the hill, I had always wanted to go to the Two Sisters rocks on top of the lower end of the Pisa range. So I got to the top at about 9 o’clock to feel the breeze wafting across the mountains.

And I felt exhilarated. I spent some time there enjoying the solitude, then walked back down in what became a wonderful moonlit night.

Sort of weird that I feel less lonely here…


Than here…


Maybe I’m just not a tar and cement sort of person. More and more people in the world are confined to ‘progress’ – and to labels.

After one walk in the wopwops I came up with this:



Hawkdun Range

The Hawkduns are one of several north-west trending ranges that separate the Mackenzie Country and North Otago from Central Otago. They are about 50 km long and rise to 1880 m (6167 ft), stretching from Omarama (Mackenzie Country) to Naesby (Maniototo).


Oteake Conservation Park, Hawkdun Range

Source: Department of Conservation (with walking and cycling track information).

 has just visited the Hawkduns and taken some photos:

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Thelymitra sp. Sun Orchid
Hawkdun Range, Oteake Conservation Park, North Central Otago

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Tussocky mountain vistas from the top of the Hawkdun Range

This view is typical of a number of Central Otago ranges.

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Dwarf almost cushion forming native Broom, Carmichaelia sp. in flower

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“Good on ya mate!” Even in the mountain wilderness you can still tell you’re in Otago

Talking of Speights, they now have a nice low alcohol (2.5%) brew that tastes like real beer – Speights Mid.

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Dwarf almost cushion forming Speargrass, Aciphylla sp.

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Critically endangered Scree Buttercup, Rannunculus acraeus

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Ran out of water, but luckily there was still a late snowbank right at the top of the Hawkdun Range

By the middle of summer most snow has melted from ranges like the Hawkduns but you can still find remnants in south facing locations.

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Perfect spot for a picnic and solar cones

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I was going to say not a cloud in the sky, but there is one tiny one

Another typical Central Otago vista – sky blue and tussock gold are the official Otago colours.

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Heavy lift transport Dragonfly 1cm wide × 8cm long!

I’ve walked in the foothills of the Hawkduns, pig shooting back a few years. This is similar territory to many Central Otago ranges I have enjoyed since a child. I grew up between the Pisa and Dunstan ranges and have been up both a number of times.

In 1997 to mark Otago’s 150th I walked from Dunedin to Cromwell as part of the Calvalcade. This involved traversing the Silver Peaks, the lower south end of the Rock and Pillars (the old Dunstan Trail), Rough Ridge through the lunar landscape past Poolburn Dam, over the Knobblies and then over the Dunstans – we walked through Thomsons Gorge but detoured up on top of the range before descending into the Upper Clutha Valley.

Back to the Hawkduns:


That’s the Hawkdun Range flanked by the St Bathans Range (left) and Kakanui Range (right).