I’m looking to rent a bach at the beach or an alpine holi... Here are some simple tips if you’re planning to rent a New Zealand bach during these peak seasons:
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How do I prepare my home for bushfire season?

Is water affected by algae safe to drink after it has been boiled?

Water infected with or tainted by algae can be poisonous to humans and livestock.  It should be avoided in all cases.  Boiling algal water will not make it safe to drink.
 
Do not drink or swim in algal water. Don’t rinse vegetables or fruit in it, or cook with it. Don’t wash your clothes in it, as the algae can cause rashes and infections. Don’t eat shellfish or fish caught in it, as the fish may have ingested the algal water.
 
Take extra care not to spray or flood irrigate pastures or crops with it. If you do use algal water on your farm by mistake, you could infect your entire food crop.

What about early retirement?

Early retirement is a dream for many, but very few people achieve it. Unless you win the lottery, it's important to assess the positive and negative impacts of an early retirement. Specifically, you’ll need to make sure that:
  • Your financial obligations can be met without income from employment or your NZ Superannuation
  • You have sufficient plans (travel, hobbies or part time activities) to keep you occupied and mentally stimulated
  • You have discussed your plans, and the implications of early retirement, with your family

What is the difference between assisted living retirement homes and independent retirement living?

Assisted living generally refers to having nursing or support staff on hand within the retirement living premises to help retirees. Often they will provide meals, do laundry, cleaning, and provide after-hours general and medical care.

Retirees should consider assisted living when:
  • You’re having difficulty managing daily chores such as cooking, housework and moving, or you need help with showering or bathing
  • You’ve been advised by a medical professional that continuing to live independently may be detrimental to your health
  • You have a partner who requires increased supervision for medical or other reasons, that you do not have the personal capacity or experience to provide
The sales representative at your intended retirement village should be able to offer advice on whether assisted or fully independent living options are best for you.

How can I avoid a blue-green or general algal outbreak on my block?

Cyanobacteria, better known as blue-green algae, is a bacteria than can be harmful to humans and animals. While it occurs naturally, it can be inadvertently encouraged to bloom when nutrients like phosphorous are introduced to waterways by humans.  Many popular cleaning products use phosphorous in their formulations.
 
To avoid algal bloom outbreaks, limit the amount of nutrient run-off from your property entering waterways. Avoid excessive use of farm fertilisers and maintain good farm vegetation to act as a natural nutrient run-off buffer. If you don't have good lifestyle block vegetation areas, move any livestock further away from waterways.

Other things you can do to reduce the risk of algal bloom outbreaks include:
  • Minimise the amount of time soil remains exposed to wind and water. Don’t work soil too much, or work it too far ahead of planting
  • Practice minimum soil cultivation techniques to maintain soil structure
  • Avoid cultivating very steep slopes of soil where limiting runoff will be difficult
  • Use green manure crops and work them into the soil regularly
  • Use crops that cover the soil where you can.  This helps prevent soil erosion
  • Use buffer strips of dense vegetation in steep locations to catch runoff
  • Use surface drains or diversion banks alongside dams and rivers
  • Leave natural drainage areas on your lifestyle block grassed.  This helps with drainage, and reduces the amount of runoff as water is absorbed into the soil
  • Build culverts and bridges or hard crossings for stock, and vehicle crossings
  • Maintain quality of stream banks with solid grass cover, trees, shrubby plants and native grasses
  • Keep livestock away from streams and waterways by using traditional or electric fencing. Livestock may get sick if they consume algal water.  They may also spread algal water across your property, causing further blooms

What do I need to do to look after my animals during particularly hot weather?

While New Zealand may not have the weather extremes that farmers in Australia and other countries have to contend with, it's still important that your livestock are well cared for during hotter periods. Ensuring that your livestock have access to a plentiful and clean supply of water is essential. If your lifestyle block is in an area that attracts a lot of sunshine, provide shelter and tree shading for your animals.

Is there any legislation regarding the use of chemicals on lifestyle blocks?

The use of chemicals on any farm in New Zealand is governed by the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act, which is administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries. This Act covers the importing, manufacturing, selling and use of all agrichemicals. It also list chemicals and substances that are prohibited by law.
 
If you intend to use chemicals on your lifestyle block, you must familiarise yourself with your obligations as early as possible.  The consequences of misuse could be highly damaging for the local environment, and for neighbouring farms.  Severe fines and penalties may also be issued to you, causing financial stress.
 
The Ministry for Primary Industries website contains a wealth of useful information.

What regulations or legislation affects the use of traps and baits on farms?

The Animal Welfare Act covers pest control in New Zealand. The Act specifies the exact types of traps and devices that can be used for trapping and other pest control purposes. It states that animals which are caught alive must be killed humanely.
 
You should familiarise yourself with your obligations under the Act and ensure that you understand the directions given for the usage of each type of trap and bait.
 
Misuse of traps or baits can be harmful to domestic animals, livestock and wildlife.  Fines and penalties may also apply.
 
The Biosecurity New Zealand website is a useful source of further information.

What are the basics of organic farming?

Organic farming is an approach that aims to work with the surrounding natural environment, rather than fighting against it. Only natural fertilisers and chemicals are used, and in some cases these are totally excluded.  Some people say that they can taste a noticeable difference when eating organic foods instead of produce that is intensively farmed.  Prices of organic groceries are generally higher in supermarkets.
 
Organic farming can make soil heath harder to maintain, and pest control is more difficult.  Weeds must also be tolerated and managed, but not eliminated.
 
The basics of organic farming involve:
  • Achieving healthy soil without chemicals
  • Managing mildews, fruit flies and scale insects in citrus fruits
  • Managing internal parasites in sheep without chemicals
  • Managing other pests and diseases without chemicals and drugs
There are a large number of resources available about organic farming.  A simple Google search will provide many websites and book choices for you to consider.

Some lifestyle block owners successfully make a living by growing and selling certified organic produce.  Talk to your First National Rural Specialist for advice.

What measures can I take to organically improve the quality of the soil on my lifestyle block?

The best way to improve the quality of your soil is to grow green manure crops such as clover and vetch on your lifestyle block. These crops can be grown during the winter and then be cut down and dug into the soil. The dying plants add nutrients and organic matter to the soil, improving the overall soil quality.
 
There are plenty of green manure crops you can choose to grow in New Zealand’s temperate climate.  These crops include mustard, lucerne, blue lupin and marigolds. Broad beans are a nice option if you want a crop you can harvest during winter.
 
Contact local nurseries or agricultural organisations to discuss your lifestyle block farming plans and to find out which crops might be most suitable for your land. 
 
If you have any remaining questions regarding lifestyle blocks, please contact the friendly First National Real Estate team for guidance.  We're here to help you. 
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