It’s neigh a joke

January 31, 2009

No foaling fooling – you can still be charged with being drunk in charge of a horse.


Saturday’s smiles

January 31, 2009

Watch for the following mergers on Wall Street: -

 

Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

 

Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

 

3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.

 

Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa .

 

FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.

 

Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.

 

Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

 

Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

 

Victoria ‘s Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name: TittyTittyBangBang.


Portia’s defence could protect pastoral leasehold property rights

January 31, 2009

The National Business Review (print edition) reports that Fullbright scholar Ann Brower and co-author John Page are challenging whether tresspass laws apply to land farmed by pastoral leaseholders.

Fish & Game have already made a similar challenge by seeking a declaratory judgement from the High Court after a Crown Law opnion supported leaseholders’ contention that they had exclusive possession of the land they farm.

Pastoral leaseholders, supported by Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord, have a different view and are concerned that if the challenge is successful it will give the public a right to roam on leasehold land.

They are consulting lawyers for help but I suggest they also turn to Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice  Act 4, scene 1:

Tarry a little;—there is something else.—
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are, a pound of flesh:(315)
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.

Pastoral leases apply to the land exclusive of improvements so while the land – or flesh – is owned by the public, the blood – the fertility, pasture, trees, fences, gates, tracks and buildings are the property of the leaseholder.

That means that even if the court ruled that trespass laws don’t apply to the public land those wanting access to it would have to get it without laying a finger – or a foot – on so much as a blade of grass because that and all other improvements are owned by the leaseholder and subject to the usual protection of the laws which applies to private property.


Love and romance not just for the young

January 31, 2009

Some good news for aging baby boomers - love and romance improve with age.


Ode To A Jet-Ski Person

January 30, 2009

 

This Friday’s poem is dedicated to all those whose summer peace at the beach or lake has been spoiled by these motorised overgrown bumblebees.

Ode To A Jet-Ski Person was written by Michael Leunig and comes from Poems 1972-2002, published by Viking.

Ode To A Jet-Ski Person

 

Jet-ski person, selfish fink,

May your silly jet-ski sink,

May you hit a pile of rocks,

Oh Hoonish, summer, coastal pox.

 

Noisy, smoking, dickhead fool

On your loathsome leisure tool,

Give us all a jolly lark

And sink beside a hungry shark.

 

Scream as in its fangs you go,

Your last attention-seeking show,

While on the beach we all join in

With ‘Three cheers for the dorsal fin!’

 

     - Michael Leunig -


Chop chop

January 30, 2009

The Aussies have got it: the only rescue package we need is wrapped in butchers’ paper . . .

Although vegetarians may prefer this  from Busted Blonde.


Why the surprise?

January 30, 2009

Maori can’t agree on a flag, what’s surprising about that?

New Zealanders as a whole can’t agree about whether we should keep our flag or not and if not what should replace what we’ve got so why would a sub-group of us agree on a flag?

Cactus Kate and Quote Unquote offer some suggestions.


We don’t know how lucky we are

January 29, 2009

In the depths of the 1980s ag-sag the Oamaru Mail decided it had a duty to cheer people up and announced a policy to put only good news on the front page.

That didn’t last long because it soon became obvious that it was more than a wee bit silly to give the front page lead to a story of little substance because it was “good” news and put stories of far more substance and importance on page three because they were “bad” news.

Highlighting the positive should be left to censors and propoganda merchants not the media, but that doesn’t mean they should go to the opposite extreme and be prophets of doom.

Alf Grumble has declared war on sad sacks  and I think he has a point – and not just because I was flattered when he saluted me as the bearer of glad tidings   and quoted from my opinion piece  in the ODT (though I don’t think he realised that  it was written by me).

Commentators, analysts and others whose opinions are sought by the media are painting a very gloomy picture and while there is no doubt we are in troubling ecomomic times, out here in the real world things aren’t that bad.

And maybe that’s part of the solution - the doomsayers are breathing the stale air of the big cities but if they got out into the provinces they might realise there’s no need to get depressed.

It worked for Colin Espiner who’s returned to work with a positive outlook after a few weeks out of Wellington and what he’s saying is a fairer reflection of what’s happening in rural New Zealand than the bad news stories which are making the headlines.

A small town retailer told me he’d had the same turnover in the six weeks to mid January this year as he’d had in the whole three months of last summer; the milk payout is down from last year’s record but Fonterra’s $5.10 is still the third highest yet; sheep and beef returns are well up; interest rates, fuel and fertiliser prices are dropping  . . .

I’m not saying we should break out the champagne but like Busted Blonde I can play Pollyanna and see plenty to be happy about so maybe what’s needed is a bit of balance in economic and social reporting so we don’t get talked into a depression.

And maybe we need to remember Fred Dagg and appreciate that we don’t know how lucky we are.


Why do farm quad bikes have to be registered?

January 29, 2009

One of our men was stopped by a policeman while riding a farm quad bike on the road between paddocks yesterday and told the bike ought to registered.

We hadn’t realised that so rang the bloke who sold it to us and he said that farm quads could have e-plates which would cost us $100 and the bikes wouldn’t need Warrents of Fitness or be fully registered which would cost around $290 and the bikes would need WoFs.

I checked the Land Transport website  and found that:

Exempt Class A vehicles are not exempt from registration and licensing but are exempt from registration fees and the vehicle licence portion of the licensing fee. You still have to pay for other fees and levies included in the total licensing fee – for example, you still have to pay for the appropriate ACC levy, registration plates and labels.

Exempt Class A vehicles include:

all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) used on a public highway, in moving from the owner’s residence to a road that isn’t a public highway, where the distance travelled doesn’t exceed three kilometres, or in connection with the inspection, servicing or repair of the vehicle.

Then we have Exempt Class B vheicles which may be exempt from some levies and include:

A motor vehicle (not a trailer) designed for agricultural operations and used on a road solely for agricultural operations, including mobile or movable huts, galleys, and similar motor vehicles used on a road solely in connection with such operations.  . . 

and

A motor vehicle (not a trailer) owned by a farmer and only used on the road to go from one part of the farm to another part of the same farm, or from one farm to another farm owned or managed by the same person, for agricultural operations.

I presume that quad bikes fit one of these categories and accept the case for an ACC levy but don’t see why they need plates and labels.

I thought registration fees were a tax to pay for roading so I’m not sure why a bike which is only on the road to get from one paddock to another has to be registered, espeically when most of those roads will be minor roads which are the responsibility of local councils not Transit NZ.

However, I should be grateful the policeman didn’t give our man a ticket. Barnsley Bill was not so lucky and his experience has generated a lot of comments on his own blog  and No Minister.

P.S. – for any pedants I realise that a quad isn’t by definition a bike but common usage triumphs over logic.


Bollard taking us back to the 50s

January 29, 2009

My parents got some sort of government loan to build their house in the mid 1950s. I’m not sure if it was becasue Dad was a returned serviceman or if these loans were available for anyone, but I do know the interest rate was fixed at 3%.

I don’t think rates have been that low since then but Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard has nearly taken us back to those times by reducing the official cash rate from 5% to 3.5%.

His rationale is continuing global uncertainty and confidence that inflation will be “comfortably within the 1 – 3 percent target band in the medium term.”

Interest is one of the bigger costs for farmers, not just for the mortgage but for working capital, especially those in areas like sheep and beef or crops where they get paid in big lumps a few times a year in comparison to dairying where you get a monthly cheque.

The change in the OCR won’t have an immediate impact on existing loans but it should give confidence that we’ll be paying less interest next time loans are negotiated.

It also reinforces tha major difference between what’s happening now and the ag-sag of the 1980s when interest rates and inflation were higher than 20%.


Five weddings – three countries – two months

January 28, 2009

Summer is traditionally wedding season but five weddings in three countries in two months is somewhat more than the norm.

The first was at the Enfield Presbyterian Church in North Otago:

nick-kate-035

 

 It was followed by a reception at Riverstone Kitchen.

Religious marriage ceremonies aren’t legally recognised in Argentina so if you want to be married in a church you have to have a civil ceremony first. The civil ceremony for the second wedding was held a few weeks before we arrived but the religious ceremony and party we attended more than made up for missing that.

The wedding service took place in a church in Mar Del Plata:

argentina-dec-08-060

It started at 8.30 in the evening and was followed by a reception which was just starting to wind down when we left at 6.30 the following morning.

Three days later we attended the civil ceremony for wedding number three in Buenos Aires then the religious ceremony in Pilar the following weekend.

argentina-dec-08-247

That started at 7.30 in the evening, which is early for Argentina, and the reception was still in full swing when we retired at 5.30a.m.

The fourth marriage service took place in a beautiful North Otago country garden and was followed by dinner and dancing in what was a grain store and is now the NZ Malt Whisky Company’s  headquarters in Oamaru’s historic precinct.

whisky

Wedding number five took place in Townsville. The ceremony started with the bride’s father playing the bagpipes and concluded with the release of tropical butterflies.

table

The groom is a prawn fisherman so when we went in to dinner we were greeted by a platter but in the excitement I didn’t think to take a photo until we’d all had several:

table-001

 

Each of the weddings was different, each was special, all were celebrations of love and commitment with the delighted support of family and friends.

I don’t think any of the couples were troubled by the political considerations which are being debated at Kiwipolitico and The Hand Mirror .

But I’m sure that while a lot of thought and planning went into the celebrations the five brides and grooms were aware that the wedding was just the beginning of the marriage to which they were committing themselves freely and wholeheartedly.

It’s 26 years ago today since my farmer and I exchanged our vows, so I have now just – by a couple of weeks – spent more than half my life with him.  I hope that like us these couples discover that love grows and because of that marriage gets better each year.

I hope too that, in the words of Pinky Agnew, they have:  enough love to give each other trust, enough trust to give each other faith, enough faith to give each other strength, enough strength to give each other courage, enough courage to give each other freedom, and enough freedom to give each other love.


That was the day

January 28, 2009

It’s 50 years since, in Don McLain’s words, the day that music died.

That was the day a small plane crashed in Iowa killing rock ‘n’roll legends Buddy Holly, JP Richardson and Ritchie Valens.

I wasn’t quite one at the time but their music survived and was still popular when I was old enough for school dances and university hops in the 1970s.

Thanks to You Tube, here’s Holly’s band, The Crickets,  with That’ll Be The Day

 

Correction: I’m a few days early, it wasn’t January 28th it was February 3rd.


Fonterra payout drops 90c

January 28, 2009

I was a little too pessimistic with yesterday’s prediction that Fonterra’s projected payout would drop by a dollar, it’s down 90 cents to $5.10 per kilo of milk solids.

That’s well below last season’s $7.90 and the opening projection for this season of $7 but it’s still ahead of the long term average.

However, it’s still a big drop in farmers’ income. The Herald reports the $5.10 payout will mean a substantial drop in income for farmers

Based on last season’s collection of 1.19 billion kg of milksolids a 90c cut means a loss to the economy of around $900 million to $1bn.

It’s not just the reduced income for farmers, it’s the impact that will have on the wider economy, including the tax take.

Then there’s uncertainty about the outlook which leaves a question over whether the payout will drop again before the season’s over.

But while the payout is out of farmers’ control, the expenditure side of the balance sheet is our responsibility and keeping a tight rein on costs will compensate, at least in part, for the drop in income.

I’ve quoted a speaker at a SIDE conference before and it’s worth repeating: he started dairying when the payout was $5 but had a better financial year the following season when the payout dropped to $3.60 simply by keeping costs down.

Jamie McKay is devoting most of The Farming Show to discussions on the payout.


Melamine scandal gets murkier for Fonterra

January 28, 2009

Tian Wenhua the former chairwoman of Sanlu who was convicted for her part in the melamine milk poisoning scandal said she acted on advice given by a Fonterra board member.

But Fonterra’s chief executive Andrew Ferrier says the company was always clear there was no safe level of melamine in milk.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua,  . . .  said rather than stopping production of tainted products after the contamination was confirmed on August 1 last year, Sanlu decided to limit melamine levels to within 10mg for every kilogram of milk.

“Tian said during her trial that she made the decision not to halt production of the tainted products because a board member, designated by New Zealand dairy product giant Fonterra that partly owned Sanlu Group, presented her a document saying a maximum of 20mg of melamine was allowed in every kg of milk in the European Union,” Xinhua said. “She said she had trusted the document at that time.”

Mr Ferrier told the Herald a Fonterra representative had given Tian the document soon after the board was advised of the contamination on August 2.

“The context was when this whole thing broke there was an enormous amount of work going on to find out what melamine was and there was research all over the world about its contaminants, its danger,” Mr Ferrier said. “There was information pulled up from Europe, from the US, everywhere.”

. . . Mr Ferrier said: “I do want to be crystal, crystal clear – although there was lots of information that was pulled up we were vividly clear to Sanlu that the only acceptable level [of melamine] was zero.”

At no point did Fonterra tell Sanlu it was acceptable to keep producing to the melamine level in the report, he said. “Absolutely not, absolutely not.”

I believe Ferrier but it’s not me he needs to convince, it’s consumers who rely on the company’s commitment to the highest possible safety standards for its products.

Just a few months ago Fonterra was being held up as the model to which other processors of primary products should aspire. The fall in world commodity prices is  a large part of the reason this has changed and the company can’t be held responsible for that. But another reason is that it has not handled the melamine scandal well.

As Keeping Stock says:

. . . Fonterra still has a lot of questions to answer, and there’s no escaping the perception, whether merited or not, that Fonerra has been less than transparent throughout.

Fonterra has appeared to be on the backfoot throughout  the whole sorry saga and Roarprawn  is right when she says the company needs a rocket.

Paul Henry discussed the issue with Fran O’Sullivan on Breakfast yesterday and she said that the company made a fundamental mistake at the start by thinking the scandal could be isolated as a Chinese problem. She also said that journalists have been unimpressed by the slow response from the company.

A large company ought to understand the importance of not just being on top of such a potentially damaging issue but showing the world it is on top of it. Regardless of how well the Fonterra may be handling things behind the scenes its poor public relations are giving the impression it’s not handling things well at all and allowing questions over its involvement in the melamine scandal to fester.


What’s a view worth?

January 28, 2009

What is the value of a view and how much should you pay for it?

 

If you are a tramper or climber it is priceless and you pay little or nothing for it. If you are involved in tourism or film making it is worth a lot and what you pay for it depends on negotiation. If you want a scenic hideaway it is worth even more and the market generally ensures you pay what it’s worth to you when buying it. If, however, you are grazing sheep, cattle or deer on crown pastoral leasehold property it is not worth much.

 

That is not to say that farmers do not appreciate the often spectacular views on and from their properties, but the average pastoral lease allows a leaseholder to do nothing else but farm. While a grand vista might make advertising fodder it does not feed animals; and a sheep or cattle beast is going to be worth no more if it grazed in beautiful surroundings.

 

This was the reasoning which has governed rent reviews for pastoral leases. They are based on land exclusive of improvements and until now that has been taken to be the land as it was before it was settled.

 

We have a very good idea of exactly what that is because our pastoral leasehold property boundaries a large tract of reserve which is owned by the crown and administered by DOC. On our side of the fence is pasture, tussock and some bush. We spend a lot on weed and pest control and it shows. On the other side of the fence there is tussock and bush too but there is also scrub and lots of weeds.

 

We run about 10 stock units to the hectare on our farm; the DOC land would struggle to support one sheep or cattle beast in many hectares and that poor animal would be competing with the rabbits, possums, pigs and deer.

 

A crown pastoral lease precludes the lessee from realising any potential for subdivision for building purposes or any commercial or industrial use. The leases also have restrictive land use controls so lessees who wanted to do anything else on their property except graze it require permission from the commissioner of crown lands and the rent would increase to take account of any diversification.

 

This has been regarded as fair to both lessees and the crown since the Land Act of 1948. But the Labour Government believed that amenity values were part of the unimproved value and rents should reflect that.

 

There is no doubting the beauty of the high country but it is subjective. One set of eyes might delight in the uninterrupted view of tussock; another will see weeds between the golden clumps and recognise fire danger in uncontrolled growth.

 

Beauty also changes with the weather. We love our leasehold property but it is at the end of the aptly named Mount Misery Road and the beauty is difficult to appreciate in a howling blizzard or when you can’t see past your nose because of fog.

 

The idea that anyone should pay more to lease farm land because of the views from which they earn nothing at all is ludicrous.

 

But the previous Government changed the rules which forced some leaseholders to pay more than they can possibly generate from pastoral farming because their properties have views from which they get no financial return. Labour thought a view was worth more than a livelihood so a group of pastoral lessees has taken a test case on the issue to the Land Valuation Tribunal.

 

It’s the final day of the hearing today but the change of government may make the judgement academic anyway because National’s agriculture policy stated that it would ensure the sertting of high country rents was tied to earning capacity so runholders could maintain their properties at an acceptable level.


The case of the missing cases gets longer

January 28, 2009

Those missing cases I refrerred to a couple of posts back have still to be delivered.

We’d been told they’d be on yesterday’s plane to Oamaru which doesn’t get in until the evening but when they hadn’t turned up by 9pm I phoned Air New Zealand who told me they’ve been cleared by customs and will be delivered today.

I hope so because while yesterday there was nothing important in them, today we’re both missing the chargers for our mobile phones.

UPDATE: Air NZ has phoned twice to tell me the cases are in Christchurch and will be couriered down to us this afternoon.


Katherine Mansfield Society formed

January 27, 2009

When I was at school and university English literature referred not just to the language but the country of origin because most of what we studied came from England.

There was nothing to stop me reading further afield myself however but in spite of that my discovery of the delights of Katherine Mansfield has been relatively recent and I’m ashamed to say still fairly shallow.

While I’m confessing I might as well admit that I’m not even sure where my favourite Mansfield quote comes from because I found it not in a book but a Marg Hamilton painting:

”It was one of those days so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.”

 

painting

 

However, there is a new medium to increase both my knowledge and appreciation of the writer and her work – the newly created international Katherine Mansfield Society.

 

Society president, Emeritus Professor Vincent O’Sullivan, said in a press release the society has been set up to promote and encourage enjoyment of Mansfield’s writing which influenced a fundamental shift in the way stories are told.

“Katherine Mansfield’s influence is still being felt by writers and readers today, and we want to ensure this recognition continues. She is New Zealand’s greatest writer, and ironically there’s the likelihood of her becoming better known overseas than she is at home.”

To that end, he says, while the society is international, with people from England, Ireland, Australia, France and the United States involved in its creation, there is a strong New Zealand focus, and it is incorporated as a charitable trust in New Zealand.

 

“The Society will work to ensure Katherine Mansfield is on school and university curricula in New Zealand and overseas and aims to establish a Mansfield memorial in her home town of Wellington.

 

“We will also be creating a biennial Katherine Mansfield Society literary scholarship – a Rhodes scholarship for literature as it were – for work in the modernist sphere.”

 

The Society’s founders comprise Mansfield scholars from around the world: Emeritus Professor Angela Smith (UK), Emeritus Professor C. K. Stead (NZ), Dr Sarah Sandley (NZ), Dr Gerri Kimber (UK), Dr Sue Reid (UK), Dr Josiane Paccaud-Huguet (France), Janna Stotz (USA), Dr Melinda Harvey (Australia), Dr Anna Jackson (NZ), Dr Delia Da Sousa Correa (UK), Dr Jenny McDonnell (Ireland),  Dr Sarah Ailwood (Australia), Professor Larry Mitchell (USA) and Professor Janet Wilson (UK).

 

Details of the society, including how to become a member, can be found on the Katherine Mansfield Society website.


Healthy chocolate

January 27, 2009

 

Healthy chocolate sounds like an oxymoron so I got excited when I heard Jim Mora preview an interview on Afternoons  with a teaser about eating chocolate for good health.

So of course I listened and he was right – but sadly it’s only the high cocoa, low sugar stuff eaten in moderation.

Sigh.


And the Fonterra payout will be?

January 27, 2009

Fonterra’s board is meeting today and one of the major items on the agenda will be a decrease in the payout which has already been dropped from $6.60 at the start of the season to $6.

I’m picking it could go down to $5.

Westland’s payout projection  has already dropped from $5.20 to $5.60 a kilo of milk solids to $4.10 to $4.50, partly because of foreign exchange dealings. We don’t know what Fonterra’s exposure to foreign exchange is nor do we know if milk prices will continue to fall and even if they have bottomed out growing stock piles  of milk powder and EU subsidies will hamper any rapid improvement.

Dairy farms are starting to look for staff for next season so if the payout does drop by $1 it will have an impact on pay negotiations. When contracts were being negotiated this time a year ago it was on the expectation of a good payout which might get better. Now falling commodity prices and global uncertainty are painting a far less rosey picture.


We’re home and our luggage is . . .?

January 27, 2009

When we checked in at Townsville en-route to Christchurch via Brisbane yesterday we were told our luggage would be transferred for us and we wouldn’t need to pick it up until we got to New Zealand.

A tw0-hour wait in Brisbane ought to have been long enough for the baggage transfer from the domestic to international flight but when we got to Christchurch our cases weren’t there.

However, Air New Zealand was able to tell us they were late but not lost. They’d missed the connection, were on the way to Auckland, will be put on the Oamaru flight this afternoon and delivered to us at home this evening.

This is the first time our luggage has gone missing and while it’s inconvenient,  it would have been a lot worse if we’d packed our car key and been stranded in Christchurch until the cases turned up.

And while we would have preferred to have our bags on the same plane as we were, we were impressed with the service from the Air NZ staff member at the lost luggage desk who dealt with us quickly and gave us a bag with overnight necessities.


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