Sneak preview of new Highlanders’ jersey

May 31, 2011

People are seeing red over the new Highlanders’ jersey.

Here’s a sneak preview of it which shows why:


Word of the day

May 31, 2011

Decrescent – decreasing gradually, lessening; waning.


Self control, and farming online

May 31, 2011

Today’s discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass started with a look at self-control in the age of abundance. Over at Reason.com Daniel Akst  looks at stickK.com which encourages people to make commitment contracts:

The Commitment Contract concept is based on two well known principles of behavioral economics:

1.People don’t always do what they claim they want to do, and
2.Incentives get people to do things.
 
From there we went farming online. My Farm is a fundraising initiative by the National Trust.

They’re inviting people to pay a 30 pound annual subscription which will allow them to help run a real farm on the internet:

The farm is on the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate. You’ll be part of a group of 10,000 online Farmers working with farm manager Richard Morris to decide how it should be run. You’ll vote once a month, discuss the issues with other members and explore the world of farming.

The first vote will go live on Thursday 26 May 2011. From then onwards Farmers will vote at least once a month on different issues to do with the everyday running of the farm. The three big themes are the crops we grow, the livestock we breed, and the wider impacts of the farm on our environment and wildlife.

It’s an innovative way to help people bridge the urban-rural divide by letting them reconnect with farming and learn more about how food is produced.

If this comment is anything to go by some of the on-line farmers have a lot to learn:

How long does it take for the seed to germinate? I am wondering how many days of day we are gambling on here? And how much money? Can half the field be done at a time? Or is this an all or nothing decision?

With1,000 members signed up in the first couple of days the fundraising and education aspects should be successful. It will be interesting to see what impact the farming by vote has on production.

(Hat tip: Offsetting Behaviour).

We went from there to lost in a book at the Mail Online which introduces the concept of inattentional deafness.

South Island tourism hit by quake

May 31, 2011

Anecdotal evidence that visitors have been put off coming not just to Christchurch after February’s earthquake but the whole of the South Island has been backed up by Statistics New Zealand. It reports a decline of 24% in guest nights in the Mainland.  

Guest nights fell 5.4 percent in March 2011 compared with March 2010, Statistics New Zealand said today. The decrease was driven by a fall in international guest nights in the Canterbury region and throughout the South Island. International guest nights in the South Island fell by 24 percent compared with March 2010.

“Nationally, capacity has dropped, driven by the decrease in the Canterbury region,” business statistics manager Louise Holmes-Oliver said. “Due to the earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011, less accommodation was available in Canterbury. Available capacity was down by half for hotels and by a third for backpacker accommodation, compared with March 2010. This should be kept in mind when looking at figures for the Canterbury region.”

Although the South’s loss has been the North’s gain:

All five South Island regions had fewer guest nights in March 2011 compared with March 2010, recording an overall decrease in guest nights of 15 percent. Canterbury had by far the largest regional decrease (down 30 percent), due to fewer international guest nights. The North Island recorded an overall increase in guest nights, led by increases in Auckland (up 8.0 percent) and Wellington (up 4.4 percent).

Losing thousands of beds from Christchurch which is the gateway to the south can’t help but impact on the rest of the island. Some people will by-pass the city and go somewhere else in the South Island but many others are staying away from the Mainland altogether.

Wanaka is never very busy between Easter and the start of the ski season but it seems to have been even quieter this year; a tourism business owner in Omamara told us visitor numbers had plummeted since late February and even Queenstown seemed a bit subdued on a couple of recent visits. 

The news that there’s a 23% risk of another big earthquake somewhere in Canterbury will be very concerning for people who live there and it will be another deterrent to visitors to the province and the rest of the South Island.


More rationalisation of govt agencies

May 31, 2011

Finance Minister Bill English  and State Services Minister Tony Ryall have announced more rationalisation of government agencies.

If you follow the link above you’ll see the proposals which include disestablishing five crown entities and three tribunals, merging two government agencies, establishing shared corporate services across the government’s three central agencies and consolidating the services of a number of others.

Thirty nine government departments, more than 150 Crown entities, excluding school boards, and more than 200 other agencies is far too many for a population of four million.

The aim of the rationalisation is to make government administration more efficient and reduce costs, duplication and waste.

It’s difficult to argue with the logic of that although no doubt those who aren’t concerned about the dead weight of government will.


Voting made difficult

May 31, 2011

An information pack arrived from the electoral Commission yesterday. The front page of the pamphlet said: voting in the referendum made easy.

On the other side was a flow chart which I reckon was more voting in the referendum made difficult. I found it left me with a lot more questions than answers.

If a political tragic who knows quite a bit about the referendum found it wanting, how useful is it to people who know little and aren’t particularly interested?

A website and telephone number were given and the website makes the process and options much clearer.

But what happens to all the people who are put off by the pamphlet, don’t try the phone number or website or don’t have access to a computer?

The results of the election will determine who governs us for the following three years. The results of the referendum could determine how we’re governed for decades.

It’s a very important process which deserves a much better explanation than this pamphlet provided.


Welfare back on agenda

May 31, 2011

The Welfare Working Group’s report slipped off the radar when the Christchurch earthquake struck the day after it was released.

But the government has put welfare back on the agenda.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has announced the formation of a special Ministerial group to work on reforms.

The report had a wide range of recommendations and Paula says:

“At this stage Ministers aren’t ruling out any recommendations, except requiring sole parents to look for work when any additional child born while on welfare, is 14 weeks old. That is a step too far for this Government.”

Not ruling out the other recommendations doesn’t mean they will be adopted. It means the group is taking an open minded approach to a very serious problem.

The group’s members are:  Hon Paula Bennett – Social Development and Employment;  Hon Bill English – Finance; Hon Simon Power – Justice;  Hon Tony Ryall – Health and State Services;  Hon Anne Tolley – Education; Hon Steven Joyce – Tertiary Education;  Hon Hekia Parata – Women’s Affairs

Other Ministers will attend meetings as required.

This is a very high powered group, reflecting the importance of the work it must do.

A compassionate society must provide assistance for those in genuine need. But it is not good for the people receiving the help or those paying for it if those who could look after themselves don’t.

There are few, if any answers to welfare reform and some of the solutions will be more expensive than the status quo, at least in the short term.

But for economic and social reasons we can’t keep letting people languish on benefits as a way of life if they could be supporting themselves.


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