Word of the day

September 30, 2013

Barratry – vexatious litigation or incitement to it; offence of persistently instigating lawsuits, typically groundless ones;  trade in the sale of church or state appointments; fraud or gross criminal negligence by a captain or crew at the expense of a ship’s owner or of the owner of a ship’s cargo.


Postal referendum on partial floats

September 30, 2013

The government has taken the least expensive option for the referendum on the partial float of a few state owned assets.

The citizens initiated referendum on the Mixed Ownership Model will be held as a postal vote in November and December this year after a petition regarding the Mixed Ownership Model was signed by 10 per cent of eligible voters. 

The referendum will ask whether New Zealanders support the Government’s sale of up to 49 per cent of Meridian, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Government is required to hold the referendum by September 2014, which will be overseen by the Electoral Commission.

“We want to hold this referendum as soon as practicably possible and completing it before the traditional holiday period begins will help us get maximum voter participation,” Ms Collins says.

The voting period will open on Friday, 22 November and will close three weeks later on Friday, 13 December.

The referendum roll will close on Friday, 25 October, but voters will be able to enrol on the supplementary roll up until Thursday, 21 November.

The Electoral Commission has estimated the cost of the postal referendum at $9 million – including $2.85 million for public information and advertising.

The Commission is expected to deliver a preliminary result after voting closes and a final result will be delivered as soon as possible thereafter.

The result of the referendum is not binding on the Government.

This politicians’ initiated referendum is a very expensive publicity exercise for the opposition.

Grey Power, which initially fronted the petition, lost any credibility on the issue when it signed up to discounts for its members with a private company.

Meanwhile, the share offer for up to 49% of Meridian energy began this morning with strong demand.

The Prime Minister says there has already been “strong” early demand for Meridian Energy shares by retail investors, ahead of the offer opening today.

Close to half of the Meridian Energy share offer has been pre-committed to New Zealand retail investors after Kiwi sharebrokers were invited last week to submit bids for shares on behalf of interested clients. . .

The partial float will be done and dusted with the money banked before  the referendum begins.


Tremain not seeking re-election

September 30, 2013

Napier MP and Minister Chris Tremain has announced he will not be contesting the next election.

“I am proud of the significant achievements of this government led by Prime Minister John Key. Under his leadership New Zealand is now one of the strongest growing economies in the western world and has a very bright future. I intend to continue to contribute to this exciting future but now in the commercial sector of our economy.

“My family has been a huge part of my decision. I have three children finishing high school and I want to devote more time to them before they leave home,” Mr Tremain says.

“It is my intention to devote my energy to both my electorate and to my Ministerial portfolios right through until the general election next year. I have had amazing support from the people of Napier and Hawke’s Bay and wish to finish a number of local projects before the end of the term.

“I will prioritise the second tranche of local government reform, gambling reform, fire legislation and the ICT Strategy and Action Plan in my Ministerial portfolios between now and the election.

“I have made this decision with my wife and communicated it to the Prime Minister a fortnight ago. I have decided to announce it today to allow the National Party time to find a suitable replacement for next year’s election. 

“The National Party continues to enjoy unprecedented support as a second term government, which means we are well placed to win a third term next year. In the last election, I had a 6600 party vote majority and a 3700 electorate vote majority, which I believe provides a solid platform for a strong National Party candidate to win Napier once again in 2014,” Mr Tremain says. 

I am very sorry that the National Party, government and New Zealand, will lose Chris’s undoubted talents and enthusiasm for his roles as an MP and Minister.

But politics puts huge demands on MPs and their families and I understand his decision to put them first.

I also commend him for giving plenty of notice so that the party and potential candidates have time to select a candidate.


Is this really new?

September 30, 2013

Increasing work pressures are putting a strain on parents, who say it is robbing them of family time, a new survey shows.

The Hyundai Family Time Study surveyed 750 people and found 59 percent say work commitments have a “real impact” on the quality of their family life.

Almost half, 49 percent, of respondents reported working between 40 and 49 hours, while 13 percent work more than 50 hours a week. . .

Is that new?

My father was a carpenter at the freezing works. He left home not long after 7am, worked until 9pm several evenings and often had at least a half-day of work on Saturdays too. If he wasn’t at work he’d be in the garden, doing maintenance at home or voluntary work in the community.

Fathers of friends worked similar hours.

One difference between then and now was that Sundays were family days.

Shops weren’t open, there was no organised sport and very few other options for any entertainment we didn’t generate ourselves.

We went to Sunday School and church in the morning. In summer we almost always came home, packed a picnic and went to the river. When it was too cold for that we’d almost always have a family outing to the beach or river or to visit friends.

Another big difference is that it was very unusual for mothers to work outside the home when I was growing up. Now it is much more common.

However, when we were young we were left to our own devices much more.

Parents I observe now seem to spend more time actively with their children than most parents did when I was a child.

It wasn’t quite that we were to be seen and not heard, but we were expected to keep ourselves gainfully occupied without parental assistance and most of the time we did.


Rural round-up

September 30, 2013

Dung beetle holds dairy farm hopes – Alison Rudd:

Could dung beetles be the environmental warriors New Zealand dairy farmers have been waiting for?

They happily chew through the poo, turning waste into soil fertiliser. And with the average dairy cow producing 11 cow pats every day, the beetles have plenty of work ahead of them.

The national Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group (DBRSG) this week released its first 500 dung beetles into the ”wild” on an organic dairy farm at Tuturau, near Wyndham. Beetles will also be released soon on three other farms elsewhere in the country.

DBRSG chairman John Pearce, who flew from Auckland to supervise the release, said the beetles were expected to naturally spread to all properties, although that would take many years. . .

Prison farm work fodder for future –  Timothy Brown:

The entranceway to the 21st century edifice which occupies a 60ha site outside Milton is the last landmark before tarseal gives way to gravel on Narrowdale Rd.

Just around the corner, two large gum trees stand guard at the entrance to a dairy farm and down the driveway workers can be seen performing their daily tasks.

They look like workers on any dairy farm, but at the end of the working day these workers will return to that edifice in the distance because this is the Otago Corrections Facility’s dairy farm.

At the end of the driveway, I am greeted by the dairy farm’s principal instructor, Tony Russell. . .

Farmer ownership imperative – Sally Rae:

Finding the solutions to implement change in the red meat industry is still the major barrier in reaching the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group’s goals, chairman Richard Young says.

In his inaugural chairman’s report, Mr Young said meat company talks had offered no solution to date. However, those talks were still continuing.

What it did offer, if successful, was a managed approach to dealing with overcapacity.

Managed rationalisations would have less impact on all stakeholders and offer better outcomes than unmanaged rationalisations. . .

Pastures to boost hill country production:

AT LEAST 40% of New Zealand is too steep to cultivate yet still less than 1000m above sea-level.

The challenges of improving pasture on such land are considerable, but as the early results of a long-term project show, establishment of more productive species is possible.

What’s more, with the work on four contrasting sites around the country (see panel) on-going as part of the Pastoral 21* initiative, the findings promise to fine-tune best practice for improving and maintaining such country in the future. . .

Best practice could cut emissions by 30%: FAO:

GREENHOUSE GAS emissions by the livestock sector could be cut by as much as 30% through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies, according to a new study released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The report, Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities, represents the most comprehensive estimate made to-date of livestock’s contribution to global warming – as well as the sector’s potential to help tackle the problem.

All told, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with livestock supply chains total 14.5% of all human-caused GHG releases. . .

All eyes on cute badger cull in the UK - Steve Wyn-Harris:

Recently I had eight English sheep farmers come for a farm visit. (There are nine Mexicans coming tomorrow, so perhaps it will be 10 Lithuanians next week).

One of them was Charles Sercombe, who is the National Farmers Union (NFU) livestock chairman. He farms in Leicestershire.

He told me the main issues in front of the union are the Common Agricultural Policy reform and their attempts to get on top of tuberculosis (Tb), which involves starting a badger cull.

This piqued my interest, so I asked him in detail about the issue. Tb has become a major problem and one of the vectors is the badger. . .

 

A Banks Peninsula company has won New Zealand’s top olive oil award for the second year running.

Robinsons Bay Olives from Akaroa took the best in show award as well as best in class in the commercial medium blend class at the New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Awards, where international judges commented on the high quality of the oils produced here. . .

Let’s move from fossil farming to future-proof farming:

“The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides a stark choice for New Zealand agriculture,” says Brendan Hoare, Chair of OANZ (Organics Aotearoa New Zealand). “We either grasp this opportunity to move away from fossil farming to future-proof farming – or we keep making the problem of climate change even worse by the way we farm. The status quo of more dams, more fertilisers and more animals per hectare is at least 20 years out of date. It is time to change the guard and our thinking.”  . .


Bird of the year voting opens

September 30, 2013

Forest and Bird has opened voting for its annual bird of the year poll.

It aims to raise the profile of our native birds and also provides good publicity for the organisation.

 


House ownership has never been easy

September 30, 2013

The Herald has a story on MP’s buying their first houses.

Two points stand out – prices were lower but interest rates were much higher than they are now; the first step on the housing ladder often has to be modest.

Housing Minister Nick Smith:

. . .  bought his first home, a former state house in Riccarton, Christchurch, in 1985 while he was a 22-year-old at Canterbury University. He paid $24,000 for it, just before interest rates “went through the roof”, hitting 24 per cent.

“As a consequence, I spent the holiday building a new room on to it so I could get a new flatmate to pay the mortgage.

“I confess I was capitalist and I thought the economics worked in getting into the property market early, getting a heavy mortgage and trying to service it with four flatmates,” the minister said. . .

Auckland mayor Len Brown:

. . . recalls the difficulty of securing finance, and the cost of it, with interest rates of up to 23 per cent. “It was terrible. I don’t know how anyone ever owned any homes at all in those days,” the mayor said.

He believed the challenges in getting finance meant it was as difficult 34 years ago as it is now for first-home buyers. Back in the late seventies, “there was probably more housing available at relatively better prices”.

“Now it’s difficult because of the way prices are generally and because you’ve got to put together a 10, 15 or 20 per cent deposit.

“But the one thing I will say is if you’re prepared to start at a practical and realistic level in a community that you can afford, then you can still get a house, whether it’s an apartment at $200,000 or a standalone house at $350,000 to $400,000. That’s still available for you but you can’t afford to be too choosy.”

Justice Minister Judith Collins makes the same point:

. . . With interest rates around 20 per cent, it was “a huge struggle” to make payments.

She accepts it is difficult now, and says first-home buyers should be prepared “to buy a place that needs to be done up and to have a first home that may not be your last home”.

“I moved into a two-bedroom flat, I didn’t move into a five-bedroom mansion.

“What you have with your mum and dad is probably not what you’re going to get for your first home.”

It has never been easy to buy a house – high interest rates on lower mortgages were as least as difficult to service when these people were paying off their first homes as lower interest rates on higher-priced houses now.

Then we have Green co-leader Metiria Turei:

. . . She and her family left Auckland in 2002, partly because of the cost of housing on an MP’s salary.

She says there were good homes available in Dunedin for $140,000 to $180,000 when she was house hunting.

But her bank wouldn’t lend her less than $200,000 as she had no deposit and had to take out a 100 per cent mortgage.

She couldn’t cope with the cost of housing on an MPs salary and had no deposit saved?

That is a very sorry reflection on her financial management and a chilling reminder of how dangerous she could be in government.

People who can’t manage their own money shouldn’t be taking and spending other people’s.


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