Synthetic carpet not natural choice

August 26, 2014

This isn’t good news for wool growers:

Cavalier Corporation’s move into selling synthetic carpets into the New Zealand market is producing better returns than expected, as the group waits for better Australian trading and a fall in the kiwi dollar.

But this is better:

NZ wool carpet sales at the mid to upper ends of the market are also strong, with market share gains being achieved. . .

Synthetic isn’t the natural choice for carpets and it’s not good for the wool industry.

But wool has a good story in a world looking for greener products.

Wool is a natural, renewable fibre grown in New Zealand on free range animals.

If it can’t compete with synthetics at the bottom end of the market, it must have an advantage at the middle and top where people might be prepared to put their money where their desire for a cleaner, greener world is.

Working for NZ

August 24, 2014

While most economic indicators were improving, unemployment remained stubbornly high.

But the tide has now changed.

Unemployment is falling – in Otago it’s down to around the unemployable.

Government policies including more flexible employment law and careful financial management which has resulted in low interest rates and lower taxes has helped.

If National wins a third term the trend of lower employment, more jobs and higher wages will continue.

Stick with our programme of responsible economic management to keep NZ on the right track. #Working4NZ

If we get a Labour/Green/NZ First/Internet Mana government, taxes and interest rates will increase, employment law will be made less flexible, business will become more difficult and businesses will lose the confidence they need to increase their workforce and wages.

With a third-term  National-led government working for New Zealand more New Zealanders will be working.

Jordan Campbell's photo.

Conservative’s gain NZ First’s loss?

August 7, 2014

The Conservative Party has a new high profile candidate:

Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar has decided to stand for the Conservative Party in this year’s election.

The announcement was made today, meaning Mr McVicar will be standing aside as the trust’s co-national spokesman. . .

This follows the weekend’s announcement that Christine Rankin would stand in Epsom.

If the Conservatives gain from this the likely loser will be New Zealand first which usually campaigns on tougher welfare policies and more family-friendly policies which would be Rankin’s territory and  longer sentences and better support for victims which  McVicar promotes.

Eric Roy’s valedictory

August 2, 2014

Invercargill MP and deputy speaker, Eric Roy delivered his valedictory statement on Wednesday:

ERIC ROY (Deputy Speaker – National): Can I begin with an immortal quote from * Ecclesiastes * 3 that says that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens; a time to be born, a time to die, and a time to uproot. And so it is that our family is in their season of uprooting and finding some new challenges.

I have often said that politics is a little bit like a crayfish pot. It takes a bit of energy to find the opening and to get in, but it is even harder to get out, and it is somewhat more difficult to get out undamaged. Whether I am undamaged or not is for others to choose, but certainly for myself I can report I have learnt a lot, I have grown a lot, and I have made some really great friends.

The year 2014 is a significant and pivotal year in our family, but in life’s calendar there have been other pivotal years. I guess this started in another very pivotal year, 1972. Four things happened that were kind of loosely connected: I got married, the * Norm Kirk Government swept to power, I bought a tractor—a David Brown 990, white model—and I joined the National Party. The connection was that the tractor salesman was incensed that Labour had the right, after 4 years of National Government, to assume the Treasury benches. He was able to persuade me, with my new responsibilities of a David Brown 990, white model, and a new wife, that I should join the National Party. Little did I know that that would set me on a course where I actually ended up here. I can now report that the David Brown is, to give it a technical term, * munted and the membership of the National Party has been an interesting ride, but the real winner of that year was certainly the marriage.

You just stand here in your valedictory and you have got an absolute montage of thoughts about what you could do. I thought I might give out a few awards. I will say that these are rhetorical and not material. My first award goes to Elizabeth, who has been my most valued and energetic supporter. Elizabeth has a saying that behind every great man there is a great behind. I am not one to disagree with Elizabeth. At this time I would also certainly like to thank my parliamentary team of Susie, Michelle, Patty, and Pauline. I need to also acknowledge my business managers Felicity, Steven, and Terry, who run our * Te Ānau operation and who have uncomplainingly kept things on an even keel. I could spend some 10 minutes naming, identifying, and extolling a number of people who have assisted me, suffice to say in the confines of time I just want to acknowledge people in a variety of communities, committees, and roles who have been generous in their support, help, and advice and who have been very beneficial to my time here.

It used to be that 21 years was the age of majority, and you got the key to the door. I joined the party in 1972. Twenty-one years later in 1993 I had the key to the door and I came to Parliament. Since then I have represented two electorates, had two terms on the list. I have been in Parliament, out of Parliament, back in Parliament. I have been in Government, out of Government, and back in Government. It is 21 years since 1993. I have got the key to the door; I am leaving. One should not try to interpret any reason for that; it is just a time to uproot and take some new challenges. It may have a lot to do that I want to leave this place before I am subsumed into the fourth stage of manhood. If you are not familiar with that, stage one you believe in * Santa Claus, stage two you do not believe in Santa Claus, stage three you are Santa Claus, and stage four you look like Santa Claus.

But it is great that with my maiden speech there were three generations of Roys in the gallery; today there are three generations of Roys again, but they are different generations. It is good to be able to do this amongst family and friends. Each one of us comes to Parliament representing a kind of matrix of various things that we have been involved with. Certainly for me, there was a variety of community groups and activities across a wide range of organisations, a background in agriculture and farming, a strong sense of Christian values that were steeped in Presbyterianism, and a love of the outdoors. Many people know I have got a bit of a passion for hunting. It was not very long until Bill English gave me the brand that this was the Christian who kills.

If I was to give an award for the most hectic time in Parliament, it would certainly be in my first term of 1993 to 1996. Inside a year, because of a transgression of John “Hone” Carter I was a junior whip. As we neared the first * MMP election, with the advent of opportunities that might persist in places other than the various parties that exist, we had the formation of a number of parties and erosion out of our backbench—the formation of United Future, the * Right of Centre Party, and also the * Conservatives. I ended up as a junior whip with a backbench of 13 people to run the select committees. It was at that time that as a systems person I created a number of mechanisms to actually know where people were and what they were doing. That certainly stood as a mechanism that whips used for some time—I am not sure if it is still used. I also had to have an overlay of Cabinet committees and the agendas of when various Ministers were involved in those committees so that I could pull people out and man select committees. Over that period of about 18 months when I had those numbers to work with we never lost a vote in a select committee. It is interesting that during that time we lost five votes in the House. I think in a way we think that the world will fall down when that happens. I would predict that under MMP that will happen again. We ought not to get too serious about that sort of thing happening.

Why I say it was so hectic is that while I was busy as whip I was also a select committee chair. I ran the Primary Production Committee largely just with myself on one side. The biggest thing we did in that time was a total rewrite of the * Fisheries Act. This was a paradigm shift away from the old to a new sustainable process, giving property rights, quota management, and a whole lot of issues that had never been done anywhere else in the world. Although I was not the architect of that bill, our committee was certainly tasked with making it work and making a number of substantial changes that we put into the bill. It was about 19 months’ work. And so it was that before we actually got there, I did something quite interesting. We were kind of bound up and could not find a way through the maze of submissions and advice and contradictions that were about. So as a committee we put out a position paper. I called in all the parties, who were highly polarised, and impressed upon them what * Chatham House Rules were. I then presented the position paper and threatened them with all kinds of things that probably did not exist in * Standing Orders if they broke ranks.

You have got to remember that in that environment there were sort of the eco-groups represented by * Greenpeace, commercial fishing on the other side, Māori customary, recreational. We put out what we thought were ways forward on deeming, setting of * total allowable commercial catch, and a whole lot of things that we just could not find our way through. Everybody held to the * Chatham House Rules, and on the basis of equal screaming we made some decisions that were put in the bill. The bill came back to the House about exactly the same time in the political cycle as we are now, as we were closing out for 1996. Then putting on my whip’s hat, I was able to persuade the House that a 550-page bill could be taken as one question in 15 minutes in the House in Committee and then dealt with forthwith in another 20 minutes in the third reading.

It is kind of interesting that 18 years on, those substantive things that were put in have not been changed, but of interest further is that last month a report on an audit of fishing systems in 53 different countries around the world was put out and New Zealand came out as best managed and most sustainable.

I cannot give myself an award, but I would certainly give myself a tick for what we did on fishing. That was quite an extraordinary period of time.

The following year the award for greatest adversary appeared. It occurred quite simply. One night I could not eat my tea and later that evening I was walking up Glenmore Street and I collapsed. Sometime later, and I am not sure when, a car picked me up and took me to my flat. That was Thursday night. It was Monday before I could get to the doctor. He pushed and prodded and then got me scanned forthwith, and they found that I had lumps inside me as big as footballs, as my entire lymph system had been taken over by an aggressive lymphoma. The oncologist informed me that I had a 20 percent chance of getting through it, which is a kind of code for “Are your insurance premiums up to date?”. They opened me up, then closed me up, and said that there was nothing they could do. So I went home and I was sitting there—this was Wednesday. So the award for the most surreal telephone conversation I have ever had in my life went something like this. Here I am, sitting at home internalising some reasonably significant issues. The phone goes—ring, ring. “Hello, this is Eric.” “This is Murray McCully.” I think, goodness me. The all-knowing black knight has heard about my predicament and he cares. “What’s on your mind, Murray?”. “Um, I have to give a speech in Invercargill on Friday. It’s July and I’ve got a very bad cold. I don’t think I should be going to Invercargill on Friday. Can you do it for me?”. “Murray—um, do you think I really should be doing this? I’m sorry to hear about your cold, but I’m dying of cancer.” There was a long pause, then “Ha, ha! I’ll send you the notes.”

Much is often said about the dog-eat-dog bear pit of this place. It is certainly my experience that there are genuine people in here, across the House, for whom I have a great deal of admiration. I will give you an example of that. When I was in this battle, the first two MPs through my door at my farm were Damien O’Connor and Jim Sutton. And afterwards there were numerous acts of kindness and areas of support that really were a big part of the fight that I was in—some of it more helpful than others. Some of it made me smile, like the wonderful words of support from H V Ross Robertson: “You’ll be right, mate. Big strong bloke like you, you’ll be right. But you are lucky. If it’s in your lymph, you’re buggered, you know.” So Ross gets the award for the best or worst backhanded compliment.

In order to truncate the whole story about the cancer, let me just say that it is a small part in a book that I have almost written, called Notes to the Grandchildren, which will be available at all good booksellers presently. There are two ongoing repercussions from this event of a brush with death, and they are not unique to me, but they have impacted me. One is that when you go through medical trauma, your senses kind of get mucked around emotionally. I do not understand it, but I knew it had happened to me when I found myself crying when Nemo got lost. The second one is that you have an increased sense of your own mortality and you are doing all this self-assessment and appraisal about what you are doing, how you are doing it, and where you are doing it, and whether it is the right thing, and that can be a bit of an insomniac or monkey on your back.

But after an absence from Parliament, I came back and was invited to take up a role as a presiding officer. It is quite a simple job, in principle: protecting the rights of the minority and ensuring the will of the majority, but, of course, it all takes place in an environment of wounding, damaging, getting credibility for yourself, and there are layers of passion and all sorts of things come in there. That is what makes it interesting. I think in a way, reflectively, there has been a bit of a change since MMP and the battle now is more party to party because, of course, that is the important vote, and we have changed some things we do. When I came in here, general debates were principally opportunities for individuals to raise matters of concern in their own electorate or elsewhere. It is now largely for most parties a themed debate, and I think we are not as well served by that. Is there an issue for change? I believe there is, and I have for some time, and I have an increasing feeling that we should do this and that is, make all third reading votes a personal vote. Note well that I am saying personal vote not free vote. I think increasingly there is some isolation and dislocation by members in this House from the actual meaning of voting and we see when a vote comes along, sometimes the groupings left and right advise the minor parties what they are doing. We are seeing increasing times when there is redress sought to either amend the vote or to record in the record of the House what actually was the intention. Even more recently we are seeing the veracity of proxies challenged by points of order or by interjection. I do not think that looks too credible in the eyes of the public. It is not what they expect from their representatives in the highest court of the land. I do realise that there would be a time factor involved in actually doing this. I think the Business Committee could think about how that might be done. One suggestion would be to have any third reading votes immediately after question time the following day, or even one more extended hour in a session of a Parliament would cover for any of that time that had been taken up in that personal vote situation.

One of the greatest disciplines about being a presiding officer is curtailing response. Sometimes you people, as you get involved in debate—I am just dying to respond into a debate and I have not been able to do that. The other thing is: curtailing the desire to actually reposed with an interjection at times. That has been so hard. In an emergency I turn to my right-hand man, Roland Todd, and say “Roly, this is how it works” and tell him. Roland always had a three word response that never changed: “Is that so?”. Thank you, Roland.

The cruellest barb award goes to an occurrence that occurred outside Parliament. I was going to give a speech at a field day in Palmerston North, and the best app on my * BlackBerry could not find the memorial hall. I saw this guy in a dirty ute with a tweed jacket and I thought “He’s gotta be going there”. So I asked him where the memorial hall was, and he told me, and then I looked at my watch because I was the opening shot, and he said: “Look. There’s no need to worry. They’ve got a boring old fart from Wellington opening it up.” That is the cruellest barb—as old fart, yes, but boring?

Let me just conclude with a couple of issues that I think it would be remiss of me not to mention, because they are issues that I have as probably my greatest concerns. The first is the sort of ongoing inability of a number of New Zealand citizens to make sensible decisions in relation to their own conduct. I have made some comments about this in my maiden address. I can give you some examples. On 16 January this year in Golden Bay hundreds of people spent 3 nights trying to stop some pilot whales from beaching themselves. So inherently there is good in all of us. On 16 January this year, the same day, Mrs ** Pravit Singh in Papatoetoe was attacked by two assailants and in a crowd of hundreds of people she called for help. No one went.

Worse than that, when she escaped and started to flee, some of the onlookers herded her back to the assailants. There is something inherently wrong with a society that actually cannot make proper and sensible decisions.

It is my view that we have stepped away from reference points that enable us to actually do that. We used to be solidly grounded in Judaeo-Christian values and that kind of worked for us. We have never had the debate about what we put in their place if we actually want to move away from that. I do acknowledge that it is not the role of this Parliament in any way to be a faith promoter and that there should be that separation between religion and politics. This is where I think it does transcend that: when we deal with issues of conscience, how do we actually make those decisions? When we are on the big issues like euthanasia, trading in alcohol, abortion, or any of those issues, do we do it out of convenience, fairness, populism, or do we have a basis for choosing right and wrong, and what sort of a message are we actually sending to the wider community?

The last point that is a big concern to me would be the award for the biggest lesson that I have learnt. Let me reference it a wee bit for a start. Some of you will know that in 1967 I did some volunteer service. I went to Vanuatu and there I, interestingly, learnt about cargo cults. What are cargo cults? “Kago” in Bislama is “possessions”. A phone would be cargo—anything that you have. What happened was that as these people who had lived there and had lived idyllically for a long time were contaminated by a lot of people who came in with a whole lot of cargo, they got to thinking “How do we get this?”. During the Second World War was probably the advent of most of these. On the island of Tanna there is a cargo cult called the John Frum movement. One night in Tanna, as people were talking about how they could get the cargo, a man in a splendiferous uniform arrived and pulled a big scam. He said: “Give you money and I shall return with money for you, but these are the things you need to do to worship. I am John from America.”—hence the John Frum movement. He took their money and left. Four generations on, people on Tanna are still waiting.

We laugh and think that is kind of quaint, but in reality the biggest lesson for me is that cargo cults are very much a part of every part of society. Weekly I have people saying to me: “Why doesn’t the Government do this? Why don’t you do this?” People have an expectation that there is some other way that they can actually get cargo. I absolutely applaud what Paula Bennett is doing—showing people who have got into a dependency mould that there are other pathways.

Here is the real rub, though. As we get into the last 5 or 6 weeks before an election and parties are really, really keen to retain power or earn power, we could use the equity of this country to promise cargo that might be a reward in the ballot box. I think that we need to really ponder the motive of how we actually do all of those things coming up through the election. I will not be here so I just make that little call now.

In spite of much encouragement I have decided not to sing a waiata at this point. However, I have written a valedictory poem, which is quite short. It is called “October”, and with apologies to * A B Paterson:

There was movement up in Welly, for the word had passed around

That a new Parliament was under way,

They gathered from electorates, new faces to abound

And all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

All the tried and noted members from electorates near and far

Had gathered to the Parly for the fight,

For the members love hard talking where the nation’s fortunes lie

And the MPs sniff the battle with delight.

But in a quiet mountain valley, there’s a stream with crystal flow.

A man with fly rod ready, a trout to be his foe,

Recalled his journey forays in the days of Wellington,

He reflected for a moment and times in House and so

Of democracy and friendships, the privileged to serve,

Of bells and whips and caucus, select committees too,

While Standing Orders, Speakers’ rulings, points of order, “Order!”.

He clears his thought, a trout rises, solitude returns.

I bid you adieu.

Corruption-free status should be celebrated

July 20, 2014

New Zealanders should celebrate having the world’s least-corrupt public sector as keenly as they celebrate the success of the All Blacks, says the chair of Transparency International New Zealand, Suzanne Snively.

She was speaking at a national symposium on new approaches to governance, held at Massey University’s Albany campus recently.

Snively says a colour-coded world map illustrating New Zealand’s place on the spectrum of corruption rankings should be as prized as a poster of the All Blacks.

“We need to share this map on staff rooms and living rooms around the country,” she told the gathering of governance experts from public, private and not-for-profit organisations.

New Zealand scored first-equal with Denmark with 91 out of 100 points on the Transparency International survey on perceptions of public sector corruption in 177 countries and territories around the world.

She says while many people are under the impression New Zealand has high levels of corruption due to media coverage of high level cases, those cases were few and far between in global terms.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat all corruption seriously but it is important to keep it in perspective.

It is also important that we don’t rest on our laurels. Low corruption unfortunately isn’t no corruption.

However this relatively virtuous status has not been achieved deliberately, and she urged public, private and non-governmental sector organisations to be more proactive about preventing corruption.

Recommendations for this in Transparency International New Zealand’s recently published report include improving transparency and accountability systems.

She spoke of the need to reinforce factors that sustain our integrity as a “high trust” society. Among weaknesses identified by her organisation are a lack of transparency in political party financing and donations to individual politicians.

Snively, previously a partner in Public Sector Advisory at Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ Wellington office, and a regular analyst and commentator on New Zealand’s comparative economic position for over 25 years, says a “lack of focus” on good governance could lead to “economic crimes”.

As organisations increasingly operate globally, they encounter different cultural values and practices – such as ‘facilitation payments’ – that constitute normal business methods in some countries but are considered corrupt by New Zealand standards, she says. . . 

We must guard against lowering our standards to what might be considered normal elsewhere.

There are moral and financial reasons for ensuring we reduce corruption further.

It isn’t coincidence that countries with less corruption are wealthier and those where corruption is rife are poorer and with a far greater gap between rich and poor.



For next generation

July 6, 2014

Conor English used his last speech as CEO of Federated Farmers to stress the importance of  keeping up for the next generation: (the bold is mine).

It is a pleasure to be at my final AGM for Federated Farmers. Having spent almost four years in my twenties and six years in my forties, I will not be spending one day at Federated Farmers in my fifties! I technically finish on the 23 July, six years to the day that I started, and then the following day I am lucky enough to turn 50.

There are many things one could talk about on such an occasion, the progress that has been made, the importance of farming families and the rural sector to NZ, but I just want to touch on a few issues and express perhaps a more personal view and take some license.

I was talking to a regional government politician recently, and I asked him if he could look an 11 year old in the eye and say that he was looking after her future with the decisions being made in his region. Reality is he couldn’t. I am of course referring to the Ruataniwha dam. I would qualify this by saying I have not read the final report of the board of enquiry, but my personal view is that this is an unfortunate situation. Hawkes Bay is one of New Zealand’s fantastic regions that has now far less of a future. In simplistic terms the board of enquiry has said you can build the dam but you can’t use the water. In my view unfortunately politics appears to have triumphed over the environment.

We all need to be able to look our 11 year old child in the eye and say that we are looking after their future. The 11 year old girls and boys of Hawkes Bay will now be looking for a future elsewhere. Bad decisions matter.

I am a big believer in trying to make informed decisions. I think it is critical that decisions are made with as many facts as possible. While emotion has its place, decisions need to be made on more than that. Science is very important too, and we need to have objective measures to assist as well. Trade-offs are often required so it’s important we take the time and make the effort to get as informed as possible, so we don’t have unintended consequences. In my view we may not have made fully informed decisions with TAF. So are we making informed decisions on water?

As the father of six children I believe I have as big a stake in the future as everyone else does. I absolutely want a future that sees our environment looked after. Sustainability is a word that is used a lot; indeed Federated Farmers mission is to influence decision makers for more profitable and sustainable farming. I was fortunate enough to represent New Zealand at the Rio +20 Conference on Sustainability a couple of years ago. There were 50,000 people at this conference. I asked as many people as I could what their definition of sustainability was. I got as many answers as the people I asked. In my view it is about being able to do things for generations. That is we need to be able to harvest the environment but not harvest the capital of the environment. Farmers in New Zealand do this every day. If there are some that don’t, they do need to buck up there ideas.

Should we go back to prehistoric levels of biodiversity or other environment indicators? The environment has been changed by human kind and it will continue to do so, but it must be done in a way that does think about future generations. Every New Zealander needs to take some responsibility.

When I look at the issue of water quality, it is puzzling for me because New Zealanders have not had an open and honest discussion about it. There has been far too much emphasis on one element, which is nitrogen, and far too much generalisation about farming, Where has been the examination of the impact of the other things that impact on water quality? A singular focus on only nitrates will mean we end up solving the wrong problem.

There is a river going through the Milton township, and the Otago Regional Council put out a notice that said ‘Please do not swim below the bridge because the e-coli levels are unsafe for swimming’. This was not because of the 28 dairy farms on the catchment but because Milton pumps partially treated sewage into the river. This council however, then chose to put out a further newsletter about a year later calling for public meetings to talk about the impact of dairy effluent storage on water quality. If you had no farms, you still won’t be able to swim because of the sewage situation. We are here in Palmerston North, who apparently has the worst river in the world, really? Is this council investing in its sewage scheme? No I don’t believe it is. Is it talking about dairying being the big polluter? Yes I think it is. Is it solving its own problems? No its not.

My challenge to every New Zealander is that we need to be more up front and honest about these things. My view is until every New Zealander takes responsibility for the impact that they are having on their water quality, and until we have more transparency around the nature of that water quality problem and solutions, we will not make the progress that we need to make.

With issues such as climate change, again it is important that we make informed decisions. It is not good for the global environment to have less farming happening in New Zealand. It is not clear to me how farmers paying someone some money will change the weather. What is clear to me though is that more effort into improving productivity, more effort into innovation, into a collective global effort to look at broader solutions would be practical and useful, as well as more effort into water storage. If you think it is going to get hotter water storage is a useful thing to do. This is why I have been very puzzled by the green opposition to water storage projects. My challenge to them is please explain to New Zealanders how drought is good for the fish, the environment, the economy and society?

I don’t subscribe to the notion that unless you have green in your name you are not green. If that were true, perhaps we should change the name to Federated Green Farmers or FGF. Farmers by the nature of their workplace and what they do are actually the green jobs. Farmers are the ones making decisions at the coalface so to speak, and by and large they do a very good job. As an organisation, Federated Farmers was an instigator in setting up Landcare Research, QEII Trust, tied up with the Balance Awards and more recently has taken over the management of the AgRecovery Trust.

We have done this because the environment matters to farming. People who call themselves “green” could learn a lot from farmers. My challenge to these people is to make the effort. Work with farmers to look for win win practical, fair, economic sensible solutions that actually make a difference in the real world. Please do not just look for some emotional sound bite that’s just about creating fear and raising money for your organisations. Celebrity doesn’t solve environmental problems.

If you do look in the eyes of an 11 year old, one of the things you know with certainty is that the world they will grow up in, in terms of technology, is different to the world when I was 11. This is why I have been extremely passionate about the rural broadband initiative. It is absolutely critical if we want our regions to prosper and to enhance the environment that we have the railway tracks of broadband and cellphone coverage. The world is going mobile.

This government is to be congratulated, that when they didn’t quite have it right they listened to Federated Farmers and changed policy to enable the rural broadband initiative to be far more substantial than what it was going to be. My challenge to this government and future government’s is that there must be far more investment in provincial New Zealand in terms of cell coverage and broadband infrastructure.

Our population is growing but a lot of that growth is in Auckland, which is creating challenges for that city. People will simply not live in the regions unless they can be connected. If the government is going to be involved in these things it needs to prioritise provincial New Zealand. When the RBI initiative runs out, I think its next year at a minimum, then it needs to be continued for another six years.

Also with technology comes new ways of learning and is incumbent on our schools, universities and research institutions to adapt to what I know is a big challenge. I have been on a couple of boards of trustees and I know the teachers in those schools are very good and their hearts are in the right place, but again when we look at the rest of the world we need to ensure that our children can be up with the latest and the greatest in learning techniques if we are to remain competitive with the rest of the world.

As an aside, I would also comment that some of our curriculum needs to be adapted. I asked one of my children what they were covering in their history subjects and it was essentially the same as what I did a decade or two ago. History doesn’t change of course so maybe that’s not so surprising, but the present context in which we study does. In my view, every school in New Zealand should now be looking more east when it studies how other people live and some of the historical events over time. Since I was 11, our trading patterns have shifted dramatically but our curricular hasn’t much. That’s simply not good enough.

I have to say I am very proud of my wife Jo Coughlan who along with Labour MP Raymond Hau is the Co -Chair of New Zealand China language week, amongst other things. This initiative is looking to provide some leadership to not only encourage people to learn another language, but also more about the culture and history of China.

We are part of Asia and we are part of the West. This is a fantastic position to be in.
We are also seeing some other big shifts, as well as the shift from west to east. Demographically on the demand side we are seeing more, older, wealthier people, who can afford to pay more for protein. This is great for New Zealand. The challenge is how do we capture as much of this opportunity for the benefit of New Zealand? However, on the supply side in New Zealand we have a bit of a challenge as the farms are getting bigger and the families are getting smaller.

Succession is an issue. The family farm needs to be exempted from any capital gains tax, just as the family home is proposed to be. We need more human capability, and governments who want to double exports should be prioritising more resources into agricultural and food education.

Speed is increasing and by definition things are happening quicker. In the geo political space the changes taking place in countries such as Ukraine and Iraq seemed to happen extremely quickly. We have seen changes take place right through North Africa, where 40 year old regimes were toppled quickly.

It’s the same in the supply chain, commodity and financial markets. This increase in speed increases volatility and heightens the requirement for us to manage risk. Farmers have incredible risks as they operate in a biological farming system, with weather, exchange rate and international market volatility. There are a lot of variables changing on a daily basis. Farmers need to manage risk more. Federated Farmers plays its part by helping to manage regulatory risk.

My challenge to all farmers is to front up with that crunchie bar a day and financially support your organisation.

Probably one of the most fundamental changes there has been in the last couple of thousand years has been what I have termed a change from people being “readers” to “writers”. For most of my early childhood I read and listened to what my parents or the government told me, or what people trying to sell me things told me. Now however, with capability of the internet and social media, we can write about that. When I book a hotel now I don’t read what the hotel says about themselves, I read what other people have written about it.

This has fundamentally changed some of the relationships in our society and in a way has democratised countries that may not have the traditional traits of democracy. It means that things are more visible, it means that agriculture is more visible. Farmers are on a stage and they need to understand that what they do and how they behave can go global in a very short space of time. This is an opportunity as well as a challenge. Unfortunately we may be defined by our weakest link so all farmers need to get it right.

I was at Alibaba HQ recently and on just one of their platforms, by 1pm in the afternoon, they had transacted over 10 million transactions. That means change.

I could talk all day about change and a few other views I might have but this is my last speech at a Feds AGM, so I actually want to say thank you to a few people.

You cannot be in the role I have been in without having a lot of support from a lot of people. Federated Farmers is a big team effort, and I have always believed that our model of elected farmers working alongside paid professionals is a very powerful and effective one. I hope it continues.

I do want to thank the magnificent staff at Federated Farmers. They are a very dedicated and passionate bunch of people. It has been my privilege to be your boss. I am a huge believer that life is about being happy and successful. I would like to think that the staff feel that way about the contribution they each have made over the past six years. In particular I would like to mention the senior management team and my PA’s that have had to put up with me. They have done a great job of keeping me on the straight and narrow. So thank you.

Farmer engagement is critical to organisations like Federated Farmers, but more importantly it is critical to the running of the country. If New Zealand’s biggest sector does not engage through Federated Farmers and our voice is not heard, then the outcomes for the country would be less than they might be.

It has been hugely satisfying for me to see the calibre of elected people coming into Federated Farmers. As they say, success breeds success. I would like to thank all those office holders and in particular the two boards I have served under over the past six years. I have learnt a lot and I have enjoyed their friendship and stimulation of some, at times tense, discussions on various issues.

It has always been my view that it is unprofessional to expect people to read your mind. My hope going forward is that the farming community will continue to stand up and say what it thinks about issues. Our urban people do actually want to know, and they want to know from the horse’s mouth. I think it is unfair to expect others to know what we are thinking without articulating it. Some of these issues are difficult and are complicated but we need to get the views on the table. We need the contest of ideas. I like people to think. This is why I say some of the things I say from time to time.

My focus has very much been on articulating solutions rather than just problems. You cannot implement a problem. One thing I would say though is while often farmers can focus too much on problems and not enough on solutions, NGO’s can often focus too much on a solution, or a perceived solution without actually analysing the problem. Jumping to solutions isn’t always the smartest thing to do without fully understanding the practical, as well as political, problem. The “least worst outcome” syndrome is one I personally dislike enormously.

In my view, with water quality this is possibly the case. I am very nervous about solutions that would see diffuse nitrates allocated to individual farms and then a cap and trade regime introduced. Overseer as a regulatory tool is a mistake. There is a reason why no one else in the world has done this. I think there needs to be caution when the changes are going to impact the social fabric of rural New Zealand over the next couple of years and the agricultural fabric for the next couple of hundred years.

As well as the staff and elected people of Federated Farmers I do want to thank the membership of Federated Farmers, and all those in the rural community. It has actually been my privilege and pleasure to serve you in the capacity I was so fortunate to have been given six years ago.

Almost finally, I would like to thank the two presidents I have served under, Bruce Wills and Don Nicholson. The relationship between the Chief Executive and the Chairman of the Board is absolutely critical and I have been fortunate that most of the time that has been a very good relationship. Yes at times there have been differences, but that is a good thing. It is good to have a contest of ideas, so to Bruce and Don, thank you both for the support and the learnings I have had from each of you.

I would just like to thank my family and in particular my wife Jo. This role can be demanding of your time, especially the cocktail circuit, and Jo I would have to say, has been incredibly supportive and patient and I want to publicly acknowledge her for that. She is amazing and she deserves me, so I am happy for her on that score!

Having mentioned my wife, before I finish, I do want to acknowledge the role and contribution that the fairer sex make to agriculture. When my mother went to finance the purchase of a farm in 1972, Wrightson at the time didn’t finance it, not because the proposition didn’t make sense, but because it was a woman making the proposition. Thankfully we have moved on from that.

Women make a huge contribution to agriculture and New Zealand. Rural New Zealand understand this. Now when winners are announced at the dairy awards, mostly it is a couple who come to the stage to receive it. Everyone knows that makes sense. I think the gender partnership in the rural community is a real strength and I would encourage more women to become involved with Federated Farmers just like our two current excellent woman board members.

I am very proud of what Federated Farmers and our rural community has achieved. There is a still lot to do. Collectively farmers are a fantastic group of kiwis who want the world to be a better place, who take risks and do the work to enable this to happen. I salute you.

Finally, what is next? Well it isn’t politics, its business again. I have set up an organisation called Agribusiness New Zealand. We will be focusing on exporting, investment and projects, both domestically and internationally. It’s a different way of making a difference. Well I am not 11 anymore, I turn 50 in 20 days and I can say I am very happy with my lot and very excited about where my life is going. Watch this space. Thank you.

 And thank you Conor, for the positive difference you made as CEO and your strong advocacy for farming, farmers and the wider rural community.


Lifting educational achievement

July 5, 2014

It’s risky for government’s to set targets.

National took that risk with its Better Public Service Targets and is making good progress towards them.

One of the targets was lifting educational achievement  and pupils and students are making good progress:

Education Minister Hekia Parata says thousands more young people are on the road to success as a result of continued improvements in NCEA achievement and early childhood education participation.

Ms Parata says the improved results for the Better Public Service Targets in both areas highlight the impact of extensive work to make sure that all kids get the chance to do their very best.

“We’ve now got 78.6 per cent of 18 year olds with a minimum of NCEA level 2, which is up 4.3 percentage points in just two years and up more than 10 percentage points since 2008.

“That means in the past two years alone, nearly 1600 more kids getting over the line. That’s an outstanding achievement that gives them many more options in life and better prospects.

“It is especially heartening in that period to see a 6.2 percentage point increase for young Maori, and an increase of 5.9 percentage points for our Pasifika students.

“We know there’s more work to do, particularly for the target groups, to ensure we have 85 per cent of all 18 year olds achieving NCEA Level 2 by 2017 and we’re doing it. The targeted approach our Government is taking to education works.

“Over the past five years we’ve focused on collecting data from across the whole education system so we can see how it’s performing at every level and where we need to target resources.

“That has helped identify which students need what kind of support through programmes such as Pasifika Power Up, Youth Guarantee, Achievement 2013-17, and Trade Academies.”

Ms Parata says the $359 million Investing in Educational Success initiative is designed to lift student achievement further through improved teaching and leadership in school and will also mean better outcomes.

“We know those are the two areas that have the biggest in-school impact on student achievement, and that’s why this investment is being made.

Ms Parata says the increase in early childhood education (ECE) participation to 95.9 percent is exciting because it gives so many more children the right start in life.

“We’ve seen growth for all groups in ECE participation including Maori and Pasifika, and overall it represents another 3,839 kids since mid-2011.

“We are committed to continuing all efforts to make sure that by 2016, 98 per cent of all new school entrants will have been in ECE.

“In Budget 2014, we invested a further $155.7 million over four years in early childhood education, which means Government spending on ECE has almost doubled, from over $800 million in 2007/08 to $1.5 billion in 2013/14. “

Ms Parata says changes across the education system and funding boosts will allow generations of children more promising futures.

“We have made big strides. We are going to continue building on that by looking at further support in particular for children with special needs and working to make the whole education journey more seamless and successful. In both of those areas we’re already making significant investment.

“We have increased funding for special needs by 26 per cent over the past five years and have given schools a $600 million increase in operational funding that covers areas like teachers’ aides.

“There is of course more we want to do in special needs. That will be of the focus of more work over the coming months, as will Investing in Educational Success so we have communities of schools and the new roles for teachers and principals in place from next year,” Ms Parata says.


Figures for NCEA Level 2

National’s determination to lift educational achievement is working for the pupils and students, prospective employers and it’s #‎Working4NZ‬:


We’ve been working on lifting achievement in education and it’s delivering great results. #Working4NZ


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