Labour wants non-tariff barriers

April 4, 2014

Labour is calling for a ban on imports of fruit from all high-risk areas.

Labour is calling on the Government to immediately ban the importation of fruit from high-risk areas after the discovery of the second Queensland fruit fly in Whangarei today, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries this afternoon established a 1.5km controlled area around Parihaka where the fruit fly was found. Fresh fruit and some vegetables will not be permitted to be taken out of this zone.

“However, Labour believes more drastic action must be taken until the pathway these pests took into New Zealand has been determined.

“It seems pointless to set up a controlled area when we are still importing fruit from Australian states such as Queensland and New South Wales which are struggling to control fruit flies.

“Labour wants fruit imported from these states immediately halted until the Ministry for Primary Industries can assure the public our crucial horticulture industry can be protected from these devastating pests,” Damien O’Connor says.

MPI is treating the discovery of a fruit fly in Whangarei very seriously.

. . . MPI Deputy Director General Compliance and Response, Andrew Coleman, says the insect was trapped in the Parihaka area of Whangarei, approximately 400m from where a single fly was found in January this year.

“However, all our information at this stage tells us this detection is a new find and not related to the January incident.

 “Queensland fruit fly has been found four times in New Zealand previously, including the January Whangarei detection. In all these earlier cases, increased trapping found no further flies,” Mr Coleman says.

MPI has responded promptly and field teams are already working in the area setting additional traps to determine if other fruit flies are present and providing information to residents.

“As in January, it is vital we find out if the insect is a solitary find or if there is a wider population in Whangarei.

“This insect is an unwanted and notifiable organism that could have serious consequences for New Zealand’s horticultural industry and home gardeners.  It can damage a wide range of fruit and vegetables,” Mr Coleman says.

MPI is working closely with international trading partners and the horticultural industry to minimise the risk to New Zealand growers and exporters.

The Ministry is defining a controlled area around the location of the fruit fly detection and the movement of fruit and vegetables out of this area will be restricted. MPI will provide extensive information about this in the near future and will work closely with the local community. 

“The Whangarei community were immensely supportive of our efforts earlier this year and we anticipate they will be again. It is, of course, disappointing that this situation has recurred.”

Mr Coleman says the most likely way that fruit fly can arrive in New Zealand is in fresh fruit and vegetables.

MPI has strict import requirements in place to minimise this risk.  All plant material and fruit that can host the Queensland fruit fly can only be imported if it meets our standards and these include measures such as approved pre-export treatment or certification of pest freedom by exporting countries. Air and sea passengers are prohibited from bringing fresh fruit and vegetables into the country.

“The Ministry is aware that fruit fly populations have dramatically increased in Australia in recent months and in light of the previous Whangarei find, we have been reviewing our importing requirements for fruit fly risk goods.”  

Andrew Coleman says it is important to bear in mind that MPI has to date been highly successful in keeping this insect threat out of New Zealand crops.

“This latest find demonstrates the benefit and effectiveness of MPI’s lure-based surveillance trapping network and the biosecurity system. 

“By setting traps for these pest insects, we are able to detect their presence early, have assurance about exactly where the problem is located and respond faster and more effectively where finds like this are made.”

Residents in affected parts of Whangarei may notice increased activity in their neighbourhood over the next few days as MPI staff go about their inspections and trapping.  MPI asks that people support this important work.

An infestation of fruit fly would have a serious impact on our horticulture but O’Connor’s call for a ban is an over reaction.

That would effectively be a non-tariff barrier, similar to the one the Australians used to stop the importation of our apples.

New Zealand spent years battling that through the World Trade Organisation. We don’t want to go back there as the defendant.

Farming Show says no to Cunliffe

April 3, 2014

The Farming Show has interviewed the leaders of the National and labour parties each week for years.

When Jamie Mackay offered the spot to David Cunliffe he turned it down and Jamie wasn’t impressed.

Cunliffe has now had second thoughts:

CALLER PETER:   Good morning, Mr Cunliffe.
DAVID CUNLIFFE:             Morning.
CALLER PETER:   I was just wondering if you could explain why you’ve refused to appear on the Farming Show.
DAVID CUNLIFFE:             Actually, you know what? I’ll make an offer to you today. I’m happy to do that. I’ve changed my mind.
TIM FOOKES:     Why did you say no, though? This is…
DAVID CUNLIFFE:             Because I was told before I became leader that the particular show used to ridicule my predecessor in a way that was grossly unfair. Now, that may or may not be true, but that’s what I was told. I accepted that advice, and I declined to appear. This is…
CALLER PETER:   Russel Norman appears on it.
DAVID CUNLIFFE:             Yes, and I’ll tell you what, I’m making a commitment today: if I get a call from Jamie Mackay, invite me on, I’ll do it. There you go.
TIM FOOKES:     There you go, Peter. Look, the problem is, if you’ve said no, do you expect Jamie Mackay to come knocking on your door and saying, look, if you’ve now said yes, will you come back?
DAVID CUNLIFFE:             It’s a good offer. It’s up to him. Doesn’t worry me either way.
TIM FOOKES:     I mean, this is the thing – and I was very surprised when you said no, or when your office said no, because you need, it appears, to get out there and to get among people, especially farmers and people who want – you know, want a bit of a…
DAVID CUNLIFFE:             Yes, look, believe it or not, I actually kind of like farming. I grew up in a farming district, South Canterbury. I spent a year working on a shearing gang and on a cropping farm. And I got dirt under my fingernails. In fact, I spent a fair while mucking out pigpens as well, but that’s another story. Oh, I could tell you some stories about pigpens. But I won’t.

Mackay is a professional.

He sometimes asks tough questions and he is sometimes irreverent but I have never heard him treat a politician unfairly.

Cunliffe obviously realises he made a mistake and has had second thoughts but the Farming Show host has not.

Everyone makes mistakes and this one has come back to bite Cunliffe.

He’s missed an opportunity to speak to provincial New Zealand – and city people who tune into Radio Sport from 12 -1pm.

But worse for him, in the interests of balance and on the advice of Damien O’Connor, Mackay already invited Shane Jones to appear.

So much for the south

September 27, 2013

Labour’s abandonment of the provinces is particularly noticeable in the South Island and the dearth of representation has been highlighted by the party’s reshuffle.

The first South Island MP in the line-up is list MP Clayton Cosgrove at number 7.

The next is another list MP Maryan Street at 12 and then West Coast Tasman MP Damien O’Connor at 19.

The party has only two MPs south of Christchurch. One of those, David Clark who is supposed to be well regarded in and outside parliament, has been demoted to 20.

Megan Woods is 24 and the other South Islanders, Ruth Dyson, Clare Curran, and Rino Tirikatene are unranked.

The ODT says that new deputy, and another list MP,  David Parker’s links give Labour south cover.

David Parker pledged his loyalty to the South after his election yesterday as deputy leader of the Labour Party.

The election of Mr Parker – a list MP who has a house in Dunedin, visits the city two weekends out of three and still calls the city his base – provides Labour with South coverage to complement Mr Cunliffe’s coverage of the North as MP for New Lynn.

The prime reason for those visits will be to keep contact with his children. That is his business but shouldn’t be confused with political representation.

He might have pledged his loyalty to the south but his actions don’t match his words. He chose to leave Dunedin and stand for Epsom at the last election.

The one before that, 2008, he was the candidate for Waitaki but showed his lack of commitment to that when he conceded the seat at a public meeting a couple of weeks before the election, for which local party members still haven’t forgiven him.

If it gets into government, the party’s anti-growth policies will hit the regions hard and the lack of representation in the senior ranks of the party will make it more difficult for the concerns of the south to be heard.

Hollow promises from hollow men

September 4, 2013

Kiwiblog has a useful guide to which aspiring Labour leader is promising what.

But how much are these promises worth?

When Jamie Mackay said on the Farming Show yesterday, that the leadership race was turning into a lolly scramble, Labour MP Damien O’Connor said:

“There’s no kind of lolly scramble because we don’t have the lollies to give away unfortunately. . .

Then Mackay mentioned the living wage and O’Connor said:

“That’s one of the proposals from one of the candidates. . .  well, maybe two . . . I’m sure caucus when we appoint the new leader will go through, look at all the ideas that were thrown out through this process and make sure we have a credible bunch of policies in the lead up to the next election. . . “

So these are merely ideas that are being thrown out, and expensive ideas that even one of their backbench colleagues recognises as being unaffordable.

They’re not real promises about real policy.

They’re empty exercises in vote-buying.

They’re hollow promises from hollow men.

Legislation should be last resort

June 15, 2013

Labour’s Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor says Country of Origin labelling should be included in the Food Bill.

Legislation should be a last resort.

Why start there when consumer pressure is a much better first step?

If we want CoOl we should be demanding it from supermarkets.

Customer pressure worked in getting rid of the charge on plastic bags, why wouldn’t it work for CoOl?

I like to know where my food comes from and sometimes, maybe even often, choose not to buy fresh produce if I can’t seen where it came from. When I can spot the country of origin it can be the deciding factor in my choice of which product to buy.

That’s the market and customer preference at work, it doesn’t need political interference.

It isn’t difficult to put CoOL on fresh produce and other single ingredient food but multi-ingredient foods are much harder to label which is why statements like made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients is common.

I trust our food standards and it’s enough to know that something is made here, I don’t need to know the country of origin of every single ingredient.

Legislating to make it compulsory would add complexity and cost. If people on low incomes are already struggling to make ends meet it would be stupid to make food more expensive when there are better ways to get CoOl, if that’s what customers want.




Labour u-turn on HB water storage

May 16, 2013

A big increase in irrigated land is supporting increased agricultural production

The irrigated land area has increased in the past five years by an area the size of lakes Taupo and Te Anau combined, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The total irrigated land in New Zealand increased by 102,000 hectares between June 2007 and 2012, new information from the 2012 Agricultural Production Census shows. “Canterbury had the biggest increase in irrigated area, with an extra 60,000 hectares since 2007 – this alone covers an area the size of Lake Taupo,” agriculture statistics manager Hamish Hill said. Other regions to gain more irrigated area were Southland and Manawatu-Wanganui. This increase in irrigated land has helped support increases in agricultural production.

Total dairy numbers also significantly increased, from 5.3 million in 2007 to 6.4 million in 2012. “The additional dairy cows will produce around four times the total amount of milk that New Zealanders consume each year,” Mr Hill said. Exports of milk powder, butter, and cheese increased by 27 percent in the last five years.

Regions that had significant shifts in dairy numbers between 2007 and 2012 included Canterbury, with an increase of 445,000 dairy cattle, Southland, with an increase of 238,000, and Otago, with an increase of 118,000. . .

That increase in production means a lot more jobs, more resilient and secure communities and more export income.

The experience in North Otago shows that the economic and social gains don’t have to come at the cost of the environment.

You’d think a party which says it supports economic growth and wants more employment opportunities would understand the benefits and support more development, but Labour doesn’t.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says he is shocked at the Labour Party’s u-turn on supporting the Ruataniwha water storage scheme in Hawke’s Bay, despite previously indicating their support.

“The proposed Ruataniwha water storage scheme has the potential to irrigate an extra 25,000 hectares in Hawke’s Bay. This would be a major boost to exports, jobs and growth in the region.

“In October last year Labour MPs Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor visited the site and said it made a “very good case” and that “It is an obscure part of the country that [will cope] with such a large structure.”[i]

“Now they have been over-ruled by Stuart Nash, a rejected ex-MP who says “…Labour will not be funding water storage schemes if elected in 2014…”

“This is a slap in the face for farmers and Hawke’s Bay. I would have thought the severe drought this summer has made the need for this type of project even more obvious.

“The drought has highlighted that we don’t have a water shortage in New Zealand, but a shortage of storage options. We only capture two per cent of the rainfall that falls on New Zealand with the rest running out to sea.

“Water storage can have real environmental benefits. Increased river flows means more water for recreational users in summer, and improved habitats for fish and birdlife.

“This is why former Fish & Game regional manager and senior freshwater ecologist at the Cawthron Institute, Iain Maxwell, has come out publicly in support of the scheme.

“Labour are anti-progress and don’t care about jobs and investment in provincial areas. They are opposed to any new mining, energy and irrigation projects, and want to bring in a capital gains tax and an enlarged emissions trading scheme which would hammer rural communities,” says Mr Guy.

The Government is investing $80 million this year into a new Crown company to act as a bridging investor for irrigation projects. In total, up to $400 million will be invested in regional-scale schemes to encourage third-party capital investment.

The Government is also funding $35 million towards the Irrigation Acceleration Fund to help suitable projects reach the prospectus-ready stage. Last year the IAF and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council jointly funded a $3.3m feasibility study of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Project.

The drought has had a huge economic, social and environmental impact on the regions affected.

Canterbury and North Otago were insulated from the worst effects of the long hot, dry summer because of extensive irrigation.

The need for irrigation in Hawkes Bay should be obvious and it isn’t difficult to put a case for the government to help schemes get underway with for example a loan to cover the costs until the water is fully allocated.

This is just another example of labour saying it wants more growth and jobs but not supporting initiatives that will provide them/


Ownership up to shareholders not politicians

November 9, 2012

Labour MP Damien O’Connor’s Dairy Industry Restructuring Bill No 2 has been drawn from the ballot.

“My Bill – the Dairy Industry Restructuring Bill No 2 – has been drawn at a crucial time for Fonterra. A prospectus has just been launched seeking a minimum of $500 million from investors who will own the rights to dividend and capital appreciation in New Zealand’s largest company.

“The Bill limits the total quantity of investment units available to 20 per cent of the value of Fonterra.

“The current limit of 25 per cent is written into the constitution of the company. This Bill will place the lower limit into legislation and require the support of Parliament should the Board and shareholders decide at some point in the future to increase the percentage of the company open to investors.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act which enabled Trading Among Farmers was passed a few months ago only after a lot of work by the board, a lot of consultation and finally a majority of shareholders voting in favour of TAF.

This Bill is an MP acting without the support of a majority of shareholders.

I support the control of Fonterra staying in the hands of its farmer suppliers.

But this is not a matter in which politicians should meddle.

Decisions on the ownership of the company should be left up to voting shareholders – who are the suppliers – not MPs.

Rural Affairs minister no compensation for bad rural policy

November 12, 2011

Labour plans to re-appoint a Minsiter of Rural Affairs.

Spokesperson Damien O’Connor says there is a need for advocacy and representation for rural affairs at a ministerial level.

There’s also a need for advocacy and representation for rural affairs in the Labour caucus but if there is it’s obviously too weak to prevent the development of what Federated Farmers rightly labels as hat trick of ill conceived policies for the high country,a griculture and water.

But isn’t that typical of Labour?

It would create problems for the rural community in general and farmers in particular though ill-founded policy then add to the burden of the state by appointing a Minister to give the appearance they’re doing something about the problems of their making.

Facts, future vs emotion, half truths, past

October 28, 2011

Does anyone but political tragics watch party political broadcasts?

Would even a political tragic be interested in the opening statements?

National’s  showed John Key giving the facts on what has been achieved in the past three years and a plan for the future.

It looked ahead and was positive.

Labour’s started with a history lesson, high on emotion, low on facts with quite a few of what might be charitably described as half-truths.

They then went to Phil Goff’s father and Phil Goff himself interspersed with a few members of caucus also high on emotion and half-truths.

What was interesting was who was there and who wasn’t.

Damien O’Connor, the MP his party valued so lowly he jumped from the list with ill-grace rather than accept a low place, played a major part.

That made the absence of other senior MPs including deputy leader Annette King and David Parker, even more noticeable.

The broadcast looked to the past and was negative.

The Green Party’s by contrast was positive and scenic.

Was there a subliminal message in the co-leader’s clothes? Russel Norman in a light blue shirt with a green tie, Metiria Turei in a red blouse?

This one definitely looked good, pity the policies don’t match the appearance.

If I was a floating left voter, the Greens’ broadcast would have appealed more than the Reds which ought to concern Labour.

Too late for turn around?

October 4, 2011

 Chris Trotter thinks it’s too late for Labour to turn voters around:

What John Key’s managed to do over these last three years in make National in a way New Zealand or at least New Zealand as it is seen by nearly two thirds it would now appear of the voters. And those who are in the other parties in a strange way are almost now out of that definition and that it is an absolutely fatal place for a political party to find itself in and it makes it extremely difficult both for the party and the party’s leader to get back in the race.

I think you’ve got to go back to that 2005 to 2008 period, the last term of Helen Clark’s government,  when New Zealand really fell out of love with Labour. More and more people, even traditional Labour voters began to see Labour as not really representing them, whereas John Key’s performance really made him one of us, he’s our sort of guy, he really talks our language.

And that has just consolidated over the last three years to the point where it’s a flat line you know of National’s support and it’s you know about 20 percentage points above the flat line of Labour’s. . .  it’s quite an achievement on National’s part . . . it’s almost as if he’s made Don Brash’s statement of 2005,mainstream New Zealand is National, which was wrong then but is right now. . .

You really do get the impression that New Zealanders have looked at Labour, decided a) they don’t really sound very much like us, like me; and b) they’re just not ready, look at them, they’re all over the place. . .

John Key’s personal popularity, an acceptance that National has had an unprecedented series of serious events outside its control to deal with and the Kiwi sense of giving a first-term government a fair go are all conspiring against Labour.

But its failure to learn from the lesson the electorate gave it in 2008, disunity and ill-discipline have turned off all but its hard core supporters.

They have less than eight weeks to persuade voters to trust them. But how can a couple of months of words turn around opinions based on several years of  misguided and increasingly unpopular actions?

Can’t make law if don’t understand and keep it

July 26, 2011

Labour just don’t get it – they aren’t above the law.

The Electoral Finance Act they pushed through was a dog’s breakfast. National repaled it and replaced it with legislation on which Labour was consulted and for which they voted.

While not as bad as the EFA, it’s far from perfect but that’s what happens, when you aim for concensus you oftn end up with compromise.

But good law or bad, it is the law and it is incumbent on those who make it to understand it and keep it.

Labour doesn’t appear to understand the law for which they voted, they don’t want to keep it and are criticising officals for administering it.

Kiwiblog posts on posts written by Damien O’Connor and Clare Curran at Red Alert in which they complain about the Electoral Act and the Electoral Commission.

MPs who neither understand nor keep the law cannot be entrusted with making it.

Much more than 1%

June 6, 2011

A sobering thought from Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers president:

There were 45,000 full-time farmers but they made up only 1 per cent of the population battling against 99 per cent of the population who, “don’t quite see it our way,” he said.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say we’re battling the 99% of people who aren’t farmers. You don’t have to be a farmer to know and appreciate that farmings’ contribution to the country is much more than 1%.

But MMP has made it harder for the rural voice to be heard.

At least when National is in power we know the government understands farming and its importance to the country. It  has several farmers in its ranks and holds all but one provincial seat so its MPs are well aware of the issues and concerns of people in rural and provincial  New Zealand.

Labour has only one seat outside the four main centres (Palmerston North) and its pronouncements show it has little understanding of or sympathy for farming.

Its leader Phil Goff has a lifestyle block. But the only farmer (now former?) in its ranks is Damien O’Connor and  the paddy he had about his party’s list ranking outcome shows he doesn’t have much influence.

Diversity in electorates takes pressure off list

May 18, 2011

Damien O’Connor was criticised for the intemperate language he used to describe the Labour list.

His criticism shouldn’t have been directed at the list, one of its roles is supposed to be to add to the diversity of parliament.

The question to ask of Labour is why doesn’t it have much diversity among its electorate MPs?

Labour’s selection is strongly influenced by unions and head office which makes it relatively easy to select people who don’t fit the WMM (white middle-aged male) category as candidates for red seats.

In National, providing an electorate has 200 members, it is they who select the candidate and the party hierarchy has no influence at all over who they select.

In spite or because of that, Kiwiblog points out, National has eight MPs of Maori descent now.

Georgina te Heuheu is retiring in November but the party has new candidates of Maori descent in Northland (Mike Sabin), Wellington Central (Paul Foster-Bell), Dunedin South (Joanne Hayes) and Mangare (Claudette Hauiti).

That means 11 out of 63 National candidates in general seats are of Maori descent.

Is part of Labour’s problem the Maori seats? Has it taken for granted it would win them and thought that means it doesn’t need Maori in general seats?

Perhaps if Labour trusted its members and exercised a little more democracy in selecting candidates for electorates,  it wouldn’t have to depend so much on its list to get a caucus more representative of New Zealand.


 Apropos of yesterday’s post on participation, National’s Northland selection would be the most democratic of any for any party in the country. It was made by 275 voting delegates representing a membership of more than 4,000.

Would the West Coast want a maverick MP?

April 14, 2011

If no publicity is bad publicity, Damien O’Conner has had a very good week.

Instead of accepting a list place which was unlikely to lead to a seat in parliament or quietly opting out of the list he chose to make a fuss which would get him noticed.

His remarks about Labour being dominated by  a gaggle of gays and some self-serving unionists have got him extensive coverage in papers, on radio, television and the internet.

But what he said says a lot about him and his relationship with the Labour Party which the West Coast-Tasman voters he was supposedly trying to appeal to would do well to think carefully about.

Good electorate MPs work hard for their constituents, go many extra miles on their behalves and will do all they can to advocate for them. But good MPs also know the importance of collegial support and of picking their fights carefully because no matter what they do, they are able to achieve little if they’re isolated from their caucus colleagues and party.

O’Conner’s reaction to the list place he’d have been offered had he not opted out of it shows that he has a much higher opinion of himself than his party does and their views will be even less favourable now.

That leaves West Coast-Tasman voters with a clear choice. They can vote for Chris Auchinvole who won the seat from O’Conner in 2005, has the respect of his fellow MPs and party and, on current polls, is more likely to be in government.

Or they can opt for the maverick they rejected three years ago who has set fire to the bridge between himself and his party and, given the trend of polls, is more likely to be in opposition.

It’s better for an electorate to have a government MP and while being represented by a maverick might get their MP and issues noticed it is unlikely to get them sorted.

The man who can get things done or the one who can just talk about it? No contest.

Only National wants the provinces

April 11, 2011

The 2005 election resulted in a blue-wash through the provinces.

The only general seat outside the main centres which stayed red was Palmerston North.

If the attention being paid to provincial and rural seats in the south by political parties is anything to go by it seems the only one interested in them is National.

That’s par for the course for the wee parties which only turn up for photo ops between elections and have token candidates, if any, standing in electorates but only interested in the party vote.

But you’d expect Labour to at least look as if it was interested, if only to give some heart to its supporters but they don’t appear to be even trying.

The party’s 2005 candidate for Waitaki conceded defeat to National’s Jacqui Dean a couple of weeks before the election much to the disgust of the local party people. It doesn’t seem to have done him any harm with the hierarchy though, he’s number 4 on the 2011 list.

This year’s candidate for Waitaki is number 64, the candidate for neighbouring Rangitata is 56 and the Clutha Southland candidate is 54.

The Invercargill candidate, former MP Lesley Soper isn’t on the list. That’s not surprising when the party couldn’t even find an MP willing to support her at the electorate AGM.

List MP Damien O’Connor who lost he West Coast Tasman seat in 2005 isn’t on the list either because:

“I wouldn’t trust them. Between a gaggle of gays and some self-serving unionists, I’m not sure that a straight shooter such as myself would be given a fair deal.”

Labour leader Phil Goff said he had “scolded” Mr O’Connor about the comments, which the MP had told him about, “although … it will probably help him no end on the Coast. He’s a pretty straight talker and he used West Coast language.”

West Coast language?  Why doesn’t he just call them feral as his predecessor did? The coasters I know don’t talk like that but perhaps I know a more tolerant and pleasant sample of the people than he does.

O’Connor also said:

. . . he was disappointed the system did not deliver better results for rural and provincial candidates, such as himself, who were outside the party’s power blocs.

It’s not just Labour’s system which short-changes the provinces, it’s MMP.

Electorates are far too big and rural or provincial don’t feature among the categories which are supposed to make parliament more representative.

Labour’s stance on pastoral leases will force more into freeholding

February 17, 2011

If there was a single group which had more reason than most to be delighted when Labour was defeated in 2008 it was pastoral leaseholders.

Families who had loved and looked after the South Island high country for generations had their livelihoods and their property rights threatened when the then-government tried to rewrite the rules on their rents.

It was expensive not only in financially but emotionally too.

When pastoral leases were set up,  legislation established that rents were based on land exclusive of improvements. That meant the land was the Crown’s but all improvements – including soil fertility, pasture, fences and buildings were the property of the leaseholder.

Then Labour decided to add the amenity values to the equation. Land which happened to be close to a lake, river or have a good view was suddenly deemed to be worth more and the rent was based on that even though that figure was often many times higher than the property’s earning capacity.

To make it worse the main reason amenity values were so high was they were based on the ridiculous prices, well above market norms, that Labour had paid to buy high country properties like St James Station.

A test case taken by Minaret Station to the Otago District Land Value Tribunal backed farmers  ruled against the inclusion of  amenity values in rent reviews.

By then National was in power and came up with a much more equitable formula for pastoral rents which was accepted by farmers and Labour, or at least that’s what their agricultural spokesman Damien O’Connor said back in August last year.

It’s not what he’s saying now Crown Pastoral land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill is in the House for its first reading.

But at least he’s saying it without the vitriol which punctuated the speech of his colleague David Parker, who as the then-Minister was responsible for much of the mess which resulted in the test case.

The rural grapevine reckons the seeds which drove Labour’s determination on this issue were planted when Helen Clark’s request to land a helicopter on a high country property to shorten a tramp was declined by the landowner. I don’t know if that is true. But if it is Parker often tramped with her and even if he wasn’t with her on that occasion he’d no doubt have been told the story.

If it’s not true I have no idea what is behind his apparent dislike of farmers.

We were part of a small group of pastoral lessees who met him when he was Minister. He didn’t appear to understand our concerns and made it quite clear he wasn’t prepared to make any concessions.

But I never thought I’d hear an MP say, as he did in Tuesday’s speech:

. . .   what comes around goes around and I will never put up with an argument now from the lessees coming to me and saying ‘please respect my property rights under this lease’ because what comes around goes around and this is a licence for a future government to go in and fix these things up and to change the terms of this lease. . .

That is a threat lessees should take seriously because it means when Labour regains power they will mess with rents again.

The message lessees should take is to do all they can to freehold their property through the tenure review process before that happens.

Spot the irony - Labour’s stance on pastoral leases and the anti-farmer sentiment of its former minister, are going to force lessees into freeholding. It’s the only way they can be sure their property rights are secure.

Hat tip: Kiwiblog

Degrees of separation

November 25, 2010

One of the men who died in the Pike River mine is the cousin of one of our staff.

That won’t be unusual in New Zealand where our small population results in very few degrees of separation and that is why today it’s not an exaggeration to say the country mourns.

If we don’t know someone, we’ll know someone who knows someone who died, who is grieving, and/or who is helping.

Kiwiblog has delivered some well deserved bouquets to some of those involved.

I second that and make particular mention of the politicians.

We usually see what divides them but from the start of this tragedy we’ve seen the common humanity which unites them. West Coast Tasman MP  Chris Auchinvole and list MP Damien O’Connor have been there as MPs and Coasters doing what they can to support the people they serve.

As Prime Minister John Key said:

 New Zealand stands shoulder to shoulder with you. Though we cannot possibly feel this pain as you do, we have you in our hearts and our thoughts. Like you, we had all longed for that miracle to occur-that your men would be returned home to you. Tonight, on behalf of the people of New Zealand, we send our sympathy to the children who have lost their fathers, to the parents who have lost sons, to the wives who have lost their husbands, to the girlfriends who have lost their partners, to the siblings who have lost their brothers.”

At last a Labour ag spokesman

July 22, 2010

It’s a sad reflection on Labour’s regard for agriculture that the party hasn’t had anyone in its caucus with responsibility for the portfolio for several years.

Jim Anderton might have been Labour in all but name but he wasn’t in the caucus when he was Minister of Agriculture in the Labour-led government. He talked lots and delivered little as minister and I can’t remember anything of note he’s said since he became the opposition spokesman after the 2008 election.

Now he’s giving up completely to campaign fulltime for the Christchurch mayoralty at our expense :

“In my time remaining as an MP, I have decided to prioritise workable models for affordable dental treatment and the reform of alcohol legislation.” .

Damien O’Connor will take over the role with two things going for him – he was (perhaps still is?) a dairy farmer and he is a member of the Labour caucus where he might have a chance of influencing policy.

Kiwiblog and Keeping Stock have similar views  on Anderton.

Is that now party policy?

April 11, 2010

Some members of the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board say West Coast land which may be mined shouldn’t have been added to Paparoa National Park.

A report in The Press (not on line) says:

. . .  chairman Warren Inwood said some of the land had previously been used for logging and mining.

“A lot of it has been planted with exotics, and what’s that doing in schedule 4?” he said.

Board member Les Wright said he was never in favour of the land being added to the park in 2002.

The park was primarily lowland karst landscape, and the land near Inangahua did not fit, he said. “It’s not even part of the Paparoas.”

This confirms what the hysterical reaction to the suggestion small areas of conservation land may be mined has ignored: some of the land identified has little or no conservation value.

But of even more interest is this:

West Coast Labour list MP Damien O’Conner said it was important parks were not devalued by land of “low value”.

“If we are adding bits to it which are of low value, then we discredit ourselves and the integrity of the national park network,” he said.

“We should protect the land we consider most valuable and not mine within it, but there are lots of other areas which we can utilise.”

That seems eminently sensible to me.

Is it Labour party policy and does it also apply to pastoral lease land which is being considered for tenure review?


Labour’s newest MP brings diversity to caucus

May 2, 2009

Labour’s newest MP isn’t brand new, Damien O’Connor was the MP for West Coast Tasman until the last election when National’s Chris Auchinvole won the seat.

O’Connor was formally declared elected to parliament as a list MP  yesterday to replace Michael Cullen.

He adds to the diversity among his party’s ranks - he’s a middle-aged, Pakeha, rural man and – I think – the only one in Labour’s caucus who has been a farmer.


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