Rural round-up

March 17, 2014

Wild bee loss bad for breed:

Beekeepers are being warned to check the genetic diversity of their stock following the first stage of a nationwide survey that shows significant in-breeding.

The Sustainable Farming Fund project, administered by University of Otago associate professor Peter Dearden, has studied bees from all over New Zealand.

The early results show New Zealand’s bee population was much more diverse than previously thought but that many beekeepers have serious issues with inbreeding. . .

Farm manager shares love of ‘wicked’ industry -

The 2014 Southland Otago Farm Manager of the Year, Jared Crawford, says he was ”shocked” when he heard his name announced during the New Zealand Dairy Industry awards regional final at the MLT Event Centre in Gore on Saturday.

He and wife Sara stood on the podium with the region’s Sharemilker Equity Farmer of the Year winners Steve Henderson and Tracy Heale, of Winton, and Dairy Trainee of the Year winner Josh Lavender, also of Winton. . .

Triallist just wants to get better – Sally Rae:

When Cody Pickles goes to the dog trials, he takes his Gin with him.

The young Otago shepherd also takes Dusty, another member of his eight-strong working dog team. Both dogs are heading dogs.

Mr Pickles (23), who is in his second season of ”having a go” at dog trialling, works at Waipori Station, a 12,000ha Landcorp Farming-owned property on the shores of Lake Mahinerangi. . . .

NZ supports Philippines farmers’ recovery from Typhoon:

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye today announced that New Zealand will provide $2.5 million to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to help farmers in the Philippines recover from Typhoon Haiyan.

“Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most devastating storms in recent history and it is estimated that almost 6 million workers’ livelihoods were destroyed, lost or disrupted,” Ms Kaye says.

“In the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan New Zealand made around $5 million available to support the emergency response and relief effort and the New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully indicated that we would consider further support aimed at helping the Philippines recover.

“New Zealand’s contribution will help to restore the livelihoods of 128,000 vulnerable households in rural areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan. . .

Wind-up for the Woolless Wiltshires of Winchmore:

The final act of a 13 year-long AgResearch sheep breeding project designing low-maintenance sheep will take place at the Tinwald General Saleyards on Wednesday 12 March.

​The research project led by AgResearch scientist Dr David Scobie into easy-care and shedding sheep has finished.  As the two flocks, totalling approximately 300 sheep, are now surplus to requirements on the Winchmore Research Farm, AgResearch is holding a dispersal sale.

In 1997, AgResearch predicted that the cost of growing wool would exceed the value of the wool grown in what was then a foreseeable future. 

“We had two challenges,” says Dr Scobie.

“To develop a wool-less sheep and also to develop a low maintenance sheep.”

The Wiltshire flock were selected for decreased fleece weight for a period of 11 years.  . .

Farmer-friendly sheep don’t need sheering –  Annabelle Tukia:

It is the end of an era for AgResearch, who have put their 300 scientifically-bred sheep under the hammer.

For the past 13 years scientists have been experimentally breeding two different types of sheep with some very unique features.

A small but enthusiastic crowd flocked to the Tinwald sale yards. On sale were no stock-standard ewes. For the past 13 years AgResearch has been breeding a line that would appeal to farmers and lifestylers for their low maintenance.

The first is a breed that sheds its own wool and requires no shearing and the second a composite breed that does not need its tail docked and has far less wool in areas that would normally create dags. . . .

Taranaki Dairy Awards Winners Back on National Stage:

Experience counts and for two of the major winners in the 2014 Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards they have that in spades.

Both 2014 Taranaki Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Charlie and Johanna McCaig, and 2014 Taranaki Farm Manager of the Year, Michael Shearer, have won regional dairy industry awards titles previously.

In 2011 the McCaigs placed second in the New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year competition, after winning the Taranaki regional title while in 2012 Mr Shearer placed third in the New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year competition after winning the West Coast Top of the South regional title. . .


Doing what we can

March 4, 2014

There’s not a lot that a small country like New Zealand can do when a large power like Russia threatens another country.

But we’re doing what we can.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully called the Russian ambassador in over the escalation of tensions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the Russian Ambassador was called in to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade this afternoon over the escalation of tensions in Ukraine.

“On my instructions the Russian Ambassador has been called in to the Ministry to hear directly New Zealand’s views on the situation in the Ukraine,” Mr McCully says.

“New Zealand is deeply alarmed at the escalation of tensions in Ukraine over recent days and we condemn the breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We understand Russia has significant interests especially in the Crimean Peninsula, however they need to pursue these interests in a manner that is consistent with Russia’s treaty obligations, international law and accepted international norms.

“New Zealand calls on the Russian Government to take steps to reduce tensions and to engage in consultations with other affected parties to achieve this objective.”

We’re also using trade as a lever:

Prime Minister John Key ordered Trade Minister Tim Groser home from Russia today, ending for now any further discussions on a Russian free trade deal that has been three years in the making as Russia ratchets up pressure on Ukraine on the Crimean Peninsula.

Groser had been in Moscow for trade talks ahead of a possible visit to the Russian capital by Key in a fortnight as part of a global swing through China and Europe that will take in meetings with senior Chinese leadership and an international Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands.

Key said he was only missing Moscow on the forthcoming trip because suggested dates had not worked for the Russian president Vladimir Putin, although continuing to discuss an FTA with Russia in the present circumstances was not appropriate.

“I don’t think we could seriously, even if Mr Groser could tie up a deal this afternoon, (sign a free trade agreement) at the same time as we are expressing our deep concern about the threat to sovereignty in Ukraine,” said Key. . .

I wouldn’t go so far as this:

But trade, or a threat to it, is the strongest way we can condemn Russia’s actions.

 

 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

November 18, 2013

Silver Fern Farms makes second loss – Alan Williams:

Silver Fern Farms made a pre-tax loss of $36.5 million in the year ended September 30, on top of its $42m loss the previous year.

The company has negotiated a new debt package with its banks for a two-year period, with a first-year facility of up to $609m, chief executive Keith Cooper said.

The preliminary result did not disclose total assets at balance date, but at the same time in 2012 Silver Fern had $316.6m of borrowings funding total assets of $796m.

The latest loss was disappointing and unacceptable, outgoing chairman Eoin Garden said. . .

Silver Fern Farms FY loss narrows to $28.6 mln, mulling options for sector overhaul :

(BusinessDesk) – Silver Fern Farms, New Zealand’s biggest meat processor and marketer, narrowed its annual loss as it deals with the “collapse” of the sheep meat market last year, and is mulling options for a sector-wide overhaul to inject some life in the industry.

The net loss narrowed to $28.6 million in the 12 months ended Sept. 30 from a loss of $31.1 million a year earlier, the Dunedin-based company said in a statement. Sales slipped 1.5 percent to $2 billion. The company blamed last year’s sheep meat market spike and subsequent collapse for the two years of losses, and said it has completed a programme to work through the downturn.

“Market consumption and pricing continued to decrease in the first half of the 2012/13 year, resulting from further writedowns of balance date stocks,” chairman Eoin Garden said. “In reality, the market collapse dramatically impacted upon two financial years due to large stock positions over the September 2012 balance date.” . . .

Meat co-ops see obstacles to merger:

Silver Fern Farms and the Alliance Group, agree that further consolidation is needed in the meat industry.

But both big farmer-owned co-operatives see different obstacles in the way of the farmer campaign to merge the two co-ops as the starting point for forcing wider changes in the industry.

The Meat Industry Excellence group is frustrated at the failure of the major processors and exporters to agree on any reform measures after months of discussions. It is pushing a merger idea in co-op board elections currently underway.

However, Alliance Group chair Murray Taggart of Canterbury says it does not support the view that the co-operatives should be the main vehicle for consolidation and bear the costs. . .

Hopes scare a ‘turning point’ – Sally Rae:

Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English hopes Fonterra’s recent whey contamination scare is a ”turning point” for New Zealand.

Addressing the recent Global Food Safety Forum in Dunedin, Mr English likened the fiasco, which turned out to be a false alarm, to the earthquakes in Christchurch.

Christchurch now had a better city and he believed the incident should be like an earthquake for Fonterra and the dairy industry. . .

[I think it's a bit premature to say Chirstchurch now has a better city, but it is getting better]

Fonterra Welcomes NZ Sri Lanka Dairy Cooperation Arrangement:

Fonterra today welcomed a new Dairy Cooperation Arrangement between the New Zealand Government and Sri Lankan Government signed by Sri Lankan Minister for External Affairs Gamini Lakshman Peiris and New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Colombo yesterday.
 
Fonterra Director and farmer-shareholder John Monaghan, who was in Colombo representing Fonterra at the Commonwealth Business Forum earlier this week, said the agreement will help formalise and support further public and private sector dairy sector cooperation between the two countries.
 
“The New Zealand dairy industry and Fonterra have a long history working with the Sri Lankan dairy industry. . .

Fonterra gives $100,000 to typhoon relief -

Fonterra has donated $100,000 to ChildFund New Zealand to support its relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines following the devastating Typhoon Haiyan.

The money will provide desperately needed food, water and essential hygiene items and help to establish safe spaces for children.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said the co-operative is encouraging its farmers and employees to donate. . .

Interest keen for Hawke’s Bay wines at Hong Kong fair:

Two Hawke’s Bay wineries represented the region at a huge wine fair in Hong Kong and report that there is keen interest in wines beyond those from Marlborough, with importers and distributors wanting to know more about local wines.

Elephant Hill Estate and Winery and Moana Park manned the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc. stand that was part of the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Fair held over three days earlier this month that attracted over 20,000 buyers. . . .


Rural round-up

November 3, 2013

Reputation is everything says Synlait Milk – Tim Cronshaw:

Synlait Milk says it is doing all it can to prevent a food scare ever happening like Fonterra’s close shave.

The listed Canterbury milk products processor and exporter, backed by China’s Bright Dairy & Food, has managed to avoid incidents such as Fonterra’s botulism scare in whey protein concentrate, which proved to be a false alarm, and other traces of foreign material found in the milk processing industry.

Manufacturing general manager Neil Betteridge said a company’s reputation was everything in the food industry and there was no room for error in milk processing. . . .

Massey looks at cow barn potential:

MASSEY UNIVERSITY is testing a barn farm system with potential for improved productivity and better water quality on dairy farms.

Professor Mike Hedley, who leads the research at Massey, discussed the work recently with local farmers at the newly-built free stall barn.

The common practice of standing cows off pasture to reduce winter treading damage to pastures during wet soil conditions can also reduce losses of nutrients in surface runoff and drainage, he says. Loss of nitrogen to water is reduced if paddock urine patch load can be transferred to the standoff facility, such as a freestall barn, at critical times of the year. . . .

Getting people to drink more milk:

FLUID MILK CONSUMPTION is declining throughout the world while cheese and yoghurt consumption is up, the World Dairy Summit in Yokohama heard.

International Dairy Federation Japan chapter president Kenichi Unno says since 1960′s in traditionally milk-drinking countries in Europe, North America and Oceania, and since 1990′s in Japan, fluid milk consumption has been declining. Unno says cheese and yogurt consumption is increasing so milk and dairy products as a whole are still increasingly consumed. . .

Minister to meet formula firms over botulism scare:

Foreign Affairs minister Murray McCully plans to meet with small manufacturers of infant formula who feel they have been given little support to help them recover from Fonterra’s botulism scare.

The threat of botulism in whey protein sparked product recalls around the world but turned out to be a false alarm.

The New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association says even though many of its members do not use Fonterra whey protein, their connection to New Zealand meant their products were taken off the shelves in their biggest market, China. . .

MyFarm share trading kicks off – Greg Ninness:

Farm syndication and management company MyFarm launched its new farm share trading facility MyFarm Trading (www.mfx.co.nz) on the Unlisted share trading platform on Friday, which will allow small investors to invest in the dairy sector.

The new facility will allow people to buy and sell shares in what are being called Collective Investment Vehicles (CIVs), companies that invest directly in specified dairy farms.

The new facility will open up farm investment to a much broader range of people by reducing te amount of money they they need to be able to buy into a farm. . .

Enough is enough for Coast farmers – Tim Cronshaw:

As Canterbury is being barraged by strong northwest winds across the Southern Alps farmers are dealing with heavy rain on the West Coast and the worst flooding around paddocks near Lake Brunner is over the fenceposts.

Flooding crept over the road earlier this week at Aratika farmland beside the Arnold River and farmers hope the rain will keep at bay long enough so they can avoid a repeat of the wet 1998 season.

Since the big September windstorm in Canterbury, dairy farmers around Rotomanu and Inchbonnie have received one metre of rain. . .

Dairy women nominations close soon:

WOMEN WORKING in the dairy industry are being urged to get their nominations in for the 2014 Dairy Woman of the Year award, which closes for entry on November 15, 2013.

Sponsored by Fonterra, the prestigious award includes the chance to attend the year-long Women in Leadership programme valued at $25,000 and delivered by Global Women.

Dairy Women’s Network executive chair Michelle Wilson says the Dairy Woman of the Year award celebrates and advances women who are making a real difference in the dairy industry, in their dairying businesses and in their communities. . .


Capacity for untidy end

October 11, 2013

Understatement of the day:

Mr McCully, who was on the flight, said: “We clearly knew that there was a capacity for this to have an untidy end, and we were enormously relieved that it didn’t.”

He was one of 117 passengers on an RNZAF Boeing 757 to Antarctica carrying  which  had to circle the Pegasus airstrip near Scott Base for 2 hours on Monday and made two aborted approaches before making an emergency landing in reduced visibility and freezing fog.


Rural round-up

September 2, 2013

NZ/Sri Lanka agree way forward on dairy issues:

The New Zealand and Sri Lankan governments have agreed to work toward a Dairy Sector Cooperation Agreement following a one day visit to Colombo by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

The visit followed the serious difficulties Fonterra has experienced in that market over recent weeks and the temporary closure of its Sri Lankan operations.

Mr McCully and Fonterra Chairman John Wilson met Sri Lankan Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa to discuss progress in resolving the difficulties and future opportunities to expand cooperation in the dairy sector.

“Sri Lanka is keen to substantially build its domestic capacity in the dairy sector. Mr Rajapaksa clearly understands the world-class expertise and experience that Fonterra can bring to that. He was very interested in hearing how Fonterra might be able to assist. We took the opportunity to underline the greater certainty that Fonterra will need in the Sri Lankan market,” Mr McCully says. . .

Fundamentals still right: farm leader – Sally Rae:

It may have been a ”hellishly tough month” for Fonterra but the co-operative’s forecast milk price underlines that the fundamentals of the New Zealand dairy industry remain strong, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink says.

Last week, the co-operative revised its 2013-14 season forecast to $7.80, up 30c from the previous forecast late last month.

New Zealanders should ”rejoice” that the immediate financial damage from the recall and market access issues would not dent the economy, Mr Leferink said.

”With an eye to the future, we’ve got to accept that we cannot afford a repeat of this month’s problems, but right now, this confidence in the dairy industry is a huge relief. . . .

Rural folk urged to change drinking ways:

Rural communities need to change the present culture of binge-drinking and drink-driving, those in the emergency services say.

Otago rural area acting commander Inspector Andrew Burns, of Dunedin, said alcohol was a factor in the ”vast majority” of crimes in rural areas.

People were consuming alcohol differently in rural communities and the problem was not as ”visible” as it was in cities, but it was still a problem, he said.

”In the rural community it’s no different [to urban settings],” Insp Burns said.

”With a lot of domestic violence, alcohol is a factor and in violent crime it’s usually a factor.” . . .

Time to face up to rural mental health needs:

Federated Farmers is joining the Rural General Practice Network in calling for specific funding for rural mental health. This follows the latest annual release of suicide statistics by the Chief Coroner.

“When there are more suicides in New Zealand than road deaths, drownings and workplace accidents combined, there is a serious need to change tack,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Health & Safety spokesperson.

“Last year, 541 New Zealanders took their own lives and we know the cost of suicide painfully well in rural New Zealand.

“As the Chief Coroner, Judge Neil McLean recently told 3 News, “Farming is tough. You’re at the whims of nature and markets and you have no control over this and it’s hard and demanding work in isolation. . .

Soaring milk prices boost for farmers - Hugh Stringleman:

Milk prices have taken off in a way not seen since the commodity boom of 2007-08, promising total farmgate returns of about $8/kg milksolids in a season that has only just begun. 

The country’s 12,000 dairy farm owners, their sharemilkers and staff members can whistle their way to work in the pre-dawn darkness.

Widespread rain, warm temperatures, steep pasture-growth curves, and good prospects for supplementary feeding should work to boost national milk production and turbo-charge the economy.

Federated Farmers dairy section chairman Willy Leferink said last week’s forecast increases by Fonterra and Westland co-operatives were almost too good to be true. . .

Aussie breakthrough for NZ deer velvet – Rod O’Neill:

New Zealand’s deer velvet industry is claiming a big win, with producer and processor Mountain Red poised to begin exporting into Australia after having its product licensed by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.

It’s been a long hard battle to access the Australian market, said Mountain Red director Karen Morley.

The licence means Nelson-based Mountain Red’s range of therapeutic products can be distributed in Australia and even be prescribed by general practitioners practising integrated medicine.

“We’ve spent a hell of a long time trying to get into Australia,” Morley said. “The regulations are so hard.” . . .


Fonterra has work to do

August 23, 2013

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says the relationship between China and New Zealand remains strong but Fonterra has work to do.

“While trade and economic issues currently dominate the agenda, my discussions in Beijing have been wide ranging and have emphasised the extent of our shared interests,” Mr McCully says.

“This visit, which was planned some months ago, is timely in light of recent issues involving dairy products from New Zealand.”

Mr McCully today held discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and State Councillor Yang Jiechi.

“Mr Wang and I spoke openly and constructively about issues with some dairy products and the response by Fonterra and government agencies,” Mr McCully says.

“The New Zealand Government has high expectations for New Zealand exports, including the application of strict food safety standards. When issues arise we expect good disclosure and remedial action.

“Both Chinese and New Zealand ministers acknowledge that Fonterra has work to do in the coming weeks to rebuild consumer confidence.

“China is an extremely important trading partner and we are committed to responding to this issue in a timely and cooperative manner.”

It’s not just in China that Fonterra has work to do.

I was in Auckland on Wednesday. The taxi driver who took me into the city was Sri Lankan.

He’d been a dairy farmer here and discussion turned to Fonterra.

He’d read a story in Sri Lankan media on-line which suggested that whatever was left over after the whey was removed from milk was doctored with other ingredients and sold as milk powder.

I said he shouldn’t believe everything he read on the internet.

He said that the story was quoting a medical doctor.

I said that still didn’t make it right and that no company which depended on trust would be involved with that sort of thing.

He wasn’t convinced.

That’s how easily doubts can be raised and reputations lost, especially in countries which don’t have our reputation for lack of corruption and therefore don’t have the trust we have in our institutions and systems.

Once doubts are raised it takes a lot of work, and time, to allay them.


And they think they’re ready for government?

December 7, 2012

Labour’s finance spokesman David Parker can’t count.

Backbencher David Clark doesn’t understand the difference between revenue and profit for tax purposes.

And now Phil Goff doesn’t understand the role and responsibilities of a non-beneficial trustee.

. . . “By attacking Mr Kiely without checking the facts Mr Goff has impugned the reputation of a highly professional individual without any justification.

“Central to Mr Goff’s allegation is that Mr Kiely held shares in shipping company Sofrana at the time PFL, of which he was a director, was considering an offer from Sofrana.

“Mr Kiely has never owned shares in Sofrana. The shares referred to by Mr Goff were held by Mr Kiely as a non-beneficial trustee for a Sofrana employee. Practising lawyers like Mr Kiely commonly hold shares for clients as non-beneficial trustee. If Mr Goff had asked he could have been told this.

“There was no obligation for Mr Kiely to disclose such matters to the Ministry when he was appointed a director. Only personal interests must be disclosed. There has never been a requirement for lawyers to disclose clients’ interests.

“Furthermore, when Sofrana expressed interest in PFL, Mr Kiely ensured that the PFL chairman was made aware of the non-beneficial trustee holding, and took the further step of ceasing to act as trustee. This is more than he was obliged to do. I have sighted the relevant documentation today. . .

And they’d like to think they’re ready for government!

The series of errors reflects on the MPs’ competency.

Goff was trying to embarrass the government because of Keily’s links to the National Party.

Instead he’s embarrassed himself and reminded voters again that a party that can’t perform in opposition is far from ready for government.


Teaching them to fish

June 19, 2012

Give people a fish and you’ll feed them for a day, teach people to fish and they’ll feed themselves for life.

Volunteer Service Abroad puts that principle into practice and it’s getting money to help with its work:

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully announced a three-year support package of $24 million for Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA)  to help place skilled New Zealand volunteers in developing countries.

“New Zealand is a world leader in areas like agriculture and tourism development that are vital for developing countries, especially in the Pacific,” Mr McCully says.

“The government wants more New Zealanders to be involved in the delivery of our aid programme. VSA now has a strong focus on supporting economic development and is delivering more opportunities for volunteers in the Pacific.”

In the last year alone VSA volunteers have contributed to; improved access to drinking water for almost 9000 people, the provision of sanitation facilities for more than 3000, the treatment of more than 200 patients, and the upgrade or building of around 90 kilometres of roads.

“VSA is also offering more short-term assignments and partnering with other New Zealand organisations such as Downer NZ, Tuia International, World Vision and Rotary NZ to access more New Zealanders with specific expertise,” Mr McCully says.

Giving security of funding for three years gives the organisation some certainty and VSA is understandably pleased with this:

VSA Chief Executive Officer Debbie Snelson says this is the first time the government has approved up front a three-year funding commitment. It means that VSA can confidently go ahead with its plans to provide more Kiwis with the opportunity to volunteer in the wider Pacific, and to develop new assignments in partnership with New Zealand businesses and organisations.

 

“We see this decision as a real endorsement of our work – and it’s a truly wonderful 50th anniversary present,” she says. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is our core funder. Until now it has provided funding on a year-by-year basis. Knowing that we have secure funding from MFAT for the next three years will give us more flexibility to access the Kiwi skills that our overseas partners are looking for.”

 

She says the details of the funding arrangement are still being negotiated, and it is contingent on VSA delivering satisfactory results. These include increasing the number of short-term assignments to about 55 a year, and developing 25 assignments a year in partnership with New Zealand businesses and organisations.

Under the agreement VSA will continue to focus its work in Melanesia, Polynesia and Timor-Leste.

 

“We are confident that we can keep playing a significant role in New Zealand’s overseas development assistance programme, particularly in the area of economic development.”

At least one MP has practical experience of VSA. Invercargill MP Eric Roy was a volunteer in the Pacific in his 20s.

A couple from our district, Bill and Shirley Kingan, have had two postings in Papua New Guinea and are now on a short-term assignment in Samoa.


Friends, allies, partners

July 24, 2011

Under past administrations a lot of energy went in to deciphering the nuances in pronouncements on the relationship between the United States and New Zealand, particularly the difference between being friends and allies.

But that no longer matters. After yesterday’s press conference with Barack Obama and John Key, we’re officially partners:

He said he was very pleased that the relationship with New Zealand was “growing stronger by the day.”

He also said: “I’ve always been stuck by the intelligence and thoughtfulness
that the Prime Minister brings to his work.”

. . .  Mr Obama made mention of the fact that the two foreign ministers – Hillary
Clinton and Murray McCully – were in Bali together at the ASEAN Regional Forum
and were looking at further ways to work together from “green growth to trying
to standardise regulations to increase the flow of trade”.

“And throughout this process whether it’s in Apec settings, now the East Asia
summit, we’ve always found New Zealand to be an outstanding partner.

“And Prime Minister Keys personally has always been an outstanding partner on
these issues.”

Given the difficulties the President is facing with the economy and the a senate unwilling to back his plans for recovery, the Prime Minister’s visit would not have been a high priority.

But we have much to gain in trade and security by a closer relationship with the United States and the meeting was another positive step towards that.

Apropos of the visit, in his speech to the Washington Chamber of Commerce, the PM said that:

 . . . while the US and New Zealand economies have many differences, we also have a lot in common.

At the most basic level, we share a commitment to the democratic, capitalist system.

Our governments are freely elected. Our economies encourage enterprise, hard work, and innovation. We trust people to get on with their lives and make the best choices for themselves. We also both understand the importance of world-class education.

For these reasons, our countries are amongst the most sought after places to live, raise families, and do business.

 He also noted that the US has contributed about 10% of the $90 million rasied for the Canterbury earthquake appeal.


Chch loses RWC games

March 16, 2011

Christchurch will not be hosting any Rugby World Cup Games.

Had it been safe and practical to hold the games at Jade Stadium as scheduled it would have been a symbol that the city was up and running again.

But earthquake damage not only to the stadium building and field, but also the city’s infrastructure and buildings are too great to cope with the tens of thousands of people the games would have attracted.

The quarter finals are going to Auckland but RWC Minister Murray McCully said it is hoped pool games will stay in the South Island.

Dunedin was keen to host a quarter final but doesn’t have enough accommodation. The city was often full for big events, the new stadium will increase demand and also provide an opportunity for those willing and able to increase supply.


Trade makes both parties better off

February 21, 2011

Prime Minister John Key spelled out the benefits of trade in his opening address to the US-NZ Partnership Forum:

The US is New Zealand’s third-largest trading partner.

Two-way trade between our countries was worth more than NZ$7.5 billion last year.

The US is a major market for our export products, both agricultural and industrial, and a major source of imported commodities and inputs to production in NZ.

It’s also our second-largest source of foreign investment and third-largest tourism market.

And, at the same time, it’s our second-largest destination for overseas investment, and our third-most favoured destination for New Zealanders on short trips overseas.

Our economies are closely linked.

As we recover from the economic downturn, it’s vital that both of our countries support international trade, including through negotiation of free trade agreements.

With a population smaller than that of many cities in the USA we have a lot to gain from free trade but, contrary to the views of protectionists, trade benefits both partners.

Anti Dismal says:

 Economists never tier of telling people that trade makes both parties better-off, but to no avail people still see countries as competing.

But we don’t compete with other countries, this is a false analogy that comes from thinking that countries are like firms, they’re not. As, even, Paul Krugman has said, A Country Is Not a Company. The point is that Coke and Pepsi, for example, do compete, one gains at the others expense, but New Zealand and Australia, for example, don’t, their loss is not our gain. International trade is not a zero-sum game. To see this, note that while Coke may wish to put Pepsi out of business, so that Coke can increase their sales and prices and therefore profits, New Zealand would not gain if we put Australia “out of business”.

Why? Well in the Coke/Pepsi case, Coke gain a lot, in terms of sales and profits, from not having Pepsi to complete with and lose little since Pepsi doesn’t buy much , if anything, from Coke. Or Coke from Pepsi. This is not true of the New Zealand/Australia example. We may gain some sells if Australia stopped producing, but we would lose much more. Australia is our biggest export market and if they “went out of business”, they would stop importing, and that would hurt us a lot. Also they are suppliers of much of our useful imports and that would stop too, which would hurt us even more.

If all the energy which went into protecting economies was put into freeing them instead we’d all be better off. The Partnership forum is another small step on the way to that goal.

Free trade brings more than economic gains.

Muray McCully said in his address to the forum:

Free trade deals, either now in operation or under negotiation, provide the framework for an even greater level of engagement in trade and economic relations.

With those trading relationships, closer ties of almost every type have been created.

New Zealand now has a huge stake in the stability and security of Asia and we have tried to reflect this in our participation in the evolving architecture of the region.

The decision of the United States to join the EAS brings with it a potential for those regional bodies to play an even greater and more effective role in delivering a stable prosperous region, providing a platform for improved economic prospects for all of its partners.

Economic prosperity and political stability, what’s not to like?


Deluded musing isn’t news

February 20, 2011

Why did the paper even bother with this story:

Winston Peters says the Government has pestered him to accept an overseas ambassadorship – to get him out of politics and out of the country.

Comments from Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Peters’ friend Richard Griffin which follow make it quite clear he’s at best deluded.

The story’s from the someone-says-something, everyone-else-denies-it file which shouldn’t have got into print.

 Can you believe what he says? Is deluded musing news?


Power Trans Tasman’s politician of year

November 29, 2010

Simon Power tops Trans Tasman’s 2010 roll call of politicians and is named their politician of the year.

Power gets the top ranking thanks to his towering performance in Parliament and the sheer volume of the legislative work he has done. He has taken more Bills through Parliament than any other Minister, accounting for one third of the Government’s legislation in 2010. He is the lock to Key’s flashier winger’s performance. Trans Tasman says of Power “An outstanding Minister. Huge workload includes reforming the Justice system and market regulation as well as law reform. He is looking more and more like a leader in waiting.”

He gets 9 out of 10 in the roll call as does John Key who also scored 9 last year.

Bill English, who has just celebrated the 20th anniversary of entering parliament, went up from 8 to 8.5 and was commended for the work he has done on tax reform and steering the country through the worst recession since the 1930s.

Honourable mention must also be made of Gerry Brownlee who has had another strong year in trying circumstances. “Brownlee gives the impression he is growing into the job, his media management has improved and so has his running of Parliament as leader of the House.” He stays on a rating of 8 out 10.

Other Ministers to go up in the ratings are Tony Ryall, to 8.5, Nick Smith, to 8, Judith Collins to 7.5, Chris Finlayson to 7.5, David Carter to 7, Murray McCully to 8, Tim Groser to 7.5 (no love lost between that pair), Wayne Mapp to 6 and Kate Wilkinson to 5.

Among MPs whose score improved this year was Eric Roy who was described as: 

An Associate Speaker who handles the House with patience and good grace, and this often isn’t easy. His experience is respected, his demeanour is appreciated.

On the whole National scored better than Labour.

For the Record, 30 National MPs managed to boost their scores this year, 13 stayed on the same score and 15 went down.

For Labour a much better performance – last year not one MP improved on their 2008 score. This year 26 of the 42 boosted their scores, 10 stayed the same and 5 went down.

National managed to get 32 of its 58 MPs over the 5 mark this year, improving on the 20 who made it last year – 26 of them were under the 5 mark. For Labour another relatively low scoring year, with just 15 MPs over 5 out of the Party’s complement of 42 – 26 rated below 5.

Some MPs will feel undervalued by their ranking and assessment. The judgement is made by Trans Tasman’s Editors on the basis of MPs’ performance in Caucus, Cabinet, Committee, The House and Electorate and the influence they bring to bear in their various forums. Roll Call is compiled by Trans Tasman’s team of writers and Parliamentary insiders, with a final decision on each ranking arrived at after much discussion.

I don’t know these people but I have no doubt about their knowledge and impartiality. However, as my previous post pointed out good electorate MPs do a lot of hard work which may be appreciated by those they help but largely goes unnoticed by anyone else.

Some of those not particularly well ranked have very good majorities which shows their constituents value them more highly than the pundits do.


Ambassador Moore

January 21, 2010

Isn’t the response to the appointment of Mike Moore as our next Ambassador to the USA entertaining?

In the media release announcing the appointment Foreign Minister Murray McCully said:

“As a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and co-chair of the US-NZ Partnership Forum, Mr Moore is the best possible candidate for this important role.

 Phil Goff welcomed the appointment but Kiwiblog notes Red Alert has not yet managed any congratulatory messages.

Many National supporters were unhappy when Labour appointed Jim Bolger to chair KiwiBank and KiwiRail but the government support of those institutions was anathema to many from the right. Moore’s appointment can’t be directly compared with those when Labour worked hard to advance free trade when it was in power and International relations usually have cross party support.

Audrey Young points out Moore beat McCully in his first election to parliament. Obviously the Minister has long got over that but maybe Labour people have longer, and more bitter, memories.

Moore has earned a good international reputation since leaving parliament. I think he’ll be a strong advocate for New Zealand in the post – as long as the Americans can understand his sometimes idiosyncratic use of the English language :)


NZ & Fiji mending fences

January 12, 2010

New Zealand and Fiji have agreed to improve diplomatic relations.

A media release says:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully met his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, in Nadi on Friday and Saturday.

A number of issues of bilateral interest to both countries were discussed in a positive and constructive atmosphere. The face-to-face meeting followed ongoing communications between the two Ministers over recent months.

The Governments have agreed to an additional Counsellor position being established for Fiji in Wellington, and for New Zealand in Suva, with approval in principle for Deputy Head of Mission appointments in each capital to follow soon.

The two Foreign Ministers agreed to keep in close contact and to meet as necessary in future.

The tone is cautious but any warming has to be an improvement on the icy relationship which has been operating for the past few months.

Fiji has big problems. As one of their closest neighbours we have a responsiblity to help if we can and it’s diffcult to do that if we’re not talking to each other.


Key tops Trans Tasman’s political roll call

December 7, 2008

Trans Tasman’s political roll call will be available to subscribers tomorrow but the print edition of the Sunday Star Times gives an edited version which puts John Key in the top spot with a score of 9/10.

Bill English follows on 8.5, Judith Collins, Tim Groser, Anne Tolley and Tariana Turia are third equal with 7.5.

Helen Clark, Pita Sharples, Murray McCully, Chris Finlayson, Paula Bennett and Phil Goff all score 7/10.

The SST reports that the lowest scoring National MP is Colin King on 2.

King, a former farmer and three times Golden Shears camp, took his roasting in good part, saying he “wouldn’t be a bit surprised” about the ranking. But he said while he might be invisable to some Wellington analysts, he’d doubled his election majority in Kaikoura and in his first term had followed the good advice of keeping his mouth shut and breathing through his nose. A log of his work had been “back room” and he was part of a “champion team”.

Trans Tasman’s rankings are determined by six parliamentary insiders. They are based on MPs’ performances in Wellington and doesn’t take into account the work they do in their electorates so King’s response is fair.

He was part of 2005′s large intake of new National MPs, not all of whom can be stars in the house. His electorate majority of 11,077 which was 57.8% of the vote, shows he’s won the support of people of Kaikoura which at 23,706 square kilometres is the fourth biggest general electorate in the country.

He was also 1.5 above the lowest MP in Trans Tasman’s rankings – Labour’s Ashraf Choudhary who dropped from 1 last year  to just .5/10 and he’s a list MP so can’t use the excuse of having an electorate to serve for his non-performance in parliament.


EPMU rallies for work rights

August 8, 2008

The Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union’s Work Rights Wage Drive stopped for a rally in Oamaru on Wednesday.

It attracted about 100 people  and was one of 25 organised by the union and launched its work rights checklist.

The Oamaru Mail quoted EPMU national secretary Andrew Little as saying the wage drive and checklist were to ensure working people understood the importance of their rights.

Oamaru EPMU delegate Dave Snow told the workers to make their voices heard at this year’s election.

How they do that and how much they spend doing it will depend on the outcome of the National Party’s High Court challenge of the Electoral Commission’s decision to register the union, which is affiliated to the Labour Party and one of their largest donors, as a third party under the Electoral Finance Act.

Murray McCully explained in his weekly newsletter that:

Registration will entitle them to spend $120,000 attacking the National Party, which, due to the constraints of the EFA, will not be able to respond.

The High Court case looks solid. The EPMU is claiming not to be “involved in the administration of the affairs”  of the Labour Party, within the meaning of the EFA.  If the High Court upholds the registration, there will be immediate applications from several organisations that are not “involved in the administration of the affairs” of the National Party Current favourites from mccully.co readers are the Citizens Opposed to the Political Activities of the EPMU, and the Not The Spencer Trust. So, either way, the High Court decision will produce an interesting outcome.

However, until the court decides the union, and any other groups whose ability to campaign rests on the decision, are left in limbo. That’s not conducive to democracy at any time and even less so when the election is a maximum of 14 weeks away.


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