Not fit for sale

February 26, 2014

Prime Minister John Key says Genesis Energy will be the last State Owned Enterprise to be partially sold by the government.

Asked why he had decided to end the sales programme if it was so successful, Mr Key said a company had to have the “right characteristics” to be part of the mixed ownership model. A company like Kordia did not fit as it was too small in value and a monopoly, like Transpower, did not fit the model.

The only other two which could be sold were Television New Zealand and New Zealand Post and neither was fit for sale.

Companies which aren’t fit for sale aren’t assets they’re liabilities.

Yet opponents of even partial sales are still clinging to the view that state owned companies are sacrosanct and that the portfolio should remain exactly as it is in perpetuity.

 

 


Less mail, slower service, less mail . . .

September 17, 2013

New Zealand Post has announced another reduction in service.

It’s replaced it’s target of getting mail across town in a day with a target of three days.

From 7 October 2013 all standard letters will be delivered within New Zealand Post’s Standard Post nationwide delivery target of three working days.

Customers continue to have access to next working day delivery options through priority mail products with FastPost, BoxLink (a service for sending items to PO Boxes or Private Bags) and Courier-Post overnight delivery.

I don’t know what the target for rural delivery is but if we need to get something in a very few days we’d use a courier rather than standard mail or even fast post services.

And that’s part of the problem – less mail means slower service which results in less mail and even slower service  . . .


NZ Post – my part in its downfall

July 1, 2013

Sunday evening was always letter writing time for my mother.

Every week, she’d sit down with a fountain pen and a pad, notepaper or those flimsy blue aerogrammes and write to family and friends around New Zealand and overseas.

Those were the days long before email and texts and when toll calls were so expensive they were used only for matters of great importance or urgency.

When I went to university I was added to the list of recipients and a beautifully written – in terms of script and wording – letter would arrive from home every Monday.

I was usually reasonably good about replying but at one stage got a bit slack.

After a couple of weeks I received a poem from Mum which began, What ails?/Art thou pale? It continued with a list of possible explanations for my failure to write and concluded Feeling tired? You’re fired!

I was at St Margaret’s, a residential college in Dunedin at the time, and when they heard that there was a vacancy for the position of daughter in my family home, several of my fellow residents penned applications.

Mum responded, in Greek, which she translated (somewhat loosely I suspect), as better the devil you know . . .  and I was reinstated.

Lesson learned, I ensured responses to letters from home were more timely.

It wasn’t hard as a student. When lectures dragged I’d pen an epistle in between note-taking. As a reporter, I had plenty of opportunity too, writing letters while covering meetings where discussion was lengthy but not newsworthy.

Post cards and letters were the only affordable way to keep in touch with family and friends when I was doing my OE and when I first married I was pretty good at keeping in touch through the post.

As life got busier, my letter writing slackened but when we got the news of our first son’s imminent death, I phoned my parents and one friend and wrote to the rest which, in hindsight, was therapeutic.

When Tom died we were overwhelmed by the number of cards and notes we received and I responded to each and every one.

Seven years later, when our second son died, I was writing a column for the ODT and there was even more mail, a lot of it from people I’d never met, but who knew my family and me through those columns.

We’ve kept them all, and although it’s a long time since I’ve looked at them, they remain as a tangible reminder of the kindness we received, in a way more ephemeral electronic communications can’t match.

A couple of years later we connected to the internet. My letter writing which was reducing anyway declined steeply as electronic correspondence increased and the price of toll calls decreased since then.

I did keep up Christmas cards until recently but have all but given up on those too and note that the majority of those we receive are from business contacts rather than family and friends.

The box of 100 stamps which sits in my desk drawer has remained almost untouched since I bought it last year.

In the last six months I’ve posted a cheque as a donation to buy meat for the church fair, a voucher for dinner for an auction for the same cause and two thank you letters. Any other correspondence, bill payments or invoicing has been done electronically.

I do receive more mail than I send but most of it is magazines, books bought through the internet, bank statements and junk. Only rarely is there a personal card or letter.

Most people don’t do that sort of mail any more and that’s why New Zealand Post is closing several mail centres.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the news of the mail centre closure and loss of jobs was not welcome.

”This is a reaction to the shift in their business model. They have to do what they have to do to run their business profitably. We only have to look at our own mail habits to understand.”

The closures are tough for those losing their jobs but fewer items in the mail requires fewer people to sort and deliver them.

Post isn’t dead but it’s no longer the fastest, cheapest or best way for most of us to communicate and NZ Post has no choice but to cut back to reflect the decreasing demand for its services.


Rural round-up

April 3, 2013

Planning: our rural romance mustn’t stop us building homes:

This evening many of us may find escape by watching the first of 42 hours of the BBC’s chronicle of 100 years of rural life, The Village, set in the lushly dramatic countryside of Edale and Hayfield in the Peak District.

A few of us – 165,095, in England and Wales, to be precise – might be doing so in the comfort of a second home, deep in the heart of Cornwall, perhaps, facing rolling green fields with not another dwelling in sight.

Yet, whatever the romantic view of our green and pleasant land, in fact and fiction, in our towns and cities, an all too real crisis of space and homes is already upon us.

As rents rise, mortgages are elusive and home ownership for increasing numbers of young people becomes a distant dream, the refusal to concede so much as an inch of greenfield terrain by organisations such as the National Trust appears less and less reasonable. . .

Focus on rural crime – Jill Galloway:

In a first, crime prevention advocate Crimestoppers is launching a campaign aimed at giving rural communities greater confidence to speak up about suspicious or criminal activity.

It is called “Shut the gate on rural crime”, and is supported by New Zealand rural insurer FMG and New Zealand Post.

Chief executive of Crimestoppers Jude Mannion said there were about 50 calls a day from all around New Zealand – urban and rural areas.

“Things like stock theft are now more professional and organised than they were. And in rural areas there are fewer people and that brings a problem of isolation.” . .

City docs ‘go rural’:

HEALTH Minister Lawrence Springborg’s plan to turn Beaudesert Hospital into a training facility for rural doctors has been given a positive prognosis from young city GPs keen on taking their much-needed medical skills bush.

The urban based doctors were recently at the South East Queensland medical facility for a ‘Go Rural Queensland – a day in the life of a rural doctor’ workshop run by Health Workforce Queensland.

While Beaudesert might only be a one-hour’s drive from Brisbane, the town’s medical services still operate in a rural context that would appear foreign to how services are delivered in the city, according to Health Workforce Queensland CEO Chris Mitchell. . .

Feed dispenser takes top award – Gerald Piddock:

A dispenser that provides dairy cattle with a daily dose of mineral supplements has taken top honours at the South Island Field Days innovation awards.

Called the Conedose, the machine dispenses molasses mixed with mineral supplements to cattle in the dairy shed.

It was designed by Southland-based company Winton Stock Feed and won the class one New Zealand-made farm machinery award at the South Island Field Days at Lincoln.

The Conedose dispensed non-soluble minerals, which other feeders could not do, Winton Stock Feed operations manager Paul Jackson said. . .

Mesh covers could beat TPP – Gerald Piddock:

A simple mesh cover could be the answer to halting one of the country’s most devastating tomato and potato pests.

The covers are being trialled at the Lincoln University Future Farming Centre to see if they stop the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) from invading the plants.

The results so far look extremely promising despite the trials being in their first season, centre head Charles Merfield says. . .

Beef, Lamb & Chelsea: A Recipe For Success:

In an exciting new partnership, Beef + Lamb New Zealand has today announced a partnership with Chelsea Winter, winner of Master Chef New Zealand 2012.

Winter’s recipes will be gracing butchery shelves and supermarket in abundance from this month.

Winter is joining the team as the face of mEAT magazine, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s free, quarterly guide to beef and lamb.

“This is a really exciting partnership and we have had so much fun developing fresh new recipes to complement the new-look mEAT magazine, which I am sure readers are going to love,” says Winter. . .

Richie Mccaw Visits Fonterra’s Sri Lanka Operations:

Fonterra’s global ambassador Richie McCaw has gained an up-close view of Fonterra in Sri Lanka last week during a two day tour of the Co-operative’s operations in the country.

McCaw said it was great to see first hand how Fonterra was growing its business in the region.

“It’s my first time in Sri Lanka and it made me realise how big Fonterra and Anchor are in the region. You drive through Colombo and see Anchor signs everywhere – it’s amazing that Sri Lankan kids are drinking the same milk that I grew up on in Canterbury.

“You sometimes forget that Fonterra’s got such a global reach. The kids and farmers that I met during the trip all told me that Fonterra and Anchor are a big part of their lives – not only because of the products Fonterra supplies but because the Co-op has become part of the community over the last 35 years,” said McCaw. . .

From here via Campaign for Wool we have tartan sheep:

One of our favourite April Fools Day hoaxes has to be the Tartan Sheep: The London Times ran a photo of "tartan sheep" said to have been bred by Grant Bell of West Barns, East Lothian. However, the Times warned, "Before you complain of being fleeced, check out the baa-code for today's date." http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/af_database/permalink/tartan_sheep


SOEs put govt blanace sheet at risk

March 1, 2013

Opponents to the partial sale of state assets complain about the loss of dividends, they forget about the costs.

Trans Tasman points out the risks of state ownership:

. . .there is a harsh reality to be faced, not only with Solid Energy (what’s a Govt trying to do in owning coal mines?) but with other state-owned entities whose profitability has shrunk: think of TVNZ, NZ Post, Kordia. Not surprisingly, Solid Energy’s troubles have thrown into relief how the Govt’s balance sheet, already structurally weak, can be pushed into dangerous territory by businesses where all the risks have to be shouldered by the taxpayer.

Opponents to the sales complain that the government will lose dividend income when up to 49% of shares in an SOE are sold.

They forget the risks and costs of ownership which ultimately fall on the taxpayer.

I’d rather have my taxes pay for core government responsibilities like defence, police, infrastructure, health and welfare than investment in areas best left to the private sector.


Rural round-up

February 2, 2013

Low prices worry sheep farmers - Gerald Piddock:

Sheep prices rather than feed issues is the major cause for concern for South Canterbury sheep farmers midway through the 2012-2013 season.

Feed levels were good because of the periodic rain throughout the summer. While that was a positive, the returns farmers were receiving for their sheep was a big pill that was hard to swallow, South Canterbury Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman Neil Campbell said.

“At least we’re not having to sell stock on a depressed store market,” he said. . .

Farmers fume at silence on power line route – Chris Gardner:

Waipa Networks is facing a backlash from angry landowners over its refusal to reveal where it plans to build a 110kv power line, which will cross three Waikato districts.

 Ray Milner, chief executive of the Te Awamutu-based network provider, refused to detail exactly where the company wants to erect the $20 million line when he spoke at Otorohanga District Council yesterday despite being told of landowners’ frustrations.

The line will start near Fonterra’s dairy factory on the outskirts of Te Awamutu and end near the Hangatiki intersection near Waitomo village. The distance by road is approximately 40km. . .

Farming lobby group denies organising geese cull – Paul Gorman:

Federated Farmers is distancing itself from last year’s bloody Lake Ellesmere cull in which Canada geese were bludgeoned to death with clubs and baseball bats.

Rotting carcasses were left floating in the lake after the controversial cull, raising fears of waterway pollution.

Federated Farmers high-country regional policy adviser Bob Douglas said this week that the organisation was not planning further culls of the pest bird.

Instead, it was working with people badly affected by the geese on their land to find a better solution. . .

Experts dump on dung beetle – Richard Rennie:

LEADING scientists and health experts believe there are major risks if dung beetles are released in New Zealand.

The beetles are in caged field trials in Northland after approval was granted by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) for 11 species to be imported.

ERMA has since been disbanded and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has taken over its role.

Championed by Landcare, the beetles are intended to assist rapid breakdown of animal waste, help reduce fly infestations resulting from dung presence, and possibly reduce the need for drench use. . .

Wheels may come off rural delivery – Richard Rennie

THE viability of rural mail contractors will be threatened if NZ Post pushes delivery services to only three times a week.

The state-owned enterprise is seeking to adjust the 1998 deed of understanding it has with the government on delivery conditions for standard letters and postal outlet services.

 NZ Post’s proposal document acknowledges rural New Zealand will be most affected by changes, particularly rural delivery contractors.

 One adjustment option the SOE has is to reduce mail services to three days a week . . .

High Value Harvest Underway:

New Zealand’s annual seed harvest is about to hit overdrive, and if last year’s official trade figures are any indication, there’s a surprising amount of money riding on the next few weeks.

Vegetable and forage seed exports were worth NZ$168million for the year ended 31 December 2012, up from NZ$138million the previous year, reports Statistics New Zealand.

Seed industry leaders have welcomed the result, especially considering the exchange rate, and are now eyeing up ways to grow the trade further while maintaining the rigorous standards that position New Zealand at the top end of a large, competitive global market. . .

Rabobank supports red meat sector collaboration program for greater farmer profitability:

Agricultural banking specialist Rabobank has welcomed the newly-announced red meat sector collaboration between industry and government to enhance the long-term profitability of New Zealand’s beef and lamb industries.

Rabobank New Zealand CEO Ben Russell said the bank was pleased to confirm its support as a participant in the proposed program. Rabobank notes the program is reliant on the forthcoming vote by farmers on Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s contribution. . .

Thorn Park Provides Highlights on Karaka Select Sale Day 2:

The momentum has continued right throughout Day 2 of New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2013 Select Yearling Sale today, with buyers reporting tough competition ringside.

By the close of play, 285 of the 611 Select Sale lots had sold for $12,809,000, with the average currently at $44,944 with the clearance rate strengthening slightly to 70%.

The top price was provided early in the day by Lot 707, the Thorn Park colt from Windsor Park Stud that was purchased for $140,000 by NZB as agent. The second foal of the Montjeu mare Kashira, he is from the family of dual Group 1 winners Military Plume and Monaco Consul.

Thorn Park colt Lot 718 fetched the second top price of the day. . .

Judging Underway in 2013 Dairy Awards:

Judging gets underway this week in the 2013 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the judges will begin the process to determine the 2013 New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year winners.

All entrants participate in the judging process that will select the 34 regional winners in the 12 regional competitions.

“Entrants had been invited to attend information evenings during the past couple of weeks to give them a bit of an idea of what to expect when judges visit on their farms – in the case of sharemilker/equity farmer and farm manager entrants – and what is expected of them. . .

Self-sufficient dairy farm placed on the market:

A well developed dairy farm on the north-east coast of the South Island has been placed on the market for sale.

The 187 hectare Mahunga Farm, 23 kilometres south of Kaikoura, is being marketed by Bayleys Real Estate as an attractive investment to an entry-level dairy farmer, or a group looking for a low-cost and low-output farm to draw healthy profits from. It is flat and well equipped with quality infrastructure. This farm has a sale price of $4.2million (plus GST if any).

Bayleys Canterbury salesperson Ruth Hodges said the current owners invested in Mahunga Farm with a long-term view – focusing on improving pasture quality and developing the farm into a low-input, profitable operation. . .


Rural round-up

January 30, 2013

Hard going for independent dairy firm; more competition unlikely in milk processing – Tony Chaston:

Is there still a place for more competition in the NZ dairy industry with Fonterra being such a dominant force?

This article looks at 10 years of business by the number two dairy processor Open Country Dairy which has been characterised by fights with big brother to get a fair crack at the market, and challenges to be consistently profitable.

This fight to compete with Fonterra has affected nearly all the processing minows in NZ and many have had to acquire overseas capital and increased shareholder investment to stay afloat. . .

Six finalists contend for 2013 Dairy Woman of the Year title:

The Dairy Women’s Network has announced the names of the six women who will progress into the final round of judging for the 2013 Dairy Woman of the Year Award.

They are:
• Juliet MacLean, chief executive Synlait Farms Limited, Rakaia
• Justine Kidd, business manager BEL Group, Waipukurau
• Kath Taylor, dairy veterinarian and Mastitis consultant, VetSouth Limited, Winton
• Kathryn van den Beuken, farm owner/operator and key account manager AgITO, Rakaia
• Leonie Guiney, farm owner/operator, Fairlie
• Sarah Watson, farm supervisor Canterbury, MyFarm, West Melton. . . .

Proposed changes to Rural Post and the NZ Post Deed:

Federated Farmers is to consult its membership on proposed changes that could radically reshape the delivery of physical mail to over half a million New Zealanders in rural areas.

“NZ Post deserves praise for the way it has worked with Federated Farmers, Rural Woman NZ and the other rural stakeholders,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“This will largely not come as a shock because we are living through a fundamental shift in technology. The decline in physical mail is offset by the rise of electronic mail.

“Commercially, NZ Post’s business model must either evolve or face extinction but I doubt many people can seriously argue the status quo is tenable. . .

Alliance Group Welcomes Primary Growth Partnership Collaboration Programme:

Leading meat processor and exporter Alliance Group has welcomed the launch of an initiative designed to improve farmer profitability.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has approved a commitment of up to $32.4 million, matched by industry, from MPI’s Primary Growth Partnership Fund (PGP) for the red meat sector’s new Collaboration for Sustainable Growth programme.

Grant Cuff, chief executive of Alliance Group Limited, one of the founding organisations taking part in the initiative, said . . .

Actually, The $58K From 20 Cows Is Not That Easy – Milking on the Moove:

In my last post, How To Make $58,788 Per Year With 20 Cows. I talked about how a simple dairy can be set up for quite a small investment of just over $100,000 and the milk can be sold direct to the customer.

I hoped the post would encourage people to think differently about dairy farming and the possibilities available. 

It’s certainly a good illustration of how profitable a business can be if it can retain the whole retail price.

Warning!

It’s not quite that simple.

It’s easy enough to buy a few cows and build a cheap dairy to process the milk. That’s easy. There are plenty of experts who can design or build the components for you. . .

 Hawkes Bay water project boon for Maori workers:

The spokesperson for four hapu in Central Hawke’s Bay says it’s vital local Maori play a key role in a proposed $220 million water storage project.

The regional council’s Ruataniwha water storage scheme would see a dam built on the Makaroro River to store 90 million cubic metres of water which could irrigate 22,000 hectares of farmland. . .

Nearly 75% of Kiwi women not getting enough calcium:

We all need calcium for strong bones and teeth as part of a healthy lifestyle, but studies show that nearly 75 per cent of New Zealand women aren’t getting the recommended amount of dietary calcium in their day[1].

If eating sardines and tofu doesn’t tickle your fancy however, Anchor and Osteoporosis New Zealand have now made it easy to top up your daily dietary calcium with the launch of a calcium enriched spread.

Endorsed by Osteoporosis NZ, Anchor Dairy Blend Calci+ spread is the first calcium enriched spread that not only provides the goodness of New Zealand dairy and is spreadable straight from the fridge, but also offers 10 per cent of your recommended dietary intake (RDI) of calcium. . .

NZ to run agricultural training programme in Chile:

New Zealand is to run an agricultural training project in Chile.

The Chilean government has announced that New Zealand will be running the four-year initiative, aimed at revamping agricultural productivity in the South American country.

Chile says it hopes the programme will help improve the effectiveness of the agricultural subsidies it pays its farmers and attract more skilled workers to the sector. . .


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