Rural round-up

July 17, 2014

Shock treatment makes waves - Sally Rae:

It has been an electrifying experiment.

A research team at the University of Otago has been using short bursts of high-voltage electricity in a bid to improve the tenderness of red meat.

The research, in conjunction with Alliance Group and led by Dr Alaa El-din Bekhit, of the university’s food science department, has been cited as having the potential to open up new opportunities for lifting returns on lower-value carcass cuts. . . .

Landowners want history kept alive:

A Taranaki Maori landowner of an award-winning farm wants tribal descendants to know about the land’s history, not just its success.

Te Rua o te Moko farm near Hawera won this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy recognising Maori excellence in farming.

The farm is made of four land blocks, one of which was confiscated by the Crown in 1863 and is being held in a land bank. It is due to be given back as part of the Ngaruahinerangi iwi Treaty of Waitangi settlement. . .

Landcorp’s huge dairy plans start to take shape -

Three new dairy farms that have been converted from forestry will begin milking for the first time in the new season as part of Landcorp’s large-scale dairy development near Taupo.

The state-owned enterprise has converted nine farms from forestry in partnership with landowner Wairakei Pastoral. In total, the nine dairy units encompassed 5300ha and milked 13,000 cows, chief executive Steven Carden said. Based on its current timetable, Landcorp hoped to have everything completed by 2020. To date, the project has cost $87 million.

“We have four this year, four the next year and four the year after. When the whole thing is finished we are looking at 24 farms and around about 30,000 cows across 25,700ha of land.”  . . .

Knock-on effects of less beer drinking – Sonita Chandar:

Fewer people are drinking beer and farmers are getting a hangover.

As beer consumption falls, breweries require less malt and malting companies need less barley from farmers.

The change in Kiwis’ drinking habits is being felt at the Marton malting factory of MaltEurop NZ.

Operations manager Tiago Cabral says some barley growers are likely to feel the effect more than others.

“We will need less barley and will have to contract less tonnage from our growers,” he says. . . .

2014 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards Finalists Announced:

The finalists have been announced for the third Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Sheep Industry Awards.

About 300 people are expected to attend the awards dinner – which recognise top-performing New Zealand sheep breeders – on 6 August in Napier.

Five industry-related awards will be presented. In addition to the Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year, Individual or Business Making a Significant Contribution to the New Zealand Sheep Industry and the Sheep Industry Innovation Award, two new awards have been added: the Sheep Industry Science Award, recognising a project, business or person undertaking science that is having a positive impact on farming now, and the Sheep Industry Supplier Award, which recognises a farmer supplier nominated by processors for consistently meeting company specifications and other key performance indicators. . .

CRV Ambreed appoints artificial insemination expert to Tasman, Marlborough area role:

Dairy farmer, breeder and artificial insemination expert Nigel Patterson has been appointed field consultant for the CRV Ambreed team, in which he will be managing the Nelson, Marlborough, Murchison area.

CRV Ambreed’s South Island sales and services manager Mark Duffy said the company was delighted to have someone with such a strong background in dairy join the team.

“Nigel has over 26 years’ experience in the dairy industry, including running his own pedigree Jersey herd, share milking, providing testing services and supporting farmers through artificial insemination (AI),” said Mr Duffy. . . .

New Zealand’s leading analytical testing laboratory celebrates 30 years:

In July 1984 a young Waikato scientist by the name of Roger Hill left a small soil testing laboratory in Cambridge to launch his own in Hamilton.

Roger and his wife Anne’s initial business intention, he says, was simply to “have a go” on their own.

Yet three decades later the company, well-known nationally and internationally as Hill Laboratories, is the largest privately owned testing laboratory in the whole of New Zealand. . .

Ballance signs up record shareholders:

A record number of farmers from around the country have secured shareholdings in Ballance Agri-Nutrients in time to receive a rebate on their fertiliser purchased from the farm nutrient co-operative in September this year.

Ballance’s rebate and dividend in the 2013 financial year averaged a record $65 per tonne.

Nearly 1000 farmers signed up to become shareholders for the 2014 financial year which ended on 31 May. . .

Reduce winter nitrogen loss – Bala Tikkisetty:

Winter is a time when farmers should take special care to protect both profits and the environment from the effects of increased nitrogen leaching at this time of year.

Applications of nitrogen fertilisers in winter are generally least effective for promoting grass growth.

That’s because slow growth of pasture and drainage from increased seasonal rainfall can result in nitrate leaching directly from fertiliser before plants can take it up. The nitrogen can then make its way to waterways where it can stimulate nuisance algal growth. . .


Here are the jobs

November 28, 2013

Tuesday’s ODT  led with two good news stories.

The first is Children’s  TV for NHNZ:

Dunedin’s NHNZ is preparing to take on the likes of Disney with the launch of its own international children’s television channel.

NHNZ managing director Kyle Murdoch said, in preparation for the launch of the channel next February, 54 staff were hard at work in Dunedin producing content for it.

About 40 were new staff who had joined the office since the middle of this year. . .

About 40 new staff – these will be skilled jobs and this venture will earn export income.

And that’s not all NHNZ is doing:

Other exciting projects were under way at NHNZ, including the co-development with a Korean company of technology to transfer two-dimensional film into three dimensions.

”If you go and convert this stuff in Hollywood, it’s going to cost you about $10,000 a minute to convert, but with this technology we aim to convert it for between $10,000 and $20,000 an hour.”

The second story is more uni students expected:

Student numbers are expected to increase at the University of Otago next year, turning around three years of declining enrolments at the institution.

The prediction student numbers would rise by 1.7% to 18,918 full-time equivalent students (Efts) next year was made in the university’s budget for next year, which was tabled at yesterday’s council meeting – its last for the year.

The budget, along with the university’s forecast performance for this year, also tabled at the meeting, added to a picture of the university being in a strong financial position in the face of a challenging funding environment. . .

The university is one of the city’s biggest employers. The servicing and supplying of students and staff is also a large part of the Dunedin’s economy.

The city has been in the doldrums, partly because of the perception it hasn’t been getting its fair share of public spending. That isn’t the case and the university is one area where the government puts a lot of money.

But sustainable growth shouldn’t rely on public funding which can come and go. It must be built on a foundation of local individuals and businesses with the will and skills to prosper.

Both these stories show Dunedin can turn pick itself up by building on its strengths which include sound existing businesses with the potential to expand.

Another is the university which is one of the city’s biggest assets in financial and social terms.

It gets public funding and has the ability to earn extra export income from foreign students. It creates jobs directly and indirectly and provides opportunities for businesses which service and supply those who work and study there.

Today’ there’s another exciting headline – project worth ‘millions’ to city.

A major international investor is eyeing Dunedin with plans that could pump ”tens of millions of dollars” into the city’s economy, the Otago Chamber of Commerce says.

The unnamed organisation is in talks with members of a new Dunedin investment panel, created by the chamber, the Dunedin City Council and other city organisations, and hopes to progress plans next year.

Chamber chief executive John Christie said the development, if confirmed, would be in a ”key area” of strength for the city, and involve land, construction and a ”significant” number of new jobs for the city.

”We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars of new opportunity from the city.

”This is good. This is one of the city’s key strengths that we would be building on,” he said.

He stressed the opportunity was yet to be secured, and other New Zealand centres were also in the running, but believed Dunedin was well placed. . .

This bird is still in the bush and it’s too early to start counting its chickens but it is good to see the city being proactive.

The opportunity involved one of ”about eight” organisations now in talks with the new Dunedin investment panel, he said. . .

It comprised representatives from the chamber, council, the Otago Southland Employers’ Association and the tertiary sector, and there were plans to invite other members, as needed, Mr Christie said.

The panel aimed to improve city-wide communication and co-ordinate efforts to help attract potential investors to the city, as well as protect established Dunedin businesses and help them grow, he said.

”What we’re trying to do with that group is get the people that can make a difference around the table to understand what the issues are, and be able to make contact with those companies to see what, if anything, we can do.

”For whatever reason, some things can fall through the gaps … there’s a range of different options that can be put to people if only we know about them.”

One of the first topics of conversation for panel members had been to identify lessons from the handling of Betterways’ bid to build its $100 million, 27-storey hotel.

”I think there’s a lot of lessons learned from a lot of players, both internal and external to council, that can see that there’s a whole lot of things that perhaps we could do to be supportive as a city,” Mr Christie said. . .

Those are important lessons which the city must learn to ensure the city is supportive to existing businesses and new ones.


Rural round-up

November 27, 2013

Moment of truth for MIE and its board candidates – Allan Barber:

In the seven months since MIE’s first farmer meeting in Gore, there have been more meetings, discussions with meat companies and, most recently, nominations for the boards of Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group. Meat companies have tried and failed to find an acceptable solution to the problems raised by MIE.

Previous MIE executive members Richard Young and Dan Jex-Blake are standing for election to Silver Fern Farms’ board. Don Morrison has been nominated for the Alliance board as a farmer director, while a shareholder, Mark Paterson, has proposed a resolution to nominate Fonterra director John Monaghan for the independent directorship vacated by Owen Poole. This will be voted on by those members present at the AGM, but the result of that vote is not binding on the board.

Alliance Group’s AGM takes place on the 13th December and SFF’s on 18th. Therefore we will know before Christmas how many of these candidates have actually made it onto one or other of the cooperative’s boards. . .

Northland trust goes dairy with Te Tumu Paeroa:

A Northland Maori trust has entered into a partnership with land administrator Te Tumu Paeroa to turn a sheep and beef farm into a money-making dairy operation.

The Omapere Rangihamama Trust runs a farm near Kaikohe, which is currently used for forestry and maize, as well as sheep and beef.

But chair Sonny Tau says the Rangihamama Farm will soon be converted into a dairy farming operation, with 500 cows over 278 hectares. He says it will mean a better financial return on the land. . .

New x-rays and staff to strengthen border biosecurity:

New x-ray technology and more frontline staff will help to beef up New Zealand’s biosecurity defences at the border, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

Mr Guy today unveiled a new x-ray machine at Auckland Airport, one of 12 machines that have been installed around the country.

“The new machines will be more reliable than the Ministry for Primary Industries’ older x-ray units and will provide better image quality,” says Mr Guy.

“MPI will be able to screen baggage with greater accuracy and image quality. This means border staff will be better equipped to spot biosecurity risk items before they enter New Zealand. . .

Labour Inspectorate extending dairy farm visits to regions:

The Labour Inspectorate is extending its dairy farm visits to regions across New Zealand to check compliance with minimum employment rights.

Labour Inspectors began visiting dairy farms in Southland in August, with the work now being replicated in the Waikato, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki.

The visits are part of a long-term operation to identify breaches of employment law, with particular focus on a practice called seasonal averaging and the failure to keep accurate time and wage records. . .

AgResearch, Invermay and Genetics – Peter K. Dearden:

The opinions below are my own, and not necessarily those of the University of Otago, my employer.

You may be aware that AgResearch has decided to move its genetics/genomics team from Invermay near Dunedin, to Lincoln. This move has excited a great deal of attention in the Otago press, and some consternation around here. Genetics Otago  has been drawn into this as a centre of research excellence and hub for genetics and genomics that AgResearch is linked into, that they will lose the benefit of if they move. This has led to some unfortunate exchanges in the media, so I thought I would write something from my point of view.

AgResearch has had a long-term and excellent genetic/ genomics group at Invermay. Many of that group are members of Genetics Otago. Genetics Otago has over 200 members across the University of Otago, AgResearch, AbacusBio, and others (both companies and individuals) across Otago. AgResearch is a small, but important, part of that collaboration. . .

Herd TB status changes encourage testing:

Farmers and lifestylers are being encouraged to get their cattle and deer tested for bovine tuberculosis (TB) as soon as they have been registered with the TBfree New Zealand programme.

To ensure the programme’s testing requirements are as accurate as possible for all animals, some changes have been made to the TB status of herds.

The changes directly affect newly-registered breeding herds and non-breeding (dry stock) herds. All new herds now start off on a Suspended (S) herd TB status until they have passed their first whole herd test. . .

New Zealand’s Favourite Honey: Manuka Trumps Clover in 2013 National Honey Week Survey:

The popularity of Manuka honey has been confirmed in a recent national survey, which places it above Clover and other floral varieties. In the New Zealand-wide survey launched by Airborne Honey this month to celebrate the country’s first National Honey Week, 40% of Kiwis named Manuka as their favourite and 29% choose Clover. A number of other floral honeys featured further down the scale, including Vipers Bugloss (3%) and Rewarewa (2.26%).

The survey also revealed that the favoured way to eat honey in New Zealand is on toast (57%), followed by a sweetener in hot drinks (9%) and straight off the spoon for medicinal purposes (9%). Most New Zealanders eat honey once or twice a week with only 2% never eating honey at all. . . .

Brancott Estate Heritage Centre wins International Wine Tourism Award:

A New Zealand cellar door has won a 2014 International Best of Wine Tourism award with the Brancott Estate Heritage Centre in Marlborough being the only New Zealand cellar door to win this prestigious award.

The Brancott Estate Heritage Centre, home of Brancott Estate wines, is located at Brancott Vineyard, the site of the original Sauvignon Blanc plantings in Marlborough.

The Great Wine Capitals Global Network recently announced the winners of the 2014 International Best of Wine Tourism awards at a ceremony held at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in St. Helena, California. The nine international winners were chosen from 53 local ‘Best Of‘ winners from nine Great Wine Capitals. In all, 350 applications were received this year. . .


NZ’s best university city

November 21, 2013

Dunedin is New Zealand’s best university city for several reasons.

It is the site of the country’s first and best university – Otago. *

The city itself has only about 120,000 residents so the 20,000 or so students plus staff make a significant, and largely positive, impact on it.

The majority of students come from outside Dunedin and most live on or near the campus creating a student-friendly environment not found anywhere else in the country.

It didn’t however, feature in London-based Quacquarelli Symonds’  annual Best Student Cities ranking because the qualifying criteria include being a city of at least 250,000, and having at least two world ranked universities in the city. So Dunedin – like some other small university cities, including Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, Princeton in the US, and St Andrews in Scotland, wasn’t considered.

The Herald has picked up the story and is running a poll to determine the country’s best university city.

The only one to pick is of course Dunedin.

* in my totally biased and subjective opinion.

 


Rural round-up

April 15, 2013

Partnership To Offer Significant Benefits For New Zealand And China Agriculture Industries:

Beijing, China: New Zealand Government-owned AsureQuality and PwC New Zealand have today signed a collaboration framework agreement with China Mengniu Dairy Company Limited and COFCO Corporation to investigate the development of a China New Zealand agribusiness service and Food Safety Centre of Excellence in China.

Initially AsureQuality and PwC will work with Mengniu and COFCO on a dairy-related food safety and farm assurance project. As the partnership evolves it is expected that additional New Zealand commercial and research entities with expertise in other areas of the agricultural sector will be brought in.

AsureQuality’s CEO Mr Michael Thomas and PwC New Zealand’s CEO Mr Bruce Hassall, who signed the agreement in Beijing today, say, “This agreement acknowledges the expertise held by AsureQuality, and the benefits that formal collaboration offers for us, and potentially the wider New Zealand agribusiness sector, in the Chinese market. . .

Sheep production vet’s main interest - Sally Rae:

When people ask vet Dave Robertson what he does in his job, his usual reply is that he ”scans cows and talks about sheep”.

Mr Robertson, a partner at the Veterinary Centre, based in Oamaru, graduated with a degree in veterinary science from Massey University 10 years ago.

He grew up in West Otago, in a family which has a long association with sheep breeding. . .

Returning business manager sees transformation in Southland – Sally Rae:

David Backhurst has seen a lot of changes in Southland since first moving there in the early 1990s and then spending a decade away from the province.

Mr Backhurst has returned to Invercargill to take up the position of general manager of agribusiness and business banking at SBS Bank, after spending the past seven years in Australia.

He was state leader for New South Wales, ACT and Queensland for NAB Health, a specialised banking business launched by the National Australia Bank to service the financial needs of medical practitioners, healthcare and aged-care facilities and investors in the healthcare sector. . .

Deer milk cheese may be world first – Rob Tipa:

Scientists at the University of Otago and Lincoln University and a cheesemaker from Oamaru have produced what they believe may be the world’s first cheese made from the milk of farmed red deer.

What’s more, laboratory tests have identified unique bioactive compounds in red deer milk that they say could improve the immune system of humans.

If that is the case, red deer milk could be worth as much as $100 a litre on niche health food markets and a single red deer hind could potentially produce up to $20,000 worth of milk in a single lactation, according to Dr Alaa El-Din A Bekhit, a senior lecturer in the University of Otago’s Food Science Department. . .

Mill’s expansion plan taking shape – Helena de Reus:

Milton’s historic woollen mill is a hive of activity as its owners shift and replace machinery and plan for its expansion.

Some of the plant’s machinery has been sold, and Bruce Woollen Mill Ltd has spent more than $500,000 on several other machines from Australia to help produce a greater range of products.

Bruce Woollen Mill managing director John Stevens, of Christchurch, said much work had taken place over the past eight months. . .

Smith crowns stellar shears year with NZ Champs win :

Hastings shearer Rowland Smith crowned a stellar couple of months on the competition circuit with a comfortable New Zealand Open Championship win set to a background of drama in Te Kuiti’s packed Waitomo Cultural and Arts Centre on Saturday night.

The win in a six-man final of what should have been 20 sheep each was the 26-year-old Northland-raised gun’s 14th in 11 weeks, including his first Golden Shears Open win in Masterton on March 2.

But there was drama all-around the winner on Stand 3, most-amazingly next-door on Stand 2 where fellow Hawke’s Bay shearer Dion King was wondering how he’d beaten the all-conquering event favourite Smith by more than a sheep and set a record time, until his worst fears were realised. There’d been only 19 sheep in his pen. . .

Farmers praised for role in helping stilt:

High-country farmers have been praised for contributing to a record-breaking season for the endangered kaki (black stilt).

Each year, Department of Conservation staff collect kaki eggs from the wild for incubation at the captive breeding centre at Twizel.

Nearly half of all eggs taken this summer were collected from farmland in the Mackenzie and Waitaki basins with the co-operation of farmers. . .

Farmer of the year -  rivettingKateTaylor:

You are just getting the press release this afternoon…. courtesy of the HB A&P Society – I have been out photographing all day and now I am off to assembly. More later :)

 Night of Winners

Hawke’s Bay’s agribusiness community was out in force last night to celebrate a string of awards that recognise excellence in the primary industries.

350 guests packed the events centre at Showgrounds Hawke’s Bay to enjoy an evening of fine food, entertainment and celebrate with the worthy winners.

The big winners on the night were Danny & Robyn Angland, who took out the prestigious Silver Fern Farms Hawke’s Bay Farmer of the Year title for their management of the iconic Hawke’s Bay farming enterprise Kereru Station.  Danny has been Manager of the 2847ha Station since 2007. . .


Wise words

December 6, 2012

Writer Owen Marshall gave the address at the university of Otago’s graduation ceremony last weekend.

Among his wise words were these:

. . . if the university as a whole “ever loses that essential love of knowledge for its own sake, that scholastic enthusiasm and tolerance, then the spark will be gone”.

The university was then likely to be “a place of formal, empty pedantry, meal-ticket mentality, or a debased, bums-on-seats democracy”, . . .

And:

. . . “Everyone seems to be an expert on education, and a good deal of vehement and often ignorant criticism is advanced, for always there are people who are eager to find fault in the performance of others, yet unwilling or incapable of taking responsibility themselves.

“Of course we need accountability, efficiency and a response to modern youth and modern society.

“We also need to preserve and commend those values that are at the heart of the best universities – scrupulous scholarship, academic enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, a fellowship of the heart and mind, and a desire to pass on knowledge.”

And:

He emphasised the need for gratitude, which was “not much in fashion these days”.

“We hear much of rights, accountability, consumers, performance and delivery, all in a mechanistic way, but not much about gratitude, and not much about dedication.”

Graduates owed gratitude not only to family and friends but also to Otago University itself.

And he thanked Otago staff who had “persevered through the squalls of restructuring and the doldrums of educational policy, to maintain a vision of senior study that upholds opportunity based on talent, an openness to intellectual possibility, the value of reason and knowledge of life generally.” . . .


Otago one of world’s beautiful universities

September 4, 2012

The Telegraph has photos of 16 of the world’s most beautiful universities.

There among the venerable institutions of Oxford, Havard, Cape Town, Moscow State, Bologna, Toronto, Cambridge, Salamanca, Mumbai, Sydney, University of London’s Royal Holloway, Princeton, Xiamen, Queens Belfast and Yale is Otago.

The photo is of the registry building and clock tower at the emotional, if not geographical, centre of the campus.

Otago, though much younger, is the closest we have to a university city like Oxford which we visited in June.

My cousin’s daughter, who is studying there, took us to Balliol College for lunch then gave us a tour of places which were familiar through literature and films but so much more impressive in reality.

The buildings are beautiful and having a guide with local knowledge gave us a real appreciation of the history and traditions of the university.


$3.5 million to make new law

May 14, 2012

University of Otago, Wellington researchers have published a study that estimates for the first time the average cost of producing a new law in New Zealand.

The research shows a new act costs on average $3.5 million, while a regulation is estimated to cost around $530,000.

The researchers developed a method that analysed the number of acts and regulations passed in Parliament from 1999 to 2010. They then considered the costs of running Parliament, particularly ‘sitting days’, when MPs debate new laws. Also taken into account were the costs of policy advice from government agencies related to law-making.

That’s an interesting finding.

The cost-benefit ratio showing how well, or not, the law worked would be even more so.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Nick Wilson, says that “whilst the findings are of interest in themselves, since law making is funded by our taxes, the key reason we performed this study was to work out the cost-effectiveness of health interventions that use laws, versus those using other approaches such as media and education campaigns or GP visits.”  . . .

Co-author, Professor Tony Blakely explains that there’s now a strong scientific basis for the use of the law as a public health instrument.

“One recent analysis identified 65 systematic reviews of studies on the effectiveness of 52 public health laws. Most of these laws were found to have achieved their health objectives covering such areas as: injury prevention, housing improvements, tobacco control, promoting vaccination, reducing violence, and improving food safety,” he says.

The University of Otago researchers are planning to use these results in future research on the cost-effectiveness of new laws in this country. Such new laws could include those on tobacco, alcohol and dietary hazards such as salt and saturated fat.

“We suspect that public health laws in particular are very good value for money – just like the law that made restaurants and pubs smokefree. But we need to study the cost-effectiveness of laws so political decision makers can make informed policy,” says Associate Professor Wilson. . .

A scientific basis for legislation showing cost-effectiveness is a very good idea.


This isn’t how it was supposed to work

December 16, 2011

Voluntary student membership was primarily about freedom of association.

A bonus should have been that it would force student unions to become more efficient and responsive to their members.

It wasn’t supposed to mean business as usual with universities charging students more which they then pass on to the unions:

The Southern Region Young Nationals today expressed disappointment with the student services agreement reached between the University of Otago and the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) which has led to a substantial increase in fees students pay for the provision of non-academic services.

The agreement comes after OUSA responded to voluntary student membership legislation by recommending students set their membership levy at $0, leaving them reliant on the University’s compulsory student services fees to fund their operations.

The University Council voted to increase student services fees by 16%, from $580 to $672. This included a 12% increase from $190 to $213 per student in fees charged for OUSA services, despite the fact that the services remain unchanged in 2012.

Southern Region Chair, Callum Fredric, believes that the agreement will negatively impact Otago students.

“Students are now being charged significantly more in 2012 for what is essentially the same thing that they were being charged for in 2011”, Fredric stated. “There appears to be no reasonable justification for such a large increase in student fees, which only adds to the growing mountain of student debt without providing any tangible increase in services.”

Recently the Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, released a Ministerial Direction on Compulsory Student Service Fees which aimed to ensure accountability in the use of compulsory fees for student services. Fredric says that the Minister should be taking a close look at the reasons for such a fee increase at Otago.

“I think that whenever there is a substantial increase in fees that appears to be unaccounted for, there is cause for the Government to ask questions about whether this is an appropriate use of students’, and ultimately, taxpayers’money.”

Fredric rejects the assertion that this increase is due to the abolition of compulsory student unionism. He says that as the service provider, OUSA ultimately sets the minimum level at which they charge students to provide their services.

“At the end of the day OUSA has the ability to charge as little as they wish to provide these services to students. In doing the complete opposite and actually increasing the amount students pay to OUSA by over 10%, they have shown that their previous commitments to a more fiscally responsible and sustainable organisation were nothing more than empty rhetoric. Sadly it is the students who will pay for OUSA’s decision to continue their history of levy and spend.”

The union should have used the abolition of compulsory membership to examine what it did, how it did it, how much support it had from students to do it and how much they were willing to pay for it.

Instead it will be able to carry on as usual and students will have no more control over the costs than they did when membership was compulsory.


Time to decide what’s real and what’s illusory

August 29, 2011

Central Otago poet Brian Turner says it’s time for New Zealanders to decide “once and for all what is real and what is illusory, what is sustainable and what is not”.

He was speaking at a University of Otago graduation ceremony at which he was awarded a Doctor of Literature.

“That means working out how to manage the transition to a society based upon a different ethos, one that’s more ethical and imaginative.

“We need to be smarter, more caring in every sense, abandon the lust for instant materialistic gratification, and ignore the freakery of those who would have us believe in the possibility of perpetual euphoria.”

Decades ago, Aldo Leopold had implored people”to adopt a land ethic, to see all creatures and the very atmosphere we breathe, as a community to which we belonged” rather than mainly as “commodities to be used however we saw fit” . . .

. . . “I’m convinced that strengthening one’s localities, one’s regions, in the interests of our families and friends, and of the wider family of life on earth, is the best and most responsible thing we can do.

 

“Considerable resilience” was called for, everywhere, “if we are to make the transition to different ways of living and providing for ourselves”.

If he is arguing for more localism I’d take issue with it. Self sufficiency has its place but so too does interaction and trade between communities and countries.

However, I agree there is a need to seek continual improvements in the way we do things.

Such calls often taken to be anti-business and development but it doesn’t have to be that way. A reader emailed me this link to the obituary of Ray Anderson, the  head of the world’s largest commercial carpet-tile manufacturer, who was a trail blazer in reducing his firm’s environmental impact:

While much of what Anderson instigated is now relatively common – including measures such as car pooling for employees, moving distribution of goods on to water and rail, switching to an element of fair trade for suppliers, and introducing sustainability training for employees – his company blazed a trail. It also showed, as Anderson was keen to point out, that most of the measures were beneficial to the bottom line – money. Waste-saving innovations alone over the past 13 years have saved the company $372m.

Some initiatives such as fair trade are often based more on feel-good factors than fact, but treading more lightly on the earth can have positive affects on both the environment and the economy.

In seeking to do that we should also strengthen our localities and regions in the interests of people. If I read what Turner is saying corretly, we’ll make the world a better place for people now and for those who follow us.


Graduation a multi-cultural revelation

May 10, 2010

The faculty head speaking at a gathering of Otago graduands and their families four years ago said that graduation would mean more to the parents than graduates.

I thought back to my own capping more than 20 years earlier and better understood my mother’s and father’s excitement, possibly in part because I’d achieved something the Depression had prevented them from doing.

I can’t remember who delivered the address at my graduation or what s/he said. The speaker at our daughter’s capping was Jonathon Lemalu. He told us that he’d been on many stages round the world but on none of them had he felt as proud as when he crossed the Dunedin Town Hall stage to be capped.

Fast forward to last Friday and another graduation, this time in Auckland, and even more parental pride.

The University of Otago is a very important part of Dunedin and because of that there’s usually good will between town and gown. I hadn’t expected the same feeling in Auckland, where the university is bigger but less important to the city. However, the excitement of the graduands and their families seemed to be shared by other onlookers as the graduands’ procession passed by.

The procession had a strong muliti-cultural look. That international flavour was reinforced during the graduation ceremony later in the day as we listened to the graduands’ names being called and watched them cross the stage.

 It was particularly noticeable with Optometry. Only 12 of the 37 graduating were men and all of the dozen looked as if they were of Asian descent. If appearance and names are a reliable guide, about 2/3 of the women in the class were also of Asian descent.

Appearance isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of nationality, of course. Many of these people will be New Zealanders by birth, or choice. New Zealand is a melting pot, and there are many positive opportunities for us in that.

I do however, have concerns about another observation – only four of the 37 new optometrists are working in the South Island.

Emeritus Professor Bellamy gave the graduation address and offered five points to guide the new graduates:

* Maintain honesty and integrity in what you do.

* Strive to ensure decisions are evidence based.

* Foster the ability to work in a team.

* Continue to read outside your discipline to broaden your understanding of the world.

* Keeping perfecting your ability to express your thoughts clearly in speech and writing.

After the ceremony we had a celebration dinner at Number 5 . First class service and delicious food in delightful surroundings provided a fitting end to a wonderful day.


A dog of an idea

December 10, 2009

In a list of Labour’s spending excesses, Duncan Garner writes:

Michael Cullen spent twice what he had to buying back KiwiRail from Toll.

The purchase suited Labour for political reasons. They campaigned on KiwiSaver, KiwiRail and Kiwibank. But it was not good value for money – taxpayers’ money. Cullen would never have spent his own dosh on such a buy-up.

I note KiwiRail is now valued at half what Cullen paid for it . .

In her Listener column Joanne Black writes:

My elder daughter and I are much excited at the moment by what name we would give a cat . . . Naming a dog? That would be so much easier. If I had a dog I’d call it Kiwirail.

Apropos of this, like Whaleoil, I’m not impressed with Otago University’s decision to grant Cullen an honorary degree.


Quality & quantity

October 9, 2009

Eight universities for a population of only four million does suggest we’re over-universitied.

But we can take some comfort from the global ranking of universities which suggests we’ve got quality as well as quantity.

Three of our universities are the top 200 – Auckland at 61, Otago at 125 and Canterbury at 188.

If you judge universities on more than academia, Otago still comes out tops.*

A relatively big university in a small city where most students come from other places creates a unique experience (and I don’t mean the stupidity which captured headlines recently).

More details on results of the comparisons here.

Hat Tip: NBR.

* from the completely unbiased :) perspective of a graduate from both Otago and Canterbury with a daughter who graduated from Otago and is now studying at Auckland.


Student standby to return?

August 27, 2009

The ODT reports that Air New Zealand plans to offer University of Otago students $39 standby fares to and from Dunedin.

Student Standby operated when I was a student in the mid to late 1970s and was a wonderful way to get cheaper airfares providing you didn’t have to get somewhere at a specific time.

There was no guarantee you would get a seat until just before the flight was due to leave but if there was a spare seat you got it for half price.

The airline got a passenger, albeit a low paying one, on a seat which would otherwise have been empty and the student got a cheaper flight.


A little learning . . .

July 9, 2009

 . . . isn’t nearly enough when it comes to a foreign language.

My first attempts at learning Spanish were by correspondence. I had no trouble understanding the lessons but instead of doing a little each day I tended to do a fortnight’s work at a single sitting and then forgot everything I’d taken in by the next time I went back to it.

Studying at Otago University was more successful but learning the theory gives you skills in the opposite way from which you acquire them by total immersion. If you learn a language by living it you learn as children do, to understand what you hear first, then to speak and later to read and write. Learning it formally, reading and writing  usually come first then speaking and finally listening comprehension follows.

Three months total immersion at language school in Spain did more for my language skills than three years at university could have, but that was four years ago. Teaching night classes has helped me retain the basics but I’m very rusty with anything more advanced.

 That’s one of the reasons we’re back in Vejer de la Frontera where I’m spending mornings at La Janda language school.

It attracts students from all over the world and while we learn the  language we also learn about the Spanish culture and a little about the countries and cultures of our fellow students.

Es una experiencia muy especial, y día por día, poco por poco,  estoy aprendiendo más.  (It’s a special experience and day by day, little by little I’m learning more).


Tuesday’s answers

July 7, 2009

Monday’s questions were:

1. Which is New Zealand’s shortest river?

2. Who said “What is left for men to do? After they’ve taken the rubbish out, that is?”

3. Who wrote For Better, For Worse and For Lunch?

4. Who was the first woman to graduate from the University of Otago (which I think means NZ)?

5. What are the Maori and botanical names for cabbage tree?

Paul Tremewan did best with two right and 1 very close (it’s Christina not Christine for 3). No-one got the anser to 2.

Tuesday’s answers follow the break: Read the rest of this entry »


Monday’s Quiz

July 6, 2009

1. Which is New Zealand’s shortest river?

2. Who said “What is left for men to do? After they’ve taken the rubbish out, that is?”

3. Who wrote For Better, For Worse and For Lunch?

4. Who was the first woman to graduate from the University of Otago (which I think means NZ)?

5. What are the Maori and botanical names for cabbage tree?


Milk too expensive or people too poor?

June 20, 2009

Otago University researchers have found the price of milk is beyond the bugets of low-income families and they want the government to intervene.

Researchers Louise Signal and Moira Smith want the Government to bring in price controls to make milk more affordable.

They are also advocating that milk be included in the new “breakfast in schools” programme in low-income areas.

. . . The researchers say the Government contributed to rising milk prices by removing subsidies and control from the milk industry, applying GST to food, and by the linking of retail prices to international commodity prices.

Including milk in breakfast in schools programme might be a good idea but the other suggestions have no merit.

Price controls are simply a tax on production and if they were imposed on farmers they’d stop supplying the domestic market in favour of exporting or change from dairying to something more profitable.

Argentina put export taxes on beef and dairy produce last year to keep domestic prices low. Farmers then turned to other more profitable produce leading to shortages and the possibility of needing imports to satisfy demand.

Removing subsidies was painful at the time but it has made the New Zealand dairy industry the most efficient in the world.

Reintroducing subsidies would not only cost taxpayers and consumers it would sabotage our exports and the slow progress we’re making towards freeing up world trade.

A good tax may be an oxymoron but a simple tax is better and GST is simple. Removing it from food would add to compliance costs, make business much more complicated and more costly for retailers and require raising tax elsewhere to compensate for lost income.

Linking retail prices to international commodity prices is nothing to do with the government. It’s simply the market. If farmers could get more for producing for export than for the local market that’s what they’d do.

The problem isn’t that milk is too expensive, it’s that people are too poor and that’s because of our poor record of economic growth.


Otago Capping Show Sextet 2

May 20, 2009

An encore from the Otago Capping Show Sextet – this time it’s The Price of Living:


Selwyn Ballet

May 20, 2009

While searching for something from The Sextet I came across another Otago Capping Show favourite, the Selwyn College Ballet:


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