We expect dry weather in late summer so while Southland, Canterbury, Marlborough and much of the North Island were getting publicity about drought last month we were still saying it was situation normal.


But as rain has fallen in most other areas it has stayed away from here, though thanks to increased irrigation we are not so badly off as we were a couple of years ago when the photo above was taken.


 Now thanks to the North Otago irrigation scheme a lot more of the Waiareka Valley is green but those still on dryland are getting very worried. 


We had about 20 mls of rain today, That’s a good start, and definitely better than a nor-wester, but we need a lot more to get soil moisture levels up before it gets too cold.

Who owns what shouldn’t matter


The Herald editorial – Strategic When It Suits – sums up Labour’s hypocrisy on asset sales.


I’ve never understood the xenophobic attitude to foreign investment.


When we converted to dairying we borrowed from the bank and as a result we’ve employed more staff, used more contractors, done more development, produced more, earned more and paid more tax all of which helps the local economy and New Zealand.


The bank we borrowed from has foreign owners but uses a building in the main street on which it must pay rent or rates. It employs local people and their wages flow into the economy. It sponsors local and national events, including the Young Farmer of the Year contest; and it pays tax. Some of its profit is reinvested in New Zealand and yes some goes back to its overseas owners. But so what? That’s just the price we pay for being able to borrow their money.


The Government’s role is to get the regulatory framework right to protect New Zealand and New Zealanders, once that’s done it shouldn’t matter who owns which companies.

Brash – don’t tinker with GST


Anyone who still thinks removing GST from food is a good idea should read Don Brash’s column in this morning’s Herald.

What a surprise – Government advertising increases in election year



Today’s ODT has three full page advertisements for Kiwisaver. It seems a lot, especially in light of Bill English’s press release about the Government ramping up spending on advertising in election year:

March 2003      $3,235,752     
March 2004      $4,096,347     
March 2005      $7,922,172     
March 2006      $7,188,466     
March 2007      $6,147,948     
March 2008      $8,098,723     
Source: Nielsen Media Research



The usual increase in spending is more notable this year because political parties and other groups are so hamstrung by the Electoral Finance Act.



Tax Freedom Day


Today is Tax Freedom Day: Stuff

We now spend 19 more days working to pay our taxes than in 2001 and if local government and other government spending were added Tax Freedom Day would be June 4.

Is life too safe?


Bill Ralston writes in this week’s Listener about keeping kids safe and says: Kids do face a larger array of hazards than their parents did. But the biggest problem they face is not being armed with the fundamentals of life – a set of core values.


His view is reinforced by this true story: A university student told her mother that she had been talking to her friends and they’d all concluded how lucky they were to have been brought up in families where their parents loved each other and their children; set them boundaries and made them face consequences when they breached them; modelled work ethics, taught them the value of money and the importance of  values including honesty, kindness, consideration and respect for themselves and others. The mother was touched but she was also saddened because when she’d been 21 she’d have taken these things for granted because they would have been normal; obviously her daughter and her friends didn’t because they no longer are.


There are many reasons for this, one of which is the intrusion of the state into people’s lives. Of course there must be some rules and safeguards, but those who try to make the world really safe, not just for children but for all of us, actually make it more dangerous because we stop taking responsibility for ourselves.


Personal responsibility is one of the core values, like the others the students recognised, that used to be common place, but isn’t so common anymore. Bill refers to Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft’s appeal for schools to help those kids whose families don’t teach them personal values. I am wary of putting more on to already over-loaded teachers and I also wonder how much can be taught at school if it’s not being modelled at home and in society at large.


The following verse is supposedly written on the tomb of a bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abby:


Start with yourself


When I was young and free and my imagination

had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As

I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world

would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat

and decided to change only my country.


But it too seemed immovable.


As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate

attempt, I settled for changing only my family,

those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.


And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realise:

If I had only changed myself first, then by example

I would have changed my family.


From their inspiration and encouragement, I would

then have been able to better my country and,

who knows, I may have even changed the world.



GST on food


A good tax may be an oxymoron but a simple tax is better and GST is simple.


Sharp increases in the price of groceries have resulted in calls for food to be exempt from GST and now the Herald reports a petition has been launched: 


But making exemptions to GST would create complications, making it more difficult and expensive to administer and operate; and it would mask the symptoms rather than solving the problem.


It would be extremely difficult to justify exempting luxury food from GST, but how do you draw the line between luxury and necessity? In Australia that has led to a confusing judgements: bread and lettuce are exempt from GST but a salad sandwich isn’t; a raw chicken is GST free but the same bird would incur the tax if sold cooked.


The problem of affordability of food is not GST. It is partly a result of global influences one of which is that vast areas of land which were producing food are now growing crops for bio-fuels.


It is also because we are a relatively low waged, high taxed economy. Both those problems would be better addressed by lowering income taxes rather than by tinkering with GST.

New Bill Adds to Problems of Old Act


The Waitakere Ranges Heritage Bill aims to promote the long-term protection and enhancement of land between metropolitan Auckland and the west coast. The necessity for such a bill shows that the RMA is not working so rather than introducing new legislation the government should be addressing the flaws in the existing Act.


Tacking new legislation onto the RMA will confuse and weaken it. It would also set a dangerous precedent. If Auckland local authorities get special legislation protecting land in their area, how long before local body politicians elsewhere decide that they need extra protection for their landscapes too? Soon councils will be queuing up seeking bills to protect and enhance land all over the country. We’ll all pay for that through increased rates and compliance costs and will face extra constraints on what we do with our land and how we do it.


The Government has already side-stepped existing legislation and stomped all over private property rights, with its directive that pastoral leasehold land within five kilometres of a lakefront can’t be freeholded under the tenure review process. This is aimed at protecting lakefront land from development but most of the land affected would never be developed anyway so the edict creates a major and unnecessary problem for the farmers ensnared by it. Equally serious as the plight of individuals, is the attack on the principle and accepted practice that development or otherwise of land should be covered by District and Regional Plans and the RMA, which allows public submissions, rather than Government decree which does not.


There is no need for ministerial meddling or new legislation. If the plans and Act are working properly there is no need for extra protection; and if they are not working then they must be fixed so they do.


If it manages to pass the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Bill the Government will again be side-stepping the RMA process; and annual and long term council plans, making them more complex, more cumbersome, more bureaucratic; add to the problems that those having to deal with them already face and reduce or remove the public’s right to submit on future projects. The last thing anyone negotiating their way through the torturous paths of local authority planning and the RMA need is yet another Act to confuse and confound them.


What we need is the flaws in the RMA and planning processes addressed so they work smoothly, properly and fairly. What we definitely don’t need is adjuncts or appendices to existing legislation which do nothing to fix its shortcomings and add to the problems and expense for those having to use or administer it.


Farmers are already worried that it won’t be long before we have to seek permission to carry out normal farming practices. These concerns have grown as the Government has ignored repeated calls to address problems with the RMA. The Waitakere Bill is another blow to hopes they ever will.

DOC cutting staff


DOC is getting rid of 56 staff after overspending its budget by $8 million.


I wonder how much of that overspend is attributable to the increase in the DOC estate as a result of the tenure review process?


I have tried unsuccessfully to find out how much DOC budgets for weed and pest control, repairs and maintenance on the extra land it has taken over. Whatever the amount, I have contradictory concerns about it: first that it is costing tax payers too much; and second that it isn’t enough to do the job properly which will lead to an increase in pests, weeds and fire danger on DOC land and neighbouring properties.


Labour and its Green allies believe that state ownership is the best way to protect the high country and have spent a huge amount acquiring vast tracts of land. Tax payers would get better value and the land would be better protected if DOC worked with farmers instead of trying to spread their overstretched resources across even more land.


The tax payer bears the cost of buying the land and then has to pay for maintaining it, a cost previously covered by the farmer.


I’d back farming families who have stewarded vulnerable high country eco-systems for generations to do a better job than an overstretched Government department, and at no cost to the tax payer.


Declaration of bias: we own a pastoral lease property but are not undertaking tenure review.

Hello world!


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