Child’s play serious business


Sport and recreation NZ is right when it says that cotton-wooling is preventing kids from enjoying childhood and that parents worrying too much about children’s safety is bad for their health.


Kids are at greater risk of obesity and diabetes, and even rickets from inactivity and lack of sunshine because they’re not allowed the rough and tumble of outdoor play. But they’re also not learning skills and values which will equip them for adult life if they can’t explore and learn although that means taking some risks.


It’s part of helping children be independent, the necessity for which was brought home to me at a seminar led by Wilf Jarvis an Australian behavioural scientist who developed the principle of four quadrant leadership. The four quadrants go from I’m in charge; through we’ll discuss but I’ll decide, then we’ll discuss and we’ll decide to you’re in charge. It was a management seminar but the principles apply just as much to parenting as business and showed the importance of giving children the ability to make the right choices.


Like any other skill this needs practise not just theory and of course no-ones’ going to get everything right the first time. But then while some of us can learn from other people’s mistakes the rest of us have to be the other people and it’s better to learn from little mistakes when you’re young than be faced with the consequences of much bigger ones when you’re older.


The death of a child is one of the most difficult experiences a parent can face, and having gone through it with twice with our sons (as a result of illness, not accident) there was a temptation to be over protective of our daughter.


But the real tragedy of her brothers’ deaths would have been if we’d allowed that experience to shadow her and prevent her from enjoying the normal childhood experiences which they couldn’t, with the attendant joys and risks.


What’s a woman worth?


Cactus Kate blogs about a Canadian  report which reckons the work done by stay-at-home mothers would be worth about $NZ162,000 a year. Kate, who lives in Hong Kong said all the work could be done by a maid for $6960.


She obviously hasn’t met the mother who was called away during shearing. It took three people to replace her: one to feed the shearers, one to look after the children and the third to help in the shed.

Sheep numbers down but prices may go up


The ODT reports that 120 meat workers at PPCS’s Burnside works have been called to a meeting on Monday. The expectation is they’ll be told that the venison processing will move to the Finegand plant in South Otago. This follows  last Monday’s news that the company’s Oringi works will close. 


In between the two announcements was another from Mataura Valley, a new dairy company, saying it plans to build a $90 million milk drying plant near Gore. Reactions were mixed with a warning that too many companies competing for markets could lead to prices being under cut as they have been in the sheep industry.


However, farmers facing the expense of converting to dairying will be tempted by the fact they don’t have to buy shares as they do with Fonterra; and the increase in cow numbers is expected to continue. Around 100 Southland sheep and beef farms converted to dairying for the new season and a similar number is predicted to convert for the 2008-09 season.


The scale of conversion has altered the South Island landscape. Visitors used to marvel at the number of sheep, but while driving from North Otago to Balfour a couple of weeks ago what struck me was how few sheep I saw. My impression was confirmed by yesterday’s release of 2007 stock numbers from the Stats Department which explain why meat works are closing and milk plants are opening.


Last year’s drought and numerous dairy conversions have led to a 3% drop in sheep numbers from 39.6 million in 2002 to 38.5 million last year. North Island sheep numbers dropped 5%: from 19.5 million in June 2006 to 18.5 million last year – just 100,000 more than in 2002.


The South Island still has more sheep than the North, but the numbers have decreased more too: there were 19.9 million last year, 6% fewer than 2002. The decline was steepest in Canterbury where they dropped 8% to 7.2 million and Southland down 5% to 5.7 million.


Beef numbers dropped 2% from 4.5 million to 4.4 million in the five years to June 2007. At the same time dairy cows increased 31% in the South Island, from 1 million to 1.3 million with a small increase of just 22,000 to 2.9 million in the North Island.


The drop in sheep numbers signals there may well be hard times ahead for meat workers and their communities as over capacity forces PP and possibly other companies to “right-size”. But there are encouraging signs for meat producers. We’re not the only country with a decline in sheep numbers. The drought has taken its toll on flocks across the Tasman too so the supply is down while the world demand for protein is growing. Beef prices are already at record highs in the USA; and the falling dollar will also help boost prices, not just for meat. Pelts and wool have been at rock bottom levels so even a small lift in returns from them will help farmers’ incomes too.



tech tantrum over for now


I treat a computer in much the way I treat a car: I can drive it, check the oil and water, put in petrol and change a tyre; but for anything more difficult than that I consult an expert.


But there was no expert available when I needed one last night after exhausting my limited technological repertoire so I resorted to the only strategy left in my computer fixing toolbox: turned everything off, disconnected all the plugs and left it overnight. This morning I plugged everything back in, turned it all back on and after a couple of false starts because the modem wouldn’t connect everything seems to be working at normal speed.


Touch wood.

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