On The House Turns 1


Many happies to Colin Espiner and his blog On The House  which turns 1 tomorrow.

Blogs have added an extra, and welcome dimension to the MSM and political ones like this are a bonus for media and political junkies, especially in election year.

Fert Price Rising Fast


Competition and swiftly rising prices is forcing fertiliser companies to move from six monthly to quarterly pricing.

Volatile fertiliser pricing has seen Ballance and Ravensdown both adopt quarterly price reviews, but Ravensdown chief executive Rodney Green said the timing of the price reviews could mean farmers missed out or were advantaged depending on when they ordered their product.

…Ballance recently announced it was moving to quarterly pricing and Mr Green said Ravensdown had to follow suit, but he wanted to hear shareholders’ views on the change.

This was a shift from the traditional co-operative principle where all shareholders were treated as equally as possible.

Co-operative or not, you have to set the price at some stage and in a free market there will always be an element of luck about the price you get on any given day. And given how steeply prices are rising it is very unlikely that farmers will find they’d pay less if they waited to buy.

Such was the volatility of fertiliser pricing, Australian companies were pricing and selling by the shipload. It was likely New Zealand prices would rise in the future as companies exhausted stock and bought new product at higher prices.

“Everything we sell would be substantially lower than anywhere else.”

For example, Israel was exporting superphosphate for more the $US500 – $NZ659.8 – a tonne, while it was being sold in New Zealand for below $US500 a tonne.

Rising prices often provides the opportunity for new players. People from both Balance and Ravensdown at the fieldays said that demand was so much higher than supply they were not anticipating new companies setting up in competition with conventional fertilisers, but they wouldn’t be surprised if the market for snake oil increased.

Strategy Not Structure


Primary industry should concentrate on strategy not structure according to Associate Professor Hamish Gow, an ex-pat New Zealander who is a leading US food marekting specialist.

The primary sector has increased its contribution to New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 14% in 1986 to 17% today, something Associate Prof Hamish Gow, an ex-patriate New Zealander now a leading United States food marketing specialist, said had not been achieved elsewhere.

Prof Gow, of Michigan State University, told the recent New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management conference in Queenstown that farmers throughout the world were trying to develop branded marketing channels, but itwas not easily achieved because they could not get industry unity.

Despite that, Prof Gow believed New Zealand’s primary sector had done well, although the models used needed some improving.

The key was to concentrate on strategy not structure.

He gave the example of New Zealand apple growers who, in the process of remodelling the sector’s structure, sold off the profitable juicing business and lost control of the industry.

A strategy had to create value and provide consumers with what they wanted, he said.

There is a lesson here for those who are concerned about the meat industry because any public utterances show that those wanting change are concentrating on structure not strategy.

Competition Irrelevant in Consent Application


One of the most frustrating aspects of the RMA is the way it allows those in competition to the applicant to lodge objections to consent on grounds which are irrelevant to the application.

Barnados tried this in Oamaru yesterday, against an application for consent to establish a child care centre, but hearings panel chair Cr Struan Munro recognised the attempt for what it was:

 However, Cr Munro pointed out that most of the issues raised by Barnardos were not related to effects on the environment and its submission was based on competition, which could not be considered as part of the Little Wonders’ discretionary land use resource consent application.

EFA Opponents’ Court Bid Fails


The bid for a judicial review of the Attorney General’s decision not to raise BIll of Rights issues in the EFA when it was considered by Parliament, has been struck out by the High Court.

Update: Kiwiblog has a fuller report and response.

Youth Vote Up For Grabs


Gordon Campbell says the decision to make third party insurance on motor vehicles is another example of Labour’s punitive stance towards young people and first time voters.

According to to Labour Party president Mike Williams, there will 190,000 eligible first time voters in this election, and they’re supposed to be a Labour priority. Yet the array of policies that the Labour government has promoted over the last year or so have targeted young people and their leisure habits, mainly to score brownie points on law and order issues.

Add them up. There has been have the attack on youth drugs of leisure ( the party pills ban) and on forms of protest and expression ( the anti-tagging Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti vandalism) Amendment Bill.) Labour has vowed to keep young people compulsorily inside learning institutions until they’re 18, via the Schools Plus initiative, which is already in some trouble.

The Schools Plus initiative won’t be popular with 16 to 18 year olds who want to leave school, nor with those who want to stay and find their education disrupted by those who’d rather be elsewhere. But the party pill ban and anti-tagging legislation probably only affect a small minority.

Now, we have this 3rd party insurance move against their driving habits and related risks. Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoeven has been quite upfront that the compulsory 3rd party insurance idea was ‘brought into focus’ as a mechanism to get boy racers off the streets. Unfortunately, the measure will further offload the cost onto all motorists, and onto young drivers in particular, and the insurance industry is already contesting Duynhoeven’s cost estimates.

He is right about the added expense but I don’t think it’s a big enough issue by iteslf to repel or attract votes.

This punitive stance towards the young is not an election year tactic, since it has been evident throughout this term of government. Late in 2006, Labour MP Martin Gallagher sponsored an attempt to raise the drinking age, which would have forced young people out of clubs and bars, and denied them the chance to listen to bands on licensed premises. [ Disclosure of self interest : I co-promote tours by indie bands, and raising the drinking age would have killed such tours stone dead ]

You get the pattern, and that’s only on the punitive side. In the Budget, when Finance Minister was handing out the sweets to everyone else, he conspicuously failed to address student debt and student allowances. His token best effort was to drop the age that students will be regarded as dependent on their parents from 25 to an insulting 24 – apparently, according to Cullen, because United Future wanted it that way.

With the exception of students, most young people aren’t generally organised about lobbying so are easy for Governments to ignore.

There’s a word for it : ephebiphobia. It means fear of the young and Labour needs policy treatment for it. So, of course, does National – always a haven for young fogies – who have shown themselves more than willing to pack young offenders off to boot camp, even if the armed forces supposed to be running them don’t want a bar of it. For the Maori Party and the Greens, those 190,000 voters really are theirs for the taking.

I’m not sure why the Maori Party would be attractive to non Maori and today’s Fairfax poll shows Maori are favouring National (39%) with Labour and Maroi both at 22%. (David Farrar blogs on the significance of this here and No Minister comments here).

However, the poll also shows Labour has clawed back some support from National among young people and those on low incomes – but these two groups are also most likely to change their minds before polling day.

Labour targetted the youth vote (and their parents) in 2005 with the last minute interest free student loan bribe. The public coffers aren’t so healthy now, but that won’t necessarily stop them trying to snare the young – and any other sector they feel is worth targetting – with a last-ditch spend-up.

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