Lack of Community in our Communities


The headline The Horror Hits Home   with an opening pararpah that asks how two infants can allegedly starve to death in an ordinary looking house in an ordinary looking suburb, could have been written about New Zealand. This story however, is about Australia in the wake of the discovery of two babies who starved to death but the issues our our issues too.

What has happened to our communities and neighbourhoods?

Have we become so self-absorbed, so work-oriented or so crippled by the idea that governments should be responsible for the protection of children that we have become the look-away society, where homes have become boltholes and the most vulnerable among us – the old and the young, the sick and infirm – live in dreadful isolation?

Demographer Bernard Salt sees it as a “loss of connectivity”, a separation from our neighbours, that has been growing for several decades in suburbs that have become increasingly amorphous.

“Within the space of about two generations, Australia has moved from being household-based to being workplace-based, and the result has been that any sense of neighbourhoodness has moved out of suburbia and into the office,” he says.

“Most of us are now more likely to have a conversation about the events of the day over the office partition than the back fence.

“As a result, home has become something of a bolthole, leaving suburbia and its role as a place of community connectedness severely diminished.”

And not only in suburbia, it happens in the country too. It’s six weeks since Gypsy weekend when numerous dairy farm workers change jobs but I’m yet to meet any of the new people in our neighbourhood. 

One of the neighbours and I spoke of having a pot luck meal for our road and its off shoots, before calving when it gets too busy. But the first calves are already arriving and we’ve got no further than talking about it.

Ausssie farmers want ag out of ETS


Australian farmers  want their Government to keep agriculture out of its Emissions Trading Scheme.

AUSTRALIA’S proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) could affect international food and fibre prices at a time of food crisis, the nation’s farm sector has warned.

National Farmers’ Federation vice-president Charles Burke said rarely did governments pursue policies like the ETS that could have such broad-reaching ramifications.

”If we don’t get this right, this could become a new and additional factor putting pressure on global markets, affecting both supply and prices in Australia,” he said on the eve of the release of the Federal Government’s green paper on emissions trading.

Mr Burke said Australian farmers’ input costs – fuel, electricity, fertiliser and chemicals – may increase regardless of agriculture’s role in an ETS.

All of this sounds very similar to what farmers are saying on this side of the Tasman.

Westpac’s senior agribusiness economist, Justin Smirk, said global markets responded immediately to any event, be it floods in Iowa, food export tariffs in Argentina or aggressive US and European biofuels policies.

”Actions, events and seasonal conditions in Australia and their impact on our farm sector are no different, reverberating through global markets,” he said.

”Markets are closely watching the complex problem of climate change, its potential impact on global farm output, and the policies proposed to mitigate global warming emissions.”

Competitors will also be working out if they could use the ETS to impose non-tariff barriers to imports.

NFF president David Crombie warned against including agriculture in the ETS, citing the difficulty in measuring, monitoring or verifying the sector’s emissions. No country had included agriculture in an ETS, he said, with the exception of New Zealand, ”where farmers are now looking at margins reducing by up to 160% as a result”.

And how silly is that when it won’t do anything to reduce the global carbon footprint?

Tech tantrum 2


The computer is playing games with me.

The previous post looked fine when I previewed it but when I posted it there was double spacing where it ought not to be and none where I’d had it.

When I tried to edit the post to improve the layout it got worse.

I could have deleted it and started again, but have neither the time nor inclination to do it now and it’s easier to leave it and just have a paddy.

But if anyone who knows anything more about blogging and computers than I do – which wouldn’t be difficult – could tell me how to avoid the problem in the future I’d be very grateful.

Mutter, mumble.

Nats ACC Policy


The National Party has annoucned its ACC policy  which aims for safer workplaces, certainty of coverage and more effective compensation.

National supports a comprehensive, 24/7, no-fault accident insurance scheme that delivers certainty of coverage to all New Zealanders. However, the ACC scheme can be improved. Workplace accident figures are high by international standards.”OECD data to the end of 2003 showed New Zealand’s non-fatal injury rate rising when everybody else’s except Luxembourg were falling. ACC data shows the number of work-related injury claims increased each year from 2002 to 2005, only declining in 2006.

“Either way, we can do better.                                                                                                                             
“Incentives for employers to improve safety practices are poor in a scheme in which similar premiums are charged regardless of an employer’s workplace accident record.


“Where accidents do occur, incentives for quick, high-quality rehabilitation are weak, and entitlements under the scheme for injured people are not of high quality. “

Treating people well and getting them back to good health and work as soon as possible makes sense.
“National wants a more flexible scheme that rewards employers with good workplace safety records, penalises those with poor records, and encourages employers to buy more than the basic cover.”
This would be an improvement on the current system which takes no account of individual workplace records. Farming is regarded as a relatively high risk activity, so all farmers pay a higher premium regardless of their individual safety records.

Most insurance schemes take account of individual risk and have incentives to encourage fewer claims. ACC should have the flexibility to do this too and its priority should be helping injured people towards a speedy recover and return to work.

Award for rural blog


Rural Network  editor Pip Stevenson has won the Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science’s Sir Arthur Ward Award for science communication in recognition of her work on Dig ‘n’ Stir  blog.

NZIAHS president John Lancashire praised Stevenson’s efforts in covering science in the new, online format of the blog. He described it as “communication beyond the call of duty to the wider audience.”

Rural Network and Dig ‘n’ Stir are on my daily-read list and I’m delighted that Pip’s work has been recognised.

I’m also pleased that this award recognises the growing importance of blogs in communications and the media.

Quiet heroism


Jim Mora’s essay on quiet heroism  yesterday will resonate with anyone who has had a child in hospital.

Our first son lived only 20 weeks and  spent nearly a third of his life in Dunedin Hopsital. When we had to return there with our second son a couple of years later we found many of the same staff and all of the same dedication to the small patients and their families.

We gained enormous respect for the children and parents who were confronting serious illness, pain and often debilitating treatment with determination and dignity.

The doctors, nurses and support staff didn’t just treat the children, they cared for them and their families. And they did it with awe inspiring skill,  strength, gentleness, compassion and, when it was appropriate, humour.

It was the most difficult time of our lives but also the most inspiring and humbling.

Jim is right, hospitals are full of quiet heroism.

Why not retire to Fiji, Winston?


Karl du Fresne  has written a letter to Winston Peters suggesting he retires to Fiji.

Dear WinstonSo you’re in Fiji for a few days then.

Nice place, eh? Balmy temperatures. Shimmering blue sea. Golden sand. Gently rustling palms. Colourful shirts and gleaming smiles. Hardly a journalist in sight. A bloke could be pretty happy living in a tropical paradise like this.

Look, I’d hate you to take this the wrong way, but really … think about it.

You’ve lost Tauranga and don’t seem to stand much show of winning it back. Your most fervent supporters are – how can I put this delicately? – dying.

There’s more and if you want a laugh you should pop over to Karl’s place and read it.

Peters should practise principles


The Press is calling for Helen Clark and Winston Peters to live up to the principle of electoral finance transparancy which they espouse. In an editorial on the issue of whether or not Owen Glen donated to New Zealand First, the paper says:

A “furious” Peters denounced the reports as “malicious lies”, attacked the newspaper and one of the reporters who first made them, and generally sought belligerently to dismiss them.

They are not so easily dismissed, however, and Peters still has some work to do. The matter also poses a problem for the Prime Minister, Helen Clark. She claims that it is not her concern and she is studiously declining all substantive comment. But as Foreign Minister, Peters has one of the gaudiest baubles in her Cabinet, and a problem for him is inescapably a problem for her. In this case, of course, it also involves a donor who has been a big contributor to the Labour Party and who may be again in the future.

If I’d been ignored by Clark as Glen was at the opening of the University of Auckland business school to which he donated so generously I might not be quite so keen to contribute to Labour now. 

If an Opposition party were involved in this sort of scenario offshore billionaire, large political donations, leaked emails and so on one can imagine Peters’ response. With the shoe on the other foot, though, Peters has reacted badly. Rather than addressing the issue coolly and straightforwardly, as might be expected of a senior minister, and leaving it at that, he has allowed himself, yet again, to lose his temper with the media.

Under the law on electoral finance as it stood at the time, it would have been possible for Glenn to have made his political donations in complete anonymity. If any went to New Zealand First, it is possible that Peters was unaware of them. Whatever the case, it should not be too difficult now to work out what happened and to resolve the confusions and contradictions raised by the issue once and for all. Rather than pointlessly getting angry with journalists, Peters should do that.

If he will not do so of his own accord, the Prime Minister should quietly persuade him of the benefits of doing so. Peters is the man she chose to be her foreign minister. Any questions concerning him inevitably reflect on her and her Government. More particularly, after the last election, both she and Peters made a great to-do about greater transparency in electoral finance and passed a greatly criticised law designed to bring it about. They should live up to all the fine principles they claimed to be espousing when they promoted that law.

That’s the trouble with principles, you have to abide by them yourself or you look, well, unprincipled.

More dairying fewer dogs


Fewer dogs will be on the market at the 51st annual Gore dog sale  today, another sign that Southland farms are converting from sheep to dairying.

However, demand was still expected to be strong for the 33 heading dogs and 21 huntaways on offer at the Charlton saleyards.

PGG Wrightson agent Nicol Gray believed the good dogs would fetch upwards of $3000.

“The quality is pretty high — just as good as last year — and we will be expecting good prices,” he said.

Each dog would give a make-or-break two-minute demonstration working a mob of sheep under the watchful eye of potential buyers.

Last year heading dog Sox, bred by Matt O’Connell, of Middlemarch, made the top price of $4000, while John Tweed, of Lawrence, sold the top huntaway, Mel, for $3700.

The top dog at last week’s Ashburton sale, a five year old heading bitch, Queen,  sold for $5600. The top huntaway made $2000.

Limousin win carcus contest


High yielding limousin cattle won the top awards in the Otago Southland carcus competition.

A 342kg steer finished by Allanton farmer Doug Lindsay was named the champion and winner of the Alan Dodd Trophy while a 290kg heifer bred by Rob Johnstone, of Outram, was reserve champion.

Ironically, the champion steer was also bred by Mr Johnstone, who has farmed the Glencairn Limousin stud for the past 23 years.

Mr Johnstone said the limousin was capable of producing twice as much ribeye muscle area — the most expensive meat on an animal — than traditional cattle breeds.

Thirty-two entries were received in this year’s competition, up on last year’s 27 entries.

The cattle were judged on the hoof and then on the hook by judge and supervisor grader Mervyn Wilson.

There were some nicely finished cattle, Mr Wilson said.

However, Mr Wilson said the fat cover on some of the cattle was less than the desired range of 3mm to 10mm, which he attributed to the drought and a shortage of feed.

They could have done with a fraction more fat, he said.

Mr Lindsay, who has won the Otago-Southland beef carcass competition at least three times previously, produced a near perfect score of 292 points out of a possible 300. His steer had a ribeye muscle area of 132 square cm while Mr Johnstone’s steer produced a ribeye muscle area of 118 square cm.

Mr Johnstone said there had been a recent resurgence in the limousin, a European terminal sire breed, that also crossed well with the Friesian, Angus and Hereford breeds.

I don’t think any other beauty competition would be looking for a fraction more fat 🙂

No recession here


While city papers are full of stories of impending doom, The Oamaru Mail front page lead is headline: No recession here.

The Herald reports that motor vehicle retail sales dropped nearly 15% from April to May and 11.6% since last September.

But the Mail (not on Line) reports that North Otago sales are still holding up.

… Peter Robinson manager of North Otago Motor Group said Oamaru was bucking the trend despite rising fule prices and talk of recession.

“We are definitely going better here and talking with counterparts, it seems the rural and provincial guys are feeling better than the city guys…

He said the company had seen a  rise in sales since last year and had already sold 15 vehicle s this month.

“For us in North Otago it’s driven off the back of good agricultural returns. That puts a positive spin on everyone’s business and it flows through to us.”

Mr Robinson said he expected things to get even better due to good conditions in the agricultural sector and tax cuts expected later in the year.

A vehicle dealer we spoke to in Ashburton at the weekend was equally positive about business in Mid Canterbury and he too credited agriculture for it.

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