Don’t have to be Green to be green


He had been drinking and there was something about his eyes that suggested he had been popping outside to smoke something other than tobacco, but there was no doubting his conviction.


“If you’ve got any concern at all about the environment and the future of the planet you’d have to be Green,” he said.


I told him that was like me telling me he couldn’t be a Christian unless he was a Presbyterian. He didn’t get the analogy, nor did he believe it was possible to share his concern for the environment without supporting his politics. While he is not necessarily representative of the Greens his attitude helps to explain why his Party’s dealings with farmers do little to dampen fears of their policies and agenda.


There is an evangelical zeal to some of their pronouncements and beliefs which makes many who share their concern for the environment uncomfortable. This discomfort is increased because much of what they stand for and advocate is at the radical left end of the political spectrum, not just in environmental matters but in social and economic areas too.


However, it is possible to be not just concerned about, but committed to improving the quality of our air, soil and water; conserving scarce resources; and generally minimising our environmental footprints while also supporting free trade and an open economy.


The Green missionary in the bar couldn’t accept that conventional farmers can be environmentalists too, but when our land is our biggest asset it is in our best interests to look after it. And if they can’t credit us with doing this for its own sake there is also a strong financial motivation for implementing good environmental practices. Increasingly competitive markets and sophisticated consumers are demanding proof that the food they eat and fabric they wear come from clean, green farms.


With a higher value on quality there are financial gains from being green, but some struggle to realise the reverse is also true and that environmental improvements do not just come from, but require, better financial returns. Attaining and maintaining high standards of air, soil and water quality is not cheap. It takes a lot of money to conserve native bush; plant trees to provide shelter, reduce erosion, counter CO2 emissions; fence then establish riparian strips along water ways and do all the other things necessary for environmental protection and enhancement.


It may be a cliché, but it is still true: good farmers are not land owners; we are stewards with a very real responsibility to ensure we look after it for future generations. And when we are faced with evidence, day by day, year by year, that literally and figuratively we reap what we sow; it is easy to understand why we must be green. Although contrary to the belief of the bloke in the bar, that doesn’t mean we also have to be Green.


Pollsters Cup


Next on the card is the feature race for the Pollsters’ Cup.


The early favourite is Undecided by May Be out of Confusion. Margin of Error, by Statistics out of Calculator has had some good runs and Don’t Know Don’t Care by Ignorance out of Apathy is also expected to make a strong showing.


Some commentators favour Time For A Change by Hope out of Desperation but others are picking Same But Different by Caution out of Experience. Minor Parties, by Disaffected out of Single Issue are at long odds.


There’s been a delay because there’s a question over the registration of Don’t Care. However, the stewards say a late entry is allowed under special rules so they’re under starter’s orders and they’re away.


Racing now and Time For A Change has the early running. Undecided comes next closely followed by Margin of Error leading  Same But Different by a nose then it’s a couple of lengths back to Minor Parties and Don’t Know Don’t Care is bringing up the rear.


Time For A Change is running strongly in the centre though Same But Different has come up on the right hand side; then it’s Undecided with Minor Parties a neck ahead of Margin Of Error and Don’t Know Don’t Care still trailing the field.


In to the home straight now and it’s anyone’s race. Margin Of Error has taken the lead with Same But Different, Time For A Change bunched up with Undecided. Minor Parties is running out of steam and Don’t Know Don’t Care is a good five lenghts behind.


To the finish line now and it looks like Margin Of Error just made it but it’s too close to call for the places. It’s between Time For A Change and Same But Different with Undecided in fourth place a nose ahead of Minor Parties in fifth and Don’t Know Don’t Care a distant last.





More EFA failings


The Herald editorial  approves of the electoral Commission decision to allow unions to register as third parties under the Electoral FInance Act.

The decision, arrived at after seven months of legal wrangling directly involving the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, means the union can spend up to $120,000 on election advertising for or against a party. That is as it should be. The EPMU should be able to have its say, as should any organisation – business association, union or religious faction – from any part of the political spectrum.

Of course they should but the EFA severely constrains the ability of many gorups and individuals to have a say.

The Electoral Commission has undoubtedly exercised a liberal interpretation of the Electoral Finance Act. In reality, it had little choice if it was to deliver even a vague functionality to electoral proceedings, so inherent are the legislation’s absurdities.

It’s the EFA’s job to administer the law in spite of its flaws, not to make liberal interpretations because of them. The EPMU is affiliated to Labour and its general secretary sits on the party’s ruling council – that seems like involvement in the party’s workings to me and the EFA stipulates those involved in a party can’t register as third parties.

Meanwhile more EFA absurdities were illustrated at the weekend. All presentations at the National Party conference were authorised – even the of John Key shown before his speeech yesterday.

But when we walked out of the town hall we were greeted by a handful of protestors with banners which weren’t authorised.

What irony – National which opposed the law abides by it, Labour which introduced it and rammed it through parliament ignores it.

No guns at school


Hampden School in North Otago is reviewing its decision to allow children to bring guns to school. That’s homemade guns which were used while the children played at pig hunting while supervised by teachers.

Board chairman Ian Carter said, when contacted, the idea came from pupils who went pig hunting with their parents at weekends.

The Ministry of Education does not support children taking toy guns to school. Schools are self-managing and responsible for the day-to-day management of curriculum and play.

“We will continue to work closely with the school to ensure it meets its obligations of providing a safe physical and emotional environment for all students,” ministry southern regional manager Michael De’Ath said.

Mr Carter said the children’s request was discussed by board members, who thought it was pro-active in a rural environment where children were exposed to guns.

Three or four pupils made their own hand-crafted guns – no imitation guns were to be brought to school – and a small group played on Wednesdays in bush in the playground, supervised by teachers.

Children took turns to play the pig, with other children playing dogs who were “released” to catch the pig, Mr Carter said.

It was “purely a game” which was supervised and in a specified area and the children knew it was only once a week, he said. The board believed it had acted responsibly.

The school had also reinstated tackle rugby at the request of pupils. Board members felt the activities were meeting the needs of boys at the school “wanting that rough and tumble”.

Mr Carter accepted it was not something that should be widespread throughout the country and it was up to individual schools to make that judgement. He had had no negative feedback from parents or the community, he said.

I can understand why the Ministry might have some reservations, but fire arms are part of rural life and play like this is an opportunity to learn about fire arm safety while having fun. Country kids should be able to play country games.

Dunedin Hospital runs out of beds


Dunedin Hospital has run out of beds for patients.

About 18 of 32 people expecting to be admitted today were last night contacted by staff and told their procedures or surgery had been postponed because of the high number of unwell people who were unable to be discharged.

The hospital reaches “code black” status when it has fewer than six beds available.

Yesterday morning it had no free beds and, by mid-afternoon, 33 people waiting for treatment in the emergency department, Otago District Health Board operations manager Megan Boivin said.

There was one available bed at 8pm and 26 people waiting in the emergency department.

If no beds became available last night, those patients would stay overnight in the emergency department or an extra bed would be added in each ward.

There seemed to be no single reason for the high demand. People were presenting with a range of problems from traumas to infections and flu, she said.

Usually, there would be a drop-off in admissions during a weekend. This had not happened and the emergency department had also been consistently busy.

Another reminder that Labour pledged to take more tax and fix health but have kept only the first half of their promise.

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