Date won’t matter if Alliance won’t dance


The Meat Industry Action Group isn’t happy that Silver Fern Farms won’t be calling a special general meeting until October 7.

MIAG chair John Gregan said that date was too late.

“They (Silver Fern Farms) kept fobbing us off and it’s only now that we have a court order that they decide to set a date.” Mr Gregan said it was critical the meeting was held on or before September 8 when shareholders voted on the proposed partnership with PGG Wrightson because farmer ownership could be diluted to 50 percent.

However, Silver Fern Farms chairman Eion Garden said it was not possible to hold the meeting before or on that date.

“Our primary concern is the confusion that would arise around a vote on two quite separate issues.” Mr Garden also dismissed Mr Gregan’s concerns about farmer shareholding being diluted.

“He (Mr Gregan) doesn’t understand the constitution criteria in place,” he said.

“Any shareholder resolution has got to be passed by 50 percent of farmer shareholders.” Mr Garden said the Silver Fern Farms board would be in a better position to comment on the issues to be considered in light of the outcome of the PGG Wrightson partnership proposal.

He’s right. The outcome of the shareholders’ vote on whether to accept the PGW offer could effect how they view MIAG’s proposal so it should be determined before the SGM is held.

The Meat Industry Action Group’s 11 resolutions, which will be presented at the meeting, were focused on industry consolidation and forming a market-led national champion with 80 percent of the sheep meat industry.

The Alliance Group has agreed to hold its special general meeting on September 5.

However, chairman Owen Poole said at a meeting in Gore last week that he was prepared for a “Gunfight at the OK Corral”.

He described the resolutions as “unrealistic and highly prescriptive” and said they compromised the ability of board directors to act in the best interests of the company.

 If Alliance shareholders vote agains this at their SGM it makes the outcome of the SFF meeting irrelevant anyway.

It will take more than two to do MIAG’s tango. Alliance directors have made it quite clear they’re not wanting to dance with the other co-operative and if shareholders agree with them the dance will be called off.

Twister kills 16 cows


Sixteen cows were electrocuted  on a Bay of Plenty farm when a twister brought down high voltage power lines.

The tornado ripped through the Jackson Rd area, east of Opotiki, accompanied by heavy rain and hail. It also demolished two barns, scattered trees and wrecked hundreds of metres of fencing.

Farmer Graham Collier said the twister ripped out several power-poles, dropping high-voltage power lines that electrocuted 16 in-calf cows.

“There was a lot of rain and hail coming down and then the windows on the house and the ranch sliders started rattling and moving – some of them by several inches. It was quite scary,” Mr Collier said.

“I went outside and checked the cowshed. A couple of 25,000-litre water tanks had been lifted by the twister. They were empty but lashed to the fence.”

The tornado took the tanks and fence, and dragged them through two other fences, damaging more than 300 metres in all, Mr Collier said.

Mr Collier said he noticed the wires and a gate were still glowing and was not able to do anything until the power was shut down.

Nature throwing a tantrum can be very scarey. And those poor cows, the only comfort is that if they were struck by high voltage wires they literally wouldn’t know what hit them.

50% say National not being open


There are three kinds of people in the world, those who can count and those who can’t.

I’m definitely in the latter camp so won’t be offended if someone who is less numerically challenged faults my reasoning on the results of the One News Colmar Brunton  poll. 

ONE News asked voters in the poll whether National is being open about its plans. Fifty per cent say “no”, while 37% think they are. And a quarter of National’s own supporters say they are not being honest.

The latest poll  from the same source shows National has just over 50% support. That means nearly half those questioned don’t support the party so it isn’t surprising if around that number give a negative answer to any question about the party.

But it is difficult to draw a conclusion without knowing what those questioned think of other parties. If people think the others are open in general, or more open than National in particular, the party may have a problem. But if those questioned think other parties aren’t open either, it’s a plague-on-all-their-houses sort of response which while not encouraging is something that will take time and a lot of evidence to the contrary to change.

I’m better at words than numbers and I’ve got a quibble about the wording of the story too. The question asked about being open, the opposite to that is being closed, reticent or holding back. That isn’t necessarily the same as not being honest so whoever wrote “… they’re not being honest”  may be drawing an incorrect inference because those who thought National wasn’t being open may not have thought it was being reticent rather than not being honest.

But maybe I’ve been infected by the dancing on the head of a pin reasoning seen in the privileges committee last night and my blue bias is not just showing but leading me to put a positive slant on a negative report 🙂

Sheep & beef returns to rise


Rising demand and falling supply will bring better returns in the coming season to farmers who have stuck with sheep and beef.

It’s not just the demand for protein which will boost returns, the price of strong wool is also rising and the falling dollar will help too.

The average profit for each farm in the sheep and beef sector will jump from just $19,400 in the 2007-2008 season to $53,000 in 2008-2009, said Rob Davison, executive director of Meat and Wool NZ’s economic service.

 Farmers have a lot of ground to make up because accountants in Otago reported sheep and beef farm clients making losses of more than 100,000 in the past year. And while the increase is very welcome, returns have a long way to go before they approach returns from dairying or dairy support.

Gross farm revenue next season is forecast to increase $575 million to $4.5 billion at the farm gate. Economists estimate farmers will spend $3.78 billion or 84 per cent of the earnings on running their farms, and paying costs such as fuel, shearing and local government rates.

“The remaining $720 million [16 per cent] is farm profit before tax which is spent on mortgage repayments, tax, capital equipment replacement and farm family living expenses,” Davison said.

But he said that while farm profits for next season will be better, they will remain below levels recorded in 2000 to 2005 because of high on-farm costs estimated at 10.4 per cent of revenue and production lost from the big “dry’ which hit many regions last year.

There won’t be much of the $53,000 left for capital replacement and living expenses when Inland Revenue and the bank get their money. The high on-farm costs are also a concern becasue they eat into profits when returns are rising and decrease more slowly if at all when prices fall.

Power pushes up producers’ prices


The price of power was the main contributer to the increase in the Producers’ Price Index  in the three months to June, Statistics New Zealand said today.

Ouptput prices went up 3.5% and input prices rose by 5.6%.

The rise in the outputs index is the largest quarterly rise since the June 1985 quarter, while the rise in the inputs index is the largest since the March 1980 quarter. Both indexes were mainly driven by higher prices for electricity generation and supply.

One business’s output becomes another’s input, so for example milk and grain are outputs for farmers but inputs for cheese makers and bakers.The electricity generation and supply outputs index rose 30.9 percent in the latest quarter, the largest rise since the series began. Higher output prices for electricity generation were recorded, with lower lake levels pushing up spot prices. In the year to the June 2008 quarter, the electricity generation and supply index rose 41.7 percent, which is also the largest annual rise since the series began.


Electricity producers cover those inolved in generation, transmission, distribution and retail and their inputs include fuel, business services, rent and power itself. I’m not sure how much the healthy dividends the Government gets from the power companies it owns contributes to the price rises.

Within the inputs index, electricity generation and supply rose 50.8 percent in the latest quarter and 85.4 percent in the year to the June 2008 quarter. Both movements are the largest since the series began in the June 1994 quarter. Lower lake levels were the cause of higher costs for electricity generation this quarter.

Ouch. We pump water for irrigation which makes power one of our bigger costs.

Another contributer to the PPI indexes is the wholesale trade which covers fuel and fertiliser and they are also big budget items for farmers.

Wholesale trade also made a contribution to both the PPI output and input indexes. The wholesale trade outputs index rose 6.0 percent in the June 2008 quarter, while the inputs index rose 6.4 percent. In both cases the increase was driven by higher prices in the mineral, metal and chemical wholesaling sector.In the year to the June 2008 quarter, the PPI outputs index rose 8.5 percent and the inputs index rose 11.8 percent.


If these input costs, most of which have a large imported component, went up when our dollar was relatively high they will almost certainly be higher in the next quarter because the dollar has been lower.

The increase in inputs has been greater than that for outputs which means we’re absorbing some of the costs. But even so each trip to the supermarket is a reminder that some of the increases get passed on to consumers.

I couldn’t find any 1kg blocks of cheese at the supermarket today, and the 700g block of edam I did find cost $11.99. I wonder if this is because there would be consumer resistance if they tried to sell bigger blocks at that per kilo price?

EFA bad for our health


Okay, that’s a silly headline but it’s also a silly Act because it’s constraining the Ministry of Health’s advertising programme about the cervical cancer vaccine.

The new electoral law has forced the Ministry of Health to keep its advertising for the cervical cancer vaccination programme at a low level until after the election.

The human papilloma virus vaccination programme starts next month.

The ministry acknowledged yesterday that because of nervousness about falling foul of the Electoral Finance Act, it was sticking to just brochures and posters for primary health care centres – until after the poll.

Not until November and December will it crank up its full promotional campaign, including TV, radio, print and online advertising, for its vaccination programme with Gardasil, which protects against four strains of HPV, two of which are linked to 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

… The ministry’s deputy director of public health, Fran McGrath, said last night that in developing its promotion of the vaccination programme, it took guidance from the commission and Office of the Auditor-General, plus legal advice.

“The content and timing of what the ministry planned did not need to be changed.”

No? Then why wait until after the election to crank up the campaign?

Mike Taylor, country manager of CSL Biotherapies New Zealand, which supplies the vaccine  said that the company had consulted lawyers to ensure its advertisements wouldn’t be considered political.

“[Our legal] advice is we do need to be careful: as long as we are not referring to the Government, and not connecting them to this campaign, we should be okay.”

When the law becomes farcial the Act is an ass. So too are Labour and its allies who designed it and  steamrolled it through parliament over soundly based objections from people and organisations across the political spectrum and many  others without poltical bias

Hat tip: Inquiring Mind

Owen Glenn will be called for evidence


MPs want to call Owen Glenn to give evidence to the privileges committee.


Committee chairman Simon Power would make no further comment last night. He could not say whether the committee had the power to compel Mr Glenn to give evidence, if he chose not to appear.

And John Armstrong isn’t confident that Peters will be censured.

If you were a betting person, you would have to put the odds on Winston Peters escaping censure by Parliament’s privileges committee after watching last night’s hearing.

Put that down to the unorthodox relationship between Peters and his lawyer Brian Henry. Much depends on what Owen Glenn says if he accepts the committee’s invitation to give evidence. But with his testimony – given by video-link – Henry knocked the stuffing out of the charge Peters had failed to declare a $100,000 donation from the wealthy expatriate in the register of MPs’ pecuniary interests.

Boiled down, it ran like this. Henry rang Glenn and asked for the donation to meet the costs of Peters’ legal bid to overturn the result in Tauranga in the 2005 election. Peters was not told. It was Henry’s practice not to bill Peters for his work. In fact, since becoming Peters’ lawyer in 1991, Henry had never billed Peters for his work. Because he did not bill Peters, there was no debt that Peters ought to have declared.

Perhaps you have to be a lawyer to understand this especially when:

The committee heard from Peters that he had reimbursed Henry to the tune of hundreds and thousands of dollars over that period, but without knowing how much he owed. So it seems Henry did not charge Peters – but he still got paid.

Does that make sense? There was no bill and so no debt but Peters and other people paid Henry anyway.

In forthrightly arguing his case, Henry nearly managed to upstage his client – something rarely done. When Henry refused on the grounds of legal privilege to name the person who had suggested he ring Glenn for a donation, he got into a lengthy argument with National’s Gerry Brownlee, who accused him of being obstructive.

There had been doubts beforehand about how tough National’s questioning would be, given the party might have to negotiate with Peters after the coming election. But Brownlee and his colleague Wayne Mapp did not hold back. Sparks also flew during their exchanges with Peters.

I am relieved to learn this. If the MPs had trod gently it would have been a travesty.

Regardless of the fear they may be forced into coalition with New Zealand First after the election, those on the committee have to ask the tough questions and do everything in their power to not only get answers but also get the truth.

Lonely Planet likes Otago


Lonely Planet’s newest guide to New Zealand is generally enthusiastic about Otago.

Dunedin’s live music and cafe and restaurant scene were given a significant plug and the Otago Peninsula was said to be “rich” with wildlife and outdoor activities.

The University of Otago was given recognition for the energy it provided the city.

“The country’s oldest university provides an energy that might otherwise be missing and drives a thriving theatre, live-music – and it must be said – drinking scene.”

Indeed, not all education takes place in the lecture theatres.

Otago was said to be unhurried and “rife with picturesque scenery” with few crowds to share it with, although Queenstown was called an area with a cinematic background of mountains and a “what can we think of next” array of activities.

As it is.

What they said about Otago

Alexandra: “Unless you’ve come to Alexandra especially for September’s NZ Merino Shearing Championships or the Easter Bunny Hunt, the reason to visit this rather nondescript service hub is for the nearby mountain biking.”

Arrowtown: “Beloved by day-trippers from Queenstown . . . The only gold being flaunted these days is on credit cards and surrounded by a bonanza of daytime tourists, you might grow wary of the quaint historical ambience.”

Balclutha: ” . . . South Otago’s largest town but is of little interest to travellers other than a place to stock up on supplies before heading off into the Catlins.”

Clyde: “. . . looks more like a cute 19th-century gold rush film set than a real town . . . retains a friendly small-town feel . . . and it’s a great place to chill out for a couple of days.”

Cromwell: “There’s plenty of good reasons to visit Cromwell: the sweet little historic precinct . . . and to eat (and eat, and eat) . . . Oh, and a third reason – to take a photo of yourself beside the spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad at the entrance to town.”

Dunedin: ” . . . captures the hearts of locals and travellers alike. It’s a surprisingly artsy town, and has more great bars and eateries than its small size deserves.”

” . . . has attractions both urban and rural . . . party down in the South Island’s coolest city, and get up close and personal with the island’s most accessible wildlife.”

Glenorchy: “Set in achingly beautiful surroundings, postage-stamp-sized Glenorchy is the perfect low-key antidote to the hype and bustle of Queenstown.”


Lawrence: ” . . . a sweet little town in a valley surrounded by farmland and forestry plantations. For most travellers its not much more than a place to stop for lunch.”


 Naseby: “Cute as a button . . . little old Naseby is the kind of town where life moves slowly. That the town is pleasantly obsessed with the fairly insignificant world of NZ curling indicates there’s not much else going on.”

Oamaru: “Nothing moves very fast in Oamaru: tourists saunter, locals languish and penguins waddle”.

“. . .eccentric gems such as the South Island’s yummiest cheese factory, cool galleries and a peculiar live music venue are other distractions.”

Yes, Whitestone Cheese is yummy; the Penguin Club is a gem; and lets not forget our artists, and while Victoriana isn’t old by world standards, the historic precinct gets better every year – newest attraction is the Whysky Bar.  Outside town there’s the Vanished World Trail  and Elephant Rocks where Chronicles of Narnia was filmed and Riverstone Kitchen.

Omarama: “surrounded by mountain ranges, the Omarama area is at the centre of fabulous landscapes.”

Queenstown: “The town wears its ‘Global Adventure Capital’ badge proudly, and most visitors take time to do crazy things they have never done before. But a new Queenstown is also emerging,
with a cosmopolitan restaurant and arts scene and excellent vineyards.”


Ranfurly: “Ranfurly is trying hard to cash in on its Art Deco buildings but while there are a few attractive buildings, the town itself is fairly bleak.”

But it is on the Central Otago Rail Trail.

Wanaka: “Beautiful scenery, tramping and skiing opportunities, and an expanding roster of adrenaline-inducing activities have transformed the lakeside town of Wanaka into a year-round tourist destination.”

Call me biased and parochial if you will, but the guide has not overstated the delights of New Zealand’s most beautiful province 🙂

No bill = no debt? No


Dear Winston,

A man of your legal experience ought to know that your excuse/explanation won’t wash:

Winston Peters told Parliament’s privileges committee last night he could not be in breach of the laws around disclosure of debts owed by MPs, or their payment, because his lawyer never sent him any bills.

Mr Peters and his lawyer, Brian Henry, argued that without bills being rendered for legal work, no debts existed and therefore could not be declared.

The money doesn’t literally have to change hands to be a donation.

If someone does some work for you and doesn’t send a bill costs are still incurred and whether or not a bill is sent, you are in debt to the provider of the services. If someone else then pays said provider s/he is in fact donating to you.

If you don’t understand this, may I suggest you have a look at the Electoral Finance Act where the value of goods and services provided must be accounted for even if they are donated and whether or not a bill is sent.

Yours in the spirit of helpfulness


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