Skills shortage biggest concern

12/09/2008

Skills shortage was the biggest concern for the more than 2000 businesses which responded to Business New Zealand’s Election Survey.

Problems getting skilled staff, not being well positioned to innovate and concerns over the business environment including the Employment Relations and Holidays Act and ACC were the three big issues for respondents.

The education system wasn’t meeting the needs of 72% of respondents; 94% said more work was needed in apprenticeships and industry training and 91% said all school leavers should achieve at least NCEA 1 numberacy and literacy.

Problems mentioned included the quality of tertiary qualifications and stop-start immigration which are contributing to driving people overseas; the skills shortage is a symptom of underlying uncompetitiveness and and New Zealand economy isn’t growing enough high paying jobs so skilled workers go overseas.

The second biggest issue was innovation with 89% of respondents saying research & development credits are unlikely to lift the level of R & D; 54% want new policies to imporve access to venture capital and 54% said government assistance should be through a contestable fund.

The business environment was the third big issue. Under this category 71% of respondents said the dismissals provision in the ERA was below average; 54% said the ERA collective approach is the wrong way;89% don’t want laws for work-life balance and 65% want to open ACC to competition.

A flatter tax system was wanted by 64% of respondents; 62% want local government to stick to its core busienss; 55% support the FTA with China; and 73% said New Zealand shouldn’t be a world leader on climate change.

An NZ Herald report on the results is here; and the responses to Business NZ questions by political parties is here.


Party Politics

12/09/2008

 

This Friday’s poem chose itself when the election date was announced.

 

Party Politics by Phillip Larkin comes from Collected Poems, published by The Marvell Press, 2003.

 

              Party Politics

 

I never remember holding a full drink.

   My first look shows the level half-way down.

What next? Ration the rest, and try to think

   Of higher things, until mine host comes round?

 

Some people say, best show an empty glass:

  Someone will fill it. Well, I’ve tried that too.

You may get drunk, or dry half-hours may pass.

   It seems to turn on where you are. Or who.

 

          – Phillip Larkin –


Wilson 1 – Clark 0

12/09/2008

Mary Wilson has just interviewed Helen Clark on Checkpoint.

If Clark was expecting a free run to give a party political broadcast which, as Adam Smith  noted, she had when she announced the election this afternoon, she’d have been disappointed.

Most of the interview centred on why Clark didn’t say what she knew about Winston Peters and the donations debacle and her handling of that.

The interview is on line here.


Naked kids banned from pool

12/09/2008

Oh dear.

The “sad reality” of high-profile paedophilia cases means it is no longer appropriate to allow children to change into swimwear beside public swimming pools, says Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie.

He was commenting after a Christchurch school was asked to refrain from its practice of letting children change by the pool in the city’s Jellie Park Aquatic Centre instead of in the changing rooms, following a complaint from a pool user.

St Bernadette’s School principal Maureen Moore said it chose not to use the busy changing rooms so teachers and parents could keep a better eye on the children.

It was purely for safety, and the school did not set out to offend anyone, she told the New Zealand Herald.

She said the school would now work something else out Mr McCoskrie said it was a sad reality of high-profile cases of child pornography and paedophilia that parents now needed to “err on the side of modesty”.

Is this an indictment on society or just a very sorry reflection of modern life?


Key Google-bombed

12/09/2008

John Key has joined George W Bush and Tony Blair as the target of a Google bomb.

It is an online phenomenon first seen in England at the start of the millennium. This week it reached New Zealand.

Type “clueless” into a New Zealand google search right now, hit ‘I feel lucky’ and you will be directed to John Key’s personal website.

Key has been given the dubious honour of being the first New Zealand politician to be google-bombed and a 22-year-old programmer from Parnell is responsible.

A google bomb is essentially a manipulation of the search engine to improve the rankings of particular webpages that ensures a site is at the top of the results for particular search phrases.

Some of the more famous google bombs are also expressions of political opinion – “liar” leading to Tony Blair, or “miserable failure” leading to the White House’s biography of George W Bush are two that made headlines around the world.

The election campaign is only three hours old and already it’s both silly and dirty. And the silliness and dirt is coming from Parnell – is that a hot bed of political activism?


1001st comment

12/09/2008

The 1001st comment was posted on Homepaddock at 12.58 today.

It was made by Inventory 2 from Keeping Stock on the post about the election date.

For those of you who like numbers: I started blogging on April 22nd, it took nearly a month before the first comment was made. The most comments on a single post was 16 – and  that happened this week on and today’s excuse is…

Thanks to all of you who leave your thoughts, a lot of the fun in blogging comes from reading them – even the ones that disagree with me 🙂


Stab proof vests from Ag Research

12/09/2008

Concern over low returns from sheep has concentrated on the meat.

But low prices for crossbred wool has also contributed to the problem and we’ve been waiting for someone to come up with an inventive way to use it.

Ag Research  may have done it:

A revolutionary new wearable fabric which redefines the term tough has been developed by AgResearch.

The stab and flame-resistant fabric is made from knitted Vectran – a non-cut, ultra-high strength liquid crystal polymer – with short wool fibre packed into the outer surface.

Its flame-resistant properties will be tested to the full on Monday, when a blowtorch will be applied to a vest made of the fabric while being worn by a model.

The fabric will resist puncture or knife penetration, is lightweight, comfortable to wear, and has the dual benefits of the breathability and comfort of wool as well as the puncture resistance of the Vectran component, said AgResearch textile science and technology section manager Peter Ingham.

The wool component was naturally flame-resistant and any charring would be contained by the Vectran, giving the wearer “unparalleled protection” against flames.

The fabric looked like a “normal” Swanndri-type wool, but had the super-tough hidden layer of Vectran inside.

 It’s a sad indictment on society that we need stab-proof clothing but if there’s a silver lining in this cloud it’s that the fabric which will help protect people will also provide a better market for crossbred wool.

Update: Jim Mora interviews Peter Ingham here.


It’s all about trust

12/09/2008

In announcing the election Helen Clark said it’s all about trust.

Would that be the sort of trust that Winston Peters has been hiding?


November 8 – our chance for change

12/09/2008

The election will be held on November 8th.

That’s 57 more sleeps until we get our chance for change – and improvement.


Election date at 12.30

12/09/2008

Helen Clark has called a snap press conference for 12.30.

Stuff reports that she’s expected to announce the election date and that it will be November 8th.


Uneven odds on holey sock

12/09/2008

I have three pairs of socks which each have one sock with a hole in the toe.

If I put the holey one on the right foot my big toe goes through the hole, but if I put the holey sock on the other foot the hole fits between toes.

So what’s the odds of putting the holey sock on the wrong (right) foot rather than the right (left) one if I don’t check which has the hole first?

With two feet and two socks it ought to be 50%, but it’s not.

I thought this might be because I only notice the holey sock when it’s on the wrong foot so I started counting and came up with the holey sock on the wrong foot seven times out of 10.

Have I miscounted, is the survey period too short or does it mean that Murphy’s Law overrules statistics?


No más, no más

12/09/2008

The Taranaki Daily News  has also had enough:

“No más, no más.”

With those infamous words legendary boxer Roberto Duran threw his gloves up in resignation and quit a gripping 1980 world title fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, retiring to his corner to lick his physical and spiritual wounds, says the Taranaki Daily News.

With that dramatic exit, his image of invincibility was pierced, his fearsome reputation shattered. The man who would go on to win world titles in four weight divisions would always be remembered as that guy who gave up.

Right now, we can all understand how he felt; what it’s like to be worn down over too many rounds by a slippery opponent who ducks and weaves, slips the punches, boxes clever and gets in the odd cheap shot.

And even now, with Winston Peters’ image of invincibility pierced, his fearsome reputation shattered, we all sit in that corner with Duran and exclaim that we’ve seen enough political bloodletting in this interminable, slow-motion car crash.

“No mas, no mas”.

The public and the Labour Party, that is.

. . . Mr Peters and Miss Clark may leave this particular bout with a few new bruises and wobbly teeth, but that will be nothing compared with what they are likely to experience in November, when the real pain starts.

We’ve all had enough of this sorry mess. But come November, we will be asked for our definitive judgment, and Labour might not like the result.


Politics of the absurd

12/09/2008

The Taranaki Daily News notes that in politics an absurdity isn’t a handicap:

Napoleon Bonaparte said that about 200 years ago . . .Given the political drama that has unfolded in the past few weeks, that statement has an uncanny prescience and the timing of its publication is both poignant and troubling.

But in the context of the turmoil surrounding Winston Peters, Helen Clark and the story behind the grease that smooths the wheels of our democracy, Bonaparte’s offering alludes to a wider truth that we must face in the next few weeks.

If, as Bob Jones points out in his column today, Labour is a real chance to win the General Election tipped to be called for November, does that mean that, finally, we have reluctantly conceded that politicians can and do lie, cheat and steal as part of their job and this affliction must be accepted; like an involuntary muscle reflex that must be accommodated and tolerated?

Is this absurdity of avarice and treachery in public service not a handicap, but more of a default position? And therefore, how much weight do we place on honesty and integrity when standing, marker pen poised, before our voting forms?

. . . Have we just become too accustomed to, too beaten down by, too many lies and falsehoods; an innocence that became a scepticism that mutated into a grudging, resigned cynicism.

. . . Maybe Helen Clark is counting on the same moral blindness from her supporters, her nation; that we will forgive her moment of political madness and impropriety because we are sophisticated enough to know that lying and deceit is as much a part of being a politician as kissing babies and shaking hands.

If that’s the case, then shame on her and shame on us. There should be more to surviving in politics than clinging on to a drowning man and hoping everyone else will look the other way.

Not everyone’s looking the other way but the election will be the only way to know if there’s enough of us who still believe that honesty and integrity matter.


Law Society criticises privileges cttee

12/09/2008

The Auckland DIstrict Law Society says the privileges committee is ineffective. 

The Auckland District Law Society’s Public Issues Committee is accusing it of being ineffective as a disciplinary body.

Spokesman Dr Noel Cox says the body is failing to live up to its democratic obligations.

He says the problem is that when politicians step out of line the only recourse for the public is to complain to parliament.

Dr Cox adds the privileges committee doesn’t have an active role in punishing MPs for using parliamentary privilege improperly.

Democracy depends on proper checks and balances. If the privileges committee isn’t effective then we have cause to worry about what’s going unchecked and what’s out of balance.


Otago phosphate could save $1b

12/09/2008

Rising world phosphate prices could make a South Otago supply  economically viable and save farmers $1 billion a year in imported phosphate rock.

Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative chief executive Rodney Green said yesterday, that the Clarendon deposit had become viable as the world price of phosphate rock soared from $75 a tonne in 2007 to $740 a tonne now, as countries shored up supplies of the mineral to increase their food production.

Phosphate is a crucial component in many fertilisers, and New Zealand uses about one million tonnes a year.

Mr Green said the resource could yield 34 million tonnes, enough to make Ravensdown self-sufficient in superphosphate for 22 years.

“This opportunity could be a boon to farmers and could result in the New Zealand economy becoming self-sufficient in phosphate rock, saving $960 million on current prices in foreign exchange a year,” he said.

A three-month investigation will be undertaken to confirm the viability of the deposit which was discovered in 1902 and mined until 1924, then again during World War II when Japan occupied Nauru.

The resource covered 450ha on eight Clarendon farms, and initial work was focused on determining its quality and quantity.

“There is a pretty strong imperative to get this going as soon as we can,” he said.

Mr Green said the world had plenty of phosphate, but China and Togo had imposed export taxes to ensure there was sufficient for their food production needs, while the other main sources in Morocco and Russia were isolated and transport costly.

In contrast, the Clarendon deposit was 3km from State Highway 1 and the main trunk rail line and 40km from the company’s Ravensbourne fertiliser works, slashing shipping costs to a fraction of the current $180 ($US120) a tonne.

Because of the age of the titles, the various mineral rights were privately owned by the landowners and Blackhead Quarries.

All were supportive of the investigation, Mr Green said.

One of the landowners, Tony McDonnell, who lives in Phosphate Rd, said agriculture and the country needed a local fertiliser resource to ensure the sector continued to underpin the economy.

He used 300 tonnes to 400 tonnes of superphosphate a year on his farms, but soaring international prices had made it a costly input.

“If it proves to be big, this would be a large operation and would bring a lot of money into the Otago economy,” he said.

Phosphate fertiliser has increased $300 a tonne since March and it’s one of the biggest items in most farm budgets. If the South Otago deposits are viable it will create jobs in the area. It will also have a wider benefit by and reducing our reliance on imported phosphate which will become even more expensive as our dollar falls in value.


Enough’s enough

12/09/2008

The Dominion Post has had enough:

Prime Minister Helen Clark’s course of action is now clear. Mr Henry has been invited to reappear before the privileges committee on Tuesday. When he does, he should bring with him two pieces of evidence. The first is telephone records showing when he first called Mr Glenn to ask him to contribute toward Mr Peters’ legal costs, records which, if they exist, will disprove Mr Glenn’s assertion that he has never spoken to Mr Peters’ lawyer.

The second is the name of the “client” who advised him to approach Mr Glenn on Mr Peters’ behalf.

If Mr Henry is unable, or unwilling, to provide either, the prime minister should sack Mr Peters from her ministry.

For too long, he has trifled with the truth and danced on the heads of legal pins. By doing so, he would like his supporters to believe he has simply been refusing to dance to the tune of petty bureaucrats and the news media.

But what he has, in fact, been doing is showing contempt for Parliament, the law and the public. Remember, it was an audience member who asked Mr Peters at a Grey Power meeting in July to explain why NZ First had not declared money received from the Spencer Trust, a shadowy legal entity administered by his brother Wayne.

Mr Peters replied that: “Everything that [NZ First] was required to do within the law has been done,” has now been shown, by the party’s own admission that it broke electoral law, to be false.

Miss Clark should call the election.

Not only will it give her the political benefit of diverting attention from Mr Peters’ evasions, half-truths and falsehoods, it will give the public the opportunity to pass judgment on his shenanigans.

“Contempt for Parliament, the law, and the public …” not to mention his colleagues, his party, its members and the poor deluded souls who’ve believed the populist message he’s spent his political career spreading.


Thanks Owen

12/09/2008

Some have questioned whether Owen Glenn’s philanthropy was sufficient to earn a New Zealand Honour, but the Herald says  he deserved it before and he’s more than earned it now:

New Zealanders should consider today what a debt we owe Owen Glenn. He cared enough for his good name in this country to come here and clear it. In doing so he will surely rid us of a politician who misused his considerable talent and charm to mislead the public on important policies, sow fear and suspicion of change and survive on a populism that has turned out to be not only destructive but dishonest.

Mr Glenn deserved the high honour bestowed on him at New Year for financial endowments such as that of the Auckland University business school. Scarred by his brush with New Zealand politics, he might not realise that he has earned his honour doubly now.

We would have even more reason to be grateful if, as The Hive requests, he could provide some ammunition to counter the attacks on him from the unholy alliance of Labour and New Zealand First.


Varroa outbreak in Nth Canterbury

12/09/2008

An infestation of varroa bee mite has been confrimed in North Canterbury.

Varroa has been found in Nelson/Marlborough before but this is the first instance of it being confirmed in Canterbury.


Land price lifts 209% in 6 years

12/09/2008

The price of farmland has risen 209% in the past six years accroding to Westpac economist Doug Steel.

Prices were expected to peak in 2007-08, as they did in previous cycles, in 1989-90 and 1995-96, followed by a trough in 2001-02.

It was not surprising that land suitable for dairying had led the increase given the rise in dairy prices, but Mr Steel said product prices, as they related to land prices, ignored the influence of productive capacity, future returns and the cost of production.

But the two did correlate, evident by Fonterra forecasting the milk price well ahead of the season and the impact that had underpinning land values.

“Fonterra’s early forecast of $7 a kg milk solids has given confidence to the market that high dairy payouts are going to be around for the next 12 months.”

Elevated land prices also reflected confidence in the dairy sector.

Mr Steel said dairy production had increased considerably in the past decade, and milk solids per hectare had increased by a compound rate of 2.6% a year, reflecting more more cows per hectare and also more milk solids per cow.

But Mr Steel said research showed that the top 10% of dairy farmers in the 2006-07 season were producing 25% more milksolids per hectare than an average operator.

Similarly, sheep production had improved markedly.

Lambing percentages had risen from 105% in the mid 1990s to over 120% now.

Looking ahead, Mr Steel forecast a milk payout for the coming year of $7.10 a kg m/s but revised down to $6 from $6.30 his predicted payout for 2009-10.

. .  . The return of US beef to Asia had also put pressure on prices, but growing demand from Russia was supporting prices.

Mr Steel was optimistic about prospects for the medium term.

He was equally optimistic with lamb prospects, saying prices this season should be “considerably better than the dismal returns of the past few seasons”.

He picked prices to be 50c a kg higher than they were in 2007-08 and $1 a kg better than 2006-07.

Sheep numbers were falling all around the world and meat prices in Europe were 30% higher than they were a year ago, while prices for co-products were also improving.

“While growth in demand in the EU and US may ease with economic growth, reducing supply is likely to keep prices firm.”

Chris Nixon an economist with the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research analysed the price of farmland and its reflection of economic activity for Agmardt. He presented his findings at the AGmardt breakfast during the National Bank Young Farmer contest and you can read it here.


Counting ETS costs

12/09/2008

Now that legislation which will impose an Emissions Trading Scheme on us has been passed the papers are starting to count the cost.

The ODT says the scheme will hit consumers and exporters:

It seems consumers will bear the cost of the emissions trading scheme while farmers and horticulturists fear their businesses and New Zealand’s key export industries could pay the ultimate cost and be forced out of business.

But Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton has moved to ease the sector’s concerns, saying through a spokeswoman, that if there was no greenhouse gas emission mitigating technology, the sector would get additional time to adjust.

Would you buy a used reassurance from this man?

A BP spokeswoman said yesterday’s international price of carbon credits was $44 a tonne, which would increase the price of petrol 12c a litre.

A Meridian Energy spokes-woman said the company believed the ETS was the best way to change consumer behaviour, and she said the company accepted Government predictions of its impact on energy prices.

Those were: retail electricity price to rise 1c to 2c per kWh, gas 0.9c to 1.7c per gJ and a 20kg bag coal of 90c to $1.50.

Fonterra said the higher production costs would filter through to higher consumer prices.

Meat and Wool New Zealand chairman Mike Petersen warned the $5 billion sheep and beef industry could disappear.

Other than reducing productivity or the number of animals carried, little mitigation technology was available.

Horticulture New Zealand president Andrew Fenton feared his members could also go out of business.

The $2.6 billion export earner would lose its competitiveness and consumers become reliant on food imports from Chile, South Africa and China which had higher greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

“As our growers slowly go out of business under the weight of ETS costs, New Zealand consumers are going to end up eating imported product grown in countries with much higher carbon output than ours is now.”

Lincoln University farm management lecturer Guy Trafford, has calculated the cost of ETS in 2013 for a 4000-stock unit sheep and beef farm at $36,088 a year and for a 350-cow dairy farm $40,804.

“The problem for agriculture is that it’s essentially a tax and there is still a huge anomaly, as we seem to be bringing it in for agriculture when most of the world is ignoring agriculture.”

What will be the impact on consumers?

It depends on the international price of carbon dioxide at the time the sector is included, but the general consensus is the cost of everyday items will rise.

BP says if the ETS applied to it yesterday, petrol would rise 12c a litre at the pump.

The Government says retail electricity will increase 1c-2c/kwh, gas 0.9c-1.7c/GJ, coal 90c to $1.50 a 20kg bag.

HortNew Zealand say it will cost the sector an extra $40 million a year and Lincoln University says in 2013 it will cost a sheep and beef farmer $36,000 and a dairy farmer $41,000 a year.

The Southland Times  says the ETS could cost 1000 jobs.

Southland’s economy would be hardest hit by controversial emissions trading legislation, an economic study has found.

 

Economic consultancy the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research found Southland would be hit hardest because of the importance of the dairy industry and the aluminium smelter to the local economy.

In contrast, Auckland and Wellington would be least affected because of the high concentration of service industries and public sector employment.

The Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference Bill passed into law by 63 votes to 57 on Wednesday.

The study, done before select committee hearings on the legislation, found agriculture, in particular, would suffer because costs of the scheme would fall heavily on export industries.

Metals manufacturing would also be hit hard, with capital falls of 6.5 percent and a 3.4 percent reduction in employment, it says.

The impact of the scheme on agriculture and related services and processing in Southland could result in employment reductions of about 1000 jobs, the report says.

And what will the impact on global emissions of carbon be? That too is up in the air but given New Zealand produces just .2% of the world’s emissions and most of that is from animals and the technology to reduce them is not yet available the answer is little if anything.

And, if carbon efficient businesses move from New Zealand to countries without an ETS and with lwoer environmental standards emissions may increase.


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