Timaru wool mill closing


New Zealand’s last medium grade wool mill Timaru’s Chargeurs New Zealand, is closing with the loss of 30 jobs.

Its closure was seen as inevitable by industry observers, since the industry was facing competition from low-cost producers in China.

Wool is also a product the international market is demanding less of.

Tim Lonsdale from Wools of New Zealand says there are fundamental changes taking place in the country’s wool sector.

“We’re seeing a radical drop in production of wool as more and more farmland is converted to dairy. This is obviously having a flow-on effect on processors,” he said.

“The global industry for wool is certainly under pressure – we’re facing stiff competition from synthetic fibres.

“I suppose they could have anticipated the trend towards finer wool and perhaps geared their factory up to process that fibre.”

But for John Brakenridge from the New Zealand Merino Company, the outlook is very different.

“Sure there’s some uncertainty as a result of the global situation at the moment but the underlying demand for merino and finer wool is actually very very good,” he said.

“If wool’s going to survive in today’s market people have to invest in marketing and research and development and that’s what NZ’s merino and fine wool growers have done.

“The reason why merino growers and finer wool growers have been successful in my opinion is because they’ve been prepared to invest in marketing and research and development.”

Complaints about poor returns from sheep in recent years have often blamed the meat industry, but the low price for pelts and wool has also been to blame.

The merino industry has shown there is still a place for natural fibresbut courser wools have yet to find a niche which will bring bring the improved returns which are needed if they are to play their part in returning the sheep industry to profitability.

Shear Blacks win 4 world titles


New Zealand’s premier shearing team, the Shear Blacks, has returned from the World Championships in Norway with four of a possible six titles.

41-year-old Paul Avery has spent 20 years shearing competitively. He last qualified for the world champs in 1998, but that year shearing legend David Fagan won.

With the help of an AMP scholarship, Mr Avery spent a month in Norway getting to know the local sheep.

“There lamb is like half as big again, like 50 to 60 kilos,” he says. “And they are crazy to shear they are kicking all the time. Even when you are sitting down at the end of a day shearing, sitting on the couch watching TV, you find your muscles are all tense and you’ve got to try and make yourself relax.”

Mr Avery was part of a team which won four out of a possible six titles. The team’s organiser says the results prove shearing is now a New Zealand sport in its own right.

“We have been funded by SPARC,” John Fagan from Shearing Sports NZ says. “Being an Olympic year this year, they didn’t fund us. But we are recognised as a sport.”

WHile I’d admired the skill and fitness of shearers I’d never really appreciated shearing as a sport until I read the account of a Golden Sheras final in Witi Ihimaera’s novel Bulibasha.

Another conference conversation leaked


Barry Soper told Larry Williams on Newstalk ZB  that TV3 is going to play another tape of Bill English speaking at the National Party conference.

Barry said Bill was recorded saying something to the effect that elections are all about winning regardless of principles.

I find it difficult to believe that because Bill is a man of very strong principle.

It is possible to docotor tapes. And it’s not a coincidence that this was released the day after national released its tax policy.

The question is what else is on tape and when will it be released?

UPDATE: I’ve just listened to the tape on TV3 news, and it sounds like one of those statements which when taken out of context sounds bad, but as part of a conversation about the importance of winning is harmless.

Horror Story


David Fletcher

Caroline & Georgina to retire


Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell announced they are retiring from rowing.

They won their second Olympic gold in Beijing and plan to take some time out while they decide their futures off the water.

“Retiring now just feels right,” Caroline said.

“It’s been a great time in our lives and we couldn’t have done it without (coach) Richard (Tonks).”

“We have always said they should give out three medals not two.”

Georgina said there was life in New Zealand rowing after them.

Blogging for money


Jim Mora discussed blogging for money with Hamish McEwan in Virtual World  yesterday.

The good news is that you can make a living from blogging. The not so good news is, that like any other business, it doesn’t happen without a serious amount of work.

Hamish said there are some accidental successes where someone’s obsession or passion generates income but most financial success comes from people who treat blogging as a business and work hard at it.

A few at the top might make $US200,000 a year but most don’t even try to make a cent.

Jim said a rule of thumb is that blogs with 100,000 unique visitors a month could make $US75,000 a year, but Hamish said that’s pulled up by the few at the top making the $US200,000.

I’ve got a wee way to go to get the readership up.

Communicating or campaigning?


David Benson-Pope is distributing the 50 page booklet for over 60s which has slipped through an EFA loophole.

Asked yesterday why he had sent out the booklets, Mr Benson-Pope said he was still the MP for Dunedin South.

“As far as I am concerned, I am continuing to provide a service to the electors of Dunedin South. You know I am always keen to provide a good service as an MP.

And is he also using a taxpayer-funded opportunity to get his name and face in front of voters to help if he stands as an independent in Dunedin South?

We’ll get the answer to that question by Tuesday when nominations close.

Labour’s fiddling while the economy burns


Yesterday I asked: 

Who’re we going to trust – Labour, who already knew what was happening and still don’t know what to do about it, or National who have assessed the situation and acted?

The Herald has also noticed that National came up with a plan two days after the books were opened but Labour, which ought to have been known about the sad state of the national accounts, has done nothing.

There has been a striking contrast in the response of the two main parties to the disturbing news that after 14 years of budget surpluses the Treasury now calculates the public accounts are set for a decade of deficits.

An announcement such as that, of which governments have ample warning, would normally be accompanied by some urgent decisions aimed at restoring the fiscal balance somewhat sooner. Instead, Finance Minister Michael Cullen merely congratulated himself again on having saved previous surpluses for a “rainy day” and looked forward to the problems it would cause for National’s intended tax cuts.

There was evidently nothing he thought necessary to change, either in his own programme of reluctant tax cuts that started this month or in the Government’s spending programmes that might have seemed affordable in better times. If Labour’s “rainy day” could last 10 years, as the Treasury forecasts, Dr Cullen and his colleagues seemed strangely relaxed about it.

He even observed that had he known in the May Budget how bad things would become, his tax cuts might not have been as generous. Evidently he can do nothing about those scheduled two and three years ahead. There could be no clearer admission that Labour does not expect the next few years to be its problem.

Has Cullen thrown in the towel or has he absolutely no idea what to do when faced with an economic crisis?

Keeping Stock also comments on the editorial.

Now you’ve got a choice


Mary Holm says National’s policy won’t undermine KiwiSaver:

The National Party’s proposed changes to KiwiSaver would considerably reduce two of the biggest gripes about the scheme – that some people can’t afford it and that it ties up savings.

They also show National is broadly supportive of KiwiSaver, allaying fears that the party would make it not worthwhile to join if it became the government.

True, the freezing of employer contributions at 2 per cent of pay from next April – rather than rising to 4 per cent by 2011 – would make KiwiSaver somewhat less attractive for employees.

But with the government kick-start, tax credits and other incentives unchanged, KiwiSaver would still be the best way for most employees to save.

. . . For the self-employed and non-employees, including children, KiwiSaver would be unchanged under a National government.

The reduction of the minimum employee contribution from 4 per cent to 2 per cent of pay means it would be easier to afford KiwiSaver, especially after taking tax cuts into account. People earning $40,000 or less have already received tax cuts from October 1 that would more than cover 2 per cent KiwiSaver contributions, and those on higher incomes aren’t far behind.

By the time National’s April 2009 tax cuts took effect, everyone’s pay would have increased by considerably more than 2 per cent.

People reluctant to tie up 4 per cent of their pay – usually until they buy their first home or reach NZ Super age – could tie up only half that amount and still receive the incentives. They could continue to save the other 2 per cent in a non-KiwiSaver vehicle, with the money accessible at any time.

Many would find this 2 per cent option attractive. It would enable them to take out savings to start a business or to help out family or friends – things they can’t do with KiwiSaver money, although it can be withdrawn if the member suffers serious illness, financial hardship or goes overseas.

Anyone who would prefer to tie up their money, because they would otherwise spend it, could continue to contribute 4 or 8 per cent of pay to KiwiSaver.

Lowering the minimum employee contribution to 2% makes it easier for those with less money to spare for savings and those who can afford more can contribute more if they choose to or invest the extra savings where they aren’t tied up until retirement.

National trusts us enough to give us more choice.

UPDATE: Keeping Stock agrees 2% may attract more savers.

UPDATE 2: so does Barnsley Bill.

It’s the economy, stupid


The Nelson Mail :

Over the next month the major parties must temper the usual promises to perform better than the other lot with explanations of what they intend to do so that New Zealand can best weather this economic storm and the extended period of recovery to come. The time for election bribes is over. The choice is not so much between old hands and new brooms as in electing a government that will pull parties together to soberly guide the country through hard times.

The Press:

Clark has said this election will be one of trust. If this is so, then the question for voters will be who do you trust in the turbulent world we now face? With these tax cuts, and with some detail of its longer-term economic plans, National has placed its cards on the table. It has produced figures to show that its plans are fiscally responsible. Voters must decide whether Key and his colleagues can be trusted to deliver on them, or whether Labour can be trusted to manage difficult times as well as good ones.

The Timaru Herald: 

AS the economic news darkens by the day, voters’ thinking towards the election should also be changing. This should not be an election with any emphasis on such relatively trivial issues as the anti-smacking legislation, electoral spending, Winston Peters, the fate of the Maori seats, or how Helen Clark and John Key look. The vital issue is who should lead New Zealand through the economic storms ahead.

. . . But has Labour’s economic management been that flash? It is easy to sail in the fair weather that the New Zealand economy has enjoyed over the last nine years. Dr Cullen has not been exposed to a financial storm. And voters told that their tax cuts pose a risk to the economy will wonder why they didn’t benefit through the good times.

. . .There is little left in the budget pot over the next three years for grandiose plans, and parties that make such promises should be treated with disdain. Now is not the time to throw open the public purse for other than essential spending.

Who do we trust? The party which got us into this mess, or the one with a plan to stimulate economic growth which is the best way to get us out of it?

Who? Where?


A Timaru Herald vox pop survey on the streets of Geraldine showed seven out of 10 people still don’t know which electorate they’re in and only two knew who the Labour and National candidates are.

The size of the Waitaki Electorate (34,888 square kilometres) and the fact it has no logical centre of interest is part of the problem.

The Electoral Finance Act which has dampened campaigning is also at fault.

But regardless of those factors, if people take their right to vote seriously they have a responsibility to know basic information like which electorate they’re in and who the candidates are.

For the record, Otago MP Jacqui Dean is the National candidate and list MP David Parker is Labour’s.

And in case someone’s upset I’m only mentioning that Labour and National candidates – that’s because the wee parties don’t even pretend they’re trying to win the electorate.

$1m in a day


Southland’s new bank, Invercargill-based SBS, received more than $1m in new investments after only 24 hours of trading, chief executive Ross Smith said.

We have had numerous people come in … some branches, where an additional $1 million has been invested. We are seeing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars being invested,” he said.

He believed the key to people’s confidence was SBS’ 139-year history, combined with a loss of confidence in other banks, which were foundering in an unstable international economic market.

The Southland Times applauds the Southland Building Society gaining bank status and notes:

It is inevitable that on the day SBS took delivery of its bank registration, some of the key players in the 1991 campaign that blocked a proposed sale of the society to Westpac bathed once again in the wisdom of that decision.

Those who spearheaded that campaign can indeed take much credit for resisting the fearfulness of the time. That decision stands as a reminder that conservatism can at times be the braver, wiser, and more adventurous course.

Sleeping on it


30 more sleeps . . .


. . .  until the election and candidate nominations open today.

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