Just wondering . . .

December 10, 2008

. . . if: 

* those who this time last year thought Fonterra was a good model for the meat industry still think so?

* Silver Fern Farms now regrets not co-operating with the meat Industry Task Force and spurning Alliance’s mega-merger proposal?

* the other meat companies are pleased it did?

* the people who wanted farmers to subsidise the domestic price of dairy products when the milk payout was high want to subsidise farmers now it’s falling?

* the absence of an agriculture spokesperson in Labour’s caucus is indicative of their view on the importance of the sector?

* that matters?


MPs per sq km

December 10, 2008

 One person one vote is a core principle of democracy and from that comes the requirement for electorates to have a similar population.

The quotas for current boundaries  are:

North Island general electorates: 57,243 +/- 2,862

South Island general electorates: 57,562 +/- 2,878

Maori electorates:                             59,583 +/1 2,979

The result of this is a huge variation in the area a MP represents – from Rodney Hide in Epsom who covers just 23 square kilometres to Bill English in Clutha Southland, the largest general electorate which is 38,247 square kilometres in area and Rahui Katene in Te Tai Tonga which covers 161,443 sqaure kilometres.

MMP adds to the dispropotion of MPs per square kilometre because list MPs serve parties not electorates and most of them are in the North Island and in cities.

MMP encourages parties to work where the votes are and there are more votes in the North Island and cities than in the provinces and South Island. The result is that the provincial and southern voices aren’t being heard so strongly and that has been exagerated by the bluewash of the provinces in last month’s election because there are very few opposition MPs outside the four main cities.

I’m not suggesting a change to one person, one vote. But when considering if MMP if is retained or not some thought needs to be given to how big electorates can be to ensure MPs are reasonably accessible to their constituents and that they can effecitvely cover the area they are supposed to serve.

A small concession to the difficulty of servicing the larger electorates has been made in the agreement between National and the Maori Party which gives all Maori MPs and those in general electorates  larger than 20,000 square kilometres an extra staff member.

However, they don’t get any extra funds for associated costs and while Pita Sharples in Tamaki Makaurau which is 730 square kilometres in area gets an extra member of staff, 23 general electorates which are bigger than that but smaller than 20,000 don’t.

Similarly Nania Mahuta in Hauraki Waikato which covers 12,580 square kilometres gets an extra staff member but Shane Adern in Taranaki King Country (12,869 sq kms) and Anne Tolley in East Coast (13,649) don’t.

The table below (from the parliamentary library) shows the areas electorates cover, colour coded for the party of the MP representing them.

Name

Area sq.km

Te Tai Tonga

161,443

Clutha-Southland

38,247

West Coast-Tasman

38,042

Te Tai Hauauru

35,825

Waitaki

34,888

Ikaroa-Rawhiti

30,952

Kaikoura

23,706

Waiariki

19,212

Te Tai Tokerau

16,370

East Coast

13,649

Taranaki-King Country

12,869

Hauraki-Waikato

12,580

Northland

12,255

Rangitikei

12,189

Wairarapa

11,922

Taupo

9,101

Selwyn

7,854

Napier

6,866

Rangitata

6,826

Whanganui

5,948

Invercargill

5,617

Rotorua

5,535

Waikato

4,947

Coromandel

4,653

Tukituki

4,277

Dunedin South

2,702

Waimakariri

1,757

Otaki

1,728

Whangarei

1,628

Hunua

1,266

Bay of Plenty

1,188

Rodney

1,051

Helensville

865

Tamaki Makaurau

730

Dunedin North

642

New Plymouth

579

Nelson

565

Rimutaka

518

Auckland Central

499

Mana

321

Hutt South

311

Papakura

255

Waitakere

254

Mangere

155

Hamilton West

148

Wellington Central

146

Ohariu

130

Port Hills

115

New Lynn

97

Tauranga

89

Christchurch East

78

Palmerston North

46

Wigram

40

East Coast Bays

37

Hamilton East

37

Manurewa

37

Maungakiekie

37

Botany

36

Tamaki

36

Mt Albert

34

Manukau East

31

Pakuranga

29

Christchurch Central

28

Ilam

27

Northcote

27

Rongotai

27

Te Atatu

27

North Shore

25

Mt Roskill

24

Epsom

23

 


Dear Father Christmas #3

December 10, 2008

 

Dear Father Christmas,

Thanks for bringing the lower interest and exchange rates I requested last year.

A continuation of those would be great and apart from that it’s the usual requests from me: the right weather at the right time, a boost in prices for crops, milk, meat, wool and anything else I want to sell and a drop in the cost of everything I have to buy.

If you have any room left on your sleigh after all that, less bureaucracy and more flexibility in all the organisations I have to deal with would be greatly appreciated.

Yours sincerely

A. Farmer.


Dear Peter

December 10, 2008

Hon Peter Dunne

Parliament Buildings

Wellington

 

Dear Peter

 

I have only a vague understand of the rationale behind the Families Commission and I think that is because there is nothing more behind it than a vague, feel-good attempt to do “something”.

 

But ‘something’ isn’t good enough and if the ideas behind the Commission are vague so are its achievements. I have yet to see any concrete proof of anything it has done to justify its $50m budget and the news that the commission was going to waste $200,000 on a summit confirms my views that it isn’t worth the money we’re spending on it.

 

Paula Bennett has made a very good start to her tenure as Social Development Minister by getting the Commission to can the summit.

 

Dumping the Commission itself will be more difficult because of the government’s support agreement with you, but it’s not too late for you to be sensible about it.

 

Could you put your hand on your heart and say that existing agencies like Plunket wouldn’t do much more for families at a fraction of the cost of this bureaucracy?

 

No. So it wouldn’t hurt you to swallow a dead rat and admit that it was a bad idea which has failed to prove its worth.

 

The families of New Zealand and the taxpayers will all be better off if you do.

 

Yours in hope,

Homepaddock


SFF breaches banking covenant

December 10, 2008

The fall in the value of the dollar is usually good for exporters but it is causing problems for our largest meat company.

Silver Fern Farms, formerly PPCS, has breached its banking covenant and has asked its banks to consider a waiver.

The New Zealand dollar’s rapid decline against the US dollar has meant that the meat exporter is not complying with its minimum shareholders funds covenant.

The co-operative, New Zealand’s largest meat company, marks to market its foreign currency hedging and so its value has been eroded by the kiwi’s fall.

. . . The non-compliance related to Silver Fern Farms’ banking facilities, and not its bonds.

The NZ Herald quotes SFF CEO Keith Cooper saying it’s a technical issue:

“It’s a timing issue,” he said. “It’s valued at the month end and it changes every month end and it will quite quickly reverse itself out but at the time of the measure it causes this non-compliance.”


Not if but how

December 10, 2008

One of the many sorry aspects of the torture of Nia Glassie was that neighbours knew it was happening but didn’t interfere.

In the wake of that, we’re quite rightly being told that what happens in other people’s homes is sometimes our business.

But if we hesitate to act against something we know to be wrong in someone else’s home,  how much harder is it to act when the crimes are happening in other people’s countries?

When do the atrocities being inflicted on Zimbabwe and its people by Robert Mugabe become our business?

zimbabwe1

Macdoctor writes of the slow and horrible genocide which is happening there.

Inquiring Mind posts on the Zimbabwean nightmare; quotes the Archibishop of York  John Sentamu who says Mugabe must answer for his crimes against humanity; and asks how long this disgrace can endure.

The ODT says other African leaders have been accused of soft-pedalling on Mugabwe but sees a change:

Leading the charge is Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has urged the African Union to call an emergency meeting to authorise armed intervention.

“If no troops are available then the AU must allow the UN to send its forces into Zimbabwe with immediate effect,” he said, “to take control over the country and ensure urgent humanitarian assistance to the people dying of cholera.”

Whether or not and under what circumstances the UN, or the AU for that matter, can claim a mandate to invade Zimbabwe – and liberate it from itself – is ill-defined and problematic.

The complexities of the situation are further heightened by the promises of aid for Zimbabwe’s diseased and suffering, aid which is the only plausible response from a world faced with a humanitarian disaster on a scale unimaginable in this formerly wealthy African nation.

The terrible irony is that such aid probably serves only to prolong the terrible dictator’s increasingly tenuous grip on power.

Almost everyone agrees that Robert Mugabe must go.

The big question is how to make him.

And not just how to make him, but how to do it in a way which minimises further loss of life and speeds the return to political stability and the improvements to the  health of the Zimbawean people and their economy.


Dioxin in Irish beef

December 10, 2008

Cattle in three of 11 Irish beef herds tested have been found to have higher than recommended levels of dioxin but the meat won’t be recalled because the levels don’t constitute a health risk.

Some 34 herds are still being examined and any cattle shown to be above the legal limit will be taken out of the food chain and the EU commission informed, the Irish government said.

The government recalled all Irish pork products Dec. 7 after tests confirmed 10 percent of Ireland’s estimated 1.47 million pigs may have been exposed to feed containing dioxins, associated with cancer. The recall leaves Irish pork producers facing a 100 million-euro ($128.5 million) bill.

Sky News  reports the meat was contanimated after unlicensed oil used in a burner tainted bread crumbs which were sold to farms.

Padraig Walshe, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), has stood up for farms and pointed the finger at other links in the chain.

“Absolutely no traceability has fallen down at farm level,” Mr Walshe said. “Any problem with traceability has been before with feed going to farm or the process afterwards.

“It’s very disappointing if other procedures weren’t put in place in other parts of the food chain.”

Consumers are becoming more wary over what goes in to their food and while there is absolutely no room for complacency this gives meat and milk from New Zealand’s pasture-grazed stock an advantage over those raised on feed lots.


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