We don’t know how lucky we are


In the depths of the 1980s ag-sag the Oamaru Mail decided it had a duty to cheer people up and announced a policy to put only good news on the front page.

That didn’t last long because it soon became obvious that it was more than a wee bit silly to give the front page lead to a story of little substance because it was “good” news and put stories of far more substance and importance on page three because they were “bad” news.

Highlighting the positive should be left to censors and propoganda merchants not the media, but that doesn’t mean they should go to the opposite extreme and be prophets of doom.

Alf Grumble has declared war on sad sacks  and I think he has a point – and not just because I was flattered when he saluted me as the bearer of glad tidings   and quoted from my opinion piece  in the ODT (though I don’t think he realised that  it was written by me).

Commentators, analysts and others whose opinions are sought by the media are painting a very gloomy picture and while there is no doubt we are in troubling ecomomic times, out here in the real world things aren’t that bad.

And maybe that’s part of the solution – the doomsayers are breathing the stale air of the big cities but if they got out into the provinces they might realise there’s no need to get depressed.

It worked for Colin Espiner who’s returned to work with a positive outlook after a few weeks out of Wellington and what he’s saying is a fairer reflection of what’s happening in rural New Zealand than the bad news stories which are making the headlines.

A small town retailer told me he’d had the same turnover in the six weeks to mid January this year as he’d had in the whole three months of last summer; the milk payout is down from last year’s record but Fonterra’s $5.10 is still the third highest yet; sheep and beef returns are well up; interest rates, fuel and fertiliser prices are dropping  . . .

I’m not saying we should break out the champagne but like Busted Blonde I can play Pollyanna and see plenty to be happy about so maybe what’s needed is a bit of balance in economic and social reporting so we don’t get talked into a depression.

And maybe we need to remember Fred Dagg and appreciate that we don’t know how lucky we are.

Why do farm quad bikes have to be registered?


One of our men was stopped by a policeman while riding a farm quad bike on the road between paddocks yesterday and told the bike ought to registered.

We hadn’t realised that so rang the bloke who sold it to us and he said that farm quads could have e-plates which would cost us $100 and the bikes wouldn’t need Warrents of Fitness or be fully registered which would cost around $290 and the bikes would need WoFs.

I checked the Land Transport website  and found that:

Exempt Class A vehicles are not exempt from registration and licensing but are exempt from registration fees and the vehicle licence portion of the licensing fee. You still have to pay for other fees and levies included in the total licensing fee – for example, you still have to pay for the appropriate ACC levy, registration plates and labels.

Exempt Class A vehicles include:

all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) used on a public highway, in moving from the owner’s residence to a road that isn’t a public highway, where the distance travelled doesn’t exceed three kilometres, or in connection with the inspection, servicing or repair of the vehicle.

Then we have Exempt Class B vheicles which may be exempt from some levies and include:

A motor vehicle (not a trailer) designed for agricultural operations and used on a road solely for agricultural operations, including mobile or movable huts, galleys, and similar motor vehicles used on a road solely in connection with such operations.  . . 


A motor vehicle (not a trailer) owned by a farmer and only used on the road to go from one part of the farm to another part of the same farm, or from one farm to another farm owned or managed by the same person, for agricultural operations.

I presume that quad bikes fit one of these categories and accept the case for an ACC levy but don’t see why they need plates and labels.

I thought registration fees were a tax to pay for roading so I’m not sure why a bike which is only on the road to get from one paddock to another has to be registered, espeically when most of those roads will be minor roads which are the responsibility of local councils not Transit NZ.

However, I should be grateful the policeman didn’t give our man a ticket. Barnsley Bill was not so lucky and his experience has generated a lot of comments on his own blog  and No Minister.

P.S. – for any pedants I realise that a quad isn’t by definition a bike but common usage triumphs over logic.

Bollard taking us back to the 50s


My parents got some sort of government loan to build their house in the mid 1950s. I’m not sure if it was becasue Dad was a returned serviceman or if these loans were available for anyone, but I do know the interest rate was fixed at 3%.

I don’t think rates have been that low since then but Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard has nearly taken us back to those times by reducing the official cash rate from 5% to 3.5%.

His rationale is continuing global uncertainty and confidence that inflation will be “comfortably within the 1 – 3 percent target band in the medium term.”

Interest is one of the bigger costs for farmers, not just for the mortgage but for working capital, especially those in areas like sheep and beef or crops where they get paid in big lumps a few times a year in comparison to dairying where you get a monthly cheque.

The change in the OCR won’t have an immediate impact on existing loans but it should give confidence that we’ll be paying less interest next time loans are negotiated.

It also reinforces tha major difference between what’s happening now and the ag-sag of the 1980s when interest rates and inflation were higher than 20%.

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