Blackout blues

February 3, 2009

There’s no convenient time for a power cut and it’s small consolation for the individuals and businesses inconvenienced by the loss of supply  in Auckland today that it happened while it was still light.

The power went off in Northern Queensland  from Ayr to Cooktown just after we arrived in Townsville 12 days ago. It was early evening which wouldn’t be quite so bad here as it was there where the sun goes down about 7pm.

I had to drive to a hen party and had a local navigating who helped me at intersections. My brother got safely to the stag party by luck alone because he drove through the city oblivious to the fact that the traffic lights were out.

No-one will be impressed by the explanation for today’s power cut – one transformer down for routine maintenance and a problem with a second which put two much pressure on the third.

But that’s probably not as bad as the cause of the problem in Queensland – bird droppings  from nesting eagles.


Piper bagged by noise control officer

February 3, 2009

Dunedin’s reputation as the Edinburgh of the south is under threat after a busking bagpiper  was silenced by a noise control officer.

There’s something wrong when people can disrupt the peace with noisy vehciles which endanger themselves and others night after night untroubled by the law, yet a lone piper with a busking licence and the permission of the shop outside which he stands is banished with the threat of the consfication of his $2500 pipes.

Robert Burns who sits in the Octagon not far from the street from which Simon McLean was banished might have said: the best played schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley. . .

Jim Mora  has just finished interviewing Simon about the ban – but he didn’t invite him to give us a tune.


RMA changes improve process still protect environment

February 3, 2009

There are sound economic, environmental and social reasons for protecting and enhancing our air, soil and water which is why the general thrust of the Resource Management Act – the sustainable development of physical resources –  is good.

However, worthy though the intentions of the RMA are it’s implementation leaves more than a little to be desired so National’s plan to streamline it are welcome.

The changes are to be announced today and the NBR reports they’ll include:

* Major projects to be considered by a board of inquiry headed by an Environment Court judge or a retired judge replacing two hearings – at local body then Environment Court level. There would be limited appeal rights.

* Measures to crack down on vexatious or frivolous objections and attempts to misuse the process to get delays.

* Changes to allow local councils change plans faster and remove the requirement that those making submissions on proposed changes had to be given the opportunity to comment on other submissions.

* Tougher fines for major breaches up from the current maximum of $200,000.

I don’t think any of these will threaten our air, soil and water quality but they should reduce the time and costs involved in applying for consent.

We had a very expensive experience  with a vexatious objection when we applied for consent to take water fromt he Kakanui River.

But a two year delay, $20,000 in direct costs and more in lost income when we had to dry cows off early because we ran out of irrigation water part way through the season was minor compared with what many other applicants go through as an NBR opnion piece by Hamish Firth on the good, the bad and the costly  illustrates.


Do you want food safety with that?

February 3, 2009

Australian fishermen get $15 a kilo for prawns landed on the beach and it costs locals $12 a kilo to get farmed prawn to the weight required for sale; but Chinese farmed prawns land in Australia for $3 a kilo.

With that price difference I can see the attraction of the imports and that’s not the only food that comes from China.

The Land  reports that Chinese food is flooding into Australia:

It includes nearly 250 tonnes of fresh or chilled garlic, 67t of broccoli, 400kg of flour, more than 38t of preserved tomatoes, 1085t of various types of peanuts and 160,000 litres of apple juice – all sent here in the second half of last year.

Who knows how much Chinese food comes into New Zealand too but more to the point how safe is it?

We are in no position to complain about the quantity when we send mega tonnes of meat, dairy products and fruit to other countries, but we have a right to question the quality and safety. Food produced here and in Australia has to meet strict standards, but regardless of what’s required in China the poisoned milk scandal is proof we need to be very wary of their produce. 

 China is a huge market, we can’t afford to ignore them and if we want to sell to them we have to buy from them in return. Australians face a similar situation and Michael Thomson, editor of The Land’s FarmOnLine says they have to Trade with China but do it right.

That’s easier said than done and Bernard Hickey warns of the dangers of trying to do business in China

 However, food standards and unscruprulous business practices are not just a problem in the developing world. Frenemy  found an article from the Huffington Post:

You’d think the Peanut Corporation of America was headquartered in China. They discovered salmonella twelve times over the past two years at a Georgia plant, yet they chose to ship out contaminated peanut butter regardless. Sounds a lot like the Chinese dairy company Sanlu that knowingly sold melamine-laced milk powder. In both cases, kids died. In both cases, the regulators were none the wiser. 

It would be impossible to police every food producer and processor, but there is a case for requiring the reporting of any health issues with strong penalties for those who don’t.

The EU imposes very strict requirements on the killing and processing of meat we send there, so much so that there’s a suspicion they’re using food standards as a non-tariff barriers. We can’t test every item of food which comes into the country but the increasing amount of imports from places which don’t have our strict standards does raise the question of whether we’re doing enough.

Cheap food isn’t good food if it comes at the cost of our health.

This isn’t an argument for compulsory country of origin labelling, but retailers ought to take note of customer concerns and realise the marketing advantage in highlighting food from sources which we ought to be confident have high saftey standards.

In the meantime, the thought of Chinese broccoli is the prompt I need to grow my own.


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