How far have we come?



The chairman of a large Kiwi agricultural company is asked why there aren’t any women on his corportate board.

“There’s no place for sheilas in this conservative, provincial boardroom, apart from making the tea,” is his gobsmacking response.

That’s the introduction to a piece on women in business in the April issue of Next.

It wouldn’t have surprised me if the comment had been made early to mid last century but the magazine dates it as 2002.

Given we had our second female Prime Minsiter by then and other women in prominent public roles, I’d have hoped that outdated attitude to a woman’s place might have been consigned to history more than seven years ago.

Stats show that women are still under represented in the upper echelons of business but I’m not so concerned by the numbers as the attitude.

Whether women are sitting at board tables isn’t as important to me as whether they could be – both by having the skills and abilities required, and because gender isn’t an issue in elections and appointments.

But the two are related and the low numbers do suggest that regardless of qualifications and experience, having a y chromosome makes some candidates for directorships and management more equal than others.

However, the news isn’t all bad. A friend employs a lot of people and more than 80 percent are women. That’s partly a reflection on the nature of his business, but he said it’s also because they’ve found women in senior roles perform at least as well as if not better than men.

His explanation for that was that, having had to work harder and smarter to prove themselves, women continued to work that way.

But if that’s the case, does that mean it it’s still harder for women to get to and stay at the top? If it does, then the attitude to women hasn’t moved nearly far enough from the one illustrated by the opening quote.

From the blogosphere to the air waves


Every now and then I get a phone call from RadioNZ asking for contacts for matters rural. Today’s call wasn’t a request for information, but an invitation to contribute to Jim Mora’s panel this afternoon.

If you want to put a voice to the blog, I’ll be on at 4.40ish.

As North Otago correspondent for The Farming  Show, I usually have a chat to Jamie McKay every couple of weeks, though this month a change in schedule meant my last spot was on March 11th  and the next one will be next Wednesday.

Farmgirl, Nadine Porter is another regular on The Farming Show. On Monday she spoke about farmers owning and running their own supermarkets, a topic she posted on here.

The Farming Show is broadcast nation wide  on the ZB network outside the main centres or Radio Sport. Today the cricket’s on Radio Sport and for some reason that means our local ZB station, Radio Waitaki, isn’t getting the Farming Show either.

I accept that cricket takes precedence over farming on Radio Sport (which gets negative feedback from listeners who are deprived of their sporting fix when the station switches to rural affairs from 12 – 1). But I don’t understand why the regional ZB stations lose the Farming Show too.

It reminds me of  being back in the bad old days when the state ran radio and scheduled programmes went off-air every time there was a race meeting.

Still, at least I’ll be able to get my farming-fix via the website later today.

You can choose your friends . . .


I’ve resisted the temptation to find out what Twitter is because email and blogging provide more than enough opportunities for work avoidance activity.

But Inventory 2 at Keeping Stock has joined up and discovered he’s being followed  by a Labour MP.

Maybe the phrase you can choose your friends but not your relatives  needs to be updated to cope with the modern world of instant communication: you can choose your friends but not your relatives nor your followers.

By-election could upset proportionality


If a Labour list MP contested the Mount Albert by-election and won, the next person on Labour’s list – or following the Green’s example with Russel Norman, the next one after the ones the party don’t want in parliament were persuaded to stand aside – would enter parliament.

If a new canddiate contested and won the seat there would be no change to the number of MPs because the new MP would be replacing the old one and so proportionality would be maintained.

But what would happen if a National MP, who isn’t currently a list MP, won the seat?

I’d assumed National would lose a list MP. The Herald thought so too:

National’s candidate in the 2008 election was Ravi Musuku who has said he wishes to stand in a byelection. However, if he won, it would mean their bottom list MP – Aaron Gilmore – had to leave.

But Kiwiblog says that isn’t so:

No, no, no no. This is not the case. To be fair to Claire many many people think this is the law, but it is not. Proportionality is not maintained if a by-election sees a seat change hands. There is no way at all a List MP can ever be forced out of Parliament because of a by-election (or an electoral petition). They are there for the whole term unless they do something stupid like become a Dutch citizen.

I’m not questioning David Farrar’s knowledge of the intricacies of MMP, if he says this is so, I believe him.

But I am questioning the system because this highlights a flaw with MMP.   The reitrement of an MP in a marginal seat could leave his or her party one MP short if someone from another party won the seat and that party would then have one extra MP thus upsetting the proportionality which is one of MMP’s strengths.

 An electorate MP is there for the full term of parliament unless s/he resigns because s/he won a seat. List MPs are there because their party won fewer electorates than their party vote entitled them to so if the party wins another electorate seat it ought to lose a list one.

Healing the rift in the high country


Pastoral  lessees head for court with LINZ today to defend their property rights  against an attempt by Fish and Game to establish the right to roam in the high country.

High Country Accord chairman Andrew Simpson estimated it would cost pastoral lessees $200,000 to defend but said the stakes were high.

“It’s a direct threat to our way of life and the ability of pastoral lessees to farm the land. We can’t farm if we don’t have some form of control over who enters our properties,” he said.

The case is being heard in the High Court at Wellington, and if successful would grant the public as-of-right access to pastoral lease land for recreation – so long as it did not interfere with the lessee’s exclusive right to pasture for grazing livestock.

 . . .  Fish and Game chief executive Bryce Johnson said his organisation was seeking a declaratory judgement on whether pastoral leases granted under the 1948 Land Act offered exclusive possession or exclusive occupancy of the land.

He will argue that pastoral leases only grant runholders exclusive rights to the pasture.

I hope the judge is familiar with Shakespeare because I think this argument is similar to the one which prompted Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice.

Tarry a little;—there is something else.—
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are, a pound of flesh:

The words expressly, with pastoral leases, are land exclusive of improvements.  The land is publicly owned but the improvements which include the fertility, grass, crops, tracks, trees, fences, gates, and buildings, are the property of the lessee.

I reckon that would preclude the right to roam because no-one could enter the property without touching at least some of those improvements.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, we can be grateful that the government wants to heal the rift which developed between pastoral lessees and the previous administration.

Lands Minister Richard Worth said the relationship between lessees and the previous government had collapsed, with farmers feeling there was no trust between the government as landlord and the lessee.

Mr Worth said in an interview he was committed to a relationship based on three policy planks his party campaigned on at the last election: voluntary, good-faith negotiations between runholders and the Government; ensuring rentals were tied to the earning capacity of the property; and recognition that runholders could be as effective land stewards as the Crown.

The inclusion of amenity values in determining rents for leashold land led to court because some lessees are being charged rentals which exceed their gross income just because the sheep and cattle have a view while grazing.

The case concluded last month but the judgement has yet to be released.

Without pre-empting that, there is no doubt this government has a more reasonable attitude to pastoral leases than the previous one.  As Agriculture Minsiter David Carter says:

“The land is not easy to manage and the fundamental question we now have to ask is how will the Doc manage its already 43% hold of the South Island.”

Mr Carter said Doc and other interested parties needed to work more closely with farming families who, in many cases, had farmed the land for several generations.

“They are the ones who have delivered us the landscapes we see today. They are the ones with the ability to manage it far more sustainably than any government department,” he said.

 The previous government was hung up on ownership. But conservation can be assured and access negotiated without wasting taxpayers’ money on purchasing land and the on-going costs of ownership.

Redistributing ingredients wrong recipe for growth


Watching Brief  notes that socialists are far better at spending the “cake”  than making it bigger.

That’s because they put their efforts into redistributing the ingredients and hampering the cooks with unnecessary regulations then scraping away the icing with overtaxation.

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