Luddite Journo journo no more


Journalism student Sandra Dickson achieved what many more experienced journalists would envy – publication of her story on the rise and rise of blogging and comments on it in several papers and blogs including today’s ODT, Kiwiblog  and Roarprawn.

However, an internship at the Dominion Post has put her off journalism altogether.

She mentions a couple of incidents – a journalist talking to a child before talking to his parents and another pressuring a friend for an interview – which I wouldn’t be comfortable with but by themselves don’t explain why:

I finished my internship disgusted, and full of self-doubt about choosing to even try mainstream media.

David Young at Pundit has written a spririted  defence of journalism in response.



April is poetry month – I don’t know who decided that, but I read it somewhere  on the internet (exactly where I can’t remember). But I read it there so it must be so and because it’s so I’ve posted a poem a day as my contribution to the celebration of what my OED says is the elevated expression of elevated thought or feeling in metrical form.

I’m not sure if all the 29 poems I’ve selected so far have expressed elevated thoughts in an elevated manner and I’m not sure if today’s choice does that either. But both content and form appealed to me and since it’s called Literature it seemed an appropriate way to mark the final day of poetry month.

Literature by Michael Leunig is from Poems 1992 – 2002,  published by Viking.



The pen is mightier than the sword

And mightier than the literary award;

Without the pen we’d be unable

To leave those notes on the kitchen table:

Nothing lovelier ever penned

With three small crosses at the end,

Made for no one else to see,

The literature of you and me.


   – Michael Leunig –



Drought or disease, which is worse?

The World health Organisation has increased its swine flu pandemic alert level to status five which is the second highest level.

Up to 159 people have died in Mexico and about 1300 more are being tested. In the United States, a boy, aged 22 months, has died in Texas while on a visit from Mexico.

Comparing disease with drought is comparing apples with bananas but to put the seriousness of  the swine flu outbreak so far into perspective, in India more than 1500 farmers have committed suicide after being driven into debt by crop failure.

Bad press for pigs depressing for pork farmers


New Zealand pig farmers are already concerned about the impact imports of pork and associated products will have on their business and now they’re worried that swine flu will put people off bacon, ham and pork altogether.

It’s already happening in the USA where the price of pigs has fallen and  several countries have taken the opportunity the outbreak offers to impose non-tarrif barriers by banning imports from Mexico and parts of the USA.

As goNZo Freakpower  noted:

You can’t get pig flu from eating pork, but banning imports does help favour domestic interests.

But fear doesn’t worry too much about the facts and if people are worried about swine flu they might take the better safe than sorry approach to pig meat regardless of where it comes from.

The European Union Health Commission is trying to stem the tide against pork by changing the flu’s name:

“Not to have a negative effect on our industry, we decided to call it novel flu from now on,” European Union Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou told reporters in Brussels.

I don’t think that will work. Swine flu strikes me as a very appropriate name for an illness which, what ever you call it is a pig of a thing and has already given rise to a rash of jokes .

Not that it’s a laughing matter and the over reaction in Egypt where an order has been made to cull all pigs  is no joke.

It’s not going to stop the spread of the virus and while it will certainly reduce the supply of pig meat, fear of flu will also depress demand – even though there is no risk of infection from eating pork.

There’s no comfort in that for pig farmers here, but their loss may lead to gains for sheep and beef farmers. Lamb sales increased when outbreaks of BSE put people off beef and people who stop eating pork because of swine flu might turn to beef and lamb instead.

Confidence up, OCR down


The National Bank Business Confidence survey  showed an improvement in March, the largest in nine years.

But while a net 15% now expect a deterioration in business conditions, down from a net 39% in February, it’s still more a case of things not being so bad rather than being good.


There is a similar message from Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard:

“We expect the large decline in the OCR over the past year to pass through to more borrowers over coming quarters as existing fixed-rate mortgages come up for re-pricing. This, together with the stimulus from fiscal policy, will act to support the New Zealand economy and eventually see activity trough and pick up thereafter. However, the scale of the global financial crisis and domestic adjustments underway are such that it is likely to be some time before economic activity returns to robust and healthy levels.

 His comments accompanied his announcement that the Official Cash Rate has been reduced by 50 basis points to 2.5%. I think that’s around the rate when my parents bought their first house in the mid 1950s.

But it’s not just another fall in the OCR that’s significnat, it’s Bollard’s statement that he expects the rate to be at this level or “modestly lower”  until the latter part of next year.

Twitter Explains Super Fund


The government is sending pretty clear signals that it will suspend payments to the Super Fundd.

Speaking at the launch of the DeloitteSouth Island Index last night, Bill English said:

When it was set up, the idea of the Super Fund was to invest Budget surpluses. The Government was then in surplus and expected to stay in surplus for the foreseeable future. . .

Those Budget surpluses have disappeared. The Government will run a deficit this year, and will do so for the foreseeable future. That changes the whole picture.

The Government will have to borrow quite a lot of money to makes its full Super Fund contributions. Next year we would have to borrow around $2 billion, or around $40 million a week to put into the Fund, to be invested in what are currently uncertain global financial markets.

That’s why we’re considering this issue, and that’s why the Fund’s rules allow the Government to vary its contributions to reflect changing fiscal conditions.

 If the words don’t convince you suspending payments is a good idea, Garrick Tremain’s picture might:


Top 10 quintessential Kiwi songs


Watching the launch of The Great New Zealand Song Book  on Close Up this evening, and following on from the list of top 10 Kiwi foods I decided to compile a list of top 10 kiwi songs.

In random order, showing my age and a woeful ignorance of modern music, I came up with:

1. Pokarekare Ana

2.  Hine E Hine

3. Te Harinui

4. Ballad of the Waitaki

5. Now is the Hour (Po Atarau)

6. Ten Guitars

7. Poi E

8. Tauramanui on the Main Trunk Line

9. We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are

10. Click Go The Shears (which I think we borrowed from the other side of the Tasman).

The Garden in Autumn


We were still enjoying summer yesterday but the temperature dropped over night reminding us the season has changed and prompting this choice for today’s tribute to poetry month.

The Garden in Autumn  by Elizabeth Smither comes from The Earth’s Deep Breathing, garden poems by New Zealand poets  edited by Harvey McQueen and published by Godwit.

The Garden in Autumn


Summer comes to abandonment.

Winter to total abandonment.

Spring to total lack of control.


But autumn shows the way to go

like an old-fashioned usherette

in an old-fashioned cinema


when a torch was required

and a gentle, ‘Follow me, ;lease’

and the light directed back


at your feet while hers remained

in the darkness as she stepped

unfalteringly down the slope


until it shone on the row

‘Two in the middle’ or ‘Two from the end’

and the torchlight turned and went


bobbing again up the slope

with more grace than many films.

So autumn shows us how


to go about gardening. It clears

a path for the virtuous

to follow and pull a weed.


– Elizabeth Smither –

Chocolate factory’s secret labs to be open for charity


If you fancy yourself as a chocolate inventor you have a chance to test your ideas at Cadburys’ Dunedin factory.

The company is opening the doors to its Chocolate Sensory Development Lab for the first, and only, time.

The tours will take place on May 7 and tickets are for sale on Trademe with an opening bid of $40 for two.

Chocolate lovers can be the first members of the public to see behind the scenes at the Cadbury factory. This magical event will kick off with a tour through the Cadbury World visitors centre, followed by a never-before-seen tour of the Sensory Lab and Chocolate Development Lab – a mini version of the Cadbury factory where you will get to don your own lab coat and create your very own Cadbury chocolate to share with family and friends, finishing with a visit to the amazing Chocolate Waterfall.

All proceeds go to Cure Kids.

The ODT  says this will be a unique opportunity to visit the company’s inner sanctum.
Staff came up with the idea of the special tour as part of the work they do with Cure Kids, an organisation established to seek an increase in the amount of research into life-threatening childhood illnesses, events co-ordinator Lee-Anne Anderson said.

“This is a one-off.  It’s not something we will do again.”

 That sounds like a sweet opporunity for chocoholics – a chance to play with chocolate while keeping your conscience clear because it’s all for a very good cause.

Top 10 quintessential Kiwi foods


Adam Smith started it at Inquiring Mind with

1  Bluff Oysters in batter

2 Pavlova

3 Meat Pie

4 ANZAC Biscuits

5 Colonial Goose

6 Mince on toast

7 Whitebait fritters

8 Crayfish

9 Blue cod & chips

10 Whitestone cheese

Adolf carried it on at No Minister with:

1. Roast lamb (Merino/South Suffolk cross – killed at 14 months) and mint sauce, accompanied by steamed new potaoes, fresh green peas and sweet corn on the cob, all with lashings of butter.

2. Carefully prepared Maori hangi – pork, mutton, potato, kumara, beet root, puha.

3. Steamed pipi, cockles and kutai (mussels) with lots of fresh bread and butter.

4. Steamed Tarakihi or Hapuka with mashed potato and kumara (combined) and plenty of fresh greens. Plenty of salt and cracked black pepper along with lemon juice over the fish.

5. An eighteen inch long slab of sirloin steak, turned on the char grill for forty minutes while continually basted in a brew compising red wine, worchester sauce, tomato sauce, hot chilli sauce, garlic, soy sauce, balsamic viegar and any thing else which gets in the road. Black on the outside, nipple pink in the middle. Char grilled vegies on the side.

6. Steam pudding with custard sauce.

7. Roast chicken with roast vegies and silver beet. Lotsa gravy.

8. Bacon and eggs with baked beans and tomato.

9. TipTop Icecream

10. KFC for South Aucklanders.

And my list, based on the food I miss most when out of the country, in no particular order is:

1. Vogels bread, toasted with cottage cheese and kiwi fruit or vegemite, cottage cheese and tomato.

2. Hokey pokey ice cream.

3. Pavlova topped with cream and kiwifruit.

4. Lamb backstraps, topped with grainy mustard and soy sauce, grilled until still pink, served with broccoli, carrots, roasted red onion and kumera.

5. Blue cod from Fleurs Place.

6. Waitaki Valley strawberries.

7. Central Otago apricots and peaches.

8. Totara Lowlands cherries.

9. Milkshakes

10. Fresh asaparagus with Whitestone Windsor Blue cheese.

And an extra one: my favourite childhood dinner (which I probably haven’t had for more than 30 years): Roast mutton with roast potatoes, mint sauce, gravy and mashed swedes.

Another lovely day


The phrase another lovely day accompanied by a forecast for continued fine weather sets farmers’ teeth on edge when they’re in depserate need of rain.

North Otago isn’t desperately dry, but we have been in need of a good shower so waking to the sound of rain on the roof, and still hearing it falling steadily now, makes this a really lovely day.

If only we could send some north to Hawkes Bay and Gisborne which are both battling drought and desperately need the sort of lovely day we’re enjoying.

Tourism future in farming past


Among the news of disease and disaster today’s ODT carries the story of a man who sees an opportunity for tourism in farming history.

Motueka farmer Lester Rowntree has been planning The New Zealand Heritage Farm Show for about 15 years and hopes to have it open for business in Cromwell next year.

He’s planning a museum of farm machinery but also aims to give visitors a taste of living history with bullock teams, blade shearing, chaff cutting, horse and wagon teams, milking and butter making.

It sounds like a good idea to me and will compliment Totara Estate, the home of New Zealand’s frozen meat industry. There visitors get a taste of farming history, including a recreation of the original killing shed – complete with sound track but, I’m relieved to say, without anything gory which might turn tourists into vegetarians.

Made from NZ and imported ingredients


Supermarket brands are usually cheaper than other branded products although sometimes they’re of equal quality and may even be the same thing in a different package.

But they’re not always as good and variable quality is one of the reasons I treat them with caution.

Another things which makes me cautious the difficulty in working out where they come from because they usually say packaged for, produced for or marketed by  X but don’t say where they or their ingredients come from.

Although, sometimes if they have other information it’s not much help anyway.

Such was the case with a block of Pams’ cheese I looked at yesterday which was made from New Zealand and imported ingredients.

If I support free access for our products in overseas markets I can’t complain about other countries sending their produce here.

But there aren’t many ingredients in a block of edam cheese – milk, salt, cultures and rennet – and I’d like to know which of those were imported and where they came from.

Labour’s by-election strategy leaked


1. Believe everything you read.

2. Waste money polling instead of trusting your own people in the electorate.

3. Panic.

4. Kneecap your best hope of winning the seat.

5. Blame bloggers.

6. Search the seven seas and hundreds of countries for candidates.

7. Launch campaign.

8. Have a tantrum.

9. Panic some more.

10. Choose a candidate.

Don’t say **** it’s a **** of a word


May disease fasten upon your limbs and goblins squeeze your entrails isn’t bad as a curse goes.

It’s likely to cause as much amusement as offence, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not quite as to the point as get um, well . . .

Get what? Oh dear,gollly gosh, now I’ve created a dilemma for myself because I think it’s silly to put the first letter and some asterisks but I can’t quite bring myself to type a profanity.

It’s not that I haven’t used it, in fact my favourite expression for someone lacking in intelligence is a seven letter word which starts with those four letters.

I’m not particularly proud of that because both my Presbyterian upbringing and study of literature convince me it’s both wrong and unnecessary. So I try very hard not to use it because with a language as rich as English at my disposal and an intermediate grasp of Spanish, I know I ought to be able to come up with something equally expressive and less offensive.

This preference for more genteel expressions might have something to do with my southern conservatism if the views of Auckland law professor Warren Brookbanks are correct. When asked about stats which show prosecutions for profanity are rising in the south he said:

“I can’t believe it’s because there are more foul-mouthed people in the South Island,” Prof Brookbanks said on Monday.

It’s more likely that the people in the north are more liberal and less offended by that sort of language.

“While in the south, people take offence at rude things people say more readily.”

In spite of that sometimes words do slip out which had I uttered them as a child would have resulted in my mouth being washed out with soap and water.

It’s not polite, it’s not clever, and in some circumstances it’s not even legal,  but there’s something about that arrangement of hard consonants and short vowels which conveys disdain, disgust and derision in a way that alternative words and phrases don’t.

But on those occasions that my self control slips and the word I shouldn’t utter comes out, I’m reminded of a flatmate who responded to someone shouting that at him with, “don’t say **** it’s a **** of a word.

Are we ready?


It’s official – tests have confirmed that three of the Rangitoto College students who had been in Mexico have swine flu.

Health Minister Tony Ryall made a Ministerial Statement to the House  today saying this is a time for concern and caution – not alarm.

That’s good advice because regardless of the problem alarm isn’t a good response and three cases doesn’t make a pandemic.

But are we ready if  the situation deteriorates?

Macdoctor thinks it’s potentially more serious than bird flu and isn’t impresssed with the lack of co-ordination at all levels of the health service .

No doubt the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards have pandemic protocols with lots of  boxes to tick. but if there’s a problem with co-ordination at this stage I’m not 100% confident that, boxes ticked or not, the theoretical preparation will translate into the right response in practice.

And how about individuals, are we ready?

If our house was quarantined how long could we survive with what we had on hand?

The absence of a corner dairy or convenient supermarket necessitates a well stocked pantry and freezer in the country.

We could easily survive on what we’ve got for more than a few days, and if our isolation continued for longer protein wouldn’t be a problem because if we got through all the meat in the freezer we could always kill a sheep or cattle beast. However, the vegetable garden is growing nothing but weeds at the moment so we’d have to rely on what’s in the fridge, freezer and fruit bowl, supplemented by a few jars of preserves and some tins for fruit and vegetables so if we had to stay in isolation for more than a couple of weeks we’d be scrabbling round for vitamins .

I suspect that makes us a lot better prepared than many people who eat out often, shop several times a week and keep little on hand for emergencies so would  have little to live on if they couldn’t leave home for even a few days.

The Awfulisers


Today’s contribution to poetry month is Michael Leunig’s The Awfulisers  from  Poems 1972 – 2002,  published by Viking.

     The Awfulisers


Every night and every day

The awfulisers work away,

Awfulising public places,

Favourite things and little graces;

Awfulising lovely treasures,

Common joys and simple pleasures;

Awfulising far and near

The parts of life we held so dear:

Democratic clean and awful,lawful,

Awful, awful, awful awful.


      – Michael Leunig –

Naked walkers not wanted


Skinny dipping is one of life’s pleasures and given a warm and secluded river, lake or beach it’s one which can be enjoyed without scaring the horses, or people because should someone come upon the naked swimmer any body bits likely to cause offence can be kept under water.

The appeal of naked tramping isn’t quite so obvious, especially given the danger of sun burn, and I can understand why the people of rural Switzerland have voted to ban bare walkers

The cantonal government recommended the ban after citizens objected to encountering walkers wearing nothing but hiking boots and socks.

“The reactions of the population have shown that such appearances over a large area are perceived as thoroughly disturbing and irritating,” the government said in a statement.

One of the interesting points is that the walkers are German but baring it all in Switzerland. Don’t they dare do it at home, or is there something about the alpine air which lends them to shed their inhibitions and their clothes? 

UPDATE: NZ Conservative  posts on this and has a photo too.

Fonterra forecast payout up 10c – Updated


Fonterra has announced a 10 cent increase in its forecast payout for this season, taking it up to $5.20.

The significance is not so much the sum but the direction.

All recent changes to the forecast payout have been downwards adjustments so an upward change is a welcome reversal of that trend.

The decision to increase the forecast payout will allay some of the concerns farmers have had over the company retaining earnings rather than paying them out to shareholders too.

Farmers will receive the extra 10 cents in the advance payout from June.


The company media release says:

Fonterra Chairman, Henry van der Heyden, said the move reflected the Board’s desire to do what it could to assist farmer-shareholders during a very difficult year of sharply lower commodity prices.  Normally, Fonterra only announces a revision when the forecast payout moves by at least 30 cents from the previous forecast, but the Board wanted to share the news of the higher payout forecast with farmers as soon as possible.


“Although international dairy markets remain uncertain and volatile, some encouraging signs of more stability have been emerging in recent months.  Powder prices on our globalDairyTrade platform have increased and our global sales team has made good progress in selling product at these improved prices.  As a result, we now have the cautious optimism necessary to signal a modest but welcome increase in payout.”


Fonterra management was working hard to extract further returns from the business in an effort to increase the payout further, but Mr van der Heyden said farmers should expect some level of retentions if the amount available for payout exceeds $5.20.


“We need to tread a fine line between maximising payout to our farmers and strengthening the Co-op’s balance sheet in these uncertain and challenging financial times.   We have decided to put an extra 10 cents per kgMS in the pockets of farmers as soon as we can, while at the same time noting that retentions will be considered if the eventual payout is higher.”


My inference about retentions was wrong, but cautious optimism is still better than pessimism.

NZX buys Country-Wide Publications


Country-Wide Publications is being sold to NZX for an undisclosed sum.

CPL Owners Dean Williamson and Tony Leggett, who bought CPL in 1997, have grown the business to produce 78 publications a year under seven mastheads, and from a turnover of $250,000 in 1997 to over $7 million in 2008. CPL publications reach all 86,000 farmers in New Zealand at least once every week.

Roarprawn doesn’t think it’s a good investment, but I do.

Fielding-based CPL publishes several rural papers including NZ Farmers Weekly, Country Wide South and Country Wide North and the recently acquired Dairy Exporter.

All are give aways which are delivered to rural mail boxes and all are quality publications which concentrate on rural news, issues and features. Unlike some giveaways the majority of their stories are fresh rather than rehashed press releases, are well read by farmers and attract good suppport from advertisers.

The CPL media relesase says:

Dean Williamson said, “This is an exciting next step for both the CPL business and the rural sector as a whole. Bringing NZX and CPL together creates a raft of new opportunities. Both are innovative companies focused on growth.”

Tony Leggett said, ” We understand our market and our business model reflects that. We give farmers the information they need, and astute advertisers appreciate that. We focus on value.

“Print media remains the right medium to reach farmers at this point in time. As we see increased broadband penetration in rural areas, we are likely to see more interest in our online offerings and will continue to develop products in this space,” said Leggett.

CPL operations will remain based in Feilding, managed by Dean and Tony. “This is a long term investment in the New Zealand rural sector,” said Weldon.

This isn’t the NZX’s first foray into rural business, it already owns Agrifax,  Dairy Week and Pro-Farmer Australia.

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