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.

Sacked for refusing to walk behind men & wear abaya


A British stewardess, Lisa Ashton, was sacked when she refused to fly to Suadi Arabia after being told she’d have to walk behind her male colleagues and wear the traditional black robe, an abaya.

Saudi experts and companies that recruit women to work in the country say it is a “myth” that western women are required to walk behind men. There is no requirement for them to wear the abaya in public, though many do.

Earlier this year an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination. Ashton has consulted Liberty, the human rights organisation, and may seek a judicial review of the decision.

What you do when your beliefs clash with those which  are acceptable in another country isn’t always simple but if this is reported correctly it does appear the airline was asking more of its employees than would be expected in Saudi Arabia.

The idea of any individual or group of people being required to walk behind another offends me and I struggle with the whole concept of the cover-all clothing which some Muslim women are expected to wear.

Some say it’s their choice but I wonder if it’s a free choice.

Fears of terrorism have declined a bit, but if there was another mass attack such as the September 9th ones in the USA or the bus and underground bombings in London authorities might look again at the security implications of voluminous robes.

That’s what put an end to the women of Vejer de la Frontera wearing the cobijaba.


It was common of women of the village to wear this until the Civil War when suspicion that men were disguising themselves as women by wearing the all-concealing black robe and hiding arms under it led to it being banned.

P.S. Stargazer has a related post on religion and gender equality  at the Hand Mirror.

Tell the people to come to Fiji


Politics is important to the politicians but not to the people.

The trouble is all in Suva, not here in Nadi.

Tell the people to come. to Fiji.

These were the messages from the Fijians we met during our long weekend visit.

We were in the process of booking the trip when the latest consitutional outrages happened. We monitored the news, wondering if it was wise to go,  but people who had been in Fiji during previous outbreaks of political unrest told us they hadn’t known anything was happening until they got home, so we went.

Had it not been for what we’d read and heard before we left home last Wednesday we might not have known that anything was wrong. There was no noticable increase in security at the airport, no-one asked why I was carrying a laptop or queried who I wrote for and we saw nothing at all to suggest political instability.

The only sign that anything was amiss wasn’t in what we saw during our three and a half day stay, it was what we didn’t see – lots of tourists.


April isn’t peak tourist time, it’s the end of the rainy season so the weather may be unsettled in Fiji and it’s not yet cold enough in New Zealand and Australia to tempt people looking for a sunshine fix. But the locals we spoke to – taxi drivers, waiters, hotel manager, shop assistants, business owners, told us it was quieter than normal.

That was evidence that the people who said that politics isn’t important were wrong. They might not notice the sacking of the judges, the suspension of the constitution, the reinstatement of Frank Bainimarama, the censorship of the media and other affronts to democracy because it’s not impacting on their day to day life.

But it is affecting their economy and has been for some time. Their currency has been devalued – it cost us only 80 cents to buy a Fijian dollar – and that’s impacting on prices.  Lunch which cost me $9.60 on Friday was $10.40 on Saturday. “It’s the devaluation,” the woman serving me said when I mentioned the difference. That might have just been an excuse to charge tourists more, but several people said prices for locals were going up too because anything imported was costing more.

The devaluation is recent, the tourist downturn has been going on for longer. Three people told us of adult children who were at home because the jobs weren’t there any more. A hotel manager told of  3000 bednights cancelled with a single phone call.

That anecdotes were backed up by the small number of holiday makers we saw. Eight hotels line the beach of Denarau Island. We walked from one end to the other, and saw hardly anyone – a family of four and a couple of couples round one pool, another family playing on the beach, a few couples wandering as we were but no sign of the numbers we remembered from out last visit six years ago.


Denarau Island is a toruist resort, not the real Fiji, but it’s where a lot of real Fijians work and if the visitors don’t come their jobs will go.

The sun is still shining, the beaches are still beautiful, the people are still warm and welcoming but the politics they don’t think are important are strangling the economy.

Governments can impose sanctions in the hope they will force Commodore Bainimarama to hold elections and restore democracy.

Individuals might wonder if they should stay away because they don’t want to support an undemocratic regime but it’s not the politicians it’s the people who will be hurt most by that.

They know that and that’s why they told us to tell the people to come to Fiji.

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