$20.82 for letter from council


Apropos the previous post: to illustrate the problems ratepayers have with Environment Canterbury.

A farmer sent the regional council a letter.

The reply came with an account for $20.82.

When she queried this she was told, that’s what ECan is now charging for letters it sends.

Ecan says ‘e can’t


Environment Canterbury  chair Kerry Burke lost a vote of no confidence by eight votes to six  at this week’s council meeting.

The rebellion was led by South Canterbury councillor Mark Oldfield.

The loss has set up a showdown vote on September 24 when councillors will consider removing Sir Kerry as chairman and, if that is resolved, they will have to elect a new chairman.

It’s been a long time coming.

Problems with his leadership have been fomenting for years, aggravated by a rural urban divide which often resulted in seven councillors on each side of a debate.

The result of the 2008 local body elections led to an impasse when an even number of councillors supported the two candidates for chair – Sir Kerry and Alec Neil. That was settled when Mackenzie councillor Bronwen Murray supported Sir Kerry, even though she had said she would not when seeking election.

Problems have not been confined to those round the council table. Ecan is deeply unpopular with people rural people, especially those south of Christchurch where it’s popularly known as ECan’t.

Relationships between Ecan and  district councils in the region are fraught. They have deteriorated so far that the district councils are investigating the possibility of ceding from ECan and forming a unitary authority.

The Waitaki District is divided between the Otago Regional Council and Ecan. The Waitaki District Council and residents regularly complain that it is much more difficult to deal with Ecan than the ORC.

Complaints about  Ecan gained credence when it was found to be the worst performing of all councils in the Ministry for the Environment’s biennial Resource Management Act survey.

Problems run deep among councillors, staff and the people they are supposed to serve. A new chair may help relationships but it will be difficult to solve the underlying problem of a council split by political affiliations and dominated by Christchurch, a large urban area which appears to have no understanding of, or sympathy for, the needs of the rural hinterland.

The Press backgrounded some of the issues here.

August 29 in history


On August 29:

1632: English philosopher John Locke was born.

1914 New Zealand captured German Samoa.

1915: Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actor, was born.

1923 English film director Richard Attinborough Attenborough was born.

1929 English poet Thom Gunn was born.

1930 The last 36 inhabitants of St Kilda were voluntarily moved to other parts of Scotland.

1936 USA politician John McCain was born.

1956 English comedian, writer and actor Lenny Henry was born.

1966: The Beatles performed their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

The Beatles in 1964.
Clockwise (from top-left): John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison

Will he ask the $158,000 question?


Paul Holmes will be interviewing Winston Peters on Q&A this Sunday.

The media release says the interview will be on Peters’ future and the party’s ambitions.

But will Holmes ask the only question that matters? The $158,000 one:

When will Peters pay back the $158,000 he owes the taxpayer from the misuse of parliamentary services funds before the 2005 election?

I use he advisedly because we all know that he is the party.

If Holmes wants a supplementary he could also ask where the $158,000 he supposedly paid to charities went.



Agriculture was one of the rounds delegated to me when I first started work as a reporter. One of the responsibilities which went with that was reporting on the monthly Provincial Federated Farmers meeting.

That was nearly 30 years ago when North Otago, like most provinces, had several active branches and the monthly meeting regularly had 30 or more attendees.

Now there are no branches and no monthly meetings. That’s not all bad. Other methods of communication, especially the internet, mean gathering together in one place isn’t as important as it used to be. Meetings happen now not as a matter of course but because there is something important to discuss or someone to listen to.

One of those meetings was held in Oamaru today. When I walked in I remembered how the meetings I used to attend were full of old men. Those attending today didn’t look nearly as old. Then I realised that wasn’t because attendees had got younger, it was because I’ve got older.

Conversation on a country telephone


Scene one, a farm house at evening.

The phone rings.

A woman answers: “Hello X speaking.”

Caller off stage : “Gid’day is Y there?”

Woman: “No, could I help?”

Caller: “Nah, thanks, I’ll ring him back.”

Scene 2 same place, the following morning.

The phone rings.

A woman answers: “Hello X speaking.”

Caller off stage : “Gid’day is Y there?”

Woman: “No, is there anything I could do?”

Caller: “Nah, thanks, I’ll ring him back.”

Scene 3, same place, later that day.

The phone rings.

A woman answers: “Hello X speaking.”

Caller off stage : “Gid’day is Y there?”

Woman: “No, could I take a message?”

Caller: “Nah, thanks, I’ll ring him back.”

Scene 4, same place the following evening.

The phone rings.

A man answers, “Hello Y speaking.”

Caller Off Stage “Gidday, it’s Z here, I was wondering . . . ”

Man:  “It’s no use asking me, you’ll have to speak to X, she always handles that.”

More Country People


Pause, if you will, and marvel at how a poem written in another century in another country still hits the spot in this country, now.

It’s More Country People by Carl Sandburg who was born in 1878. I found it in American Poetry of the Twentieth Century edited by Richard Gray, published by Cambridge University Press.

           More Country People

The six pigs at the breast of their mother

Equal six spots of young brown against a big spot of old brown.

The bleating of the sheep was an arithmetic

Of the long wool coat thick after winter.

The collar of white hair hung on the neck of the black hog,

The roosters of the Buff Cochin people strutted.


Cherry branches stuck their blossoms against the sky.

Elbows joined elbows of white blossoms.

Zigzags blent into a mass.

‘Look once at us – today is the day we call today.’

         – Carl Sandburg –


If the name Carl Sandburg means something and you can’t work out what, it might be because his poem Fog was used to teach you about metaphor: The fog comes/ on little cat feet . . .

Dan wins Dave at Edinburgh Fringe Festival


The Dave Award for the Funniest Joke of the Fringe was won by Dan Antopoloski with this one liner:

“Hedgehogs. Why can’t they just share the hedge?”

Some of the others in the top 10 were:

 “I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: ‘This could be interesting.'” – Paddy Lennox.

 “I’m sure wherever my dad is, he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead. Just very condescending.” – Jack Whitehall.


 “A spa hotel? It’s like a normal hotel, only in reception there’s a picture of a pebble.” – Rhod Gilbert.

Then there were the worst jokes which included:

“I’m not doing any Michael Jackson jokes, because they always involve puns about his songs. And that’s bad!” –  Carey Marx.

“I phoned the swine flu hotline and all I got was crackling.”  –  Frank Woodley.

Things to hate about spring


Just the one:


The wind started blowing a couple of days ago and it feels like it’s forgotten how to stop.

It’s better for lambs and calves than a southerly or westerly easterly which bring cold and wet.

But enough’s enough.

Mining and conservation can co-exist


The suggestion from Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee that the government is planning to investigate mineral potential on conservation land should be regarded as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Australia’s mineral resources are often cited as one of the reasons its economy is so much stronger than ours. But, we do have mineral resources, the problem is getting to them because many are under conservation land.

There are obviously competing objectives here but there is scope to explore how economic development objectives could be better reconciled with other land values.

There is the potential for more flexible arrangements that do not undermine conservation and environmental objectives.

The government made a small step towards this earlier this year with the Oteake Conservation Park which lies between North and Central Otago. It shows how it might be possible to mine a small area while safeguarding the rest.

When the park was formed an area of 195 hectares over a lignite reserve was excluded, leaving 64,805 hectares in the conservation estate.

That is a tiny amount of land which might be able to be mined while leaving a large area protected.

When he announced this, Conservation Minister Tim Groser said there were no immediate plans to mine the deposit but it could yield liquid fuels equivalent to New Zealand’s transport requirements for 15 to 20 years

August 28 in history


On August 28th:

1749: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born.


1828 Russioan author Leo Tolstoy was born.

Only color photograph of the novelist, shot at his Yasnaya Polyana estate in 1908 by Prokudin-Gorskii, a pioneer of color photography

1906: English poet John Betjeman was born.

Statue of John Betjeman at St Pancras station.

1924 NZ author Janet Frame was born.


1930: English actor Windsor Davies was born.

1965: Canadian singer Shania Twain was born.

1992: Canterbury was blanketed by snow after the biggest fall in 30 years.

SOurced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

Many Mini returns


The first Mini rolled off the production line on August 27, 50 years ago today.

Wikipedia says  its space-saving front-wheel-drive layout (that allowed 80% of the area of the car’s floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage) influenced a generation of car-makers.

It also confounded some people who thought they knew more than they did.

My first car was a second-hand Mini. It took several friends and me on many happy excursions, including various ski trips. Once  when we stopped to put on chains we could see car loads of blokes laughing at us because they thought we were putting them on the wrong wheels. When one of them stopped laughing and came to point out our mistake, we pointed out his, explaining that chains are supposed to go on the front wheels of front-wheel drive cars.

It probably wasn’t one of the advantages the designers had thought of, but the front wheel drive enabled passengers to sit on the bonnet to give more traction when going up steep, snowy hills.

dairy 10005

It’s a difficult to tell from this photo, taken in Leith Street Dunedin in the winter of 1975, but the car was a sort of dull mustardy orange colour.

Six years later, a bright yellow Mini raced on to movie screens in Goodbye Pork Pie:

The Wellington chase scene is here.

Ipod joins Big Mac in earnings index


The Big Mac index has been used to compare prices and earnings in different countries since 1970 has been brought into the 21st century. UBS has added an iPod index to its latest tri-annual report.

Employees have to work a globbal average of 37 minutes to earn enough to pay for a Big Mac, 22 minutes for a kilo of rice and 25 minutes for a kilo of bread.

In Tokyo and North American and Western European cities it takes from 12 to nearly 20 minutes. But the average wage earner in Nairobi has to work for more than 2.5 hours to buy the same hamburger. The average wage earner in Auckland could buy a Big Mac after working 19 minutes.

It takes the average wage-earner in Zurich and New York can nine hours to earn enough to buy an iPod  nano. In Mumbai the average wager earner needs to work for 20 nine hour days – to purchase the same thing.  The average wage earner in Auckland has to work 16 hours to buy a nano.

The study also found that Oslo, Zurich and Copenhagen are the most expensive of the 73 cities studied.  People on Copenhagen, Zurich, Geneva and New York had the highest gross earnings.

The lowest incomes in Europe are in the Bulgarian city of Sofia and Romania’s capital Bucharest. Wage levels there are comparable with those in Colombia and Thailand.

South American and African cities are the only ones with lower average wages than those of Eastern Europe. This makes it easy to understand the two-way economic traffic of globalization: jobs go east while workers emigrate to the West.

. . . The lowest average wages are still found in the Indian cities of Delhi and Mumbai, and in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Manila, the Philippines.

When tax was taken in to consideration workers in Zurich still have the most purchasing power. People in Sydney, Luxembourg, Dublin and Miami come next. Wage earners in Jakarta, Nairobi, Manila and Mumbai have the least purchasing power from net wages.

Hat Tip: Editor’s Insight, an email newsletter to which you can subscribe at the NBR.

Still worth a look


Sometimes a post gets started and then gathers dust in the drafts’ file.

I must have begun a Did you see the one about . . . post  earlier this month then got distracted.

However, these are still worth a look:

If God was process oriented at Something Should Go Here . . . which illustrates why sometimes things get done and sometimes they just get discussed.

Kerching at Frenemy which introduces a new and very useful verb.

Annual party food post at In A Strange Land – yum!

Getting them young but getting it wrong


From the Gisborne Herald:

Global warming message misfires
My son and his primary school classmates went to the Fonterra Science Roadshow last week.

The Roadshow was quite informative with factual presentations and then a fun interactive time for the students.

However, I started to get a little uncomfortable when, towards the end of the session, the young presenter started to talk to the students about global warming.

She told her young audience about the detrimental effects of years of burning fossil fuels and the resulting gases it sends into the atmosphere — she is probably quite right. However, she then proceeded to tell everyone that cows were emitting gases which were contributing to global warming.

She informed us that farmers will have to change their grasses and vaccinate their cattle to alter the bacteria in their stomachs to decrease the gases they were emitting.

We (parents and teachers) were pretty horrified that: (a) The cows scenario is not scientific fact and she was telling this to our children;

(b) She was telling children that unnatural modification was the answer (ie. vaccination to alter digestion).

(c) This science roadshow is sponsored by Fonterra.

(d) Not the business of a roadshow for children to even raise the global warming topic.

We all agree that we should do all that we can to look after our world, but to be passing the above information on to our children sounds like propaganda and not fact to me.

Sarah Gault


From the Concise Oxford Dictionary:
Science n. 1. (arch.) Knowledge. 2 Systematic and formulated knowledge . . . 4. Branch of knowledge (esp. one that can be conducted on scientific principles), organised body of the knowledge that has been accumulated on a subject . . . 6. – fiction, fanciful fiction based on postulated scientific discoveries or environmental changes . . . 
Which definition do the teachers at the road show use?


Hope for the high country


The government’s  announcement of a fresh approach to pastoral leases gives hope for the high country.

The new direction for Crown pastoral land strikes a balance between economic use and environmental and cultural values, say Agriculture Minister David Carter and Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson.

The government’s three-prong plan aims to have effective stewardship of the land, better economic use and improved relationships with lessees and high country communities. 

Under the previous administration ineffective stewardship developed when too much land was put under DOC which had insufficient resources to look after it properly; economic use was compromised and relationships with lessees and high country communities were in a very poor state.

The new plan confirms the government’s commitment to basing pastoral leases on the capital value of land. It also rescinds the previous government’s policy which prevented the freeholding of any pastoral leasehold land under tenure review if even a small part of the property was within five kilometres of lakes.

This was inflexible and reduced the potential gains from diversification of land-uses enabled by freeholding. What happens to land if the owner wishes a change of use should be dealt with under the resource consent process and district and regional plans, not through tenure review.

“Labour’s policy was driving more and more land into the DOC estate, with the assumption that the Crown could better look after the land than farming families,” says Mr Carter. “This Government’s direction will maximise the best conservation and economic gains from each tenure review.”

Mr Williamson says the plan recognises the value New Zealanders place on lakesides and landscapes, and promotion of public access to the high country remains part of the tenure review programme.

“Safeguards are in place, including oversight of tenure review funding, to ensure these values are protected by tenure review and pastoral lease management,” the Ministers say. 

Tenure review under the previous government had been slowed down by a requirement for Commission of Crown Lands to report to the Minister of LINZ on all tenure review proposals. The plan recommends that preliminary proposals no longer go before the minister which will speed up the process.

The paper Crown Pastoral Lease 2009 and beyond is here.

The Cabinet minute on the paper is here.

Background and archived documents on the issue are here.

How low can they go?


What sort of idiot would think it was a good idea to put offensive slogans on baby clothes?

The Cotton On T-shirts and suits, which feature slogans including “I’m a tits man”, “the condom broke” and “they shake me”, went on sale in New Zealand last month.

Pressure from National Council of Women New Zealand and other lobby groups, including calls to boycot the company, perusauded the company to stop production ont he lines and withdraw items already on sale.

NCWNZ, which began a “Cotton Off Our Kids” campaign following the release of the line said the public outcry sent a clear message that the sexualisation of childhood would not be tolerated.

NCWNZ national president Elizabeth Bang said the current system of self-regulation meant retailers could push the boundaries of what was considered socially acceptable, only acting responsibly when cornered by public pressure.

Not just companies, but television presenters too. The issues was being discussed on Breakfast  and Paul Henry reckons it’s a “little bit funny”.

No Paul, brain damage which causes disability and may lead to death which is what happens when you shake a baby, is never even a little bit funny.

Student standby to return?


The ODT reports that Air New Zealand plans to offer University of Otago students $39 standby fares to and from Dunedin.

Student Standby operated when I was a student in the mid to late 1970s and was a wonderful way to get cheaper airfares providing you didn’t have to get somewhere at a specific time.

There was no guarantee you would get a seat until just before the flight was due to leave but if there was a spare seat you got it for half price.

The airline got a passenger, albeit a low paying one, on a seat which would otherwise have been empty and the student got a cheaper flight.

Can FSU performance match the rhetoric?


Farming Systems Uruguay’s aim was to take New Zealand farming systems to Uruguay.

It sounded good and cheap land had an appeal when farm prices here were soaring. But there are usually good reasons why land is cheap and what works well in one country can’t be transferred directly to another with a different climate, culture and language.

The weather can go against you anywhere and drought in Uruguay is one of the factors which contributed to the company’s $15.6 million loss  in the year to June 30.

FSU had signalled this with a profit downgrade warning earlier this year, followed by the news the company will have to sell $60m worth of land in the next couple of years.

Neither of those announcements surprised us because we visited one of FSU’s farms a couple of years ago and weren’t impressed. Nor was the manager.

He’d arrived from New Zealand in February to find there was no electricity in the house, no hot water, no TV reception, no internet, a problem with the swimming pool’s filtration system so it couldn’t be used and he had to share the only telephone with several other workers.

By the time his wife and children joined him in April electricity and hot water had been restored but the problems with the TV, internet, phone and pool still hadn’t been addressed.

The manager had been given a short course in Spanish when he arrived. That didn’t get him beyond the basics so he had to rely on bi-lingual staff to translate for him most of the time. But it wasn’t just language difficulties there was a huge cultural divide.

Farm owners and managers in Uruguay don’t usually live on the farm and this one was on a dirt road, more than 30 kilometres from the nearest town which had only one small store selling food.

Owners don’t usually do farm work either, they employ others to do it for them and because labour is cheap they often do it with more people and less labour-saving equipment and methods than we’re used to here. Applying fertiliser was a three-man job – one drove the tractor, the other two stood at either end of the paddock with flags to direct the driver.

Most of the staff were married men who went back to their families for long weekends once a month so even if they could have spoken the language the manager’s wife and children had few other women or children to talk to.

The manager resigned soon after we were there. It’s possible huge improvements have been made in the couple of years since then and the company may be putting much more effort in to inducting their managers and families.

However, financial and farming performance have yet to match the rhetoric.

The company blamed drought, falling prices and a delay in raising capital for this year’s loss. I think the problems go deeper than that. Grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the ocean.

Land was cheaper in Uruguay than in New Zealand but there’s much more to successful dairying than cheap land. Developing dairy farms and getting them to show a profit isn’t easy here, it is even more difficult when there’s a language and cultural barrier.

Taking New Zealand farming systems to Uruguay might pay off in the long term, but I don’t think financial performance will match the promise in the short term.

August 27 in history


On August 27:

1877 Charles Rolls, co-founder of Rolls Royce, was born.


1899 C.S. Forester, English novelist, was born.

1904 English author Norah Lofts was born.

1904 the foundation stone for the first building at  Victoria College (now University) was laid.

1908 U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was born.


1932 English writer Antonia Fraser was born.

1991 Moldova declares its independence from the USSR.

Sourced from Wikipedia & NZ History Online.

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