Farrar #4 on Listener media power list


David Farrar is number four on the Listener’s 2009 power list for media.

It is a reflection of both the quality and quantity of posts on  Kiwiblog, and well deserved recognition of its influence.

It’s also a sign  of the blogosphere’s growing role in the media.

Scotland the Brave


Because it’s St Andrews Day

(and because I usually post a music video for singers who have a birthday today but a quick trawl through YouTube for something from Billy Idol came up with nothing I liked).

2025 Taskforce report requires tough decisions


The 2025 Taskforce chaired by Don Brash has made  35 recommendations to help close the income gap between here and Australia.

Most of them require some tough decisions from government and some belt tightening from the rest of us.

Finance Minister Bill English said:

“Having steered the economy through the recession in better shape than many had predicted, the Government is now focused on getting a step change in New Zealand’s economic performance over the next three to five years.

“We must consider a range of options if we are to get the investment, economic growth and new jobs needed for that to happen.

“Having said that, this Government is pragmatic. And any decisions about key economic policies must meet the tests of fairness and equity.

“Where we specifically campaigned on doing certain things, we’re not going to break our word.”

The government isn’t going to break any election promises but not everything in the report was covered by a promise.

There is also plenty of scope for fresh promises in National’s 2011 election campaign.

The sale of state assets, for example. The previous government sold some Landcorp farms and there is nothing wrong with continuing with that in the future.

The government isn’t going to do anything which will threaten economic recovery in the short term. But it has sent very strong signals about the lack of money available for new spending which will make next year’s budget pretty stringent.

That might help focus the rest of us on how much we expect from public funding and how much we should be doing for ourselves and that any funding of luxuries now will be at the expense of some necessities later.

The resilience of the economy in the face of global economic uncertainty was due in no small part to the tough decisions the governments of the 80s and early 90s made.

If the economy is going to continue growing and be strong enough to cope with the next recession, we’re all going to have to accept the need for some tough decisions from government and the sooner it makes them the sooner we’ll feel the benefit.

Hat Tip: interest.co.nz

The full list of recommendations follows the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday’s quiz


1. What is a cutty sark (as distinct from the Cutty Sark)

2. Who is the patron saint of farmers? 

3. Who said, “There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.”?

4.Who wrote, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever?

5. What’s a kakaruwai?

NZ aims for space


A mention of Great Mercury Island grabbed my attention in a news item this morning.

I spent a school -year there supervising the correspondence lessons of the manager’s children 30 years ago.

But what’s happening there today is of far greater importance than that – a New Zealand designed and built rocket is being launched in to space.

Rocket Lab is launching Atea-1, a two-stage sub-orbital vehicle capable of carrying payloads of 2 kg up to 120 km altitude, from Great Mercury.

TV3 has an interview with Rocket Lab directors Peter Beck and Mark Rocket* here and the island’s co-owner Michael Fay here.

* Is that his real name or did he change it to fit his business?

St Andrew’s Day


The appeal of whisky escapes me and I’m not very keen on porridge.

But it’s St Andrew’s Day and I’ve got tartan genes which require me to acknowledge Scotland’s patron saint and the country’s national day.

Saint Andrew's Day

Learning to play the game


The ETS has been enacted and whether or not we like the rules we’re going to have to learn to play the game.

Most attention has been on costs, but there will also be opportunities.

I’ve yet to find anyone who fully understands what’s involved in carbon farming, but most reasonable sized farms in our district have hillsides and gullies which are probably better suited to trees than crop or pasture.

Farmers may also be able to develop micro-generation of power from small wind farms.

There is also an opportunity at Copenhagen, to negotiate changes to the one-size-fits-all rules which disadvantage New Zealand because most of our emissions come from agriculture, 94% of which is is exported, and we grow exotic trees well for forestry.

In Friday’s print edition of the National Business Review, Federated Farmers’ president Don Nicolson gave his wish list for changes:

* Excluding emissions from crops and farm animals from the successor to the Kyoto protocol; or if emissions from primary food production are included it needs to take a global not an individual country perspective. That would allow efficient producers like us to “over emit” because we “over produce” food, most of which is exported.

* International funding for the Global Alliance concept to tackle agricultural emissions.

* The inclusion of pre-1990 forests as permanent forestry sinks.

*The ability to count non-forest crops, plantings and grasses for credits (eg riparian plantings which aren’t Kyoto compliant).

* Global standardisation of foot printing methodologies.

* Inclusion of territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zones as permanent carbon sinks.

How much progress our negotiators make on these points will be one measure of whether the focus is on making a positive difference to the environment or just on politics.

ETS better than carbon tax


An emissions trading scheme is a better option for New Zealand than a carbon tax, Environment Minister Nick Smith told a National Party Bluegreen forum at Totara on Saturday.

He said an ETS is better able to recognise forests which play a critical role in offsetting emissions and in our economy; it’s better able to recognise limits rather than just setting a price as a tax would; and it keeps us in step with most of our major trading partners. Europe and the United States already have an ETS and, in spite of the debate going on across the Tasman now, Australia is likely to have one soon.

He likened an ETS to the quota management system for fisheries. Companies will be able to buy and sell carbon units in the same way they buy and sell fishing quota.

The government had been very mindful of the problem of carbon leakage when designing the scheme.

It would be easy to reduce emissions if a company moved its production somewhere else but that wouldn’t do anything for global emissions. If for example Holcim moved cement production to China, New Zealand’s emissions would go down but it’s likely global emission would increase because environmental standards wouldn’t be as high there as here.

“That would have done nothing for the environment and would costs New Zealanders’ jobs,” he said.

Dr Smith also stressed that the ETS was not an excuse for the government to take money from people.

“This is not a cash cow for the government to profit from. The scheme is fiscally neutral . . . foresters will gain, other people will pay, but it’s fiscally neutral for the government.

Agriculture produces about 6% of emissions in Britain and 14% in Australia but it accounts for around 50% of emissions in New Zealand.

“Every country under Kyoto has to cover for agriculture but when it’s minor the government covers. In New Zealand where it’s 50% of our emissions doesn’t have that choice.”

However, he said that emissions per kilo of milk fat and lamb had been reducing by 1% a year over the last 10 years.

Around 90% of the increase in emissions have been from developed countries but in the next 30 years 97% of the increase will be from developing countries.

“Even if developed countries stop all emissions, climate change will increase because of the developing countries.”

Most developing countries have a high proportion of emissions from agriculture, for example in Uruguay it’s 80%. The Global Alliance to support research will enable developed countries to share research with developing ones to help them reduce emissions.

Dr Smith acknowledged that most farmers were unhappy with the prospect of an ETS but not doing anything would endanger trade.

“Agriculture is an export industry and we trade on the basis of being clean and green. We can’t compete on the basis of being the cheapest.

“We are not going to be a leader but we can’t be a lagger because other countries will not allow access if we aren’t carrying our fair share of the burden of climate change.”

National’s Dunedin list MP, Michael Woodhouse, also stressed the risk to trade from doing nothing.

“Even if you don’t believe in global warming, consumers in our markets do and we will face barriers to our produce if we aren’t seen to be doing something,” he said.

Of all the information I’ve heard on the whole global warming issue that’s the most compelling.

Regardless of the science, the politics and emotion demand action.

November 30 in history


On November 30:

1554 Philip Sidney, English courtier, soldier, and writer, was born.

1667 Jonathan Swift, Irish writer and satirist, was born.


1786  Peter Leopold Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany, promulgated a penal reform making his country the first state to abolish the death penalty.

1810  Oliver Winchester, American gunsmith, was born.

1872 The first-ever international football match took place at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow, between Scotland and England.

1835 Mark Twain, American writer, was born.

1874 Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nobel laureate,was born.

1886 The Folies Bergère staged its first revue.

1934 The steam locomotive Flying Scotsman became the first to officially exceed 100mph.

1936  The Crystal Palace, London. was destroyed by fire.
1940  Lucille Ball married Desi Arnaz.
1949 the first National government was elected in New Zealand, led by Sidney Holland.

Election of first National government

1953 June Pointer, American singer (Pointer Sisters), was born.

1955  Billy Idol (born William Michael Albert Broad), British musician, was born.

1965 Ben Stiller, American actor, was born.

In the black and white image, Stiller is facing the camera. He has his right arm crossed in front of him and left hand raised to his chin, with the pointer finer right below his lips. He is wearing a black suit.

 1966 Barbados became independent

1967 The People’s Republic of South Yemen becomes independent.

Flag Coat of arms

1995 Official end of Operation Desert Storm.

2005  John Sentamu became the first black archbishop in the Church of England with his enthronement as the 97th Archbishop of York.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

Cannonball Rag


Merle Travis would have been 92 today.

The only song of his I recognised when searching YouTube was Sixteen Tons, but I liked Cannonball Rag more.

The C word


The first signs of Christmas approaching seem to happen earlier and earlier each year.

The sight of tinsel and sound of carols in October, or even September, used to irritate me now I just ignore them until very late November.

That coincides with the first Sunday of advent which is plenty early enough to start thinking about Christmas for me.

It’s still too soon to get a tree or put up decorations but one of our family traditions is an advent wreath.

We light the first candles on the first Sunday and one more on subsequent Sundays until Christmas day when all five are lit.

Whether or not you are a Christian, it is much better to ponder on hope, faith, joy, love and Christmas itself, which each of the candles signify, than the many other less inspiring meanings attached to the C word now.

Jonell from Jonell’s Florists, makes the wreath for us.

Although she’s been doing them for years now, every one has been different and all have been beautiful.

Green practices can make business sense


Economic growth and good environmental policy go hand in hand, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said in opening yesterday’s National Party Bluegreen forum at Totara.

Her message was reinforced by by party’s Dunedin list MP, Michael Woodhouse, who said what’s good for the environment can be good for business.

“Green” businesses are often regarded as alternative. But Michael said there are a lot of opportunities for any business to do things in a more sustainable way.

He managed Mercy Hospital before entering politics and said changing from diesel to LPG for had not only reduced the costs of heating the hospital, it had reduced cleaning bills because the diesel had created a fine soot.

“Good business processes and practices can improve the environmental footprint and the bottom line,” he said.

Confession of a fair weather fan


I’ve barely glanced at a rugby game all year.

I still didn’t watch the All Balcks vs France test properly.

But my farmer was watching it so I was aware of what was happening in the background.

And now they’re not just winning but winning well ( 39 -12 with three mintues to go), I’m interested.

Recycling aspirin for hangover of over consumption


Recycling is not always good for the environment.

This was the message from Marion Shore of the Waitaki Resource Recovery Centre to a National Party Bluegreen Environment forum at Totara yesterday. 

She was speaking on waste minimisation and said that recycling is like aspirin to treat the hangover of over consumption.

“Most recycling reduces the quality of material being recycled over time. . . Recycling doesn’t make it environmentally benign,” she said.

It is much better to reduce what we use and re-use what we can. 

Product and packaging design plays an important role in waste minimisation.  For example, electronic goods from Korea are packed in rice husks when they’re exported to Europe and once they’re no longer needed they are turned into bricks.Ms Shore said some “green” practices weren’t necessarily as good for the environment. Low energy bulbs used less energy than the old ones but the old ones could be disposed of in landfills without the risks of mercury contamination.

“Fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury which needs to be disposed of carefully. It’s much better to turn off lights we don’t need,” she said.

Her message resonated with me because she cut through the greenwash to the facts. Recycling makes some people feel better because they’re “doing something” for the environment. But the something they’re doing is not always a good thing and never better than reducing and reusing.

This is one of the reasons I was so irritated by supermarkets charging a green tax on plastic bags which are almost always reused when they use unnecessary packaging which is almost always dumped as soon as the shopper gets home.

Ms Shore conlcuded by saying there is no planet B.

She’s right which means we have to look after the one we’ve got – but that requires differentiating between really good green practices and greenwash.

November 29 in history


On November 29:

800 Charlemagne arrived in Rome to investigate the alleged crimes of Pope Leo III.

1832  Louisa May Alcott, American novelist, was born.

1849  Sir John Ambrose Fleming, British physicist, was born.

1893 Elizabeth Yates became the first woman in the British Empire to win a mayoral election when she became Mayor of Onehunga.

1893 Ziqiang Institute, today known as Wuhan University, was founded by Zhang Zhidong.


1898  C. S. Lewis, Irish writer, was born.

Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old Lewis

1910 The first US patent for inventing the traffic lights system was issued to Ernest Sirrine.

1913  Fédération Internationale d’Escrime, the international organizing body of competitive fencing was founded in Paris, France.


 1917  Merle Travis, American singer/guitarist, was born.

1929  U.S. Admiral Richard Byrd becomes the first person to fly over the South Pole.

Lt com r e byrd.jpg

1932 Jacques Chirac, French President, was born.

1933 John Mayall, British blues musician, was born.


1944 The first surgery on a human to correct blue baby syndrome was performed by Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas.

1945 The Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was declared.

Flag Coat of arms


1961 Mercury-Atlas 5 Mission – Enos, a chimpanzee, was launched into space.


Enos being prepared for insertion into the Mercury-Atlas 5 capsule in 1961.
1972 Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari) released Pong (the first commercially successful video game) in Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California.
 Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

Help Is On Its Way


Happy Birthday Beeb Birtles.

Battery powered taxi saves $200 a week


The taxi which took us to Wellington airport yesterday was powered by petrol and battery.

The driver said it had plenty of power in the city and on the open road and it saved him about $200 a week on fuel.

With savings like that it won’t be difficult to persuade more people to swap to battery powered vehicles.

But when they do, how will roads be funded?

The petrol they use attracts a tax but, at least for now, electric vehicles aren’t required to pay for road user charges which are levied on diesel vehicles.

Asparagus season


If there’s one vegetable which persuades me of the sense of eating fresh food, in season, as close as possible to where it’s produced, it’s asparagus.

The best meal of this late spring/early summer delicacy I’ve eaten was espárrago de la plancha – asparagus from the grill – at the Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro, in Spain.

It was cooked fractionally beyond crisp, bright green and its natural flavour was enhanced by a hint of some from the fire over which it had been cooked.

We’ve tried to emulate it on the barbeque but never quite captured the taste and texture.

Another favourite way to serve the vegetable is to steam it lightly then roll it in fresh, thin sliced bread with grated blue cheese.

Lightly is the operative word. I think the reason many people don’t like asparagus is because their first taste is of the tinned variety which is soggy.

It’s also delicious baked with a tiny splash of olive oil and sprinkle of rock salt.

It enhances a quiche or roulade, can be stir fired, barbequed, wrapped in bacon and baked, in savoury muffins or pasta, covered with breadcrumbs and grated cheese and baked, added to a salad, served hot with wholegrain mustard in sandwiches, or in an omelette or frittata.

Or simply steam until it’s al dente and enjoy it by itself.

A cunning plan to counter MMP?


Phil Goff’s channelling of Winston Peters is uncharacteristic.

Nothing in his past pronouncements or behaviour suggests he’s a racist.

Why then would he attack Maori as he did this week?

There are now only three wee parties in parliament, Act the Maori Party, the Greens (the other two are creations of their leaders and will disappear when they do).

Under MMP it is very unlikely one of the major parties will govern alone.

The Greens agenda is not just environmental it’s social and economic and their policies on all these are very left-wing. That makes it much more likely they would support Labour than National.

That leaves the Maori Party in a very powerful position in the middle, able to go left or right. Except that this week, Goff made it much, much harder for them to support Labour and therefore much harder for his party to get back into government under MMP.

Could it be his reference to pork bone politics is not just an attack on the Maori Party and a dog whistle to racists, but a cunning plan to undermine MMP too?

Possums down, birds up


What’s bad for possums is good for native birds.

The extermination strategy has resulted in a drop in possum numbers from 60 to 70 million in the 1980s to around 30 million and as possum numbers have decreased, native bird populations have increased.

Forest and Bird spokeswoman Helen Bain said the drop was a factor in exploding numbers of tui in the Wellington area. “We’re getting a lot of anecdotal reports that numbers are up. I was in town the other day and I would have seen about 20 of them.”

Possums would raid the nests of native birds, such as tui, taking eggs, chicks and sometimes even adult birds, she said. “If we get possum numbers down, native birds and plants come back big time.”

One of the methods used to control possums is drops of 1080 poison which is controversial. Hunting and trapping are used where possible but 1080 is the only practical method of extermination in some areas.

Possums not only destroy trees, they eat birds eggs and compete with some native species for food.

They also carry bovine tuberculosis which can infect farm animals.

Their fur, now known as paihamu in the fashion industry, is wonderful by itself or mixed with merino wool. But the animals are pests and if 1080 is the only way to protect our forests, native birds and farm animals from them then this is one case when the end justifies the means.

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