Word of the day

March 30, 2011

Frugal – economical; avoiding waste or unnecessary expenditure; thrifty; prudent.


New poison will kill pests not birds

March 30, 2011

A new poison which will kill stoats and feral cats but not birds has been developed by the Department of Conservation and a commercial partner, Connovation Ltd.

It is thought to be the first new toxin for the control of mammalian pests, to be registered in the world for at least 20 years, according to Department of Conservation scientist Elaine Murphy, who has been working on its development.

Dr Murphy said the new poison, which was known as Papp (para-aminopropriophenone), had been approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

Stoats posed a huge threat to threatened native bird species like kiwi, and DOC was continually looking at improving the range of weapons it had to control them, she said.

Stoats also carry TB which is a threat to cattle and deer.

They pose a greater danger to stock than possums because they range over greater areas and travel longer distances.

“The department has played a leading role, co-ordinating research on this new toxin in New Zealand and has invested significantly in its product development, working alongside its commercial partner Connovation Ltd, to reach registration. 

“Work on the new poison has been going on since 2000 and a total of around US$1 million has been invested by DOC and Connovation.

Dr Murphy said one significant reason DOC had gone for Papp was because of its humaneness.

“It works very quickly, as stoats become unconscious within about 15 minutes, and die shortly afterwards There is also an antidote available which significantly reduces the risks to non-target species.”

Papp worked as a red blood cell toxin, by preventing the haemoglobin from carrying oxygen. Its mode of action was similar to carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is not however, an alternative to 1080 because it doesn’t work on possums or rats.

Dr Murphy said that DOC had stoat traps over 250,000 hectares and they would continue to be the preferred method of stoat control in many situations. But Papp would offer an alternative in remote areas, or when a quick result was needed for stoat control.

Friends with a high country station have an extensive trapping operation and catch hundreds of stoats a year.  Having a new poison which can be used where traps can’t easily be set will provide another weapon in the war against these pests.


Leaders don’t win or lose alone

March 30, 2011

Election campaigns have become more and more presidential with most attention on party leaders.

That focus on the leaders continues between elections too but a leader doesn’t win or lose alone.

The seeds of National’s defeat in 1999 were sown before the 1990 election when Jim Bolger made stupid promises which were then not kept. Those seeds were fertilised before the 1996 election when too many MPs whose seats disappeared with the reduction in the number of electorates stayed on as list MPs.

Having failed to jump before the 1999 election many of those MPs were pushed in the 2002 one. Not only were many of them the tired face of National which the electorate had rejected three years before, many weren’t united behind the leader. The involuntary clean-out in the election provided the foundation for rebuilding which enabled the party to win in 2008.

Labour is following a similar path. It has had some refreshment but not enough.  Parties need a balance between experience and freshness and it hasn’t got it.

It’s led by one of the longest-serving MPs in parliament and too many of his caucus are associated with the people and policies which lost voters’ support over successive terms. Further more they have done too little to persuade the public they have new and better ideas for running the country again.

MPs will have many reasons for clinging to their seats, the good of the party isn’t usually one of them.

The influx of new MPs in 2005 and 2008 refreshed the National caucus. Involuntary resignations by Richard Worth and Pansy Wong and decisions not to stand again by John Carter, Wayne Mapp, Simon Power and Sandra Goudie has provided the opportunity for several new faces in the next term.

All the blame for Labour’s dysfunction is being laid at Phil Goff’s door. He’s made mistakes but his caucus members need to look at themselves too. Sticking with him because there is no viable alternative isn’t a resounding vote of confidence in him which the electorate shares. But a lack of unity and refusal to stand aside by some of the longer-serving or more ineffectual MPs is also part of the problem.

Ranking the list is never an easy job and the number of tired old faces among the sitting MPs will make it even harder for Labour this time. However, if its MPs and the party don’t make some hard choices about who stays and who goes themselves, voters will do it for them as they did for National in 2002.


Leaner public service longterm necessity

March 30, 2011

Finance Minister Bill English has diagnosed the problem:

The 2000s were characterised by the idea that big increases in government spending, dispensed across a whole range of areas and in a relatively untargeted way, could transform society.

According to this view the sheer weight of spending would eventually prevail.

However, that particular experiment ran out of money in 2008 and has nothing genuinely transformational to show for it.

He’s also worked out the treatment which is needed to solve it:

Public management in the foreseeable future will have more prosaic goals – sorting out which public services and income support measures are the most effective and working out how to provide those within a tightly-constrained budget.

Together we will be under constant pressure to deliver better services for little or no extra money.

This won’t be popular in the public service but continuing emphasis on backroom efficiency and accountability without reducing necessary front-line services is an essential if we’re to return to surpluses.

Getting on top of our fiscal position, and rebalancing the economy, necessarily means the Government being a smaller part of the economy than it is now.

The previous Government’s decision to massively ramp up spending in the 2000s left behind a large, structural budget deficit, and a bloated public sector that by 2008 was crowding out the competitive sectors of the economy.

Despite the best efforts of the Government and the public service since then, the deficit may reach 8 per cent of GDP this year, which is uncomfortably high. But we believe if we make careful decisions about government spending we can still get back to a meaningful surplus in 2015/16.

After that, the Government is committed to resuming payments to the New Zealand Superannuation fund and generating large enough surpluses to pay back most of the debt we are currently accumulating.

That means public spending restraint is no temporary aberration. It is effectively permanent.

The process of rebalancing started under Labour in the 1980s and continued with National through the 90s. But the hard work was reversed by Labour from 1999 when the public service grew unsustainably again.

If you read the speech carefully though, this is not an attack on the public service. The good work that is being done is acknowledged and the need for public servants to be part of the solution is clear.

It is apparent to us after two years in Government that there is more scope than we expected for improvement in the focus and efficiency of public services.

We are confident that over time we can continue to get better value for money in the public sector. Indeed we are obliged to.

We will continue to be guided by three principles, and I want to talk about each of these in turn.

Our first principle is having clear priorities.

We will focus our efforts, and government funding, on the things that matter most to New Zealanders.

New Zealanders as a whole have an obligation of care to vulnerable people who depend on public services – children, for example, the aged, and struggling families.

And we have an obligation to maintain and strengthen the core functions of government, such as law and order, public infrastructure, and the ability to respond effectively to disasters like the two Canterbury earthquakes and the Pike River Mine disaster.

At the same time, as I said earlier, the Government has to reduce its overall size as a proportion of New Zealand’s economy.

Something has to give, and that has to be lower-value activities the government is currently funding.

This is not a time we can afford to indulge in a whole lot of “nice-to-haves”, even though, for sections of the population, they feel the loss of those services or funding streams.

The alternative is that “nice to haves” come at the expense of necessities and at the expense of fairness to people with more need.

Individuals, households and businesses reassess what’s necessary and what’s nice to have when their budgets get tight, the government has to do the same thing. The challenge of course will be deciding and getting acceptance of what’s necessary and what’s not.

Our second principle is achieving high-quality services.

We will ensure that public services are modern, responsive and provide good value for money. . .

Our third principle is reducing waste.

We will ensure that government administration is as efficient and well-organised as it can be.

The longer we are in office the more it is clear that the costs of running government are too high, there is too much duplication and the organisation is too cluttered.

For a country of just 4.4 million people, we have 38 government departments, over 150 crown entities and more than 200 other organisations for which the government has some responsibility.

Too many agencies in the wrong place risks diseconomies of scale, transaction costs, duplication of roles and back-office functions, and in some cases reduces the cohesion and quality of frontline services. . .

The deadweight of all that bureaucracy isn’t sustainable. But it’s not just too many agencies, it’s also too little productivity within some of them.

We’ve come a long way since the public service which Roger Hall parodied so well in Glide Time but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

I’d like to see a New Zealand where the Government is consistently running surpluses, delivering the public services New Zealanders really want and need, and where the public sector operates as an efficient and world-class organisation.

In that future, government agencies will be increasingly organised around meeting the needs of households and businesses rather than expecting New Zealanders to navigate through a maze of specialised agencies to get the services they require. . .

. . .While many services will continue to be delivered through government agencies, they will increasingly also be provided by non-government organisations, iwi and private sector providers.

Social housing is an example where greater steps are being taken in this direction.

In addition, all agencies will need to change the way they operate so they can cope with a period of ongoing financial constraint, while also strengthening frontline services.

This direction is likely to lead to fewer government agencies over time, to stronger governance across agencies where it is needed and for agencies to be more frequently based around common services and processes.

The Public Service Association and some of its members will see this prescription as a threat.

But it is also an pportunity to contribute to changes which will make a positive difference to the economy and services.


March 30 in history

March 30, 2011

On March 30:

240 BC 1st recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet.

A color image of Comet Halley, shown flying to the left aligned flat against the sky

1282 The people of Sicily rebelled against the Angevin KingCharles I, in what became known as the Sicilian Vespers.

Sicilian Vespers (1846), by Francesco Hayez

1296 Edward I sacksed Berwick-upon-Tweed, during armed conflict between Scotland and England.

A man in half figure with short, curly hair and a hint of beard is facing left. He wears a coronet and holds a sceptre in his right hand. He has a blue robe over a red tunic, and his hands are covered by white, embroidered gloves. His left hand seems to be pointing left, to something outside the picture.

1746 Francisco Goya, Spanish painter, was born  (d. 1828).

1811 Robert Bunsen, German chemist, was born (d. 1899).

1814 Napoleonic Wars: Sixth Coalition forces marched into Paris.

1814 – Joachim Murat issued the Rimini Declaration which later inspired Italian Unification.

1820 Anna Sewell, British author, was born (d. 1878).

1842 Anesthesia was used for the first time in an operation by Dr Crawford Long.

1844 One of the most important battles of the Dominican War of Independence from Haiti took place near the city of Santiago de los Caballeros.

1853 Vincent van Gogh, Dutch painter, was born  (d. 1890).

Impressionist portrait painting of a man with a reddish beard wearing a dark coat and white shirt while looking forward with his body facing left

1855 Origins of the American Civil War: Bleeding Kansas – “Border Ruffians” from Missouri invaded Kansas and forced election of a pro-slavery legislature.

1856 The Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Crimean War.

 

1858 Hymen Lipman patented a pencil with an attached rubber.

 

1863 Danish prince Wilhelm Georg was chosen as King George of Greece.

1864 Franz Oppenheimer, German sociologist, was born (d. 1943).

 

1867 Alaska was purchased for $7.2 million, about 2 cent/acre ($4.19/km²), by United States Secretary of State William H. Seward. The media called this Seward’s Folly.

 

1870 Texas was readmitted to the Union following Reconstruction.

1885 The Battle for Kushka triggered the Pandjeh Incident which nearly gave rise to war between the British and Russian Empires.

1909 The Queensboro Bridge opened, linking Manhattan and Queens.

 

1910  The Mississippi Legislature founded The University of Southern Mississippi.

The University of Southern Mississippi Seal

1912 Sultan Abdelhafid signed the Treaty of Fez, making Morocco a French protectorate.

 

1913 Frankie Laine, American singer, was born (d. 2007).

1918 Outburst of bloody March Events in Baku and other locations of Baku Governorate.

1928 Tom Sharpe, English satirical author, was born.

 

1930 Rolf Harris, Australian artist and entertainer, was born.

1937 Warren Beatty, American actor and director, was born.

1939 The Heinkel He 100 fighter sets a world airspeed record of 463 mph.

1939 – First flight of the Australian C.A.C. CA-16 Wirraway.

 

1940 Sino-Japanese War: Japan declared Nanking to be the capital of a new Chinese puppet government, nominally controlled by Wang Ching-wei.

1941 Graeme Edge, British musician (Moody Blues), was born.

1945  Eric Clapton, British guitarist, was born.

1945 World War II: Soviet Union forces invaded Austria and took Vienna; Polish and Soviet forces liberated Gdańsk.

1945 – World War II: a defecting German pilot delivered a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1 to the Americans.

 

1949  A riot broke out in Austurvöllur square in Reykjavík, when Iceland joined NATO.

1950 Robbie Coltrane, Scottish actor and comedian, was born.

1954  Yonge Street subway line opened in Toronto, the first subway in Canada.

1959 Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, who was convicted of child abuse at the Christchurch Civic Creche, was born.

1961  The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was signed in New York.

 

1962 MC Hammer, American rap musician, was born.

1964 Tracy Chapman, American singer, was born,

1965 Vietnam War: A car bomb exploded in front of the US Embassy, Saigon, killing 22 and wounding 183 others.

1967 Fred Ladd flew a plane under Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Fred Ladd flies plane under Auckland Harbour Bridge

1968 Celine Dion, Canadian singer, was born.

1972  Vietnam War: The Easter Offensive began after North Vietnamese forces cross into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) of South Vietnam.

T-59 VC.jpg

1979 Airey Neave, a British MP, was killed by a car bomb as left the Palace of Westminster. The Irish National Liberation Army claimed responsibility.

 

1979 Norah Jones, American musician, was born.

1979 First Gay Rights Parade held in Michigan.

1981 President Ronald Reagan was shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by John Hinckley, Jr.

 

1982 Space Shuttle programme: STS-3 Mission was completed with the landing of Columbia at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Sts3-patch.png

2006  The United Kingdom Terrorism Act 2006 became law.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


%d bloggers like this: