September 5, 2011

25/25 in the Electoral Commission’s quiz on the different electoral options we’ll be choosing form in the November referendum.

The tool kit also asks questions on how important you consider accountability, effective government, effective parliament, proportionality and representation. Your answers indicate which system best suits your preference.

My answers left me to choose between First Past the Post, Preferential Voting and Supplementary Member, all of which give more and therefore small electorates than Mixed Member Proportional or Single Transferable Vote.

Word of the day

September 5, 2011

Recondite – little known; abstruse, obscure; difficult or impossible for one of ordinary understanding or knowledge to comprehend; concerned with a profound, esoteric, or difficult subject.

Flashing lights would improve rural school bus safety

September 5, 2011

The requirement to reduce your speed to 20 kilometres when passing a stationary school bus has been extended to 20 seconds before and after it stops if it’s displaying a flashing sign.

Calculating 20 seconds before the bus stopped would be more than a little difficult without a sign to signal it.

Rural Women are pleased with this decision and wants the government to take the next step and approve an active school bus sign that includes the 20 km/h limit.

“Our research shows that many New Zealand drivers, as well as tourists, are unaware of the 20kmh limit and are failing to slow down, making our children very vulnerable, especially on rural roads where there are no footpaths,” says RWNZ health spokesperson, Kerry Maw.

 Current approved school bus signs include one of children crossing with flashing ‘wig wag’ lights, but there is no approved sign that includes the 20kmh speed limit.

 Rural Women New Zealand has worked extensively with traffic engineering researchers who have developed an active 20kmh school bus sign, but the sign awaits approval from the NZ Transport Agency.

Testing of the prototype sign has shown it to be very effective in slowing drivers. Overseas research also supports the use of clear speed limit signage.

 Rural communities have begun to raise funds for active 20kmh signs for their local school buses, and keenly await their approval and production.

 “The number of children killed and injured after getting off school buses has not improved for 30 years, and behind every statistic is a devastated family,” says Mrs Maw. 

 “It is time we focused on every possible solution to ensure our school children are kept safe.”

 The 20 km/h limit rule isn’t well understood and it’s not always easy to recognise a school bus when you’re travelling at open road speeds.

 The requirement to have active signs warning of the limit would make it much easier to see the buses and make it much clearer to drivers that they have to slow down.

Rural round-up

September 5, 2011

Pipfruit NZ CEO says industry needs to accept govt’s position on currency ‘is what it is’ and focus is on areas it can change – Alex Tarrant:

Exporters need to focus their attentions on areas they can change, and accept the government will not shift in its position on exchange rate management, the head of an industry group says.

Pipfruit New Zealand CEO Peter Beaven, who represents apple and pear growers nation-wide exporting half a million billion dollars worth of product a year, also said he would like to see the industry use more of an overarching national branding strategy to help sell New Zealand pipfruit, similar to the approach taken by the wine industry . . .

Universities to collaborate on precision research:

Massey and Lincoln Universities have agreed to work together on precision agriculture research and education.

Precision agriculture is based around creating practical land management solutions, through the use of tools such as sensors which capture the rate of pasture growth and measure soil moisture . . .

 Award-Winning Hawke’s Bay Dairy Farmers Stand Up For Their Industry:

Patoka dairy farmers Nick and Nicky Dawson saw entering the 2011 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards as a good way to gain knowledge and “break down a few barriers”.

The Dawsons, who farm 480 cows in an equity partnership on 186ha of rolling contour northwest of Napier, were encouraged to enter the inaugural East Coast awards by a representative from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

They were proud to win the LIC Dairy Farm Award.

Suisteds Enjoy Spin-Offs From Dairy Awards Success:

Success at the 2011 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards has broadened Jason and Lisa Suisted’s perspective of the country’s dairy industry and propelled their sharemilking business forward.

The Waikato couple won the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year title at the national awards dinner in May and has since embraced the opportunities they have received to be exposed to other facets of the industry, and the people involved.

Lisa Suisted says winning the title on their third time entering was a dream. “Once you get involved in the dairy awards and start the process, it’s addictive. You can see your systems becoming more refined, your business improving and the financials flowing from that.” . . .

New dairy scholarship encourages student travel and adventure:

DairyNZ today announced the launch of its new Gap Year Scholarship programme in partnership with Communicating for Agriculture Education Programme (CAEP) New Zealand. The scholarships will provide support for school leavers looking for experience overseas prior to beginning their tertiary studies. They consist of funding ($5750 including GST) as well as expert assistance with overseas placement and travel arrangements.

Up to three Gap Year Scholarships will be available to New Zealand school leavers from 2012 and applications for the first round close on November 15 this year . . .

Christchurch woman receives deserved Land Girl medal after 70 years – Nicky Wagner:

It’s always humbling to present awards and medals to thoroughly deserving recipients. And Molly Anderson is no exception.

After seventy years, Molly has been honoured for her services to the New Zealand Women’s Land Service as a land girl on a dairy farm at Halswell. Molly’s duties on the Van Asch town supply farm, were milking, feeding out and looking after some of the calves. She also worked on the Browns’ farm in the area . . .

Could a small New Zealand company solve the world’s carbon crisis?

According to an article in Australia’s foremost business newspaper, The Australian Financial Review, the world will need to produce twice as much food by 2050 as it does now, using the same amount of land and water (or probably less). It’s a disturbing proposition, but a large part of the solution could be found in a small, unassuming factory west of Auckland.

To meet growing demand for food, most of today’s farming and agricultural practices lean towards clearing and irrigating more land and increasing use of fertilizers. These methods are unsustainable, and if they continue the world will experience major food shortage in the coming years. All is not gloom and doom, however. The Australian Financial Review article suggests that the single key to meeting our increased demand for food lies in better soil management. Well-managed soils produce better harvests even during poor seasons, and can recover more quickly from drought or flood. . .

The last extract is a media release from EcoCover about which you can read more here.

Science best counter to psuedo-science

September 5, 2011

Consulting soil scientist Doug Edmeades has been a long-time critic of unscientific practices among which he includes homeopathy and organics.

In a paper published in 2010 he said:

A recent major review of the scientific literature, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, includes results from 162 studies and concludes: “…… there is no evidence of a difference in the nutrient quality between organic and conventional foodstuff.” . . .

 . . . “We are not talking about the results of one experiment, we are talking about hundreds of studies and it is not the conclusion of one person or team – different groups of researchers have reached the same conclusion”.  

 “The significance of these conclusions should be far reaching” said Dr Edmeades, “because they undermine the primary purpose of the Organic Movement which has claimed for years that organically grown food is better than conventionally produced food.”

Now, in a paper to a Grasslands conference he says it’s time for evidence-based science to reclaim the moral high ground:

He says science policy makers need to exclude pseudo science if agricultural science is to be part of the solution to producing more food to for a rapidly increasing world populatrion.

”Unfortunately in this age of new age thinking, there’s a plethora of such claims,” he said. . .

He says organic farming produces at best only about 68% of the yields of conventional farming and there’s no evidence that it’s better for the environment, or that organic food is healthier.

”The organic movement is based on a falsity,” he said. ”It doesn’t have any magical properties.”

The best counter to pseudo-science is science but it costs money and takes time.

That has left a vacuum which has been filled with claims based on non-scientific claims and practices.

FPP govt & MMP opposition

September 5, 2011

Successive polls are showing support for an FPP government and an MMP opposition.

This is a result of a very popular Prime Minister leading a stable and cohesive National Party in contrast to the instability and multi-factional Labour Party.

Unfortunately it would be most unusual for National’s support to stay above 50% on polling day

But could it be the polls are signalling people want a bit more certainty in government than multi-party coalitions provide but don’t mind variety in opposition where parties have far less power?

Opportunity for renewal missed

September 5, 2011

Labour has released its full list of candidates for November’s election.

It includes several candidates who have been selected for unwinnable seats very recently and highlights the stupidity of doing its list ranking in April.

When you’re in opposition it is prudent to be prepared if the election date is unknown. But John Key announced in early February that we’d be going to the polls on November 26 which made it safe to rank the list much later.

They not only ranked the list too early they did it badly, missing the opportunity for significant renewal. That’s left them  with far too many of the tired old candidates who are associated with Labour’s failures of the noughties.

They could have learned from National’s mistakes after the 1999 election when too few of the dead wood fell on their swords. Failure to do that leaves them plummeting towards a similar forced clean out to that which National suffered in 2002 and little hope for a significant injection of fresh talent.

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