Westie wins Waitakere


Proud Westie and Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett has reclaimed Waitakere in a judicial recount.

She won the seat on election night from Carmel Sepuloni by 45 votes, lost it in a recount by 11 and has reclaimed it by nine.

This means Sepuloni is out of parliament and Labour list MP Raymond Huo is in.

Business speaking with one voice


The Business Round Table and New Zealand Institute are combining to form a new independent policy think tank.

“Our view is that the New Zealand business sector is not large enough to support two separate, independent, CEO-based public policy think tanks, and we see many synergies between the two organisations.

“Both the Business Roundtable and the Institute comprise primarily chief executives of major New Zealand firms and some are members of both organisations.

“While there have been some different emphases in the past, we both share a vision of a competitive, open and dynamic economy, a flourishing business sector and a free, prosperous, fair and cohesive society.

“We also both share the view that the development and promotion of sound, high quality public policy is fundamental to achieving this”, the joint statement said.

This is a sensible move.

It will be better for the development of public policy to have business speakign with one voice.


Private enterprise noble endeavour


Quote of the day:

 On business: please remember private enterprise is still a noble endeavour. Be proud of what you do. After all, it is still all about making neat stuff and meeting people’s needs. But business, like everything in life, is a mind game. Whatever problem you’re grappling with, it all comes back to loving and approving of yourself. If you don’t feel deserving, you will sabotage your own success.  Deborah Hill Cone -who is giving up her column to study psychology.

I’ll miss her writing.

Fonterra putting milk back in schools


School milk was not one of the happy memories of my childhood.

A half pint was too much for me to drink at a time and it was usually warm. Besides, like most of my contemporaries we had plenty of milk at home.

Ample milk and adequate diets are no longer the norm for too many children and Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings has announced a plan to put it back in schools.

Mr Spierings says New Zealand has the potential to be the dairy nutrition capital of the world, and this should start at home with Kiwis drinking milk.

“When I took over this role I made a promise to take a fresh look at how we could make milk more accessible in New Zealand,” says Mr Spierings.

Milk is an important building block for good nutrition. We want Kiwi kids to grow up drinking milk because it is good for them.

We are looking to introduce a Fonterra Milk for Schools programme. We want all New Zealand primary school children to have access to dairy nutrition every school day. For some New Zealanders this initiative will bring back memories of the  Government programme which operated in New Zealand primary schools between 1937 and 1967. We’ll ensure this time that the milk is cold and tastes great.

The company is staring with a regional pilot for primary schools in Northland, covering 110 schools and 14,000 children, starting during the first term next year.

 It will be a voluntary programme for schools to opt into so we can get a fix on likely demand from schools for such a programme.   “We don’t want kids having to drink warm milk in summer like the old days, so we will look at installing refrigerators in schools, and also explore options for recycling the milk packaging,” Mr Spierings says.

Results from the Northland pilot will be monitored during the first three terms of the 2012 school year with the intention of progressing with a nationwide programme for the start of the new school year in 2013. Mr Spierings said Fonterra would welcome support from other partners for a nationwide programme, including the Government.

As a supplier and  shareholder in Fonterra I can see social, health, marketing and PR benefits from this scheme but it comes at a cost.

The company announced an increase in the forecast payout this week and even without that expected returns this year were reasonable. But what happens when the price of milk, and therefore returns to farmers, go down? Once the provision of  “free” milk is established it will be difficult to take it away again.

I’m definitely not keen on the government getting involved in the provision of school milk, especially if it’s not being aimed at only those in genuine need. Its money would be better spent on initiatives which address the causes of ill-nourished children.

The company has been criticised for the high price of milk on the domestic market and is continuing to review it.

Our motivation is to have more New Zealanders drinking more milk because it is important for basic nutrition. To achieve this, we have to make it available and affordable.

In recent years we have seen a major lift in international dairy prices which effectively doubled in 18 months. This has pushed up the cost of milk prices locally and we have seen consumption decline, with New Zealanders drinking less milk.

Traditionally milk consumption in New Zealand has been increasing around 1-2 per cent per year but it is currently declining by a similar rate.

“We are exploring a range of options to turn around the consumption decline by making milk more consistently affordable and will report back in the first quarter of next year,” Mr Spierings says.

Fonterra will also trial milk sales in its RD1 rural supply stores.

Anchor is our flagship brand and it makes sense to have it available in the 64 RD1 rural stores around New Zealand which we now own 100 per cent. “Initially we will be focusing on smaller towns that don’t have supermarkets nearby. From here we can measure the demand and decide whether to roll this out further,” Mr Spierings says.

Customers of RD1 stores are predominantly farmers. But if the stores sell milk well below supermarket prices they will broaden their customer base and the competition will probably force supermarkets to reduce their mark-ups.

Friday’s answers


Thursday’s questions were:

1. Who said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”?

2. It’s cadeau in French, regalo in Italian and Spanish and perehana in Maori, what is it in English?

3. What are Ilex and  Hedera helix? 

4. Who is believed to have led the first Christmas service in New Zealand?

5. Name four of Santa Claus’s eight reindeer.

Points for answers:

James got 3 1/4.

Andrei got three with a bonus for quoting the relevant bit of the poem.

Grant wins an electronic Christmas cake with four – and a bonus for not following the crowd, even though this time it would have been right.

PDM got 2 and a bonus for wit.

Adam got three.

Gravedodger also wins an electronic Christmas cake with four.

Answers follow the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Shearer fails first test


The first big test for David Shearer was to get his caucus line-up sorted in-house and without trouble.

He’s failed.

An embittered David Cunliffe is refusing to rule out quitting Parliament altogether as leader David Shearer moves to finalise his front bench.

It is understood Mr Cunliffe has been offered a front bench seat and a senior portfolio but has balked at his proposed ranking.

It doesn’t reflect well on Cunliffe that he’s gone public just a couple of days after pledging his loyalty to the new leader.

But if Shearer had managed to organise his caucus well he wouldn’t have provided the opportunity for any toy-tossing from his disgruntled rival.

The man who prides himself on his international experience, ought to have known, and heeded, the words of Chinese general and military strategist Sun-tzu: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Politician of year


The mood at the National’s Canterbury Westland Christmas Party on Monday night was buoyant.

Amy Adams and Jo Goodhew had been named in the new Cabinet, Minister Kate Wilkinson and MP Nicky Wagner had won their electorates and National had won the party vote in Christchurch.

That was due to the hard work of all the regions MPs but even more so on the government’s handling of the earthquakes and recovery.

The man responsible for that, Gerry Brownlee, was named Trans Tasman’s politician of the year:

Christchurch earthquake Tsar  Gerry Brownlee, the man who is credited for virtually singlehandedly  turning the once Labour stronghold of the Garden City into a sea of  Party Vote Blue in the election, has been named politician of the year by Trans Tasman’s Roll Call, NZ’s number one political newsweekly’s  annual ranking of the nation’s MPs.

Of Brownlee Trans Tasman says – “Without big party-vote majorities in several traditional Labour electorates in and  around Christchurch, National might have fallen behind the  aggregate vote of the parties aligned against it. The man at the  centre of this achievement is Gerry Brownlee.”

He was also Duncan Garner’s Minister of the year.

But this accolade is for Christchurch alone. It is an enormous problem. . .  

It had the potential to sink the Government. It’s a red town – that is now  painted blue.

John Key and Gerry Brownlee got the tone right. Sure there are some  disgruntled people. That happens. But the Government’s rescue packages were bang  on. The initial business rescue grants were extended and that was the right  decision.

The Government’s decision to buy thousands of written-off houses was the  biggest insurance package any Government anywhere in the world had offered its  citizens.

It is a massive extension to the welfare state. The Government acted because  it had to. The insurance companies have been slow to open their wallets. Their  behaviour over the next three years is being closely watched by the  Government.

I called it a silver plated scheme when it was released and I stand by that.

That National won Christchurch Central and Waimakariri is testament to  Brownlee’s work in his home town. I accept some households are not happy, but  given the scale of the disaster Brownlee and John Key have largely got the  Government’s response bang on.

Brownlee was the man at the top and as such he has been on the receiving end of criticism and frustration. The election result is a vote of confidence in him and the government from the people whose city he is helping rebuild.

It is an enormous challenge and he has tackled it while also having to deal with the loss of his home which was one of those severely damaged in the quakes.

The rebuild is a very long-term project, it will take at least a decade, maybe two, the magnitude and cost of the task is already impacting on us all. It is very important to get it right from the start and the people most affected, those in Christchurch and its hinterland, voted to show that, largely thanks to Brownlee, the government has.


This isn’t how it was supposed to work


Voluntary student membership was primarily about freedom of association.

A bonus should have been that it would force student unions to become more efficient and responsive to their members.

It wasn’t supposed to mean business as usual with universities charging students more which they then pass on to the unions:

The Southern Region Young Nationals today expressed disappointment with the student services agreement reached between the University of Otago and the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) which has led to a substantial increase in fees students pay for the provision of non-academic services.

The agreement comes after OUSA responded to voluntary student membership legislation by recommending students set their membership levy at $0, leaving them reliant on the University’s compulsory student services fees to fund their operations.

The University Council voted to increase student services fees by 16%, from $580 to $672. This included a 12% increase from $190 to $213 per student in fees charged for OUSA services, despite the fact that the services remain unchanged in 2012.

Southern Region Chair, Callum Fredric, believes that the agreement will negatively impact Otago students.

“Students are now being charged significantly more in 2012 for what is essentially the same thing that they were being charged for in 2011”, Fredric stated. “There appears to be no reasonable justification for such a large increase in student fees, which only adds to the growing mountain of student debt without providing any tangible increase in services.”

Recently the Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, released a Ministerial Direction on Compulsory Student Service Fees which aimed to ensure accountability in the use of compulsory fees for student services. Fredric says that the Minister should be taking a close look at the reasons for such a fee increase at Otago.

“I think that whenever there is a substantial increase in fees that appears to be unaccounted for, there is cause for the Government to ask questions about whether this is an appropriate use of students’, and ultimately, taxpayers’money.”

Fredric rejects the assertion that this increase is due to the abolition of compulsory student unionism. He says that as the service provider, OUSA ultimately sets the minimum level at which they charge students to provide their services.

“At the end of the day OUSA has the ability to charge as little as they wish to provide these services to students. In doing the complete opposite and actually increasing the amount students pay to OUSA by over 10%, they have shown that their previous commitments to a more fiscally responsible and sustainable organisation were nothing more than empty rhetoric. Sadly it is the students who will pay for OUSA’s decision to continue their history of levy and spend.”

The union should have used the abolition of compulsory membership to examine what it did, how it did it, how much support it had from students to do it and how much they were willing to pay for it.

Instead it will be able to carry on as usual and students will have no more control over the costs than they did when membership was compulsory.

December 16 in history


1431  Henry VI of Englandwas crowned King of France at Notre Dame in Paris.

1485  Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, was born.

1497  Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, the point where Bartolomeu Dias had previously turned back to Portugal.

1653  Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.

1707  Last recorded eruption of Mount Fuji in Japan.

1770  Ludwig van Beethoven, German composer was born  (d. 1827).

1773  Boston Tea Party – Members of the Sons of Liberty disguised as Mohawks dump crates of tea into Boston harbor as a protest against the Tea Act.

1775 Jane Austen, English writer, was born (d. 1817).

1787  – Mary Russell Mitford, English writer, was born  (d. 1855)

1790  King Léopold I of Belgium, was born (d. 1865).

1850 The Charlotte-Jane and the Randolph brought the first settlers to Lyttelton.

1882   Sir Jack Hobbs, English cricketer, was born (d. 1963).

1883 Max Linder, French pioneer of silent film, was born (d. 1925).

1888  King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, was born  (d. 1934).

1893  Antonín Dvořák‘s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, “From The New World” was given its world première at Carnegie Hall.

1899  Sir Noel Coward, English playwright, actor and composer, was born  (d. 1973).

1905  Piet Hein, Danish mathematician and inventor was born (d. 1996).

1905 A great rugby rivalry was born when a last-minute try to All Black Bob Deans was disallowed, handing the Welsh victory.

All Black's 'non-try' hands Wales historic win

1907 The Great White Fleet (US Naval Battle fleet) began its circumnavigation of the world.

1915  – Turk Murphy, American trombonist, was born (d. 1987).

1917  Sir Arthur C. Clarke, English writer, was born (d. 2008).

1920 The Haiyuan earthquake, magnitude 8.5, in  Gansu province killed an estimated 200,000.

1938  Adolf Hitler instituted the Cross of Honor of the German Mother.

1943 Tony Hicks, English guitarist (The Hollies), was born.

1944 The Battle of the Bulge began with the surprise offensive of three German armies through the Ardennes forest.

1946 Benny Andersson, Swedish musician, singer and songwriter (ABBA), was born.

1947 Ben Cross, English actor, was born.

1947  William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain built the first practical point-contact transistor.

1949 Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, later knons as SAAB, was founded in Sweden.

1952 Joel Garner, Barbadian West Indies cricketer, was born.

1955 – Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este, was born.

1960  1960 New York air disaster: While approaching New York’s Idlewild Airport, a United Airlines Douglas DC-8 collided with a TWA Lockheed Super Constellation in a blinding snowstorm over Staten Island, killing 134.

1971 Bangladesh War of Independence and Indo-Pakistani War of 1971: The surrender of the Pakistan army brings an end to both conflicts.

1971 – Independence Day of the State of Bahrain from British Protectorate Status.

1972  Angela Bloomfield, New Zealand actress, was born.

1991 Independence of The Republic of Kazakhstan.

1997  Dennō Senshi Porygonan episode of Pokémon, was aired in Japan, inducing seizures in hundreds of Japanese children.

2003  President George W. Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 into law. The law established the United States’ first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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