Word of the day


Alembic -anything that transforms, purifies, distils or refines; apparatus consisting of two vessels connected by a tube, formerly used for distilling liquids; a device that purifies or alters by a process comparable to distillation

Rural round-up


Munro puts lid on thankless task to disestablish Wool Board – Jonathan Underhill:

May 29 (BusinessDesk) – Wool Board Disestablishment Co has made its final report, having met its 2003 target for distributions in a decade-long process that left chairman Bruce Munro vowing never again to be involved in such a thankless, poorly paid task.

The directors of DisCo will resign and unrestricted access to the shell will be transferred to NZAX-listed Wool Equities, the company established to preserve and use some $300 million of tax losses for the benefit of growers. . .

Annual challenge for South Island Farmers ‘Good for Business’

Farmers who have won the annual Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year Award say winning the competition is good for business.

The prestigious annual award is open for entries for 2012 and previous winners say that entering brings more than prestige and prize money – it makes a difference for their farm’s bottom line too.

The aim of the Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year competition is to reward farmers whose work showcases the best of what can be achieved in farming. It is more than being a ‘good farmer’, it means operating in a way that shows leadership, innovation, efficiency and sustainability. . .

Fertiliser Quality Council Pleased With Podcast Response :

The Fertiliser Quality Council (FQC) is really pleased with the response to the webcast launching the program New Zealand Needs Fertiliser and Plants Need Food. It is a short, sharp educational program aimed at correcting the myths over fertiliser use.

FQC chair Neil Barton said that the immediate response of 361 full views, plus a few on Facebook, was great news for the fertiliser industry. In addition the vast majority watched the program right through.

“For too long we have had the self-styled environmental disciples perpetuating myths about fertiliser and its use,” Neil Barton said. “We now have a science-based program refuting that. The fact that almost 400 New Zealanders decided to watch the launch of the program, including a motivational address by Prof Rowarth from the University of Waikato Business School, is most heartening. . .

New board member elected to NZYF Board at Conference Week

Young Farmers from all over New Zealand spent a week in Dunedin last week for the TBfree New Zealand Young Farmers National Conference. Conference delegates went on a bus trip, took part in workshops, supported their favourite Contestant in The National Bank Young Farmer Contest and the also attended the 2012 Annual General Meeting.

 The AGM was held at Dunedin’s College of Education and two board members were elected – both roles were for two year terms. Twenty five year old Dunsandel dairy farmer Cole Groves was re-elected after sitting on the board for the past year. Twenty eight year old dairy farmer Cam Lewis from the Opiki Club was also elected. Previously Mr Lewis has worked as a rural banker and completed the Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme in 2009 as the youngest participant ever.

Mr Lewis will join Mr Groves and the two other elected members on the board: 31 year old Chairman and potato grower Paul Olsen who is from the Opiki Club and 30 year old sheep and beef farmer, Vice-chairperson Vanessa Hore from the Upper Manuherikia Club. Several other board members make up the NZYF board: Contest Chairman Bevan Proffit, Co-opted Board Member Sarah von Dadleszen, Strategic Partner James Christie, Strategic Partner Barbara Kuriger and NZYF CEO Richard Fitzgerald. . .

Fund makes outdoor access easier

Twenty-two projects designed to improve access to the outdoors will receive funding through the New Zealand Walking Access Commission’s Enhanced Access Fund.

Fifty organisations applied for a portion of the $230,000 made available in this year’s funding round. The contestable fund contributes to the Commission’s goal of free, certain, enduring and practical walking access to the outdoors.

Commission Chief Executive Mark Neeson said 2012 grant recipients came from all over New Zealand, from the Brynderwyn Ranges in Northland to Mataura in Southland. Projects that will receive funding range from new tracks and boardwalks to bridges and signage that makes existing access easier to find. . .

Direct drill inventor up for World Food Prize


The sight of one of our neighbour’s paddocks blowing past our kitchen window in a nor wester is one of my enduring memories of the droughts which punctuated the 1980s in North Otago.

Thankfully it is something I’ve never seen since and one of the reasons for that is that soon after  that happened direct drilling was introduced.

This low tillage method of cultivation doesn’t leave the soil exposed to wind and weather as conventional ploughing does and it is now the preferred practice in our district.

The drill revolutionised farming and its inventor has been nominated for the US$250,000 (NZ$327,000) World Food Prize.

Dr John Baker perfected the cross-slot seed drill over 30 years as a scientist at Massey University and then spent 10 years fighting to win ownership of it from companies the university sold it to.

He regained control of the drill in 1998, after $10 million had been spent on developing it, and set up a factory in Feilding to build them.

Cross-slot tillage is described as the keyhole surgery of farming. The drill creates two side-by-side pockets as it passes through the soil, depositing seed in one and fertiliser in the other.

Unlike ploughing, it does not disturb the surface of the soil and preserves soil micro-organisms and carbon. . .

 . . . Nomination follows Baker reaching the finals of the World Technology Awards in 2010. Baker said the food prize nomination stemmed from his lift in profile at the technology awards.

“It awakened a lot of people to the fact 90 per cent of the world’s food is annual crops. They all start off as seed and if you don’t sow those seeds correctly, they won’t grow and we all starve.

The drill, sold widely in New Zealand at prices ranging from $200,000 to $600,000, is also being exported to 17 countries . . .  

The inventor of the drill which protects soils and as a result increases yields is a worthy nominee for this prestigious prize.

“Failed” policies didn’t fail


The left love to blame economic, social and political ills on the “failed” policies of the 80s and 90s,.

But did the policies fail?

John Shewan, retiring PWC chair, found scant evidence  of that:

It is commonly asserted that the economic policies adopted in the 1980s and early 1990s failed. Little or no evidence is usually offered in support of that claim. I have a vivid memory of ‘old New Zealand’ and I find it an astonishing view.

The evidence that the reforms of that era were successful is persuasive.

New Zealand’s economic performance improved significantly following the reforms.

In the 16 years from 1991/1992, New Zealand enjoyed one of its longest uninterrupted economic expansions since World War II. Real GDP grew by over 70 percent at an average rate of 3.5 per cent a year. Real GDP per capita grew by an average of over 2 per cent a year.

Productivity grew more strongly in the ten years from 1991 than in either the decade Budget 2012 to 1991 or after 2001. Unemployment fell to levels not experienced in the 1980s.

Inflation, a perennial problem before the reforms, has been low and stable.

The Government’s Budget surplus and debt positions were in much better shape following the reforms than they had been before them.

While it took some time for the benefits of the reforms to become apparent, it is unrealistic to have expected the economy to move rapidly into high gear from its parlous state in 1984. There were longstanding and deep-seated problems to be addressed. There were longstanding and deep-seated problems to be addressed. Inflation had to be quelled. The Government’s budget position needed to be put on a sound footing. Resources had to shift from inefficient industries to more productive activities. All this takes time and can have a depressing effect on economic activity in the near term.  . .  

He admits the reform process wasn’t “text-book perfect”, as public policy rarely is given the tradeoffs and political considerations which take place in a democracy. But he concludes:

 Another argument might be that the recent economic difficulties show that the reforms failed. On the contrary, I think they show what happens when old habits re-emerge. The quality of economic policy making has fallen. The reform effort slowed to no more than a crawl after about 1993. The focus on growth was replaced by an emphasis on social policies following the 1999 election. A too lax approach was taken to Government spending, particularly from 2005, which pushed up the exchange rate. The competitiveness of the export and import competing sectors was eroded, productivity growth slowed and economic growth suffered as a consequence. Developments such as these rather than the post-1984 reforms account for the current situation.

Contrary to the delusions of the left, the “failed”policies didn’t fail. IF there has been any failure it is of the resolve to keep up the momentum of reform.

The quotes  above are from a column in which Shewan also lists key lessons learned from Budgets over the last three and a half decades.

They are:

Incentives matter
Whether at work or play, the average Kiwi behaves in an entirely logical way. As Sir Robert Muldoon discovered, when Governments introduce poorly designed incentives and subsidies, bad behaviour and high waste are inevitable.

• Focus on the big picture
The key things that matter most for economic performance are a stable and predictable macroeconomic environment, openness to trade and investment, effective labour and capital markets, relatively low taxes and regulatory burdens, and sound public finances. Policies designed to offset weaknesses in the basic framework, like export incentives and investment allowances, or a focus on one or two sectors are no substitute.

• Don’t stop reforming
Policy needs to be adjusted to reflect changing circumstances. Radical reform programmes, such as those of the Douglas era, can be avoided if regular policy housekeeping is undertaken. We are not good at this.

• Don’t take our eyes off the ball
A seemingly sound fiscal position can dissipate quickly as the past decade has shown. Maintaining competitiveness is crucial. Once lost, it’s a long way back.

• The best time to tackle structural reforms is when the economy is strong
History shows that in New Zealand it takes a financial crisis to trigger major structural reforms. That’s unfortunate.

• Politicians need to resist the temptation simply to be seen to do something about a problem rather than doing the right thing
As Economist Walter Williams recently wrote in relation to the US, “The track record of doing nothing is pretty good compared with doing something.”

• Consultation improves policy
Proposals announced in the Budget and passed into law that night often result in bad legislation. Fortunately, there is much less of that now than in the 1970s. Consultative processes such as the generic tax policy process have improved policy making.

• Competitiveness of the export and import sectors is more important than inadequate savings in examining our balance of payments problem.

• There is huge pressure on all governments to placate interest groups, to respond to focus groups and media campaigns

The standard of economic debate is often superficial. It is difficult for governments to withstand the tide. The private sector needs to play its part in engaging in debate and contributing to policy.

• Be sceptical of demands for a paradigm shift from government
These typically amount to requests for large government handouts to fund risky experiments where losses are socialised but profits revert to the promoters.

• The reforms (structural labour market reform, subsidy reduction and the significant opening up of the economy) of the 1980s and early 1990s imposed a lot of pain that Europe and some other parts of the OECD are going through right now. The pressures other countries are experiencing provide the opportunity for New Zealand to improve its relative ranking. In this year’s Budget lock-up Finance Minister Bill English noted that New Zealand’s growth outlook over the next four years exceeds that of most of the developed world.

Rather than failing, those policies of the 80s and 90s have made the country stronger and should get some of the credit for New Zealand’s relatively strong position in the face of global economic woes.

We aren’t doing as well as we need to, but we’re doing a lot better than we would have had it not been for those “failed” policies.

Hat tip: interest.co.nz

June 2 in history


455  The Vandals entered Rome, and plundered the city for two weeks.

1098  First Crusade: The first Siege of Antioch ended as Crusader forces took the city.

1615  First Récollet missionaries arrived at Quebec City.

1692  Bridget Bishop was the first person to go to trial in the Salem witch trials.

1740 Marquis de Sade, French author, was born (d. 1814).

1763  Pontiac’s Rebellion: Chippewas captured Fort Michilimackinac by diverting the garrison’s attention with a game of lacrosse, then chasing a ball into the fort.

1774 William Lawson, explorer of New South Wales, was born (d. 1850).

1774  The Quartering Act was enacted, allowing a governor in colonial America to house British soldiers in uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings if suitable quarters are not provided.

1780 The Derby horse race was held for the first time.

1793  Jean-Paul Marat recited the names of 29 people to the French National Convention, almost all of whom were guillotined.

1835  P. T. Barnum and his circus started their first tour of the United States.

1840 Thomas Hardy, English writer, was born  (d. 1928).

1848  The Slavic congress in Prague began.

1855 The Portland Rum Riot took place.

1857 Edward Elgar, English composer, was born  (d. 1934).

1876  Hristo Botev, a national revolutionary of Bulgaria, was killed in Stara Planina.

1886  U.S. President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in the White House, becoming the only president to wed in the executive mansion.

1896  Guglielmo Marconi applied for a patent for his newest invention: the radio.

1907 Dorothy West, American writer, was born  (d. 1998).

1909 Alfred Deakin became Prime Minister of Australia for the third time.

1913 Barbara Pym, English novelist, was born  (d. 1980).

1917 The Wairuna, a steamer en route from Auckland to San Francisco, was captured by the German raider Wolf and then sunk near the Kermadec Islands.

NZ steamer captured by the Wolf

1918  Kathryn Tucker Windham, American writer and storyteller, was born.

1924 U.S. President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act into law, granting citizenship to all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States.

1935 Carol Shields, American-born novelist, was born (d. 2003).

1940  King Constantine II of Greece, was born.

1941 Charlie Watts, English musician (The Rolling Stones), was born.

1941 William Guest, American singer (Gladys Knight & the Pips), was born.

1941  World War II: German paratoopers murdered Greek civilians in the village of Kondomari.

1946  In a referendum, Italians voted to turn Italy from a monarchy into a Republic.

1953 Keith Allen, Welsh comedian, actor, singer and writer, was born.

1953  The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the first major international event to be televised.

1955  The USSR and Yugoslavia signed the Belgrade declaration and thus normalize relations between both countries, discontinued since 1948.

1960 Tony Hadley, English singer (Spandau Ballet), was born.

1965 – Mark Waugh, Australian cricketer, was born.

1965 – Steve Waugh, Australian cricketer, was born.

1966 Surveyor 1 landed in Oceanus Procellarum on the Moon, becoming the first U.S. spacecraft to soft land on another world.

1967 Luis Monge was executed in Colorado’s gas chamber, in the last pre-Furman execution in the United States.

1967  Protests in West Berlin against the arrival of the Shah of Iran turn into riots, during which Benno Ohnesorg is killed by a police officer. His death results in the founding of the terrorist group Movement 2 June.

1979  Pope John Paul II visited his native Poland, becoming the first Pope to visit a Communist country.

1984 Operation Bluestar, a military offensive, was launched by the Indian government at Harmandir Sahib, also known as Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for the Sikhs, in Amritsar.

1988 Sergio Agüero, Argentinian footballer, was born.

1990 The Lower Ohio Valley tornado outbreak spawned 66 confirmed tornadoes in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, killing 12.

1992  In a national referendum Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty by a thin margin.

1995  United States Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady‘s F-16 wass shot down over Bosnia while patrolling the NATO no-fly zone.

1997   Timothy McVeigh was convicted on 15 counts of murder and conspiracy for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

1999 The Bhutan Broadcasting Service brought television transmissions to the Kingdom for the first time.

2003 The European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe launched from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan.

2004  Ken Jennings began his 74-game winning streak on the syndicated game show Jeopardy!

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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