Word fo the day

July 5, 2012

Gloze – to minimise, underplay or explain away; use flattery; shine brightly; a comment; pretence.


Enrolment stats

July 5, 2012

Political tragics might be interested in the Electoral Commission’s enrolment statistics.

They compare the estimated population of eligible voters with those enrolled for the whole of the country with a breakdown by age:

Links below the graph take you to figures for individual electorates.

These figures are estimated for people 18 and older, not total population which is used for determining electorate boundaries.

Electorate size is calculated by dividing the total South Island population by 16. That number determines the number of people in each electorate with a 5% tolerance over or under that figure. The North Island is then divided into areas with a similar number of people, plus or minus 5%.

Last time boundaries were changed – in 2007 – the population of South Island electorates was 57,562 plus or minus 2,878 and in the North Island 57,243 plus or minus 2,862.

Boundaries are usually calculated every five years, after a census. Last year’s census was postponed because of Christchurch’s February earthquake, it will take place next March. The Boundaries Commission will then do its work.

Political parties will have to hold special general meetings in any new electorates or existing ones which undergo major boundary changes. There will be a degree of urgency about that so they can select candidates in plenty of time for the 2014 election.


Should RMA consider management of natural hazards?

July 5, 2012

An independent report, commissioned after the Canterbury earthquakes,  recommends changes to the Resource management Act to take account of natural hazards and urban infrastructure development.

The risk of liquefaction wasn’t taken into account in granting consent for subdivisions because the RMA doesn’t require natural hazards to be considered.

Its priorities are preserving natural character, landscape, flora and fauna, public access, cultural values and heritage.

The report proposes changes to that, about which Environment Minister Amy Adams says:

The report proposes that changes be made to the principles in sections 6 and 7 of the RMA to bring managing natural hazards and urban and infrastructure into the list of things that should be considered when Councils grant resource consents.

It also says that none of these matters should be more important than another, and proposes changes to the structure of the RMA to make this clearer.

Most lay people hadn’t heard of liquefaction and wouldn’t have been particularly concerned about it before the earthquakes. But now we’ve seen its impacts it is not hard to make a case for including the risk of natural hazards in the RMA.

“A key consideration for the Government in thinking about any changes to the resource management system is to achieve enduring outcomes while reducing the time, costs and uncertainties involved in the process.”

The RMA isn’t working as well as it should and could. All these factors must be considered in improvements to it.


Thursday’s quiz

July 5, 2012

I’ve enjoyed your questions but the number of them has been declining. I take that as a signal I should give you a break:

1. Who said: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” ?

2. Who wrote Cold Comfort Farm?

3. It’s  hiver in French, inverno in Italian, invierno in Spanish and takura in Maori.

4. Where was New Zealand’s coldest temperature recorded? There’s a bonus point if you can say what it was.

5. What’s best for keeping a house warm in winter – electricity, gas or fire?


Case for MOM

July 5, 2012

Joanne Black has a good case for the Mixed ownership Model for state assets (on-line here next week):

. . .  I need think only of Solid Energy’s plans to build a lignite-to-briquette plant to remind myself why ownership of these companies is better left to people who can afford to risk (that is, possibly lose) their money, than to have such investments funded by taxpayers.

I imagine most of us could think of several hundred things on which the government could more urgently and usefully spend our taxes than on finding out whether converting lignite to briquettes actually works. It might not.

that is not a reason for Solid energy to not pursue the project, but it is quite a good reason why someone other than taxpayers alone should pay for it.

Opponents of the MOM have focussed on the income that will be lost when a minority of shares are sold.

They conveniently overlook the costs, and the risks, that will be reduced when they’re shared by other investors.


MAF shortcomings, MPI responds

July 5, 2012

The independent report into the Psa incursion which has had such a devastating affect on kiwifruit orchards has  found shortcomings in systems and processes of what was then the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

It is up to what is now the Ministry of Primary Industry to respond swiftly and Director-General Wayne McNee has:

“The review has found shortcomings in the way MPI’s (then MAF) systems and processes were applied to the importation of kiwifruit, kiwifruit pollen, kiwifruit nursery stock, kiwifruit seeds and horticultural equipment, prior to the Psa outbreak.

“While the review also says that it does not automatically follow that these shortcomings contributed to the entry of Psa-V into New Zealand, improvements are needed, and MPI is moving immediately to implement those improvements,” Mr McNee said.

“The Ministry will implement all six recommendations from the review and will report to the Minister for Primary Industries in three months time on progress.”

Mr McNee said the review had found that although the biosecurity risks associated with the importing of goods could never be entirely mitigated, protections could be improved by MPI, industry and Crown Research Institutes working more closely to understand emerging risks.

Federated Farmers calls the report a robust but positive wake-up call.

Federated Farmers is convinced the independent and robust Sapere Research Group review into the entry of Psa will lead to significant improvements at the border.

“The old MAF was so confident in its import health standard for pollen, it said there was no peer-reviewed scientific evidence pollen was a pathway for bacteria,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President and spokesperson on biosecurity

“That contrasts strongly with the independent Sapere Research Group review of how Psa entered New Zealand. This review provides policy makers with a model for independently conducted post-border incursion investigations.

“The Sapere review cuts to the chase.  We can give credit to the new Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for opening itself up to soul searching analysis.  That said, it comes against a $410 million backdrop; the projected cost of this biosecurity failure.

“Even in tough economic times, Federated Farmers believes there should be more resources for biosecurity than just reprioritising current ones.

“We need biosecurity to be robust because it is our first and last line of environmental and economic defence.  Any homeowner knows scrimping on insurance is a false economy when you need to claim against it.  Incursions like Psa not only cost export revenue but jobs too.

“Biosecurity is a tangible feature driving our overall reputation as an exporter and as a destination.  Tourism is a risk vector, but benefits from high levels of biosecurity being maintained. We suggest passenger and cargo levies could be used to build a response fund.

“While the report doesn’t mention it, we also need robust systems to identify emerging disease threats and developments.

“Government Industry Agreements are an opportunity for the MPI to integrate information and improve communication with industry.  Yet the primary industries shouldn’t just leave biosecurity to government as ‘its job’.  We are pleased this report confirms recent moves by the MPI to give farmers a greater say on border protection.

“One practical example of what Federated Farmers wants to see reinstated is the Animal and Plant Biosecurity Consultative Committees.  Disbanded under the old MAF, they provided a valuable exchange of information between industry and the Ministry.

“We believe the MPI now has a golden opportunity to integrate them within Government Industry Agreement frameworks,” Dr Rolleston concluded.

The Psa, incursion has been to the kiwifruit industry what foot and mouth disease could be for livestock farming.

Whole orchards have been infected, businesses – and retirement plans – destroyed and millions of dollars lost from the local and national economy.

The response to the incursion was swift but that is no comfort for those whose vines were infected.

It might not have been shortcomings in MAF procedures which allowed the importation of the infection but MPI isn’t making excuses and is implementing all six recommendations in the report.

Every traveller and import could potentially carry something that poses a risk to our plants and livestock. It is impossible to have 100% protection against that but the adoption by MPI  of the recommendations should ensure an improvement in bio-security at our borders.

MPI’s response and action plan is here.


No free ride for farming

July 5, 2012

Federated Farmers has put the record straight about the”free ride”   which the opposition think farming is getting through delaying the admission of agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme and the way it is being reported:

Some media are reporting the latest revision to the ETS as ‘the Government excluding farmers from the Emissions Trading Scheme until 2015’.  This is factually incorrect.  

It is vital for accuracy to refer to the 2015 delay as applying to biological emissions only (methane and Nitrous Oxide from livestock and soils).

All New Zealand farms and orchards have been in the ETS since 1 July 2010.

We wish to counter a belief among some media that farmers do not pay the ETS on farm inputs or that farmers somehow receive a rebate.  Both these assumptions are incorrect.

Like all New Zealand businesses, farms pay the ETS on fuel and electricity they directly consume.  They also pay it indirectly through the supply chain on things as diverse as processing costs, animal remedies, wire netting, fencing, feed and fertiliser. Indirectly, it also affects the cost of professional services farmers consume too. 

There are few exemptions to the ETS and apply mostly to international air travel and international bunker fuels to and from New Zealand.

The cost of the ETS on dairy, horticulture, sheep, beef and deer: The cost impact of the ETS on dairy, horticulture, sheep, beef and deer farmers is conservatively estimated to be a minimum of $106 million per annum:  Fonterra Cooperative Group estimates its individual dairy farmer suppliers directly pay $3,700 a year in carbon costs for fuel, energy and their share of the carbon costs being paid by Fonterra for processing emissions (approximately $38.8 million per annum).   Beef+Lamb NZ, Meat Industry Association & Deer Industry New Zealand calculated the individual cost on sheep, beef and deer farms of the ETS, to be $2,000 per annum (approximately $27.8 million per annum)  HortNZ, in its 2011 submission, highlighted smaller greenhouse glass operators facing additional ETS related costs of $30,000 per annum.  In 2008, it estimatedthe ETS would add industry costs in excess of $40 million.

These compare to typical households paying additional ETS related costs of around $133 per annum.  It should be noted that many farms and orchards are households too.

Farmers are paying for research which is likely to lead to practical ways to reduce biological emissions.

But in the meantime there is no point imposing extra costs on food production with absolutely no benefit for the environment.


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