Otago one of world’s beautiful universities

04/09/2012

The Telegraph has photos of 16 of the world’s most beautiful universities.

There among the venerable institutions of Oxford, Havard, Cape Town, Moscow State, Bologna, Toronto, Cambridge, Salamanca, Mumbai, Sydney, University of London’s Royal Holloway, Princeton, Xiamen, Queens Belfast and Yale is Otago.

The photo is of the registry building and clock tower at the emotional, if not geographical, centre of the campus.

Otago, though much younger, is the closest we have to a university city like Oxford which we visited in June.

My cousin’s daughter, who is studying there, took us to Balliol College for lunch then gave us a tour of places which were familiar through literature and films but so much more impressive in reality.

The buildings are beautiful and having a guide with local knowledge gave us a real appreciation of the history and traditions of the university.


Word of the day

04/09/2012

Stochastic – involving chance;  probabilistic; randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted; involving or containing a random variable or variables; of, relating to, or characterised by conjecture; conjectural.


93,000 hectares sold to Chinese-Japanese consortium

04/09/2012

An 80% share in a 93,000 property has been sold to a Chinese-Japanese consortium.

But New Zealand opponents of foreign investment will have to find another fire to fight, this one isn’t one of ours, it’s Cubbie Station in Australia.

The decision by the government to approve the sale isn’t universally welcome but not for very good reasons:

. . . Like any Western company, Shandong Ruyi is investing in the production of the material required for its factories, which means the cotton to be grown at Cubbie Station will be sold to mills in China, as happens now. As for the water held in dams on the station, it will remain in Australia.

One of the more vocal critics of the Cubbie sale, Barnaby Joyce, has called for the 93,000 hectare area to be subdivided and sold as conventional farms, on the basis Australian farmers should be allowed to own the area.

In making this stand, he is in conflict with members of his party, notably Nationals MP Bruce Scott, who believes the FIRB should be left to administer the test of whether the sale is in the national interest. Senator Joyce is also in conflict with Coalition policies: a policy paper released in early August recommends only that the threshold for the FIRB to consider a sale should be lowered from $244 million to $15 million for farms and agribusinesses.

In addition, former prime minister John Howard has commented in a public forum that there is no reason to get “over- excited” about Chinese investment, as any companies investing here have to comply with Australian law.

Australia’s economic future is to produce food, fibre and minerals, notably for an ever more prosperous Asia, and to increase production and national income we will need foreign investment. We should not discourage that investment, ­particularly through eccentric populist policies.

That applies just as much on this side of the Tasman.

Foreign investment brings benefits and as long as would-be buyers pass the very stringent test required by the Overseas Investment Office and face the same laws and regulations as everybody else who farms here we have little to fear and lots to gain.


Rural round-up

04/09/2012

So, tell me why we shouldn’t be global custodians of responsible pastoralism? – Pasture Harmonies:

The purpose of this blog discussion is to debate whether New Zealand Inc should become global custodians of responsible pastoralism.

It is test the hypothesis that we have a golden opportunity to profitably unite around a common story and the reality embodied in our pastoral method.

To own the story I contend, first we must name it.

Instead however of debating what the name should be, a brand/name is proffered, and as shorthand for our entire story, an argument will be presented as to why we should go down this path. Hence, pasture Harmonies – a descriptor, a promise. . .

Ways with water: agriculture vs the environment – Damian Christie:

As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “water is the driving force of all nature”. And it’s coming in for plenty of discussion in New Zealand at present. So are agricultural growth and environmental protection mutually exclusive? Or can a balance be struck? Damian Christie takes a dip.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of New Zealand’s waterways, not just in material terms, but for their place in our national identity. As a young fella I grew up hunting for tadpoles in the streams out back of our place in Waiouru. On holidays at grandma’s bach in Central Otago my dad taught me to fish for trout in the nearby lakes. And as a teenager in Upper Hutt the river was a constant backdrop to long days spent swimming, rafting, and in later years, summer evenings spent partying around bonfires with friends. . .

On the frontline with our pest busters – Dwight Whitney:

Just as agricultural products evolve, so too do the gremlins, varmints, pest and diseases that are destined to take a bite out of production and wallets. But standing between them and your livelihood are some pretty savvy souls, writes Dwight Whitney.

Any budding Hollywood director wanting inspiration for the ultimate horror movie need go no further than New Zealand’s Biosecurity website for subject matter and inspiration. 

Like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, plants, animals, insects, birds, fish, parasites and diseases are coming to a farm near you.  Consider just a few of some recent ‘visitors’—the likes of Devil’s fig, painted apple moth, eastern banjo frog, fire ant, lesser banded hornet, southern salt marsh mosquito, gum leaf skeletoniser, marron and gudgeon—that have decided there’s no place like New Zealand to call home. . .

Keeper has a honey of a job – Sally Rae:

Central Otago beekeeper Colin Wood reckons he has the best job in the world.   

 A qualified builder, Mr Wood has no regrets about entering  the honey industry when he gave a beekeeping friend a hand.   

 It was during the recession in the 1980s, the building   industry was “not good” and switching to beekeeping was not a      hard decision to make. . .

Training dogs all about the three Ps – Sally Rae:

When it comes to training sheep dogs, Lloyd Smith reckons    it’s all about the three Ps – purpose, precision and positive.   

The Palmerston dog triallist and trainer has been passing on his knowledge and training methods at training days      throughout the country.   

In 2005, Mr Smith published a book, Pup Pen to Paddock, described as a no-nonsense guide to rearing and training      better sheep dogs. . .

System prevents consent breach – Shawn McAvinue:

Some farmers are already using fail-safe equipment on their farms in the south. 

    Bayswater Dairy lower order sharemilker Edwin Mabonga said a spring-fed creek ran through the 260-hectare milking platform where he milked 800 cows in Western Southland. 

    Environment Southland consent for the farm allowed him to irrigate 10mm of effluent a day to a depth of 25mm, 50 metres away from waterways. . .

Injection to stop methane emissions – Gerald Piddock:

Livestock farmers may one day be able to stop biological emissions by injecting their animals with a methane inhibitor. 

    The injection is one of several areas of research scientists at the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in Palmerston North are investigating as they look at ways for farmers to halt their animals livestock emissions. 

    The research is aimed at developing mitigation technologies for methane emissions that were applicable for farmers without losing profitability or productivity, AgResearch scientist Dr Peter Janssen said. . .


Two years on

04/09/2012

It’s the second anniversary of Canterbury’s first big earthquake.

Update – the graphic was “borrowed” from a  friend on Facebook.


New chair, board members for ACC

04/09/2012

ACC Minister Judith Collins has announced the appointment of a new chair and board members for ACC:

“My appointments today underline the Government’s commitment to genuine culture change, and will lead to a more balanced and comprehensive approach to the governance and operation of ACC.

“I am pleased to announce the interim Chair Paula Rebstock has been appointed to the position of Chair. Paula has served the Board well in an acting capacity throughout a challenging time for the corporation. She has demonstrated a commitment to culture change at ACC and will bring important continuity to the role on top of her broad experience in corporate governance and regulation,” Ms Collins says.

The new Board members are Deputy Chair Trevor Janes, Professor Des Gorman and Kristy McDonald QC – all appointed for three year terms. A fourth new Board member has been identified, to commence in early 2013, bringing the Board up to its full membership of eight. The appointment will be announced later this year, giving the person time to fulfil prior business commitments. The new appointees join existing Board members Jill Spooner, John Meehan and Jane Huria.

“The Government’s priorities for ACC also include maintaining a focus on levy stability and financial sustainability, providing high quality services for claimants and clients, and ensuring the early resolution of disputes.

“Building on the strength of the existing Board members, the wide-ranging skills and experience of these appointees reflect our priorities. We now have a strong Board to lead ACC as it embarks on a new era of service for all New Zealanders,” Ms Collins says.

The old board turned around a dire financial position but solving other problems which have dogged the corporation require a culture change which is best achieved with some new people at governance level.


More equal not always better

04/09/2012

Growing inequality has become another cause of the left, but being more equal doesn’t necessarily make anything better.

Theodore Dalrymple illustrates this in a column on Britain’s National Health System:

. . . equality in health is not necessarily desirable in itself. Suppose that the infant-mortality rate in the highest social class is three per 1,000 live births, while that in the lowest is six per 1,000 (approximately the case in Britain today). Then suppose that we could reduce the rate by one death per 1,000 births in each social class, yielding two per 1,000 in the highest class and five per 1,000 in the lowest. A cause for rejoicing, certainly—but not from the point of view of equality, for the ratio of deaths in the lowest class to deaths in the highest class would widen from 6:3 to 5:2—that is, from 2.0 to 2.5. Surely, however, only a latter-day Lenin would reject such an improvement because it increased inequality. Similarly, an increase in the infant-mortality rate of the highest social class, to six per 1,000, would represent an advance to complete equality; but again, no one but a Lenin would wish it. . . .

The easiest way to improve inequality is to drag the top down but that would make things worse for those people without doing anything at all to improve matters for those at the bottom.

A wide gap between rich and poor might increase envy from those at the bottom but the real problem isn’t how much those at the top have.  It’s that those at the bottom don’t have enough, although how much is enough is open to debate.

Helping those in greatest need get enough ought to be the goal even though that might not close the gap between them and those who are better off.


Partial float delayed, not ditched

04/09/2012

Opponents to the partial sale of a few state assets are delighted the partial float of Mighty River Power has been delayed.

But delay means just that. It doesn’t mean the share sale or the policy have been ditched.

The Government will proceed with an initial public offering of up to  49 per cent of Mighty River Power in the period of March to June  2013,  Prime Minister John Key says.

That would be followed in the latter part of the year by an IPO of up to 49 per cent in either Meridian or Genesis.

“The Government’s preference would have been for a share offer for Mighty River Power this year.

“However, after careful consideration ministers have decided to undertake a short period of consultation with iwi on the ‘shares plus’ concept raised in  the Waitangi Tribunal’s interim report.

Consultation shouldn’t be taken to be capitulation.

In essence, ‘shares plus’ refers to the idea that certain Maori interests would be  given particular rights and powers in relation to the company, above and beyond the rights of other shareholders.

Mr Key says that after  careful consideration and discussion, the Government’s current view is  that this idea should not be progressed. There are five main reasons for this view:

  • It is not in the national interest for any group  within Mighty River Power’s potential 49 per cent minority shareholding  to be given such rights.
  • Almost every form of redress to Maori that could be covered by ‘shares plus’ can be achieved in other ways.
  • The remaining elements of ‘shares plus’ in relation to decision rights over management or strategic decisions would not be able to work in  practice. To take one example, if some Maori shareholders had the  ability to make decisions on strategic issues, under well-established  law, those shareholders must act in the interests of the whole company  and not simply as a representative of Maori.
  • If the ‘shares plus’ concept existed it was likely to make the company less  attractive to investors, which could be reflected in a lower sale price  and therefore be to the detriment of taxpayers.
  • Following consultation with iwi earlier this year, a careful and deliberate  decision was made to ensure that the Crown’s obligations under the  Treaty continue to rest with the Crown, not with the companies.

This is an area where commercial law rather than politics must prevail.

That means all shareholders must be equal and none can be more equal than others.


September 4 in history

04/09/2012

476 Romulus Augustus, last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed when Odoacer proclaimed himself King of Italy.

626  Li Shimin, posthumously known as Emperor Taizong of Tang, assumed the throne of the Tang Dynasty of China.

1666 In London, the worst damage from the Great Fire occurred.

1781 Los Angeles, California, was founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of Porziuncola) by 44 Spanish settlers.

1812  War of 1812: The Siege of Fort Harrison began when the fort was set on fire.

1862  Civil War Maryland Campaign: General Robert E. Lee took the Army of Northern Virginia, and the war, into the North.

1863 Soon after leaving Nelson for Napier, the newly built brig Delaware was wrecked. Accounts of the incident often focus on the heroism of Huria Matenga, the only woman in a party of five local Maori who assisted the crew to shore.

1870  Emperor Napoleon III of France was deposed and the Third Republic  declared.

1884  The United Kingdom ended its policy of penal transportation to Australia.

1886  Indian Wars: after almost 30 years of fighting, Apache leader Geronimo, with his remaining warriors, surrendered to General Nelson Miles.

1888  George Eastman registered the trademark Kodak and received a patent for his camera that used roll film.

1894  In New York City, 12,000 tailors struck against sweatshop working conditions.

1901 William Lyons, British industrialist (Jaguar cars), was born (d. 1985).

1917 Henry Ford II, American industrialist, was born (d. 1987).

1919 – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk gathered a congress in Sivas to make decisions as to the future of Anatolia and Thrace.

1923 – Maiden flight of the first U.S. airship, the USS Shenandoah.

1937 Dawn Fraser, Australian swimmer, was born.

1941  World War II: a German submarine mades the first attack against a United States ship, the USS Greer.

1944  World War II: the British 11th Armoured Division liberated the Belgian city of Antwerp.

1948  Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands abdicated for health reasons.

1949  Maiden flight of the Bristol Brabazon.

1949  The Peekskill Riots erupted after a Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill, New York.

1950  First appearance of the “Beetle Bailey” comic strip.

1950  Darlington Raceway was the site of the inaugural Southern 500, the first 500-mile NASCAR race.

1951 Martin Chambers, English drummer (The Pretenders), was born.

1951  The first live transcontinental television broadcast took place in San Francisco, California, from the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference.

1956  The IBM RAMAC 305 was introduced, the first commercial computer to use magnetic disk storage.

1957  American Civil Rights Movement: Little Rock Crisis – Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas, called out the National Guard to prevent African American students from enrolling in Central High School.

1957  The Ford Motor Company introduced the Edsel.

1963  Swissair Flight 306 crashed near Dürrenäsch, Switzerland, killing all 80 people on board.

1964  Scotland’s Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh officially opened.

1967  Vietnam War: Operation Swift began: U.S. Marines engaged the North Vietnamese in battle in the Que Son Valley.

1971  A Boeing 727 Alaska Airlines Flight 1866 crashed near Juneau, Alaska, killing all 111 people on board.

1972 Mark Spitz became the first competitor to win seven medals at a single Olympic Games.

1975  The Sinai Interim Agreement relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict was signed.

1977 The Golden Dragon Massacre in San Francisco, California.

1984  Brian Mulroney led the Canadian Progressive Conservative Party to power in the 1984 federal election, ending 20 years of nearly uninterrupted Liberal rule.

1995 The Fourth World Conference on Women opened in Beijing with morethan  4,750 delegates from 181 countries in attendance.

1996  War on Drugs: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attacked a military base in Guaviare, starting three weeks of guerrilla warfare in which at least 130 Colombians were killed.

1998  Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, students at Stanford University.

2010 – Magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked Canterbury.


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