Word of the day


Operose – Involving or displaying much industry or effort; done with much labour.

12 scams of Christmas


Discussion with Paul Brennan on Critical Mass today focussed on Macafee’s 12 scams of Christmas.

I thought I knew better but a few weeks ago I thought an email was from my brother in Australia it wasn’t and contained a virus which, fortunately my computer picked up and quarantined.

Telecom giving free WiFI


Telecom has installed more than 100 free WiFi ‘hotspot’ access points across popular summer regions throughout New Zealand (including Northland, the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Tasman and Queenstown Lakes.

The free service goes live from 18 December 2012, so whether holidaymakers will be sunning themselves on Piha Beach in Auckland, or taking a stroll by Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, they can rest easy knowing that they’re able to stay connected to friends across the country on their smartphones or laptop devices. . .

During the course of the summer, Telecom and ZM radio will host ‘Telecom WiFi Lounges’ in selected Telecom WiFi hotspots around the country with deck chairs and umbrellas to allow people to relax while they surf the net. Staff will be on hand to show people how to use the service so they can upload and share summer holiday pics with friends and family online.

The company is activating the service through existing Telecom telephone boxes in the selected regions, and in some cases by building WiFi transmission into existing infrastructure such as surf clubs and local shops.  Users will initially be taken through a short online registration process before their device automatically connects to the service each time thereafter.

The company has also partnered with select Surf Life Saving clubs to deliver WiFi via selected surf clubs to beachgoers. And the partnership doesn’t end there.

Telecom workers across the country are pledging their own support for the essential summer Surf Lifesaving services through payroll giving, and by encouraging fundraising through Givealittle, the online giving platform.

More details, including a list of the hotspots, here.

Still on track for surplus


The opposition likes to say the government doesn’t have a plan, but it does and it’s still on track:

The Government’s economic plan to deliver a faster-growing economy, more jobs and a return to surplus remains on track, despite ongoing uncertainty in many parts of the world, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Issuing the Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update today, along with the Government’s Budget Policy Statement, he says Budget 2013 will focus on continuing to implement this plan.

“We’ve set four main priorities for this term. “They include returning to surplus and reducing debt; pushing ahead with a wide-ranging programme of microeconomic reforms to create a more productive and competitive economy; driving better results from public services; and supporting the rebuilding of Christchurch.

“This programme is helping New Zealanders and their families to get ahead, encouraging personal responsibility and rewarding people for hard work and enterprise.”

The Half-Year Update forecasts the Government posting a modest surplus of $66 million in 2014/15 – down from the $197 million surplus forecast in Budget 2012. It also shows net core Crown debt peaking below 30 per cent of GDP.

“Thereafter, surpluses are forecast to increase and debt is forecast to fall,” Mr English says. “Continued control over spending has allowed the Government to remain on track to surplus, despite the impact on revenue of more difficult global conditions.”

The importance of this hasn’t yet got through to the opposition who have fought tooth and nail against every policy to control spending, even though it has been done without reducing services.

Over each of the next five years, economic growth is forecast to average 2.5 per cent, together with increasing numbers of New Zealanders in employment and a falling unemployment rate.

“The global economic environment remains uncertain and this makes it even more important to maintain clear and credible fiscal settings,” Mr English says.

“This is a time for sensible and responsible policy – not for untried economic experiments. “Budget 2013 will confirm the Government’s commitment to responsible long-term fiscal management.

“This will require restraint well beyond the surplus target of 2014/15, so we can pay down debt and build a buffer against the next global shock, while at the same time resuming payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and targeting investment at priority public services.

Opposition parties are much better at spending money than saving or making it – except of course Green co-leader Russel Norman who is very keen to just print some more.

“At the same time as getting its own finances in order, the Government is continuing to address New Zealand’s significant economic challenges, including a sustained rebalancing towards the internationally competitive sectors of the economy.

“A broad range of targeted microeconomic reforms currently underway through the Government’s Business Growth Agenda will help to lift New Zealand’s productivity and competitiveness.”

Looking ahead, the European sovereign debt crisis and ongoing fiscal debt problems in the United States are risks to the global recovery. Downgraded forecasts of global growth have been factored into the Half-Year Update.

“Compared to many other countries, the New Zealand economy is in good shape,” Mr English says. “Despite our growth forecasts being slightly weaker than in Budget 2012, New Zealand is expected to grow more strongly over the next four years than the Euro area, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada.

“New Zealand has a number of positive opportunities over the next decade, including strong and growing trade and investment links with Asia, elevated terms of trade and the Christchurch rebuild – which is expected to contribute 0.7 per cent to annual growth over the next few years.

“We’re in a strong position to translate those opportunities into more jobs, higher incomes and better living standards for New Zealand families. “The Government’s economic and fiscal programme is aimed squarely at ensuring this happens.”

The outlook isn’t for boom times, but sustained growth in the face of domestic and international challenges is no small achievement for the National-led government.

It’s also one which we couldn’t hope to achieve with Labour-Green prescriptions.

Doesn’t character matter?


teacher who tried to hire a gang leader to assault her principal has been cleared to teach again:

. . . She was also charged with falsifying records and other misconduct.

The Teachers Council has imposed a series of conditions on her returning to teaching and has censured her.

The council said she had had serious health issues and both her parents had recently died. It says there is nothing to suggest her teaching ability is under question.

There could well be a lot more to the story that the report shows.

I hope there is and that is shows that character is taken into account when questioning teaching ability.

Problem of numbers or distribution?


Gwynne Dyer asks if we should worry about falling sperm counts and concludes:

If this decline in sperm counts is caused by environmental factors, then it can almost certainly be reversed eventually by doing enough research and then eliminating those factors. In the meantime, however, we are passing through the astounding total of seven billion humans beings, on our way to nine or 10 billion.

That’s far too many for this finite planet, and a rapid decline in the birth rate, even to below replacement level, would be a good thing.

But if there is a population problem, and that is debatable, is it one of number or distribution?

Birth rates in few if any first world countries are high enough for replacement let alone growth.

Hat tip: Tracey who left the link in Sunday’s Open Mic post.

Thanks Henry


Sir Heny van der Heyden stepped down as chair of Fonterra at the company’s AGM yesterday.

In his final address as chair he said that decisions made by farmer shareholders over the last decade have laid a strong and durable foundation for future growth:

 Taking stock of the changes within the industry over the past 10 -15 years, Sir Henry reflected on the important decisions that had strengthened Fonterra’s global position and returns to farmers.

 “It’s been one huge year after another and every one of them has made us stronger.

 “Together we’ve turned a collection of co-ops into the world’s top dairy exporter.

 “Creating Fonterra was a massive leap of faith on two levels.  We put our faith in a single integrated model – and we put our faith in it succeeding in an entirely deregulated market.  I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we pulled it off,” he said.

 “Fonterra came out of the blocks with $11.8 billion in assets.  We have grown that by 28 per cent to $15 billion.  That’s an outstanding performance.

 “We have done what we set out to do – grow farmers’ wealth ¬– and that’s come through in the value of your land, your shares and your earnings on the farm.”

 Sir Henry said global demand for dairy was the strongest it had ever been and was growing.

 “We need to use all of our muscle to push ahead and stay ahead.  But we will do it our way.  History has shown we are not afraid to make the big calls and make big changes without trading what is really important.”

 Chief Executive Theo Spierings  said since Fonterra’s formation in 2001, the Board and farmer shareholders had made the tough decisions required to position the Co-operative for growth.

“Establishing a Fair Value Share, achieving a transparent Milk Price, and introducing a dividend policy were the first three hurdles.  This year, Trading Among Farmers has delivered permanent share capital and a stable capital base.

 “Looking ahead, our business strategy is to grow volumes, grow value, generate more cash and improve our return on capital. To deliver on this, our future priorities are to:

  • Shift more ingredients sales direct to customers and generate prices higher than Global Dairy Trade;
  • Grow consumer and foodservice volumes;
  • Align our costs and spending so we have the money to invest in areas that will generate growth; and
  • Maintain a balance between environmental, economic and social sustainability.

“We have to start thinking differently about cost – and have already started doing this with our focus on reducing costs by $60 million this financial year.”

 Building a durable co-operative for the future meant Fonterra had to align spending, to make sure resources were directed to the right priorities, said Mr Spierings.

Sir Henry said  that when he took the job on, he wanted to make a difference and leave the Co-operative in a better position at the end of his tenure.

He has done that and its not only shareholders who have benefited from that.

Fonterra also makes a very significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy.

Its milk in schools programme is beginning to make a valuable contribution to education and health.

New chair John Wilson and the other incumbent director Nicola Shadbolt were re-elected to the board. The other vacancy was filled by former Shareholders’ Council chair Blue Read.

It could happen here too


A police car blocking the entrance to a side street caught my eye as I was driving along North East Valley in Dunedin yesterday.

When I got closer I saw a police officer with a rifle and other armed officers further up the street.

With the news of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the USA so fresh I thought something like that might be happening here too.

The ODT report on the armed offenders alert doesn’t say much but it sounds more like a drug bust.

The nature of the alert in Northumberland St, which runs off North Road, has not been confirmed.

However, Fire Service decontamination units were at the scene.

Ambulance units also attended.

The school shootings have revived memories of others in the USA and elsewhere, including here.

Debate on compensation for David Bain is a reminder that his family were all killed in that way and the 22nd anniversary of the Aromoana massacre has just passed.

We can be grateful that our citizens don’t have the same access to assault weapons as the citizens of the USA but mental illness is universal.

This story by the mother of a mentally ill teenager  I am Adam Lanza’s Mom is heart breaking but it could be happening here too.






December 18 in history


1271  Kublai Khan renamed his empire “Yuan” (元 yuán), officially marking the start of the Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia and China.

1620 – The Mayflower landed in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts with 102 Pilgrims on board.

1642  Abel Tasman and his men had the first known European encounter with Maori.

First contact between Maori and Europeans

1707 Charles Wesley, English Methodist hymnist, was born (d. 1788).

1777 The United States celebrated its first Thanksgiving, marking the recent victory by the Americans over General John Burgoyne in the Battle of Saratoga in October.

1778 Joseph Grimaldi, English clown, was born (d. 1837).

1849 Henrietta Edwards, Canadian women’s rights activist, was born (d. 1931).

1863 Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, was born (d. 1914).

1878 Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, was born  (d. 1953).

1888 – Richard Wetherill and his brother in-law discovered the ancient Indian ruins of Mesa Verde.

1890 Edwin Armstrong, American inventor (FM radio) was born (d. 1954).

1898  Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set the new land speed record going 39.245 mph (63.159 km/h), in a Jeantaud electric car. This is the first recognised land speed record.

1900 The Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook Narrow-gauge (2 ft 6 in or 762 mm) Railway (now the Puffing Billy Railway) in Victoria opened.

1908  Celia Johnson, English actress, was born (d. 1982).

1910 – Eric Tindill, New Zealand cricketer and rugby player, was born  (d. 2010).

1912 The Piltdown Man, later discovered to be a hoax, was found in the Piltdown Gravel Pit, by Charles Dawson.

1913 Willy Brandt, Chancellor of Germany, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was born (d. 1992).

1916  Betty Grable, American actress, was born  (d. 1973).

1935  Jacques Pépin, French chef, was born.

1938 Chas Chandler, English musician (The Animals), was born (d. 1996).

1943  Keith Richards, English guitarist (The Rolling Stones), was born.

1946  Steve Biko, South African anti-apartheid activist, was born  (d. 1977).

1946 – Steven Spielberg, American film director, was born.

1963 Brad Pitt, American actor, was born.

1966 Saturn‘s moon Epimetheus was discovered by Richard L. Walker.

1969  Home Secretary James Callaghan‘s motion to make permanent the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, which had temporarily suspended capital punishment in England, Wales and Scotland for murder (but not for all crimes) for a period of five years, was carried by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

1973 Soyuz 13, crewed by cosmonauts Valentin Lebedev and Pyotr Klimuk, was launched.

1987  Larry Wall released the first version of the Perl programming language.

1997  HTML 4.0 was published by the World Wide Web Consortium.

1999 NASA launched into orbit the Terra platform carrying five Earth Observation instruments, including ASTER, CERES, MISR, MODIS and MOPITT.

2006 – The first of a series of floods struck Malaysia. The death toll of all flooding was at least 118, with over 400,000 people displaced.

2009 – The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference closed with the signing of the Copenhagen Accord.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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