Gillard calls for leadership vote

March 21, 2013

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called for a leadership vote this evening.

JULIA Gillard has called a caucus meeting for 4.30pm to allow a ballot for leadership positions, after Simon Crean’s dramatic appeal to her to end the party’s deadlock.

A defiant Prime Minister began question time with the announcement of a vote, then challenged the federal opposition: “Meanwhile, take your best shot.”

Regardless of the result the real winner will be the Liberal Party because voters don’t like parties which are unstable and lack unity.

That’s one of the problems both the Australian Labor Party and New Zealand Labour Party have in common.

Word of the day

March 21, 2013

Prestidigitation – performance of or skill in performing magic or conjuring tricks with the hands; sleight of hand; show of skill or deceitful cleverness.

Rural round-up

March 21, 2013

MPI investigates GM breach:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating how a genetically modified (GM) fungus came to be used outside approved containment facilities at Lincoln University’s campus.

All samples and plant materials known to contain the modified fungus have been secured. MPI is now checking if any other materials may have been inadvertently exposed to the fungus.

“Based on what we know at present, the potential biological risks from this discovery appear very low,” says Roger Smith, MPI Deputy Director General, Verification and Services. 

“At this stage, we believe it is unlikely any potentially genetically modified Beauveria bassiana fungus has spread further. The fungus in question was found indoors in glass houses and laboratories with restricted access,” says Mr Smith. . .

Grasmere water plan request declined – Tim Fulton:

Resource consent has been declined for a plan to irrigate a high-country station in central Canterbury, on the basis it would potentially have too much impact on landscape values and water quality.

The hearing commissioner said it was one of the most difficult, finely balanced decisions he had had to make.

P&E, run by Pete Morrison and Liz Nattrass, from Darfield, wanted permission from Environment Canterbury to divert, take and use water from Cass River to irrigate pasture for sheep and beef cattle. The 35-year consent would have required disturbance to the river-bed.

The land involved was on both sides of State Highway One, just east of Arthur’s Pass. P&E owns more than 550 hectares at Lake Grasmere. . .

Leadership skills programme an ‘eye-opener’ – Sally Rae:

When Amanda Hasselman returned home to Glenorchy after attending a leadership skills programme in Wellington, she admits her brain was ”fizzing”.

Mrs Hasselman, of Temple Peak Station, was among 16 rural women who attended the course run by Rural Women New Zealand.

During the three-day programme, the group heard presentations from leaders as diverse as Fish and Game NZ chief executive Bryce Johnson and former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast. . .

Tree lucerne planting should be widely encouraged – Alan Diak:

Present drought conditions are spreading and will remain with us for some time.

Short term, dairy production will suffer as will the welfare of cattle. Long term, sheep, beef and dairy production will be affected into next year.

There is little that can be done with this drought for animal welfare and production. However, let us look positively to the future.

I am of the opinion that the benefits of establishing tree lucerne as a fodder crop on farms to support livestock during stress periods because of feed shortages from whatever cause should be encouraged and supported by everyone. . .

A big call on imported pig meat:

With the Court of Appeal dismissing NZPork’s appeal over the Import Health Standard for imported pig meat, Federated Farmers believes this now leaves considerable uncertainty.

“We were not surprised at the outcome because the Court of Appeal case was limited to an examination of process and not science,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Food Production spokesperson.

“It seems inevitable raw pork will be imported from countries which have the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). . .

Waikato Times letter of the month – Quote Unquote:

The skinny: we’ve had a drought over the whole country because farmers use PKE as a stock-feed supplement, which causes climate change. And something about chocolate. I have passed this on to my wife’s colleagues at AgResearch in Ruakura as the connection probably hadn’t occurred to them.. .

Thursday’s quiz

March 21, 2013

It’s your turn to ask the questions again.

Anyone who stumps everyone will win an electronic bunch of roses.


March 21, 2013

Oh dear, only 2/10 in NZ History Online’s quiz, and they were guesses.

Water Storage fast track needed for drought-proofing

March 21, 2013

IrrigationNZ says water storage needs to be fast-tracked to drought-proof agriculture.

“New Zealand simply cannot afford to bail out its agricultural industry twice every decade – the recent turn-around for a serious dry spell. Over a billion dollars has already been wiped out this summer through drought. Agriculture is what New Zealand is built on – even Auckland – so combating drought is an issue we all need to get to grips with,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

The country doesn’t bail out its agricultural industry but droughts do have a big impact on the economy.

Mr Curtis says the answer lies with a combination of regional and on-farm water storage development, and with a few billion dollars worth of investment, New Zealand could future-proof its agricultural sector and thus its economy.

“For hill country farms having the ability to store water and irrigate a small part of each farm, as little as 20 hectares, would create a strategic advantage for New Zealand agriculture. Irrigation enables feed and produce to continue in a consistent and predictable fashion year in year out.”

“The North Island would not be in such dire straits if we had water storage on-farm. Winter storage is key for hill country environments as stream flows are often erratic. In short, we need to harvest water from adverse events and store it up for sunny days.”

Mr Curtis says recent analysis in the Hawke’s Bay, as part of the Ruataniwha storage proposal, showed when sheep and beef farmers irrigated a percentage of their farm they produced a higher rate of return per irrigated hectare than dairy. Irrigation builds in resilience and provides options to a farming system.

“Imagine how much more efficient our meat and vegetable processors would be if drought didn’t wipe out crops and stock every five years. It’s not just farmers that lose out; it’s their staff, the surrounding community and businesses that rely on agricultural income that also suffer.”

Water storage provides much more reliable irrigation than river-based schemes.

River-based schemes like Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd have been on restriction, followed by a full ban, for the last month. This has significant economic implications. The scheme calculates around $30million (on and off-farm impacts) has been lost from the district already.”

“In contrast, irrigation schemes serviced by the Opuha Dam in South Canterbury won’t face restriction until the end of March and then possibly only partial restrictions in April. It’s a stark contrast between regions that have access to stored water and those that don’t.”

Opuha Dam has been able to maintain river flows well above the very low natural flows they would normally experience. The flow in the Opihi River currently would be less than 50% of what it is with augmentation – even if there was no irrigation abstraction. 

Mr Curtis says the current climatic situation proves the development of reliable water storage and distribution network should be considered ‘a nationally significant strategic investment’.

“Around a billion dollars of investment would future proof Canterbury for the next 100 years. And this investment would be paid back to the community within a decade if the current climatic trend continues.” . .

We were in North Canterbury earlier in the week seeing the difference irrigation has made.

Locals told us that until recently the area suffered from frequent dust storms and farmers could do little to stop their soil blowing away.

Now, thanks to irrigation there’s grass on paddocks which not only provides feed for stock but also protects the soil.

The farms we visited irrigated from the river and faced restrictions when it was dry and they needed the water most.

Any irrigation is good and schemes which harvest water when there’s more than enough to use when there’s not enough are better.


March 21, 2013

Prime Minister John Key resisted the temptation to attack David Shearer for  his memory lapse:

It is “unfortunate” Labour leader David Shearer forgot to declare an offshore bank account with at least $50,000 in it since he became an MP, Prime Minister John Key says. . .

Key said the oversight was “unfortunate”, but mistakes could be made.

However, National had not had much support from Labour when that was the case in the past, he said.

“In the end he’s [Shearer] got to make peace with the New Zealand public,” Key said.

He had “tried not to” forget about investments worth $50,000, and he said Shearer’s bank account could hold quite a bit more than that.

Key had been criticised for failing to declare Tranz Rail shares. . .

Act leader John Banks was unable to resist the temptation.

Hon John Banks: Could the Minister for State Owned Enterprises tell me whether funds could be used from a secret bank account in New York to purchase shares in this initial public offering? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: A legitimate question.

Hon TONY RYALL: That is a very good question, because if a New Zealander was one of the pre-registered 400,000 and they were able to get the benefits of that pre-registration in terms of their shares, they would have to pay for them. We would be unclear of whether the bank account was secret or not, but we would presume people would actually know they had a bank account.

Given the delight Labour took in criticising Banks for his memory lapse he could be excused this schadenfreude.

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