Marshmellow crop fails

April 2, 2013

The weather takes no prisoners.


Word of the day

April 2, 2013

Officious – marked by excessive eagerness in offering services or advice where they are neither requested nor needed; objectionably aggressive in offering one’s unrequested and unwanted services, help, or advice; meddlesome; interfering; informal, unofficial.


Rural round-up

April 2, 2013

‘Inspiring’ kiwi landscape in the blood decades on

Life is still a laugh for 88-year-old environmentalist Gordon Stephenson.

While he was “gobsmacked” to learn that Waikato University wanted to bestow its highest honour on his shoulders, he isn’t above making light of it.

“What do I do in public when somebody says is there a doctor in the house, please?”

“Yes,” he says with a laugh, “that is worrying me.”

But on that score there’s still time up his sleeve – April 16 is the day Mr Stephenson will receive his honorary doctorate at Claudelands Events Centre for his lengthy and ongoing contribution to the environment. . .

Dyed in the wool innovation partners to go global – Peter Kerr:

The time it takes to convert a good idea into something that another person’s willing to buy is almost invariably longer than you think.

A couple of years ago, sticK reported on BGI Developments’ winning the right to commercialise AgResearch’s new textile fabric dyeing process.

The beauty of this process is different dye colours don’t bleed into each other – the picture or pattern remains sharp and embedded in the fabric (unlike say printing on top of a T-shirt for example).

BGI (stands for Bloody Good Ideas) directors Robyn George-Neich and Brent Gregory have spent part of the past two years looking for the right company to take the technology to the global market. . .

Time to shore-up water supplies for the future – Terri Russell:

Southland river levels are the lowest they have been for years. Environment Southland has stopped some farmers from irrigating. No significant rain is in sight. Terri Russell talks to industry experts to find out what is being done to help future-proof the agricultural industry in times of a changing climate.

From flooding in January to a prolonged dry period, the Southland Federated Farmers boss says it is time to look at water storage options for the future.

MetService duty forecaster Ian Gall said parts of Southland were forecast to receive about 10mm to 15mm of rain yesterday but there would be no more significant rain before the end of the week. . .

Orchard optimism follows tough times – Peter Watson:

Turners & Growers has had to make big writedowns in the value of its Nelson orchards for the second consecutive year, but chief executive Geoff Hipkins hopes they are at an end, with market prospects looking brighter.

Bruised by $29 million in asset writedowns, the fruit and vegetables marketer posted a full-year loss of $15.3m for 2012.

The loss, although deep, was an improvement on the previous year’s $18.9m deficit, also a result of asset writedowns, and better than the $16m to $19m loss it forecast in December. . .

Ballance Farm Award finalists chosen – Sally Rae:

The finalists have been selected for the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

There were 10 entries in the awards, which were judged by Matt Harcombe, Andrea Ludemann, Bernard Lynch and John Barkla.

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner to be held at The Venue in Wanaka on Friday, April 12. . .

Venison gets exposure:

The deer industry has just hosted four young German chefs and eight German journalists to New Zealand, to learn more about farmed venison here.

Manager for Deer Industry New Zealand, Innes Moffat, said the aim was to enthuse them about farm-raised venison and develop relationships with these influential people within German cuisine.

“Some of the feedback from both the young chefs and journalists reveals that there is an ongoing need to improve the level of understanding of how NZ venison is grown and how it can be prepared.” . .

Technology important part of farming – Terri Russell:

New Zealand dairy farmer co- operative LIC delivered its farmer workshops in Southland and Otago. 

Last week sessions were held in Gore, Invercargill and Balclutha as part of a series of workshops throughout the country. It provided dairy farmers with the knowledge to plan and record drying- off of cows and and the culling of cows.

There were two sessions on how to enter and access data in MINDApro, a herd management software program, and a more advanced session on how to produce more tailored reports using the program. . .

Agland goes to market:

A $150 million-plus portfolio of Australian agricultural land, including the remaining PrimeAg Australia assets, is being offered to institutional investors just as they start to show greater enthusiasm for the alternative asset class.

Last week the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, one of the world’s largest pension funds, said it planned to start buying Australian farmland.

That follows two Swedish pension funds known as ­AP-fonden, the Michigan Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, US-based fund manager TIAA CREF and the Qatar Investment Authority buying Australian ­agricultural land in the past 12 to 18 months. . .


OIO approves Yashili milk plant

April 2, 2013

The Overseas Investment Office has approved an application by Yashili International Holdings to build a milk processing plant in Pokeno.

The company has three years to build the plant before its consent lapses, which will also impose “certain ongoing reporting responsibilities on Yashili New Zealand”, chairman Zhang Lidian says in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Yashili NZ is still waiting for land use and resources consents and is holding a tender for the dryer component of the facility, he says.

Yashili flagged the New Zealand investment in January after the Chaozhou City, Guangdong-based company’s board signed off on a project to set up a local manufacturing facility to process up to 52,000 tons of finished and semi-finished products, including base milk powder by the second half of next year.

The company says it will spend 950 million yuan on acquiring land and building the plant, and a further 150 million yuan as working capital for a New Zealand subsidiary.

Yashili already sources milk powder from New Zealand, which it uses to market its own product with slogans such as “Genuine New Zealand, Love from Yashili” and “100% imported from New Zealand’s milk source”. . .

I don’t have a problem with foreign investment in general.

Any New Zealand companies which have tried to establish new milk plants in the last few years have needed foreign capital.

As a result of that investment new jobs have been created, export income has been earned, other New Zealand goods and services will have been bought and, if the companies have made profits, they’ll have paid tax.

However, there is a risk with foreign-owned businesses which trade on our well-deserved reputation for the quality and safety of our food.

Any company manufacturing and selling New Zealand produce must meet our standards all the way from the paddock to the retailer.


Only four days to go

April 2, 2013

There’s only four days left before the clocks go back an hour and it can’t come soon enough for me.

For the last month or so we’ve been waking up in darkness.

When the decision was made to move clocks forward an hour for summer in 1974 it started at Labour weekend and finished in early March.

Then some bright sparks got the idea that if some daylight saving is good more would be better without taking into account that the amount of daylight we get isn’t constant.

The result is clocks go forward on the last Sunday in September and don’t go back again until the first Sunday in April when we’ve got no more than 12 hours between sunrise and sunset.

Delaying the start by a couple of weeks and bringing the end back a fortnight or so would allow us to have an extra hour of light in the evening without having to wake up in darkness in the morning.

I’m not alone in wanting an abbreviated version of daylight saving. Lucia Maria says  daylight saving is lasting too long and has started a Facebook page seeking to put the clocks back on the third weekend in March.


Can’t be complacent about corruption

April 2, 2013

An Argentinean visitor looked out the kitchen window of our crib in Wanaka and commented on the absence of a fence between the lawn and the street.

She asked if we had a  burglar alarm, camera or other security measures.

I said no and that sort of thing would be rare in most parts of New Zealand.

It isn’t like that in Argentina where most homes have alarms, bars on their doors and windows and most people use deadlocks even when they’re home.

The next day we were with an Argentinean who lives here and she told us of hosting two of her countrymen when one realised he didn’t have his money belt.

It contained not just money but credit cards and his and his brother’s passports.

One of their friends remembered he’d taken it off in a bar the night before. The host rang the bar and was told the manager had left a note saying she’d found a money belt the previous night and would take it to the police.

The tourists couldn’t believe that someone would be so honest and that the police could be trusted with the money belt and its contents too.

I am very pleased that we live in a country where most people are honest and are institutions are too but Transparency International reminds us that we shouldn’t be complacent about corruption.

The New Zealand public sector has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the least corrupt in the world. On the day of its 100th Anniversary, Transparency International (New Zealand) warns that there is no room for complacency in the quest towards higher standards of governance. Later this year, Transparency International NZ (TINZ) will publish its Integrity Plus National Integrity System report, which looks at twelve key institutional pillars covering Parliament, political parties, the executive, the judiciary, the public sector including local government, key watch-dog institutions, the media, law enforcement agencies, community and voluntary organisations and business.

“The fact that many government agencies are contributing funding to support the study indicates that the public sector also recognizes the importance of maintaining a high integrity society, and is not complacent about the risks to integrity in today’s more globalised world” says Suzanne Snively.

“National Integrity System studies have been carried out for the last 10 years or so, in countries all around the world” says Suzanne Snively, co-director of the research project for TINZ. “We conducted a study in New Zealand back in 2003 and, as with that study, we will again be going beyond a narrow focus on corruption to assess New Zealand against best practice standards of transparency and accountability, taking account of our unique constitutional and cultural features. Emergent findings are beginning to be identified. For example, the Office of the Controller and Auditor General and the Ombudsman are particularly strong in terms of transparency and accountability. TINZ welcomes the just announced increased level of resourcing of the Office of the Ombudsman”.

There have been significant developments in other areas of public life since the 2003 report as well, such as the creation of the Independent Police Conduct Authority in 2007, as well as in a number of areas where the 2003 Report recommended changes. These include the introduction of the State Services Commission survey of public servants, the strengthening of the governance framework of Crown Entities, the establishment of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the introduction of reporting of tax expenditures, and, updated codes of conduct for Ministers and Crown Entities in 2008. But the picture is not all positive with a number of concerns raised in the 2003 report remaining unaddressed, while new areas of risk to integrity have emerged.

“In this time of budgetary restraint” argues Suzanne “as the public sector faces reductions in funding, transparency and public engagement it is more important than ever to ensure that the best choices are made about effective ways to economise and innovate so that they impact in a way that improves service delivery”.

To test integrity systems, the NIS assessment includes some in-depth research into private sector organisations to assess the strength of their business ethics and processes. To compare them with the public sector, this means drilling down into specific areas such as exporting processes and financial transactions.

TINZ will be holding a number of events this year to engage with New Zealanders throughout the country to discuss its findings about public, private and community sector integrity systems. “All members of the public are welcome to go onto our website now and comment,” says Suzanne. “New Zealand’s reputation for integrity and anti-corruption remains high in the international arena, but that does not mean that it is perfect and it does not mean that it can’t be improved. Integrity in public life increases trust, which is essential to maintaining a healthy and participatory democratic country”.

We can’t expect our institutions and government to be more honest and less corrupt than society.

That depends on all of us maintaining standards and there is no room for complacency there, even in little things.

When my daughter and I were leaving the supermarket on Saturday we noticed a doll on a counter which looked like one our guest’s young daughter had been given.

When we got back to the house we asked if she’d lost it and were told she had.

I phoned the supermarket and said the doll on their counter belonged to our guests and we’d pick it up.

Our guest was amazed and said that if she’d lost a toy at home she’d never expect to get it back.

We didn’t get back to the supermarket that day and when I went on Sunday the supervisor couldn’t find the doll. She said she’d ask the staff who’d been on the day before and told me to call back.

I went back yesterday to be told no-one knew what had happened to the doll.

Perhaps someone else claimed the doll or maybe when we didn’t come back on Saturday someone thought we weren’t going to.

I wouldn’t call this corruption  but I’m sorry that the impression of honesty our guests had isn’t quite as glossy as they thought and we hoped.

 


Forespect

April 2, 2013

“Have you noticed that the too-much you ate yesterday never tastes quite in as good in retrospect today?” he said.

“Too often,” she said. “I’ve mastered retrospect and regret in hindsight. What I have difficulty with is the forespect to remember that what I’m enjoying today will be the yesterday’s excess I’ll regret tomorrow.”

“Forespect?” he said. “Is that a real word?”

“Probably not,” she said, “which would explain why I haven’t mastered it.”


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