Word of the day

April 9, 2013

Dyslogistic- conveying or expressing disapproval or censure; not complimentary or eulogistic; opprobrious.


Best seats

April 9, 2013

Today’s discussion on Critical Mass with Jim Mora was sparked by musical chairs – choosing the right seat.

Blogging at Big Mischief,  Alex Cornell goes through six possible seating arrangements and picks the best seat at each.

The desirability or otherwise of seats at a table can be modified by careful planning.

If architects and interior designers paid more attention to acoustics, got away from the fashion for hard surfaces and introduced more soft furnishings, it would be easier to converse comfortably while dining.

Round or small tables are fine for small numbers but oval or rectangular ones give more conversation options for bigger tables.

If you’ve got a rectangular table it’s better to put someone at the top and bottom if you’ve got even numbers and one person at either top or bottom for odd numbers.

The alternative of putting people only along the sides can leave those at the ends marooned with only the one beside them to chat with.


Rural round-up

April 9, 2013

Nine possible water storage sites identified – Rebecca Harper:

Nine potential dam sites have been identified in a preliminary study of water storage options in Wairarapa.

The “whole of the valley” approach could result in up to 60,000 hectares of Wairarapa Valley being irrigated if the scheme goes ahead. This would require 250-300 million cubic metres of water a year and the dams would be designed to re-fill before summer each year. 

Only 10,000ha in the valley is irrigated now. So far 201 farmers, representing 269 properties covering 51,000ha, have been surveyed. . .

Dairy company signs deal with Chinese:

New Zealand’s only Maori owned and controlled dairy company is signing a deal with Shanghai Pengxin on Tuesday to process milk from the former Crafar Farms into UHT products for export to China.

Miraka Ltd, which operates a big factory near Mokai northwest of Taupo, is in Shanghai with iwi who historically affiliate with the Crafar Farms to initial the lucrative venture. . .

The status quo leads to peasantry –  Conor English:

Recently about 1000 meat and beef farmers met in Gore. This meeting highlighted the concern that these farmers have about the profitability and sustainability of their farming businesses.

There are questions about the ability of the current supply chain arrangements to deliver appropriate returns to farmers so that they and their families can get ahead while New Zealand as a country can take advantage of the increasing market opportunities there are in a world of more people, protein and wealth. 

About three years ago Federated Farmers launched a T150 campaign, which set the aspiration of farmers receiving $150 for a mid-season lamb. It’s a simple idea. Right now this seems a pipe dream, but it is actually critical to New Zealand that this target is reached sooner rather than later.  . .

Farmers support Auckland Plan having Immediate Legal Effect:

Farmers have swung in behind Auckland’s Unitary Plan having immediate legal effect and Federated Farmers is to tell Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Committee Select Committee that tonight, when the Committee meets in Auckland to hear submissions on the Resource Management Reform Bill.

“Metropolitan Auckland’s past failures to address growth issues properly has resulted in flow-on effects for rural Auckland,” says Wendy Clark, Federated Farmers Auckland provincial president.

“Delaying the implementation of Auckland’s Unitary Plan for as much as three or four years will result in added costs for Auckland’s rural ratepayers. It will also hinder the resolution of metropolitan Auckland’s all too obvious housing issues. . .

Poor judgement quota full for now – Steve Wyn-Harris:

Good judgement, as they say, arises from previous bad judgement.

You can’t beat experience.

When I started farming about 30 years ago, I would make a bad judgement call or poor decision probably once a week and time elapsed might mean I am now being generous to my past self.

But slowly and steadily over time that interval extended.

The times I would get a motorbike in an awkward and potentially dangerous situation became less frequent. Instead of deciding to leave the ewes in a paddock for another couple of days, I learnt to shift more frequently. . .

Drought Shout 2013: Farmers woes to take a back seat for a day:

When farmers from all over the North Island attend this week’s Drought Shout in Mangatainoka, work is expected to be the last thing on their minds.

Daniel Absolom, from Focus Genetics is travelling from Hawke’s Bay with a ute load of others to attend Thursday’s Drought at Tui Brewery and says it will be an opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues and have a good time.

“This will provide a much needed tonic for drought affected farmers and an opportunity for them to get off the land for a few hours and catch up with their mates,” he says. “It’s been an incredibly tough year thus far and I’m a firm believer in a problem shared is a problem halved.” . .


Confidence up, south leads

April 9, 2013

Business confidence is at its strongest since June 2007, when the domestic economy was starting to turn down ahead of the global financial crisis in 2008, according to the latest Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

The March quarter survey shows economic recovery broadening beyond Auckland and Christchurch, and no apparent impact from a string of corporate restructuring announcements in the first three months of the year, and the collapse of the Mainzeal construction group.

A net 23 percent of firms expect better trading conditions in the next quarter, up from 20 percent in the previous quarter, while a net 32 percent firms are optimistic in March, seasonally adjusted, compared with 19 percent previously. . .

A Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) shows southern businesses are more confident than those in the north.

. . . 16.8% of South Islanders are very optimistic about the economy in the next 12 months compared with 8.10% of the North Island.

Simon Carey, partner, Grant Thornton New Zealand Ltd, said that the gap narrows when talking about optimism overall with 65.2% of South Islanders being optimistic compared with 61.6% of North Islanders.

“These optimism figures are supported throughout the survey with South Island firms expecting to generate more revenue than North Island companies (68.4% to 66.7%), generate better selling prices (46.3% to 38.4%), employ more staff (44.2% to 34.3%), invest in plant and machinery (62.1% to 54.5%) and pay higher wages with 80% looking to increase salaries in line with inflation and above compared with 72.7% for the North Island. At the generous end, 22.1% of South Island firms will increase salaries at levels above inflation compared with 19.2% for the North Island.

 “Optimism in the South Island has been trending ahead of the north for some time as evidenced by the research which revealed that 45.3% of South Island firms employed extra staff in 2012 compared with 29.3% for the north. These employment figures were further reinforced by the fact 25.3% of North Island firms decreased their staff in 2012 compared with 16.8% for the south.” . .
Confidence is important not just for the businesses but for the wider economy. The more positive a business is, the more likely it is to increase investment and take on more staff.
The global outlook is still uncertain but these reports reflect the positive view the IMF has of our economy.

What’s the problem with welfare reform?

April 9, 2013

Labour and the Green Party are continuing to oppose National’s efforts to ensure the welfare system provides a safety net and not a hammock or a noose.

They try to pretend they’re helping the vulnerable but that’s just the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The welfare system should be ready and available for people in need.

For most that need is short-term and temporary, for a few it will be longer term and for some it will be permanent.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that those who can look after themselves do so and help those who could but don’t.

The opposition would prefer to keep people beholden to the state while National is working hard to help them become independent.

What’s wrong with this?

Tomorrow Parliament will vote on reforms to the welfare system. Share this with your friends if you support National's plan.


Too little regard for OPM

April 9, 2013

The NZ Herald points out:

The Government’s income tax take dropped from $30 billion to $25 billion as New Zealand dipped into recession, but new figures show local authorities increased their rates each and every year. So why are city and district councillors allowed to spend first, then go banging on ratepayers’ doors demanding the money to pay for their pet projects?

It’s far too easy for them:

What you pay in rates is largely determined by what your property is worth, but ratepayers should not assume that just because their latest home valuation goes up or down, their rates bill will follow. Councils still have to make the decision on what rates revenue they need – and then work out how to pay for it.

Imagine if you were able to manage your household budget that way. In your New Year’s resolutions, you might decide to build an extra bedroom, and take a holiday to Fiji. You’d work out how much money you would need – then you would go to your boss and demand that extra money as a pay rise.

In the real world, your boss would fall about the floor laughing.

But if you are a city or district councillor, you can insist ratepayers stump up the extra cash. Ratepayers’ only option is to grit their teeth, pay the bill – then sack their councillors at the next election.

Does it have anything to do with councillors’ ability?

There aren’t many jobs where someone with no financial knowledge or experience can walk in off the street and find themselves managing a multi-million-dollar budget. But being a councillor is one of them.

Councillors are not required to have any qualifications or credentials beyond the ability to win an election. That, says Massey University local government specialist Dr Andy Asquith, may be why rates sometimes run awry. “The majority of councillors in New Zealand and around the world have trouble putting their shoes on the right feet in the morning. They get elected simply because they are known. It’s not unusual for someone to one day be reading the weather on television and the next to be on the local council with no knowledge of what council is about.”

Last year, a Massey survey found less than a third of councillors reported having access to governance education and even fewer had done that education. “I think that’s a major shortcoming in councils in this country.”

Sounds like a failing of the Labour Party too – far too heavy on union and public service experience, far too light on private sector experience and the knowledge and skills gained from putting their own money at risk.

The Labour Party and councils are top heavy with people who have far too little regard for OPM – other people’s money.

The National-led government has brought financial discipline to the public service and Local Government Housing Minister Nick Smith is now doing his best to ensure councils do the same when it comes to housing policy.


Margaret Thatcher 1925 -2013

April 9, 2013

Where were you when . . .?

The question is often asked about moments in history.

I was on a bus between Auckland airport and the city when the news that Margaret Thatcher had become Britain’s first female Prime Minister was announced on the radio.

The achievement was all the more remarkable because of the class ridden and sexist society at the time.

She was a woman before her time. She studied law, qualifying as a barrister in 1953, the same year her twins were born and made it to the top of the Conservative Party.

Meryl Streep who played her in The Iron Lady said:

“Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics. To have come up, legitimately, through the ranks of the British political system, class-bound and gender-phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement.”

She was not a feminist icon because she came from the right and because she firmly believed that merit was more important than gender.

She was however, the Prime Minister who made significant and long-lasting changes to the British economy and society.

The BBC obituary notes one of her lasting legacies was turning renters into owners:

Her term in office saw thousands of ordinary voters gaining a stake in society, buying their council houses and eagerly snapping up shares in the newly privatised industries such as British Gas and BT.

A young English woman told me buying their home had a significant impact on her family and community.

Her father was a miner who was frequently on strike. Once they bought their house her mother wouldn’t let her father strike because she was frightened they’d lose their home if they couldn’t pay the mortgage.

The obituary sums up Baroness Thatcher’s strength and weakness:

Few politicians have exercised such dominance during their term in office and few politicians have attracted such strength of feeling, both for and against.

To her detractors she was the politician who put the free market above all else and who was willing to allow others to pay the price for her policies in terms of rising unemployment and social unrest.

Her supporters hail her for rolling back the frontiers of an overburdening state, reducing the influence of powerful trades union leaders and restoring Britain’s standing in the world.

She was, above all, that rare thing, a conviction politician who was prepared to stand by those convictions for good or ill.

Her firm belief that deeply held convictions should never be compromised by consensus was her great strength and, at the same time, her greatest weakness.

For many, her philosophy was summed up in a magazine interview she gave in 1987.

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?

“There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.

“It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations.”

The Guardian has some of her quotes:

“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.” – on her election as prime minister in 1979

“To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.” – to the Conservative conference in 1980

And from the Global Post:

“My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police.” – Thatcher in an interview in September 1981.

“Pennies don’t fall from heaven, they have to be earned here on earth.”– Thatcher in a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in November 1979.

“Nobody would remember the Good Samaritan if he had only good intentions. He had money as well.” – Thatcher’s response during an interview in 1980 about whether her savage spending cuts would lead to greater inequality in Britain.

 


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