Word of the day

April 16, 2013

Bomb – an explosive weapon detonated by impact, proximity to an object, a timing mechanism, or other means; a projectile, formerly usually spherical, filled with a bursting charge and exploded by means of a fuse, by impact, or otherwise, now generally designed to be dropped from an aircraft.; any similar missile or explosive device used as a weapon, to disperse crowds; a vessel for compressed gases; something really bad; a failure; a very long pass or shot in sport; explode by means of a bomb or explosive; bombard; to deliberately cause (a computer system) to fail with a program written for the purpose.


Rural round-up

April 16, 2013

Genuine NZ infant formula labelling critical issue for New Zealand:

The New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association (NZIFEA) is attending the Mother and Baby Expo in Beijing in April to demonstrate measures to protect brand New Zealand from false labelling of product on sale overseas.

The Chairman of the NZIFEA, Michael Barnett, says guaranteeing New Zealand quality is essential, “the Chinese and other international countries need to know the New Zealand labelled infant formula product is genuine and is backed by our quality and regulations. The health consequences and the damage to New Zealand from not having accredited brands and genuine labelling could be severe. The infant formula industry is worth millions and the impact of harmful fake New Zealand dairy product anywhere would be devastating,” said Michael Barnett. . .

Tarras Water Project one step closer:

The developers of the Tarras water project have come a step closer to giving the scheme the ‘green light’ following a hugely supportive shareholders’ meeting.

The six resolutions that will enable Tarras Water Limited to issue its upcoming prospectus were voted on and overwhelmingly approved by 95% of shareholders and proxies attending the Special General Meeting on Friday evening at the Tarras Community Hall.

The company now intends to issue a prospectus within the next week.

Tarras Water Ltd chairman Peter Jolly said it was “an absolute thrill” to have such a strong endorsement from shareholders, who were now looking forward to a positive future for their community. . .

Cut in costs more time – Jill Galloway:

Once-a-day-milking is a viable option that more dairy farmers should consider, says a Massey University emeritus professor.

Colin Holmes says it cuts milking costs and allows more farm and family time.

“The majority [of farmers] won’t do it. They feel that performance will suffer and, as a result, profitability.”

He says some farmers have a lot of debt and even a small loss of milk production might make it unmanageable.

Holmes was a guest speaker at a once-a-day milking seminar at Christine Finnigan’s Glen Oroua farm. . .

Beekeeper expects overseas disorder to come to NZ:

Beekeepers are being asked to watch out for any unusual bee activity or pest outbreaks in New Zealand, amid concerns over a disorder that is devastating bee populations in the northern hemisphere.

Plant and Food Research says the symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) are similar to those suffered during one of the current threats to New Zealand bee populations, the varroa mite. . .

Fonterra Looks To Strengthen Its Organics Business

Fonterra is renewing contracts for some of its organic dairy farmers in the middle and lower North Island, following a turnaround in its niche organics business.

Managing Director Fonterra Nutrition, Sarah Kennedy, said the Co-operative has worked hard over the past 18 months to return its organics business to profitability.

“18 months ago we were losing money so we restructured the business to focus on markets in Asia, while also reducing our costs to ensure ongoing profitability.

“We reduced transport costs by concentrating organic milk supply in the central and lower North Island. . .

QTech technology helps irrigators comply with tightening water regulations:

 Telemetry and water management specialist, QTech Data Systems, has created and launched a sophisticated Aqua Flow Management System (AFM) that enables water consent holders to remotely monitor, better manage and report their water usage data directly to their regional council.

Under New Zealand’s National Regulations of Water Use Measurement and Reporting, all 20,000 water consent holders in New Zealand must install both a water measuring and data reporting system*. And by law the onus is on every one of them to provide their water usage data to their regional council in the required format. If they fail to comply with these measures councils will either charge to collect the data in person, or present the consent holder with an abatement order. . . 

Contaminated input suspended by organic certifier:

 

Citrox BioAlexin was suspended as an approved input for organic production by organic certifier BioGro three weeks ago when some batches were found to be contaminated with low levels of didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). While some countries allow DDAC below minimum residue levels, and it is not considered a risk to human health, BioGro’s organic standards do not allow it.

A small number of organic kiwifruit growers had been using Citrox BioAlexin as an elicitor to help vines cope with the bacterial disease Psa-V. . .

 

NZFarmer launch creates integrated home for farming news:

Following the integration of Rural Press into Fairfax Media New Zealand, digital rural content has been rebranded NZFarmer, with the launch today of a powerful digital farming destination www.nzfarmer.co.nz (housed within Stuff.co.nz) and the new look farming sections in all regional Fairfax newspapers.

This digital home complements the already extensive rural publishing of Fairfax Media in New Zealand, which reaches 88.8% of the farming community via specialist publications and farming sections within our daily newspapers. The team of 20 rural editorial specialists will work together to create content for all publications, under the direction of Tim Cronshaw, Head of Rural Content.

The new structure offers advertisers a highly integrated solution for multimedia campaigns targeting Fairfax Media’s farming audience. Advertisers will also be able to target specific farming sectors thanks to dedicated coverage of key farming sectors and issues. . .


Blue out, Paul who in?

April 16, 2013

National list MP Jackie Blue is to take up a new role as Equal Opportunities Commissioner in June.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said:

“The EEO Commissioner has an important role to play in championing EEO principles, issues and practices in New Zealand as well as appreciating their relationship to social, economic and labour market trends.

“Dr Blue is committed to human rights and equity issues and is currently the Chair of three cross-party groups in Parliament. I’m confident she will be a very capable Commissioner.”

Dr Blue has a Private Members’ Bill in the ballot seeking to protect young women from forced marriages. I hope another MP takes up this issue.

Dr Blue holds a BSc from the University of Auckland and gained her MB ChB from Auckland Medical School in 1983. She came to prominence in the medical sector as a pioneering breast physician and, in 1992, was a founding member of the St Marks Women’s Health Centre. Dr Blue entered Parliament as a list MP in 2005 and has since held a number of roles including membership of the Health Committee (2005 to 2008).

She is currently the Chair of three cross-party groups in Parliament – New Zealand Parliamentarian’s Group on Population and Development, Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and Parliamentarians for Global Action. Dr Blue is also a member of the Justice & Electoral Committee and Deputy Chairperson of the Health Committee.

Her resignation from parliament will open the way for another MP.

The next person on National’s list is former MP Paul Quinn. If he chooses not to take up the vacancy the next one of the list if Paul Foster-Bell.


Why waste water?

April 16, 2013

A woman once told me that water should be left to flow from the mountains to the sea as God intended it.

I wasn’t quick enough to ask her if God also intended oil to be left in the ground and if so was she going to stop driving a car.

Not everyone uses God as a reason to oppose irrigation but the objections by some of a dark green persuasion have a religious fervour which I don’t understand.

Irrigation has positive economic, environmental and social impacts and the absence of it where it’s needed inflicts a very high cost.

New Zealand has “heaps” of water, but the country is not good at using it efficiently, says Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills, as the country suffers one of the worst droughts in 70 years.

“We let most of it run out to sea in the winter, and the economy gets whacked, (by drought)” Wills said. . .

Government officials now believe the drought could carve as much as $2 billion out of the economy.

After selling off lots of stock because of the lack of grass and feed, farms were now like supermarkets with only half their shelves full.

“It is very hard to make money on that basis,” Wills said and when they restocked it would be at higher prices than when they bailed out and sent stock off to the works.

“It will be a tough few years to go, the impact will go on for some time,” Wills said.

There would be a “good number” of farmers making losses this year, but he hoped only a small number would be pushed to the wall and forced to sell up.

Fertiliser spending had already halted so trucks and planes were not moving and that meant a tough impact on provincial towns.

“Belts will be tightened and chequebooks put away,” Wills said. . .

But for all drought-hit farmers: “If winter comes early it will be tough,” Wills said. “A lot of farmers are still on a knife-edge and a lot will depend on what happens next month, if we get some more rain and more warmth.

“Drought is far from over when the rain comes; that’s just the start of the recovery.”

Farmers had to get through the latest drought, but plan better to get through similar future events, Wills said.

“We have massive potential in this country to sensibly and carefully irrigate vast areas of land,” Wills said.

There were big-scale proposals to help make more parts of the country less prone to drought. . .

These include the $230 million Ruataniwha water storage scheme in Hawke’s Bay.

It is proposed a public-private scheme will build a dam west of Waipukurau that would hold 90 million cubic metres, capable of eventually irrigating 30,000 hectares. At present, just 6000 hectares of land in Hawkes Bay is irrigated.

“That’s on a big scale to be more efficient, so there’s lots we can do,” Wills said, to lessen the impact of drought, including water storage, pasture management and different feed regimes and breeds that cope with drought.

The Ruataniwha scheme would build “sensible” resilience into the economy.

In South Canterbury, the Opuha dam irrigation schemes made the area “substantially” drought proof.

The Wairarapa Water Use Project plans to irrigate more than 60,000 hectares and fuel a boom in farming in the region. But the nine proposed reservoirs would also destroy 35 homes, sever roads and flood land, with local home owners concerned about the secretive process.

But Wills said water storage and irrigation had wider benefits.

“It is not just for farmers. It is for the entire economy,” he said, with the 2008 drought costing the country $2.8 billion. Those costs could be mitigated far more than they are today.

Government studies of Opuha suggest that every 1000ha irrigated created 27 jobs and injects $7.7 million into the local economy. With 30 potential projects covering around 1 million ha up the eastern seaboard that’s about $7.5 billion extra revenue for the country each year and 27,000 new jobs. . .

A few decades ago farmers often waited for government help before making decisions. Now there are no subsidies they know they have to make decisions early, and to be prepared for drought.

Wills says most farmers are good at responding to the signals of drought.

He changed the way he farmed dramatically after the last bad drought in 2007.

“This has been tough, but we have got through this drought much better than 2007, because we have done dramatic things,” he said.

In 2007, his farm had 85 per cent sheep and the balance in cattle. This year he had 60 per cent cattle and just 40 per cent sheep. “We massively changed,” he said.

Wills farms in hill country in Northern Hawke’s Bay, but after the 2007 drought he built 60 new dams for stock water, which was a cheap way to store water.

“We learnt last time, when you run out of water, you run out of options,” he said. “We get plenty of rain in the winter, just not enough in the summer”. . .

That’s where storage, for stock water and irrigation comes in.

Why waste water when there’s too much when it’s possible to store it?

If you accept that some use of water is alright, taking it from rivers at high flow and storing it until it’s needed has the least impact on rivers and a big impact on soil health, pasture growth and farming profitability.


Survey backs RMA reforms

April 16, 2013

Statistics New Zealand’s Business Operations Survey shows that RMA processes are having a significant effect on business performance.

That won’t be a surprise to anyone whose been subject to the process which is not unlike wading through syrup in gumboots.

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the results show why reforms are needed:

According to the survey, businesses have blamed the RMA process for the cancellation of projects potentially worth more than $800 million over the last two financial years.

The uncertainty of the process had led to the cancellation of about two thirds of these projects.

The survey also shows:

  • Only 3 per cent of businesses said current RMA processes enhanced their business
  • 430 businesses cancelled projects each worth more than $100,000 due to RMA processes
  • Some businesses have spent up to 25 per cent of their total expenditure on applying for resource consents
  • More than half of resource consent applications are cancelled in the pre-application stage, mainly due to uncertainty and time delays
  • The vast majority of businesses feeling constrained by the RMA are small and medium enterprises

Ms Adams says the survey confirms what she had heard from businesses and communities during a series of RMA consultation meetings throughout the country.

“Frustration with the RMA was rife at these meetings. In most cases, the frustration was not about whether a particular project could or could not proceed, it was about the time and cost to reach that decision.

“There is too much uncertainty in the outcome of the process, and the impact of this is real – potential new jobs are not being created and communities are missing out on economic benefits.”

The Government’s proposed reforms would make the RMA system easier to use, increase certainty and predictability, attract investment, and reduce unnecessary duplication and cost, whilst continuing to protect the environment.

“Fundamentally, the proposed reforms are about providing greater confidence for businesses to grow and create jobs, greater certainty for communities to plan for local needs, and stronger environmental outcomes as our communities grow and change.”

The objects of the RMA are laudable but the  prolonged delays and exorbitant costs of going through the consent process are having a significant impact which must be addressed.


Boston bombing UPDATE: suspect arrested

April 16, 2013

Tragedy has struck at the Boston Marathon.

Two people were killed and dozens were injured this afternoon as two powerful explosions detonated in quick succession near the Boston Marathon finish line in Boston’s Back Bay section, turning a scene of athletic celebration into bloody chaos.

Two more explosive devices were found and dismantled, The Associated Press reported this afternoon. The Federal Aviation Administration announced a ground stop for Logan International Airport until further notice.

Blood and broken glass covered sidewalks in the area where the blasts occurred just before 3 p.m. in the city’s Back Bay section. Immediately after the explosions, some of the wounded could be seen to have lost limbs; others lay unconscious. . .

No-one has claimed responsibility yet.

When we were in New York a couple of years ago we got used to going through security checks.

At the time it seemed to be overkill.

These explosions in Boston show that it wasn’t.

UPDATE – The New York post reports a suspect has been arrested.


Even benign environments need safeguards

April 16, 2013

The ODT says:

There cannot be many people in New Zealand not concerned over this week’s revelations of illegal spying by the Government Communications and Security Bureau.

There cannot be many not worried about the Government’s subsequent announcement it will make sweeping changes to laws governing that agency which will change its mandate and make it legal to spy on New Zealanders. . . .

If that’s the case, I’m one of the few.

I’m not particularly concerned about the revelations of illegal spying nor worried about the prospect of change.

The illegality appears to be technical – a result of badly drafted law which didn’t do as it was intended to do and Prime Minister John Key has announced proposals to tidy that up:

“The GCSB plays a vital role in protecting the security and safety of New Zealanders,” says Mr Key.

“It has been making, and will continue to make, a significant contribution to our national security.

“However, Ms Kitteridge’s review shows difficulties of legal interpretation around the GCSB Act as well as compliance and cultural issues within GCSB.

“As a result of this, the GCSB has ceased providing support to agencies like the NZSIS and Police as it used to do and had done for more than a decade.

“It is now the responsible thing to do to clarify the legislation, to make it clear the GCSB can provide support to agencies which are undertaking their lawful duties.

“To do anything less would be to leave our national security open to threat, and as Prime Minister I am simply not willing to do that. To do nothing would be an easy course of action politically, but it would be an irresponsible one.”

Mr Key says the proposed changes to the GCSB Act will clarify its long-standing practices, so the GCSB can provide assistance to other agencies, subject to conditions and oversight.

“The clarification of the GCSB’s long-standing practices was also the purpose of the 2003 legislation:

“Section 3 of that Act made it clear that its purpose was to ‘continue the GCSB and establish it as a department of state.’

“And when the Act was passed in 2003, this assistance had actually already been occurring.”

GCSB Act proposed changes

At a high level, GCSB will retain its three main functions. These are:

  • Information assurance and cyber security
  • Foreign intelligence; and
  • Cooperation assistance to other agencies.

However, these functions will be clarified and updated so that:

  • Information assurance and cyber security will include cooperation, advice and help to both public and private sector organisations;
  • Foreign intelligence will remain broadly as is; and
  • Cooperation to assist other entities such as the NZSIS, NZ Defence Force and Police will be clarified to include help in the performance of their lawful duties.

“With regards to the three main functions, the Act will be amended to make it clear the GCSB can use its powers when undertaking activities in all of these areas, subject to controls and conditions.

“We intend to make it clear the GCSB can undertake activities on behalf of other named agencieswhere those agencies can lawfully undertake those activities.

“This includes the other agencies’ lawful investigations of New Zealanders.

“Section 14, which prohibits activities involving New Zealanders, will be retained but will apply only to the foreign intelligence function of the GCSB, and not to the other two functions.

“This will allow the GCSB to provide essential support to specified agencies and to undertake important work with both public and private sector New Zealanders in the area of information assurance and cyber security.

“These changes will ensure the GCSB is on a sound footing to keep doing the job the Government expects it to do in the interests of New Zealanders,” says Mr Key.

The changes would also be subject to the enhanced oversight arrangements.

Oversight regime

A solid oversight regime will help build confidence and enhance public trust in intelligence agencies.

There are five key changes proposed to strengthen the oversight regime.

1: The pool of candidates who are able to perform the role of Inspector General will be widened, by removing the requirement that the person be a retired High Court judge. This will broaden the range of experience and capability available to the role. For example, Australia’s equivalent is a former ombudsman.

2: The Inspector General’s office will be made more proactive, taking it a step further from the role it currently has, which is more review-focused. The office would be able to undertake its own inquiries more easily, and it will be expected to specifically note publicly each year its view on whether or not the agencies it oversees are compliant with the law.

The Government will increase the scope of the Inspector General’s active review programme to include a much broader range of the agencies’ activities. This will have the effect of making the Inspector General’s role more proactive.

3: The resourcing and staffing of the Inspector General’s office will be increased, and the new role of Deputy Inspector General will be created.

4: Legislation will explicitly expand the Inspector General’s work programme, including compliance audits and greater reporting responsibilities. GCSB’s own quarterly reporting processes will be tightened up.

5: The Inspector General’s work will become more transparent, through greater availability of its reports and views publicly.

Mr Key says the changes will be made by amendments to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996.

Even if we lived in a benign environment, which we don’t we’d need safeguards. We can’t guarantee that everyone in New Zealand subscribes to a desire for peace, good will and democratic processes for change.

Someone has to be able to follow up justifiable suspicion that one or more persons could pose a threat to security.

We neither need nor can afford more than agency equipped to do what the GCSB does so it makes sense for it to be able to assist the SIS, Defence Force and police – with reasonable controls and conditions.

If I have any concerns at all about the issue it’s the media’s fascination with it.

I’m a political tragic and I’m not particularly interested in it so I doubt if many outside the Bowen Triangle are either.

I am however more interested in who leaked  Rebecca Kitteridge’s report.

Today, Mr Key also released the terms of reference into the unauthorised disclosure of Ms Kitteridge’s report.

The Commissioners of the report, DPMC Chief Executive Andrew Kibblewhite and GCSB Director Ian Fletcher, have appointed David Henry to conduct the inquiry.

Mr Henry is a former senior public servant who has held a number of positions, including Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Commissioner and Commissioner on the Pike River Royal Commission.

He has also carried out a number of reviews and assignments in the public and private sectors.

Mr Key says it is anticipated Mr Henry will present his findings by the end of May.

The government must be able to trust everyone who works for it and who has access to reports like this.

The number of people in a position to leak the report is small and I can’t think of any motive for doing so but a political one.


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