Greens can’t join dots

May 16, 2013

When I heard Russel Norman criticising the government’s achievement in staying on track back to surplus I thought I’d mis-heard him.

But no – here it is in black and white from the Green Party Facebook page:
Photo: Russel's summary of Budget 2013.

 

They can’t join the dots between economic surplus and the ability to provide services and assistance to people in need.

They still haven’t grasped the dangers of too much debt.

They still think it’s okay to spend more than you earn.


Word of the day

May 16, 2013

Melliferous – bearing, forming, producing or yielding honey.


Blue Budget

May 16, 2013

Today’s Budget is a blue one, literally and figuratively.

It’s got a bright blue cover and it will be one which is written with the understanding of the importance of sound financial management.

Finance Minister Bill English was looking cheerful in his pre-Budget interviews yesterday and he deserves to.

In spite of the woeful state in which Labour left the economy, and the natural and financial crisis with which the government has had to deal, National has done what it said it would.

It took the rough edges of the worst effects of the recession, reduced the cost of government while maintaining services and has on back on track to surplus in the next financial year.

Only the blinkered would believe that this would have been possible with a red or a red/green budget.

The government is launching an update of its Budget app for smartphones and tablets with interactive features that allow users to see how much tax they pay and how their tax dollars are spent.

It went live at 2pm as the Budget delivery began.

You can find it here.


Rural round-up

May 16, 2013

‘Big event’ could affect future of Otago farming – Sally Rae:

Farming is not going to get any easier as farmers meet the expectations of ”everybody outside of farming”, Federated Farmers Otago president Stephen Korteweg says.

The pressure on farmers to meet environmental expectations would be challenging.

”We are all going to have to lift our game and obviously some considerably more than others,” Mr Korteweg said in his annual report. The branch held its annual meeting in Milton yesterday. The ”big event” this year was the proposed changes to the Otago Regional Council’s water plan. Those changes could have a big impact on how farmers worked in the future. . . .

Bill Roest joins board of Synlait Milk:

Synlait Milk is pleased to announce the appointment of Bill Roest as a non-executive director. Mr Roest recently retired as Chief Financial Officer of one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies, Fletcher Building Ltd.

Synlait Milk chairman Graeme Milne says Mr Roest will bring a wealth of experience to the Synlait board.

“Bill’s governance skills and deep understanding of international business will add further depth to the board of Synlait Milk as the Company pursues its vision to be a trusted supplier of choice to some of the world’s best milk-based health and nutrition companies.” . . .

LIC handling ‘small cow’ issue well:

Having met with Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) in recent weeks, Federated Farmers is happy with the briefing it has received from LIC on the isolation of a gene responsible for small dairy cows.

“This recessive gene means calves are born a normal size but simply do not grow,” says Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers Waikato Dairy chairperson.

“The gene has always been present in New Zealand breeding sires, so what LIC has done in isolating the gene is a breakthrough. As is the fact Federated Farmers and LIC sat down together to discuss things openly and honestly. . .

Bioenergy conference highlights opportunities:

A one-day conference in Rotorua this Thursday (16 May), supported by Federated Farmers, will take land owners through the economics of bioenergy, which could become a big part of New Zealand’s energy future.

“The biofuels versus food issue is not relevant to New Zealand. We are looking at biofuels, plus food. This can be a win-win for farmers,” explains Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers energy spokesperson.

“It is not about replacing sheep and cattle with biomass crops, but about growing these crops while also harnessing the organic waste of our sheep and cattle, or our wood harvest waste. . .

Young Men Line Up In Dairy Trainee Final:

The 12 finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year competition will meet in Canterbury next week to take part in a study tour around the region.

Aged from 23 years to 28 years, the study tour is designed to increase the trainee’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the dairy industry and demonstrate what opportunities are available as they progress.

The 2013 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards will announce winners of the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year as well as the trainee contest in Wellington on May 24. More than $150,000 in prizes will be given away. . .

Triple Gold for Yealands Estate at The International Wine Challenge:

Yealands Estate Wines has been awarded three gold medals, amongst a field of more than 12,000 wines, at the 2013 International Wine Challenge.

The judges awarded gold to Yealands Estate Single Block Series R3 Pinot Noir 2011, Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Grüner Veltliner 2012 and Yealands Estate Single Block Series S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2012. The Yealands Estate Single Block Series S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2011 last year received the International Sauvignon Blanc Trophy. . .

A Fair Go for Tongan Vanilla Growers:

Queen Fine Foods, New Zealand’s largest distributor of vanilla products used widely in Kiwi homes, has entered into a partnership with the people of Tonga to reinvigorate their vanilla industry.

The Queen Fine Foods initiative works with growers to develop sustainable and organic farming practices. It teaches farmers not only how to grow high quality beans, but to cure their crop and add value. Growers who join the partnership receive a long term supply agreement with Queen, which guarantees certainty of income for years to come. . .

:)


Thursday’s quiz

May 16, 2013

1. Who said: You balance the budget by restraining the growth of government and encouraging the growth of the private sector.?

2. Who wrote Not a Penny More, Not A Penny Less?

3. It’s argent in French, denaro in Italian, dinero in Spanish – what is it in English and Maori?

4. What period of deficits was Labour forecasting if it retained power in 2008?

5.What would your priorities for the Budget be if you were writing it?


To feed or not to feed . . .

May 16, 2013

An animation to raise awareness about the issue of child poverty in NZ, and the need for food in schools programmes, has  been released by an educational research project at The University of Auckland.

. . . “NZ is a first world country with a child poverty problem. Poor nutrition is a significant problem in NZ.” says project coordinator, Dr Airini, Head of School of Critical Studies in Education at The University of Auckland. “We have hungry children in our schools. Going to school hungry affects a child’s ability to learn. Healthy food helps children learn. With better education our children might escape the poverty cycle.”

Providing food in schools is likely to be a modest cost compared to the societal benefits of a giving all Kiwi children a healthy start to life. Estimates for implementing food in schools programmes range from $5-$10million a year. Programmes like these promote a healthy diet, and improve children’s school attendance, behaviour, and ability to learn. Breakfast clubs also provide a safe, early morning place to increase social skills and confidence, creating a better school environment.

“Learning is a physical activity. Children need healthy food every day to help them be learning-ready” says Dr Airini. “We wouldn’t expect our All Blacks or Silver Ferns to do their best if they’re hungry. Why would we think children could do their best as learners if they’re hungry? Good food feeds the mind.”

“Teachers, schools and community groups say we need to provide food in schools to help our hungry children”, she says. “In the end, it’s not just hungry kids that benefit, but all New Zealanders.” . . .

This and the animation are pushing the case for someone – community groups, businesses, the government – to provide food in schools.

But over at Offsetting Behaviour Dr Eric Crampton shows that providing food doesn’t necessarily do any good:

A few months ago, Social Service Providers Aotearoa asked me to review the literature on school breakfast programmes and provide an assessment of whether public funding of school breakfast programmes offered value for money.  . .

I was only looking at school breakfast programmes, and so I can’t here comment on school lunch programmes. I’m not sure why we’d expect results to vary greatly, but it’s worth having the caveat.

Anyway, on my best read of the literature, it’s hard to make a case for that we’d get any great benefit from the programmes. Rather, we often find that they don’t even increase the odds that kids eat breakfast at all. Many shift breakfast from at-home to at-school, but among those who hadn’t bothered with breakfast before the programme, not many wind up starting when schools provide it. You can then get kids reporting that they’re less hungry as consequence of the programmes, but it’s awfully hard to reject that the main thing going on is that kids are eating at 9 at school instead of at 7 at home and are consequently less hungry when asked at 11. . . .

So, some bottom lines:

  • School breakfast programmes really don’t seem to increase the likelihood of that kids eat breakfast at all;
  • To the extent that they improve outcomes in some studies, we really can’t tell:
    • whether the effect is from changing the timing of breakfast, in which case we should instead have a morning tea break;
    • whether the effect is any better than just giving those families an equivalent cash transfer. . .

Hungry children won’t be happy children, ready and able to learn as well as those who are properly fed.

Poor nutrition and sub-optimal learning in childhood will almost certainly lead to problems later in life.

But the research shows the solution to children who don’t have enough to eat isn’t as simple as providing food.

Not all schools have chosen to be part of Fonterra’s milk in schools programme which shows a blanket approach wouldn’t be welcome.

It’s a complex problem and the solution must be one which really makes a positive difference.


Labour u-turn on HB water storage

May 16, 2013

A big increase in irrigated land is supporting increased agricultural production

The irrigated land area has increased in the past five years by an area the size of lakes Taupo and Te Anau combined, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The total irrigated land in New Zealand increased by 102,000 hectares between June 2007 and 2012, new information from the 2012 Agricultural Production Census shows. “Canterbury had the biggest increase in irrigated area, with an extra 60,000 hectares since 2007 – this alone covers an area the size of Lake Taupo,” agriculture statistics manager Hamish Hill said. Other regions to gain more irrigated area were Southland and Manawatu-Wanganui. This increase in irrigated land has helped support increases in agricultural production.

Total dairy numbers also significantly increased, from 5.3 million in 2007 to 6.4 million in 2012. “The additional dairy cows will produce around four times the total amount of milk that New Zealanders consume each year,” Mr Hill said. Exports of milk powder, butter, and cheese increased by 27 percent in the last five years.

Regions that had significant shifts in dairy numbers between 2007 and 2012 included Canterbury, with an increase of 445,000 dairy cattle, Southland, with an increase of 238,000, and Otago, with an increase of 118,000. . .

That increase in production means a lot more jobs, more resilient and secure communities and more export income.

The experience in North Otago shows that the economic and social gains don’t have to come at the cost of the environment.

You’d think a party which says it supports economic growth and wants more employment opportunities would understand the benefits and support more development, but Labour doesn’t.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says he is shocked at the Labour Party’s u-turn on supporting the Ruataniwha water storage scheme in Hawke’s Bay, despite previously indicating their support.

“The proposed Ruataniwha water storage scheme has the potential to irrigate an extra 25,000 hectares in Hawke’s Bay. This would be a major boost to exports, jobs and growth in the region.

“In October last year Labour MPs Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor visited the site and said it made a “very good case” and that “It is an obscure part of the country that [will cope] with such a large structure.”[i]

“Now they have been over-ruled by Stuart Nash, a rejected ex-MP who says “…Labour will not be funding water storage schemes if elected in 2014…”

“This is a slap in the face for farmers and Hawke’s Bay. I would have thought the severe drought this summer has made the need for this type of project even more obvious.

“The drought has highlighted that we don’t have a water shortage in New Zealand, but a shortage of storage options. We only capture two per cent of the rainfall that falls on New Zealand with the rest running out to sea.

“Water storage can have real environmental benefits. Increased river flows means more water for recreational users in summer, and improved habitats for fish and birdlife.

“This is why former Fish & Game regional manager and senior freshwater ecologist at the Cawthron Institute, Iain Maxwell, has come out publicly in support of the scheme.

“Labour are anti-progress and don’t care about jobs and investment in provincial areas. They are opposed to any new mining, energy and irrigation projects, and want to bring in a capital gains tax and an enlarged emissions trading scheme which would hammer rural communities,” says Mr Guy.

The Government is investing $80 million this year into a new Crown company to act as a bridging investor for irrigation projects. In total, up to $400 million will be invested in regional-scale schemes to encourage third-party capital investment.

The Government is also funding $35 million towards the Irrigation Acceleration Fund to help suitable projects reach the prospectus-ready stage. Last year the IAF and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council jointly funded a $3.3m feasibility study of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Project.

The drought has had a huge economic, social and environmental impact on the regions affected.

Canterbury and North Otago were insulated from the worst effects of the long hot, dry summer because of extensive irrigation.

The need for irrigation in Hawkes Bay should be obvious and it isn’t difficult to put a case for the government to help schemes get underway with for example a loan to cover the costs until the water is fully allocated.

This is just another example of labour saying it wants more growth and jobs but not supporting initiatives that will provide them/

 


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