Word of the day

May 17, 2013

Zugzwang – a position where one is forced to make an undesirable move; a situation in which the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a serious, often decisive, disadvantage.

Rural round-up

May 17, 2013

Building water storage too important to become ‘political football’:

IrrigationNZ says it is increasingly concerned about political rhetoric around water storage and a cross-political party agreement is needed to advance the issue.

The national body representing irrigators and the irrigation industry was responding to comments from former Labour MP Stuart Nash that a future Labour Government wouldn’t fund water storage developments.

“As water storage has multiple benefits, from improved river flows to more productive farms and job creation for towns and cities, we struggle to understand why some politicians continue to see water storage as a negative. It’s far too important to be treated as a ’political football’. It’s an investment in New Zealand’s future and one we need to make now,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. . .

Mt Duthie manager single-minded – Sue O’Dowd:

A sheep and beef farmer near Taranaki’s northern gateway wants to see more farmers committing their stock to specific meat processing plants.

Grant Lowry, who manages the 1700ha (1000ha effective) Mt Duthie Station, near Awakino, backs the establishment of a single meat co-operative in New Zealand and the Meat Industry Excellence group’s efforts to get a mandate for industry reform.

The group is hosting its fifth meeting in Te Kuiti tomorrow afternoon, following meetings in Gore, Christchurch, Gisborne and Feilding attended by about 3000 farmers over the last month. . .

Farmers welcome ‘steady as she goes’ Budget 2013:

Federated Farmers is describing Budget 2013 as a ‘steady as she goes’ affair. While there is an increase in new operating spending, this $900 million increase is modest relative to total Government operating spending of $72 billion.

“Budget 2013 continues to move in the right direction as far as farmers are concerned and it is broadly consistent with Federated Farmers’ advocacy,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“We have called for Government spending to be capped and reduced over time to 30 percent of Gross Domestic Product. This is forecast to be achieved in 2016/17. . .

Ultimate Rural Challenge underway in Auckland:

Crowds gathered in Auckland at Aotea Square as the 2013 ANZ Young Farmer Contest officially began.

Auckland City Councillor George Wood opened the proceedings and was delighted this leading agricultural event has come to the ‘City of Sails’.

“We townies look in awe as these young farmers from all over the country get into these different challenges and do such a great job”, Councillor Wood said.

The seven Grand Finalists, each representing a different region, rode into the square on farm bikes and were introduced to the public by Contest announcer Craig ‘Wiggy’ Wiggins and Contest Chairman Bevan Proffit. “It takes a lot of passion and a lot of determination, you also have to be a good all-rounder”, commented Mr Proffit on what it takes to be the Contest Champion. . .

$80m for irrigation – boost to economy, environment:

Budget 2013 has confirmed $80 million in funding for regional irrigation projects, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

“After the extreme drought that most of the country has struggled through this year, the need for better water storage is obvious,” he says.

“There is no shortage of water in New Zealand, but we lack the ability to store and use that water when it’s needed most. Currently, only 2 per cent of rainfall is used for irrigation. We need to do a better job of using this resource.

“Increasing irrigation could see a further 420,000 hectares of irrigated land becoming available, creating thousands of new jobs and boosting exports by $4 billion a year. . .

New Zealand has record year of success at International Wine Challenge:

New Zealand collect 38 Gold medals at IWC including 13 gold for their Pinot Noirs.

New Zealand winemakers demonstrated their excellence at the 30th International Wine Challenge winning 38 Gold medals in a record year of success.

Thirteen of the much-coveted Gold medals were awarded to Pinot Noir. “New Zealand’s Pinot just gets better and better and it is hard to beat in terms of quality, consistency and value. One theme that came through in judging this year was the regional diversity. This is great news for New Zealand Pinot and one that suggests that vine age is now starting to have a significant impact” said Sam Harrop MW, Co-Chairman of the IWC. Sauvignon Blanc also scored highly collecting eleven of the 38 Gold medals awarded to New Zealand. . .

‘Waitaki Wine Doctors see double’:

Drs John Forrest of Forrest Wines and Jim Jerram of Ostler Wines are today celebrating double successes with gold medals for their 2010 Waitaki Valley Pinot Noirs.

Awarded by the prestigious 2013 London International Wine Challenge, this echoes the 2012 event when the John Forrest Collection 2009 Pinot Noir was awarded a gold medal together with the Ostler Caroline 2009 Pinot Noir 2012 also winning gold at the equivalent event in Shanghai.

Waitaki Valley in New Zealand’s picturesque North Otago, was first planted in 2001 and the vineyards are mostly small, intensively managed and produce a range of distinctive cool-climate wines. The key viticultural characteristics are the area’s cool climate with warm summers and long, usually dry, autumn seasons. Its geological origins are complex with limestone, alluvial greywacke and schist being found in close proximity at different sites. . .

Coffee harvest plunges in Puerto Rico – Danica Coto:

Coffee production in Puerto Rico has hit the lowest level ever in the island’s history, leaving farmers and government officials worried about how to revive a once burgeoning industry amid a deep economic crisis.

Farmers produced some 39,900 kilograms of coffee during the most recent harvest, which represents only a third of local consumption, Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas says.

Production in previous years has fluctuated between 47,600 kilograms and 68,000 kilograms, according to department statistics. . .

Friday’s answers

May 17, 2013

Thursday’s questions were:

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 you include in the Budget if you were writing it?

Points for answers:

Bulaman got 2 1/2 (#3 had two parts) and a bonus for wit.

Alwyn got 4.

Answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

Spending well not up

May 17, 2013

Finance Minister Bill English’s fifth Budget is characterised by spending well rather than spending up.

Budget 2013 has freed up a further $1.5 billion by redirecting spending to where it delivers the best results, Finance Minister Bill English says.

This takes the total amount of reprioritised government spending since Budget 2009 to $14.9 billion.

“At a time when the Government’s finances are constrained, reprioritising spending allows significant additional funding for new or proven initiatives that get better results for New Zealanders,” Mr English says.

“It’s about spending well, not spending up.”

In total, Budget 2013 includes new spending initiatives worth $5.1 billion in the current year and over the next four years, paid for by a combination of new spending and $1.5 billion in reprioritisation and new revenue initiatives. Those savings and revenue initiatives include:

  • Tax and revenue changes that net an extra $313 million over four years.
  • Reprioritisation of $641 million to new spending initiatives within Budget votes.
  • Reprioritisation of $252 million of savings from across budget votes into significant new spending initiatives in areas like health, education, welfare reform, and science and innovation.
  • $303 million from existing contingencies.

“These savings are consistent with the Government’s approach across its five Budgets, which have together reprioritised almost $15 billion of spending,” Mr English says.

“New Zealanders were conditioned in the 2000s to believe that Budgets should be about the novelty of new, expensive spending programmes that held out promises of economic and social transformation. Those promises were illusory.

“There was no sustainable revenue stream to pay for the increased spending and there was nothing genuinely transformational to show for it.

“Governments should be judged on what they achieve rather than on what they spend. The value of our spending is a better measure than the amount of our spending. This Government is focused on results, and it’s paying off.   

The idea that a government should be judged on its achievements rather than its spending is a relatively new concept.

Budgets used to be focussed on spending and people waited with excitement to see what was in it for them.

The steep increases in spending from 2005 until 2008 show the cost of Labour’s pre-election lolly scramble.

National changed that, improving results rather than increasing expenditure, even going so far as to deliver a Budget with no increased spending in election year.

John Key, Bill English and their team changed that, making a virtue out of restraint and they’re getting results.

“For example, recorded crime is at a 24-year low, and we’re rolling out new technology for frontline police officers, but the baseline funding for Police is not being increased.  Instead, Police are finding more efficient and effective ways of doing their job which is generating savings they can reinvest.

“At a time when many governments overseas are undertaking radical cuts to get their books in order, we are enhancing high-quality frontline public services while maintaining support for our most vulnerable citizens. That is a real achievement.

“The Government will ensure future Budgets continue to focus on improving frontline public services to deliver better results for New Zealanders, at the same time as improving value for money from more than $70 billion of public spending every year,” Mr English says. . .

A friend who worked in Wellington in the late 80s and early 90s saw the results of spending cuts. She was back there during Labour’s last few years in government and was horrified to see the increases in spending, including steep growth in public service employees, without commensurate improvements in services and results.

National had to change that but its restraint has been restrained rather than radical – focussing on protecting people from the worst impacts of the recession, reducing expenditure, improving efficiency and maintaining services.

The LabourGreen reaction to the Budget shows that they still don’t understand the necessity for such measures, they would undo the good National has done just as the 1999-2008 Labour-led government undid the good done by those which preceded it.

They spent up, they didn’t spend well and LabourGreen would follow that bad example.

Building momentum, boosting optimism

May 17, 2013

We were at the ASB’s agribusiness conference earlier this week.

Chatham House rules applied so I can’t go into details of who spoke and what was said.

But the theme was leadership and one speaker mentioned the importance of optimism.

As an example he said how much he admired John Key’s ability to remain optimistic regardless of what was thrown at him.

Finance Minister Bill English doesn’t always appear as optimistic as the Prime Minister.

That isn’t because he’s a pessimist, he’s not. It’s more a reflection on the tough job he’s had and the knowledge that tough decisions on spending impact on people and it’s not always appropriate to put on a happy face.

However, yesterday he was able to smile as he talked about a more optimistic outlook:

Budget 2013 confirms New Zealand is on the right track, with forecasts of economic growth, more jobs, rising wages, and a return to surplus by 2014/15, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“New Zealanders can look to the future with well-earned confidence and optimism,” he says. “The New Zealand economy grew 3 per cent last year, which is almost the same as Australia, and higher than almost every other developed country.

“Wages have been increasing, cost of living increases have been modest, and interest rates are at 50-year lows.

“There are 50,000 more jobs in the economy than two years ago, although unemployment does remain too high and attracting new investment that creates jobs is a particular focus for the Government.

“The fiscal outlook has improved markedly as a result of the Government’s sound management and we are on track to surplus in 2014/15.

“These are real achievements that are benefitting New Zealanders and their families. Budget 2013 is about building momentum in this programme.”

These are achievements which most other countries will be envying.

The Government’s main priorities for this term are:

  • Responsibly managing its finances.
  • Building a more productive and competitive economy.
  • Delivering better public services.
  • Supporting the rebuilding of Christchurch.

This will carry on building momentum and boosting optimism.

I’ll vote for that.

For details on Budget initiatives see Budget at a glance.

Prescription is working

May 17, 2013

Opposition politicians and several commentators have criticised National’s economic prescription.

But the figures in Bill English’s fifth Budget showed the prescription is working.

The country has been on the right track and has a growth projection many other countries would envy.

economic growth

$500 in the hand

May 17, 2013

Continuing improvements in ACC provide an opportunity for significant levy reductions to benefit businesses and households, ACC Minister Judith Collins says.

“The Government is confident that a decrease in ACC levies is sustainable and is allowing for a reduction of around $300 million for 2014/15, increasing to a reduction of around $1 billion in 2015/16,” Ms Collins says.

This follows a $630 million reduction in levies for households and businesses in 2012/13. . .

“The potential 2014/15 levy reductions would leave around another $300 million in the economy for businesses and families.

“The Government is currently working with the ACC board to review its funding policy, with the aim of improving the governance and transparency of the levy-setting process, while ensuring that it reflects the Government’s objectives for the ACC scheme.

“Already there is general consensus that the improved performance of the ACC scheme makes substantial levy reductions appropriate and sustainable. Therefore, I am signalling a likely further reduction from 2015/16.

“Final decisions on levies for 2014/15 will be made later this year, following public consultation.

“The future for ACC is bright and will be of significant benefit to households and businesses alike,” Ms Collins says.

I read somewhere, and can no longer find it, that the reduction in levies would leave around $500 a year in the average household.

That’s a certain $500 in the hand which is far better than the LabourGreen promise of a $300 saving on power bills about which there is no certainty except any gain would be cancelled out by an increase in ETS charges.

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