Word of the day

June 24, 2013

Reify – to regard or treat an abstraction as if it had concrete or material existence; make something abstract more concrete or real; bring into being.

Word of the day

June 24, 2013

Abditory – a safe repository for valuables; place for hiding or preserving articles of value.

Rural round-up

June 24, 2013

Stock rescue mission – Rosie Manins:

A massive rescue operation is under way in Otago’s high country, where thousands of sheep and cattle are stranded in thick snow cover.

Volunteers are needed to help farmers access and feed stock on about 40 stations above 500m throughout the region.

Otago’s high country farms are among the worst-hit in the South Island.

Up to one metre of snow has isolated sheep and cattle and prevented farmers from surveying the damage, so it is too soon to know the extent of stock losses. . .

NZ Merino excited by Japanese contract – Sally Rae:

The signing of $2.5 million worth of New Zealand Merino contracts by Japanese brand Nikke has been heralded as a significant deal.

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and its fine wool growers have a 17-year relationship with the Japanese manufacturer of wool textiles.

NZM described the deal, signed in Osaka, as marking an ”exciting new era” in the partnership. Contracts were concluded for 132 tonnes of 14.3, 15.3, 16.3, 17.3, 19.5 and 21.5 micron, at prices ”significantly superior” to today’s market. . .

Innovation took merino to world – Tim Cronshaw:

Some of the best advice Icebreaker co-founder Brian Brakenridge gives to people with new business ideas is not to be afraid of being a non-conformist.

He and his wife, Fiona, were running merinos at Pohuenui Island in the Marlborough Sounds when they founded the merino outdoor garment business before the entry of “marketing guru” Jeremy Moon.

Brakenridge admits he sometimes feels uncomfortable being called the founder of the business, as Moon took it to its great heights. . .

Rural contractors take big hit from drought – Carmen Hall:

Western Bay of Plenty rural contractors lost as much as 50 per cent of their business because of the drought.

Hardest hit were hay, silage and cropping companies, which say most of their work was wiped out because of poor grass-growing conditions.

Bradstreet Contractors owner Peter Bradstreet says his workload is down 45 to 50 per cent and it is possibly the worst drought since the business began 35 years ago. “It has been particularly bad because the grass just didn’t grow.

“We’d get a little bit of rain but it would stop just when growing conditions looked good again … it was the longevity of the dry spell that did the damage.” . . .


Farmers add meat to debate on behaviour -David Burt:

Federated Farmers’ meat and fibre executive asked its members in April to participate in an online survey about farmer behaviour.

The aim was to gather information that would help the executive understand the drivers underpinning stock selling and related behaviours, which are thought to be one of the issues holding back the sector. The response from members was gratifying, with nearly 900 members participating.

A full analysis of the results is under way and will be presented to members at the Meat & Fibre Conference in Ashburton on July 3 and 4. . .

Double the support for Dairy Women’s Network:

Long-standing Dairy Women’s Network member Cathie Cotter has been appointed to a new role as convener co-ordinator for the South Island.

The network was boosting its support of dairying women throughout the country through two new roles which would help its regional groups increase memberships, increase local training opportunities and identify and support emerging leaders, executive chairwoman Michelle Wilson said. . .


Pre-charge warnings replacing diversion

June 24, 2013

People getting diversion after committing minor crimes won’t be required to make a donation to an organisation from July 1.

National Manager Police Prosecutions, Superintendent Craig Tweedie, said the success of pre-charge warnings, the continuing drop in crime and the focus on reparation for victims and rehabilitation for offenders had significantly reduced the number of donations given to groups as a condition of being granted diversion.

Mr Tweedie said the Police Prevention First National Operating Strategy reinforced a balanced approach to enforcement and alternative ways of resolving lower level offending.

“People who get in trouble with the law for the first time and are unlikely to re-offend are now being dealt with through pre-charge warnings, removing the need for a court appearance altogether.”

Pre-charge warnings have been very successful at holding people to account for their actions, while keeping low-level offending cases out of the court system.

For those offenders who do go through the court system a focus on prevention and victims has meant reparation to the victim and/or rehabilitation for the offender has been the focus of Diversion.

“A donation to an approved group is not reparation as it does not redress the damage caused to the injured party, Mr Tweedie said. “As a result of these factors diversion with donations being given as a condition have significantly reduced and continue to do so,” Mr Tweedie said.

For these reasons we now have an ever-decreasing pool of money to be shared between over 225 organisations. We expect the decline in donations to continue and believe the donation condition aspect of diversion is no longer viable.

Ending the condition to pay a donation will not lessen the impact of diversion on offenders.

They may be ordered to pay reparation to their victims, or they may need to attend a rehabilitative programme to address any underlying issues which they will be asked to pay for in whole or part instead of making a charitable donation. . . .

The man who stole my laptop a few years ago was given diversion. One of the conditions was he make a donation to Women’s Refuge.

I wasn’t consulted and wouldn’t have objected had I been. But making a donation to charity isn’t usually making reparation to the victim.

Groups which used to benefit from donations will miss the money but the amount they receive has been reducing as the numbers of people getting diversion has decreased.

Diversion Completion date range/Diversion Numbers

1 July 2009 – 30 June 2010/12,525
1 July 2010 – 30 June 2011/8,858
1 July 2011 – 30 June 2012/6,576
1 July 2012 – current (17 June)/5,289

There may still be a place for diversion but pre-charge warnings are a better option for most first-time offenders who are unlikely to offend again.

It’s better to leave court for more serious offences where appropriate.

Better protection for migrant workers welcome

June 24, 2013

Different cultures have different rules and different ideas of what is acceptable including over the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers.

In New Zealand it isn’t acceptable to exploit workers and changes to the law protecting migrants are welcome:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has announced measures to combat the exploitation of migrant workers, and make it clear that unlawful and exploitative behaviour will not be tolerated in New Zealand.

“By breaking the law, unscrupulous employers not only harm their staff but they also gain an unfair advantage over their law-abiding competitors.

“New proposals will see exploitative employers face lengthy prison time, hefty fines, and in some cases deportation back to their country of origin. Changes have also been made to encourage victims of exploitation to come forward.

“I plan to amend the Immigration Act to make it a specific offence to exploit migrants who hold temporary work visas. The proposed penalty will reflect the seriousness of the offence – imprisonment for up to seven years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both.

“Unlawful migrants are already protected by the Act in this way, and it is only right that lawful migrants have the same protections,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“I also propose to make exploitative employers with residence visas liable for deportation if the offence was committed within 10 years of gaining residence. We are seeing an increasing number of cases where the crooked employer is themself a migrant, taking advantage of vulnerable people from their own community.

“Changing the law to make such employers liable for deportation sends a strong message that the government will not tolerate such behaviour.”

This is a good move. Not all expoitative employers are immigrants but those who are must learn what is and isn’t acceptable practice here regardless of whether it might or might not be in their home countries.

Mr Woodhouse says that the legislative changes are likely to be introduced by August, and are in addition to a number of other steps being taken by the government to address the issue of migrant exploitation.

“Last week I signed off on an immigration policy change to encourage victims of exploitation to come forward so that action can be taken. There are currently few incentives for migrants to report exploitative practices by employers – particularly when the worker is in breach of their visa conditions, or is unlawful.

“The new policy means that in cases of serious workplace exploitation, migrants who come forward will be allowed to remain in New Zealand while they apply for a new visa. This will also help us better understand the true extent of migrant exploitation in New Zealand.

“I am also working closely with the Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges, to ensure cross-agency collaboration on this important issue. He is looking at operational and legislative mechanisms to improve enforcement of minimum employment standards, including proportionate and severe sanctions for serious breaches.”

“Ministers have made it clear to agencies that we expect a whole-of-government response to combating migrant exploitation, and MBIE’s Labour Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand are undertaking joint enforcement actions targeting the fishing, hospitality, horticulture and viticulture industries.

“The decision last year to require the reflagging of foreign-owned fishing vessels clearly demonstrated that putting a stop to illegal exploitation is a priority for the Government. These new immigration changes are another important step towards achieving that goal.”

Migrant workers who may not have good language English and an understanding of their rights are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

There is no excuse for migrant employers who exploit their workers and there is even less for local employers who should be familiar with their responsibilities to staff.

The main victims of exploitation are the workers who are being exploited. The exploitation also creates unfair competition for other workers and employers who follow the law.

A transcript of the interview of the minister on Q&A is here.

Time to cut the lines?

June 24, 2013

The Waitaki Electric Power Board used to boast of getting electricity to the most isolated dwellings in the furthermost corners of its catchment.

I doubt the board boasted about the cost of doing that and in those days service usually overcame commercial imperatives.

When Max Bradford’s power reforms were introduced the new lines companies were required to keep servicing the far-flung consumers.

I think there was a review of that a couple of years ago and the decision was made to keep things as they were.

It is possible that this might not always be best.

Lines charges make up a big proportion in most people’s power bills. The cost can be out of proportion to how much or how little power they use and how expensive it is to maintain the lines and repair them after storms like last week’s.

Given technological advances, is it still necessary to deliver power to everyone?

Westpac and Meridian Energy launched a new solar panel initiative for farmers at the National Fieldays.

One of the first to pilot the solar panels will be the Westpac Taranaki Agricultural Research Station in Hawera, which will provide an ongoing assessment and monitoring of the solar panels’ operation and cost savings on their dairy farm. . .

According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), around 140,000kWh of solar energy falls on the roof of a typical farm shed each year. Many sheds consume more than this in electrical energy.

While the savings from solar are modest in comparision to a farmer’s overall energy bill, there are savings to be had and potentially the opportunity to make money by selling any unused energy back into the grid at non-peak times. . .

Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Energy spokesperson, uses solar power at Castle Point Station and says it’s an effective technology for supplying power to remote areas in a cost effective manner.

“At Castlepoint Station we use solar to power radio communications and wireless broadband over 3,700 hectares.

“With my Federated Farmers hat on, I can see dairy farmers looking to use the roof expanse of their milking sheds for solar panels. The same applies to other heavy energy users such as arable farms and large sheep and beef stations like Castlepoint.

“If a farm’s electricity bill is over $1,000 each month then the Solar Shed initiative may suit your business. . . “

The Solar Shed initiative is for people who are still tied to the grid. That enables them to get power when they can’t generate enough themselves and gives them the opportunity to sell any excess back to a power company.

If reducing lines charges is one of the aims, some properties will have to be off the grid and Castle Point has a house which is.

It uses solar power and gas. Small scale wind or hydro schemes might work in some areas and diesel generation might also be viable.

Friends built a house in the country which is off the grid. They spent a lot of time designing it to make the best use of natural light and heat, have very good insulation and use wood burners, solar panels and diesel.

I realise this is potentially dangerous territory. Talking about cutting the lines to the peripheries, invites  debate on the cost to many versus the benefit to a few.

But as lines charges increase and technology improves, it could be worth investigating whether there are better, cheaper and possibly more reliable ways of getting power in remote places than through power lines.

From 20+ to 0

June 24, 2013

It was too hot to sit outside for brunch with my brother and his family in Townsville yesterday.

The temperature was mid 20s at the airport there early afternoon.

It was down to 18 in Brisbane a couple of hours later and zero when we landed in Christchurch just before midnight.

I’d taken the precaution of wearing a couple of layers of merino but it was still a shock to the system.

Meanwhile back on the farm, my farmer reports it’s soggy at home and snow is still lying on hill properties where feeding stock is the priority.

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