Word of the day

July 2, 2013

Psephology -the  statistical study of elections and trends in voting; academic study of elections and electoral behaviour.

Hat tip: Bowalley Road.

Streets, roads and swearing

July 2, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass this afternoon was sparked by:

* What’s the difference between a street and a road?


* How to swear without swearing.

Rural round-up

July 2, 2013

Dairying drives region’s growth – Neil Ratley:

The agricultural industry ensured Southland was one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing regions during the global financial crisis, new figures show.

Statistics New Zealand this week released the first official measure of regional economies, analysing 15 regions between 2007 and 2010.

Although the figures are three years old, Venture Southland enterprise services manager Alistair Adam said agriculture and manufacturing remain the two biggest drivers of Southland’s economy.

The conversion to dairy has strengthened the agricultural industry while the global financial crisis impacted on the manufacturing industry, he said.

“In the past 18 months, it has been a difficult time for manufacturing but we are seeing some good growth in the industry in Southland,” Mr Adams said. . .

Feed an issue as cows lose condition – Tony Benny:

Saturated paddocks are making it difficult for Canterbury dairy farmers to feed their stock and cow condition is suffering as a result.

“The amount of feed wasted over the last 10 days to two weeks has just been phenomenal,” said South Canterbury sharemilker Ben Januay. “We’re probably only getting 50 per cent utilisation and we’ve lost two weeks of putting condition on cows so we’re now right behind the eight-ball.”

Januay milks 2200 cows on a farm near Rangitata but the herd is being wintered on a runoff at Waihao Forks, near Waimate. “We’re the same as every farmer I think in the region – flooded paddocks, flooded rivers and mud up to your waist. Every farmer I talk to says they’re just struggling to get into paddocks to feed stock.” . . .

Acting Director-General of Ministry for Primary Industries announced:

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has today announced the appointment of Scott Gallacher as Acting Director-General and Chief Executive of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Mr Gallacher is currently MPI’s Deputy Director-General Resource Management and Programmes. He will take up the position from 29 July 2013 when the current Director-General, Wayne McNee, leaves MPI to take up a role in the private sector.

Mr Gallacher joined the Ministry of Fisheries in January 2009 as Chief Legal Adviser. He moved to become Director Strategy, Planning and Governance in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in early 2011 before taking up his current role in MPI in late 2011. . .

New chair for dairy industry awards:

SOUTH AUCKLAND sharemilker Gavin Roden is the new chair of the Dairy Industry Awards organisation.

Roden has been on the executive committee since 2011 and takes over from Southland farmer Matthew Richards who’s chaired the awards for the usual three year term.

“It’s business as usual for the awards this year,” Roden told Rural News. “The focus is the 25th anniversary of the Sharemilker competition.” . . .

Trophy treasured – Sally Rae:

When Outram stock agent and farmer Geoff Edgar won the Doug Lindsay Memorial Trophy in the annual Otago-Southland beef competition, he admitted it gave him ”a bit of a kick”.

Mr Edgar described the late Taieri cattleman as a ”grand old gentleman”. He had learnt a lot from him.

Mr Edgar received the trophy for winning champion on the hoof with a Limousin steer, which was described as having tremendous quality and finish. He also won reserve champion on the hoof with another Limousin steer. . .

Future of farming – robo hamster balls:

The hamster ball. Great for exercising hamsters, bringing stress levels down in humans and, according to Spanish scientists, the future of farming.

The Robotics and Cybernetics Research Group from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid have devised a robot that can effectively check moisture levels of farm soil.

Watch the robo ball in action below . . .

Argument against publicly funded lobbying

July 2, 2013

A cautionary tale from Britain:

An ‘independent’ celebrity-backed campaign to increase foreign aid was secretly engineered by Whitehall, it was claimed yesterday.

The IF movement recruited David Beckham, Orlando Bloom and Mo Farah to ensure the Government made good on a pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas help.

But internal documents reveal plans were cooked up by ministers and advisers at Whitehall and the Tory party conference two years ago.

At one of the first summits, an aide of David Cameron met representatives of five charities which between them receive more than £60million a year from the taxpayer via the Department for International Development. . . .

The government gave lobby groups money to lobby it to do something it wanted to do.

There’s no better argument against public funding of lobby groups.

It reinforces the wisdom of changes made here so that groups whose primary focus is political or lobbying no longer get charitable tax status.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall.

UK pushes EU to embrace GM

July 2, 2013

Britain is pushing the European Union to relax restrictions on genetically modified crops as growing scientific evidence shows they’re safe.

The move comes as 61 per cent of UK farmers now say they would like to grow GM crops after a disastrous 12-month cycle of poor weather that is expected significantly to reduce harvest yields. Senior government officials said that ministers are increasingly concerned that the potential moral and ethical benefits of GM are being ignored by costly and bureaucratic licensing regulations.

With one-twelfth of global arable land under GM cultivation they have privately warned that Britain faces being left behind in an important technology that has the potential to improve crop yields, help the UK’s agricultural industry and provide benefits to human health through vitamin fortification.

Government sources added that GM also had applications beyond food including the potential to combat diseases such as ash dieback and in developing new medicines.

“The point about GM is not simply about food production,” they said. “There are wider potential environmental and economic benefits to the technology both in the UK and internationally.

“What we want to do is start a dialogue within Europe on GM based upon the science.” . .

Genetically modified crops are widely used in many countries and none of the fears raised by the anti-science, anti-business opponents to their use have been realised.

On top of the advocated benefits of improving yields and cutting down on costs such as pesticides, the increasingly extreme weather has concentrated farmers’ minds on the need to guard against climate change.

“The weather has definitely had an impact,” said Martin Haworth, director of policy at the National Farmers Union. “Farmers are becoming more and more aware that climate change doesn’t mean a gradual rise in temperatures but rather a stream of extreme weather events. GM technology is one possible way of mitigating this.

“Last summer was disastrous for potatoes, for example. The potential for growing potatoes resistant to blight has had an impact on some farmers’ attitudes,” he said, adding that farmers were “very frustrated” at not being able to grow GM crops. . .

This will be tricky for the antis.

They’ll be pleased that farmers are acknowledging the impacts of climate change.

But they can’t insist we accept the science on that if they’re not willing to accept the science on genetic modification.

Labor’s lessons for Labour

July 2, 2013

Political leaders almost always get the blame for their poll woes but Luke Malpass points out there is a lot more to Labor’s problems than its former leader.

. . .  it’s often overlooked that Mr Rudd was dumped in large part because many of his policies were either poor quality or unpopular and his administration inept.

Many “policies” were either mismanaged, or simply never materialised.

Climate change topped the list of Rudd policy failures. Despite bloviating that it was “the greatest economic, moral and social challenge of our time”, Mr Rudd quickly abandoned doing anything when it became unpopular.

An ineffective fiscal stimulus was still being spent in school halls years after the global financial crisis had passed, while a home-insulation disaster came complete with house fires, deaths, and a ruined industry.

He presided over an abandoned laptops-in-schools programme. He introduced an unworkable and punitive mining-super-profits tax.

He legislated the Fair Work Act, taking industrial relations back to the 1970s. He dismantled the “Pacific solution” for asylum seekers, helping restart the odious people-smuggling trade, and 100 boat people are now arriving daily.

For this reason Mr Rudd’s elevation will probably make little difference. The policies are the same, and are still unpopular.

The basic conceit, under which Labor has operated since 2009, is that it is no good at “selling its message” – the notion that people might just not like the policies is never countenanced.

The policy failures, political ineptitude, blatant spin and deceit under both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd have been staggering. . .

There are lessons in the Australian Labor Party’s mistakes for the New Zealand labour Party.

The inability for its leader to gain traction is part of its problem.

But that is compounded by its chasing the Green Party to the left and obvious internal instability.

David Shearer’s leadership has never been secure and gets less so with every bad poll.

But just as a change of leader for Labor didn’t improve its policies, dumping Shearer won’t make Labour’s prescription any more palatable.

It has criticised every move National has made to rein in public spending, make the public service more efficient, reduce the burden of the state, encourage people from welfare to work, and other policies which have helped the country weather economic storms and track back to surplus.

Criticism is one role for an opposition. But it also needs to come up with compelling alternatives that make it look like a government in waiting.

Labour has failed to do this and like Labor, failed to see that people simply don’t like its policies.

Crown Irrigation Investments ready for business

July 2, 2013

Crown Irrigation Investments Limited is now established and ready to work with backers of new irrigation schemes.

This is very good news from Ministry for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.

“The company will act as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure projects, helping kick-start projects that would not otherwise get off the ground. The Government has set aside $80 million in Budget 2013 for this purpose,” says Mr Guy.

All members of the establishment board have been appointed to the new Board of Crown Irrigation Investments Limited.

The Board will be chaired by Alison Paterson, with members Don Huse (Deputy Chair), Debbie Birch, Lindsay Crossen, Chris Kelly, Graeme Sutton, and Michael Webb.

“Crown Irrigation will invest where it is considered necessary to get a project underway. It will be a minority and targeted investor.

“This is another important step towards unlocking the massive opportunities that water storage and irrigation can create for New Zealand.

“There is potential for another 420,000 hectares of irrigated land to be available for a variety of uses over time. Research from NZIER suggests exports could be boosted by $4 billion a year by 2026, which would support thousands of new jobs.

“More consistent river flows in summer will also have real benefits for the environment, with improved habitats for fish and birdlife.

“After the extreme drought that most of the country suffered earlier this year, the need for better water storage is obvious,” says Mr Guy.

CII’s role is not to enable uneconomic schemes to go ahead.

It will provide bridging finance in the early stages of a scheme’s development to enable it to get off the ground.

The money will be repaid as initial shareholders increase their investment or new ones join the scheme.

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