Word of the day

August 11, 2013

Ataraxy – a state of serene calmness; a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquillity; of or relating to a drug or other agent that has a tranquillising effect.


Rural round-up

August 11, 2013

Formula firms see orders cancelled – Christopher Adams:

Kiwi baby formula companies are having orders cancelled in China and contract negotiations with Chinese customers terminated as a result of Fonterra’s botulism contamination crisis, says an industry group.

Chris Claridge, chief administration officer of the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association, said $40 million worth of the group’s products were immediately at risk.

“That’s product at the ports, on the ship and being manufactured,” Claridge said. “We’re seeing serious commercial issues arising.”

The association represents around 15 local baby milk exporters, none of whom used the 38 tonnes of potentially contaminated Fonterra whey protein in the making of their products. . .

Fonterra farmers keep the faith:

A week on from the revelation of contaminated Fonterra product, farmers “hang on” with confidence in their dairy co-operative.

As the list of questions about the company’s risk management strategies and public relations nous mounts, suppliers remain in support, but expect answers.

The media hype and sensationalism had likely done greater damage and posed a greater threat to the industry than one contaminated pipe, South Canterbury dairy farmer Ryan O’Sullivan suggested. . .

MPI removes illegal kiwifruit plants:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is today starting to remove and safely dispose of a small backyard kiwifruit orchard in an Auckland suburb that appears to have been grown from seed imported illegally.

MPI Manager Response Katherine Clift says the Ministry has been informed that the seeds were brought into New Zealand with a container of household goods when the owner moved to New Zealand in 1997. They were not declared and subsequently not detected at the border.

Dr Clift says testing of plant material from the property carried out by MPI ruled out the presence of any serious disease-causing viruses, bacteria or fungi, including Psa and MPI assessed the plants presented a low risk to the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

“In addition, the plants are at a location geographically removed from key kiwifruit growing areas and the owner has stated that no plant material has been moved from the property.” . . .

Otago paramedic wins RWNZ/Acces scholarship:

Annabel Taylor is no stranger to rural medical emergencies and farm accidents, and now she’ll be even better equipped to deal with them, thanks to winning this year’s $3,000 Rural Women NZ/Access Scholarship.

As a St John paramedic based in Taieri, Annabel works for both the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter and the Dunedin ambulance service, responding to calls for help from the rural community.

The scholarship will help cover Annabel’s expenses as she studies for a year-long Postgraduate Certificate in Speciality Care, Advanced Paramedic Practice at Whitireia Polytechnic in Porirua, near Wellington.  The course includes distance learning and she’ll also be flying to Wellington six times a year for block courses. . .

Family feud nets $1.8m for farmer – Michael Field:

A small-town law firm has been ordered to pay $1.8 million compensation to a Waikato farmer after a family feud over the sale of his property.

Farmer Ross Blackwell, of Arohena, south of Te Awamutu, decided to sell his farm to his neighbour since he didn’t want his brothers to inherit it because of the way they had treated his wife, the High Court heard.

But the deal he made with neighbours Leith and Rosemary Chick meant they could buy the farm at less than half market value.

Blackwell’s brothers took the sale to court, throwing doubts on his intellectual ability after he suffered a brain tumour and strokes, and saying they were stunned the farm was being sold out of the family. . .

The New York analyst, the farm station and the advisory board – David Williams:

Back in the day it was unfashionable.

Anders Crofoot moved his family to New Zealand from New York 15 years ago to farm Castlepoint Station, in the Wairarapa, and immediately created an advisory board.

It’s not that that sort of thing wasn’t being done, he says, more that they were doing it because they wanted to – not because the bank told them to.

As reported in Friday’s National Business Review print edition, the country’s large, complex farms are more frequently appointing boards to oversee their governance as the agricultural sector grapples with high debt and the need for external capital. . .

Famous Five quins one in a million – Alison Harley:

Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley is the location of New Zealand’s spy base, but this week it has gained recognition for a completely different reason.

It has now become home to the “famous five” after a ewe on one station delivered more lambs than anyone expected.

Farmer Kelly Burmaz says it is not the first multiple birth for the mother.

“In the last four years she’s had four lambs each year,” says Mr Burmaz.

“This time she’s poked out five.” . . .

 


No-roll quad Dyson award finalist

August 11, 2013

A quad bike that doesn’t roll is one of the finalists for the James Dyson Award.

Tahr Quad was designed by Nick Marks.

Four wheel quad bikes popular for farming can roll over in difficult terrain causing 850 injuries in New Zealand every year. Tahr Quad is a bike designed specifically for farming. It uses a completely different suspension and chassis system in combination with intelligent computer technology to prevent four wheel vehicles from rolling.

Nick Marks, a 24 year old designer from Torbay, Auckland designed an automatic balancing system, which borrows its principle from two-wheel bikes which lean into corners. Internally it gyrates and shifts the bike’s mass and lowers its centre of gravity, stabilising the vehicle and rider. All four wheels are designed to maintain contact with the terrain. . .

Another youtube clip shows the design process.

This sounds like a very good invention which would be much safer than conventional quad bikes.

Other finalists for the award are: Cortex, a lightweight and breathable cast for fractured bones designed by Jake Evill, and Fabseat, a desk chair that people can create for themselves by using materials that have been cut to their individual body measurements and cushioning preferences, designed by Evan Thomas.

Hat tip: PM of NZ.


Problem solver

August 11, 2013

Open large picture

I don’t have a whole lot of excuses for what’s gone wrong with my life, she said. But the ones I do have are really good.

Story People by Brian Andreas.

If you’d like a daily dose of whimsy like this, clicking on the link will take you to where you can sign up for emails.

 


Too late to do the right thing?

August 11, 2013

We met a couple of friends at Wellington airport on Wednesday and agreed to share a taxi into town.

I ended up in the middle of the back seat, leaned forward so the blokes either side of me could do up their seatbelts then reached round to find mine.

I couldn’t.

I turned, looked and couldn’t see a belt either.

I asked the driver where it was, he told me it was covered by the seat cover.

The taxi was moving by then but I could have asked him to stop and got another taxi.

I didn’t.

I felt uncomfortable and unsafe but didn’t want to make a fuss.

Now, four days later I’m still regretting I didn’t.

Our trip was uneventful and we arrived at our destination safely, but what if a future passenger doesn’t?

The taxi shouldn’t have been taking five passengers if it had seat belts for only four.

But having not done the right thing when I should have, I think it’s too late to do it now because I didn’t take note of the company, the car make or registration or the driver’s name.


Balance between environment and economy

August 11, 2013

Changes to the RMA announced yesterday are designed to get a better balance between environmental responsibility and economic growth.

In his opening remarks to the National Party’s annual conference Prime Minister John Key said:

New Zealand needs planning law that enables economic growth and jobs, as well as providing strong environmental outcomes.

The changes we are introducing are about striking that balance between our environmental responsibilities and our economic opportunities.

The latest reforms, which include changes to sections 6 and 7 of the law, are about providing great confidence for businesses to grow and create jobs, greater certainty for communities to plan for their area’s needs, and stronger environmental outcomes as New Zealand’s communities grow and change.

When National became the Government in 2008, we began a programme of reform to ensure that our planning law was about the sustainable management of our resources and timely decisions for New Zealanders and our job-creating businesses, rather than the endless bureaucratic delays people experienced under Labour.

The first stage of reform in 2009 involved 150 amendments to simplify and streamline the RMA, to reduce costs, uncertainties and delays.

This has improved outcomes for the environment, supported business investment and encouraged stronger economic growth.

These reforms reduced late consents from 31 per cent in 2008 to 5 per cent in 2011. That is a great achievement.

The 2009 reforms also created the Environmental Protection Authority, which enables the efficient processing of major urban and infrastructure projects that are crucially important to New Zealanders.

This process has led to the Waterview and Transmission Gully projects both being consented within nine months.

Previously these critical transport projects could be deadlocked for years.

The trade protection provisions introduced by the 2009 reforms have also helped tackle the so-called supermarket wars, where supermarket groups and other big retailers have spent years and years, and millions of dollars, fighting each other in the courts over their respective expansion plans.

Last December, Amy introduced a second resource management reform bill, which will deliver on our election promise of a six-month time limit for medium-sized projects, and allow easier direct referral for major regional projects to the Environment Court.

Today, I am pleased to tell you that the Government is ready to progress the third stage of RMA reform.

This will be the largest single set of reforms of the system since the law came into force in 1991.

A key part of these reforms will be addressing the heart of the housing affordability problem in New Zealand, by freeing up land supply and making it easier to build, extend, and renovate houses.

We want to see more houses built for families, and more jobs for builders and carpenters; not bureaucrats checking passports at the doors of open homes as Labour would have us do. . .

The Government’s comprehensive RMA reforms will deliver a system that meets the needs of our communities and our regions by enabling jobs and growth, while also providing for strong environmental protections in a timely and cost-effective way.

They are about breaking the cycle of delay after delay and delivering decisions; one way or the other. 

Our reforms are not about growth at any cost.

I have always said we have to balance our economic opportunities and our environmental responsibilities.  That is at the heart of our approach to planning law.

Our political opponents like to paint National as anti-environment.

That is nonsense.

We only have to look at Nick Smith’s sensible decision on the Milford Tunnel, or the extensive work we have done on managing water resources through such bodies as the Land and Water Forum, to see the balance and pragmatism that runs through our decision-making.

And that balance and pragmatism will continue to guide us in the reforms we make to improve planning law for the benefit of New Zealanders.

Environment Minister Amy Adams  said the RMA is not just about environmental protection, it is also our planning law.

There is no doubt that the Resource Management Act is a critical piece of legislation.

It must protect our natural environment and the qualities we hold dear as New Zealanders, while encouraging a successful economy and enabling a vibrant built environment.

As well as being environmental legislation is it also our key piece of planning legislation and it forms the basis for the decisions that determine what we can do on our land and has a huge impact on whether our communities will get what they need day to day; be that jobs, houses, infrastructure, recreation spaces  or other facilities.

And I believe that in this respect the system that has developed over the past 22 years is not serving us well.

Instead of enabling a strong housing supply – it is slowing or blocking development when it is desperately needed.

Instead of encouraging investors to create jobs – it is discouraging them with uncertainty, bureaucracy and delays.
Instead of protecting our communities and businesses with strong modern infrastructure – it hinders projects of all sizes with unnecessary costs, delays and process.

I’m sure most of you have heard the stories.  And the reason we all know them is because they are everywhere.

A recent Statistics New Zealand survey highlighted that potentially $800million of projects hadn’t proceeded over the 2 years studied, not because they were a bad idea or didn’t make the grade, but because applicants often found it just too frustrating to work their way through the RMA.

Closer to home, we all have our own RMA horror stories. Some recent ones I have come across include:
•       A $3500 consent being needed to do an $800 job to remove a chimney to help quake safe a home
•       Or $7000 in consent costs to add a further 4m to an existing deck
•       Needing a resource consent and an arborist’s report to trim a tree in your own backyard,
•       Heritage protections applied to a 14year old Lockwood home,
•       A consent being needed for a sea plane to do a one-off touch and go landing on a harbour
•       And visual streetscape rules applied to a back section not visible from the street.

Changes which address these sorts of unnecessary costs and delays shouldn’t impact unduly on the environment but will have a positive affect on the economy.

To claim that economic considerations have no place in the RMA is frankly ludicrous and ignores the very wording of the purpose section of the Act.

But I see no reason why we can’t have a system that safeguards New Zealand’s stunning environment while still ensuring we meet the wider needs of our people.

We have to move away from the misguided belief that seems to have developed that the more time and money that gets spent on a process, somehow the better the outcome will be.

Can it be right that a small number of people, if they have enough money, can re-litigate and hold up what the community has decided, sometimes for years at a time?

We currently have one of the most highly devolved planning systems amongst countries we compare ourselves to. . .

In essence the reforms announced will:

•       Bring in a simplified planning framework with central government providing greater direction and consistency, in the form of a national planning template, leaving local decision makers to focus on how those frameworks should apply in their local communities.

As part of this we will be revising and consolidating the current sections 6 and 7 of the Act into a single set of matters of national importance.

•       We will require plans to be more proactive so that more decisions are made up front and fewer consents will be needed

•       and, as the Prime Minister has already told you, where consents are required we will ensure the costs and processes are streamlined and proportionate to the activity so that projects aren’t held up or made to cost more than they need to.

•       we will require a single plan to be created between councils and made available electronically so property owners can more easily understand what all the rules that affect them are

•       We will require Councils to engage better with their communities and local iwi in their planning so that fewer drawn out legal battles are needed for communities to feel heard.

•       We will make councils more accountable to their communities for how they are meeting local environmental, cultural, social and economic needs… by requiring better reporting and benchmarking against indicators such as vacant section availability and prices, local employment information, water and air quality indicators, and so on.

•       We will require better consideration of natural hazards in planning learning the lessons from the Canterbury earthquakes and picking up the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

We are determined to create a system that’s more certain, less costly, and enables growth while protecting core environmental standards which are so critical to New Zealand. . .

The RMA has created a mass of red tape, added costs and caused delays.

The changes will address those problems.

Following the link to the speech will give you some practical examples of what the reforms will do and show how environmental responsibility and economic growth aren’t mutually exclusive.


Sunday soapbox

August 11, 2013
Sunday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, to muse or amuse.

Thanks to all your likes, shares, and comments, we’ve made it to the top 8 large social brands in the #socialmadness contest! Let’s keep it up! Also, this image is shared from eZanga, who is in the top 8 for medium brands!


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