Word of the day

August 22, 2013

Ostrobogulous – slightly risqué or indecent; bizarre; interesting; strange, unusual.


Shearer falls on sword

August 22, 2013

David Shearer has fallen on his sword.

Shearer said his resignation would be effective once a new leader was elected.

Whip Chris Hipkins said a replacement would be decided in three to four weeks. He said he had informed the party president Moira Coatsworth and secretary Tim Barnett this morning.

Heading into the House with list MP Jacinda Ardern, Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said he was the acting leader but he could not say who was acting deputy.

So Shearer thinks he’s staying on until the new leader is selected but his former deputy has appointed himself acting leader.

The caucus can’t even get this right.


Rural round-up

August 22, 2013

Age crisis dawns as sunset years sets on workers – Hugh Stringleman:

KPMG has delved into the perplexing reasons why young people don’t take careers in agriculture more seriously in a country which relies upon the primary sector. Hugh Stringleman has read its latest Agribusiness Agenda report.

The capability of the people who work the land has made New Zealand what it is today.

While competitors can replicate equipment and processes, it is not easy to replicate the insight and relationships that people have developed over decades, according to the latest KPMG agribusiness report.

But the ages of existing farmers, orchardists and scientists continue to rise and the entire primary sector faces manpower shortages now and in the future. . .

Balance sheets under stress from lower livestock numbers – Allan Barber:

After the discussions between meat companies, lobbying by MIE, conferences and strategy debates, right now an eerie calm has settled over the meat industry. This is partly due to the mid winter slowdown in processing activity with only bobby calves to get excited about

At this time of year companies are doing their best to minimise any losses in the last quarter. There is no doubt the final results will be a lot better than last year, but they have to be, because the large companies could not sustain another big hit to their balance sheets.

Combined current and non-current debt between Silver Fern Farms, Alliance and ANZCO of $710 million at 30 September 2012 to fund losses and inventories means a substantial improvement this season is absolutely essential. The noises from the processors suggest moderate profits at best, mainly because of a sell down of inventory leading to reduced current debt and better control of procurement, offset by lower margins. . .

Spierings leads charge of change – Fran O’Sullivan:

Fonterra boss Theo Spierings has consolidated his powerbase at the dairy co-operative with chairman John Wilson’s emailed statement to shareholders that the board has confidence in the way the chief executive is handling the tainted whey protein affair.

The brutal truth is that long-time senior executive Gary Romano – who ran the New Zealand operation – had already offered himself up as the sacrificial lamb.

Romano’s resignation came before the various inquiry teams had even started delving into who to blame for the late discovery of “clostridium” in a batch of whey protein which had been made into infant formula and other products.

Since then two other executives have been put on leave – a clear indication that Fonterra already has a good idea where the buck will stop on this fiasco. . .

Auctioneers competition returns:

Following a successful inaugural event, the Heartland Bank Young Auctioneers Competition will return to the Canterbury A&P Show in 2013. 

The competition aims to showcase and develop young livestock auctioneers and improve the standard of auctioneering across the board. 

During the judging, which includes a test of auction rules and a mock auction, each entrant will be required to sell three lots of heifers/bulls. . .

Eastern Southland Dairy Conversion Benefits from Farm Environment Competition:

Entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards helped a fledgling Southland dairy operation measure its progress as a successful and sustainable farming business.

South Coast Dairy Ltd, an equity partnership between five families, owns 202ha between Curio Bay and the Haldane Estuary in Eastern Southland. The former sheep and beef farm was converted four years ago and now milks 385 cows on a 135ha milking platform.

Mindful of the farm’s location in a sensitive coastal area, the owners have made a big effort to mitigate the environmental impacts of dairying, with extensive riparian fencing and planting work conducted following consultation with the Department of Conservation, Environment Southland, Landcare Trust and Fish and Game. . .

Brancott Vineyard celebrates its 40th anniversary:

As the pioneers of the Marlborough wine region and its signature varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, Brancott Estate is excited to celebrate 40 years since the first planting of vines at Brancott Vineyard, home of world-renowned Brancott Estate wines.

On 24 August 1973, in front of a crowd of local media, politicians and business leaders, the Marlborough wine industry was born. At the time, the founder of what is now Brancott Estate, Frank Yukich made the statement that “wines from here will become world-famous” – and indeed they have, receiving many prestigious awards and accolades around the world. . .


Thursday’s quiz

August 22, 2013

1. Who said, It’s part of a writer’s profession, as it’s part of a spy’s profession, to prey on the community to which he’s attached, to take away information – often in secret – and to translate that into intelligence for his masters, whether it’s his readership or his spy masters. And I think that both professions are perhaps rather lonely.?

2. Who wrote The Spy Who Came In From The Cold?

3. It’s espion in French, espía in Spanish and tutei in Maori, what is it in English?

4. Who played James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me?

5. GCSB Act – necessary, an over-reaction or . . .?


Govt can’t always use kill switch

August 22, 2013

Tim Worstall points out the big difference between governments and markets:

. . . It takes great effort to get government to do anything. And that great effort comes from the interia of the system: meaning that it takes great effort to get something started and an equal amount of effort to get something stopped. This is in contrast to the market where yes, it takes great effort to get something working. But the system does contain that kill switch: bankruptcy. If something’s not working then it doesn’t take great effort to stop it. It just runs out of money and stops.

And that, I am afraid, is one of the reasons why politics is a bad way to get things done. Simply because they won’t stop doing things even when it’s obvious that they are the wrong things to be doing.

Whenever I have anything to do with the mechanisms of government – central or local – , which mercifully isn’t often, I feel like I’m trying to swim through syrup in gumboots.

The wheels of bureaucracy grind exceedingly slow and change rarely happens quickly.

That isn’t always bad – solutions to problems governments face aren’t usually simple and fast policy isn’t necessarily good policy.

However, politics does often get in the way of good change.

Governments do usually have a kill switch but they’re not always able to use it,

They generally have the ability to make changes but know that doing so will sometimes cost too much support.

Bad policy can be good politics and if change would be unpalatable to too big a chunk of the electorate  governments, and parties wanting to get into government, have to stick with it.

Purists slam this as unprincipled.

But given the choice of staying pure in opposition where they can achieve nothing or swallowing the odd dead rat to get into, or stay in, government where they can make a positive difference, most will opt to chew the rodent.


Mandatory audit of party membership

August 22, 2013

United Future has been re-registered and recognised as a party in parliament again.

One of the problems the party had was the Electoral Commission’s refusal to recognise electronic memberships.

Its leader Peter Dunne took the opportunity in Question Time yesterday to ask about bringing the law up to date:

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: . . .  —I agree that the time has come when we should also be looking into the greater use of electronic data for all aspects of our electoral system. I have asked my officials and the Electoral Commission to consider ways in which this can be achieved while retaining the very high levels of security and public confidence in the system.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s answer mean that she is prepared to look, in the context of the forthcoming rewrite of the Electoral Act, at changes to the law, to ensure that where parties register members online, those memberships will be accepted as valid?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister also prepared to consider, as part of that review or changes to that legislation, looking at providing for a mandatory audit by the Electoral Commission of all parties’ membership once every 3 years?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have not given that matter any thought, but it is a matter that I could always discuss with the Electoral Commission.

Parties are required to have 500 members to be, and remain, registered. All the Electoral Commission has to go on is confirmation of this from the party.

There is no check on the accuracy of the count of the validity of the memberships and there should be. I would also like to see a significant increase in the minimum number.

Five  hundred members is a very low target for a party to reach.

MMP has given a lot more power to parties, the law needs to ensure that they are representative of more than a few hundred people.

If a party can get tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people to vote for them, they ought to be able to persuade a couple of thousand to join them.

They, and democracy, would be stronger for it.


MPI mulls interim measures for dairy

August 22, 2013

The Ministry for Primary Industries is exploring interim measures to strengthen consumer assurances around New Zealand’s dairy production.

“Our dairy sector trades on New Zealand’s reputation, and that reputation is built on the strong assurances our regulatory system provides, and the quality of New Zealand’s products,” MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.

“The reality is the convergence of events over the last six months has sparked debate about some elements of our food system. We need to respond to that.”

“Ministers have established an inquiry process that will yield long term recommendations for how our food safety system in relation to dairy can be further improved. In the meantime, MPI is considering interim measures.”

MPI will:

  • Lift the regulatory presence in manufacturing premises;
  • Lift the level of and nature of testing across dairy production to improve the identification of non-compliance issues;
  • Run tracing simulations to test the capability of the industry to rapidly track and trace product through their supply chains;
  • Increase reviews of the risk management plans dairy producers have for manufacturing facilities.

“At the same time, MPI is also increasing the level of analysis it routinely undertakes of regulatory non-compliance across the dairy sector. We will be looking for trends that will help us identify whether there are any further interim measures that may be required,” Mr Gallacher said.

“In any food system, there are issues that arise from time to time. New Zealand’s food system is no different. Our testing regimes are thorough and robust when compared with the world’s leading dairy producing nations. And when issues do arise, we deal with them promptly and openly with our trading partners.  If there is a food safety risk, we notify the public, and from time-to-time we also notify about broader non-compliance issues, such as the nitrate issue.

“Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. I am confident these interim measures will help to reinforce consumer trust and confidence in our dairy products,” Mr Gallacher said.

There’s been four issues in just over two weeks.

The first was Fonterra’s precautionary recall of products containing whey protein concentrate. That was followed by Sri Lanka’s blacklisting milk powder over claims it had high levels of DCD.

Next came the news of  high levels of nitrate in a shipment of Westland Milk’s lactoferin and then yesterday Fonterra revealed another hiccup after the quarantine over nitrate levels in May .

The increase in the price of milk in yesterday’s GlobalDairyTrade auction indicates that none of these incidents has caused serious harm but there is absolutely no room for complacency.

If we’re too keep our reputation for high quality, safe food then everything possible must be done to minimise the risk of the human or mechanical errors and to ensure any issues with non-compliance are picked up well before they enter the food chain.


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