Word of the day

September 28, 2013

Skosh – a little bit; small amount, a jot; a tad.


10/10

September 28, 2013

10/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz with three only vaguely informed guesses.


Rural round-up

September 28, 2013

Private Investors announced for Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme:

Two well-known New Zealand companies have signalled their intention to potentially invest in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme in Hawke’s Bay.

TrustPower Limited and Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation Limited (NTHC) have each signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company Limited (HBRIC Ltd) to potentially invest in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme in Hawke’s Bay.  HBRIC Ltd is Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment company and lead entity for the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme which, if approved, has the potential to improve the water quality and quantity in the Tukituki River and reliably irrigate up to 30,000 hectares of land. 

All parties emphasise their commitment to deliver the best possible outcomes for the Hawke’s Bay region, across environmental, social, cultural and economic values.  Today’s announcement comes after significant combined investigations by the two potential investors with HBRIC Ltd. . .

Putting NZ dairy innovation on the world stage:

New Zealand-owned dairy technology innovator, Waikato Milking Systems, will showcase its expertise in large-scale, high-volume milking systems at the World Dairy Expo in the United States.

The 100% New Zealand-owned and operated company will display a selection of its products at the show, including products specifically designed for high-producing, 24-hour dairy operations. The international show is in Madison, Wisconsin from October 1 to 5.

“The World Dairy Expo attracts leading dairy operators from all over the globe. It is a great opportunity to put New Zealand dairy innovation and technology on the world map,” Waikato Milking Systems Chief Executive Dean Bell says. “Our rotary milking systems are known for being reliable and robust with very little maintenance required – ideal for withstanding the rigours of 24 hour milking.” . . .

Central Otago country hotel wins accolade at national hospitality awards:

A Central Otago country hotel has taken out one of the top accolades at this year’s Hospitality New Zealand Awards for Excellence. Chatto Creek Tavern near Alexandra won the Best Country Hotel title.

The Hospitality New Zealand Awards for Excellence were announced in Queenstown last night. The Supreme Champion award was presented to The Batch Café in Invercargill. Winners were announced in 16 categories and encompassed a vast geographic spread of hospitality businesses throughout the country. . .

DINZ keen to ensure that AgResearch’s Future Footprint delivers for deer industry:

Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) is looking forward to working with AgResearch in the implementation of its Future Footprint plan, which AgResearch announced yesterday it would proceed with.

DINZ Deputy Chair, Jerry Bell, said today that “there has certainly been concern in our industry about the impact of the Future Footprint plan on deer research. Industry representatives have sought assurances that deer research will be not diminished and have received a strong commitment from AgResearch to our on-going deer research programme”.

“People at the Invermay campus have been absolutely critical in the success of our industry, but the reality is that deer research has been contributed to from a range of campuses for some time now. What’s of greatest importance is the quality of, and the investment in those people, not necessarily where they are”. . .

Top 40 Cooperatives And Mutuals Top $41Bn Revenue:

The 2013 New Zealand Cooperative and Mutual Top 40 list was launched by Minister of Commerce Craig Foss at the Cooperative Business New Zealand annual meeting in Wellington on 17th September.

Showing a combined annual revenue of $41,129,034,964 for the year 2011-12, the Top 40 cooperatives in New Zealand ranged from Fonterra Cooperative Group and Foodstuffs at the top through Southern Cross Healthcare Society and Mitre10 to Ashburton Trading Society, the Dairy Goat Cooperative and World Travellers, with the NZ Honey Producers Cooperative coming in at #40.

“I think it is important that New Zealanders sit up and take notice of cooperatives; they help drive the economy, respond to social change and create jobs in a variety of sectors. While they may often be low profile, they are significant economic actors,” said Minister Foss. . .

Progressive Enterprises confirms no sulphites in fresh meat:

Progressive Enterprises does not add sulphites to its fresh meat and the recent samples taken by the Ministry for Primary Industries, which showed positive results for sulphites, were not from any Countdown, SuperValue or FreshChoice supermarket. 

Progressive Enterprises is disappointed that media coverage of the MPI testing has provided an inaccurate and misleading impression that samples which tested positive for sulphites were found in major supermarkets. . .

Fonterra Farewells

Fonterra Co-operative Limited today farewelled its former Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Mason who retires from the Co-operative at the end of this week.

Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings said Mr Mason would leave behind an invaluable legacy: “Jonathan joined us in 2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis. He led our finance team through those difficult times, and the Co-operative emerged from the crisis in a strong position. He then helped to deliver our new capital structure with the successful implementation of Trading Among Farmers.

“During his time here, Jonathan has also dedicated himself to building and strengthening our finance function and team. . .

Former CFO:


Saturday’s smiles

September 28, 2013

The country pub had a country barman.

Not just any country barman, but a strong one. In a district renowned for strong men he was reputed to be the strongest.

The pub was so sure of this it offered a standing $1,000 bet that Tom could squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass. Any customer who could pick up the lemon and squeeze one more drop of juice out of it, would win the cash.

Many people had tried over time, weightlifters, bodybuilders, shearers, foresters, farmers . . .  but nobody could do it.

Then one day, a short, skinny woman came into the pub.

She said in a quiet voice, ‘I’d like to try the bet.’

After the laughter subsided, Tom said, ‘OK’, shook her hand to seal the deal, grabbed the lemon and squeezed.

Then he handed the wrinkled remains to the woman with a grin. The grin slipped as the woman clenched her fist around the lemon… and six drops of juice dribbled into the glass.

As the crowd cheered, the publican handed over $1,000 to the woman and asked, ‘What do you do for a living?’

The woman quietly replied, ‘I work for Inland Revenue.’


Parade no place for politics

September 28, 2013

A float featuring a model of a 12-week-old foetus has been banned from today’s Alexandra Blossom Festival parade.

Organisers found the image obscene and offensive, and say it didn’t fit with the event’s family image.

It’s the first ban in the parade’s 57-year history. . .

Organisers suggested replacing the two-metre model with dolls, saying the striking image was too political.

“We’re not here to promote a cause, which is of great concern, and an image which frankly as the father of an 11-year-old, I really didn’t want the responsibility of trying to explain that to my daughter,” says festival organiser Martin McPherson. . .

Even with the less confrontational approach suggested  by organisers, I put this in the same category as Falun Gong which was banned from Auckland’s Christmas parade.

These parades are designed to be family entertainment and aren’t the place for political protests.


Strong words to Security Council

September 28, 2013

Prime Minister John Key had some very strong words for the United Nations :

Mr President. Congratulations on your election to the Presidency of this General Assembly.  You take the reins at an important time.  We wish you every success. You have our support.

The recent events in Kenya, Iraq and Pakistan show how troubled the world can be. We commiserate with the governments and people of those countries and extend our deepest sympathies to those who lost family and friends in these tragic incidents.

Mr President.

For most of us, born after the Second World War, the United Nations has been at the centre of our conception of how the world organises itself.

But the reality of the UN can be quite challenging.

It’s the one place where the countries of the world meet, talk and try to find solutions to global and regional issues.

Sadly, some of those discussions can become so arcane they are sometimes quite removed from the issues they claim to be addressing.

That is a concern especially for small states for whom this Organisation is so important.

Even more sadly, the UN has too often failed to provide solutions to the problems the world expects it to resolve.

The gap between aspiration and delivery is all too apparent, as the situation in Syria has again so brutally reminded us. 

But any failures of this institution are less failures of the Organisation than they are failures of us, its Member States, and those who have the responsibility of leading those states.

There would be no dreadful humanitarian situation in Syria if Syria’s leaders had upheld the commitments made to the international community and to the Syrian people when Syria joined this organisation and ratified the Human Rights Covenants.

This Organisation would not also have been a powerless bystander to the Syrian tragedy for over two years if the lack of agreement among the Security Council’s Permanent Members had not shielded the Assad regime – thereby re-confirming the fears of New Zealand and others who had opposed the veto at the original San Francisco conference in 1945.

New Zealand is pleased that the Security Council has at last met on the situation in Syria.

The Secretary-General has advised the Council and the General Assembly, “The United Nations Mission has now confirmed, unequivocally and objectively, that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.”  

The report found “clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used” on 21 August.

The information in the report also makes it very clear that those rockets must have been fired by the Syrian regime.  As the Secretary-General has said, these are war crimes.

Those responsible must be brought to account.

Those that try to cast doubt on the report’s conclusions make themselves look foolish and do a disservice to the UN.

It is imperative now that the Council acts.  It must adopt a resolution that responds to the use of chemical weapons.

It must find a means to hold those responsible to account, and establishes an effective mechanism for the destruction of those weapons in line with the proposal developed by the United States and Russia.

The resolution must also provide for the protection of the civilian population.

Mr President.

While Syria necessarily commands our attention, I also want to spend some time on some more positive developments both for the Organisation and its member States.

I want to begin with my own country – whose emergence as a fully independent state has proceeded in parallel with the development of the United Nations.

New Zealand was present at the founding in San Francisco.

We take pride in the fact we were able to influence the drafting of the Charter, particularly the Trusteeship section that paved the way for a number of states to become full members of this Organisation.

New Zealand has come a long way since the Charter was adopted.

Then, we were emerging from our status as a dominion of the United Kingdom.

Today, we proudly assert ourselves as a small but independent and diverse country that has a wide network of friends and trading relationships in all the major regions and markets of the world.

We value our traditional relationships with Australia and the Pacific, and in Europe and North America as we build new links with partners in Asia, the rest of the Americas and the Caribbean, and Africa.

Building and sustaining political and commercial links across the regions of the world is no small matter for a country like New Zealand.

We are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and located over three hours flying time from our closest neighbour, in one of the least populated parts of the world.

We share with our Pacific Island neighbours the challenges of distance and isolation, and of having to hold our own against much larger countries whose economies of scale and proximity to markets give them a considerable competitive advantage.

These factors have reinforced New Zealand’s approach to the United Nations and to the other international organisations that have shaped the post-World War II environment.

We have a strong preference for a rules‑based multilateralist approach, whether in the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation or the World Bank.

We know that rules and standards set internationally offer us the greatest certainty and the greatest protection.

We draw strength from global agreements and from the collective commitment they represent.

That’s why we attach such importance to the completion of the Doha Round.

While New Zealand continues to actively negotiate bilateral and regional trade agreements, we acknowledge that FTAs often leave least developing countries on the sidelines.

The benefit of the WTO, as with the UN, is that rules negotiated there apply across the globe, irrespective of your size or wealth.

Our preference for international rules reflects New Zealand’s national approach to governance.

We have a robust and transparent system of government and sound financial institutions that helped us to ride out the worst effects of the Global Financial Crisis.

This was despite the significant economic and social challenges we faced after the destructive earthquake that struck Christchurch, our second largest city, in 2011.

Mr President.

As we work to restore the built environment in Christchurch, New Zealanders are also conscious of our dependence on and our responsibility towards the natural environment.

In policy terms, climate change has been a challenge for New Zealand, and for the international community more broadly.

But New Zealanders know we must play our part, and we have taken action.

We have introduced an extensive emissions trading scheme.

We are investing in the Global Research Alliance to find new ways to manage agricultural greenhouse gases.

And we have committed to reducing emissions by 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. 

We made that commitment under the Framework Convention rather than the Kyoto Protocol.

We have done this because while Kyoto once seemed to offer a path forward, things have changed.

The Protocol now covers only a small percentage of global emissions.

We need a single legal framework that commits all major emitters.

Mr President.

While climate change is an important issue, it pales in comparison to the problems faced by many UN members.

One of the most intractable is that of Israel and Palestine.

As long as this problem is left unresolved there can be no assured peace in the Middle East, and no security for the wider region.

And there can be no resolution without the Israeli and Palestinian peoples both being assured of viable homelands within secure borders.

New Zealand pays tribute to the tenacity of US Secretary of State Kerry, and to the courage of President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to resume the Middle East Peace Process.

In our own region, we have celebrated the successful conclusion of the UN Mission to Timor-Leste and the transition of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands from a military to a police‑led operation. 

We look forward with intense interest and cautious hope to the reinstatement of democracy in Fiji. We acknowledge the positive developments there, including on election preparations and voter registration.

The countries of the Pacific, including New Zealand, want and need Fiji to be successful, democratic and well-governed.

Mr President.

Earlier this year New Zealand withdrew the bulk of its forces from Afghanistan, following the closure of the New Zealand-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan province, which brought security and helped bring a significant improvement in governance and development. 

School and hospitals were rebuilt and health centres opened.  Mortality rates for children under five were halved.  Maternal deaths are a quarter of Taliban-era levels.  Girls now make up half the number of primary school children. 

New Zealand expertise also helped substantially improve agricultural yields through the implementation of modern farming techniques. 

We are building the largest solar energy system in Afghanistan, which will bring a renewable source of electricity to much of Bamyan township.

This has been a big commitment by a small country, situated far away.  It also came at considerable cost; ten of our service men and women lost their lives while on duty there.

Even so, we are proud of what we achieved in partnership with the people of Bamyan and hope those gains can be sustained in the years ahead. 

Mr President.

In Africa, we see a continent where many countries have faced real challenges. 

But as the President of Nigeria reminded us earlier this week, the new story of Africa is the growing number of countries in the region, which are enjoying the benefits of good governance, sound economic growth and development driving positive change across the continent.

All this is good news for Africa and for the world.

New Zealand will do what we can to help with targeted assistance where we have real expertise to offer – in agriculture, renewable energy and good governance.

New Zealand also recognises and supports the critical roles of the African Union and Africa’s sub-regional bodies in ensuring Africa’s security and future prosperity.

New Zealand also recognises the importance to Africa, to the Caribbean and to our own region of the Arms Trade Treaty adopted in April and signed by New Zealand and many others on the 3rd of June.

This Treaty should curb the flows of small arms and other weapons, especially to conflict regions, and help arrest the deaths and human misery that are they cause.

Mr President.

I want also to applaud the progress made in implementing the Millennium Development Goals while at the same time acknowledging that much work has yet to be done.  

We now need to work together on a post 2015 development agenda focused on creating economic opportunities and the eradication of poverty.

Many of the same issues will be addressed at the Conference of Small Island Developing States, which Samoa is to host next year.

New Zealand is pleased to be a major supporter of this important UN effort and, with the rest of the Pacific, looks forward to welcoming the world to our region.

Mr President.

We need to remind ourselves that sound governance arrangements and transparency of process are also vital virtues for international organisations, including this United Nations.

By any objective assessment, this organisation has not been equipped with the structures and rules it needs to operate as it should.

Yet there has been deep resistance to efforts to make things better.  That needs to change.

The rationale for UN reform is clear.  Membership has quadrupled since 1945.  Over the same period, its key organs ‑ particularly the Security Council – have become hostage to their own traditions and to the interests of the most powerful.

From the 1950s through into the 1990s, we could blame the Cold War when the Security Council did not act.

That does not wash today.

The problems are more systemic and relate both to the composition, as well as the formal and informal processes of the Council.

We now seem to have a practice whereby the Permanent Members can not only block Council actions through the veto.

They also appear to have privileged access to information and can stop the Council from meeting if it does not suit their collective purposes.

Such behaviours damage the reputation and credibility of the wider Organisation and must be challenged.

These are not necessarily matters of Charter reform, which we know is difficult, but of the effective functioning of the Organisation – an issue in which we all have a stake.

New Zealand is not advocating revolution but we are asserting the Council can and must do better in the way it conducts its business.

That is the approach New Zealand will bring to the Security Council if we are elected next October.

If successful, it will be 21 years since New Zealand last served on the Council – a long time ago but not so long that we have forgotten the lessons learned during our last term.

At the top of that list was you have to be engaged, to listen to the concerns of others, and to have a view and a voice if you are to be relevant.

There is no point in joining the Council simply to make up the numbers.

Sometimes, you have to speak up and shine a light on what is going on ‑ or not going on ‑ even when that may be inconvenient to others.

This applies whether the issue is Rwanda or Somalia, Yemen or Yugoslavia in 1993/94, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan or Syria in 2013/14.

My hope is when member states make their decision on whom to vote for in October 2014 they will look at New Zealand’s record and know we will be a credible, positive influence on the Security Council and a voice for the interests of the wider Organisation.

Criticism of the five permanent members won’t have pleased them but most other countries will agree what he said.

A guest on Jim Mora’s panel yesterday complemented the speech and gave some interesting background on the UN.


Franks &Ogilvie offer rewards for whistle-blowers on election book botch up

September 28, 2013

In an ideal world we’d all be well informed on local body election candidates and issues.

Sadly few of us are and many depend on the booklets which accompany voting papers to make their decisions.

This year some candidates have been missed from the book and others have had their photos and details mismatched.

Stephen Franks  blogs:

An unknown number of candidate profile electorate booklets  have been circulated with pages missing.

The mistakes seem likely to affect the result of the elections in affected areas, even if the number of booklets circulated is small, if the missing pages were concentrated in those areas;

Affected candidates could have a right to a new election;

Officials are downplaying the seriousness of the problem.

We’ve been instructed by a public spirited client to help shine a light on the problem. He’s instructed us to offer rewards for the necessary evidence. The announcement is set out below.

If it turns out that few deficient booklets were circulated, he will be relieved. He’ll feel this exercise will have been worth the expense, just for the reassurance that New Zealand is not as far toward casual corruption as he fears.  It will be worth it to know that a cover-up is not underway.

I’m concerned that it should be necessary. The responsible Minister and officials should be more active. We need to see reassuring vigilance and vigour from the Police, and the Department of Internal Affairs. Whatever the result our donor will have done what he feels is his duty as a citizen.

The media release from Franks and Ogilvie explains:

Wellington specialist public law firm Franks & Ogilvie will pay rewards and prizes for whistle-blowers to establish the scale of the local election booklet botch-up.  A client who wishes to remain anonymous will fund the prizes and rewards.

“The client is appalled by what he fears is an official cover-up” said Stephen Franks, a principal of the public law specialist firm. “Candidates and people helping them face prison for breaching even trivial electoral rules without proof that the breach would change a single vote. Across the country hundreds of elected positions may be determined by a few votes.”

In Auckland alone, at the last election a number of local board positions were decided on margins of less than 10 votes, and the margin for election to Council was as low as 253 votes.”

“In New Zealand rights of free electoral speech and advertising are severely restricted. We’ve taken away rights that are normal in most democracies. Billboards are confined to a few sites and the Police do not protect them from vandalism. So we’re driving candidates and parties to rely on official channels – most voters will have nothing more than the candidate booklet to inform them.”

“That happens in corrupt places like Russia, then candidates get mysteriously  ‘missed out’ of registers and ballot papers and so forth. New Zealanders are trusting. But the donor is worried that we are letting integrity slide away. Our local postal elections are now seriously vulnerable to fraud.”

“Our client is appalled that there has not been an immediate announcement of an independent inquiry. It should be held so we can know that the ‘mistakes’ are genuinely immaterial and innocuous. New Zealanders need to know how many candidates are affected, whether there is a sinister pattern to it, and the likely consequences. In particular, in the words of the section giving a right to a fresh election, we all need to know whether a mistake will “affect the result of the election”.

“In case there is a determined attempt at a cover-up, we may have to rely on citizen action now, to know. Officials are saying ‘nothing to see here’. But our client has reason to believe that there were tens of thousands of defective booklets found by emergency teams of temps. It is possible that many faulty booklets had already been dispatched.”

Legal importance

A judge deciding whether an irregularity has affected the result of the election will need to know:

  1. Approximately how many voters and booklets were affected?
  2. Which candidates were affected?

“We need to know this now,” says Mr Franks.  “In a month how many people will still have their booklets? How many will even know they were missing pages of names if they do not look and report now?”

The prizes

Delivery of booklets with relevant pages missing will earn $1500 for the person who delivers most before 5pm Monday 7 October, $600 for the next most, and $400 for the third most.  Please send to Franks & Ogilvie, PO Box 10388, Wellington.

The prizes will be paid only to collectors willing to give evidence if necessary, as to how they collected them.

Each booklet must be certified by the person who provides it to the collector, that it has not been mutilated or otherwise materially changed from the condition in which it was distributed, and that person must add their name and address where they received the booklet and contact email or phone number.

We’re also taking messages (info@franksogilvie.co.nz) about defective booklets.

Rewards for whistle-blowing

Rewards to compensate for time and trouble will be paid at our discretion to whistle-blowers. The client may recompense for information materially useful in knowing:

  1. whether there has been a cover-up;
  2. when the problem was first known;
  3. what steps were taken to remedy it;
  4. who knew or reported at high levels; and
  5. whether the official responses were proper in relation to the seriousness.

Please contact Stephen Franks (via info@franksogilvie.co.nz) or leave a message on 04 815 8036 if you have relevant information.  Use a pseudonym if you wish.  We will maintain confidentiality.  The information will matter more at this stage than who provides it.

Our decision on entitlement to a reward or prize is final.

Yesterday Leighton Smith interviewed Christine Rankin who is one of the candidates whose entry was completely missing from the booklet.

She said she didn’t think the errors and omissions were deliberate but pointed out that some people will already have voted before corrected booklets are delivered.

That some mistakes were made is bad enough but her impressions was that someone knew about it but made no effort to let people know which is even worse.


%d bloggers like this: