From red to black through blue

October 10, 2013

Labour left office in 2008 forecasting a decade of deficits.

In spite of that and the financial and natural crisis it’s had to deal with, the country is in sight of a surplus.

National’s taken us from red to black through blue policies:


Word of the day

October 10, 2013

Obnubilate – becloud, cloud over, cover with or as if with a cloud; darken; obscure; make unclear, indistinct, vague.


Connect for mental health

October 10, 2013

It’s Mental Health Week,  today is Mental Health Day and Associate Health Minister Todd McClay is urging people to connect:

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, which started Monday 7 October and finishes on Friday 11 October is CONNECT.

“Supportive friends, families whānau and communities are an integral component of good mental health. It is a responsibility that falls on all of us to connect with those around us and ensure that they are supported,” says Mr McClay. . .

Mr McClay will be attending a community barbecue in his electorate, organised by Lifewise Rotorua, to celebrate the week. Lifewise Rotorua is a community service for people and their whānau experiencing difficulty with their mental health or addictions.

As Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for mental health and addiction and suicide prevention, Mr McClay stressed the importance of maintaining community networks and social bonds with those around you.

“Whether it’s extending a helping hand, inviting your neighbour over for a cup of tea or checking in with friends and family, a small gesture can make a big difference.”

For those who were struggling or wanted to talk to someone, New Zealand has a range of services available, including the depression.org.nz website, the 0800 111 757 depression helpline and the lowdown.org.nz website for young people.

“If you’ve got concerns about your health or someone else’s, then reach out and connect. Help is only a visit, a phone call or a text message away,” says Mr McClay. . .

Federated Farmers would like to emphasise the importance of talking about depression and removing the stigma around the issue.

“Federated Farmers’ ‘When Life’s a Bitch’ campaign really took the lid off the issue in rural communities and this week is a great time to reinforce just how important it is to be open and aware of the issue,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Mental Health Spokesperson.

“When there are more suicides in New Zealand than road deaths, drownings and workplace accidents combined, and we are rated 22nd out of 23 countries for social wellbeing, there is a serious need to stand up and pay attention.

“Whilst environmental pressures have dropped for some, not all farmers are in the clear and people struggling with depression are still slipping under the radar. On the surface farmers may seem like they have it together however, the hangover from the drought is still very much here.

“I am still talking to farmers around the country who are under severe financial pressure from the drought and other adverse weather events. It is important to understand that depression is not a problem that just comes and goes with the weather.

“Positive change comes from people talking and connecting with each other, we are stronger when we band together. Conversations build communities creating awareness and breaking down the barriers of isolation.

“For this week we are focusing on connecting with each other, and there are a few events on around the country that you can attend as well as an online wellbeing game that makes you the master of your own happiness.

“Whilst we can help ourselves by talking and connecting with others there is more that needs to be done. Federated Farmers and the Rural General Practice Network are calling for the Government to recognise the issue by providing specific funding for rural mental health,” concluded Mrs Maxwell.

If someone breaks a leg we can see the plaster and generally know how to help.

You can’t put plaster on a broken spirit.  We often don’t recognise mental health problems. If we do it’s harder to know what to do, although connecting – providing the practical support and emotional comfort we’d offer to someone with a physical illness is a good start.

There’s more information at the Mental Health Foundation.


Rural round-up

October 10, 2013

TPP a matter of when not if says farming leader:

Having returned from the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Federated Farmers believes the logic for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is so strong and its advantages so apparent, that the absence of President Obama from negotiations will not unduly dent its progress.

“The talk at the WTO in Geneva was when the TPP will happen and not if,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President, who attended the WTO’s 2013 Public Forum where he co-presented the World Farmers Organisation’s new trade policy.

“Naturally, there was much talk about the United States Government shutdown and what that may mean if a default does take place in just nine-day’s time.

“I sense the Obama Administration is frustrated that domestic political brinkmanship means the President had to stay in Washington. The focus of his administration is building the U.S. economy by exports and that’s the focus of both Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and TPP negotiations. I must say that U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, is a handy substitute. . .

Special agricultural trade envoy hails TPP progress:

New Zealand’s special agricultural trade envoy is hailing what he sees as the progress made at the latest Trans Pacific Partnership trade talks in Bali.

But Mike Petersen agrees with the prime minister that the target of getting an agreement by the the end of the year is still going to be hard work.

John Key chaired Tuesday’s TPP meeting in the absence of the American president, says there’s plenty of political momentum among the 12 countries to get a deal.

The Agricultural Trade envoy, Hawke’s Bay farmer Mike Petersen, says getting trade reforms for agriculture was always going to be challenging, because it will take a political will in countries where there are still high levels of subsidy and tariff protection. . .

First registration of a sustainable agrichemical for the SFF minor crops project:

A new sustainable agrichemical that controls the leafroller pest on New Zealand’s blueberry crops is the first of many registered products to be released as part of the Government lead Sustainable Farming Fund.

The Minor Crops project team coordinated by Horticulture NZ announced the recent release of the insecticide ‘Prodigy™’ Trademark of the Dow Chemical Company (Dow) or an affiliated company of Dow for use on blueberries.

This is the first product to be registered as a result of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) project ‘Registration of sustainable agrichemicals for minor crops’. . .

Mental health courses for rural professionals:

The Nelson and Marlborough Public Health Service, in association with Federated Farmers, Like Minds and Rural Support Trust are hosting a seminar to help participants recognise the signs of depression.

“We are targeting rural professionals that work with farmers, so they are able to identify if a farmer is stressed, anxious, angry or sad, which are all sign signs of depression. This way they will be better placed to know how to help the farmer in question,” says Gavin O’Donnell, Federated Farmers Nelson provincial president.

“Rural professionals such as rural bankers, vets, contractors and so on are far more likely to be in a position to identify if there is a problem because they encounter farmers more frequently and in their natural environment. . .

Rural Women NZ Leads on International Year of Family Farming 2014:

Rural Women New Zealand is excited to play a key role in organising a programme of events to celebrate the UN International Year of Family Farming in 2014.

As a member of the steering committee that will liaise directly with the UN, Rural Women NZ has hosted the first meeting in Wellington to start the planning process.

Convened by Organic Systems and Adams Harman, others taking part in the meeting included DairyNZ, Horticulture New Zealand, the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, Young Farmers, Beef+Lamb NZ, Federated Farmers and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“Family farming has been the backbone of New Zealand’s rural economy for more than a century, and Rural Women New Zealand has led advocacy and growth for farming families and rural communities since 1925,” says Rural Women NZ’s national president, Liz Evans. . .

NZB Caulfield Championship Finale:

The New Zealand Bloodstock Spring WFA Championship at Caulfield is set to conclude this weekend with the running of the Group 1 A$400,000 Cathay Pacific Caulfield Stakes over 2000m.

With (It’s a) Dundeel (NZ) now out of contention, the Championship winner is a forgone conclusion with Atlantic Jewel (Fastnet Rock) holding an unassailable lead having won Race 2 in the Championship Series – the New Zealand Bloodstock Memsie Stakes – and placing second in the Group 1 Underwood.

The champion mare may have scared many away with Saturday’s feature race only attracting a small field of six runners, but it carries plenty of quality with the field winning a total of eight Group 1 races between them. . .


Orange and red flags ignored

October 10, 2013

Months after the precautionary recall of products containing whey protein which was later proved to be clear of botulism there is still a lot of confusion about what happened.

Keith Woodford explains it was all about orange and red flags:

. . . It all started back in May 2012 when some plastic came loose in a whey concentrate dryer at the Hautapu plant near Hamilton. The risk was that this plastic had got smashed up and possibly melted within the dryer, and then mixed with the whey.

The only way to find out for sure was to hydrate the whey powder (which is soluble) and then filter out any solids.  For reasons not clear, Fonterra chose to do this using equipment that had not been used recently.  Unfortunately the equipment had not been properly cleaned.

Once hydrated and then re-dried, the product passed the mandatory bacterial tests, but did have a level somewhat higher than typical.

By this stage there should have been two orange flags but the Fonterra system recognised neither.  The first was that once the product had been reprocessed, then it should have been drafted away from human use and used for stock feed. The second orange flag was when the re-processed whey powder gave elevated but technically acceptable bacterial counts. Once again, this should have been enough to restrict its use to stock feed. . .

He explains what happened next and about the testing in the clearest summary I have come across. It is very interesting reading.

He then gets on to the ongoing fallout:

. . . As events have turned out, it is now apparent that it was a false alarm. Further testing overseas has confirmed that in fact it was not botulinum.  However, great damage to Fonterra’s and New Zealand’s reputation occurred, with the recall being splashed globally in the news media, and particularly so in China  where many of Fonterra’s products are sold. In fact I am writing this from China, and I can confirm that it has very much come to the attention of Chinese consumers.

It will be interesting to see how this now plays out. Here in China there is no doubt that Danone in particular has suffered great damage, with their leading infant formula brand Dumex being particularly badly hit. (Dumex is the equivalent of ‘Karicare’ in New Zealand, with Karicare being marketed by  Danone’s  Nutricia subsidiary.)  .

Earlier this week, in a Shanghai supermarket, there was a message over the in-store radio every five minutes advising that the Fonterra food safety scare was actually a false alarm. But unofficial sources tell me that sales of the Dumex brand are still hugely affected, with up to 90% loss of sales. Consumers have moved to other brands and now have to be painstakingly won back. A Google search using Chinese characters for ‘poisonous’ and ‘milk powder’ and ‘Dumex’ produces over one million references. . .

There is an irony that Fonterra’s milk powder is still flowing into China unimpeded, and prices for these bulk products have not suffered.  It is the consumer brands that are not owned by Fonterra that have suffered. . .

It isn’t just milk products which are affected:

Glen Herud at Milking on the Moove was speaking to a food safety consultant recently:

He has a client who manufactures and sells blackberry powder to the Asian market.

His product has been stopped from entering into some Asian countries. 

He was notified by his customer via an email in broken English explaining that they won’t purchase anymore product because botulism was in New Zealand products. . . 

Inquiries into exactly what went wrong at Fonterra and the subsequent handling of the issue are continuing and so are the consequences.

Whatever comes out of the inquiries, all food processors need to be sure they have systems which recognise and respond appropriately to orange flags long before any red ones are raised.


NZ one of strongest growing economies – IMF

October 10, 2013

The IMF’s annual World Economic Outlook ranks  New Zealand as one of the strongest growing economies in the world.

It forecasts New Zealand’s growth rate this year to be 2.5 per cent, bettered among the 35 advanced economies only by Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea. The average for advanced economies in 2013 is just 1.2 per cent.

The IMF expected the growth rate to pick up to 2.9 per cent next year, exceeded only by the same four and Taiwan, and outperforming the advanced economy average of 2 per cent.

New Zealand also looked relatively good on the fiscal front, with a general government deficit of 0.4 per cent of gross domestic product over 2014, compared with an average deficit of 3.5 per cent for the advanced economies as a whole.

Next year’s unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent was not as bad as the 12.2 per cent projected for the euro area, 7.4 per cent for the United States or even Australia’s 6 per cent.

To be fourth in the world is a significant achievement but there is a but:

But the failing grade on the report card was the current account balance: a bottom-of-the-class deficit of 4.2 per cent of GDP this year and next year, worsening to 6.1 per cent by 2018. . .

When Finance Minister Bill English announced this week we were on track to return to surplus he said there was no room for complacency.

Once the books are back in the black reducing debt should be a priority.

That requires building on the foundation of lower government spending and policies which encourage investment, savings and export-led growth rather than higher taxes, borrowing and spending.

Those are National policies.

Most announced by Labour and the Green Party would do the opposite.

The IMF report is here.

 


Thursday’s quiz

October 10, 2013

1. Who said: For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.?

2.  Who wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (usually shortened to The Wealth of Nations)?

3. It’s impôt in French, imposta in Italian, impuesto in Spanish and tāke  in Maori, what is it in English?

4. What is tax freedom day?

5. If you were designing the tax system what principle/s would guide you?


%d bloggers like this: