Word of the day

November 1, 2013

Firgun – to take pleasure in someone else’s achievement / success; the act act of saying nice things or doing nice things to another person without any other purpose, but to make the other feel good about what he is or what he does.

@[252006304935213:274:Word Porn]
Hat tip: Word Porn

Lots of generous hearts in #gigatownoamaru

Age and cunning

November 1, 2013

The census shows the average age in the Waitaki District is well above the country’s, hence this tweet:

Age and cunning supposedly beats youth and beauty.

In #gigatownoamaru we’ve got all of those and young and old, we’re in it together to make New Zealand’s sharpest town the fastest as the Southern Hemisphere’s first #gigatown.

Bill English to stand on list only

November 1, 2013

National’s deputy leader and Clutha Southland MP Bill English has announced he won’t be seeking re-selection as an electorate candidate but will be seeking a list seat.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has today announced that he will seek nomination for the National Party list and step down as MP for Clutha-Southland at the election next year.

“This afternoon I met with my electorate committee in Gore to inform them of my decision,” he says.

“It has been a privilege to represent the electorate since 1990 and I have particularly enjoyed working for my constituents.

“I will continue as MP for Clutha-Southland until the election next year. I am strongly committed to the re-election of a John Key-led Government in 2014 and to my roles as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. We have made considerable progress since our election in 2008 and there is still plenty of work to do.

“However, representing one of New Zealand’s largest electorates has required considerable travel and time away from my family, particularly since becoming a minister. I have therefore decided that it is a good time to strike a better balance between my family and government commitments.

“I wish to thank the people of Clutha-Southland – and before that Wallace – for electing me as their representative in eight elections. I also thank my electorate team, including my electorate committee and my office staff in Gore, Balclutha and Queenstown, for their hard work and support over the years.

“I will continue to take a strong interest in issues affecting Southland and Otago and I’m confident the National Party will provide strong representation for the area into the future,” Mr English says.

As the party’s deputy Bill has second spot on the list as of right.

He has been a very effective local MP in spite of the competing demands of his ministerial roles, deputy Prime Minister and sometimes acting PM.

His work has also meant huge personal sacrifices for him and his family.

His decision will mean the party, and the country, still have the benefit of his skills and allow renewal in the electorate.

He has been recognised in New Zealand and further afield for his stewardship of the economy which has us on track back to surplus in spite of the financial and natural disasters the country has had to face.

He has also addressed waste in government spending which is enabling the public service to do more for less.

There is still more work to be done and I’m delighted he’s going to be staying on to do it.

As Southern Regional chair Bill is one of “my” MPs and those of us on the right side of the Waitaki will still regard him as one of ours whether or not he’s in one of our electorates.

The seat is the biggest general electorate in the country which makes it challenging to service. But it is also very blue so I am expecting the candidacy to be hotly contested.

Farmers, food, future

November 1, 2013

Tweet of the day:

We appreciate farmers at #gigatownoamaru

Rural round-up

November 1, 2013

Drone helps Southland farmers check on stock – Dave Goosselink:

A Southland farming family have employed a set of digital eyes to help keep track of their stock.

They’re using a remote-controlled drone fitted with cameras to fly over their large farm, counting sheep and looking out for problems.

There are over 4000 sheep and cattle on the Gardyne family’s farm, and it was 13-year-old Mark who suggested turning to technology.

“Dad and I were watching TV and we saw the drones in Afghanistan for the military purposes and we decided how we could use that in agriculture,” says Mark Gardyne. . . .

Allan Barber:

The announcement by Silver Fern Farms of the reopening of its Finegand, Balclutha, casings plant eight years after it closed is an interesting example of history repeating itself. Of particular interest are the reasons behind resuscitating an operation which nobody would ever have foreseen as likely.

The first part of the explanation is both simple and inexplicable: simple because China has stopped accepting any shipments of green runners (sheep and lamb intestines) which were processed into sausage casings, inexplicable because nobody seems to know why. The second component of the explanation is belief by SFF that it can amalgamate substantial volumes of green runners from its South Island plants and add value to them profitably in the new facility. . . .

Progress for irrigation in Otago and Rangitikei:

Federated Farmers congratulates the Government on their commitment to sustainable irrigation in New Zealand.

“The Government’s $850,000 investment into the Central Otago and Rangitkei projects, through their Irrigation Acceleration Fund, will go a long way to improving these provinces economically and socially. It also bodes well for getting it right from the beginning,” says Ian MacKenzie, Federated Farmers Water Spokesperson.

“The potential for these provinces to develop and profit from a more reliable irrigation source is huge – with only two percent of our rainfall used for irrigation right now. It also will play a major part in reaching the goal to double our exports by 2025. . .

Iconic lake benefits from weed control:

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson says great progress is being made to improve the health of Lake Wanaka through efforts to rid it of a noxious weed.

Lagarosiphon, also known as South African oxygen weed, chokes waterways, smothers native aquatic plant communities and it establishes quickly if left untreated.

Weed control at Lake Wanaka is carried out by a lagarosiphon management committee, led by Land Information New Zealand. . .

Stable wool pricing needed – Wools of New Zealand:

At an estimated average production cost of $4.50/kilo of greasy wool, cross bred wool growers have had only two years of profitable returns over the past decade, continuing a 30-year downward cycle.

Mark Shadbolt, chairman of Wools of New Zealand, says the numbers make for sober reading. “The industry’s primary concern has to be with price volatility. When there’s a price spike manufacturers switch away from wool, eroding demand and fuelling further volatility. Wools of New Zealand have developed a stable pricing model designed to stabilise prices for growers and customers alike, which over time will provide incremental growth in demand and ultimately returns at farm gate.”

Writing in the just released Wools of New Zealand annual report – the first since the company’s successful capital raise was completed in February this year – Mr Shadbolt notes that the company has developed two six month stable price contracts direct with customers. . .

New programme to unlock Northland’s primary industry potential:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has launched a new programme to help unlock the potential for primary industry growth in Northland today.

“This is the start of a wider programme by the Ministry for Primary Industries to work in partnership with regions to help them further develop industries like agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and aquaculture.

“We chose to start with Northland because it has significant potential, with a good climate and a vast tracts of land suitable for further development,” says Mr Guy.

MPI is already working with two Māori-owned farms in Northland. One involves the conversion of 270 hectares of Māori land to a dairy farm. The other involves providing technical support for a 2480 hectare dairy and beef farm to increase productivity, with the support of key partners including Landcorp, Dairy NZ and Te Tumu Paeroa. . .

Special Year as 2014 Dairy Awards Entries Open:

The 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are accepting entries in what is likely to be the most memorable awards competition to date.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the 2014 awards coincide with the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year competition – the country’s longest running dairy farming contest.

“We are taking some time to celebrate this achievement and are enjoying the trip down memory lane as we see where some of our past winners, entrants, judges and organisers are now. What has become apparent is the long lasting effect and impact their association with the contest has had on them and their dairy farming career.” . . .

Give it up for the dairy industry’s Oscars – Willy Leferink:

What do you call the dairy industry’s Oscars, Emmy’s or the Canon Media Awards all rolled into one? It’s the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

These awards are much more than a night for farmers to don a tux and hit the big smoke, although Auckland is where the finals are being held in 2014. Next year also happens to be the 25th Anniversary of the Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year competition. For those who don’t know much about sharemilking it is a unique New Zealand pathway into farming. There is lower order sharemilking which is the first rung on the ladder before progressing onto 50/50 sharemilking. There is also equity partnership, where a farmer manages the farm and draws a salary but also has an equity stake in the farm business. All three forms are businesses and mean people with little money but a great work ethic can make a great future for themselves and their family.

In order to recognise the best in our industry is why 25 years ago, Federated Farmers ran the very first Sharemilker of the Year competition in Stratford. . .

Award-Winning Amisfield Wine Company Ownership Returns to Its Roots:

Leading New Zealand businessman John Darby recently announced he has become the sole shareholder of multi award-winning Amisfield Wine Company.

Mr Darby, who was previously a majority shareholder, assumed full ownership following the buyout of other shareholders.

Founded in 1988 and originally known as Lake Hayes Wines, vines were first planted on 110 hectares of vineyards in Gibbston Valley in the early 1990s. . . .

New HALO reds show Hawke’s Bay’s class:

Hawke’s Bay’s classic red wine characteristics shine through in two Sacred Hill HALO premium red wines from the 2012 vintage, released this week.

Named after the distinctive halo in Sacred Hill’s logo, the HALO range has earned a reputation for handcrafted, richly textured wines and the Sacred Hill HALO Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 and HALO Syrah 2012 continue that tradition.

Chief winemaker Tony Bish says the wines are made from small parcel selections of fruit from Sacred Hill’s best vineyards. . .

Living wage won’t work – Treasury

November 1, 2013

Treasury advice on the “living wage” is blunt – it wouldn’t work.

Treasury advice shows that the so-called “living wage” is not well targeted to help low-income families and, if implemented, would be likely to cost jobs and be unlikely to lift average wage rates, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The Government’s economic programme is focused on increasing incomes and supporting more jobs and the best way to achieve that is through a growing and more competitive economy, Mr English says.

The “living wage” campaign claims a minimum hourly pay rate of $18.40 is necessary for a family of two adults and two children. But Treasury analysis shows that not just the figure, but the concept, is flawed, Mr English says.

“It might sound politically attractive to be able to dial up a pre-selected made-up wage rate, but for higher wages to be sustainable they have to be based on productivity and affordability in real workplaces,” he says.   

The “living wage” idea is based on a two-adult, two-child family, yet analysis shows that people in this situation make up only 6 per cent of families earning less than $18.40 an hour. Almost 80 per cent of those earning less than $18.40 are people without children, including young people and students.

The analysis shows that the “living wage” would least help low-income families whose welfare support would abate as their income rose. In those cases, the main beneficiary of the living wage would effectively be the Government because it would receive more in tax and pay out less through abated transfers.

The Treasury also notes that although New Zealand’s minimum wage has grown faster than the median or average wage over the past decade, it has not increased average incomes relative to other countries.

Mr English says the analysis confirms that some industries would be hit particularly hard if an $18.40 pay rate was imposed on them, and it would likely put downward pressure on their growth.

“The ‘living wage’ is just one more of the ideas supported by the Labour/Greens opposition that would cost jobs.

“It’s already been estimated that abolishing  the Starting Out wage could cost about 2,000 jobs,  taking the  minimum wage to $15 an hour would cull a further 6,000 jobs and removing 90-day trials would cost thousands more jobs. 

“This Government provides substantial targeted support to low-income families through programmes like Working for Families and the Accommodation Supplement. It is also doing a great deal to encourage people to enhance their education and skills to improve their income prospects and life outcomes. That is a better and more effective approach than having activists impose an artificial wage rate on businesses.  

“Business confidence is strong and growing, which is a good sign that more employers will take on new workers and pay a bit more. It is increased business confidence and new investment that lifts employment and wages in a real and sustainable way,” Mr English says.

The Treasury paper is here.

It says:

The group who earn a wage between $13.75 and $18.40 is diverse …
Almost all teenagers and the majority of people in their twenties earn below $18.40.
63 percent of households earning below $18.40 are single adults without dependants.
About 30 percent of households with dependants earn below $18.40.
… and those who would benefit most are the families that do not receive
supplementary assistance that abates.
Families that receive means-tested income payments would benefit less the more
those payments are abated.
Families without dependants would see the biggest increase in incomes in their hands. . . .
A Living Wage is therefore not well targeted at low income families with children …
In 2012 benefits were the main income source for 44% of households with the bottom
20% of household incomes. A Living Wage would not improve the living standards of
those without employment.
Sole parents are overrepresented in the $13.75-$15.00 wage bracket, but would
benefit least from a Living Wage in terms of lifting household income because of steep
abatement rates.
… and is likely to have negative economic impacts on employment and inflation.
Negative employment effects are likely to be
felt strongest by those with weak labour
market attachment, such as teenagers and young adults.
The Living Wage figure of $18.40 is a relative measure and not based on a calculation
of need.
A number of calculations are made in the Living Wage report, each resulting in different
figures. The $18.40 figure, however, is only a relative measure.
Adoption of the Living Wage as a minimum wage would have greater impact on some
industries …
Over 70 percent of the Accommodation and Food Services industry earn below $18.40.
Adoption of the Living Wage would be likely to put some industries, such as Retail
Trade, at a disadvantage compared to overseas competitors.
… and we do not think increasing the minimum wage to this extent would lead to
higher average wages.  . . .

It’s neither logical nor sustainable to create a new minimum wage based on what a vicar reckons a family with two children need for a reasonable life.

Not every household is a two adult, two child one and what it costs them to live will vary for all sorts of reasons, including location.

It’s cheaper to live in #gigatownoamaru than in bigger cities.

The best way to help everyone is with policies which stimulate economic growth and give businesses the confidence to increase wages and employ more people.

Agri-Rover takes pain out of pasture management

November 1, 2013

An AgResearch team has taken some extra-terrestrial inspiration to help take the pain out of intensive pasture management.

Inspired by NASA’s Mars rover project, the team at AgResearch in Palmerston North and Lincoln have built a paddock robot they’ve named the Agri-Rover.

The Agri-Rover is designed to be a small, fully-autonomous rover that will automatically undertake multiple tasks around farms day and night. 

Scientist Dr Andrew Manderson led the project, which was developed with funding from the AgResearch Curiosity Fund, a seed fund that enables AgResearch staff to investigate ideas that could benefit the pastoral sector.

“We started this project in 2012 and presented the first prototypes at the FLRC conference back in February,” says Dr Manderson.

“We’ve come a long way since then, and have had a functional rover out in the paddock since April.”

The Agri-Rover concept is for an all-weather rover that deploys from a central base station, independently navigates to a paddock, goes under two-wire fences and gates, slowly but progressively traverses the paddock while taking measurements and treating patches, then automatically returns to the base station for recharging and further deployment. 

“This works in all weather, all of the time, quietly going about its tasks without creating extra jobs for the farmer. It’s designed to be easy to operate, and will report results as needed to a cell phone or computer. 

“Always in the back of our mind was keeping it affordable, which is often a sticking point with new farm technologies,” says Dr Manderson.

Now they have built a rover that can operate successfully under farm conditions, the team are focusing on how it will be used to improve farm production and reduce environmental impacts. 

“First and foremost is to equip the rover for pasture measurement, to provide real-time feedback on paddock covers, feed wedges, and possibly even pasture quality.  This is all about quick, accurate information for real-time decision making, without having to spend any time collecting it. 

“At the same time we’re looking to measure soil properties for precision fertiliser application, mapping compaction zones, and creating soils maps for variable-rate irrigation.  We are developing the rover to do as many tasks as possible to make it as useful as possible.”

The team are also testing systems to automatically treat pasture and fresh cow urine at the patch scale. By programming the rover to drive over every square foot of a paddock, it could be useful for the selective identification and treatment of individual urine patches, and selective identification and treatment of individual weeds. 

“Locating and treating urine patches is the single biggest challenge we have set ourselves,” says Dr Manderson.

“The level of required GPS technology is currently very expensive, and while we can tow a sizeable spray unit, it is too big a drain on current battery life. Targeting individual weeds is even more of a challenge.  But we’re working with some crack technicians to solve these challenges.”  

Dr Manderson says there are many possibilities for the rover, and hopefully the list of tasks will grow as the group gets more feedback from industry.

“For example, other scientists are developing robots to herd cows in for milking,” he says.

“Likewise, we can put a camera on this thing so farmers can use it as a remotely controlled rover that they can use to check things on their farm, such as keeping a 24 hour watch on springers at calving time.”

Farmer input and feedback has already been instrumental in keeping the rover design effective, affordable and robust.

“It’s a battery and solar powered unit running four 240v gear motors that cranks along at about 5km/h, goes up and down 15-20 degree slopes, and spins on a dime,” says Dr Manderson.

“It’s tough as well. We accidently dropped it off the back of a ute and it fell on its lid, we just turned it over and away it went again. Although 5km/h might seem slow, it’s a medium walking pace, but this thing is designed to independently chug around all of the time so speed isn’t really all that important.”

The team behind the project are now talking to local farmers to identify areas where the rover could be of use on-farm, anyone who would like to help shape the future of the project can contact: enquiries@agresearch.co.nz


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