Word of the day

November 8, 2013

Nemophilist – a haunter of the woods; one who loves the forest, its beauty and solitude.


Who do you trust?

November 8, 2013

Duncan Garner critique’s Prime Minister John Key of the fifth anniversary of his government.

He gives him 7.5/10 and concludes:

Your choice is between John Key and Bill English with a few rag-tag minor right wing parties – or David Cunliffe and Russel Norman – with perhaps Winston Peters in tow.

Who do you trust?

To which a commenter answers:

Let’s not forget his development into a well respected leader in the region as the last APEC conference in Bali showed. And he’s the only Commonwealth leader to ever have been invited to Balmoral – surely that’s worth an extra point 🙂

Given all the challenges that have been thrown at Key over the past 5 years, easily a 9.5 out of 10. The answer to your last question is a no-brainer, Cunliffe and Norman in charge is a very scary prospect and when voters enter the booth in November 2014 I think in their hearts they’ll know Key and English are the people to trust. Key to win by a nose next year.

The outcome of next year’s election is very finely balanced.

Labour has more potential coalition partners but it’s still not very strong itself and the prospective of  its possible partners in government may well put off more voters who might be considering voting for Labour.

National has fewer potential partners but is stronger itself.

A still weakened Labour with a strong (for a wee party) Green Party plus  any or all of New Zealand First, Mana, the Maori Party and possibly Peter Dunne is a much more radical and less stable option than a strong National Party with two or three partners.

#gigatownoamaru is backing itself but welcomes support from anywhere to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.


ASD notice

November 8, 2013

I’ve had a request from OSPRI (Operational solutions for primary industries) to publicise this:

Important reminder about Animal Status Declaration form update

 Farmers are reminded that any Animal Status Declaration (ASD) forms used from 1 November should be marked with the May 2012 approval date and have a box at the top right for including a NAIT number.

The form was updated in May 2012, with the Ministry for Primary Industries granting an extended implementation date of 1 November 2013.

New ASD forms are available online at tbfree.org.nz or by emailing info@tbfree.org.nz or calling 0800 482 4636. Any pre-May 2012 ASD forms should be destroyed.

#gigatownoamaru is following the rules to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.

 


Rural round-up

November 8, 2013

‘Farmers understand need to improve water quality’:

PRIMARY INDUSTRIES Minister Nathan Guy believes most farmers are environmentalists and understand the need to improve our water quality.

Speaking at the launch of freshwater proposals yesterday, he said farmers want to leave the environment in a better state than they found they found it.

“Farmers recognise the importance of our freshwater resource and understand there will be costs; and they have shown they want to work constructively,” he says. . .

China helps lifts co-op’s returns:

Meat co-op Alliance Group has reported a net profit before restructuring costs and tax of $10.9 million for the year ending 30 September 2013. The co-op’s turnover for the year topped $1.4 billion

After providing for restructuring costs of $2.5 million and tax of $2.8 million, the company recorded a net profit after tax of $5.6 million.

The company’s balance sheet is also strengthening with an equity ratio of 61% and an operating cash flow surplus of $89 million.

In announcing the result, Alliance Group chairman, Murray Taggart, said the return to profitability was a positive result, albeit at an unsatisfactory level, and follows a year with widespread drought conditions and lingering economic weakness in key export markets. . .

Wild pigs a potential TB risk in Waikato:

Reports of wild pigs being illegally released and the risky disposal of their remains has prompted a Waikato farmer to speak out about the bovine tuberculosis (TB) threat it potentially poses to domestic cattle and deer.

Pigs can carry TB and spread the disease when infected carcasses are scavenged by wild animals, mainly possums and ferrets. Bovine TB-infected possums are responsible for the majority of new herd infections in TB risk areas.

Local farmer and Waikato TBfree Committee Chairman John Bubb expressed concern over the reported practices on behalf of herdowners in the region.

“People need to consider the possible consequences of dumping wild pig remains that could be infected with TB,” said Mr Bubb. . .

Public perception vital in a crisis – Hugh Stringleman:

Rescuing Fonterra’s reputation after its botulism scare is problematic, crisis communications researcher and adviser Professor William Hallman says.

“The first thing they taught me as a psychologist is that perception is reality,” Hallman said.

“The fact that it was a false alarm is important, but reputation isn’t entirely based on facts.”

Hallman is head of the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers, the New Jersey state university.

He was contracted to provide information to the Fonterra independent inquiry into the whey protein concentrate recall on best practise in crisis communications, his principal area of expertise. . .

Southern land producing quality wool – Alan Williams:

Good, clean Southland pasture through spring and early summer helps Jeff Farm produce lambs’ wool to the standard required by United Kingdom fabric manufacturer Camira.

“We put the wool in from 10,000-12,000 lambs and most of it gets accepted,” farm manager John Chittock said.

The wool has to have 0% vegetable matter (VM) and be pesticide-free to meet Camira’s exacting standards under the Wools of New Zealand (WNZ) contract.

“At this time of year we don’t have any problem with the VM. The country here is pretty clean and we don’t have to do anything special with them,” Chittock said.

Mixed response to buffer zone compromise – Richard Rennie:

Western Bay of Plenty landowners have gained a compromise on proposed buffer zones sought by Transpower around electricity lines on their land.

The State-owned enterprise had wanted zones on existing lines inluded in a district plan change, which put it offside with horticulturalists, farmers, and even Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

The dispute was destined to be heard in the Environment Court after Transpower appealed the council decision to follow the recommendation of a commissioner, which was to note the buffer areas in planning documents.

Federated Farmers has arrived at a compromise on the changes being sought by Transpower, with the proposed buffer zones significantly reduced. . .

Great Start for 2014 Dairy Awards:

Nearly 100 people have entered the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards since entries opened a week ago, up 10 on the same time last year.

“The signs are promising that the 2014 awards are going to be a boomer,” national convenor Chris Keeping says.

“What is really satisfying is the number of people who are entering for a second or successive time. We work really hard to make sure all entrants – not just the winners – gain real value and benefits from their experience and so it is heartening to see that about half the entries so far are from those that have entered in the past.” . . .

#gigatownoamaru has had a great start too.

 


On track to surplus

November 8, 2013

Labour was forecasting a decade of deficits when National came to power five years ago today.

In spite of an unprecedented combination of financial and natural disasters, National has turned that round and is back on track to surplus.

Treasury’s financial statements for the September quarter, released today, show key indicators are stronger than forecast in May’s Budget:

Core Crown tax revenue of $14.4 billion was 1.1% higher than forecast, largely due to other individuals’ tax and GST ($143 million and $108 million respectively). While GST was relatively close to forecast, continued strength in gross other persons tax and lower than expected refunds have contributed to higher than forecast other individuals tax. This improved performance was partially offset by $113 million lower than expected corporate tax, due to lower than forecast provisional tax.

 Core Crown expenses of $17.5 billion were 1.4% lower than forecast. Delays in earthquake expenses and treaty settlements ($88 million and $55 million respectively) led to lower than expected expenses. Other lower than forecast expenditure was spread across a number of activities.

The total Crown’s operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) was a deficit of $1.3 billion which was $382 million lower than expected, largely owing to the stronger than forecast core Crown tax revenue and lower than expected core Crown expenses.

Gains on the Crown’s investment portfolios were $781 million higher than expected, particularly the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. In addition, actuarial gains on the ACC outstanding claims liability arising from discount rate changes, resulted in unforecast gains of $812 million. The better than expected core Crown revenue and expenses result, alongside these stronger than expected gains, were the key reason for the total Crown’s operating balance inclusive of gains and losses recording a $539 million surplus, compared with an expected $1.2 billion deficit.

At 30 September, total Crown assets were $242.2 billion and liabilities were $171.7 billion. The Crown’s net worth strengthened to $68.5 billion.

The core Crown operating cash deficit was $2.8 billion. After taking account of capital expenditure during the year, there was a residual cash deficit of $3.7 billion at 30 September ($400 million below forecast). The cash shortfall was funded through additional borrowing which pushed the net core Crown net debt to $60.0 billion, equivalent to 28.2% of GDP. Gross debt was also close to forecast at $80.1 billion, or 37.7% of GDP. . . .

The Labour government that took us into deficit before the global financial crisis could not have achieved what National has.

National has the books back on track from red to black and that’s been managed without any slashing and burning.

Credit for that goes to John Key, Bill English and their colleagues who have focussed on getting more for less. Introducing whole-of- government purchasing to cut costs across the public sector is one of their initiatives.

They’ve also concentrated on reducing long term costs, such as those of benefit dependency and that will provide both financial and social benefits.

Once in surplus the government has choices and a priority must be reducing debt.


Friday’s answers

November 8, 2013

Readers posed the questions yesterday.

Andrei asked:

(1) “Sex can be used either for self-affirmation or for self-transcendence — either to intensify the ego and consolidate the social persona by some kind of conspicuous ‘embarkation’ and heroic conquest, or else to annihilate the persona and transcend the ego in an obscure rapture of sensuality, a frenzy of romantic passion, more creditably, in the mutual charity of the perfect marriage.”

From whence is this taken and who wrote it?

(2) Who was Martha Corey? What was her fate?

(3) It is “razionalità” in Italian, “racionalidad” in Spanish and “рациональность (ratsional’nost’)” in Russian.

What is it in English?

(4) Martha Corey in question 2 was married, what did her husband do in the face of her ordeals and what happened to him?

(5) Is it better to speak your mind, no matter how unpopular or to hold your peace for the sake of a quiet life?

Alwyn asked:

The season of the Nobel Prize awards having just passed, who knows some trivia about past awards? Can you tell the names of

1. Four American Presidents who received a Nobel Prize
2. Two Commonwealth Prime Ministers
3. One Russian President
4. Three father/son cases where both received a prize
5. Two husband/wife cases where both received a prize
6. Three individuals who each received two prizes.

Both win an electronic batch of shortbread for stumping us all. It can be collected by leaving the answers below.

I was the only one who included #gigatownoamaru so will claim the bonus batch for that.


Proposals for freshwater management

November 8, 2013

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have released proposals for improving freshwater management, including national water standards.

On-going and reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental and economic issues facing New Zealand today,” Ms Adams says.

“It is critical that we protect and improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”

“This is an issue that affects us all. We need to work together to create a better way of managing what is New Zealand’s most important natural resource,” Mr Guy says.

In 2011, the Government required regions to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers.

In March a document was released outlining the Government’s proposed plan of action for improving water quality and the way freshwater is managed.

In August, the Government announced its intention to create a collaborative planning option for the development of a freshwater plan within a community.

Today, the Government is releasing a document to seek the public’s feedback on more detailed proposals for amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

The discussion document seeks feedback on the Government’s proposals for:

  • a national framework to support communities setting freshwater objectives
  • explicit recognition of tangata whenua values for freshwater
  • ecosystem and human health as compulsory values in regional plans
  • bottom lines for ecosystem and human health that apply everywhere, and

restricted grounds for exceptions to bottom lines; and

  • requiring councils to account for all water takes and contaminant discharges

More than 60 freshwater scientists from public, private and academic sectors across New Zealand have come up with numeric values proposed for national bottom lines for freshwater.

Ministers have not been involved in the scientific detail of the framework.

The numbers have also been tested with a reference group of water users to make sure they are practical. Further water quality attributes and numbers will be added over time.

The framework will be underpinned by good information that supports regional decision-making, including the environmental, social and economic impacts of any proposed objectives and limits.

“As a minimum, councils still have to maintain or improve water quality, but we are proposing a safety net in national bottom lines for ecosystem and human health,” Ms Adams says.

“These are to safeguard aquatic life in our water bodies, and ensure we can enjoy our water for activities like boating and wading.”

“We expect people to debate these bottom lines – that’s the nature of science – but the freshwater scientists’ numbers we are releasing today also reflect the important role of value judgements in choosing how we use our fresh water,” Mr Guy says.

“If we can get agreement now, there will be less arguing and litigation over regional plans and resource consent applications. It will give people more certainty about what is allowed and what is not, and all this will save time and money.”

The discussion document, the draft amended National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and supporting documents and studies are available here.

Public meetings and hui will be held around the country this month and next. Dates and venues will be posted on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.

Amy Adams’ speech is here.

Farmers are welcoming the proposals.

“What is being proposed directly comes out of the recommendations of the Land & Water Forum and represent a significant change in how communities will plan for water into the future,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.

“This is a collaborative response to what has been a collaborative process.

“It is a framework which provides an accounting system for measuring water quantity and quality. This reduces much of the subjective emotion that has typified the discussion and sets bottom lines for water quality.

“This also is about giving communities the power to set their own aspirations for water. For the first time this will be scientifically, culturally and economically informed. It won’t be easy and will need some sacrifice from agriculture and urban communities alike.

“As Minister Adams noted at the launch, some of our most polluted waterways are in our towns and cities. It is why every New Zealander has a responsibility to play their part.

“Just like some farmers may face greater restrictions, some cities and their ratepayers may face wastewater upgrades costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The thing about the proposed amendments is that it introduces the concept of time; many issues may have taken decades to build and may take decades to resolve.

“I can confidently say New Zealand’s primary industries are up for this challenge.

“It is a challenge that rightly starts by giving communities the full facts. This is helped by input provided by 60 of New Zealand’s foremost freshwater scientists. For the first time we can build up a picture for what the impacts are and where they are coming from.

“It will also be helped by giving communities an idea as to what the costs of water options being considered are. As long as the community goes into decisions with its eyes open, as farmers, we cannot really complain.

“Many of the issues we face are long-term and the solutions will equally need an intergenerational approach. That makes it important to get the foundations right.

“While the framework is not complete and needs details to flesh it out, it and the consultation now underway, are important steps towards a more open and honest discussion about water,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.

IrrigationNZ says the integration of socio-economic and environmental objectives is the only way New Zealand will achieve long-term sustainability.

“It’s good to see the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum being put into action and IrrigationNZ applauds the scientists and planners behind the framework. It’s a sensible, well-informed first iteration and we look forward to its further development,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

Mr Curtis says communities will now be able to come together and make informed decisions around the values of local waterways. “The framework delivers a more consistent approach to the setting of freshwater objectives and limits throughout New Zealand. IrrigationNZ is particularly excited by the breadth of community values that have been captured. Long term sustainability requires the marrying of socio economic and environmental aspirations and the framework achieves that.”

Another highlight for IrrigationNZ is recognition within the framework that communities need flexibility as they work towards meeting freshwater objectives.

“This is important as there are many factors impacting on water quality and a range of management approaches that can be taken as a result. While much of New Zealand’s freshwater resource is in good shape, there are also hotspots that urgently require attention. For IrrigationNZ, our contribution is working out how we better use water for irrigation and the framework reinforces that with its focus on measurement. Irrigators understand the importance of monitoring and measurement as our industry is founded on it. Our work programme is now based on improving water use efficiency and minimising nutrient losses to groundwater and waterways which will go a long way to delivering improved freshwater outcomes.”

The one jarring note for IrrigationNZ is the continuing debate around what should be included as attributes in the national bottom lines.

“In reality it’s difficult to set national bottom lines for many attributes due to the diversity and complexity of our landscape and waterbodies. Some freshwater attributes, particularly biotic-based indicators that are derived from multiple parameters, are better set at the catchment level where scenario specific analysis can be undertaken.”

Forest and Bird says the proposals are a good first step towards cleaner rivers.

. . . “Currently, regional councils decide their own water quality values. Inevitably, these have been disputed by different sectors all the way to the Environment Court,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“It makes real sense to get consistency and agreement, all at once at a national level, and to have nationally consistent bottom lines.

“While the National Objectives Framework is a good start, as proposed, it would benefit from some more flesh on its bones,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“An obvious omission is that there is no objective that directly relates to the health of freshwater insects, and we hope that they can be included in the national framework that is implemented. Insects provide a direct measurement of how healthy a lake or river is,”
Kevin Hackwell says.

“Where there are still gaps in the regional science – which mean we can’t yet agree on a national set of numbers for particular water quality values – we should still be able to agree on some tight wording on what standards we want to see achieved.

“Tight ’descriptive’ objectives would provide crucial guidance for regional councils to work to, while the figures are worked out,” Kevin Hackwell says.

The Environmental Defence Society also says the proposals are a good first step.

“This is the critically important keystone to the entire freshwater reform process,” said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

“When EDS initiated the Land and Water Forum process in 2008, we had no idea it would take so long to get to this important stage. We finally have a draft of the much-needed national guidance for freshwater management in New Zealand.

“The overall NOF framework appears to be consistent with the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum. That much is welcome.

“However the actual standards and bottom-lines proposed are incomplete and those that are there will need strengthening.

“In particular, we are aware the Science Panels and the Reference Group recommended that macroinvertebrates (small living critters in freshwater systems) should be included – but they haven’t been. We think this can and should be fixed in the final version.

“Overall, some of the other bottom-line standards appear weaker than expected and in many cases are considerably lower than current water quality. We will need to take scientific advice on what adjustments are required. We have to have standards that ensure that no further deterioration in freshwater quality occurs and that we are on an overall improvement pathway especially in lowland streams and rivers.

“Overall, New Zealand’s freshwater should be swimmable and fishable as a minimum.

“The government is running a series of workshops and consultation feedback has been sought with a closing date in February.

“On this occasion the government is generally on the right pathway which will be welcomed by my colleagues on the Land and Water Forum as being in accord with the consensus position we arrived at. EDS stands by that consensus,” Mr Taylor concluded.

Getting consensus on the freshwater strategy is far better than imposing something which will result in on-going wrangles and litigation.

Consensus does however, often require compromise.

All parties involved have a strong desire to ensure we have good freshwater standards that result in clean water. If they keep that in mind they ought to be able to build on what they have in common and work around their differences.

 

 

 


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