Word of the day

November 9, 2013

Quaintrelle – a woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and cultivation of life’s pleasures; a finely-dressed woman.


Rural round-up

November 9, 2013

Central Plains Water gets the green light from shareholders:

Thirteen years after it was first mooted, Central Plains Water Ltd (CPWL) Board have given approval for the giant scheme to become a reality after 90% of Stage I shareholders and over 72% of Stage II and III committed to the 60,000ha scheme.

For the scheme to progress it needed commitment for 18,000h of Stage I and 26,000 ha of Stage II and III. Both thresholds have been met fully by existing shareholders.

Chief executive Derek Crombie said that achieving this level of commitment from shareholders is testimony to the phenomenal dedication and hard work put in by so many over the years.

“I’m sure that there were many times when the hurdles seemed too great, so now all that is required is for the board to confirm our construction programme and to allocate shares,which should happen in the next week. To get this high level of uptake for the scheme from the existing shareholders is a fantastic result. This commitment ensures that the ownership remains local. We set a pretty high bar but are now delighted to say that we have managed to clear it,” he said. . .

First water released in irrigation scheme – Tony Benny:

The first water from the Rangitata South irrigation scheme is now available to some farmers as commissioning of the project, that will eventually irrigate 16,000 hectares between the Rangitata and Orari rivers and out to the coast, begins.
One of the project’s seven storage ponds on the south side of the Rangitata, near Arundel, is now 90 per cent full and water has been released into irrigation races to allow leak testing, part of a commissioning process that will take up to four months.

The seven ponds will hold a total of 16 million cubic metres of water, drawn from the Rangitata River when it’s in flood – a flow of more than 110 cumecs, enough to provide 30 days of irrigation storage. Farmer shareholders are also required to have an additional week of storage in their own ponds. . . .

Food safety forum to come to NZ for first time:

A number of food scares, including the botulism scare caused by Fonterra, has inspired the organisers of the Global Food Safety Forum to hold it in New Zealand for the first time.

“NZ has been caught out on a number of occasions and the dialogue and interaction will be focused on preventing further issues,” food integrity consultant Dr Helen Darling said.

The conference, to be attended by the 160 delegates from China, US and Australia, will look at emerging threats and ways to address them before they become a problem she said. . .

Challenges ahead in Ballance awards:

BALLANCE AWARDS organiser, the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust, is gearing up for another big year as it strives to help farmers face the challenges of the future.

NZFE chairman Alistair Polson said at the annual meeting that 2013 was a successful year for the trust’s flagship enterprise, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA). Regional and national BFEA competitions, ceremonies and field days are popular and well supported.

Another highlight for the trust was the addition of the Taranaki region for 2014, bringing the number of regions involved in the BFEA competition to 10. “We hope to include the remaining regions in future.” . . .

Nelson peony venture blossoming – Tracy Neal:

Growing “big blousy flowers” for America is far from Georgia Richards’ early ambition to grow culinary herbs, but the peony venture is proving highly suited to the quiet block of Dovedale land she farms with partner Dot Kettle.

The business is blossoming in a new direction beyond export grade flowers, to one that utilises the benefits of peonies in soaps, skin creams and even tea blends.

The pair have just launched Dove River Peonies soaps and creams, which like many new creations, was driven by need. In their case it was the lack of any good skin products for their sons’ eczema that drove them to create a product specially for sensitive skins. With the help of Nelson firm Global Soap, the soap range was born combining powdered peony root in an olive oil base for sensitive skin, or citrus blends for an “indulgent” soap. . .

It’s blooming time for quality fruit – Farming Unlocked:

Regular readers of my blog will know that I do not particularly enjoy our cold winters. However as spring envelops us, the weather warms up and the sun’s rays soak into my skin and prise something open from within. My heart feels somehow warmer and I feel invigorated and alive.

This is mirrored in my surroundings. At this time of year, no matter which window I look out, I can see a mass of white apple blossom, contrasted against the lush, green of tender new growth. I find myself in an almost constant state of distraction, drawn to gaze out at the breathtaking beauty with a sense of wonderment and respect.

I find that I cannot adequately put into words the magnificent performance that the orchard puts forward at this time of year, so I will try to show it in pictures instead. . .


Saturday’s smiles

November 9, 2013

A new party leader was still having problems getting his caucus and the wider public to share his opinion of himself.

It was beginning to make him unhappy so he sought the advice of a psychiatrist who began the session by saying, “Why don’t you start at the beginning?”

He said, “Okay. In the beginning I created the heavens and the earth…”

#gigatownoamaru is earning its good reputation in the race to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.


The yeah nah party

November 9, 2013

Paula Bennett was in her element in Wednesday’s general debate:

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) : I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. What we have is the “Yeah, Nah Labour Party”. We have a wishy-washy party with a wishy-washy leader that does not know what it stands for or what it really means. What we have is the “Yeah, Nah Labour Party”. It cannot decide where it stands and cannot decide what it means. Labour wants to be the “Assure Party”. What it is actually is the “Unsure Party”. Labour does not know what it stands for. You have got to say that at least the Greens know what they stand for, and that is against anything that will actually mean jobs and growth. David Shearer may have been the “Yeah, um” leader but now we have the “Yeah, nah” leader. There is no doubt about that.

Let us take the man ban—take the man ban as one example. Labour turned around and said “Yes, yes, we want a man ban. We want a man ban.”, and then “No, no, no—yeah, yeah, no, no, no, we don’t want a man ban.” Then, of course, we have just had the weekend where it came back again and said: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we will.” So it is the “Yeah, nah, yeah.” We have got one for that.

Let us take Cunliffe, who does the “Yeah” to one audience and then “Nah” to another audience. Inside the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions conference we had “Yeah” to the living wage and “Yeah” to paid parental leave. Then, quite frankly, he stepped outside and went “Oh, nah. Oh, nah—yeah, nah. Yeah, nah. Yeah, we kind of want them, but we’ll just back-pedal here faster than Shane Jones does with a remote. Yeah, nah, we actually didn’t mean it or maybe at some stage if we can get to it.” Cunliffe is telling one audience “Yeah”—but then again, he does owe the unions, remember. So one message to the unions—in fact, David Cunliffe might be at the Meat and Related Trades Workers Union now instead of in Parliament, and showing it that he actually owes it something and that that is where he should be.

Labour’s position on big, big projects is “Yeah, nah. Yeah, we sort of want jobs and that rhetoric sounds good, so yeah, we’ll go on about jobs. But nah, nah, we won’t actually support anything or vote for anything that means growth and that means jobs for real families.” In fact, let us take the classic example of that, which is the New Zealand International Convention Centre. It is the topic of the week; let us take the convention centre. Labour said: “Yeah, nah, yeah, nah, we won’t be voting for the convention centre. Yeah, nah, we don’t support jobs. We don’t want $400 million dollars that taxpayers don’t want to have to pay. Yeah, nah, we don’t want more tourism. Yeah, nah, we don’t want to see those jobs coming in.”

Unless, of course, Labour is speaking to Skycity itself, then it is “Oh, yeah, yeah. Actually, if we’re in, we won’t roll back the contract. Actually, if we’re in, the word on the side is yeah, nah.” Cunliffe says: “We didn’t mean what we actually said.” Let us just quote from him here, when he said to Skycity: “Do you want it straight from the shoulder? Here it is. We will not rip up the contract. We will not throw out the terms of Skycity’s gaming licence.” He says: “Yeah, nah. Yeah, nah.”

His rhetoric this week, the “Yeah, no” on what he is doing—in one breath on that convention centre he has most certainly done the “Yeah, nah”. His response to the unions right now—and let us remember who he is responsible to. Let us take trade. Trade is a goody, is it not? When he was in Government, he said: “Oh, yeah, we need more trade. Yeah, we’ll support trade. Free trade is good for the country. Free trade is good for jobs for Kiwis.” But now that the unions have got him wrapped around their little finger, it is: “Nah, nah—well, maybe. Yeah, nah, yeah, nah, maybe we’ll support free trade. No, we don’t think we do now.” Because the unions are actually pulling the strings, not the “Yeah, nah” leader who, quite frankly, is so wishy-washy.

Let us take superannuation. David Cunliffe says “Yeah, we want people to work harder. Yeah, we want people to work longer. Nah, nah—not now the unions are actually running things. Nah, doesn’t sit quite as well, so we’ll just backtrack hugely on that one as well.”, as he is kind of moving along. Take national standards. In 2012—2012, just last year—we had it quite emphatically from the Labour Party: “No, we will not cancel national standards.” Now that the unions are pulling the strings, it is: “Yeah, nah. Yeah, nah.” Just last weekend we had the leader saying that he will scrap national standards. “Yeah, nah. Yeah, nah. We’re not really sure exactly where we stand on those things as well.” So, let us contrast that to the National Party, which stands for something. What will the public be saying next year to Labour? “Yeah, nah!”

#gigatownoamaru is saying yeah, yeah to being the first gigatown in the Southern Hemisphere.


Foreign investment isn’t easy here

November 9, 2013

The New Zealand Initiative is researching foreign direct investment and is seeking information:

The $200 million sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin generated a storm of controversy last year, as well as massive legal fees as teams of lawyers waded through rivers of red tape to get the deal across the line.

Yet if the same deal were proposed in Australia, it would apparently have passed with barely a squeak of protest under their Foreign Direct Investment rules, while in Canada it is a more complicated “maybe”.

It seems not all FDI regimes are created equal, particularly as inbound investment is often subject to grey-area factors that are not captured in the black ink of the rules.

We would like to tap into the knowledge of our international friends and followers, so perhaps you can help us:

In what international jurisdictions would the purchase of $200 million (US$165 million) of productive farmland by a Chinese conglomerate have gone through smoothly, and in what countries would it have been red-flagged, as it was in New Zealand?

Your input will be included in our second FDI report, which compares New Zealand’s inbound investment policy framework to other international jurisdictions. All submissions will be published anonymously.

If you would like to help us, please do so in email form to khyaati.acharya@nzinitiative.org.nz by 18 November 2013.

The NZI has comparisons with other countries:

Australia: A $200 million investment would appear to be able to sail through because it is below the investment threshold of A$244 million that triggers Australia’s FDI rules.

Canada: A $200 million investment would appear to sail through at the Federal level because it would be under the threshold level of C$344 million that applies to Chinese investor as China is a WTO-member. However, perhaps it would trigger FDI scrutiny at the provisional level, perhaps most particularly in Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, all of which restrict significant investments by overseas persons in productive farmland.

Hong Kong: Presumably, no FDI restrictions would apply to a $200 million purchase in Hong Kong.  But does Hong Kong have $200 million of dairy farmland to purchase?

Korea: We understand that South Korea does limit investment in arable farmland given its limited availability and national significance, but we don’t have any details.

Singapore: We understand that Taiwan does not consider productive land to be a sensitive national asset and applies no monetary threshold to inwards FDI. If so the investment should sail through.

UK: We understand that the United Kingdom would impose no screening requirement on such a transaction and has no monetary threshold for triggering scrutiny, nor is farmland regarded as a ‘sensitive area’.  Presumptively, the purchase would sail through.

USA: At the Federal level the purchase would sail through since all a foreign purchaser of US farmland is required to do is to disclose the purchase to the Secretary for Agriculture.

Foreign investment in farms isn’t easy here.

A New Zealander who manages a farming business for an international company tells me that going through the Overseas Investment Office was a long and difficult process.

It took ages, and was expensive, even when the company was selling a farm it already owned here to buy another and had a good record of employment, development, and responsible stewardship of and best environmental practice on its properties.


NZ a decade behind Europe on sustainability – Spierings

November 9, 2013

New Zealand dairying leads the world?

We’d like to think so and in many ways it does, but Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings says when it comes to social and environmental sustainability we’re a decade behind Europe.

. . . “Fonterra is really eight to 10 years behind the pack for sustainability and CSR (corporate social responsibility),” he told the lunchtime meeting of the Trans Tasman Business Circle. “If you expect sustainability anywhere in the world, it’s here. It’s Brand New Zealand.”

Yet this year’s annual report was the first to devote significant space to reporting Fonterra’s progress.

Part of the problem had not been a lack of initiatives, but too many initiatives that were little more than charitable donations and were pursued without focus on the company’s strategic needs.

For that reason, Fonterra was now concentrating its efforts in the Milk in Schools effort, partly because Spierings said he found the fact some 27 percent of New Zealand children had no milk before lunch “devastating.”

“If that remains the case, I don’t think they will be milk consumers when they are 20 or 25” years old, he said. “We are investing in our consumers 10 years from now.”

Meanwhile, the company was throwing its weight behind efforts to clean up New Zealand’s fresh waterways, recognising clean water as a fundamental part of Fonterra’s claims to high quality products.

“If the water’s not protected, we have no future,” he said.

The two programmes were linked by having farmers deliver milk to schools and children visit farms to plant streambeds and wetlands to help control farm runoff into waterways.

Fonterra was “better to do three to four massive commitments than 40 different things.”

Focus is important and its not just with the public. Fonterra and DairyNZ are both doing a lot more with farmers to ensure on-farm practices are sustainable.

Asked to comment on the potential for a change of government at next year’s election and the wavering support in the Labour Party for the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Spierings said he expected Opposition parties to say one thing to get votes and another “when they really have to run the country.”

“You see that in Labour, certain messages,” he said. “TPP, what does it practically mean? What happens to our IP (intellectual property)?”

In government, they knew their primary responsibility was to deliver economic growth.

I’m not sure I share his confidence in the Opposition, especially if it’s Labour and Green both of whom are much better at redistribution than growth.

Of Fonterra’s handling of the false botulism scare, Spierings said the company had learnt a lot about “how layered and difficult sometimes we are.”

An issue which began with a torch lens being lost in processing had also seen a cascade of poor decisions, including that he should have been informed back in May when the cooperative’s food safety scientists decided they needed to test for a bacterium strain capable of causing botulism.

It was a straightforward “yes” or “no” question for management as to whether testing for botulism was a serious issue requiring escalation to the chief executive’s suite. Fonterra had since established a whistleblower’s hotline for staff to report any qualms about food safety straight to the food safety unit.

Even before that, management at the plant where the torch lens was lost should have ensured the reprocessed whey protein powder in question was kept out of the production chain for use in infant formula.

“If it had gone to animal feeds, the Delta (cost to the company) in money was hardly anything, but we could have avoided the whole crisis.”

Any contaminated milk in dairy sheds has to be clearly identified and dealt with properly, it’s equally as important to it do that way further down the production line.

Spierings said one of the unexpected aspects of Fonterra was its disproportionate significance to the national economy and therefore the amount of political and public scrutiny it attracted.

However, he made no apology for calling politicians and journalists out for overstating issues for public impact.

“I understand their perspective, but they should understand that I am not accepting it, that you have to take a responsible approach. By now in Wellington, they know I will react.”

Of Chinese perceptions about Fonterra since the botulism scare, he said some 45 percent of consumers were aware it was a false alarm and appreciated a level of honesty they would not expect from Chinese firms.

However, the other 55 percent only knew there’d been a problem. Fonterra had gone ahead with a cautious launch of its Anmum formula in China in September and although it was early days, Spierings was optimistic it would be well-received and that the cooperative’s model for roll-out was “even better” than a similar venture in 2008 for his previous employer.

Fonterra, and the other companies caught in the fallout have a lot of work to do to rebuild consumer confidence.

This is a refreshingly honest approach from Spierings which shareholders should absorb .

I was appalled to read (in the print edition of the NBR) that a survey showed farmers generally thought Fonterra handled the botulism scare well.

It didn’t and shareholders have to realise that the company isn’t regarded nearly as highly from the outside as it is from the inside.

It does a lot of things very well, but there is room for continuous improvement in others which were identified in the report on the report on the botulism saga.

#gigatownoamaru is continuously improving its ranking in the race to be the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.


Saturday soapbox

November 9, 2013

Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, to muse or amuse – or to add points for #gigatownoamaru.

Embedded image permalink

Hat tip for photo: Not PC.


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