How lefty are you?


How lefty are you the questions asks?

The answer I got was not very – 82% right which is says is basically Guido Fawkes.

Councillors to move no-confidence in Brown


Five Auckland councillors have plan to put forward a motion of no-confidence in mayor Len Brown at a council meeting tomorrow.

Howick representatives Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart, Maungakiekie-Tamaki representative Denise Krum, Orakei representative Cameron Brewer and Waitakere representative Linda Cooper have initiated the motion.

The question which will be put forward and voted on is:

“That the Governing Body notes that Len Brown lacks the essential leadership credentials of judgement, honesty, integrity, and credibility and as a result councillors have lost confidence in his ability to carry out his duties as Mayor of Auckland.” . . .

This is a serious step reflecting the seriousness with which at least some of the council view the mayor’s behaviour and shows they understand that judgement, honesty, integrity, and credibility matter.

Rural round-up


Fonterra faces big milk problem – Chalkie:

If Heath Robinson designed a contraption to pluck the feathers from a mallard with barbecue tongs, it would be the epitome of elegance compared with Fonterra.

Our giant dairy co-operative, bless it, is like an elephant balancing on a stool built by engineering students out of toothpicks – a gravity-defying feat of complexity that threatens to go crashingly wrong at any moment.

The elephant hit the deck big time last week when Fonterra had to press the manual over-ride on its intricate milk pricing machinery and Chalkie reckons the damage will be more than a few splinters in the bum. . .

Farmer loses cows to feed ‘hardware’ – Sandie Finnie:

Carterton dairy farmer Chris Engel is out of pocket but better informed after two of his cows died of “hardware disease”, the industry term for cows that die from ingesting metal fragments in palm kernel expeller supplementary feed.

Now he wants to alert other farmers to the importance of reading the fine print on their PKE supply deals.

Mr Engel sought compensation of $12,522.23 from PKE supplier INL through the Masterton District Court Disputes Tribunal.

It would have covered the death of the cows, lost milk production, veterinarian fees and other costs. . .

New Chancellor for Massey University:

Wellington businessman Chris Kelly is Massey University’s new Chancellor.

Mr Kelly replaces Dr Russ Ballard, who has been Chancellor for the past five years. Mr Kelly is a veterinary science graduate of Massey and highly regarded New Zealand business leader with multiple directorships. This year he retired as chief executive of state-owned Landcorp Farming Ltd, a role he was in for 12 years. He has been on the University Council since August 2005 and has been Pro Chancellor – deputy chair of the council – since July last year.

The University’s new Pro Chancellor is Michael Ahie, also from Wellington. . .

Meat industry takes stock:

The Red Meat Sector Strategy coordination group has released a progress report on how the sector is tracking towards the goals of the Red Meat Sector Strategy, released in May 2011.

The Red Meat Sector Strategy was developed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. It identified ways to secure improved and sustainable growth for the sector against a background of volatile sales and variable profitability, over the past decade in particular.
Just over two years after the launch of the strategy, this report outlines the progress in each of its focus areas and towards realising the opportunities outlined. The report records where progress has been made and where work is actively ongoing. It also identifies the areas where progress has been limited. . .

Fitch gives Fonterra thumbs up over unchanged farmgate payout, dividend cut – Paul McBeth:

Fitch Ratings has praised Fonterra Cooperative Group’s [NZX: FCG] decision to hold the forecast payout to farmers and slashing its dividend by two-thirds amid a growing gap in prices between milk powders and its cheese and casein products.

The Auckland-based company’s decision is “characteristic of the fiscal discipline that underscores its credit rating,” Fitch said in a statement. Fonterra has an AA rating. Earlier this month the cooperative surprised analysts by holding the forecast payout for this season at a record $8.30 per kilogram of milk solids and cutting its expected dividend to 10 cents from 32 cents. . .

Better water quality won’t happen overnight … but it must happen – Jenny Webster-Brown:

If we cannot stop ongoing water quality degradation, and effectively restore degraded water environments, we stand to lose much that we value about New Zealand and our way of life. We will lose recreational opportunities, fisheries and our reputation for primary produce from a “clean” environment. We will lose functioning ecosystems, the ecosystem services they provide and the beauty of our iconic water features. We will have to pay for increasingly higher technology to treat drinking, stock and even irrigation water … like so many drier, more populous or older nations, who have long since lost their natural water amenities. This is not what we have known, or what we wish for our children, or their children. To improve water quality, we need only three things: the will, the means and the time. . .

Wine industry shows increased profitability in 2013:

Financial benchmarking survey optimistic despite challenges for smaller wineries

The turnaround in the New Zealand wine industry has continued in 2013 on the back of improved profitability, especially for large wineries, according to the eighth annual financial benchmarking survey released today by Deloitte and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Vintage 2013 tracks the results of wineries accounting for almost half of the industry’s export sales revenue for the 2013 financial year. New participants provided data this year making for the most even spread across the revenue band categories in the survey’s history. . .

How to count grass – Baletwine:

The Pasture Meter™ automatically takes 200 readings per second so takes thousands of readings per paddock. At 20kph it is taking a reading every 27mm or 18,500 readings in 500 meters.

Towed behind an ATV / RTV or utility vehicle at up to 20kph, this machine provides a fast, practical method of measuring grass cover particularly over large areas over all terrain that can be safely covered by an ATV/vehicle.  The Pasture Meter™ automatically takes 200 readings per second so takes thousands of readings per paddock. At 20kph it is taking a reading every 27mm or 18,500 readings in 500 meters. Developed and proven in New Zealand, there are 3 models ranging from manual paddock ID entry to fully GPS with auto paddock start /stop. . .

Garner and Gower both back Bill for poli of year


Finance Minister has won two more votes for politician of the year.

Duncan Garner says he won hands-down for his handling of the economy .

“. . . a remarkable feat given the world and the recession. I reckon English has steered the country through this quicker and better than almost anybody else . . . “

And Patrick Gower seconds that:

. . . English has had his hands on the purse-strings for five years now, and as expected, he signed off the year with the National Government on track to a sliver of a $86 million surplus in 2014/15 but growing to billions in the years after that.

In layman’s terms that means English is going to balance the country’s books – as National has promised.

By way of comparison, English’s Australian counterpart Joe Hockey opened his books too, and it was a shocker – $133 billion worth of deficits.

Sure, English’s will be a sneaky surplus – but this is politics.

Getting back to surplus has never really been just an economic goal – it’s been a political one.

It will be an absolute central plank of National’s election campaign next year, and English has delivered.

National wants to say “Labour and the Greens will blow the bank – we won’t”.

National wants to say “Labour and the Greens will put it all at risk – we won’t.”

It is going to be an attack campaign – and English has put the bullets in the gun.

And as we hear ad nauseum and will continue to hear ad nauseum next year, English has done it in a five-year battle with body-blows delivered by the Christchurch earthquakes and global financial crisis.

But “keeping on track to surplus” isn’t English’s only political achievement this year.

Let’s face it, National stuffed up the housing market to the point they seemingly woke up one morning and realised they could have got turfed out of office because of it.

Panic set in – and it was English who led the fight-back. Sure the plan wasn’t perfect, but it was a plan.

Labour could have got National on the ropes but by the time of English’s Budget in May he had them back out and fighting. . .

English has fronted asset sales, he’s been the point man in Parliament, he’s been the fix-it man with its myriad problems. . . .

The referendum was the latest asset sales scuffle. It came last weekend and then was gone again.

English helped see off yet another challenge, and it is a sign of crafty political management that the referendum made just a whimper.

Say what you will about asset sales – English has pushed them through with National literally still holding the centre-ground.

To push through an unpopular policy over three years and with so many problems and still have National at 47 percent in the polls is quite an achievement.

And there’s still one more asset, Genesis, to go next year – English will be front and centre again.

English is not flashy – it is no surprise that the Southlander was a grinding flanker in his rugby-playing days who could fill in at prop.

It’s also important to note that by taking so much of the asset sales heat, English frees up Key to roam a bit more. . .

English is an excellent economic communicator – his ability to talk “kitchen table economics” will be a real weapon for National in election year.

Key is 52, English is 51 – the prime of their lives in some senses. They are not going to hand over power lightly. . .

Much is made of the fact that John Key is the totem pole that holds up the centre-right. The theory goes: take Key out – and take down National.

But that now applies to English too.

The political reality is that to take down National, the Opposition will have to knock out English too.

And that’s what makes Bill English Politician of the Year.

John Key is a very popular leader for very good reasons.

One of those reasons is the team he leads. Bill is a very important part of that team and the accolades he is getting for his performance this year are well deserved.

Too much weather


We had nearly 40 mms of rain  – almost a couple of inches in old money – on Monday night which highlighted a new water feature courtesy of a blocked spouting.

We rarely say too much in North Otago but if this comes to pass we might say enough:

GDT milk price up .2%


The global Dairy Trade milk price index edged up .2% in this morning’s auction.

GDT Trade Weighted Index Changes

gdt 18.12

The price of anhydrous milk fat increased 4.4%; butter rose 7.9 %; butter milk fat was up 2.2%; cheddar was up 1%; milk protein concentrate was up 3.9%; rennet casein increased 7.3%; skim milk powder was up 1.7% and whole milk powder was down by 1.5%.

Knowing when to go


Kaikoura MP Colin King lost a selection contest against vineyard owner Stuart Smith.

. . . “National’s selection process is highly democratic. Nothing is pre-determined and I congratulate Stuart for securing the nomination,” said Canterbury-Westland Regional Chairman Roger Bridge.

“Stuart has been an advocate for Marlborough communities for many years and will offer voters a strong voice in John Key’s National Party at the next election.

“I also wish to acknowledge Colin King. Colin has worked hard as the MP and served these communities well

Mr Smith is a fourth generation South Islander, former Chairman of the New Zealand Winegrowers Association, and a founding member and current Chairman of the community-owned Southern Valley’s Irrigation Scheme.

Based in Blenheim on the Smith-Small family-owned vineyard Fairhill Downs, he is married to Julie and is father to three teenage children.

“I am very grateful for the confidence that the Party have shown in me tonight,” said Mr Smith.

“National’s plan to build a stronger economy is delivering real opportunities for us in Marlborough and North Canterbury, but regional New Zealand is facing many challenges and there is still much more to be done.

“I will be working hard to win the support of our communities to ensure we can keep building on this progress after the next election. 

Colin King, who was elected as the MP for Kaikoura in 2005, is encouraging local members and supporters to get in behind the new candidate and help return National to Government next election.

“It has been a tremendous privilege to serve as the MP and I have greatly enjoyed making a contribution to the growth of our region,” said Mr King.

“While I am disappointed that I will not be able to represent Kaikoura after the next election, I want to express my support for the National-led Government and encourage members and supporters in the electorate to get in behind Stuart and National in 2014.

“The next election will be vital for the future of our region. I will be working hard to support the Government to keep delivering on its positive plan.”

Losing a selection is a sad way for an MP to end a career but National’s rules leaves selection to members in the electorate.

Sometimes they have a different idea about when it’s time for an MP to go than the MP does.

UPDATE – Gravedodger pays tribute to King at No Minister:

First met Colin when as a very good shearer he shore a few hundred of my greasy old corriedales in what is now the Waipara Wine district c1974.
He was a very different guy then, intelligent, well read, and smart enough to recognise that being fit, logical and organised was better than the traditional, drinking cussing, inefficient unfit model that Godfry Bowen transformed, only he was 40 years younger.

Saw Colin win the Golden Shears title at Masterton from a right hand stand, that being a lefty, forced King to waltz each of his 20 sheep through 180 degrees to align it with the handpiece and  then maneuver the shorn animal to a porthole in the wrong position. He still won and then twice more after the dinosaurs that ran the show arranged for a designated “Lefty stand”.

When he stood for the Kaikoura seat nearly nine years ago he reinforced my belief that National party candidates were grounded in life skills that gave an enormous advantage in their approach to the very limited power they have to make meaningful change. . .

TIme to go


Front page editorials are rare, today’s from the NZ Herald, telling Auckland mayor Len Brown it’s time to go, is unprecedented.

When news broke of the Mayor’s two-year affair with Bevan Chuang, this newspaper suggested that if Len Brown’s family could forgive him then the city should, too.

Two months on, that sentiment is no longer sustainable. An issue far more important than the mayor’s private life is now at stake. Tomorrow, Auckland councillors will not only formally censure Mr Brown but begin a process designed to clip the wings of the mayoral office. If that happens, the Super City may no longer have a leader with the independent authority to drive things forward. The only means of avoiding that outcome is for Mr Brown to resign. He must go in the interests of Auckland and Aucklanders. . .

Going into next year, however, the joke will be on all of us if the Super City governance is compromised. The corrosive nature of all this is compounded by doubts that remain and the questions still unanswered – . . .

The affair and all the apologies are one thing but the lax accountability over grace, favour and entitlements and the potential emasculation of his office by the council leave little chance of him regaining the respect of Aucklanders.

Some of the prurient details of Mr Brown’s affair with Ms Chuang probably ought to have been censored. He is about to be censured by the city’s councillors. Now, it is surely time for him to come to his senses – and go.

This is damning but I doubt it will influence him.

He can’t do his job properly but that’s not a sackable offence.

He’s showing no signs of any willingness to fall on his sword which leaves Auckland saddled with a lame-duck mayor for the next three years.

That won’t be good for the city and given it’s size, it won’t be good for the country either.


English politician of year again


Trans Tasman named Finance Minister and deputy PM Bill English as its politician of the year.

Colin James gives him the double.

. . . But there was cabinet innovation: 10 quantitatively targeted cross-government outcomes which require public servants to make an actual difference, not tick “output” boxes and which, while maybe diverting resources from other necessities in the short term, could be developed for wider use longer-term.

Who in the cabinet drives this thinking? Who pushed an actuarial/investment approach to social policy, limited in scope and application but the government’s most important policy innovation so far?

Who backed the Land and Water Forum which has won consensus on a devilish issue? Who pushed the public service to think how to do more with less without austerity? Who is the policy wonk who looks for deeper and longer-term options?

Who, despite the earthquake, got fiscal consolidation on track and is admired in Australia and Hong Kong (though also calculated wrongly on Cullen fund contributions and the SOE floats)?

Who anchors a sometimes wayward and radical cabinet within sight of National’s moderate conservative tradition?

A man rooted deep in that tradition. A man with a Southland drawl and manner. Bill English is my politician for 2013.

None of these achievements should be taken for granted but the 10 quantitatively targeted cross-government outcomes which require public servants to make an actual difference, not tick “output” boxes are especially noteworthy.

This means public servants have to be responsible for not just doing something, but doing something which makes a positive difference.

That most of them have risen to the challenge is a credit to them as well as the Minister who’s changed the way they operate for the better.

Surpluses about choices


National has the country on track back to surplus but the first one will be very modest.

John Armstrong writes:

. . . With typical understatement, English admitted it was “not the largest” surplus ever forecast.

Having invested so much political stock in returning to surplus by that date, English does not want to make it look too easy an achievement.

Neither does he want to give Labour more fiscal flexibility so that party can make bigger spending promises next year which, of course is election year.

Even though the size of the surplus quickly reaches the billions in subsequent years, English was not willing to be pinned down on the inevitable question of the prospect of future tax cuts, saying any such announcements were unlikely in his election-year Budget.

He instead preached the virtues of starting repaying debt a year earlier than scheduled along with a similar faster resumption of contributions to Cullen superannuation fund.

English stressed surpluses were all about “choices”. What he means is the choice between – as he sees it – prudent National and profligate Labour.

Among the choices are repaying debt, reducing taxes and increasing spending.

The choice for voters is simpler – it is between prudent National and profligate Labour.

National has managed turn the economy around so it is now one of the fastest growing.

The economic gains haven’t come easily and it’s far too soon to put it all at risk by entrusting the treasury benches to Labour and its even bigger taxing, bigger spending allies.

December 18 in history


218 BC – Second Punic War: Battle of the Trebia – Hannibal’s Carthaginian forces defeated those of the Roman Republic.

1271  Kublai Khan renamed his empire “Yuan” (元 yuán), officially marking the start of the Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia and China.

1620 – The Mayflower landed in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts with 102 Pilgrims on board.

1642  Abel Tasman and his men had the first known European encounter with Maori.

First contact between Maori and Europeans

1707 Charles Wesley, English Methodist hymnist, was born (d. 1788).

1777 The United States celebrated its first Thanksgiving, marking the recent victory by the Americans over General John Burgoyne in the Battle of Saratoga in October.

1778 Joseph Grimaldi, English clown, was born (d. 1837).

1849 Henrietta Edwards, Canadian women’s rights activist, was born (d. 1931).

1863 Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, was born (d. 1914).

1878 Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, was born  (d. 1953).

1888 – Richard Wetherill and his brother in-law discovered the ancient Indian ruins of Mesa Verde.

1890 Edwin Armstrong, American inventor (FM radio) was born (d. 1954).

1898  Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set the new land speed record going 39.245 mph (63.159 km/h), in a Jeantaud electric car. This is the first recognised land speed record.

1900 The Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook Narrow-gauge (2 ft 6 in or 762 mm) Railway (now the Puffing Billy Railway) in Victoria opened.

1908  Celia Johnson, English actress, was born (d. 1982).

1910 – Eric Tindill, New Zealand cricketer and rugby player, was born  (d. 2010).

1912 The Piltdown Man, later discovered to be a hoax, was found in the Piltdown Gravel Pit, by Charles Dawson.

1913 Willy Brandt, Chancellor of Germany, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was born (d. 1992).

1916  Betty Grable, American actress, was born  (d. 1973).

1935  Jacques Pépin, French chef, was born.

1938 Chas Chandler, English musician (The Animals), was born (d. 1996).

1943  Keith Richards, English guitarist (The Rolling Stones), was born.

1946  Steve Biko, South African anti-apartheid activist, was born  (d. 1977).

1946 – Steven Spielberg, American film director, was born.

1963 Brad Pitt, American actor, was born.

1966 Saturn‘s moon Epimetheus was discovered by Richard L. Walker.

1969  Home Secretary James Callaghan‘s motion to make permanent the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, which had temporarily suspended capital punishment in England, Wales and Scotland for murder (but not for all crimes) for a period of five years, was carried by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

1973 Soyuz 13, crewed by cosmonauts Valentin Lebedev and Pyotr Klimuk, was launched.

1987  Larry Wall released the first version of the Perl programming language.

1997  HTML 4.0 was published by the World Wide Web Consortium.

1999 NASA launched into orbit the Terra platform carrying five Earth Observation instruments, including ASTER, CERES, MISR, MODIS and MOPITT.

2006 – The first of a series of floods struck Malaysia. The death toll of all flooding was at least 118, with over 400,000 people displaced.

2009 – The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference closed with the signing of the Copenhagen Accord.

2010 – Anti-government protests began in Tunisia, heralding the Arab Spring.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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