Word of the day


Mulligan – a stew made from odds and ends of food; an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard in golf.

In the holidays I . . .


It could be seen as mixing politics and sport.

It is also a sign of John Key’s ability to get on with other leaders:

. . . The golf outing put Key in rarified company. Obama is an avid golfer, but prefers to limit his playing partners to a close circle of friends and advisers.

Among those who have also scored invitations to play with Obama in the past are former President Bill Clinton and House Speaker John Boehner. . .

The score has not been made public.



Rural round-up


Nature and high-end design meets farming –  Bruce Wills:

Every time you think we know all there is to know about agriculture, nature has a habit of coming along, tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that really, we don’t.

Like sand flies in summer, not all native species are what you could describe as cute, cuddly or wanted.  Porina caterpillars love to chew the grass equally of lawns in-town and farm pasture in the countryside.  Meanwhile, grass grubs attack grass from below ironically proving that beside scale, both town and country have much in common.  These insects do their worst during the key periods of growth for pasture and lawns alike.  If you live in town and find bare patches of lawn odds are you’ll know what I mean.

Since pasture is the engine room of any farm and directly supports half of everything we export to the world, helping to pay our way in it, farmers will spend many millions of dollars trying to control these insects.  Nature being nature means this becomes a biological game of whack-a-mole. . .

Awards for 2013 – Willy Leferink:

As I look back upon 2013, I am going to present my own personal ‘awards’ reflecting some of the big items over the past year.

Given a lack of water defined 2013 at its beginning and water quality defined it at year’s end, my Al Gore Award for Most Underreported Inconvenient Truth goes to the Ministry for the Environment’s “River condition indicator Summary and key findings.”  Why else would a 10-year summary of water quality testing released in July get so little fanfare for revealing, “Of the parameters we [the MfE] monitor, all are either stable or improving at most monitored sites. Four of our parameters show stable or improving trends in 90% of sites”.

Allied to this water theme water is my ‘Harold Camping/The End is Nigh Environmental Armageddon Award.’

This one goes to any celebrity water quality scientist telling the media that virtually all freshwater bathing sites are unsafe.  It’s like hyperinflation meets bathing water quality but most Kiwis swimming at freshwater spots are letting their freestyle do the talking.  The ‘Two Face Special Achievement Certificate’ goes to our friends at our national fishing club who told everyone in the media how terrible our water quality is and who’s largely to blame.  That’s until they want to sell their fishing licenses when the fishing magically becomes fantastic. . .

Landfarming is safe practice – soil scientist – Adam Ray:

A soil scientist who has examined the controversial practice of landfarming says its opponents are ignoring evidence that it is safe.

Landfarming involves mixing mud and other drilling waste into low-quality soil, which then returns to pasture.

Scientist Doug Edmeades has examined soil from a farm near Hawera where it was carried out seven years ago.

“When I started out on this, I expected to find some interesting results,” he says. . .

Growing Up on a Farm: 25 Facts About Being a Farm Kid! – MyAGventures:

This post is dedicated to all you past, present and future farm kids out there. There may not be very many of us, but we truly are  one-of-a-kind. In all honesty, I don’t know of a better way to grow up. Yes, we worked hard. Yes, we can tell stories all day long about our experiences both good and bad. Most importantly, yes we are proud to be farmers’ sons and farmers’ daughters. We are proud to be born and raised farm kids.  We are proud to be future farmers.. .

Friday’s answers


Thursday’s questions were:

1. Who said: A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.?

2. What was the name of the ship captained by James Cook on his second and third voyages to the Pacific?

3. It’s résolu in French; risoluto in Italian, resuelto in Spanish and niwha in Maori, what is it in English?

4. Who said: “In War: Resolution,
In Defeat: Defiance,
In Victory: Magnaminity
In Peace: Good Will.” ?

5. New Year’s resolutions – do you make them, do you keep them?

Alwyn and Andrei both got a clean sweep and win an electronic box of cherries for doing so.

Answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

Predictions positive for National & NZ


Fairfax’s press gallery’s  predictions for 2014 include a positive one for National, and because of that New Zealand:

20. National will form a Government with at least two other parties.

Most governments get a second term, winning a third one is much harder but the signs are positive.

Polls give National more or less the same support it had at the 2011 election and Labour hasn’t been able to gain momentum in spite of a change of leader.

National’s challenge is to at least maintain the level of support it’s got and to have potential coalition partners with enough MPs to help it gain a majority.

That won’t be easy.

Scoring last year’s predictions out of 10, the Fairfax gallery awarded itself 133/200.

Labour’s challenge is to increase its support without butchering its major coalition partner, the Green Party.

That will be even harder because the policies it’s espousing so far are taking it to well to the left which is Green territory.

That might be shoring up its bedrock support but it doesn’t appear to be doing anything to attract swinging voters in the centre.

They might stomach a moderate move to the left but are very unlikely to be enamoured of the tax more, spend more lurch to the radical left.



Water quality and quantity vital to 2 Es


Water will continue to be a central issue in 2014, Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says:

“The vast majority of farmers care about the environment and this was highlighted in the New Year’s Honours List, which included a former National President, Tom Lambie.

“The current national discussion around farming would be enhanced if readers, viewers and listeners better understood what farming is actually like in 2014.  A role for the media.

“Water quality and quantity are absolutely vital to the two “E’s” – the economy and the environment. These are not mutually exclusive things but are flipsides of the same coin.

“Water storage is also vital to meet the challenges posed by climate change while enhancing land and water quality.

“Proposals to reform the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, by empowering local communities will, we hope, improve the level of discussion and information. . .

As holiday makers battle rain and even farmers in most areas are thinking there’s been enough, we shouldn’t forget that this time last year most of the country was dealing with drought.

Water storage, where it’s practical, harvests water when there’s too much and enables it to be used for irrigation, and environmental enhancement, when nature doesn’t provide.

Wills is right. The economy and environment aren’t mutually exclusive and water storage is a good way to boost both.

Best of 2013


From NZ Young Nats Facebook page:

Photo: Best of 2013: Welfare reforms came into effect.

Photo: Best of 2013: Young Nats across the country successfully fought to Keep It 18.

Photo: Best of 2013: Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson signs 8 Treaty Settlement Deeds, marking 41 settlements since 2008.

Living wage already raised


The Living wage hasn’t even been introduced yet and it’s already been raised by 10 cents.

The Living Wage proposal has been updated to $18.50 per hour.

There is no justification given for the increase.

But Brian Scott who has recently completed a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration with first class honours, has done a very thorough critique of the living wage proposal.

His key findings are:

The assumptions used are debatable:

  •  That the LW should be based on two adults and two dependents. Only 12% of low income households have two parents and one or two dependents.
  • That ten hours of childcare are required per week (even for two 16 year olds)
  •  That the use of the mean of deciles 1 – 5 expenditures is an appropriate and accurate method to estimate the cost of basic necessities.

Not all household income is accounted for:

  • Teenagers’ income (but the associated discretionary expenditure is counted)
  • Refunds and trade-ins and sales
  • School donation tax refunds

Some expenditure is counted twice:

  • Childcare costs (as a separate expense, and as part of Education costs)
  • Emergency expenses (such as funerals)

Some expenditure captured may not be considered a “basic necessity” by the community at large:

  • Subscription TV
  • Associated pet costs
  •  International travel
  •  Electronic video game systems

Some expenditure is incompatible with the assumption that the household is renting:

  •  Insurance for dwelling
  •  Mortgage insurance

The underlying data is unreliable:

  •  Many of the figures in the underlying Household Expenditure Survey data has been flagged with a notice “that care should be taken in interpreting the expenditure estimates” by Statistics New Zealand, and are likely to have non-sampling errors.
  • The method used is significantly different from other jurisdictions:
  •  For example, London’s LW is based on detailed itemised budgets, and weighted averages of a wide range of household types from single to two adults and two children.
  • Overall LW Rate is likely to be significantly over-estimated.
  •  The combined effects of the above observations indicates that a LW of $18.40 per hour is likely to be significantly over-estimated.

There may be negative consequences to other firms, employees and the economy in general.

  •  There is likely to be an economic impact to all firms, whether they pay the Living Wage or not.
  • There may be an increase in prices (up to 1.3 percent).

Given that

  •  the assumptions and method used in the NZ LW Report are materially different to those used in research on the LW in other countries
  • There are regulatory, economic, government assistance, and social differences between NZ and other countries and
  • The underlying data used in the New Zealand study is unreliable

Then it would be unsafe to assume that the conclusions from overseas research can be applied to estimate impacts of the living wage rate, as calculated by King and Waldegrave, on productivity, staff morale, or poverty, in the New Zealand context.

Auckland City Council has wisely voted to put the living wage on hold.

Wellington City Council showed considerably less sense in adopting the policy, even though one of the councillors who supported it won’t do it for his own staff:

. . . Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s council is not reducing poverty. It is simply taking money from one group of citizens – ratepayers – and giving it to another much smaller group – the 450 council staff who presently earn less than $18.40 an hour.


The gesture would be admirable if councillors were funding the $750,000 cost out of their own salaries, but they are not. It is easier to be generous with other people’s money than one’s own.


One of the rationales advanced for the policy is that it will have a spillover effect to other employers in the capital. Councillors do not have to look far to see the fallacy of that argument.


Newly-elected councillor Mark Peck, one of those who voted for the increase, has already said he will not be offering it to the staff who work in his Wellington cafe.


There is a good reason for that. His business cannot afford the cost. If he puts up wages, he will have to put up prices, and if he puts up prices, his customers will desert him for less expensive eateries.


Even if, by some miracle, all the cafe owners in the capital could be persuaded to introduce the living wage at the same time, the effect would still be deleterious.


People would eat out less and cafes would end up having to lay off the staff the wage is supposed to help.


Unlike the council, businesses and households do not have the luxury of being able to pass on cost increases to someone else.


The council initiative, to be phased in from January 1, is not only naive, but also poorly targeted. . .

The living wage is effectively an increase in the minimum wage and this analysis shows it is based on several false assumptions.

The concept takes no account of employers’ ability to pay more nor does it take any account of the value of the work done by the employees.

It is based on not on an objective assessment of what they earn but a subjective one of what they supposedly need.

Treasury has shown it won’t help those who need it most and this critique shows that the assumptions on which the figure is based are seriously flawed.

The full critique is after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

January 3 in history


106 BC Cicero, Roman statesman and philosopher, was born (d. 43 BC).

1431  Joan of Arc was handed over to the Bishop Pierre Cauchon.

1496 Leonardo da Vinci unsuccessfully tested a flying machine.
1521 – Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther in the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem.

1793 Lucretia Mott, American women’s rights activist, was born  (d. 1880).

1823 Stephen F. Austin received a grant of land in Texas from the government of Mexico.

1831 Savitribai Phule,  social activist, first female teacher in India, and first female poet in Marathi language, was born  (d. 1897).

1840 Surveyors arrived in Port Nicholson to lay out plans for the proposed New Zealand Company settlement of Britannia at Pito-one (Petone). When this original site proved unsuitable, the decision was made to relocate across the harbour in a settlement they called Wellington.

New Zealand Company surveyors arrive in Port Nicholson

1848 – Joseph Jenkins Roberts was sworn in as the first president of the independent African Republic of Liberia.

1870 Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge began.

1883  Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1967).

1887 Helen Parkhurst, American educator, was born (d. 1973).

1888 The refracting telescope at the Lick Observatory, measuring 91 cm in diameter, was used for the first time. It was the largest telescope in the world at the time.

1892  J. R. R. Tolkien, British writer, was born (d. 1973).

1899 – The first known use of the word automobile, was seen in an editorial in The New York Times.

1909  Victor Borge, Danish entertainer, was born (d. 2000).

1916 Maxene Andrews, American singer (The Andrews Sisters), was born (d. 1995).

1922  Bill Travers, British actor and director, was born  (d. 1994).

1923 Charles Tingwell, Australian actor, was born  (d. 2009).

1924 British explorer Howard Carter discovered the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, Egypt.

1930 – The first New Zealand-made talkie , Coubray-tone News, the work of the inventive Ted Coubray, had its first public screening at Auckland’s Plaza Theatre.

1933 Minnie D. Craig became the first female elected as Speaker of the North Dakota House of Representatives, the first female to hold a Speaker position anywhere in the United States.

1942  John Thaw, British actor, was born  (d. 2002).

1945  Stephen Stills, American musician (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) was born.

1946 John Paul Jones, British musician (Led Zeppelin), was born.

1950  Victoria Principal, American actress, was born.

1953 Frances Bolton and her son, Oliver from Ohio, became the first mother and son to serve simultaneously in the U.S. Congress.

1956 A fire damaged the top part of the Eiffel Tower.

1956  Mel Gibson, Australian actor and director, was born.

1957 The Hamilton Watch Company introduces the first electric watch.

1958 The West Indies Federation was formed.

1961 The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba.

1962 Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro.

1977 Apple Computer was incorporated.

1988 Margaret Thatcher became the longest-serving British Prime Minister in the 20th Century.

1990 Former leader of Panama Manuel Noriega surrendered to American forces.

1993 George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin signed the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

1994 – More than seven million people from the former Apartheid Homelands, received South African citizenship.

1999 The Mars Polar Lander was launched.

2004 – Flight 604, a Boeing 737 owned by Flash Airlines, an Egyptian airliner, plunged into the Red Sea, killing all 148 people on board.

2007 – National Express had its worst coach crash just outside Heathrow Airport.

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