We must not forget

February 24, 2014

The oldest known survivor of the Nazi Holocaust has died in London, aged 110.

Born into a Jewish family in Prague in 1903, Ms Herz-Sommer spent two years in a Nazi concentration camp in Terezin. . .

A film about her life has been nominated for best short documentary at next month’s Academy Awards.

“We all came to believe that she would just never die,” said Frederic Bohbot, producer of the documentary, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

Ms Herz-Sommer is said to have continued playing the works of Schubert and Beethoven until her final days.

On the film’s website, she says: “I am Jewish, but Beethoven is my religion. I am no longer myself. The body cannot resist as it did in the past.

“I think I am in my last days but it does not really matter because I have had such a beautiful life.

“And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.” . .

In 1942, her 73-year-old mother had been transported to Terezin, also known as Theresienstadt, and then on to Treblinka, an extermination camp.

“And I went with her of course till the last moment. This was the lowest point of my life. She was sent away. Till now I do not know where she was, till now I do not know when she died, nothing.”

Ms Herz-Sommer and her son, Stefan, were among fewer than 20,000 people who were freed when Terezin was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.

An estimated 140,000 Jews were sent there and 33,430 died there. About 88,000 were transported on to Auschwitz and other death camps, where most were killed.

Ms Herz-Sommer’s husband, Leopold Sommer, whom she had married in 1931, died of typhus at Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp in southern Germany.

Her son, who became a concert cellist, died in 2001. . .

With her death, we lose the last first-hand knowledge of that atrocious part of world history.

We must not forget it nor the inspiration of someone who could live through such horror, retain her faith and still say she had a beautiful life.


Word of the day

February 24, 2014

Acedia  – sloth; spiritual torpor or indifference; apathy.


Rural round-up

February 24, 2014

Farm firebugs endanger lives, property – Tim Cronshaw:

Mid-Canterbury farmers have hit out at suspected arson after four fires in crop stubble, hay bales and a shed containing machinery.

They are worried a firebug might be on the loose after fires started at 4.30am on Saturday east and west of Tinwald.

Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury grain and seed chairman David Clark said there was a strong suspicion from the way the fires were lit, their location and timing, that arson was involved.

He said farmers were appalled by the behaviour. The fires were senseless and had put property at risk and potentially could have put lives at risk. . .

 

Children’s merino range a hit – Sally Rae:

Central Otago fashion designer Christina Perriam’s range of merino clothing for children and babies is proving a hit with New Zealand retailers.

Less than a year after its launch, Suprino Bambino has been picked up by 22 child and baby boutiques following a nationwide selling trip and trade fair.

There were also plans to market it overseas, with Australia potentially being the first international market. . .

68 years of ewe fairs recalled :

With his hand firmly on his mustering stick, J. J. O’Carroll patiently waited for the start of his 68th consecutive Hawarden Ewe Fair last month.

Not only was it Mr O’Carroll’s 68th trip to the saleyards, but it was also the 68th year the O’Carroll family had ewes from their farm, Waitohi Downs, for sale.

As the punters filled the races and the auctioneers got ready for a day’s selling at the January 31 ewe fair, Mr O’Carroll leaned against the rail and cast his eye over the sheep.

Many things have changed since he started selling ewes in 1946.

”The breeds of sheep are so different now. Sometimes when I look in a pen, I have a hard time knowing what they are.

”Still, it has brought about improvement to the industry,” he said. . .

Humble potato one to watch – Ruth Grundy:

The news is all good for potatoes.

The unassuming tuber has been not only named New Zealand’s top vegetable but has also been singled out by ANZ economists as an ”unappreciated” or unacknowledged” sector to watch.

In this month’s ANZ Agri Focus its economists have written about several ”themes” they consider will influence the economy through 2014 and beyond.

Among the several ”unacknowledged legs of the New Zealand Story” which they say have the potential to contribute to and underpin the New Zealand growth story is the potato sector. . .

Fonterra’s New $120M UHT Milk Processing Site Gears Up For First Production:


Fonterra employees Te Ngahau Bates (left) and Eddie West (right) monitor an Anchor UHT processing line at the Co-operative’s new $120 million UHT milk processing site at Waitoa.  The white packs contain water which was run through the site’s processing lines.

The stainless steel is shining and the last bolts are being tightened at Fonterra’s new $120 million UHT milk processing site at Waitoa.

After more than 12 months of construction, the site is on-track to produce its first Anchor UHT product off the line in March. UHT Operations Manager, Donald Lumsden, said the Co-operative couldn’t be more excited.

“This is a very exciting time for Fonterra. The global demand for dairy is growing and we’re now well-positioned to meet this growth with our new state-of-the-art UHT milk processing site at Waitoa. The site will enable us to optimise the milk our farmers produce by turning it into high-value consumer products that will meet market demand in Asia.” . . .

Forecast surge in value of primary sector exports a huge boon for Maori Agri-business – Federation

A forecast 15% increase in earnings from primary sector exports to June 30 this year is a huge boon for the Maori agri-business sector, the Federation of Maori Authorities says.

The Ministry of Primary Industries announced this week that based on trends it believed there would be an additional $4.9 billion in earnings from agriculture, forestry and fishing exports in the year to June 30, based primarily on intensifying demand for dairy products, meat, pelts, wool, wood and seafood from China. The revised annual forecast is now $36.4 billion.

“That’s great news for Maori producers,” Federation of Maori Authorities’ CEO TeHoripo Karaitiana said. “They can now count on banking a lot more this year, and having a lot more financial discretion in their planning for the next few years.” . . .


Where’s the paper trail?

February 24, 2014

The Taxpayers’ Union has found the DCC made payments to a former MP without documentation:

This morning the Taxpayers’ Union went public with material concerning a payment (or payments) totalling $3,400 by the Dunedin City Council to former MP Pete Hogdson with no documentation or contact.

We’re questioning the internal controls at the Council after the uncovering the payment following a recent media report that Mr Hodgson had been recruited by the Council for lobbying. We asked for information about the services being provided by Mr Hodgson under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. Click “continue reading” below to view the Council’s response.

According to the Council, Mr Hodgson’s work consisted of “lobbying and advocating on behalf of the Council” and there is no supporting documentation. 

The Council has told us that:

  • Everything was verbal. The Council could not provide a single report, email, or even letter of engagement.
  • All of the contracts were negotiated verbally.
  • The contracts were negotiated by the Mayor and there is no documentation to explain the deal.

We asked for copies of any work by Mr Hodgson. All we got back was two letters by the mayor on which Mr Hodgson apparently had input. It is not clear what precisely that was. For example, there is no ‘tracked changes” document.

We think Dunedin ratepayers will be alarmed that their Council paid $3,400 apparently without so much as an invoice. Dunedin ratepayers should ask their Mayor:

  • What did Mr Hodgson do? Was this just expensive proof reading?
  • Why was the Mayor negotiating this in the first place?
  • Why verbally?
  • Why is there absolutely no documentation for the arrangement, not even an email?”
  • Is Mr Hodgson friends with the Mayor?
  • Why doesn’t Dunedin Council have the most basic internal controls, requiring amounts to be paid by invoice only?

The Council’s response raises serious questions.  We can’t think of another government agency that would spend $3,400 without being able to provide as much as an invoice. 

Without an explanation from the Council, we are left wondering whether the Auditor-General should get involved.”

You can read the council’s response by clicking on the link above.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull defends the payment:

Dunedin Dave Cull is defending a “gentleman’s” agreement which saw a former MP paid $3400 for lobbying following a handshake deal.

Documents released under the Official Information Act reveal that former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by the council to lobby the Government not to strip core functions of Ag Research Limited from Invermay, near Dunedin.

The council said the main point of contact for the deal with Hodgson was Cull, but could not locate a single email, contract or any other document relating to the agreement. Hodgson had provided “lobbying and advocating” on behalf of council, and that he had “contributed” to a letter to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and a submission written to the board of Ag Research.

“Mr Hodgson did not provide any reports relating to his services,” governance support officer Grace Ockwell said.

Cull, a former TV personality, denied personally hiring Hodgson, but defended the deal. “I could describe it as a gentleman’s way of doing business in the south,” Cull said. He would be uncomfortable if the council always negotiated contracts verbally, but in this instance he was not concerned. . . .

Gentlemen’s agreements in the south, or anywhere else, should not be over the spending of public money without the necessary paperwork to track and explain it.

The sum involved – $3,400 – isn’t large but that’s not the point.

People and organisations who spend other people’s money are duty-bound to do the paper work.


$70m benefits from irrigation

February 24, 2014

Two relatively small irrigation schemes in North Otago bring big benefits:

An estimated $77 million a year has been pumped into the North Otago economy from irrigation schemes in the Kurow-Duntroon area, $70 million more than if the area had stayed dry.

A report commissioned by the Waitaki Irrigators’ Collective Ltd (WIC) said the schemes – both owned privately and by two companies – had created 150 jobs in the immediate area and another 360 jobs in the Waitaki region. . .

The study covered 8000ha of irrigated land from the the Maerewhenua District Water Resources Company and Kurow-Duntroon Irrigation Company (formerly the Upper Waitaki company), as well as private, independent schemes.

WIC policy manager Elizabeth Soal said the study was also prompted by changes in technology, new demands for water and pressure to increase efficiency of use.

Already, some change had occurred. The Maerewhenua scheme had expanded its command area from 800ha to more than 2000ha, and was also returning some of the water being used now to the Maerewhenua River. . .

The report found irrigation in the Kurow and Duntroon area directly contributed $77 million of revenue to the local economy annually, compared to about $7 million without irrigation. That led to flow-on benefits of $106 million of revenue annually for the district and $327 million of revenue for New Zealand a year, compared with $14 million and $30 million respectively, if there was no irrigation.

There were 180 full-time positions in the study area, but there would only be 30 without irrigation.

Irrigation in that area had created 360 additional jobs at the district level, and 1150 at the national level.

The social impacts of irrigation included stable primary school rolls in the study area compared with declining rolls in the Waitaki district, a higher proportion of the population in full-time employment, and a significant increase in building consent activity over the past 10 years, all of which indicate economic activity was on the increase. . .

These positive results from irrigation can be seen with other schemes in North Otago and further afield.

Without it we’d be plagued by recurring droughts.

Now when droughts come we can still grow grass and crops, feed stock, produce food, earn money, employ staff, pay for services and buy supplies all of which spreads the benefits well beyond the farm gate.


Debates for PM and would-be not minor players

February 24, 2014

The Green Party wants to be in the main leaders’ debates on television:

. . . The Greens have made a formal request to TV One and TV3 for a co-leader to join the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, rather than take part in the minor parties debate – which has been the typical election format.

The Greens say their 12 percent polling position puts them in a different league to the other smaller parties which are polling around 5 percent or less.

They might be the biggest of the wee parties but neither of their co-leaders is going to be Prime Minister nor lead the opposition.

The National and Labour leaders aren’t invited to debate just because of their parties’ size or popularity but because the winner will lead the country and the other will lead the opposition.

The debates are designed to allow us to see and hear from the PM and the one trying to replace him and mercifully neither of the Green co-leaders will hold either of those positions.


Blue up green down

February 24, 2014

Last night’s One News Colmar Brunton Poll appeared to show National gaining at the Green Party’s expense.

The blue vote went up 6 points and the Green one fell 5 while Labour stayed the same.

But rather than swapping from green to blue it’s more likely that green went red and pink went blue.

Green voters liked Labour’s lurch to the left so moved to the red party but a similar number of voters towards the centre didn’t like the lurch left and moved centre right over to National.

That is the conundrum Labour faces – policies which bolster its support from the left lose it support from the centre.

The poll follows the trend showing steady support for National and little or no progress for the left. The PM is still popular and Labour leader David Cunliffe is not.

There is however, no room for complacency:

Meanwhile National’s election year pitch of boosting teacher performance is proving popular.

But the Prime Minister says his party won’t rest on its laurels, or on the tailwind of a booming economy.

“It’s a good poll but we need to be cautious,” John Key says. “There will be a lot of polls before the election they will bounce around a lot.” . .

 Corin Dann says it’s a wake up call for the left:

The six-point surge in the ONE News Colmar Brunton poll to 51% may well reflect a strong economy and the feel good factor of summer.

However, it also must be acknowledged that Prime Minister John Key has made a strong start to the year.

His popular education policy sending a clear signal to voters that National is capable of fresh ideas and is not a tired government.

Labour leader David Cunliffe meanwhile had his policy launch of a baby bonus derailed by a gaffe and has seemed to struggle for confidence and exposure since. . .

As for the Greens’ big fall in the poll, that is harder to explain. It may be that Russel Norman’s liaisons with Kim Dot Com have hurt the party, or it could also be a reflection of National’s efforts to discredit the party as extremist.

It could also be that more exposure for the Greens is showing up flaws in its policies and that its supporters don’t accept the compromises that would be necessary if it was in government.

poll


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