And the Oscar for . . .

March 3, 2014

. . . having seen none of the Oscar winning movies goes to me.

The last film I remember watching was The Angel’s Share which I enjoyed, but I think that was more than a year ago.

12 Years a Slave won Best Picture, Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for his role in   Dallas Buyers Club and Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for her role in Blue Jasmine.

The full list of winners of the 86th Academy Awards is here.

 


It’s about trust

March 3, 2014

Then Prime Minister Helen Clark opened her announcement of the 2008 election date by saying:

This election is about trust.

It is about which leader and which major party we New Zealanders trust our families’ and our country’s future with.

This election is a choice between a government which has shown it can make the tough choices and an opposition which flip flops on almost every major issue which emerges.

It is an election between a government which takes principled positions and an opposition which says what it thinks the audience in front of it wants to hear.

It is an election about who can be trusted to take our nation ahead to a prosperous and confident 21st century, where all our families and communities can thrive. . .

She was a few years early.

Those statements apply to this government and this opposition.

Today’s flip flop from David Cunliffe has been over the use of trusts.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has confirmed he used a trust to deal with donations to his leadership campaign in last year’s run-off for Labour’s top job.

Yesterday Mr Cunliffe refused to say whether a trust was used or whether he had declared donations in the Register of Pecuniary Interests as from a trust or from the original donors. . .

Yet another yeah, nah moment.
Photo

If this election is going to be about trust, bring it on!


Word of the day

March 3, 2014

Sluggerdegullion – a filthy, slobbering person; a sloven, a villain, a fiend, a louse; worthless person; wretch; dirty rascal, drunk or alcoholic person.


Rural round-up

March 3, 2014

Golden end to a golden event:

A packed stadium of thrilled spectators were kept on the edge of their seats watching the cream rise to the surface as shearing’s elite battled it out for the prized Golden Shears open crown.
The 54th“Goldies” ended on supreme high after three days of hard slog and sweat, as some of the world’s most skilful shearers and woolhandlers performed out of their skins to make world championship teams, and to take the coverted crowns.
It was high tension in the 20-sheep final, with the top guns of the shearing shearing their flock at a frenetic pace. Four-time shears champ Johnny Kirkpatrick was a sheep behind defending champion Rowland Smith well after the half way mark but it in an absolute humdinger race to the finish, Kirkpatrick’s handpiece just flew as he went a sheep ahead and finished first on the clock.
But there can be only one winner of the ultimate shearing prize and it was the current champ Smith who clinched the open shearing championship for second time in a row.
The win books him one of two spots in the kiwi teamfor the the World champs in Ireland in May. The second spot will be decided at the New Zealand shearing champs in Te Kuiti atthe end of this month. . .

How precision farming is changing UK agriculture – Caroline Stocks:

Just a few decades ago, the idea of robots on farms and tractors that drove themselves would have been the stuff of agricultural science fiction.

But now more than half of the UK’s farmland is reportedly farmed using precision technology in some form, and that figure is expected to rise dramatically during the next few years.

For precision farming consultant Ian Beecher-Jones, precision technology is not a new concept. . .

Joint venture excites Charolais breeder – Sally Rae:

Drew Dundass reckons the Charolais breed of cattle is a ”beautiful animal”.

Mr Dundass, who jokes that he married into the breed, and his wife Carolyn (nee Aitken), manage Glen Ayr, a 1577ha property in the Paerau Valley, home to the Taiaroa Charolais stud.

Glen Ayr Ltd comprises two properties – Glen Ayr, and Glenfield, a 600ha finishing property on the Maniototo Plain which has a 343ha run block in the White Sow Valley, managed by Mrs Dundass’ sister, Dawn Sangster, and her husband David. . .

Invermay’s key role emphasised –  Sally Rae:

Deer farmers attending a recent field day at Invermay were urged to recognise they were ”at the Mecca” for deer biological research.

The AgResearch campus was looked on as the ”fountain of all knowledge” and farmers should realise that and the prospect it might not continue, Prof Frank Griffin, of the University of Otago, said.

Prof Griffin, who has collaborated with researchers at Invermay for three decades on solving animal health problems in the deer industry, has previously expressed major concerns about AgResearch’s decision to cut jobs from Invermay. . .

Katikati Couple Claim Top Title in BoP Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

A focus on protecting marginal areas of their farm while lifting productivity of grazeable land helped Katikati farmers Rick Burke and Jan Loney take out the Supreme title in the 2014 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Rick and Jan, who farm 350ha Pukekauri Farms in the foothills of the Kaimai Ranges, also picked up a string of category awards at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on February 28.

BFEA judges praised the couple’s teamwork and excellent people skills, noting the outstanding plantings on riparian areas and marginal land that “look stunning and greatly enhance biodiversity”. . .

North Island iwi join forces to buy into Kaingaroa Timberlands:

Six central North Island iwi have joined forces to buy a 2.5% stake in New Zealand’s largest forestry business, Kaingaroa Timberlands. The investment is one of the biggest ever involving an iwi collective.

The six iwi representative organisations, Ngati Rangitihi, Ngati Whakaue Assets and Te Arawa River Iwi Limited Partnership, Ngati Whare, Raukawa, Te Arawa Group Holdings Limited and Tuwharetoa, have formed Kakano Investment Limited Partnership (Kakano) and purchased the stake from the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZ Super Fund) for an undisclosed price.

Raukawa chairperson Vanessa Eparaima has been appointed chairperson of Kakano. Ms Eparaima said the investment was a major strategic and commercial step forward for iwi, and a win-win that ensured iwi were involved in the forestry business itself as well as being the land owner. . .

Seafood industry supports permits for shark tourism:

The seafood industry welcomes the announcement by Conservation Minister Nick Smith on permits for shark cage tourism operators.

Commercial paua divers and other marine users are concerned that the burgeoning
shark cage tourism industry around Foveaux Strait may change the behaviour of great white sharks and increase the risk of shark attack.

The paua industry has, for many years, been urging government agencies and
responsible Ministers to work together to ensure that shark cage diving is safe for tourists, sharks, and other marine users. . . .


100% kill in rat trap trial

March 3, 2014

Good news from DOC:

In wonderful news for birdlife, NZ developed automatic rat traps have totally eliminated predator rat populations during large-scale Department of Conservation (DOC) trials in native New Zealand bush.

Results just in from large-scale DOC trial sites confirm that the patented automatic trap technology developed by local company Goodnature has successfully reduced rat populations to undetectable levels.

Recent monitoring at the two large scale trial sites by DOC field personnel confirmed zero percent (0%) rat monitoring rates indicating rat populations in these areas had been completely eliminated.

The unprecedented 0% rat detection results contrasted with monitoring results on the adjacent comparison sites which showed that rat populations outside the automatic trap trial area continued to thrive.

This is excellent news at a time when the predicted rat population explosion threatens native birdlife in New Zealand forests. Kiwi innovation has produced another potent weapon in the war on pests and, importantly, a further option in the armoury which is toxin free and cost effective to deploy.

“The DOC trial results are consistent with what our customers in other parts of the world are achieving with our traps” says Stu Barr, director of Goodnature who make and supply the A24 automatic resetting traps. “The traps are reducing rat populations well below the level where our vulnerable and endangered species can rebound. We’ve taken the pressure off the birds and put it back on the rats.”

While being used effectively in New Zealand for rat, stoat and possum control, farther afield, Goodnature is applying its technology to pests in more than 15 countries. As well as widespread success in rat control around the world, automatic resetting traps to control introduced mongoose in Hawaii and mink in Scandinavia are in development.

Powered by a small compressed CO2 canister the commercially successful Goodnature traps automatically reset themselves after striking a pest and can kill up to 24 rats before the canister needs to be replaced. The multiple-kill traps include an effective long-life rodent lure which attracts rats to the trap.

“The traps are mostly known for our automatic resetting and multi kill technology but, just like fishing, an irresistible bait is critical to get a catch. This latest trial result shows how effective our rodent lure is in the field” said Stu Barr.

Pest control tools which can wipe out predator populations and sustain them at low numbers are critical to ongoing pest control efforts on public conservation land and efforts by the wider conservation community. The sustained control of predators allows native bird species to successfully breed and increase their populations.

“These rat kill results are very promising. It is a significant step towards having a better and more effective trapping option for predator control in New Zealand.” DOC Deputy Director General Kevin O’Connor commented.

Research and development of automatic resetting traps was originally initiated by Goodnature with DOC in 2006 to strengthen New Zealand’s ability to control pests at times when existing ground based networks using traditional tools would get overwhelmed at times when predator numbers rise rapidly. . .

The traps won’t be able to be used everywhere but they look like a good option where they can be used.


Conspiracy theories

March 3, 2014

Yesterday the NZ Herald started a story headlined  Green MP’s 800km taxpayer-funded trip questioned by saying:

Questions are being asked about a taxpayer-funded trip for deaf MP Mojo Mathers to be interviewed on a small provincial radio station.

The Green MP says the 800km trip on the taxpayer dollar was essential, but a taxpayer group queries whether it was fiscally and environmentally responsible. . .

That sounds like the taxpayer group prompted the story by asking the question.

The story continues:

On Friday, Parliament’s only deaf MP flew from Christchurch to Wellington, then drove to Masterton, to participate in ArrowFM’s Wheels on Fire programme for people with disabilities.

ArrowFM is one of 12 Community Access Radio stations in New Zealand, and the only community station in Wairarapa. Its audience is not known, but its Facebook page has 132 “likes”.

Last night Ms Mathers said the journey was a necessary expense because it was “almost impossible for me to do live interviews over the phone”.

 She needed to be face-to-face with the interviewer in order to lip read, she said, especially for a one-hour show.

“As the only disabled Member of Parliament it is really important I represent disabled New Zealanders, which make up one in five New Zealanders,” she said.

“MPs do have to fly a fair bit to get out to our communities. All Green MPs offset our air travel and try to minimise it as much as possible.

“I consider all requests to meet very carefully, including this one, and I felt it was really important to take this opportunity to speak to disabled New Zealanders living in rural communities.”

She did not know the cost of the trip, she said, but it would be declared as part of her expenses, and was planned in line with other work she had to undertake in Wellington.

Planned in line with other work in Wellington means the cost of the airfare wasn’t just for the trip to Masterton, so the extra expense was just the rental car.

But still:

The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.

“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said. . .

That, with the headline and first paragraph strongly suggest this story came at the instigation of the Taxpayers Union. But it didn’t.

This morning there has been some criticism of my comments in a story on the Herald website about a trip Mojo Mathers took to Masterton from Christchurch apparently just for a short interview on a community radio station.

For clarification:

  • The Taxpayers’ Union did not seek media attention on this story. There is no associated press release. The Herald called yesterday evening asking for comment, as happens often.
  • The Taxpayers’ Union operate 24 hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues. Yesterday’s call came through to me and I was asked whether it was value for money for an MP to fly 800km for a radio interview on a small community station. I said it was not value for money when the interview could have been done on Skype as well as the comments that are quoted in the story.
  • I’ve made no comment about Ms Mathers disability. In fact, if the travel was necessary I would not criticise the spending. But answering questions posed by the Herald, on matter which as far as I know are completely unrelated to her disability, is legitimate.
  • Accusations that I (or the Union) sought to go after Mathers are ridiculous. To repeat, we were asked for comment by the Herald who were running the story. The comments would have been the same whoever the MP.
  • Accusations that the Taxpayers’ Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare. Seehttp://info.scoop.co.nz/New_Zealand_Taxpayers’_Union 

On reflection, I wonder why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint choose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype. Perhaps Ms Mathers had other engagements in Masterton. If so, that was not the information provided to me at the time by the Herald reporter.

I too wondered if the interview could have been done on Skype but Ms Mathers tweeted that the quality wasn’t high enough for lip reading.

The story looked like an attack on Ms Mathers instigated by the Taxpayers’ Union which was petty to start with and even more so when you take into account the information she planned the trip around other work.

The explanation provided later by the TU shows it was merely responding to a question and it looks like it didn’t have the information that the trip was planned round other activities.

Here’s the conspiracy theory – was the story a set up to discredit the TU?

The group was set up as a counter to all the left wing groups which are continually asking for more money, regardless of whether or not it gives value.

The TU by contrast:

We stand for value for money for government spending

We want our politicians spending money as if they’d worked as hard as us for it and believe that new taxes should only be introduced when there are equal decreases in other taxes.  We believe in a fair and efficient tax system.  We are not a political party, or aligned to any.

We promote sensible restraint of government expenditure by:

  • Scrutinising government spending;
  • Publicising government waste;
  • Arguing for an end to corporate and union welfare; and
  • Promoting an efficient tax system.

 We are independent and incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 to pursue the following objectives:

  • To give taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power;
  • To educate New Zealanders against excessive and wasteful government spending;
  • To scrutinise government spending;
  • To publicise government waste;
  • To promote an efficient tax system;
  • To promote discussion on the balance of activities best undertaken by the private sector and the public sector;
  • To promote public policies to advance New Zealanders’ prosperity;
  • To identify, research and monitor issues affecting these objects;
  • To co-operate or join with other associations or bodies having similar objects; and
  • Generally to do all such things as would help to attain or further the Taxpayers’ Union’s objects.

The aims of the Taxpayers’ Union are:

  • To reduce wasteful spending by central and local government;
  • To increase transparency and accountability of government spending;
  • To increase institutional checks on government spending;
  • To enable New Zealanders to easily scrutinise government spending;
  • To lower the tax burden on New Zealanders; and
  • To promote evidence based public policy.

If getting attention for wasteful spending is any gauge the TU has already been successful – and contrary to accusations it’s biased towards the government, is hasn’t been partisan in identifying and publicising waste.

It has been critical of the government.

That should alert all politicians and bureaucrats, in central and local government, to the risk that wasteful spending will be outed.

Those on the left will have greater cause for concern than those on the right who usually, but not always, have greater regard for careful use of other people’s money.

That gets me back to the conspiracy theory.

The Herald headlined and opened the story with the assertion questions were being asked about the trip and quotes only the TU.

It doesn’t say who asked the initial question, nor who told the reporter about the trip and the paper could well use the right to not divulge its sources to keep that in confidence.

But it does leave a question over whether the aim of the story was really to discredit the TU.

If so, while it is justified at feeling aggrieved by a set-up, it could take that as a compliment that it is worrying people and parties who don’t have its regard for the necessity for fiscal prudence.

In the interests of transparency – I have made a donation to the TU.


Better start

March 3, 2014

I featured this as the quote of the week on Saturday:

Families want to know that we are not throwing their tax dollars around, but that we are targeting their money to achieve real results that make a meaningful difference to their lives.John Key.

This illustrates one of the real results:

Happy Children’s Day. National is focused on helping families and giving children a better start: www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43212


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