Word of the day

March 14, 2014

Fartlek – a system of training for distance runners in which the terrain and pace are continually varied; a training technique, used especially among runners, consisting of bursts of intense effort loosely alternating with less strenuous activity.

Rural round-up

March 14, 2014

Concern over dry conditions in Waikato, Northland:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has visited the Waikato today to see first-hand the challenging dry conditions facing farmers.

“Most farmers are managing the dry conditions in Waikato and Northland, but it’s becoming difficult for some. The last few months have been very dry as pasture has browned off.

“Rain is forecast to hit the upper North Island this week as the remnants of Cyclone Lusi hits New Zealand. Any rain will be gratefully received by farmers.

“At this stage, the Government has not been asked to declare an ‘adverse event’ in any region. MPI have been providing me with regular updates and I’ll be watching these dry conditions around the North Island closely.

“Farmers are not interested in handouts, but they want to know the Government understands the challenges they are facing. That’s why I’m here today to see firsthand how they are coping with the conditions. . .

Irrigation share offer a test run – David Bruce:

An irrigation scheme designed to bring water to about 40,000ha in the Waimate area and create up to 1200 jobs has taken a big step forward with farmers being offered shares, which will help determine if it is feasible.

The Hunter Downs scheme, originally estimated in 2009 to cost about $200 million, was first mooted about eight years ago and Hunter Downs Irrigation Ltd has now issued a prospectus offering 40,000 shares to fund investigations to see if the scheme is viable.

The company needs to sell at least half of the shares, at $200 a share, for the share offer and scheme to proceed. . .

Dunne deal on doing things differently:

THE MINISTRY for Primary Industry (MPI) will look “quite different” as a result of an “alignment process” that started last week, says the new chief executive, Martyn Dunne.

Three months in his new role, he is ringing changes. For example, he has appointed deputy director-general Roger Smith to head MPI’s operation in China and is about to appoint two more staff there. He’s also adding staff to other key diplomatic posts in countries where market access is an issue.

Dunne told Rural News the “alignment process” is to meet the huge expectations and demands on his organisation. MPI and its previous incarnations have undergone almost constant restructuring for 25 years, but Dunne denies this is the case with the current moves.

“I don’t call it a restructuring and the staff don’t see it that way,” he says. “Normally restructuring is something driven by cost pressure and other demands and generally results in a downsizing. . .

Positive step in Fonterra accepting charges:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see Fonterra has accepted the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) four charges over the whey protein concentrate recall last year.

“This scare has been invaluable learning curve for Fonterra and they are making positive changes already to make sure this never happens again,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy Chairperson.

“Our reputation for food quality and safety is paramount to our success on the world stage. Whilst this product recall was a false alarm it has unearthed some flaws in Fonterra’s system. By whole heartedly accepting the charges laid by MPI yesterday, Fonterra has shown they are on the front foot of this issue. . .

Manawatu Dairy Awards Winners Raise Reputation:

The major winners in the 2014 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards, Duncan and Kim Fraser, have become role models in the industry after raising their profile from entering the awards.

The couple won the 2014 Manawatu Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year title last night “One of the benefits of the awards is that it does raise your profile in the industry and so opportunities are now coming to us. People are also now coming to us to seek advice,” the Frasers say.

The other big winners at the region’s awards dinner held at the Awapuni Raceway were Sam Ebbett, the Manawatu Farm Manager of the Year, and Hayley Hoogendyk, the 2014 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year. . .

Hot contest for dairy awards spurred on by record prize pool:

The region’s top dairy farmers will be revealed this Friday as they compete for a coveted spot in the national final and a share of the record $710,000 prize pool.

Several hundred people are expected at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Taranaki dinner at The Hub in Hawera where winners of three categories will be announced: Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, Farm Manager of the Year and Dairy Trainee of the Year.

The winners of each category will join entrants from 10 other regions around the country vying for the national titles to be announced in Auckland on May 9. . .

Extra feed equals extra dollars for dairy farmers:

With farmgate milk prices at an all-time high, maintaining production for the final months of the season is a priority for dairy farmers, and getting those extra kilos of milk solids means making some good calls around feed.

Low rainfall and drying winds in some parts of the country is slowing grass growth, while in other regions, there has been enough rain to maintain good pasture conditions. Ballance Agri-Nutrients General Manager Sales, Andrew Reid says farmers taking stock of mid-summer feed supplies can look to Ballance for the right advice on nutrient choices to keep herds producing.

“Because we take cover the complete farm nutrients spectrum, we’re in a good position to help farmers use forage and supplementary feed to keep up production. What to use, and when, will all depend on individual farm goals and weather conditions.” . . .

New rural masthead to showcase the best of our rural products to farmers:

Entrepreneurial agritech firm Bell-Booth has signed up to showcase their innovative probiotic products Queen of Calves™ and X-Factor™ through the new rural masthead product, Field Trials, being launched by “The rural sector is our nation’s backbone,” says Richard Stevens BrandWorld’s managing director.

“It’s also the single largest opportunity for many goods and services with around 68,000 holdings nationwide and an average per farm spend of $341,000 each year.

“With those sorts of budgets farmers are very astute businessmen so you have to find clever ways to reach them. Good suppliers like Bell-Booth know the trick is not to sell to those farmers but to give them the information they need, in a format they understand so they can make the best decisions they can.” . . .

Local Baby Formula Maker NuZtri reaches milestone with first shipment to China:

New Zealand owned Best Health Products Limited, producers of NuZtri Premium Formula and fortified Milk Powder today dispatched their first shipment of Fortified Milk Powder destined for the Chinese market.

“We have been waiting for some time for this day to arrive, finally NuZtri has dispatched our first shipment of Premium Forfeited Milk Powder to China” said Craig Calder General Manager of NuZtri.

“NuZtri has invested a considerable amount of money researching and developing a Premium Milk Powder product in New Zealand for the Chinese consumers. The demand for our product is high”. . .

Friday’s answers

March 14, 2014

Thursday’s questions were:

1. Who said: Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the President’s spouse. I wish him well.?

2.  Who was New Zealand’s last Premier and who was our first Prime Minister?

3. Who was the first NZ labour Prime Minister and who was our first national Prime Minister?

4. What does a  psephologist study (and I’m seeking a better explanation than psephology).

5. What influences your vote?

Points for answers:

I’m allowing Ward for # 2 because Hall Jones was a temporary PM.

Rob got four right.

Andrei got 4 1/2 – (#2 had two parts) and yes, you did have that question

Alwyn wins an electronic punnet of raspberries with a clean sweep.

Willdwan got one and a bonus for good thinking.

Paul got a bonus for observation.

Answers follow the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

If you have to teach appropriate . . .

March 14, 2014

Teachers’ Council’s disciplinary tribunal member and principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, Patrick Walsh, wants appropriate behaviour with pupils to be a mandatory part of teacher training.

. . . Mr Walsh says there are basic rules to guide teachers’ behaviour.

“They don’t need to be a friend of a student – and there’s a distinction between that and being friendly. Secondly, use of social media: it’s not appropriate for a student to join your Facebook page, to text students late at night in the weekends, to accept gifts and whether it’s a good idea to attend a 16th or 18th birthday party of a student.” . . .

This has been prompted by a blurring of lines between what was acceptable between teachers and pupils.

Teachers have accepted gifts of underwear, and invitations to students’ birthday parties – and later claimed to be unaware such actions were inappropriate. . .

Good grief – aren’t teachers supposed to be responsible adults and role models to their pupils?

If you have to teach them what’s appropriate in teacher-pupil relationships are they the appropriate people to be teachers?

Cunliffe can’t connect

March 14, 2014

Trans Tasman’ sums up one of Labour leader David Cunliffe’s problems:

. . . Forty years on from the death of Norman Kirk his ghost haunts the Labour Party and leader David Cunliffe. The centre-left strand of Labour founded on Kirk’s deeply held beliefs in social justice and a “fair go” are the core of senior MPs Annette King, Shane Jones, Clayton Cosgrove, Damien O’Connor and David Shearer. Each of these connect with and fit easily into mainstream middle NZ. But while the quintet mix easily and comfortably with mainstream Kiwis at sports fixtures, racing days and office functions the gap is widening between their ability to “connect” and that of their leader.

The personal verdict on David Cunliffe as lacking a common touch on such occasions by those who find himself in his company, is disheartening for the Labour Party as a whole. It is why there was a shaking of heads in some despair at Cunliffe’s handling of Shane Jones’ “Mollyhawk” put down of the Greens this week. The centre-left considers it was elected to voice views on behalf of the Labour Party and not to automatically back the views of another party with which it disagrees, even if post-election the route to power might be through agreements with this other party.

Cunliffe’s decision to publicly indicate Jones might be in for a “disciplinary speech, rather than simply brush aside any questions with a “that’s Shane” response, only served to exacerbate internal tensions. Cunliffe’s seeming inability to appreciate Jones has a sharp nose for “street thought” in the mold of Kirk, Muldoon, Bolger and Key, while he struggles to sense it, in the manner of Bill Rowling, Jim McLay and David Shearer, adds to negative perceptions of his leadership in the “middle” constituency Labour needs to make ground with if it is to gain a share of power post-September. . .

Prime Minister John Key and Cunliffe have something in common – both came from humble backgrounds, both had successful careers before entering politics and both are wealthy.

But the PM has a genuine liking for and interest in people, an ability to engage with any and everyone he meets and an instinctive sense of what matters to them. He is also comfortable in his own skin and grounded by a strong belief in what he’s doing and why.

Cunliffe appears to have none of these attributes, doesn’t seem to know quite who he is nor what he believes in.

He changes to suit his audience in contrast to the PM who is constant and consistent.

That’s why the PM connects and Cunliffe can’t.

Unhappy campers

March 14, 2014

Richard Prebble is back.

He’s running Act’s campaign and he’s also put out a newsletter in which he writes about some unhappy campers:

Unhappy campers

Only Labour insiders knew David Cunliffe had two secret trusts. The leak came from within Labour. Who are the secret donors? Mr. Dotcom and Owen Glenn would have outed themselves. It has to be donors whose names would shock. Was David Cunliffe’s primary funded by American businessmen he met when he was a “capitalist” at Boston Consulting? It is illegal for a foreigner to give over $1,500 to a political party though not to an MP. The speculation will not stop until Mr. Cunliffe fesses up. Offering to pay it back is as useless as a bank robber saying he is giving the money back.

There is more to come

The Letter has learnt that another candidate for the Labour leadership also received a significant donation from a businessman. We do hope the MP remembers to declare it or would he like us to do it for him?

If some in the Labour camp are unhappy now, they might be about to be even unhappier with the new chief of staff:

He is a wrecker

Matt McCarten’s appointment as Labour’s chief of staff is very significant. He is a hater. Matt has fallen out with everyone he has ever worked for. If McCartten decides David Cunliffe is the stooge of the nameless businessmen who funded his primary campaign Matt will lead the coup. On second thoughts, Matt does not need a reason to plot a coup. It is what he does.

Parliamentary Services Concerned

Parliamentary Services has issued strict instructions that parliamentary staff are employed by the taxpayer to assist MPs and must not engage in party political campaigning. All commentators agree McCarten has been hired for his campaigning skills. No doubt the Commission will be sending a please explain letter.

Why employ him as a chief of staff if he’s wanted for his campaign skills?

Is it because Labour’s short of money?

If the chief of staff is running the campaign who’s running the leader’s office and what’s whoever is supposed to be the campaign manager doing?

Why appoint McCarten?

Labour believes that if only the “missing one million” who did not vote last election had gone to the ballot box they would have won. McCarten has been employed to get out the non-vote in South Auckland.

Will it work?

Maybe voters stayed at home because they like John Key. McCarten ran the Mana Party campaign last election and they failed spectacularly. Matt thinks everyone in South Auckland is a homeless out of work Maori or Pacifica. Actually South Auckland is diverse; most people have jobs and their own home. Most Labour voters think McCarten is an extremist. For every vote McCarten gets Labour will lose two voters.

Lonely Hone

Under McCarten’s campaign direction Hone Harawera has found he is leading a “class war” party. Hone is so irrelevant in parliament he rarely bothers to attend. Now Matt is directing the campaign to defeat the Mana Party. Hone must wonder why he left the Maori Party. . .

This is a conundrum born of MMP.

Labour needs to maximise its vote.

To do so it needs to mop up voters from its left and right flank.

Some could well be people who for a myriad of reasons didn’t vote three years ago. But some will also have voted for other parties on the left.

If Labour mops them up, it butchers its potential coalition partners. In doing this it will make some very unhappy campers among its supposed friends.

Worse for its election chances, it does nothing to grow the total left vote and scares moderate voters in the centre away from it towards National or its potential coalition partners.



Keeping OCR rise in perspective

March 14, 2014

The small increase in the Official Cash rate, from the record low of 2.5% to 2.75%,  has provided the Opposition with the opportunity to run round like chicken little.

They need to keep it in perspective:

Paul Goldsmith: How does the new 2.75 percent official cash rate compare with previous cash rate settings, and what steps is the Government taking to ensure that interest rate increases are not as severe as they were in the mid-2000s?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I said, the official cash rate has been at a record low of 2.5 percent since March 2011. As the Reserve Bank Governor has indicated many times, it could not remain at this expansionary level for ever, particularly as the economy picks up strong momentum. The new official cash rate of 2.75 percent is significantly below its record high of 8.25 percent, which it was through much of 2008. The Government continues to support lower interest rates with its responsible fiscal policy and by addressing supply issues in the housing market. This has been good news for families who faced mortgage interest rates of nearly 11 percent back in 2008. A family with a $200,000 floating rate mortgage has been saving about $200 a week compared with 5 or 6 years ago. If the official cash rate increases by 1 percent over the coming year, this would be worth around $38 a week on that mortgage.

Anyone with a floating rate on a mortgage of $200,000 has been saving about $200 a week compared with what they’d have had to be paying before Labour lost the 2008 election.

If the rate goes up by 1% in the coming year they’ll be paying another $38.

No increase will be welcomed, but it is better than run-away inflation which the increase in the OCR is designed to forestall.

Paul Goldsmith: What reports has he seen on alternative approaches to economic and monetary policy, and how would these impact on interest rates for New Zealand households?

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Steven Joyce, in as far as he has ministerial responsibility.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen an alternative policy reported, claiming that apparently you can go soft on inflation by tinkering with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act and that somehow this will keep interest rates lower for longer. The trouble with those sorts of approaches is that the prescription does not stand up to scrutiny, particularly if you accompany it with much higher Government spending. History has shown that under Governments that go soft on inflation, the people who are hardest hit are those on low and fixed incomes, because their spending power does not keep up with the cost of living. Yet the very politicians who complain about the cost of living can now apparently approach a policy that would set them soft on inflation. That just does not make any policy sense. If you want to look after the vulnerable in society, control inflation.

Inflation is theft by incompetent economic management.

It erodes wealth, be it what you earn or what you save.

It reduces real buying power and the people it hits hardest are those who have least to begin with and are least able to cope with less.

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