Word of the day

July 13, 2014

Mammatus – (also known as mammatocumulus) mammary cloud; cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud; of, relating to, or being a cloud whose lower surface is in the form of pouches; rounded, smooth, sack-like protrusions hanging from the underside of a cloud .


Act list

July 13, 2014

Act has released it party list for the 2014 election:

. . . The top 20 list placings are:

  1. Dr Jamie Whyte
  2. Kenneth Wang
  3. Robin Grieve
  4. Beth Houlbrooke
  5. Don Nicolson
  6. Stephen Berry
  7. Dasha Kovalenko
  8. Gareth Veale
  9. Ian Cummings
  10. Sara Muti
  11. Toni Severin
  12. Max Whitehead
  13. Phelan Pirrie
  14. Stephen Fletcher
  15. David Olsen
  16. Nick Kearney
  17. Sean Fitzpatrick
  18. Richard Evans
  19. Michael Milne
  20. Dr Ron Smith . . .

Epsom candidate David Seymour is not on the list.


Rural round-up

July 13, 2014

The power of water – Bryan Gibson:

Central Hawke’s Bay farmers are still confident catchment landowners will invest in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

Takapau farmer Richard Dakins believes the scheme will reach investment goals, even though many farmers are still digesting the Environmental Protection Agency board of inquiry’s final report on the $265 million dam.

Dakins, who farms a 350ha mixed-arable operation, with 150ha irrigated, at the southwestern end of Ruataniwha Plains, said the scheme was vital for Central Hawke’s Bay.

“The region is not in a good state, really, but the scheme will give landowners the confidence to invest in their properties and that will benefit everyone downstream,” he said.

Rob Wilson, who farms a few kilometres from the proposed dam site, agreed. . .

‘Safety first’ call goes out to weather-hit Northland farmers:

Federated Farmers Northland calls for farmers to put safety first with no farming fatalities or serious injuries to date.  With the wet weather set to continue and the power out in some areas, it wants neighbours to band together.

“I think you can safely say the drought’s over give the biblical amount of rain that’s come our way,” says Roger Ludbrook, Federated Farmers Northland provincial president.

“Right now it’s a cracker of a day up here in fact you can call it steamy.  I just hope policymakers regionally and nationally will remember these past few days if we’re talking El Nino come the summer.   Water storage would have been awesome given what we’ve had. . .

Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked – Brooke Boral:

Later this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may approve the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, the first genetically modified apples to hit the market. Although it will probably be another two years before the non-browning fruits appears in stores, at least one producer is already scrambling to label its apples GMO-free.  The looming apple campaign is just the latest salvo in the ongoing war over genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—one that’s grown increasingly contentious.

Over the past decade, the controversy surrounding GMOs has sparked worldwide riots and the vandalism of crops in Oregon, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Philippines. In May, the governor of Vermont signed a law that will likely make it the first U.S. state to require labels for genetically engineered ingredients; more than 50 nations already mandate them. Vermont State Senator David Zuckerman told Democracy Now!, “As consumers, we are guinea pigs, because we really don’t understand the ramifications.”

But the truth is, GMOs have been studied intensively, and they look a lot more prosaic than the hype contends. To make Arctic apples, biologists took genes from Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, modified them to suppress the enzyme that causes browning, and reinserted them in the leaf tissue. It’s a lot more accurate than traditional methods, which involve breeders hand-pollinating blossoms in hopes of producing fruit with the desired trait. Biologists also introduce genes to make plants pest- and herbicide-resistant; those traits dominate the more than 430 million acres of GMO crops that have already been planted globally. Scientists are working on varieties that survive disease, drought, and flood. . .

Winemaker takes on black beetle

A winemaker has teamed with researchers to find biological controls to manage brown beetles.

The brown beetle (Costelytra zealandica) can be kept under control with insecticides but causes problems for organic or biodynamic vineyards. 

This same beetle in its immature stages is known as the grass grub, a pest to farming pastures for decades. 

Kono Beverages, producer of Tohu and Aronui wines, is co-leading a project to study the life cycle of the brown beetle to find sustainable ways to stop the damage it causes in vineyards. 

They have teamed with PhD student Mauricio González Chang and Professor Steve Wratten, from the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University.  . .

 

Top genetic selection produces biggest antlers  – Heather Chalmers:

Producing deer with some of the biggest antlers in New Zealand takes careful genetic selection and a dollop of luck, says South Canterbury deer farmer Chris Petersen.

Just as others follow the breeding lines of thoroughbred racehorses, Petersen does the same for deer.

“I know all the top stags and hinds in New Zealand. I study them.”

Farming Highden Deer Park with his wife Debra at Sutherlands near Pleasant Point, his stags are highly regarded for their antlers, both for trophies and velvet. The 130 hectare rolling downlands farm carries 364 spikers and mixed-age stags, 122 mixed-age hinds and 55 18-month hinds, as well as this season’s progeny. Most stags are grown out to seven years old for the trophy market, with 27 out of 30 sold last year. . .

 


Remember

July 13, 2014

Open large picture

During the times you feel most alone, I want you to remember this: I held you & loved you from the moment you came into this world & that’s how it’s always been for me & if you forget, I am here to remind you as many times as you need.

Published with permission.
The kind folk at Story People will email you a daily dose of whimsy like this if you sign up at the link above.

Stop suppression don’t abuse power

July 13, 2014

Rodney Hide writes on a sexual predator:

. . . His victim is left scared to be in her own home and is no longer the bubbly person she once was.

In August 2012, the man pleaded guilty to a charge of performing an indecent act intended to insult or offend a woman.

He was convicted and ordered to pay $5000 emotional harm reparation and $1500 in counselling costs. But earlier this year Judge David Saunders discharged him without conviction and gave him name suppression. In doing so the judge accepted the attacker had “carried a bit of a cross” in the time since his attack first came before the court.

A “bit of a cross”? And the victim? What does the judge think she’s had to carry? The man should be carrying a cross: he’s the offender.

I know something of this case. I certainly know the attacker. And I know some of our leading politicians know him and know, too, of his attitude and behaviour towards women. It was a topic of conversation when I was in Parliament. There are possibly other victims. I know one but she will never come forward.

Forget Rolf Harris, Maggie. He’s behind bars. Do the right thing and name this self-confessed offender in Parliament. Do what Parliamentary privilege allows: make right what our justice system got wrong.

Name the sexual predator under privilege and enable other possible victims to come forward. Some of your colleagues know who he is. Ask them. Or me.

You, Maggie, can do what no other New Zealander can do: you can name him.

His victim is clear: “He is a dirty b****** and people should know … For me, it’s not over – I want his name out there.” And of him? “There is no remorse there; absolutely no remorse whatsoever.” Sound familiar?

Hide is right that the woman has been wronged, first by the man and then again by a justice system which has suppressed his name.

But using parliamentary privilege to break suppression would be another wrong.

MPs can’t put themselves above the law by abusing their position no matter how much right is on their side.

A better course of action would be change the law as requested by the campaign to stop the suppression.


Blanket policy blunt tool

July 13, 2014

Labour’s blanket class size policy won’t address inequality, according to Rose Patterson of the New Zealand Initiative.

The biggest and most important resource in education is not school donations or digital devices. It is teachers. And while Labour’s policy to reduce class sizes, at face value, addresses this most important resource, the class size debate is a nuanced one.   

There are two important caveats with Labour’s policy. The first is that a blanket class size policy to increase the quantity of teachers may not be the most effective tool in the policymaker’s toolbox.  The second is that it does nothing to address something dear to the heart of Labour – inequality.   

Quantity versus quality
National’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy announced at the beginning of this year is a deliberate attempt to improve the quality of teaching. The IES is a game changer, designed to provide clear career structure for teachers. The idea is that exemplary teachers share their skills with others to lift the game for all.

Labour’s class size policy is in blatant opposition to that. They want to scrap the IES and reduce class sizes by injecting an extra 2,000 teachers into schools. If elected, they would gradually reduce class sizes for year 4-8 students from 29 to 26, and reduce secondary school class sizes to a maximum of 23. 

It appears National wants to improve the quality of teaching and Labour wants to increase the quantity of teachers; both believe that their policy will improve the quality of schooling. . .

More teachers where there are more vulnerable pupils could help those who need it most.

But National’s policy of better teachers will do more to left education standards than Labour’s blanket policy of less than one more teacher for every school regardless of their needs.

But what does the evidence on class sizes say? Primary teachers’ union (New Zealand Educational Institute) head Judith Nowotarski quotes research to show smaller class sizes have benefits for learning and life success “beyond the school gate”. Other research shows that on balance, for the same level of resource, more could be achieved by lifting quality, assuming of course the IES policy is effective.

Blanket policy too blunt 
While lifting the quality of teaching might be more effective on balance than reducing class sizes, that’s not to say that class size doesn’t matter. The impact of class sizes depends on a number of factors, like the stage of schooling, the subject being taught, and the background of students.  . .

As Ms Nowotarski says, smaller class sizes are “particularly important for vulnerable children, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who start school behind their peers”. And Associate Professor John O’Neill of Massey University’s Institute of Education says the class size policy could be more effective if it targeted lower decile schools.

Both hit the nail on the head.

While there is a lot of lip service paid to the decile system, where lower decile schools receive targeted funding, let’s not forget this is only for a school’s operational fund. To put the figures into context, the total operational spend last year was $1.23 billion, and 13% of this fund is decile based. Funding for teachers, which racked up to $3.44 billion last year, is not at all decile targetted.

In other words, while funding is targeted to even out the disadvantages that children from poorer backgrounds start off with, it doesn’t specifically provide more of the most important educational resource: teachers.  

Teacher numbers
Perhaps the question of whether class sizes matter for children of different socio-economic backgrounds is evident in how schools actually use their resources in practice.

The New Zealand Initiative will release a research note on this very issue next month. And one of the surprising findings is that although schools are entitled to the same number of teachers regardless of decile, somehow, lower decile schools employ more teachers. And it’s a stark difference: decile one schools employ one teacher for every 20.6 students, while decile 10 schools employ one per 30.1 students on average.

As schools can use their operational fund to employ extra teachers over and above what they are entitled to under the formula that Labour is proposing to tweak, it seems lower decile schools are using their discretionary funding to employ more teachers. In other words, in the absence of targeted funding to provide smaller class sizes to lower decile schools, schools figure out a way to do it anyway. They recognise the importance of smaller class sizes for their students. But this is not recognised when resources are divvied out from Wellington. 

Low decile schools are already providing smaller classes themselves.

Despite all this, reducing class sizes without improving the quality of teaching is unlikely to lift student learning. Lower decile schools are employing more teachers for their students, but another question still is whether they have the ability to attract highly effective teachers.

The blanket class size policy is an easy vote winner, but it’s a blunt tool.

It might be an easy vote winner but it’s up against a policy to improve the quality of teaching and that will have more appeal to voters – especially parents and prospective employers – than the blanket approach that will give schools less than one extra teacher each.


Will unions let Cunliffe lead Labour back from left?

July 13, 2014

Both Matthew Hooton and Fran O’Sullivan think Cunliffe is trying to lead Labour back from its lurch to the left.

That would be a sensible move because the swinging votes are in the centre and many of those voters are strongly averse to the thought of Labour’s leftwards lurch and it being dragged even further left by its potential coalition partners.

But Labour is beholden to unions for money and people power, and Cunliffe is beholden to them for his leadership.

They won’t be keen on more centrist policies.

In the print edition of the NBR Michael Coote writes:

. . . The phony war raging around David Cunliffe’s leadership of Labour overlooks that the trades union movement has reassumed a decisive role in selecting the head of the party’s parliamentary wing.

Mr Cunliffe is the choice of the unions, Labour’s primary funding source.

If Labour’s predominantly bourgeois parliamentary wing defenestrated its born-again proletarian Mr Cunliffe, its unionist bankrollers could simply cut off the cashflow and let the class traitors turn on the gallows. . .

Even if Cunliffe did manage to lead a lurch back to the centre how long could he hold that position if he was leading a government beholden to the Green, Internet and Mana parties?

They are full of radical left-wingers who will exert every bit of bargaining power they have to implement their hard left economic, environmental and social agendas.


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