Word of the day


Matariki – the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster;  the season of the first rising of the cluster in late May or early June; Maori New Year.

Rural round-up


Loss forecast if water plan unchanged – David Bruce:

The North Otago and South Canterbury economies could lose up to $42 million a year and 371 jobs if a water allocation plan for the Waitaki River is not changed, according to an economic impact study.

Two-thirds of farmers who irrigate from the Waitaki River would lose a total of about $30 million a year in farm income.

And allocating some of the Waitaki River’s water to Ngai Tahu takes a potential $106 million to $109 million a year and an additional 900 jobs away because of lost future irrigation. . .

Dairy farming leader backs Fonterra – Sally Rae:

Do not sack Fonterra’s leadership – that is the message from one Otago dairy farming industry leader.

Hundreds of jobs are likely to go as part of a review of the dairy giant which began last December.

Fonterra has been in the spotlight this year, amid falling global dairy prices and declining payouts for suppliers.

Yesterday, North Otago Federated Farmers dairy chairman Lyndon Strang said reviews were ”healthy for any business”. . .

Deer farming pioneer recognised – Lynda Gray:

Southland deer farming pioneer, leader and mentor David Stevens is the 2015 recipient of the New Zealand Deer Industry Award.

Stevens’ leadership roles in the industry started in the early 1980s as the inaugural member of the Southland Deer Farmers committee.

He was a key instigator of the National Velvet and Cervena Plates competitions and a hardworking contributor to many deer farming-allied initiatives such as monitor farms, discussion groups and stud breeder initiatives. . .

Aeronavics unveils drone at Fieldays – Paul Mitchell:

A Raglan-based drone company’s new products could help farmers reduce costs and discover crop diseases earlier.

Aeronavics is showcasing the agricultural applications of their next-generation drones at the Innovation Centre this week.

The centrepiece of their booth is three colour-coded drones, each representing one agricultural task.

Aeronavics co-founder Linda Bulk said any one drone could do all three tasks, it was just a matter of swapping out the “payload” attachments. . .

Life on the dingo fence – Emma Downey:

BOUNDARY rider on the dingo fence rider might seem like a job title plucked from the 19th century, but it’s one just as relevant today – perhaps even more so – than it was when the fence was constructed in the late 1800s.

At more than 5000 kilometres long, Australia’s dingo fence has the distinction of being the world’s longest fence, and while utes may have replaced horses as the mode of transport for today’s “rider”, the job remains the same.

Then and now, the boundary rider’s job is to monitor the fence, look for breaches and make repairs to prevent dingos from entering the pastoral zones of the state, and as graziers fear, breed with domesticated dogs gone wild and increase what is already a growing issue. . .



American Cattlemen's photo.

Organ donation – why wouldn’t you?


Organ donations have enabled some good to come from the tragic death of a young boy:

Leon Michael leFleming Jayet-Cole’s mother gave permission for his organs to be donated as doctors turned off his life support.

Leon’s liver was donated to a baby boy. Both his kidneys were transplanted, one to an adult man and one to an adult woman.

It is rare for such young people to be donors – in the past two years only two other donors have been under 5. Both were just weeks old.

The 5-year-old Christchurch boy died in hospital on May 29 after suffering serious head injuries two days earlier. . .

New Zealand has the lowest organ donation rate in the developed world, with only 46 viable deceased donors in 2014. The youngest donor was only 10 weeks old. The oldest was 82.

In 2013 that figure was even lower, with only 36 viable deceased donors. Only one in that year was aged under 5 – a mere one month old.

For organs to be viable for donation, the death has to be as a result of a head trauma or a stroke.

Organs from one child – like Leon – can save the lives of up to six others with the transplant of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas. It can also improve the lives of others with the transplant of eyes, skin and bone. . .

My sons died of brain disorders. I don’t know if that meant their organs wouldn’t have been viable but had they been I’d have had no hesitation in donating them.

I don’t understand the reluctance some people have to being donors.

I have donor recorded on my driver’s licence and have discussed the issue with my family.

That wish isn’t legally binding but I think it should be.

I wouldn’t go so far as some who say those who aren’t donors shouldn’t be eligible for transplants but have sympathy for the view that those willing to be donors should have precedence over those who could be but aren’t.

Flag of the day


The Flag Consideration Panel is inviting people to upload designs for a new flag.

There are more than 3000 in the gallery already.

This is Place in the World by Esa Heiskanen:


Challenge of Maintaining Social Licence to Farm


Federated Farmers’ president Dr William Rolleston discusses the challenge of maintaining the social licence to farm in New Zealand in the 21st century:

The concept of a social licence to operate is the complex mix of philanthropic, ethical, legal and economic expectations that a community and stakeholders may have which enables an operation, in this case farming, to continue in a local community.

The social licence to operate was born in the mining industry where local communities may have been at odds with the disruption and effects that mining  activities were having on those communities.  In essence a social licence to operate occurs where the values of the local community and the industry align.  At the very least the social licence to operate is where a community (in the broadest sense) recognises that there is a positive balance between the benefits they receive and the disruption that may take place.

New Zealand was born on the sheep’s back.  We are a nation of farmers.  The alignment of the values between farming and the community has been implicit for the last 150 years.  Our farmers fought our wars – General Russell, who commanded our troops in the Great War and Charles Upham, our most decorated soldier were both farmers and personified our notion and pride in our rural heritage from those times.  Still today we see advertisements which reflect our rural cultural roots, although they are less common than they used to be.

So it is a surprise to many farmers today that this alignment has come unhinged and that we should even be considering farming’s social licence to operate.

I think there are two main drivers to this unhinging.  The first is the continued urbanisation of New Zealand.  The majority of our young have not grown up on a farm – some, so the urban myth goes, have no concept of milk beyond the supermarket. The second is the continued development and intensification of agriculture itself and that we are pushing up against environmental constraints.

In a sense we are victims of our own success.   New Zealanders have a concept of the heartland farmer striding out across the hills.   The longstanding success of dairying on the Waikato not with-standing, the conversion of many traditional sheep and beef farms to dairy has disrupted this traditional view.

While the original concept of the social licence to operate centred around the local community, these days in agriculture the community is wider New Zealand, not just the village down the road or the immediate neighbours.

NGOs grasped this concept some time ago.  Their campaigns are targeted not only at the public but use uncertainty, fear, opinion and often public outrage to influence the gatekeepers of our goods, namely the supermarkets, as well as our politicians.  The fear of losing market share or votes often magnifies public views in their eyes and is seldom compatible with swimming against the populist tide.

While NGOs are legitimately part of the community we have seen them erode the trust between agriculture and the national community through campaigns such as the highly effective “dirty dairying” campaign of the last ten years.  Poor performers in the industry have been held up as the typical examples and all that is wrong.  Fear and negative publicity sells.  Oscar Wild’s quip that there is one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about is not always true.  Negative stories and fear get into the psyche of the public and can be hard to root out even when the facts are on the other side.

The response from agriculture has not always been helpful either.  Deep sectorial interests have often meant that our responses have been mixed giving the impression of uncertainty or even worse evasion.  Those of you at the KPMG breakfast yesterday would have heard Volker Kuntzsch the CEO of Sandfords say that in response to the negative messages from the NGOs the fishing industry said nothing which gave the impression they had something to hide. I think he has a point.

Federated Farmers took the view four years ago that fighting back against every issue was getting us nowhere and was losing us credibility and therefore influence.  My predecessor Bruce Wills stood up in the water debate and said that farmers are part of the problem but we are also part of the solution.  We said that we should work together with other parties through collaboration for better outcomes.  In parallel we also rallied the primary industries together so that we could speak with a common voice where it counted while still preserving our individual objectives.

These were lessons I learnt through the debate on genetic modification, and in particular through the Royal Commission process.  As head of the biotechnology industry organisation and then the Life Sciences Network we rallied the science and industry organisations together, coordinated our story and engaged through the preliminary meetings of the Royal Commission process in a collaborative way.  Fear and uncertainty was the currency of the day but engagement exposed the vulnerabilities and fundamentalism of the opposition view -to the Royal Commissioners at least.  The public would take more time and a track record of safety which is now emerging.

The genetic modification debate is starkly illustrative of the power of a social licence to operate.

Create enough fear about food and environmental safety in the GMO space, limit sciences social licence to operate, and pretty soon what was fear will be morphed into ethics.  We are left with a religious view and the science of safety then no longer matters.

How true that is: We are left with a religious view and the science of safety then no longer matters. Emotion, bolstered by fear, ignorance and propaganda, is very difficult to counter  no matter what the facts might be.

Water is more subtle but the use of fear and uncertainty to reduce the social licence to operate for farming is the same.

If we get this wrong then the outrage factor will trump science and translate into regulation, even legislation – the formal curtailment of our social licence to operate.

The Prime Minister’s Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, has recognised this risk.  On his website he says:

“Democratic societies make decisions and policy based on many inputs, including fiscal considerations, societal values, prevailing public views, and the ideals and vision of the government of the day.

“But democratic governments want to make good decisions and at the base of such decision making should be the use of high quality information and evidence, both in developing new policies and in evaluating current policies. Decisions made in the absence of such informed background material are, by definition, less likely to be effective or efficient and can entrench policies which may be of little value.

Thus governments can become constrained by earlier policy decisions that are not easily reversible because there may be a popular or political perception that they are effective when in fact they are not.”

So our challenge is to ensure regulators, politicians and the judiciary make decisions which are in line with the science, which reflect the uncertainty of the time but are not paralysed by it.

To achieve this we need a more science literate and savvy public who understand the nature of science and uncertainty.  A scientist said to me recently when we were talking about just how certain some activists are.  He said “certain people are right sometimes”.

Bertrand Russell put it less kindly when he said: ““the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves but wiser people so full of doubt”.

But we are seeing signs of hope.  In the public discourse on fluoridation, immunisation and 1080 we are seeing the public starting to back science and reject the worn out and unsupported rhetoric of the anti-campaigners.

The certainty of the those forces railed against farming in the water debate will also struggle to stand up to the test of time and evidence, but it is not an easy battle and we need to recognise that they will be right sometimes and it would be hubris of us to think we are always right too.

We hear a lot about our markets and what they think of New Zealand.  In my view this is an extension of the battle to restrict our social licence to operate.  “New Zealand should be 100% organic” we hear “our customers are demanding it” they say.

We need to resist these constraints.  New Zealand has operated successfully in an open economy.  There are many forms of farming.  At one end there is organics but there is also integrated pest management, conventional agriculture, no-till farming, conservation agriculture and modern biotechnology including genetic modification and precision gene editing.  It is my view that farmers should have the choice to use those approved techniques and technologies how they see fit.

Our overriding goal should be to produce products which contain enduring value propositions such as safety, integrity, value and quality.   Clean and green (in other words our environmental credentials) represent a bottom line, a ticket to the club if you like, but research shows they are not the values shoppers have at the front of their minds when making purchasing choices.

If rightly or wrongly our social licence to operate is determined by the public view we have two choices.  We can either accept whatever the public, or those who claim to represent the public, are saying, and simply work within those constraints no matter how painful they may be or we can seek to understand the public point of view and how they got to that point of view.  We can engage to ensure our view is persuasive.  We can also repackage our message to fit the expectation.  In other words we can either follow public opinion or seek to mould it.

Other players have done the latter with great effect.

At a time when the Greens were chastising farmers for growing biofuels because it took up valuable food producing land, wine production, was left alone.  A glib message of sustainability helped but the fact so many enjoy the indulgence of a good wine not infrequently represents one benefit in the social licence to operate equation.  If you like we can all be hypocrites when it suits us.

Air New Zealand has also flagged a message of sustainability to maintain its social licence to operate.

Scandinavian scientists are using new precision gene editing techniques – the successors to genetic modification – to “rewild” food crops with beneficial heritage traits.

And we heard yesterday that Sanfords are wanting to rebrand their image from an extractive company to a food company.

Agriculture can learn from these examples.

Our challenge into the 21st century is to recognise that our changing demographic means our social licence to operate as farmers must be earned.  We must seek to ensure that licence is as broad as reasonably possible within the bounds of our scientific knowledge.  We must meet the challenge through engagement, understanding, honesty and clarity with the backing of sound evidence.

We must cultivate a public who understand that the environmental effects of the last hundred years cannot simply be reversed in half a generation. We must cultivate a public who understand that we can make good progress when times are good and that while it is not acceptable to go backwards, when times are hard progress is going to be slower.

Agriculture has a good story to tell and a great part to play in New Zealand’s future.  The rules which constrain us must be reasonable and sound.  The outcome is in our hands.

The social licence to operate  can’t be taken for granted.

Agriculture does have a good story to tell and  a great part to play.

The challenge is to ensure the  story is heard and that farming’s ability to play that great part isn’t handicapped by unreasonable and unsound rules based on emotion rather than science.


Quote of the day


“New Zealand has this crazy machismo, macho thing, where talking about feelings is somehow like a weakness.”

And in a lot of ways rugby is the unhealthy vent for it.

“I was there and struggling away, and the only emotions I had come out was anger and violence, and I legitimised it by putting it out there.”

He says it’s reflected in high suicide rates in young men who struggle to express themselves, and thinks encouraging arts as well as sport might help.

“To pick up an instrument, to play something, to dance and to act, to sing and to make something and hopefully that would start an emotional dialogue with themselves and then cascade onto others.” – Anton Oliver

June 15 in history


23 Battle of Soissons: King Robert I of France was killed and King Charles the Simple was arrested by the supporters of Duke Rudolph of Burgundy.

1184 King Magnus V of Norway was killed at the Battle of Fimreite.

1215 King John of England put his seal to the Magna Carta.

1246 With the death of Duke Frederick II, the Babenberg dynasty ended in Austria.

1389 Battle of Kosovo: The Ottoman Empire defeated Serbs and Bosnians.

1520 Pope Leo X threatened to excommunicate Martin Luther in papal bull Exsurge Domine.

1580 Philip II of Spain declared William the Silent to be   an outlaw.

1623 Cornelis de Witt, Dutch politician, was   born  (d. 1672).

1667 The first human blood transfusion was administered by Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys.

1752 Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning was electricity.

1775 American Revolutionary War: George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

1776 Delaware Separation Day – Delaware voted to suspend government under the British Crown and separate officially from Pennsylvania.

1785 Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, co-pilot of the first-ever manned flight (1783), and his companion, Pierre Romain, became the first-ever casualties of an air crash when their hot air balloon exploded during their attempt to cross the English Channel.

1804 New Hampshire approved the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratifying the document.

1808 Joseph Bonaparte became King of Spain.

1836 Arkansas was admitted as the 25th U.S. state.

1844 Charles Goodyear received a patent for vulcanization, a process to strengthen rubber.

1846 The Oregon Treaty establishes the 49th parallel as the border between the United States and Canada, from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

1859 Pig War: Ambiguity in the Oregon Treaty leads to the “Northwestern Boundary Dispute” between U.S. and British/Canadian settlers.

1864 American Civil War: The Siege of Petersburg began.

1864 Arlington National Cemetery was established when 200 acres (0.81 km2) around Arlington Mansion (formerly owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee) were officially set aside as a military cemetery by U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

1867 Atlantic Cable Quartz Lode gold mine located in Montana.

1877 Henry Ossian Flipper becomes the first African-American cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy.

1888 Crown Prince Wilhelm became Kaiser Wilhelm II and is the last emperor of the German Empire.

1896 The most destructive tsunami in Japan’s history killed more than 22,000 people.

1904 A fire aboard the steamboat SS General Slocum in New York City‘s East River killed 1000.

1905 Princess Margaret of Connaught married Gustaf, Crown Prince of Sweden.

1909 Representatives from England, Australia and South Africa met at Lord’s and formed the Imperial Cricket Conference.

1910 David Rose, American songwriter, composer and orchestra leader, was born (d. 1990).

1911 W.V. Awdry, British children’s writer, was born (d. 1997).

1911 Tabulating Computing Recording Corporation (IBM) was incorporated.

1913 The Battle of Bud Bagsak in the Philippines concluded.

1916 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill incorporating the Boy Scouts of America, making them the only American youth organization with a federal charter.

1919 John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed the first nonstop transatlantic flight at Clifden, County Galway.

1920 Duluth lynchings in Minnesota.

1920 A new border treaty between Germany and Denmark gave northern Schleswig to Denmark.

1934 The U.S. Great Smoky Mountains National Park was founded.

1935 Jack Lovelock won the “Mile of the Century“.

Lovelock wins ‘Mile of the century’

1937 A German expedition led by Karl Wien lost sixteen members in an avalanche on Nanga Parbat. The worst single disaster to occur on an 8000m peak.

1943 Muff Winwood, British songwriter and bassist (Spencer Davis Group), was born.

1944 World War II: Battle of Saipan: The United States invaded Saipan.

1944 In the Saskatchewan general election, the CCF, led by Tommy Douglas, was elected and forms the first socialist government of North America.

1945 The General Dutch Youth League (ANJV) was founded in Amsterdam.

1946 Noddy Holder, British singer (Slade), was born.

1949 – Simon Callow, British actor, was born.

1949 – Russell Hitchcock, Australian singer (Air Supply), was born.

1954 UEFA (Union des Associations Européennes de Football) was formed in Basle.

1955 The Eisenhower administration stages the first annual “Operation Alert” (OPAL) exercise, an attempt to assess the USA’s preparations for a nuclear attack.

1959 – The Chinese Gooseberry was renamed kiwifruit.

Chinese gooseberry becomes kiwifruit

1963 Helen Hunt, American actress, was born.

1971 Nathan Astle, New Zealand cricketer, was born.

1973 Pia Miranda, Australian actress, was born.

1978 King Hussein of Jordan married American Lisa Halaby, who took the name Queen Noor.

1982 Mike Delany, All Black, was born.

1985 Rembrandt’s painting Danaë was   attacked by a man (later judged insane) who threw sulfuric acid on the canvas   and cut it twice with a knife.

1991 Birth of the first federal political party in Canada that supported Quebec nationalism, le Bloc Québécois.

1992 The United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Álvarez-Machaín that it was permissible for the USA to forcibly extradite suspects in foreign countries and bring them to the USA for trial, without approval from those other countries.

1994 Israel and Vatican City established full diplomatic relations.

1996 The Provisional Irish Republican Army exploded a large bomb in the middle of Manchester.

2002 Near earth asteroid 2002 MN missed the Earth by 75,000 miles (121,000 km), about one-third of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

2012 – Nik Wallenda becomes the first person to successfully tightrope walk over Niagara Falls.

2013 – A bomb exploded on a bus in the Pakistani city of Quetta, killing at least 25 people and wounding 22 others.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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