366 days of gratitude

August 11, 2016

Letters aren’t very big and even now there are far fewer people using snail mail,  it strikes me as a minor miracle that envelopes dropped in a mail box somewhere end up in the right one somewhere else.

Sometimes an item goes astray, and sometimes it takes a wee bit longer than it should. But that’s relatively rare and mostly mail gets where it should go in a very few days.

Even though there’s a lot less mail than there used to be and the volume is likely to reduce even more, even now the junk to real mail ratio is deteriorating and even if the real mail is more likely to be about business rather than pleasure, I’m still grateful for the mail service.


Word of the day

August 11, 2016

Probative – having the quality or function of proving or demonstrating something; affording  or providing proof or evidence; of or relating to proof; serving or tending to prove; serving to test something.


Rural round-up

August 11, 2016

Falling NZ lamb numbers may not bolster prices – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – An expected decline in New Zealand’s lamb numbers this season to the lowest level in more than 60 years may not bolster prices amid uncertainty in key markets and as the higher kiwi dollar depresses local returns.

The country’s lamb crop is expected to drop for a second consecutive year this spring, slipping 2.9 percent to 23.3 million, which would make it the lowest lamb volume since the early 1950’s, according to the Economic Service of farmer-owned industry organisation Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

New Zealand lamb prices have firmed at the farmgate, at saleyards and in overseas markets in response to lower supply, according to AgriHQ’s latest monthly data for July. . . 

Cost of dairy products continue to fall:

Food prices decreased 1.3 percent in the year to July 2016, Statistics New Zealand said today. This follows a decrease of 0.5 percent in the year to June 2016.

Grocery food prices decreased 2.9 percent in the year, influenced by all the main dairy products decreasing in price:

  • cheese (down 11 percent)
  • fresh milk (down 3.2 percent)
  • yoghurt (down 9.7 percent) 
  • butter (down 11 percent).

“The price of cheese has continued to fall in the year to July 2016, to its lowest price since October 2009,” consumer prices manager Matt Haigh said. “The average price of a kilo block of the cheapest available mild cheddar cheese was $7.39 in July 2016, down from $9.07 in July 2015.”  . . 

Arable Industry Fares Well After Drought Like Conditions:

The 2016 arable harvest has fared well despite challenges, according to survey results released by the Arable Industry Marketing Initiative.

Federated Farmers arable vice-chairperson grains Brian Leadley says drought like conditions leading into harvest had many farmers concerned with how and what yields may look like this season.

“Survey figures show that while yields were slightly down in places, there were still some exceptional yielding crops.

“Feed wheat yields (343,700 tonnes) were up 7 percent on last season with 70 percent sold so far; sales are well ahead on previous years,” says Mr Leadley. . . 

 

Financial sting from honey bee loss:

New Zealand agriculture stands to lose $295-728 million annually if the local honeybee population continues to decline, according to a new study into the economic consequences of a decline in pollination rates.

One of the co-authors of the study, Lincoln University Professor Stephen Wratten of the Bio-Protection Research Centre, says it is well known that a global decline in the populations of insect pollinators poses a major threat to food and nutritional security. “We’ve lost most of our wild bees in New Zealand to varroa mite, and cultivated bees are becoming resistant to varroa pesticides. Functioning beehives are becoming increasingly expensive for farmers to rent.

We know the decline in bee populations is going to have a major impact on our economy, but we wanted to measure the impact.”   Previous methods of estimating the economic value of pollination have focused on desktop calculations around the value of crops and the dependency of those crops on pollinators. Professor Wratten says the experimental manipulation of pollination rates is a more direct estimation of the economic value of pollination, or ecosystem services (ES). . . 

Funding for Uawa River, estuary clean-up:

 Gisborne’s Uawa River and estuary will get a clean-up with funding of $500,000 from the Te Mana o Te Wai fund, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox announced today.

“The Government is committed to working with local communities, councils and iwi to improve water quality in our waterways. This funding will support fencing, planting, pest control and sustainable farm management practices in the Uawa catchment so as to improve water quality in the river and estuary,” Dr Smith says.

“This two-year, $575,000 project involves a partnership with local iwi, Tolaga Bay Area School, Massey University, the Gisborne District Council and the Allan Wilson Centre. The focus is not only on improving water quality but also on restoring whitebait spawning grounds and using the project for environmental and science education. . . 

  Cardrona Chondola a Game Changer for NZ Ski Industry:

Cardrona Alpine Resort are changing the game for the New Zealand ski industry – installing a $10million combined lift of gondola cabins and chairs in time for the 2017 winter season. The new McDougall’s Express Chondola will be the first cabin-style lift on a ski area in New Zealand, replacing the existing McDougall’s Quad chairlift.

The current McDougall’s fixed-grip quad was installed in 1985, and has been a Cardrona stalwart ever since. The lift is the main access point to all the Cardrona beginner terrain, and runs slowly to load and unload first-time chairlift users safely.

The goal for a new McDougall’s lift is to make it an access lift for the whole mountain and all of Cardrona’s visitors, not just beginners. . . 


Thursday’s quiz

August 11, 2016

You’re invited to pose the questions.

Anyone who stumps everyone will win a virtual pot of Nadia Lim’s delicious Spanish Fish Stew.


Which jobs and why?

August 11, 2016

Andrew Little is musing over wiping student loan debts for graduates who take public service jobs in the regions.

“I don’t have any particular promise to make. We’re looking at ways that we can assist students to effectively write off at least a part of that student debt, through things like taking a public service job somewhere outside of one of the main centres and for the length of period that you’re there let’s look at a write-off sort of regime.”

Five pound Poms, the British immigrants who came to New Zealand on assisted passages after World War II had to work in public service jobs wherever they were sent.

That was a long time ago when the public service was much bigger than it is  now which raises the question of which jobs is Little thinking of?

The government already has a scheme where graduates get their student loan debts written off for working in the regions in both human and animal health, doctors, nurses and vets for example, some of which are public service, some of which are not.

The other obvious public sector placement would be teaching, but it could be harder to fill teaching positions in Auckland than in the regions.

These days there aren’t a lot of other public service positions available in the regions that are likely to attract graduates with or without a debt right-off.

Then we get to why more taxpayer money should go to help people who have had around 70% of the costs of their education paid for and interest-free loans providing they stay in New Zealand.

Khyaati Acharya explains how much students get:

. . . Arguments then, in favour of free tertiary education ignore two considerations. The first is that governments face resource constraints which limit how much funding can be allocated to the tertiary sector. The second is that while an educated population may provide wider economic and social benefits, the greatest benefits accrue to the individual who undertook the education in the form of increased earnings, a higher quality of life and reduced unemployment.

Under the current scheme, for every dollar the government lends through its student loan scheme (as at 2014) a mere 58.17 cents is treated as an asset. This means that 41.83 cents in every dollar lent to a student is written off as an expense – largely the cost of the zero-percent interest policy.

In short, the Government expects that less than 60% of each dollar lent will be recouped. The difference then must be funded from taxes. . . 

Excluding the public subsidy inherent in the interest-free student loan scheme, the average university student’s share of the direct cost of higher education fell from 32% in 2000 to 27% in 2010. The reduced cost proportion for students was largely the result of fee regulation policies, like tuition caps, which dictate to what maximum percentage tertiary education providers may increase their fees. But take into account the implicit subsidy provided through the interest-free student loan scheme, and on average, students paid 16% and government 84% towards the direct cost of tertiary education in 2010. . . 

A better educated population has public benefits but the private benefit is greater.

Universities New Zealand gives the top 10 reasons a degree is a smart investment: 

  1. The more educated you are the more you earn. 
  2. The more educated you are, the less likely it is you will be unemployed.
  3. A typical university graduate will earn around $1.6m more over their working life than a non-graduate- this is much higher for a medical doctor ($4m), professional engineers ($3m) and information technology graduates ($2m).
  4. Arts graduates earn around $1m to 1.3m more than a non-graduate.
  5. About 10% end up in jobs that, on the face of it, probably don’t need a degree.
  6. If money and job security are key motivations, then the worst choices at university are the creative or performing arts or studying philosophy and religious studies – but they earn well above the median for salary and wage earners and have low unemployment rates averaging only 2-5%.
  7. Taxpayers get their investment back – graduates typically pay back all the costs of their education plus another $200,000 over their working life.
  8. It takes an average of 7 years to pay off a student loan – the average balance on graduation is $14K.
  9. A degree pays off by the age of 33, where net additional earnings from a degree exceed the costs of getting a degree and the income lost while studying.
  10. If you are interested in university study, there isn’t really a bad option.  Follow your heart and the evidence says you are likely to end up personally and economically better off.

Averages are averages – some will earn much more and some won’t get a financial benefit from their education, some will have smaller loans and/or pay them off quickly, some will have bigger loans and/or pay them off slowly.

But a tertiary education does pay off for most people and the average loan on graduation is $14,000 which is paid off within seven years.

Expecting these better educated, higher earning people to pay off the loans they incur for a very small proportion of the cost of their education is not a big ask.

The people who will benefit most from the policy Little is musing on are those best equipped to help themselves.

There are far more pressing needs for money that will have a greater public benefit and/or help those who are less able to help themselves.


Go Fiji

August 11, 2016

I’d been counting Sevens chickens before the Olympics even hatched  and I’ve been disappointed.

New Zealand has struggled into the quarter  finals by a single point differential over the United States.

We’re facing Fiji this morning and for my sense of fair play has trumped my patriotism –  I’m backing Fiji.

They’ve never won gold, they’ve played better than us at the Games and they are more deserving of a win.

So Go Fiji!


Quote of the day

August 11, 2016

You’re trying to escape from your difficulties, and there never is any escape from difficulties, never. They have to be faced and fought. – Enid Blyton who was born on this day in 1897.

She also said:

The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.


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