365 days of gratitude

November 26, 2018

Just as I was contemplating using the less than clement weather as an excuse to cut my morning walk short my phone rang.

The ensuing conversation kept my mind occupied while my feet kept moving, covering far more ground than I would have otherwise.

Today I’m grateful for the distraction that led to a longer walk.


Word of the day

November 26, 2018

Troparion – a short hymn in rhythmic prose sung or chanted liturgically in the Eastern Orthodox Church, specifically a stanza of an ode.


Sowell says

November 26, 2018


Bridges talks tax – less and lower

November 26, 2018

Simon Bridges is talking tax – less and lower while increasing funding for core services:

His commitment is to prioritise good outcomes over good intentions.

While the government has a working party to look at how to tax us more, National provides a very clear commitment to let us keep more of the money we earn.


Rural round-up

November 26, 2018

Does Russia belong in the West or the East? – Keith Woodford:

The issue of whether Russia belongs in the West or the East might seem a strange topic for a New Zealand agri-food systems person like me to be discussing. However, political and food systems, and the associated international trade, are joined at the hip. Politics and agricultural trade are always fellow travellers.

These last two weeks, while working in Russia, I have pondered as to where Russia belongs. From a cultural perspective, I have no doubt it is in the West. Yet from a geopolitical perspective it would seem that Russia’s future is more with China in the East. Here, I explore the dichotomy and the contradiction.

Milk flush is depressing prices – Hugh Stringleman:

Record milk collection in New Zealand over the October peak has continued to depress Global Dairy Trade prices, which, in turn, threaten a reduction in the farmgate milk price closer to $6/kg.

The GDT index fell 3.5% after the auction on November 21, the twelfth consecutive fall or sideways movement since mid-May.

World prices are now 20% below their 2018 peak and 12% lower than this time last year.

Plenty of cattle left – Neal Wallace:

Stirring international and domestic storms have conspired to undercut bull beef prices.

A combination of falling United States prices in the last two months, processors trying to maintain margins and farmers being careful with stock purchases because of Mycoplasma bovis have reduced demand and prices, AgriHQ market analyst Reece Brick says.

At a recent Feilding calf sale those bred on the vendor’s property were $30 to $40 ahead of calves that weren’t. . .

The green, green grass of Maniototo – Jono Edwards:

Green fields in the usually-barren Maniototo have some farmers casting their minds back to the 1970s.

Unusually high rainfall, including a recent heavy downpour, was welcome news for the industry after months of dry heat last year.

Gimmerburn farmer Duncan Helm said things were looking “bloody magnificent”

Mataura Valley’s multimillion-dollar milk plant opens – Margaret Phillips:

The official opening of the $240 million Mataura Valley Milk plant at McNab brought guests from all corners of the globe today.

 MVM general manager Bernard May said the plant was forecast to pour about $90 million annually, directly or indirectly, into the South’s economy. Its major shareholder is the China Animal Husbandry Group. . .

Will Argentina be the first country approving a GMO wheat? -Javier Preciado Patiño:

 “We mustn’t do what other countries have already done; we must do what no other country did” Self-confident and why not a little bit provoker, the CEO of Bioceres, Mr. Federico Trucco, challenged the audience in the formal presentacion of the HB4 Wheat, the transgenic wheat that added drought tolerance to glufosinate-ammonium herbicide tolerance.

The beginning of this development dates from middles ’90 when scientist Raquel Chan’s team identified a gene (HB4) that confers sunflower seed a better performance under drought condition. In 2003, Bioceres reached an agreement with Conicet (the governmental Science and Technology Comission) to develop this finding in a commercial way. In 2007, HB4 was transferred to other crops like soybean, maize and wheat, and now only one formal step is missing to release this technology to the Argentinean farmers.

Mr. Trucco explained the three step deregulation process for a GMO crop in Argentina. HB4 wheat has already been approved by the SENASA (Food Quality and Health Service) and the Conabia (Biotechnology Advisor Commission), because there is not risk to the human health, animal health and the environment, and the characteristics of this wheat are the same of conventional ones. . . 

New app helps farmers finish cattle to retailers’ specifications:

A new app can help farmers finish cattle to retailers’ specifications with greater precision, avoiding lower prices for the farmer and waste in the value chain.

Changing customer tastes mean that almost half of prime beef now fails to meet ideal market specifications.

The app will help farmers finish cattle to retailers’ specifications with greater precision, underpinned by the data to evidence this. . . 


No more lives should be risked

November 26, 2018

The Listener editorial says there should be no more lives put at risk in the Pike River mine.

It goes without saying that New Zealanders have enormous sympathy for the families of the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine disaster. However, it does not automatically follow that all New Zealanders think there should be an attempt to enter what is sadly now more tomb than mine.

That such an attempt seems set to be made is the latest turn in a chain of events whose origins lie in actions and inactions long before the mine exploded eight years ago. It is unarguable that the mine operator, Pike River Coal, bears primary culpability because no agency had more knowledge, more ability to affect the workplace culture and more responsibility for the safety of the men underground than the company. It abjectly failed its workers, contractors and their families.

Statutory health and safety provisions that should have been a back-up had been eroding under the previous Labour Government and continued to do so under National. One of the findings of the royal commission into the tragedy was that mining inspectorate services had been so run down that by the time of the disaster, New Zealand had just two mines inspectors, and their travel budget was so constrained that their invigilation was patchy. 

There were so many failings that “accident” is hardly the right word to describe the disaster that occurred on November 19, 2010. This tragedy could have happened at any time to any shift of miners.

It was a disgrace that when Pike River Coal, then in receivership, was convicted of charges relating to the explosion, the company went under leaving more than $3 million in reparations unpaid. WorkSafe New Zealand then laid 12 health and safety charges against mine boss Peter Whittall. Yet they were dropped in return for his insurance company providing the reparations the mine company failed to make. The Supreme Court last year ruled that the deal was “an unlawful agreement to stifle prosecution”. However, it may still never be possible to hold any person or entity to account. As with the collapse of the Canterbury Television building, the denial of even an attempt at justice rankles with New Zealanders.

It was a further disgrace that New Zealand First and Labour chose to politicise the tragedy at the last election, with Winston Peters promising to be one of the first to re-enter the mine. His swagger implied that cowardice, not caution, was the problem. Never fear, Peters would go where Mines Rescue had not been allowed to tread. This determination to re-enter the mine flies in the face of the only positive development to have come out of the disaster – a new zeal for health and safety.

To unnecessarily risk more lives in the same mine, however much some of the families want it to happen, undermines the very principle this tragedy so firmly established: that safety is paramount.

Through all this, some of the victims’ families have heroically battled on, determined to see responsibility sheeted home somewhere, somehow. Their efforts have been laudable. The idea, however, that a team will be able to find in the devastated, burnt mine evidence that will lead to a prosecution seems illusory and the recovery of human remains sadly unlikely. Regardless, politicians have for years kept the families’ hopes dangling. This seems more cruelty than kindness. The closure the families seek might be further advanced had it been given more of a chance.

The $36 million cost of re-entry would not be worth mentioning, even to those who think the money could be better spent on reducing the rising road toll or child poverty, if the chances were higher that it will serve any purpose except political triumphalism. Little has spoken of “knowing when to call it quits”.

Arguably, and regrettably, that point has probably passed. There must be no more lives put at risk.

John Roughen also argues against any attempt at re-entry and makes the point, the announcement so far isn’t to go very far at all:

Just as in 2013, they don’t propose to go further than the point where the tunnel has collapsed about 2km in. The only difference is that five years ago this plan was reportedly estimated to cost $7.2 million. Last week we were told it will cost $36m. This is madness. . .

But it’s not just the dollar cost, it’s the potential cost in more lives that really matters.

“Safety is paramount,” they all say. If you listened closely last week, they’re not definitely going further than a second chamber, a trifling 170m into the 2km tunnel. Beyond that, they say, it might not be safe. In other words, nothing has changed but the bill.

The company, successive governments, the union and even workers themselves who didn’t act on justifiable fears about safety, are to a greater and lesser extent culpable.

The only good thing to have come out of this disaster is much stricter legislation that makes everyone involved responsible for health and safety.

Even without that, to risk further lives for the very, very slight hope there will be evidence that could be used, or bodies to be returned, can not be justified.


Quote of the day

November 26, 2018

There’s a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker. Charles M. Schulz who was born on this day in 1922.


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