365 days of gratitude

December 4, 2018

If you took a child back to the kitchen of your childhood, what wouldn’t they recognise?

When I compare my kitchen now with my mother’s when I was a child I notice what wasn’t in hers – no dishwasher, no microwave, no food processor (although there was a vitamiser), and no pop-up toaster.

In place of the latter was a toaster a child of today probably wouldn’t recognise. It could take a slice of bread on each side and had to be watched very carefully if you didn’t want to end up with a burned offering.

Today I’m grateful for a pop-up toaster.


Word of the day

December 4, 2018

Lour – to look angry or sullen; frown, knit the brows; scowl; to be or become dark, gloomy, and threatening; to presage trouble.


Surfing start for new wool boom?

December 4, 2018

New Zealand wool prices tripled overnight when the USA sought to build up its strategic stockpiles during the Korean War.

It was all down hill from there as synthetics replaced natural fibres.

Merino has had a renaissance thanks to firms like Icebreaker and All Birds using its eco-friendly, comfort, temperature regulation and odour resistance credentials to sell clothes and shoes.

But farmers are lucky to recoup the cost of shearing crossbred wool.

While that’s not good now, lower prices make it less expensive to experiment and develop new wool-based products which could lead to greater demand, and better prices, in the future.

That could include raw material for surfboards:

New Zealand surfer Paul Barron was laminating a board a decade ago when he accidentally spilled resin on his sweater. It gave him an idea: What if he built a surfboard shell out of wool? Traditional foam boards are typically housed in resin and fiberglass for structural integrity. But fiberglass can be harmful to workers and isn’t easily recyclable; board makers have long sought a greener alternative. This month, the Carlsbad, California, company Firewire Surfboards is releasing Barron’s WoolLight board–showcasing a technological advance that could change how other products are designed, from yachts to cars . . .

Barron partnered with the New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) to develop the wool composite technology:

. . .The technology is a new high value market for New Zealand strong wool, at a time when the industry is struggling with low wool prices and looking for alternative markets.

According to NZM Chief Executive John Brakenridge what Firewire is doing producing wool surfboards is the start of a movement and the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wool composite technology.

“While the first application of this technology is being used in surfboards, it has the potential to replace fibreglass in many other products such as boats, aircraft and furniture.

“The wool’s natural performance such as tensile strength means that products made with this new technology are lighter and more flexible than traditional fibreglass, while maintaining its strength.

Tauranga based surfboard maker Barron first came up with the idea when he spilt resin on his wool jersey (jumper). It gave him the idea to build a surfboard shell out of wool. Traditional foam boards are typically housed in resin and fiberglass for structural integrity, Barron’s wool technology replaces fibreglass with wool.

“With this technology we can produce a surfboard that has the potential to outperform traditional boards. Basically you grow a sheep, shear it, wash the wool twice in water and make a material that is light, flexible, durable and fast,” says Barron.

Firewire CE Mark Price is in New Zealand this week to meet with Barron and the Pāmu farmers who will supply the wool for the ‘Woolight’ boards. Price, along with surfing pro Kelly Slater who is a co-owner in Firewire, has a desire to steer the company to zero-landfill by 2020 and they see wool as a component of this process.

“We’re sourcing ZQ wool that is ethically sourced and at the end of its life it will biodegrade and give back to the environment.

“Not only is NZ a country with a long and rich surfing tradition the growers that we are sourcing the wool from share our values of doing things in a better way.

“Surfers by definition commune with nature on a daily basis, so they have a heightened sensitivity towards the environment and can relate to the technology that wool offers in terms of performance, and obviously the sustainability story is off the charts,” says Price.

Pāmu Farms of New Zealand will supply the bulk of the wool fibre that is used in the ‘Woolight’ surf board. According to Pāmu CE Steven Carden, the partnership with Firewire gives sheep farmers a sense of pride and confidence that the future for wool doesn’t have to be the status quo.

“We hadn’t thought surfing would ever provide the channel to take a positive New Zealand wool story to the world but it makes sense that those that enjoy nature so closely would be those that can solve environmental and performance challenges – we can learn from this, says Carden. . . 

The ‘Woolight’ surfboard range will be available for sale in New Zealand around April/May 2019.

Wool is odour and fire resistant. That might not matter in surfboards but could be beneficial in furniture, yachts and cars.

Wool is also renewable and biodegradable which ought to matter who anyone who claims to care about the environment.

Surfing could start a new wool boom and it doesn’t have to stop there. Wool is already being tested by Nasa for use in space.

 


Sowell says

December 4, 2018


Rural round-up

December 4, 2018

Superstar spotlights dairy efforts – Luke Chivers:

DairyNZ Environmental Leaders Forum chairwoman Tracy Brown has won a Sustainable Business Network award. She spoke to Luke Chivers about some of the challenges facing the rural sector.

Waikato dairy farmer Tracy Brown has been named a dairy sustainability champion for inspiring farmers to change on-farm practices, protect waterways, enhance biodiversity and lower their environmental footprints.

She was rewarded for her efforts by winning the Sustainability Superstar category at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

The award marks a momentous occasion for New Zealand’s primary industries, Brown says. . . 

Town folks love a good farm story – Pam Tipa:

‘A good story’ was a key motivator for fourth-generation Helensville farmers Scott and Sue Narbey to open their farm to the public.

The couple opened their farm as part of Fonterra’s Open Gates 2018 day.

“We entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and when we started writing down all the good things we were doing we thought we were doing a pretty good job,” Scott told Dairy News.

“And we were sick of hearing all the bad things and how people perceive dairy farms. . . 

A hand up or corporate welfare? – Andrea Fox:

Westland Milk Products, approved for a taxpayer-funded Provincial Growth Fund loan branded “corporate welfare” by some critics, says it would have been happy for the commercial terms to be disclosed but Government officials ruled them confidential.

The Westland dairy exporter, which in its 2018 annual report discussing a capital restructure said it had “relatively high debt and limited financial flexibility”, is to get a $9.9 million interest-bearing, repayable loan towards a $22 million manufacturing plant project to produce higher-value goods.

The annual report noted Westland’s cash flow for the year was below expectations, its milk payout to farmers was not competitive and “obtaining new capital would make a significant difference to the co-operative”. . . 

People need to be told ‘what wool is about’ – Sally Rae:

Education is the key to lifting the state of the wool industry, industry leader Craig Smith says.

Mr Smith, general manager for Devold Wool Direct, is a member of the Wool Working Group, which has been working on how to create a more sustainable and profitable sector.

Made up of 20 wool producers, processors and other industry representatives, it has been charged with developing a pan-sector action plan.

Earlier this year, Mr Smith was  the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he is also heavily involved with Campaign for Wool. . . 

Hill country’s development risks and opportunities:

Sheep and beef farmers are increasingly finishing stock on hill country forage crops and pastures, with a resultant drop in erosion risk.

But some farmers had difficulty assessing the potential environmental impact and the financial return of hill country development, due to the unpredictability of sediment loss and the costs.

This was discovered by studies done as part of the Sustainable Hill Farming Tool project (SHiFT), says Paul Hulse, of Environment Canterbury (ECan).

The SHiFT project is to tell landowners the best ways to address these concerns, says Hulse . .

Smartphone cattle weighing technology set to expand – Lucy Kinbacher:

A HUNGARIAN developed smartphone accessory is helping producers weigh their cattle without the use of any scales or yard infrastructure. 

Known as Beefie, the new technology allows producers to calculate their cattle weights in less than half a minute by attaching an external device to an Android 5.1+ smartphone and capturing a range of photographs.

Livestock are analysed from two to six metres away, even whilst in motion or partially obscured, with more than 5000 tests on animals producing a 95 per cent accuracy rate.  . . 

 


Geoff Murphy 10.38 – 12.18

December 4, 2018

Film director Geoff Murphy has died.

Filmmaker Geoff Murphy has died aged 80. One of the pioneers of the modern New Zealand film industry, he’s perhaps best remembered for the highly successful Utu and the road movie with a special place in New Zealanders’ affections, Goodbye Pork Pie. . . 

Goodbye Pork Pie was the first film I saw that was distinctively  a New Zealand film with places I recognised and people who sounded like people I knew.

 


Govt should look in mirror

December 4, 2018

Fuel prices are coming down which ought to be good news for the government.

But as they drop, the percentage we pay in tax gets higher which only reinforces the knowledge that the government’s impost is too high.

It has confirmed that it’s ordering a market study into the retail fuel market.

This will be an expensive exercise and the Taxpayers’ Unions says the government could save the money by looking into a mirror, not the market:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The recent spike, and now drop, in petrol prices shows that the market’s influence on petrol price varies. What is constant, however, is the Government’s fuel tax, which makes up close to 50 per cent of current prices.”

“The Government’s conspicuous hand-wringing over the conduct on petrol companies looks like an attempt to distract from its ongoing tax revenue grab – set to escalate with further petrol tax hikes in 2019 and 2020.”

“The Prime Minister is playing loose with the truth when she says tax revenue goes straight into improving our roads. Her Government has pursued a strategy of raiding excise tax revenues to fund projects motorists don’t use – like trams and cycleways.”

This last point is particularly galling.

High fuel taxes spent on roads would be a form of user-pays which is  a a bit less difficult to swallow than higher fuel taxes for public transport and cycleways.

High fuel prices flow on to the cost of all goods and every service for individuals and businesses.

They also impact on not for profit organisations that provide social services and hit the poorest hardest.

If the government was serious about reducing poverty, it would acknowledge the high cost of fuel is one of the biggest contributing factors and the part tax plays in that.

Reducing, or at least not increasing, fuel taxes would be a simple way to reduce the cost of living and therefore help the people it purports to want to get out of poverty.

 


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