Word of the day


Knurl – a small projecting knob or ridge, especially in a series around the edge of something;  small protuberance, excrescence, or knob; one of a series of small ridges or beads on a metal surface to aid in gripping; lined or crossgrained pattern of ridges or indentations rolled or pressed into a part for grip;  to impress with a series of fine ridges or serrations; a short, thickset person.

Thatcher thinks


Rural round-up


NZ trade threatened by WTO stand-off — trade expert – Pam Tipa:

The ability of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to hear any New Zealand disputes arising out of Brexit could be under threat.

It is just one example of problems which may arise if the WTO does not have enough appellate body judges to hear appeals, says trade expert Stephen Jacobi.

Seven major NZ agricultural organisations put their concerns to the Government over threats to the WTO rules before the annual forum of global trade and business leaders in Davos Switzerland last month.

Next big technology step is here – Neal Wallace:

The technology’s name, The Internet of Things, sounds both daunting and obscure. But dig below the label and it refers to some very clever technology that will have an application for farmers. Self-confessed technophobe Neal Wallace talks to Internet of Things Alliance executive director Kriv Naicker.

Many farmers are already dabbling in technology’s latest and greatest applications.

Checking the weather, measuring the growth and quality of pasture or crop, weighing animals and checking soil fertility generate data to assist decision-making and administration is made easier with connections to Nait and with rural professionals.

Those things form the basis of the Internet of Things (IoT). . . 

Norwood NZ Rural Sports Awards 2019 finalists announced:

The finalists have been decided for the Norwood NZ Rural Sports Awards for 2019, which take place on Friday March 8 in Palmerston North.

The finalists are leaders in both traditional rural sports like shearing, fencing, wool handling and dog trials, and newer sports like gumboot throwing, cowboy action shooting and tree climbing.

“The range of rural sports represented in this year’s nominations is extraordinary, and I love the fact we’re honouring people from young athletes just starting to make their mark, to the lifetime achievers, and those who work away in the background to make sure our rural sports can happen,” said Sir Brian Lochore, chairman of the New Zealand Rural Sports Awards judging panel. . . 

Native plantings paying dividends:

Mid-Canterbury farmer John Evans is reaping the benefits of native plantings on his farm, in the form of improved pollination and pest control.

“I can’t put a number on it, but I am spending less time and less money on spraying for aphids,” he says.

Evans farms at Dorie, near the coast just south of the Rakaia River, and has five areas devoted to native plantings, established with the help of Tai Tapu native plant nurseryman Steve Brailsford. .  .

Bringing the primary sector together – PINZ 2019 is coming:

Federated Farmers is teaming up with New Zealand’s leading conference company, Conferenz, to bring the country’s primary industry the conference it’s been missing.

The Primary Industries New Zealand Summit will be held at Te Papa in Wellington, July 1-2.

The event is a partnership between Conferenz and Federated Farmers. Both organisations have long histories of running conferences for the primary sector, and this conference will benefit from their combined industry knowledge and experience. . .

Ground Spreaders Announce New Awards Programme:

The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA) is encouraging agricultural companies to nominate candidates for a set of new industry awards. The awards, introduced to recognise and commend those who have made a significant and positive contribution to the ground spreading industry, have attracted sponsorship from Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Graymont, Ravensdown and Trucks & Trailers.

Nominations for the four awards – the President’s Award, the Innovation Award, the Health & Safety Award and the Young Achiever’s Award – open on Monday 18th February and close on Friday 12th April 2019. Finalists will be invited to attend the NZGFA’s 63rd annual conference in Taupo in July. . . 

Grass-fed beef health benefits – a meat-buyer’s guide –  Kathleen Jade:

Beef that is truly 100 percent grass-fed comes from cows that have grazed in pasture year-round rather than being fed a processed diet for much of their life. Standards and labeling laws for grass-fed beef are controversial and confusing. The terms “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” are allowed even if your beef really came from cows that spent little or no time outdoors in a pasture setting. U.S. beef labeled as “grass-fed” but not bearing USDA certification may be the result of various combinations of grass and grain feeding including grass finishing. If the label doesn’t specifically say “100 percent grass-fed,” or carry the USDA or similar certification, there’s no guarantee.

Even under USDA certification standards, however, cows labeled “grass-fed”can be confined much of the year and fed antibiotics or hormones. The USDA’s standards are lower than those of the American Grassfed Association (AGA), an alternative organization that, like the USDA, offers certification for grass-fed beef.  . .

When politics of birth comes before its purpose


Why would government officials try to discredit a critical piece of research that raised concerns about maternity care and why wasn’t it followed up?

In the months leading up to the release of a study which asked how safe it is to give birth in New Zealand, health officials were busy.

As a courtesy, researchers from Otago University had advised the Ministry of Health well in advance the study looking into maternity care outcomes would be coming out. Closer to the date, they provided an advance copy to the department.

The study found evidence to suggest all babies were not being born equal. Those in midwife-led care were at risk of poorer outcomes than babies in doctor-led care. The authors, Diana Sarfati and Ellie Wernham, were careful to point out their support for a midwifery-led system.

However, their conclusions were clear: the current way maternity care is provided in New Zealand is not as good as it could be.

“It may well be that midwife-led care is optimal within the context of well-organized systems,” the authors wrote.

At the very least this should have led to more research, but what did the Ministry do?

In the months they knew about the study – and the nine weeks they had a copy of it – ministry officials did little to suggest they would take its findings seriously.

Instead, an investigation by Stuff has found the ministry actively worked to try and obscure the results. Communications in the months before the study’s release show staffers worked on how to avoid “fallout,” and in one case shared plans to discredit the study ahead of its release with industry body the College of Midwives.

The ministry this week rejected suggestions it underplayed the findings of the study.

But documents obtained under the Official Information Act show attempts to spin the results of the study and avoid the spotlight on the safety of the system, into which 60,000-odd babies are born each year. These were met with stiff resistance from Otago University. 

But documents obtained under the Official Information Act show attempts to spin the results of the study and avoid the spotlight on the safety of the system, into which 60,000-odd babies are born each year. These were met with stiff resistance from Otago University.

Ministry officials took the unusual step of meeting with Professor Peter Crampton, then the head of Otago University’s Medical School and the pro-vice chancellor of health sciences. In an interview with Stuff,Crampton said it was clear the ministry felt the study was flawed. He disagreed, backing the university’s research. . . 

The Ministry felt? Ministries shouldn’t act on feelings, they should act on fact based thoughts and research but:

No further research was commissioned.

The study fell from the headlines; Sarfati went back to cancer research, and former midwife Wernham is in her last year of training to be a doctor.

But Crampton, who has had oversight of hundreds of studies in more than four decades in academia, can’t forget.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The extent to which [the researchers] felt beaten up and traumatised by the experience was way outside of the normal,” he says.

“There should have been more high quality research set up to explore the issues that were raised, and we should have been doing this from day one. The chilling effect of the response to the results basically means this hasn’t happened.

“In my view, this was more about the management of a contentious issue than a policy engagement with important findings.

“If this area is too hard to research, then this is a big problem.”

While all research was vulnerable to critique, the authors had been clear about the limitations of the research and to ignore the results was a mistake, he says.

“The [ministry’s] response implied a problematising of the research in a way I found very unusual and disquieting. They viewed the results as highly problematic, and my general sense was that there was a considerable effort to explain them away.” . . 


Birth is a highly politicised business.

Practices have quite rightly moved away from the old system where mothers-to-be lay back with their legs in stirrups, everyone did what doctors said and midwives were undervalued.

But the pendulum has swung too far to the opposite extreme where too often birth politics gets in the way of the safety of both mother and baby and those involved lose sight of the point of pregnancy – the safe delivery of a healthy baby.

Problems have been exacerbated by the exit of doctors from obstetrics and a shortage of midwives.

Problems with midwife shortages – particularly in rural and low-income areas – and an unsustainable working model for midwives which means long working hours, burnout, and insufficient pay have been long identified as issues.

Wernham and Sarfati’s study was the first ever to take an overarching look at the safety of babies within the current system. The differences she and Sarfati found were not small; across the five-year study of more than 244,000 babies, they found those in doctor-led care had lower chances of poor birth outcomes.

This included 55 per cent less chance of oxygen deprivation during delivery, 39 per cent lower odds of neonatal encephalopathy, and 48 per cent less chance of a low Apgar score, a measure of a baby’s wellbeing after delivery.

There was also a lower rate of stillbirth and newborn babies dying under medical-led care. This link was statistically weak due to the small number of baby deaths in the five years covered – 1.84 per 1000 births for midwife-led care (410 total deaths, from 20 weeks gestation to the first 27 days of life) and 1.31 per 1000 births for doctor-led care (27 total deaths) – but it was there.

Of course, comparing women with midwives as their lead maternity carer to those who have doctors is not necessarily fair.

After all, doctors – counting GPs and obstetricians – look after less than ten per cent of mums. It is very possible the types of mothers they see are different – mums who smoke might be more likely to see a midwife, while healthier mums might pay for a private obstetrician, for example.

The researchers knew these things could effect the results. So they used a mathematical model to account for factors like smoking, age, ethnicity, deprivation, and weight. “Women are not comparable, but the design adjusted for that,” says Otago University epidemiologist and emeritus professor Charlotte Paul, who has reviewed the research. “The authors restricted their population to women who were having single births and term births to make them more alike. Then they collected information on characteristics that differed between the groups and statistically adjusted for them. The results remained.” . . 

But the results didn’t fit the prevailing ideology and raising questions as this research did led to defensiveness rather than answers.

Independent policy analyst and researcher Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw co-directs think-tank The Workshop and is the author of A Matter of Fact: Talking truth in a post-truth world.

She says the midwifery-led maternity model was a major policy change which, like many in New Zealand, was never evaluated.

“We should always be exploring what models of care are working best for the people they are supposed to serve – mothers, babies, families – and that includes midwives themselves. We can’t shy away from it, shut it down, or pretend it doesn’t exist,” Berentson-Shaw says.

In maternity, with its historic power dynamics of a women-led profession fighting for autonomy, questions about the system were often not considered objectively. “There’s this feeling that you can’t critique maternity care without critiquing midwives. How has it got so unconstructive? How has this happened to the point that we cannot have a conversation about standards of care?

That the Ministry and College of Midwives appear unready to even have the conversation is a big part of the problem. The only bias either body should have is towards the health of both mothers and babies.

Sarfati doesn’t know what she could have done differently. “It was so draining and exhausting and seemed to have so little effect, and it was so stressful personally. It had a big impact on Ellie and me for quite a long time, and despite all our efforts it had no impact at all.

“All we were trying to do was evaluate this major policy change that had happened. We have a really unique system in New Zealand, and the research they use to support it is based on systems completely different to ours. It was an attempt to look at that.

“It suggested there were problems, which isn’t to say the entire system should be thrown away, but you need to address them like any professional group should.”

David Farrar calls this disgraceful behaviour by the MoH.

Stephen Franks gives due credit to the journalist in Great Michelle Duff journalism on MOH surrender to witchcraft

The latter isn’t a criticism of all midwives but it is a criticism of the system which has put the politics of birth before its purpose.

Agnes Loheni’s maiden statement


National MP Agnes Loheni made her maiden statement last week:

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is so surreal to be standing here in Parliament speaking to you all. I’m a daughter of Samoan parents brought up in a crowded State house where Samoan was the only language spoken and where the Bible was the only book in the house. I almost struggle to believe that this is actually happening.

My journey started on a path laid brick by brick by my Samoan parents—a path of aspiration, resilience, hard work, compassion and gratitude. My parents are the embodiment of the Māori saying: He kai kei aku ringa; food comes from the efforts of my own hands.

Ka tangi te tītī, ka tangi te kākā, ka tangi hoki ahau. Ka tū au i raro i te mana o te iwi o Pōneke nei – tū mai Taranaki whānui. Ka mihi hōhonu ki ngā iwi katoa o Aotearoa. Tēnā koutou katoa.

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Tulouna le Pa’ia maualuga o Samoa i ona mamalu fa’aleatunu’u

Le Paia i Tama ma Aiga, o Aiga fo’i ma Tama

Tumua ma Pule

O Itua’u ma Alataua

Aiga i le Tai ma le va’a o Fonoti

Sua ma le Vaifanua

O Fofō ma Aitulagi, o Sa’ole ma Salea’umua ma le launiu na saelua

Faapea fo’i le Faleagafulu ma le La’au-na-amotasi

O Tama a le Manu’atele ma To’oto’o o le Faleula ma Samoa potopoto

I grew up on the famous McGehan Close, a State housing cul de sac in Mount Albert, a street that received a lot of attention in 2007. We lived in a three-bedroom State house, where I shared a bedroom with my mum and dad and my two younger sisters. It was also a home to my grandmother, aunties, uncles and cousins—pulling together, sharing resources, supporting each other. It’s just what you did. It was a great home. The only language spoken was Samoan and the home was filled with chatter, laughter, dreams and hope.

There wasn’t a lot of money, but we were abundantly rich in family, because family was everything. It was a family where dedication to our Christian faith was paramount and where education was seen as the key to a better life—a better future. It was a home where we were expected to succeed, and we did. My father instilled this expectation of success into us. Working long hours and often having to travel away for work, my father provided for his family and to make sure we could access the many opportunities in this land of plenty.

So I left high school with University Entrance and the senior chemistry prize. I completed a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, but not before heading off on an OE, marriage, five children and starting a business with my sisters. My journey into business was inspired by my mother’s enterprise. My mum was an expert dressmaker—self-employed, worked from home, managed the household, and served her aiga, her extended family. The soft hum of her sewing machine running late into the night as I drifted to sleep is one of my lovely memories growing up as a child; that hum meant that Mum was nearby. With all the responsibilities Mum was juggling, she still imparted a fundamental lesson to us: the place of gratitude and compassion in our lives. Her generosity and compassion for others meant she often didn’t charge for her service, particularly if people were struggling. Payment for her services was often a home-made pineapple pie or some other baked items, and Mum would gratefully and humbly receive that food.

So encouraged by Mum’s example, my sisters and I started our small business in Samoa from our home. Our fashion label reflected the fusion of our Samoan and Kiwi upbringing. It was unique and beautiful, and we’re proud of what we created. Working with my three sisters, Jackie, Gina, and Charlene, has truly been an enriching experience. We had each other’s backs and we looked out for each other, and we struggled together. That struggle meant, sometimes, as the eldest sister, I had to do the unpleasant stuff, like the time that I took the tough decision to take a gruelling drive all the way to the other side of Samoa to hand-deliver an urgent order to a customer. The fact that this customer was Hollywood rock star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had absolutely no bearing on my decision to make that sacrifice. That’s just what you do.

It has been a 17-year journey, where all the business mistakes you could possibly make were made, and we learnt, struggled, fell down, and got up again every time. On the way, we navigated a global financial crisis and faced the aftermath of tsunamis and a number of tropical cyclones which intimately affected the lives of our staff as well as our business. Eventually, we pulled through to the business we are today, selling throughout the South Pacific and to customers around the world. So I applaud all our small-business owners. I know the hard work that’s required and the risks they face. The vital role our small businesses play in the economy, particularly in job creation, cannot be overestimated.

I’m the product of the compassion and gratitude my mother taught me and the resilience and hard work ethic my father instilled in me. I grew up very lucky, in stark contrast to many of my Pasefika community today, because growing up, there was no one telling us that the system was against us because we were Samoan kids. There was no one telling us we were impoverished migrant Samoan families living in destitute conditions. There was no one telling us that we needed to be taught differently from all other kids because of our culture. We were not subject to the soft bigotry of low expectation that exists today—the soft bigotry of low expectation that rips hope from our children, destroys faith in their ability to overcome life’s obstacles, creates jealousy and envy in our kids, and leaves them dependent on the whims of the State that says it knows better than their own families.

These messages of envy and hopelessness—messages that lead to an insidious victim mentality and that are perpetuated by those who say they care more and are genuinely concerned for the communities I grew up in—lead to an outcome that is infinitely worse than any hard bigot or racist could ever hope to achieve. To take hopes and dreams away from a child through good intentions conflicts with the messages of aspiration, resilience, and compassion that I and my Pasefika community were exposed to as we grew up. That soft bigotry of low expectation is the road to hell laid brick by brick with good intentions.

Hope, resilience, compassion—these are the only messages that have any chance of succeeding and changing our course toward a better New Zealand. These values are not exclusive to my migrant parents; they are New Zealand’s values. They fit hand-in-glove with our Kiwi belief in hard work, enterprise, and personal responsibility. So I stand as one with our Pasefika communities and all New Zealand. Whether you’ve come from the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, or Europe, New Zealand is our home. It is our place. We are an integral part of the fabric of New Zealand’s life, and we are members of a great country where we can be anything we want to be.

You see, the solution to building great lives, building a great New Zealand, comes from resilience in our communities—communities that will lead to a great New Zealand where we can be proud of who we are, proud of where we’ve come from, and proud of the moral fortitude that will enable us to confidently face the unknown path ahead. I am here to do everything I can to ensure that all New Zealand communities and families can choose pathways for better education, be able to live with the certainty of a roof over their heads and food on their table, and where jobs underpin family futures and enable the lifestyles that are the Kiwi dream.

Our Kiwi children deserve to dream of their potential—of lives that can be anything they want them to be, where we tell our children that working hard, being responsible, and having compassion for others builds the resilience that enables them to face every challenge life throws at them; where every child growing up in this great nation of ours can look at their achievements and say, “He kai kei aku ringa”—from the efforts of my own hands; and where a little, very shy Samoan girl living in a State house in Mount Albert brimming with family can finish a university degree, head offshore, raise a big family, run a business, and end up in Parliament, serving the wonderful people of New Zealand.

What an honour and privilege to stand before you, my National friends, and to you, my parliamentary colleagues, today. Thank you to the National Party board, and to the members of my executive, and supporters and volunteers; and our fantastic leader, Simon Bridges. Unity is our strength. A special mention to two former MPs who have inspired my journey: Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, and Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga. I have long admired their courage and resilience. I give thanks to God. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Fa’afetai i le Atua, sa ou nofo taupa’i ma matamata nonofo e pei o upu i le Maota o le Tui A’ana.

To my friends and family, I’m so humbled that you have travelled to be with me today. Faafetai tele lava. To my children Mia, Hana-Peti, Waiana, Lelei-Kura, and Tahu-Potiki, you have given my life purpose and meaning. I am so proud of you all. To my amazing husband, Ward, you know that you’re my rock. And finally, to my parents, Fepuleai Frank Pelasio Loheni and Talaleomalie Filomena Loheni, no words can fully express my love and gratitude for all you have done. All I hope, Mum and Dad, is that I make you proud. Fa’afetai tele lava. Thank you.

The video of her speech is here.

Stuff interviewed Agnes when she was a candidate in 2017.

The Herald interviewed her as she prepared to enter parliament.


Quote of the day


There are quite enough unpleasant things in life without the need to manufacture more. –  Pierre-Auguste Renoir who was born on this day in 1836 was born.

February 25 in history


138 The Emperor Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius, effectively making him his successor.

1570 Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I.

1778 José de San Martín, Argentine general and liberator of South America, was born  (d. 1850).

1793 George Washington held the first Cabinet meeting as President of the United States.

1797 Colonel William Tate and his force of 1000-1500 soldiers surrendered after the Last Invasion of Britain.

1836 Samuel Colt received an American patent for the Colt revolver.

1841  Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French painter, graphic artist and sculptor, was born  (d. 1919).

1845 George Reid, fourth Prime Minister of Australia, was born (d. 1918).

1861 Rudolf Steiner, Austrian philosopher and educator, was born (d. 1925).

1870 Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African American to sit in the U.S. Congress.

1873  Enrico Caruso, Italian tenor, was born  (d. 1921).

1890 Dame Myra Hess, English pianist, was born (d. 1965).

1890  Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet politician, was born (d. 1986).

1901 Zeppo Marx, American actor, was born  (d. 1979).

1901 J.P. Morgan incorporated the United States Steel Corporation.

1908 Frank G. Slaughter, American novelist, was born (d. 2001).

1912 Marie-Adélaïde, the eldest of six daughters of Guillaume IV, becomes the first reigning Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

1917 Anthony Burgess, English author, was born (d. 1993).

1919 Oregon placed a 1 cent per U.S. gallon tax on gasoline, becoming the first U.S. state to levy a fuel tax.

1921 Tbilisi, capital of the Democratic Republic of Georgia, was occupied by Bolshevist Russia.

1925 Glacier Bay National Monument (now Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve) was established in Alaska.

1928 Charles Jenkins Laboratories of Washington, D.C. became the first holder of a television license.

1932 Adolf Hitler obtained German citizenship by naturalisation, which allowed him to run in the 1932 election for Reichspräsident.

1933 The USS Ranger (CV-4) was launched, the first US Navy ship to be built solely as an aircraft carrier.

1935 Sally Jessy Raphaël, American talk show host, was born.

1941 February Strike: In occupied Amsterdam, a general strike was declared in response to increasing anti-Jewish measures instituted by the Nazis.

1943 48 Japanese prisoners and one guard were killed in the Featherston Prinsoner of War riot.
49 killed in Featherston POW riot

1943 George Harrison, English musician (The Beatles), was born.

1945 Elkie Brooks, English singer, was born.

1945  Turkey declared war on Germany.

1946 Jean Todt, French executive director of Scuderia Ferrari, was born.

1947 State of Prussia ceased to exist.

1948 The Communist Party took control of government in Czechoslovakia.

1950 Néstor Kirchner, President of Argentina, was born  (d. 2010).

1951 The first Pan American Games were held in Buenos Aires.

1953 José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain, was born.

1954 Gamal Abdul Nasser was made premier of Egypt.

1956 In his speech On the Personality Cult and its Consequences Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced the cult of personality of Joseph Stalin.

1971 The first unit of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, first commercial nuclear power station in Canada, went online.

1973 Julio Iglesias, Jr., Spanish singer, was born.

1976 – Simon O’Connor, MP for Tamaki, was born.

1980 The Suriname government was overthrown by a military coup initiated with the bombing of the police station from an army ship of the coast of the nation’s capital; Paramaribo.

1985 Benji Marshall, New Zealand rugby player, was born.

Benji Marshall (26 April 2009).jpg

1986 People Power RevolutionPresident Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines fled after 20 years of rule; Corazon Aquino became the first Filipino woman president.

1991 Gulf War: An Iraqi Scud missile hit an American military barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia killing 28 U.S. Army Reservists from Pennsylvania.

1992 Khojaly massacre: about 613 civilians were killed by Armenian armed forces during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

1994 Mosque of Abraham massacre: In the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron Dr. Baruch Kappel Goldstein opened fire with an automatic rifle, killing 29 Palestinian worshippers and injuring 125 more before being subdued and beaten to death by survivors. Subsequent rioting kills 26 more Palestinians and 9 Israelis.

2009  BDR massacre in Pilkhana, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 74 People were killed, including more than 50 Army officials, by Bangladeshi Border Guards.

2015 – At least 310 people were killed in avalanches in northeastern Afghanistan.

2016 – Three people were killed and fourteen others injured in a series of shootings in the small Kansas cities of Newton and Hesston.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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