Word of the day

June 7, 2019

Gurrier– a tough or unruly young man; a corner-boy, hooligan or lout; a low-class tough ill-mannered person.


Thatcher thinks

June 7, 2019


Rural round-up

June 7, 2019

New tech boosts packhouse output – Richard Rennie:

While much has been made of the prospects for robots harvesting kiwifruit and other orchards, one packing company has invested heavily this season in robotic technology in the pack house. Apata Group chief executive Stuart Weston outlined to Richard Rennie some of the smarts behind the country’s most robotised pack house, and what it heralds for the industry.

This year’s kiwifruit harvest is enduring another season with dire predictions of labour shortages coming at least partly true. 

Most processing companies report an ongoing need for more staff, both pickers and in pack houses.  . . 

NZ Producers cheesed off with EU – Pam Tipa:

Trade expert Stephen Jacobi says he thinks New Zealand cheesemakers are rightly concerned about a European Union plan to protect the names of common cheeses.

It is a concern in the context of the EU-NZ free trade agreement negotiations, he says.

“The Europeans say they are not looking to penalise in any way the generic names,” Jacobi told Rural News. “They are saying they are only interested in the ones that have geographical connections.” . . 

Southland maternity like ‘Russian roulette’, midwife says – Tess Brunton:

Supplies mishaps are plaguing the Lumsden and Te Anau maternity hubs that were meant to be up and running seven weeks ago, adding to concerns over giving birth in the region.

RNZ has been told pure oxygen – which poses a danger to babies when administered over long periods – was delivered to the Lumsden Maternal and Child Hub, while the Te Anau hub is still waiting for more equipment.

The news is adding to continued concerns over the emergency hubs, which are only meant to be used when expecting mothers are unable to reach a primary birthing centre in time. . .

Rural mums need urgent action:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker has again written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she promised to ‘take another look’ into the Lumsden Maternity Centre downgrade.

“I have written to the Prime Minister and asked for her findings as well as informing her of the second birth in the Lumsden area in just 11 days,” Mr Walker says.

“This could be a matter of life or death. All we have to do is look across the ditch to rural Queensland where since the downgrading of maternity services the death of babies in every 1000 is now at 23.3, compared with 6.1 in rural areas with obstetrics. . .

Farmers ticked off over NAIT ‘fluster cuck’ – Nigel Malthus:

Farmers are bristling over any suggestion they had been slack about re-registering their farm locations in National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) in time for moving day on June 1.

Every person in charge of animals must re-register their NAIT location following a recent upgrade to the system.

Yet only one week out from moving day, the Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor released figures showing that about half of all dairy farms – 8000 out of 15,000 – had yet to re-register. . . 

It’s the little things – Penny Clark-Hall:

What is it that we can do to earn and improve our Social Licence? So many people in the primary sector have asked me this lately and this was precisely what I was wanting to be able to give them from my Kellogg research.

The answer, while no one quick fix, isn’t big either. It’s lots of little things. They require bravery, honesty and accountability, but it’s not going to cost you the world, just time. A resource that I know is probably just as precious, if not more, to farmers than money.

So here is what my key recommendations are. . . 

Dairy a pig of a job – Stephen Bell:

Hold onto your hats folks it could be a wild ride in the dairy industry but without all the fun of the fair.

There are so many things going on here and abroad that will influence not just farmgate milk prices but also input and compliance costs and thus, most importantly profits.

On the face of it things are looking up for the new season with rural economists predicting a starting price somewhere north of $7/kg MS.

But Fonterra, on the back of narrowing its 2018-19 forecast to the bottom end of its range at $6.30 to $6.40/kg MS has given a wide range for this season of $6.25-$7.25. Though the economists are optimistic Fonterra has set the advance rate at only $3.80/kg MS.

And we still don’t know any detail for Fonterra’s new strategy but we can take it from chief executive Miles Hurrell’s comments accompanying the third quarter results that it won’t be plain sailing for a couple of years yet. . . 

Pigeon Valley fire aftermath: ‘Biggest recovery effort ever made‘- Katie Todd:

One of New Zealand’s largest recorded ‘tree salvages’ has been hailed a success in the aftermath of the Pigeon Valley fire.

About 10,000 tonnes of burnt pine trees are being plucked from the ground for use in Canterbury construction projects, Nelson housing developments and to prevent future fires in Tasman.

It comes despite an initial race against time for Tasman Pine Forests, that own about 60 percent or or 14 sqkm of the fire-affected land.

After the fire was out, crews were faced with the task of extracting trees of varying ages and heights, some slightly charred at the base and others scorched to the tips, before beetles and bugs could begin to break them down. . . 

National Lamb Day held where it all began – Sally Brooker:

National Lamb Day was celebrated on May 24 at the place where New Zealand’s frozen meat industry began 137 years ago – Totara Estate.

The historic farm just south of Oamaru prepared a shipment of lamb that arrived in Britain in pristine condition on May 24, 1882.

As Britain looked to its colonies to provide food for its surging population, wool prices here had collapsed by the end of the 1870s.

New Zealand’s huge sheep flocks were increasingly worthless, and the mutton was in such oversupply that it, too, was not valued. Britain represented a massive potential market, but getting the meat there before it went off was no small problem. . . 


DIRA update disappoints

June 7, 2019

Proposed changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act are a missed opportunity:

. . . Fonterra Chairman, John Monaghan says that while the Government has recommended tweaks to the rules under which Fonterra has to give its farmers’ milk, effectively at cost price to foreign-backed competitors, the playing field is still tipped against New Zealand dairy farmers.

“Our farmer-owned Co-operative wants an industry that promotes investment across regional New Zealand and where profits are kept in New Zealand.  We stand for an industry where New Zealand farmers are paid well for their milk and the unique attributes of our environment are protected and enhanced.

“Given the significant increase in competition within the New Zealand dairy industry, we’re disappointed the Government did not recommend removing the requirement for us to supply our farmers’ milk to large, export-focused businesses altogether.

Farmers now have plenty of choice of processors and other companies should no longer need the safety net of Fonterra milk.

We welcome the Government’s decision to give Fonterra the right to refuse membership to our Co-op where a farm is unlikely to comply with our terms of supply, or where the farm is a new conversion. These changes will support our Co-op’s ability to meet our customers’ demands and continue leading the industry toward a sustainable future for our farmers and the rural communities in which they live and farm.” . . 

Forcing Fonterra to collect milk from anyone, anywhere has encouraged farm conversions in places where, had there been a choice, Fonterra would have turned them down. It has also given the company too little latitude with farmers that don’t meet its standards.

Fonterra Shareholders Council is disappointed with the proposed changes:

Today our farmers will be feeling ignored and frustrated. Despite their efforts to engage in meaningful consultation on changes to DIRA their voice has largely gone unheard as we continue to kick the can down the road with respect to essential change to this important piece of legislation. We do however acknowledge that we are only one of many stakeholders whose interests need to be considered.

This was an opportunity to focus on the wider industry, not just Fonterra, and to optimise value creation for New Zealand from the dairy sector. We are concerned the opportunity to shift DIRA’s purpose to the future and to enable the highest value creation from our milk hasn’t been fully taken up.

The proposed changes to open entry and exit, whilst helpful, do little to address the concerns of our farmers. Recognising the importance of dairy to regional New Zealand, the changes do not go far enough to address the current strong competition for milk and the risk of over-capacity. It’s disappointing that the industry wide solution to enable the removal of open entry, which was developed with Federated Farmers, has not been taken up.

The proposed changes to the milk price regime are of deep concern. Government having the right to nominate a member to the Milk Price Panel is a step too far and gives rise to a direct conflict with the independent oversight of the regime by the Commerce Commission.

MPI also had concerns aobut this:

. . . O’Connor plans to limit Fonterra’s ability to determine a key assumption in setting the base milk price, known as the asset beta.

He will also be able to nominate a member to Fonterra’s milk price panel, although that wasn’t taken to cabinet in the paper and regulatory impact assessments.

MPI did say external appointments to the panel were proposed in submissions but not considered.

“MPI considers that this would create issues of confidentiality and commercial sensitivity, potentially placing Fonterra at a competitive disadvantage,” it said. . . 

Back to the Shareholders Council:

There was strong farmer support for better milk price transparency from other processors and this has not been heard.

Our farmers support the need for a strong domestic market for consumers. However, access to regulated priced milk for all export focused processors should have been removed.

We are disappointed there is no firm position on the expiry of DIRA and when the New Zealand market for milk collection – whether national or regional – will be considered sufficiently competitive. And there is also no transition pathway to de-regulation. . . 

Fonterra’s dominance justified regulation when DIRA was first enacted but there is now sufficient competition from and strength in other companies to begin looking towards eventual deregulation.

Federated Farmers sees useful changes and a missed opportunity in the proposals:

“We’re disappointed that open entry provisions won’t be changed, other than relating to new conversions,” Feds Dairy Industry Group Chairperson Chris Lewis says.

“It’s nearly 20 years since this legislation was passed to ensure that with the formation of Fonterra, competition for farmer milk supply, and dairy product choice for consumers, was preserved.  The market is now mature enough, and competition among a host of processing companies robust enough, for Fonterra to be given some discretion over who it is required to pick up milk from.”

Today’s decisions announced by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor will give Fonterra some leeway over accepting milk from land newly converted to dairy, “and that’s good,” Lewis says.  “We await detail on what the definition of a ‘new conversion’ is.

“We’re also pleased that the amended DIRA will give more clarity on when Fonterra can refuse supply when a farmer is well below industry standards relating to the environment, animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions and the like.

“There are some farmers who have demonstrated their unwillingness to come up to the standard of all the other shareholder/suppliers out there.

“As with other aspects of the government’s announcements, the devil will be in the detail,” Lewis says. . . 

The government had the opportunity to make major changes to the DIRA, recognising changes in farming and the expansion of processing since the company was established in 2001.

Instead it’s just tinkered, leaving Fonterra and its shareholders to carry the costs of supplying competitors, most of which are overseas companies.


Activists cost conservation nearly $11m

June 7, 2019

The Department of Conservation’s budget includes nearly  $11m to protect its staff from anti-1080 activists.

Last week’s Budget allocated $10.7m to DOC over four years, explicitly for security purposes.

Since the start of this year there have been 23 cases involving dangerous and illegal behaviour towards Department of Conservation staff.

DOC security manager Nic John said threats had moved from online and social media to physical attacks, threats to shoot down helicopters, vandalism, thefts and vehicles being tampered with.

“One was an incident where there was an axe presented and in that case that individual was convicted of assault and threats,” he said.

Mr John said three DOC staff had been assaulted this year, including one who was hit with a quad bike, but was fortunately okay.

“Very concerning for them though – you can imagine that they’re out, quite isolated, working by themselves often and to have somebody take that course of action against them, leaves them very, very vulnerable and often quite shaken,” she said.

The Budget funding allows for $4.1m for a permanent security team, $5m to improve health and safety systems and staffing levels, and $1.6m to improve physical security at DOC sites. . . 

Any protests which require this level of security cross the line from legitimate protest to crime.

These activists are not only endangering DoC staff, they are diverting money from conservation into crime fighting and they are disregarding the science on pest control.

Alternatives to 1080 like trapping and shooting can be and are used where possible. But there are huge swathes of bushland where neither are practical and the only weapon against the introduced species that prey on native flora and fauna is 1080.


Govt knew there was no hack

June 7, 2019

The government knew there was no hack  before Gabriel Makhlouf made his public statements last week:

. . . The Government’s spy agency made urgent calls to the Beehive before Makhlouf’s public statement – we reveal today what they told at least one senior Government Minister. The new details come as Makhlouf faces a State Services Commission investigation over the way he handled claims the website had been hacked. It later transpired that Budget details could be uncovered using the Treasury’s search engine.

The Government Communications Security Bureau phoned the Beehive last week in a desperate 11th-hour bid to stop Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf from saying publicly that his department had been hacked, the Herald understands.

But it was too late.

The GCSB had already told the Treasury that it did not believe its computer system had been compromised.

The GCSB was sent a copy of Makhlouf’s statement just before it was due to be released on Tuesday night last week. . . 

This just gets messier and messier and needs a wider inquiry than just the States Services Commissioner’s one which won’t ask questions of Ministers.


Quote of the day

June 7, 2019

You must be Independent, Independent, Independent – don’t talk so much but do more – go your own way and let your neighbour go his… Shake off all the props – the props tradition and authority give you – and go alone – crawl – stumble – stagger – but go alone”  ― Charles Rennie Mackintosh  who was born on this day in 1868.


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