Word of the day


Gulch –  ravine-like or deep V-shaped valley, often eroded by flash floods; shallower than a canyon and deeper than a gully; small ravine, especially one cut by a torrent; to swallow greedily; gulp down; an act of gulching or gulping; a glutton.

Thatcher thinks


Rural round-up


Get on with it – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Politicians might be slow acting on climate change but retailers and consumers who buy New Zealand produce aren’t and they expect Kiwi farmers to reduce their carbon footprint, special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says.

He urges food producers to stop arguing about details and start reducing carbon emissions to preserve demand in lucrative markets.

“It is very real in-market,” he said.

Peterson said “If people think this is being dreamed up by NZ politicians to get at NZ farmers then you need to think again.”

It is being driven by those who buy our food.

“Companies and consumers are driving climate change. . . 

Number of natives under one billions trees anyone’s guess -Eloise Gibson:

How many of the one billion trees planted in the next decade will be native species? Government tree planting agency Te Uru Rakau has clarified that it can’t hazard an estimate. 

The Government’s tree planting agency, Te Uru Rakau, says it can’t estimate what proportion of the one billion trees programme will be native species, saying a previous figure it gave to Newsroom was meant to be purely “illustrative”.

The illustrative figure was used to calculate the estimated climate benefit from the tree scheme, which Te Uru Rakau has put at 384 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the trees’ lifetimes. . . 

Bunds offer phosphorus solution – Richard Rennie:

Capturing phosphate in water spilling off farm catchments has been made easier thanks to work done by a Rotorua farmer group and a doctoral student who have developed detainment bunds on trial properties.

A field day later this month gives farmers the chance to look at work that has largely been under the radar but offers a practical, farmer-focused solution to improving water quality. Richard Rennie spoke to the group’s project manager John Paterson.

While nitrogen mitigation has played on the minds of most regional councils and many farmers, phosphorus losses are also required, under the Government’s latest water quality rules, to be measured and curtailed.  . . 

Exotic breeds offer genetic diversity – Yvonne O”Hara:

Anieka and Nick Templer like a bit of variety in their dairy herd, adding panda-eyed, triple-cross Montbeliarde, Normande, Fleckvieh and Aussie Reds to their mix.

They are are 50/50 sharemilkers on 230ha near Balfour, with 630 cows, and they are targeting 500kgMS/cow and 330,000kgMS production this season. Their herd includes 35 pedigree Ayrshires.

The 2015 Southland/Otago Farm Manager of the Year winners have daughter Maycie (5) and employ two Filipino staff: Emman Orendain and David Lupante.

Mrs Templer grew up on a dairy farm and has always been interested in the more unusual cattle breeds. . . 

‘If we lose these communities we won’t get them back‘ :

AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin says “if we lose these communities, we won’t get them back”, as “unprecedented” drought conditions continue to affect Australian farmers.

Hundreds of drought-stricken farmers have reportedly stopped receiving payments in the past two years, through a government assistance program, after having reached the four-year limit.

Under the allowance, more than 1,300 households are given $489 a fortnight.

“This federal government is working with us, trying to work with communities that are in incredible trouble” Mr Guerin told Sky News host Paul Murray. . . 

The latest flip-flop on red meat uses best science in place of best guesses – Nina Teicholz:

Eggs are bad; eggs are good. Fat is bad; fat is good. Meat is bad; meat is… OK?

That last food flip-flop made big headlines last week. It was a “remarkable turnabout,” “jarring,” “stunning.” How, it was asked, could seemingly bedrock nutrition advice turn on a dime?

The answer is that many of the nation’s official nutrition recommendations — including the idea that red meat is a killer — have been based on a type of weak science that experts have unfortunately become accustomed to relying upon. Now that iffy science is being questioned. At stake are deeply entrenched ideas about healthy eating and trustworthy nutrition guidelines, and with many scientists invested professionally, and even financially, in the status quo, the fight over the science won’t be pretty.

Red meat is a particularly contentious topic because people have such strong objections to eating meat for a variety of reasons: the environment, animal rights and even religion (Seventh-day Adventists advise against it). . . .

It’s only one poll


The slide has started:

The age of Jacindamania is over. Brand Ardern has taken its biggest knock yet – and when Labour’s magic weapon loses its power, the party does too.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll shows just how wounded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour have been after the string of crises that have beset them.

Labour was the only party to lose support in Newshub’s poll. It’s now on 41.6 percent – smacked down by 9.2 percent.

Most of that went to National, which is on 43.9 percent – up 6.5. This is enough to overtake Labour, and that’s manna from heaven for the Nats and leader Simon Bridges. . .

It’s only one poll,  has a margin of error of 3.1%, and remember the last Newshub-Reid Research Poll, had National much lower and Labour much higher than the TV One poll that came out the same night.

On this result Labour and the Green Party could still form a government and National and Act would be a couple of seats short.

But while Party support ebbs and flows the trend is more significant, and this echoes other polls which show Labour losing support.

And support for the Prime Minister tends to peak and then fall.

Personality matters but it doesn’t pay the bills and while warm words are well received they can’t counter the fact that the year of delivery has been one of disappointments.

Some of the people have voted


The people have voted.

At least some of them have, but not as many as some think should have, following a trend of declining participation in the triennial elections.

Local body elections have long attracted fewer voters than parliamentary ones and this year’s turn out generally showed a continued decline in the numbers of people opting to vote.

The reasons for this are many.

Postal voting was supposed to have helped stem if not reverse the decline. There’s no way of knowing if turnout would be just as bad if people had to turn up at polling booths but I am not a fan of voting by mail.

A secret ballot is a fundamental part of participatory democracy and it is too easy for people to cast other people’s votes or to use force or coercion over how votes are cast by people under their control.

I don’t know anyone in the latter camp but know several in the former, including family members who filled in the form for their mother who had just died, one who voted for a parent who had moved into a rest home but whose vote came to her former address and others who have voted for family members overseas.

Then there’s the problem with the postal system. Those of us with Rural Delivery are able to leave items to be posted in our mail boxes, those in town have to find a mail box. They aren’t nearly as numerous or conveniently located as they were in the past and once posted it’s no longer possible to guarantee an envelope will be delivered in a very few days.

Electronic voting is an alternative but I have reservations about that too. Several recent breakdowns in internet security in government departments give me no confidence that electronic voting would be secure and there’s the same potential for force, coercion or voting for other people that occur with postal voting.

It is possible to download a voting paper, vote and upload it for parliamentary elections if you’re out of the country. I happened to run into a couple of friends in Argentina the day before the last election who hadn’t voted. They were keen to do it electronically and I was able to witness their forms as a JP but it was quite a convoluted process and not one I’d recommend as first choice.

My preference would be a return to polling booths, in convenient locations, open for at least a couple of weeks before polls close.

But postal voting isn’t the only deterrent to casting votes in local body, council size is another.

When a merger of councils in the greater Auckland area was mooted I thought bigger would be better. It isn’t. In contradiction to the promises of lower costs and greater accountability with a single, large council, rates and other fees have climbed and accountability has declined. Too much power resides in the mayor and it is harder for people to know their councillors get traction for local concerns and grasp city-wide issues.

While Auckland is the only super city, mergers have made other councils bigger. Dunedin covers a large geographical area.  People in areas that were covered by smaller borough or county councils are outnumbered many times by those in the urban centre which, even with a ward system, can lead to them feeling their votes won’t influence much if anything.

That smaller district councils usually get a better turn out than those for bigger districts and cities gives credence to the view that bigger isn’t better. It is much easier to know councillors and keep abreast of issues in small areas. That might give weight to the argument against further mergers, but the costs of running councils and carrying out all their obligations would impose too great a rates burden on smaller councils if they demerged.

Another reason for disengagement with local democracy is that coverage of council business has fallen victim to cost-pressures which reduce coverage in the media. That makes it harder to stay informed about what council’s are doing and have enough information about the ability and contribution of councillors.

Social media, if used wisely and well, can help inform people about issues and allow them to interact with councillors and candidates but it can’t replace good coverage and informed analysis.

Though it’s usually much better than the paragraph of self-promotion by candidates in the booklet that accompanies voting papers. That is no basis for making an informed decision and meet-the-candidates meetings aren’t much better if the numbers standing allow too little time to listen to and question them.

The decline in participation as votes trickled in prompted calls for various ways to reverse that.

But as Not PC said last week:

There are many entirely valid reasons in every election for people choosing not to fill in and return voting papers. But that’s what they choose to do: not to fill out and return them. It’s their choice — and not a single cent of government money should be spent dissuading them of that choice.

Because that would be an affront to democracy.

If we’re free to vote we’re also free to not vote and anything that seeks to increase engagement and participation must not change that nor make quantity a replacement for quality.

It’s better to have a few who choose to vote than many who are forced to.

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