Word of the day


Rizzared – of fish, especially haddock: dried, parched; especially sun-dried.

Thatcher thinks


Rural round-up


Time for Trans-Tasman agritech co-operation? – Pam Tipa:

Should New Zealand and Australia be working more closely together in the agritech space to present a regional offer to the world?

Callaghan Innovation’s agritech group manager, Simon Yarrow certainly thinks so.

It could be similar to the way the Scandinavians have established a regional reputation in other fields. . . 

Bloody Good Boss workshops being run throughout New Zealand:

How to be a bloody good boss workshops are being run throughout New Zealand by the Dairy Women’s Network.

Delivered in conjunction with DairyNZ, PaySauce and Primary ITO, these four hour information workshops will cover the whole recruitment process.

The five employment pillars of skills needed on farm, recruitment, the interview process, contracts and orientation will be discussed in these sessions designed to support the Good Boss campaign that was launched last month in Wellington. . .

Turning rhetoric into reality – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth analyses the points made at this year’s Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre workshop.

The Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre (FLRC) workshop held at Massey University each February starts the year with a hiss, roar, new research and the latest from overseas.

The three-day workshop is one of the places where scientists, researchers, rural professionals, farmers and national and local policy makers can engage in rigorous debate. . .

‘Bringing Brand New Zealand Home’ At AgriFood Week 2020:

New Zealand AgriFood Week is enlisting several international thought-leaders to address the Week’s 2020 theme, ‘bringing brand New Zealand home.’

The week-long series of events, workshops and forums across the Manawatū covers the intersection between agriculture, science, food and technology and runs from March 16 to 22.

Adding international perspective to some of New Zealand’s biggest agri-food challenges is Dr Jessica de Koning, a rural sociologist from Wageningen University speaking on strengthening rural communities in the face of regulatory and environmental challenges. . .

Straight Off The Tussock chapter 2 – Tim Fulton:


The Okuku Range is a cluster of hills 900m-1100m high, rising from the northern limit of  the Canterbury Plains and treading north-westwards to meet the foothills of the Puketekari Range. Jack grew up in the Okuku Pass which runs between it. 

I used to walk down to the White Rock limeworks to talk to the people over there or the men on the station, but I suppose I was a lonely kid in a lot of ways. I’d sit on the tractor with our neighbour Harry Gudex – helping with the farmwork. Used to go there for mercy every now and again. I was a loner but I enjoyed the men – seemed to get on with them and they didn’t seem to worry too much what I did.

For six weeks each summer from 1932 to 1934, we went to a holiday house at Leithfield Beach. But it was an awful place, with no conveniences whatsoever – an outside loo, kerosene lamps and primus cooker. I was absolutely infuriated with this – couldn’t stand the salt water or the sea, and I was a permanent pest there… perennially in trouble. Whenever we were there I couldn’t get back to the shearing quick enough. I loved it in the shed – flat out with the men – cutting dags off wool, whatever I could find. . .

Kiwifruit hold golden glow:

With the new season’s SunGold kiwifruit licensing tender due to open next month, expectations are that orchardist interest in the 750ha area being made available will be at least as strong as last year.

Last year’s SunGold allocation of planting rights averaged $290,000 a hectare, with a number of orchardists missing out on their desired allocation simply due to over demand for the popular planting option.

Snow Williams, Bayleys specialist rural and kiwifruit agent based in Te Puke says he would not be surprised to see the licence values at least match or even exceed last year’s values. . .

Are we ready for the wolf?


Matt Ridley is know as a serial and obsessive debunker of false alarms. He says Covid-19 isn’t one*:

So why don’t I think this hobgoblin is imaginary? First, because lethal plagues have a long track record. . .

The second reason is that new diseases are often more dangerous than existing ones and this one has jumped from bats, possibly via pangolins. . .

The third reason for alarm in this case is the speed with which Covid-19 has crossed regional and international boundaries. . .

Then there is the effect of globalisation, and the huge growth in international travel.  . . 

He says cries of wolf over so many years have left us unprepared.

We should have seen that globalisation would cause such a risk to grow ever larger and taken action to prevent a new virus appearing. We should have worried about things other than climate change. Here are a few of the measures we could and should have taken in recent years instead of going into hysteria about the gradual warming of the temperature mainly at night, in winter and in the north.

We could have pursued an international agreement to ban the sale of live bats in markets. Bats are especially dangerous because they are fellow mammals and share with us a tendency to live in huge aggregations. We could have funded more research and development in antiviral therapies, vaccines and diagnostics. We could have built a better infrastructure to isolate cases in healthcare systems, and at transport hubs. These might have been expensive, yes – but nothing like the money we are spending on precautionary measures against dangerous climate change which is still decades away.

There are already several different strains of the virus, one of which, the L strain, looks to be more lethal than others. I fully expect that the milder strains will eventually prevail and this virus will settle down as a form of seasonal fever. But before it does so, in this first pandemic, it is now likely, though not inevitable, that it will kill hundreds of thousands of people. . . 

That’s what we should have done.

Professor Philip Hill, co-director at the Centre for International Health, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the Otago Medical School, writes on what we should be doing now:

  1. A case-finding strategy to maximise the sensitivity of the criteria for testing for disease, with high testing capacity. 
  2. Rapid case contact tracing and isolation, including a large and enabled workforce.
  3. Enhanced activities at the border with individual person risk-based assessment focused on the virus, more than on country-specific bans.
  4. Utilisation of modern technologies to enhance case finding and contact management, including mapping, ethical risk profiling, electronic communication with cases and contacts and the general population.
  5. Active engagement of cases and contacts with respect to the psychological effects of case contact management systems and stigma.
  6. Investment in face masks and other general personal measures while providing clear guidance on their use.
  7. Clear criteria for closure of institutions and for what period. 
  8. Continue investment in businesses and other institutions affected by the measures taken.
  9. Massive influenza vaccine campaign to reduce the incidence of flu symptoms and unnecessary Covid-19 testing.

Back to Matt Ridley:

Donald Trump takes comfort from the fact that it has killed only a handful of Americans so far. He forgets that the chart of an epidemic is exponential, as each person infects several people, and the power of such compound interest is, as Albert Einstein supposedly said, the eighth wonder of the world. The economist Tyler Cowan points out that it’s hard to beat an exponential process once a certain point has passed.

Last week Greta Thunberg was still telling the European Parliament that climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces. This week Extinction Rebellion’s upper-class twits were baring their breasts on Waterloo bridge in protest at the billions of people who they wrongly think may die from global warming in the next decade. These people are demonstrating their insensitivity. They are spooked by a spaniel when there’s a wolf on the loose.

Are we ready for the wolf?

I’m not confident we are.

* Hat tip Kiwiblog

Saturday soapbox


Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.

Image result for quotes identity politics

Identity politics divides us; fiction connects. One is interested in sweeping generalisations, the other in nuances. One draws boundaries, the other recognises no frontiers. Identity politics is made of solid bricks; fiction is flowing water. – Elif Safak

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