Saturday soapbox

28/03/2020

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.

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Hope is like the sun which as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us. 


Word of the day

27/03/2020

Augury – a sign of what will happen in the future; an omen, portent; the interpretation of omens; divination from auspices or omens; the art, ability, or practice of auguring; divination.


Sowell says

27/03/2020


Rural round-up

27/03/2020

Farming must step up, sector heads say – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s lockdown over Covid-19 is an opportunity for the agricultural sector ‘‘to step up and remind our country how great we are’’, Farmlands chief executive Peter Reidie says.

The farm supplies co-operative has been identified as an essential service and will remain open, although customers have to call or email orders first, and a contactless collection process will then be arranged.

Yesterday, Mr Reidie said the world would still need to be fed and New Zealand was very well placed in terms of the quantity and quality of its produce .

‘‘Provided we can get things on boats … we should keep on keeping on. That’s got to be the ambition,’’ he said.

It was a reminder of the importance of landowners, farmers and orchardists. . . 

Kiwi Jack Raharuhi takes the crown in top Australasian award:

Jack Raharuhi from Pāmu Farms in Westport, and Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year 2016, has been crowned the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award winner.

Raharuhi, 27 years old, is the Buller Dairy Group Operations Manager for Pāmu, where he oversees 4 dairy farms and a machinery syndicate at Cape Foulwind, and Health and Safety leadership for 10 dairy farms. He is also Chair of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, and heavily involved with training and mentoring staff as part of the West Coast 2IC Development Programme.

The annual Award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented young individuals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. It was launched in 2014 in memory of Australian beef industry leader Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013. . . 

Carrying on farming and consider grain options for stock feed:

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best – putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue – with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern – the drought, and how to feed stock. . . 

Dairy Trainee of the Year spots all go to women :

Women won all three placings in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

The awards were presented at the West Coast Events Centre in Shantytown on Tuesday last week.

Alexis Wells won the trainee section, Dallas Bradley was second and Stephanie Gray claimed third place.

Ms Wells (21) is a farm assistant on a 307ha, 670-cow Pamu Farms of New Zealand property in Reefton. She is studying level 4 husbandry and feeding with Primary ITO and said she was proud to have made it to the dairy awards finals three years in a row. Her goal is to the win the national title. . . 

Pandemic postpones DoC predator control – David Williams:

The Conservation Department will halt operations to kill bird-eating pests during the four-week national shutdown. David Williams reports

Pest control operations to protect rare and vulnerable native species are about to cease.

The Department of Conservation will halt all biodiversity work during the upcoming four-week national shutdown, director-general Lou Sanson confirms.

“We debated that seriously but when we heard the Prime Minister [on Monday], and we understood the seriousness of the lockdown, the number one focus for New Zealand is to stop people moving, and that means all our biodiversity work stops, our construction work stops. About the only things we’ll be doing is the operation of sewerage schemes, search and rescue, and fire.”

(DoC acts as the local council, providing utilities like drinking water and sewerage schemes, in places like Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.) . . 

Exports rise as dairy gains while logs and fish fall:

Total goods exports increased in the February 2020 month due to an increase in the value of dairy products, Stats NZ said today.

The total value of meat exports was little changed, but higher quantities were exported to the United States instead of China.

The increase in total good exports was despite falls in exports of logs and fish, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The value of total goods exports rose by $212 million (4.5 percent) from February 2019 to reach $4.9 billion in February 2020. . . 


Joseph’s Machines

27/03/2020

It might take more than four weeks to recreate this:


Processing essential link in economic chain

27/03/2020

Some New Zealanders don’t understand primary production and the importance of trade:

A number of New Zealanders are outraged that staff at largely export-driven food manufacturers are required to work during lockdown, leading to questions over the fairness of putting employees’ health at risk for the sake of feeding foreign markets.

It is valid to question if all possible measures to keep workers safe from Covid-19 are being observed, but not to discount the importance of processing food for export.

An employee of an unnamed onion processing factory claims staff are required to work throughout New Zealand’s four-week lockdown, despite all the produce being exported overseas. 

“I work in a food factory that processes onions – hardly essential by themselves. They export them all overseas, none go to the local market, but these guys have decided to stay open,” the worker, who Newshub has decided to keep anonymous, told MagicTalk host Ryan Bridge on Tuesday.

Onions might not be essential by themselves, but does the worker want them left in paddocks to rot, does he not want a job when the pandemic is over and does he not want the country to keep up the trade that will be essential for economic recovery?

“I don’t see what good that’s doing for New Zealand in this situation. The directors have decided because they can, because they’re a food manufacturer, they’re going to stay open… it’s not cool, I’m really aggravated by it.”

The employee says the factory has given staff an ultimatum: if they don’t want to work, they don’t get paid. 

“I have to work… if we don’t, we don’t get any money. I don’t really have a choice, everyone needs a wage coming in,” he said. 

If the factory isn’t operating, the business doesn’t get income and if there’s no income how will it pay its staff?

“Everyone’s health is at risk for absolutely no gain. An onion is not essential, especially when it’s getting sent overseas.” . . 

All workers have the right to be safe from disease just as they have the right to be safe in every other way at work.

The worker can ask for safety measures such as protective clothing and masks and for the two-metre rule of social distancing to be observed at all times. But he’s wrong to question the need for the factory to keep operating.

He obviously doesn’t understand his work in processing is an essential link in the chain that starts in the paddock and finishes with export income that will be needed even more now that the country is headed into recession and spending billions on measures to reduce the damage that Covid-19, and the response to it, is  inflicting on businesses, their owners and staff.

ExportNZ Executive Director Catherine Beard says supplying food is an essential activity, and all governments around the world – including New Zealand – are prioritising food production, importing and exporting.

“New Zealand is part of a global food supply chain which would be disrupted if we started putting restrictions on food exports,” Catherine Beard said.

“Food exports are going to help New Zealand weather this economic storm. 70-80% of goods exports are food-related and they are essential to our economy.

“Nor is there cause for concern about working conditions, as food manufacturing businesses are already highly regulated and sanitised environments.

“Employers will be taking extra care about working conditions to keep employees safe, in line with Government recommendations for safe working conditions in a Covid19 situation.

“Any employee with safety concerns should talk to their employer. Employers don’t want sick workers coming to work with even a cold. Employers will be highly vigilant around the safety of their workers as they don’t want to risk a shut down.”

People everywhere still need to eat.

New Zealand produces far more food than we can consume domestically.

Keeping the production chain going will reduce waste, enable growers to prepare for next season, keep people in work, keep businesses afloat and keep on earning the export income that will be needed to fund the economic and social recovery from Covid-19.


Word of the day

26/03/2020

Gyve – a fetter or shackle; to shackle.


Terrorist pleads guilty

26/03/2020

The man charged with the Christchurch mosque attacks has pleaded guilty:

At the High Court in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant admitted 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Until today he had denied all of the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. The guilty plea means he has become New Zealand’s first convicted terrorist.

The 29-year-old showed no emotion as he appeared via audio visual link in the High Court at around 10am.

No explanation for Tarrant’s change of heart was given during today’s hearing. He has been remanded in custody until May. . . 

This will save the taxpayer the cost, courts the time and most importantly the families and friends of those killed the distress of a prolonged defended trial.

The Prime Minister decided she would not say Tarrant’s name. That was a powerful political statement but it does not, and should not, fetter the media.

The names of criminals should be made public unless the court makes a suppression order.

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to the horrific slaughter of innocent people and his name should be associated with his crime.


Thatcher thinks

26/03/2020


Rural round-up

26/03/2020

COVID-19: Support rural businesses – Rural Women NZ – Pam Tipa:

We need to make sure that our rural businesses are well supported, says Fiona Gower, Rural Women NZ national president.

“With the lack of tourists coming through we need to ensure the small businesses can survive because without them we don’t have a community,” she told Rural News last week.

“Once they are gone it is really hard to get them back.

She says digital communication will also play an important part in the coronavirus response.  . . 

Rural businesses band together – Colin Williscroft:

Rural businesses Farmlands, PGG Wrightson and FarmSource have pledged to work together during the covid-19 response.

In an open letter, the companies’ chief executives said they will harness their collective supply chain to maintain productivity.

“It is time for us all to do what we can to try and continue to support you through these challenging times,” the letter says.

“We are working closely together to ensure that all farmers and growers across New Zealand have the necessary products and supplies to keep your businesses operating.  . . 

Rules driving farmers out – Sudesh Kissun:

New farming rules around sustainability are driving elderly farmers out of the dairy industry, says agri-economist Phil Journeaux.

He says over the past three years, there’s been an increase in farmers, in their 60s and 70s, looking at other options. Journeaux, AgFirst Waikato, spoke at a Smaller Milk and Supply Herds (SMASH) seminar in Te Aroha last week.

Attended by about 50 farmers, the event went ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak. . . 

Maize volume okay but feed still tight – Richard Rennie:

The maize silage supply has shaped up better than might have been expected despite one of the driest summers on record stifling production.

Bill Webb of Bill Webb Feed Solutions near Te Puke said crops on lower, wetter country have performed better this year than last season when heavy rain washed out many crops on the same land.

“But on the higher, drier country the yields have proved to be quite variable. Average block yields would still be 22 tonnes a hectare but there are some on that lower country that would be up to 26t.”  . . 

2020 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medals winners announced:

In a world that’s a little topsy-turvy it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to celebrate great New Zealand produce with the announcement of 2020 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medal winners.

Twenty-five judges and eight stewards worked in panels to assess a record 225 food and drink entries at AUT School of Hospitality & Tourism on Saturday 7 March 2020. Following the judges’ assessment of aroma, appearance, taste, texture and quality which accounted for 75% of marks, products were assessed for sustainability and brand story. Shoppers will recognise outstanding food and drink as they proudly wear Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards gold, silver and bronze medals—a guarantee of product quality. . . 

Maori orchardists capitalise on global demand for organic produce – Bonnie Flaws:

Māori orchardist Otama Marere has embraced organic kiwifruit production, converting a total of 7 hectares of its 45 hectare block into organic SunGold kiwifruit, with further conversions being considered.

The trust that manages the land has also held educational days on the land for other Maori kiwifruit growers interested in organic production, says orchard manager Homman Tapsell.

The land, near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty is a former Māori settlement on the banks of the Kaituna river, with the name coming from a nearby pa site that was occupied by Rangiiwaho and his whanau. Trust members are the descendants of Rangiiwaho, he said. . . 


Not Forgetting The Whale

26/03/2020

Joe Haak washes up, naked, on a beach in Cornwall.

He’s an analyst for a city bank and fled the city in fear that he’d caused a global financial meltdown.

Then there’s a ‘flu pandemic. . .

I enjoyed this book the first time I read it. I enjoyed  rereading it even more at the weekend.

This is a story about connections – human and financial.

It’s funny and sad and hopeful.

The writing is lyrical and the story is a heartwarming, and timely, modern fable.

Not Forgetting The Whale  by John Ironmonger, published by Weidenfield & Nicolson, 2015.


Too late, too soft, too slow

26/03/2020

Parliament featured a rare show of unity yesterday after the government declared a state of emergency.

This gives it extraordinary powers which are deemed an acceptable response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The cross party support doesn’t mean the government is above criticism.

The rapidly increasing number of people with the disease, following the trend of other countries which were ahead of us and with which we are fast catching up,  gives credence to the view that the government’s escalation of alerts came too late.

A six-day delay in results of tests for the disease means testing is too slow. The only way to shorten the period of lockdown is more tracing.

And the tougher border controls are still too soft.

. . . Ardern said the Government would further tighten its already stringent border restrictions, including mandatory screening for the limited numbers of people who are legally still allowed to enter.

Anybody who displayed symptoms of Covid-19, could not demonstrate a clear plan for self-isolation, or could not travel to their usual residence while maintaining physical distancing, would be put into “approved facilities” for a period of quarantine. . .

This is a definite improvement on what has been happening, but it is still not going hard enough.

Everyone who comes into the country must be quarantined.

That is the only way to be as sure as we can be that  no-one coming here could spread the disease to others.

The country-wide lock down is unprecedented.

It gives the government and its agencies sweeping and draconian powers that severely curtail our ability to work, move, socialise, and travel.

It will come at a huge economic and social cost.

Jobs have already been lost, more will be. Businesses will fail. Charities will be over-stretched and some of them will fail too. Education is being disrupted. Liberty has been curtailed.

Domestic violence will increase. Children who depend on school for food will go hungry.

The only justification for this is that the disease chain is broken and dies out in the shortest possible time.

Four weeks lockdown will be hard. Any extension because links in the disease chain are still connected will be harder still.

The only way to be sure all links are cut is to be strict about the lockdown that has been imposed and just as strict at the border to ensure that everyone who could have, or be carrying, the disease, is quarantined.


Word of the day

25/03/2020

Forfend – avert or prevent something evil or unpleasant; ward off; forbid; protect by precautionary measures; prevent; preserve; defined, secure, protect.


Thatcher thinks

25/03/2020


Rural round-up

25/03/2020

Farmers urged to continue producing food:

New Zealand farmers are being urged to carry on producing food while respecting coronavirus guidelines issued by the Government.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says farming is classified as an essential service, so is milk and meat processing.

Lewis says that meat and dairy companies will continue to operate as the country moves into the highest level of alert for coronavirus from midnight Wednesday. . . 

Coronavirus: Farmers’ mental health important says Katie Milne -:

Farmers may be used to isolation but they still need to take care of their mental health says Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.

As efforts to slow the Covid-19 outbreak escalate in New Zealand, people are being asked to stay home and keep their distance from others, while social gatherings and events have been also cancelled.

As a result, farmers may find themselves cut off from everyday rural events that afford them much-needed social interaction, such as rugby games and catch ups at the pub. . . 

Friendly solution to farm water issues – Richard Davison:

A farmer-led catchment monitoring group wants to expand its activities following a successful first year.

In 2014, the Pathway for the Pomahaka water quality improvement project was launched in West Otago, which led to the establishment of the Pomahaka Water Care Group.

Last February, the award-winning group launched the latest phase of its action plan, in the shape of a ‘‘Best Practice Team’’ of 12 volunteers, set up to provide ‘‘self-policing’’ of water quality compliance among the catchment’s about 600 farms.

Team co-ordinator Bryce McKenzie — who farms 700 cows on 320ha adjoining the Pomahaka River — said the concept had worked well during its inaugural year. . . 

Westland Milk unveils Covid-19 strategy:

Westland Milk Products says Covid-19 is causing “minimal disruption” to its supply chains, with the company working to meet rising demand from China.

The second-largest dairy enterprise in New Zealand says domestic demand for its product range is also remaining consistent.

To keep up with demand in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company this morning announced that it is issuing measures to keep staff well and the factory running. . . 

Research reveals fodder beet value – Annette Scott:

New research into fodder beet shows portion control is critical to ensure safe feeding to dairy cows.

Fodder beet is widely used on South Island dairy farms as a versatile, high-energy, high-yield crop that allows cows to put on body condition quickly, if transitioned correctly. 

“This makes it an attractive option for farmers but because of the high sugar content careful transitioning onto the crop is critical,” DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley said.

The Sustainable Use of Fodder Beet research project confirms the crop can be a key part of dairy farm systems. . . 

 

Butchers run off their feet – and it’s not expected to ease – Shan Goodwin:

As butchers report they are now mincing higher value cuts like rump to keep up with astronomical demand, marketing experts and psychologists suggest empty red meat supermarket shelves are likely to be around for months.

It’s not that Australia will run out of beef. Export and food service orders are already being diverted to retail cabinets.

Rather, the unfolding dynamics of consumer behaviour amid the virus crisis indicates the inclination to fill freezers won’t fade. . . 


The best and the worst

25/03/2020

A crisis brings out the best and the worst in people.

Among the good:

* the landlord who turned up at a small business and told the tenant he was forgoing rent for the next few months.

* the Subway franchisee who gave the fresh food she’s no longer able to sell to a food bank.

* the people who have created virtual networks with neighbours so people can ask for, and offer, help.

* the people who are doing what they should be – shopping as normal, maintaining safe distances from others, staying at home.

* the health professionals who are working to keep us all safe.

Among the bad:

* the panic buyers of groceries, alcohol and guns.

* the people who won’t follow the directive to stay home except for essential trips and maintain a two meter distance from others when they’re out.

 

 

 


It’s not all bad

25/03/2020

The tourism slump could provide an opportunity for would-be renters:

Property investors are pulling properties from Airbnb to offer as long-term rentals instead.

New Zealand’s tourism industry has come to a standstill as the country responds to the spread of coronavirus.

A spokeswoman for Trade Me said usually 6 per cent of Trade Me rental listings were offered furnished. But since March 14, when the self-isolation rules were first announced, that number had increased to 11 per cent.

“This puts the total number of fully furnished rental listings at double what they were at the time last year,” she said. . . 

Economist Benje Patterson said huge number of Airbnb units had been put back into the rental market in Queenstown in particular. . . 

One reason for a shortage of rentals and homes to buy has been the number of properties being used for holiday rentals.

Landlords have been able to make more money with fewer hassles using the likes of Airbnb than they could with renting longer term.

“There are also large numbers of houses becoming available as people who have lost their jobs have moved out of rentals or have left New Zealand to head back to their home countries. I have seen reports of landlords throwing their hands up in the air and letting people break leases, rather than being stuck with someone who can’t pay rent. In other cases, there is evidence that tenants have done a runner.”

He said it was worrying because a big drop in yields for investors would push some to sell.

“A flood of forced sales, at a time when confidence to purchase a home is low, could cause severe instability to pricing. There is likely to be moves by the government over the next week or two to implement mortgage relief in order to prevent such forced sales. The last thing the government wants is for a mass rush to the exit push other homeowners into negative equity and compromise financial stability in anyway.” 

There probably wouldn’t be a lot of argument against mortgage relief for homeowners.

There might be more argument if it is extended to property investors especially when so much has been said about escalating property prices and the difficulty people have buying their first homes.


Word of the day

24/03/2020

Tessellate – to form of small squares or blocks, as floors or pavements; form or arrange in a checkered or mosaic pattern; decorate with mosaics; cover a flat surface by repeated use of a single shape, without gaps or overlapping.


Sowell says

24/03/2020


What’s essential at the Warehouse?

24/03/2020

The Warehouse will be staying open during the four-week lockdown:

In an announcement to the sharemarket, The Warehouse said it was a provider of key consumer goods for New Zealanders.  . .

“In the past two weeks the group has seen unprecedented demand for essential items across all our brands. Goods sold included essential items to prepare themselves for the mandatory isolation period of at least four weeks,” the retailer said. . . 

The Warehouse had already implemented limits on high-demand products such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser and face masks.  . . 

If you need loo paper, hand sanitiser, face masks and any other essentials, you could get them at supermarkets and/or pharmacies which will be open.

There’s also calls for liquor stores to remain open after panic buying.

If we are to take seriously the need for staying at home, venturing out only for essentials from the supermarket or pharmacy, no other retailers should be open.

People are going to get bored, people are going to get fractious, allowing them to browse and buy anything but basic essentials will encourage retail therapy, increase the potential for infection to spread and undo any of the good that isolating at home will be doing.


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