Word of the day

August 14, 2020

Autodidact – a self-taught person; a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; someone who critically and willingly seeks out knowledge.


Sowell says

August 14, 2020


Rural round-up

August 14, 2020

The ugly side of forestry clearly exposed for all to see – John Jackson:

I was horrified at the results of a weather event in the East Coast of the North Island on July 18. Forestry – the catch-cry of the current Government for all pastoral ills and the excesses of our modern lifestyles – stood out like an old man caught with pants down.

In this case, obese, ugly and exposed in all areas, which when clothed is touted as a saviour.

The hillsides where pines had been harvested, recently disturbed and long since naked of pasture, had let hundreds of tonnes of topsoil into the creeks below and onwards in a watery slurry out into the Pacific. Those areas where the slash and logs were contained mid river, turned into massive, festering, ugly boils on the landscape – often against bridges, culverts or anything that impeded their progress seaward.

Out around Tolaga Bay, and up the east coast, the carnage was truly gut wrenching.

New venture to train women in agriculture – Annette Scott:

Southern girl Laura Douglas is bubbling with passion and enthusiasm as she heads up an exciting new venture aimed at giving women a leg up into New Zealand’s agricultural industry. She shares her story with Annette Scott.

Laura Douglas grew up on a deer and sheep farm in Southland.

She always loved farming but admits she ignored her gut passion growing up and pursued a career in the corporate world. . . 

Opportunities for New Zealand goat milk products: what are they and how can we win? – Tim Fulton:

A report released recently by The Nutrition Bureau’s Jan Hales, who engaged me to help with the preparation of the material for the project team.

We are pleased to advise that the report “Opportunities for New Zealand Goat Milk Products: what are they and how can we win?” is now available to New Zealand businesses through our website https://sheepandgoatmilk.nz/resources/

This report follows a 14-month Provincial Growth funded project that looked at the opportunities for developing New Zealand’s sheep and goat milk industries to a scale that could bring significant economic benefit to our regional communities.

It includes information on the estimated size, growth and profit potential of consumer ready products sold in five export markets, and the processing infrastructure and farm supply requirements to meet forecast demand, as well as recommendations on how New Zealand can win. . . 

Vegetable prices continue to grow:

Courgettes and cucumbers reached record-high prices in July 2020, rising more than 30 percent in the month, as Queensland imports continued to be banned, Stats NZ said today.

Fruit and vegetable prices were up 9.8 percent in July 2020.

Courgette prices rose 38 percent to a weighted average price of $29.60 per kilo, up from a previous record high of $21.42 per kilo in June. Some reports showed courgettes prices reaching up to $38.99 per kilo (see Would you pay $39 a kilo for zucchini?).

Imports of fresh courgettes, cucumbers, and other cucurbit from Queensland have been banned this year because of a plant virus. . .

LIC wins ‘Choice’ award for being a top employer:

New Zealand’s leading agri-tech and herd improvement cooperative has today been named as a 2020 Employer of Choice through a survey conducted by HRD New Zealand.

The latest accolade from HRD (Human Resources Director) comes six months after LIC won both the Organisational Change/Development and Best Wellness Programme Awards at the 2020 NZ HR awards in February beating out Coca Cola and Xero in the latter category for the wellness programme title.

Now the cooperative, which employers over 750 full-time staff and nearly 2,000 seasonal staff across New Zealand, has become the only agriculture entity to win an Employer of Choice Award from HRD which focuses on analysis of the HR profession across not only New Zealand but also Australia, Canada, America and Asia. . . 

Lanaco founder advises on mask wear and care and says not all masks are made the same:

In response to Government Covid-19 announcement last night and following its launch at Parliament last week, NZ mask filter manufacturer Lanaco’s CEO Nick Davenport is available to demonstrate and discuss mask availability, wear and care.Lanaco supplies filters to more than 30 mask producers in New Zealand.

Lanaco started making Helix filters to specific accredited standards over five years ago, using a high-tech application of NZ wool, for other people to use to make masks and other respiratory devices.

In the past four months, Lanaco has developed formulations for masks to AS/NZS 1716 P2 (NZ’s national gold standard) and N95 (The USA gold standard) and makes masks to these formulations.

In order to sell them to these standards, the devices must be independently tested, and the manufacturing plant audited. The latter process takes months and is a very stringent process. . . 


If you don’t learn from mistakes

August 14, 2020

The government is making the same mistake it made during the first lockdown at higher levels:

Wood processors say plants will close for good if the government persists with its plan to shut non-food industries in the event the Auckland lockdown moves into level 4.

Industry executives were alarmed yesterday when told that officials expected to apply the same essential and non-essential split as in March in the event that deeper workplace restrictions are required. During that lockdown many manufacturers – particularly exporters – fought unsuccessfully to keep operating given the safe distance working inherent in many of their operations.

Jon Tanner, chief executive of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association, said the stakes are now much higher.

“If we get shut down this time there are plants that will close. There are plants that are that vulnerable,” he told BusinessDesk.

And he said all the sector’s efforts in April, getting safe working practices approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, are at risk of being wasted.

“We’ve got all the protocols in place. We’ve had them approved by MPI and MBIE. There’s no reason for the wood processing industry to be shut down.” . . 

The insistence on the arbitrary essential rather than safe is also a problem for horticulture. Mike Chapman, CE of Horticulture NZ  has outlined his concerns in an open letter to the Prime Minister:

We are writing to you on behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry to collectively address our growers’ concerns that independent fruit and vegetable retailers are not classified as essential services under Covid-19 Alert Level 3 and 4.

In New Zealand there are multiple ways fresh fruit and vegetables are available for sale to the general public. The majority of these sales are made through large supermarket chains and independent fresh fruit and vegetable retailers, at a market share of approximately 80 and 20 percent respectively. However, in Auckland independent retailers represent 60% of sales of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Growers will still be able to harvest fruit and vegetables but if 60% of Auckland sales aren’t available there will be a lot of wastage.

Unlike supermarkets, fresh fruit and vegetables sold through independent retailers are different grades than sold in supermarkets and in some outlets at more affordable prices and in high end outlets at higher prices. Independent retailers also sell culturally significant fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities (that aren’t readily available in supermarkets) that form the staple diets of different ethnic groups in New Zealand.

Supermarkets usually cater for mass buying, smaller greengrocers cater for niche markets.

When New Zealand was in Alert Level 4 and 3 earlier this year, households were significantly impacted by not having access to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from independent retailers, especially lower income households. In addition, rural communities often rely on independent retailers for supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables that are produced locally, where large supermarket chains are not readily present. This is in alignment with the government’s messaging to support local businesses.

In Auckland a large number of households in the poorer outer suburbs have lost the ability to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from their local independent retailers at affordable prices. Supermarkets tend to operate a structure whereby the consumer drives to the store. In lower socioeconomic areas this is not always practical and a portion of the population needs walking access to retailers selling fruit and vegetables.

Some elderly will usually shop close to home and might need only fresh produce. If they can’t get that locally they will be forced to go to supermarkets where they will be exposed to more people.

This issue is exacerbated by many households facing financial hardship since lockdown due to loss of employment and other pressures. The result of this situation is a significant increase in demand at foodbanks across New Zealand to provide food parcels to families in need. The horticulture sector has programmes in place supporting foodbanks, but this only addresses a small portion of the lack of supply.

While the government did confirm that independent retailers are able to operate in a contactless manner at Alert Level 3 and 4, this method of business operation is not suitable for many lower income households who don’t have the ability to order or pay for food purchases online.

The closure of independent retailers does not only impact consumers, it also impacts the horticulture industry who work tirelessly to provide all retailers, large or small, with seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. The closure of independent retailers during lockdown resulted in an excess of fruit and vegetables that could not enter the supply chain. This loss of access resulted in direct financial loss to growers from failure to sell their products, causing some to exit the industry and delay or reduce replanting. Ultimately, this impacts on consumers due to lower supply levels and increased pricing. These impacts will be further exacerbated by the current Alert Level 3 restrictions in place in Auckland.

When New Zealand was in lockdown earlier this year the horticulture industry, together with independent retailers, developed a protocol for the safe operation of retailers. This protocol used the principles of essential service operation, the same as other primary industry businesses and dairies had been using to operate. We know that the New Zealand government recognised protocols for independent retailers during Alert Level 3, as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment approved the operation of some retailers. Independent stores are much smaller than supermarkets and have indicated their ability and commitment to operating safely.

Producing fresh fruit and vegetables is regarded as essential, selling them should be too and the criteria for who sells them should be safety.

To maintain adequate supply of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to all New Zealanders, it is critical that both supermarkets and independent retailers are able to operate if they are able to demonstrate they can do so using Covid-19 safe practices. The horticulture industry sincerely requests that the government re-considers their decision not to recognise independent retailers as essential services. We ask that a decision is made to consistently apply to all independent retailers to ensure New Zealanders have access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables across the country.

We are available to discuss this request with you and your officials to find a solution that is in the safety and wellbeing interests of our team of five million.

Yours sincerely

Mike Chapman

On behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry

Butchers will also be on the wrong side of the essential vs safe debate as they were last time. That nearly caused an animal welfare issue with pigs until the government bought 2,000 pigs a week and gave the meat to food banks.

Auckland Business Chamber CEO says the lockdown cost is too high:

Government says they learned things from the last lockdown so if they did can we do things differently and let all businesses that can comply with Covid-19 safety measures stay open, says Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett.

“The cost to businesses locked down and out of their livelihoods is too high,” he said. “Why can a dairy open and a supermarket sell fresh fruit and vegetables, but your local greengrocer cannot? It would be much better for the economy and wellbeing of the community to allow shops to operate if they follow the strict compliance and safety requirements that can be enforced for each alert level.”

Many small businesses, particularly in hospitality and retail, are teetering with reserves run down, jobs at risk and confidence shaken, forced to shut their doors because they are not on government’s list of essential retail and services, Mr Barnett said. . .

If you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them.

The government obviously hasn’t learned from its mistaken insistence on what was essential rather than what could operate safely earlier this year and is repeating it.

Businesses, consumers and the economy will pay the price for this with no health benefit.


Luck not management

August 14, 2020

Nearly two thirds of border control staff hadn’t been tested for Covid-19 a week ago:

Newshub can reveal that just one week before our current community outbreak, 63.5 percent of all border and hotel isolation workers in Auckland had never been tested for COVID-19.

The Prime Minister says all staff will now face compulsory tests, but a public health expert says it beggars belief this wasn’t already happening. 

They’re part of our most high-risk group: airport staff like Customs and Immigration, hotel workers like security.

All work in the vicinity of recent returnees, yet only a fraction had been tested prior to this outbreak.

“It beggars belief that in an environment where the border is your major protection against a second wave that you are not exhausting every possible opportunity to mitigate risk,” said Professor Des Gorman, Auckland University public health expert. . . 

Eric Cramptonsums it up:

It has been obvious for a while that border practices have a Dad’s Army flavour to them.

Last week, the government received a report suggesting that testing frontline border and managed isolation staff only once every two weeks might not be enough. When pressed by journalists, the report’s author, Professor Shaun Hendy, conceded people “shouldn’t be forced to take weekly swabs but strongly encouraged to do so” – to use a journalist’s paraphrase. . . 

The necessary testing would be expensive but not nearly as expensive as lockdown.

If a month in level 3 costs Auckland $1.5 billion in financial terms, plus added misery, but each strip test costs about $10, each Aucklander could be tested a hundred times before hitting the financial cost of that month in level 3. And only workers in the managed isolation system need regular testing. . .

Almost all of us did what we were supposed to do to get the country back to level 1.  That came at a high financial and human cost but most of us accepted the need to do what we were told to do.

We celebrated the Covid-free status and many believed the accolades from around the world for the country, and its leader.

Those who raised questions about whether success was due to good management or luck were shouted down.

But the resignation of Health Minister David Clark, his replacement by Chris Hipkins, the appointment of Megan Woods and enlisting the military to oversee border control answered some of those questions. They were supposed to plug the holes and until recently it looked like they had.

But this week’s cluster and the failure to regularly test everyone involved in border control are more evidence that no community transmission of Covid-19 for more than three months owed far more to luck than it should have.

I live in what is perhaps the most successful country in dealing with Covid – barring Taiwan.

And yet what I see around me is a total, total mess.

The PM and DG of Health are almost universally praised for their communication. That is no substitute for the fool-proof processes and procedures that are needed to shutdown the cluster and plug the holes at the border.

Most of us did what we were supposed to, most of us, however reluctantly, are doing it again at level 3 in Auckland and level 2 elsewhere.

That isn’t made any easier when it’s so obvious that the government and health officials haven’t been doing all they should have been to prevent the spread. The good luck has run out and must be replaced by best management.

That includes dealing with the shortage of masks.


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