Word of the day

24/08/2020

Forasche – marked by shyness and lack of social graces;  wild; shy; having a fierce or cranky temperament; sullen or gloomy.


Sowell says

24/08/2020


Why are we waiting?

24/08/2020

The daily 1pm Covid-19 broadcast has just updated us on the number of new cases – eight confirmed and one probable.

Cabinet will have had this information since around 9am.

They ought to have had any other information needed to make the decision on what changes, if any, will be made to alert levels.

Why then are we having to wait until 3pm for that announcement?

Could it be to give more time for speech writers and the Prime Minister’s preparation for what will be another thinly disguised party political broadcast?

Does anyone want to take a bet on how many words will precede the only bit most of us are interested in – whether or not Auckland will be unlocked from alert level 3 and the rest of us from level 2?

Oamaru Rotary was to have opened its popup Bookarama on the day we went to level 2. We can’t open until we’re back at level one. That’s an inconvenience for the volunteers who staff it who can’t make plans until we know if and when we’ll be needed.

There are a lot more people for whom it is far worse than inconvenient.

People can’t hold funerals, weddings and other such functions; some can’t get to family and friends in need because they can’t get into, through or out of Auckland and most seriously for the financial, social and health impacts, jobs and whole businesses are at great risk.

Waiting a few hours more to learn if and when any changes in level will be made won’t make any difference to the outcome, but it would be good to know if there is a far better reason why we’re waiting than allowing preparation for the speech to which many of us don’t want to listen.


Rural round-up

24/08/2020

Family first for these high flyers – Ashley Smyth:

Topflite tends to fly under the radar when people think of Oamaru businesses, but for this family-owned success story, things are quietly taking off. Ashley Smyth reports.

While being Oamaru-based can present its challenges, these are far outweighed by the benefits the small-town lifestyle offers, Topflite general manager Greg Webster says.

“The fact we’re close to where the product is grown is a big one. Also, being a family business, family is always something we’ve put importance on.

“We want people to have a life outside of work. Living in Oamaru allows that – your staff don’t have an hour commute.”

The company, perhaps most famous locally for its striking sunflower crops, was founded by Greg’s father Jock Webster and Jock’s brothers-in-law Ross and Bruce Mitchell, in the 1970s. . . 

Minister missing in action:

The Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor has taken a staggering 10 days during the Auckland level 3 lockdown to grant a blanket exemptions for sheep and beef farmers, National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“The previous lockdown allowed farmers to continue operations and travel between properties as essential workers, the current lockdown has imposed stricter requirements of needing a Ministry of Health exemption.

“The delays and confusion are a direct result of the Government’s lack of planning for an outbreak.

“Minister O’Connor has failed to see that this would require further compliance from farmers. It was only after heavy pressure from various sectors that saw exemptions for diary, horticulture and poultry. . . 

New rules go ‘too far’ – farmer – Sally Rae:

“Farming’s a tough game but they are hellbent on making it tougher.”

West Otago dairy farmer Bruce Eade is concerned about the Government’s new freshwater regulations which start coming into force from September 3, saying many of the rules concerning winter cropping and grazing were “almost unfarmable” in the South.

The Eade family are longtime dairy farmers and converted their Kelso property 25 years ago. They milk about 550 cows, have a free-stall barn and also winter beef cattle on crop.

“We’re lifers, you could say. We do it for the cows is the biggest thing for us. If I didn’t love my cows, I wouldn’t be doing it. There’s far easier ways to make a living,” Mr Eade said. . . 

Scramble over new freshwater rules – Colin Williscroft:

Regional councils and industry good groups are scrambling under a tight timeframe to get to grips with how new freshwater regulations will be implemented and what its impact on farmers is likely to be.

The new Essential Freshwater rules became law earlier this month and in the past couple of weeks councils and groups including Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) and DairyNZ have been studying the detail of the regulations so they and the people they represent are as prepared as possible for changes when they come into effect.

Some of those changes come into effect next month, while others will be rolled out over the next few years. . . 

Wool handler keeping work local – Mary-Jo Tohill:

It’s a perfect early spring-like day in the Ida Valley in Central Otago.

Merinos bleat in the yards, and the shearing machines buzz inside the woolshed as the crew gets to work.

Southland-based world-class woolhandler Tina Elers quickly finds her rhythm as the fleece hits the table.

This time of year, she’s chasing the work as well as thinking about upcoming competition as a woolhandler.

“Do I treat the fleece any differently? No. What I do every day in the shed as a wool classer is practice for competition.”

Both come down to quality and speed. . . 

Expensive Geraldine-produced Wagyu beef being auctioned for charity– Samesh Mohanlall:

A South Canterbury farm has produced one of the biggest rare Wagyu steers ever seen in New Zealand.

Evan and Clare Chapman of Rockburn Farming near Geraldine have been raising Wagyu (a term referring to all Japanese beef cattle), which is renowned for its sought after marbled meat and costs hundreds of dollars for a simple steak since 2017.

Last week a 946 kilogram Wagyu steer from the farm was processed by First Light, the New Zealand farming co-operative the Chapman’s belong to.

“This isn’t a one-off,” the co-op’s managing director Gerard Hickey said. . . 

Using data in Nigeria to reduce violence and build food security – Rotimi Williams:

Farming should be safe, but in Nigeria it can be deadly.

It’s so dangerous, in fact, that a report released on June 15 by an all-party parliamentary group in the United Kingdom asks a provocative question in its title: “Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?

Thousands of Nigerian farmers are murdered each year, according to human-right groups such as Amnesty International-and all we want to do is protect our land so that we can grow the crops our families need and our country requires.

As a rice farmer in Nigeria, I’ve seen this problem up close-and I’m trying to solve it with technology. . . 


Tough times, tougher border

24/08/2020

National leader Judith Collins says tough times call for tougher controls at the border:

Five million New Zealanders paid a heavy price to rid Covid-19 from our communities. They paid for it with their jobs, they paid for it with their businesses, and they paid for it with their freedoms.

They did their part and were understandably upset to find out the Government had not been doing theirs. A third of the country is now back in lockdown because of this.

Reducing the need for heavy-handed lockdowns could not be more crucial. After the first lockdown, 212,000 Kiwis were receiving unemployment benefits and 1.6 million jobs were kept alive by wage subsidies. The current lockdown is estimated to be costing Auckland 250 jobs and up to $75 million a day in economic activity.

There is a lot we still don’t know about how Covid-19 got back into our community, but let’s be real – this was not the immaculate infection, it didn’t just materialise, it had to have crossed our border at some point.

We know ministers weren’t even aware the health strategy they signed off in June only required voluntary testing of border workers. How is that possible? Did they not read it?

They now blame officials for the miscommunication even though Government is about taking responsibility for national security, not passing the buck.

But it is no surprise there was confusion. The current system requires people entering the border to interact with Customs, primary industries, the health ministry, defence force, private hotels, private bus drivers, private security and so on.

This ad-hoc approach is hampering New Zealand’s ability to respond to outbreaks in a co-ordinated and rapid way. Just as 9/11 forever changed the way we travel, Covid-19 must change the way we prepare for and manage public health threats.

This is why my Government will establish a new Border Protection Agency – Te Korowai Whakamaru, which can be translated as the ‘cloak of protection’.

We see the border protection agency in the same way as a korowai – many threads woven together to make one cloak of protection. It will provide the professional co-ordination that is sorely lacking from our Covid-19 response right now.

It will scale up and down as threats emerge and abate, like Civil Defence does, and it will be resourced with the personnel, technology and decision-making power to do its job right.

But tough times call for tough measures, and more will be needed to keep this virus at bay. That is why my Government will require everyone travelling to New Zealand to provide evidence of a recent negative Covid-19 test before boarding their plane. This is a common-sense step that other countries and airlines around the world are taking.

And we will, of course, require compulsory weekly testing of all staff working at the border or in quarantine facilities – something the Government should have been doing from the start.

A strong border needs multiple lines of defence and New Zealand’s second line – our contract tracing systems – must be better. We are too reliant on human memories and honesty right now, the QR code app has only been downloaded by a third of Kiwis. My Government will immediately invest in Bluetooth technology to enhance this, making it compulsory for everyone entering the country and border workers to carry contact tracing technology.

Yo-yoing in and out of lockdown is not sustainable, for our economy or our communities. If our border is strong then locking down 1.7 million New Zealanders can be our last resort, not our go-to option.

You can read national’s border policy here


Many reasons for border failures

24/08/2020

Steven Joyce has identified three reasons for border failures:

. . . First, the Government and its Covid response is being run by a way too small group. The Prime Minister and her group of three core ministers hardly trust anyone to make decisions outside their inner circle. While there is always a core group, in this instance even senior portfolio ministers are being sidelined.

The whole Government currently seems to come down to the PM, Robertson, Hipkins, Woods, Bloomfield, and the ever-present Brian Roche and Heather Simpson.  . . 

The upper coterie didn’t even trust the then-Health Minister to be in Wellington during the initial lockdown.

Keeping to such a small group is a a dangerous level of control freakery and reinforces the belief that Cabinet has a very few capable Ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs.

. . With something this big, it pays to take advice from all quarters and forget the party politics for a bit. Unfortunately, the current Government has remained intensely political and self-protective throughout the Covid response, while maintaining that it isn’t.

It’s particularly egregious that Ashley Bloomfield is being shielded from fronting up to a parliamentary committee to answer questions about the border breaches and the lockdown. He’s not a politician, he’s a well-paid public servant who currently has extraordinary power over people’s lives. He simply must front.

The government-dominated Health Select Committee has turned down National’s health spokesman Dr Shane Reti’s request for it to reconvene to enable the DG to be questioned and on Q&A yesterday Jack Tame said requests for him to front on that programmer have been refused.

Second, Chris Hipkins has a ridiculous workload. Speaking as someone who has held a few portfolios in my time, the idea that any single individual could successfully manage Health, Education, the State Sector, and Parliament’s business all at once is truly ludicrous. And so it has proven.

Chris Hipkins is a capable individual but he is clearly not completely across his health brief. On top of that, his statements this week suggesting first that conspiratorial rumours on Facebook were themselves a conspiracy, and second that the 1pm press conferences were the single source of truth — a statement reminiscent of Comical Ali of Iraq — suggest someone under a lot of stress.

If the already overloaded Hipkins was the only one capable of taking on Health, It indicates a serious lack of ability in Labour’s ranks.

Finally, the PM and her ministers need to stop thinking that politics is a game of how to spin your way out of absolutely everything. This has been their Achilles heel.

They have been caught too often saying one thing one week, and something completely different a couple of weeks later, all in the hope that the public have the memories of goldfish.

It is a politician’s job to put a positive spin on most things, but you can’t keep arguing that black is white when it obviously isn’t. If you try, people stop believing you.

Sometimes an issue is so serious or the failure so obvious that you have to drop the buzz phrases, quit the dissembling and level with the public. They may even thank you for it, and they’ll be more inclined to believe what you say in the future.

As it is, we are approaching a risky point where the public may stop believing the Government and its spin — which is tricky when you are dealing with a pandemic. . . 

There are more than enough examples of serious discrepancies in what the government and DG of Health have said and what was actually happening to undermine confidence – from the early days of lockdown when they kept saying there was enough PPE and flu vaccines when front line staff were saying there wasn’t to the recent huge gaps between the policy on border testing and its implementation.

Three big reasons for border failures are bad enough, but there are more, among them are the problems created by having 15 different border agencies dealing with different parts of the process:

National’s new policy to delegate or create an agency to be in charge of the border is exactly what is needed right now. Here is a list of all the various agencies doing various different facets of border control, with insufficient overall leadership or governance from any single body. It’s no surprise that the virus has reemerged!  . . 

This complex mishmash of responsibility and authority has been described as a spider’s web. That attributes far more skill and direction than it deserves.

There’s a pattern to spiders’ webs.

The only pattern in the mishmash of responsibility and authority for border control appears to be gaping holes and repeated failure to learn from mistakes.

And if we’re looking for reasons it’s hard to go past this government’s record of mistaking pronouncements for achievements.

Time after time it’s been so much better at talking about what it’s doing, or think it’s doing, than actually doing it or ensuring it’s done.


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