Word of the day

08/02/2021

Desideratum – something that is needed or wanted; something desired as essential; something lacked and wanted; something considered necessary or highly desirable.


Yes Sir Humphrey

08/02/2021


Rural round-up

08/02/2021

Climate focus highlights need for water storage – Vanessa Winning :

We should no longer be afraid of the conversation about water storage, dams, and reservoirs in the right places, as they are necessary for a sustainable, inclusive, productive and decarbonised economy, chief executive of Irrigation NZ Vanessa Winning writes.

It has been hot, very hot, especially in the central north island, Canterbury, Nelson, and Otago areas.

Then it was cool – still dry for most of us, but temperatures dropped a minimum of 10 degrees in the space of 24 hours in the height of summer.

Southerlies have settled into the lower North Island and we may get a storm next week in the South. Climate scientists tell us that these swings are expected to get more extreme all year round. . . 

Climate hurdle a high bar for farmers – Tom O’Connor:

Farmers in Waikato and across the country are to be commended for their courage in facing up to what they rightly say are the daunting changes ahead them following a report by the Climate Change Commission.

The 800-page report is wide-sweeping, thorough, challenging, hugely ambitious and more than a little frightening for those locked into our extensive agricultural industry and those in wide-spread supporting industries.

In a first draft of the report, dealing with carbon budgets, released last week, the commission has suggested that dairy, sheep and beef cattle numbers must be reduced by 15 per cent by the end of the decade. That is a very short time frame for such a major change and some probably won’t make it.

Fortunately, we seemed to have passed through the phase of blind opposition to the concept of climate change. For about thirty years a number of sceptics challenged almost every scientist who presented evidence of climate change or predicted what climate change would do. . . 

Exports remain strong – Neal Wallace and Gerald PIddock:

Farm gate prices for New Zealand dairy and meat exports have defied economic fallout from the global pandemic and are trading at above long-term averages.

Demand from China and Asian economies emerging from the covid-19 pandemic are underpinning the buoyant prices, but there are warnings a strengthening exchange rate and prolonged supply chain disruption will put pressure on returns.

Fonterra this week lifted its farm gate milk price guidance range from $6.90 to $7.50kg/MS, up from $5.90 to $6.90 at the start of the season, potentially making this the second consecutive year of a $7-plus milk price. . . 

The dream team: Jess, David and Bronwyn Hill :

A Raglan dairy farming family set up a wee milk bottling plant three years ago.

Then, the Hill family produced 30 litres of drinking milk a week and delivered it to local customers. Now they bottle and deliver 5000 litres – in one-litre bottles – from the west coast to the east coast.

Their website has a rolling tally of the number of plastic milk bottles they’ve saved from re-cycling or landfill – over 150,000  and counting.

Jess Hill says customers are loving the glass bottles and the fact they’re supporting a local enterprise.   . . 

Mustering at Molesworth – Sally Round:

It’s an early start for the musterers at Molesworth Station. The bulls are out with the cows for the mating season and the stockmen need to beat the heat. Country Life producer Sally Round spent a day with the musterers, the farmer and the cook, peeling back some of the mystique of New Zealand’s most famous farm.

Duncan, Connell, Josh and Liam  are up before the birds.

Head torches on, they catch their horses before tucking into a pile of bacon and eggs in the kitchen at Tarndale.

The homestead there is one of Molesworth Station’s far-flung camps where the musterers can have a feed and bed down for the night while working on the furthest reaches of the 180,470-hectare property.

Molesworth, in the backcountry of Marlborough, has a mystique and mana which few other high country farms can match. . . 

 

Are cows accelerating climate change? – Stu McNish:

Cows have rapidly moved into the crosshairs of climate change and diet. But Frank M. Mitloehner of University of California, Davis says much – if not most – of what you think you know about ruminants and climate change is inaccurate.

His findings align with those of climate scientist Myles Allen, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contributor and Oxford professor who says the global warming carbon equivalency formula commonly applied to livestock is incorrect.

Both Mitloehner and Allen point to the impact a stable or declining herd has on methane production. Add in improving dietary and animal husbandry practices, along with methane-capturing systems, and the picture for livestock farms in northern hemisphere countries is positive. . . 


Yes Sir Humphrey

08/02/2021


Gulf between myth and reality

08/02/2021

Oliver Hartiwch wrties on the myth of Saint Jacinda:

Every time I read another excitable media article about New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern, I am reminded of an old quip: ‘Viewed from a distance, everything is beautiful.’ That was Publius Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56-120). Were this Roman intellectual and historian alive today, he would make a great columnist. His tactic was to spin political and historical analogies so they could influence public affairs back home. . . 

That is happening again, except this time New Zealanders are the noble savages being lovingly invented by global columnists. Hardly any of these writers actually live in New Zealand or understand it. Their op-eds reveal more about them than the country they purport to write about. In normal circumstances, this would not be a problem. But over the past few years, Jacinda Ardern has risen to international stardom. Her rise was based on remote reporting by a progressive world media thirsting for a noble alternative to strongmen leaders. . .

Ardern’s political tenure is soaked in progressive holy water. The list of her adopted causes is long. She cited child poverty as her reason for entering politics. When she first ran for prime minister in 2017, she declared climate change her ‘generation’s nuclear free moment’. In early 2019, she promised in the Financial Times to champion a new ‘economics of kindness’. This was demonstrated shortly afterwards in the world’s first ‘well-being budget’.

Ardern has become the media’s poster child of a modern, centre-left politician, not least thanks to her expertise in communicating to every audience. Whether it is a Facebook Live broadcast from her home in her pyjamas or a traditional press conference, Ardern oozes a highly personalized brand of warmth, kindness and empathy.

This PR dexterity helped her steer through two major first-term crises. She found the right words to heal a shocked nation after a terrorist attack on the Christchurch Muslim community in March 2019. Last year, her near-daily TV appearances guided Kiwis through the first months of the coronavirus crisis. . . 

Would any of our recent Prime Ministers have been any less effective in these circumstances?

For people watching from afar and sick of dealing with mortal, flawed and ineffective leaders, Ardern’s superheroine star shines bright. As the psychologist Jonathan Haidt revealed in The Righteous Mind, we wish for things to be true, and no amount of counter-evidence will change our minds. Ardern is lucky that humans have this mental bug because on practically every single metric her administration has failed.

She wanted to solve New Zealand’s housing crisis by building 100,000 homes over a decade. This unworkable state-run program was abandoned after two years, and house prices have skyrocketed faster than before. A promised light-rail connection from Auckland’s central business district to the airport met the same fate: the project was scrapped before it even started. Child poverty also rose under Ardern’s leadership, as did carbon emissions. The so-called ‘wellbeing budget’ earmarked funds to fix mental health — but has still not found any projects on which to spend the money.

Even in the two major crises, actual policy implementation differed immensely from the PR-shaped perception. A gun buyback scheme after the Christchurch attack was a costly fiasco. And the country’s success against Covid-19 was more a result of geography than policy. The government failed to manage even basic quarantine facilities.

Can we be confident that all the management failures have been addressed? Is there a plan to get a much better system? No.

In the 2020 election campaign, Ardern should have struggled to explain why her grand promises had so utterly failed. Except no one demanded any accountability, and Ardern cruised to an absolute majority based on her saintly image. Ordinary Kiwis, unused to being the global centre of attention, also desperately want this internationalist narrative to be true.

Before Covid-19 changed the world, successive polls showed National ahead or just behind Labour. The pandemic and National MPs’ many mistakes changed that but didn’t change the fact of that Ardern’s words were rarely matched by effective action.

The gap between people’s impression of Ardern and her actual performance as a leader has widened to a gulf. So long as enough modern Tacituses write gushing Ardern portraits, her superstar status will not change.

I came across the column via Twitter where its author laments:

We have a lot of blessing to count in New Zealand but that shouldn’t stop the media covering the problems we face; the government’s failure to address them and the shortcomings of a Prime Minister who Monique Poirier points out has got very good at making announcements about announcements:

. . It’s quite a skill, really, making announcements about a policy without any sort of plan to achieve it, and then have the country believe that what you’ve just said is significant, transformative or, as we heard this week, foundational. . . 

The media here, and abroad, has a responsibility look beyond the skills of the messenger to analyse the messages, and to to question both the messenger and the messages.

Being young and female makes Ardern stand out among other leaders but neither of those should stop the media from judging her; focusing on, her performance rather than her personality; and paying a lot more attention to what she does and accomplishes than what she says.


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