Word of the day

14/04/2021

Anthine – of or pertaining to a flower; flavoured with flowers; of or belonging to the genus Anthus.


Sowell says

14/04/2021


Abject incompetence

14/04/2021

The NZ Herald opines that unvaccinated border staff are our Achilles heel:

The red-letter issue in the Millennium Hotel chain of cases, however, is the lack of vaccination and testing which was exposed. Despite working in a managed isolation and quarantine facility, neither Case B nor C had been vaccinated.

Today’s Health Select Committee has discovered another vulnerability:

A security worker at Auckland’s Grand Millennium managed isolation facility, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, had not been previously tested since November.

Carolyn Tremain, chief executive of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – which oversees managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) – made the revelation on Wednesday at a parliamentary committee.

Tremain said the worker was tested on April 7, which is when he tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to that, she said records show he was last tested in November, despite the law stating he should be tested fortnightly.

Fortnightly? why not saliva tests every day?

“What we have identified through the case investigation process… is that there are some inconsistencies in the recording of when testing occurs,” Tremain told the Health Select Committee.

“We don’t have evidence that testing has been conducted from our systems on the frequency that we would prefer it to be.” . . 

Prefer it to be?

That’s as weak as Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield saying he would have hoped the latest case would have been vaccinated by now.

Preferred and hoped are simply not good enough when the consequences of workers contracting Covid-19 are so bad not just for their own health but for the risk of community transmission with all the health, social and economic costs that come from that.

What makes this worse is the game-playing by Labour MPs in the Select Committee:

. . .But the committee hearing – a key opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of officials – soon descended into a squabble between Labour MPs and National Party Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop, as his attempts to question officials on the shortcomings were railroaded by the Labour MPs interested in more anodyne matters. . . 

Despite the pressing issues, the health select committee, steered by Invercargill-based Labour list MP Dr Liz Craig, instead asked the officials to talk about the “basic science” behind how the managed isolation system had been set up.

For more 20 minutes during the opening of the session, Bloomfield canvassed the increased understanding that “airborne transmission” of the virus was a risk, and what was known about the spread of the more infectious B117 Covid-19 variant in India.

MBIE deputy chief executive Megan Main detailed the “customer journey” that returnees have, from learning about the MIQ system, to entering a hotel and subsequently leaving.

“That’s really, really useful,” Craig said, offering up a few more minutes for the speakers to talk about this widely accessible information. 

Bishop’s attempts to ask questions were frustrated by Labour MPs on the committee. A one stage, he was visibly frustrated, holding his head in his hands. . . 

“Government MPs need to reflect very seriously on the way in which they are treating the Opposition on select committees and shielding officials from scrutiny,” Bishop told reporters afterwards.

He said it was “quite staggering” that the security guard had not been tested for six months. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough it got worse:

How hard is it to keep a record of who the workers are, who’s been tested, when they’re tested and which ones are vaccinated?

This is basic record keeping. That it’s not happening shows the system needs far more checks and balances than preferences and hopes.

That workers aren’t tested as they ought to be and that not all are vaccinated yet is bad enough. That records are so poor no-one knows who is tested and vaccinated is abject incompetence.

This information came out in spite of attempts to silence the Opposition. I wonder if there was anything else that we need to know that would have come out had the Labour MPs not been playing silly games?


Rural round-up

14/04/2021

Time to listen – Rural News:

Now that submissions have formally closed on the Climate Change Commission’s (CCC) draft recommendations, released in February, on reducing NZ’s emissions profile, will it actually listen and act on the advice it has received?

It is not hard to get cynical about so-called ‘consultation’. With this Government – more often than not – it is merely a box-ticking exercise, with little or no real changes made to its overall political objective.

One only has to look at its freshwater legislation and the negligible changes it made to this following ‘industry consultation’, for the country’s farmers to be rightfully nervouse about what regulations will be imposed upon them in the emissions reductions space.

The CCC’s draft advice recommended – among a plethora of changes across the economy – the Government should adopt measures that would hugely reduce livestock number on farms and see more good farmland planted in trees. . .

Hitting our target – Richard Rennie and Neal Wallace:

The Climate Change Commission is suggesting we need to reduce livestock numbers by up to 15% to enable agriculture to meet its methane emission targets. This week the Farmers Weekly begins a series looking at the implications of such a drop and what options are available.

A 15% reduction in livestock numbers may be the only way to meet tough new methane targets being recommended by the Climate Change Commission as there is no silver bullet yet available.

Researchers are working on breeding, farm systems and feed technology and the impact of new nitrogen limits will help, but the consensus is it will be tough to meet the commission’s 15.9% reduction by 2035 without some lowering of stock numbers. 

The commission claims that better feeding, breeding and land use change to horticulture, exotic and native forestry, will see farm livestock numbers fall 15% below 2018 levels by 2030, enabling biogenic methane targets to be met without new technology. . .

Local farmers grow quality wheat but most of us aren’t eating it. Here’s why – Bonnie Flaws:

Wheat farmers are some of most productive in the world but the vast majority of it is sold for animal feed while the bread we eat is made using imported Australian flour.

That was not always the case. Historically the country produced its own grain for baked products and not that long ago there were 30 or 40 mills across the country. Going back further there were hundreds of mills, according to the book, Flour Milling in New Zealand.

The country was self-sufficient in wheat production until government control of the industry under the Wheat Board ended in 1987, and led to imports by the mid-1990s.

The Foundation for Arable Research chief executive Alison Stewart said like many other industries, consolidation took its toll and big companies with economies of scale took over milling. . .

Spirit’s are up for makers of NZ’s first tequila – Country Life:

Golden Bay is a long way from home for the agave plant, a native of Latin America and most commonly found in Mexico.

Terry Knight is growing several thousand to produce top-shelf tequila at his Kiwi spirit distillery at Motupipi.

His plantation of Weber’s blue agave tequilana is the only plant stock and plantation in New Zealand.

Terry’s agave adventure started 20 years ago when he bought some seeds from a friend, who got them from a private collection in France. . .

Northland peanut farmers toast to Pic’s growth deal :

It’s crunch time in Northland for a pioneering peanut crop which government agencies hope could provide a viable product for the area.

Most people know the Kaipara region as kumara country, but things are changing. While in recent years there’s been a lot more dairy, things are now starting to look downright nutty.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has teamed up with the makers of Pic’s Peanut Butter to trial growing peanuts near Dargaville.

The hope is to create a totally homegrown peanut product – a perfect addition to toasts across the country. . .

New Countryside Code falls short on sheep worrying :

Sheep farmers have criticised the new Countryside Code for placing little recognition on the rising problem of irresponsible dog ownership and livestock worrying.

Changes in the guidance issued by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales include information on walking only on footpaths and not feeding livestock.

But the National Sheep Association (NSA) says not enough attention has been given to the issue of sheep worrying and out-of-control dogs.

Farmers have suffered an increase in attacks by dogs over the past year, as dog ownership has increased and walking in rural areas has become one of the few activities to be enjoyed during lockdown. . . 

 


Yes Sir Humphrey

14/04/2021


A for saying F for doing

14/04/2021

Bruce Cotterill writes that the list of government policy flops grows longer by the day:

…I’ve been watching this Government lurch from one challenge to another. There are some things they’ve done quite effectively. There are others that they’ve made a mess of. They are great at talkfests. They are not so good on execution.

At the heart of their weaknesses is that they are a government of designers. They are effective at the stuff they can do with a “stroke of the pen”.

In the future, they will no doubt be heralded for their contribution to raising the minimum wage. Their contribution? A stroke of the pen. Simply put, they legislate and require the masses to fall into line.

With a couple of years gone by, it’s easy to remember that the resolution of Auckland’s traffic issues was going to be funded by the introduction of a regional fuel tax to be paid by those who live in our biggest city. Of course, the tax was introduced promptly with the stroke of a pen. . . 

The tax was introduced but has there been any significant improvement to the city’s traffic issues?

Housing was another priority for which there has been a lot of talking but very little effective doing.

Increasing taxes, eliminating interest deductions and extending the brightline test (or capital gains tax) for property owners are a function of the same activity. Design. A stroke of the pen. A series of proposals that become rules that others will abide by. Design. A stroke of the pen.

And like much design, the outcome will not solve the problem it was invented for. The reality is that, if we have a housing crisis, it will be resolved by a simplified resource management process, more land becoming available and new houses getting built. In other words, engineering and execution. Instead, these new policies will see rents increase and property developers and owners spending their time restructuring their affairs to minimise their now heightened tax obligations and not much more.

When we look for engineering and execution, there seems to be an extensive array of failed promises. These breakdowns are in the initiatives that require more than a stroke of the pen. They require governments and their numerous personnel, having changed the rules, to actually do something. To make it happen.

There are now a number of major policy areas where outstanding public relations campaigns have trumpeted design, planning and vision while the delivery teams have completely failed with the engineering and execution.

The government is very good at announcements, particularly of announcements, but announcing is much, much easier than implementing and achieving positive results.

This Government is often pulled up for the promise to build 100,000 houses. Of course, it didn’t happen. A promise like that requires both design and engineering. It’s one thing to say it. To establish a policy even. It’s quite another to build them. Design yes. Engineering no.

At present, we have a list of policy flops that grows longer by the day. The most recent “train wreck” was the light rail plan for Auckland. I am guessing it was easier to put the decision off and push it out for another six months of debate and discussion with the Greens no longer critical to the make-up of the government.

The list of engineering failures continues to grow. While statistics continue to rise, there has been much discussion about sorting out mental health. Overcoming child poverty was so important that the Prime Minister herself took on the portfolio.

Fixing broken hospitals and redefining the purpose of our DHBs was deemed so important that it required countless consultants and reviews, but no action. All designed. All announced. All promised. All failed to execute. Design yes. Engineering no.

Of course, it’s relatively straight forward to draw a plan of a cycleway on the side of our slowly deteriorating harbour bridge.

It’s quite another to build it and make it safe. But then, it seems that we’ve decided not to do that after all.

There are times when good design alone, is enough. However, in most cases, good design of everything from grand visions to workable solutions needs to be accompanied by good engineering and ability to execute.

As we approach the three-quarter mark on this Government’s current six-year term, it would seem that the designer will ultimately fail due to its inability as an engineer.

 The government has been praised for its response to Covid-19 and there is no doubt that successive lockdowns have achieved less illness, fewer deaths and more freedom of movement that people in many other countries envy.

But as mistakes keep happening, it looks like luck has played a significant part in the success and unless the government gets much better at doing than designing and saying the luck will run out.

The Prime Minister gets high praise for communication but an A for saying means nothing when the government gets an F for doing.


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