Word of the day


Asperse – to spread false or damaging accusations or insinuations against; to  libel;  attack with evil reports or false or injurious charges or insinuations; to bespatter with foul reports; defame; sprinkle, especially with holy water.

Sowell says


Rural round-up


Feds’ worst fears realised on drinking water reforms:

Federated Farmers is profoundly disappointed to see the Water Services Bill reported back to the Parliament with the definition of a “water supplier” unchanged.

“The government has now signed itself up for the enormous task of tracking down every single source of drinking water in the land and making them belong to a register if they supply any other household,” Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says.

Despite extensive arguments from Federated Farmers and many others at the select committee hearings, tens of thousands of rural and farm supply arrangements will fall within the scope of the new water regulator Taumata Arowai.

The new agency takes over from the Ministry of Health to take responsibility for the quality and provision of drinking water in New Zealand. . .

Cutting red tape will help farmers in the emissions reduction race:

New Zealand’s farmers are already well into the emissions reduction journey. Science, innovation and unblocking regulatory bottlenecks by government is needed to hasten progress, Federated Farmers President and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“The latest IPCC report has been described as code red for humanity, and we need to take that seriously. But for us it’s not just about cows, and it’s not just about New Zealand.

“One reporter asked me ‘when are farmers going to start taking action?’. For a 400m Olympics analogy, we’re leading around the back straight with other nations in our wake. Our emissions per kilogram of meat and milk produced are world leading and New Zealand farmers are committed to further improving on this lead.”

There is no win for global emissions if New Zealand’s highly efficient farmers cut back production and it is replaced by less efficient farmers offshore, Andrew said. . . 

IPCC report: Important science on methane and GWP*:

Buried in a landmark IPCC report this week is a detailed and important section on the metrics for short-lived gases. We summarise the key findings and what these mean for our sector.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report reinforces that climate change is real, it’s already happening and it is contributing to the extreme weather events such as floods, storms and droughts that we are experiencing.

There’s no question that all New Zealanders, including farmers, have to contribute to reducing emissions, if we are to keep global warming in check. 

We’re working through the detail in the report, including the latest developments in the science around methane. . . 

Former townie making a go of it as head shepherd on Longacre Station – Jared Morgan:

Ben Maxwell could be described as a throwback to a different era, one where the best rugby players were weaned on the land.

Except the 25-year-old former Southlander’s journey to a career in farming and path towards becoming a handy player has not followed that playbook.

Born and raised in a city — Invercargill — his aspirations to become a farmer were forged by his extended family.

‘‘Dad’s father had a farm just out at Gorge Rd [outside Invercargill], and my uncle has a farm. . . 

WorksSafe warns of spring fatalities spike :

WorkSafe is giving farmers a heads up to be mindful of risks on farm this spring.

In spring 2020, fatalities spiked to five during the months of August and September.

Vehicles continue to be the primary source of harm in on farm fatalities. On Monday this week a person was tragically killed in an incident involving a tractor on a farm outside of Oamaru. It is understood the victim was trimming hedges at the time.

WorkSafe Manager for Regulatory Practice Brent Austin strongly urged farmers to consider four key things to avoid a repeat of 2020 as they head into the busier months on farm. . . 

Horticulture right fit for new leader – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Whitney Conder climbs off her hydraladder and gives her spaniel Dash a pat.

It is likely that he has been her only companion on this winter’s day, as she prunes the 6ha cherry block single-handed.

It is the type of resilience that has earned her a seat at the table of the Women in Horticulture executive committee.

Mrs Conder, who manages El Pedregal Orchard in Earnscleugh, was selected from 13 candidates New Zealand-wide for the role, and was one of four new members elected.

She already heads Central Otago Women in Horticulture and has been involved in the industry for 18 years. . . 

Woolgrowers roll-out a strategic plan for the next decade based on sustainability – Mel Williams:

Australia’s wool growing fraternity has set a target to grow the value of its sector by 2.5 per cent per annum – up to at least the year 2030 – and better promote the fibre’s sustainability credentials.

A key driver to achieving this will be arresting and turning around the decline of the national flock and boosting Merino ewe numbers to about 70 per cent of total sheep on the ground.

It will also require a 15pc increase in sheep and wool values, and growing the national flock from about 64 million to 75 million head.

These are key targets of the industry’s Wool 2030 Strategy, which was released in late 2020. . . 

Yes Sir Humphrey


MoH or stand-alone agency?


Another day another question over the Ministry of Health’s data collection:

A public health expert is flabbergasted the government cannot provide specific vaccination information for a new Auckland border facility. 

It comes as questions remain over how many workers at Tamaki Marine Park – some of whom are now considered border staff – have been vaccinated.

The marina, surrounded by a busy commercial area, is being used as a transfer zone for shipping crew stepping off international flights or out of MIQ. . . 

For nearly a week, Checkpoint has been asking for vaccination data specifically on how many workers at the site have been vaccinated.

But a Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson said the ministry cannot give data for specific workplaces.

“As this information is not required to be collated, we cannot determine the vaccination rate for border workers for a given location, such as a specific port.

“However, as indicated, we can provide data for border workers by DHB of residence, noting that it’s likely that some workers will be employed at a port within the same DHB area in which they live.” . . 

Good grief! Some workers will be vaccinated and some won’t. What they need to know is which port workers have been vaccinated and which haven’t.

Otago University Professor Nick Wilson told Checkpoint the MoH’s response was simply not good enough.

“We need to do everything at the border at an extremely high level of quality and it needs to be very transparent what the situation is,” he said.

“So all that information should in fact be on a Ministry of Health website.”

Government data on things like vaccination rates at border workplaces was simply not up to scratch, he added.

“We need to know at each border point, whether it’s a port or an airport, what the coverage level of the workers is, in terms of vaccination,” Professor Wilson said.

“And what steps are being taken to remedy the problems, which is, inadequate vaccination coverage?

“This is quite a serious problem.”

Keeping vaccination data for each border workplace is not exactly rocket science, according to Wilson.

“It should be an absolute priority to have this information, so I just can’t understand why this problem is not being sorted.” . . 

It should be a priority but once again the MoH seems incapable of knowing what it ought to know and doing what it ought to be doing.

How long before the government accepts that and acts on the expert advice that a stand-alone Covid-19 response agency is needed?

An expert advisor to the Government on COVID-19 is warning New Zealand may need a dedicated response unit to oversee the country’s response for the next five to 10 years.

Sir Brian Roche says officials need to continuously rehearse worst-case scenarios to ensure contact tracing staff can cope in the event of a significant outbreak.

He knows another outbreak is on the horizon – and to handle it, he says New Zealand needs practice.

“We need to continue to do scenario-planning and stress-testing. The All Blacks didn’t get to where they are today by just turning up for a game. They practiced, practiced, practiced,” he told Newshub. . . 

In the past, New Zealand hasn’t always been well-placed to handle an outbreak of the virus. 

Newshub revealed that during last year’s August outbreak, contact tracing teams were “too slow” to respond and employed staff with “no training or experience”. 

And during the February outbreak, “limited resources” and “staff burnout” were flagged as problems almost immediately, even though there was only a peak of 15 active cases in the community. 

“If we don’t use the next few months wisely, that could be a real concern,” says Sir Brian.

Experts recommend that New Zealand needs to become capable of tracing 1000 cases a day – and their contacts – but Sir Brian says we’re not there yet. 

“A thousand is a very credible number and something that we are still aspiring to, and that would be our base capacity.”

And improving capacity is critical – COVID-19 is no longer seen as a short-lived pandemic. 

“This could be here for five to 10 years,” Sir Brian warns.

And that, he says, means we need a separate entity – not the Ministry of Health – running the response.

Sir Brian believes a stand-alone agency is needed to have total oversight, accountability and decision-making power. . . 

We’ve been warned that if the Delta variant gets past the border we’ll be going back into level 4 lockdown.

Which agency would be best equipped to keep Delta out and deal with it should it get through the border – the MoH or a stand-alone agency with   the high standard of oversight, accountability and decision-making ability that’s needed?

The MoH’s performance to date is a strong argument for the latter.

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