Word of the day


Logy –  characterised by lethargy; sluggish; groggy; heavy  or dull in respect to motion or thought; slow; stupid;  lacking physical or mental energy or vitality.

Sowell says


Rural round-up


Lockdown shuts sale yard gates again – Suz Bremner:

The livestock-selling market was again put on hold as the country moved into Alert Level 4. This followed confirmation of the covid-19 Delta variant in the community and meant sale yards were not able to open their gates for the rest of the week.

PGG Wrightson North Island livestock manager Matt Langtry says the options are slightly limited this week.

“Under Level 4 all sale yards are closed, however, we will continue to re-evaluate the situation as Government and MPI updates come to hand. As an essential service provider under Level 4, PGG Wrightson agents can operate in private sales (farm-to-farm) and prime (meat processor) consignments, where there needs to be a focus on animal and farmer welfare and feed levels,” Langtry said.

“We are operating under strict MPI protocols, which includes a very transparent traceability and audit process for our team. Through this challenging time, it is imperative we keep communicating with the industry, we are in this together. It’s a bugger of a situation again, but we will pull through.” . . 

Meat processors temporarily reduce capacity after lockdown announced – Rachael Kelly:

Some meat processing plants closed temporarily on Wednesday to put social distancing protocols in place, and others are working at a reduced capacity after the level four lock down was announced.

But farming leaders do not expect too much disruption on farms, as calving continues and lambing begins.

New Zealand is now in a nationwide level 4 lock down, with a total of seven Covid-19 cases in the community They are all in Auckland and all confirmed to be the more transmissible Delta variant.

Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor said the company paused processing across its plant network on Wednesday morning to allow it to reconfigure plant operations to reflect the new protocols and give staff an opportunity to make suitable home arrangements such as childcare. . . 

Whales and dolphins stuck on inland farm – Country Life:

Sheep and cattle graze where whales and dolphins once swam 25 million years ago.

Bones from their skeletons are fossilised in cliffs and rocks on Grant Neal’s farm at Duntroon in North Otago.

”There’s 12 whale and dolphin fossils scattered through one gully and down the next there must be five, so it’s awesome how concentrated it is,” Grant says.

The area on the farm where the fossils were discovered is an official geo-site in the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark. . . 

Scrumming to support farmers – Annette Scott:

Farmers and Parliament representatives tackled their skills on the rugby field in an event that raised more than $110,000 for Canterbury’s flood affected farmers.

The farmers’ Fonterra Good Together team – featuring former All Blacks Aaron Mauger, Casey Laulala and Kevin O’Neill, and coached by legendary Crusaders coach Scott (Razor) Robertson – proved too good.

Captained by Mid Canterbury dairy farmer and representative rugby player Jon Dampney, the farmers meant business, thumping the Parliamentary team 51 points to 10, but it was head-to-head all for a good cause.

In a brainstorm of ideas to raise money and support farmers impacted by recent flooding, Fonterra challenged the Parliamentary rugby team to the charity rugby match hosted by the Mid Canterbury Rugby Union at the Ashburton showgrounds. . . 

Lockdown protracts fight to protect mānuka honey as Kiwi – Jonathan Milne:

Mānuka honey by any other name would be as sweet – but would it be as lucrative? NZ and Australia fight over whether its name can be trademarked as distinctively Kiwi.

The opening of the US judgment is to-the-point: “The parties find themselves in a sticky situation,” says the panel of judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The new California court ruling is in a class action against Trader Joe’s, a retailer that markets its store brand mānuka honey as “100% New Zealand mānuka Honey”. It isn’t – it’s only about 60 percent from mānuka nectar. But the court ruled: “100% could be a claim that the product was 100 percent mānuka honey, that its contents were 100 percent derived from the mānuka flower, or even that 100 percent of the honey was from New Zealand.” 

It’s cases like these that highlight the challenge for New Zealand’s mānuka honey producers, who have been trying (and failing) to put out fires like Trader Joe’s for years. . .

New £5k innovation prizes for ventures run by pioneering farmers:

New prizes worth £5,000 have been launched to identify and support innovators and entrepreneurial thinkers who can drive sustainable change in British farming.

The Farming Innovation Pioneers Awards will be delivered through Harper Adams’ School of Sustainable Food and Farming (SSFF) and sponsored by Trinity AgTech’s Pioneers program.

They will be made to farmers who work with cross-industry stakeholders to spearhead transformational sustainability projects – those which drive the industry forward environmentally, socially or commercially, or a combination of all three.

Examples of innovations the judges expect to see include farmers working together with banks and retailers to set up new types of a more sustainable farm enterprise. . . 

Sean Lock’s best of 8 Out of 10 Cats Do Countdown


Yes Sir Humphrey


Wrong priorities


The sudden escalation from the relative freedom of level 1 to level 4 lockdown has generally been accepted as necessary to deal with the Delta variant of Covid-19.

But supposition that at least part of the country could be locked down for three to four weeks, could well turn acceptance to anger, especially when Kate MacNamara says the government’s spin spend masks a failure to deliver:

The Government’s vaccine purchase of late last year is a microcosm of what’s wrong with its priorities, and a worrying indication that ‘getting the message right’ trumps real world achievement.

The Ministry of Businesss, Innovation and Employment was responsible for negotiating contracts with vaccine-makers.

It knew it didn’t have the in-house heft for working through the details of those complicated contracts so it brought in the consultants. So far so good. It spent close to $700,000 on these third party contractors, nearly $500,000 of it on commercial advice from the law firm Bell Gully.

There’s no reason to question the spending on contract negotiation, it’s specialised and its consequences were staggeringly large.

And given that New Zealand’s first receipt of the Pfizer vaccine was months behind other countries, and very low for months more, there’s a strong argument to be made that more money should have been spent on advice.

There’s no such rationale for coughing up large sums out of that kitty for communications advice, however: the services MBIE bought with the second largest chunk of that $700,000 were for PR. 

To be precise, the department spent $133,600 of its funds for “third party contractors and consultants for work on Covid-19 vaccine procurement” on communications.

Some communications spending might have been justified but $133,600 on contractors and consultants is excessive. Given it’s borrowed money, it would have been better not to spend most of it it at all.

If it was to be spent it would have been far more usefully employed on getting the vaccine earlier,  front line health staff, a better MIQ system or any of the much more important priorities for public funds.

To give a sense of the priority, that spending trumped the $38,000 that went on the Science and Technical Advisory Group, the $49,000 that went to a research advisor, the $12,000 paid to Horizon Research to study potential Covid-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake, and the $5,500 spent went on translation services.

The breakdown is instructive because it points to how the government, and by extension, its political masters, weighs messaging.

And to be clear, there was already plenty of that going on. MBIE, of course, has its own complement of some 64 public relations staff, it hardly needs more.

Spending on contract negotiations could be justified, but why couldn’t in-house staff cope with communications?

By October of last year the Department of the Prime Minsiter and Cabinet had already spent some $2.5 million to create the ‘Unite against Covid 19’ and ‘Unite for the Recovery’ advertising campaigns, and would spend a further quarter of million dollars testing their “brand effectiveness”. The ‘media buy’ totalled tens of millions more.

That messaging has been repeated so often we could play lockdown bingo with the phrases – team of five million, bubble, be kind, wash your hands . . .

The money almost undoubtedly bought the phrases, ‘critical work going on behind the scenes’, ‘making good progress’, and ‘a portfolio approach to ensure we have flexibility and choice’ that were trotted out repeatedly by key ministers, including Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, Covid-19 Response Minister and previously Health Minister, Chris Hipkins, and Research, Science and Innovation Minister, Megan Woods.

It formed a kind of prolonged and soothingly mild sedative, its generic name is marketing, that was fed to the media and ultimately New Zealanders for months. . .

But when the necessary actions weren’t matching the words, we weren’t being fed anything nutritious, it was more like sugar syrup.

We now know that countries like Israel, the US, and Canada paid a premium to be at the real front of the queue, so they received their shipments earliest, and consequently began rolling out and scaling up their vaccination campaigns months before New Zealand.

As Auckland University economist Robert MacCullock has estimated, it’s likely New Zealand could have paid an extra $40m (in the order of $4 more per dose) to receive early vaccine delivery. . .

Spending another $40 million then would have saved us the $1.5 billion a week cost of lockdown.

Had that extra been spent, and the rollout had been executed competently, most if not all those who wanted to be vaccinated could have been.

Then we almost certainlywouldn’t have to be locked down, or at least not at level 4, as we are at a huge financial and human cost which includes delays, possibly fatal, in diagnosis and treatment of other health conditions.

When asked by the Herald last month why the Government didn’t pay more to get Pfizer vaccines early, Hipkins claimed such a move would have been “unethical”.

It was a fatuous remark that sidestepped the Minister’s primary responsibility, which is to the New Zealand public. All the more so now that the public is again housebound in a level 4 lockdown, and footing what Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, has advised is a weekly bill of some $1.5 billion, a tally that notably excludes a host of costs, not the least of which is lost education to school children.

Minister Hipkins needs a new moral compass, if he ditched the spin doctors he could no doubt afford one.

He’s not the only one.

The whole government is much,much better at spin than delivery and far too prone to focusing on political wants rather than far more important priorities, such as ensuring hospitals have enough critical care beds:

An emergency medicine physician says he’s “gravely concerned” as emergency departments across the country are already at capacity, even without a possible influx of patients infected with COVID-19. 

And specialists say our intensive care units are tightly stretched despite reassurances from the Health Ministry. . . 

Reassurances from the Health Ministry? Haven’t we heard that before and haven’t we subsequently found out that the workforce on the ground was right and the Ministry was wrong?

Two of the government’s other priorities ought to have been keeping Covid-19 out of the country and ensuring  everyone who was willing to be vaccinated could be, far, far faster.

It’s focus on spin rather than action has resulted in failing at both.

It might well be impossible for anyone to keep the disease at the border, but had most of us been vaccinated sooner, the consequences wouldn’t be nearly as costly as they are.

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