Word of the day

15/09/2021


Sowell says

15/09/2021


Rural round-up

15/09/2021

Give sheep and beef farmers a voice – James Hoban:

Trying to unite farmer advocacy groups is well intentioned but misguided, writes James Hoban. 

Recently I ran into a well known environmental activist who I had not seen for several years. He asked me what I thought the future of farming was and I disappointed myself by answering; “Dim, for sheep and beef, unless we can sort some major issues out,” without hesitating.

Grandparenting is a term we have become increasingly familiar with. Numerous examples of it have seen sheep and beef farmers disadvantaged in favour of more intensive land users. It is also the key reason why Groundswell’s call for one farming voice is flawed and why efforts by industry organisations to join forces for political lobbying are short sighted.

Despite widespread acknowledgement that grandparenting is wrong, it continues to be favoured by the Government. Grandparenting is used for triggering resource consent requirements in the recent winter grazing regulations and in the greenhouse gas emissions framework. While the Government has watched grandparenting tear rural communities apart, it continues to use it as the basis for controversial policies. . . 

A growing revolt – Chris McCullough:

Farmers across the world are jumping into their tractors and setting off in convoys to cities in order to make their voices heard. For too long now farmers have had to go along with whatever wacky decisions their governments have bestowed upon them, but that attitude has changed dramatically recently and it’s no more Mr Nice Guy.

As words fell deaf on politicians’ ears the Kiwi farmers did what their European counterparts have become used to and that meant a tractor trip to the city. French farmers are the world professionals of protesting as they ensure the French government, the European Commission and the public feel their anger. The EC insists its farm support subsidies will only be distributed if farmers comply with tougher greener environmental agriculture, provoking a revolt. . . 

Mixed reactions to road funding – Richard Rennie:

Despite the scale of the Government’s $24 billion-plus transport plan, mayors in some provincial regions are challenging the adequacy of funding for rural roading networks.

Auckland accounts for the lion’s share of the national land transport programme at $7.3b, but Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Manawatū, Canterbury and Otago are also swallowing $6.1b of the funds over the plan’s 2021-24 lifespan.

Ashburton District Council mayor Neil Brown said he was underwhelmed by the $1.2b allocated to Canterbury and just how much would be available to his council’s district as it continues to recover from  devastating floods in late May.

“When you look at general repairs and maintenance allocated, we did get more than the last three year plan, but it is only 1.6% more,” Brown said. . . 

Plea for more countries to be added to visa scheme for RSE workers :

A major horticulture group wants more countries added to the visa scheme for seasonal orchard and vineyard workers.

One-way quarantine-free travel by workers from Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu will start from next month, under the ‘recognised seasonal employer’ or RSE scheme.

Up to 14,400 people will be allowed in for the 2021-22 harvest.

Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said the industry is ready, and wanting to bring in as many people as possible. . . 

 

Taihape teaching farm transfer: Ombudsman says Education Ministry ‘unreasonable’ – Phil Pennington:

The Chief Ombudsman has found the Education Ministry was wrong to take a small farm used for agricultural lessons off a Taihape school.

Locals have won an apology but cannot get the farm back.

Townsfolk joined forces to buy the 13-hectare block cheaply from a local farmer, put hundreds of sheep and cattle on it three decades ago, and it has since been central to the curriculum.

But the ministry first took it, then disposed of it, several years ago despite the town’s protests. . . 

How Sri Lanka’s overnight flip to total organic farming has led to an economic disaster – Samyak Pandey:

Sri Lanka has been hit by a serious economic emergency even as it struggles to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dwindling foreign exchange reserves, a sinking currency and soaring food inflation have come together to create a crisis which is unprecedented even by the record of the island nation that was torn by civil war for decades.

The surge in food prices and a real fear of hoarding of essential food items was the last straw that forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to impose the economic emergency on 31 August under the public security ordinance.

At the root of this economic catastrophe is a bizarre overnight flip by Rajapaksa’s government on 29 April to ban the import of chemical fertilisers and any other agrochemicals to make the Indian Ocean nation the first in the world to practice organic-only agriculture. . . 


Yes Sir Humphrey

15/09/2021


How did we get from short & sharp to longest lockdown?

15/09/2021

The lockdown was supposed to be short and sharp, Chris Bishop explains why it’s turned into the longest:

Yesterday the Level 4 lockdown in Auckland was extended for another week. The Prime Minister said on August 17 it would be “short and sharp” but after another week, it will be the longest lockdown yet in our battle against COVID-19.

(Note from Chris: Here is an opinion piece which I pitched to Stuff and the NZ Herald. Neither decided it was worth publishing. At a time when the PM commands the airwaves on a daily basis at 1pm, it’s important for the National Opposition voice to be heard and for constructive criticism of the government.)

Lockdowns are incredibly expensive: it has been estimated a countrywide Level 4 lockdown costs the economy around $1.5 billion per week. That’s before you count the social cost: kids not at school, families split apart, the mental health impacts of being cooped up at home for days on end. I think almost everyone thinks we should be doing all we can to avoid them.

Sadly, it’s become clear in the government’s response to the recent delta outbreak that while Kiwis have done all they’ve been asked to do – the government hasn’t been playing its part. The “team of five million” has been let down.

Two things have become clear. First, we had no alternative but to lockdown because of our woefully low vaccination rates. Second, despite claims to the contrary, the government had done very little planning at all around how to respond to a further outbreak, particularly of delta, since the first COVID lockdown last year.

It gives me no pleasure as the Opposition spokesperson for COVID-19 to say that New Zealand’s vaccination rates, by world standards, are hopeless. For most of this year we had the world’s slowest vaccine roll-out. Chris Hipkins said at the end of 2020 we would be “at the front of the queue” but the reality is we are at the back of the pack. This is not the “year of the vaccine” we were promised by the Prime Minister.

The vaccines are safe, they work, and the data is very clear: the higher our vaccination rates, the less need there is of lockdowns. Every single person that goes and gets vaccinated brings us closer to freedom: freedom from lockdowns, and freedom to travel. That’s why the government’s ineptitude over vaccine supply matters. The government simply failed in its most important job: to get a supply of vaccines as early as possible and make sure as many people were vaccinated as possible as early as possible.

The government’s incompetence is astonishing. We were one of the last developed countries to sign contracts with vaccine manufacturers in 2020. We were then slow to approve the Pfizer vaccine. Hundreds of millions of jabs had been given by the time we approved it. We were then slow to actually order our doses, not doing it until January 29 this year. And we didn’t even bother to ask Pfizer if we could pay more to get earlier delivery of the vaccines, as other countries did. Compare the cost of paying a bit more to the cost of lockdowns, and do the maths. It’s a no brainer.

Incredibly, the government has claimed at various points it would be “unethical” or immoral to have a faster vaccine roll-out, because other countries need the vaccines more than we do. Leaving aside the internal inconsistency in this argument (other countries need them now too, but you don’t see the government giving ours up do you?), the New Zealand government’s first responsibility is to the people of New Zealand – and that means rolling out the vaccine as quick as they could. They failed.

The second failure by the government is their failure to plan for delta. The Prime Minister claimed on television this morning that delta only emerged in MIQ in June. That is completely incorrect. The first case of delta turned up in early April in MIQ and it has been raging across the world for most of this year. The government has sat ensconced behind the barriers of Fortress New Zealand and smugly looked at Australia, but they weren’t doing the work behind the scenes to prepare for when delta turned up here.

A smart government would have done an audit of all our MIQ facilities in light of delta to make sure infection control practices were up to scratch. Instead, a public walkway was allowed to share the same air as an exercise yard at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland and there was a vaccination centre right next to the Crowne Plaza. COVID positive people are still allowed to exercise in an underground car park in Wellington. Only now is the government reviewing MIQ facilities in light of delta.

A smart government would have had a plan in place for more quarantine facilities beyond the Jet Park. Instead the government had to scramble to get more quarantine facilities going like the Novotel Ellerslie – and then a COVID positive man escaped from it, putting us all at risk. It has taken over 24 hours to move many people from the community into quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, because the coordination plan between health officials and MIQ wasn’t in place.

Some of our current problems date back to the response to the first outbreak last year. Contract tracing has been an ever-present issue. There have been four expert reviews of contact tracing since April 2020. All have found it wanting but little has been done by the government. In this outbreak, it took six days for the government to second public servants from other departments to start contract tracing. By its own admission the government will fail to meet the contact tracing target metrics designed by Dr Ayesha Verrall, ironically enough now Associate Minister of Health. In this latest outbreak there are still 5000 contacts who have not even had a single phone call from a contact tracer!

A smart government would have had a plan in place around testing. Other countries use saliva tests and rapid antigen tests that return results in 15 minutes. Speed of testing with delta is critical, because the virus moves so far. But the government insists on using expensive and time consuming nasal PCR tests as our main testing technique. The result has been people who are told to get tested waiting 10-12 hours for a test or giving up and going home – or even worse, not even bothering. We should be using saliva testing much more widely – recommended to the government a year ago – as well as rapid antigen tests. Incredibly, these tests are banned in New Zealand.

There’s more I could mention. The failure to use Bluetooth tracing even though we’ve all been told for months to turn it on. The refusal to build purpose-built quarantine. The lack of preparation in our hospitals for a delta outbreak – no new ICU bed spaces have been provisioned over the five months.

The government borrowed $62 billion last year on the COVID Response Fund.  Did they spend this on contact tracing, testing capacity, and extra ICU capacity? That would have been sensible. Instead it was used as a slush fund. Instead the fund was spent on art therapy clinics, cameras on fishing boats, horse racing, public interest journalism, and school lunches. Yes, I’m serious.

Auckland is in lockdown – again – because the government failed to vaccinate quickly enough and the government failed to plan for delta.

A lot of people have found this lockdown harder, one reason for that is that it’s due in large part to government failures. Like Andrea Vance, we know the failings that let Delta loose were foreseeable.

The government didn’t implement recommendations of multiple reports they commissioned, they didn’t plan for Delta, they didn’t learn from mistakes and the fear is they still haven’t.


Numbers show the vaxed are safer

15/09/2021

What’s the point of getting vaccinated?

Unvaccinated New Zealanders are disproportionately represented among new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations in the community outbreak, in a pattern that mirrors trends overseas.

More than 82 percent of the Delta cases found as of Monday have been unvaccinated. An even higher proportion of those in hospital were unvaccinated.

That’s close to double the 42.8 percent of the general population that isn’t vaccinated. Receiving both doses of the vaccine is more effective as well, with just one fully vaccinated person ending up in hospital, alongside 15 people who had received one shot. 

Almost 30 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and 28 percent have had one dose.

On these numbers, an unvaccinated person is 119 times more likely to end up in hospital than a fully vaccinated person and eight times more likely than someone who had received one shot.

But these numbers might not be telling the fully story. Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris says it can take a couple of weeks after the vaccine is administered to reach full efficacy.

“You’ve got to allow time for that injection to take effect. It’s not instantaneous as soon as it’s administered, it takes a period of time for the body to have that immune response,” she said.

“Two weeks after the second dose, you start hitting a peak antibody response.”

On that basis, a full 95.9 percent of those in hospital had been unvaccinated two weeks prior to testing positive. Just four had received a single shot at least two weeks before they were tested and none were fully vaccinated. . . 

Anti vaxers and the vaccine hesitant argue that being vaccinated doesn’t stop you getting Covid-19.

No-one claims that any of the vaccines give 100% protection but these numbers show that partial vaccination provides some protection, and that the fully vaccinated are much less likely to get the disease and that if they do they are much less likely to need hospital treatment.

The internet makes it very easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of misinformation and anti-vaxers are unlikely to be moved by the facts.

But dare we hope that the vaccine hesitant might be convinced and heed the call to get vaccinated. Doing so will help us get enough people protected to lessen the likelihood of future lockdowns or at least reduce their severity with all the impacts on physical and emotional health, and the social and their economic costs.


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