Word of the day

11/10/2021

Gainbite –  remorse; repentance.


Sowell says

11/10/2021


Rural round-up

11/10/2021

Pomahaka river project hits half-way mark – Neal Wallace,

A three-year project to plant 230,000 native trees and shrubs and build 100km of riparian fencing on Otago’s Pomahaka River, is officially halfway completed.

The milestone for the Pomahaka Watercare Corridor Planting Project was marked with a function at the Leithen Picnic Area this week.

The $3.7 million project between the Primary Growth Fund, One Billion Trees Fund, 105 local farmers and the Pomahaka Water Care Group is designed to protect the Pomahaka River and its tributaries and offer employment opportunities post-covid-19. . . 

Farmers urged to have a Covid plan – Gerald Piddock:

Dairy farmers have been told to make an on-farm plan in case themselves or one of their staff tests positive for covid-19.

That plan had to be easily accessible and documented and communicated to all staff members, DairyNZ covid project manager Hamish Hodgson said in a webinar.

This plan was crucial for the farmer to be ready for covid.

He said he knew of one farmer organising campervans to be brought on-farm if they needed to be able to isolate people. . .

New Johne’s test based on Covid technology :

The same technology used to detect Covid-19 in wastewater is now being used to help dairy farmers manage Johne’s disease in their herd.

Johne’s disease is a contagious infection estimated to cost New Zealand more than $40 million in lost production each year.

It is caused by a bacterium which infects the gut of dairy cows and other ruminant animals. Common side effects include lower milk production, difficulty reproducing and rapid weight loss.

Herd improvement co-operative LIC has developed a new test which detects whether the bacteria responsible for Johne’s disease is present in a farm’s effluent wastewater. . .

Hemp industry builds infrastructure to secure its future – Country Life:

New Zealand’s largest hemp grower says farmers around the country want to start growing hemp but, before more come on board, markets need to be developed and infrastructure secured.

Hemp New Zealand’s Dave Jordan says it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ situation.

“There are a lot of ideas around and it’s all very well to have the ideas but you have got to actually have action on the ground and show people the benefit of it (hemp) and get customers to buy it.”

The company is working with 100 growers who grow 1000 hectares of hemp.

NZ shearer with 100 wins to pick up clippers again this year – Sally Murphy:

A farmer who was first in the world to win 100 blade-shearing finals isn’t ready to stop competing just yet.

Tony Dobbs from Fairlie won his 100th title at the Waimate Shears Spring Championships last year and considered retiring after being diagnosed with cancer.

This year’s Waimate Shears starts today with some of the country’s top shearers and wool handlers going head to head.

Dobbs was set down to judge the competition so thought he might as well compete too. . . 

On-farm quarantine the next step for ag workers – James Jackson:

After years of drought, farmers are finally facing an opportunity to reap the rewards of their hard work as bumper crops loom on the horizon. But labour shortages remain a significant and stubborn hurdle to reaching record-breaking harvests, and primary producers cannot afford to wait for the state to reopen to muster enough workers in time for their summer harvests.

NSW Farmers has joined forces with the National Farmers Federation to call for an immediate solution to get more workers to farms as quickly as possible. We propose a limited pilot of on-farm quarantine for 200 agricultural workers from low-risk countries, commencing when 70 per cent of adults in NSW are fully vaccinated.

A transition to on-farm quarantine arrangements in NSW as vaccination rates rise would alleviate a number of challenges the agriculture sector has faced in the hotel-quarantine model. The availability of hotel quarantine places in NSW is limited and further constrained by Sydney’s disproportionately high intake of returning residents, increasing the likelihood agricultural workers will miss out on a place. . . 


Yes Sir Humphrey

11/10/2021


‘Could officials and the government be any more short-sighted?’

11/10/2021

Michael Reddell fears Rako Science is in grave danger of being nationalised:

The government has introduced legislation which will allow the Minister of Health and the Director General to take over private companies doing COVID testing (further description is here). The likely target of this change is Rako, which has sought a commercial negotiation with the government for the last year. The amendment, which is before the Select Committee, will give the government the option of taking Rako’s property and unilaterally determine compensation. . .

Why?

Eric Crampton explains:

. . . The University of Illinois’s SHIELD protocol saliva-based PCR testing rolled out very successfully in August 2020.

By late 2020, Rako Science had brought it here, under licence. By January, Rako was providing accurate and rapid PCR testing for private clients under contract, with a test validated to ISO15189 standard.

Rako had offered its testing services to the Ministry of Health in December 2020.

First they ignored Rako.

Even though reports they commissioned recommended saliva testing.

When Rako’s deployment spread through early 2021, the Director General of Health made erroneous statements, perhaps through simple mistake, at 1pm briefings about the accuracy of saliva-based PCR testing.

Then they laughed at Rako.

When it became increasingly obvious that it was impossible to scale up nasal swab-based testing in any practicable way, the Ministry of Health set a procurement process for saliva-based PCR testing. That process is the subject of a complaint by Winston Peters to the Auditor General.

And, for months, according to Rako, the Ministry ignored or denied requests from Rako to link Rako’s test results into the nationally integrated reporting system.

Then they fought Rako.

Last week, on 29 September, the Government introduced the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2) into Parliament.

Rako found out about it on 5 October. Submissions close Monday 11 October.

Section 11 of the Bill provides the Government with the ability to requisition Rako’s materials and services, compensating the company at a deemed “market price”. Existing contracts with private hospitals for testing might need to be voided, come the requisition order.

On a charitable and optimistic interpretation, the Government has finally realised that it needs to contract for a massive amount of testing and does not want to have to negotiate with the provider of the only test validated to the appropriate ISO standard.

On a more frightening one, the Government is preparing to quasi-nationalise the provider they fought for so long.

Let’s hope Rako wins this one. If they don’t, we all lose.

Jonathan Milne interviewed Rako director Leon Grice :

. . . The Government has introduced a new law allowing the Ministry to take over private medical laboratories and requisition their testing supplies. That has upset Grice, who said Rako Science was not consulted on the hardline law change. The company, which already provides saliva tests for a list of private hospitals and other companies, had offered to contract its testing services to the ministry.

That offer was declined, but the new law would instead allow the ministry to just take over Rako’s laboratories, Grice said, and pay only a price that it unilaterally decided.

“There is other legislation where the Government can come in and expropriate or requisition private property – that’s the Public Works Act,” he said. “But that has more protections, like a process to determine a market rate that the Government must pay. Why haven’t they put those protections in this law? Instead, they can just insist we give up our stock and our reagents and our premises that we need to do our work.” . . 

Back to Michael Reddell:

. . . As for benefits, the RIS says “[t]his proposal will ensure flexibility in the legislation to make orders to effectively manage laboratory testing (if required) to ensure appropriate regulation of quality control and minimum standards in relation to testing, integration of COVID-19 test results into the public health, management of the supply of testing consumables.”

Set aside the fact that officials who cannot secure MIQ or order vaccines on time obviously cannot deliver any of those benefits.

Who would you rather have running this? The company that has been doing it successfully or the Ministry that time and time again has shown it would be foolish to trust it to run a bath?

Focus on costs. Officials seem to operating with a cost model that threatening to take a company’s IP is costless, and costs crystalise only when property is actually taken.

I wonder what Rako’s investors and employees think about that view? In fact, I wonder what every owner of intellectual property in every sector thinks about the Ministry’s view.

Because the cost of taking companies’ property is not the administrative overhead, as officials suggest in the RIS.

The cost is all the investment in innovation that will not happen in the future.

Those costs are large, big enough to be measured in percentages of GDP. So it is laughable that officials could list administrative costs as the only real downside of their proposal.

Do officials at the Ministry of Health understand how investment in specific assets works? Do they understand that investment in intellectual property, and in all sunk assets, depends on the credibility of the government’s promise not to take the property once it is created? Do officials recognise that even threatening such opportunism in one sector could have wider ramifications about security of property elsewhere? That prospective investors in wind turbines or EV charging infrastructure won’t notice the government putting in place machinery to take the property of medical companies?

Could officials and the government be any more short-sighted?

The answer to those questions is no.

Back to Eric Crampton:

If you care about the rule of law in New Zealand, and about the Covid response, you might consider submitting

If you haven’t time to do anything else, just telling them that it is wrong to propose stealing the testing system that they spend months and months deriding might be nice. 

If you have more time, reminding them that they ought at least be indemnifying Rako against all of the breach of contract messes that will result if the government steals Rako’s testing capacity, taking testing capacity away from the private hospitals and others who have paid for this service, causing a breach of contract, after having told Rako repeatedly not to reserve testing capacity for any government need and not to scale up for it – well, that could be a nice addition too. 

On a straight-econ side, even the least-evil explanation above is terrible. 

If investing in testing capacity is high risk, because the government will spend a year crapping all over you, telling people not to contract with you, telling media at the 1 PM Podium of Truth sessions that your testing system isn’t reliable, because you’re not their preferred supplier – and then the government FINALLY figures out that they might need to get a ton of testing from you? 

Well, at least some return on that risky-as-hell investment is in order if you want anybody to be willing to take similar risks in future. 

None of the international corruption indices understand how New Zealand works. . . 

This not only shows up the Ministry of Health’s ineptitude  – again – it also makes the country a far, far riskier place to invest.

If this proposal isn’t legalising theft it’s very close to it.

New Zealand is very proud of its place at or near the top of the international corruption rankings.

If the ranking has any credibility this arrogant and ignorant abuse of power would drop the country down to the level of the banana republics where this sort of behaviour belongs.


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