Word of the day

20/12/2021

Mochy – misty and muggy; unpleasantly warm and humid; moist, damp; mouldy.


Be merry in merino

20/12/2021


Rural round-up

20/12/2021

Looking for community connection – VIctoria O’Sullivan:

Building a multi-million-dollar water care project in a year has been no mean feat for a group of dedicated Maniototo locals. Each is ardent about preserving and enhancing the values of the upper Taieri Catchment in Otago.

The five-year Tiaki Maniototo project run by local catchment group, Upper Taieri Wai, received $4.55 million from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) towards freshwater improvement in the Taieri catchment this year. When combined with the in-kind support from other agencies and farmers, the total budget amounts to about $6m.

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Project manager Morgan Trotter says the project is about improving freshwater quality, ecosystem values and biodiversity in the Upper Taieri catchment. Trotter previously spent 17 years working for Fish & Game in the region and has more than 20 years’ experience in freshwater environmental management. While the focus of the project is creation of jobs and environmental outcomes there is a “massive” opportunity to help farmers through upcoming regulatory changes. . .

Low-methane sheep research wins top award :

AgResearch’s work to successfully breed low methane-emitting sheep has been recognised with the supreme award at this year’s Science New Zealand Awards.

The decade-long work by AgResearch scientists has enabled them to identify genetic differences which influence how much methane an individual sheep produces.

By breeding for this low-methane genetic trait, the scientists have been able to demonstrate that after three generations the lowest-emitting sheep produce close to 13% less methane than the highest emitters, per kilogram of feed eaten.

While the actual methane reduction at the farm-scale will be less when sheep are also being bred for other desirable genetic traits, it is still expected to be significant. . . 

Envy demand forecast brings building plans:

Horticultural company T&G Global has projected a $100 million new build of a pack house at Whakatu, near Hastings but not given a date for commencement or the start of operations.

The announcement was in the context of growth in market demand for its licensed Envy apple variety, independently forecast to reach $1 billion by 2030. 

Orchard redevelopment over 300ha in Hawke’s Bay and Nelson during the next four years will help meet that demand, including two-dimensional trees to allow for future automated management.

T&G is partnering with the NZ Super Fund through FarmRight in a 40ha Envy orchard. . .

Number of beef cattle on the rise :

Beef cattle numbers increased in 2021 while the number of sheep dipped slightly, Stats NZ said today.

Provisional figures from the 2021 agricultural production survey show beef cattle numbers have increased to 4 million at June 2021, a 4 percent (142,000) increase from the previous year.

“The total number of beef cattle was at a historical low in 2016, however it’s been increasing and is now up by 492,000, or 14 percent, since that time,” agricultural production statistics manager Ana Krpo said. Good beef prices throughout this period contributed to this increase.

The number of sheep nationally has been steady compared with the previous year, at 26 million. The lambing rate was also consistent with the previous year. . .

Trust lifts more kiwi eggs that ever in first half of bumper nesting season :

The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust looks likely to set fresh records for its Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme following delivery of 54 viable eggs to the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua in the first half of the 2021/2022 season. It still has two more ‘first clutch’ eggs to retrieve so it is possible that its ‘half time score’ will grow to 56.

Earlier this year it completed the return of a record 53 juvenile kiwi to the bush as part of its work with Operation Nest Egg, the nationwide kiwi recovery initiative that removes kiwi eggs from their burrows, incubates them and cares for the chicks in captivity until they’re big enough to fend for themselves in the wild.

Traditionally, fewer eggs are retrieved in the back half of the egg-lifting season. These are known as ‘second clutch’ eggs. But there are already signs that the second half of the 2021/2022 egg-lifting season at the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in Hawke’s Bay will also be strong.

Trust staffer and ‘kiwi whisperer’ Barry Crene said he had retrieved three eggs from two second-clutch nests. This is, he says, a promising start although he will never “count my kiwi before they’re hatched.” . . 

New chief executive appointed at Pāmu:

Silver Fern Farms Chief Operating Officer Mark Leslie will join Pāmu as its new Chief Executive, Pāmu Board chairman Dr Warren Parker announced today.

Dr Parker says Mr Leslie brings a wealth of primary sector experience to the role.

“The Board are delighted that Mark is joining Pāmu as we continue to successfully deliver our strategy. His skillset, including hands on experience running substantial livestock and dairy operations and background in farming, will be beneficial as we work to produce higher farm gate returns with a smaller environmental footprint, and with an ongoing focus on the wellbeing of our people, our animals and the land we farm,” Dr Parker said. . . 


Little Drummer Boy

20/12/2021

Case for Royal Commission

20/12/2021

Rachel Smalley joins the calls for a Royal Commission into the Covid response:

. . . And now, as we head into Christmas, lurching around in a traffic light system, with police checkpoints and mandated vaccinations for many, a Royal Commission of Inquiry suddenly feels fiercely important.

There is so much we don’t understand, and we need to.

Central to it all is the rationale that guided the government’s decision-making on the health, fiscal, and economic response to Covid. What did it nail, and where did it fail? 

There are a lot more questions that need to be answered.

All along, the government has said it has been guided by the science, but was that the only yardstick? And if so, should it have been? If science guided the health response, whose modelling did we rely on and why?

Did the government, at any point, stress-test its response? Were there moments of evaluation? Was it ever retrospective? Did Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s strategists ever consider the possibility of another way? Or was it always an elimination strategy – until it wasn’t?

What impact did the lockdowns have on our health system? How many missed surgery? How many cancer diagnoses or heart procedures were delayed, and at what human cost? Was the impact on mental health considered or measured? Was there a correlation between lockdowns and our suicide rate? Was any attempt made to measure this? Is our health system capable of collating data? Did we know what happened to domestic violence rates? Did intimate partner deaths increase?

Most of us have toed the line. We stayed away from those we loved. We kept our distance. We didn’t see or hug our parents. They didn’t see or hold their grandchildren.

It was for our own good, we were told, but was it? What impact did it have on marriages, mental wellbeing, and our teenagers and children?

In a global pandemic, how should a government communicate with the public? Was fear a by-product of its communications strategy, or was it central to it? Fear, communicated to us daily, became a form of control. The concept of wanting to touch or hug someone outside of our bubble became sinful. At times, it felt illegal to be human. In the upper North Island, it still does.

In Auckland, elderly people in rest homes were left in their rooms all day, every day, for weeks. Food was passed through the door. Sometimes, they could take a short daily walk, but it was alone. No touch, no conversation, no compassion for months. Did anyone, for a moment, imagine the loneliness of that existence for someone in the winter years of their life?

And more…

Why did the prime minister take months to talk to Pfizer? Why did MBIE manage the procurement of the vaccine and not Pharmac? When did we start preparing for Delta? How did we botch the vaccine rollout? And what is the financial cost of that? If Auckland had accessed the vaccine sooner, the city wouldn’t have spent months in lockdown, costing the country billions of dollars in debt.

MIQ. Why didn’t we prioritise spaces for much-needed essential workers? How did Delta escape from the Stamford Plaza? One breach of MIQ has cost our economy billions of dollars. Why couldn’t we find the source?

Should we have prioritised returning New Zealanders, and not left them electronically queuing with thousands of people for a space in MIQ? How many skilled immigrants, separated from their families, left New Zealand because Immigration NZ failed to process their visas? And why couldn’t they process those visas?

Why weren’t Māori and Pasifika, our most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, prioritised early in the vaccine rollout? Pasifika is one of our youngest populations, and 70% of Māori are below the age of 40. Delta was endemic before most were even eligible for the vaccine.

How much money have we borrowed? Was the wage subsidy and business support payment the best allocation of capital? Was the strategy fit for purpose? Did it keep zombie companies alive? And kill hospitality?

Other questions include:

Why weren’t we better prepared for a pandemic?

Why weren’t we better prepared for Delta?

Why wasn’t there enough PPE for all frontline workers who needed it; why wasn’t there enough flu vaccines last year and why did the PM and DG of Health keep saying there was enough when there wasn’t?

Why did the government not implement the recommendations of the reports it commissioned?

Why aren’t self-testing kits freely available here as they are in other countries?

Why didn’t we learn from other countries’ experiences?

Why hasn’t the government built special purpose MIQ facilities?

Why was preparation for outbreaks so poor people were queuing for hours for tests?

Why did the government take so long to listen to pleas from the pork industry to allow butchers to kill pigs when there was a real and urgent animal welfare issue?

Why were there so many inconsistencies over what was an essential business that could operate at level 4 and what wasn’t and therefore couldn’t operate?

Why, before Omicron was detected, couldn’t people who were double vaccinated and tested negative self-isolate, at least in Auckland where people with Covid-19 were self-isolating?

Why didn’t the government accept the advice and help of people like Sir Ian Taylor?

These questions barely scratch the surface. There is, without question, a need to consider our government’s response to the pandemic, and independently.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry would do that. It would delve deeper, compel evidence, call witnesses under oath and, crucially, investigate without political bias.

This won’t be our last rodeo. There will be more global health pandemics. Next time, our strategy needs to go further than ‘Go hard and go early’. In 2022, the government must show its willing to listen and learn – and commit to a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

What divides democracy and dictatorship? Public accountability.

And all of us need answers.

The government has been very good at praising itself, slow to learn from its mistakes and very defensive when criticised.

The best way to get answers to the many questions over its preparedness and response and to ensure both are better next time is a Royal Commission.


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