Word of the day


Sparple – to scatter; spread abroad; disperse; disseminate; rout; to deflect unwanted attention from one thing by making a big deal of another.

Rural round-up


24-hour Shear-a-thon to raise money for hospital – Shawn McAvinue:

The rural sector is uniting again to help those battling cancer in the South.

Shear 4 Blair 24-hour Shear-a-thon will run in the woolshed on Wohelo Station in Moa Flat on February 5 and 6.

The event is to raise money for the Southland Charity Hospital in Invercargill, which was established in 2019.

Winton man Blair Vining died of bowel cancer in 2019, after calling for cancer care to be equitable for all New Zealanders. . . 

Horticulture industry using fund to support growers impacted by Tonga eruption –

New Zealand’s horticulture and wine industries are calling for donations to support Tonga after the volcanic eruption.

The horticulture industry labour collective, made up of NZ Apples & Pears, NZ Kiwifruit Growers, Summerfruit NZ, NZ Wine, NZ Ethical Employers, and HortNZ, said it was saddened by news of the tsunami and its impact.

It aims to help the Tongan economy recover and is using the Growers Relief Fund to collect donations to support small businesses like market gardens to recover.

The fund is a charity that helps to support growers in an adverse event, with wellness or when additional support is needed. The fund also helps people working in the horticulture industry who need assistance, to help nurture the whole horticultural community. . . 

Mature lowland forest lost in Wānaka fire – DOC :

A popular Wānaka lake and track were spared during a devastating fire earlier this month.

The fire took hold on 9 January at Emerald Bay, burning 280 hectares of land and taking four days to contain.

The Department of Conservation said it was too early to know the full extent of the damage to conservation land.

Its Central Otago Pou Matarautaki/operations manager Nikki Holmes, said Diamond Lake and the Rocky Summit Track were untouched. . .

Beekeepers hoping for good flow – Tim Cronshaw:

Beekeepers hope a sluggish start won’t put the brakes on honey flows this year.

They want to avoid a repeat of the 2020-21 season when national honey production was down 24% to 20,500 tonnes, from a much better summer.

The average honey yield fell then to 25kg per hive.

Apiculture NZ chief executive Karin Kos said a late-flowering and cold and windy start has failed to assist beekeepers so far this season. . . 

A secret getaway to Mototapu track – Liz Carlson:

Perhaps the closest backcountry hut near the popular outdoor playground of Wanaka is one that you might not have heard of – Fern Burn Hut. Tucked away on a lush high-country station, it is the first stage in a three-day tramp connecting Wanaka and Arrowtown, which retraces a historic path in Central Otago.

An enjoyable day walk to the modern hut, it’s a great way to experience the beauty of the area, though it’s even better if you stay the night in one of the 12 bunks.

Most people walk the 34-kilometre Motatapu Track over three days, though the day trips and overnight at one of the huts are equally enjoyable. From Wanaka to Fern Burn Hut is only 7km and a couple of hours winding up and down over the beautiful land.

The track begins near Glendhu Bay in Wanaka, making it one of the closest and easily accessed huts from the town, and a great alternative to the busy alpine huts in summer  – you’ll often have the place to yourself. . . 

Going the distance:

Getting fast broadband to rural areas of New Zealand is the last great challenge for the country’s Internet network.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key said last week one of the top achievements of his time in government was Ultra-Fast Broadband. The roll-out of fibre arrived in time to be a vital help for communities during Covid lockdowns and is now an essential service for all kinds of social and economic reasons.

But he said he was concerned about the rural/urban divide with a number of people unable to get access to fibre Internet.

Luckily there is already a solution for many rural properties as New Zealand’s wireless internet providers, or WISPS, are working to link users with quality broadband and which have been building their own networks to do this. . . 

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Ele Ludemann


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.

And yes, this week’s episode is about me.

RWNZ’s intro says:

Ele Ludemann’s journey has been a challenging one . . .

Ele speaks of the importance of naming and taming feelings as part of the grief cycle, strategies for everyone to help deal with grief, and shares her interesting farming journey with her husband Grant, from the “ag sag” of the eighties through to today.

Ele has experienced great tragedy within her life so far, and has graciously and candidly shared her story with our listeners today

I’ve been educated, entertained and inspired by listening to these podcasts on my daily walks and feel both humble and privileged to be included in the series.

You can catch up on all the podcasts at Rural Women NZ Black Heels and Tractor Wheels. A new interview is posted every Wednesday.

This isn’t normal


Does anyone else remember the government telling us that we had to get vaccinated so we could enjoy a normal summer and that when 90% of those eligible were vaccinated we would be able to enjoy a normal summer?

If my recall is correct, this was yet another promise from this government on which they failed to deliver.

Northland is still marooned in red and the rest of us are stuck in orange with requirements and restrictions which are anything but normal.

We’re also facing increasingly dire warnings about the impact of the Omicron variant, and last night learned of a secret government report stoking fears of what might happen:

The Government is bracing itself for an Omicron outbreak that will swamp the country’s health system and elude the precautionary measures which have prevented coronavirus transmission so far, according to a document leaked to Māori Television.

The classified Across Government Situation Report reveals advisers’ fears of panic buying of food, protective masks and medication should Omicron eventually spread and says home-made face coverings are “unlikely to be effective”.

“Facial coverings made from cloth materials are not sufficient in preventing or reducing infection of Omicron,” the document prepared for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet says. . . 

In light of that, we ought to have good access to N95 or P2 masks but they are very, very scarce..

I couldn’t find any in Oamaru on Tuesday. I did find KN95 masks in a pharmacy but they are self-certified and therefore not always as effective as they say they are and sales were restricted to one pack of 5 per customer.

I was able to buy some P2 masks online tonight but the outlet from which I ordered them is now saying they’re sold out and won’t have more in stock until the end of March.

Lanaco still has P2 masks in stock and has a video which discusses their effectiveness.

The government has been telling us how good they’ve been at protecting us, but the report says that could make us more vulnerable:

The report says given many haven’t been exposed to previous waves of Covid-19 like Delta, New Zealand could be harder hit than the US and Europe, which are now battling their own Omicron outbreaks.

“Most will not have any protective immunity benefits that may arise from prior infection,” it says. . . 

We do have a high vaccination rate and Lindsay Mitchell shows the statistics on that are clear:

Yes, the fully-vaccinated can still end up in hospital. In fact there are more vaccinated than unvaccinated people in hospital.  But the important numbers are shown in the rates.

The unvaccinated are 6.93 times more likely to be hospitalised and 17.5 times more likely to be admitted to ICU.

That is only part of the story:

Of course it doesn’t stop there. Efficacy against illness severity is only one aspect. Next vaccine safety, vaccine effect on virus transmissibility, vaccine efficacy versus other treatments, etc etc. need consideration. . . 

We don’t know the long term effects of vaccines but I have heard enough from friends overseas who have either had the disease or have seen what it can do to people they know, and from health professionals I trust to decide the short term risk from Covid-19 is the greater one.

But my trust doesn’t extend to the government and its competence.

That leaves me with with several questions. Chief among them are why, isn’t the government better prepared for Omicron when it has seen what’s happened overseas; why has it ignored reports it has commissioned that exhort it to be better prepared and why does it not already have a plan for dealing with the inevitable community transmission?

Jason Walls says we need a plan now:

. . . What we need is a plan. What we’ve got so far is anything but. 

When asked on Monday when a plan would be unveiled, Jacinda Ardern told reporters: “In the coming weeks”. 

MIQ officials should be commended for keeping Omicron at bay for so long. But even the most optimistic in Ardern’s Cabinet can’t seriously expect the virus to remain caged for “weeks”. 

It’s critical Kiwis know the plan before the first community case is discovered.   

Ardern and her Covid Minister, Chris Hipkins, have both said a new community outbreak would be dealt with under the traffic light system and further lockdowns have been ruled out.   

But beyond that – and some vague comments about wider mask usage – how the Government plans to combat the virus’ inevitable spread remains a question mark. 

This is despite Omicron making global headlines months ago, and first arriving in MIQ in mid-December.   

“In the coming weeks” is simply not good enough – we need a plan now, not when the next outbreak has already started.   . . 

This incompetence is beginning to look like normal for the government and that’s why normal won’t be normal for the rest of us for a lot longer than the rest of summer.

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