Word of the day


Bobbersome – eager, impatient, and a little bit excitable.

Sowell says


Rural round-up


Labour’s economic mismanagement hurting farmers :

Grant Robertson’s refusal to rein in spending and take meaningful action to dampen inflation is piling pressure on primary industries, National’s spokesperson for Rural Communities Nicola Grigg says.

“This Labour Government has unleashed unprecedented levels of spending in last week’s Budget, with more than $9.5 billion in new spending forecast this year alone. To put it in context, they are now spending 68 per cent more, or an extra $51 billion per year, since coming into office.

“This out of control spending is putting huge pressure on the economy and is driving inflation to a record 30-year high, with the cost of farm inputs rising by 9.8 per cent since the March quarter last year.

“This week we saw another 50 basis point jumps in the OCR, the first back to back 50 point increase since the OCR was introduced – which has never happened before and will effectively double interest rates compared with last year. . . 

Farmers encouraged to make the most of wetlands :

A new guide has been developed to help farmers get the most out of wetlands on their land – and it features a case study that shows a wetland on one Waikato farm removed about 60 percent of nitrogen from the water it receives.

As more farmers look to reduce their environmental impact, there’s growing interest in re-establishing and constructing new wetlands.

Dairy NZ and NIWA, with guidance from the Fish and Game Council have teamed up to create a guide for farmers, which features a Waikato dairy farm as a case study.

Gray and Marilyn Baldwin developed a wetland on their 713 hectare dairy farm, where over 12,000 native plants were put in. . . 


Critical questions – Owen Jennings:

A number of critically important questions have been raised in recent discussions I have had with farmers about their greenhouse gas emissions. They deserve answers. The mainstream media ignore them preferring to bag the farming community saying they are getting off lightly and are not meeting their responsibilities.

Question 1. Why is Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement ignored when it states clearly that countries should not reduce food production in their pursuit of emission goals? Proposals that will reduce production by 15% or more violate the Agreement.

Question 2. Why are we taking unilateral action that will cut production in NZ that has the planet’s lowest carbon footprint when we know that other countries, with a worse record, will make up the shortfall leading to increased emissions overall?

Question 3. Why is 1990 used as a base date for measuring ruminant emissions when methane emissions only last 9 to 10 years in the atmosphere? Isn’t that deceptive? The Climate Change Commission showed clearly ruminant methane emissions are stable or falling slightly since 2005 which means farmers have achieved ‘net zero’ and are actually contributing to cooling the planet. The amount of methane from the farm in the atmosphere is falling. Farmers are heroes not villains. . . 

Pioneering viticulturist receives Wine Marlborough Lifetime Achievement Award :

A stalwart of the Marlborough wine industry, Dominic Pecchenino, has been honoured by the board of Wine Marlborough with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award, which recognises service to the development of the Marlborough Wine industry, was presented to the viticultural consultant during the Winter Pruning Field Day held at Matador Estate today [Wednesday, 25 May].

Wine Marlborough General Manager Marcus Pickens says Mr Pecchenino has played a significant role in the development of Marlborough’s wine industry as a scientist and viticulturist.

He arrived in Marlborough from the US in 1994, as vineyard manager of Matador Estate – the very place where he was honoured with his award, almost 30 years later. . .


Olive oil pressers optimistic despite low olive oil produce :

Olive oil growers in Wairarapa are optimistic about the season’s harvest, despite some very wet weather to start with.

Leafyridge Olives manager and grower Craig Leaf-Wright said the weather had thrown growers a curveball.

“We’ve had a lot of rain in the Wairarapa since December, and then on and off since then, and that kind of skewed things a bit for people,” he said.

“Some people thought that their fruit was ripening earlier, I think it’s probably about on par, and some people believe it should be a bit later. . .

In Sri Lanka organic farming went catastrophically wrong – Ted Nordhaus & Saloni Shah:

Faced with a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis, Sri Lanka called off an ill-conceived national experiment in organic agriculture this winter. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised in his 2019 election campaign to transition the country’s farmers to organic agriculture over a period of 10 years. Last April, Rajapaksa’s government made good on that promise, imposing a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and ordering the country’s 2 million farmers to go organic.

The result was brutal and swift. Against claims that organic methods can produce comparable yields to conventional farming, domestic rice production fell 20 percent in just the first six months. Sri Lanka, long self-sufficient in rice production, has been forced to import $450 million worth of rice even as domestic prices for this staple of the national diet surged by around 50 percent. The ban also devastated the nation’s tea crop, its primary export and source of foreign exchange.

By November 2021, with tea production falling, the government partially lifted its fertilizer ban on key export crops, including tea, rubber, and coconut. Faced with angry protests, soaring inflation, and the collapse of Sri Lanka’s currency, the government finally suspended the policy for several key crops—including tea, rubber, and coconut—last month, although it continues for some others. The government is also offering $200 million to farmers as direct compensation and an additional $149 million in price subsidies to rice farmers who incurred losses. That hardly made up for the damage and suffering the ban produced. Farmers have widely criticized the payments for being massively insufficient and excluding many farmers, most notably tea producers, who offer one of the main sources of employment in rural Sri Lanka. The drop in tea production alone is estimated to result in economic losses of $425 million. . . 

Chesterton quotes


Councils must oppose Three Waters


Groundswell is launching a campaign against Three Waters:

Groundswell NZ is launching a campaign to demand councils oppose the Government’s Three Waters project, hold local referenda, and withdraw from Local Government New Zealand, Groundswell NZ Three Waters spokesperson Lee Smith says.

“Groundswell NZ is launching a campaign to hold councils across New Zealand accountable on their Three Waters position and demanding they hold a local referendum before supporting Three Waters.”

“Over 3,700 people have already joined the campaign by telling their councillors to oppose Three Waters at itsyourwater.nz.”

“While the Government is forcing Three Waters through, councils still have a duty to their ratepayers to stand up for their views and interests. Too many councils have been ambivalent towards Three Waters, and some even support it, despite widespread opposition from the locals they represent.”

“Groundswell NZ’s consistent position has been that no ratepayer assets should change hands without a clear local and democratic mandate from residents in binding referenda.”

“Every council must either publicly oppose Three Waters and do all it can to stop it, or else hold a local referendum.”

“We are holding public events across the country, starting in Southland and Otago, and will be delivering signatures from locals to their council, demanding action opposing Three Waters.”

“Groundswell NZ is also calling for every council to withdraw from LGNZ, as Timaru District Council has done.”

“LGNZ’s failure to speak out against Three Waters, due to the agreement it signed with the Government, is such a fundamental failure to live up to its purpose that the $4 million councils collectively fund them with would be better spent on our infrastructure needs at home”, Lee Smith said.

A District Councillor told me that there are very real fears that if the Government’s proposals for Three Waters goes ahead, every dwelling, no matter how remote, would have to be connected to a sewer system instead of using septic tanks.

That would be both impractical and prohibitively expensive.

The opposition to the plan must continue for several very good reasons, not least of which is that, as Barrie Saunders says, it’s a totally unnecessary battle:

The Three Waters proposal driven by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is a totally unnecessary, very divisive battle with local government and the people of New Zealand.  

The focus has been on whether there should be co-governance with iwi leaders, and also, whether it adequately prevents privatisation, which I see as a red herring maybe designed to divert attention from the real issues.  

The critical question is whether the failings of local government are such, that their Three Waters assets should be confiscated by the state, reformulated into four entities, and then handed back into a convoluted governance regime involving iwi and local government nominees.   

Having looked at the papers behind the proposals I do not believe they meet the necessary threshold.  Yes, there are problems, as Local Government NZ has recognised for many years, but they do not in my view justify central government overriding local government in this heavy-handed manner.  

The first real issue is water quality, which the government has dealt to by establishing the water quality agency Taumata Arowai.  It has only just started operating but will have a real role in ensuring New Zealanders have access to quality water across the whole country.   Anyone who says the Three Waters proposal is necessary to ensure quality supplies is either seriously ignorant or just telling lies.  

Central government, through Taumata Arowai should set standards and audit councils to ensure they meet them. That does not need the bureacracy-heavy centralisation that Three Waters would impose.

The Three Waters advertising last year was dishonest in that it implied the nationalisation was required to ensure quality water, when the Taumata Arowai had already been established in law.  That was a shocker for which heads should roll in the public service.    

The second real question is how to finance and manage the three waters systems throughout the country.  Clearly over the next 30 years the capex requirements will be high, maybe $180 billion, but I note many in the sector considered it to be grossly inflated.   Some local authorities may lack the expertise to manage the upgrades required, or have the ability to finance them with their current limits on borrowing.  

Short of local government imposing excessive burdens on their ratepayers or central government underwriting local authority debts, there are a range of options which can be found on the website of the now 31 local authorities opposing the governments’ plans.  Three of these councils are taking legal action.  For more information see: https://www.communities4localdemocracy.co.nz  

If after exhausting all options with local government, which it has not yet done, the Government then decided decisive action was required it would require a careful plan.  The logical course would be to collaboratively work through the issues with local government and come up with an agreed formula.  I suspect instead of just four entities there would be more like 10, with Auckland City left entirely alone.

Some of the boundaries defy the common-sense test.  Gisborne to Nelson including Wellington is Entity C, which is not rational, particularly when it’s remembered that Horizons in Manawatu is actually split with Entity B.  The logic of Entity C is to accommodate Ngai Tahu, which in the 19th century controlled the South Island outside of the Nelson area.     

At that point the Government might well decide to underwrite the new entities to reduce their borrowing costs.  The alternative, which the Government has decided on, provides the proposed entities with such a level of independence from local government, it can borrow freely.  The massive risk to ratepayers is that insulated from local government politicians the entities will be able to gold-plate their systems, and charge the 100pc captive customers.  No wonder Standard and Poors likes it!!

I see the Government may establish a regulatory agency to ensure this doesn’t happen but I remain sceptical it will be effective.   Monopolists always have good explanations for their cost structure.   I remember been told by the head of NZ Railways, when they employed 23,000, they were about as efficient as they could get.   Now KiwiRail employs fewer than 5000.  Mahuta’s claim Three Waters will create, presumably an additional 6000-9000 jobs, reinforces my scepticism.  

The co-governance concept comes from iwi leaders who rejected the Key Governments’ declaration, fresh water belongs to everyone and as representative of the people, it was the Government’s job to regulate usage, in conjunction with local government.  

Fresh water is not the same as dams, pipes and sewage processing, assets built up by local governments since 1840.   The water ownership issue should be dealt with directly by the Government and not conflated with Three Waters.  Mahuta has further deepened suspicion about Three Waters by refusing to declare iwi will not be able to demand water royalties.

The net result is, like Putin’s war on Ukraine, we have a very unnecessary battle within this country to deal with some real but not insurmountable problems.  I hope the National Party commits itself to pressing the reset button, assuming the current Government is too pig headed to do that itself.  

National has been quite clear that it opposes Three Waters and will throw it out should it become government next year.

In the meantime, it would be nice if the missing in action media, could really drill down into the issues, rigorously analyse the problem, weigh the alternatives and provide some real clarity.   That might regain it some credibility presently lacking on Three Waters.  And while doing that remember, just because people oppose co-governance, doesn’t mean they must be racist as asserted by one writer.

We have a high-quality democracy which is in serious danger of being degraded by a radical interpretation of the Treaty partnership concept.   No one should be surprised when its defended.  I would have thought this would be of some interest to the media, or is that too much to expect?

Some councils will face very large costs to get their water up to standard but that’s no excuse for taking their assets off them and giving them to a new and expensive bureaucracy.

The Government has already spent $34 million designing a reform so badly received they plan to bill water users more than a billion dollars to bring stakeholders on board.

Figures released by the Department of Internal Affairs shows that the Government has spent $34 million to date on the four mega-corporation model for Three Waters Reform, with more than $9 million on staffing and $24 million on external contractors.

The more than $1 billion mooted as part of the ‘no worse off’ and ‘better off’ funding package being given to councils will be funded through future water charges from the new entities.

Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori Chair and Manawatu District Mayor Helen Worboys said a cheaper and more effective option would have been to listen to stakeholders rather than spend millions on expensive consultants.

“While any reform of this type isn’t going to be cheap, to spend $34 million to come up with a flawed proposal that no one is happy with beggars belief,” she said.

“Flaws aside, to then mandate a reform that’s overwhelmingly unpopular with communities and requires more than a billion dollars in spending to convince councils to come on board, when councils agree reform of some kind is necessary, is an astounding waste of money. . . 

These are eyewatering sums  – $24 million on contractors and more than $9 million on staff without doing anything at all to improve water quality and more than $1 billion in future water charges.

All candidates seeking election, or re-election, to local bodies this year must be quite clear where they stand on Three Waters so ratepayers and residents know whether or not they will bow to the government’s dictate or are prepared to fight the government’s divisive, expensive and unnecessary proposal.

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