Word of the day


Intramundane – being, existing, located or occurring within the material world.

Sowell says


Rural round-up


Finalists announced for prestigious Trans Tasman Agricultural Award :

The Zanda McDonald Award, Australasia’s agricultural badge of honour, have announced their 2023 Award finalists, comprising of six passionate young professionals from Australia and New Zealand.

Now in its ninth year, the coveted award recognises future leaders working in agriculture, and provides an impressive prize package centred around tailored mentoring and education. The six talented finalists – three from Australia and three from New Zealand – have been selected for their passion for the industry, strong leadership skills, and the contributions they’re making to the primary sector. One winner will be chosen from each country.

The New Zealand finalists are Harriet Bremner, 33, author and health, safety and wellbeing advocate for Rural New Zealand, and farmer at Jericho Station, Southland; Jacques Reinhardt, 34, Station Manager at Castlepoint Station Wairarapa; and Monica Schwass, 31, Future Farming Manager at The NZ Merino Company, based in Christchurch.

The Australian finalists are Charles Vaughan, 29, Queensland Operations Coordinator/Group Veterinarian for Australian Cattle Enterprises and Director of Charles Vaughan Veterinary Services Pty Ltd; Mitch Highett, 33, Founder and Managing Director of farm management company Bullseye Agriculture, from Orange NSW; and Sarah Groat, 34, Development Officer for government Agtech programme “Farms of the Future”, for the Department of Primary Industries, who lives on the family farm near Rankin’s Springs NSW. . . 

Asparagus growers hoping to overcome flooding troubles ahead of harvest :

The asparagus harvesting season has just begun, but some growers’ fields are still partly underwater from recent flooding.

It’s hoped this season will outperform last year’s, when just a third of the spears were harvested because Covid lockdowns disrupted the restaurant trade right up until Christmas.

Cam Lewis of Horowhenua’s Tendertips Asparagus said they cranked up their packhouse last week, but they had to get to the produce first.

“There’s still quite a few of our paddocks underwater at the moment, but we’re hoping for a good spring,” he said. . . 

Feds MP face off in John Luxton memorial match – Hamish Barwick :

Three Federated Farmers board members make up the front row of the dairy sector rugby team in this Saturday’s John Luxton Memorial Match in Morrinsville.

Facing off against MPs and parliamentary staff, the rugby match is a memorial for the late Hon John Luxton, the founding chair of DairyNZ and former Agriculture Minister. A netball game is also held in Luxton’s memory.

“We’ve got a full front row from Federated Farmers – president Andrew Hoggard, vice-president Wayne Langford and dairy chair Richard McIntyre – and I’ll be pulling on my boots to play on the wing,” said DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

In the rugby team, Southland farmer Tangaroa Walker is flying up to pull on the number 8 jersey – Tangaroa runs his own Farm4Life programme with how-to information for people starting out in dairy farming. Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award winner Quinn Morgan will be playing mid-field – Morgan takes an active role encouraging other young people to join the sector. . . 

A fair shears share on both sides of the Tasman :

New Zealand wool harvesting trainer Elite Wool Industry Training has taken a big step to address global shortage of skilled woolshed labour by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with two of Australia’s major players in the industry.

The other parties are woolgrower-owned Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Australia’s largest shearing and wool handling training organisation, SCAA Shearer Wool Handler Training (SCAA SWTI).

The MOU is in response to the global shortage of shearers and skilled woolhandlers, which New Zealand wool and sheep meat producers have endured for the past two years, resulting in the costs of shearing increasing by at least 15-20 per cent. . . 

Land Co head: slow investors forcing us toward offshore investors :

Local investors are sitting on their hands, an NZX-listed land management company says, and they are now on the hunt for foreign investors.

NZ Rural Land Management (NZL) chair Rob Campbell said in the company’s annual report that its manager had been doing an ‘excellent job’.

The initial public offering of shares (IPO) were followed by a record full year net profit and a strong increase in the value of shares.

The entity was created to manage the new NZ Rural Land Company Limited (NZRLC), which buys rural land to lease to farming operators. It first listed on the NZX in late 2020. . .

Parasitic worm pesticide approved for use :

A new pesticide to combat parasitic worms in carrots, kūmara, parsnips, and potatoes has been approved for use in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Plant-parasitic worms, or nematodes, are considered a major risk to some of our most popular root vegetables, with producers sometimes experiencing complete crop failure from the damage they cause.

The applicant, Adama New Zealand Limited, said Nimitz will be an important tool to ensure the economic viability of these important crops.

“EPA staff conducted comprehensive risk assessments and found the risks to people and the environment to be negligible, with appropriate rules in place,” says Dr Lauren Fleury, Hazardous Substances Applications Manager. . . 

Record payout


Fonterra has announced a record payout:

. . .Fonterra today announced a strong set of results for the financial year ending 31 July 2022, reflecting a 2021/22 Farmgate Milk Price of NZ$9.30 per kgMS and normalised profit after tax of NZ$591 million. 

With a total dividend of 20 cents per share to our fully shared-up farmers – comprising of an interim dividend of 5 cents per share and a final dividend of 15 cents per share – the final cash pay-out for farmers is $9.50.

Total Group normalised Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) was NZ$991 million, up NZ$39 million or 4% on the prior year. 

Chief Executive Miles Hurrell says despite the challenges including increased costs associated with supply chain volatility, 2021/22 was a good year for the Co-op.

“These results demonstrate that our decisions relating to product mix, market diversification, quality products and resilient supply chain, mean the Co-op is able to deliver both a strong milk price and robust financial performance in a tough global operating environment.

“The Co-op is pleased to be able to pay a total dividend of 20 cents per share for our farmer owners and unit holders. And this year’s higher Farmgate Milk Price is the strongest it has ever been, which is great news for our farmers. New Zealand also benefits from this, with $13.7 billion returned into the economy in milk price payments alone this year.

“Importantly, one year on, the Co-op is making tangible progress against our strategy – namely to focus on New Zealand milk, be a leader in sustainability and a leader in dairy innovation and science. . . 

This is good news for farmers, sharemilkers and the wider economy and the outlook for the current season is positive in spite of global uncertainties.

The forecast farmgate Milne price for this season is a range of NZ$8.50–$10.00 per kgMS, with a midpoint of NZ$9.25 per kgMS and a range of  45-60 cents for shares.


Is the work even necessary?


The Public Service Commissioner will investigate Nanaia Mahuta’s family contracts:

The public service watchdog is looking into government departments’ management of potential conflict of interest with regards to awarding contracts to family members of Labour minister Nanaia Mahuta.

Public Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has been tasked with running a ruler across the entire public service to ensure everything is above board – a request that came from Public Services Minister Chris Hipkins. Hipkins was asked to examine the issue by Mahuta following several news stories outlining concerns about potential conflicts of interests.

Hughes told Newshub on Wednesday: “Mr Simeon Brown MP has asked me to look into complaints of conflict of interest at four agencies involving the awarding of contracts. I have agreed to do this.”

“The Minister for the Public Service has now asked me to broaden this, to satisfy myself that all Public Service agencies are following proper processes to manage conflicts of interest. I have also agreed to do this.” . . 

In a letter to National’s Simeon Brown, who wrote to the Public Services Commissioner in August and September about government department contracts going to Mahuta’s family members, Hughes said he didn’t believe the matter “reaches the threshold” for an official inquiry.

Does that fill you with confidence? Isn’t it too early to say that it doesn’t reach the threshold for an official inquiry?

“However, I agree with you that how the four agencies managed conflicts of interest issues here needs to be looked into and I intend to do that,” Hughes said.

“Specifically, I intend to look into how these agencies managed perceived or actual conflicts of interest concerning KAS [Ormsby’s Ka Awatea Services Ltd] and its associated business enterprises and form a view on the adequacy of what has occurred. Where any issues are outstanding, I will ensure appropriate action is taken to address them.” . .

In his letter to the PSC Simeon Brown said:

. . .“Nanaia Mahuta’s husband’s firm has been the recipient of several Government contracts appearing to present a number of conflicts of interest and perceived conflicts of interest.

“Two of these contracts were awarded to Ms Mahuta’s husband’s firm when she was an Associate Minister for the department awarding the contract.

“This week the New Zealand Herald revealed Ms Mahuta was listed as one of the paid panellists working on a contract awarded to her husband’s firm for work on a suicide prevention programme. This presents even more questions which need answering.

“Two of the contracts which have been awarded are now the subject of internal investigations by the departments which awarded them.

“New Zealanders have high expectations over how conflicts of interest are managed.

“Any perceived conflicts of interest need to be handled appropriately. The fact that two of these contracts are under internal investigation and the Minister herself was involved in one of them raises serious questions.

“National is calling for the Public Service Commission to investigate how these contracts were awarded and the processes that were put in place.

“Taxpayers need to have confidence in the Government’s procurement approach and that conflicts are being appropriately managed.” 

Concerns about the awarding of contracts were first raised on Twitter by the pseudonymous Thomas Cranmer.

The Platform picked it up with stories here and here.

Kate MacNamara with stories  including this one:

. . . Hughes has confirmed he will look into contracts awarded both to Ormsby’s wholly owned consultancy, Ka Awatea Services, and to related companies.

Contracts awarded to consultancy Kawai Catalyst owned by Tamoko and Waimirirangi Ormsby (Gannin Ormsby’s nephew and his wife) will also form part of the probe.

A series of government contracts worth more than $200,000 (excluding GST) were awarded to the two consultancies in late 2020 and early 2021.

They include contracts with Crown housing agency Kainga Ora, the Ministry for the Environment, the Department of Conservation and Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development).

Acting Prime Minister Grant Robertson said there’s “absolutely no suggestion that Minister Mahuta has done anything wrong, or indeed any other minister”. . . 

There may be no suggestion the the minister has done nothing wrong but this doesn’t pass the sniff test and Bryce Edwards puts the case for the Auditor General to investigate:

Pressure is increasing on the Auditor General to undertake an inquiry into numerous contracts, appointments and grants awarded to members of Cabinet Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s family by various government departments she has had official responsibility for.

Allegations and revelations are mounting up, meaning this issue can no longer be ignored. As economist and political commentator Eric Crampton wrote yesterday, if the allegations – especially those documented by Herald journalist Kate McNamara – bear up, then “New Zealand is a fundamentally corrupt country. If it doesn’t, the air needs clearing”. . . 

So far, no other journalists or media outlets seem to be covering the ongoing questionable contracts apart from the Herald’s Kate MacNamara and the Platform’s Graham Adams. In fact, MacNamara has written six reports on the topic so far this year. TVNZ’s Q+A programme did raise some of the allegations with Mahuta in an interview by Jack Tame recently, but she was able to easily swot away the questions, painting a picture of herself as a victim of malicious and anonymous online smears and wasn’t challenged on this.

To be fair, there might well be ulterior motives in the scrutiny that is currently being applied to Mahuta from some quarters. The Opposition are continuing to ask questions in Parliament, obviously hoping to inflict damage on the Government. But that’s their legitimate role, and many of the facts about the Mahuta contracts have only come to light through questions being asked in Parliament.

Some have even attempted to paint questions being asked about potential corruption or nepotism as being racist. For example, on Newshub, Labour-aligned commentator Shane Te Pou denounced criticism of Mahuta as “racism and double standards”.

Ah yes, if you can’t argue against the criticism, accuse the critics of racism.

The Herald’s Audrey Young says it’s time to clear the issue up once and for all, saying Mahuta should just front foot the issue because questions are mounting, and they are distracting the Minister from important work: “They have reached such a pitch that she herself should refer the matter to the Public Service Commission or Auditor-General to get an independent opinion and draw a line under it.”

This seems the correct approach. Even if Mahuta and her family have done nothing wrong, it would be very useful for government agencies to review how they deal with conflicts of interests. The issues are too big to be ignored, and the need to prevent corruption is too important to be brushed aside.

New Zealand is proud of its repeated rankings at or near the top of the list for the least corrupt countries.

That doesn’t mean there is no corruption and it requires any hint of corruption to be investigated and dealt with.

There is a perception here that not everything about these appointments is above board and there is enough disquiet to warrant a thorough investigation.

That doesn’t mean the Minister, or anyone else,  has done anything wrong.

But it does mean there are enough serious questions which require answers about the how and why of awarding so many contracts to her family members.

However, questions that won’t be asked are: what good comes from all this huiing and consulting which family members are contracted to do and are they even necessary?

%d bloggers like this: