Word of the day


Perscrutation – a thorough examination or searching; a minute inquiry or scrutiny; a careful inspection or investigation.

Sowell says


Rural round-up


Mindset is everything in uncertain times – Shawn McAvinue:

Wellbeing, Maniototo farmer Emma Crutchley reckons, begins with mindset.

Ms Crutchley is a third-generation farmer on Puketoi Station near Ranfurly. A qualified agronomist from Lincoln University, she spent nearly six years working as a rural professional before coming home to the family farm.

Despite enjoying her childhood on the farm which is relatively remote, she found returning in her late 20s to be quite a culture shock.

“I had been away at boarding school, university and then lived in towns and central Wellington when I was working as an agronomist. It was actually really tough when I came home; trying to find my place and especially as a young female, the weekend sports on offer weren’t really what I was into.” . . 

AgResearch seeks to trial GM grass in Aus – Neal Wallace:

AgResearch is applying to conduct field trials in Australia for its genetically modified high metabolised energy ryegrass.

AgResearch farm systems scientist Robyn Dynes told a Farmax panel discussing how to match consumer expectation with farm business realities that recent United States trials confirmed the promise shown in the laboratory by high ME ryegrass.

The genetically modified grass grows at twice the rate of conventional ryegrass, stores more energy, has greater drought tolerance and reduces by up to 23% the methane released by animals.

Dynes said the US trials have confirmed that promise but research now needs to be scaled up to field trials to prove its efficacy, hence its application in Australia. . . 

New Mycoplasma bovis strain detected – Peter Burke :

A new strain of M Bovis has been discovered on one of four farms infected with disease in Mid Canterbury.

MPI’s M. bovis programme director Simon Andrew says recently completed genomic testing from a single property, which was previously confirmed with M.bovis, had identified the strain.

He says the new strain doesn’t behave any differently than the strain MPI have been dealing with, and their existing testing will pick it up, as it has done in this case.

Simon Andrew says as a result of finding the new strain MPI’s testing programme will be stepped up and a thorough investigation will be carried out to see how arrived on the farm.

Not for the fainthearted – the trials and tribulations of raising pet lambs – Virginia Fallon,:

Raising a pet lamb is Kiwi as, but before you bring little Barbara, Shaun or Rosemary home this spring those in the know have a few words of advice. A traumatised Virginia Fallon reports.

It was lambageddon, that long ago spring.

Every few days more of them arrived, spilling from hessian sacks onto the barn floor in a jumble of skinny woolly legs. Some were still covered in afterbirth, others caked in mud.

While the weakest ones lay dangerously quiet on the straw-covered concrete, the rest screamed for attention. Incredible how such little scraps can be responsible for so much noise. . . 

Lifetime love of land and livestock :

Jenni Vernon reckons her love for the land and livestock was forged as a child, helping her grandfather feed out mangels on farm.

Today, after more than four decades in farming and public sector leadership, she remains passionate about giving back to the industry.

Vernon has taken on the role of independent chair of the steering committee for the Hill Country Futures Partnership programme. It’s a task she combines with her job as a principal adviser for the Ministry for Primary Industries and other governance positions – including with the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) and the National Fieldays Society.

Vernon was also New Zealand’s first female Nuffield Scholar and the first woman chair of Environment Waikato. . .

Kapiti and Wairarapa dominate NZ Extra Virgin Olive Oil awards :

Kapiti and Wairarapa Olive Oil makers have dominated the annual New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, winning four of the five major awards for Olive Oil Excellence.

The New Zealand Olive Oil Awards began in 2000 and recognise excellence in New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oils (NZ EVOO). The winners were announced tonight at the Olives NZ 2022 Award Ceremony.

The top awards were as follows:

Best in Show – Waikawa Glen Blend, Kapiti . . 

Stop, slow or go?


It’s early Sunday evening and you’ve driven more than 10 kilometres on a rural road without meeting any other vehicles.

You come to some orange cones, signs requiring a reduction in speed and a set of traffic lights with the red one lit up.

You know that it’s on a timer and if it’s only just turned red you’ll have a 10 minute wait.

You know the stretch of road well, you know that you can see more than 100 metres ahead at all times, there’s no sign of oncoming traffic and you know that there’s enough space to safely pass any vehicle that approaches.

Do you wait or do you go?

Legally there’s no debate, you ought to wait. But this is an example of temporary traffic hold-ups and slow-downs that is testing the patience of drivers and tempting them to ignore lights and limits.

Another is the reduce-speed signs that precede lines of orange cones when no work has started, no workers are at the site and there is no obvious reason to slow down.

The more of these there are, the more they’re being ignored and the greater the danger that ignoring temporary traffic lights and slower speed limits will become habitual and drivers won’t react as they ought to when stopping or reducing speed are necessary.

Forcing higher wages fuels inflation


The government has come up with another roadblock for businesses:

Confirmation from the Government that businesses will soon be forced to pay a minimum of nearly $30 per hour for migrant workers is yet another road block for businesses facing crippling staff shortages, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“The Government has today finally made a long-overdue change to illogical rules turning away highly-skilled and desperately-needed chefs. It has taken three months for the Immigration Minister to make this very simple change to immigration instructions. While the Minister has dithered, restaurants across the country have been closing their doors. 

“This good news for the hospitality sector is overshadowed by news that the new minimum wage for hiring a migrant will be increased in February from $27.76 to $29.66 in line with the new median wage rate. 

“Not only does this mean that in some cases businesses will be paying migrants more than the Kiwis standing next to them, but it will see costs passed on to consumers, making the cost of living crisis even worse.

The requirement to pay immigrant workers more for doing the same work is already creating resentment in workplaces.

Labour thinks the answer to that is to pay New Zealanders more but businesses having to pay more for fuel, energy, raw materials and other costs can’t afford to do that.

“Labour have taken their 2018 policy designed to drive down immigration, and dropped it in to 2022 in vastly different economic circumstances. With a net loss of 12,400 people in the past year and the worst labour shortages in 50 years, this policy makes no sense.  

“Further proof that the policy is not fit for purpose is the fact that Minister Wood, who recently stated there is ‘no good argument for taking one particular sector and giving it special treatment over and above other sectors’, has been forced to extend his median wage carve-out for the hospitality and tourism sectors through to 2024 – an admission by the Minister that businesses in these sectors will struggle to meet the costs of the median wage requirement.

“The Reserve Bank has stated that our economy is being constrained by labour shortages with businesses across New Zealand crying out for workers. Despite these major challenges, Labour is simply creating yet another road block for struggling businesses by requiring them to pay migrant workers a minimum wage of nearly $30 an hour.

“Migrant workers should be paid at the market rate for their skills and experience, the same as their Kiwi counterparts.

“Enforcing a $30 per hour minimum wage to hire a migrant will make it harder for businesses to get the workers they need and will ensure that labour shortages persist for longer, and ultimately it is Kiwis who will pay the price.”

The government’s attempts to force wage increases threaten business viability and will fuel inflation:

Kiwis will ultimately pay more for their food when the substantial increase in international workers’ pay kicks in from February, Federated Farmers warns.

The Government has announced a new median wage of $29.66 per hour will be adopted into the immigration system on 27 February 2023. The majority of new migrant farm staff are now being employed on the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which has an hourly rate of pay requirement tied to the median wage, Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Richard McIntyre says.

“Farmers are faced with paying almost $30 an hour for international staff needed to perform the basic tasks on farm,” Richard says.

Imposing this pay rate that is unrelated to experience and productivity also means that sometimes experienced New Zealand workers who train the immigrants are paid less than those they’re training but businesses can’t afford to pay them more.

“All industries are struggling to find New Zealanders who are willing and able to do the job but for farm employers in remote rural areas the challenge is even greater. Farmers need people in gumboots on the ground to put cups on cows and drive tractors so that they are able to focus on the more technical and management roles on farms.”

Farm employers and industry groups have been working hard to attract Kiwis to the sector but unemployment remains low and all rural and provincial employers are vying for the same limited pool of staff.

The sector has already seen large increases in average rates of pay as shown by the 2022 Federated Farmers-Rabobank Farm Remuneration survey. The survey showed that since the 2019/2020 survey weighted average incomes have grown 15% in the dairy sector, 14% in the sheep and beef sector and 7% in the arable sector.

“Feds has been working in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development to deliver the ‘Get Kiwis on Farm programme’. New workers get an industry standard employment contract and the right gear to work safely and comfortably on farm,” Richard says.

“But it’s still not enough when there are thousands of agriculture work vacancies.

“Our concern is that never-ending wage increases will add additional costs not just to farm employers but also the downstream and upstream industries that service agriculture and businesses in the wider economy, driving up input costs and reinforcing a wage-price spiral that will drive inflation even higher. Ultimately it will be the New Zealand public who pay the price on the supermarket shelf,” Richard says.

“There are additional concerns that as labour becomes unaffordable farmers try to do all the work themselves, ultimately leading to fatigue, stress and on-farm accidents.”

BusinessNZ is also concerned by the inflationary affect of artificially high wages:

Increasing the wage thresholds for international skills and talent is unnecessary and will feed inflation, says BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope.

“In the current environment of extreme skill shortages, high inflation, negative net migration and ongoing global supply chain constraints, further wage pressure on employers announced today does not support the economic recovery businesses are working hard to achieve.”

Mr. Hope says the Government has found a pragmatic solution to a bureaucratic rule for hospitality by dropping the requirement for formal chef qualifications.

“The industry will welcome any relief to the severe skill shortages and we look forward to restaurants and cafes bringing vibrancy back to our towns and cities. But the combination of increased costs faced by the industry like food, wages and rent, will make it a risky business to be in unless consumers can afford to pay more.

“The border has been open less than three months and Government continues to change the rules on productive and resilient New Zealand businesses and public service organisations. Our current workforce simply doesn’t have the people or skills required.

“That’s why correct and welcoming immigration settings are critical as more New Zealanders leave the country.”

Mr. Hope says the skills shortage is an issue that affects every industry, sector and region.

“The stress of severe skill shortages is negatively impacting the wellbeing of New Zealanders, fuelling economic turbulence and inflation.” 

It’s not just artificially high wages that are creating problems for employers. The increase in the minimum wage for New Zealanders has also had a perverse outcome in discouraging people on benefits from working more hours.

Beneficiaries are limited by how much they can earn before their benefits are reduced.

The minimum wage has increased but the limit beneficiaries can earn hasn’t so they are able to work fewer hours before hitting the limit.

That’s a perverse incentive for beneficiaries is work less and is adding to the problem of staff shortages.

Beneficiary or not, some people don’t want to maximise how much they earn.

A freezing worker consistently turned up only four days a week, in spite of his employer paying a bonus to anyone who worked five days a week.

When asked why he only came to work on four days he replied that he didn’t earn enough in three.

Forcing up wages as the government is doing encourages this sort of attitude, exacerbates the worker shortage and adds costs to businesses.

At least some of those costs will be passed on to customers which will fuel inflation and that erodes the real value of wages, even those artificially increased by government edict.

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