Word of the day

19/10/2022

Annatto – an orange-red dye obtained from the seed coat of a tropical fruit, used for colouring foods; the tropical American tree that yields the fruit from which annatto is obtained; an orange-red condiment and food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), native to tropical America.


From Marxism to wokeism

19/10/2022

Hat tip : Why Evolution Is True


Rural round-up

19/10/2022

Has He Waka hit the rocks? – Peter Burke :

The Government’s proposal to deal with agricultural emissions has stunned many rural communities who warn that it will decimate them and replace sheep and beef farms with pine trees.

Under the proposal, the Government states its intent to reduce emissions by 10% by 2030 and that farmers will start paying for their emissions by 2025.

But according to Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard, this plan put up by government will cause massive economic and social consequences in rural communities. He says the plan would see sheep and beef production drop by up to 20% and dairy by 5%, costing NZ $3 billion.

“We didn’t sign up for this. It’s gut wrenching to think we have a proposal by the Government that rips the heart out of the work we have done and to the families who farm the land. Feds is deeply unimpressed with the Government,” he says. . .

Our climate policy is confused and flawed – Allan Barber:

There’s an argument for rebuilding it from the bottom up, without Kyoto-era flaws.

Two reputable climate change scientists, Adrian Macey and David Frame, have recently published a five-part series of articles in BusinessDesk.co.nz which seriously questions the government’s climate change targets and policy. Macey is New Zealand’s first climate change ambassador and an adjunct professor at the NZ Climate Change Research Centre at Victoria University, and Frame is the centre’s director, which gives their opinions serious credibility.

At the same time Simon Upton, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has issued a report that confirms the inappropriateness of planting huge swathes of pine forests to offset methane emissions and a note that questions the rationale for treating long-lived greenhouse gases and biogenic methane differently. He asks why fossil fuel emitters to buy carbon credits as offsets, while livestock methane emitters are not. Forests remove carbon dioxide, not methane, from the atmosphere, but Upton argues it should logically be possible for forestry to be used as an offset against warming in general, including methane. He also warned about the impossibility of planting enough trees to solve the warming problem.

In his report he states: “Reducing livestock methane emissions could have real economic and social impacts on people and ways of life. A fine balance needs to be struck between having regard to economic and social dislocation and finding a position that New Zealand can defend in international climate change negotiations, while remaining competitive in global food markets with growing consumer demand for low-emissions products.”  . . 

The shifting ground beneath farmers’ feet – Tony Benny :

Much has changed the position of farming in New Zealand society since 1973, when the sector lost its privileged access to a large and lucrative market.

“That cued up a series of crises that got worse and worse, culminating in 1984 with Rogernomics and really the first moment in the colonial history of New Zealand where a government decisively turned its back on farming. Things have never quite been the same,” Otago University’s Professor Hugh Campbell, an expert in the sociology of agriculture, told the Embracing Urban Agriculture hosted by Lincoln University’s B Linc Innovation centre.

He listed a series of fractures over the past 40 years or so that changed how urban and rural New Zealand relate, starting with a series of food scares in Europe including the Chernobyl disaster and Mad Cow Disease, which shook consumers’ confidence in food safety.

Consumers were also shaken by biosecurity issues including rabbits and the illegal release of calicivirus in an effort to control them, as well as the PSA virus that hit kiwifruit growers. . . 

New median wage to hit farmers in the pocket – Jessica Marshall:

Moves by the Government to raise the wage threshold for migrant workers have some farmers up in arms.

Last week, Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced that a new median wage of $29.66 per hour would be adopted into the immigration system from 27 February next year.

“The Government is focused on moving New Zealand to a higher wage economy, increasing the skill level of migrant workers, and encouraging employers to offer competitive wages and improve career pathways for New Zealanders,” Wood said.

“Updating the median wage thresholds regularly is necessary to ensure the Government is delivering on its immigration rebalance goals and that existing policy settings are maintained in line with market changes.” . . 

Southern women recognised in NZI Awards  :

Southern women feature as category award winners in this year’s NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business awards.

Jody Drysdale, from Balfour, who won the innovation category, is behind Hopefield Hemp, with her husband Blair. The couple decided on hemp after looking for ways to diversify their farming operation to include a value-add, direct-to-consumer product.

Hopefield Hemp grows, harvests, presses and markets hemp seed oil. It is small batch pressed and is available in bottles and capsules. In response to one of her children experiencing skin irritation, Mrs Drysdale researched and developed a recipe to make a soothing cream using her hemp seed oil and Hopefield Hemp’s skin care range was launched.

Serena Lyders, from Whānau Consultancy Services, Tokanui, won the rural champion category. Passionate about the shearing industry, she is a sixth generation member of a shearing family and the industry and the people in it were close to her heart. . . 

New project to help farmers gain regenerative agriculture certification :

Interest in food produced using regenerative practices is gaining momentum across the globe – and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is backing a project to help more New Zealand sheep and beef farmers capture this premium market.

MPI has committed $142,480 over two years through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund towards the $356,200 project with Lean Meats Limited (trading as Atkins Ranch). It aims to scale up the number of verified lamb producers that meet the regenerative certification requirements of the US Savory Institute’s Land to Market Programme.

New Zealand-owned company Atkins Ranch has been a partner of the Land to Market Programme since 2019. It sells premium grass-fed lamb into the US market and has supply contracts across five regions of New Zealand. The company has been piloting regenerative farming practices since 2019 with a core group of 23 farmers, and this is now expanding to more than 70 farms.

“I see regenerative agriculture as leaving the land in a better state for future generations,” says Atkins Ranch chief executive officer Pat Maher. . . 

Fonterra announces new sustainable finance framework :

As part of Fonterra’s commitment to sustainability and implementation of its strategy, the Co-operative has today released its Sustainable Finance Framework (Framework). This Framework aligns Fonterra’s funding strategy with its sustainability ambitions and reflects the evolving preferences of lenders and debt investors in this area.

Fonterra’s Framework outlines how the Co-operative intends to issue and manage any sustainable debt, which could include Green Bonds and Sustainability-Linked Bonds and Loans. The Framework has been developed with Joint Sustainability Co-ordinators HSBC and Westpac NZ and has been independently verified by ISS Corporate Solutions confirming alignment with globally agreed sustainable finance principles.

“This new Framework is a step on our sustainable financing journey – aligning with our Co-operative’s broader sustainability ambitions,” says Simon Till, Fonterra Director Capital Markets.

“Over the next decade we intend to significantly increase our investment in sustainability-related activities and assets throughout our supply chain to both mitigate environmental risks and continue to differentiate our New Zealand milk. By FY30 we intend to invest around NZ$1 billion in reducing carbon emissions and improving water efficiency and treatment at our manufacturing sites. In doing so, we will be taking significant steps towards our aspiration to be Net Zero by 2050 and we plan to align our funding with this approach.” . . 


AG calls for effective public accountability

19/10/2022

Auditor General John Ryan points to a big problem with public accountability:

I am concerned that it is often not clear to the public or Parliament what outcomes are being sought by governments, how that translates into spending, and ultimately what is being achieved with the public money the Government spends – about $150 billion last year. 

We have the government’s word it is aspirational but exactly what it wants to achieve isn’t always clear and the huge gap between what it announces and what is done shows not nearly enough is being achieved and there is far to little value for money.

In my report on the 2020/21 central government audits, I noted that it can be difficult (even with new initiatives) to track how and where new government spending is directed. Reporting is often fragmented and spread between different organisations. It is left to Parliament and the public to piece together both what has been spent and what has been achieved. In many cases, this is not possible from information reported publicly. My Office’s work on the Provincial Growth Fund and Covid-19 spending has also highlighted this. . . 

He says Environment Commissioner Simon Upton’s report gives further exmaples.

The Commissioner’s report looks at the barriers to informed debates about environmental priorities, governments’ plans for achieving them, the spending decisions made, and their consequences.

The report’s messages are important. We need to understand how government decisions relate to the long-term environmental outcomes they are pursuing. But the links between good information, research, and spending are too often tenuous, lack transparency, and focused on the short term.

The challenges the report identifies exist across nearly all areas of public spending. In 2021, my Office reported on the Government’s preparedness to implement the goals that underlie the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We found that although progress on some goals – such as reducing child poverty and greenhouse gas emissions – is tracked and publicly reported, there was limited information available on what the Government was seeking to achieve in other areas, and how it would go about achieving those goals and measuring progress.

Whole-of-government performance reporting that links government spending to outcomes would help focus debate on the longer-term and on some of the more intractable issues we face as a country. And, of course, help answer for the public and Parliament how well governments are playing their role in addressing them.

The Commissioner’s report provides further evidence of problems that my Office consistently identifies. In my view, a comprehensive review is needed of the arrangements that enable Parliament and the public to understand what governments are seeking to achieve, what is being spent, and what progress is being made. In exchange, this will help the public sector maintain an informed, trusting, and enduring connection with the public they ultimately are there to serve.

An outcome I think we would all support.

The Environment Commissioner asked do we know if we’re making a difference?

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, is calling for improved public accountability to get better outcomes for the environment.

The Government spends over $2 billion each year on the environment.

“We need to know how our actions are affecting the environment, and whether the actions we are taking to improve the environment are working,” the Commissioner says in a report released today.

The report, Environmental reporting, research and investment: Do we know if we’re making a difference?, completes a cycle of work the Commissioner has undertaken over five years.

The report found that parliamentarians and the public cannot easily get the information they need to hold the Government to account for its environmental expenditure.

“Decision making needs to be better informed by evidence. And those decisions – and their consequences – need to be capable of scrutiny.

“It has become clear that while there are links between the environmental information we collect, the research we undertake and the money we throw at environmental problems, they are often tenuous, lacking in transparency and governed by short-termism,” the Commissioner said.

Failing to respond to environmental issues is not cost-free – it simply defers costs into the future.

Environmental costs tend to compound over time. If they continue to be ignored, the costs of remedying them will eventually become unaffordable.

The public finance system needs to demonstrate links between what is spent and what environmental reporting and research tell us, so that Members of Parliament can judge whether what we spend matches the scale of the environmental challenges we face.

The recommendations in this report are designed to ensure that the actions of the Government are focused on the most important environmental outcomes, and that the effectiveness of those actions can be assessed.

“Members of Parliament and citizens have a right to information underlying our environmental actions and their consequences so they can hold governments to account for decisions made and decisions postponed”, he said.

This final report draws on the learnings of three of the Commissioner’s prior reports and calls for:

    • foundational investments in environmental information
    • clarity about why we are prioritising certain environmental issues (and not others)
    • transparency about what environmental outcomes the Government is aiming for, what the Government plans to do to achieve them and how much it spends as part of that response
    • accountability for the results of that spending.

The report is available here.

His concerns about transparency and accountability apply to almost everything the government is doing.

It is far too easy for politicians to speak about their aspirations and much, much harder for us to understand what they want to achieve, how much it costs and what, if anything is being delivered.

The last National government set targets against which its delivery could be measured. It was also clear that the quality of spending was far more important than the quantity.

This one scrapped targets, appears to believe that more spending is better spending even when it achieves little, and its intention to be the most open and transparent is yet another promise on which it has failed to deliver.


Sharma’s kamikaze move

19/10/2022

The independent, once Labour, MP for Hamilton West, Dr Gaurav Sharma , has resigned in what looks like a kamikaze move:

Dr Gaurav Sharma was up in political Siberia on Tuesday, sitting alone in the backbenches of the House taking on the Prime Minister. He sat through jeers as he asked his question.

Moments later, there was Sharmageddon in the form of a bright pink Facebook post. He’s gone – resigning his seat – forcing a by-election. . . 

Over the weekend Dr Sharma became convinced Labour was going to boot him out of the Parliament altogether using the waka-jumping legislation.  . .

Dr Sharma claims the plan was to waka jump him later next year. If an MP leaves within six months of a general election, no by-election is held to replace them.

So he took things into his own hands, blindsiding Labour’s top brass.  . .  

Labour says they weren’t going to invoke the waka jumping legislation.  Why would the party do that when the tide is going out against the party even if doing it late enough to not trigger the expense and distraction of a by-election?

“We have not and are not considering the waka jumping provisions nor do I know the basis of Gaurav Sharma’s speculation,” Jacinda Ardern said.  

“Gaurav may wish to reconsider his decision given he is unnecessarily costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars to trigger a by-election he then intends to stand in.” . .

She backed one of her MPs in Wellington’s mayoral election and wasn’t concerned with the costs of the by-election that would have been triggered had he won.

In going Sharma fired some shots at his former colleagues:

The reason I have had to resign is to prevent Labour from taking away the voice of Hamilton West by invoking Waka Jumping 6 months before the General Election. Labour will now try to spin my decision by talking about the cost of the by-election.
But before they do that here are a few things to ask the Labour Party:

1. Labour’s own MP Paul Eagle has been getting paid from taxpayers purse while running as a Mayoral candidate. He also used the MP funding to send a letter to 20,000 houses in Rongotai asking for what local issues mattered the most to people – this was within days of announcing his bid for Mayoralty. Not only this, if Paul had won, a by-election would have been triggered in the Rongotai electorate for MP.

2. Over the years many Labour MPs have triggered by-elections for one reason or another – in fact Labour MP David Shearer resigning and triggering a by-election is how Jacinda Ardern won the Mt Albert electorate seat in 2017.

3. Since stepping down as the Speaker Trevor Mallard has been sitting in the House with no Select Committee duties, no Bills to speak on, no constituent work. In the last 2 months he has been paid well over $25,000 to just enjoy his retirement. Soon he will be on the gravy train to be the Ambassador of NZ to Ireland. And don’t forget he is on the old Parliament contract which means he gets free business class flights for life.

4. Also a quick reminder of government’s failed recent spending

– $51m spent on axed Auckland harbour cycling bridge project

$500k in office rent paid after Auckland cycle crossing canned

– $66 million on Dominion Rd Light Rail report – $44million out of this is on external consultants
– $350 million on TVNZ/RNZ merger

– $200 million on Te Pukenga botched polytech reform

He’s not going quietly but it’s difficult to understand why he’s planning to stand again.

He won the seat from National and Labour won the party vote in the red tide that swept the country at the 2020 election.

That tide is now going out.

But if Sharma stands again, and several of the wee parties also field a candidate, he might inadvertently help his former party by splitting the anti-Labour vote.


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