Word of the day


Anastomosis– a cross-connection between adjacent channels, tubes, fibres, or other parts of a network; a connection made surgically between adjacent blood vessels, parts of the intestine, or other channels of the body; a connection or opening between two things (especially cavities or passages) that are normally diverging or branching.

Ardern not seeking re-election


Jacinda Ardern has just announced she won’t be seeking re-election and will be standing down no later than February 7th.

She also announced Election Day will be Saturday October 14th.

Rural round-up


Pure Advantage calls for urgent enquiry into management of exotic plantations :

Poor forestry management practices again lead to extensive damage in Tairāwhiti

“At this rate of loss and damage there will be no future in the Waiapu Valley and the wider East Coast for our tamariki and mokopuna. We are failing in our roles as kaitieki,” says Graeme Atkins Kaitieki Ranger Raukumara Pae Maunga Restoration Project and 2020 Loder Cup winner Dept. of Conservation.

It’s time for an urgent enquiry into the management of exotic plantations in Aotearoa New Zealand. . . 

Sheltering sheep killed by lightning strike – John Lewis :

A lightning strike near Naseby which left a dozen sheep and lambs dead has prompted a sobering reminder to stay indoors during thunderstorms.

Maniototo farmer Phil Smith said five ewes and seven lambs were sheltering under a tree on his property when it was struck by lightning on January 6, killing them instantly.

He said he had heard of it happening on other farms around New Zealand, but it was the first time he had seen it happen on his farm.

“I didn’t know it had happened for the first few days. I only got notified by my neighbour. She walked her dogs down the road and she came across them and rung me about it. . . 

Soggy soils plague East Coast fruit, veg – Hugh Stringleman :

Vegetable growers on the river flats around Gisborne have been saturated for spring and summer and are heartily sick of the problems caused, the chair of the Gisborne Growers Association, Calvin Gedye, says.

“The prolonged wet weather and lack of sunshine are taking their toll and crops are not growing as they should,” Gedye said.

“We have produced perhaps half of what we planned, being both plant failures and lack of bulk and quality.

“Even the weeds look sick in some of the crops and we haven’t been able to side-dress nitrogen.” . . 

Up the creek but not without a paddleboat – Steve Wyn-Harris :

The wonderful thing about making new year predictions is what are the chances that anyone will remember in a year and even if they do, will they trouble themselves to hold you to account?

But you can never be too sure, so it’s best to predict certainties or leave some vagueness around the forecast. It works well for economists, horoscope writers and futurists.

I can tell you that the wet areas will get drier, and the dry areas will get wetter. At a point sometime in the future.

One of the best climate forecasts I saw last year was by Rob Sharpe, the Sky News Australia Meteorologist. . . 

Returning age 63 to run the family farm and “fixing this place up so my mum would have smiled” – Lauren Jackson :

Sue McCauley, 80, lives with her husband, Pat Hammond, 65, on the farm where she grew up, nestled in the Waitahora Valley east of Dannevirke. Now the valley’s oldest resident, she left for boarding school at twelve and returned aged sixty-three to work the family farm. Sue has worked as a journalist, scriptwriter and award-winning novelist all over Aotearoa New Zealand, raising her family along the way. Her lifelong yearning to return to the land is evident in her writing, with rural themes woven throughout.

Sue is excited. After almost two decades, she is turning her attention back to writing. Her first novel in twenty years, Landed, is set to be published early next year. Sue’s writing output slowed on her return to Waitahora, busy as she was shaping a different kind of story – a very personal one. She and Pat have been reengineering the fate of Sue’s family property, turning it into the beautiful home she wishes her mother could have enjoyed.

Sue’s mother, Violet ‘Monty’ McGibbon, died giving birth to Sue, leaving behind her newborn baby, three-year-old daughter Elisabeth, and husband James ‘Jimmy’ McGibbon. Recently, Sue was walking her dog in Dannevirke when she stumbled upon the concrete foundations of a demolished building. “I found it quite spooky,” Sue recalls. On enquiry she discovered it had been the maternity home. “Where my mum died. Yet I hadn’t known.”

After the death of their mother, Sue and Elisabeth spent five years in the care of their loving aunt, who lived down the road, before moving to live with their dad on the four hundred acre sheep and beef farm. “He was a lovely bloke,” says Sue of her dad. When she was eight, Jimmy remarried. Sue recalls her stepmother was openly resentful of being saddled with children and was, Sue felt, unnecessarily harsh with both the girls. The house became her stepmother’s territory, and so Sue took refuge outdoors – roaming the paddocks on her pony, playing in the woolshed, and swimming in the river that wends its way through the land. . . 

The compromise works both ways” – the sacrifices rural couples make for work and for love –  Tessa King:

Holly Thompson, 24, lives on Mounganui Station in Moawhango, about twenty minutes from Taihape, with her partner Sam Keeling, the station’s head shepherd. She moved there after finishing her master’s degree in zoology at Otago University, leaving the South Island and her beloved New Zealand curling team behind – but she makes it work, still managing to play for them despite the distance.

I’m originally from Ranfurly in the Maniototo and Sam is from the North Island – between Piopio and Te Kuiti. We’ve been in Taihape since 2021 – he moved in July and I followed in August. I had finished studying at the University of Otago at the start of that year. Sam was living in Kurow, so we were about two and a half hours from each other at that point. It’s just over the hill really, but you’ve got to go right round. I got most of my masters fieldwork done before we went into lockdown, and then during lockdown I was doing all my analysis and writing. So I was quite lucky that I had all that stuff done before Covid really got bad, but it was still quite hard – I couldn’t see my supervisor in person or anything, and couldn’t meet up with classmates; I was left on my own a bit. It was challenging but I got it done.

I started off working at a gift store when I first got to Taihape, and now I’m at Taihape Vets as the receptionist/front-of-house person. When I was little I always wanted to be a vet but thought I couldn’t handle the blood and seeing animals unwell. In hindsight, I kind of wish I had studied it, because I’m actually fine with it. Sometimes I get called out the back to help hold animals during procedures, and I helped with a dog giving birth to her pups recently, which was pretty cool – so I’m getting to be with animals, which is what I’ve always wanted to be doing.

I found that at uni I really enjoyed the research and scientific writing – all of that side of it – and that’s a job I could work remotely in, too. Maybe as a research assistant. So I’m always on the hunt for those kinds of remote jobs. I’ve also always been into animal photography, and I’d love to one day tie it all together. It’s a bit hard at the moment because there are fewer people leaving for overseas, so fewer job vacancies. . .

All food not equal


As the cost of living crisis escalates, the price of food is more of a problem for more people, but  all foods aren’t equal:

While fruit and vegetables may seem more expensive than junk food, perception is not reality when the latter’s impact on health and the environment is taken into account, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth writes…

Taylor also explains that, although perception is not reality, perception can become a person’s reality (there is a difference) because perception has a major influence on how we look at reality.

In this light, the statement that “fruit and vegetables at the supermarket are so expensive now, processed and junk food actually works out cheaper” deserves examination.

The words came from a survey of 5+ a day by New Zealand-based company Research First.

But fruit and vegetables are not the same types of food as “processed and junk foods”.

Fruit and vegetables are valuable sources of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre. There is also increasing evidence of additional benefits from the range of phytonutrients they contain.

In contrast, processed and junk food (henceforth termed PJF) tend to be high in fats, sugar and salt.

This makes a cost comparison difficult because the basis of the comparison is unclear – choosing vitamins or fats would result in a different answer.

The problem of how to compare has been addressed over the years through research. Most reports come to the same conclusions as the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

For all metrics, except the price of food energy, healthy foods cost less than less-healthy foods (defined for the study as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations). 

Good health depends on a good diet which requires healthy foods not those which are high in energy and low in nutrient value.

The CSIRO (Australia’s equivalent to New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes) has examined the typical Australian diet and come to similar conclusions about the cost of PJF but on the environment rather than the wallet. . . 

Researchers estimated that discretionary foods (anything that isn’t an essential or necessary part of a healthy dietary pattern) were responsible for almost 30 per cent of the greenhouse gases (GHG) of an average Australian diet. . . 

The CSIRO researchers suggested that reducing discretionary food intake would allow for small increases in emissions from core foods, particularly vegetables (from 2.5 to 5.5 servings a day), dairy (from 1.5 to 2.5 servings), and grains (from 4.6 to 6 servings). The nutritional benefit would be achieved at a 3.6 per cent increase in GHG, which the authors described as “small”. . . 

The nutrient value of food is far more important than its contribution to GHGs and for a growing number of people its the price not how healthy the food is that determines what they buy.

With  annual food inflation in the year to November 2022 at 10.7% , today’s announcement from Stats NZ of last year’s food inflation expected to be even higher, and Cyclone Hale destroying fruit and vegetable crops which will push prices up more,  fewer people will be able to afford healthier options even if, when nutrient value is taken into account, they are not more expensive than junk food.


Do EVs need free ride?


The government has declared its EV subsidy a success – but is it really making a difference and do electric vehicles need the free ride they’re getting?

. . . The Government is claiming victory for the popularity of low and zero-emissions cars, having heavily incentivised their uptake with policies like the clean car discount, which takes as much as $8625 off the price of a new clean vehicle – a discount paid for by levies of up to $5175 on the price of a polluting car.

The policy is so successful at driving the uptake of EVs and suppressing the uptake of petrol vehicles, the Government may have to rethink the level of discounts and fees – lowering one or raising the other. . . .

How do they know the subsidy is persuading people to switch from petrol or diesel fuelled vehicles to electric ones? How many people bought EVs because of the subsidy and how many would have bought EVs without it?

It’s difficult to get an accurate answer to those questions but a conversation with a dealer soon after the subsidy was announced proves that for at least some the subsidy was a bonus, not a requisite.

The Lexus dealer said he already had a good number of orders for EVs before the subsidy was announced from people willing and able to pay the full price but very happy to find they’d be paying several thousand less when the vehicles arrived.

Farmers, trades people and others who need utes for work for which there are no electric alternatives and who are paying the tax that partially funds the subsidy are not happy. They will be even unhappier if the government decides to increase it to subsidise more EVs.

Aside from this, there are questions over whether EVs are better for the environment, not least because some are being fuelled by electricity generated by imported coal.

Another question is how much is the ute tax fuelling inflation by increasing business costs at least some of which will be passed on in higher prices?

The bigger question is, what difference is the subsidy making to decisions to purchase EVs and how many who buy them need it, especially when they pay no road user charges as diesel-fuelled utes do?

They’re getting a free ride on the roads and a subsidy, at least some don’t need,  paid for by an illegitimate tax on legitimate work vehicles.

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