Don’t babies’ lives matter?

June 24, 2020

Another horrifying addition to New Zealand’s roll of dishonour:

An Auckland father who admitted bashing his newborn baby repeatedly for the first four months of her life – causing 14 broken bones – has been jailed for more than four years.

People imported indignation, contravening social distancing requirements, to march in protest against a murder, heinous as it was, in the United States a few weeks ago.

There won’t be a march against this and other similar crimes against defenceless children, not that it would do any more good than the Black Lives Matters marches did here.

But worse, nothing more will be done to address the causes of this and other crimes against children which will inevitably add more abusers to that roll of dishonour.

Why don’t babies’ lives matter?


Officer down

June 19, 2020

A police officer has been killed while on duty:

Statement from Commissioner Andrew Coster 

It is with a heavy heart that I confirm that one of our colleagues injured in the incident in Massey, West Auckland, today has died.

This is devastating news and absolutely the worst thing for us to deal with. We have lost a colleague and friend in our Police whānau.

Our thoughts are with the officer’s family and loved ones, and with the other officer and member of the public who were injured in the same incident and their loved ones.

From the information we have this was a routine traffic stop and is the type of work our officers do every day to keep the public safe. At this stage there is nothing to indicate that the job was going to be anything out of the ordinary.

At around 10.30am, a police unit has performed a routine traffic stop on Reynella Drive.

The attending officers were shot and a member of the public has also been hit by the vehicle.

The second officer and the member of the public are in hospital where they are being treated for their injuries. The member of the public has minor injuries and the officer has serious injuries.

The alleged offender has fled the scene and enquiries are ongoing to locate them.

While efforts to locate the offender are ongoing staff in Tāmaki Makaurau will be armed.

Our priority is to support our officers and to locate this alleged offender as soon as possible.

This incident points to the real risks our officers face on the streets, doing their jobs, every day.

Staff safety and welfare are our absolute priority and our whole organisation is in a state of shock after these horrific events.

Further information will be released as it becomes available.

This is a tragedy for the officer’s family, friends and colleagues.

Such killings are rare but this is a reminder of the danger police face every day and night.


How many more out there?

June 17, 2020

Very soon after the Christchurch mosque massacres, people started asking how Brenton Tarrant had been able to obtain a gun licence. More than a year later, it’s found he shouldn’t have:

The March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures, sources have told Stuff.

The terrorist, who pleaded guilty to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in March, was not properly inspected by police vetting staff when he applied for a firearms licence in 2017.

Stuff has been told that, among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom. 

More than a year on from the March 15 terror attack, police insiders say the error was the product of a long neglected police firearms system that did not have the resources to properly handle applications. 

“This was avoidable. If police had addressed some of the issues with administering firearms years ago, this could have been avoided,” a source said. . .

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) highlighted shortcomings in the system in a submission to the Royal Commission into the killings last year:

COLFO chair Michael Dowling said it was clear that the alleged perpetrator should never have been deemed a ‘fit and proper’ person to own the guns and large capacity magazines used in the attack.

“He was able to slip through gaps created by a system chronically stretched by poor resourcing and funding, as well as a lack of expertise and knowledge.” . . 

“We don’t know the background checks into Tarrant, but we do know he had travelled to unusual locations internationally, was not a New Zealand resident for long and was not involved with firearms as a hobby.

“Despite this, Tarrant applied for, and received, his firearms licence in 2017.

“This raises serious concerns for vetting procedures and whether the 2010 police vetting guide was adhered to during Tarrant’s licencing process. We understand that his referees had never met him in person, nor did they include a family member.” . . 

Not having the resources to handle applications properly might be an excuse for delays, it’s not an excuse for failing to follow the correct procedure and for granting a licence to someone who so obviously didn’t meet the required criteria.

This appalling systems failure led to the death of 51 people and injuries to several more.

It also led to the contentious and expensive gun buy-back scheme that may have done no more than take firearms from innocent people and left more with criminals.

Yesterday we learned that another systems failure led to two people with Covid-19 being grant compassionate leave from managed isolation after arriving from the UK:

Two Kiwi women – one in her 30s and one in her 40s – arrived on June 7 on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane, before staying at the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie hotel in managed isolation.

The pair was given special dispensation to leave isolation on June 13 to support grieving family after a parent’s death in Wellington. Officials were adamant the pair travelled in a private car and did not use public facilities during their journey.

Bloomfield confirmed the pair was not tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to leave the Novotel in Auckland, but had complied with the terms of their special dispensation and underwent testing in Wellington. 

The women are now in self-isolation in the Hutt Valley.

“The relative died quite quickly, the exemption was granted and the plan was approved,” Bloomfield said.

“Again, I just want to support the efforts that these women have gone to abide by the agreed plan,” Bloomfield said. 

But the emergence of the two cases has sparked an immediate change in policy, with the Government temporarily suspending all compassionate exemptions at the border.

It would only be reinstated once the Government had confidence in the system. . .

Yesterday we also learned that two teenagers ran away from authorities after being allowed special dispensation from Covid-19 related quarantine to attend a funeral in Hamilton.

They have since been located and one is in managed isolation while the other is in an agreed community arrangement, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed this afternoon.

He did not know how many days their whereabouts were unknown. . . 

Speaking to Heather Du-Plessis Allan on Newstalk ZB Tuesday evening, Health Minister David Clark did not seem to know about the runaway pair.

“I’m not aware of the details of that case…I have not had a briefing on that, I will seek a briefing on that.”

Clark said he was disappointed to see that the measures he thought were put in place to prevent another outbreak didn’t appear to be.

“If it is as you described it, then it underscores my request to suspend compassionate exemptions until we ensure that the system is working as intended.” . . 

Working as intended?

How hard is it to test people when they arrive and again before they are permitted to leave isolation or quarantine?

No wonder National’s health spokesman Michael Woodhouse is questioning whether the Ministry of Health is following its own protocols:

. . . Both cases recently arrived from the United Kingdom and left managed isolation on compassionate grounds after six days with no Covid-19 test. However compassionate leave to exit managed isolation can only be given after seven days and a negative test according to guidance from the Ministry dated 9 June.

“Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield claimed in the press conference that going forward they will now test on exit in case of compassionate grounds, but the Ministry of Health website said this was already the case and the ministry simply failed to fulfil its own procedures.

“It’s fair to expect there will still be the occasional case of Covid-19 pop up as we recover from the past few months, but we need to be positive that the Government has the appropriate protocols in place to identify and trace these cases so they don’t become a bigger cluster.

“New Zealanders have done the hard yards over recent months in flattening the curve of Covid-19, the Government can’t let this hard work go to waste due to sloppy lapses in procedure.” 

Covid-19 spread through New Zealand because our borders weren’t closed soon enough and people who came in were trusted to self-isolate themselves.

When the disease is still rife in so many other countries it is not surprising that people coming in to New Zealand have brought it with them.

But it is sheer incompetence that allowed people to have compassionate leave without being tested and let a couple of teens to run away after a funeral.

Tackling Covid-19 has come at a huge cost. Opening the border is necessary to help with the recovery and for compassionate reasons but it must be done in a way that doesn’t risk the spread of disease here.

The answer isn’t denying compassionate leave to other innocent people, it’s following the necessary protocols to test people, and get the result of the tests, before allowing that leave.

Police and health are two of the basic public services we should all be able to trust and that requires systems we can all have confidence in.

But the serious failures in these cases undermines confidence and raise another very big question: how many other people have been given gun licenses who shouldn’t have and how many others have come through the border and been let out of isolation or quarantine without testing for Covid-19?


Importing indignation

June 11, 2020

The murder of George Floyd was heinous and the protests in his home state and home country are understandable.

But do those protesting understand what Theodore Dalrymple calls those pesky statistics?:

To the citizens of most Western countries, the numbers of people killed by the American police are rather surprising, to say the least, but so are the numbers of police killed.

Roughly speaking, a policeman in the United States is about fifty times more likely to be killed than to kill, and this is without taking into consideration that the majority of the killings by the police are at least prima facie justified by self-defense or the interruption or prevention of a serious crime. Let us exclude only half of those killings on these grounds (probably a gross underestimate): This means that a policeman is 100 times more likely to be killed than to kill.

Let us also suppose that the police are killed by black and white in the same proportion as blacks and whites commit homicide in general (again, a generous, that is to say a conservative, assumption). This means that a policeman is about fifteen times more likely to be killed by a black man than to kill a black man, and again this is not to take into account the fact that many of the police killings would be at least prima facie justified.

A black man is about thirty times more likely to be killed by another black man than to be killed by a policeman (and some of the police are themselves black, of course). A white man is only fifteen times more likely to be killed by someone of any race than to be killed by a policeman. Are the police biased against whites? . . 

None of this alters the individual responsibility of the policeman who must surely have caused the death of George Floyd. (Would the latter have died anyway, even if not under arrest and treated in the way he was treated?) Nor does it alter the responsibility of the accessories before the fact. But it does cast a strange light on the rioters, and even on the peaceful demonstrators, most of whom seem to have expressed little concern, much less moral outrage, at the much more frequent murder of blacks by other blacks, or at the comparatively high rate of the murder of policemen. (The general homicide rate in the U.S. is about five per 100,000, that of policemen fifteen per 100,000.).

Now, it might be argued that an unjustified killing by an agent of the state is far worse than any other kind of killing, so raw statistics do not apply. I can see that this argument has a certain force. On the other hand, the killing of an agent of law and order also has a special seriousness, for it undermines law and order itself. And egalitarians who uphold the sanctity of (or at least the inalienable right to) human life are ill-placed to claim that one killing is worse than another. . . 

Black lives matter, all lives matter.

So why no marches for the persecution of Christians ‘at near genocide levels’?

Why no protests against all sorts of atrocities in many different countries?

Is there something about the USA that makes this crime much, much worse than many others committed in many other countries?

And why are we importing indignation anyway? Don’t we have more than enough to be protesting about here?

How about the death of one year-old Sofia Taueki-Jackson a couple of weeks ago?

Or the four year old Flaxmere boy who has been discharged from hospital where he was being treated for permanent and severe brain damage?

Perhaps it’s too soon to be indignant about the unexplained death of a young child in Palmerston North. It might have been the result of illness or accident.

Or it might have been yet another to add to the sorry toll of babies and children maltreated and killed far closer to home than Minneapolis.

Anna Leask wrote of the 61 little names on New Zealand’s roll of dishonour:

A child is killed every five weeks, putting us high on list of world’s worst offenders.

Sixty-one. It’s the number of children who have died as a result of non-accidental injuries in New Zealand in the last 10 years.

Their names are scars on a shameful landscape of child abuse – Chris and Cru Kahui who would have turned 10 today, Nia Glassie, JJ Ruhe-Lawrence, Jyniah Te Awa.

Thirty-one of those young ones were violently assaulted. They were kicked, punched, thrown, stomped or bashed to the point of death.

New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD countries and on average a child is killed here every five weeks. . . 

That was written four years ago. How many more little names have been added to that roll of dishonour since then?

The Child Matters website says:

Between 1 January 2019 and 30 November 2019, 11 children and young people have died as a result of homicide in New Zealand.

The Homicide Report

Released 13 May 2019

  • Every 8th homicide victim in New Zealand from 2004 to 31 March 2019 was a child
  • More than two thirds of the victims were aged 2 or under
  • Of the cases where the killer’s relationship to the victim was known, 27% were mothers, 24% were fathers, and 17% were de facto partners.

We don’t need to import indignation, there’s far too much here that ought to be raising anger and sorrow.

So why have the protests in the wake of Floyd’s death spread here?

Is it because it’s far easier to borrow another country’s ire than address the problems in our own?

Or is the murder just an excuse for protests that are really about thinly veiled anti-Americanism?


Terrorist pleads guilty

March 26, 2020

The man charged with the Christchurch mosque attacks has pleaded guilty:

At the High Court in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant admitted 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Until today he had denied all of the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. The guilty plea means he has become New Zealand’s first convicted terrorist.

The 29-year-old showed no emotion as he appeared via audio visual link in the High Court at around 10am.

No explanation for Tarrant’s change of heart was given during today’s hearing. He has been remanded in custody until May. . . 

This will save the taxpayer the cost, courts the time and most importantly the families and friends of those killed the distress of a prolonged defended trial.

The Prime Minister decided she would not say Tarrant’s name. That was a powerful political statement but it does not, and should not, fetter the media.

The names of criminals should be made public unless the court makes a suppression order.

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to the horrific slaughter of innocent people and his name should be associated with his crime.


Legal pot winners and losers

December 5, 2019

The government has opted for legalisation of cannabis use rather than decriminalisation in draft legislation for next year’s referendum.

Key points of the proposals are:

    • a minimum purchase age of 20
    • a ban on marketing and advertising cannabis products
    • a requirement to include harm minimisation messaging on cannabis products
    • not allowing recreational cannabis to be consumed in public and only in licenced places
    • limiting the sale of recreational cannabis to physical stores
    • controls on the potency of recreational cannabis being sold
    • a state licencing regime for recreational cannabis controlled by the Government

If the legislation passed, anyone aged 20 years or older could grow up to two cannabis plants. If two people aged 20 years or older are part of the same household, the property can have up to four plants. If you grow more than you’re allowed, you could be fined up to $1000. Cannabis must also be grown out of public sight.

People could hold 14 grams of dried cannabis in a public place – the same amount that could be purchased from a licensed store. . . 

Justice Minister Andrew Little couldn’t tell Mike Hosking how many joints could be made from 14 grams.

. . . “They start at 42, go down to 21 and I have seen one at 15. I am not a user, so I’m just going off advice from officials.” . . .

This is basic information the Minister ought to know.

I’m not a user either but I found an unopened packet of dried thyme weighing 15 grams and was able to measure 14 reasonably heaped teaspoons from it.

That seems to be more than would be safe for anyone to smoke or eat in a day, given there are questions whether any amount is safe, although the purchaser won’t necessarily smoke or eat it all in one day.

The proposal is up for consultation, but whether or not changes are made as a result of that, who would win and who would lose if the referendum gets a majority in favour of legalisation, and, given it’s non-binding, the next government passes it?

Winners:

  • People who use cannabis now, including those who smoke an occasional joint the way others might have an occasional alcoholic drink.
  • People who want to use it recreationally now but don’t want to break the law.
  • Individuals and businesses who grow, process and sell cannabis.
  • The black market – the price and THC level in legal cannabis will be regulated providing a market for those wanting something less expensive and more potent.

Losers:

  • Young people who use it and suffer health and development problems as a result. Whatever the legal age for possession and use, younger people will get it.
  • Those who develop mental illnesses including psychosis as a result of using cannabis. Psychiatric nurse Peter Hurst writes on the damage cannabis does here.
  • The mental health system which will come under more pressure from those suffering from addiction and other ill effects of cannabis use.
  • Employers who have to deal with drug users in the workplace.
  • Workers who have to put up with fellow workers who are under the influence of drugs.
  • Teachers who have to deal with drug users at school (see young people using cannabis above).
  • Police who still have to deal with the black market.
  • Emergency services who have to deal with the consequences of drug-driving.

Would the wins out weight the losses?

I don’t think so.


Activists cost conservation nearly $11m

June 7, 2019

The Department of Conservation’s budget includes nearly  $11m to protect its staff from anti-1080 activists.

Last week’s Budget allocated $10.7m to DOC over four years, explicitly for security purposes.

Since the start of this year there have been 23 cases involving dangerous and illegal behaviour towards Department of Conservation staff.

DOC security manager Nic John said threats had moved from online and social media to physical attacks, threats to shoot down helicopters, vandalism, thefts and vehicles being tampered with.

“One was an incident where there was an axe presented and in that case that individual was convicted of assault and threats,” he said.

Mr John said three DOC staff had been assaulted this year, including one who was hit with a quad bike, but was fortunately okay.

“Very concerning for them though – you can imagine that they’re out, quite isolated, working by themselves often and to have somebody take that course of action against them, leaves them very, very vulnerable and often quite shaken,” she said.

The Budget funding allows for $4.1m for a permanent security team, $5m to improve health and safety systems and staffing levels, and $1.6m to improve physical security at DOC sites. . . 

Any protests which require this level of security cross the line from legitimate protest to crime.

These activists are not only endangering DoC staff, they are diverting money from conservation into crime fighting and they are disregarding the science on pest control.

Alternatives to 1080 like trapping and shooting can be and are used where possible. But there are huge swathes of bushland where neither are practical and the only weapon against the introduced species that prey on native flora and fauna is 1080.


Rural round-up

March 27, 2019

Westland’s biggest shareholders sit on the fence over Yili offer:

Westland Milk’s biggest shareholders — investment fund Southern Pastures and the state-owned Landcorp — are biding their time over Yili’s takeover offer.

Hokitika-based Westland said this week that it had signed a conditional agreement for the sale of the co-op, which will see the Chinese dairy giant pay farmer-suppliers $3.41 a share.

Westland will seek shareholder approval for the proposed transaction at a special shareholder meeting, expected to be held in early July.

Southern Pastures, which has former All Black Graeme Mourie as one of its principals, owns 5.5 per cent of the co-op, which would be worth $13.6 million under the offer.  . . 

Nait a difficult beast but NZ ‘had no chance’ against M. bovis without it – Esther Taunton:

Cattle on 150 farms have been checked against national animal tracing records as part of efforts to wipe out the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis but just one property passed muster.

Dr Alix Barclay, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ intelligence manager for the M. bovis response, said only one property had achieved a 100 per cent match with its National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) account.

The disappointing result highlighted the importance of making changes to the system, Barclay said. . . 

Hayward family cultivate success in South Canterbury by seizing the day – Samesh Mohanlall:

Farming operations flourish on hard work, seizing the chances that come your way and having people that are trustworthy around, the family of a successful South Canterbury venture say. 

Geoff Hayward and his wife Joy, who own and lease 1700 hectares of land for their sheep, beef and cropping operation across the Timaru district, told about 50 visitors to their Mt Horrible farm from the Beef + Lamb annual meeting on Thursday, that the key to their expansion is taking opportunities that come their way. . . 

Pitching in to protect mudfish:

They may be tiny, slimy and reclusive, but the Canterbury mudfish are well worth protecting. 

Kōwaro, as they’re named in te reo Māori, are a treasured species for local iwi Ngāi Tahu and having more of them around helps protect other freshwater natives such as kōura (crayfish) and kākahi (mussels).

Unfortunately, they’re also rare and endangered. 

Fonterra is providing funding to Environment Canterbury to help them implement innovative technology in what is the first project of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. . . 

A2 names China CEO –  Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Co has appointed Li Xiao as chief executive of its greater China operations.

Li was previously president of the Kids Entertainment Division of Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational which owns the Hoyts cinema group. He starts in the A2 Milk role at the end of April, based in Shanghai, and will join A2’s senior leadership team. He will report to the firm’s Asia-Pacific chief executive Peter Nathan and managing director Jayne Hrdlicka. . . 

Patience needed for Fonterra’s streamlining, says FNZC’s Dekker – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – Farmers and investors will need to be patient with Fonterra Cooperative Group’s overhaul of its business, which sometime-critic First NZ Capital analyst Arie Dekker says is moving in the right direction.

The cooperative’s board is working through a review of the business which has seen several assets put on the market to help cut the milk processor’s debt levels, and has signalled more divestments are coming. . . 

Miscanthus – the magic plant:

In a Rural Delivery television programme last year Prof Steve Wratten of Lincoln University described Miscanthus as a “magic plant”. Although there was a degree of poetic licence in that statement, it is very understandable why he described Miscanthus in that way. But there are no magicians involved. Miscanthus is a truly remarkable plant that has so many advantages and options for commercial use that people who hear about it tend to think “This is too good to be true!”.

So they ignore it. The phenomenal success of Miscanthus therefore actually detracts from securing serious interest in both growing and using it. Contrary to people’s initial reaction, what seems like hype, is in fact true. . . 

It’s time to strengthen trespass laws:

Activist trespassers are making a joke of our legal system – carrying out brazen invasions of private farms and walking away with a slap on the wrist, only to reoffend. It’s time for governments to act.

In recent months we’ve witnessed a spate of farm invasions by activists who think their opinions place them above the law.

These farm intruders are entering private premises, often in the dead of night, often while streaming live on the internet – all just a stones’ throw from where farmers and their families are sleeping.

Police and the court system have proven powerless to help, with those caught walking away with fines equivalent to a parking ticket. . . 


Rural round-up

March 8, 2019

Test will come when new cattle rustling laws applied

Livestock rustlers could spend up to seven years in prison when new penalties are imposed but a Northland farming official says police need more resources to investigate and take rural crimes more seriously.

The Crimes Amendment Bill, which was passed unanimously by Parliament on Tuesday, makes theft of livestock or any other animal, including beehives and farm dogs, an offence liable for up to seven years in prison.

Also passed was the offence of unlawful entry on agricultural land with the intent to steal livestock or to act unlawfully against specified things such as buildings or machinery on that land — a crime which could see the offender put behind bars for up to a decade.

It makes it the same penalty as for burglary. . . 

Water levels drop and fire dangers rise as drought continues in Nelson – Tim Newman:

Water restrictions in Nelson continue to tighten as the region continues its long dry period into the beginning of Autumn. 

Nelson’s Maitai Dam, which supplies the city with drinking water, has seen its water levels drop significantly during that time. 

Nelson City Council infrastructure group manager Alec Louverdis said the dam was currently 71 per cent full.  . . 

The future of food production from a female perspective:

Nine influential Kiwi women from across the primary industries sector are gathering in Manawatu next week to discuss where-to-next for our food producing nation. They’re coming together as part of the ASB Perspective 2025 round-table discussion, which is a headline event at this year’s New Zealand AgriFood Week in Palmerston North.

It’s the fourth year ASB has been the main sponsor of New Zealand AgriFood Week, which is delivered by the Central Economic Development Agency, and its unique perspective panel is considered a must attend event at the Globe Theatre in Palmerston North. . . 

Majority of beekeepers vote against commodity levy on honey:

Commercial beekeepers have voted not to support the introduction of a honey levy with only 23.56% voting for the introduction of a commodity levy.

Commenting on the result Bruce Wills, Chair of Apiculture NZ, the industry organisation which led the commodity levy proposal says: “It’s no secret that this is not the outcome I, or the Board, wanted to see. I believe it will set back the development of the honey industry, but I understand that at present commercial beekeepers are hurting with the erosion in honey prices as a result of over-supply, for all floral types other than mānuka honey.” . . 

Bids for Fonterra’s Tip Top due in by Monday – Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – Indicative bids to buy Tip Top ice-cream from Fonterra Cooperative Group are due in by Monday, according to the Australian Financial Review which says it has seen a copy of the confidential information memorandum.

Its Street Talk column says the business is being pitched by First NZ Capital as a “unique opportunity to invest in an iconic New Zealand company with 80 years of heritage.”

While the memorandum talks about Tip Top’s “unrivalled market position,” it also notes that Unilever, which has the rights to Magnum ice-cream and a host of dairy free products, dominates the premium end of the market where the fat margins are. . . 

Fonterra appoints Judith Swales COO Global Foodservice:

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell has confirmed Judith Swales to the role of Chief Operating Officer, Global Consumer and Foodservice. This follows her appointment to the role in an acting capacity earlier this year.

Miles Hurrell says “Judith has been providing strong leadership into our Consumer and Foodservice business unit, and the momentum she has gathered deserves to be continued.” . . 

Scales Corporation enters into petfood joint Venture with Alliance Group:

Diversified agribusiness Scales Corporation Limited today announced an agreement to enter into a petfood Joint Venture (JV) with Alliance Group Limited (Alliance). Under the terms of the JV, Alliance will pay $15 million to acquire a 50% interest in Meateor’s New Zealand business and operations.

Managing Director Andy Borland says: “We are pleased to enter into a partnership with one of New Zealand’s leading farmer co-operatives. This venture is about developing New Zealand as the premier supplier of petfood proteins. We think the venture provides a number of benefits to the entire New Zealand petfood-supply industry including as an avenue for the industry to improve scale; improved relationships with customers including the ability to commit to longer-term relationships; an ability to move into higher value and added value ingredients; and ability to leverage extended customer and supplier networks.” . . 


Rural round-up

January 29, 2019

Book charts history of Young Farmer contest – Sally Rae:

For 50 years, the Young Farmer of the Year contest has been part of the fabric of New Zealand’s rural sector.

Dubbed “the challenge second only to the land”, it tests the knowledge and skills of the country’s young farmers.

To mark the milestone, Hawke’s Bay writer Kate Taylor has recorded the contest’s history in 50 Years Young — A History of the Young Farmer of the Year.

But it is more than just a comprehensive history; it contains interviews with various winners, finalists and organisers, and is peppered with interesting and amusing anecdotes. . . 

Farmer shocked heifers missing – Hamish MacLean:

A North Otago dairy farmer says he is in a state of disbelief after realising 60 rising 2-year Friesian heifers had been taken from his farm.

Russell Hurst, of Awamoko, said the animals, taken between the week before Christmas and New Year’s Day, could be worth $100,000.

He and his staff went ”around and round the farm in circles” double-checking the mobs on the 2500ha farm to make sure the animals had been stolen.

”It’s just disbelief, really,” Mr Hurst said. . . 

Restrictions loom for river irrigators in Marlborough – Matt Brown:

New Zealand’s largest wine region could soon be facing water restrictions as record-high temperatures affect rivers.

The Rai, Waihopai and Wairau Rivers’ minimum flow rates were rapidly being approached and surface water “takes” were expected to be halted by the end of next week.

Marlborough District Council hydrologist Val Wadsworth said it was trying to “forward forecast” on the current rate of flow decline, but it was difficult to be concise. . . 

Pioneer works with maize insurer – Richard Rennie:

The country’s largest maize seed supplier is working with an insurance company to settle losses incurred after seed treatment failure in some hybrid varieties this season.

Early in the maize planting season late last year a number of growers in Waikato and Northland reported stunted crops post-germination, prompting some to replant crops before mid December.

Pioneer’s investigation team head Raewyn Densley said a number of growers have . . 

Taranaki honeymoon: whacking possums – Jamie Morton:

Forget Paris: for one newlywed couple, there’s no better honeymoon than killing possums in Taranaki.

Fresh from their wedding, Andrea and Max Hoegh are working at the frontline of New Zealand’s first large-scale possum eradication operation.

The biggest pest-busting project of its kind in the country, Towards Predator-Free Taranaki divided the region into pizza-slice sections around the mountain, with work kicking off in the New Plymouth area. . . 

Your dinner’s in the lab – the future of ‘cell-based’ meat – Gwynne Dyer:

“Right now, growing cells as meat instead of animals is a very expensive process,” says Yaakov Nahmias, founder and chief scientist of Israel-based startup Future Meat Technologies. But it will get cheaper, and it probably will be needed.

The global population is heading for 10 billion by 2050, from the current 7.7b. Average global incomes will triple in the same period, enabling more people to eat meat-rich diets. . .

 


Rural round-up

January 6, 2019

Niche winegrowers put valley on the map – Hamish Maclean:

New signs welcome drivers on State Highway 83 to wine country. Waitaki Valley North Otago, New Zealand’s newest, smallest wine region, is home to boutique vineyards that many — even in Otago — do not know about.

But just as the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand approved the Waitaki Valley Winegrowers Association’s application for a geographical indication — used internationally to promote and protect the reputations of wines’ places of origin — a third cellar door opened in the valley in December. 

And the owners of River-T Estate Wines are committed to telling the region’s story. With 11,000 vines — pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris and a “just planted” gewurztraminer — producing 1500 cases, fourth-generation horticulturist Murray Turner and his partner Karen Tweed know River-T Estate Wines and the wines the valley produces are considered “niche”. . .

A threat to hort exports – Peter Burke:

While horticultural exports rise in value, there are concerns that this growth is being impeded by a mix of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The state of the sector and the changes occurring there are reviewed in detail in the two-yearly report of the Horticultural Export Authority (HEA).

Chief executive Simon Hegarty says the industry has maintained momentum despite two challenging years in international trade and at home, notably because of the weather. . .

Review of access satute welcomed – Guy Williams:

A mandatory review this year of the statute underpinning the Walking Access Commission is timely, Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) president Peter Wilson says.

Mr Wilson said the commission had done a good job in the past decade but there was plenty of scope for improving its legislative framework. That included a register of “past or potential access issues” that would place an obligation on government agencies to better consider opportunities for improving public access to the outdoors.

The commission’s role includes resolving disputes over public access to the outdoors, negotiating new access and providing the public with information and maps.

The Walking Access Act was passed into law a decade ago with a clause requiring it be reviewed in 10 years. . .

Survival of the honesty stall – Alice Angeloni:

For decades they were a common sight on many Kiwi highways, but honesty boxes have been targeted by the not so honourable.

The roadside stalls, which rely on passing customers to pay the correct amount, advertise a range of goods – from fresh lemons and blueberries to walnuts and lilies.

And while small thefts are commonplace, one grower-family was targeted with a spate of $100 per day thefts. . .

Farmer padlocks gate to swimming hole after nappies found on riverbank – Rachael Kelly:

A northern Southland farmer has padlocked a gate leading to a popular swimming hole after finding soiled nappies on the riverbank.

Waikaia farmer Ray Dickson took the action to cut access to a spot known locally as Roly’s Rock, at the edge of the popular holiday town, after finding nappies in grass on the riverbank on December 29.

“It really p….. me off. . . 

No-deal Brexit will be nightmare for farmers, warns Michael Gove

Farmers will face a grim barrage of export tariffs, increased haulage costs, paperwork and looming labour shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Michael Gove warned yesterday.

He painted a nightmare scenario for Britain’s food producers as he urged fellow MPs to back the prime minister’s Brexit deal
.

“It’s a grim but inescapable fact that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the effective tariffs of meat and sheep meat would be above 40 per cent. In some cases well above that,” Mr Gove told the Oxford Farming Conference
. . .


Ignorance kills

September 17, 2018

Animal rights activists in Germany killed four cows and left 40 more critically ill:

Idiot  animal rights activists KILLED four cows and left 40 others critically ill after releasing them into a feeding pen where the beasts “ate themselves to death”.

Suspects are believed to have trespassed onto an organic farm in Germany on Saturday night and released dozens of dairy cows and calves.

The cows then headed straight to the feeding pen where they ate up to 10kg of concentrated feed with catastrophic results.

They are normally fed a maximum of 2kg a day.

Anja Schiemann, the farm’s managing director, told the Berliner Zeitung: “Too much concentrate feed causes the digestive system in the rumen to be severely disturbed.

“The damage to the liver is just too much.” . . .

Ignorance kills.

A similar accusation could be made against anti 1080 activists. Without it native plants, birds and insects will die.

The ODT opines:

The case for 1080 use in New Zealand’s forests is overwhelming, no matter the fervent protests of the past two weeks.

Each independent investigation into its use has come to that conclusion. 

Yet, the Department of Conservation and its staff have had to put up with abuse and worse. Tampering with the wheel nuts on vehicles, as has been reported, is downright criminal and dangerous.

Blatant “fake news” and completely misleading photographs have been spread around the internet, news stories hijacked by activists, and 1080 drops disrupted.

There is, indeed,  no doubting the genuine feelings of the anti-1080 brigade, including the majority who act responsibly in their opposition. But they, like the irresponsible, are sadly and badly misguided.

Some of the fervour is understandable.  Dog owners are fearful of the awful death their charges might suffer should they eat carcasses of mammals killed by the poison.  Others are concerned about the deer by-kill, meaning fewer animals to hunt.

Much worse than these concerns, though, is the massacre by possums, stoats and rats. They lay waste forests of birds and chicks, turning them into silent graveyards and disrupting the ecosystem.

Trap instead of poison, say the 1080 opponents. Given the vastness, and ruggedness of New Zealand’s topography, this is totally  and absolutely impractical.

The 1080 kills birds instead of saving them, the opponents add. While it is true 1080 has killed birds as well as pests, birds and reptiles seem to have some tolerance. Doc’s threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki quotes a study where 600 kiwi were monitored by radio transmitters for a long time after 1080 was spread.  Not one died. Meanwhile, 19 of 20 kiwi eggs were eaten by predators in areas without pest control.

The 1080 kills so many pests it allows bird numbers to recover. . .

The strongest advocates of 1080 accept it’s not the perfect answer but it is better than any alternatives that are currently available.

Until there is something better, it is 1080 or death to a lot of native flora and fauna.


Rural round-up

August 5, 2018

Lamb contracts top $8 – Annette Scott:

Months of speculation have been put to bed as $8 or more a kilogram for lamb is confirmed in new season pricing contracts.

While prices upwards of $8 are reserved for the upper-end of the market, not many are paying far below that level.

But easing market prices against new season farmgate prices are creating some bumps in the market, making some processors concerned about unrealistic expectations. . .

Weather, terrain rule the farm – Neal Wallace:

Otago’s Lambhill Station is remote, steep and exposed but through strategic investment and careful management it is achieving commendable levels of production. Neal Wallace met managers Chris and Lucy Thomson.

Lambhill Station does not try to be anything but a large-scale breeding property.

Managers Chris and Lucy Thomson know better than to try to supply prime stock, acutely aware the climate and terrain always have the last say.. .

Police smash avocado ring:

Police have arrested three people in relation to a spate of avocado thefts at rural addresses in Tauranga.

They say the arrests include an organised receiver who was purchasing avocados from burglary offenders.

A 63-year-old Tauranga man has been charged with two charges of receiving property and will appear in the Tauranga District Court this month.

A 23-year-old Tauranga man is facing two burglary charges and 27-year-old woman is facing three burglary charges. They will appear in Tauranga District Court in September. . . 

Nitrogen leaching under crops examined in study – Nicole Sharp:

Nitrogen leaching under crops is being examined at the Southern Dairy Hub by AgResearch.

Following the first season of the research farm, AgResearch senior scientist Ross Monaghan said the agency had started by measuring nitrogen leaching on the different fodder crops.

Under the new project, of running the farm as four farmlets, it was being measured under two crops – fodder beet and kale. . .

Secretive, high country owner offers station for sale with ski field -Chris Hutching:

A high country station and skifield in South Canterbury is on the market after a promised “world-class mountain bike trail” failed to eventuate.

Locals understand Lilydale, near Fairlie, is owned by US-born billionaire Ken Dart, and the trail of company ownership indicates they are correct.

Dart’s wealth is estimated at more than US$6 billion and his New Zealand interests include the Wairoa Gorge mountain bike park in Nelson. . . 

‘Bovis’ spread risk raised:

A Teviot Valley farmer is concerned about Transpower New Zealand’s vehicle movements on the area’s dairy and beef properties, which he says could spread the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

However, Transpower has assured farmers it has biosecurity management procedures and policies in place to mitigate any risks.

The company’s service contractors need to drive over properties to inspect high-voltage structures and they were out and about in the valley during the past couple of weeks. . . 

Q

 

Here are 6 ways GMOs benefit consumers – The Farmer’s Daughter US:

Genetically modified crops provide a lot of benefits for farmers, including less pesticide applications and increased yields. These benefits are why farmers choose to grow GMO crops, and also why the agricultural industry has generally accepted GMOs.

But what about consumers – are there any benefits for them?

Absolutely! Here are 6 ways that GMOs benefit consumers.

1. Keeps Bugs Out of Food

No one wants to eat wormy corn. I know this because I spent 26 years of my life selling sweet corn at my family’s roadside stand. People had all sorts of tricks to check whether an ear of corn had a worm in it. . . 


Spot the difference

July 31, 2018

National MP Chris Bishop illustrates the difference between a good bill and a bad one:


Rural round-up

July 2, 2018

Mycoplasma bovis: battle fatigue is growing but Government claims to be resolute – Keith Woodford:

Last week I was in Wellington speaking to Federated Farmers Dairy Council.    It gave me an opportunity to assess persistent rumours that Government and MPI were losing confidence in relation to the Mycoplasma eradication battle.

I heard both Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor say that they were resolute in their determination to eradicate the disease. Whether or not public positions and private concerns coincide could be another matter.

Everything I heard reinforced my concern that there is a gulf between the information MPI is providing Government and the realities of the situation. . . 

IHC calf scheme could be culled due to M bovis – Rachael Kelly:

A fundraising scheme that raises more than $1m a year for the IHC could become a victim of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

Since 1984 about 4,000 farmers nationwide have donated cull cows, steers, bulls, heifers, calfs, bale of wools, lambs, sheep, goats, and deer  to the charity.

The stock is then sold and the proceeds are donated to IHC.

But farmers raised concerns about the scheme at a meeting in Gore last week, which was hosted by MPI, Beef & Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ, saying the IHC’s stock sales could transmit M. bovis between stock, therefore transferring it between farms. . .

Loss of wool training organisation keenly felt – Sally Rae:

The demise of Te Ako Wools is a “significant blow” for the wool industry, Federated Farmers says.

The organisation, which was launched in Alexandra in mid-2016, was owned by the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association. It worked with Primary ITO to provide industry training, including shearing and woolhandling.

Training, attracting and retaining people in the industry had continued to be a challenge, Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman Miles Anderson and policy adviser Sarah Crofoot said in their report to the organisation’s national conference in Wellington last week. Finding staff had become increasingly difficult and the situation was expected to  continue over the next five years, making training “all the more important”. .  .

Big cheeses from UK and US cleared to buy farms in NZ – Martin van Beynen:

Two titans of niche agricultural markets in America and England are investing in New Zealand after getting approval from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO). 

American millionaires Margaret and Gary Hirshberg, who are from New Hampshire and in their early 60s, have been cleared to buy 69ha in Ngatimoti, near Motueka, to set up an organic sheep farm and an organic market garden. They also intend to do extensive native planting. 

The sellers, Andrew Guy and Rowan and Sharon Kearns, got $4m for the property. . . 

No monsters – science backs the safety of GMO foods:

Remember all the warnings about genetically modified organisms? They’re bad for us; they harm the environment; there is too little oversight; they fail to increase yields; and they will do little to help feed the world.

GMOs are plants and animals whose DNA has been modified by genetic engineering. The process has allowed researchers to develop corn that can survive drought, soybeans that stand up to weed killer, virus-free papayas, and potatoes that don’t bruise — in short, countless varieties of crops that yield more and cost less to grow. That’s good news for farmers and for our food supply. . . .

Lightening strike kills a dozen cows sparks strange Facebook posts – Wyatt Bechtel:

A lightning strike on a ranch in Oklahoma was not only a tragedy for the owners, but it also turned into a reminder of the lack of knowledge most people have about livestock production.

Jason Donathan, a cattle rancher from Henryetta, OK shared a photo with KOTV Channel 6 in Tulsa showing approximately 12 dead cattle under a tree. The group of primarily cows was killed by a lightning strike.

KOTV meteorologist Lacey Swope shared the picture on her Facebook page on June 24. . .

 


Shouldn’t smoke anything in other people’s houses

June 27, 2018

Chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman has found there is no evidence that contamination from smoking meth poses a risk to health.

• Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant used illicitly in New Zealand and around the world. It is obtained either through smuggling into the country, or by being manufactured locally in clandestine laboratories (meth labs). These meth labs may be found in residential dwellings, commercial accommodation, and even vehicles. 

• A dwelling can become contaminated with methamphetamine residues if the drug is manufactured or smoked within it. Smoking usually results in much lower residue levels compared with manufacture. . . 

• Passive, third-hand exposure to methamphetamine can arise through residing in a dwelling previously used as a clandestine meth lab, or where a significant amount of methamphetamine has been smoked. Former meth labs generally have relatively high levels of methamphetamine residue on sampled surfaces (levels greater than 30 μg of methamphetamine per 100 cm2 surface area are thought to be indicative of manufacturing activity). There is some evidence for adverse physiological and behavioural symptoms associated with third-hand exposure to former meth labs that used solvent-based production methods, but these symptoms mostly relate to the other toxic chemicals in the environment released during the manufacturing process, rather than to methamphetamine itself.

• However, there are no published (or robust, unpublished) data relating to health risks of residing in a dwelling formerly used only for smoking methamphetamine. Yet, given the relatively low number of confirmed meth labs found, and the very low average levels of methamphetamine found in most houses that test positive for the drug, most New Zealanders will only ever encounter very low levels of residue that are the result of methamphetamine use. . . 

In the past meth users were evicted from state houses, now Housing NZ will let meth users stay in their houses and try to get them help.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said Housing New Zealand is a landlord for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

He said if the agency discovers a tenant is smoking meth, it will try to help them. . . 

He said the response from Housing NZ now was to treat people using meth as a health issue.

“Under the old government the policy was to make that person homeless – the worst possible thing that you could do.

“If someone’s got a drug addiction problem, you couldn’t do anything more calculated than to make them vulnerable to greater risk in their health, and in fact incurring greater expense to the taxpayer than throwing them out of their home and making them homeless.

“Housing New Zealand is a landlord … they’re not the police.

There is merit in treating drug use as a health issue and  trying to find help for addicts.

But I am concerned that this policy sends a message it’s fine to smoke in other people’s houses.

All landlords have the right to tell tenants they can’t smoke anything – legal or illegal – in their houses.

We have a strict no smoking rule in all our farm houses. One of our sharemilkers goes further, telling his staff the whole farm is smoke-free.

Property owners and employers have a right to do that.

Another thing to remember is that no evidence of harm is not the same as proof of no harm.

Science is rarely settled and regardless of what the research has found, I wouldn’t want to live in a house where people had been smoking meth.


If Cabinet counts . . .

June 12, 2018

Labour’s attempt to repeal the three-strikes legislation has been struck out by New Zealand First:

. . . Justice Minister Andrew Little was forced to backtrack on the proposed repeal that he was planning to take to Cabinet on Monday after NZ First indicated it wouldn’t support it.

In a press conference on Monday morning Little tried to leave the door open on three strikes being repealed in the future, saying NZ First didn’t support a “piecemeal” approach and wanted to see the total justice reform package. 

However, it’s understood NZ First MPs have been working on this issue for weeks. The caucus has no plans to budge on its long-held view of being tough on law and order after seeking feedback from its voter base. . . 

Little might have thought he could get the legislation past NZ First’s tough law and order stance because the party has managed to support other policies to which it is supposedly opposed but he was very silly not to have had a water-tight commitment of support well before this.

That wasn’t his only mistake.

. . . On Justice Minister Andrew Little’s backtrack today on the Three Strikes law repeal, Ardern said it would have been better to wait until a Cabinet decision had been made. . . 

Yes indeed.

But if Cabinet is supposed to count in this decision why didn’t it count in the decision to ban oil and gas exploration?


Meat now currency for meth

April 27, 2018

He picks up a basket on his way into the supermarket and puts his own bag in it.

He goes straight to the meat counter, picks up some whole beef fillets and puts them in his bag in the basket. He then picks up a few packets of crisps, puts them on top of the bag, wanders back to the entrance, knocks the crisps aside, grabs the bag handles, drops the basket, jumps over the sharks-teeth which make the entrance one-way, turns to raise a middle finger at the security camera and runs out.

The supermarket owner who told us this story said all this was captured on the store’s security camera.

He said that meat has become currency for methamphetamine. It’s sold through social media and the cash is used to buy drugs.

His supermarket loses about $2,500 of meat a week and it’s not just adults stealing.

One day the florist at the supermarket entrance noticed a child aged about six walking towards the door with a heavy bag. She asked her what she was doing, the child dropped the bag and ran out, the florist picked up the bag and saw it was full of meat.

The supermarket in this story is in Auckland but the tweet below shows the problem isn’t confined to that city.

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Reckless

January 4, 2018

A man has been charged after a drone grounded eight helicopters involved in fighting an out-of-control blaze in Wanaka yesterday:

The large fire broke out on Mt Roy just before 3pm and spread rapidly on the parched hillside overlooking Wanaka. Helicopters carried monsoon buckets between Lake Wanaka and Mt Roy to douse the flames.

But  police said the eight choppers battling the blaze had to be grounded for 15 minutes when the drone was spotted. . .

Wanaka Area Response Manager Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell said flying a drone where helicopters were working was reckless and it was a timely reminder for drone operators to think before they flew.

“Not only did the grounding of the helicopters cost money and valuable time in the efforts to extinguish the blaze, it put the safety and lives of the helicopter pilots at risk,”  Sgt Grindell said.

Stronger words than reckless could be applied to this.


Bigger plot no less private

October 17, 2017

A Southland tulip grower is plagued by people picking his flowers:

Horizon Flowers New Zealand Limited manager Roy Smak said a “flood of people” came to the fields at Mabel Bush and “helped themselves” to the flowers or dug up the bulbs.

He was not sure if they knew of the impact it would have on other flowers, which had died because of bulbs torn out or diseases spread.

“We just want the public to be aware that this is our bread and butter,” he said.

People often ran away when they were caught out, he said.

“You wouldn’t go onto a farmer’s paddock and shoot his cattle for meat.”

Unfortunately some people do go onto farmers’ paddocks and shoot stock – it’s called poaching.

People were welcome to come and take photos, even come onto the fields if they respected the field and staff, he said.

“I love our display and I’m proud of it.”

But people who were parking their cars on the grass on the private property, leaving gates open and stealing flowers were ruining it for the rest.

“It seems to be a step beyond fair,” Smak said. . .

Most people wouldn’t contemplate entering a private garden to pick flowers but to some a bigger plot seems less private.

It’s not.

Private property is private property regardless of whether it’s a few hundred square metres or many thousands of hectares and taking something from private property is theft.

 


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