Don’t panic but . . .

13/03/2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that that COVID-19 is a pandemic.

In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled.  

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. 

Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals.

In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. 

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.

We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.  

WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases.  

And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.

We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.  . .

WHO has rung the alarm bell. Has our government heard it?

As I said on Monday, just looking at the number of cases and the number of countries affected does not tell the full story.

Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea – have significantly declining epidemics. 

81 countries have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.

We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.

If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.

Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this virus. 

Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled. 

The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same – it’s whether they will.   . .

New Zealand is not dealing with large clusters or community transmission – yet.

This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight. 

I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact.

Let me summarize it in four key areas. 

First, prepare and be ready.

Second, detect, protect and treat.

Third, reduce transmission.

Fourth, innovate and learn. 

I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate and scale up your emergency response mechanisms;

Communicate with your people about the risks and how they can protect themselves – this is everybody’s business; 

Find, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact;

Ready your hospitals;

Protect and train your health workers. 

And let’s all look out for each other, because we need each other.  . . .

Are you confident that the government is taking this as seriously as it should be?

Friends flew home from South Africa a couple of days ago. In Singapore everyone in transit was asked lots of questions about where they had been, and their passports were checked to confirm what they’d said.

When they got to Auckland there were only two border staff on duty, all the disembarking passengers were crowded together in the queue. Nothing was said about Covid-19 but the the officer put a piece of paper in her husband’s passport which gave information about the disease.

A friend flew from the USA a couple of days ago, found only a couple of border staff on duty and a similarly low-key approach to the risk of Covid-19.

This does not seem to be taking WHO’s directive to detect and protect seriously enough.

That large public events are still going ahead, including the commemoration of the anniversary of March 15’s mosque massacre doesn’t seem to be taking the directive to reduce transmission seriously enough.

Are our hospitals ready? Are health workers trained and protected?

The health system is over-stretched at the best of times. What is being done to ensure it, and the people working in it, cope with what could be the worst of times?

And what’s being done to ensure people with symptoms self-isolate?

The government must pay people who stay away from work because they have the illness or have been in close contact with people with it.

These workers must not be left out of pocket or forced to go to work because they can’t afford not to and businesses should not have to cover that cost either.

That is one of the recommendations from David Farrar .

Should the government be unsure of what to do, following them would be a good idea.

There is no need to panic but there is urgent need to do everything possible to ensure everyone is doing everything possible to minimise the harm from the pandemic.


Rural round-up

22/02/2020

Workshops to build strong work places – Annette Scott:

Free workshops on building great workplaces are rolling out around the country this week.

The workshops, facilitated by the Dairy Women’s Network, are structured to help build great workplaces on dairy farms.    

Chief executive Jules Benton said the interactive workshops understand how valuable it is for dairy farmers, their teams and their communities to flourish in a positive, supportive environment. . . 

Kiwis hit home at agritech expo – Richard Rennie:

One of the agritech sector’s international leading lights in venture financing has given New Zealand an unequivocal thumbs-up for its ability to punch above its weight in the competitive global scene.

Addressing delegates at the EvokeAg agritech expo in Melbourne, Silicon Valley investment and tech firm SVG Ventures founder John Harnett said he is seeing more NZ agritech start-ups meeting farmers on the ground and integrating well with them to find solutions to their problems.

He also urged Australian counterparts to move further afield in the way NZ, Israel and Irish agritech entrepreneurs have done. . . 

Aussie farmer’s heartfelt message for drought-stricken Kiwis :

A photo shared on The Country’s Facebook page showing severe drought in the Waikato region has struck a chord with one Australian farmer.

After seeing NIWA weather forecaster Chris Brandolino’s post, which featured Sarah Fraser’s sobering image of parched fields, Cindy Bruce left a heartfelt message of support for her Kiwi counterparts.

Bruce, who runs a beef and wheat farm in Central inland Queensland, said the drought had so far cost her over $100k in feed and lost cows and calves, along with a failed wheat crop “which ironically, provided feed for the cows in October”. . . 

Drought’s mixed effects on sectors :

Prolonged dry weather will have mixed effects on commodity prices, says ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny.

For dairy, the drought will put upward pressure on prices as milk production will fall.

“Currently, we forecast 2019-20 production to be flat on 2018-19, but we are reviewing this forecast next week,” says Penny.

Meat changes coming – report – Pam Tipa:

New ideas of what equates to ‘premium’ in red meat are expected to change significantly in coming years, according to a new report from Beef+Lamb (B+LNZ). The traditional characteristics of premium today are marbling and exotic provenance such as Japanese Wagyu, which has been stable for some time.

So says the report called ‘Shaping the future of New Zealand’s Red Meat Sector’ released late last year.

Consumption of acorns by finishing Iberian pigs and their function in the conservation of the Dehesa agroecosystem – Vicente Rodríguez-Estévez*,
Manuel Sánchez-Rodríguez, Cristina Arce, Antón R. García, José M. Perea and A. Gustavo Gómez-Castro :

1. Introduction
The dehesa is an ancient agrosilvopastoral system created by farmers to raise livestock, mainly on private lands. This system is highly appreciated by society and enjoys legal
protection of the authorities because it is rich in biodiversity, a home to critically endangered species (Iberian lynx, imperial eagle and black vulture); a significant carbon
sink; ethnologically and anthropologically valuable (culture and traditions); and is known for its scenic value. The dehesa also underpins rural development and is valuable for, inter
alia, ecotourism and rural tourism; hunting and shooting; fire prevention; wood and charcoal; and for fodder (grass and acorns). However, most of these values do not produce
any benefit to farmers and they do not receive any kind of support from these contributions.

The dehesa is both a resilient and a fragile system; its resilience derives from the perseverance of its operators, and its fragility is its susceptibility to unfavourable economic
factors that influence its profitability (Siebold, 2009). . .


Higher wages fewer jobs

15/01/2020

The  increase in the minimum wage costs jobs:

Confirmation that the Government’s unbalanced minimum wage rise could cost 17,000 jobs and lump taxpayers with a $125 million bill is an alarm bell for small businesses, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Todd McClay says.

MBIE’s recently-released Minimum Wage Review 2019 reveals the Labour-led Government’s proposed change to $18.90 per hour on April 1 will cost the economy 6500 jobs and increase Government expenses by $62m a year, as well as drive up inflation.

Moving to a $20 an hour minimum wage by 2021, which the Government is proposing, could cost the economy 17,000 jobs and increase expenses by $125m a year.

“The minimum wage changes will see small businesses struggle more at a time when the Government should be supporting them, not working against them,” Mr McClay says.

“The Government is making it harder for small businesses to employ people, harder for them to invest in training and development, and harder for them to get ahead.

“These projections could prove to be much larger if our economy continues to slow and the labour market weakens, as it has already under the Labour-led Government.

“Everyone wants high wages for workers, which is why National increased the minimum wage every year in Government. But we believe the minimum wage should go up in a balanced way that doesn’t go too far, too fast.

Employers expect modest increases in the minimum wage but this government’s fast-tracking bigger increases is too much too quickly, at too high a cost.

“Hard-working Kiwis are already doing it tough because of the Labour-led Government’s poor policies, which are driving up the price of petrol, rent and other living costs.

“The best way to put more money in workers’ pockets is to let them keep more of what they earn. What good is raising the minimum wage if workers are being taxed to the eyeballs?”

Would tax cuts be better than increasing the minimum wage?

An orchard owner in Central Otago is rallying against minimum wage increases, arguing reducing the income tax of a portion of low-wage earners would help them more and do less harm to small businesses.

But a tax expert says it makes more sense to give low-wage earners more social support than to ‘‘tinker’’ with the tax system. . .

The business owner said she did not want to be named out of concern people might react angrily to her view the minimum wage should not be increased.

‘‘I’m all for people getting more money in their pocket.

‘‘The Government needs to look at how they can ensure lower-paid people get more in their wage packet, without damaging especially smaller companies.

‘‘What is the point of more money in a pay packet if the result of that is that it is going to cost jobs, and it gets swallowed up by higher prices for the basics, like fuel and electricity and rents and groceries?’’

Wage rises are a cost to business . If they’re not at least matched by a gain in profit businesses have to increase prices to compensate. That feeds into the economy and soon eats into any increase in pay. If people are paid more but have to pay more for goods and services they’re no better off, and if there are fewer jobs those who lose, or can’t get, a job are worse off.

She said she had a better idea of how to get more money to low-wage earners.

‘‘If they’re going to up wages all the time why don’t they bring the PAYE [rate] down?

‘‘Lower-paid people can have an immediate solid increase in their take-home packet.’’

If you follow the principle of less tax on things we want to encourage and more on things we don’t, tax cuts on wages is good. The trouble is most lower to middle income people pay little or no net tax.

Tax specialist and managing partner at Findex in Dunedin Scott Mason said he had a lot of sympathy for business owners struggling with the increasing cost of wages.

He agreed with the orchard owner the increase in minimum wages could lead to employers not hiring new staff.

‘‘They’ll defer taking an employee on for a longer period of time. Which then has a counterintuitive impact on the economy, accepting of course we’ve got pretty full employment at the moment.

But reducing the income tax low-wage earners paid was ‘‘tinkering with our overall tax settings’’.

‘‘The reality is those on minimum wage — when you take into account their tax rate and their social benefits — aren’t generally net taxpayers anyway.

‘‘We’re basically using the tax system, the people who are net taxpayers, to subsidise [low-wage earners] further.

‘‘It may or may not be right — it’s just a much wider debate is the point I’m making.’’

He said it would be a better idea to increase social welfare to help those more in need.

‘‘If you were going to use the tax system to do it, you’d be better off tinkering with the likes of Working for Families or those sorts of things rather than changing tax rates.

‘‘If you change the tax rate then it affects all taxpayers.’’

If you increase WFF it affects all taxpayers too because that’s who pays for it.

What we need is increased productivity and profits and a reduction in business taxes could help that.

That in turn could lead to sustainable growth in the economy which would, in time, lead to sustainable increases in wages.

That would be much better than wage increases by government decree which have nothing to do with the value of the work employees do, nothing to do with a businesses ability to pay that additional cost and a lot to do with job losses.

 

 

 

 

 


Labour pains, National delivers

18/12/2019

National promised eight policy papers this year and they’ve delivered.

The government promised this year would be their year of delivery and they haven’t.

You’ll find National discussion documents here.

You’ll find the government’s broken promises here.

They include: child poverty heading in the wrong direction, the level of homelessness is appalling, elective surgery numbers have dropped, economic growth has dropped from 4% under National to 2.1%; job growth has fallen from 10,000 a month under National to just 3,000 under Labour; per capita growth is only 0.5 per cent a year compared with average of 1.7% a year during the last five years under National; the number of people on the dole is up by 22,000, the number of New Zealanders heading overseas has increased by 10,000 a year, the billion trees promise isn’t being delivered and won’t be, not a single cent of the the $100 million Green Investment Fund that was supposed to kick-start $1 billion of investment in ‘low carbon’ industries has been invested, the  commitment this year to making the entire Government fleet emissions-free by mid-2025 was dropped, the government hasn’t been able to find a credible way to introduce a royalty on bottled water exports without trampling all over trade and other agreements with countries New Zealand does business with, yet another working group was set up to address waste minimisation but hasn’t come up with anything yet, the bold goals for housing have been dropped, The 4000 new apprentices target has been quietly dropped. Only 417 have started the Mana in Mahi programme and 32% of them dropped out . . .

Rodney Hide sums it up saying the year of delivery got lost in the post:

This was supposed to be the turnaround year. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared 2019 her Year of Delivery. Nothing has been delivered. Her promise has proved, like her government, empty and meaningless. 

The tragedy is that we accept it. It’s enough that politicians feel and emote; there’s no need to do or achieve anything. We should perhaps rename the country New Feel-Land. . . 

That’s the Year of Delivery done and dusted.

But there’s always next year. The prime minister has plastics again in her sights. She says it’s what children write to her about most. There are news reports she’s planning on banning plastic stickers on fruit.

I scoffed when we had government by focus group. We now have government by school project. . . 

Garrick Tremain sums it up:

What’s all that hot air doing to our emissions profile?

Reducing those is another failure, in spite of the commitment to reducing them being the PM’s nuclear-free moment, they’re increasing and will continue to for the next five years.

A new government ill-prepared for the role might have been excused a first year finding its feet but there’s no excuse for failing so badly to deliver in on its promises in what was supposed to be its year of delivery.


Delivering $132m more on dole

29/10/2019

The government’s year of delivery has delivered an extra $132m in jobseeker benefits.

An additional $132 million of dole payments have been dished out to people who are able to work in the past year, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders deserve a fair go but not a free ride. Since Labour came into Government an additional 22,000 people have gone on the Jobseeker Benefit.

That’s around the total population of the Waitaki District who could be working but aren’t and on a be fit because of that.

“Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni doesn’t seem to care how many people go on the dole and she doesn’t believe there should be sanctions if people show no willingness to get into employment.

“Being in work lifts people out of poverty and improves the lives of families. There’s no excuse for taxpayers having to pick up an additional $132 million, a figure that doesn’t include inflation. This figure is just for people on the Jobseeker Benefit – people who are fit to work and doesn’t include other benefits.

Employers are crying out for workers so there shouldn’t be people who are able to work lining up for the benefit.

These aren’t people who can’t work, they could be working and aren’t.

“This week National will release our Social Services Discussion Document. We’ll release our positive plans to get more people into work and improve the lives of individuals, families and communities.

“National is aspirational for New Zealanders, we want people to have a safety net when they need it but we recognise that this is paid for through taxes and there needs to be accountability and obligations with that.

“The Minister needs to explain to taxpayers why they’re funding an additional $132 million in welfare and what her plan is to get people back into work.”

There are lots of reasons why people who are able to work might not be able to find a job in the short term and benefits provide a temporary safety net for them.

But there’s something wrong with a system that allows the safety net to become a hammock that traps people in dependency when so many employers are desperate for staff.


Sowell says

24/07/2019


Sowell says

23/07/2019


Faith first for Folau

16/04/2019

Rugby Australia has issued a breach notice to Israel Folau:

Folau sparked outrage after posting to his Instagram account last Wednesday night that “hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” — adding they should “repent”. . . 

What he said is not just a tenet of fundamental Christianity, Muslim and Jewish religions would also regard these as sins.

At its core, this is an issue of the responsibilities an employee owes to their employer and the commitments they make to their employer to abide by their employer’s policies and procedures and adhere to their employer’s values,” Rugby Australia said in a statement.

Freedom of expression, outside work, obviously isn’t one of those values.

“Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as player for the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs with regards to social media use and he has failed to meet those obligations. It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action. . .

This is an employment issue. Folau had been warned and ignored the warning. But was what was required of him fair?

In doing ignoring the warning, he’s chosen to put his faith before football:

Israel Folau is sticking to his guns no matter what it costs the embattled Wallabies superstar.

And he is continuing to place his faith in his religion, despite the storm airing his beliefs on social media has caused within both the Australian rugby and society in general. . . 

It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things,” Folau told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do.”

Folau said he would not mind one bit if his rugby career was done as long as he got to do The Lord’s work.

“First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.

“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.” . . 

It’s not that long ago that not doing anything against which Folau is warning, would have been a code of conduct that was generally accepted as the right one and the condemnation of people who didn’t follow it would not have been remarkable.

Even now, while some have used social media to confess to being guilty on several of these counts, how can speaking out against any of them that hurt others be wrong?

But of course it’s not Folau’s condemnation of drunkenness, adultery, lying or thieving that’s caused the furor, it’s the inclusion of homosexuality.

Bob Jones points out:

First, these remarks are totally consistent with the Bible (and the Koran) so why the uproar?

Second, why did the critics, including the Prime Minister, solely complain about the reference to homosexuals? What about us drunks and fornicators? Doesn’t she care about our pain? We know the answer to that, namely unlike fairydom we’re not fashionable at the moment.

I can understand journalists concentration on homosexuals as few are whereas make no mistake, the vast majority I’ve known are drunks, adulterers, liars and fornicators to various degrees, so too heaps of MP’s.  A double-standard here methinks.

My contact with journalists and MPs hasn’t involved drunkenness, lying and fornicating but I don’t move in Sir Bob’s circles.

This whole episode is a classic pack-hunting media contrivance. I have difficulty believing a single drunk, fornicator, homosexual, adulterer or liar reading Israel’s remarks gave a damn. He’s entitled to express his religious beliefs as much as I for example am, to continue pursuing my life-long mockery of religion. . . 

An employment breach is between Rugby Australia and Folau but how many would have known about it if the media hadn’t picked up the post?

Only those who follow his account, at least some of whom no doubt agree with him, and others would be following him because of his footy fame and not be troubled by his faith.

But the mainstream media, as happens too often, picked up the post and broadcast it to the world. They then reported the outrage they’d stirred up and also the concern about people who might be upset by it who probably would have been oblivious had the media not generated the publicity.

The offenderati reacted predictably by condemning him and wanting to silence him.

Why when, as Michael Redell points out,  few share his beliefs?:

. . . If –  as most New Zealanders and a large proportion of Australians now claim to –  you don’t believe in the existence of God, let alone of eternal separation from God or Hell, it is hard to know why what Folau is saying should bother you.   You surely believe he is simply deluded and wrong, as he will discover (or rather not) when he dies.

If you don’t believe what he says why not ignore it, or counter it with rational argument?

That probably is the view of a fair number of people in New Zealand and Australia today.  But it isn’t the view of those holding the commanding heights –  MPs, leader writers, columnists, business leaders and so on –  who have demanded that it be stopped.  They simply cannot abide the thought that someone of any prominence should openly affirm that sin is sin, and that homosexual acts are among the things labelled as sin.

Here I’m not mainly interested in the Australian Rugby Union. I have a modicum of sympathy for their position, even if (as I noted in an earlier post elsewhere on these issues) the problem was partly one of their own making.   Rugby could just be rugby, but that’s not enough for today bosses.

My interest is more in what it says about our society – New Zealand and, it appears, Australia –  that no prominent person is free to express centuries-old Christian belief (views backed, rightly or wrongly, by the law of the land until only a few decades ago) when it trespasses on the taboos and sacred cows (“homosexuality good”) of today’s “liberal” elite.  And if no prominent person can –  and it is interesting to note that not a single church leader has been willing to stand up openly for Folau, and the Scriptures –  how will those less prominent be positioned.   Folau may lose a multi-million dollar contract, but he’ll already have earned much more than many ordinary working people make in their life.   But what of the ordinary employee of a bank or of one of those right-on government agencies.  It might not even be a personal social media account, or a speaking engagement at the local church.  It might be nothing more than a reluctance to participate in celebrations of what (in their belief, in the tradition of thousands of years) sinful acts.   The issue here isn’t someone proselytising across the counter of the bank, any more than Folau’s “offence” involved activity in the middle of a game, but a totalitarian disregard for any view –  no matter of how longstanding –  that doesn’t fall into line with today’s orthodoxy.

This is what concerns me too.

I don’t share Folau’s fundamental version of faith.

I find a lot of the Bible contradictory and when I do I choose the option that shows love and grace – turn the other cheek rather than an eye for an eye, for example.

But Folau’s are honestly held beliefs. They don’t impact on his playing ability, he wasn’t preaching during a game, why shouldn’t he be allowed to express them?

And there’s also the niggling thought that some religions are more equal than others and if his was another faith rather than Christian, he would he have been given a little more leniency.


Rural round-up

27/01/2019

Temporary work visas need over-haul – farmers  – Gill Bonnet:

Farmers say they face having to send skilled workers home in 18 months time because of how their jobs are measured by immigration officials.

Immigrants classed as low-skilled since 2017 have been allowed maximum visas of three years and not been able to sponsor spouses and children.

The changes to temporary work visas were introduced weeks before the last election. . .

Guy Trafford takes another look at a growing problem that never seems to get resolved, notes a full effort to protect ‘old world’ markets and assesses changes to farm gate prices  – Guy Traffod:

New Zealand horticulture has made the news recently with the demand for fruit harvesters that is not being meet. With the unemployment rate hovering around 4% (3.9% is latest data) the likelihood of finding enough staff from that sector is reasonably remote.

The same issue has been an ongoing one for agriculture. Dairying has had an ongoing issue with finding and maintaining staff and while sheep and beef and cropping have lower rates of turn over, finding new staff has still been a problem and getting more difficult by the year.

When the age profile of those working in agriculture is examined then more concern should be raised. . . 

Sheep farming, it’s in our nature – Luke Chivers:

Northwest Waikato sheep and beef  farmers Tom and Nicole Whitford never planned on working in the primary sector but today the couple are dedicated to the intergenerational transfer of a farming business.Luke Chivers explains.

It was Gypsy Day 2016. Waikaretu Valley farmers Tom and Nicole Whitford’s succession agreement with Tom’s parents for a well-nurtured and developed, panoramic coastal slice of rural New Zealand kicked in – coincidentally the same day their son Mac was born.

But that wasn’t their initial plan. . .

Small environmental footprint takes district mayor’s Eketahuna farm to finals – Christine McKay:

Mike and Tracey Collis may run a dairy farm with big ambitions, but they have managed to achieve a small environmental footprint.

To boot, they farm in Eketahuna – a renowned challenging farming area. Their tenacity and their talents caught the eyes of this year’s Horizons Ballance Farm Environment award judges who credited the couple’s willingness to adapt their farming system to outside influences.

“We are really pleased about being a finalist,” the Collis’ say of their achievement. . .

Beekeepers urged to vote for a commodity levy

Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) is calling on commercial beekeepers to vote for a commodity levy with voting papers going out this month.

“We are at a crucial juncture in the history of this industry,” says Bruce Wills, chair of Apiculture New Zealand, the body leading the vote. “We need beekeepers to vote and we need a clear statement from the beekeepers through this vote. . . 

Poposed honey levy divides beekeeprers –  Maja Burry:

A vote by beekeepers on a proposed honey levy next month has seen one industry group rallying its members to reject the proposal.

Apiculture New Zealand, a voluntary body of about 900 members, wants to introduce a commodity levy on honey to help manage industry growth.

The proposed levy would see all 1800 beekeepers in New Zealand with 26 hives or more to pay a levy of 10 cents on each kilogram of honey – collecting about two million dollars a year.

But New Zealand Beekeeping president Jane Lorimer said the the levy was unreasonably high.


How much will they pay for food?

15/01/2019

Cows need milking, fruit and vegetables are ripe for picking and farmers and horticulturists are struggling to find staff.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE), which allows industries to recruit workers from overseas for the season goes part way towards bridging the staff gap, but year after year farms, market gardens and orchards are desperately seeking workers.

One reason put forward for the shortage of workers when people are unemployed is that the work is seasonal and those who go off a benefit for short-term work find it difficult when they face a stand-down period before they can get a benefit again at the end of the season.

That might employ to some, but orchards which put a lot of effort into recruiting and training staff and finding work for them all year, still struggle to find enough staff.

Some say that workers aren’t paid enough to make the job attractive.

Dairy farm workers get well above the minimum wage plus accommodation.

A lot of horticulture work has performance pay – the more people pick the more they earn and anyone prepared to take the work seriously won’t find it difficult to make a decent wage.

But what’s enough?

Wages are a cost of production that has to be recovered when the produce is sold if the business is to be profitable.

Higher wages will lead to higher prices for food.

How much more are those saying people in dairying, horticulture and market gardening aren’t paid enough, prepared to pay for their food?

Nothing if complaints about the price of milk, butter, cheese, fruit and vegetables and tales of people being too poor to eat properly are taken seriously.


Rural round-up

12/01/2019

The story of genetics and Mt Albert’s forbidden fruit – Farah Hancock:

A controversial new apple created by New Zealand scientists has to be seen to be believed – and has to be eaten offshore. Farah Hancock reports.

The red-fleshed apples developed by Plant and Food Research’s scientist Professor Andrew Allan and his team are so contentious they’re not allowed to eat them in New Zealand.

“In the end we had to take them to America.”

The cores were removed from the apples so no seeds were present. They were triple-bagged and sealed. Phytosanitary certificates were gained to get approval to move the apples from their glasshouse in Auckland’s Mount Albert to the airport, and then on to the United States. Allan and the science team flew the precious cargo to San Francisco where a taste-testing panel of 50 people waited. . . 

Good grass growth but drought on horizon if rain delayed for Taranaki farmers – Mike Watson and Leighton Keith:

Taranaki dairy farmers are keeping an eye out for rain clouds with the summer heat taking a toll on grass cover.

Favourable growing conditions since spring, following a devastating one in 40 year drought last summer, meant many farmers had good supply of feed to prepare an extended dry period.

“The conditions have been good, in fact fantastic, to date but it is starting to get dry now and we will be looking for some rain by the end of the month,” Okato farmer Ray Barron said. . . 

Plant pines, not natives to make money from carbon farming, says consultant – Heather Chalmers:

Landowners planting forests for carbon credits should plant pine trees rather than natives to achieve the best returns, a carbon consultant says.  

Ollie Belton, a partner of Permanent Forests NZ a Christchurch-based carbon consultancy, said that the rate that natives absorb carbon dioxide was much lower than for pinus radiata. 

Sequestration calculations used by the Emissions Trading Scheme for forests under 100 hectares showed that pinus radiata absorbed almost 1000 tonnes of carbon over 25 years, while native forests absorbed less than 300 tonnes.     . . 

Short stature corn on the way from Bayer Cropscience – Gil Gullickson:

Farmers who have waded and stumbled through corn decimated by green snap or stalk lodging may be in luck in a few years. Bayer CropScience is developing what it calls short-stature corn that company officials say will likely debut early next decade. Bayer officials discussed this development and others on a conference call this week with agricultural journalists. 

“Over the next two to three years, we will demonstrate them (short-stature hybrids) to growers and give them a feel and sense of how they will work on their farms,” says Bob Reiter, Bayer CropScience head of research and development. “I think this is a little like what was experienced with the Green Revolution in rice and wheat through Norman Borlaug, which is the foundational shift in how crops are produced and how growers will be able to unlock and enjoy additional productivity value.” . . 

Help for SMEs to accelerate Health & Safety appreciated:

Extra investment in workplace injury prevention, with a focus on small to medium businesses, will pay dividends not only in reducing pain and suffering but also in economic terms, Federated Farmers says.

“We see the announcement by ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway this morning of a $22 million, five-year programme to incentivise SMEs to boost Health & Safety efforts as very useful,” Feds President Katie Milne says. . . 

Te Pa Family Vineyards & Cloudy Bay Clams team up for Marlborough Wine & Food Festival 2019:

Two award-winning, family-owned local Marlborough producers, te Pa Family Vineyards and Cloudy Bay Clams, are teaming up for the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival for 2019 and the companies are celebrating their collaboration with a series of exciting events, competitions and food pairings.

The two flourishing Marlborough companies, will be selling award-winning wine and sustainably harvested clams, marking their collaboration at the much-loved festival, which attracts around 8000 guests each year. Attendees can expect to see beautiful fresh clams on the half shell, paired with lively and expressive Marlborough te Pa Sauvignon Blanc, and crispy and decadent fried popcorn clams served with light and effervescent Pa Road Sparkling Rosé. . . 


No-one wins when bystanders hurt by strikes

13/12/2018

The threatened strike by Air New Zealand workers has been averted.

Thank goodness.

Had it gone ahead, the strike for three days from next Friday would have disrupted flights for tens of thousands of travellers and a lot of freight.

The threat was enough to cause considerable angst to a lot of people and did the workers’ cause no good.

Any sympathy people might have had for their claims was more than outweighed by the stress and distress over the fears that planned travel for weddings, graduations, reunions, homecomings, work and Christmas was going to be impossible.

Unions do themselves and their workers no favours with these sorts of threats which take those of us old enough to remember back to the bad old days when strikes routinely upset travel plans.

The government must accept part of the blame too, as Barry Soper writes:

If politics is about perception, the perception is that the country’s going to hell in a trade union hand basket.

Parliament’s bear pit was on fire yesterday with the booming Gerry Brownlee lambasting the Government for returning New Zealand to cloth cap control by the unions with Air New Zealand engineers threatening to down tools for three days from December 21 (the strike threat was removed late last night).

National riled the Government saying there are now more strikes than there have been since Jacinda Ardern was at primary school. . .

It’s true when Ardern was at primary school 30 years ago the trade union movement was all powerful and battling a government that made the recent changes to workplace law look like a Sunday school picnic.. . 

Now the muscle is again being flexed and if Labour’s feeling flustered, it’s got itself to blame.

Changes to the way the party selected its leader was taken away from its MPs six years ago and handed over to the party’s membership and its trade union affiliates who have 20 per cent of the vote, with caucus getting 40 and the rest going to paid-up card carriers. . .

Unions don’t only hold the voting power, they are major donors to Labour and they want their reward for that. But they put the government, and any sympathy the public might have for their members, at risk when bystanders are hurt by strikes.

 


NZEI letting teachers down

13/11/2018

If unions don’t understand why they aren’t always well regarded they need look no further than this:

The teachers’ strike is going ahead tomorrow because the venues for union meetings were already booked.

The primary teachers’ union offered that explanation when asked why the pay offer it received on Thursday wasn’t enough to avert next week’s action. . . 

The NZEI’s teacher lead negotiator Liam Rutherford told the Weekend Collective the offer came through really late in the piece.

“And so to that extent, we didn’t consider calling off the strike because we’ve got venues booked around country.”

Rutherford says they have been really flexible, but when you already have so many meeting venues booked, a half day to consider an offer is not enough. . . 

The Employment Relations Authority recommends teachers accept the offer.

Teachers have a lot of sympathy for their claims not just for more pay but also for better conditions.

But continuing with  strikes before considering the latest offer will do them and their cause absolutely no good.

That the union justifies continuing strike action because it has booked meeting rooms will erode sympathy further.

NZEI is letting teachers down and this nonsense supports the argument that too often unions do what’s good for unions, not their members.


When locals won’t work . . .

18/08/2018

The Meatworkers’ Union isn’t happy that Alliance Group is bringing in  100 overseas workers for its Southland plants.

New Zealand Meatworkers Union said there were plenty of local workers vying for jobs that could now be going to overseas workers.

However, the company is standing firm. It said it was recruiting abroad to cover a worker shortage. . . 

The union’s Otago-Southland secretary Gary Davis said the decision would hit some Southland families hard.

The seasonal work often meant workers would finish at one plant and go to the other for additional work, Mr Davis said.

“If these people are brought in from overseas they’ll get a job there so they’ll fill in those positions.”

About 30 people could miss out on the additional work, he said. . .

Good local workers were applying to work at the plants, but they were being rejected, he said.

There was not enough education, training or support to assist more Southland workers to enter the industry, he said. . . 

The company has a different story.

Alliance Group refused to be interviewed today but in a statement, manufacturing general manager Willie Wiese said employing and upskilling New Zealanders was always their preference.

Sourcing seasonal workers remained one of its biggest challenges, despite running extensive recruitment campaigns.

Unemployment is now down to a level where most of those out of work don’t want to, or can’t, work.

Challenges in the meat industry include getting enough workers who are drug and alcohol free and who want to work the whole season.

Meat company workers earn big money for a few months and some of them decide they have earned enough part way through the season and no longer want to work full time, if at all.

The company might prefer to employ and train locals but it they won’t work it has to look for overseas workers who will.


Surpluses at risk

07/08/2018

Treasury is warning the government that forecast surpluses are at risk:

. . . It pointed out the latest set of indicators painted a mixed picture of the economy with wages continuing to grow strongly while retail spending weakened.

It said the slump in business sentiment, a cooling housing market and fears of a trade war could knock the economy and the tax take.

If that happened, the government might be forced to curb its spending plans, Treasury said.

The government keeps saying it’s business-friendly but its actions don’t match its words.

Damien Grant writes about the risk policies like the 10 days leave for victims of domestic pose for your business:

We, the business people of this land, are those who create wealth, build roads and dispense antibiotics at 3am. We are responsible for making the payroll, collecting the State’s revenue and satisfying the tyrannical demands of customers.

We are not responsible for solving this country’s problem with domestic violence. At least, we should not be. When we employ someone we are obliged, by law, to give them 10 paid public holidays in addition to 20 annual leave days and up to five sick days. On average, one day in eight, a Kiwi worker can have off on full pay.

Apparently this isn’t enough.

The Domestic Violence-Victims Protection Bill passed this week. Now an employer, who has the misfortune to employ someone impacted by domestic violence, must gift this person another 10 days paid leave.

Forever.

That’s like providing another whole year’s statutory holiday entitlement for any employee who qualifies.

It does not matter if the employee wasn’t the victim, so long as they were impacted by the violence. Nor does it matter if this crime happened decades before they began working for their current employer.

What employer would question someone’s claim to have been affected?

Once you can prove that you have been a victim of domestic violence you are, forever, entitled to be compensated by those whose only mistake was to offer you a job and you cannot contract out of this right. Which means some employers will quietly avoid employing staff they suspect will seek this new entitlement, limiting the employment options for victims of domestic violence. . . 

National was criticised for not supporting the legislation but it was right to be cautious:

When the bill first came up at Parliament it had a strong National Party backing, but following a select committee process in which amendments were made to reduce an employer’s say in the matter, the party got cold feet.

Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell said that was mostly because of the impact it could have on small-to-medium sized businesses which, he said, could end up in arbitration or strained for time or finance.

“There’s often a second- or third-order effect, and we have to be careful that we understand what those effects may be. At the moment we feel this bill could have an adverse outcome so we’re being very cautious and very careful with it.” . . 

Domestic violence is a scourge but imposing extra costs and uncertainty on all businesses isn’t the solution, especially when, as Kerre McIvoer writes, it won’t help domestic abuse victims: 

I fail to see how this new provision for victims of abuse will save any lives whatsoever.

Every single victim of domestic abuse who has phoned me on talkback over the years has said they were so ashamed and embarrassed by their situation, they couldn’t bring themselves to let friends or family know what was going on behind closed doors. Particularly the men.

The notion of asking for help was anathema to them and abusers know that. Despite the fact that it’s the abusers who should be feeling shame, they are master manipulators.

So the concept of someone who has been knocked about, emotionally and physically, being able to find it within themselves to approach their boss and come clean about their domestic situation seems unlikely.

And it’s not just the financial burden for small- to medium-sized employers that’s most concerning – what about the health and safety ramifications?

If one of their employees tells them they are living with a violent partner then begs them not to tell anyone, and later that employee ends up dead, will the employer be held liable for not divulging that their staffer was at risk? . . 

I absolutely agree that our domestic violence stats are a source of shame and our violent homes are a breeding ground for future offenders. But I really don’t think Logie’s bill is the answer.

And while I don’t have a solution, I would suggest that others do. When Counties Manukau police attend a violent domestic situation, they give it a couple of days to allow all parties to cool off, then go into the home with trained counsellors and try to work out the root of the problem.

The children are asked their opinion – it’s a holistic, wrap-around approach to domestic abuse which gives the people involved the chance to save themselves and their family.

Putting money and energy into that sort of initiative makes a whole lot more sense to me than making businesses cough up 10 days extra leave.

Business is risky.

The more costs and uncertainty the government imposes on businesses, the more risky they become. The more risky businesses become, the less likely they are to invest, the less secure existing jobs become and the less likely new ones will be created.

Less business investment, fewer hours for existing employees and fewer new jobs for would-be workers all result in less tax paid, that means lower surpluses and that in turn constrains government’s ability to fund existing and new initiatives.


More strikes in last 9 months than past 9 years

26/06/2018

Labour is supposed to value workers, why are so many striking when that party is leading the government?

The worrying increase in strike action under this union-friendly Government will slow our economy, make it harder to do business and affect the access of New Zealanders to public services, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Union friendly isn’t necessarily worker friendly.

“After less than nine months of this Government 32,000 workers have been involved in industrial action, or signalled their intention to be – compared to just over 27,000 that undertook strike action in the entire nine years of the previous Government.

“And the strike action is escalating.

“Today 4,000 core public servants at MBIE and IRD as well as 150 Wairarapa meat workers announced they would undertake industrial action, following on from the likes of bus drivers and cinema and port workers who have repeatedly disrupted businesses.

“On top of this, around 49,000 teachers are also considering their options.

“That’s around 81,000 workers involved in or considering strike action this year.

“All this is going to make it harder for New Zealanders to do business and access public services like healthcare.

“National supports higher wages and the average wage increased by $13,000 under the previous Government, but the way to do that is to grow the economy while this unrest unleashed by the Government will just slow it down.

“Already the uncertainty is impacting peoples’ quality of life and ultimately the economy. With business confidence already low Labour needs to put the needs of the public and economy first, not its union backers.

“The situation will only get worse when Labour’s proposed employment law reforms are implemented, which are specifically targeted at strengthening unions and weakening the ability of New Zealanders to run their businesses.”

Kim Campbell, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association also says proposed changes will make it worse:

In a world in which collaboration and flexibility are key to the modern workplace, it seems strange we are trying to reinvent an industrial relations framework which appears built on a foundation of “them” and “us”.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out upfront. Yes, some employers are poor operators, but the employment relations system is effective at addressing this. The financial and reputational costs are high for employers who breach employment laws or seek ways around them.

But the law does not catch all such operators, many workers are exploited and I agree there are problems to address.

My question is, why address this with a major law change seemingly based on the premise that all employers are bad and all employees are vulnerable?

Enforcement is a key part of a functioning framework and more labour inspectors seems an obvious solution.

We need an industrial relations framework that enables employers and employees to have the flexibility to meet the growing demands of the future of work, not stifle it. Recently, IAG and Lion NZ pushed the need for flexible working policies, saying these benefit both staff and employers. This embodies the sentiment that employers want to work alongside modern, forward-thinking unions that offer solutions to help move the business forward. . .

Proposed changes will take employers and employees back to last century, not equip them for this one.

 


Almost spent the lot

25/06/2018

Nurses and health boards are continuing to negotiate improved pay and conditions in an effort to avoid strikes.

Last-ditch talks between the nurses’ union and district health boards (DHBs) will continue on Monday in a bid to avoid planned strike action.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and DHBs’ negotiating teams attended mediation on Friday after nurses “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest offer on Monday.

The NZNO issued strike notice to the DHBs on Wednesday for July 5, with notice of a second 24-hour strike planned for July 12 likely to be issued next week. . . 

A survey sent to NZNO members on Monday to gauge their priorities for any revised deal had received close to 13,000 responses a day before it closed at 1pm on Thursday.

A message sent to union member’s said their feedback had helped negotiators be “very clear on what your priority issues are and what will be required on order to avert strike action and resolve this dispute”.

The three main priorities were remuneration, safe staffing and pay equity.

However, whether the first nationwide nurses’ strike since 1989 can be averted remains to be seen.

Nurses on Monday “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest collective offer, a $520 million package described by Health Minister David Clark as the best in a decade. . .

A $520 million package sounds generous but there would be $275 million more this year had they not wasted it on free fees for tertiary students, nearly $40 million of which will be spent on students who fail to complete their first year.

It would be difficult to find anyone who thinks spending millions on students who don’t need help is a greater priority than  improving pay and conditions for nurses.

Teachers are lining up for more pay and better conditions too and it would be equally difficult to find anyone who thinks that wouldn’t be a higher priority than fee-free tertiary study.

The free-fee policy is just one of several expensive policies. Another is the winter power payment for beneficiaries, some of which will go to wealthy retirees. These are extravagances that Labour and its coalition partners have put ahead of funding necessities.

Then-National Finance Minister Steven Joyce was laughed at when he said there was a big hole in Labour’s pre-election spending calculations and that they hadn’t factored in pay increases for public servants.

The trouble the government now has finding enough to satisfy nurses shows he was right.

Remember how Michael Cullen boasted they’d spent the lot after his last Budget in 2008?

The current government has almost spent the lot already if it wants to keep to the budgetary constraints it’s imposed upon itself to counter accusations it’s a poor manager of money.

Cullen left power with the new government facing a decade of deficits.

By contrast the current government came to power with forecasts of continuing strong surpluses.

They could have spent wisely, factoring in the need for fair increases to give nurses and teachers much better pay and conditions.

Instead they’ve wasted money on fripperies like the fee-free tertiary study and power payments for wealthy people and left far too little for basics like improved pay and conditions for nurses and teachers.


Public servants paid too well?

21/06/2018

The Taxpayers’ Union has some facts to dampen public sector wage claims:

Over the last 25 years, public sector incomes have grown much faster than the private sector, while public sector employees also enjoy a higher rate of sick leave costing taxpayers $173 million, according to Public Sector Wage Gap: The taxpayer-funded premium for working for the government, a new report we’ve released today.

If you work for the Government, you earn a third more on average, with taxpayers footing the bill.

This report seriously undermines the public sector unions’ claim for 9-15 percent pay hikes for their members. It blows to bits claims the last Government did not pay bureaucrats enough.

The public sector pay gap nearly doubled since the 1990s. If anything, a wage freeze, not hikes, would be fairer.

Left wing activists and unions would have the public believe that the public sector has undergone nine years of neoliberal hell. But this shows that to be a lie.

Public servants generally have better job security than those in the private sector.

They are also supposed to have a commitment to public service.

Both these factors ought to be reflected in lower pay rates than in the private sector.

Key findings of the report:

  • The gap in weekly earnings between the public and private sectors has grown since 1990, from 18.9% of private sector earnings to 34.6% in 2017. The gap peaked in 2010 at 38.4%. The premium is even higher for hourly earnings (as public sector employees, on average, work fewer hours).
  • If the Government had retained a public sector earnings premium of 20%, taxpayers would save $2.5 billion per year, or $1,445 per household in lower taxes or reduced Government debt.
  • The public sector took an average of 8.6 and 8.4 days of sick leave in 2016 and 2017, compared to the private sector average of 4.7 days per year.
  • If the public sector reduced its rates of sick leave to private sector levels, the taxpayers would save $173 million per year, or approximately $100 per household per year in lower taxes, or reduced Government debt.

Is there something in the public sector that causes more sickness, are public servants less healthy than those in the private sector or is there another explanation?

The Taxpayers’ Union recommends:

  • The Government should set a goal of returning to a 20% public sector earnings premium by placing constraints on public sector wage growth and focusing on growing productivity.
  • If private sectors stagnate or decline (such as in a recession) the Government should be willing to cut public sector wages to match.

The public service is in competition for staff with the private sector.

If it wants high calibre staff it needs to pay them well but this report suggests it’s paying too well.


Some businesses won’t survive

14/05/2018

Government changes to employment law will undermine flexibility and goodwill, Federated Farmers says.

Feds Dairy chair Chris Lewis said the 90-day trial provisions are highly valued by farmers as a means of giving them confidence to take on staff when the potential applicant has no experience, or a history of anti-social behaviour or poor job performance.

“Anyone can turn over a new leaf but without the security of the 90-day trial business owners can end up paying the cost of giving someone a chance.”

Recruiting, inducting and training new staff is an expensive and time-consuming business.

Employers want to get it right the first time but try as they might, that doesn’t always happen. The 90-day trial period reduces the risk should a new employee be the wrong choice.


Most farmers employ only a handful of staff but the Federation’s submission said it would be “unfortunate” if this option is removed for larger companies “because it is exactly those businesses that can afford to put resources into extra training and support for those who need it”.

The Federation’s farmer members do not have a hire/fire mentality, Chris told the committee. Many find it hard to attract staff to remote areas, and work hard to bring along employees who have the right attitude.

The Federation’s employment contracts are industry-leading, and farmers make use of an 0800 service and peer-to-peer advice, as they strive to be fair employers moving staff along a career pathway.

When a businesses get good employees it’s in everyone’s interest to do everything possible to keep them and keep them happy.

But if they can’t, or won’t, do their jobs or are simply a bad fit for the business and other employees, it’s better for everyone if they go.

The Federation’s submission said too many clauses in the Bill pit employer and employee against one another rather than facilitating an environment for negotiation and agreement.

 For example, farmers had no quibble that employees are entitled to paid rest and meal breaks but proposed amendments say that unless employer and employee agree an alternative in advance, such breaks must be taken at times set out in the Bill.

This is “unduly restrictive,” Chris said, because unexpected situations can arise on the farm.

 “If a cow requires attention during calving, or there is an urgency to finish harvest before rain sets in, it is reasonable for an employer to ask that an employee works on for a reasonable amount of time, and recoups their entitlement elsewhere.”

Tired and hungry staff don’t work well and can be dangerous, but in farming, and many other businesses, it is not always practical to stop work at prescribed times.

Farmers have no objection to employees joining a union or any other association, but current provisions in the Act requiring union representatives to obtain the permission of the business owner before entering the workplace should be kept.

“These farm properties are our homes,” Chris said.

The proposed law would allow union officials to wander into farmhouses without notice.

This is an abuse of private property.

On top of that farmers are being bombarded with messages to treat their property as a fortress because of biosecurity risks – most recently the devastating cow disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Health and Safety is another reason why visitors should be briefed and escorted into work areas. “Given the hazards on farm, the presence of an individual who is in what could be a very large area without the knowledge or permission of anyone else on the farm is extremely dangerous.”

It’s not only businesses which benefit from flexibility in the workplace, workers do too.

Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope also has serious concerns about the proposals, which might be good for unions but not workers:

Here’s a simple example. If you are a working parent who needs to leave work at 3pm to pick up the kids, and the collective agreement says your hours of work must be 9-5, and if you haven’t opted out, you will need to negotiate with both the union and your employer to be able to pick up your kids. This is onerous and unnecessary.

Fourth, the legislation would compel employers to provide personal information about a new employee to a union. Given the recent furore around Facebook’s use of personal information for marketing purposes, I doubt if many would see it as fair and reasonable for legislation to compel your employer to provide your information to any third party, no matter who they are.

These are only a few of the issues. Currently unionisation in the private sector is around 12 per cent. As with any other business, adaptation and innovation is important for unions’ survival. Legislating to protect a marketing base for membership won’t help unions to adapt, innovate and survive.  

What the legislation will do is undermine trust by testing the boundaries of what most New Zealanders think as fair.

Business concerns won’t be allayed by the interview with Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway on Q&A yesterday when he said  that some businesses would not be able to operate under  the government’s plans.

It’s not just business owners who suffer if their businesses collapse, it’s also the workers, who Labour purports to support.


Alas poor Fortune I knew it well

01/05/2018

One of Dunedin’s cultural gems, the Fortune Theatre, has announced its immediate closure:

Employees were told at 9am the theatre company would close today, with no further shows to be performed there.

Fortune Board of Trustees chairwoman Haley van Leeuwen said the board had been through an exhaustive process of reviews, and had closed the theatre because it was no longer financially viable.

According to its website it employed 11 permanent staff.

“We would like to acknowledge our staff during this difficult time who have worked hard towards the goal of securing the future of the theatre.”

“We have looked at many different avenues to avert closure, however theatres and their audiences have changed over the years, and we must now take stock, with the goal of keeping the tradition of local professional theatre alive in Dunedin.”

“Whatever future development arises it will be in a new format that represents the future model of theatre in New Zealand.

Fortune Theatre is New Zealand’s southernmost professional theatre and was established in 1974 at the Athenaeum in the Octagon.

It moved to its present location at the Trinity Methodist Church in 1978. . . 

 This is very sad for those directly affected, the arts community, the city and wider Otago.

The first play I saw at the Fortune was Roger Hall’s Glide Time (which later spawned the popular and long-running TV series Gliding On).

It was the first live play I had seen at a professional theatre and the first New Zealand play I’d seen performed.

I was a student then and continued going to the theatre until I finished university.

When I moved back to North Otago a few years later I began going down to Dunedin for plays when I could.

I returned to university about 10 years ago and for the next couple of years two friends and I would have a quick meal before going to Tuesday’s 6pm performance.

Those early evening performances worked well when I was back home, enabling a car load of us to see a play without being too late home.

But alas, in the last few years I wasn’t a regular theatre-goer and the Fortune’s fortunes show that too few others were too.

I am very sorry to read of its closure and hope that efforts to resurrect it are successful.


%d bloggers like this: