Rural round-up

January 13, 2018

Seasonal labour a vital ingredient – Mike Chapman:

Research New Zealand recently conducted a survey reporting on the impacts of the RSE scheme, where it has directly enabled:

– The area under cultivation to expand consistently over the last three years.

– The employment of more permanent and seasonal New Zealand workers.

– A more stable workforce, with better and more productive workers.

RSE workers supplement other seasonal employees, and account for roughly one in five of all seasonal workers across the country. In areas where unemployed is very low, more RSE workers are employed, while in areas with higher unemployment, fewer RSE workers are employed. . .

Storm helped cure dry spell for Waikato farmers – Ruby Nyika:

The storm that battered the North Island last week left lasting damage for some.

But for farmers, the heavy dump of rain was magic.

The lengthy dry spell that preceded it had been stressful.

I think it’s been a bit of a relief for every farmer,” Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven said. “Not for the poor townies having their holidays, but for farmers it’s been a relief to get some moisture back in the ground.” . .

MPI and dairy industry extend milk testing programme for Mycoplasma bovis:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its dairy industry partners have decided to extend the current Mycoplasma bovis milk testing underway in Canterbury, Otago and Southland into a national milk surveillance programme.

While there is no indication that the disease is present beyond the areas currently identified, checking for other possible regional clusters is essential to building a complete picture of the disease in New Zealand.

The programme will involve testing 3 milk samples from every dairy farm. One sample will be taken from bulk milk as part of the regular sampling process at milk collection. Farmers will also be required to provide 2 samples from ‘discard milk’ (milk unsuitable for collection, for example, from cows with mastitis). Mycoplasma bovis is more easily identified in milk taken from otherwise sick animals, which makes testing of the discard milk a valuable surveillance tool. . .

Concern about cattle disease in Hawes Bay – Jill Galloway:

Manawatū and Tararua dairy farmers are getting anxious about future outbreaks of Mycoplasma bovis after the disease was confirmed in Hawke’s Bay.

Farmers are looking more closely at the source of their feed supplies and where they graze their young stock.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman, Murray Holdaway said he hoped the Ministry for Primary Industries would be able to tell farmers more in the coming weeks.

“Not as many cows go to [Hawke’s Bay] as there used to be six to eight years ago, but it is always an alternative if things get really tight on the feed front, here.” . . 

Trans-Tasman war of words over ‘mānuka’ honey gets stickier :

Australia’s honey industry is calling for an armistice in the ongoing battle over use of the term “mānuka honey”, after Tasmanian producers claimed they produced it first.

The Australian Mānuka Honey Association says New Zealand apiarists should join forces with their Ocker cousins to peacefully assert Antipodean dominance over the global market.

Mānuka honey is produced by European bees feasting on the pollen of the plant Leptospermum scoparium – known here by its Māori name, mānuka. . . 

Celebrity farmer suggests badger caused death of sheep on viral social media post :

A celebrity farmer has caused a stir on social media after suggesting badgers killed his sheep.

Martin Irvine, who has appeared in BBC documentary This Farming Life, posted a photo on social media of his dead sheep with a gory wound.

Mr Irvine wrote on Facebook: “Badgers decided to have this ewe for Christmas dinner, she’s still alive for now. About time we were allowed to control this destructive vermin!” . .

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NZ best for ease of doing business

November 1, 2017

New Zealand is first in the world for ease of doing business for the second consecutive year.

. . . Doing Business measures aspects of regulation a ecting 11 areas of the life of a business. Ten of these areas are included in this year’s ranking on the ease of doing business: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. Doing Business also measures features of labor market regulation, which is not included in this year’s ranking. . . 

For eight of the 11 Doing Business indica- tor sets, the report’s traditional focus on e ciency—de ned as the time, cost and number of interactions necessary to incorporate a new business or connect a warehouse to the electrical grid—has been complemented with a new focus on regulatory quality. Doing Business data shows that e ciency and quality go hand in hand, reinforcing each other.

Despite these additions and improve- ments, one aspect of Doing Business has remained unchanged: its focus on pro- moting regulatory reform that strengthens the ability of the private sector to create jobs, lift people out of poverty and create more opportunities for the economy to prosper. The notion that the private sector has substantial economic, social and development impact is now universally recognized. Responsible for an estimated 90% of employment in developing economies, the private sector is ideally placed to alleviate poverty by providing the opportunities to secure a good and sustainable standard of living.

Policy reforms catalyze private investment. Promoting a well-functioning private sector is a major undertaking for any government. It requires long-term policies of removing administrative barriers and strengthening laws that promote entrepreneurship.

Hard data helps do that. It gives a voice to the people to demand improved public services. It also increases government accountability. . . 

There is a message here for people who think capitalism has failed. It’s the private sector which is ideally placed to alleviate poverty. The government’s role is to remove barriers and strengthen laws that promote entrepreneurship.

The rankings are here.

While New Zealand does well overall, there’s lots of room for improvement in four areas: getting electricity, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

 

 

 


Can’t get prosperity by decree

October 26, 2017

The Employers and Manufacturers Association says the minimum wage increases announced by the government could “bring the economy to a grinding halt”.

Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) chief executive Kim Campbell said the initial increase was not much more than what a National-led Government would have implemented.

However, he saw the $20-an-hour target as too high and it meant New Zealand would have among the highest minimum wages in the world.

“The first step was well signalled… and it’s not very responsible signalling it so well in advance because it sets up inflationary expectations,” he said.

“You can already see a reflection of that in our exchange rate, which has gone down because overseas they can sees that New Zealand’s costs are going up.

A drop in the exchange rate will make our exports less expensive overseas but it will add to the cost of imports including clothes, fertilizer, fuel, machinery, medicine and vehicles.

“Exporters are going to do a bit better but you’d have to do the sums to see how they land but it will all turn into an inflationary spiral which is a really good way to bring the economy to a grinding halt.”

Campbell said businesses would be worried by what the cost increases would mean for them. . . 

Businesses have got used to gradual increases in the minimum wage and have factored them into their planning.

But getting to $20 by 2021 is too much too fast for many.

We had dinner out on Tuesday evening.

The business owner, unprompted, told me she was very worried about the new government. “People already say dining out is expensive, but if we have to pay too much more for wages we will have no choice but to increase prices.”

That’s how the inflation spiral starts – with wage increases which aren’t related to productivity increases or other cost decreases.

And that’s what drives business owners to look at ways to reduce staff numbers, including more mechanisation.

Robots are expensive now, but improvements in technology and increases in production will bring prices down.

You can’t get prosperity by decree and attempts to reduce or eliminate poverty by imposing unrealistic rises in wages will threaten business sustainability and job security.


Rural round-up

August 6, 2017

Rules tweak still leaves migrant dairy workers in a bind – Chris Lewis:

The Government recently relaxed the “mid-skilled” migrant salary threshold to avoid tough new restrictions down to $41,000. So why are farmers still unhappy?

They’re unhappy because in the dairy sector, salary threshold is not the problem. In submissions to the Government the dairy industry did not object to the original threshold of $49,000.

The fact is, unless the migrant worker is a farm manager or earns over $73,000, they’re deemed “low-skilled” and booted out of the country after three years. Hardly an incentive to even apply in the first place, and disruptive and expensive for the farmer, who has to look for someone else to plug the gap. . . 

Alliance targets UK food service – Tony Benny:

Alliance Group has launched a pilot programme in UK targeting high-end restaurants and hotels in a bid to generate more revenue. Tony Benny reports.

Food service is growing globally while traditional retail outlets in many markets are stagnating and marketers often talk of the need for producers to shift their focus to this growth sector. Now Alliance has established a four-person team in the UK tasked with making direct connections to top chefs and building new distribution channels.

“Historically a lot of New Zealand lamb has gone into wholesale in some form and can go through three or four sets of hands before it gets to the end customer and often the end customer doesn’t know where their lamb’s coming from,” says Alliance director of food service Graham Bougen, who heads the team in UK. . . 

Vet praises farming gorup’s reaction – Sally Rae:

The veterinarian who initially signalled the possibility of an outbreak of a bacterial disease not previously found in New Zealand says it has been an ”enormously stressful and harrowing experience” for the farmers involved.

Yesterday, Merlyn Hay addressed a meeting at Papakaio, outlining how confirmation of Mycoplasma bovis in cows on two Van Leeuwen Dairy Group properties unfolded.

Over the past few weeks, her priority focus – as the group’s key veterinarian – had been her client and their cows and she had ”nothing but admiration” for the way the group had conducted itself during the crisis, she said.

The care and concern shown to animals in their charge had been humbling and the group deserved empathy and respect. She hoped the community would support them as the crisis continued. . . 

Neighbouring properties test negative for disease – Sally Rae:

Results have confirmed nine of the farms bordering Van Leeuwen Dairy Group properties,  all  tested negative for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

The bacterial disease had previously been confirmed on two Van Leeuwen Dairy Group farms in the Waimate district, the first time the disease had been detected in New Zealand.

In a statement last night, Ministry for Primary Industries director of response Geoff Gwyn said the results for the nine neighbouring properties was good news but further tests, over several months, on those farms would be required before they could be declared free of the disease. . . 

Urgency needed over disease tests:

The discovery of Mycoplasma bovis on two South Canterbury farms understandably has the farming community on tenterhooks.

The bacterial disease may be prevalent among cattle globally but it has never previously been detected in New Zealand.

Fortunately, it presents no food safety risk and there are no concerns about consuming milk and milk products.

But the disease has serious effects including mastitis, abortion, pneumonia and arthritis and therefore the ramifications for farmers — both financially and from an animal welfare perspective — are huge. . . 

Dairy farmers still fighting debt – Richard Rennie:

Waikato and Bay of Plenty dairy farmers face a “back to the future” slog into 2020 to get back to their 2015-16 season when dairy prices took a tumble.

The latest AgFirst financial survey for Waikato-Bay of Plenty dairy farmers was released last week.

Survey compiler Phil Journeaux said the model farm used in the budget incurred an additional $126,560 of term debt, or almost $1/kg of milksolids in 2015-16 to cover the hit the farm took when the payout slumped to $3.90/kg MS that season.

“This loan amount was almost an extra $1/kg milksolids and some debt repayment was made in 2016-17 and is budgeted again for 2017-18. . . 

Image may contain: meme, cloud, text and outdoor

I tried taking some high resolution photos of local farmland  but they all turned out really grainy.

 

 


Jobs come, go, come

August 1, 2017

The failure of a business, like A&G Price and subsequent loss of jobs is difficult for everyone involved.

However, an appeal by Waikato Engineering Careers Association for work for the staff facing unemployment resulted in 40 job offers in 40 minutes. 

Not all are in Thames which means those taking up the offers will have to move or commute and that’s not good for the town but Work and Income are working on that too:

A task force was set up in response to the situation, community liaison adviser Joe Waterhouse said.

“The first thing we did was contact the local radio station to get information out to the workers. Two support sessions were held on Friday, with 32 workers attending the early morning one, which is fantastic, as some people are reluctant to approach Work and Income,” he said.

The sessions are to let people know what financial help and jobs are available. Workers who do not make contact with Work and Income will be approached privately so no one misses out.

The task force is led by work services manager Catherine Henderson and acting service centre manager Peter Davies, Waterhouse said.

“They are coordinating current vacancies and scrutinising jobs coming in. At 1.15pm on Friday, 23 jobs were emailed to Thames Coromandel District Council. Our community is experienced with big layoffs and closures of factories employing many workers.

“There is no shortage of jobs and we believe our help will mainly be to transition them back into the workforce.”

In most parts of New Zealand there is no shortage of jobs which is a very good reflection on the state of the economy.

The closure of a business like this that employs a large number of people or the establishment or expansion of a business involving big numbers of employees always makes headlines. Small numbers of job losses and gains don’t usually.

But jobs come, some go and others come all the time.

Increased mechanisation and technical advances which make work easier and faster can lead to job losses at particular work places and in particular industries.

But increased mechanisation and technical advances also create new jobs.

Think of the jobs that have become easier, those that have disappeared and those that have been created in the last 100 years.

The advent of the car meant far less work for farriers and saddle makers but it created jobs for the people who build, sell and service vehicles and all the bits and pieces from which they’re made.

Computers have come a long way, made a lot of jobs redundant and created many more.

Some fear that as they continue to advance they will replace a lot more jobs. But is it just wishful thinking to believe that something with the wit to equal or surpass the human brain would also have the wit to create new jobs?


Whose job is it to make jobless job-ready?

July 18, 2017

The Opposition’s anti-immigration policies are based on the view that New Zealanders should come first for jobs.

They do under current policy, if they are ready and willing to work.

But what happens when they’re not?

Whose job is it to make the jobless job-ready?

When unemployment is as low as it is (4.9% in the March quarter), too many of those without jobs don’t have what it takes to take on even low skilled or unskilled jobs.

There are plenty of jobs which don’t require specialised skills but none don’t need people with at least basic numeracy and literacy, who turn up on time ready, willing and able to work, and continue to work willingly and ably for the required number of hours.

Not all businesses have the human and financial resources to deal with people who aren’t work-ready.

But the Warehouse is giving some young unemployed people a chance:

The Warehouse’s Red Shirts programme offers unskilled 16 to 24-year-olds the training they need to get a job.

It’s a three-week unpaid programme supported by the Ministry of Social Development.

The Ministry, which chooses who will go on the programme, pays for participants’ shoes and trousers, bought at cost price from The Warehouse.

“At the end of the programme their eyes are sparkling, their posture is up, they are able to hold a conversation with you,” The Warehouse’s Shari French told Newshub.

“It’s incredible, the self-esteem and the growth we see is amazing.” . . .

The programme teaches workplace safety, customer service and confidence.

“It’s absolutely essential we give them that before they turn 20, before they go onto a benefit,” Social Development Minister Anne Tolley told Newshub.

So far 250 young people have been through the course, with 70 percent of them getting jobs within three months and 50 of them working at The Warehouse.

The programme will now be rolled out to more Warehouse stores around the country and will take in a further 1000 young people.

Few if any small to medium businesses could do this without putting too much pressure on other staff but the Warehouse is showing that some bigger business could.

It’s also a reminder that sorting out social problems isn’t only up to the government and its agencies.

But it’s not an argument against immigration when too many employers can’t find locals ready, willing and able to work.


RSE workers leave union after 4 days

July 13, 2017

Union membership is low, so too is signing up people who don’t understand what they’re doing:

Attempts to sign up migrant vineyard workers in Marlborough to a union have hit a snag, with more than 100 workers joining then abruptly cancelling their membership.

The workers, in the region on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, signed up to the Central Amalgamated Workers Union following a meeting last Thursday.

Union co-ordinator Steve McManus said the 118 workers – a figure disputed by the company involved, who claimed it was 111 – cancelled their membership just four days later.

McManus alleged the workers were pressured to leave the union, however the head of vineyard contracting company Hortus, Aaron Jay, has rubbished the claim.

Many thought they were signing up for insurance, and once they found out what the union was, how much it would cost and what it offered they became upset, Jay said.

The Hortus boss was told about the meeting, at the company’s accommodation facility Duncannon, on Friday by worker leaders concerned about what had taken place. . .

Jay said the workers had originally been happy to join, but once they understood exactly what was being offered they told him they felt ambushed, and upset.

“Unions definitely serve a purpose, I’ve got no problems with them as long as it’s done properly. A lot of the guys didn’t necessarily understand what they were signing up to,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on our morals, our values, who we are and what we do. I’m the sole owner and director of the business, so when they’re in New Zealand I’m responsible.

“We make sure they’re happy, and if that means becoming part of a union I’ve got no problems with that.” . . .

Jay is the RSE scheme representative for Marlborough, and his company, Hortus, has frequently been held up as an example of an employer following best practice guidelines.

The RSE scheme has just passed its 10th anniversary.

It’s been a success for employers who struggle to get staff during harvest and for the workers who earn good money to take back to their home countries.

There have been a few problems with a very few employers.

But this isn’t a case of a bad employer.

Nor of an anti-union employer.

This looks like a union taking advantage of people who didn’t understand what they were doing.

 


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