Rural round-up

March 29, 2017

Health risk concerns for orchard workers – Pam Jones:

Cromwell orchardists are concerned about the public health risks of continued freedom camping by fruitpickers.

While no cases of illness have been reported, the summerfruit industry body says it has serious concerns about the conditions in which some orchard workers are living and the possibility of a breakout of transferrable disease.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and Cromwell orchardist Tim Jones said the possible impact on export crops was discussed at Summerfruit’s board meeting last month and about five Cromwell orchardists were concerned. . . 

New leader steps up in agri-tech – Sally Rae:

Tracmap’s new chairman says it is an exciting time for the Mosgiel-based agri-tech company.

Chris Dennison, who farms at Hilderthorpe, in North Otago, replaces Pat Garden, from Millers Flat, who has stepped down after just over a decade.

TracMap was established by Colin Brown in 2006 after he identified a gap in the market for a rugged and easy-to-use GPS guidance and mapping system, specifically designed for New Zealand conditions.

He initially saw the opportunity in ground spreading and the application was pushed wider as it had been developed. . . 

Competition provided impetus – Sally Rae:

Winning the Southland Otago Sharemilker Equity Farmer of the Year title gave Jono and Kelly Bavin so much more than a trophy.

Mr and Mrs Bavin, now regional managers for Southland Otago in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, won the regional title in 2015, which coincided with the dairy downturn starting ”to bite”.

But because they had entered the competition, and really evaluated their business and where it was going, that helped them get through the next two years.

”There’s not many times in your life you pick up your business, throw it on the ground and rearrange it again. That’s what we did,” Mr Bavin said.

Had they not made the decision to enter the competition, then ”things could have been totally different” for the Southland couple. . . 

Calamity on the Coast – Peter Burke:

A ghastly period: that’s how DairyNZ West Coast consulting officer Ross Bishop describes the situation facing the region’s dairy farmers.

They are deeply frustrated and struggling to maintain faith in their dairy company Westland Milk Products, he says.

The company is in a financial mess and chief executive Toni Brendish has the unenviable task of trying to return it to a reasonable financial footing. Already she has made clear there will be a lower payout for farmers and job losses at its factories. . .

Digging into low productive results:

Failure to meet its own goals for reproductive performance (industry targets) has been much talked about at Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF).

Farmers at a February 23 focus day debated the analysis presented and anecdotal comparisons with other farms in the region.

Taking a long term view, particularly if the current season is excluded, reproductive performance has improved on the farm over the past 13 years. But drilling into the detail reveals the farm only once met the industry target of 78% six-week in-calf rate (2013 mating period). Since then the trend in six-week in-calf rates has declined, raising many questions about what is limiting performance. . . 

Our Pinot is pushing the boundaries:

Allen Meadows is a self-confessed, “obsessive” Burgundy lover. So much so that his life is spent compiling advice and information on the world’s foremost Pinot Noir region.

His quarterly reviewBurghound.com was the first of its kind to dedicate itself to the wines of a particular region – and has become the go-to for lovers of the variety.  

While his reviews offer regular updates on Oregon and Californian Pinot, it is not often that other New World countries are included in his extremely popular review. Hence a tasting of 221 wines from New Zealand was an amazing achievement, organised by NZW’s Marketing Manager USA, David Strada. Just getting Meadows to a tasting was an accomplishment – but the end results which featured in Issue 64 of Burghound.com (October 2016) were even more so. . .

More timber trees for planting 2017:

A rise in the number of timber tree seedlings being produced indicates a recent decline in plantation forest replanting may be reversing.

An MPI survey of all 28 commercial forest nurseries in New Zealand shows stock sales in 2016 for planting this year were 52.2 million seedlings, compared with 49.5 million the year before.

Forest Owners Association Chief Executive David Rhodes says the increase in seedling sales is a positive sign the industry is gearing up for increased production, even if the trees planted now will not be harvested for about another 30 years. . . 


Best intentions worst results

February 21, 2017

LIving Wage advocates want employers to pay a minimum of $20.20 an hour from July.

The rate, more than $4 above the adult minimum wage, is at the level needed to provide families with the necessities, they say.

How many jobs will that cost?

The current Living Wage, of $19.80 has already cost 17 jobs at Wellington City Council according to a report by Jim Rose for the Taxpayers’ Union.

The report’s key findings were:

  • Seventeen Wellington City Council employees lost their jobs after being under the skill level required for the living wage.
  • Councils hire on merit, so candidates under the skill level commensurate with the living wage will be crowded out by higher-skilled candidates.
  • There is no consensus or scientific basis for the calculation of a living wage. Any calculations are politically subjective.
  • Any living wage in New Zealand will be abated by up to 40% by decreases in government transfers and increased income tax obligations.
  • Living wages shift the burden from means-tested taxpayers to ratepayers and business owners.
  • Below-living-wage employment allows for in-work training, where employees trade off lower wages for the opportunity to learn skills that increase their future earning potential. 

Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand nobly want to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment with their activism for a living wage, but the evidence to date shows they are achieving the exact opposite. This report shows that a living wage will only make it harder for low wage earners to find work.

Contrary to intentions, living wage policies actually hurt the very people they seek to help. For the first time, we reveal that seventeen parking wardens lost their jobs at the Wellington City Council as a result of its living wage policy.

Living wage policies mean higher-skilled candidates apply for jobs previously occupied by lower-skilled candidates. Of course councils will hire on merit and shortlist the candidates who previously would never have applied for the lower, pre-living wage role. That’s exactly what happened when Wellington City Council brought its parking services in-house.

Minimum wage applicants do not get a shot against better-qualified candidates attracted by the higher wages. So much for the poverty alleviation and reduced unemployment.

The economic theory is clear that living wages do more harm than good, but the job losses in Wellington is the proof in the pudding. Councils should stop implementing these living wage policies which achieve so little but cost ratepayers who can ill afford it.

Living wage policies mean ratepayers pay more for less and achieve none of the intended poverty relief.

Those are very damning conclusions, but not surprising.

The Living Wage is based on what someone thinks a family of four needs to have a reasonable life.

It bears no relation to individual employee’s needs, ability or performance.

I have several reservations about Working For Families but it is a better way to help low income workers with dependent children than the living wage which takes no account of the value of their work.

The full report is here.


Whingers need not apply

October 21, 2016

Duane Trafford who runs Mosgiel-based pest control company, Predator Contracting LTD needs staff but whingers need not apply:

He needs more staff to run the company and has laid out the type of person he wants to employ in clear language.

The advertisement is on TradeMe and says:

OK….SO I’m looking for Staff.

The requirements are pretty simple…..an understanding of some of the key points I’m about to explain are necessary….
1/ I am looking for possumers…not pig hunters…not people that tried hunting once…and thought they liked it…and thought they were having a midlife crisis..and decided they needed to get out of the office…..but Possumers……!!!
2/ Now by Possumers..I mean people that can work as part of a team….Come back to accommodation at night and NOT WHINGE!!!! Can start the day with a positive attitude and not WHINGE!!! Can talk to other members of their team with respect and not WHINGE!!!! I don’t want shit stirring whingers!!!
3/ They need to be able to get off their arses and walk down into the gullies and push through the tuff shit…..without crying about it!!
4/ They need to understand that the job doesnt mean you get to drive around on QUADS all day and shoot shit….you actually have to walk….and the walking involves HILLS!
5/ They need to understand that theres NO internet…no cell coverage…no breaks….and most of all NO WHINGING!!!!!
6/ They need to understand that there are prickles…and theyre outside….and they’ll get wet hair…and wet socks…and cold…and hot….and thirsty …and hungry….and that I’m not their bloody mother…..
7) They need to understand that the job entails being away from home, and staying in back country accommodation ( huts, shearers quarters etc)

Some relevant skills Im looking for….
1/ Preferably a CSL (Controlled Substance Licence)..so you can apply toxins or at least be able obtain one…which means NO Police charges in the last 7 years..including DUI’s DO I need to emphasis this??? Because Im sick of people applying that havent read this part!!.
2/ PREFERABLY Relevant ATV/LUV/2 Wheeler/4WD tickets
3/ Possuming Experience
4/ The ability NOT to whinge about everything( in case you missed it)
5/ The ability to change with the times. We are a company that is progressive…our main clients want us to use PDA’s…these things are expensive…and mandatory for our work…if youre rough on gear and dont know what a PDA is.,…dont waste my time applying!
6/ We are very H&S conscious…this means lots of audits…training…audits,,…paperwork… more training…and audits!! If you cant deal with the necessity of that….dont waste my time applying….
7/ Must be able to pass a drugs test, and ongoing random drug and alcohol tests…and THIS is MANDATORY!!!!
8/ Mustnt be a whinger

Things Im offering…..

A BLOODY JOB!!!!! and the chance to do something other than sit on your arse. . . 

 

Most employers have stories of staff who aren’t up to the job for which they apply.

Those who need people who can cope with physical exertion, being outside in all  weather, learning and adhering to health and safety requirements, and being drug and alcohol-free could write books about the good, the bad, and the downright hopeless.

Work like this isn’t easy and own’t suit everyone but it has compensations.  It’s easy to save when you don’t have the opportunity to spend, it’s good for fitness and doing a hard job well, even if it’s not what you want to do, makes it much easier to get a better one.


More money where it matters

October 7, 2016

Good news from Statistics NZ:

Median weekly earnings from paid employment rose $44, to reach $924, between the June 2015 and June 2016 quarters, Statistics New Zealand said today. This increase of 5.0 percent was the largest annual increase since the June 2007 quarter. Paid employment includes both wage and salary earners and self-employed people.

“A rise in the proportion of full-time wage and salary earners, and the number of hours being worked, together pushed up median earnings for workers,” labour and income statistics manager Mark Gordon said. Full-time workers (working 30 or more hours) typically have higher weekly and hourly earnings than people in part-time employment.

Workers living in Auckland, Waikato, Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay, and Canterbury received significantly higher median weekly earnings from paid employment than a year ago. In the North Island as a whole, earnings increased 7.0 percent (up to $944 a week), compared with 2.0 percent (to $880 a week) in the South Island.

“While the increase in weekly earnings is similar to that before the 2008 economic downturn, increases in hourly wages were more modest,” Mr Gordon said. “Median hourly earnings from wages and salaries increased 2.9 percent, similar to increases in the past seven years, but well below the 6.1 percent increase 10 years ago.” 

A 2.9% increase when the CPI has increased only .4% still puts a lot more money where it matters – in workers’ pockets.

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Different in real world

September 6, 2016

Why do we bring in immigrants when there are so many people on benefits?

Prime Minister John Key gave the answer:

“We bring in people to pick fruit under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme, and they come from the islands, and they do a fabulous job. And the government has been saying ‘well, OK, there are some unemployed people who live in the Hawke’s Bay, and so why can’t we get them to pick fruit’, and we have been trialling a domestic RSE scheme.

“But go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on. So it’s not to say there aren’t great people who transition from Work and Income to work, they do, but it’s equally true that they’re also living in the wrong place, or they just can’t muster what is required to actually work.”

He said geographic location was a major factor in matching unemployed people up with available jobs, and filling a position like a hairdresser in Queenstown could require a migrant to fill the role. . . 

He was criticised for this but employers back him up:

The New Zealand Seasonal Workers Scheme, is designed to give unemployed locals a job and aims to help them move to  areas with staff shortages.

But fruit growers said they were frustrated by the number of ‘no shows’ involved in the trial.

Central Otago wine grower James Dicey said he had tried several times to get workers in the trial to pick grapes for him.

“I’ve tried the scheme and worked hand in glove with Work and Income in the past and the level of suitable candidates who are prepared to turn up on a reliable basis and do an honest day’s work is pretty skinny on the ground. The last attempt I made on this, we tried to import some people from Dunedin. We had 1400 people be interviewed and we struggled to fill an eight-seater bus,” he said.

Mr Dicey said even before the scheme he tried to get a van full of beneficiaries to do seasonal work for him, but to no avail.

“Usually in a van of 10, if you can fill a van, two people won’t turn up to work the first day, another two people will last a couple of hours, the next two people won’t turn up the following day, then two of those people will see the harvest out, then when we offer them winter pruning work maybe one or two will do that.”

Mr Dicey said trying to get the workers left to do what was necessary to become full time – such as get their restricted licence – was difficult.

“I’ve offered all sorts of incentives for these two kids that I’ve got working for me at the moment to try to get them from their learners to their restricted licence, they’re not motivated. I’ve offered them money, I’ve put things on the table and I don’t understand what more I can do with these guys to get them across the line. And it’s a constant source of frustration. It’s just one illustration of something that makes it very difficult for me to be able to offer full time employment.” . . .

It’s not just in horticulture, dairying depends on foreign workers, in particular backpackers who, like Kiwis when they travel, are willing to work while they explore the country.

In the political world of the Opposition who want fewer foreigners every unemployed person has the attitude and ability to work.

But in the real world it’s different.

Unemployment is now around 5% nationally and lower in some of the places where there’ are staff shortages.

That’s getting down to the unemployable – people who can’t or won’t work.

When you’ve got fruit and vegetables to pick or cows to milk, you need people you can rely on to do what’s required when it’s required.

The alternative to foreign workers, be they visitors or immigrants, when locals won’t work is more mechanisation.

A friend who with a horticultural business installed a new sorting machine which took the place of five workers.

It was expensive but he said the difficulty of finding staff and increased complexities and costs of employment meant it was worth it.

This is the choice employers face when they can’t find locals who can and will work – foreigners or machines.


Does new national day have to be another holiday?

August 22, 2016

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says the government acknowledges the need for a national day to commemorate the land wars.

“The time to recognise our own conflict, our own war, our own fallen, because there is no doubt at Rangiriri ordinary people lost their lives fighting for principle in just the same way as New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives fighting on battlefields on the other side of the world,” Mr English said.

I agree with the need to commemorate the wars which are poorly understood by many.

It wasn’t until I studied New Zealand history at university that the muddled impression I’d got from school was corrected.

But if a new national day is going to necessitate a day off, does it have to be another holiday?

We already have 11 statutory holidays, with penalty rates and days off in lieu for anyone who works on any of these.

Those come on top of four weeks annual leave which adds up to a total of day more than six weeks of paid leave.

If you employ 5 people, that’s 30 weeks or more than half a year, with a staff member off which is a big cost for a small business.

I’m not suggesting we cut holidays but rather than just adding another day, let’s look at all the stat days, when they occur, why and whether any could go in favour of the new day off.

With New Year’s day and January 2nd, Wellington, Auckland,  Nelson, Otago, Southland and Taranaki  Anniversary days, Waitangi Day, Easter and Anzac Day  most people have five or six days off in the first four months of the year on top of annual leave, at least some of which is usually taken at that time.

Then there’s at least five or six weeks until Queen’s Birthday at the start of June and more than four months until Labour weekend in October for all but South Canterbury which has Anniversary Day in late September.

Hawkes Bay and Marlborough’s Anniversary Days fall in late October but are sometimes marked in early November.

Canterbury has Anniversary Day in early November and Westland’s and Chatham Islands’ Anniversary Days are at the end of November, though sometimes marked in early December.

The rest of us have no break for the couple of months from Labour weekend to Christmas.

Replacing all the different Anniversary days would be the easiest if someone was willing to deal with the uproar in Canterbury where theirs coincides with show and cup week.

Queen’s Birthday isn’t actually the Queen’s birthday and it could be replaced. Given how few people know what Labour Day signifies it is another option to give way to the new national day.

A new national day to commemorate an important part of our history is a good idea, but rather than simply adding a 12th statutory holiday,  let’s use it as an opportunity to look at existing statutory holidays and work out a better distribution of long weekends.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Which jobs and why?

August 11, 2016

Andrew Little is musing over wiping student loan debts for graduates who take public service jobs in the regions.

“I don’t have any particular promise to make. We’re looking at ways that we can assist students to effectively write off at least a part of that student debt, through things like taking a public service job somewhere outside of one of the main centres and for the length of period that you’re there let’s look at a write-off sort of regime.”

Five pound Poms, the British immigrants who came to New Zealand on assisted passages after World War II had to work in public service jobs wherever they were sent.

That was a long time ago when the public service was much bigger than it is  now which raises the question of which jobs is Little thinking of?

The government already has a scheme where graduates get their student loan debts written off for working in the regions in both human and animal health, doctors, nurses and vets for example, some of which are public service, some of which are not.

The other obvious public sector placement would be teaching, but it could be harder to fill teaching positions in Auckland than in the regions.

These days there aren’t a lot of other public service positions available in the regions that are likely to attract graduates with or without a debt right-off.

Then we get to why more taxpayer money should go to help people who have had around 70% of the costs of their education paid for and interest-free loans providing they stay in New Zealand.

Khyaati Acharya explains how much students get:

. . . Arguments then, in favour of free tertiary education ignore two considerations. The first is that governments face resource constraints which limit how much funding can be allocated to the tertiary sector. The second is that while an educated population may provide wider economic and social benefits, the greatest benefits accrue to the individual who undertook the education in the form of increased earnings, a higher quality of life and reduced unemployment.

Under the current scheme, for every dollar the government lends through its student loan scheme (as at 2014) a mere 58.17 cents is treated as an asset. This means that 41.83 cents in every dollar lent to a student is written off as an expense – largely the cost of the zero-percent interest policy.

In short, the Government expects that less than 60% of each dollar lent will be recouped. The difference then must be funded from taxes. . . 

Excluding the public subsidy inherent in the interest-free student loan scheme, the average university student’s share of the direct cost of higher education fell from 32% in 2000 to 27% in 2010. The reduced cost proportion for students was largely the result of fee regulation policies, like tuition caps, which dictate to what maximum percentage tertiary education providers may increase their fees. But take into account the implicit subsidy provided through the interest-free student loan scheme, and on average, students paid 16% and government 84% towards the direct cost of tertiary education in 2010. . . 

A better educated population has public benefits but the private benefit is greater.

Universities New Zealand gives the top 10 reasons a degree is a smart investment: 

  1. The more educated you are the more you earn. 
  2. The more educated you are, the less likely it is you will be unemployed.
  3. A typical university graduate will earn around $1.6m more over their working life than a non-graduate- this is much higher for a medical doctor ($4m), professional engineers ($3m) and information technology graduates ($2m).
  4. Arts graduates earn around $1m to 1.3m more than a non-graduate.
  5. About 10% end up in jobs that, on the face of it, probably don’t need a degree.
  6. If money and job security are key motivations, then the worst choices at university are the creative or performing arts or studying philosophy and religious studies – but they earn well above the median for salary and wage earners and have low unemployment rates averaging only 2-5%.
  7. Taxpayers get their investment back – graduates typically pay back all the costs of their education plus another $200,000 over their working life.
  8. It takes an average of 7 years to pay off a student loan – the average balance on graduation is $14K.
  9. A degree pays off by the age of 33, where net additional earnings from a degree exceed the costs of getting a degree and the income lost while studying.
  10. If you are interested in university study, there isn’t really a bad option.  Follow your heart and the evidence says you are likely to end up personally and economically better off.

Averages are averages – some will earn much more and some won’t get a financial benefit from their education, some will have smaller loans and/or pay them off quickly, some will have bigger loans and/or pay them off slowly.

But a tertiary education does pay off for most people and the average loan on graduation is $14,000 which is paid off within seven years.

Expecting these better educated, higher earning people to pay off the loans they incur for a very small proportion of the cost of their education is not a big ask.

The people who will benefit most from the policy Little is musing on are those best equipped to help themselves.

There are far more pressing needs for money that will have a greater public benefit and/or help those who are less able to help themselves.


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