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.


Rural round-up

July 7, 2016

Need for young blood – Peter Burke:

The aging population in agriculture is working against New Zealand, says Lincoln University’s Jon Hickford.

Speaking to Rural News at the Careers in Agriculture hub at Fieldays, Hickford says this is a huge problem, compounded by NZ’s rapid urbanisation and disconnection from the agri sector.

The problem now is to find enough good young people to work in agriculture.

“The problem across the western world is that young people are entirely urbanised and don’t realise the job opportunities out there on the land. In the case of NZ, agri defines our existence as a country. . . 

Cheap food has high price:

A Lincoln University expert is warning of the cost of focusing on producing food cheaply.  

A report into European farming policy ‘Does the CAP still fit’, co-authored by Lincoln University Professor of Farm Management Alison Bailey, says there is overwhelming evidence at local, national and global levels that food systems need to change.  

The paper was for the Food Research Collaboration on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which provides support to Europe’s farmers. . . 

Feds support stance on GMOs by 107 world-leading scientists:

As more than 100 world-leading and award-winning scientists voice their support of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Federated Farmers continues to endorse farmers’ rights to decide what technologies are used on their farms.

Federated Farmers’ spokesperson Katie Milne said it’s clear that the long-term stance opponents have against all GMO is well and truly outdated and lacks scientific scrutiny.

“Federated Farmers recognises GMOs can provide many positive benefits to farmers and it’s up to individual farmers to decide whether to use GMOs or not. We have a neutral stance on this.

“Through GMOs farmers could have cows without horns or have the ability to not breed calves, there are many positive animal welfare outcomes for the industry,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Feds unveil guide to local government excellence:

See full Federated Farmers Local Government Manifesto here.

A best-practice, practical and common-sense approach to governance has been unveiled by Federated Farmers at its national conference in Wellington today.

Federated Farmers’ Local Government spokesperson Katie Milne said this tri-annual guide promotes the latest thinking on how councils should be engaging with and providing services to farmers and other ratepayers.

“Farmers are some of the largest funders of local government and the sector most likely to be impacted by regulation developed and implemented by councils. “Farmers need level-headed councillors who prioritise real needs over the ‘nice to haves’. They also need to respect the considerable contributions from ratepayers,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Livestock and sustainability – challenges and opportunities for New Zealand:

Livestock may provide one-third of the value of global agricultural production, but it comes at a big cost for the planet. Livestock uses 80 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, putting pressure on water resources and biodiversity and emitting 14.5 per cent of the planet’s greenhouse gases.

The benefits, risk, trade-offs and consequences are complex and policy makers are always looking for guidance. Now, new guidelines have been developed by the Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). The Committee’s report Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock? was launched last week at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. . . 

UK referendum opens can of worms and some opportunities  – Allan Barber:

The referendum on EU membership produced a result nobody really expected and nearly half the voters didn’t want, but now everyone has to plan for an uncertain future. There have even been suggestions the exit might not happen, unless the Westminster Parliament passes the required motion to activate the start of the exit process. It’s not worth thinking about the implications for British democracy, if that were to happen.

In the immediate aftermath of the 23 June referendum there are only two certainties in a sea of uncertainty – the pound is worth a lot less than it was which will affect export receipts, but red meat access to the EU including the UK will not change for two years from the time the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets the exit process officially in motion. . . 

Agriculture set for slow-down – OECD:

The latest 10-year outlook from the OECD warns the recent period of high agricultural commodity prices is most likely over.

The report, produced with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said overall market growth was projected to slow and agricultural trade was expected to grow at less than half the rate of the previous decade.

The report – ‘OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025’ – said global agricultural trade was expected to grow by 1.8 percent per annum in volume during the next 10 years. . . 

Do possums howl at the moon?

Knowing if nocturnal pest mammals are more affected by the phases of the moon or by illumination could bring New Zealand one step closer to being pest free and save control agencies significant sums of money.

Lincoln UniversityEcology Master’s student Shannon Gilmore’s research into the effect lunar phases and illumination have on activity levels in possums, stoats, rats and mice is aimed at finding more effective and efficient means of targeting and managing these pests.

“It costs millions every year to control their populations,” says Shannon. “We’re waging a kind of war on pests. We need to discover their weaknesses. What trait do all four have in common that we can take advantage of? They are all nocturnal, and many nocturnal animals dramatically reduce their activity with the full moon, while others can become more active. . .

 


Aucklanders seeing the light

July 6, 2016

Auckland is no longer so attractive:

Highly skilled workers don’t want to move to Auckland, and the city’s workers are fleeing to the regions in search of a better life, a survey has found.

Employers say decreased productivity, increased sickness and difficulties finding staff are the results of Auckland’s housing crisis, according to a survey by recruitment agency Frog Recruitment. . . 

Spokeswoman Jane Kennelly said the majority of managers surveyed had serious concerns about the impact Auckland’s high cost of living had on their ability to retain staff, and on employees’ performance. . . 

“Employers reported that housing affordability, renting and the impact of those issues on performance was a very common conversation held around the water cooler,” said Ms Kennelly.

Managers also had trouble attracting new skilled workers from outside Auckland.

“Many won’t or can’t come to Auckland as they know they won’t be able to afford to live here, which impacts on skill levels within companies,” she said,

“Conversely, we are losing highly skilled Aucklanders to other regions in the country to pursue a better work-life balance.”

The survey revealed workplace morale was being sorely tested as frustrated employees arrived at work stressed from traffic delays, and increased dependence on public transport often made workers late to work.

About two-thirds of employers surveyed had introduced measures to mitigate the problem such as flexible start times outside traffic rush hours, remote work arrangements or commuting allowances.

Aucklanders moving out and people from other places not wanting to move in are inevitable reactions to the city’s problems which include ridiculously high property costs and traffic congestion.

Individuals are making the sensible choice to live and work where fewer people, lower costs and less time commuting lead to a better quality of life and allow wages and salaries to go further.

Some Auckland businesses are seeing the light too. Scotts Brewing moved from Auckland to Oamaru three years ago and is thriving.

People finding Auckland less attractive might not be good for companies struggling to recruit and retain staff there. But it will be playing a part, albeit small,  in reducing the demand for housing and  most other parts of the country where the city refugees choose to live will welcome a population boost.

 

 


Rural round-up

April 12, 2016

Water brings back ‘marvellous’ times – Sally Rae:

“Lower Waitaki – The Community That Water Saved” was the theme of a recent media tour organised by the Waitaki Irrigators Collective and IrrigationNZ and coinciding with IrrigationNZ’s 2016 conference in Oamaru. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae hopped on the bus to discover just what irrigation has done for the area and its inhabitants.  

When Jim Dennison’s father bought Drumena in 1919, the Hilderthorpe farm was in a “desolate state”.

Local women pitied his new bride moving to such a property to try to make a living. . .

Harnessing the sunshine for record-breaking crop yields – Pat Deavoll:

Farmers talk about growing feed, but North Otago crop and dairy farmer Chris Dennison says he is “harvesting sunshine.”

His world record-breaking crops of barley and oil seed rape were the combination of heavy soils, a coastal environment, reliable water and sustained sunshine, he said.

“Here at Hilderthorpe (just south of the Waitaki River) we get a cool easterly wind which gives a lull in the growing season for cereal and oil seed rape, so the crops can utilise more sunshine.”

Dennison took over the farm from his father Jim in the early 1980s. Traditionally it was a mixed sheep and beef property but when Dennison arrived home he brought with him an interest in cropping. . . 

Waitaki water key to reliable farming – Sally Rae:

Reuben Allan’s dairy shed has one heck of a view.

It overlooks the vast Waitaki River which provides not only recreational opportunities for his family, but also has allowed them to transition from a “feast or famine” dryland operation to one with reliable irrigation.

Mr Allan grew up on Fairway Farm, which used to be a dryland sheep property, near Ikawai.

Irrigation began on the hills in the mid-1990s and the move was made into intensive beef finishing. . . 

Irrigation provides reliability – Sally Rae:

Matt Ross first arrived in North Otago “more by accident”.

But his decision to return, once he completed his university studies, was deliberate as he had identified the potential opportunities in the district.

Mr Ross and his wife Julie operate Kokoamo Farms, which comprise two dairy farms near Duntroon, milking 1730 cows at peak, and lease a run-off property.

Their farming operation is a showcase: lush green grass, extensive plantings, including a wetland development that is home to more than 100,000 plants, and impressive infrastructure. . . 

Still turning them (tractors) on at 85:

North Otago’s Don Fraser is a man who loves his tractors. His love affair has been so intense he is still driving them at the ripe old age of 85.

Part of the hard-working team at EGL Pastoral for 26 years, and a farmer most of his life, Mr Fraser remembers the old style tractors (crawlers) when he first started out and recalls they were so noisy you needed hearing aids. “There was no silencers then and we didn’t have air con back in the day, but then we didn’t need it when a keen souwester was blowing through.” . . .

Sheep Industry Awards celebrate success:

This country’s sheep industry will celebrate its best and brightest at Beef +Lamb New Zealand’s fifth annual New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards in the Wairarapa in July.

Entries are open for the Awards which recognises this country’s top sheep farmers, breeders, scientists and industry innovators.

People can put their name forward, or be nominated for the Award categories; Science Trainer of the Year, Innovation, Significant Contribution to the New Zealand Sheep Industry and the Emerging Talent Award. . . 

Focus on forages is key to sustainable farm profits:

Pastoral farming is a huge earner for New Zealand worth over $23 billion in export revenues last year. Forages – the grasses and other plants grazed by farm animals – are a critical part of pastoral farming systems. Industry participants consider there is significant scope to lift the contribution forages make to the underlying productivity and profitability of the pastoral sectors and to achieve these outcomes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

This is why an initiative to improve the sustainability and profitability of New Zealand’s forage grazing systems has the buy-in of everyone representing the pastoral sector. . . 

Bostock New Zealand experiencing highest quality apples for several years:

New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower is harvesting some of the best quality fruit it’s experienced for years – thanks to near perfect growing and harvesting conditions.

Bostock New Zealand Director, David Brasell says the weather has been outstanding for the harvest and the fruit has sized well.

“The quality of our apples this season is very, very good. The colour is great, the fruit is clean and the size is excellent. . . .

Time to guard against costly nutritional deficits:

A small investment in autumn feed testing can be good insurance against mineral deficiencies in dairy and beef cows that can lead to low growth rates and poor milk yields.

Winter feeds like fodder beet, low pasture phosphorus levels in some regions, and lower seasonal availability for copper can lead to deficiencies of both of these key minerals during late pregnancy, early lactation and calf growth.

Consultant nutritionist to SealesWinslow, Paul Sharp, says for around $100 a comprehensive pasture mineral test will provide the right information to farmers. . . 

Yealands Launches NZ’s First Vineyard Tour Guide App:

The first kiwi wine app that allows the user to take a self-guided vineyard tour – and take in Yealands’ famous White Road hot-spots.

One of the only vineyards to actually let visitors drive through its vineyard, wine innovators, Yealands Wine Group have released a mobile application that allows visitors to its Seaview Vineyard in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough the unique opportunity of taking their own self-guided vineyard tour. . .


The story but not the whole story

April 1, 2016

RNZ asks is the minimum wage increase helpful or hopeless?

. . .  a cleaner who does night shifts at Auckland Council said the rise was still not enough to make it easier to support her family.

Before today, Lupe Funua’s wage was $15.10. That rate would be pushed up 15 cents to match the new minimum wage.

With a three-year-old son at home, a baby due in a few months, and a husband who was also a cleaner on minimum wage, she said every week she worried she was not earning enough. . . 

That’s the story but not the whole story which should include the family’s entitlement to Working for Families and they might also be eligible for housing assistance.

. . . Once the bills were paid, she said she had nothing to send home to her parents in Tonga, which devastated her. . . 

Wanting to help her parents is commendable but an employer can’t take that, or any other wishes however noble they might be, into consideration when determining what wage rates are affordable for the business.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said the government first considered a 25-cent rise, but decided to be more generous.

He said lifting the rate any higher would mean some people losing their jobs.

That is a very important part of the story. Increasing the minimum wage can cost jobs and drives the move to more mechanisation. It also has a flow-on affect for people who are paid more the legal minimum.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard said any rise would affect the struggling dairy industry.

“I think the concern for farm employers might be around farmers employed in the roles above those on the minimum wage – farm assistants – who would also get a boost,” he said.

“That’s going to be the discussion that farm employers will have with the employees and for many it’s not going to be an option.” . . 

I don’t know anyone who pays farm workers the minimum wage and most farm staff have non-cash rewards like a rent-free house which takes their annual effective pay well above the minimum.

 

 

 


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