‘It beggars belief ‘


Take 608 acute mental health beds, add $1.9 billion and how many beds do you get?

When Labour came to power the country had 608 beds for acute mental health patients.

Five years and billions of dollars of health funding later, New Zealand still has 608 beds for acute mental health patients. . . 

Back in 2019, the Government announced a $1.9 billion programme to fix it up. But Newshub can reveal there are exactly the same number of acute mental health beds now as there were when Labour took office. . . 

In 2017, there were 608 beds. It’s fluctuated since then, reaching a peak of 619 in 2021, but now we’re back where we started at 608 beds.

608 + $1.9 billion = 608? That doesn’t compute.

An increase of 11 then back to where it started, how can that happen?

“It’s quite astonishing that the Government has gone and spent $1.9 billion of taxpayers’ money on mental health and we don’t have a single extra mental health bed available,” said National leader Christopher Luxon.

“You’ve gotta ask the questions, where has the money gone?”

That’s a very good question which doesn’t appear to have any very good answers.

Little said it’s “taking way longer than it should do, but there is progress now evident”.

Is it evident to the people needing beds and the people looking after them?

Is it evident to the people who expect very big things from spending very large amounts of taxpayers’ money?

Now new documents reveal it’s still so bad ministers have directed their implementation unit to team up with the Infrastructure Commission and “complete a deep dive” into each of the 16 Mental Health Infrastructure Programme projects and create a delivery plan that “ensures projects gain momentum and get moving”.

“The funding was available from 2019, the commitment was available from that time. It still beggars belief for me that it has taken this long to get those things going,” Little said. 

It beggars belief for mental health patients too. . . 

It also beggars belief for anyone who expects governments to make a positive difference with the spending they authorise.

It beggars belief that someone in charge of this debacle hasn’t been sacked as anyone in the private sector would be.

It beggars belief that after five long years, no-one in the government has learned that making announcements doesn’t magically make things happen and that they are responsible for ensuring that money spent makes a positive difference and does so in a reasonable time.

Rural round-up


Farming leader pleads with PM for more time – Peter Burke :

A dairy industry leader is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take the pressure off farmers and give them more time to properly understand and digest the huge raft of changes that the Government is trying to push through before next year’s election.

Ben Allomes told Dairy News that the Government has a number of things they want to achieve before the next election and he says most of these seem to be aimed at the primary sector.

These include greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, animal welfare and labour.

Allomes says this is on top of farmers trying to deal with the uncertainties around Covid, such as disrupted supply chains and increasing costs, all of which are creating an uncertain business environment. . .

The seven significant setbacks to He Waka Eke Noa recommendations – Jim van der Poel:

 DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel outlines why his organisation is not prepared to accept the He Waka Eke Noa proposal in its current form and why it’s a poor option for the sector and New Zealand as a whole.

When the primary sector took on the challenge of an emissions pricing alternative, there was a clear goal – to secure the best possible system for farmers and the climate.

In 2019 the Government legislated to put agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). We believed that was a poor option for the primary sector and for New Zealand.

We approached the Government to have the option to come up with a better proposal that was fairer, more practicable for farmers and would deliver better outcomes. . . 

Kiwifruit growers fear ‘zero income’ next year after severe frost :

Some Waikato kiwifruit growers will have no income next year and others will have crops that will not cover the cost of production, following a heavy frost in October.

Waikato is a smaller growing region with about 500 hectares of fruit; an additional 100 hectares was planted this winter.

A grower with 22 hectares, Richard Glen, said it had taken until now to get his head around the full impact of the October frost event.

Glen said it was the worst frost he had seen in his 40 years of growing. . . 

Hi-tech traps on trial in fruit fly surveillance programme :

Biosecurity New Zealand’s National Fruit Fly Surveillance programme is trialling 60 state-of-the-art traps, with the aim to bolster the detection of exotic fruit fly.

“We have a world-class biosecurity system, but the growth in global trade and travel increases the opportunity for fruit flies to enter the country,” says Biosecurity New Zealand Director Diagnostic & Surveillance Services Veronica Herrera.

“Exotic fruit fly incursions could significantly impact New Zealand’s horticulture industry, so early detection is critical.”

The fruit fly surveillance programme runs from September to July each year to coincide with the heightened risk of fruit flies entering New Zealand. More than 7,800 traps are currently stationed across the country. . . 

Zespri rolls out SAP technology to support its people, processes and growers :

SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today announced that Zespri, the world’s biggest marketer of kiwifruit, has gone live with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition. The move will support Zespri’s ability to deliver the highest quality fruit to market and sustain strong returns to growers.

The go-live of this new technology, which took place on 1 November 2022, is the first phase in Zespri’s ambitious, multi-year Horizon transformation programme. The aim of the programme is to standardise and automate Zespri’s processes, increase its operational efficiency, and provide a platform for growth and innovation.

As a result of the implementation, Zespri hopes to deliver kiwifruit to customers more effectively. Ultimately a more robust, transparent and reliable process will support its entire product delivery system, from the receipt of a sales order, to payments for product, through to distribution. Zespri’s quality management solutions will include proof that the product has been grown and handled in accordance with regulatory, customer specifications and consumer expectations.

With a focus on creating global consistency, almost 1,000 full-time employees and contractors across offices in 17 countries will benefit from the implementation, with Zespri also undertaking its biggest-ever training programme. . . 

The fake meat scam -Dr Joseph Mercola:

  • Ultra-processed foods typically have five or more ingredients, many of which are not commonly used in home kitchens. This aptly describes the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, including fake blood processed from genetically engineered yeast to mimic the taste and texture of real beef.
  • Although the soy-like hemoglobin used in the Impossible Burger is classified as generally recognized as safe, no tests have been done by independent labs on the product’s safety. However, tests on lab rats altered the animals’ blood chemistry; the company did not follow up on the results.
  • The parent companies for Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger commissioned studies to assess the environmental impact of production against typical concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) beef production. Not surprisingly, they found their product had a lower impact. But it’s not nearly as low as the beef production at White Oaks Pastures, which uses regenerative farming practices to produce natural beef products.
  • If a plant-based, genetically engineered (GE) meat alternative is not enough of a science fiction adventure, consider the “meat” scientists are growing from stem cell cultures in the lab. Some see these alternatives as the lesser of two evils, but when holistic herd management improves the environment, your best choice is to seek food from natural sources.

Rural round-up


Middle NZ: we might not be able to see the food for the trees –  Linda Hall:

It’s a bit scary, really — thinking about what our beautiful country is going to look like in 50 years.

I won’t be around to see it, but my grandchildren will, and their children.

I wonder where they will grow their food.

Will they be able to drive between Hawke’s Bay and Dannevirke and look out on lush green grass with sheep and cows grazing? Or at paddocks full of pumpkins and sweetcorn? . .

SDC loses major legal battle against Te Anau Downs Station – Michael Fallow :

The Southland District Council has lost a four-year $1m legal battle with Peter Chartres, of Te Anau Downs Station, and now faces the prospect of costs recovery.

The council went to the Environment Court in April seeking an enforcement order to prevent any further indigenous vegetation clearance on the station, and to require significant remedial work.

Chartres welcomed the ruling clearing him of unlawful clearances dating back to 2001 and said the council’s approach had been overzealous.

“These enforcement proceedings are an example of the time and money that gets wasted when poorly drafted, unworkable rules are misinterpreted, implemented and enforced by local councils,’’ he said. . . 

Rural health network calls for action on ‘massive issue of rural inequity’

Hauora Taiwhenua has put together a roadmap for how the rural health service can be pulled off life support.

The rural health network’s document Christchurch Consensus was formed after the National Rural Health Conference attended by about 400 rural health professionals in September.

It includes key priorities such as streamlining immigration rules to get more health workers into the country and boosting investment in training.

Chair Fiona Bolden said the document was fuelled by the sheer frustration of health workers in the rural sector. . . 

Research on carbon footprint of beef and sheep meat published:

Our newly published research into the full life-cycle carbon footprint of New Zealand’s beef & sheep meat has found that it sits at the lower end of published estimates among producers globally, despite distance from markets. Read the published research here.

This research is jointly funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association; and the Beef + Lamb NZ statement today on the research – which also features the use of GWP* as an alternative metric for methane – is here.

AgResearch scientist Andre Mazzetto says:

“Accurately measuring and reporting the carbon footprint of products has never been more critical, especially for New Zealand products such as beef and sheep meat that are exported over considerable distances. Thus, it is important to understand the extent of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the various stages of the life cycle of these products. 

This Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study calculated the cradle-to-grave (i.e. full life-cycle) carbon footprint of beef and sheep meat produced in New Zealand and exported to different markets. The carbon footprint for the cradle-to-farm gate (raising of the animals) represented 90–95 per cent of the cradle-to-grave for both beef and sheep. The meat processing stage contributed 2–4 per cent of the carbon footprint, while post-processing was 2–6 per cent. This standard LCA study showed that NZ beef and sheep meat products have a full life-cycle carbon footprint at the lower end of other published estimates globally, despite the emissions generated from transport and freight to overseas markets. . . .

Not only the frost – Peter Burke :

One long time kiwifruit business person is describing this and probably next year as the worst they can remember.

It’s an unusual situation because the Zespri averages of fruit damaged by the frost don’t paint an accurate picture of what individual growers are facing.

For example, while the RubyRed crops appears the worst affected, it’s likely that the same grower may also have crops of Green or SunGold which could mitigate some of the financial hardship.

It would be unusual, we are told, that a grower would have just one variety. . .

Tech critical to reduce NZ emissions :

The idea that New Zealand can reach its emissions targets without relying heavily on technology and innovation has always struck the tech ecosystem as strange, NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says.

Last week, the lack of any mention of technology in the government’s emission reduction plan was acknowledged as an oversight, according to climate change minister James Minister Shaw.

“This comes as Spark released a detailed analysis of how digital technologies could help New Zealand meet its emissions reduction targets,” Muller says.

“The study found 7.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, or 42 percent of the country’s 17 million tonne reductions needed by 2030, could be found by using enabling digital technologies. . . 

Mood of the show


“Just get it done!”

This was the message I heard a woman at the *Christchurch Show give to National leader Christopher Luxon and it summed up the mood of many who talked to me.

It’s three years since the last A&P show in Christchurch and the mood then wasn’t positive.

Then, two years into the Labour-New Zealand First government, there was lots of criticism of them but also reservations about National.

Three years on the mood against the government has hardened.

People are very, very angry and upset about the wasteful spending, anti-farmer and other divisive policies and disdain for democracy; and worried about how much worse things will get before there’s a change of government.

The mood towards National is much, much more positive.

Wednesday and Thursday at the show usually attract a lot of farmers and people involved in agribusiness who are more likely to be at the blue or yellow end of the political spectrum but not since the ag-sag of the 1980s have I heard such vehemence against the government and such strong support for change.

Agitation over taxing farm emissions with the threat of one in five sheep and beef farms being killed off, good pastoral land being planted in pines and 13,000 job losses – that’s the total population of Oamaru – was expected.

So too was concern over impractical regulations, the imposition of extra costs and the threat of unfair pay agreements.

But people who spoke to me were just as concerned about the crises in health and education, worker shortages and the related immigration debacles, crime and the cost of living crisis.

The radical policies of the Lange-Douglas Labour government that led to the ag-sag generated a lot of angst at the time. There are valid questions over how it was done but I don’t know anyone who now thinks it shouldn’t have been done.

Those changes were hard at the time but farming, and the country, are stronger because of them.

The changes this government is foisting on not just farmers but the wider economy, environment and society are adding long term costs without even short-term benefits.

If the mood of the show is a barometer of wider opinion, the chances of Christopher Luxon being in a position to “get it done” are good but they are not certain and the worry remains of just how much worse things will get before a National-led government can “get it done”.

*I know it’s now the New Zealand Agricultural Show, but most still call it the Christchurch Show.

Highest priority for $211m a year


Jacinda Ardern was asked what she’d do if money was not a factor.

Her answer, to make all pre-school education free was, as Lindsay Mitchell points out addressing a symptom, not a cause:

Why pose such a redundant proposition when governments are scrambling to spend less? Well, most governments.

But then I thought the answer might shed light on just how naive and ineffective the PM is.

Her big idea? Free early childhood education. 

“I’d make it completely free. Completely free. And when I say completely free, I’d also give choice to families about at what point and stage their child accesses it. Because for some we know it provides stability to kids that they might not have in their home life.”

Hang on. Back up. Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse?

Perhaps you need to address why ‘some’ kids don’t have stability in their home life.

You’ve already thrown a whole lot more money at the problem due to the first wrong diagnosis and now there are thousands more children in unemployed homes. Dare I say it, unstable homes. 

But let’s look at the evidence the PM might be inclined to take heed of. Evidence produced under her own administration.

Whether or not early childhood education improves outcomes for children is at best controversial. . . 

No-one can fault the goal of improving outcomes for children but free ECE wouldn’t be the best way to do it, even if money wasn’t a factor.

No doubt the PM was thinking about the announcement she made later on about increasing childcare subsidies.

The package included increasing thresholds for the subsidies and adjusting Working For Families for inflation.

That does beg the question of why increasing those thresholds and adjusting those payments for inflation is good when, they say,  increasing thresholds for tax brackets and adjusting them for inflation is not.

It also raises questions about priorities for Labour and its leader when money has to be a factor.

One of its priorities appears to be merging RNZ and TVNZ, the rational for which has yet to be properly explained, the cost of doing which is higher than the combined value of the two entities, and now we learn TVNZ will lose $100 million in advertising a year.

The Government’s new public media entity will witness the loss of a third of TVNZ’s existing commercial revenue, equating to about $100 million a year, within five years, according to advice from officials.

This lost revenue will need to be supplemented by taxpayer funding from the Crown, which is forecast to contribute $211m a year to the entity over 30 years, roughly half of which will be used to plug the shortfall in advertising.

The commercial details were revealed in a late draft of a business case for the Government’s RNZ-TVNZ merger, obtained by the National Party.

The party’s broadcasting spokeswoman Melissa Lee said the documents showed the Government was wilfully destroying TVNZ’s commercial model and forcing the taxpayer to pick up the tab. . . 

It’s difficult to believe anyone in the government can think this is a good use of so much money and it would be hard to find anyone in the general public who would think it is, even if it wasn’t going to be borrowed money.

It would be very easy to think of much higher priorities for $211m a year over 30 years – helping people on benefits who could work into work, which would help improve outcomes for children,  and increasing health spending to address the many factors contributing to the crisis in that sector would two of them.

‘You can’t fix a problem until you know what the problem is’


Over at The Common Room, Mike King says you can’t fix a problem until you know what the problem is:

Mental Health advocate Mike King uncovers some surprising suicide stats around the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and shares his thoughts on dealing with bullies and drug dealers.

Red meat’s place in diet


Diana Rodgers answers the question: where does red meat fit in a modern diet?

Taxpayer talk – Des Gorman


Peter Williams interviews Professor Des Gorman at Taxpayer Talk:

On this week’s episode of Tax Payer Talk, Peter Wiliams speaks to Des Gorman – Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Auckland University – about a new paper from the New Zealand Initiative which claims that evidence for a separate Maori Health Authority is seriously lacking. Peter then reads your correspondence.

What’s happened to balance?


David Farrar has made a rare, for him, complaint to the media on reporting the results of an online survey as a poll:

Readers might not understand the difference between an opt-in survey and a poll that follows the country’s polling code and being told that one candidate is a clear favourite might influence votes.

Whether this is a deliberate attempt to help the candidate in question is moot, but deliberate or not it could and it’s not something any serious media should do.

Extensive coverage in last week’s Listener of a Nelson mayoral candidate, Matt Lawry could also be seen as an attempt to influence voters.

Four and a half pages cover him, one the other candidate, Nick Smith, gets just half a page, the other five candidates don’t get even that.

Bob Jones notes:

. . .Smith, unsurprisingly given his engineering doctorate, played a key role as a senior Cabinet Minister in the rebuilds following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.

In the year since his retirement he’s been involved in creating a windfarm. It will be interesting to watch the outcome of this election between a talker and a doer. 

But The Listener gave more than four times coverage to the talker than it did to the doer.

What’s happened to balanced reporting? It’s important at any time and even more so in the run up to an election.



Almost all the restrictions imposed on us because of Covid-19 were removed at midnight.

We can still choose to wear masks, and people who for a variety of reasons are vulnerable to, or concerned about, infection, will continue to do so.

But fewer people have been using masks recently and most won’t except where they’re still required in health and aged care facilities.

We are now freer and can look forward to life with travel and events with more certainty than we’ve been able to since we were locked down more than two and a half years ago.

But it is freer and freeish rather than completely free of Covid-19 and its impacts.  It is still being transmitted and the human and economic costs of the disease are still with us.

But can we be free of the fear that accompanied it?

In Spain in July masks were required in pharmacies and public transport and we saw a very, very few people wearing them outside. In Scotland and England there were no requirements and again we saw hardly anyone wearing masks.

The impression we got was that people were over the disease, even though it isn’t over, if it ever will be.

We didn’t see daily updates of Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths in the media and maybe it will take that to happen here before we feel free of the Covid shadow and we’re back to as close to normal as it used to be as we’ll be able to be.

What else don’t they want us to know?


A ‘blunder by a Wellington worker’ allowed the women whose trip led the government to put Northland into lockdown last year to enter the province.

It’s taken a long time for that story to come out, including revelations that the women weren’t prostitutes and didn’t have gang links.

It’s not the first time the government has led us to believe someone was at fault when they weren’t. Remember the PM told us a KFC staff member went to work when she should have been isolating and we later found out that the rules didn’t require that?

Then there was Chris Hipkins having to apologise over what he’d said about Charlotte Bellis.

What else has the government got wrong and what else doesn’t it want us to know about its Covid response?

What lessons could – and must – be learned so mistakes aren’t repeated?

Every party in parliament except Labour wants an inquiry into the response and Richard Prebble has added his voice to that call:

. . . Internationally for the first two years of the pandemic, New Zealand’s response was praised. Commentators often frame the discussion as New Zealand v Sweden. Sweden’s refusal to lockdown or issue mandates, relying instead on their citizens’ common sense, was scorned.

Sweden responded saying that in three years their infection and death rates from Covid will be no higher than countries that have locked down, quarantined and issued mandates. Sweden said they will not have deprived people of their liberties, damaged their children’s education or harmed their economy.

Unlike New Zealand, Sweden has held an independent Corona Commission into its response. The Commission was critical of initial inadequate protection to those in care homes that resulted in 90 per cent of all Covid deaths.

The Commission found that the Swedish Covid death rate was lower than European countries that locked down. The Commission determined the no lockdown strategy was correct, saying the state should only limit the liberty of citizens when absolutely necessary.

The Commission praised the decision to keep schools open, noting Swedish pupils have not had their education disrupted. 

In contrast, international researchers have become increasingly critical of New Zealand’s response.

Epidemiologist and health economist at Stanford University School of Medicine, Professor Jay Bhattacharya writes: “New Zealand’s Zero Covid strategy was immoral, incoherent and a grand failure.”

New Zealand has, he says, “experienced more Covid cases per capita throughout the pandemic than the US … there are the enormous economic, psychological and additional health costs of lockdown that the population will pay out for over the coming year.

“New Zealand failed to vaccinate its population with urgency … if it had not dawdled in obtaining the vaccine, New Zealand could have been open by mid-spring 2021,” he continued. . . 

We could excuse mistakes in the early response because so little was known about the disease and what was the right way to respond.

It’s much harder to excuse, or even explain, subsequent failings including shortages of PPE, the delay in getting vaccines and rolling them out and the delay in allowing Rapid Antigen Tests.

There are lots of questions that need answers, including whether the economic, social and other health costs of the lockdowns were justified.

For two years ministers ignored the Simpson/Roche report recommendation to use RATs. Early in the pandemic my nephew in England was issued RATS by the UK Government. He self-tested to detect that he had Covid. When he tested negative he returned to work. He never lost a day off work longer than necessary or needed to see a health professional.

By contrast, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have been isolating when they are not infectious. Thousands have lost their jobs when their vaccine status was only a threat to their own health. Thousands more have had their lives disrupted by MIQ quarantine that continued long after it served any useful purpose.

The cost of Labour’s failed zero Covid policy to citizens, the economy, health and to education has been huge.

The only country still following the New Zealand model of lockdowns, quarantines and mandates is the police state of communist China.

Future generations will be incredulous. No doubt some future Labour Prime Minister into gesture politics will apologise. No comfort to pupils whose lives will be blighted by their education being disrupted.

We need an independent Covid inquiry. Not to apportion blame. It serves no useful purpose. We need an inquiry to be better prepared for the next pandemic.

Covid is now endemic. The Government needs to abandon the New Zealand model; the traffic lights, compulsory isolation and the mandates. Adopt the Swedish model. Trust the people to use their common sense.

If the government had followed its own traffic light system the South Island would have been in red months ago when the number of infections, people in hospital and deaths were climbing.

Perhaps it knew it no longer has the social licence for the measures imposed in that level.

Perhaps that knowledge is also behind the signals that the requirement to wear masks is likely to be dropped soon.

Will that decision be based on the science or politics?

Getting the answer to that question and all the other ones that ought to be asked needs a truly independent inquiry and it needs to be done as soon as possible so that we can be ready for new developments with Covid, or another disease.

The cost of mistakes with this pandemic are too high and we can’t afford to make the same ones again.

Finding out exactly what went wrong, how and why it went wrong and how to do better is necessary to reduce the risk of getting it wrong again.

Rural round-up


Lamb losses as spring storm brings snow – Neal Wallace:

Two days of snow, rain and bitterly cold temperatures on the east coast of both islands have caused lamb losses and added to already saturated soils.

Snow up to 50mm fell on Monday night in Southland, Otago, Canterbury, Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay, central North Island and Gisborne Wairoa.

Lambing has started in some lower areas of the North Island and farming leaders said there have been losses.

Snow was lying down to sea level in parts of the South Island on Monday night, and at higher altitude in the North Island where lambing has yet to begin. . . .

High country lessees have high carbon hopes – Richard Rennie:

Lessees of Crown land want clarity – and fairness – when it comes to the carbon work they put in.

High country leaseholders are crossing their fingers the government will see sense in adjusting legislation to better enable them to capitalise on carbon opportunities Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) bring.

Gerald Fitzgerald, legal counsel for the High Country Accord group, said Wellington has repeatedly overlooked high country Crown pastoral lessees when drawing up legislation, whether it be stock exclusion, biodiversity, and more lately new carbon rules.

“Again and again, we have been frustrated there is no recognition in policy design work of the particular tenure of Crown pastoral leases. This is at a technical legal level, and a lack of insight at a practical level on the different farm management systems on high country farms,” Fitzgerald said. . .



Cheesemaking waste product potential gamechanger for diabetes sufferers :

A New Zealand-based company researching alternative uses for a by-product from cheesemaking has its sights on developing it into a remedy for people with type 2 diabetes.

WheyTech Bionics NZ is partnering with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on a 2-year project that aims to develop technology to process whey permeate as a sweetener product with anti-diabetic properties.

Whey permeate is a by-product from the cheesemaking process. 

“An existing patent from Germany shows the high levels of glucose in whey can create a sugar with properties that are anti-diabetic,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes. . . 

War on weeds – could a wasp join the fight? – Emile Donovan :

We know New Zealand’s ecosystem is precious: our islands are home to flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world.

This is special, but it also means we have to be careful. An introduced species from another part of the world can quickly become invasive, take a foothold and wreak havoc.

One way of controlling invasive species is to bring in yet another species to essentially prey on the thing you don’t like.

This is called biological control.  . . 

Agricultural Biotech’ Research Centre for sale goes under the microscope with property investors :

A former equestrian school, wedding and function venue – converted into a high tech’ agricultural biotechnology company’s research headquarters – has been placed on the market for sale.

The property and buildings housing the laboratories and research facilities for ground-breaking rural science company Ecolibrium Biologicals is located in Bombay just south of Auckland, and sits on some 18.55-hectares of land.

The substantial property was originally developed as a kiwifruit orchard in the early 1980s when its owners built a three-bedroom home, while simultaneously converting an old cow shed and building which were later developed into an equestrian riding centre & school.

The venue’s infrastructure was expanded in the early 1990s when a lodge was constructed as a riding school lodge, which later morphed into a wedding reception venue – known as Footbridge, with its own chapel on site, allowing wedding ceremonies to be held on-site. . . 

New Zealand butchery team take third place at world competition :

The Hellers Sharp Blacks have won third place at the World Butchers’ Challenge in Sacramento held over the weekend. The team, made up of six Kiwi butchers, travelled to the U.S.A. last week to compete against 12 other countries in a three-and-a-half-hour showdown at the Golden 1 Centre in Sacramento.

Team captain of the Hellers Sharp Blacks, Riki Kerekere says that after two years of covid cancellations it was amazing for the team to finally be sharpening their knives and competing on the world stage.

“To come third is a massive achievement and I am really proud of how well the team performed on the day,” says Riki.

The competition was held on Saturday 3rd September, Californian time, and saw the Golden 1 Centre in Sacramento transformed into the world’s largest butchery. Local and international visitors were treated to a spectacular three and a half hour cutting competition where each team had to turn a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens into a themed display of value-added cuts. Teams had to demonstrate their carving, boning and finishing skills underpinned by their own creative and cultural flair. . . 

Children need solid foundations


Lindsay Mitchell asks why our young lead the world in poor mental health?

A question like that has no single, simple answer.

She discusses contributing factors and concludes:

But most importantly, a reversal of this upward surge demands a wider appraisal and acknowledgement of societal changes that have lessened the likelihood that children will experience material and emotional security and stability throughout their formative years. If children were genuinely placed at the centre of the family, given time, given unconditional love, given space to explore but surety to return to, there may still be no guarantees. But the odds of that child developing good mental health will massively increase.

Poor mental health isn’t experienced only by children who lack material and emotional security and stability.

But  children with those solid foundations must have a better chance of better mental health and of growing into happy, healthy adults.


Govt of takers not makers


This was the government that was going to impose no new taxes on us.

Passing quickly over the increased excise tax on petrol, the ute tax and the landlord taxes, and the bemusement over the threat of GST of KiwiSaver management fees on which they’ve back-tracked, let’s think about the difference between a government of takers not makers.

How much better we, and the country, would be if the government had put as much thought into policies that would help us make more instead of how it could take more from us.

The health crisis might not be completely behind us, but we’d have more health professionals working, shorter waits for access to health services and better treatments when we got to them.

The housing crisis might not be completely behind us but we’d have a lot fewer people unable to buy their own home of find one to rent.

The labour shortage might not be completely behind us, but businesses wouldn’t be so short of good staff, and there would be far fewer people on job-seeker benefits.

There are several contributing factors to all three of these crises and the government’s focus on how to slice and dice the national pie to take more, instead of on how to help us all make a bigger and better pie is a major one.

We’re lumbered with a government that has wasted far too much time on trying to take more from us and done far too much to make it harder for us to make more ourselves.

Inflation is raging, we’re deep in debt.

We need a change from a government of takers to one that gets out of the way of the makers.

No systemic racism in health


The extensive and expensive restructuring of the healthy system creating a separate Maori organisation has been driven by the argument that the there was systemic racism in the old one.

The New Zealand Initiative found no evidence for that:

Fiction over fact is the basis for the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) new policies, research by think tank The New Zealand Initiative reveals.

The fact that neither the Government nor the MOH could produce objective data to support their claims that systemic racism is significantly to blame for poor Māori health outcomes is the most alarming revelation in the Initiative’s new report, Every life is worth the same – The case for equal treatment.

The research, conducted by the Initiative’s senior fellow Dr Bryce Wilkinson, also analysed the Government’s prescription to remedy the situation by prioritising health spending for Māori, especially in Pharmac’s medicine procurement.

“The large differences in average health, educational and economic outcomes across racial groups in New Zealand are troubling,” says Dr Wilkinson. “The reasons for them should be rigorously identified. But raw differences do not justify discriminating against those in other racial groups who are doing as badly or worse. Nor do they justify better treatment for those doing better in a ‘priority’ group than those doing worse in other groups.”

“It is your circumstances that should count, not your group classification,” Dr Wilkinson said.

Need not race, or any other factor not backed up by evidence, should be what counts.

Writing in his foreword to the report Professor of Medicine Des Gorman (Ngāpuhi) says, “Data is needed to separate the relative impacts of genetics and epigenetics from the direct impacts of social factors such as housing, education and employment from any inherent and institutionalised racism within our health system.”

“We can all agree that the time to address the underlying causes of this inequality is well overdue. However, what is needed are objective data about what leads to improved outcomes rather than political rhetoric,” says Professor Gorman, who supports the Initiative’s findings.

The report makes the point that correct medical treatment relies on evidence-based diagnosis. Government policies should require the same.

There is no doubt Maori are over-represented in negative health statistics. There is considerable doubt that the disparities are a result of systemic racism rather than poverty and associated poor housing and nutrition, lower educational attainment, higher unemployment and other factors which have nothing at all to do with race or racism.

Dr Wilkinson writes:

. . . As documented in this report, the dominant political and official diagnosis in current health policy is that racism is a significant cause of those poor outcomes. Overt racial preferences for staffing and delivery are part of the remedy.

Start with that diagnosis. This report evaluates the most authoritative empirical evidence the Ministry of Health could provide in support of the Director-General of Health’s testimony that personal and institutional racism is a significant cause of the poor health outcomes for Māori.

On examination, the supplied material is shockingly silent overall about both causation and significance.

Where there is no serious interest in rigorous evidence-based diagnosis, there can be no serious interest in the quality of the outcome. Taxpayers, Māori and non-Māori deserve better.

The report uses the case of Pharmac to show how the prescribed remedies depart from the principle of equal treatment for equal need, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Those wishing to see better health outcomes for all New Zealanders will have to wait until there is a serious policy interest in problem diagnosis and remedy evaluation.

The wrong diagnosis will inevitably result in the wrong treatment and outcomes, not just for Maori but for others whose need is as great or greater but who are denied priority treatment because of their race.

The report Every Life is Worth the Same – The  Case for Equal Treatment is here:

In the Foreword Professor Gorman writes:

. . . I am not arguing that racism does not exist in our ‘health’ system. Indeed, as the Australian philosopher Peter Singer points out, racism is an inherent human characteristic that lies somewhere in the spectrum between a mother’s special love for her own children and speciesism. This is the reason why our health worker inducation programs commit so much time to introduce both non-Māori and Māori students, many of whom are not strong in tikunga, to the spiritual, philosophical and cultural domains of Māori wellbeing. These efforts are unfortunately undermined by our unsustainable and extensive reliance on overseas trained doctors and nurses.

Rather, I am suggesting we should focus on what has been shown to be effective in improving Māori wellbeing. This is all about valuable outcomes,
where value is determined by the community rather than by providers and funders. The issue of value has been a cornerstone of debate about health
system performance since it was highlighted by Michael Porter almost 20 years ago. At about the same time, Michael Marmot wrote his influential
paper on the social determinants of health inequalities. It is self-evident that the value of any health system per se, as compared to an injury or
illness management system, will depend upon a focus on and attention to these social determinants.

Dr Wilkinson sought objective and preferably published data from the government and the MOH, which is eminently reasonable. Such data are needed to separate the relative impact of genetics and epigenetics, from the direct impacts of social factors such as housing, education and employment, from any inherent and institutionalised racism within our ‘health’ system. This is no easy task given that these factors are intrinsically interrelated,
interdependent and consequential. 

It comes as no surprise that Dr Wilkinson was not shown any objective data to establish a causal relationship between institutionalised racism
and relative ill-health for Māori. This has much to do with the quantity, quality and nature of the relevant research, and the difficulty in
identifying and measuring valuable outcomes. However, beyond the issue of cause, is the perhaps more critical issue of the vulnerability
of causal factors to interventions that will make a positive difference.

Dr Wilkinson’s paper is brave. It is also important, not so much in respect to his specific observations but more so in his willingness to shift the debate
from unhelpful rhetoric to pragmatic science. This is much to be encouraged and hopefully will form the basis on which the new Māori Health Authority determines its investments.

In the introduction Dr Wilkinson takes issue with the Pharmac Review Panel’s report:

. . . There are good reasons why, in general, government policies should treat people in equal circumstances as being of equal value, regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or group affiliation. Tax policy gets this right. People with the same taxable income pay the same amount in personal tax. Race, gender nd religion are irrelevant. Such “horizontal equity” is a long-standing tax policy principle.

Why would government schools, hospitals and welfare agencies not treat people as being of equal value? If two households are experiencing the same levels of extreme hardship, why would the state treat them as different priorities because of irrelevant differences? To do so is to affront individual human dignity.

The large differences in average health, educational and economic outcomes across racial groups in New Zealand are troubling. The reasons for
them should be rigorously identified. But raw differences do not justify discriminating against those in other racial groups who are doing as badly,
or worse. Nor do they justify better treatment for those doing better in a ‘priority’ group than those doing worse in other groups. Christianity surely
decrees that compassion should be race neutral. It is your individual circumstances that should count, not your group classification.

Finding out what assistance works best for the individual should, of course, respond to relevant differences in cultural and other norms. That is
an important delivery issue.

The interim report’s recommendations above depart from these “equal treatment” principles in two ways. The first is the elimination of the concepts of individuality and individual need. Group membership is what matters. Diversity of need within the group is almost irrelevant. The
second is the focus on race.

Rather than treat individuals as being of equal worth, as would the Initiative, the Panel repeatedly endorses the concept of “priority populations”. The implication is that a well-off member of a priority population is more deserving than someone outside the group who might be a lot worse off. . . 

Not treating people as individuals of equal worth is racist.

Treating a well-off member of a priority population as more deserving of health treatment than someone outside the group who is worse off is apartheid.

This is the sort of policy rightly deplored in Nazi Germany, South Africa and other countries where people were not treated as people but sub-groups based on race.

The report reaches two main conclusions:

First, the articles cited by the MoH in support of the Prime Minister’s speech and of the DirectorGeneral of Health’s statement fail to support either the assertion of racist causation or the assertion of its significant materiality.

This is a disturbing finding. Perhaps rigorous empirical analysis does exist that establishes both causation and materiality. That remains an open question. But if the MoH has such evidence, it would have surely cited it in its response to the OIA request. Instead, it seems that it is making strong assertions of a polarising nature that it cannot justify when asked.

Second, the Pharmac Panel’s recommendation to force Pharmac to depart from treating all New Zealanders as of equal value when making subsidy decisions must result in less health benefits for New Zealanders overall from its given Pharmaceutical Budget. It could even make Māori worse off.

That would be ironical, and appalling – the policy designed to favour Maori would do more harm.

Public policy formation on the MoH appears to have fallen into the very traps that Simon Chapple warned against more than 20 years ago in a labour market context.

Those who are serious about wanting to close the gaps should be serious about assessing causes and finding what works. On the evidence reviewed in this paper, Officials are not seriously interested in assessing the causes of poor outcomes for Māori and others. This is a very discouraging finding; billions of dollars are being spent annually. No wonder outcomes remain poor.

The strident insistence in the material reviewed above that poor health outcomes on average for Māori are due to ethnicity and racism disempowers all Māori. It makes them victims and conceals the fact that many Māori do better than many non-Māori. People need to have hope that they can improve their circumstances with their own efforts. Self-agency matters.

As with health care itself, health policy cannot hope to solve real problems if it does not first identify real causes.

The causes of poor health outcomes for Māori and non-Māori alike may be alleviated by good health policy, but probably not by much. Poor health outcomes, like poor educational and housing outcomes, poor welfare and imprisonment outcomes, are symptoms rather than causes.

The hand of government is heavy across all such outcomes. There is much that could be done to identify the deep causes and find out which programmes to improve matters work. What is evidently missing is the political and institutional will to undertake the necessary research.

Sadly, what this report has uncovered is obfuscation on a grand scale. Unequal outcomes are conflated with inequity and racism. Correlation is taken to be causation. Materiality is merely asserted. On the assessment of more expert authors cited in this study, contentious fictions are promoted about partnership and Treaty principles. Strident assertions discourage reasoned debate.

The Pharmac Panel’s recommendations are derivative of a broader political drive to divide New Zealanders on racial lines with unequal treatment. The Panel has gone with the flow.

There needs to be a return to real concern with poor outcomes for far too many households, regardless of racial classification. It is invidious to treat people as being of different value because of their ethnicity or race.

None of this is to deny the existence of invidious and harmful prejudices that divide people into categories based on actual and perceived differences, whether they be race, colour, gender, age, religion, political views, height, weight, strength, literacy, academic attainment, and much else.

Race is a particularly harmful one. Unsupported accusations of racism are dangerously irresponsible. Those who really care about public policies to help those who are struggling will really care about doing something about the real causes. Otherwise, they are merely doing their best with symptoms, perpetuating misery instead of turning things around.

This report is not denying there is a serious problem. There is a massive welfare problem as we explained in our 2016 report, Poorly Understood, the State of Poverty in New Zealand.

Nor is this report making a case that nothing should be done. Much that is vital to do well is not being done.

Specifically, deep causes must be identified, and policy must seek to rectify them at source. Second, programmes to help people must be rigorously evaluated to determine whether they really work.

Good intentions are not good enough if people really are to be helped to live better lives. The time to identify and address real causes is long overdue.

The government implores us to trust the science about climate change.

It implores us to trust the science about Covid-19.

This report shows us that it hasn’t got scientific back-up for its expensive creation of a separate Maori Health system.

The irony is that changing from a system where there was no systemic racism has created a new one where there is.

A system with two classes of treatment, where someone with a serious illness could get lesser treatment than someone with a less serious one is a bad one.

The time for a government that bases its policies on need not race is long overdue.

There’s pain . . .


. . . and there’s farmers’ pain.

It’s funny but it’s not funny when people neglect their physical and mental health.

Farmstrong has resources to help people live well to farm well.

Covid strategy an‘immoral, incoherent . . .failure’


Jay Bhattacharya MD, PhD, is an epidemiologist, health economist, and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. and he says zero Covid has cost New Zealand dearly :

Jacinda Ardern was never the pandemic heroine she was made out to be.

Throughout much of the pandemic, proponents of Zero Covid and lockdown have promoted the island nation of New Zealand as a success story. Since the beginning of March 2022, however, this success has turned sour. Covid cases in New Zealand have exploded, with cumulative cases per capita now exceeding US levels. If New Zealand case rates continue to grow as they have in the recent past, cumulative per-capita cases will exceed those in the UK and the EU in the coming months. . . 

The early response was praised but how good was it?

Why did New Zealand succeed in those early months in eliminating Covid? It had two significant advantages that many other countries lacked. First, Covid likely first arrived in New Zealand in early 2020 – midsummer in the southern hemisphere. Although it can spread out of season, Covid has a seasonal pattern, and winter is its season. If this highly infectious virus had landed on New Zealand’s shores in its winter, the virus would have spread more readily. Second, New Zealand is an island nation with the majority of international traffic coming in through a single airport in Auckland. Shutting itself off from the rest of the world is possible in New Zealand in a way that is impossible elsewhere.

Intermittent lockdowns and lockdown harms

The Zero Covid success, however, was far from costless or complete. Closed borders meant many ex-pats faced steep hurdles returning home, even to care for sick family members. The two-month-long lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic led many to delay essential health services, subsequently causing overburdened hospital systems and long delays in medical care for tens of thousands of New Zealanders that continue to this day. Despite effectively zero community spread of Covid in 2021, the average of weekly mortality levels was higher than expected, given mortality patterns from before the pandemic.

There was economic damage as well during the Zero Covid period. New Zealand’s typically robust tourist industry collapsed as overseas visitors stopped coming. The New Zealand economy shrank by two per cent in 2020 despite Zero Covid, recovered to grow by 5.6 per cent in 2021, but shrank again in the first quarter of 2022 as Omicron cases spread throughout the nation. In July 2022, inflation reached 7.3 per cent, sharply reducing the purchasing power of New Zealanders. 

Looming over the citizens of New Zealand throughout its Zero Covid glory days was the threat of another lockdown whenever the public-health authorities found even a single case on the island. After 100 days with no community transmission, in August 2020, the emergence of a few cases led Ardern’s government to impose a stay-at-home order in Auckland and restrictions on gatherings in the rest of the country. This pattern repeated itself over and over during the pandemic, often including sharp restrictions on freedom of movement across the country. . .

The advent of vaccines towards the end of 2020 provided a way out.

Delayed vaccination rollout

When the Covid vaccines arrived in December 2020, they offered a way out of the Zero Covid trap that New Zealand found itself in. At great cost, the policy had ‘worked’, but there was no endpoint to it that did not involve isolation from the international community forever. With the advent of the vaccines, New Zealand had a way out.

In fact, the vaccine offered two possible ways out, and New Zealand needed to choose between them. On the one hand, if the vaccine could durably prevent the infection and transmission of the disease, it could be used to effectively protect the island from ever having a sizeable Covid outbreak, as long as a sufficiently large portion of the population were vaccinated. On the other hand, if the vaccine protected against severe disease and death from Covid infection, it could be used to protect high-risk people (the elderly and others). It could be used, in effect, as a tool for the focused protection of the vulnerable, as suggested in the Great Barrington Declaration, which I co-authored back in October 2020. In either case, the vaccine would enable the lifting of the lockdowns.

Despite the impetus for ending the Zero Covid policy as rapidly as possible, the New Zealand government dawdled in its vaccine rollout. While many developed countries vaccinated a significant fraction of their elderly populations by April 2021, New Zealand delayed. As late as October 2021, the Ardern government came under fire for its delays in coming to an agreement with vaccine manufacturers to obtain sufficient doses for the whole population. The government organised an ‘election-style’ vaccination drive throughout October to make up for the problem. Nevertheless, when the Delta wave of the virus hit the world, only a small fraction of New Zealand’s population was vaccinated, so the lockdown restrictions continued.

A failed herd-immunity strategy

Ultimately, New Zealand chose a strategy of vaccinating its population for herd immunity rather than a strategy that primarily focused on protecting the vulnerable and rapidly lifting restrictions. The New Zealand government set a target of immunising 90 per cent of its population as a precondition for ending restrictions. It enforced its policy by requiring large classes of workers – including police, healthcare workers and some educators – to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. It instituted the ‘NZ Covid Tracer’ application for smartphones that businesses could use to monitor the vaccination status of patrons.

Unfortunately, New Zealand bet wrongly on the vaccine-induced herd-immunity approach. The problem is that while the vaccine prevents severe disease and death due to Covid, it does not stop the disease from spreading. This fact was impossible to know with certainty in late 2020.

By late 2021, country after country with high vaccination levels experienced large waves of Covid cases. The only way this was possible was if the vaccine did not stop people from becoming infected and transmitting the disease onward. High-quality papers published in top medical journals demonstrated that vaccination protected against infection for only a few months after vaccination. Boosting with additional vaccine doses – especially in the Omicron era – also does not prevent infection.

From this evidence, it was clear that New Zealand’s herd-immunity strategy would inevitably fail. When it finally opened up, it could expect a significant wave of Covid cases, which is precisely what happened.

And in spite of being told we were being locked down to ensure hospitals weren’t overrun, nothing was done to ensure hospitals could cope.

By February 2022, like other developed countries, New Zealand had successfully vaccinated a large proportion of its population, elderly and young, vulnerable and non-vulnerable alike. The pressure on the government to relax the lockdowns was immense. Finally, even as a wave of new cases hit New Zealand in late February / early March 2022, PM Ardern jettisoned Zero Covid and adopted a ‘suppression’ policy.

Covid infections and deaths surged, and there are still thousands of new cases every day.

Evaluating New Zealand’s Zero Covid strategy

With two-and-a-half years of hindsight, a tentative evaluation of New Zealand’s lockdown-focused Zero Covid strategy is possible. On the plus side of the ledger is that New Zealand’s strategy delayed the inevitable spread of Covid throughout the population to a time after the development, testing and deployment of a vaccine capable of reducing the burden of severe Covid disease. Despite having experienced more Covid cases per capita throughout the pandemic than the US, New Zealand has a tiny proportion of the US’s Covid-attributable deaths per capita.

That is something for which we can be grateful but it has come at a very high economic and social cost.

On the negative side of the ledger is the tremendous burden on the New Zealand population that has come from being isolated from the rest of the world for such a long time, and from the intermittent lockdowns the government imposed on the population. All-cause excess deaths – below baseline levels in 2020 – shot up in 2021 and in 2022. Some weeks, recorded death rates were at 32 per cent above the norm. New Zealand delayed and reduced Covid deaths at the expense of increasing deaths from other causes. And then, of course, there are the enormous economic, psychological and additional health costs of lockdown that the population will pay out for over the coming years.

What was said to be a world-leading response was not.

The strategy itself is also not exportable to other countries. It depended on the good fortune of New Zealand being an isolatable Pacific island in the southern hemisphere. Suppose Covid had hit during New Zealand’s winter rather than its summer. In that case, it is unlikely that the March / April lockdown (instituted late relative to other countries like China or Italy) would have worked to reduce Covid cases to zero during that first wave. And, of course, not every country is located on an island in the Pacific.

After the vaccine arrived, New Zealand’s decision to use it to free itself from its Zero Covid trap and the ever-looming threat of lockdowns was smart. However, New Zealand failed to vaccinate its population with urgency, exposing its people to a full year of Zero Covid harms even after most developed countries had deployed the vaccine successfully. If the government had adopted the Great Barrington Declaration strategy of vaccinating for focused protection instead of for herd immunity, and if it had not dawdled in obtaining the vaccine, New Zealand could have been open by mid-spring 2021 rather than mid-spring 2022.

Finally, New Zealand’s strategy relied entirely on the development and testing of a vaccine outside of its borders. Indeed, the vaccines could never have been tested in 2020 and 2021 within New Zealand because there were insufficient Covid cases to run a meaningful randomised trial. In effect, New Zealand relied on the fact that other countries did not adopt a Zero Covid policy to create conditions that permitted New Zealand to escape from the Zero Covid trap it embraced until spring 2022.

Ultimately, New Zealand’s Zero Covid strategy was immoral, incoherent and a grand failure.

We have just returned from a month in the northern hemisphere.

In Spain masks were required on public transport and in pharmacies. Anywhere else people were free to wear them or not and all but a very few did not.

In the UK there were no rules and only a very small number of people wearing masks.

It is summer there and we’re in the depths of a cold, wet winter but that isn’t the full explanation of why Covid is no longer the big issue it continues to be here.

The government has turned down repeated requests for an inquiry into its response.

Could it be because it knows it isn’t the world-leading one it boasted about for so long and we’re all paying a very high cost for all its mistakes?

Rural round-up


Govt urged to listen to communities on Three Waters :

Local government lobby group slates Bill as ‘expropriation without compensation’ of assets held by authorities for their communities.

The government has lost its social licence around Three Waters reform in the face of overwhelming opposition, Communities 4 Local Democracy says.

It needs to listen to the community demanding better water reform rather than pushing forward with a plan that could deliver disastrous outcomes, the local government group said in its submission to the Finance and Expenditure committee on the government’s Water Services Entities Bill.

C4LD is a coalition of 31 territorial and unitary local authorities that was formed to develop and propose reforms to the government’s proposed Three Waters policy settings. . . 

Alliance beef and lamb fuels Commonwealth athletes :

Kiwi athletes’ medal-winning success at the Commonwealth Games has been powered by Alliance Group’s beef and lamb.

The co-operative is the official supplier to the New Zealand Olympic Committee for the games in the UK city of Birmingham.

General manager sales Shane Kingston says Alliance was privileged to supply its award-winning Pure South beef and lamb range and Lumina lamb for the protein-packed meals for the NZ athletes, their entourage and delegates.

“It’s no surprise our Commonwealth Games’ athletes turned to New Zealand beef and lamb to give them the boost they need. . . 

Redefining ‘rural’ can help tackle health disparities: study – Mike Houlahan:

Rural people have a higher mortality rate than city-dwellers and the New Zealand health system should redefine what “rural” means to ensure people who live in those areas have fair access to healthcare, new research suggests.

An article published in The New Zealand Medical Journal today argues for a review of the current “rural” criteria.

A group of authors, which included University of Otago academics, resurveyed New Zealand on an internationally recognised “geographical classification of health” (GCH) basis and then examined how well the enrolment data of two primary health organisations — one being WellSouth — matched both the old and new maps.

The methodology commonly used in New Zealand had a 70% match to WellSouth’s data, while the new geographic survey was rated almost 95% accurate. . . 

Whisky in the jar at New Zealand’s arable awards :

Many would say yes to a warming single malt whisky on one of these cold winter evenings – how about one made from purple wheat, black oats, or even black barley?

That’s the offer from Southland’s Auld Farm Distillery, awarded the Innovation title at tonight’s New Zealand Arable Awards sponsored by Rabobank in Christchurch.

Rob and Toni Auld’s enterprise – the couple also make a range of three gins from a base alcohol of oat, wheat, and barley – is typical of the diversity, entrepreneurship and commitment to quality being displayed so often in the nation’s arable sector.

Auld Farm Distillery has achieved several world firsts with their products, and that’s not uncommon from an arable sector that leads the world in several categories of the international seed market and has set world records in wheat and barley yields. Federated Farmers arable executive member David Birkett, who farms at Leeston, Canterbury, was named Arable Farmer of the Year.  . .

T and G Global lifts profit despite weather, logistical challenges :

Produce exporter T&G Global has managed to lift its half year profit in the face of ongoing supply chain disruptions and challenging economic conditions.

Key numbers for the six months ended June compared to a year ago:

  • Net profit $5.7m vs $3.4m
  • Revenue $645.5m vs $652.1m
  • Underlying profit $15m vs $10.9m
  • Net assets $563.6m vs $514.9m

T&G chief executive Gareth Edgecombe said the company had improved its financial results, despite it being a tough start to the year. . . 

Danny Bearsley wins horticulture Bledisloe Cup for 2022:

Danny Bearsley has won the horticulture Bledisloe Cup for 2022.

Danny is credited with saving the Hawke’s Bay process vegetable industry in the 1990s. This industry now processes more than 5,500 hectares of produce sourced from the Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Manawatu regions.

Danny’s horticulture career spans more than four decades. While he diversified into growing apples and kiwifruit, and fresh broccoli in the 1990s, Danny has always maintained a healthy interest the process vegetable industry.

Today, Danny maintains his involvement in horticulture through the wine industry. . .

Robin Oakley wins HortNZ environmental award:

Robin Oakley, a fifth-generation grower from Canterbury, has won a HortNZ Environmental Award for 2022.

‘Oakley’s is dedicated to continuous improvement,’ said Robin. ‘I am proud that our efforts have been recognised by HortNZ and want to share with New Zealanders the good work that is done on our farms.’

Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables grow potatoes, beetroot, broccoli, pumpkin and arable crops including grass seed, wheat, peas and maize on more than 450 hectares. They wash, grade and pack produce on site.

In recent years, Robin has taken considerable steps to reduce, monitor and manage greenhouse gas emissions, nitrogen leaching and improve soil quality, through initiatives such as the Sustainable Vegetables System project. . . 

Rural round-up


Dairy sours on false defense of EU deal – Nigel Stirling:

DCANZ claims O’Connor ignored Brexit cuts, using out of date figures to talk up a deal that won’t come close to the vaunted $600m a year.

Dairy exporters are keeping up their barrage of criticism against what they say is the Government’s failure to own up to poor dairy market access from the recent trade deal with the European Union.

The Dairy Companies Association has already rubbished the Government’s claims of $600 million in annual gains for the industry from last month’s agreement, saying gains won’t even come close to that figure.

It also accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of gifting an advantage to EU negotiators by letting slip a weakening in New Zealand’s negotiating bottom lines for meat and dairy in the final few weeks of the talks. . . 

Learning to spot the warning signs – Kathryn Wright:

Te Anau-based rural counsellor Kathryn Wright knows farmers may be dealing with many compliance issues at the moment.  But there’s one issue she says definitely needs to be in a health and safety plan –  that of how to identify and help a  person who is suffering from poor mental health.

Compliance issues.

Endless demands from the Government that seem to compound year after year. The very last thing I want to do is to lump you with more compliance issues – I am fully aware of how much frustration and even despair they can bring upon farmers.

On the other hand, there is one compliance issue that I would like to see implemented – and if not officially, then morally at least. Basic mental health knowledge, including how to identify and help another human who is suffering mentally. This should be in your health and safety plan. . . 

Iwi make a success of return to the land – Gerald Piddock:

Land once taken from them is now back in the hands of iwi who are looking after it for future generations while making it more productive and sustainable.

Pouarua Farms takes a long-term outlook when it comes to managing the land. For the five iwi who own the Hauraki Plains’ largest dairy platform, that means making decisions that will sustain the land and create an intergenerational asset.

The farms are a taonga asset for their iwi and will never be sold, says chief executive Jenna Smith.

“The outlook’s further than five or 10 years. We’re looking 50 to100 years and it’s about sustaining the land, being productive and keep it returning to the people for generations to come,” says Smith. . .

Making an impact at Young Farmers – Kayla Hodge:

James Hurst is not the quiet wee guy in the back anymore.

The Awamoko farmer has found his passion and confidence through the Young Farmers network, and has moved his way through the ranks of the organisation regionally and nationally.

Mr Hurst’s contribution has been recognised, receiving a national leadership award at the recent New Zealand Young Farmers National Awards, in Whangarei.

Growing up on his family farm, Invernia, a 2700ha beef, sheep and dairy farm in Awamoko, Mr Hurst was exposed to the industry from a young age. . .


MG wins HortNZ environmental award:

MG – Market Gardeners Ltd (MG) Auckland Branch – has won a 2022 Horticulture New Zealand Environmental Award.

“MG has won the award in recognition of its real commitment to environmental sustainability,” said HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil who presented the award at a vegetable growers’ function in Pukekohe on 27 July.

“Thanks to MG’s focus and investment, the cooperative has made a measurable long-term difference, delivering a 57% reduction in carbon emissions by converting to natural refrigerants, installing solar and diverting food waste away from landfill at its flagship branch in Auckland.”

Two years ago, MG signed off on its first sustainability roadmap, which has set the direction and defined improvement targets. This included focusing on their Auckland branch, having worked out that the bulk of their carbon emissions came from electricity consumption, refrigerants and food waste. . .

New Gore library and community centre to use wool-blend insulation :

The Gore District Council is using a natural wool blend insulation for its latest building project after copping flak from local farmers.

The new Gore Library and James Cumming Community Centre will feature wool blend insulation in the ceiling, exterior and interior walls.

There will also be woollen carpets in areas with light foot traffic

Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry said the project team opted for the wool blend insulation over traditional fibreglass products to support the wool industry. . . 


Real meat is better


An English teenager has fought back with science against her teacher’s suggestion to reduce meat consumption for the sake of the environment:

When Elsie-May Dancy’s school suggested the class eat less meat to help the environment, the youngster decided to do her own research.

For most 13-year-olds, creating a viral video to champion British farming would not be on their list of things to do in their spare time, but for Elsie-May Dancy that is exactly what she has done.

Elsie-May, from Barbon, a small village in Cumbria, is a pupil at Sedbergh School and upon hearing that her teacher had asked her class to reduce the amount of meat that they eat, she wanted to do her own research on whether giving up meat is really beneficial to the environment.

Elsie-May says: “I really cannot stop eating meat. I love it, I cannot go without it. I thought I should look into it more and ask the question, why should we stop?”

Her idea was to create a video about the subject and after a few days of research, she wrote her script, filmed and edited it and recorded a voiceover, all of which was done solely by Elsie-May.

She chose a well-known British meal – shepherd’s pie and syrup sponge – and set about showcasing where the ingredients used are sourced from and how local they are. She then dissects the sustainable aspects of a vegan meal alternative of Tofu nuggets with an almond crust and avocado dip. . . .

USA nutritionist Diana Rodgers also makes the case for animal protein:

People should make their own choices about what to eat, but need to be fully informed when they do and not rely on marketing, United States nutritionist Diana Rodgers says.

Also an author and the director of film Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat, Rodgers is in New Zealand to talk to farmers and help the animal industry push back at the messages that eating meat is unhealthy, unsustainable and unethical.

“There is no substitute to real food.” . . 

When health advice is to eat food that is as close to nature makes it with the fewest ingredients I simply don’t understand why anyone would want to eat fake food.

Since Covid restrictions had lifted, Rodgers, a regenerative agriculture proponent, says her work has been in demand especially as the world focuses on reducing carbon emissions in the livestock sector everywhere.

“It’s really intensified. There is pressure on the meat sector … it’s really complicated. I usually equate it to a game of Whac-A-Mole.”

That meant every time she put up an argument for eating quality animal products she was hit with a counter-argument.

“I might talk about about meat not causing cancer its just association studies, then someone will say it takes up too much land and I have to explain most of agricultural land can’t be cropped, it has to be grazed, its not cattle using up land its utilising uncropable land then they’ll say greenhouse gases or water use, or its wrong to kill beautiful animals, it’s a constant fight.”

Rogers believes “as a mother and dietician” eating meat and animal sources of food were really import to humans traditionally.

“It is what made humans human. There is no a good case for eliminating them.”

Animal food sources can be raised in ways that are good for the environment and improve ecosystem function, she says.

“Ethically my message on that front is there is no no-death solution to eating, all life requires death. If you want the most ethical food system it should be to raise healthy food in the way that is the least destructive to the environment — grass-fed beef fits perfectly into that.”

A major issue is the pressure and messaging young people are hit with, especially in the United States, Europe and in New Zealand, from the well-resourced alternate meat sector, she says.

“People over 40 get that meat is important but young people are really motivated by the carbon reduction idea and the nutrition argument that you can swap it out for alt meat and by doing that save the planet and still get their nutrition,” she says.

However, many alternate meat products are nutritionally inferior, ultra-processed and use extractive chemicals that are damaging to the environment and young people do not realise that, she says.

“Meat is a real food, it is unprocessed, it has nutrients that are hard to get or impossible to get from plant proteins.” . . 

I enjoy eating fruit and vegetables and quite often choose vegetarian options, but not not the highly processed, multi ingredient fake meat ones.

As there is a lot of profit to be made from the alternate meat sector, cows have become the convenient scapegoat in food arguments, she says.

“I have no problems with whatever people want to eat, it is personal choice, but environmentally, grass fed beef is way better.” 

Such a pity the dark green people with their eco-tryanical agenda have managed to convince so many people that isn’t the case.

It was particularly interesting to her as she was married to a farmer and raising vegetables using animal fertiliser in a “closed loop system” to be as sustainable as possible.

“In order to fertilise vegetables you either use chemicals or animal manure or animal blood and bone. Any truly organic system that is sustainable must have live stock as part of the mix.”

That’s another point that is ignored in the dark green agenda.

The messaging she was seeing in schools against eating meat jarred with her and drove her to write a book, Sacred Cow, which she describes as a science text, and she then made a film as a more accessible way to get her messages across.

“I wanted to bring people on to farms, to explain regenerative agriculture and why grazing animals are so important for the land, why the land needs them.”

She is aware there is a cost to eating meat and her advice is for people to eat the best meat they can afford.

“All meat is healthy it has iron and B12. Grass-fed is better for animal welfare, for the environment and there is some research that it has a slightly better nutritional benefit, but regular meat in America is not toxic.”

New Zealanders are very lucky their meat is raised on grass, she says.

“It’s the most perfect system. I can’t believe there is so much pressure to reduce carbon emissions from animals on land when they benefit the environment and sequester carbon.”

The methane from cattle is part of a biogenic carbon cycle which sees the methane get broken down, she says.

“After 10 years the methane turns into CO2 and water and gets cycled back again. What they are doing improves the environment, improves the water holding capacity of the land, increases biodiversity above and below ground, can sequester carbon and can feel a whole lot of people.”

Rodgers says farmers feel under attack, and her mission it to make them feel better through her social media platform Sustainable Dish.

“I’m trying to point out how to get that message [about sustainable farming] across as it’s very complicated to explain to the consumer.”

Complicated, and made more difficult not just by the eco-tyrants but those who have been swayed by their emotion without understanding the science.

You can check out Sustainable Dish here.



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