Deaf and mentally disabled don’t count?

July 16, 2018

Last week we learned the government had withdrawn funding for cochlear implants, this week it’s a pilot for mental health support workers:

The Government’s decision to axe a universally-supported pilot to improve the response to 111 mental health calls is nothing short of disgraceful, especially after Labour pledged to make mental health a priority, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“It has been revealed that Labour has scrapped a pilot in which a mental health nurse would attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.

“Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls. They do a good job, but are not mental health professionals so having a mental health nurse deployed to incidents with police would make a real difference.

“The increasing demand on police to respond to mental health crises is set to continue. That’s why the National Government set aside $8 million for the pilot as part of our $100 million mental health package.

“Police Minister Stuart Nash confirmed in answers to written questions the day of the Police Estimates hearing that the pilot would be canned, yet Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the hearing that police were very hopeful it would continue – in front of Mr Nash.

“Mr Nash has admitted that police are dealing with more and more mental health cases. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.

“It beggars belief that this Government would axe the potentially game-changing pilot which had universal support from those on the frontline dealing with mental health, including mental health expert Nigel Fairley who said in February that the pilot was top of his spending list.

“The Government is again wilfully disregarding the expert advice and belittling calls from police and mental health experts to improve first responder processes.

“People need more help now. The Government must listen to the experts and reinstate funding for this pilot immediately.”

The government has an inquiry into mental health underway and last week announced the setting up of a criminal justice advisory group.

I will be very surprised if both don’t find a link between lack of support for the mentally ill and crime.

Deisntitutionalisation of mentally ill people was a humane policy but it hasn’t been backed up by enough support for many of them and their families.

That is one factor contributing to our high crime and incarceration rates.

Having mental health support people as first responders would not only help people in desperate need, it would make the work of the police less difficult and improve public safety.

Both Labour and the Greens say they stand for the most vulnerable, NZ First says it stands for improved law and order, withdrawing this funding is another example of their actions contradicting their rhetoric.

It is letting down the most vulnerable and their families and will make the work of police much harder.

It is also another example of wrong priorities. Had the government not wasted money on fee-free tertiary education, good looking horses, and other fripperies there would be more than enough for the deaf and mentally disabled.


What’s more important

July 11, 2018

If you had $2.8 billion to spend you could:

  • Pay nurses, teachers and support staff more.
  • Put more money into helping children who get to school without pre-learning skills necessary to succeed.
  • Put more money into helping children further through the schools system who are failing.
  • Not have to cancel the $6.5 million boost for the cochlear implant programme.
  • Find any number of ways to help those most in need.

Or spend it on fee-free study for tertiary students that hasn’t encouraged more students; has one nothing to encourage more maori, Pacifica or people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and put subsidizing students ahead of improving the quality of teaching.

What’s more important?

Those people who have had surgery and other hospital appointments cancelled because of the nurses’ strike will know.

Those who don’t get the help they need to succeed at school will too.

So will the people who will no longer get a cochlear implant.

 


Super drink naturally better

July 6, 2018

Can an imaginary superdrink make consumers fall back in love with milk?

  • The Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) launched a marketing campaign that encourages consumers to see ordinary dairy milk in a new light — complete with sleek, futuristic packaging. The product is being marketed as “Mülü,” according to drinkmulu.com
  • The campaign appears to be geared toward the coveted millennial demographic, describing “Mülü” as a protein-rich alternative to sugary drinks that can give consumers energy before “late-night coding sessions,” “before you meet the parents,” or a “lazy Sunday movie marathon.”
  • The website also lists milk’s nutritional benefits, including 10 grams of protein, no added sugars and more calcium than seven cups of broccoli. A disclaimer on the Mülü webpage states that the product is milk, and “Mülü will not be sold in stores, but milk always is.”

For years now, the dairy industry has watched and worried as the plant-based milk craze erodes its share of the dairy case. Traditionally, the segment’s response to these upstart nut, rice, pea, oat, hemp and other alternative milk brands has been aggressive, with dairy producers pressuring the FDA to bar plant-based companies from using the word “milk.”

This stance is understandable, as non-dairy milk sales in the U.S. have risen 61% during the past five years and reached an estimated $2.11 billion in 2017, according to Mintel. Meanwhile, dairy milk’s performance has curdled . . .

With the Mülü marketing campaign, the DFA seems to be operating under a new understanding: if you can’t beat plant-based milks, steal their branding strategies. The Mülü campaign imagines what it would be like if traditional dairy producers broke from their “humble” habits and debuted “shiny new packaging” like their plant-based rivals, suggesting that dairy milk would then take its rightful place as the true superdrink.

It’s unclear if this marketing blitz will have any tangible impact on consumer perspective. The fact that Mülü won’t actually be sold in stores probably weakens the campaign’s potential power, as consumers can’t enjoy the new packaging and nutritional call-outs in person. Still, if consumers respond well to the imaginary product on social media, it’s possible that real dairy producers could roll out similar branding to differentiate and meet consumer demand for premium beverage offerings. . . 

As superdrinks go milk is naturally better than any of the artificial alternatives which are generally much higher in sugar and lower in nutritional value.

Whether the imaginary Mülü campaign works remains to be seen but it’s definitely worth a try.

You can read more about mulu here.


Rural round-up

July 3, 2018

Moves to revive Ruataniwha dam scheme – Anusha Bradley:

A group of Central Hawke’s Bay businessmen are hoping to resurrect the controversial Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme after buying the intellectual property from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council for $100,000.

The regional council spent $14 million, and four years, trying to get the scheme off the ground before the Supreme Court ruled last year it could not flood a large parcel of conservation land.

Now, a company called Water Holdings CHB has bought the intellectual property and rights to the scheme from the regional council’s investment arm.

Water Holdings CHB director Gavin Streeter said owning the assets, which included consents and modelling data, would allow the community to explore options for reviving the scheme. . .

Chance for young farmers and farm workers to have their say:

Farmstrong has developed a new online survey to better understand the pressures facing younger farmers and farm workers, and asking them what works to improve their wellbeing.

The survey is being undertaken in association with NZ Young Farmers, and is open for all under 35 year old farmers and farm workers.

We have developed two surveys, one for women and one for men. Most of the questions in the two surveys are similar, but there are some that are specific to men or women, such as the networks they belong to or the print magazines they read.

The survey is confidential and only takes about 10 minutes to complete.  It is open till 16 July 2018. . . 

Sell-out crowd for 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Invercargill:

Finalists competing in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final will arrive in Invercargill today.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the iconic agricultural contest, which was first held in Auckland in 1969.

A sell-out crowd of more than 1,000 people will pack ILT Stadium Southland for Saturday’s quiz and awards night. . .

AI and IoT changing the face of NZ dairying:

A fledgling New Zealand agritech company run by a rising Kiwi entrepreneur who has worked for Rocket Lab has raised $8 million, from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective, which is likely to result in massive changes to the nation’s burgeoning dairy industry.

Waikato company Halter will use the $8 million boost to help farms guide and manage their dairy cows by using IoT and artificial intelligence, sustainably increasing production, saving billions in labour costs and improving environmental compliance and animal welfare. . .

GlobalDairyTrade marks its 10th anniversary:

Ten years ago, Global Dairy Trade held it first online auction on the GDT Events platform with the aim of being the most credible and comprehensive provider of prices across core dairy ingredients.

By the end of June this year, GDT Events had facilitated the trade of more than US$22 billion cumulative value of dairy products to buyers from over 80 countries.

Eric Hansen, Director Global Dairy Trade says the GDT Events auctions re-wrote the rules of engagement for buying and selling dairy commodities. . .

Fonterra welcomes appointment of new Beingmate baby & child food General Manager:
Fonterra welcomes the appointment of Bao Xiufei (Bob) to the role of General Manager of Beingmate Baby & Child Food Co Ltd. The move was announced yesterday and follows a comprehensive search.
Mr Bao joins Beingmate from Royal FrieslandCampina China, where he had a successful career, including most recently, as Friso Chief Sales Officer (CSO) and Consumer Dairy Managing Director. Prior to this, he was the Sales Director at Wyeth Nutrition and held senior roles at PepsiCo and Wahaha Food Group. . .

Horticulture NZ asks growers to renew funding:

Horticulture New Zealand’s Board is asking growers to vote to renew the levy funding that keeps the organisation going, with voting papers going out today. 

A levy rate of 14 cents per $100 of sales of the fruits and vegetables covered in The Commodity Levies (Vegetables and Fruit) Order is the principal funding mechanism to support Horticulture New Zealand’s work for commercial fruit and vegetable growers. The levy expires in May 2019 and voting to renew it, or not, needs to be completed by 13 August 2018.

“The purpose of Horticulture New Zealand is: Enabling, promoting and advocating for growers in New Zealand to achieve the industry goal (a $10 billion industry by 2020),” says Board President Julian Raine. . .

Agriculture 4.0: Technologies at the heart of agtech:

‘Agtech’ has been described as the fourth agricultural revolution – a marriage of data, farming and technological innovation that will further transform the industry and help us to achieve so far unrealised levels of productivity (such as the long-sought 20t/ha wheat yield), efficiency and environmental sustainability.

3D printing

According to Dr Larousse, eight technologies are at the heart of agtech and all have the disruptive power to transform agriculture. Four of them are software, four hardware. One of them is already being practised by Alltech: after its recent purchase of the feed solutions company Keenan, it decided it could provide a more efficient spare parts service by turning to 3D printing, allowing farmers around the world near-instant access to parts from their local dealer. “But it needn’t stop there: we could also ‘print’ food from its constituent ingredients or provide robots with the means to self-repair.” . . 


GM could be greener

July 2, 2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.


Shouldn’t smoke anything in other people’s houses

June 27, 2018

Chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman has found there is no evidence that contamination from smoking meth poses a risk to health.

• Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant used illicitly in New Zealand and around the world. It is obtained either through smuggling into the country, or by being manufactured locally in clandestine laboratories (meth labs). These meth labs may be found in residential dwellings, commercial accommodation, and even vehicles. 

• A dwelling can become contaminated with methamphetamine residues if the drug is manufactured or smoked within it. Smoking usually results in much lower residue levels compared with manufacture. . . 

• Passive, third-hand exposure to methamphetamine can arise through residing in a dwelling previously used as a clandestine meth lab, or where a significant amount of methamphetamine has been smoked. Former meth labs generally have relatively high levels of methamphetamine residue on sampled surfaces (levels greater than 30 μg of methamphetamine per 100 cm2 surface area are thought to be indicative of manufacturing activity). There is some evidence for adverse physiological and behavioural symptoms associated with third-hand exposure to former meth labs that used solvent-based production methods, but these symptoms mostly relate to the other toxic chemicals in the environment released during the manufacturing process, rather than to methamphetamine itself.

• However, there are no published (or robust, unpublished) data relating to health risks of residing in a dwelling formerly used only for smoking methamphetamine. Yet, given the relatively low number of confirmed meth labs found, and the very low average levels of methamphetamine found in most houses that test positive for the drug, most New Zealanders will only ever encounter very low levels of residue that are the result of methamphetamine use. . . 

In the past meth users were evicted from state houses, now Housing NZ will let meth users stay in their houses and try to get them help.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said Housing New Zealand is a landlord for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

He said if the agency discovers a tenant is smoking meth, it will try to help them. . . 

He said the response from Housing NZ now was to treat people using meth as a health issue.

“Under the old government the policy was to make that person homeless – the worst possible thing that you could do.

“If someone’s got a drug addiction problem, you couldn’t do anything more calculated than to make them vulnerable to greater risk in their health, and in fact incurring greater expense to the taxpayer than throwing them out of their home and making them homeless.

“Housing New Zealand is a landlord … they’re not the police.

There is merit in treating drug use as a health issue and  trying to find help for addicts.

But I am concerned that this policy sends a message it’s fine to smoke in other people’s houses.

All landlords have the right to tell tenants they can’t smoke anything – legal or illegal – in their houses.

We have a strict no smoking rule in all our farm houses. One of our sharemilkers goes further, telling his staff the whole farm is smoke-free.

Property owners and employers have a right to do that.

Another thing to remember is that no evidence of harm is not the same as proof of no harm.

Science is rarely settled and regardless of what the research has found, I wouldn’t want to live in a house where people had been smoking meth.


Almost spent the lot

June 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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