Where’s the consistency?

September 4, 2018

Simon Bridges has facilitated the payment for the medivac of a New Zealand woman from Bali:

Kiwis have paid it forward by fronting $170,000 for the medical evacuation of Abby Hartley, who is in a coma in Bali.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told Newstalk ZB on Monday he was contacted by concerned New Zealanders last week who he knew “pretty well” who didn’t want anything out of it aside from helping the Hamilton family.

“They could see the money was the issue.

“They have underwritten what has happened and paid for the medevac.”

Bridges said he had facilitated the payment for the medevac with Abby’s husband Richard.

“The plane has been paid for, the medevac has been paid for. Now it’s just about when the medical right time for Abby to come back to New Zealand,” he told Newstalk ZB. . .

Hartley’s insurance company wouldn’t pay for their treatment and return to New Zealand.

The family approached the government for help but were turned down.

The government has to be very careful about bailing out people in this way.

It would be too easy to set a precedent that led people to expect public funding to extract them from predicaments.

But this government has repatriated bodies of dead servicemen and is paying millions in an attempt to retrieve dead bodies from Pike River and many more to bail out uninsured property owners in Christchurch.

Then there’s the cost of a special flight for the PM to go to Naru for a short time so she won’t be away from her baby who would have to have a whole lot of vaccinations if she accompanied her mother.

I am not going to join the critics of the Jacinda Ardern over this. Whether Foreign Minister Winston Peters could have stood in for her is a fair question. But if it was important for her to be there, the shorter the trip the better it is for Neve. If we have a PM with a baby there are going to be different compromises and extra costs.

But where is the consistency?

 


Rural round-up

August 22, 2018

Co-op directors getting harder to find: Farmlands chairman – Andrea Fox:

Attracting directors for cooperatives is getting harder the fewer there are and the bigger they get, says Farmlands chairman Lachie Johnstone as the $2 billion revenue rural services business kicks off director elections.

Three seats are up for election as two long-serving directors step down and a third, Silver Fern Farms chairman and Clutha farmer Rob Hewett by rotation seeks another term.

Leaving the top table this year are Marlborough-based Joe Ferraby, who has been a director more than 20 years, including his time on farm services company CRT which merged with Farmlands in 2013, and Bay of Plenty dairy farmer and orchardist David Jensen. . .

 

Wool protein could boost digestive health – Esther Taunton:

Work to find new uses for wool has revealed the fibre could have digestive health benefits.

AgResearch scientists have found adding wool proteins to the diets of domestic cats improved their digestive health and could potentially do the same for people. 

“There is a lot of work going on to discover new uses of wool to support the sheep industry in New Zealand,” said Jolon Dyer, AgResearch’s science group leader for food and bio-based products.

“The research is telling us that sheep wool has many useful attributes and one of those now appears to be proteins derived from the wool that could be used as a dietary supplement to improve digestion and nutrition, and therefore overall health.”    . . .

Finding a better way to achieve our sustainability goals on farm:

Charlotte Rutherford, Fonterra’s General Manager of Sustainable Dairying is always looking for new ways to support the Co-op’s farmers in achieving their sustainability goals.

This month, Fonterra marks the one-year anniversary of TIAKI – our sustainable dairying programme that helps farmers make their operations more environmentally compliant. In doing so we will also celebrate more than 1,000 Fonterra farmers who now have a tailored improvement plan to help address environmental risks on-farm. Achieving this wasn’t easy and while a significant amount of progress was made pre-Tiaki it often felt like we were trying push a rock uphill. We knew there had to be a better way. . .

eShepherd creates a virtual fence – Nicola Bell:

FARMERS across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK will soon be using world-first virtual fencing technology.

The eShepherd technology by ­agritech start-up Agersens allows a farmer to create a virtual fence and remotely monitor, muster and move cattle, using a smart phone, tablet or computer.

Just like a traditional fence, a virtual fence is used to control the location of livestock and has huge potential for beef and dairy herds. . . 

Anti-meat message hurting poor countries – Shan Goodwin:

THE push to eat less meat in developed countries is posing threats to efforts to improve livestock production efficiency in poor countries, where there is no choice but to under-consume animal foods.

This message emerged from discussions among global livestock specialists at the Crawford Fund annual conference in Canberra this week around the need to reshape agriculture to address the increasingly competing needs of the hungry and the over-nourished and the finite resources of the environment.

Anti-livestock rhetoric missed some big points about the vital role of livestock in poorer countries, according to Dr Anna Okello, associate research program manager of livestock systems at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. . . 

Third of farmed fruit and veg deemed to ugly to sell:

More than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never reaches supermarket shelves because it is misshapen or the wrong size, according to new research.

A University of Edinburgh study found more than 50 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables grown across Europe were discarded each year.

This was in part because they did not meet consumers’ expectations of how they should look.

The study was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. . .


Jury or science?

August 20, 2018

Monsanto has been ordered to pay $US 289m to a man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.

Bayer, the parent company of Monsanto, has dismissed the claims.

A Californian jury said Monsanto should have warned users about the dangers of its Roundup and RangerPro weedkillers.

Bayer completed its $66bn takeover of Monsanto in June.

A Bayer spokesperson told the BBC the two companies operate independently. In a statement the company said: “Bayer is confident, based on the strength of the science, the conclusions of regulators around the world and decades of experience, that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label.” . .

The jury ruled against the company but courts, and juries,  aren’t equipped to determine scientific facts:

I could write many lengthy posts about why that ruling is wrong. I could talk about the numerous scientific studies that failed to find evidence that glyphosate causes cancer (e.g., this large, long-term cohort study with over 50,000 participants that wasn’t funded by Monsanto and failed to find an association between glyphosate use and cancer among farmers [Andreotti et al. 2017]). I could talk about the well-established fact that the toxicity of glyphosate is quite low. I could talk about the fact that multiple well-respected scientific bodies have examined the evidence and concluded that it does not suggest that glyphosate causes cancer. I could also talk about how the one dissenting scientific report (i.e., WHO’s IARC report) cherry-picked their evidence and reached a conclusion that has been widely criticized by the scientific community. Plenty of other pages have, however, already done all of those things, so I won’t spend more time on them here. Rather, I want to discuss why trials like this one are inherently problematic. Citing court rulings is an extremely common tactic among science deniers (anti-vaccers do it all the time), but it is not a logically valid tactic because courts don’t determine what is and is not a scientific fact.

Courts and juries might be well equipped to deal with legal matters but whether or not glysophate causes cancer isn’t a matter of law, it’s a matter for science.

The first major problem is simply that juries don’t consist of experts in the relevant scientific field. As I’ve talked about before, science is complicated. It takes years of carefully training, study, and hands-on experience to learn everything that you need to know to be able to properly evaluate scientific evidence. The notion that an untrained jury is going to master that over the course of a trail is absurd. . . 

A court pits two opposing sides against each other. It is an adversarial system which aims to find the plaintiff guilty or not, it is not designed to determine what is scientifically valid and what is not.

. . . Which conclusion seems more reliable to you? The one that was arrived at by experts spending months carefully and systematically examining all of the available evidence, or the one that was arrived at by non-experts basing a decision on a comparison of two extremely biased representations of the evidence? I think that the answer to that is pretty obvious.

To be clear here, I’m not saying that scientists are infallible or that the conclusions of scientific organizations are definitive statements of reality. That would be an appeal to authority fallacy. Rather, my point is that the courtroom system is fundamentally flawed and unreliable for determining scientific facts. The fact that a jury decided that X causes Y is completely and 100% irrelevant in any scientific debate. It has no bearing on reality, and you would be crazy to trust it instead of relying on numerous high-quality studies and reviews and meta-analyses of those studies that were systematically assembled by teams of experts. Whether or not something is a scientific fact has to be determined by actual research, and a jury’s opinion about that research is irrelevant.

Scientists aren’t saying there is no risk at all form using glysophate but study after study has concluded that if used as directed it is safe.

Monsanto will appeal. In the meantime farmers and their advisors are concerned about the implications if more  glysophate bans are imposed.

THE LEADER of one of Australia’s peak grain grower bodies has said if Australia were to follow the Brazilian lead and suspend the use of the herbicide glyphosate it would ‘send the industry back to the 1980s’.

Andrew Weidemann, Grain Producers Australia chairman, said a glyphosate ban could send total Australian grain production back to around 25 million tonnes.

Over the past 10 years, according to official Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) data the total Australian winter crop has averaged around 41 million tonnes.

“A ban on glyphosate would be a disaster agronomically,” Mr Weidemann said.

“Our conditions suit the use of glyphosate perfectly, it allows us to conserve moisture in our long hot summers without the need for cultivation.

“We know that cultivation degrades our soils but without glyphosate we’ll have to go back to it as a form of weed control.”

LaTrobe University farming systems researcher James Hunt said the environmental costs of a glyphosate ban would be huge. . . 

Low and no-tillage systems conserve soils and soil moisture. They are a much greener option than conventional cultivation but they won’t work without efficient weed killers like Roundup.

As is too-often the case, emotion has trumped science on glysophate and its environmental benefits lose out to unsubstantiated greenwash.

The cost of that will be paid for by soil degradation, lower crop yields and more expensive food.

Although, the company could try this:


Coonamble Rain Dance

August 19, 2018

As the drought in New South Wales bites deeper the Coonamble community is bringing people together with a rain dance:

TIMES are tough, drought is all anyone sees on the horizon and across the media, these conditions are affecting not only farmers, but entire communities. 

However a small community in Central West NSW is focusing on the positive and recognising sometimes the best thing you can do when you are down, is come together and celebrate. 

Launched through a viral video of locals dancing up a storm, which can be seen below, the Coonamble Rain Dance is seeking donations and sponsorship to hold a ball and give locals a night off from the drought.  . .

Droughts are like a disease that slowly eats away at health and hope.

Even on smaller farms with neighbours close, it’s too easy for farmers to isolate themselves and for worry to turn into depression then despair.

The Rain Dance won’t affect the weather, but it will bring people together and lift spirits.

 

 

 


Working groups breeding working groups

August 16, 2018

First the good news – the government is providing $8.5 million to better manage freedom camping.

 . . .Recycling collection facilities, infrastructure and operating costs in Grey District will receive a $850,000 funding boost.

Westland District Council has been allocated about $780,000 for new camping facilities and to cover operating costs, education and enforcement.

Tasman District Council is set to receive $660,000 from the fund to improve tourism infrastructure in the lead up to summer.

Queenstown Lakes, Buller, Mackenzie and Waitaki district councils will receive more than $500,000 in the lead up to the tourism season, with Mackenzie and Waitaki receiving a joint payment. . .

Visitor numbers are well in excess of ratepayers’ ability to fund infrastructure for tourists. This money will be thinly spread in areas with great and urgent need but it is a good start.

But then there’s the bad news.

The working group set up to review freedom camping wants five more reviews.

One of the Government’s infamous 140 working groups has, incredibly come back with a recommendation to have five more reviews, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis’s Responsible Camping Working Group has reported back not with a plan but with a recommendation the Government reviews the Freedom Camping Act, the compliance regime, the administration system, the camping-grounds regulations and the ‘responsible camping rules’.

“That’s right. Five more reviews leading us to the extraordinary situation where we have working groups calling for working groups.

These working groups are like mushrooms, breeding more of their kind in the dark.

In a damning indictment on its lack of work in Opposition this Government came to power with so few ideas it’s launched 140 working groups and inquiries costing $170-odd million, to tell it what to do.

“Now it turns out not even those working groups have any answers and decisions are being kicked further down the road, with Mr Davis saying his ‘cross-Government plan of action’ is still off somewhere in the never-never. We’re talking two years before any major legislative change will bring relief to most popular tourist destinations, and to the communities in those areas.

“Worryingly, Mr Davis also says even those recommendations the Responsible Camping Working Group did make won’t all be ready in time for this summer’s peak influx of tourists.

“That will be hugely disappointing for a sector which generates $14.5 billion of export earnings.

It’s not just disappointing for tourism, it’s frustrating for locals who have to put up with rubbish and human waste left behind and councils who have to pay the bills for cleaning it up.

New Zealand’s natural beauty and relatively unspoiled countryside are among the reasons tourists want to come here.

Too many freedom camping, washing themselves, their dishes and their clothes in rivers and lakes, and leaving their rubbish and waste behind are damaging the environment and posing health risks.

An answer to the problems needs to be found and acted on in the next few months before the summer tourism rush starts.

“This is symptomatic of a Government that loves to set up reviews and working groups rather than actually get on and do the job. At a time when businesses are crying out for certainty this Government gives them less.

“What is Mr Davis actually doing? Tourism is a full-time profession and it deserves more than a part-time minister.

“In the meantime, the Government could pick up National MP Anne Tolley’s Freedom Camping Bill which would prohibit Freedom Camping more than 200 metres from public toilet facilities, provide more organisations with the right to restrict freedom camping, and provide for instant fines that have been issued to be collected by rental car companies. That will make an immediate difference.”

All of this could be easily implemented, could take effect and make a difference immediately.

Tourism competes with dairying as our top income earner.

We owe it to the people who contribute to that to provide them with facilities and infrastructure they need to visit without despoiling our country.


Rural round-up

August 12, 2018

Lumsden birthing centre closure prompts community anger – Tess Brunton:

The Lumsden Rural Women’s network is calling for the decision to shut its local birthing centre to be reversed.

The Southern District Health Board today announced the unit would become a maternal and child hub, where babies are only delivered in an emergency.

The DHB today released a plan that also included four other hubs to be established in Wanaka, Te Anau, Tuatapere and Ranfurly; funding support for midwives working in remote locations; and investment in technology to support care. . . 

Lessons from dairy can help NZ red meat sector develop winning formula in China:

New Zealand’s red meat sector should draw on the experiences of the dairy sector to help formulate its strategy for continued growth in the Chinese market, according to RaboResearch General Manager Tim Hunt.

Speaking at the Red Meat Sector conference in Napier last week, Mr Hunt said the Chinese market offered significant growth potential for New Zealand’s red meat sector and there was much the industry could learn from New Zealand dairy. . .

T&G Global lifts first-half operating profit 40% on improvements in pipfruit, international produce – Tina Morrison:

Aug. 9 (BusinessDesk) – T&G Global, New Zealand’s biggest fresh produce grower, distributor, marketer and exporter, posted a 40 percent jump in first-half operating profit due to improved performances from its pipfruit and international produce businesses, its two largest units.

Operating profit, which gauges the underlying performance of the business, rose to $10.4 million in the six months ended June 30, from $7.5 million in the year earlier period, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. . .

Sustainable plastic recycling solution for farmers:

As plastic waste hits the headlines again, rural recycling programme Agrecovery assures farmers and growers that it offers a complete and sustainable local solution for empty agrichemical containers and drums.

This plastic is collected from over 80 sites and large-scale farms across the country and taken to Astron Plastics in Auckland, where it is reborn as underground cable cover and building materials to prevent rising damp. . .

Tighter import rules to stop stink bug:

New treatment and cleaning rules for imported vehicles and machinery will make it harder for brown marmorated stink bug to make landfall in New Zealand, says the Ministry for Primary Industries.

MPI released the new import health standard for vehicles, machinery and equipment today. It will come into force on 1 September – the beginning of the stink bug season. . .

How Australia’s meat industry plans to flood post-Brexit Britain with products banned in EU – Josh Gabbatiss:

Australian meat industry leaders are heavily lobbying their government to put pressure on Britain to accept products currently banned under EU law after Brexit.

Among the meat products suggested for export to the UK are hormone-treated beef and “burnt goat heads”.

Ministers from both countries met last week to discuss the future of their trading relationship, amid concerns that the Australian government could force the UK to lower food standards.

It comes as a petition supporting The Independent’s campaign for a Final Say on Brexit passed 570,000 signatures. . .

Norway up to 60% crop loss :

The worst grain crops in more than 50 years.

The farmers despair over what seems to be the worst season for grain crops since the early 1960s. “Extreme situation”, says an advisor.

– I do not think the regular Joe understands what’s going on. This is an extreme situation that we have never experienced before, says grain advisor in Norwegian Farm Counsellors (Norsk Landbruksrådgiving), Bjørn Inge Rostad to Aftenposten.

The grain farmers are unevenly affected, but Rostad thinks the grain crops can be down to 40 per cent of what is normal.
Chairman of the Board in the Cereal Producers’ Organization, John Lilleborge also believes that the production is a halved on a nationwide basis. . . 

World’s first Manuka honey jar with 11 separate counterfeit measures available September:

The world’s first Manuka honey jar with eleven separate consumer security and anti-counterfeit measures is available to purchase nationwide and online on from September. Boasting New Zealand’s highest standard of Manuka honey, PURITI Manuka comes in a customised cylindrical jar with a unique lid that features a thick anti-tamper seal.

The jar and lid have the same diameter, allowing for a smooth and seamless fit and a distinctly different visual appearance. This design is unique to PURITI Manuka. The jar also features a tear strip for additional consumer security. . .


When tax goes too far

August 4, 2018

The theory of higher taxes to discourage and lower taxes to encourage is a good one.

Thus higher taxes on consumption and lower taxes on income and investments are generally to be encouraged.

However, taxing the bad can go too far and it has with tobacco.

I am anti smoking to a point just short of bigotry and don’t have a problem with taxing tobacco per se.

Price increases do generally push some smokers to quit and act as a disincentive to starting which is positive.

But tobacco tax has got so high it’s incentivising crime. That doesn’t justify the thefts but the benefits of the higher price are being outweighed by the rewards of the black market and the dangers which come from that.

The campaign for a smoke-free country needs to come up with another strategy than yet another tax increase.

More help for those who want to give up including easing restrictions on vaping would be a good start.

It should also take another tack by making smoking even more difficult.

It’s already not permitted in enclosed public spaces. That could be extended to outdoor venues such as pavement cafes, parks  and beaches.

It doesn’t have to look like Nanny-statism. It could be done not to persecute smokers but simply to safeguard the right to clean air and water for the rest of us.

Environmentalists are rightly concerned about the problems of air pollution and plastic in oceans, surely cigarette smoke in the air we breathe and butts that end up in lakes, rivers and the sea are at least as much a problem.

The government won’t be altogether keen on holding or reducing the tax because the it generates a lot more revenue than smokers cost in smoking-related health problems.

But if it is really serious about the smoke-free target it has to look beyond higher taxes.


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