Pay isn’t the problem

05/07/2022

Changing sheets and cleaning rooms isn’t usually regarded as a highly skilled job, but it’s one of many positions hospitality businesses are struggling to fill.

Allowing more immigrants in is one solution, but it’s not one to which the Minister is open:

The Immigration Minister’s comments that employers across the tourism sector are struggling to hire staff because of low wages and insecure working conditions are unhelpful, insulting to business owners and an attempt to distract from the Government’s immigration failures, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Through no fault of their own, businesses across New Zealand have battled through two years of closed borders, taken on debt, endured a prolonged lockdown in Auckland which has now been deemed unnecessary, and are now staring down the barrel of critical labour shortages.

“Hotels are having to ask customers to clean their own sheets, restaurants are closing their kitchens early, and cafes are shutting down for a couple of days a week because they just don’t have the staff.

“Immigration Minister Michael Wood’s comments that ‘employers in sectors that continue to pay low wages with insecure working conditions also need to consider what changes they will make’ are an attempt to distract from his Government’s failure to deliver the workforce we need.

“We have just under five per cent of the working holiday makers that would typically be here pre-Covid, we barely have any international students, and the essential skills category doesn’t open to applications until tomorrow.

“Instead of blaming businesses, the Immigration Minister should consider what steps he could take to make New Zealand a more attractive place to migrants by changing the immigration settings to help deliver the workers this country desperately need.”

The Minister’s answer seems to be, pay workers more which shows how little he understands business and economics.

Increasing wages without any improvements to efficiency and productivity increases costs. That will, sooner rather than later, require an increase in prices which makes businesses less competitive and can lead to failure.

Artificially increasing wages for unskilled jobs would also put pressure on wages for skilled jobs.

If there’s not a significant difference in pay between lower and higher skilled jobs, people in the latter could decide to opt for less demanding roles for not much less money.

But even businesses offering well above the minimum, and living, wages can’t attract staff:

. . . Unqualified housekeepers and hospitality staff are being paid up to $27 an hour, and some believe it will set a new and unsustainable minimum wage.

Hospitality NZ regional manager Darelle Jenkins said there were more vacant jobs in Queenstown than ratepayers and New Zealanders were not applying for them. . . 

This suggest that the pay rate isn’t the problem and that begs the question – why are so many people languishing on jobseeker benefits when there are so many lower skilled jobs that pay this well available?

But pay is the problem in health. The Immigration Minister should be giving the advice to pay more to the Health Minister.

 


H is for

04/07/2022

A post on the NZ Farming Facebook page:

So I’m listening to the news about Jacinda Ardern in the UK promoting tourism to NZ. Saying we’re open for business and want y’all to come on over. Great stuff, I’m all for tourism, its a fantastic industry. But it occurs to me she is promoting one of the most polluting, inefficient, carbon spewing, unsustainable industries there is, while heaping tax and misery on the farmers of NZ, – recognised as having some of the most sustainable, clean, green farming in the world!

Something of a hypocrisy wouldn’t you say??

Like the anonymous poster, I’m all for tourism.

But I’m even more for farming and can see the hypocrisy in the way animal emissions of methane, which is shorter lived and contributes less to warming than carbon dioxide emissions, are regarded when there’s little if any criticism of the fossil-fuel heavy tourist industry.

Hence the use of that h word that applies to a lot of politics and policy around climate change, the economy and environment.

Far too much is based on emotion rather than science.

Far too much would make us colder, hungrier and poorer.

Far too much would do little if any environmental good and at least some would do more harm.


Neat Places in Oamaru and Waitaki

25/06/2022

Neat places featured include:

Clay Cliffs

Cucina

Del Mar

Elephant Rocks

Grainstore Gallery

Inc Design Store

Steampunk HQ

Whitestone Cheese

You can learn more about what to see and do in the Waitaki District here.


Late and lax again

03/05/2022

The government is crowing about a trial of what could be a welcome addition to  the Covid-testing tool box.

New, more accurate Covid tests which return results in 30 minutes will be trialled at Auckland Airport.

Lamp (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) tests can be self-administered like a RAT (rapid antigen test), but are much more accurate.

They will be trialled at the airport, initially limited to 30 Air NZ staff, and could eventually be used in hospitals, aged care and other sectors, Associate Minister for Covid-19 Response Dr Ayesha Verrall said this morning.

“The Lucira test is shown in clinical trials to be … close to the accuracy of PCR tests, but also the convenience of being a test you can purchase and then take with you to wherever you need it,” she said at a press conference at Auckland Airport. . . 

The Lucira devices had not yet been licensed in New Zealand for broader use. But if the trial proved successful, they could one day be used by travellers.

“Potentially you could carry this test in your suitcase and … then you would know coming back into New Zealand you had the test you need,” Verrall said. 

“You wouldn’t need to run around a foreign city trying to find where you could buy a PCR test. It would be cheaper, and the airline would potentially be able to see the online verification of your test, and know your result was negative.” . . 

Faster, more accurate and able to be carried with you is good, but Sir Ian Taylor writes in a Linked in Post that Lucira could have been here much, much sooner:

OMG!!! LUCIRA. The DPMC has really gone for broke with the PR spin on the Lucira trial – if there is anyone from the media out there who would like another take on this then I am happy to chat. I’d normally write an opinion piece but right now I am focused on my day job and the staggering array of opportunities that have arisen from one, 3 day trip to the US and the NAB show in Vegas.

You won’t need to be stuck behind the DPMC’s on going strategy that make it almost impossible to get the emails you need to show that nothing they are spinning right now bears any resemblance to the truth. I have the email that was sent to the MOH in July 2020 inviting them to be one of 5 countries to be part of the trial that would reduce PCR testing from 4-5 days ( at that time) to 30 minutes. I also have their dismissive – “thanks but no thanks” reply. Happy to share.

Then there are the emails shared with Grant Robertson and Ayesha Verrall back in December of last year with information on Lucira and introducing them to the team at Lucira Health that I had been working with (with no help from the govt) to organise 20,000 doses to be sent immediately to New Zealand for a trial that could have been conducted by Terry Taylor (President of NZIMLS) in less than a week. This shipment was supported by the confidential results of intensive trials conducted by Lucira clients like Canada, Israel, and Qatar. We could have had this trial done and dusted by mid-January – if everyone in the govt hadn’t gone on the PM’s famous “well-earned break!! Then there was the interesting meeting called to discuss the plan to use Lucira – and other kiwi tech – to get kiwis home that I had prepared with the “Cross Sector Border Group” where I was told that only the govt and Air New Zealand were authorised to speak about Lucira in the future ( I introduced Greg Foran to Lucira as well) and I was asked to stop writing those “bad faith articles” about the govt.

While they have dilly dallied – we got 2,000 of the Lucira tests to Tonga at no cost and organised 65 million Orient Gene RATs to be delivered here at a time when the govt was so far behind the 8 ball they were requisitioning ours. . . .

Who do you believe – the government’s PR machine on the businessman who gets things done?

Contrary to the lines it repeats, the government’s response to Covid-19 wasn’t hard and early at the start, it certainly wasn’t hard and early with the vaccination rollout and now it’s been shown to be late and lax again with a trial of Lucira.


Award for most incompetent Minister goes to . . .

07/04/2022

Who is the government’s most incompetent Minister? There’s plenty to choose from.

Transport Minister Michael Woods is a contender for the $50 million spent on the Auckland bike bridge to nowhere and for continuing to work on the far too expensive light rail project:

While New Zealanders are in a cost of living crisis with record inflation, it is unjustifiable and irresponsible for the Government to steam ahead with their plans to build their light rail vanity project, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Documents released by Treasury today show Michael Wood’s commitment to light rail could explode to an eye watering $29.2 billion – nearly double the cost of what was announced in January, which was already a staggering amount of money at almost $15 billion.

“Treasury’s advice was scathing of the project, saying the Government should not pick a preferred option for light rail until further analysis could be undertaken – advice the Government has clearly ignored.

“Labour’s commitment to this vanity project will cost taxpayers a whopping $100 million before the next election, with no guarantee of spades being in the ground.

“The cost for this project is entirely unjustifiable and the Government needs to accept that this project is simply not worth it. Especially when New Zealanders are dealing with a cost of living crisis, which will only get worse if the Government doesn’t rein in its wasteful spending.

Kris Faafoi is a contender for the way Immigration treated families of essential workers stuck overseas and for failing to fast track residency for essential workers already here.

Immigration policies are also likely to lead to job losses in the tertiary sector:

The Government urgently needs to get international students into the country to prevent looming job losses in the tertiary sector, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Penny Simmonds says.

“Universities and polytechnics are currently considering staff redundancies as a way of coping with declining enrolments this year.

“Labour is allowing 5000 international students into the country next month – but universities and polytechnics can only access 2150 students, or 43 per cent, with the remainder of students heading to high schools, Private Training Establishments and English language schools.

“This will do little to ease the urgent staffing issues facing the sector.

“Given that student visas are currently taking Immigration New Zealand three months to process, students applying in April won’t be processed in time for semester two, putting further stress on our valuable tertiary teaching staff.

On top of that, international research now shows New Zealand is falling out of favour with international students, being ranked last among the major English-speaking education destinations in a survey of more than 10,000 people from 93 countries.

“And the effects are obvious – according to the Ministry of Education in 2019, New Zealand had about 22,000 fulltime international students paying total tuition fees of $562 million. The figures for 2021 and 2022 are estimated to be 70 per cent of that 2019 figure.

“The Government must explain what the rational is for limiting international student numbers, our fourth biggest export earner, when the border is reopening.

“It is appalling that this Government has allowed international education in this country to decline to this level. We must act urgently to prevent further deterioration in this sector and that means not restricting international student numbers coming here.” . .

He’s also fallen short as Justice Minister:

Victims of crime missed out on support they were entitled to because Justice Minister Kris Faafoi failed to sign off the criteria for a $3 million victim support fund for more than five months after the fund was announced, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Earlier this month it was revealed that zero victims were supported by the fund announced in Budget 2021, despite applications being open since July 2021.

“Labour was content to let Victim Support take the blame for this lack of delivery, but it turns out Minister Faafoi didn’t bother to sign off the eligibility criteria until November 2021 – more than five months after the fund was announced and four months after applications opened.

Rather than letting Victim Support take the rap, Minister Faafoi should have fessed up that his incompetence is the real reason why victims are missing out on support the Government promised them.

“Governments spend months finalising the Budget every year so he would have known well in advance that this fund would be open for applications from July. What is his excuse for doing nothing for over five months to ensure victims could access the support? 

“Even worse, the Police Minister has conceded agencies who are meant to advise victims of support they are entitled to were not provided information about the fund until February 2022. . .

That Police Minister Potu Williams is another contender for the silence when police were facing the protesters at parliament, silence over repeated examples of policing by consent that let gangs disregard lockdown rules and terrorise the law abiding while doing it; and her refusal to allow National police spokesman Mark Mitchell to meet the Commissioner or district commanders:

. . . He said: “I don’t think she’s [Williams is] very good at her job and I don’t think she’s across her portfolio, but for her now to use her political power and position in government to start blocking me from meetings – that’s Third World stuff … she may as well go and join the Cabinet in Somalia.” . . 

Trumping that is her denial of an increase in gang violence:

. . .Mitchell asked Williams in Parliament on Wednesday if gang violence had increased or decreased under her watch, to which she replied: “I reject the premise of that question.”  . . .

And this:

Then there’s waste in health with expired vaccines:

Thousands of meningococcal vaccines have been left to expire instead of being given to those most at risk, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“It has been revealed that 17,122 meningococcal vaccines have expired in the last two years, at a cost of $1.6 million, and who knows how many lives.

“The Ministry of Health has a strict eligibility criteria for the meningococcal vaccine, but these vaccines that were left unused could have been made available to those most at risk, to help protect them from this deathly disease.

“The lost opportunity to protect people is a tragedy and that $1.6 million that ended up being wasted could have been spent on other areas of health that desperately need it.

“Last week a meningitis petition was presented to Parliament, pleading to the Government to fund vaccines against the disease. This news will be a cold comfort to those petition supporters.

“This is becoming a concerning pattern of behaviour from Health Minister Andrew Little who has already wasted $8 million worth of measles vaccines in a botched catch-up campaign, and now he can add this one to the growing list.

“Minister Little needs to commit to making expiring meningococcal vaccines available to primary care for use inside and outside of the strict criteria to avoid a tragedy like this happening again.” . .

And the botched measles programme costing $1900 per person:

The botched $20 million measles vaccine catch-up programme is worse than it appears, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The other week it was revealed that $8 million of measles vaccines were left unused and had expired.

“However, information shows that only 11,206 people of the targeted 300,000 received the vaccine – representing a cost of nearly $1900 per person and reaching only 3 per cent of the targeted population.

“It was also revealed that Labour spent $1.8 million on public relations to frame a campaign ‘with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific people’, yet only 1181 Māori received the vaccine – a PR cost of $1,500 per person.

“Worse still, to date the programme costs show that $2.2 million has been spent on public relations while only $1.61 million was spent on actually delivering the vaccine to Māori.

“Andrew Little seems more interested in PR and spin than actually delivering measles vaccinations to Māori.

“The list of health failures is mounting under Andrew Little’s watch. He failed to deliver any extra ICU beds during a global pandemic, has completely missed every health target set and now he can add a botched measles campaign to his growing list.”

The government put so much effort, and spent so much money, justifying locking us down and persuading us to get vaccinated so that the health system wasn’t over whelmed yet did little or nothing to retain existing staff and recruit more.

That’s left  hospitals understaffed and health professionals overworked :

Their employers have warned them not to speak out but nurses say they won’t be silenced. Overworked and understaffed, they’ve told Sunday that they’ve had enough of a health system under real pressure.

The Omicron surge hasn’t helped, but there was a serious nursing shortage long before Covid struck, and now burnout and resignations are high while the pandemic shut off the supply of overseas nurses.

Nurses still on the job worry patient safety may suffer because they are so short-staffed.

Is the government listening?

No it’s not. Instead it’s going ahead with the complete restructure of the health system that will do nothing to improve pay and conditions for health professionals and nothing to improve services, and outcomes, for patients.

That would be bad enough at the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic it’s a complete waste of scarce funds and people’s focus.

While on health and the pandemic lets not forget the shortage of PPE, the delay in securing vaccines which left the rollout starting late and the RATs debacle.

Then there’s paying more and getting less in several areas.

Carmel Sepuloni has overseen an increase in MSD staff and deterioration in performance:

Our welfare system is less responsive than ever as phone wait times for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) surge, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Whether it’s superannuitants, students, people out of work, or a family who needs help to cope with soaring living costs, New Zealander’s deserve timely answers from the department responsible of administering the welfare system.

“Since 2017, the number of MSD staff answering calls has increased from 650 to 1220 people, yet the average wait time has also increased from 4 to 18 minutes, even reaching close to 40 minutes some weeks this year.

“That’s an 88 per cent increase in staff numbers, a large deterioration in performance and no better outcomes for Kiwis.  

“Appallingly, some people have waited longer than three hours while others have reported it took weeks to receive a call back.

“The cost of living crisis has increased demand for hardship grants and there is almost an extra 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit, which means preparations should have been made to cope with more inquiries.

“New Zealander’s deserve a better service given the substantial taxpayer dollars poured into MSD. Simply increasing staff numbers is not going to cut it.

“Minister Sepuloni needs to hold MSD accountable for their plummeting performance and ensures it fulfils its core responsibility to answer New Zealander’s questions and help people access their entitlements.”

Corrections is spending more money on prisoners with worse outcomes:

Taxpayers are spending more money on prisoners, yet violent crime continues to go up, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.

“New Zealand taxpayers are now spending $151,000 per prisoner, per year – an increase of over $30,000 per prisoner from 2018/19.

“Overall, there has been an increase of $139 million poured into the Corrections system over the period between 2018/19 and 2020/21, despite fewer prisoners.

“At the same time, there has been a steep decline in the number of prisoners accessing rehabilitation services. Prisoners accessing alcohol and drug programmes alone has dropped from 6311 in 2015/16 to 1065 in 2019/20 – a decrease greater than the drop in prisoner numbers.

“More money is being spent, but we’re getting worse outcomes.

“Rehabilitation is a key way for prisoners to turn their lives around, but in 2019/20 the number of prisoners taking part in rehabilitation programmes plummeted to 2399, from 5845 in 2015/16.

“It can hardly be a surprise then that violent crime is up 21 per cent since 2017, as reported by the Salvation Army, and that we have one of the highest recidivism rates in the OECD.

“This is typical for a Government who are experts at spending taxpayer money with no expectation of results.

“On top of this, Labour is taking soft-on-crime approach which is clearly not working.

“Without effective rehabilitation, re-imprisonment rates and violence will only keep climbing.”

And more is being spent on mental health for no positive results:

The mental health monitoring report out today shows that the Government’s $1.9 billion investment in mental health has delivered no benefit to Kiwis, National’s Mental Health spokesperson Matt Doocey says.

“This is emblematic of a Government that is all spin and no delivery. Labour’s only measure of success is how much it spends on things. But it needs to be about the outcomes that we achieve for New Zealanders.

“The report released today by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission reinforces what many mental health groups and services have been telling me for some time – that they’re not seeing any of the money promised for mental health and can’t point to where it’s gone.

“They have been raising these concerns with the Government for months about staff shortages and growing waiting lists, but have not received a response.

“The findings in the report also show that our specialist services are facing increased demand since the beginning of the pandemic, especially from younger people seeking mental health support.

“The Government says it has invested in the sector, yet services are harder to access. They must explain where the money has gone and why it hasn’t made a difference to improving people’s mental health.

“Making announcements with good intentions isn’t going to solve the growing mental health problems that New Zealand is facing, but strong leadership and a well-managed plan to execute change will. We need targeted spending that delivers outcomes for Kiwis.”

Then there are virtue signalling environmental policies that are nothing more than taxes that increase costs but do nothing at all for the environment:

The Government’s car tax comes into force today, piling on yet another cost for Kiwis facing a cost of living crisis, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Hardworking Kiwis will be hoping that this is just an April Fool’s joke, but sadly they will still have to live with Labour’s new car tax after today.        

“The so-called ‘Clean Car Discount’ gives a rebate for expensive electric vehicles while imposing fees of thousands of dollars on many other vehicles. For example, buyers of a Toyota Hilux* will face a $5175 tax when they first register the vehicle.  

“This will have a negative impact on our farmers and tradies who need utes to do their jobs and contribute to our economic recovery.   

“The Government is penalising farmers and tradies for their choice of vehicle despite there being no viable electric ute available. Even Toyota had to correct the Prime Minister last year that it has no plans to bring an electric ute to New Zealand within the next two years.

“LDV will have an electric alternative, the EV-T60, coming from China later this year. But it is two-wheel drive and can only haul a max of 1,000 kgs for 162km. This is not enough to meet farmers’ needs, who need strength and reliability.

“While the Government gives with one hand, by temporarily reducing fuel taxes, it takes with the other by imposing the Auckland regional fuel tax, a car tax, and is now proposing a biofuels mandate which will further increase the cost of fuel. 

“All of these policies drive up the cost of living for motorists struggling to get by under rapidly rising inflation and fuel prices.

An environmental and transport failure is the train from Hamilton to Auckland:

The Te Huia train today marks its first birthday with news that it has spent more time off the tracks than on them, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There is not a lot to celebrate about this service which has failed from day one.

“Not only has the train spent more time off the tracks than on them over the past 12 months, taxpayers have poured $98 million into a service which very few people use and which takes much longer than driving between Hamilton and Auckland.

“Furthermore, research produced by the Waikato Chamber of Commerce shows that based on current passenger numbers the train actually emits more carbon emissions than someone who drives their petrol or diesel vehicle between these two cities.

“Patronage is significantly lower than what it was when the service started despite repeated calls to ‘build it and people will come’.

“This painfully slow train is simply not fit for purpose. It doesn’t achieve the outcomes that the Government claimed it would one year ago.

“The Transport Minister is so completely focussed on his legacy projects, he is prepared to waste almost $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a train that isn’t fit for purpose and hardly anyone wants to use.

“Quite frankly this is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money which would be better spent on extending the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.”  

If all this isn’t bad enough, there’s the incompetence with funding the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) 

The Auditor General’s Report on the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) confirmed what many businesses have been saying – that this Labour Government has been biased and unfair, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Every tourism business in New Zealand has done it tough over the last two years and this report has shown that this Labour Government favoured some and left others to suffer.

“In May 2020 the Government and former Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis opened a $290M fund for struggling tourism businesses. When applications opened, some businesses were accepted without any evidence that they were in financial difficulty, and didn’t have to go through the same process as other businesses.

“The Government seems to believe that only Queenstown exists when it comes to tourism in New Zealand, when in reality there are tourism operators up and down the country who are suffering just as much.

“In typical Labour fashion, they simply threw money at a problem without having a well-managed plan. Current Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has blamed the uncertainty of Covid-19 for these mistakes, but the reality is they failed to think things through at a time when tourism businesses needed them most.

“New Zealanders deserve to have a Government who are responsible with their spending, but this Labour Government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to make wise or fair spending decisions.

“I am calling on Minister Nash to find those funds that were given out incorrectly, take them back and redistribute them to all Kiwi tourism operators so that they can open up quickly for international tourists.”

Bryce Edwards says the report raises questions of integrity:

Was political favouritism involved in the dishing out of millions of dollars by government ministers to tourism businesses? We can’t know, because the Government didn’t keep sufficient records or have proper processes for the handouts. That’s the obvious question arising from a scathing report released by the Auditor General on Thursday, which has received far too little attention.

The Auditor General’s report investigates a scheme set up by the Government early in the Covid crisis (May 2020), called the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme. The report is one of many that have criticised government procedures during Covid for their lack of integrity. . . 

Harman draws attention to the fact that there have been a number of other reports from the Auditor General’s office that have pinged the Government for poor processes in regard to government departments dealing with private vested interests during Covid – especially the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development.

Of course, one of the most problematic has been the multi-billion-dollar Wage Subsidy Scheme, which was seen to be poorly designed and administered.

There’s a theme building up from these reports – that of crony corporate welfare getting out of hand in recent years. This is one of the blind spots in New Zealand politics and society. Recent governments are prone to giving generous subsidies to business interests, often without any great systems of integrity or best practice. And unfortunately, the public never seems to mind much when it becomes apparent.

It could well be that New Zealand is just too eager to believe the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index results that show this country to be the least corrupt nation on earth. In ignoring reports such as this latest from the Auditor General, the Government is undermining that status.

On the subject of Ministerial oversight of money wasted, there’s plenty to choose from :

So much incompetence, it’s hard to choose which is worse but there’s one person who is supposed to be on top of all the portfolios and those presiding over them. That’s Jacinda Ardern.

Would any other recent Prime Minister have tolerated this litany of laxness from Ministers? Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark? No.

There’s a lot more to leadership than announcing announcements and serving word salads no matter how caring they sound.

Ensuring Ministers are up to the jobs they’re supposed to be doing and holding them to account if  and when they fall short is a very important one by which measure of competence this PM falls short.


The Lost Country of the Pacific

11/01/2022

It’s Australia, but it could also be New Zealand.


Rural round-up

20/11/2021

New twists to carbon farming – Keith Woodford:

Each time I write about carbon farming, I think it will be the last time I do so for quite some time. But then something new comes up and there is a new twist to be explored. Right now, there are two new twists, potentially pulling in different directions.

First, just prior to the COP26 talkfest in Glasgow, James Shaw and Jacinda Ardern issued a joint press release stating that New Zealand will increase the carbon targets to be achieved by 2030. The specifics are more than a little obscure, but the increase is going to be considerable.

The changes are made more complex by changes in the accounting methods. Here, I am talking about carbon accounting, not dollar accounting. 

Sometimes the Government talks about gross emissions that do not include forestry offsets. Sometimes the Government talks about net emissions after allowing for offsets. And sometimes the Government compares different time periods using what is called ‘gross-net’, which gets even more confusing. . .

Isolated rural police face burnout, lack of support – IPCA review:

An Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report has highlighted major issues in the resourcing of small community police stations, with some officers saying they are close to burnout.

The review was done after several people in communities with a one- or two-person police station complained about the way their local officers dealt with them.

The IPCA selected 12 small communities across the country, and interviewed the local officers and residents.

It found officers enjoyed the challenges of working remotely but felt they were constantly on call, and the remoteness made it more difficult for them to access relief or backup. . .

Will New Zealand workers save Central Otago’s summer harvest?  – George Driver:

As the fruit harvest season nears, orchardists are again raising the alarm of an impending worker shortage. So will enough of us head to the country this summer to pick Central Otago’s crop?

Every year I said it would be my last. Every year I came crawling back.

From the age of 14, I spent a decade of summers picking stone fruit under the searing Central Otago sun. I was fortunate to have been born into the iPod generation, but all of the audiobooks on Napster couldn’t stave off the boredom of fruit picking. Working 7am to 4pm seven days a week atop a shuddering Hydralada would put me into fatigue-induced stupor that enveloped every summer of my youth. The only reprieve was the sound of rain on the corrugated iron roof that signalled a long awaited day off.

But for a teenager working at a time when youth rates meant the minimum wage was a little over $7 an hour, the pay was unbeatable. . .

Farm walks lose bookings with Aucklanders unable to travel – Susan Murray:

Private farm walks are taking a financial hit due to cancellations from Aucklanders unable to travel, with some losing 40 percent of their bookings.

Farm walks have blossomed in the past couple of decades as more farmers have looked to diversify farm income and showcase less publicly accessible land.

Shaun Monk runs the the Island Hills Station Walk (formerly called Hurunui High Country Station Walk), a two- to three-day track in North Canterbury.

Monk said he had lost 40 percent of the early season bookings. . . .

Mediaworks join NZDIA national sponsor family :

New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) are pleased to announce an exciting new addition to their National sponsor family.

NZDIA General Manager Robin Congdon is rapt to welcome MediaWorks and is looking forward to working with them to extend the programme’s reach in the traditional rural sector and others via more mainstream channels.

“Just as the dairy industry is evolving, so are the people working in it and we need new ways to connect with our entrants. . .

Celebrate and be in to win with NZ FLowers Week November 22-26:

Spring time is celebration time for the local cut flowers industry and during NZ Flowers Week flower lovers all over the country are invited to join the party.

From Monday November 22 through to Friday 26 the resilience, passion and skill of industry players, from growers to floral retailers will be acknowledged and just as importantly, their customers too.

For the sixth year in a row the event’s organisers Feel Good With Flowers have created a big bunch of great opportunities for people to revel in the beauty of quality, NZ-grown blooms and foliage, and have a chance to win prizes from a pool totalling $30,000.

During the week Feel Good With Flowers will be asking the NZ public to purchase blooms and bouquets from their favourite florists and support them using hashtags #supportlocalflowers and #nzflowersweek2021. . .

Comvita and For the Love of Bees launch a new partnership to help create a world where bees thrive :

Comvita and For The Love of Bees launch a new partnership to help create a world where bees thrive

Comvita, global market leader in Mānuka honey, has today announced a major partnership with social enterprise, For The Love of Bees (FTLOB), which will see the two organisations working together to protect these vital pollinators and the natural ecosystems they live in.

Since its establishment in 1974, Comvita has been guided by its founding principle of Kaitiakitanga, or guardianship and protection over nature – building on co-founders Claude Stratford and Alan Bougen’s passion for connecting people to nature, while caring for the environment. . .


Rural round-up

29/10/2021

Tourism reset would hurt agricultural exporters :

The Government’s proposal to reduce future international tourism visitor numbers post-COVID to concentrate on higher spending visitors may solve one problem but create others.

Research by Lincoln University’s Dr Rob Radics, Dr Muhammad Umar, and Associate Professor Anthony Brien, highlighted that most of our agricultural products delivered fresh to market are transported on passenger planes, and tourists contribute to the cost.

The drop in tourism numbers could push up transport costs to the point some businesses do not export at all and are put out of business.

Their work showed that before COVID-19 hit, there were 550 international flights into and out of New Zealand each week, which carried 80% of New Zealand’s overall export airfreight in their belly-holds, and that it was worth $10.8 billion in December 2019. . . 

A fillip for farmers from Fonterra’s milk-payment forecast – Point of Order:

In    a  timely   boost  to  the  rural regions,  Fonterra has raised its forecast milk payment to farmers for this season to match its previous record high  of  8.45kg/MS, as demand for dairy holds up while supply tightens.

The giant co-operative lifted and narrowed its forecast farmgate milk price range for the 2021/22 season to between $7.90 and $8.90kg/MS from the  initial $7.25 to $8.75  kgMS.

The midpoint of the range on which farmers are paid increased to $8.40 kg/MS, from $8 last  season.  That would match the previous record, paid in the 2013/14 season, and would result in almost $13bn flowing into regional New Zealand.

The  country is heading into its peak milk production period in late spring and output so far is below last season, constrained by poor weather and limits on expansion. Milk production is also soft elsewhere, because  of  poor weather and high feed costs. . . 

Log exports to peak before dropping more than a third within decade – Forsyth Barr – Nona Pelletier:

Major changes are looming for the forestry sector as the deluge of raw log exports fades amid dwindling supplies and demands increase from the building industry and other users.

An industry report by investment house Forsyth Barr suggests the mainstay of the industry, log exports, will peak and then drop by more than a third within a decade.

“Export volumes will peak by 2026 then decline as insufficient planting activity after the 1990s boom means total harvest volumes will fall,” report author and head of research Andy Bowley said.

“The use of wood domestically is undergoing a transformation through the use of trees to sequester carbon, power boilers and as a low carbon building material alternative.” . . 

Primary sector returns strengthen export-led recovery:

Farmers’ hard work in leading New Zealand’s export-led recovery from COVID-19 is being rewarded with high prices forecast for milk and very strong returns for meat, says Trade and Export Growth and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

Fonterra announced today a record predicted milk price of $7.90 to $8.90 for the coming season. The mid-point of $8.40 would match the previous record set in 2014. The announcement follows continuing high demand for NZ-grown meat.

“Our farmers and growers have been working hard maintaining their volumes and together, through the COVID response, we’ve been able to keep supply chains ticking and freight links open,” said Damien O’Connor.

“The resilience of all export sectors is vital to our ongoing economic strength. Just as we aim to have diversified export markets, we’re also focussed on growing all our export sectors.” . . 

Pāmu and Westpac NZ agree market- leading sustainability-linked loan :

Westpac NZ and Pāmu have signed New Zealand’s most comprehensive Sustainability-Linked Loan to date, also the largest in the agricultural sector, and the first involving a state-owned enterprise.

Pāmu, also known as Landcorp, is New Zealand’s biggest farming business. It will borrow $85m from Westpac NZ over three years. To incentivise continued improvement in sustainability performance, Pāmu will receive a pricing discount from Westpac NZ if it meets material and ambitious performance targets and pay higher interest costs if it fails to reach them.

It is the first Sustainability-Linked Loan in the agricultural sector to include a 1.5-degree Science-Based emissions reduction target that will be validated against global best practice. . .

Farm 2050 coalition names first five nutrient technology trial startups :

 Finistere Ventures and Innovation Endeavors today revealed the first five companies selected for the Farm2050 Nutrient Technology Trialing Platform, a dual-hemisphere agritech testing and validation platform. The Farm2050 Nutrient Trialing Platform aims to identify, validate and demonstrate at scale promising technologies in nutrient management and water contamination reduction across broad acre crops, horticulture and pasture-based dairy in collaboration with agritech investors, farmers, researchers and startup companies around the globe.

The innovators chosen for the first wave of trials in New Zealand include:

– ClimateAi, which uses AI to tackle climate risk across the food supply chain

– CropX, an established farm management platform with soil sensing and nitrogen monitoring solutions. . 


Rural round-up

13/06/2021

Rising stars of primary industries acknowledged:

A 50 percent jump in the number of nominations for the 2021 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards underpins the amount of innovation and leadership going on in the sector and growing awareness of the need to celebrate it, Terry Copeland says.

The Federated Farmers of NZ chief executive said from 65 nominations, up from just over 40 last year, judges have had the tough task of selecting finalists in seven categories. Winners will be announced at the PINZ Summit in Christchurch on 6 July.

“With a whole set of gnarly challenges in front of us – from global warming, biosecurity threats, cost pressures and demand for more community water storage, to name a few – robust science, entrepreneurial spirit and cross-agency teamwork is needed,” Terry said. . .

Farmers need to better prepare to deal with the barrage of regulations aimed at the sector – Mike Cranstone:

Farmers need to consider how they can have a stronger voice to represent their industry as it faces an endless barrage of regulations.

To be effective, agriculture must identify who it should be lobbying, and what messages are going to garner support. It needs a strategy rather than ad hoc responses, and we need to resource it properly, so we have a serious crack at defending the future of our industry.

The threat is not only to agriculture but to New Zealand’s future prosperity, this is too important for us to continue bumbling along.

Agriculture is facing rules and restrictions on many fronts; Freshwater, biodiversity, animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions and also bearing the brunt of rampant local government rate rises. . . 

Maple syrup in New Zealand: Trial aims to test sap production :

A trial near the Canterbury village of Hanmer Springs aims to see if maple syrup can be produced in New Zealand.

A small plantation of maple trees was planted there last autumn by the University of Canterbury.

Despite Canada’s freezing winters playing a pivotal role in its maple syrup production, research team lead Professor Matt Watson believes sap production can happen here.

“We planted our first maple saplings near Hanmer Springs last autumn and will coppice-prune them to keep them small. . . 

 

Vero urges Canterbury farmers affected by flooding to use mental health benefit on their insurance:

Vero insurance has today urged its rural customers affected by flooding in the Canterbury region to make use of the mental health benefit available on their rural insurance policies.

“The flooding in Canterbury is having a significant impact on our rural insurance customers, with inundation and damage to farming infrastructure like fences, pump and other farm assets and buildings,” says Chris Brophy, Executive Manager SME and Rural Insurance.

Brophy says that a large number of the 350 claims Vero has received due to the storm so far have been from rural customers, and that it expects the number of claims to increase further. . . 

Tough times for wine tour guides ’it is what it is’ :

The border opening with Australia has done little to re-invigorate the fortunes of Marlborough wine tour guides.

Marlborough Wine Tours used to take about 3000 mainly international guests around the region’s vineyards and cellar doors each year.

But this season it was down to less than a fifth of its normal clientele.

Guide and operator of the business Jess Daniell said guides were having to find other work. . .

Premer and Tambar Springs growers unite to tackle alarming wild pig problem – Lucy Kinbacher:

Growers on the Liverpool Plains have eradicated at least 1500 wild pigs in just four months, saving the district around $100,000 in damage.

While the mouse plague dominates headlines right now, this year local farmers around Premer and Tambar Springs faced an even bigger threat to their high yielding crops.

But when Local Land Services surveyed the district about the issue they found they lacked a combined pest management approach against pigs.

It wasn’t until 20 landholders gathered at the Premer pub to hear from Central West Local Land Services biosecurity officer Will Thorncraft that they decided to establish a pest management group and join with National Parks and North West LLS to tackle the problem. . . 

 


Rural round-up

08/05/2021

Sheep and beef farms are getting squeezed – Keith Woodford:

The sheep and beef industry is getting squeezed from all sides, yet export returns exceed $7 billion.

I decided recently that it was time to take a closer look at what is happening on sheep and beef farms. The underlying motive is that I have been giving thought as to what the sheep and beef industry, which contributes around $7 billion of export income each year, might look like in another ten or twenty years. But before getting too immersed in that future, I needed to make sure I understood the present and how we got to where we are now.

When I left school a very long time ago, I had in mind that I wanted to be a sheep farmer myself. As a school boy, I used to peruse the advertisements each weekend in Saturday’s newspaper and figure out what a farm for 1000 ewes plus young stock and a few beef cows would cost. The land cost was around 20,000 New Zealand pounds, with this converting subsequently in 1967 to around $40,000. The figure now is about 30 times that, perhaps more, before taking into account that 1000 ewes would no longer be anywhere near enough for a living. . . 

Two big announcements awaited from Fonterra – one deals with dairy payout, the other with the co-op’s capital structure – Point of Order:

So what  are  the  chances Fonterra’s  payout  to its farmer-suppliers  could  top  $8kg/MS the  soon-to-end  current  season?

That would give a  timely  boost  to  the  rural economy  and give  farmers  the kind  of  surge  in incomes  which  would encourage them  to  step up the  pace  of  adapting their dairy farming practices as  the  country  moves  to meet its  climate  change goals.

In March, Fonterra raised its forecast milk price for this season to between $7.30 and $7.90kg/MS with a mid-point of $7.60. That was up from $7.14 last season.

But now, after several  good  results  from the fortnightly GDT auctions, and indications from futures contract prices, the  speculation  is that the payout  could go  higher. . . 

Farms hidden economic vulnerability revealed – Jonathan Milne:

A new stress test reveals just how exposed our farmers are to labour shortages, drought or a downturn in commodity prices.

Milk prices are high and times seem good for dairy farmers – but the Reserve Bank warns half of dairy farms face debt restructuring if milk solid prices drop back below $5.50/kg.

Dairy is just one of the primary production sectors where pockets of high debt create real economic exposure – for farming families, provincial communities and the economy.

While still relatively small, banks’ lending to horticulture producers has maintained a solid growth rate, increasing 11 percent in the year to March. Banks should continue to monitor associated risks, including the sector’s vulnerability to labour shortages and severe weather events, the Reserve Bank says in its first Financial Stability Report this year. . . 

Should rabbits be on the LIM report – Jill Herron:

It’s a dream lifestyle in a dream location, but owning property in Central Otago often comes with an expanding family of unwanted guests. Should real estate agents be telling prospective buyers about the rabbit problem?

World famous for its breathtaking landscape, skifields, wineries and pristine lakes, Central Otago is also fast becoming notorious for its pest population.

And those buying into the lifestyle dream need to be aware of what they are taking on, according to long-time real estate agent, Edwin Lewis.

The fact the costly, destructive and incredibly persistent pests accompany most purchases is proving a rude shock to many newcomers throughout the region. . . 

Minaret Station PLUS an amazing West Coast wilderness experienceJane Jeffries :

Arriving at the Alpine Helicopters hanger in Queenstown, I was full of anticipation for our three days at Minaret Station. I’d read about this property and have always had an inkling to go. Now three nights for the price of two, thanks to Covid, we are on our way. This much talked about Minaret luxury lodge, set in a glacial valley in the Southern Alps, is seriously remote. We had to chopper over some of New Zealand’s most inaccessible, jagged terrain to get there.

The well-known Wallis family are at the heart of this working farm. They are acknowledged in the Central Otago community for their contribution to aviation, farming, deer exporting and tourism. Sir Tim Wallis was one of the great deer farming pioneers. As a young man, his love of the land, aviation and adventure lured him into the helicopter business. He pioneered live deer capture from helicopters which lead to a significant industry in New Zealand. His nick-name, ‘Hurricane Tim,’ was well-earned for his daring flying and would not be approved by OSHA today!

As the helicopter fleet grew to support the commercial and agriculture arm of the family business, they decided to diversify into tourism. They started offering scenic flights and heli-skiing in the South Island in the 1980s. Then, in 2010 they opening the doors to the Minaret Alpine Lodge. The family wanted to share the beauty of the 50,000-acre working farm, home to some 12,000 deer, 1,300 cattle, and 1,000 sheep. . . 

Ravensdown appoints national agronomy manager:

Ravensdown has appointed Will Waddell as its new National Agronomy Manager. Will’s responsibility will be enhancing the co-operative’s service in seeds, agrichemicals and agronomic advice.

The new role leads a nationwide team of nine specialist agronomists supported by a product management team of four and benefits from Ravensdown’s partnership with Cropmark Seeds.

“I look forward to supporting and leading our talented team of agronomists to bring practical and innovative farm systems solutions to our shareholders as we respond to environmental and social needs,” says Waddell.

General Manager Customer Relationships Bryan Inch congratulated Will Waddell on his appointment to the newly created position. . . 


AG Minister foot in mouth

20/03/2021

What’s happened to kindness?

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says Covid-19 has taught the tourism industry “not to be so cocky” after a slump in international tourism saw it lose its spot as the top export earner to the dairy industry.

“We have just gone through an amazing 12-month period in our country where we have learnt a lot about ourselves, as people, as a community and as sectors and industries,” O’Connor told an audience of agricultural leaders and politicians at Central Districts Field Days in Feilding on Friday.

“The tourism industry learnt not to be so cocky, that’s not to go around saying how great they are and how big they are, cause it can change,” said O’Connor, who has previously held the role of tourism minister. . . 

Was the industry ever cocky?

And the industry isn’t a single entity, it’s a collection of businesses big and small, many out of the main centers where the jobs it sustained also sustained the communities.

The workers were also volunteers in fire brigades and ambulance services, they bought fuel at the local petrol station and supplies at local shops, their children went to schools which employed teachers.

There were legitimate questions about whether there was too much of a good thing, especially its impact on sensitive natural areas.

But we all got to enjoy the benefits of the export income it earned and the jobs it created.

Many of those tourism businesses, other businesses and services that supplied and supported them and their staff, and whole communities are now under threat because the government shut our borders.

Doing that prevented the widespread devastation that Covid-19 has brought, and is still having, in many other countries.

But the government’s reluctance to safely open borders to countries like Australia is costing jobs and businesses.

The only cockiness is from the government that is basking in international adulation and a minister suffering from a very bad case of foot in mouth disease.


We only want the wealthy?

19/11/2020

Imagine the uproar if a National or Act minister suggested New Zealand should be the preserve of only wealthy tourists.

. . . Nash said too often ratepayers and taxpayers have picked up the bill of the impact of tourism on infrastructure and the environment.

He said the full cost of tourism needs to be priced into the visitor experience.

“New Zealanders should not be subsidising international visitors to the extent that we have done in the recent past,” he said.

“I have asked officials for innovative solutions to minimise the costs to New Zealanders of tourism. This includes ensuring visitors pay for the privilege of participating in the New Zealand experience.” . . 

Isn’t that what the border tax and GST do?

“We must attract high value and high spending visitors who buy into our own vision of sustainability. We must therefore deliver high quality visitor experiences and exceed our visitors expectations,” he said.

Nash said some freedom campers have abused New Zealanders’ renowned hospitality.

“I firmly believe that the low-spending but high-cost tourist is not the future of our tourism industry.”

He is right about the problem. Some people have abused our hospitality but how would he keep the unwanted ones out?

Drafting out the low spenders as they come in won’t work. It might be possible to find out how much they’ve spent on pre-paid bookings but not how much more they’ll spend while they’re here.

Could he be planning to vet what tourists have spent before they leave the country and charge those who haven’t spent enough? No.

One of the Minister’s plans is to ban vans that aren’t self-contained :

“We get all these vans driving round at the moment that are not self-contained, so if the driver or the passenger wants to go to the toilet – we all know examples of this – they pull over to the side of the road and they shit in our waterways.

People in cars and on bikes can be caught short too even though it’s rare to travel more than an hour or two between public loos. But it’s not those travelling from A to B who have caused most of the problems, it’s the ones who stop and camp where there are no facilities.

“So what I am saying for example is a first cut, these vans that are hired out … we will look at regulations to stop this, you will not be able to hire a van that is not self-contained. . . 

This won’t stop people travelling in cars and pitching tents where they will. Nor will it stop people buying cheap vans to camp in and there will be plenty of them if rental companies are banned from hiring them out.

“What I’m saying is, all our marketing effort will go into high net worth individuals who are looking for a piece of paradise at the moment as they sit in lockdown in New York or London.”

Does he think lower net worth people won’t be exposed to the advertising and be tempted to come too?

There’s no doubt that the steep increase in tourism has had some very unpleasant consequences and some of that was due to freedom campers who didn’t dispose of their rubbish and waste properly.

Some councils tried to mitigate that by providing freedom camping sites but not all those travelling in vehicles that weren’t self-contained used them and camping ground owners were justified in objecting to their rates subsidising their competitors in this way.

The Covid-19 induced collapse in overseas tourism has provided time to work out solutions to the problems caused by freedom campers and the Minister is unlikely to find opposition to his desire to solve them.

But an only-the-wealthy-are-welcome campaign should not be part of the plan.


Jumped or pushed?

02/11/2020

Kelvin Davis has ruled himself out as deputy Prime Minister:

Whether he jumped or was pushed it is the right decision.

His inability to deal with the media and question time that was so evident in the last government would be even more of a problem if he was deputy PM.

The tourism industry will also be hoping that either he’s ruled himself out of that portfolio or the PM rules him out.

He’s been almost invisible while the sector has been dealing with Covid-19’s decimation and needs a minister who will listen to and work with them.


Shareholders should be first call

16/09/2020

The Taxpayers’ Union says the taxpayer funded lolly scramble for tourism ventures is morally wrong:

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The latest round of funding by the Government’s COVID-19 tourism rescue package demonstrates how completely arbitrary, unfair, and wasteful this corporate welfare programme is.”

“The lucky recipients include river cruise companies, spa resorts, and helicopter tour operators. While we’re sure these companies have struggled with effects of the pandemic, so have their competitors who aren’t getting handouts.”

“While 130 applicants were successful, another 170 were turned down, and many more potential applicants would have lacked the knowledge or confidence to navigate the bureaucratic grant process. When politicians give taxpayer money to select grant applicants, they distort the market, rewarding companies that devote resources to impressing bureaucrats, and making it easier for those companies to put their self-sufficient competitors out of business. That’s not just wasteful, it’s morally repugnant.”

“We’re calling on all political parties to pledge an end to ad hoc COVID handouts, and instead introduce fairer, less discriminating measures. For example, a temporary cut to GST could motivate New Zealanders to bring forward their holiday plans and spend more. Alternatively, lower excise tax on petrol could make the Kiwi road trip great again.”

A government who took seriously the knowledge that every cent it’s spending is borrowed would not be throwing money at businesses in this way.

Most businesses involved in tourism will have been, and continue to be, hard hit by the impacts of Covid-19 and our closed borders. That isn’t an excuse for giving some money that allows them to compete unfairly with others that missed out on, or didn’t apply for, grants.

What will the money do and what will the businesses do if/when it runs out and the border is still closed?

The responsibility for the viability of these companies is first and foremost that of their shareholders, not taxpayers.


Where are you now?

30/05/2020

Mountain Scene editor Tracey Roxburgh asks a very good question: Dear Minister, where the hell have you been?

Dear Kelvin,

I know you’re busy and all, but I just had one quick question for you.

Where, exactly, have you been?

Or, perhaps, more to the point, as Minister of Tourism, what – aside from tasking Tourism New Zealand to come up with a domestic marketing campaign – have you been doing to support NZ’s tourism industry?

Here’s the thing.

Please forgive me for being blunt – it’s been a tough couple of months and, like many, I’m running low on sleep and patience – but you seem to have been dumbfoundingly quiet. . . 

The whole piece is worth reading, it finishes:

This, Kelvin, is your job.

There are thousands of people in our community who were doing theirs, extremely well, until two months ago.

Now they have no income and no idea when, or from where, they’ll get their next pay cheque.

Some of them will lose their homes, Kelvin.

And, with the utmost of respect, sir, you look like you’re asleep at the wheel of the tourism industry.

Todd Muller was right when he talked about the few heavy lifters and all the other empty chairs round the cabinet table.

The Tourism Minister’s is definitely one of those. You could add the Small Business one too.

It’s closely related to tourism and both Ministers should have been not just working with their sectors, they should have been seen to have been working with them.

Some 1,000 jobs are being lost a day, most of those from small businesses and many from tourism, and it will get worse.

The answer to what have you been doing? is not nearly enough.

Is that likely to change?

If the gaping gaps between promise and delivery on almost everything else this government promised, it won’t.


If this was Foot and Mouth

17/03/2020

The impact of Covid-19 on tourist businesses is similar to the impact Foot and Mouth disease would have on farming.

If it was a Foot and Mouth outbreak all infected stock and would be culled; road blocks would be set up around the infected area; and all vehicles would be checked to ensure they weren’t transporting animals or raw meat.

I’m not suggesting culling people, but I am questioning whether the government’s response to Covid-19 has been strong enough, as it would if this was Foot and Mouth.

Requiring anyone arriving from overseas to self-isolate for 14 days is good in theory, but how  is it working in practice?

How can you stop a tourist from going to supermarkets or restaurants, visiting attractions, taking part in  activities?

How can you keep returning residents and citizens at home?

We can’t just rely on being geographically remote to protect us.

My daughter has cancer which makes her vulnerable and she has good reason to be scared.

Our health system is over-stretched already.

It won’t cope if the disease becomes wide-spread and we all have to play our part in making sure it doesn’t.

Morgan, a young woman with cancer has a message for those too healthy to worry about Covid-19:

Lucky you, but this isn’t about you. This is about me and the millions of other Americans with underlying health conditions that leave their immune systems compromised. This isn’t about whether or not a healthy person will quickly recover from a virus. This is about keeping the otherwise healthy people out of the hospitals so there is room for the sick. This is about our doctors having to avoid deciding whose life is more important and who deserves to be put on a ventilator and who doesn’t. This is about avoiding the spread of a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus to those who are most vulnerable. . .

We shouldn’t be aiming to flatten the curve, we should be aiming to stop the spread before it starts.

The response to this disease in people should be just as urgent and just as strict as if it was Foot and Mouth in stock.


Higher standard for cows than people

08/01/2020

A lack of loos on DoC tramping tracks is a problem that needs urgent attention.

A public toilet should be added at the Ben Lomond Saddle or the area’s impressive tourist reputation risks being flushed away, MP Hamish Walker warns.

Mr Walker, the Clutha-Southland MP, said the Department of Conservation needed to act and install the much-needed toilet.

About 35,000 people walked to the summit annually and this number was growing each year.

“As the track’s popularity continues to increase this issue will get bigger,” he said.

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) southern convener Peter Wilson agreed with Mr Walker’s suggestion, but emphasised that the funding for the toilet should come from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and not from Doc’s own hard-pressed resources.

It’s a timely suggestion,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Walker said the matter “needs to be sorted now with the installation of a toilet to future-proof the track and protect the natural environment”.

The necessary infrastructure was not in place, and there was “a major environmental problem developing, with piles of human faeces and toilet paper spread across a large area, getting worse every year”, he said.

Landowners voluntarily offered access to members of the public, but the growing mess could jeopardise this access, he warned.

Mr Wilson, a former Dunedin resident who is immediate past FMC national president, said a toilet needed to be installed to prevent environmental damage at the 1326m saddle, near Queenstown. . .

Roys Peak has a  similar problem with human waste.

The property owner next to the Roys Peak Track in Wanaka has vowed to keep advocating for more toilets to be installed along the popular Department of Conservation day walk, despite the Minister for Conservation assuring him that inappropriate toileting behaviour was on her radar.

On November 25, John Levy wrote to minister Eugenie Sage asking for the “very important health issue” of only two toilets, one at the start and one at the summit on the 16km return, to be addressed.

In the past year Doc recorded 81,350 people had walked the track, an average of 222.8 people a day.

“If the Mt Roy track was a restaurant, cinema or any other business in Wanaka, the Queenstown Lakes District council would require 47 toilets, not just two,” Mr Levy said.

If anyone else tried setting up a business catering to the public with too few loos they would not get consent. If anyone else had an attraction which couldn’t cater for the number of visitors it would be required to restrict numbers or upgrade to cope with them. Why is DOC not held to the same standard?

On December 16 Mr Levy received a reply from Ms Sage, in which she acknowledged “inappropriate toileting is unacceptable and of concern” but it was a national issue for Doc and not restricted to the Roys Peak track, she said.

“Encouraging behaviour change of our visitors requires a multi-agency approach across New Zealand … there was a significant focus [last year] on promoting responsible visitor behaviour, which had a significant reach and impact,” she said.

Trying to change tourist behaviour was “asinine”, Mr Levy said.

“It is like saying we only have one toilet at the cinema or restaurant and everyone can just hold it until they get home.” . . 

Educating tourists on toileting while tramping is only a very small part of the solution. It is completely unrealistic to expect people to either hold on or carry a trowel and bury their waste on popular tracks like those up Ben Lomond Saddle and Roy’s Peak.

Last time we went up Roy’s Peak it took us 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to the top. We carried  along the ridge, up Mount Alpha then down to Spotts Creek, finishing in the Cardrona Valley where we’d left a car the night before.

This is the Skyline Track which the DOc website says takes 10 to 11 hours.

This challenging tramp begins with the track to Roys Peak (1578m). From the peak, follow the ridgeline towards Mt Alpha (1630m). A short narrow section of track around rocks before the climb to the highest point has a steep drop off on one side and requires care when crossing.

From Mt Alpha the track descends through snow tussock to a 4WD farm track before reaching a signed junction. A poled track from this junction drops down into Spotts Creek then out to the Cardrona Valley Road and car park. Though this description has the track starting with Roys Peak Track, the Skyline Track can be walked in either direction.*

We did the tramp in 7 1/2 hours, our son-in-law did it last week in a bit more than half that time.  But even that would be too much without at least one loo stop for most people, especially if it’s a hot day and you’re making sure you stay hydrated.

These are DoC tracks and it’s their responsibility to ensure that they’re not polluted with human effluent, in exactly the same way that farmers have a legal responsibility for dealing with effluent from dairy sheds – with very expensive consequences should they get it wrong.

As it stands, there’s one standard for tourists and another much higher one for stock and for the sake of both human and environmental health, that is simply not good enough.

* The Skyline Track can be walked in either direction but I’d advise starting at Roys Peak, even though it’s a steeper climb than going the other way.  There are some steep and scrabbly stretches between Roys Peak and Mount Alpha and it’s easier going up these than down. Once at the top of Alpha it’s a reasonably gentle descent into the valley which is much easier on joints and braking muscles than the steep one down from Roys Peak.


Light rail to Roys Peak?

30/12/2019

The car park at the bottom of Roys Peak is overflowing – again:

As the resident population in Wanaka multiplies by a factor of three during the Christmas-New Year week, so does the number of cars and vans parked illegally outside the Roys Peak track car park along Mt Aspiring Rd.

Yesterday, the Department of Conservation 100-space vehicle park at the start of the one-day 16km return walk overflowed into the adjacent road verge for up to half a kilometre north.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when boat owners launch their boats into Lake Wanaka and many used the Glendhu Bay boat ramp.

At times, cars towing boats had to drive on the other side of the road to avoid the cars and vans parked illegally on the edge of Mt Aspiring Rd. . . 

The park was enlarged a couple of years ago but still isn’t big enough for holiday crowds. It won’t help that two other popular tramps – Rob Roy Glaciar and Rocky Point – are closed.

But don’t panic, the Minister of Conservation has a solution:

On a recent visit to Wanaka, Ms Sage said she was aware of the popularity of Roys Peak and the parking congestion issues and was considering introducing a charge for private vehicles in the car park as a way to increase the use of public transport to and from the hike.

Who would police the parking and how much would parking fees and fines have to be to cover the costs of the policing?

What public transport would that be and how would it be scheduled to cope with all the people who start and finish the tramp at all hours of the day and night?

There are taxis in Wanaka but using them would double the number of trips to and from the bottom of the hill.

The only buses go to and from Wanaka to other towns, nowhere near the track which is on a no-exit road that ends at Aspiring Station.

And surely even a Green MP wouldn’t be considering light rail from Wanaka to Roys Peak.

That leaves walking, biking, running or driving. Most people will consider going up and down the hill enough exercise and still opt for driving whether or not there are enough parks.


Whakaari / White Island tragedy

10/12/2019

This picture tells only a very small part of the unfolding story on Whakaari / White Island.

 

From that distance, we can’t see the terror that must have struck, the efforts to rescue the visitors and the heroism of the rescuers.

The whole story of this eruption will add another tragic chapter to New Zealand’s history.


Time to target tourists?

17/06/2019

Cataclysmic headlines tell us we’re facing a climate crisis.

Councils are declaring climate emergencies.

People are marching demanding action to reverse climate change.

But how many are actually doing anything that will make a real and sustainable difference?

In spite of what it’s trying to tell us our government isn’t.

Its carbon zero bill is largely political and bureaucratic posturing that ignores the science.

If it was really serious about doing something that made a real difference it would stop trying to reduce farm production here which will only increase emissions as other less efficient producers increased their production to fill the gap.

Instead it would target tourists, taxing travel for any but essential reasons.

Farming produces food which people need for survival.

The benefits from tourism are purely personal.

Tourist taxes high enough to compensate for the emissions from travel aren’t being imposed and haven’t been suggested as a serious solution.

Does this mean that the government hasn’t got the courage of its climate change convictions, has got another plan it has yet to tell us, or doesn’t really believe there’s a crisis?


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