Quotes of the month

July 1, 2020

The government needed to go big, leaning on the government balance sheet is the best response in the near-term. I have two concerns. I don’t think we have a well thought out economic plan on the other side and I think people will get increasingly concerned about how we’ll get debt down – Cameron Bagrie

I was a good soldier under levels 4 and 3; I obeyed all the rules but now – there’s an oppositionally defiant child in me, screaming to be let out. – Kerre McIvor

Do you honestly think the bright and resourceful, the skilled and experienced, having lost their jobs in a fashion they could never see coming, are going to sit by and watch their prospects, futures and dreams be put on hold … or even worse … welfare? Especially when just three hours away is a country that offers work, a future, and an attitude to Covid and adversity that’s a lesson in balance, risk, common sense, and will ultimately pay greater economic dividends. – Mike Hosking

I think it is also important that farmers feel part of the nation’s family, that they are valued and are not ostracised. Not only for their own businesses, but also the downstream businesses that they support [with] their own farming and horticultural operations. David Bennett

Belonging is a fundamental human need. When this need is not met, it is hard to feel a sense of purpose. Right now, farmers and food producers are starting to feel they belong again; they have a clear sense of purpose – to feed the nation and deliver economic stability. – Lindy Nelson

The mixed messages of recent days notwithstanding, most New Zealanders will welcome and take in their stride the pending return to something approaching the normality they knew, albeit with a typically quiet sense of pride at what they have been able to achieve. They will be hoping Covid19 shows no sign of a significant return during the coming winter months, as we begin to reopen our border. So too will the government and the public health authorities. For they know only too well that the level of sudden public compliance and acquiescence achieved during the lockdowns was but a moment in time – a shocked reaction to what was happening overseas and the abrupt arrival of circumstances that no-one had properly anticipated. It is unlikely to be achievable to the same extent even if future circumstances warrant it. Peter Dunne

I believe the word success is so important and that word success covers winning or it covers growing. – Dame Lois Muir

After suffering a housefire, an underinsured household would likely need to take on debt to deal with the problem – and that could be fine. But if it then took the opportunity to add a swimming pool to the property, while pushing the mortgage amount to the upper limit, one might wonder about the household’s prudence.

Similarly, the elected Government has been adding metaphorical swimming pools to its shopping list by extending the 2020 Budget beyond what was necessary to deal with the Covid crisis. This raises sharp questions about the Government’s commitment both to fiscal prudence and the Public Finance Act.Eric Crampton

Changes in usage and semantics, when imposed, are usually exercises in power. These days, pressure for their adoption, like censorship, comes not from government but from pressure groups, small but well-organised and determined. Resistance in small things to monomania not being worth the effort among the better balance, the changes first go by default and then become habitual. – Theodore Dalrymple

Taking down statues and hiding our history is often not the answer to this problem. Instead, why not discuss moving statues to more appropriate locations? Why not add information around these monuments to present a more complete view of these figures? Take this opportunity to learn and understand the context in which the events commemorated by the monument occurred. . . Equally importantly, we must think and learn about the absent figures. Which people and events are not commemorated in public monuments and why is this the case? Absences can tell us as much about people’s understanding of history as the figures that were chosen. Absences can also show us where there are opportunities for future commemorations: to add these missing groups to our historical understanding as well as to our public record.  . . .

There is no right answer to how we should remember these figures – they come with significant achievements and often major failings. The only answer, for me, is that neither aspect of these figures should be forgotten. History must be allowed to be told in full – warts and all. Let discussion and debate take the place of anger and resentment. Let us use this opportunity as a time to change the way we view history; to shift our understanding of the past and to give future generations the opportunity to see history from a different perspective. . . Let our statues and monuments provoke debate and challenge us to think deeply about our past – let us not hide them all away to be forgotten. – Hayden Thorne

For most journalists, reporting the truth is an art form that leaves no margin for error. You either get it right the first time or your readers become confused about their own responsibilities when reacting to stories that must be taken at face value. Sadly, many in this ancient honourable profession have recently thrown in their lot with political forces that share their personal ideological persuasion with a result that truth is the casualty and the instability that is a consequence continues unchecked. – Clive Bibby

There is great danger in judging history by our standards, or rewriting it to modern tastes. It is simply bad history to morally look down on people who were not equipped to think differently. It’s our failure of imagination not to grasp this. It misses the really important question: why did those societies change? . . . The genius of Western civilisation is its progress through self-awareness and self-criticism. That created the endless debates that led to empirical science, protection under the rule of law, and self-rule through democracy. This allowed it to fix its errors and aberrations, ending slavery, propagating the ideas that undermined its own colonialism, making the sexes equal, and outlawing racial discrimination and intolerance. – AFR View

History, it is what it is. Good, bad and ugly, but I think it’s a good impetus for our country to learn our history. – Meng Foon

Once we stop laughing at ourselves we begin to lose our soulsPaddy Briggs

There is now an immediate need to assign accountability to the individuals or groups responsible for putting the community at risk. And this leads to the greater need for a royal commission to critically examine this current problem and many others, in the overall way that Covid-19 had been dealt with.

From the first national diagnosis of the Covid-19 crisis all the way to the recovery processes, a royal commission should be tasked with reviewing it all: the health, scientific, economic, constitutional, legal and cultural elements of the event.

This would provide a public record of what worked, what didn’t, what gaps were apparent and what could be improved next time. And it is the next time we have to be particularly worried about. Pandemics are an intergenerational problem, and what we are enduring will not be the last such experience. – Alexander Gillespie

The management of people arriving at the border has cost the government $81 million so far. That’s a lot of money to spend on a sieve when you needed – and thought you were buying – a top-quality bucket.  – Point of Order

Many people — and especially those who live in Bristol — have discovered Newton’s Third Law of Statues. Put crudely, it amounts to ‘you wreck one of ours, we wreck one of yours’. . . From the beginning, any protest outside the US reeked of entitlement and thrill-seeking. Everyone involved desperately needs to look up ‘negative externalities’ in the dictionary, although ‘doing something you like while shitting on other people’ is a useful definition. Antifa especially combines monstrous privilege with what philosopher John Gray calls ‘the problem of being lightly educated’.  Helen Dale

Kindness isn’t achievable without action.Andrea Vance

In saying, “we don’t want a witch hunt” what you’re really saying is: We expect you in the private sector to follow all the rules but we won’t. – Kate Hawkesby

Now when I feel sad, I’m gentle with myself, I don’t run from sadness.  I don’t seek to lift myself out of sadness. I have to sit with it. I think about self care, snuggly clothes, being kind to myself.I – Lotta Dann

Even if a prime minister is not technically responsible for the blunders of her ministries, the idea that someone can be in charge but not responsible will seem plainly wrong to most people. In fact, most people’s ideas about leadership can be summed up by the sign that US President Harry Truman’s kept on his desk in the Oval Office: “The buck stops here.” – Graham Adams

To reiterate, we believe in freedom of speech for all; these clients have decided to leave because we did not meet their demands to be re-educated to their point of view.  – Blair Partnership

“In light of the bungles at the border, it’s become abundantly clear that we didn’t beat Covid-19 with competence. . . But good luck won’t build smart borders, get the economy restarted, or pay back the debt. – David Seymour

I make mistakes at work too. And some mornings, around this time of year, after the weather’s changed and the city is wreathed in rain and drowned in mist and I have to commute to campus via a public transport system that’s a chaotic, unreliable mess, I try to persuade myself I should “work from home”. I generally force myself to go into work. But if I do stay home, then find myself making mistakes that might kill hundreds of people and cause billions of dollars damage to the economy, I like to think I’ll go back into the office. Even if it’s raining. – Danyl Mclauchlan 

“Operational matters” aren’t a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. “Operational matters” can be substituted in most sentences for “things that happened”. – Toby Manhire

Is there ever a time when the job of the media, the Opposition and academia should be diverted from the task of speaking truth to power? That’s debatable – but holding back is not what we need now. – Liam Hehir

I’m sick of these politicians making grand promises that we can all see are completely unachievable. Thinking we believe them means two things. They’re either deluded and incompetent. Or they think we’re all stupid and we’ll never notice. It’s probably a bit of both – Andrew Dickens

Holding the powerful to account is the cornerstone of journalism. It is not the only reason for our existence; I like to think we also contribute to the sense of community that binds us; I saw many lovely examples of that during the pandemic. And mostly we like to tell interesting stories about the people and places around us. But we also believe passionately in the power of the written word and its ability to challenge our assumptions. We need that during this election campaign more than any other, surely? – Tracy Watkins

You know, the 17-year-old solo mum who dropped out of school ended up being deputy prime minister of this country, and when I looked at that and what I’d achieve I knew that I could draw a line very proudly and comfortably under that and move on to my next challenge. – Paula Bennett

I set about reforming the welfare system, with more emphasis on what people could do, increasing our expectation on people to get work-ready and look for a job and changing the system so more help was available for them. . . I get that people won’t agree with everything that we did, but we were ambitious and I believed in people and their abilities, and I do despair at the moment that there’s an expectation that a lifetime on welfare can be an option for people and it almost feels encouraged, whereas I think it should be a backstop. – Paula Bennett

I was forced to think about what leadership means – what is the basic statement one can use to describe at a fundamental basis what leadership is. What I came up with, while not anything earth-shattering, was that “leadership is about giving the credit and taking the blame”. – Ben Kepes

She was the galah in a cage of budgies. Claire Trevett

Government essentially reinvented the wheel, and when the wheel eventually turned up, it was wonky. – Louis Houlbrooke

Too many politicians these days are too manufactured, too inauthentic, spend too much time on focus group research and advice on how to talk to people. Here’s a tip – just talk. Be yourself. – Kate Hawkesby


Anger isn’t kind

June 10, 2020

Does Jacinda Ardern not take her own advice on being kind?

Retail NZ is calling for the Prime Minister to be kind, after reports that she is ‘angry’ that the Warehouse Group is undertaking a change process that could result in a substantial number of job losses.

“Retail NZ has been advising Government for months that larger retail chains are not immune from the impacts of the COVID-19 and we have been forecasting substantial numbers of job losses across the sector, and the Prime Minister should not be angry that businesses are acting to reduce costs and create sustainable futures,” Greg Harford, Retail NZ Chief Executive, said today.

“Retailers greatly appreciate the support that the Government has provided to the retail sector in recent months – but the margins in retail are wafer-thin. New Zealand businesses, both large and small are doing their best to manage the consequences of the lockdowns, and they are needing to make very tough decisions. Recently, a number of small and high-profile retailers have found themselves in a position where they need to close stores and reduce headcount in order to remain viable into the future. Retail NZ research suggests that more change and more job losses are expected in the coming period, across both small and large businesses.

“There is a misconception that larger businesses are able to incur big losses – but the fundamentals of operating a business are the same whether your business is large or small. Nobody in retail wants to make people redundant or close stores, but no matter the size of a business, it needs to make operational decisions to drive efficiency and productivity in order to survive. Failing to do so will ultimately lead to the demise of those businesses, and much greater numbers of job losses. . .

There is rarely a single factor behind business difficulty.

Those shedding staff, closing branches and folding altogether may well have been facing problems before the Covid-19 lockdown.

But not being able to operate for weeks while still incurring fixed costs, even with the wage subsidy, pushed them over and it didn’t have to be that tough for most of them.

When the lockdown was first announced, the Warehouse declared it was an essential business and would be operating at alert level 4. Ardern declared it wasn’t and wouldn’t be.

I had joined the chorus of people saying that the Warehouse wasn’t an essential business and agreed its stores shouldn’t be open at level 4. But why couldn’t it and any other retailer that could have done mail order not been able to do so?

Had the government allowed what was safe rather than dictating what was essential, the Warehouse and many other retailers would not have faced the total loss of business for all those weeks at level 4.

If it was safe to order Easter eggs online from a confectionary factory and a children’s or text book from a book shop, it would have been safe for the Warehouse to offer an online mail order service.

Perhaps the Prime Minister has forgotten her part in the forced closures, and has she also forgotten all the Warehouse founder did to help?

Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall, Trade Me creator Sam Morgan and former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe joined forces to help ready the country to fight Covid-19.

Together they ordered 50 intensive care ventilators, seven planeloads of PPE protective clothing and equipment, and met with the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the Sunday before lockdown was announced to urge the Government not to delay shutting the country down to try to limit deaths and eradicate Covid-19. . .

“Some of us, Sam Morgan and I in particular, realised there was a lot of stuff not getting done. We basically took the bull by the horns along with the guys from Zuru, and used our own money and ordered up a whole heap of PPE gear. There’s actually seven planeloads coming. Two have arrived already.”

They also worried New Zealand didn’t have enough ventilators, and moved to source some to give as many severely ill people the chance of beating infection.

“Of course every ventilator manufacturer in the world was chocka,” he said.

A little Kiwi ingenuity followed, and the group has backed niche New Zealand manufacturers around the country to begin manufacture once key parts can be sourced, though efforts to buy ventilators from overseas continued.

Tindall underwrote the purchase of 50 New Zealand-made ventilators at $60,000 each.

“I said to the agent, place the order, and you have got my word I will pay for them, if the Government doesn’t,” Tindall said. . . 

Tindall and Morgan became convinced lockdown was inevitable about two weeks before the meeting with the politicians. . . 

The government keeps telling us they went early and hard, but these business people saw the danger earlier and didn’t just talk, they acted.

The government didn’t go early enough, didn’t go hard enough at the border soon enough, then went too hard at level 4 and now Ardern has the audacity to vent her anger at the business founded by one of the men who saw the danger and acted earlier to help.

Heather du Plessis-Allan says the anger attack is a bad call politically:

. . . Already, the PM has a long list of calling out business: The Warehouse, Burger Fuel and Air New Zealand. And that’s all just within this Covid crisis.

Yes, this might play favourably with voters at the moment because of the rally-around-the-flag sentimentalism and because plenty of voters don’t understand business and seem to think the wage subsidy was intended for The Warehouse itself rather than the workers

But the PM should know better than that.

What she’s done here is betray her own fundamental let’s-all-work-four-days-a-week lack of understanding of what drives business. She’s complained that The Warehouse should prioritise staff higher and focus less on the shareholder.

Well that’s not how business works. Businesses are not charities.

The business sense behind that is deeply flawed. Sometimes it’s better to cut 100 jobs and save 900 for example, than to keep all 1000 on, risk the business itself – and then lose them all eventually anyway.

Through this public rebuke Ardern’s also essentially warned other big businesses to be careful about redundancies lest they also earn one too.

I tell you what, what I’m hearing from those involved in big business in this country is a deep frustration with this Government, their lack of understanding and their tin ear to pleas.

And what just happened will not make that better.

We’re going into an economic downturn and we are going to look to and lean on big business to help us out of this.

It’d be in the Government’s interests to keep them as friends, not make enemies out of them. . . 

Paul Goldsmith said the PM has the wrong focus:

National’s finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith says Prime Minister should “stick to her knitting” after expressing her fury at The Warehouse Group’s mass job cuts.

“I don’t think it’s helpful for the Prime Minister to be criticising struggling businesses, she should stick to her knitting,” Goldsmith said.

Rather than getting angry, Ardern should be “better focused” on the Government’s plan to grow the economy, he said. . . 

Meanwhile, Independent economist Cameron Bagrie said Ardern “overstepped the mark” when she said she was angry with the Warehouse over the job losses.

“Businesses are dealing with tough economic times,” he said.

“If that means they [businesses] need to cut costs to recalibrate for a different economic environment then so be it.”

He said there is a big structural shift going on in the economy at the moment – “I don’t think consumers are going to be out there spending like they were pre-Covid-19”. . .

No employers make these decisions lightly but sometimes cutting parts is necessary to save the whole.

A politician who preaches kindness shouldn’t be criticising those who are forced to act to ensure their business, and the remaining jobs, are sustainable.


Rural round-up

May 8, 2020

Concern farmers’ wellbeing affected: –  David Hill:

North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro is concerned for the wellbeing of farmers as they negotiate the ongoing effects of a dry season and the Covid-19 lockdown.

He said last month’s rain was “a great morale booster” for farmers in the drought-affected area in North Canterbury.

“Since that rain four weeks ago, things went pretty quiet. But it’s just a pity we haven’t had a follow-up rain and we really need a good warm follow-up rain, particularly for the farmers from Waipara north to get some growth before winter.

“It’s starting to get dry and cold in that northern part, but other than that it’s business as usual. . . 

Farmers need to be heard not patronised:

The Government’s drought recovery advice fund announced today is merely a drop in the bucket for supporting farmers affected by drought, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“The fund is specifically for providing affected farmers with recovery and planning advice, but does not contribute to farmers’ rising feed costs or general business costs.

“Most farmers already know what is needed to help their business recover and it is insulting for the Government to tell them they simply need to seek more advice to get through the drought. . . 

Rural GPs not just another business – Peter Burke:

Rural General Practice Network chair Dr Fiona Bolden is disappointed that the Government is treating rural general practices the same as any other business in the community.

Bolden told Rural News that rural GPs were expecting to get two payments from the Government to assist them financially.

However, she says while they had received the first payment, Cabinet vetoed the second payment – just days before it was expected to be paid.  . .

Differing responses to wage subsidy scheme – Allan Barber:

The country’s meat processors have followed two distinctly different paths in response to the government’s wage subsidy scheme which is available to all businesses for 12 weeks, providing they can substantiate a 30% drop in revenue during the period. Silver Fern Farms, Alliance, ANZCO, Taylor Preston and Blue Sky Meats have all claimed the subsidy to varying extents, whereas AFFCO, Greenlea and Wilson Hellaby have decided it is not justified or necessary, at least partly on ethical grounds.

The contrast in approach has already been commented on by independent economist, Cameron Bagrie, who has slammed the two largest claimants, SFF which has claimed $43 million and Alliance $34 million, for taking advantage of taxpayer funding when they are classified as an essential business, operating in lockdown. Equally Bagrie complimented those companies not making a claim because they were getting on with business as usual. Speaking to The Country’s Jamie Mackay, he said “the wage subsidy is out there to support businesses that are getting clobbered, that are effectively in lockdown.”

I am not convinced this interpretation is either totally fair or even correct. Both SFF’s Simon Limmer and Alliance’s CEO David Surveyor are clear the wage subsidy is not a company entitlement, but is paid directly to various categories of employees: firstly it maintains standard wage rates at normal processing speeds despite the 30-50% reduction to meet distance requirements, it retains those who would have to have been terminated seasonally, and it is used to pay those who cannot work e.g. because of age,  compromised immunity or family circumstances. . .

Community to the rescue for harvest – Toni Williams:

CharRees Vineyard owners Charlie and Esma Hill put a call out on social media for help to harvest during lockdown.

They were so overwhelmed by community response, including some from Christchurch, they had to turn people away.

The lockdown harvest, approved by Ministry for Primary Industries as essential for food and beverage production, attracted about 20 people from Ashburton and Methven — many who had never harvested grapes before — to put their hands up to help.

The pickers worked alongside family members of the couple and vineyard workers to pick the first of three annual grape harvests. . . 

Red meat exports top $1 billion in March 2020, a first for monthly exports:

The monthly value of New Zealand red meat and co-product exports topped $1 billion for the first time, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Total exports reached $1.1 billion in March 2020, an increase of 12 per cent on March 2019.

While overall exports to China for the month of March were down by nine per cent compared to last March as a result of COVID-19, exports to all other major markets increased, demonstrating the agility and resilience of the New Zealand red meat sector. . . 

Time to take ag reform out of the “too hard basket” – Fiona Simson:

Regional Australia is well placed to be the engine that powers Australia’s COVID-19 recovery. The bush has done this before, with strong exports helping keep recession at bay during the Global Financial Crisis.

And, after a challenging period of drought, bushfires and floods, widespread rainfall has seen the fortunes of farmers begin to improve. Agriculture is ready and raring to grow.

As we dare to cast an eye to the world post-COVID-19, now is the opportune time to consider the changes agriculture and regional Australia needs to best contribute to the recovery task. . . 


Rural round-up

May 6, 2020

Turning the environmental table on urban households – Cameron Bagrie:

Farmers have worn the pointed fingers on the envirionment despite most playing by the rules and many doing even better than what the rules require. It is rural communities we can thank for much of the environmental progress we’ve already made.

There are isolated instances of poor behaviour – just as in any industry, but in aggregate, farmers are moving forward.

Increasingly, farmers have been required to operate under Farm Management Plans (FMPs), against which their environmental performance is audited.

City folk should consider what their equivalent of an FMP – call it a Household Management Plan – would look like. . .

New Zealand Agricultural Show cancelled  – Tracy Neal:

The South Island’s largest springtime event, the New Zealand Agricultural Show, has been cancelled for the first time since World War 2.

Organisers said public safety concerns and a fragile financial position were behind the decision to cancel this year’s November show.

The Canterbury A&P Association made the announcement today, saying the likelihood of a lingering response to the Covid-19 crisis made planning for such a large event untenable.

It was now also calling for public help to secure the event’s long-term future. . .

Two-pronged approach needed to address dairy staff shortfall:

DairyNZ is calling on the Government to work with the dairy sector to address a looming staff shortage for the coming season, that has been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19.

By the end of September around 2500 visas are due to expire for migrant staff currently working on dairy farms. Many are based in Canterbury, Waikato, Southland and Otago. Both farmers and farm staff are desperately seeking certainty.

“We estimate that even if all migrant dairy workers currently in New Zealand were retained, there could be a shortfall of up to 1000 employees for the coming dairy season,” said Dr Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive.

“This suggests that we are going to need to take a two-pronged approach to address the staffing shortfall that will include both retaining our migrant workforce and recruiting new Kiwis into our dairy sector. . .

NZ coconut and avocado oil producer to expand into the Pacific :

A New Zealand coconut and avocado oil producer, who is promising Pacific farmers much higher returns than they currently get, hopes to start operating within just months.

Whangarei-based Cocavo is headed by Chris Nathan who has been trying to set up operations in Fiji since 2018.

He said it’s taken awhile to find the right piece of land, and there were other difficulties, but they now have equipment, and building should soon be underway.

Mr Nathan said there is also strong interest from Luganville on Vanuatu’s Espirito Santo. . .

Safe domestic travel should be considered at Level 2:

The New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association and Game Animal Council are joining other tourism and recreation organisations in calling for an easing of domestic travel restrictions at Alert Level 2.

“Hunting guides, helicopter operators, accommodation providers and outfitters have suffered considerably through the lockdown,” says New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association President James Cagney. “Domestic travel will allow some of these businesses to restructure their offerings to New Zealand customers and keep operating.”

“While the industry has missed out on this year’s roar there is still fantastic late-autumn and winter hunting available, particularly for bull tahr, chamois, red stags and late rut sika. It would be fantastic if New Zealand hunters were able to get out and enjoy these opportunities and at the same time support the livelihoods of those in the industry.” . . 

Dairy processors warn on coronavirus disruption – Carlene Dowie:

Executives from two of Australia’s biggest dairy processors have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting markets in ways not seen before.

Bega chairman Barry Irvin and Fonterra chief financial officer Marc Rivers told the Pac Partners/Westpac 2020 Agfood Virtual Conference on Wednesday having diverse manufacturing options had allowed them to adapt.

Both pointed to immediate lower commodity prices but saw glimmers of positivity for the future.

And both said there was a need for further rationalisation of Australia’s dairy manufacturing base. . .

 


Quotes of the month

April 1, 2020

NZ is the Possible. We care equally about our environment, our consumers, our people, our animals and hope to make enough profit to keep going again next year. We are genuinely world leading in our approach. – Trish Rankin

So one way to think about Covid-19 is as a test of various systems around the world — political, medical and economic. Markets believe those systems are failing that test. – Tyler Cowen

A coalition government that struggles to implement meaningful policies. A prime minister at ease schmoozing with other leaders amid the glitz and glamour of the world stage. A second-in-charge who clearly sees himself as a co-prime minister. – Liam Hehir

There are far fewer people out there celebrating the real, powerful stories of Indian migrants. Like my sister-in-law, who moved to South Auckland from India as a kid, won top of the year at Auckland Uni, won a full PhD scholarship to Cambridge University, was awarded a Leader of Tomorrow at the Gellen Symposium of Switzerland, and is currently lecturing at Harvard while running a start-up. She’s probably the best poster girl you could possibly find for everything New Zealanders want to be known as: smart, determined, ballsy … and proudly Kiwi. – Verity Johnson

We were focused on being statistically safe, rather than being actually safe, which is a trap we are all guilty of falling into. . . They all said we put far too much focus on paperwork and forms and controls and not enough on engagement with people.  Jono Brent

After three years, we have books of inquiries and less than a pamphlet of implementation. Richard Prebble

But the epidemic might well have effects far beyond any that its death rate could account for. The world has suddenly woken up to the dangers of allowing China to be the workshop of the world and of relying on it as the ultimate source for supply chains for almost everything, from cars to medicines, from computers to telephones. No doubt normal service will soon resume once the epidemic is over, even if at a lower level, but at the very least supply chains should be diversified politically and perhaps geographically; dependence on a single country is to industry what dependence on monoculture is to agriculture. And just as the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of, so countries may have strategic reasons that economic reasons know not of.

The danger is that the epidemic will be used as a justification for beggar-my-neighbour protectionism, and for zero-sum game economics, to the great impoverishment of the world. Judgment, that mysterious faculty that is so difficult to define or quantify, but which undoubtedly exists, will be needed to adjudicate the claims of strategic security and economic efficiency. Even in situations in which there is hard scientific evidence to guide us, such as the present epidemic, judgment is still required. The present highly-charged political atmosphere, in which opponents can hardly bear the sight of one another, or conceded any value to their ideas, is not conducive to its exercise.- Theodore Dalrymple

Remember what they’ve suffered and don’t make other people suffer the way some of them have been suffering because they are no different, while they may look different and they may sound different but we’re all the same. – John Sato

Donald Trump takes comfort from the fact that it has killed only a handful of Americans so far. He forgets that the chart of an epidemic is exponential, as each person infects several people, and the power of such compound interest is, as Albert Einstein supposedly said, the eighth wonder of the world. The economist Tyler Cowan points out that it’s hard to beat an exponential process once a certain point has passed.

Last week Greta Thunberg was still telling the European Parliament that climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces. This week Extinction Rebellion’s upper-class twits were baring their breasts on Waterloo bridge in protest at the billions of people who they wrongly think may die from global warming in the next decade. These people are demonstrating their insensitivity. They are spooked by a spaniel when there’s a wolf on the loose. – Matt Ridley

Dairying was an economic sword for New Zealand against the GFC. Now we will be looking to exporter Fonterra and the dairy industry it leads to wield that sword again against a pandemic scourge.Andrea Fox

Clearly,  however  much  New Zealanders  might  believe  there is  much to gain  from a united  front  in this  time of  crisis,  the  role of a  vigilant   Opposition   is  perhaps  just  as  vital. – tutere44

He waka eke noa – the canoe which we are all in without exception. We are all in this together. – Simon Bridges

Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years. Cameron Bagrie

The world has not “completely changed.” What was good economics last month is good economic policy today. To come out of this recession we need to reform the Resource Management Act, have more flexible and less onerous employment laws. We need a welfare system that discourages dependence and an education system that does not turn out one in five functionally illiterate. We desperately need a health system that is not crippled with deficits. Richard Prebble

I also expect to see increasing but at times grudging acknowledgement over the next six months that agriculture and food are the fundamentals of the economy that provide the funds for most of the items we have to import. Further, within agriculture, it is our pastoral products that are the products with most reliable international demand. Unfortunately, there will still be some who remain unwilling to acknowledge that reality. – Keith Woodford

The size of a bureaucracy is not necessarily a sign of its strength or efficiency, any more than the swelling of an oedematous leg is a sign of its strength and efficiency; rather the reverse. A small bureaucracy concentrates intelligence, while a large one disperses it. Theodore Dalrymple

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent.Philip Todhunter

We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours. No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility. – Stefan Löfven

I have long thought that if it were not for complaint, we should have very little to talk about. Complaint is like crime in the theories of the first real sociologist, Émile Durkheim: It is the glue of society. Without opposition to crime, society would fall apart. Without complaint, most of us would remain silent and have no relations with others at all. – Theodore Dalrymple

But the fact is that writing helps one to endure what might otherwise be unendurable. I suppose I should know exactly why, but I don’t, except to say that the knowledge that you are going to write about something unpleasant puts a screen between yourself and your own experience.Theodore Dalrymple

Laughing together is as close as you can get without touching. – Gina Barreca

Humour rewards originality, offers diversion, enhances intellectual functioning, encourages emotional endurance, promotes a sense of alliance and releases tension without dismissing the seriousness of the situation.

Out of emotional chaos, humour devises a form and crafts a meaningful sense of control.

Humour insists on the most significant forms of freedom of assembly: the assembly of souls and minds, the community of the anxious and the brave (all of us at different moments), the gathering of storytellers, truth-tellers and eager listeners. – Gina Barreca

  Do you really need to drown those people in red tape and bureaucracy? I think we’re going t ave to look to lighten the load on them and let business start to flourish a bit. These aren’t normal times – John Key


Rural round-up

March 28, 2020

After the lockdown, the economy’s recovery will be dependent on dairy farms and their milk – Point of Order:

The planet is  in a state of   flux,   economies are tumbling into  recession, no-one (not even Donald Trump) can predict  when the agony will  end.

Suddenly, the streets  are  empty:  life  as  we have  known  it is  now  very  different. The  nation  is  in   lockdown.

As  the  London  “Economist” put it:

“The struggle  to  save  lives  and the  economy  is  likely to present  agonising choices…As  that  sends economies  reeling, desperate  governments are trying to tide over  companies and  by handing out millions of  dollars in  aid and loan guarantees. Nobody can be sure how these rescues  will work”. . . 

Don’t stress weakening economy – Neal Wallace:

Economist Cameron Bagrie is joining a chorus of calls for the Government to delay introducing policy imposing new environmental rules and costs on a rapidly weakening economy.

Bagrie says Government borrowing as a percentage of gross domestic product has doubled from 20% to 40% in the last few weeks as it tries to protect jobs and businesses from the impact of measures to control the covid-19 virus pandemic.

He expects Government borrowing will increase further and warns now is not the time to introduce more costs on businesses in freshwater regulations and the new minimum wage, which applies from April 1.

“Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years.” . . 

Virus adds to woes of North Canterbury farmers – David Hill:

The uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic is adding yet another headache for North Canterbury farmers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson and North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro say dry conditions, the ongoing effects of Mycoplasma bovis and coronavirus, and this week’s 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Culverden are creating uncertainty.

‘‘The effects of the virus seem to be changing day to day as we have seen with share markets and travel bans,’’ Mr Henderson said. . . 

Meat matters to sector stalwart – Colin Williscroft:

Tim Ritchie retires as Meat Industry Association chief executive on April 7 after a career in primary sector roles that began in the 1970s. Colin Williscroft reports.

THE meat industry has come a long way since Tim Ritchie got involved and a decision made on the far side of the world about then that has provided the biggest advantage to the sector here in the years since.

Though it might not have seemed like it at the time, in retrospect Britain joining the then European Economic Community in 1973 was the best thing that could have happened for New Zealand farmers. . . 

Leader learnt a lot in dairy industry – Yvonne O’Hara:

‘‘It was like being dropped into the mothership of emergency management.’’

That is how Katrina Thomas describes her involvement with the recent flood recovery effort in the South.

The Wreys Bush dairy farmer was Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) southern regional hub leader for Otago and Southland since 2016, and regional leader for Southland since 2012.

However, this year she decided she wanted to try other challenges. . . 

Wine industry faces worker accommodation woes during lockdown:

The wine industry is facing criticism for continuing harvest during the Covid-19 lockdown, and is facing problems with worker accommodation

The government says the grape and wine industry can continue to operate as an essential business, but strict conditions apply as the country moves to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Some Marlborough people have noticed the hundreds of workers travelling to work in vineyards all over the district, and have questioned whether this was safe in the current climate. . . 


Rural round-up

February 24, 2020

Dairy farmers must increase risk – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have to learn to take more risk because staying put is no longer risk-free, independent Cameron Bagrie says.

The pace of change will accelerate not slow and farmers face three to five more years of this grumpy growth, which stems from rising costs and more regulations, he told a DairyNZ farmers forum.

“Stop being so polite and drive the key changes in the things that you can control.” . .

Net zero goal needs new tech – Colin Williscroft:

Agriculture and land use systems will have to be transformed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, Scottish academic Professor Bob Rees says.

While all sectors of the economy will have to play their part cutting emissions, the likely consequences for agriculture are stark, the keynote speaker at the Farmed Landscapes Research Centre workshop said.

Rees, an agriculture and climate change expert at Scotland Rural College, said emissions from the sector urgently need to be reduced but costs and inertia are significant barriers. . .

Cavalcades bosses keep coming back – Sally Rae:

When Chris Bayne and Sandra Cain drive around the Otago hinterland, they know what lies behind the hills.

For they have been there, among the tussocks, during their combined involvement of more than 50 years with the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.

The two trail bosses are preparing to head off on this year’s event, which will see hundreds of riders, wagoners, walkers and cyclists arrive in Patearoa next Saturday.

Mrs Bayne’s light wagon and riding trail will meet today at Ardgour, near Tarras, while Mrs Cain’s walking trail will start on Wednesday from Ida Valley Station. . .

Winemaking need not drain reservoirs– Mark Price:

Robin Dicey cannot quite turn water into wine, but he is turning grapes into wine without water. The Bannockburn wine industry pioneer tells reporter Mark Price about his recent vino experiments.

Imagine  growing grape vines in Central Otago without pumping millions of litres of water to them through millions of metres of plastic pipe.

Without an irrigation system, surely they would wither and die in the heat of a Central summer.

Retired Bannockburn wine industry pioneer Robin Dicey is not so sure they would, and has begun an experiment to test that theory. . .

New regional leader award:

A new Regional Leader of the Year Award has been established by Dairy Women’s Network.

Chief executive Jules Benton says more than 70 volunteer regional leaders provide an important point of contact for farmers and play key role in their communities through to organising, hosting and promoting regional events.

They are the face of the network while also in some cases are running million dollar businesses. . .

Farmer confidence plummets amid Brexit and bad weather:

Continued weather conditions and Brexit uncertainty has led to a significant drop in farmer confidence, new figures suggest.

Political unpredictability surrounding the terms of the UK’s post-transition period and the recent flooding is taking its toll on industry confidence.

Results from the latest NFU survey of farmers across the UK shows that short-term (one year) confidence has reduced further from last year, dropping 11 points, to its 3rd lowest level since the survey began in 2010. . .


Paying for poor policies

August 31, 2018

Business confidence has dropped to the lowest point for 10 years:

In the August ANZ Business Outlook Survey headline business confidence dropped a further 5 points to a net 50% of respondents reporting they expect general business conditions to deteriorate in the year ahead.

However, firms’ perceptions of their own prospects are a much better gauge of actual economic outcomes. This series stabilised at a net 4% expecting an improvement, well below the long-term average of +27%. By industry, manufacturers’ expectations dropped 11 points to become the least positive about their own activity (-4%), while retail and services improved somewhat.

Turning to the survey detail:

* A net 5% of firms are expecting to reduce investment, down 6 points. It is rare for this series to be negative.

* Employment intentions fell 8 points to -6%. No sectors are positive.

These two points are most concerning. Businesses reducing investment and with negative employment intentions will have a direct and negative impact on the economy.

* Profit expectations were flat at -17%. Retail and manufacturing are the weakest sectors at -27% (up 1%pt) and -28% (down 12%pts) respectively.

* Firms’ pricing intentions fell 2 points to +27%. They are strongest for construction but also lifted for retail. Inflation expectations were flat at 2.2%.

 * Residential construction intentions eased 3 points to +13%, while encouragingly, commercial construction intentions bounced 13 points to -4%. . . 

The economy is delicately placed. But it seems increasingly inevitable that wariness amongst firms will have real impacts, in the near term at least, as investment and employment decisions are deferred. . .

The outlook isn’t all bad.

But firms have real concerns about industrial relations policy, minimum wage hikes and costs more generally – and particularly about their ability to pass on higher costs and maintain profitability. Troubles in the construction sector appear to be starting to cause stresses in related firms. And exporting firms will be keeping a nervous eye on signs that global growth has peaked. . .

The Taxpayers’ Union says the drop in confidence shows the urgent need for tax reform:

. . .Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says, “Businesses need more than a working group. They need real changes in policy direction, including tax reform. Business breakfasts with CEOs and Cabinet Ministers simply won’t cut it for the average small business.”

“Company tax rate cuts – accompanied by full capital expensing – would put a rocket under business investment and put an end to the doldrums. If focused at measures to boost productivity, the evidence shows that tax relief would flow through to workers in the form of higher wages.” . .

Tax reform would help and not just for businesses.

The lower dollar helps export returns but increases the cost of imports, including fuel, the price of which is also being boosted by extra taxes:

The Government’s obsession with fuel taxes shows it doesn’t care about the cost of living for ordinary Kiwis, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.

“Now is the time for solutions to the cost of living, not new taxes. National is taking the initiative with a bill lodged today to repeal regional fuel taxes within three months.

“Fuel prices are sitting at record levels across the country and are set to rise further because the Government is proposing three additional rounds of national fuel tax increases totalling an extra 12 cents a litre of fuel in new taxes.

“In addition, there is an 11.5 cents a litre regional fuel tax in place in Auckland that will be rolled to other regions in a few short years. It adds to this Government’s sorry record of driving up costs for households and businesses and choking economic growth. . .

 

But tax is only part of the problem. The Government has several other poor policies that we’re all paying for:

The message from economists is loud and clear: the Government’s bad economic policies mean New Zealanders will be thousands of dollars a year worse off, says National Party Leader Simon Bridges.

“In the last three months alone NZIER has revised down their GDP growth forecasts which means every man, woman and child will be $1600 a year worse off on average by 2022. That is $6400 for a family of four.

“NZIER are clear that the decline in the economic outlook isn’t just sentiment. Profitability has deteriorated and businesses’ own activity, a measure closely correlated with GDP growth, has weakened. There are real implications for businesses, workers and New Zealanders trying to get ahead.

“The reason GDP growth is now faltering is because this Government has imposed a wide range of policies that are bad for growth. They have imposed more taxes, shut off foreign investment, significantly increased labour and compliance costs, banned oil and gas exploration and wasted billions on low-quality spending.

“And what was the Prime Minister’s solution this morning: another working group. The Government needs to understand that lower growth has real consequences for New Zealand families. Working groups do not drive economic growth, good policies and hardworking New Zealanders do.

“So the goal is simple. We must grow the economy if we want New Zealanders to be better off. A growing economy means more jobs, higher incomes and more revenue to pay for the things we need.

“We need to be pro-growth as that is the only way we can improve our standard of living. National wants New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn. Higher taxes, more regulation, compliance costs and a rising cost of living do nothing to help families get ahead.

 

Added costs and uncertainty are a poisoning business confidence and this week’s announcement of a business council is no antidote.


In fiscal hole and still digging

August 10, 2018

Economist Cameron Bagrie has found a hole in the fiscal bucket:

Steven Joyce is going to be proved right. There is a fiscal hole and a softening economy is making it wider.

I don’t like the term fiscal hole. Good policy should dominate over strict debt targets and economic cycles come and go which are often beyond government control.

But the Labour-led Government’s fiscal hole is looking deeper by the day – and bigger than the $11.7 billion of additional borrowing that Joyce identified. . .

Growth is weaker, the Government is already borrowing creatively to the tune of $6.4 billion via Crown entities (keeping it out of core government net debt metrics) and spending demands are headed one way.

That combination will pressure its fiscal position.  . .

The lack of money left in the kitty post the 2018-Budget raised issues of credibility, but the fiscal parameters were technically achievable.

It wasn’t going to be easy, but it was possible, so the Government was given the benefit of the doubt.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt was a mistake given their record, policies and the knowledge that coalition partners would add to costs.

But the picture is changing and the Government’s ambitions are looking more and more like pipe dreams.

So, what has changed?

Budget spending and investment demands needed funding, whilst at the same time sticking to the narrative of hitting debt objectives and being fiscally responsible.

The result was crown entities borrowing an additional $6.4 billion between 2017 and 2022.

That is an accounting fudge to get it out of the core Government debt figures.

Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Public sector pay and spending demands are only heading one way.

Few bemoan the need to pay teachers and nurses more but that money needs to come from somewhere.

The realities of a coalition Government meant more needed to be spent. Spending allocations in the 2019 and subsequent Budgets were increased by $525 million to $2.4b per year.

That looked fine against a backdrop of solid projections for growth. But it was a risky strategy with the economy late cycle as opposed to early cycle.

The government can’t be held responsible for external problems but they can be blamed for not taking a more prudent approach given clouds gathering on the economic horizon.

They can also be blamed for wasting money on fripperies like fee-free tertiary education and good looking horses without leaving enough for necessities like improved pay and conditions for nurses and teachers.

They’ve dug the hole and there is nothing in their performance that could give any confidence in their ability to get out of it especially as they are still digging.


Higher spending, tax, debt

November 16, 2017

Economists are warning that the Labour-led government’d Debt will be billions more than planned.

. . . In Opposition Labour laid out a fiscal plan which would borrow around $11 billion more than National had proposed, but still cut debt as a share of the total economic output from 24 per cent to 20 per cent by 2022.

The plan formed a major point of contention during the election campaign, as National finance spokesman Steven Joyce was widely mocked for his claim that Robertson’s plan had a major “fiscal hole”.

This is a very good argument for independent costing of party policies before an election.

But bank economists, who monitor the likely issuance of government bonds, are warning of pressure for Treasury to borrow billions more than Labour had signalled because of new spending promises.

ANZ has forecast that Labour will borrow $13 billion more than Treasury’s pre-election fiscal update maintained the former Government would over the next four years, although around $3b of that would go to the NZ Super Fund.

Borrowing to contribute to the super fund is as reckless as borrowing to play the share market instead of paying off a mortgage.

This would see net Crown debt at 23 per cent of gross domestic product, 3 percentage points higher than Labour’s plan.

Outgoing ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the estimates for new spending were “conservative”, including an assumption that the new $1b a year regional development fund would come entirely from existing budgets. . . 

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert said the figures were hard to determine so early in the term, but borrowing “could amount to a number of billion dollars” more than Labour had outlined. . . 

During question time in Parliament on Tuesday, Robertson maintained that the Government was sticking to its pre-election debt plan.

“But what we’re not prepared to put up with is a situation where we do not have enough affordable homes, where we have not made contributions to the [NZ] Super Fund, and where an enormous social deficit is growing,” Robertson said.

“In those circumstances a slower debt repayment track is totally appropriate.”

A much more disciplined approach to spending would be wiser.

National took office when the kitty was empty and Treasury was forecasting a decade of deficits.

In spite of the GFC and natural and financial disasters, it returned the books to surplus without a slash and burn approach to social spending.

This government has taken over with plenty of money in the kitty and forecasts of continuing surpluses.

With careful management, it should be able to

Labour and many on the left talk about the “failed policies of the 80s”.

They never look at the cause of the problems which precipitated those radical policies – higher spending, higher taxes and higher borrowing.

Those were the failed policies.

Unless the new government takes a much more careful approach, it will take path New Zealand down that path again.


Rural round-up

October 17, 2017

New version of capitalism coming, rural-urban bridges have to mend: Bagrie – Gerald Piddock:

New Zealand’s economy is in a transition of old economic drivers stepping aside for a new “social-justice” version of capitalism.

The three big engines that had driven the economy – migration, construction and tourism – had peaked and would make way for a new version of capitalism, ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said.

That form of capitalism would feature a higher level of government spending following tight controls in the National-led government, he told farmers and agri-business people at the launch of the 2017 Fieldays Economic Impact Report at Mystery Creek on Thursday. . .

Milking sustainably more than compliance:

With the growing focus on regulation in New Zealand, you could be forgiven for thinking that milking sustainably is all about meeting limits.

But limits are just part of the equation and truly sustainable businesses are striking a balance to get the best out of their farms, their people and the environment. Here, a group of farmers share their experiences of developing a Sustainable Milk Plan (SMP) with DairyNZ.

SMPs were first developed by DairyNZ about five years ago, funded by the farmers’ levy and co-delivered by consultants in areas where the pace of regulation was accelerating. Their primary purpose was to help raise awareness of environmental issues and start a conversation with the farmer about how to move their business to a more sustainable footing – before change was forced upon them. . .

Fonterra trims 2018 milk collection forecast on wet August, September – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group trimmed its milk collection outlook for the 2018 season after a wet August and September sapped production, especially in the North Island.

The Auckland-based cooperative lowered the forecast to 1,540 million kilograms of milk solids for the year ending May 31, 2018 from a previous projection of 1,575 kgMS, it said in its latest Global Dairy Update. Fonterra collected 171 million kgMS in September, down 2 percent from the same month a year earlier, while the year-to-date collection slipped 1 percent to 294 million kgMS. . . 

Synthetic foods to have ‘major impact’ within 10 to 15 years – Sir Peter Gluckman – Tom Pullar-Strecker:

New Zealand may need to reconsider its approach to genetically modified crops to respond to the economic threat presented by synthetic milk and meat, the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, has suggested.

Gluckman told the NZBio biotechnology conference in Wellington that great strides were being made commercialising artificial milk and meat, which usually rely on genetically modified (GM) ingredients to enhance their taste or texture.  

He thought most milk sold worldwide in 20 to 25 years could be synthetic, though it might be “some time” before scientists could create a T-bone steak. . . 

Grass-fed steak with a side of environmental enhancement?:

Consumers are to be asked what attributes in beef and lamb are important to them in their purchase decisions in a research project led by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Greenlea Premier Meats and Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU).

The research, which will be focused on high market potential states or cities in the US and China, will test consumers’ awareness of New Zealand red meat and gain an understanding of the attributes that are important to them. . . 

Amazing grazing: why grass-fed beef isn’t to blame in the climate change debate – Diana Rodgers:

My inbox has been inundated with people freaking out about recent papers and articles claiming that grass-fed beef is NOT going to save the planet. Basically, these scientists are ignoring important research and not looking at the full picture. While there’s still work to be done, many have proven that yes, in fact, grass-fed beef IS better for the planet.

I’ve found there are three reasons why people are conflicted about eating meat. The environmental argument is just one. We’re also fed a lot of misinformation about the nutritional implications of eating meat and conflicted about the ethics of eating animals. I get it. While I don’t argue for factory farming, I do offer some logical, concrete reasons for why meat, especially grass-fed beef, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods for humans and according to the principle of least harm, large ruminants like cattle are the most ethical protein choice. . .

If you’re thinking about marrying a farmers stop – Uptown Farms:

I’m 400 miles from home, getting ready to walk into a church for a wedding, without my farmer. It’s not the first, nor the last, event I’ll attend without him at my side.

It’s harvest season, which means anything I do that isn’t in the cab of a combine, likely doesn’t involve him.

It’s been almost almost nine years ago since I said, “I do”, and walking into another wedding has me thinking…

If you’re thinking about marrying a farmer, stop. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 28, 2015

Dairy commits $5 million to ambitious zero pest plan – Suze Metherell:

New Zealand’s dairy industry has committed $5 million over two years to the fight against stoats, rats and possums, which destroy native flora and fauna, and can carry bovine tuberculosis.

The Zero Invasive Predators scheme, or ZIP, formed after a $10 million injection from philanthropic fund NEXT Foundation, and a further commitment of $5 million from the Department of Conservation. The funds will be used to develop the Wellington-based conservationist’s barrier system, which aims to prevent the reintroduction of pests in cleared zones, without using fences.

New Zealand’s major dairy companies, including Fonterra Cooperative, Westland Milk Products, Open Country, Synlait and Tatua, have contributed to the programme, which is trialing its system on the 400 hectare Bottle Rock peninsula in the Marlborough Sounds. The dairy industry wants to eradicate possums because of the TB threat to dairy herds. . .

 Dairy funding for predator control welcomed:

The announcement that the dairy industry will join an initiative to tackle the predators decimating New Zealand’s native wildlife is another positive step on the way to achieving the long term goal of a predator-free New Zealand, Forest & Bird said today.

Five major dairy companies, including Fonterra, have committed $5 million to the Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) programme, which was founded late last year by NEXT Foundation and the Department of Conservation. The partnership intends to find new ways to eradicate introduced predators such as rats, stoats and possums from large areas of land.

Forest & Bird Group Manager Campaigns and Advocacy Kevin Hackwell welcomed the dairy industry involvement in the campaign to stop the decline of our native wildlife due to invasive predators. . .

NZ business confidence gains in February as agri sector gets more upbeat – Paul McBeth:

  (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand business confidence improved in February as recent gains in dairy prices turned sentiment around in the agriculture sector, and as low interest rates stoke hiring and investment expectations.

A net 34.4 percent of firms are optimistic about the general economy, up from 30.4 in the previous survey, according to the ANZ Business Outlook. That was aided by a turnaround in agriculture to a net 15.2 percent becoming optimistic, having previously been dominated by pessimists. Firms’ own activity outlook showed a net 40.9 percent of respondents upbeat on their prospects, compared to 37.3 percent.

“General confidence, profit expectations and employment intentions in this sector (agriculture) have flipped from negative to positive,” ANZ Bank New Zealand chief economist Cameron Bagrie said in his report. “Higher dairy prices are no doubt working their magic. Such a bounce-back is particularly welcome considering challenges delivered by Mother Nature.” . .

 

Fonterra’s journey – Keith Woodford:

[This is the second of five articles on Fonterra that I have been writing for the Fairfax NZ Sunday Star Times. This one was published on 8 February 2015. The previous article was titled ‘The evolution of Fonterra’ ]

Last week I wrote about the battles that led to the formation of Fonterra in 2001. However, Fonterra’s structure and associated institutional culture have moved a long way since then.

Sufficient time has elapsed since Fonterra’s formation battles that they can now be seen in reasonable perspective. But subsequent events are still raw. In line with corporate policy, the participants have largely kept their opinions private, and the official line is a product of the public relations team. However, in a co-operative structure, it is inevitable that information does leak. One thing for sure, is that some of the internal debates have been vigorous. . .

Forest safety council underway:

The forest industry has established a safety council to make forests safer places to work. This was a key recommendation of the Independent Forestry Safety Review Panel that reviewed forest workplace safety in 2014.

The Forest Industry Safety Council will formally get underway in early April. But in the meantime a working group representing forest owners, contractors, workers, unions and the government is putting the building blocks in place. An independent chair and national safety director are being recruited.

There were 10 workplace deaths and 169 serious harm injuries in forestry in 2013. This led to the industry establishing the review panel which reported in late October 2014. . .

Sailor convicted after biosecurity ramp-up in Northland:

A sailor who appeared in the Kaikohe District Court last week (17 February) has become the first person convicted for deliberately concealing biosecurity goods on a visiting yacht.

The conviction follows increased biosecurity scrutiny of arriving yachts by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) at Northland this yacht arrival season.

Sylvie Berthe Barre, 61, a retired French national, had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly possessing unauthorised goods, and misleading an official. She was fined $3000.

She is currently staying in New Zealand on a three-month visiting visa. . .

2015 Northland Field Days Could Be Biggest Ever:

The 2015 Northland Field Days is shaping up to be the biggest ever according to organisers with more exhibitors, more competitions and better facilities than ever before.

From February 26 to February 28 people from Northland and beyond will flood into Dargaville for the Northland Field Days with high expectations

With over 450 companies exhibiting at the event this year Northland Field Days president Lew Duggan says interest has never been higher with exhibitors taking the extra effort to make site displays more dynamic and exciting than ever.

Those interested in getting a glimpse into Northland’s history will be getting a special treat this year say organisers but not one but two heritage organisations having displays at the event. . .

 Mammoth donkey heads for record books – David Farrier:

Jenny Clausen is famous in Taupiri for a very specific love – donkeys.

The locals call her the “donkey lady” thanks to the 30 or so donkeys she keeps at her and her husband’s dairy farm.

But Ms Clausen may also soon be in The Guinness Book of World Records for one of her donkeys.

Nutmeg is a mammoth donkey born and bred in New Zealand, and she’s bigger than your normal mammoth. . .

New Zealand and Australia Tie in the Trans-Tasman Wine Challenge:

New Zealand Winegrowers injected some old fashioned rivalry in ‘The Great Trans-Tasman Wine Challenge’ on Thursday evening in Auckland ahead of the New Zealand and Australia Cricket World Cup game at the weekend. The two nations channelled their trans-Tasman rivalry as they met head-to-head in a blind wine tasting.

After some rigorous judging lead by Bob Campbell MW and Nick Stock, the ‘dream team’ of top 12 wines turned out to be a perfect split from Australia and New Zealand with each nation claiming six places each. Australian wine, Campbells Merchant Prince Rare Rutherglen Muscat NV, was crowned “player of the match”. . .

 


Rural round-up

November 18, 2014

Aussies eye fairer fight with NZ dairying  – Matthew Cranston & Tim Binsted:

As an exporter of 40,000 litres of milk to China a year, Lemontree Dairy has had to wait 11 years for the same treatment in China as New Zealand dairies.

“We have been fighting with one hand behind our back for years now with New Zealand but with this free trade agreement being equal to New Zealand will make the fight fairer,” said director James McNamee.

“It’s about time they got it over the line.”

Australia’s free trade agreement with China is set to provide A$630 million in savings from 2016 to 2025 as the tariffs are wound back, according to Australian Dairy Industry Council. . .

Black market for messy mutton  – Tracey Chatterton:

Sheep carcasses are being dumped on Hastings streets as thieves continue to target livestock.

Meat continues to be sold on the black market despite suspects having already been arrested in recent months, Flaxmere community constable Greg Andrew said.

Ratepayers were footing the bill for the mess sheep rustlers were making.

Hastings District Council contractors collected and cleaned up the dumped carcasses and offal at a cost of between $100 and $300 per carcass. . .

Milk price variability – what it means for dairy farm businesses  – Grant Rowan:

It may not appear to be, but the milk price is trending upwards.

It is also becoming more and more volatile, with the past 18 months a good case in point. In May 2013 global Whole Milk Powder (WMP) prices peaked at US$5600/tonne. The average WMP price at Fonterra’s most recent Global Dairy Trade auction was US$2522/tonne.

The question for anyone interested in the health of NZ’s biggest export industry is how are dairy farmers faring?

This edition of Farm Investment Insight explores milk price variability and the tools farmers can use to generate operating profits in times of negative price shocks. . . .

Is Our Food Safety System as Strong as We Think. Private Sector vs Public Sector – Milking on the Moove:

Is our food safety system as robust as we think it is? And are we better served by the public or private sector?

Last week I blogged about my issues getting the mobile cowshed evaluated by inspectors.

The way the food safety system works, is the government agency via The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) set the food standards. When a company sets up a food business, the verification services are provided by the private sector.

In New Zealand we have AsureQuality, which is a state owned enterprise, but it operates as a for profit business. There seems to be only two other providers, Eurofins & SGS in NZ who can offer dairy evaluation services. . .

Cut fees for Ag degrees:

GETTING YOUNG people into agribusiness is critical for New Zealand’s future, says ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie.

 He told the recent Zespri conference that he is concerned to see the right people enter the agri sector in the numbers required. For example, the kiwifruit industry will soon be producing 30 million more trays of product and will need more people to cope with that trend.

Bagrie is convinced that most young people do not understand the long term future they could enjoy in some primary industries. . .

$18mln payday for Rural Women NZ in sale to Green Cross Health – Jonathan Underhill:

Green Cross Health has agreed to pay around $18 million for Access Homehealth, a not-for-profit home healthcare services company owned by a grass-roots charitable organisation, Rural Women New Zealand, which will gain representation on the Green Cross board as part of the deal.

The purchase will add to earnings immediately, said Green Cross, formerly known as PharmacyBrands and the owner of the Life Pharmacy and Unichem pharmacy chains. Access has annual sales of about $85 million and employs about 4,000 people, the Auckland-based company said.

The purchase price, which includes assumed debt, will be funded from existing cash and bank funding, Green Cross said. . .

 Grow your own with a hand from Ballance science:

With cashflows tight on dairy farms, pasture comes out on top as the cheapest feed source and getting the best grass for the least cost can be achieved with a hand from science.

Ballance Science Manager, Aaron Stafford says the “grow your own” approach of using nitrogen fertiliser to boost pasture growth provides the most cost-effective supplementary feed, but with cash-strapped farmers working within very tight budgets, they want to be confident of a good pasture response to money spent on nitrogen.

“There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a poor or variable pasture response nitrogen fertiliser to boost feed availability. We can help farmers get the best results by enabling them to tailor application rates to areas which are likely to produce the highest pasture response.” . . .


Who knows best?

September 10, 2014

 National’s proposed tax cuts are realistic:

ANZ’s chief economist says it’s right for National to be a bit vague about its tax cuts plan because of the uncertainty in the economy.

But Cameron Bagrie says despite still owing tens of billions in debt, the Government’s proposal is “realistic”. . .

“If you step back and look at the bigger picture, it’s a signal – and the signal there is if you get out the paid work, we’re going to increase that return to paid work by allowing you to keep more of your money, as opposed to taking it off you and spending it on your behalf,” Mr Bagrie said on Firstline this morning.

“We’ve got to look at the design package in regards to whether it does truly increase the returns to work and encourage people into the labour force, because that’s ultimately the benefit of tax cuts down the track.”

As for the lack of detail in the plan, Mr Bagrie says National doesn’t have much of a choice – but as one of the few countries that includes provisions for future initiatives within the Budget, New Zealand Finance Ministers have more flexibility to adjust to changes in the economy.

“Net debt is going to be on a declining trajectory, and in that situation it gives you options. It gives you flexibility on the fiscal front.

“If I look at the combination of the policies that the Government looks like they’re going to be pursuing by 2017, they’re going to be paying down a little bit of debt, there’s going to be some modest spending increases and they’re going to try and give tax cuts – so it looks like they’re trying to strike a very tough balancing act and trying to deliver on all three, as opposed to skewing off to one side.” . . .

Balanced and realistic – that’s good, as is the signal National is sending:  it trusts people to spend their own money better than any government can.

Labour and the rest of the left think government knows best.

 

We'll start paying off debt. Then we'll cut your taxes. #3moreyears


Rural round-up

May 11, 2014

Last chance to apply for leading farm business management program – 2014:

Applications are to close at the end of this month for this year’s Rabobank Executive Development Program, Australasia’s well-regarded agricultural business management course for leading primary producers.

Now in its fifteenth year, the prestigious Rabobank Executive Development Program gives leading New Zealand and Australian farmers from a range of agricultural sectors the opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.

Rabobank CEO New Zealand Ben Russell said the business of running an agricultural enterprise has become increasingly sophisticated, with farm owners and managers needing to draw equally on their farm knowledge and professional business skills in order to remain competitive and profitable. . .

 Changes lurk below gloss – Andrea Fox:

Dairy farmers enjoying the economic sunshine have been warned a new reality is coming, bringing an end to low global interest rates and a requirement for cash-backed investment.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie told the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Hamilton shifts in United States economic policy influenced New Zealand’s long-term interest rates much more than Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler and some changes lurked under the current export gloss.

“We are transitioning internationally to a fundamentally different economic environment,” Bagrie said.

“The era of low interest rates and low cost of capital is coming to an end. . .

Hone first woman to win Diary trainee award

Ruth Hone, representing the Central Plateau region, is the first woman to take the New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the year title.

Charlie and Jody McCaig from Taranaki were named Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year and Nick Bertram from Hawek’s Bay/Wairarapa became the Farm Manager of the Year at the awards in Auckland last night.

It was fitting the McCaig’s came from Taranaki to take the 25th award because the contest had its roots there, where the idea was born in the 1970s before the first national contest was held in 1990, national convenor Chris Keeping said. . . .

Talent galore at Dairy Awards – Anne Boswell:

New Zealand Sharemilkers of the Year 2014 Charlie and Jody McCaig say competing in the Dairy Industry Awards was the most challenging and rewarding part of their career to date.

The McCaigs, who took out the prestigious title at the National Dairy Industry Awards in Auckland last night, said the award was a culmination of all they had worked toward throughout their five year journey in the industry. They are currently 50/50 sharemilking 500 cows in Hawera for the Taranaki Community Rugby Trust.

“What an honour it is to win, given the calibre of all the entrants,” McCaig said. “They are all fantastic people, doing fantastic things.” . . .

BNZ grabs more agribusiness lending, upbeat on rural sector – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Bank of New Zealand, the local unit of National Australia Bank, continued to grab more market share of agribusiness lending and is upbeat on the prospects for the rural sector.

The lender made a concerted effort to build its capability in rural lending three years ago and continued to lift market share of agri lending in the six months ended March 31, with 22.2 percent of the market, up from 21.7 percent a year earlier, and 19.2 percent in 2010.

Chief executive Andrew Thorburn, who will become chief executive at the NAB group later this year, told BusinessDesk agribusiness is “an important focus for us” after the lender’s decision to boost capability three years ago, with asset quality “improving significantly.”

Growth in business lending and lower impairment charges on distressed loans underpinned a 3.4 percent increase in BNZ’s first-half cash earnings to $400 million. . . .


NZ at tipping point

March 19, 2014

The sharp increase in productivity suggests the New Zealand economy is at a tipping point, ANZ Bank’s chief economist, Cameron Bagrie, says.

Productivity figures released by Statistics New Zealand today show productivity growth in the year to March 2013 of 2.1 percent, well above the average annual rate of 1.6 percent recorded during the 17-year period since the crucial measure of economic competitiveness was first collected, and equivalent with average annual productivity growth in Australia.

The increase reflected both an increase of 1.2 percent in multifactor productivity – a complex measure of factors including skills, costs, and value added per worker – and a 0.9 percent growth in the amount of capital available per worker,” Statistics NZ said.

Bagrie said improving productivity was an unsung part of the current economic recovery.

Everyone’s looking at the obvious factors that are driving New Zealand’s renaissance,” he said, citing strong terms of trade, the Christchurch rebuild, and high population inflows, “but no one’s talking about the productivity story.”

“I reckon we hit that tipping point about the middle of last year.”

Bagrie said the productivity improvements suggested that business management was improving.

“2008 to 20012 (the recession after the global financial crisis) was a huge wake-up call for New Zealand businesses,” said Bagrie, although they had a long way to go to catch up to Australia, which remained “a moving target” despite its productivity record slowing. . . .

Productivity is a key indicator for economic performance.

If, as Bagrie says, we’ve reached a tipping point, that’s a very good sign that the growth will be sustained.

 


Confidence levels soar

December 19, 2013

The good news keeps coming with confidence in agriculture at a 19-year high; manufacturing at a 15-year high and service at their highest level in 14 years:

New Zealand business confidence rose to its highest in almost 15 years this month, adding to evidence the economy is picking up pace.

A net 64.1 percent of firms are optimistic about general business conditions, up from 60.5 percent last month, according to the December ANZ Business Outlook survey. Firms seeing a pickup in their own business activity rose to a 19-year high of 53.5 percent from 47.1 percent last month.

ANZ’s composite indicator of business and consumer confidence indicates the two sides of the production-spending equation are in alignment, with the potential for annual economic growth to accelerate by more than 5 percent over the first part of 2014.

“That augers well for an economic expansion with real legs, said ANZ New Zealand chief economist Cameron Bagrie.

Confidence in the agriculture sector surged to a 19-year high of 54.5 percent, while manufacturing confidence hit a 15-year high of 56.1 percent and services reached the highest reading in 14 years of 68.5 percent. Sentiment in the construction sector at 66.7 percent and retailing at 65.4 percent remained “extremely elevated”, ANZ said.

The survey results are “incredibly strong” with firms’ profit expectations pushed beyond last month’s 19-year high to 39.7 percent from 37.3 percent. Employment intentions are the strongest in 19 years at 24.7 percent while residential construction intentions at 66.7 percent are the highest in almost 24 years and commercial construction intentions are robust at 41.2 percent.

Bagrie said the last time the survey recorded such high readings in 1994 and 1999, the economy was in full swing with GDP growth of more than 5 percent and the latest survey results “portend a booming economy”.

“All this momentum is occurring despite headwinds from an elevated New Zealand dollar and overwhelming expectations interest rates are going to be moving up,” Bagrie said. A net 71 percent of survey respondents expect higher interest rates over the year ahead and a net 31 percent of firms expect to raise prices.

One of the biggest challenges over the coming year will be ensuring supply can meet demand so inflation remains in check, Bagrie said. . .

The full report is here

  Survey results portend a booming economy. Many readings resemble 1994 and 1999 – years of incredibly strong growth.
  Our composite indicator, incorporating both business and consumer confidence, is signalling the potential for annual economic growth of around 5
percent by mid-2014.
  One of the economy’s biggest challenges over the coming year will be building available supply-side capacity and driving productivity growth to ensure the inflation genie doesn’t escape out of the bottle. . .

The last time we saw these sort of readings (in 1994 and 1999) an  economic upswing was in full swing.GDP growth was in excess of 5 percent, as flagged by this survey: who says business confidence surveys don’t matter!

Surfeit capacity was being eaten up too. There are similarities. Strong growth can follow extended periods of weakness or deep slumps. Recoil and pro-cyclicality
kicks in. Success breeds and feeds more success.

Throw together some localised one-offs: a city rebuild; plans to address housing shortages in the nation’s largest city; and a 40-year peak in the terms of trade,
and the growth picture takes on “tiger” as opposed to “tabby” characteristics. Suddenly the economic baton has been passed to this side of the
Tasman: yes, New Zealand can outperform Australia over the years ahead.

Challenges remain. The NZD is high; it will remain so. We’ll continue to see more flip-flops across the global economy than in all the footwear stores in Bondi
Beach. New Zealand’s balance sheet is weak. Candy is dandy but sadly NZ’s fiscal lolly jar has a distinctly empty rattle to it.

Despite these mitigating elements, the demand picture still looks remarkably assured. So assured that the question is not whether opportunities exist, but how successfully they can be seized. The emerging story across the economy will be matching demand with available supply. There will be frictions.

There is no silver bullet to easing such frictions. People and resources need to be mobilised. Get the right incentives and you’ll drive the right behaviours. At a
time when all and sundry are talking about the macroeconomic picture, there is another area of economics that deserves more attention. It’s the small stuff; what
happens at the firm and individual level. It’s microeconomics. Get the microeconomic story right and the macroeconomic one has more punch. Get it wrong, and the Reserve Bank will be forced to remove the “punch-bowl” as exuberance gets out of control. We don’t want popping champagne corks to switch to also popping the cork in the genie’s inflation bottle. . . 

confidence

Confidence matters not just to businesses but to the wider economy and to people.

Confident businesses are more likely to take the risk to invest more, produce more, employ more and pay more.

All of that means more tax which will help the government on its track back to surplus.


Good news keeps coming

November 1, 2013

Business confidence remains at a 14 year high in the ANZ’s monthly business confidence survey:

. . . Chief economist at ANZ Cameron Bagrie says the economy is in a sweet spot, despite challenges such as low deposit restrictions, a high dollar, and signs interest rates will rise next year.

“The real encouraging sign about the reading for this month is that businesses looked through all of those dynamics, had a bit of a glance, a bit of a look and have come to the conclusion – when all’s said and done – this little economy is still performing pretty well.” . . .

That’s not just the view of people here.

The Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index puts New Zealand in fifth in the world, and first in the Asia Pacific region.

The latest Legatum Prosperity Index ™, which ranks nations according to extensive wealth and wellbeing factors, reveals that global prosperity has risen over the past five years, largely due to improvements in entrepreneurship, health and education.

Norway leads the overall rankings for the fifth year and is joined in the top ten by Switzerland (2nd), Canada (3rd), Sweden (4th), New Zealand (5th) and Denmark (6th).

The US (11th) and UK (16th) are both facing economic decline, dropping four and two places respectively for their performance in this sub-index1. . .

Now in its seventh year, the Legatum Prosperity Index™ is a unique and robust assessment of global wealth and wellbeing, which benchmarks 142 countries around the world in eight distinct sub-indices: Economy; Education; Entrepreneurship & Opportunity; Governance; Health; Personal Freedom; Safety & Security; and Social Capital. . .

Path_To_Prosperity_LI2013

The New Zealand profile  is here.

We’re ranked at 17 for the economy; 15 for entrepreneurship and opportunity; 2 for governance, 1 for education, 20 for health, 15 for safety and security, 5 personal freedom, 2 for social capital.

prosperity

When #gigatownoamaru becomes the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown we’ll be contributing even more to the nation’s prosperity.


Brighter future no mirage

October 19, 2013

While attention has been on political sideshows there’s been several positive stories about the economy this week.

Consumer confidence is growing adding to signs economy is picking up pace:

New Zealand consumer confidence rose this month, adding to signs the economy is growing at a faster clip, with the strongest recording for kiwis feeling better off than a year ago since January 2008.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index rose 3 points to 122.3 from 119 in September. The current conditions index rose 4 points to 120 and the future conditions index gained 3 points to 124.

“Consumer sentiment remains elevated and consistent with perky spending trends,” ANZ New Zealand chief economist Cameron Bagrie said in his report. . . .

Employment has been lagging behind growth but it is beginning to pick up too.

The ANZ Index shows job advertisements increased last month:

The ANZ jobs index released on Thursday shows total job advertising rose 1.1% in September, with the number of jobs advertised just over 4% higher than a year ago.

ANZ Senior Economist Sharon Zollner says newspaper ads rose 4.2% after a sharp fall in August.

Ms Zollner says Internet ads rose 0.5% which is the fourth consecutive monthly increase. . . .

She says it’s normal for the labour market to lag behind the general economy but the jobs recovery had been sluggish.

“We’re optimistic that in the second half of this year things are going to pick up.” . . .

And beneficiaries are seeking out emerging jobs:

More than 700 beneficiaries have sought out and landed jobs despite having no requirement to work since the new Work Bonus became available.

“We introduced a work bonus as an incentive to help people move off a benefit and onto a wage,” says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

The government is making a difference through a modernised welfare system by setting expectations, incentives and support to work.

Operational since July 15, the latest welfare reforms include the new Work Bonus, which allows the benefit to be phased out incrementally so people keep a proportion of it as they transition to a wage.

“Even just six weeks into the policy, 706 people had gone off benefit into work and were getting the Work Bonus,” says Mrs Bennett.

“The majority were sole parents, but more than 80 were people choosing to go off the Supported Living Payment (previously Invalid’s Benefit) into work.”

Work opportunities are emerging nationwide and beneficiaries will continue to snap up these jobs with employers choosing to recruit via Work and Income.

Home Support North is looking for around 70 part time support workers in Kerikeri and Whangarei. A new Supervalue supermarket opening in Avondale, Auckland provided work for five beneficiaries and likewise a FreshChoice supermarket will create 30 new jobs in West Auckland’s Ranui when it opens.

Z petrol stations regularly use Work and Income for recruitment. Seventeen beneficiaries gained jobs in Auckland Z stations in May and June alone.

“Three of those seventeen had done the Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) scheme. The Opposition writes this course off, but it motivates people to work,” says Mrs Bennett.

Another ten LSV graduates of the Hobsonville course have been interviewed for more positions at Z stations.

A number of new and expanding businesses are opening sites or starting up in areas that will benefit from the new jobs emerging including:

  • Progressive enterprises re-opening a refurbished Wellington supermarket
  • Sea Dragon Marine Oils doubling staff levels and opening a new factory in Richmond
  • New Subway sandwich store in Nelson
  • Drivers and labourers needed by Smart Environment Limited for recycling and rubbish disposal in Westport
  • Rydges Latimer Square Christchurch hotel now open and taking staff

Jobs are becoming available around the country and Work and Income are making every effort to match them with motivated beneficiaries.

“The new, modernised welfare system is providing real incentives and support to move into work and people are taking up the opportunities as they arise.”

There’s been a dramatic drop in the number of beneficiaries in the last year:

The number of people on benefits in New Zealand has fallen consistently for three quarters says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Today’s data release shows benefits fell to 304,394 in the September quarter.

“A year ago there were almost 321,000 New Zealanders on benefits; that fell by 16,548 since September 2012, and by 5,388 in just the last quarter.”

The number of people on Sole Parent Support fell by more than 3,000 in the last quarter and there are at least 2,000 fewer people on Jobseeker Support.

Since the Sole Parent Support benefit was introduced in July 15, more than 3,200 sole parents have cancelled it for work, others have left for different reasons and another 5,000 came onto this benefit in the same period.

Mrs Bennett says the new, transparent, approach to the welfare system reveals sole parents spend 15.8 years on average on welfare and the total lifetime liability for sole parents is $21 billion, or $234,000 per person.

“This is why we’ve prioritised this group for assistance, particularly teen parents who are most at risk of getting trapped on welfare,” says Mrs Bennett.

“Teen parents on benefit are required to be in education so they can be better prepared for work, as well as undertaking parenting and budgeting programmes, all of which helps them to become independent.”

Since July, more than 10,000 Jobseeker benefits have been cancelled because people found work and on average, around 1,500 benefits are cancelled every week, because people go off benefit, into work. . . .

South Island firms are showing meteoric growth:

South Island listed companies have posted a meteoric 22.7% growth in the latest quarter according to the Deloitte South Island Index released today.  This is the largest quarterly growth percentage since the inception of the Index.

The 23rd edition of the Deloitte South Island Index, for the quarter to 30 September 2013, saw the index rocket upwards by $1.6 billion (22.7%) in market capitalisation, continuing the trend of the previous four quarters. The latest quarter’s results see the Index up $3.02 billion (53.6%) during the year to 30 September 2013 with total market capitalisation now standing at $8.66 billion, yet another new high since its inception in 2007.

The South Island Index’ 22.7% growth led the way against benchmark indices during the September quarter. Over the same period, the ASX All Ords achieved respectable growth of 9.3% while the NZX 50 Index and Dow Jones achieved more modest to low growth of 6.7% and 1.5% respectively. 

Paul Munro, a corporate finance partner in Deloitte’s Christchurch office, says the performance of the Index over the last quarter has been nothing less than remarkable. . .

The full Deloitte South Island Index report is here.

We still have a long way to go but all of these are encouraging signs that the  economy is on track back to surplus and that the brighter future National promised is no mirage.

Prime Minister John Key says:

I’m proud of the progress we’re making to build a stronger economy. Economic growth means more jobs and opportunities, better schools and hospitals, and a brighter future for families.
From John Key : NZ is growing faster than most economies, meaning more jobs, more opportunities & a brighter future for Kiwi families.


Rural round-up

June 22, 2013

Snow records tell own story – Tim Fulton:

You often hear claims about the biggest snowfall in decades.

This week’s weather in Canterbury led to a study that puts the term “big snow” in context.

The Canterbury snow of June 12, 2006, tagged the Big Chill at the time, egged electricity lines company Orion into some historical homework.

Snow depths in areas north of the Rakaia River were not unprecedented, NIWA reported in work on Orion’s behalf.

Comparing six Canterbury storms, NIWA said the covering in areas north of the Rakaia was similar to the 1973 storm although the 2006 blast did produce pockets of significantly deeper snow west of Darfield and towards the foothills. That rolling country experienced conditions more similar to the 1945 storm. . .

Chinese demand drives kiwi sales – Richard Rennie:

Positive Asian market prospects are providing a bright start for the kiwifruit export season, after the industry grappled with the Psa disease and Chinese import issues last year.

Zespri’s manager for grower and government relations Simon Limmer has spent several weeks in Asian markets and has returned buoyed by prospects.

The limited volumes of gold fruit available for export this season created some supply tension, with growth strong in the established Chinese eastern seaboard region, he said. . .

Attitude change encouraging – Tim Cronshaw:

New Zealand agriculture seems to have moved beyond talk of great trade opportunities in Asia to executing ways of making the most of them.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the agriculture sector had experienced a change of attitude.

“There has been a big change in the tenor of conversations between now and three years ago.

“Three years ago we were talking about opportunity. Now there are a lot more thought leadership forums around the country that are centred around execution and how we unlock those gains. Those sort of shifts are subtle, but I think they are very important as they signal where New Zealand is moving to.” . .

School rolls drop in Psa-afflicted area – Sonya Bateson:

A number of Te Puke school rolls have dropped as orchard workers struggle to find work in the Psa-afflicted area.

Fairhaven School and Rangiuru School said their rolls had dropped in the past year because of the effect Psa had had on kiwifruit orchards. . .

HortNZ president steps down

Horticulture New Zealand president Andrew Fenton is stepping down as president after the group’s annual meeting next month.

Fenton has held the role since HortNZ’s inception in 2005.

He said he was very proud of what HortNZ had achieved over the past eight years and it was now time for new leadership.

“It has been a real team effort and we could not have achieved what we have without the strong support of our grower members,” he said. . .

12 questions: Simon Washer – Sarah Stuart:

Simon Washer, 25, was last week named Rural Bachelor of the Year at Fieldays. He’s a sharemilker on his family farm in south Taranaki and says he needs to find a partner pronto as his cooking is pretty much limited to roasts.

1. So, how many calls, emails, texts, stalkers have you had since winning Rural Bachelor last week?

I had the cellphone in my back pocket when I won and it didn’t stop vibrating for a couple of hours. I’ve now got 80 texts on the cellphone and 180 emails to browse through.

2. Did your mates hassle you about entering?

That’s an understatement.

3. You’re a dairy farmer: are profits booming?

I’ve got the biggest overdraft I’ve ever had as I just started sharemilking this month. My staff and farm expenses get paid on the 20th of every month but I won’t see any income until September. Our company Fonterra is doing a great job and looking after us this year.

4. Your granddad set up the family farm after returning from the war: how much pressure do you feel to make it succeed?

Little to none. I can honestly tell myself each day this industry is what I love doing. The best advice I’ve had from Jim, my granddad, is “Find what you love doing and you’ll never work a day of your life”. I’ll be telling my kids that too. . . .

 


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