Let some knowledge flourish?

August 6, 2018

Then-vice chancellor of Massey Chris Kelly provoked outrage after making comments about women vets:

Kelly told Rural News that 75 to 85 per cent of vet students were women and in the first year when there was a high ‘cull’, it was the female students who continued because the work was largely academic.

“That’s because women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass,” he told Rural News. “Whereas men find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year.” . . 

When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it’s dominated by women. That’s fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a fulltime equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal. So, though we’re graduating a lot of vets, we’re getting a high fallout rate later on.” . . 

Shortly after the outrage, he stepped down.

He apologised yesterday and said the information he gave in the article was incorrect.

He told the university today that he intended to step down from his position, effective immediately.

In a statement, Mr Kelly said his decision followed media coverage of his comments.

“Having had time to carefully consider the views of many staff, students and stakeholders, I believe that it is in the interests of the university that I step aside,” he said. . .

Martin van Beynen wrote at the time that the chancellor’s point was lost in the silly vet sexism fracas:

 . . But there is a wider problem with jumping from a great height on a man like Kelly.

Kelly spoke his mind giving a view which was not hateful or disrespectful. Essentially he was saying the taxpayer gets more bang for their buck by training male vets because of the nature of the job and the fact women, due to an unfortunate quirk of biology, have babies and want to spend some time with them.

It sounds like a defendable view which should prompt some debate. There might actually be a problem brewing away in vet education due to the dominance of female graduates. That won’t be talked about now because no-one will be brave enough to raise it.

The danger is that due to the sensitivity of the issue and possible ramifications of expressing a view, the wrong decisions will be made, not because people don’t know the facts or what to do, but just because to raise the difficult matters is a career wrecker.

The last and important point is that it’s quite healthy for people to shoot their mouths off now and again. It’s much better to know what people think than to have their views massaged by public relations or communications staff into nothingness. People censoring themselves is far more dangerous than saying what they really think.

Exactly. It is far better to know what people think than to have their views and opinions, whether they be right or wrong, silenced.

The importance of free speech is not something the current Massey vice chancellor Jan Thomas appears to believe in:

The right to speak freely is a bedrock principle of democratic society. This includes the right to hold opinions and express one’s views without fear and the ability to freely communicate one’s ideas.

History is littered with examples of tyrants who have sought to stymie this freedom of expression and, conversely, reveals the tragedy of those whose voices have been silenced under such oppression.

So far so good but then she writes:

Freedom of expression is one thing, but hate speech is another. As a concept that has now entered common parlance, hate speech refers to attacks based on race, ethnicity, religion, and increasingly, on sexual orientation or preference. . .

But not all religions are equal when it comes to criticism. I’ve yet to read or hear anyone attacking Christianity accused of hate speech.

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. . .

She’s right that hate speech, however, it’s defined, isn’t free speech.

But the point that free speech would permit people to indulge in hate speech appears to have escaped her.

. . . Academics have a responsibility to engage with the communities we serve, to correct error and prejudice and to offer expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument.

Given the current dominance of wall-to-wall social media and the echo chambers of fake news, universities are in many ways obliged to make positive societal interventions.

Universities support our staff and students to push boundaries, test the evidence that is put to them and challenge societal norms, including examining controversial and unpopular ideas.

This also obliges our institutions to support staff if and when they are attacked for engaging in such debates.

In this regard, I am guided by the University of California’s former President Clark Kerr’s oft-cited maxim that “the role of universities is not to make ideas safe for students, but to make students safe for ideas”.

And as I regularly remind our graduates, with rights come responsibilities.

Public universities have an obligation to uphold our civic leadership role in society and our first responsibility, I would argue, is to do no harm.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

All of that is reasonable.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

While I have concerns about what exactly hate speech is, I can’t argue against countering it with reason and compassion.

But then she concludes:

Hate speech has no place at a university. My university values our commitment to ideas and scholarship and free expression. . .

Spot the contradiction: a commitment to free expression and the exlusion of hate speech.

A university of all places ought to be able to counter the misguided, misinformed and mistaken by reasoned and reasonable debate, not by shutting them up and shutting down their right to express their views, however wrong or revolting those views are.

Karl du Fresne writes we should be very suspicious about claims of “hate speech”:

. . . My first concern is that much of what is emotively described as hate speech isn’t hateful at all. Too often it simply means opinions and ideas that some people find distasteful or offensive. But merely being offended is no justification for stifling expressions of opinion in a liberal, open democracy that depends on the contest of ideas. 

More worryingly, accusations of “hate speech” can be used to intimidate people into silence and put discussion of certain issues and ideas off-limits. In fact I believe that’s the over-arching aim.

Anyway, who defines hate speech? The term is bandied around as if there’s some agreed definition. But there’s not, and freedom of expression is too precious to leave it to an aggrieved minority or an academic elite to define it and therefore determine what the rest of us may say.

It’s also an infinitely elastic term. In Britain, where police have the power to prosecute for hate speech, there have been some frightening cases of overkill and heavy-handedness. 

Better to set the legal bar high to allow plenty of space for free speech, as the courts have tended to do in New Zealand. By all means, draw the line at harmful acts, direct threats to people’s safety or incitements to violence against minorities. But the law already allows for criminal prosecution in such cases.

We have far more to fear from people who want to suppress speech than we do from those who say things that others find objectionable. The real issue here is language control – because if you can control the language people are allowed to use in political discourse, you can control the range of ideas people are permitted to articulate and explore. . .

No, language is the latest battleground in what is known as the culture wars. The mounting clamour for tougher laws against so-called hate speech is an outgrowth of identity politics, in which minority groups are encouraged to see themselves as oppressed or disadvantaged because of their colour, ethnicity, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation. 

Hate speech makes some colours, ethnicities, genders, religions and sexual orientations more equal than others.

This has generated a demand for protection from comments that might be seen as critical or belittling – hence the frequency with which we hear people being accused of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia and misogyny.

No one likes to have these labels pinned on them, so people keep their heads down. Accusing someone of hate speech has the same effect. It’s a quick way to shut down debate. . .

It’s so much easier to accuse someone of hate speech than it is to debate and counter what they say with facts and reason.

Journalists, of all people, should be ardent advocates of free speech because they have the most to fear if it’s abolished. In totalitarian regimes, journalists are often the first people to be imprisoned (as in Turkey) and even risk being murdered (as in Putin’s Russia).

But the most illiberal pronouncement I have read on the supposed dangers of free speech came from a university vice-chancellor who clearly thought that ordinary New Zealanders can’t be trusted to form their own sensible conclusions about contentious issues.

This pompous academic thought we needed guidance to keep us on the right path. And where from? Why, from universities.

We can infer from this that universities see themselves as having taken over the Churches’ role as moral arbiters. God help us all.

That the academic is vice chancellor of the same university the former-chancellor resigned from for saying something which got the crowd baying intrigues and concerns me.

Kelly wasn’t criticised for saying young men mature later and drink too much. He didn’t say that women don’t make good vets. He did say women work shorter hours than men.

He got his numbers wrong – saying women vets worked two-fifths of the time men did when younger vets work similar hours and after 30 women vets work an average of 37 hours a week and men an average of 45.

He might also be accused of not wording what he said better.

But over-egging the numbers and wording what he said somewhat clumsily ought to be a minor transgression.

A vice chancellor of a university, which is supposed to be a bastion of free speech, declaring that hers won’t  be ought to be a major one.

Kelly’s comments provoked an outrage, lots of media coverage and led to his resignation. All I’ve come across in response to Thomas’s declaration that Massey won’t uphold free speech are a very few well reasoned opinion pieces arguing against her.

Liam Hehir didn’t refer to Thomas’s remarks but he highlights the value of free speech and the danger in silencing it:

. . . New Zealand has developed a similar free-speech culture.

And the value of that culture isn’t that it protects racists and crackpots. It’s that it protects the humane and decent, who will not always hold the reins of power. The re-emergence of authoritarianism in continental Europe, where free-speech rights are less embedded, may well provide a warning here.

So should we accord liberal free speech rights to those with deplorable views? Yes. But it’s not to protect them from us. It’s to protect us from them.

Kelly stood down as chancellor for speaking freely, if what turned out to be unwisely in these politically-correct times. Vice chancellor Thomas declared Massey a free speech-free university and hardly raised an eye brow.

The uiniversity’s motto is floreat scientia – let knowledge flourish.

It isn’t qualified as some knowledge but if free speech can’t flourish there, can all knowledge?


Rural round-up

December 15, 2016

Massey to go more practical – Peter Burke:

Veterinary and agriculture degree students who start at Massey University from 2019 will find practical aspects of farming and vet work in their courses right from the start.
And the university is moving to a primary concern with agriculture.

Chancellor Chris Kelly told Rural News that practical studies will start in students’ first year of vet and ag degree courses.

The move on the vet degree course responds to the vet industry saying that though new vets are well qualified academically they lack practical skills, especially for rural practice. . . 

Outcry at ‘sexist’ Massey Chancellor 2/5 comment – Jessica Wilson:

Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly has come under fire over a comment he made about women veterinary graduates.
Kelly said a woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a full-time equivalent vet.

His comment was made in a recent Rural News article.

Kelly says currently the majority of veterinary students and graduates at Massey University are women. He says women make up 75-85% of vet students in first year and more go on to second year than men do. . . 

Uni boss steps down after female vet remarks:

Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly is stepping down, after earlier apologising for saying one woman veterinary graduate was worth two fifths of a full-time vet.

Mr Kelly made the comment in an interview with Rural News, published last week.

“When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it’s dominated by women,” Mr Kelly told the publication. . . 

Fonterra topping global pizza markets with new investment:

Fonterra takes another important step in its value add strategy today, with the announcement of a new mozzarella plant that will meet growing customer demand for its world-renowned cheese. The introduction of the new $240 million plant ¬ doubling the Co-operative’s capacity to produce its revolutionary individually quick frozen (IQF) mozzarella – will make Fonterra Clandeboye the largest producer of natural mozzarella in the Southern Hemisphere.

Robert Spurway, Chief Operating Officer Global Operations, says demand for this mozzarella out of China and wider Asia continues to grow as more consumers seek out natural dairy products. 

Blueberry season tracking well for Waikato growers – Gerald Piddock:

The season’s first picking of blueberries are in supermarket shelves with the bulk of the fruit ready for harvest in time for Christmas.

It should also see prices slowly start to fall as supply matches demand from blueberry lovers around the country.

The only potential issue was the recent patchy rain hitting many Waikato blueberry farms, which has delayed picking, Blueberries New Zealand chairman Dan Peach said.

Tracing wool from origin to end product  – Annabelle Beale:

WITH a corporate career in information technology and supply chain logistics spanning three decades, Andrew Ross’ recent entry into the wool industry was never going to be without digital disruption.

When helping out on his father’s ultrafine wool property in Guyra, Northern NSW, nearly six years ago, a seed of passion was planted for the Merino wool industry which made him dissatisfied with his corporate life.

His simple ambition to establish an Australian grown and made active and outdoor clothing brand started a complex rewriting of how Merino wool will be sourced and traced in years to come.


Rural round-up

June 7, 2016

Primary sector leader ‘humbled’ by award – Gerard Hutching:

Agricultural leader Chris Kelly said he was “humbled” by the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) bestowed on him in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Kelly, who has been involved in the farming sector all his career, is best known as chief executive of Landcorp. During his 12-year stewardship of the SOE between 2001-13, Landcorp’s value mushroomed from $500 million to $1.6 billion.

“I’m proud to be part of a wonderful industry. The primary sector is not only very important for New Zealand but it’s also a great place to work.

“The most memorable component would have been my sojourn at Landcorp. I feel humbled to have been singled out because there are lots of other people who could have been,” Kelly said. . . 

Harnessing youthful energy at Mangahao – Kate Taylor:

The infamous Mangahao fog doesn’t dampen the farming enthusiasm of the Tararua Farmers of the Year. Kate Taylor paid a visit

Toddler Jack reaches for another piece of his toast as mum Ally puts a cake in the oven and dad Pete Apthorp has a well-earned coffee after sending away lambs in the early morning fog.

“The fog is at least easier to deal with than the dark last week before daylight saving ended. The people who like it lighter in the evenings have obviously never had to get stock away early for same-day kill,” says Pete with a chuckle.

Pete and Ally Apthorp, who are still in their 20s, farm on Mangahao-Pahiatua Rd, otherwise known as the Pahiatua Track to Palmerston North. They have been named the 2016 Rural Aerial Co-op Tararua Farmer of the Year and will host a field day on April 27.  . . 

NZ tech firm raises funds, wins award:

A local agri-technology company is on a high after raising $4.5 million for product development and research and being named the best AG-Tech start up in a Silicon Valley technology competition.

Engender Technologies has worked with two Centres of Research Excellence – the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodds-Walls Centre – to develop technology to allow dairy farmers to manage the sex make-up of their herds.

It opens the way to a leading position in what’s estimated to be a $3.5 billion market. . . 

Nominations sought for 2016 trans-Tasman agribusiness leadership awards:

Nominations have opened for the 2016 Rabobank Leadership Awards, recognising the contribution of senior and emerging leaders in the success of New Zealand and Australia’s food and agribusiness industries.

The peer-nominated trans-Tasman awards – now in their eleventh year – include the flagship Rabobank Leadership Award, which was last year won by New Zealand business leader Sir Henry van der Heyden, the former chair of global dairy giant Fonterra.

The award is presented annually to an individual in a senior leadership role in the food, beverage and agribusiness sector who has created sustainable growth and prosperity at both corporate and industry level, while also demonstrating a wider commitment to society. . . 

Invasive ants eradicated from Tiritiri Matangi:

An ant considered one of the most destructive invasive species in the world has been successfully eradicated from Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

“Tiritiri Matangi is one of the few places in the world where Argentine ants have been successfully eradicated, the culmination of 16 years of hard work by DOC staff and volunteers,” Ms Barry says.

“They may be small, but these ants are one of the most damaging of all invasive pest species. The World Conservation Union lists them as one of the 100 worst eco-invaders on Earth.” . . 

Fungi workshop first of its kind:

Some of the world’s leading experts in fungal biology and the study of pest and weed invasions met recently at a workshop organised by researchers from the Bio-Protection Research Centre.

The aim of the  workshop, the first of its kind in New Zealand, was to stimulate discussion between scientists from different disciplines and develop a publication to guide future research in this area.

Sponsored by the New Phytologist Trust the event attracted more than 70 scientists for a day of public talks and a four day writing workshop for key participants.

“This was an incredible opportunity to bring together plant invasion ecologists, fungal ecologists and plant pathologists,” says Professor of Invasion Ecology Ian Dickie. . . 

Dairy: In a tough year, farmers can optimise tax through preferential livestock valuation:

With this years continued convergence of values between the Herd Scheme Value and National Standard Cost for dairy cattle, professional services firm Crowe Horwath says farmers are presented with an opportunity to review their livestock valuation methods and optimise their operations for tax efficiency.

That’s according to Tony Marshall, agri tax specialist who points out that the IRD’s 2016 Herd Scheme (HS) values have drawn to their closest with the National Standard Cost (NSC) in some time. “Valuation choice is important due to the tax treatment of livestock under each scheme,” he notes. “Once livestock are valued under HS, movements in value are non-taxable, whereas movements in value under the NSC method are always taxable, either as income or a deduction.” . . .

LIC bulls deliver top results for farmers:

LIC is celebrating the co-operative’s top bulls with the release of the industry’s latest Ranking of Active Sires (RAS) list – which ranks the top breeding bulls in New Zealand.

”These are our farmers’ bulls, developed by LIC on behalf of farmers for farmers,” LIC’s General Manager Biological Systems Geoff Corbett said.

The co-operative is pleased to see that 26 of the top 30 bulls of all breeds in the country are LIC’s. In other great results, the top 12 bulls across all breeds are LIC’s. . . 

CropLogic Secures New Licence for Global Growth:

Precision agriculture firm CropLogic has signed an exclusive agreement with the New Zealand Institute of Plant & Food Research to expand the marketing of its patented technology to corn, wheat, soybean and cotton farmers in the United States.

The technology — developed over 30 years out of Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, and guided and shaped for international markets by IP investor Powerhouse Ventures — enables growers using the firm’s predictive modelling systems to pinpoint the best times to apply nutrients and to conserve precious water for maximum plant yields. . . 


Rural round-up

June 5, 2015

Central Plains Water moves to Stage II planning:

Central Plains Water is proceeding with planning for an enlarged Stage 2 of the $375m project on the back of fresh funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries’ (MPI) Irrigation Accelerator Funding (IAF).

The $3.5 million investment from the IAF will allow CPW to proceed with the first phase of the Stage 2 design. This investment is one of two that the IAF has committed to CPW, which must match the commitment dollar-for-dollar. . .

Rabobank New Zealand announces appointment of new general manager Country Banking:

Rabobank New Zealand has announced the appointment of Hayley Moynihan to the new role of general manager Country Banking.

Subject to regulatory approval from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Ms Moynihan will commence in the role from July 2, 2015.

Reporting to Rabobank New Zealand chief executive officer Ben Russell, the general manager Country Banking will be responsible for leadership of Rabobank’s rural banking business throughout New Zealand.

 

Farmers urged to have their say on future plans for fighting bovine TB:

New Zealand cattle and deer farmers are being urged to get involved in how the fight against bovine TB is carried out, with a review of the Bovine Tuberculosis Pest Management Plan underway.

Since the start of 2000, New Zealand has spent more than $1.2 billion fighting bovine TB and controlling the pests (especially possums) that spread the disease.

Independent Chair of the Plan Governance Group (PGG) Chris Kelly said, “To protect the health of farmed cattle and deer and our good international trade reputation around animal products, it is critical we continue to build on this large investment and maintain the low TB rates we see today.” . .

Research findings a promising start for PhD student:

Preliminary findings from a research project at the University of Waikato could mean good things for farmers dealing with the effects of ongoing drought.

Increasing drought resilience
Doctoral student Jack Pronger’s research focuses on identifying approaches to increase pastoral drought resilience by using more diverse mixes of pasture species. He’s comparing the seasonal water use of mixed-sward pasture systems (a combination of different grass, legume and herb species) with more traditional ryegrass/clover systems under dairy grazing. . .

Healthy thinking workshops for rural people:

A 1980s era ambulance will be on the road soon, helping to bring practical advice to farmers and others in the rural community about looking after themselves.

It is part of a new programme, Farmstrong, that rural insurer, FMG and the Mental Health Foundation have launched.

It is taking a different approach to other rural mental health initiatives, by promoting well-being, with advice on subjects such as nutrition, managing fatigue, exercise, and coping with pressure. . .

Growing value – an uncertain future:

The uncertain future of the dairy sector is currently top-of-mind for many primary sector leaders, reports KPMG New Zealand.

That was a key theme arising from the KPMG Agribusiness Agenda 2015, titled “Growing Value”.

KPMG’s Global Head of Agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot, says conversations about the dairy industry’s future have “changed dramatically in the last year”.

“The extent of the downturn in milk returns for the 2014/2015 season was not expected. The belief that prices had moved to a new plain, driven by insatiable Chinese demand, has disappeared.”  . . .

Farmers score with new DairyNZ app launching at Fieldays:

A tool to allow farmers to perform one of their most important jobs on a smartphone will soon be available when DairyNZ launches its new free Body Condition Scoring (BCS) App at the National Agricultural Fieldays next week in the Waikato.

The app gives farmers the opportunity to body condition score cows on their smartphone using DairyNZ’s Body Condition Scoring Made Easy field guide.

DairyNZ animal husbandry specialist Andrea Henry says condition scoring cows is such an important job, DairyNZ wanted to make it as easy as possible. . .

Blocks help minimise metabolic disorder risks in herds:

It’s the calm before the calving season and a bit of planning now will help herds get through without the risk of metabolic disorders, such as milk fever, which can lead to downer cows or impact future milk production.

The disorders are prevalent just before or after calving, triggered by an inability to mobilise enough calcium. Subclinical cases of milk fever can be hard to pick up, with industry data indicating that for every downer cow it is likely that between 10 and 15 others in the herd will have early stage milk fever symptoms.

“It’s estimated that the cost of a clinical case of milk fever can reach up to $1,500 per cow* – including lost milk production, reduced fertility, and increased likelihood of culling due to other diseases such as mastitis. Not only is the risk a costly one, it’s also unnecessary,” says SealesWinslow Product Development Manager, Jackie Aveling. . .


Rural round-up

April 8, 2014

A taste of Waitaki –  Pam Jones:

Pam Jones travels a create-your-own wine and food trail in Waitaki Valley and gives the region top marks.

There is no formal wine and food trail in Waitaki Valley but it is not hard to create your own.

Take a trip from Omarama to Kurow and back to Oamaru and you will discover pinot noirs and aromatics that knock your socks off with their flavours and minerality.

Then add some gourmet treats or rustic farmers’ fare on the side.

It is a recipe for a wonderful day of wining and dining, or stay the night at places along the way to turn it into a multiday sojourn.

We start our loop at the Ladybird Hill Cafe, Restaurant and Winery in Omarama, tucked to the side at the southern entrance of the busy crossroads town. . .

Edendale Nursery sold to large forestry biotech – Sally Rae:

Forestry biotech company ArborGen has expanded its stable of nurseries with the acquisition of Edendale Nursery in Southland.

ArborGen, in which NZX-listed Rubicon has a 31.67% stake, is the largest supplier of seedlings in New Zealand.

It sells up to 25 million trees annually, predominantly in the North Island, and owns five production nurseries, two seed orchards, and a manufacturing facility for the production of radiata varietal seedlings. . . .

Making horseshoe among Young Farmers tasks – Sally Rae:

When Sonja Dobbie entered the North Otago district final of the ANZ Young Farmer Contest, she did not expect to do well.

The competition was held at Totara Estate, near Oamaru, last November and members of her Five Forks club encouraged each other to enter to ensure good representation.

But Miss Dobbie (23), a first-time entrant, finished third behind Marshall Smith (Upper Waitaki Young Farmers) and Steven Smit (Glenavy-Waimate), ensuring her a place in this month’s Aorangi regional final. . .

Sustainable, High-Performing Dairy Operation Collects Supreme Award In 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Okaihau dairy farmers Roger and Jane Hutchings are the Supreme winners of the 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Judges described the Hutchings’ 680-cow business in the Bay Of Islands, Lodore Farm Ltd, as a very sustainable high-input system which is profitable across all aspects of the operation.

“There is a clear balance between the financial performance of the operation and the environmental and social aspects.”  . . .

 Beef + Lamb New Zealand appoints top genetics positions:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has appointed a Chairman and General Manager to run the new entity Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics.

Former Landcorp CEO and Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly will chair the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics Board and Graham Alder the former Genetics Business Manager of Zoetis, has been appointed General Manager of Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics.

The appointments follow the successful vote at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Annual Meeting to combine the organisation’s current genetics investments. This means Sheep Improvement Ltd (the national sheep genetic dataset), the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test and Ovita, with added investment in beef genetics, come together with government funds to create the new entity Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics. . .

More success for PGP programmes:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming success by three Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programmes this week, including an award nomination for a revolutionary seafood programme.

“The Precision Seafood Harvesting Programme has been nominated for a KiwiNet Research & Business Partnership Award. This is fitting recognition for a programme that could revolutionise the global fishing industry.

“The programme is developing new sustainable fishing technology that will allow fish to be landed on fishing boats alive, and in perfect condition, while safely releasing small fish and other species.

“The potential economic and environmental benefits of this are huge, and it’s no surprise it is attracting so much attention. This is a $52 million project with funding coming from both industry and government.” .

Another PGP programme – Shellfish Production and Technology New Zealand Ltd (SPATnz) – has also reached a milestone in selective breeding of greenshell mussels. . .

Telecom’s expanding mobile network connects locals in the Far North:

Locals and visitors to Houhora, Pukenui and the coastline north to Rarawa Bay may notice a boost in mobile coverage in the area, with Telecom announcing today that it has invested more than $175,000 on improved coverage to the region.

Telecom’s investment in the Houhora Central Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) site responds to the increasing demand for mobile coverage in the area and will give locals and visitors added access to voice, mobile broadband and text services over the Telecom mobile network, which has been built specifically for smart phones.

The improved mobile coverage is part of Telecom’s commitment to open up access to mobile data and applications for rural communities. . .

New Zealand seafood goes online in China promotion:

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has joined forces for the first time with China’s most popular business-to-consumer online shopping platform Tmall.com, to promote New Zealand seafood in a week-long campaign.

The promotion with Tmall.com will take place between 9-15 April, allowing Chinese shoppers to buy live seafood fresh from the sea in New Zealand, then have it packaged and air freighted to Shanghai within 36 hours. Within 72 hours, the seafood orders will be delivered to Chinese consumers across the country. The New Zealand products available for sale include paua, greenshell mussels and Bluff and Pacific oysters.

The ability to sell and deliver live seafood to Chinese consumers is a significant milestone. A similar Tmall.com campaign with Alaskan seafood last year resulted in a total of 50 metric tonnes supplied to Chinese consumers. . .

The ‘B’ word – Mad Bush Farm:

Yesterday I read the forecast for Northland and I used the “B” word. It’s now Autumn, and yet again we’re in a drought. So is the Waikato and things are looking rather grim where rainfall goes. I’m letting the Toyota crew there say the “B” word on my behalf, and the rest of the rural crew out there looking up at the skies and praying it rains and soon!


Rural round-up

December 18, 2013

Fonterra faces big milk problem – Chalkie:

If Heath Robinson designed a contraption to pluck the feathers from a mallard with barbecue tongs, it would be the epitome of elegance compared with Fonterra.

Our giant dairy co-operative, bless it, is like an elephant balancing on a stool built by engineering students out of toothpicks – a gravity-defying feat of complexity that threatens to go crashingly wrong at any moment.

The elephant hit the deck big time last week when Fonterra had to press the manual over-ride on its intricate milk pricing machinery and Chalkie reckons the damage will be more than a few splinters in the bum. . .

Farmer loses cows to feed ‘hardware’ – Sandie Finnie:

Carterton dairy farmer Chris Engel is out of pocket but better informed after two of his cows died of “hardware disease”, the industry term for cows that die from ingesting metal fragments in palm kernel expeller supplementary feed.

Now he wants to alert other farmers to the importance of reading the fine print on their PKE supply deals.

Mr Engel sought compensation of $12,522.23 from PKE supplier INL through the Masterton District Court Disputes Tribunal.

It would have covered the death of the cows, lost milk production, veterinarian fees and other costs. . .

New Chancellor for Massey University:

Wellington businessman Chris Kelly is Massey University’s new Chancellor.

Mr Kelly replaces Dr Russ Ballard, who has been Chancellor for the past five years. Mr Kelly is a veterinary science graduate of Massey and highly regarded New Zealand business leader with multiple directorships. This year he retired as chief executive of state-owned Landcorp Farming Ltd, a role he was in for 12 years. He has been on the University Council since August 2005 and has been Pro Chancellor – deputy chair of the council – since July last year.

The University’s new Pro Chancellor is Michael Ahie, also from Wellington. . .

Meat industry takes stock:

The Red Meat Sector Strategy coordination group has released a progress report on how the sector is tracking towards the goals of the Red Meat Sector Strategy, released in May 2011.

The Red Meat Sector Strategy was developed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. It identified ways to secure improved and sustainable growth for the sector against a background of volatile sales and variable profitability, over the past decade in particular.
 
Just over two years after the launch of the strategy, this report outlines the progress in each of its focus areas and towards realising the opportunities outlined. The report records where progress has been made and where work is actively ongoing. It also identifies the areas where progress has been limited. . .

Fitch gives Fonterra thumbs up over unchanged farmgate payout, dividend cut – Paul McBeth:

Fitch Ratings has praised Fonterra Cooperative Group’s [NZX: FCG] decision to hold the forecast payout to farmers and slashing its dividend by two-thirds amid a growing gap in prices between milk powders and its cheese and casein products.

The Auckland-based company’s decision is “characteristic of the fiscal discipline that underscores its credit rating,” Fitch said in a statement. Fonterra has an AA rating. Earlier this month the cooperative surprised analysts by holding the forecast payout for this season at a record $8.30 per kilogram of milk solids and cutting its expected dividend to 10 cents from 32 cents. . .

Better water quality won’t happen overnight … but it must happen – Jenny Webster-Brown:

If we cannot stop ongoing water quality degradation, and effectively restore degraded water environments, we stand to lose much that we value about New Zealand and our way of life. We will lose recreational opportunities, fisheries and our reputation for primary produce from a “clean” environment. We will lose functioning ecosystems, the ecosystem services they provide and the beauty of our iconic water features. We will have to pay for increasingly higher technology to treat drinking, stock and even irrigation water … like so many drier, more populous or older nations, who have long since lost their natural water amenities. This is not what we have known, or what we wish for our children, or their children. To improve water quality, we need only three things: the will, the means and the time. . .

Wine industry shows increased profitability in 2013:

Financial benchmarking survey optimistic despite challenges for smaller wineries

The turnaround in the New Zealand wine industry has continued in 2013 on the back of improved profitability, especially for large wineries, according to the eighth annual financial benchmarking survey released today by Deloitte and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Vintage 2013 tracks the results of wineries accounting for almost half of the industry’s export sales revenue for the 2013 financial year. New participants provided data this year making for the most even spread across the revenue band categories in the survey’s history. . .

How to count grass – Baletwine:

The Pasture Meter™ automatically takes 200 readings per second so takes thousands of readings per paddock. At 20kph it is taking a reading every 27mm or 18,500 readings in 500 meters.

Towed behind an ATV / RTV or utility vehicle at up to 20kph, this machine provides a fast, practical method of measuring grass cover particularly over large areas over all terrain that can be safely covered by an ATV/vehicle.  The Pasture Meter™ automatically takes 200 readings per second so takes thousands of readings per paddock. At 20kph it is taking a reading every 27mm or 18,500 readings in 500 meters. Developed and proven in New Zealand, there are 3 models ranging from manual paddock ID entry to fully GPS with auto paddock start /stop. . .


Employing Kiwis first

August 27, 2013

Why do we need immigrant workers when there are so many New Zealanders unemployed?

One answer to that question is that sometimes immigrants are better than locals.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse broached the issue in a speech last week:

. . . I want to share with you my thoughts on the ‘Kiwis first’ policy in the context of migrant labour because there is debate about the number of overseas workers in our workforce and this raises a number of issues.

The broader context to that debate is simply this: the opposition often cries “Where are the jobs?” And they do so at a time when, for every Kiwi receiving an unemployment benefit there are between 3 and 4 foreign nationals working in New Zealand on various types of visas. So what many of those who ask “where are the jobs?” are really saying is “where are the jobs that are in exactly the place I want, doing the type of work I want, paying what I think I should earn and tolerating all of my shortcomings”.

And the employers who say that prospective kiwi employees are too hard to train, have bad attitudes and are generally unhappy with the quality of some of the New Zealanders they have been offered by Work and Income need to also reflect on their efforts. I appreciate that employers might not always get exactly what they want, and I acknowledge that for some young New Zealanders there are barriers to employment.

Four barriers spring to mind: education and skills, mobility, attitude and recreational drug and alcohol use. But they are barriers to overcome, not immoveable impediments. In the short term migrant labour will ease this problem, but I get the feeling that some employers and some industries have become overly reliant on this as a long-term salve.

In the future I expect industries that are successful in having an occupation added to a Skills in Demand list, or an employer granted an Approval in Principal to employ temporary migrant labour will, as a condition of the continuation of that status, be more energetic in working with Government to find a long term solution, and more diligent in demonstrating to me that they are doing all they can to ease their labour shortages domestically.

I won’t constrain a firm’s ability to grow in the short term, but I will be encouraging and expecting them to invest in New Zealanders by up skilling and training them so they have an opportunity to maximise their potential. . .

When were were applying to employ an immigrant the Immigration Department told us that WINZ had several people on their unemployed list who could work for us.

We went into WINZ to discuss the possibilities. This was a few years ago when unemployment was low. I said we could manage someone without experience but doubted there was anyone on WINZ’s books who would have that attitude we were looking for.

The consultant agreed with me and signed the immigration form saying there was no-one suitable on her books.

Unemployment is higher now so this shouldn’t be the case.

Unfortunately it sill is.

Some people don’t just want a job. As the Minister said, they want a job in a particular place, doing what they choose, paying what they think they’re worth and accepting of their shortcomings.

This isn’t just difficult for employers it makes work difficult, sometimes dangerous, for other employees.

However, while employers’ first responsibility is to their business, employees and customers, we can’t always expect to get exactly the employees we want.

We shouldn’t be expected to take on the unemployable but we can’t expect the government and other employers to do all the training and upskilling of those who, with a bit of time and effort, could be employable.

That said, maybe there’s a role for Landcorp in training agricultural workers:

Outgoing chief executive of the state owned farming enterprise, Landcorp, says it could play a greater role in industry good functions such as training and technology transfer.

But that would require the agreement of Landcorp’s sole shareholder, the Government. . . 

Chirs Kelly . . . says under the SOE Act, Landcorp is required to operate profitably. . . 

“I think if Landcorp can pass on some of its successes and help lift farming generally in New Zealand that will do a lot for the country itself ,so I see we do have a bit of an industry role as well, but it is a bit of a dichotomy with the SOE Act.”

There is such a thing as a social dividend and that would include training, for which Landcorp has a good reputation.

But there’s an awful lot of money tied up in the company which makes very low returns on capital.

Rather than making even less to fulfil a social role it would be better to sell the farms and invest at least some of the proceeds in education and training.


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