Yesterday we got the welcome news that no new cases of Covid-19 had been detected.
That follows several days of new cases in single digits.
To most of us that looks like it would be safe to drop to Level 2 or may even Level 1:
At Level 2:
The disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains.
- Household transmission could be occurring.
- Single or isolated cluster outbreaks. . .
At Level 1:
The disease is contained in New Zealand.
- COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.
- Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand. . .
So why aren’t we moving down at least one level, or at least knowing when we will?
The government has explained that elimination doesn’t mean no cases. That means that at whatever level we’re at there will almost certainly be some new ones.
But the health risk now appears to be less serious than the risk to the economy:
National Party leader Simon Bridges admits moving to pandemic alert level 2 could result in more COVID-19 cases, but says this could happen under any level and the lockdown has to end for the sake of the economy. . .
While the unprecedented restrictions have been successful in dramatically reducing the number of new infections of the virus – which has killed hundreds of thousands of people overseas – they’ve also taken a toll on the economy.
Bridges says there are 1000 jobs being lost every day under level 3, based on new applications for the Jobseeker benefit. This is similar to the rate of new applications under level 4, when far fewer businesses were able to operate – there were 30,000 applications in the month to April 17, despite the Government’s wage subsidy being paid out to organisations employing 1.6 million people.
“This has gone on too long,” he told Newshub. “We need to get New Zealand working again. Quite simply we’ve got to end lockdown because it’s so much easier to keep someone in a job.”
He said officials “from Ashley Bloomfield down” have said COVID-19 is “eliminated”.
“Having flattened the curve, let’s not flatten the economy as well. We have to come out at some point. We can’t just wait until there’s a vaccine.” . .
A thousand jobs lost a day is 1,000 people a day at risk financially and at risk of poorer physical and mental health as a consequence of that.
It’s not just jobs but whole businesses that have been lost and the longer we’re stuck at Level 3 the greater the risk and the greater the economic and social costs which also have health costs.
Compounding the frustration is the continuing dearth of information on what will happen and when it will happen.
We were initially told we’d be at Level 4 for four weeks. That turned into nearly five.
We were then told we’d be at Level 3 for at least two weeks. Given we’re not going to know until next Monday if there’s going to be a drop in levels, it’s likely that we’ll be stuck at Level 3 for at least a few more days longer.
Uncertainty about the legality of police action isn’t helping:
New Zealand Police’s decision to arrest Kiwis during alert level 4 despite being advised they had little legal basis to do so “undermines the rule of law” in New Zealand, the former Attorney-General believes.
The comment from Chris Finlayson comes just hours after leaked emails to NZ Herald revealed that police were told by Crown Law that they had little to no power to enforce lockdown rules.
Finlayson, a former National MP who served as Attorney-General for nine years between 2008 and 2017, says it’s clear the police have acted beyond their powers during the coronavirus crisis. . .
The refusal to release Crown Law advice makes it even worse.
Incumbent Attorney-General David Parker has thus far refused to make public the advice, despite mounting pressure from the Epidemic Response Committee and MPs to do so.
Finlayson believes Parker’s refusal means there are parts of the advice “he may not like” – but says that shouldn’t change whether it’s released or not.
“There’s an overwhelming public interest, for people whose freedoms have been curtailed over the last few months, to know exactly the legal basis upon which certain decisions were made,” he said. . .
Last week the government accidently passed legislation that differed from the Bill MPs had seen. That undermines confidence, but Jenée Tibshraeny writes:
. . .The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion.
Oddly, I can dismiss Thursday’s passing of the wrong legislation as an extraordinary genuine mistake.
But the lack of transparency around decision-making and incoherent way of announcing a billion-dollar policy change, are inexcusable.
The government has imposed unprecedented restrictions on us at an enormous economic and social cost.
The willingness of most of us to abide by the lockdown requires a social licence which must be based on trust.
The government’s refusal to give us all the information we need, and to which we are entitled, is undermining trust and straining that social licence, and that is putting strict compliance at risk.
Lack of space in Chinese ports is bringing a virtual halt to New Zealand log exports to China.
The Forest Owners Association says precautions in China against coronavirus have resulted in almost no offtake of logs in China for processing and exporters understand that the remaining log yard space at most ports near processing centres is quickly disappearing.
The Association President, Peter Weir says exporters had hoped that business would return to normal after the extended Lunar New Year holiday finished in China two weeks ago. . .
Northland iwi Te Rarawa and Ngāi Takoto are on stand-by to supply water to drought-stricken towns, including Kaikohe and Kaitaia.
The water will be sourced from an aquifer which runs through the iwi-owned farm, Sweetwater.
Once a 4km pipe is installed, up to 2700 cubic metres of water will be pumped from the aquifer a day . .
Chickens come to (mobile) home to roost – Sally Rae:
It is the ultimate in mobile homes.
Thousands of hens are living the life of Riley on Tony and Michelle Pringle’s South Otago farm; pecking their way around the 445ha property near Clydevale from their transportable hen houses.
When it comes to their farming operation, the couple, who milk 450 cows and farm 6500 laying hens, think outside the square — and a lot.
They have a focus on regenerative agriculture and soil health to produce nutrient-dense food. Hens were part of that as they added “another system within a system” — introducing poultry to their farming operation, while not affecting their stock numbers.
The Pringle family, who feature on the first episode of the new series of Country Calendar on March 1, started with 50 hens and quickly discovered people liked their eggs. . .
Growers of industrial hemp say red tape is stopping industries from making the most of what many regard as a potential wonder crop.
Although it lacks the mind-altering power of its close cousin marijuana, hemp can only be grown and sold subject to Ministry of Health restrictions.
Brad Lake, co-founder of Christchurch hemp food company The Brothers Green, helped organise a hemp farm open day in Culverden yesterday, to showcase the farmers and business utilising the crop and help de-mystify how it’s grown and used. . .
Backing the trillion tree campaign to combat climate crisis – Tom Crowther:
Politicians and influencers are signing up to the campaign, but to get things right we must keep in mind the science behind it, says Tom Crowther:
The recent explosion of interest in tree restoration has transformed the climate change conversation. Although the trillion tree campaign – 1T.org – is now in the realm of politicians and influencers (Greta Thunberg: Davos leaders ignored climate activists’ demands, 24 January), it emerged from scientific literature. But what exactly did the science show?
We estimated that there is up to 0.9bn hectares of degraded land that might support a trillion trees outside of existing forest, urban or agricultural land. Although the exact carbon storage potential is debated, scientists agree that ecosystem restoration is a powerful tool for carbon drawdown.
But with anything this powerful, the risks of getting it wrong can be huge. To avoid these risks, any organisation pledging to the trillion tree campaign should uphold these basic principles. . .
The land and buildings housing a long-standing farm equipment and machinery engineering plant in the heart of the North Island’s premier dairying region has been placed on the market for sale.
The premises at 5855 State Highway 2 in Netherton features a 620 square metre industrial building complex sitting on a 1.89-hectare block of land zoned rural 1A under the Hauraki District Council plan.
The property has been the headquarters of Quinn Engineering since the 1960s – with the company producing hay-bailing machinery, crate-lifting forklift extensions, and tractor extensions for crop and soil management. Its products are sold throughout New Zealand as well as Australia and the South Pacific. . .
Virus bites into jobs – Neal Wallace:
More than 1000 logging contractors, a number industry leaders say could double, have been laid off in recent weeks as the economic impact of China’s battle to contain coronavirus begins to bite.
Meat companies and market analysts report increased activity at ports and distribution of perishable products such as food as business in parts of China returns to normal.
But disrupted shipping schedules are creating a fresh set of challenges for exporters. . .
Lim: real food is here to stay – Gerald Piddock:
Eating fads come and go but real food will never go out of fashion, chef Nadia Lim says.
Natural food, whether grown from the ground or captured from the sea or sky, will always have a place on the food plate, Lim told the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Waikato.
The dietitian, author, Masterchef winner and My Food Bag founder said the trend to veganism and plant-based alternative meat and dairy will be temporary once consumers understood what is in these products. . .
Healthy plants’ contribution to New Zealand’s wellbeing and economic sustainability has been highlighted at the launch of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) at Parliament tonight.
“Healthy plants are the backbone of New Zealand’s wellbeing and make a significant contribution to our economy,” says Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.
“Horticulture, including viticulture, contributed approximately $9 billion to the New Zealand economy in 2019. . .
The Hurunui Adverse Events Committee has been monitoring how farmers are going in the current dry weather, and to remind their communities of the wealth of experience and information available.
Famers in North Canterbury have plenty of drought experience and can take credit for being in reasonable shape as February brings weeks of hot, dry weather and high evapotranspiration.
“If we learned one thing in the 2014-2017 droughts, it was that you need to make decisions early on what you can control,” says Winton Dalley, Chair of the Hurunui Adverse Events Committee. “Its good practice to have plans and deadlines in place to destock, send stock out to graze, and buy in supplements while they are available at an affordable price. . .
Cows can help reverse global warming – Nigel Malthus:
Cows and pasture are not the villains in climate change, but could instead be our saviours, says Hawke’s Bay farmer, soil scientist and consultant Phyllis Tichinin.
An executive member of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group (ODPG) and on the organising committee of the group’s upcoming national conference, Tichinin says with regenerative farming methods, the grazing sector alone could make New Zealand carbon-negative.
“Cows are not bad. They’re actually a very important part of reversing global warming and CO2 levels quickly and productively.” . .
Fonterra is beginning to install new milk vat monitoring systems over the next couple of years.
The aim is to support their farmers’ production of high-quality milk and make the co-op’s milk collection more efficient.
Richard Allen, group director of Farm Source, says the new milk vat monitoring systems are part of Fonterra’s commitment to help make farming easier. . .
New troubles hide real problem – Anette Scott:
Climate and market uncertainty impacted heavily on the Temuka adult ewe fair with prices plummeting by up to $60 a head.
With 14,000 ewes advertised and running on the back of the record prices set at the two-tooth and ewe lamb fair the previous week the annual adult ewe fair looked set to be a cracker last Wednesday.
But a lot happened in a week – coronavirus was declared a global emergency, the drought conditions in Canterbury and northern South Island were exacerbated by extreme temperatures soaring into the mid 30s and meat schedules took a dive.
As a result about 4000 ewes were late withdrawals by vendors anticipating a slump in the market so just 9300, a third of them capital stock lines being sold because of changing land use, turned up. . .
The gloss is quickly fading on what was shaping to be an exceptional season for farmers.
Export prices are still high by historic standards but a perfect storm of unfavourable weather and coronavirus measures in China are putting pressure on export and store prices.
Drought-like conditions in the North Island and wet in the south of the South Island combined with falling export prices have seen store prices collapse.
AgriHQ analyst Nicola Dennis says export lamb prices are likely to slip a further 20c/kg this week as exporters manage the impact of coronavirus. . .
Keith Neylon – well served by a touch of madness – Michael Fallow:
Keith Neylon detects in himself a touch of madness. There doesn’t appear to be much of a queue forming to disagree with him.
But it does seem to have served him well, this Southlander with a startling record advancing sunrise industries.
If anything it might even have inoculated him against at least some of the more maddening obstacles he has struck.
From the wild aviation days of deer recovery, stints in shellfish and salmon industries, large scale farming and most recently the sheep milk industry through Blue River Dairy, Neylon has penned a ripsnorting autobiography A Touch of Madness that’s part testament to the excitements of striving to develop this country’s resources. . .
Alliance Nelson plant prioritises livestock from dry Nelson-Tasman region – Cherie Sivignon:
Livestock from the Nelson-Tasman region is being prioritised at Alliance Group’s Nelson meat plant as some farmers reduce their animal numbers amid a run of hot, dry weather.
Alliance Group livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes said the Nelson plant was busy as farmers “look to de-stock as a result of the dry conditions”.
“We are prioritising processing livestock from the region so we can meet the needs of local farmers,” Hailes said. “As a co-operative, we need to be there for our farmers.” . . .
The president of NFU Scotland has criticised tree planting initiatives as part of a measure to curb climate change, calling it a ‘distraction’.
Speaking at the union’s annual conference in Glasgow on Thursday (6 February), Andrew McCornick said there is ‘no single solution’ to the climate crisis.
Looking specifically at tree planting initiatives, he highlighted that they could ‘displace the potential to grow food crops’. . .
In the fertile “black dirt” region of New York’s Hudson Valley, once home to the storied onion king and his Ye Jolly Onion Inn, farmers have been celebrating the annual onion harvest with their communities for generations. But in December, as farmers were being offered a price that was equal to what they received in 1990, the unsold yellow and red bulbs were piling up and the mood was more desperation than jubilation.
“We went from $28 for a 50-pound bag down to $12 within a couple of weeks,” said Chris Pawelski, a fourth-generation onion farmer in Orange County who has been chronicling his struggles on Twitter since September. This is less than the cost of production, but farmers have been forced to sell at that low price, as buyers are suddenly hard to find.
“I can’t sleep at night,” Pawelski said. “I’ve got 60 days. After that they’ll start to sprout, and I’ve got to dump them.” . .
Business exporters and importers are advised to take steps to ensure there are ‘no surprises,’ if trade with China is disrupted by the Coronavirus situation.
“Talk to your bank, make sure customer expectations are established and understood, and that no sudden surprises occur,” suggests Auckland Business Chamber head, Michael Barnett.
He sees a perfect storm coming for meat and other traders. . .
New Zealand log exporters are bracing themselves for supply chain problems in China due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
Some forest owners are already reducing their harvesting rate. Regrettably this will have an immediate effect on harvesting crew employment.
The New Zealand Forest Owners Association says that the extended Lunar New Year public holiday makes it difficult to know what is going to happen when sawmills in China restart. . .
Fake meat ‘an opportunity not a threat’ for Kiwi farmers – Esther Taunton:
Taranaki dairy farmer Trish Rankin used to worry about the rise of plant-based proteins. Not anymore.
Now she sees alternative proteins paving the way for Kiwi farmers to market their meat and dairy to consumers who just want to do one thing “better”.
“Things like the Impossible Burger aren’t aimed at vegetarians and vegans, they’re aimed at meat eaters who want a meal that’s better for the environment, better for animal health and welfare, and lower in cholesterol.
“Our meat and dairy ticks those boxes and when people start realising that they can make better choices without having to eat fake meat, that’s where we can come in – we’re the ‘possible’ to the Impossible customer.” . .
Farmers waiting to count the cost – Richard Davison, Louise Scott, and Karen Pasco:
Farmers across Southland and Otago are counting the cost of serious flooding which has left hundreds of farms underwater and resulted in lost livestock and ruined crops.
The Government declared last night it was a ‘‘medium scale adverse event’’, opening the way for funding of $100,000 through Rural Support Trusts to speed up recovery and provide technical advice.
Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor, who had flown over the affected areas, said the response to the flooding event had been ‘‘absolutely amazing’’. . .
Plant & Food Research is proud to be a Gold sponsor of the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy, Excellence in Māori Horticulture Award 2020. This year marks the first time since its establishment in 1933 that the competition has celebrated outstanding Māori in the horticultural industry.
David Hughes, CEO, Plant & Food Research says, “For decades the competition has alternated between dairy and sheep & beef farming each year. We appreciate this timely recognition of Māori contribution to horticulture. We’re particularly delighted to support this event and be part of its legacy because we believe good practices in horticulture are fundamental for us and te hapori whānui to build a smart green future together.” . .
Zero-carbon Britain presents a subsidy challenge for farmers – Jeremy Clarkson:
There is currently a lot of snarling and teeth-grinding about government plans to let a Chinese company called Huawei install and run lightning-fast 5G services for our driverless cars and our mobile phones and our wind farms.
The Americans say this is madness, because, should there ever be any hostilities with China, which isn’t entirely out of the question, Huawei could come through an electronic back door and instruct our driverless cars to crash into our wind farms, and our nuclear submarines to rain fire on our own cities.
Or the Chinese could simply push a button and switch the whole system off, which would turn Britain into a muddy, medieval hovel full of disease and people with warts on their faces. Imagine your kidwith no wi-fi. You can’t, can you? . .
We’re delighted to announce that Ruralco has become a strategic partner of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust and will be aligned with the nationwide Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
The new partnership is timely, as those eligible for the 2020 Awards have just been finalised and can be viewed here.
Ruralco is a values-led farming cooperative that has been supporting farming businesses and their families with competitive pricing and real value since 1963. Their vision is to be the partner of choice for rural New Zealand, a goal which includes supporting credible organisations that are committed to building a sustainable future for farming. . .
Worst time for virus – Neal Wallace:
Coronavirus couldn’t have come at a worse time for meat processors, analysts say.
With no one dining out, Chinese cold storage facilities are flooded with product, AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said.
“From a New Zealand perspective the timing couldn’t have been worse.
“Large-scale buying for the Chinese New Year festivities meant processors’ inventories were well-stocked going into the outbreak.
“A large portion of the Chinese workforce remains on leave too, further slowing down the movement of product.” . .
Fighter for free trade will be sorely missed – Federated Farmers
Many farmers will remember Mike Moore as a man who rolled up his sleeves to fight for global trade liberalisation and making things better for New Zealanders in general.
“He was brimming with talent and positivity and wasn’t afraid to stick his neck out,” Federated Farmers President Katie Milne said. “Who can forget his tireless efforts to promote the lamb burger? He took quite a bit of stick for that but was ahead of his time in terms of creating markets for our products.”
For his roles with the World Trade Organisation and as our ambassador to the United States he was away from the home shores he loved, but he continued to strive for the interests of Kiwis. . .
Greg and Rachel Hart are opening their Mangarara Station gates on Open Farms Day (Sunday 1 March), and inviting urban Kiwis to learn about their how they farm first-hand.
The Hart family are on a mission to connect New Zealanders with what they eat, how they live, and back to the farm where it all begins.
Greg Hart says, “When we learned about Open Farms Day, it was a no-brainer for us.”
“We love sharing Mangarara Station and offering the farm as a place where people can connect back to the land.” . . .
Walking a mile in her gumboots – Cheyenne Nicholson :
Matamata farmer Ella Wharmby feels more at home in the back paddocks than shopping in the high street. Farming was not her first choice but fate had different ideas. She tells Cheyenne Nicholson how she found her calling.
As the saying goes, you can’t fully understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. And if you swapped the shoes for gumboots, Waikato farmer Ella Wharmby could tell you a thing or two about that.
Looking at her now, it is hard to believe that she had barely stepped foot on a farm before embarking on a career that would see her combine her passion for food, animals and the outdoors.
“Having not come from a farming background I now realise how far removed we’ve become from the food chain,” Ella says. . .
Kiwifruit growers will fork out around a million dollars toward a year-long operation to eradicate the Queensland fruit fly.
An $18 million biosecurity response in Auckland finished on Friday, with New Zealand declared once again free of the pest.
The total cost will mostly be covered by the government, but industry groups will also have to chip in. . .
Rothesay Deer operation grew to take over entire farm – Toni Williams:
Rothesay Deer owner Donald Greig has been building up the genetics of his English and composite deer operation for more than three decades.
The farm, near Methven, is spread over three sites but the home block has been in the family for two generations.
The land the stag block is on is an extension of the original farm secured by his father, Tom Greig, following World War 2.
That land was part of a rehabilitation block for ex-servicemen to use for farming after the war. . .
Site builds under way at Southern Field Days near Gore – Rachael Kelly:
As trucks roll into the Southern Field Days site at Waimumu to start setting up the South Island’s largest agricultural trade fair, the event secretary has a lot on her plate.
There’s phone calls from exhibitors, a third reprint of 4000 day passes to organise, and a gale warning from the Metservice which may have slowed down progress on putting marquees up.
It’s still two weeks until the crowds begin to flock to Field Days, but the site was a hive of activity already. . .