This isn’t best use of borrowed money

September 25, 2020

Look what the government is spending borrowed money on:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the value of the Arts Continuity Grant, a COVID-19 response fund which has so far paid out $16 million in grants to a variety of questionable short-term arts projects.

Since March, Creative NZ has offered grants of up to $50,000 for ‘a short-term arts project, or the stage of a project, that can be delivered within a changed and evolving environment as a result of COVID-19.’

Many of the descriptions of these projects are, frankly, incomprehensible. It’s hard to see how bureaucrats in Creative NZ can make an objective judgment on which projects are worthy of funding, and which aren’t.

The resulting handouts speak for themselves. Creative NZ is fighting COVID-19 by spending taxpayer money on plays about menstrual cycles, Māori ‘healing theatre’, and ‘Indigenised Hypno-soundscapes’. That’s madness and it reflects terribly on the Minister of Arts Culture and Heritage – who happens to be Jacinda Ardern.

These grants are massively unfair to taxpayers, with the benefits skewed toward politically-connected Wellington weirdos. Handouts for fringe interest groups mean less money is available for tax relief that would reward productive work. . . 

Here’s a selection of projects on which this money is being spent:

Every cent of money spent on these projects is borrowed, accruing interest (albeit rates are low) and must be repaid.

Does anyone, except perhaps the recipients, think this is the best use of borrowed money when the country is in recession and facing decades of deficits?

People who can’t get the health care they need, whose schools are in disrepair, and who care about worsening deprivation for far too many children won’t.


Rural round-up

September 17, 2020

Rethink needed:

Environment minister David Parker has had a long and tempestuous relationship with the farming sector.

His latest fight with farmers has come about due to the new freshwater regulations that recently came into force. Especially aggrieved are southern farmers who have pointed out that many of the new rules concerning winter cropping were “almost unfarmable” in the south.

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young even called on farmers in the region to ignore the new requirements on getting resource consents for winter grazing until there was more practicality concerning it. This got Parker’s goat and he came out of hiding to decry Young’s call saying that “no one was above the law”.  . . 

Waikato A&P Show cancelled due to uncertainty around Covid-19 – Maja Burry:

The Waikato A&P Show, due to get underway late next month, has been cancelled due to the uncertainty around Covid-19.

The event was meant kick off in Hamilton on 30 October, marking its 128th year.

Showing Waikato said uncertainty about the Covid-19 alert levels which would apply on the traditional dates meant instead it would be holding a handful of small events open to competitors only.

There would also be an inaugural National Online Show involving other A&P show associations. . . 

Local Government NZ’s manifesto asks the right questions:

Local Government New Zealand is spot on when it says that all political parties’ policies should be assessed on how well they provide for local voices to be heard and taken into account, Federated Farmers says.

“We agree that central government policy and legislation must be able to be tailored for the differing needs, circumstances, capacity and capability of local communities,” Feds national board member Chris Allen says.

Federated Farmers also agrees with the assertion in the LGNZ manifesto released today that successive governments have placed too much weight on the use of top-down, one-size-fits all solutions. . . 

Kiwi dairy innovation leading the way:

Dairy is New Zealand’s top earner following the impact of COVID on tourism and education. Much now rests on the shoulders of busy farmers, some of whom are still struggling to get key staff back through New Zealand’s borders.

Annual breeding is a key pressure-point in the dairy calendar that requires skill and experience. A local Hamilton company is now attracting global attention for an imaginative solution to a perennial farming headache.

Kiwi dairy farmers need to know exactly when to artificially inseminate cows. FlashMate was created to stick to cow hair during the breeding period to interpret cow behaviour. The red light comes on at just the right moment when the cow is on heat and the unit is easily removed after breeding without bothering cows. “Reading body language when you have as many as 1,200 cows isn’t easy” says Matt Yallop, one of the creators of FlashMate. . . 

NZ Plant Producers issues its manifesto for the 2020 election:

Our organisation represents more than 100 plant producers who produce the plants growing food Kiwis eat and export, regenerating New Zealand’s forests, beautifying our urban landscapes, and being planted by millions of Kiwis in their backyards.

New Zealand Plant Producers is a voluntary organisation with more than 100 plant producer members, comprising New Zealand’s most respected nursery leaders and businesses. While our work benefits all New Zealand plant producers, it is funded by our members as proof of their commitment to our industry and the benefits it produces for New Zealand’s economy and well-being.

This election we raise eight issues which much be addressed so our members can continue to thrive and produce the plants New Zealand so badly needs. . . 

Pacific seasonal workers could be a lifeline for horticulture:

John Fiso, Chairman of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF), believes New Zealand can achieve a win-win by providing financial support for Pacific people from neighbouring island nations to head to New Zealand and help our horticultural sector in the upcoming fruit picking season.

“Our brothers and sisters in the Pacific islands are struggling for income due to the collapse of tourism in the region, this is a way to help them – and help our growers who are extremely concerned about labour shortages,” says Mr Fiso.

New Zealand is heading into a busy summer fruit season with a shortage of 60,000 workers. The impact of this on the economy could be $9.5 billion according to New Zealand Apples and Pears.

“Bringing seasonal workers in from the Pacific could be a win-win for the severely short staffed orchardists and fruit growers of New Zealand, and the people struggling in the Pacific,” says Mr Fiso. “The reality is, bringing in the Pacific workers would be hugely beneficial for humanitarian reasons in the Pacific and at the same time prevents millions of dollars of produce in New Zealand going to waste.” . .


Rural round-up

September 13, 2020

Millions in farmer income put at risk with open-ended review – Animal Genetics Trade Association:

Widened Terms of Reference and a longer timeframe for review of the safety of live animal transportation may lose the industry, and the nation, close to $200 million.

“The safe shipping of people and animals to their destinations is hugely important to our trade. We support this part of the review and need to learn how whatever happened to the ship can be prevented in future exports.

“However, a necessary review of ship safety following a maritime disaster has inexplicably morphed into an unnecessary wider review into the welfare of animals. “

The review may require cancellation of the close to $200 million in contracts between now and December. . . 

Tomato shortage follows lockdown:

Tomato prices rose 38 percent in August 2020 to a weighted average price of $13.65 per kilo, an all-time high, Stats NZ said today.

A shortage of tomatoes due to COVID-19 uncertainty caused higher than normal prices.

“About 40–50 percent of tomatoes are sold to independent grocers, cafes, and restaurants, which were unable to open during COVID alert levels 3 and 4 in April,” consumer prices manager Nicola Growden said.

“Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, many growers delayed or reduced replanting tomato crops at this time. . . 

Former chairman highlights Trust’s conservation role – David Hill:

The QEII National Trust’s work with farmers is “living proof” that agricultural production and conservation can coexist on farm, James Guild says.

The Canterbury high country farmer stepped down as chairman of the trust earlier this year after serving the maximum term of nine years, or three terms of three years.

In that time, Mr Guild has seen the organisation grow to support more than 190,000ha of covenant land, about the size of Rakiura Stewart Island or Molesworth Station, near Hanmer Springs.

“We take on two new covenants a week, or about 120 a year. At one stage it was 300 a year and there’s still a lot of demand, but we’ve had a refocus towards quality,” he said. . . 

Decades of dietary advice misguided – Allan Barber:

For at least the last 40 years international health guidelines have recommended minimising intake of saturated fats contained in red meat, dairy, cocoa and palm oil in a mistaken attempt to improve public health, particularly in first world countries. Heart disease skyrocketed to become the leading cause of death by 1950 and scientists hypothesised the cause to be dietary fat, particularly the saturated variety.

Although there have been sceptics who did not believe this apparently irrefutable scientific conclusion, they have been unable to inspire a rational debate of the facts, because the hypothesis was adopted by public health institutions (WHO, FDA, American Heart Association and others) before it had been properly tested. Any attempt to challenge them resulted in public reactions of anger and accusations of sacrilege, remembering this was many years before the internet and social media enabled the instant spread of online vitriol. As is the case today, the problem was compounded by the media taking a position and refusing to present the counterargument.

I have been interested in this topic for quite some time because I believe red meat and dairy are unfairly vilified, while personally I have neither an increase in cholesterol nor a heightened risk of heart disease. Suddenly last week I received an article from The Australian entitled “How dairy and fat could save your life” and I was also lent The Big Fat Surprise – Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet, an authoritative book based on thousands of scientific studies and hundreds of interviews by New York author and journalist Nina Teicholz .. . 

Scholarship timing ‘perfect’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

Maggie Ruddenklau received her $1500 tertiary scholarship from the Upper Clutha A&P Society last year, at exactly the right time.

It paid for her new laptop following the demise of her old one.

“I had my laptop for a few years and the same time as I heard about winning the scholarship it stopped working.

“At university a laptop is your most prized possession so it worked out really perfect.” . . 

CropX acquires Regen to grow global footprint and give farmers unmatched in-soil insights:

CropX, a global soil sensing and agricultural analytics leader, today announced the acquisition of New Zealand-based Regen, a leading provider of cloud-based, precision effluent and irrigation decision support tools. Current Regen customers now have access to CropX’s unmatched combination of in-soil data and advanced farm management analytics and automation tools.

“The importance of understanding soil health and what is happening beneath the ground is finally coming into the spotlight. This acquisition will help us further build our on-farm irrigation, effluent and nutrient management product lineup as we lead the market in delivering accurate in-soil insights,” said CropX CEO Tomer Tzach.  . . 


Rural round-up

September 9, 2020

Fonterra maintains forecast despite latest GDT fall – Gerald Piddock:

Fonterra has maintained its forecast range of $5.90-6.90/kg milksolids for the current season, keeping its advance rate at the midpoint of $6.40/kg MS.

It released its updated forecast on the eve of the latest Global DairyTrade (GDT) auction, which saw average prices fall 1% to US$2955/tonne.

Fonterra chair John Monaghan said the global market was finely balanced with both demand and supply increasing but it has the potential to change.

“There is good demand in the market at this stage of the season, however, the forecast economic slowdown is likely to increase global unemployment and reduce consumer demand,” he said.  . . 

Hunters slam DOC’s tahr plan – Neal Wallace:

If the Department of Conservation (DOC) was hoping to diffuse the tahr culling debate by releasing a new control plan, it has failed.

DOC operations director Dr Ben Reddiex has released an updated Tahr Control Operational Plan for the coming year, which will focus control on public conservation land.

“With an open mind we have considered a wide range of submissions from groups and individuals representing the interests of recreational and commercial tahr hunters, as well as conservationists, recreationists and statutory bodies,” he said in a statement.

Acknowledging the new plan will not satisfy everyone, he says it will enable the recreational and commercial hunting of trophy bulls and other tahr, while still moving DOC towards meeting the statutory goals of the 1993 Himalayan Thar Control Plan. . . 

 

Rural Waikato thrives on community spirit :

In this part of the country, more than 200,000 cows are milked, fed and cared for each day by Kiwis, as well as by a growing group of skilled migrants.

Experienced farm hands are in high demand and, as Waikato farmers increasingly realise and appreciate, some of the best workers come from the Philippines.

Johnrey Emperado, second-in-charge at a 270-hectare farm near Tirau, is one of them.

Johnrey and his wife Iris moved to New Zealand in 2009. With their two children, daughter Skye (4) and baby Brian, who was born in January, they live on Moondance Farms, where Johnrey works. . . 

New AgResearch boss keen to make NZ ag great again – Nigel Malthus:

AgResearch’s new chief executive is promising solid evidence-based science to make New Zealand’s agriculture sector the best in the world.

Nigel Malthus reports.

Dr Sue Bidrose recently took up the role at AgResearch’s Lincoln head office after a varied career, including policy work for the Ministry of Social Development and 15 years in local government, the last seven as chief executive of the Dunedin City Council.

“We are here to do really good science, to give our agricultural community the best ammunition they’ve got to be the best in the world,” Bidrose told Rural News. . .

From Boeing to baling :

A number of out-of-work airline pilots are considering roles as large machinery operators and tractor drivers.

Former pilot Andy Pender says he won’t be surprised if they find they’re happy working in the country and don’t go back to flying.

Pender is a former captain for Virgin Australia (New Zealand) and now the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) medical and welfare director.

He says the association has been working for several months with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Rural Contractors’ Association to match pilots with rural jobs. . . 

UK food exporters’ confidence plummets to record low :

Business confidence among food manufacturers and exporters reached a record low this year due to Covid-19 uncertainty, a new report says.

Data by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) shows that food firms’ confidence plummeted -65.2% in the second quarter of 2020.

The industry has faced a ‘variety of challenges’, from the closure of the hospitality and out-of-home sectors, to rising costs and a fall in exports. . . 


5-point plan for better Covid response

September 7, 2020

It’s taken six months for the government to make it mandatory for border staff to have regular tests for Covid-19.

The Government will require all border workers to take regular Covid-19 tests, or face a stiff fine, with a new order coming into effect at midnight on Sunday.

The order covers workers at air and maritime borders, as well as managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

Refusing a test without “a reasonable excuse” makes such workers liable for fines of between $300 and $1000.

Healthcare workers are able to allow people to not get tested if they believe it would be inappropriate. . . 

Six months is a long time to do what ought to be done. It belies the government’s hard and early line.

The government has finally got where it should have been months ago but there is still room for improvement in other areas.

It shouldn’t take six months to act on that because National’s Health spokesman Dr Shane Reti has helpfully come up with a five-point plan for a better Covid response:

National has identified five ways in which the Government could immediately improve our response to Covid-19, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“Labour’s failures at the border have brought on another wave of Covid-19, the consequences of which are costing New Zealanders jobs, businesses and livelihoods.

“National has developed a detailed border plan that will keep the virus at bay while allowing our economy to thrive. New Zealanders deserve this rather than the ad-hoc system that is currently in place.

“As well as this improved border plan, there are five practical steps the Government could be taking right now to keep New Zealanders safe:

  1. Re-test people for genomics within 24 hours of every positive case. Currently only 50 percent of samples have been genomically sequenced. Increasing this would help us identify linkages and the heritage of the virus.
  2. Require a negative Covid-19 test turn-around time of 48 hours. People have been using up all of their sick leave waiting days for negative results. It is important positive tests continue to be the priority and reported in 24 hours. But negative tests should be tightened up with a measurable target of 80 percent of negative tests reported in 48 hours.
  3. Require people who have been declined tests to be recorded in the National Contact Tracing Solution. It is important we have this information because we may have people who turn up for testing who’ve failed the case definition, but subsequently test positive. And if we know who they are then we can improve the case definition.
  4. Make day-three managed isolation testing compulsory. The sooner we identify positive cases who have crossed our border, the more effective and safe our response is.
  5. Improve the Covid-19 app so that it can display information as well. Currently the app can pull location information from what is being scanned, but it would be more effective if it could also share user information. This would make the contact tracing system much more efficient and effective as people could be identified quickly.

“We’re in the middle of a second spike of Covid-19 and we need to move quickly. I encourage the Government to consider these five proposals to raise our collective bar and protect us all.”

All of these look sensible and none appear to be difficult to implement.

The government should be open to all good ideas to improve the Covid response.

It must not let politics get in the way of constructive suggestions just because they come from the National Party and it must act a lot faster on these improvements than it did on mandatory testing for border staff.


Rural round-up

September 5, 2020

Local farmers in competition final – Sally Brooker:

North Otago has produced two of the eight finalists in an Australasian sustainable agriculture competition.

Farmers Nick and Kate Webster and Brock and Gemma Hamilton have been shortlisted from a slew of entrants on both sides of the Tasman for the Zimmatic Sustainable Irrigation Awards.

The contest aims to celebrate irrigation excellence and encourage farmers to share water management ideas.

The Websters run Totara Fields and Hillbrook Dairies – mixed beef finishing/cropping and dairy operations on a total of 700ha, 550 of them irrigated. . . 

RSE workers stranded in NZ: ‘Tonga needs to look after its own citizens’ – employer :

A large Hawke’s Bay fruit grower fears for the well being of Pacific Island workers still unable to return home and says Tongan authorities must help out.

Some 487 workers from Tonga and 763 from Vanuatu are registered as requiring urgent repatriation.

There are hundreds of others urgently wanting to get back to other countries including Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati.

A flight to Tonga yesterday was suspended until further notice because of Auckland’s Covid alert level 3 status. . .

Water the word on farmers’ minds – Sally Brooker:

North Otago farmers are feeling the effects of a dry winter, Federated Farmers provincial president Jared Ross says.

“We’re 100mm behind in rainfall,” he said of his Duntroon dairy-support farm.

Local contractors had sold out of their feed supplement supplies in the lead-in to winter, and one had been bringing in feed from Central Otago and Southland.

“It was priced accordingly.” . .

Sell venison or risk loss say experts – Annette Scott:

Deer farmers are being advised to take the going price for chilled venison now, or risk significantly lower returns.

With a short chilled season expected venison marketers are recommending to farmers to take the money being offered during the chilled season.

Currently, the market for frozen venison is subdued and the prospects post-Christmas are uncertain.

Deer that miss the chilled season cut-off at the end of October will be unable to reach Europe in time for the last game season sales.

While a portion will go to alternative markets, some venison will be frozen.  . . 

White Rock Station’s revival – Peter Burke:

One of New Zealand’s most historic sheep stations – White Rock – has a new lease of life thanks to family members who wanted to preserve the property for future generations. Peter Burke reports.

White Rock Station, way out on the isolated south Wairarapa Coast, is the epitome of rugged beauty that typifies much of NZ’s East Coast.

It’s named after a stunning white rock formation, which dominates the shoreline where the hills rise steeply from the relentlessly pounding surf. The property is about an hour’s drive from Martinborough, along a winding – mainly gravel – road.

Tim Ritchie, who earlier this year retired as the chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, is the great, great grandson of the original owner, Richard Barton who acquired the land in 1843. . .

New digital campaign thanks NZ farmers:

New digital campaign by OverseerFM thanks Kiwi farmers and lets them know they have choices when it comes to managing sustainable impact

From propping up our economy, to feeding the world, and overcoming numerous challenges along the way, Kiwi farmers play a vital role in keeping our nation, and its people happy and healthy.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to say thanks. It’s time to reassure those in the agricultural sector that we are there for them – every step of the way.

That sentiment is echoed in a new digital campaign for agricultural management tool OverseerFM fronted by rugby legend Buck Shelford, Dame Lynda Topp (Ken the farmer), TV presenter Toni Street, fishing legend Geoff Thomas and cricketing icon Sir Richard Hadlee. . .


Rural round-up

September 4, 2020

Covid 19 coronavirus: Why level 3 has been a ‘disaster’ for food producers, manufacturers  – Aimee Shaw:

The Food & Grocery Council says changes to the way the Government has handled boundary travel exemptions under the second round of lockdown had caused major disruption to food manufacturing.

Some food producers have been unable to get some of their key workers in and out of their factories located both in and outside of Auckland under alert level 3, resulting in some companies having to scale back production of some of their goods.

Griffin’s Foods is said to be one of a handful of companies that have scaled back production of some of their lines due to being unable to get some staff into their facilities and Invivo Wines has faced similar issues getting workers from Auckland into its Waikato winery. . .  

Perfect storm’ brewing for Central Otago growers facing Covid-19 labour crisis – Jo Mckenzie-Mclean:

Central Otago’s mayor will help pick fruit off trees this summer as a severe labour shortage threatens the region’s billion-dollar orchard industry.

The industry is forecasting a shortage of 5500 workers in the region during December and January, and 1500 for the critical thinning period due to start in six weeks.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and chief executive of Cromwell-based orchard 45 South Tim Jones said the looming worker shortage was a huge concern. The industry had been “leaving no stone unturned” in trying to find solutions. . . 

Taranaki farm couple’s 25 year war of the roses with possums – Mike Watson:

Taranaki dairy farmer Fiona Henchman​ can now declare victory in a personal war of the roses she has waged against possums for a quarter of a century.

With husband John she has fought a backyard battle against thousands of possums hopping over the boundary fence from Egmont National Park to munch on fruit trees, grass pasture and treasured climbing roses.

Pasture near the national park boundary has also taken a hammering, with the pests’ eating habits leaving the ground resembling a mown strip.

Anything the couple attempted to plant and grow on the 130ha Upper Weld Road property was gnawed to the stem by the nocturnal marauders, she said. . . 

Research finds genetic link between cattle temperament and autism in humans :

A strong association between the genes influencing cattle temperament and autism in humans has been discovered by University of Queensland researchers.

UQ genomic expert Professor Ben Hayes said the research by his interdisciplinary team headed by Dr Roy Costilla could lead to improved animal welfare and meat quality.

“The research doesn’t mean that cattle have autism; rather that cattle share an overlap of genes with humans which are critical in brain function and response to fear stimuli,” Hayes said.

Temperament is an important trait for day-to-day management of cattle, Hayes said . . .

City girl making good in rural sector – David Hill:

Olivia Egerton is a city girl who never imagined having a career in the rural sector.

The young Canterbury business executive is making a name for herself in the primary sector and was recently presented with the 2020 First Steps in Governance award by the Canterbury branch of the Institute of Directors.

“It’s a great opportunity and very exciting to be launching in earnest my management career and learning some different skills,” Ms Egerton said.

The award was given annually by the professional body of directors to a candidate who was motivated to further their business experience, gain insight into good governance practice and learn about the dynamics of sitting on a board.

Growing up in Auckland, Ms Egerton never intended having a primary sector career, but she did have family connections, with extended family involved in deer farming. . .

Importance of rodent control in free range egg systems :

A pest control expert has shared his views on rodent control within the free range egg industry, and how to prevent the situation in the 80’s repeating itself again.

The free range market has grown considerably over the last two decades to make up the majority of the UK laying flock.

This has been brought about through a combination of consumer demand, diversification and the success of the industry in promoting eggs a safe and nutritious food source. . .


Rural round-up

September 2, 2020

Locals only will not ‘cut the mustard’ – Sudesh Kissun:

An estimated 28 million tonnes of crop worth $110 million will be at risk if overseas machinery operators are not allowed into the country, according to a new survey.

Rural Contractors of NZ says the survey conducted earlier this month of members found that 57 members, who provide harvesting services for 8200 farmer clients, need skilled agricultural machinery operators from overseas.

RCNZ executive director Roger Parton says 206 operators is the “the absolute minimum number” required for the contractors to service their clients.

These overseas workers will supplement the numbers of New Zealanders employed in these specialised, skilled roles. . .

Meeting worker expectations – Anne Lee:

Organisation is a colourful affair at Jared and Victoria Clarke’s 2000-cow Canterbury sharemilking job.

That’s because the couple have embraced a Kanban system to manage a lot of the non-routine tasks on the two-farm, two 50-aside herringbone dairy operation.

It allows team members to choose what jobs they do and when they do them – all within reason of course.

The system is more typically used in tech-style corporate businesses and fits into what’s called an Agile management system. . . 

Bright prospects for avocado:

Kiwifruit has long deserved its poll position as New Zealand’s premier earning horticultural crop, generating almost 50 percent of the six billion dollars earned by the fruit and produce sector last year.

However, avocados are a crop moving up in the ranks and bringing some valuable land use changes to a region keen for increased investment and employment opportunities.

Last year the sector generated $150 million in sales from 6.4 million trays of fruit with two thirds of that being export income. The industry has high hopes for expansion with a target of $1.0 billion worth of sales set for 2040. . . 

The topic of rural connectivity too important to give up on:

With the reemergence of Alert Level 2 restrictions in New Zealand, TUANZ has reimagined the annual Rural Connectivity Symposium format, and pushed the date out slightly, to allow the event and surrounding conversations to proceed.

The Rural Connectivity Symposium will now be held on September 16 and 17 with a hybrid online and in-person format.

TUANZ CEO Craig Young says, “The topic of the future of rural connectivity is too important to give up on. Cancellation was never an option on the table. What we’re learning this year is the importance of a Plan B, C, and even D.” . . 

Beyond meat and its rivals depend on Chinese ingredients opening food safety debate in the Covid-19 era – Mikhal Weiner:

While America’s biggest beef and pork producers were nearly laid low in April by COVID-19 cases in their workforce, sales of what detractors call “fake meat” boomed. But the pandemic may in time affect sales of plant-based protein, too, as U.S. consumers become more wary of all things China—which supplies a majority of the products’ ingredients.

The market research firm Nielsen said nationwide sales of meat alternatives rose 224 percent in the week ending April 25, compared to the same period in 2019. During the last eight weeks, the gain over last year was more than 269 percent.

China’s food-processing factories provide most of what goes into vegan burger patties and other meat replacements made by market leaders Beyond Meat and Impossible foods—an arrangement that could damage their standing among consumers in the coronavirus age. . .


Can anyone explain . .

August 30, 2020

At midnight Auckland will join the rest of the country at alert level 2 – sort of.

While the rest of us are able to be in groups of up to 100 people, Aucklanders will still be confined to mingling in groups of no more than 10.

But they will be able to travel anywhere else in the country where they can join the rest of us in places with up to 100 people.

Can anyone explain the reasoning behind this?

Does it mean that Covid-19 is more likely to infect more people in Auckland?

Does it mean that people who travel from Auckland are less likely to have Covid-19 than those who stay in the city?

Or does it mean that this is yet another example of government directives that don’t make sense?

That people have been flying out unquestioned supports that:

. . . Alert level 3 means no non-essential travel in or out of Auckland – or does it? 

One Aucklander told Newshub they travelled to Queenstown during lockdown for “fun” .

They say they were never questioned by airport or Air New Zealand staff – not once. 

“It didn’t shock me. I just thought this whole thing’s a sham,” the person said.

“There was no police presence, there was nothing. That’s what shocked me. I expected at least a couple of police cars, a couple of people with dogs or something just grooming around, and there was absolutely nothing.”

While thousands of others queued and struggled for exemptions at the road borders, 13,500 people flew out of Auckland to other domestic locations.

The Aucklander said they didn’t feel any sense of guilt for leaving the Super City during alert level 3.

“Not at all. What I’m sick of is the double standards. So, the Government holds us as citizens to account, but we’re not allowed to hold the Government to account. You’re doing this half-hearted, you’re not doing it correctly, and I proved that you’re not.” . . .

Before Covid-19 this government was so much better at rhetoric than action. It still is.


Rural round-up

August 29, 2020

Growers caught in no-man’s land – Richard Rennie:

Working south of the Bombays has taken on a whole new level of complexity for produce growers caught with land and operations between Waikato and the locked down super city of Auckland.

During the national level four lockdown the greatest problem for growers was the overnight loss of markets and outlets for produce.

But Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association president Kylie Faulkner said this time it was the logistics of trying to operate blocks of growing land lying in neighbouring Waikato region.

“There is this invisible line which we are dealing with here in Bombay,” she said. . . 

Young Waikato dairy farmer seizes opportunities :

Pete Smit is one of a growing number of young business-savvy New Zealanders seizing opportunities in the dairy sector.

The 22-year-old is in his third season as a herd-owning sharemilker on a 68-hectare farm at Ohaupo near Hamilton.

The property is jointly owned by his mother Nienke Hartog and brother Floyd Smit.

Smit’s herd of just over 200 Holstein Friesian cows produced almost 130,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in the 2019-20 season. . . 

Venison hits six-year slump due to Covid-19 – Maja Burry:

The impact of Covid-19 on the restaurant trade is expected to see returns for deer farmers slump to a six-year low this spring. The global pandemic has dented demand for venison, mostly eaten at restaurants.

Venison prices often peak in spring, when the meat is highly sought after by European customers during their autumn and winter game season. With winter drawing to a close here, many of New Zealand’s 1400 deer farmers have been focused on getting their stock ready for processing.

North Canterbury farmer, Sam Zino, said through no fault of farmers, returns this season would suffer as a result of Covid-19.

“I fully understand it hasn’t come from anything industry has done, it’s just good old Covid playing out,” Zino said. . .

Rural vet sees grass staggers cow disease spike – Maja Burry:

Having only recently escaped drought, a mild winter on the Hauraki Plains is now creating a different challenge for farmers; grass staggers.

Prolonged gentle rain, combined with mild temperatures and very few frosts has resulted in rapid pasture growth in recent weeks.

That means many farms have increased their pasture rotation, exposing the cows to younger grasses which were high in potassium and non-protein nitrogen, and low in magnesium. That’s a classic recipe for the condition known as grass staggers. . . 

Submissions open on new potato herbicide Soleto:

We are seeking views on an application to import or manufacture Soleto, a broad spectrum herbicide for potatoes.

Soleto contains the active ingredient metobromuron, which is approved in Europe but not currently in New Zealand.

The applicant, Belchim Crop Protection, wants to import Soleto for the control of broadleaf weeds in potatoes, using ground-based application methods. . .

Prince Charles donates funds to new farming mental health charity

Prince Charles has made a “significant” donation to a new charity which aims to tackle mental health in the farming community following the devastating impact of the coronavirus.

In a video message directed at tenants on the Duchy of Cornwall estate, the Prince of Wales admitted he felt “demoralised” to learn how many people working in the food, farming, tourism and hospitality industries had been affected by the pandemic.

“This coronavirus has perhaps reminded us that society works because people do things together for the common good – whether that it key workers keeping us healthy, farmers producing our food, or the supply chain meeting our needs,” he said. . . 


Rural round-up

August 28, 2020

Wool boom from footrot research – Sally Rae:

The development of a commercialised breeding value for footrot resistance represents a “huge opportunity” for the expansion of fine wool sheep production, the New Zealand Merino Company says.

While “not a silver bullet” against the disease which results in lameness and loss of production, it would allow growers to make genetic gains and establish flocks that were footrot resistant, NZM chief executive John Brakenridge said.

Growers would save money from reduced treatment costs and chemical inputs, would not be hit with lower production, all while improving animal welfare.

It was the result of work by the New Zealand Sheep Transformation Project, co-funded by NZM and the Ministry for Primary Industries with a contribution from Merino Inc, to look at ways to contribute to a more productive, profitable and high animal welfare future for fine wool. . . 

From Devine intervention to total faith, highland calf birth adds new blood to line – Laurel Ketel:

Two years ago, Devine, a highland cow living at Plum Tree farm in Glenhope, couldn’t walk.

She had fallen down a bank and with her leg caught in wire fencing, the circulation to her foot was cut off causing severe damage. The rehabilitation costs were huge but owners Lisa and Mal Grennell were determined she wouldn’t be put down.

They worked around the clock for weeks, hoisting her every few hours and after four weeks she was finally able to walk unaided but it took a further six months for her to recover fully.

Last week Devine gave birth to a healthy calf and with the birth came not only new life but the introduction of a new bloodline into New Zealand highland cattle. . . 

Beef + Lamb NZ joins call for new national nutrition surveys:

As World Iron Awareness Week kicks off today, Beef + Lamb New Zealand are joining the growing number of calls for the government to conduct new national nutrition surveys, with the most recent in 2008 for adults, and 2002 for children. 

Iron deficiency is the world’s most prevalent nutrient deficiency with two billion sufferers globally. It greatly impacts young children and women, with symptoms often being mistaken for the impacts of a busy life (tiredness, feeling grumpy, lack of focus). This hidden hunger is impacting a growing number of Kiwis, but the true scale is virtually impossible to quantify.  

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Head of Nutrition Fiona Windle points out that such a large data gap leaves a lot to be desired when trying to tackle the impacts of low iron levels among other nutrient deficiencies.  . .  

Prospectors out in force as gold prices reach fever pitch – Tracy Neal:

Since retiring last year as the Grey District’s long-serving mayor, Tony Kokshoorn says he has been good as gold – he just wishes he had joined the recent rush on prospecting for it.

“I generally nowadays invest in sharemarkets and that type of thing, but I wish now I’d taken up the gold-panning and gone out there because it’s a far better payer at the moment, with the gold price going through the roof and the share price of most companies really in the doldrums.”

Record high gold prices have prompted hobby prospectors to dust off spades and pans and head to South Island rivers in the hope of striking it lucky.

The precious metal recently hit $NZ3000 an ounce, as global investors looked to safer bets in shaky economic times. . . 

Comvita posts reduced annual loss :

The honey manufacturer and exporter Comvita has posted a reduced annual loss as it restructures and looks to capitalise on a lift in sales.

The company’s loss for the year ended June was $9.7 million, most of it caused by restructuring costs, compared with a loss of $27.7m a year ago, which had writedowns in asset values.

However, a second half year revival, as Comvita moved to slim and simplify its business and increase margins, resulted in a profit but not enough to overturn a first half loss. . . 

Validation of agriculture as an essential and sustainable industry – Roberto A. Peiretti:

Did you know that our most basic foods could be totally consumed around the world in just a few months?

This is why governments everywhere have labeled agriculture an “essential” activity during the Covid-19 crisis.

It was gratifying to see this appreciation during the social and economic lockdowns because farmers are often overlooked or even abused.

I hope the awareness of what farmers do continues after we recover from the pandemic.

Over the last several months, we’ve learned to live without a lot of the things that we once took for granted, such as sports, dining in restaurants, and going to church. The rules have varied from country to country, but we’ve all learned to cope with new restrictions so that we can prevent the transmission of a dangerous disease. . . 


Need trust for unity

August 27, 2020

At the start of the first lockdown there was a high degree of trust in what the government was doing.

We didn’t all buy into the rhetoric of hard and early, and some argued that safety rather than essential should be the criteria determining what businesses could operate.

But by and large most of us accepted the need to stay home, stay safe and save lives.

Research of social media by consultancy Rutherford shows feelings over this second lockdown are different:

People are feeling more anxious and angry during the second Covid-19 lockdown than any other time since the pandemic started, according to new social media analysis.

The sense of community New Zealand felt during the first lockdown in March appears to have somewhat dissolved amid growing frustration and despair, suggests the new research by business consultancy Rutherford.

The number of people encouraging others to comply with lockdown rules, by sharing messages such as #stayhomesavelives, has dived by more than 50 per cent, the research shows. . . 

Rutherford analysed about 435,318 social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram from the past two weeks to get a snapshot of how New Zealanders were feeling about Covid-19. . . 

Rutherford chief executive Graham Ritchie said not only had the volume of social media conversation around Covid-19 increased, but negative sentiment was up 10 per cent. It was also more heightened and toxic as people vented their frustration at further restrictions. . . 

At least some of that frustration is due to the growing list of failures from the government and health officials.

There was always the risk that human error would let Covid-19 through the border but shortcomings in testing and tracing were the result of more than human error, they were the result of systems and process failures.

It doesn’t help that we were repeatedly assured that the government and Ministry of Health, bolstered by the military, had everything under control when it is now obvious they did not.

Unity depends on trust and Heather du Plessis-Allan is not alone in losing trust in the government’s ability to keep Covid-19 at the border:

. . . Do we want to go through the list of things this government has told were happening but weren’t?  Because it’s long 

It starts with the time we were promised the police were checking on all retuning kiwis isolating when at home, and they weren’t checking. It included us being told everyone coming out of managed isolation was being tested first when they weren’t. And it goes up to us being told all border workers were besting tested when they weren’t. 

You know, our plan to keep Covid out of the country looks good on paper, but unless it’s actually being done, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Covid will slip through if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do. 

Goodness only knows what the Prime Minister plans to announce to reassure us over this one.  She’s already used the 500 defence force card, the Heather Simpson and Brian Roche card, and the ‘I promise we’ll do it this time’ card. 

Are there any other cards left? 

In fact, you know what?  She shouldn’t even bother, because it doesn’t really matter what she announces to try to fix this, again. I don’t believe a word of what she and her government now say about their Covid response. 

I now do not trust them to keep Covid out of this country any more. 

Grant Robertson won’t extend the wage subsidy for the extra four days of level 3 lockdown because he says we are borrowing every single dollar we are paying out.

Yes, and how much extra are we borrowing because somehow or other the virus is back in the community and we’re now paying the Simpson-Roche committee to check that the people who are supposed to be keeping the border tight are actually doing it?

We’re no long united because we no longer trust the government and health officials to keep us safe.

But unfortunately we can trust them to keep spending more borrowed money to fix problems that wouldn’t have needed solutions if our trust in them to do what they say they’re doing hadn’t been misplaced.


Rural round-up

August 26, 2020

Wonderful wool, our ‘supermaterial’, is at a crossroads – adapt or disappear – Piers Fuller:

Once a stalwart of our economy, the wool sector faces some tough decisions to ensure its survival. Piers Fuller reports.

For those lanolin-soaked old shearers who remember the glory days of the New Zealand wool industry, the collapse of our strong wonder fibre is something of a disaster.

For many modern economists, the writing is on the wall and it is time to face reality and produce something the world wants.

Unfortunately, what the world has wanted in recent decades has been cheap, petroleum-based synthetics. . . 

We are loved again – Nick Loughnan:

In our time of farming, Faith and I have known the ups and downs of affairs – not those that involve other people’s hearts. We’ve been together for 45 years. No, these affairs at their peak were about being needed and valued to the point of privilege, just because of what we do. We’re farmers.

At the start of our career, we certainly belonged to a privileged bunch. Deciding we wanted to own our own farm, but with neither of us having chosen parents who already had one, we had to start from scratch. Yet there were great incentives for us in our early 20s to get the breaks.

Governments had, for decades through different schemes, been developing extensive tracts of marginal land, subdividing these into smaller ‘economic’ units, complete with new dwellings, sheds, yards and fences, and then balloting them off. . . 

Growing demand for antibiotic-free meat – Annette Scott:

A sudden surge in orders for antibiotic-free meat has processors on the hop as they struggle to meet market demand.

Alliance general manager livestock and shareholder services Danny Hailes said the co-operative is desperately seeking farmers to join its Raised Without Antibiotics (RWA) programme.

He said while global markets are generally subdued, there is growing demand for antibiotic-free meat.

“We have one customer, (in) North America, where demand is just growing as customers become increasingly conscious of what they are eating,” he said. . . 

A hiss not a roar

The Covid-19 lockdown has kept international hunters at home and meant a very lean season for their NZ guides, as Annabelle Latz reports.

The stags were roaring, yet not a hunter was to be seen.

Owing to Covid-19 lockdown rules there were no trophy hunters gathering from around New Zealand or abroad to enjoy the roar this year.

Instead, hunting guides were left with empty appointment books, hunters stayed home, and stags remained untouched.

John Royle of Canterbury Tahr Hunter Guide NZ has been guiding for more than 12 years and this was the first time ever he’s been ground to a halt during the roar, his most lucrative season with full appointment books. He has lost potentially three months’ business. . .

Coculture brings environmental and economic benefits

 Research scientists say law changes are required before lucrative new species, which also bring environmental benefits, can be harvested from existing marine farms.

A paper from Niwa’s Jeanie Stenton-Dozey and Jeffrey Ren, Cawthron’s Leo Zamora and independent researcher Philip Heath appears in the latest NZ Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research.

It looks at opportunities for Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) – also known as coculture. You may also have heard the term polyfarming which was the title for an MFA- supported Smart+Connected Aquaculture forum in Havelock in 2017.

The forum was held to encourage pathways to new added-value products and diversify production into other high value species. . . 

A true picture of our rural lifestyle – Joyce Campbell:

Keeping my big mouth shut is never easy for me, but over the past year I’ve managed not to tell too many folk that we’ve been filming with a team from the BBC for series four of This Farming Life.

It wasn’t a decision that any of us took lightly but I wanted to take the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the consumers of the food we produce and share the stories of the rural communities we live in.

A slot on BBC2 at prime time, to a UK-wide audience, was worth me taking the time and effort to engage with the wider public.

I’m not going to lie – I was extremely nervous on Tuesday night as the opening titles rolled, but two Rock Rose gin and tonics helped to settle the gut-churning emotions. . . 

 


Another day another hole

August 26, 2020

We’re supposed to believe everything form the 1pm podium of truth but how can we when there are another gaping  hole between what we’re told and what’s actually happening has been exposed:

 Despite weeks of telling the public that ‘everyone’ in managed isolation is being tested for Covid-19 on day three of their stay, the Health Minister has admitted he knows these tests are not compulsory and his ministry does not know how many people haven’t had them.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed in writing on August 4 that day three tests were not compulsory and the Ministry of Health did not keep records of how many people had not received them.

This is despite Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield saying on June 9 that “from today, everyone in managed isolation will be tested twice for Covid-19”. The national testing strategy also requires day three testing.

Covid-19 testing is meant to occur on days three and 12 of a 14-day stay in managed isolation.

National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says it is disappointing the Government spin machine continued to let the public think day three tests were mandatory when they weren’t.

“This is yet another hole in our border defences,” Dr Reti says.

“Recent revelations that not all border staff were being tested for Covid-19 were extremely disappointing given this is our first and most important line of defence against the virus.

“The Government’s complacent attitude to day three testing is equally disappointing. If we are truly a team of five million then we all need to take the game plan seriously.

“Day three testing is important. Dr Bloomfield has talked about how it is key to reducing the risk of someone leaving managed isolation infectious.

Someone positive but not tested on day three would have more than a week to infect others before the test results on day 12 were available.

“This is why National has reissued our request to re-convene Parliament’s Health Select Committee. We think it is important the Director-General of Health fronts up to explain the disconnect between the Government’s rhetoric on testing and what is actually happening.

“National will protect New Zealanders from Covid-19 and allow our economy to flourish with a comprehensive border plan that includes mandatory weekly testing of all border staff.”

The Minister’s answers are here.

Not only are people not being tested, border staff are waiting far too long for results when they are tested:

A senior employee in the managed isolation system says he has yet to receive the results of his coronavirus test 10 days on.

And neither have at least three of his colleagues.

The employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was tested at a pop-up centre at an Auckland isolation hotel on August 14 shortly after revelations 60 per cent of border workers had not received a Covid test.

On Monday, 10 days after his test, he was yet to receive his results.

He had also contacted his GP who said they had no record of him being tested on August 14.

As a result, he had been told to undergo another test sometime in the next week.

The man described the state of affairs as a “farce”.

“Something’s gone wrong.” . . 

Several somethings have gone wrong and something keeps going wrong.

But the news isn’t all bad – the Health Select Committee will reconvene next Wednesday, following pressure from the National Party and New Zealand First.:

National health spokesperson Shane Reti had written – for a second time – to the Health Committee chair asking for it to be reconvened. His initial request was rejected.

Reti wanted the Health Committee to call Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, senior ministry officials, and the Health Minister, to grill them on the Covid-19 response.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it was logical for the committee to meet to canvass the advice of those people on the alert level decisions taken by Cabinet this week.

“Given the economic and health consequences of the Cabinet’s decision it is appropriate for the accountability function to be performed while Parliament is sitting,” he said.

Committee chair and Labour MP Louisa Wall said she was happy for the committee to be reconvened and would invite the minister and Bloomfield to appear. . . 

The Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) that operated during the first lockdown hasn’t been reconvened. The Health Select Committee will be the next best way for the Opposition to question the Minister and DG of Health.


Must learn from mistakes

August 25, 2020

People criticising the criticism of the failures by the Government and its agencies are saying the critics should keep the failures in perspective.

They justify that by comparing New Zealand’s record on Covid-19 to that of other countries.

Fair enough, in raw numbers and per head of population our infection and death rates are low.

But that doesn’t excuse the failures that have been exposed, especially those we’ve learned of since the Auckland cluster was discovered.

Bryce Edwards, who no-one could accuse of being right wing, asks how serious are the government’s botch-ups?

Of course, there are good reasons to take the border botch-ups extremely seriously. After all, we have known from the start of this pandemic that the country’s borders need to be adequately managed if New Zealand is to achieve our objective of eliminating the virus. What’s more, the revelations of the last week point to more than simply “hiccups”, but serious dysfunction in the way the political system is supposed to work, with what some believe to be deliberate attempts to deceive the public over its failings.

As debate about the botch-ups has progressed, it seems likely that failures of Covid testing have led to the current lockdown. The testing botch-ups topic is, therefore, one of vital importance, especially if the country is going to learn from the failures and correct them. . . 

The government and Health Ministry didn’t learn from mistakes made in the initial lockdown which makes it even more important to learn from the latest ones.

Given the importance of the borders, and making sure that those coming into the country don’t cause community transmission, the Government has been making promises for the last two months that every worker employed in relation to the border would be routinely tested. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, and the Director-General of Health have continued to reassure the public that such testing was being carried out.

Edwards quotes from several reports highlighting failures then asks should there be an inquiry into what has happened?

Various commentators and epidemiologists have been arguing for this to occur for some time. Although the Government continues to argue against deploying resources for such scrutiny while the crisis is still on, some experts say the need is all the greater to learn the lessons as soon as possible.

For example, University of Otago public health experts Nick Wilson and Michael Baker are reportedly both in favour of early inquiries: “the Government wasted the 100 days New Zealand was free of community transmission. They say any inquiry could offer advice to officials every few months, guiding the response to any future outbreaks” – see: Ben Strang’s Government urged to launch inquiry into its pandemic response.

According to this article, these epidemiologists believe “officials sat back and basked in New Zealand’s relative success during past pandemics, which meant systems and plans were not reviewed to an adequate standard.” . . .

National leader Judith Collins goes further, calling for a public health summit.

Judith Collins says that, as Prime Minister, she will convene a Public Health Summit to review lockdown levels and discuss other public health measures that avoid future lockdowns.

“We need to work out how our economy can flourish when it’s clear Covid-19 will be with us for some time,” Ms Collins says. “It is clear that the levels system needs to be reviewed in light of our experience, with a wide range of perspectives in the room.

“National’s border policy with a single protection agency and greater testing and contact tracing abilities is one step to ensuring the Kiwis remain safe from Covid-19, but if there are future threats as a country, we need certainty and transparency over what the process is if future outbreaks occur.

“We need to balance the social and economic costs, while ensuring the best possible health response.

“As Prime Minister I will convene an immediate Public Health Summit that would bring all aspects of our community together, from public health specialists, primary care teams, iwi leadership, Business New Zealand, manufacturing and the unions, so we can all agree on what’s best practice for the country.

“While we’re committed to the elimination approach, the Summit’s reviews of the levels will give us the best chance of recovering the jobs lost and preventing further loss.

“What’s clear is that Covid-19 is going to be with us for some time. We need to find the best ways of ensuring that we continue to eliminate this disease.

The health response can’t be divorced from the economic, social and other health consequences of the lockdown.

Covid-19 will be around for many months, possibly years. We can’t afford to have a repeat of any of the mistakes made and the government and its agencies must not only learn from them, they must come up with a better strategy for dealing with any further outbreaks.

New Zealand wasn’t prepared for this pandemic and it has made too many mistakes in handling it.

A health summit might be the best way to learn from those mistakes and come up with a better strategy not just for this pandemic but any future ones.


Why are we waiting?

August 24, 2020

The daily 1pm Covid-19 broadcast has just updated us on the number of new cases – eight confirmed and one probable.

Cabinet will have had this information since around 9am.

They ought to have had any other information needed to make the decision on what changes, if any, will be made to alert levels.

Why then are we having to wait until 3pm for that announcement?

Could it be to give more time for speech writers and the Prime Minister’s preparation for what will be another thinly disguised party political broadcast?

Does anyone want to take a bet on how many words will precede the only bit most of us are interested in – whether or not Auckland will be unlocked from alert level 3 and the rest of us from level 2?

Oamaru Rotary was to have opened its popup Bookarama on the day we went to level 2. We can’t open until we’re back at level one. That’s an inconvenience for the volunteers who staff it who can’t make plans until we know if and when we’ll be needed.

There are a lot more people for whom it is far worse than inconvenient.

People can’t hold funerals, weddings and other such functions; some can’t get to family and friends in need because they can’t get into, through or out of Auckland and most seriously for the financial, social and health impacts, jobs and whole businesses are at great risk.

Waiting a few hours more to learn if and when any changes in level will be made won’t make any difference to the outcome, but it would be good to know if there is a far better reason why we’re waiting than allowing preparation for the speech to which many of us don’t want to listen.


Tough times, tougher border

August 24, 2020

National leader Judith Collins says tough times call for tougher controls at the border:

Five million New Zealanders paid a heavy price to rid Covid-19 from our communities. They paid for it with their jobs, they paid for it with their businesses, and they paid for it with their freedoms.

They did their part and were understandably upset to find out the Government had not been doing theirs. A third of the country is now back in lockdown because of this.

Reducing the need for heavy-handed lockdowns could not be more crucial. After the first lockdown, 212,000 Kiwis were receiving unemployment benefits and 1.6 million jobs were kept alive by wage subsidies. The current lockdown is estimated to be costing Auckland 250 jobs and up to $75 million a day in economic activity.

There is a lot we still don’t know about how Covid-19 got back into our community, but let’s be real – this was not the immaculate infection, it didn’t just materialise, it had to have crossed our border at some point.

We know ministers weren’t even aware the health strategy they signed off in June only required voluntary testing of border workers. How is that possible? Did they not read it?

They now blame officials for the miscommunication even though Government is about taking responsibility for national security, not passing the buck.

But it is no surprise there was confusion. The current system requires people entering the border to interact with Customs, primary industries, the health ministry, defence force, private hotels, private bus drivers, private security and so on.

This ad-hoc approach is hampering New Zealand’s ability to respond to outbreaks in a co-ordinated and rapid way. Just as 9/11 forever changed the way we travel, Covid-19 must change the way we prepare for and manage public health threats.

This is why my Government will establish a new Border Protection Agency – Te Korowai Whakamaru, which can be translated as the ‘cloak of protection’.

We see the border protection agency in the same way as a korowai – many threads woven together to make one cloak of protection. It will provide the professional co-ordination that is sorely lacking from our Covid-19 response right now.

It will scale up and down as threats emerge and abate, like Civil Defence does, and it will be resourced with the personnel, technology and decision-making power to do its job right.

But tough times call for tough measures, and more will be needed to keep this virus at bay. That is why my Government will require everyone travelling to New Zealand to provide evidence of a recent negative Covid-19 test before boarding their plane. This is a common-sense step that other countries and airlines around the world are taking.

And we will, of course, require compulsory weekly testing of all staff working at the border or in quarantine facilities – something the Government should have been doing from the start.

A strong border needs multiple lines of defence and New Zealand’s second line – our contract tracing systems – must be better. We are too reliant on human memories and honesty right now, the QR code app has only been downloaded by a third of Kiwis. My Government will immediately invest in Bluetooth technology to enhance this, making it compulsory for everyone entering the country and border workers to carry contact tracing technology.

Yo-yoing in and out of lockdown is not sustainable, for our economy or our communities. If our border is strong then locking down 1.7 million New Zealanders can be our last resort, not our go-to option.

You can read national’s border policy here


Rural round-up

August 22, 2020

Are all proteins created equal? The difference between plant and animal proteins – Tim Newman:

New research into food proteins means meat and dairy should continue to play a key role in New Zealand’s farming future, a Massey University scientist says.

Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan spoke on the subject of world food security at the Nelson Federated Farmers’ 75th anniversary celebrations recently.

Moughan is one of the principal investigators at the Riddet Institute, a food science research organisation which was awarded Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) status by the Government in 2007.

In his presentation, Moughan outlined the projected rise in demand for world food production over the next 50 years, and the opportunity for New Zealand to meet that need. . .

Successful formula for calf rearer – Yvonne O’Hara:

Lynne Johnston has been calf rearing for about 18 years, and loves it.

Mrs Johnston and husband Glenn have progressed from lower order and 50-50 sharemilking in Riversdale to farm owners at Clarendon, near Waihola, six years ago.

They own 200ha, run 560 cows and have a milk solid target of 235,000kg of milk solids.

“We started rearing 120 replacements each year. However, as we moved through 50-50 sharemilking we reared a lot more to grow our herd. . . 

Skills group ‘unashamedly parochial’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

The new interim Southland Regional Skills Leadership Group (SRSLG) is “unashamedly parochial in outlook”, co-chairman Paul Marshall says.

“We have a very clear focus on what is best for Southland.

“Our role is to provide advice about the labour market and we have been given assurances that our advice will be heard by employment minister Willie Jackson.”

The interim SRSLG is one of 15 groups throughout the country established to address current and future disruptions in regional labour markets because of Covid-19 . .

Alliance distributes $5m to shareholders :

Red meat cooperative Alliance Group will be paying $5 million to some of its farmer shareholders.

The quarterly payments have been made to Alliance’s Platinum and Gold shareholders who supply 100% of their livestock to the company.

Farmers are paid an additional 10c/kg for each lamb, 6c/kg for a sheep, 8.5c/kg for cattle and 10c/kg for deer. The payments cover the period April-June 2020. . . 

A2 Milk reports $385m profit for full year :

Specialty dairy company A2 Milk has posted a record profit, driven by booming sales of infant formula because of the Covid-19 virus.

The company reported an annual profit of $385.8 million compared with $287.7m last year, as revenue rose by a third and it held margins at target levels, which it had signalled to the market in April.

“We estimate that Covid-19 had a modest positive impact on revenue and earnings for the year. Additionally, our business was favourably impacted by foreign exchange movements,” the company said in a statement.

A2 Milk makes dairy products from milk without the A-1 protein, which is held to be easier to digest and absorb for some people. . . 

Passion for rural health – Jamie Brown:

Two young future doctors, passionate about improving rural health, have been awarded The Land Rural Medical Scholarship for 2020.

The winners are second year medical students Simon Whelan, University of Notre Dame at Sydney, and Laura Beaumont, Western Sydney University.

Both have country connections, with Mr Whelan off a fourth generation rice growing property near Griffith and Ms Beaumont fromthe Hunter Valley town of Paterson.

The scholarship’s administrator, Alicia Hargreaves of the Gundagai based Rural Doctors Association of NSW, said it was fabulous to see the enthusiasm, and the quality of the applicants. . .


Rural round-up

August 21, 2020

Coronavirus: Millions of bees starve to death as beekeepers held up at COVID-19 checkpoints – James Fyfe:

Millions of bees have starved to death after COVID-19 checkpoints in and out of Auckland caused a delay in beekeepers accessing their hives.

Wetex Kang of Waitakaruru Honey Limited says around 2.5 million bees died after workers were unable to travel from Waikato to Auckland to feed the bees.

Kang, who is based in Auckland, says many of his business’ 2000 beehives are scattered across the North Island, as are the staff who care for them. . . 

Women’s farm training winner – Sally Rae:

A farm training institute with a difference is opening its gates in Northern Southland next year. Business and rural editor Sally Rae finds out more.

When Covid-19 claimed the clientele of her agri-tourism venture near Kingston, Laura Douglas spent a couple of days crying inconsolably.

Still on a high from taking her farm animals to Wanaka A&P Show for a display, she received a phone call from international bus company Contiki two days later, cancelling its visits.

Those tours came through Real Country every month – every week in summer – and represented about 65% of her revenue. Corporate groups also cancelled as the country went into lockdown. . . 

Armadillo Merino aims for the moon – Neal Wallace:

Merino wool has long been praised for its versatility, but Andy Caughey tells Neal Wallace how he is taking use of this miracle fibre to a whole new level.

THE qualities of New Zealand Merino wool clothing are being tested in some of the planet’s most hostile and extreme workplaces and environments – and beyond.

Otago-raised Andy Caughey has for the past nine years been developing and promoting next-to skin Merino wool clothing and socks under his brand Armadillo Merino.

Armadillo clothing is now being considered for astronauts involved in NASA’s 2024 expedition to the moon. . . 

Arable sector must determine its future – Annette Scott:

The next five years will be crunch time for the arable sector that can choose to stand up and shine or remain under the radar and let the larger primary sectors direct New Zealand’s agri-economic development, Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) chief executive Alison Stewart says.

For many years the arable sector has been viewed as the invisible partner of NZ agriculture, given the arable industry’s predominantly domestic, commodity market focus and the fact that it has chosen to fly under the radar on most of the major policy issues affecting NZ’s economic, environmental and social development, Stewart says.

“However, I believe the invisible partner image is slowly changing and could change even more if the entire sector worked together to make it happen,” she said. . . 

Pāmu announces new GM sustainability and farming systems:

Pāmu has appointed Lisa Martin to the executive leadership team in the newly created role of General Manager, Sustainability and Farming Systems.

Ms Martin has extensive experience improving the sustainability practices of the organisations she has worked with, including seafood company Sanford where she was GM of Group Sustainability and at Downer Group where she was GM of Environment and Sustainability. She also co-founded a successful sustainability consultancy, Sustainz which provides sustainability advice to a range of organisations including New Zealand’s agricultural sector.

In her earlier career Ms Martin worked in the environmental science field in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. . .

Sugar price rebound sweetens La Niña risk – Shan goodwin:

REBOUNDING global sugar prices are putting a spring in the step of Queensland cane growers who have been hampered by wet weather hold-ups since the crush started in early June.

Raw sugar traded in New York on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the global benchmark, broke through the US13 cents per pound barrier last week for the first time since March.

Analysts say that has been on the back of easing lockdown restrictions, the resumption of food service, strong demand from Asia where drought has hit local crops and speculative moves by funds shifting to a bullish outlook for sugar. . . 


Rural round-up

August 20, 2020

Some farmers can’t access stock due to Auckland border restrictions – Sarah robson:

Farmers with properties either side of Auckland’s southern border are frustrated they haven’t been able to check stock or get essential supplies because of the alert level 3 lockdown.

Travel in to, out of and through Auckland is heavily restricted, with only a limited number of exemptions.

Federated Farmers Auckland president Alan Cole said that was causing headaches for farmers with properties in both Auckland and Waikato.

“They are unable to get to them,” he said.

“You need to be able to get to your stock basically every day or every second day to feed out, check them. Some of the guys are calving at the moment and they’ve got properties on either side of the boundary.” . . 

COVID-19: Let the small guys stay open — Feds – Sudesh Kissun:

Calls are growing for the Government to allow butchers and independent fruit and vegetable retailers to operate under COVID-19 Alert Levels.

Federated Farmers is the latest industry lobby calling for the Government to reconsider and let small fresh food sellers stay open under level 3 and, if necessary, at level 4.

New Zealand’s first COVID-19 lockdown rules meant butchers, bakers and greengrocers could not open as the small retailers were considered non-essential.

But Feds president Andrew Hoggard is pleading with the Government to “let the little guys stay open”. . . 

Meeting leads to productive relationship – Kerrie Waterworth:

A Wanaka farmer and sheep breeder who has developed wool for some of the world’s most sought-after Covid-19  face masks is already thinking of new value-added ways to use coarse wool in other industries. Kerrie Waterworth reports.

Five  years ago Andy Ramsden was looking for a home for a new type of wool from his trademarked Astino breed.

At a presentation in Queenstown by a New York consultancy firm on the state of the New Zealand wool industry he met the chief executive of Auckland-based air filter producer Lanaco, Nick Davenport.

Mr Ramsden said they sat down for a quick cup of coffee and stood up four hours later. . . 

Velvet trumps venison – Sally Rae:

It is a tale of two halves in the deer industry as venison schedule prices drop to their lowest level in more than a decade while consumer demand for velvet remains robust.

ANZ’s latest Agri Focus report said venison markets were “extremely challenging”; venison was highly exposed to the European restaurant trade and the industry was scrambling to move more products into the retail space to reduce reliance on the food service sector.

Farmgate prices for deer might have “ticked up a tad” recently but prices had not been at such low levels for more than a decade.

“It is a real blow for an industry that was doing so well and had appeared to have moved away from the volatile cycles of boom and bust that have long plagued the industry,” the report said. . .

NZ food industry benefits from leading-edge portable drying technology:

When Robert Barnes was asked by a friend to build a dryer to dehydrate macadamia nuts 25 years ago, he never thought it would be the start of his own drying machine business.

Robert, an electrician and refrigeration engineer by trade, set up his own refrigeration and air-conditioning company in 1989, attracting Port of Tauranga as one of his clients. Since 1995 he has also been using his skills to develop highly innovative Rexmoi® Dryers. He sold the refrigeration and air conditioning business five years ago to focus solely on Drying Solutions Ltd.

Now Robert is gearing up to exhibit a Rexmoi® Dryer, at his fourth Foodtech Packtech show next month. . . 

Cow’s milk greener than vegan alternatives :

Cows’ milk from grass-based systems is environmentally friendlier than plant-based alternatives because it uses far less soya, according to a new study.

It says vegans and others who buy milk substitutes made from soya for their latte and cappuccino, or breakfast cereal, are harming the planet. The study, published in the Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition, says consumers’ ever-increasing demand for soya meal and palm kernel meal is fuelling the destruction of rainforest.

The authors calculate that about 85 litres of milk is produced in the UK for every kilo of soya bean meal consumed by dairy cows. . . 


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