What rights do employers have?

20/10/2021

It’s taken far too long but at last we know that people who aren’t vaccinated won’t be as free as those who are:

If you are not vaccinated, there will be everyday things you will miss out on, the prime minister says. . .

“It will become very clear to people that if you are not vaccinated there will be things that you miss out on, everyday things that you will miss out on,” Ardern told Morning Report.

Exactly what those things are has yet to be specified.

“It’s about both rewarding people who have gone out and done the right thing but also keeping away people who are less safe.” . . 

Ardern said the government is drawing some distinctions though, they don’t want an environment where people can’t access necessary goods and services to maintain their lives.

“We can’t say someone can’t get health services, medical needs, pharmacies, food.” . . 

If the government is going to be this tough, will it allow people who can’t, or don’t want to, have the Pfizer vaccine to have an alternative?

And will they give employers much needed advice on what their legal rights and responsibilities over vaccinated and unvaccinated staff are?

Some businesses are already notifying clients that they won’t allow their staff to work in premises where there are unvaccinated people.

There is no legal problem with that.

But what if employers have staff who won’t be vaccinated?

The government has declared that all education and health staff must be vaccinated. The court ruled that Customs had the right to sack a border worker who wouldn’t get vaccinated.

Which, if any, other employers have the legal right to require their staff to be vaccinated?

If the government knows it’s not telling. Unless and until it does make a ruling employers are lost in a legal minefield.


Rural round-up

15/10/2021

Investors see promising signs of recovery in infant formula sales in China – Point of Order:

After  a  rough  ride  since  Covid-19  struck, the New Zealand economy  is  in   better   shape   than might  have been  predicted  at the  onset  of the  pandemic.  Yet labour  shortages,  an energy crisis  in Europe  and  China, and  massive  inflationary  pressures suggest  that  the  passage  ahead   will  be  anything  but  smooth.

With  the  government abandoning  the  elimination  strategy  and  moving  towards  living  with  endemic  Covid, the  country  is adjusting  to  the  prospect  of  a  new  normal.  But  without  any  sign of  the  number of  cases  of the Delta  variant  diminishing, restrictions  may  persist  for  longer  than  might  have been  imagined  just  weeks  ago.

It’s  a  blow  to  industries  looking  to  inflows  of  workers  to ease  labour  shortages, particularly  in the  rural  regions,  which  last  season  sustained  the  economy  with  the  production of  commodities  that  were  in  relatively  tight  supply  in  world markets,  fetching excellent  returns. . .

Anchor Food Professionals reaches $3bn in annual revenue :

Anchor Food Professionals – Fonterra’s foodservice business – has defied Covid challenges to become a $3 billion annual revenue business.

Fonterra says the milestone was pleasing, despite restaurants around the world being affected by Covid-19.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell said the success was down to the the co-op’s strong connection to customers.

“Our people have worked hard to find new ways of working with customers and new product applications to suit the pandemic environment, and we can see this has been a success. . .

Kiwifruit growers take Gisborne District Council to High Court over land valuation method – Alice Angeloni:

Kiwifruit growers are taking Gisborne District Council to the High Court for including the licence to grow the gold variety in rating land valuations.

The national body representing growers, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI), has brought a judicial review proceeding of the decision to the High Court, and is supporting a grower on Bushmere Road, who has lodged an objection to their property valuation before the Land Valuation Tribunal.

Gisborne was the first region to adjust land valuation methods to include the value of the gold kiwifruit growing licence, known as the G3 licence, on the rateable value of the property.

The move has resulted in a rates hike Gisborne growers called “absurd” and inequitable, with reports of rates tripling for some. . .

A farming mystery hits social media – Vincent Heeringa:

Regenerative farming: only one person knows what it means (and it’s not you), writes Vincent Heeringa, but it is vital that it becomes known and understood

A new report by Beef and Lamb NZ sheds fresh light on the role that regenerative farming could play in growing our primary sector exports. The news is encouraging. Conducted by US food researcher Alpha Food Labs, the report shows that ‘conscious consumers’ in Germany, the UK and the US have a strong appetite for sustainable foods – and are even hungrier for foods labelled regenerative.

“After learning about the benefits of regenerative agriculture, the proportion of consumers willing to pay 20 percent or more increased in the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as the proportion willing to pay substantially more (i.e. 30 percent more) at least for the United States and Germany.” . . .

New Zealand pork tackles common misconceptions about pork nutrition :

As World Iron Awareness Week comes to a close, New Zealand Pork is reminding Kiwis of the many benefits of enjoying New Zealand pork as part of a healthy balanced diet.

“There are several misconceptions about pork, so this campaign has been designed to bust a few myths and give consumers simple easy facts around some benefits of enjoying delicious New Zealand pork in their diet,” says New Zealand Pork’s nutrition advisor Julie North of Foodcom.

“Some people believe all pork is a fatty meat, thinking of a pork roast with a thick layer of crackling or a juicy pork belly. However, most cuts of pork are quite lean when the external fat (which is easy to remove) is cut off. By trimming off the outer layer of fat, New Zealand pork is quite a lean meat.” . . 


Spot the contradiction

15/10/2021

The government is planning for quarantine hotels to be over-run with Covid cases:

People with Covid-19 will soon be asked to quarantine at home, rather than being ushered to a managed isolation facility.

Modelling suggests Covid-19 case numbers could overwhelm managed isolation spaces, with a worst case scenario model predicting 5200 cases per week, just in the Auckland and Northland regions alone.

That modelling is based on a 90 percent vaccination rate, which those regions have not met.

At even a fraction of those rates, quarantine hotels would be full to the brim. . . 

Spot the contradiction – people known to have Covid-19 will be isolating at home but fully vaccinated people arriving from overseas who have negative tests still have to spend 14 days in MIQ.

The government has got this the wrong way round.

It would be far safer for people who are double vaccinated and have a negative Covid test before they fly in and after they arrive to self-isolate at home than people known to be infected.

It would also take a lot of the pressure of MIQ hotels.

Either way self-isolating would be safe only for some people and some homes.

The people self-isolating would have to have others who could bring them food without making contact with them.

If there were others in the house, those self-isolating would have to be able to do so separately from everyone else.

That would require bedrooms with en suite bathrooms.

Before MIQ was instituted last year people coming from overseas were left to self-isolate on trust and many didn’t.

Unless there’s electronic monitoring of everyone self-isolating the risk of people not following the rules will be high.

Even if people do everything required, if would be far less risky if those self-isolating at home were people who were double vaccinated and with negative tests than if they had the disease.


Time to follow Tasmania?

13/10/2021

A couple of months ago the Prime Minister was using Australia as an example of what not to do.

There is one state that is an example of what to do and that’s Tasmania which hasn’t had a case of community transmission of Covid-19 for more than a year.

The obvious advantage it has over the rest of the country is it’s separated from them by water.

The South Island is separated from the North by water too, is it time to get a much harder border at Cook Strait?

Mike Yardley says it is:

The Government has failed to tighten up the ropey Auckland boundary and the risk it poses. And there’s been no desire from Wellington to seal off the zero-Covid South so that restrictions can be loosened.

Nero would be astounded at the scale of fiddling that has torched Christchurch’s most prestigious week.

So now the South is losing its biggest party, how about a comfort blanket?

The island of 1.2 million people hasn’t clocked a Covid case in the community for 336 days. As far as we know. The wastewater testing keeps coming up negative, all over the island.

Yes, Delta will finally reach the South, but why give it an early invitation, or a helping hand?

I believe the South Island should be sealed off from the North, by way of far tougher travel restrictions for the next six weeks. Only critical workers or the critically in need should be allowed to cross the Cook Strait, pre-conditioned on being vaccinated and testing negative. . .

A Stuff editorial also asks for a harder border:

Border protections within the country need to be shored up, considerably.

The South Island needs hard-border protections against the Delta variant’s creep out of the Auckland region.

The lower North Island, too, deserves something more than the velvet rope the Government has strung up in some of the harder-to-police parts of the Auckland border,.

The shortcomings of a border strategy have been evident in the upper North Island but more can and needs to be done to staunch the virus’ progress south – at least long enough to buy valuable time for vaccination protections to be built up in the community.

Public health experts, community and business leaders have all but linked arms to call for tougher criteria for who can cross the border out of Auckland and Waikato. Otago University’s Nick Wilson describes a limiting of what qualifies as essential travel, and requiring southbound travellers to be fully vaccinated, and have a nasopharyngeal Covid test, and then a rapid test at the border.

How hard would it be to require the full vaccination and the two tests for anyone leaving?

The lower North Island is surely able to be better defended by a hard-border approach too.

This shouldn’t be seen as coming at the expense of an encircled Auckland but it far better protects the health of more southern New Zealanders, let alone regional and national economies.

Moreover, it mitigates how thinly stretched resources might be. This is not a situation where misery loves company – less stressed areas are better placed to send, for instance, medical assistance where it’s most needed.

The obvious comparison, certainly for the South Island, is Tasmania, where an enviable record during the pandemic has not simply been attributable to the fact that the community there has a giant moat.

Many of the measures will ring familiar – border closures, testing, contact tracing – and there has been real rigour to requirements on returned travellers from other more problematic parts of the Lucky Country, quite apart from international returnees.  . . 

Keith Woodford says we need a Covid reset:

. . .Leadership sometimes means admitting errors and doing a reset. I have always liked the Eisenhower quote, of which there are several versions, that ‘planning is everything but plans are nothing’.  There is no point in trying to defend the indefensible. . . 

The late and lax rollout of vaccination is indefensible.

Had more people been fully vaccinated sooner, Delta would not be such a threat.

The vaccination programme has gone up several gears, but what else could be done?

In addition to any soft borders, there need to be two hard borders, one separating off the North Island into two, with Waiouru being a key border point. There would need to be additional hard-border points on Highways 2, 3, 4 and 5, with Highway 43 also blockaded.

Cook Strait provides a superb natural border between the North and South islands. Freight would continue by air and sea. The Cook Strait ferries could use different drivers, with North Island drivers leaving their loads on the ferry at Wellington and fresh drivers picking up the load in Picton. All passenger air-transport between the islands would cease except for medical emergencies.

These two hard borders do not necessarily replace existing soft borders. Rather, they are defensible borders with prospect of being maintained.

These hard regional borders may need to remain in place even after all within-region movements are opened up. At some point regional hard-borders would be removed for those who are vaccinated, but perhaps not until considerably later for the non-vaccinated.

In contrast, softer borders protecting regions such as Rotorua and Taupo will almost certainly be bypassed. All they can do is slow down the infection rate outside of Auckland before eventually being made irrelevant. . . 

There comes a time when individuals have to take responsibility for their own welfare. Society cannot be responsible for those who will not get the vaccine. . .

The alternative of staying in Level 3 over coming weeks appears to combine the worst of all outcomes. It is now evident that exponential growth is highly likely to continue. We will indeed end up with two groups of people, these being the vaccinated and the infected, but with everyone’s lifestyle affected.

To those who say that restrictions should be removed earlier than what I have set out here, my response is to say that we have to accept that it is only now that many people are becoming eligible for their second dose.

And to those who continue to say that we cannot leave anyone behind, I say that this current commitment is counter-productive. The non-vaccinated need to understand that broader society will not tolerate being treated in this way. And that is something that the Government also needs to understand.  Either people get the vaccine or they accept the consequences. . . .

That sounds harsh, but the alternative is that once every effort has been made to reach everyone who is willing to be vaccinated, the won’t-be vaccinated are preventing more freedom for the rest of us.

The consequences for the unvaccinated might result in hospitals being overrun with Covid cases. But lockdowns also have high health costs for people whose serious illnesses go undiagnosed, or untreated.

New Zealand’s initial response to Covid-19 gained wide international praise.

Much of that praise has turned to criticism and while the rest of the world is slowly opening up, more than a third of our population are locked down and the rest of us are waiting for what will be the inevitable spread of Delta unless the government does a reset and does it fast.


Rural round-up

12/10/2021

Reflective farming regenerates –  Sandra Taylor:

Canterbury’s Inverary Station has scrutinised its beef and sheep business with  outstanding results.  Sandra Taylor paid a visit to find out more.   

John Chapman calls it reflective farming.

The process examines every aspect of his hill country farming business, pulling it apart bit-by-bit to find the key to enabling the farm to reach its productive potential.

“If we look at our farms carefully enough, they have a lot that they are willing to tell us.” . . 

Pāmu ponders restrictions for unvaccinated staff – Maja Burry:

The state owned farmer Pāmu has said it may need to look at putting in place some restrictions for unvaccinated staff in the future.

Pāmu, formerly Landcorp, owns or operates about 110 farms around New Zealand. It has 647 employees including farmers, growers, marketers, supply chain managers and business experts.

Company spokesperson Simon King told RNZ while it did not have a view on the mandating of vaccines, it was aware there could be future issues on all farms, including Pāmu’s, with unvaccinated staff.

“In particular, the ability to operate farms if unvaccinated staff become infected and have to isolate, or if suppliers start to refuse to uplift product from farms with unvaccinated workers,” King said. . .

From ewe to you – Kirwee farmers launch new sheep milk poroducts :

A child with food allergies and dairy intolerance has led a Canterbury couple to start milking sheep.

Matt and Tracey Jones were so impressed by the difference sheep milk made for their daughter they embarked on their new venture and have since created a skincare range using the milk. The farming couple are about to unveil a range of bottled pasteurised milk and farm-made cheese.

The Jones milk about 600 sheep on the property. Just across from the milking platform they have built a milk processing and cheese-making factory.

Farm manager Juan Cavallotti is also the head cheesemaker. . .

Tulip tours in doubt but beauty assured – Shawn McAvinue:

An annual tour of the tulip fields will wilt this year if Southland remains in Alert Level 2, an event organiser says.

Tulip grower Triflor NZ was set to open its colourful fields in Edendale to thousands of people on Labour Day.

However, tour co-ordinator Jean Kirby, of Seaward Downs, said the event would only proceed if the South was in Level 1.

A final decision would be made on October 18, Mrs Kirby said. . . 

Kāpiti and Wairarapa sweep NZ Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards:

Kāpiti and Wairarapa Olive Oil makers have swept the annual New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, winning all of the five major awards for Olive Oil Excellence.

The New Zealand Olive Oil Awards began in 2000 and recognise excellence in New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oils (NZ EVOO). The winners were announced tonight at the Olives NZ 2021 Award Ceremony.

The top awards were as follows: . . 

Rubia Gallega, the new premium beef coming to fine-dining restaurants – Warwick Long:

Tall, strong, cinnamon to orange in colour and a “nice sexy name” are the attributes of an animal that a beef industry pioneer believes will be the latest thing on the menu at Australia’s best restaurants.

The new breed of cattle is David Blackmore’s “retirement” plan. He was the mastermind behind premium Wagyu cattle in Australia.

Mr Blackmore’s Wagyu meat, grown on farms in north-east Victoria has sold for more than $500 per kilogram and appeared on luxury menus around Australia and the world, including in the home of Wagyu, Japan.

His latest project is a breed of cattle that he has imported into Australia called, Rubia Gallega. . . 


Rural round-up

11/10/2021

Pomahaka river project hits half-way mark – Neal Wallace,

A three-year project to plant 230,000 native trees and shrubs and build 100km of riparian fencing on Otago’s Pomahaka River, is officially halfway completed.

The milestone for the Pomahaka Watercare Corridor Planting Project was marked with a function at the Leithen Picnic Area this week.

The $3.7 million project between the Primary Growth Fund, One Billion Trees Fund, 105 local farmers and the Pomahaka Water Care Group is designed to protect the Pomahaka River and its tributaries and offer employment opportunities post-covid-19. . . 

Farmers urged to have a Covid plan – Gerald Piddock:

Dairy farmers have been told to make an on-farm plan in case themselves or one of their staff tests positive for covid-19.

That plan had to be easily accessible and documented and communicated to all staff members, DairyNZ covid project manager Hamish Hodgson said in a webinar.

This plan was crucial for the farmer to be ready for covid.

He said he knew of one farmer organising campervans to be brought on-farm if they needed to be able to isolate people. . .

New Johne’s test based on Covid technology :

The same technology used to detect Covid-19 in wastewater is now being used to help dairy farmers manage Johne’s disease in their herd.

Johne’s disease is a contagious infection estimated to cost New Zealand more than $40 million in lost production each year.

It is caused by a bacterium which infects the gut of dairy cows and other ruminant animals. Common side effects include lower milk production, difficulty reproducing and rapid weight loss.

Herd improvement co-operative LIC has developed a new test which detects whether the bacteria responsible for Johne’s disease is present in a farm’s effluent wastewater. . .

Hemp industry builds infrastructure to secure its future – Country Life:

New Zealand’s largest hemp grower says farmers around the country want to start growing hemp but, before more come on board, markets need to be developed and infrastructure secured.

Hemp New Zealand’s Dave Jordan says it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ situation.

“There are a lot of ideas around and it’s all very well to have the ideas but you have got to actually have action on the ground and show people the benefit of it (hemp) and get customers to buy it.”

The company is working with 100 growers who grow 1000 hectares of hemp.

NZ shearer with 100 wins to pick up clippers again this year – Sally Murphy:

A farmer who was first in the world to win 100 blade-shearing finals isn’t ready to stop competing just yet.

Tony Dobbs from Fairlie won his 100th title at the Waimate Shears Spring Championships last year and considered retiring after being diagnosed with cancer.

This year’s Waimate Shears starts today with some of the country’s top shearers and wool handlers going head to head.

Dobbs was set down to judge the competition so thought he might as well compete too. . . 

On-farm quarantine the next step for ag workers – James Jackson:

After years of drought, farmers are finally facing an opportunity to reap the rewards of their hard work as bumper crops loom on the horizon. But labour shortages remain a significant and stubborn hurdle to reaching record-breaking harvests, and primary producers cannot afford to wait for the state to reopen to muster enough workers in time for their summer harvests.

NSW Farmers has joined forces with the National Farmers Federation to call for an immediate solution to get more workers to farms as quickly as possible. We propose a limited pilot of on-farm quarantine for 200 agricultural workers from low-risk countries, commencing when 70 per cent of adults in NSW are fully vaccinated.

A transition to on-farm quarantine arrangements in NSW as vaccination rates rise would alleviate a number of challenges the agriculture sector has faced in the hotel-quarantine model. The availability of hotel quarantine places in NSW is limited and further constrained by Sydney’s disproportionately high intake of returning residents, increasing the likelihood agricultural workers will miss out on a place. . . 


How contagious is Covid-19?

09/10/2021

From Information is Beautiful   


Safer by the numbers

04/10/2021

David Farrar has done the numbers on whether the Covid-19 vaccine is safer than the disease:

. . .  NZ the death rate from Covid-19 is 118 times greater than the worst possible death rate from the vaccine. And it is 7,000 times greater than the best possible death rate from the vaccine.

How about non fatal but serious impacts? The vaccine has around 1 in 1,700 suffer a serious side effect. Compare that to the 1 in 8 who get Covid-19 and still have symptoms after more than three months. I prefer 1 in 1700 to 1 in 8. . . 

How can you argue with those numbers?


Rural round-up

02/10/2021

Carbon farming – what is the end goal? – Mike Firth:

Wairarapa farmer Mike Firth voices his concerns about the effects of carbon farming on sheep and beef land.

It’s a pretty sad day when you sit inside reading an article in a popular farming paper and it’s talking about carbon farming.

Who would have ever thought we could get paid for air?

I have never written about stuff like this before, but this is starting to piss me off. . . 

Leadership is needed as sheep and beef farming face fight – Anna Campbell:

In 1881, the first frozen shipment of red meat left New Zealand for the United Kingdom.

It’s hard to imagine the planning and risks involved in that shipment.

The Government’s New Zealand History website describes how the voyage was organised by William Davidson, who was the British-based manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company. The company sent Thomas Brydone to Britain to study refrigeration technology; he was then responsible for handling the ‘‘experiment’’ in New Zealand.

The passenger sailing ship Dunedin had a complete fit-out with a coal-powered Bell Coleman freezing plant. The first 5000 carcasses originated from the Totara Estate in Oamaru, where they were cooled and sent by rail to Port Chalmers, then frozen aboard Dunedin. When the shipment reached the tropics, the crew on board noticed the air wasn’t circulating properly, so Captain John Whitson crawled aboard to saw extra holes for air circulation, nearly freezing himself in the process. . . 

Forecast positive for farmers – Sally Rae:

Covid-19 uncertainty reinforces the need for stable and predictable domestic regulation, to avoid putting pressure on the red meat sector whose exports are critical to the economy, Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief economist Andrew Burtt says.

B+LNZ’s new season outlook, released yesterday, showed the forecast for global sheepmeat and beef demand was positive for the 2021-22 season, supported by solid market fundamentals, strong demand and tight supply.

It forecast average farm profit before tax to lift 9%, reflecting a 4% lift in gross farm revenue and increasing sheep revenue, including a modest lift in wool prices.

However, the forecast for a stronger New Zealand dollar would offset some of the buoyancy and limit increases in farmgate prices. . . 

Feds gives thumbs up for cross-border and jab efforts :

Federated Farmers is giving a shout out to government agencies handling the movement of essential workers across alert level boundaries, and to those DHBs and medical centres reaching out to rural people over COVID vaccinations.

“With Auckland now at Alert level 3 and access to takeaways resumed, there are still essential workers having to cross alert level boundaries south and north of Auckland. Many of them work in or with the primary industries – farmers, vets, stock transporters and food processors to name a few,” Feds national board member and employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“Quite rightly, essential workers are required to have proper documentation and it might all have been a big hassle.

“However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with the Ministry for Primary Industries, have made the process seamless and sensible. Hats off to them,” Chris said. . . 

New elected director in the western North Island:

Taranaki farmer and former Ravensdown employee, Mike Davey is the co-operative’s newest shareholder-elected director, announced at yesterday’s 2021 annual meeting

Mike Davey has been elected as Director for Area 5, which stretches from New Plymouth to Wellington City and includes southern parts of Ruapehu and Taupō. Mike is a cropping farmer, elected member of the Taranaki Regional Council and has over 40 years’ experience in the fertiliser business.

Ravensdown Chair John Henderson says Mike’s knowledge of the co-operative will be an asset as the co-operative and its shareholders navigate an evolving regulatory environment. . . 

Let’s give thanks to the ‘grassetarians’ – Tom Marland:

It is World Meat-Free Week.

This is a concept thought up by a group of well-meaning, but misinformed, inner-city environmentalists in order to “save the planet”.

A few people skipping a steak this week won’t have a huge impact on our meat protein production industries.

But we must be aware of the growing trend among many Australians and overseas consumers who are going “meat free”. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

30/09/2021

‘Frustrating, disappointing’ – Call for better vaccine rollout in rural areas – Sally Murphy:

There are concerns the vaccine rollout is lagging in rural areas with some farmers having to do three-hour round trips to get the jab.

The Rural General Practice Network said it had been asking for data on rural vaccinations from the Ministry for Health for some time without a response.

Chief executive Dr Grant Davidson said the network believed the rates for rural communities, and rural Māori in particular, lagged the vaccination rates for the general population being reported by the government.

“We do know that there are small niche areas such as Rakiura/Stewart Island where entire communities have been vaccinated, but we believe this is hiding what is a major issue for a vulnerable population in New Zealand – the rural backbone of the country needing support. . . 

Growers nervous of labour shortage despite imminent arrival of RSE workers – Tom Kitchin:

The arrival of seasonal workers from next week gives growers some certainty, but they fear the upcoming season will still be a big challenge.

The arrival of seasonal workers from next week gives growers some certainty, but they fear the upcoming season will still be a big challenge

Seasonal workers arriving from the Pacific Islands next week will be able to skip MIQ and go to work during their isolation period.

Vaccinated workers from Vanuatu can come in from next Monday, while those from Tonga and Samoa will need to wait until Tuesday, 12 October.

The workers will complete a self-isolation period of seven days and undertake day zero and day five tests, all while working at their work sites. . . 

Groundswell protests no Bloody Friday – luckily – Jamie Mackay:

Imagine running 1500 animals through the main street of a city, then mobbing them up and cutting their throats in protest.

The year was 1978. I remember it well, as it was a watershed year in my life. I’d taken a gap year after secondary school to try my hand at senior rugby with the big boys.

Many parts of Southland had suffered a crippling drought in 1978. Combine that with a season of industrial mayhem at the four local “freezing” works, and you had a powder keg waiting to explode. The meat companies, farmers, unions and workers were literally at each other’s throats.

Lambs weren’t worth much and the old ewes, who had selflessly given the best five or six years of their lives to bear the aforementioned lambs, were worthless. They had reached their use-by-date. As the dry summer rolled into autumn and beyond, the old ewes were eating scarce winter feed needed for their younger and more productive counterparts in the flock. . . 

Open trade climate change can work together – Macaulay Jones:

Supporting local businesses benefits the economy, but supporting local products is not always beneficial for the climate.

As the world and New Zealand continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and policies enacted to curb its spread, many consumers are making a conscious effort to support local businesses.

Local businesses directly and indirectly support local communities and are often owned and operated by active members of the community. However, while supporting local businesses is a great way of helping your neighbours financially recover from the pandemic, extending this principle to choosing to buy local products as a means of taking climate action may not offer the benefits for the atmosphere you’d expect. . . 

OSPRI reduces TB slaughter levy rates for dairy and beef farmers :

OSPRI who manages the TBfree programme is to reduce the TB slaughter levy rates for cattle farmers from 1 October.

The Differential Slaughter Levy (DSL) is reviewed each year to ensure that industry funding aligns with that agreed under the 2016 TB Plan Funders’ Agreement, this is subject to a 15-year period.

The slaughter levies collected support funding of the TBfree programme on behalf of the beef and dairy industries. The revised levies are collected by meat processors.

The new differential slaughter levy rates are: . . 

This silage contractor chartered a jet for $44,000 to get his workers home from New Zealand – Angus Verley:

What do you do when your key staff are stranded overseas and peak season is fast approaching?

COVID-19 has shut down international travel. For Sam Monk, one of the largest silage contractors in the country, that meant four of his machinery operators were stuck in New Zealand.

With just a fortnight before those workers were required in Australia for corn planting, Mr Monk went to the extraordinary length of chartering a plane to pick up his workers.

Mr Monk said the charter plane landed in Sydney on Friday. His employees are completing two weeks of quarantine before getting to work. . .


Opening safely

29/09/2021

The National Party has launched a plan to open the country safely, and let us get back to normal life:

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins today launched National’s comprehensive plan to tackle Covid-19, end lockdowns and reopen New Zealand to the world.

Titled ‘Opening Up’, National’s plan outlines a pathway to avoid nationwide lockdowns and then allow most fully vaccinated travellers to and from New Zealand to travel much more easily, either without any isolation at all, or with seven days at home.

“The Government has taken its eye off the Covid-19 ball in 2021,” Ms Collins says.

“New Zealand started the year in a good position but the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world for most of this year and a lack of planning meant we were forced into a long lockdown in August and September, one that is still ongoing in Auckland.

“Instead of investing in contact tracing, ICU capacity and purpose-built MIQ, the Government frittered the Covid Response Fund away on art therapy, cameras on fishing boats, and Three Waters reform.

“The plan outlines ten steps we need to take, such as supercharging the vaccine rollout, buying vaccine boosters and next generation treatments, using saliva testing and rapid antigen tests and building purpose built quarantine.

“It is imperative we reach a milestone of 70-75 per cent of the 12 and above population to stop socially and economically damaging nationwide lockdowns.

“The Government has no real plan beyond a belated admission that vaccination is important. The Prime Minister says there is no vaccine target while Ministers throw around numbers willy-nilly.

“The Prime Minister also says her ‘reconnection’ ideas are still government policy while her COVID-19 Minister says they are being reconsidered.

“A 150 person trial for businesspeople to self-isolate at home before Christmas isn’t a plan, it’s an insult.

“Kiwis have done the hard yards. They have willingly followed harsh lockdown measures and other Covid-19 restrictions and, increasingly, they have been vaccinated for the common good. It’s time for them to be offered a vision and a plan about how their hard work will pay off.

“New Zealanders now have a clear plan from National. Delta is here, it may not be possible to eliminate it, and it would almost inevitably arrive into the community again. Whatever happens, we need to reopen to the world and National’s plan outlines how we can do that.

“Once we reach a milestone of 85 per cent of the 12 and above population, National believes we should start to allow fully vaccinated from low risk and medium risk travellers to come to New Zealand without going through MIQ. Non-citizens and non-permanent residents who are not vaccinated would be prohibited from travel to New Zealand.

“National’s plan would reunite Kiwi families split apart overseas, allow New Zealanders to travel overseas for business and pleasure, boost tourism and international education, and end the outrageous human lottery that is the MIQ debacle.

“Under National, Kiwis can come home for Christmas. Under Labour, they can’t.” 

The plan has 10 steps for suppression of Covid:

The time will soon come for New Zealand to pivot from an elimination strategy to one of vigorous suppression, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“New Zealand is at a tipping point. Delta is in the country right now and may never leave. Even the Government admits it may not be possible to get cases back to zero and if we do Delta will be back again anyway.

“The Government is being intellectually dishonest in maintaining the fiction that borders can reopen while New Zealand simultaneously maintains an elimination strategy. In a world with Delta, that is impossible.

“National is the only major party being upfront with New Zealanders. The time will soon come when we need to pivot to vigorous suppression of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

“This is a strategy where New Zealand aims to keep the number of Covid-19 cases very low, but not necessarily at zero. There will likely be cases of infection under this strategy, but the aim is to rapidly respond when they occur and minimise the number of people infected.

“Once we reach a milestone of 85 per cent of the country vaccinated, vigorous suppression becomes possible when supplemented with National’s ten steps to tackle Covid-19.

“National has outlined ten steps we urgently need to take to respond to Covid-19 and set ourselves up to begin to reconnect with the world. They are:

    1. Supercharge the vaccine rollout
    2. Order vaccine boosters
    3. Upgrade our contact tracing capability
    4. Roll out saliva testing at the border and in the community
    5. Roll out rapid tests for essential workers and in the community
    6. Create a dedicated agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri, to manage our Covid-19 response based in Manukau not Wellington
    7. Build purpose-built quarantine facilities
    8. Launch a digital app for vaccination authentication
    9. Invest in next-generation Covid treatments
    10. Prepare our hospitals and expand ICU capacity

“These 10 steps are important measures New Zealand needs to take to evolve our response away from lockdowns and help us open up to the world.

“If we implement these steps, we have options for our future. Kiwis can then look to reunite with family, travel overseas for business and pleasure and we can welcome tourists and students for international education.

“Once we reopen to the world, the future is in the hands of New Zealanders.” 

One of the reasons we keep having to lockdown is fear of overwhelming the health system. An important part of National’s plan is to strengthen the health system:

National’s Covid-19 Plan, ‘Opening Up’ includes a strong priority on improving our hospitals, expanding our ICU capacity and funding treatments for Covid-19, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti and Associate Health spokesperson Simon Watts say.

Dr Reti says New Zealanders did the hard yards last year to stamp out Covid-19 and expected the Government to invest wisely in the health system to prepare it for future outbreaks.

“Instead of investing in ICU capacity, the Government frittered the Covid-19 Response Fund away and has focused on restructuring the entire health system in the middle of a global pandemic.

“The number of ICU beds has actually fallen since the end of April 2020 through to September 2021, no new ICU bed spaces have been provisioned since Delta first appeared in MIQ and urgent alterations had to be made at the start of the recent outbreak to hospital wards in Auckland.

“In the first three weeks of the recent outbreak 62,829 inpatient procedures were cancelled. A delayed procedure can have a significant impact on a person’s health and their ability to recover once the surgery does proceed. In some cases, delaying a procedure is putting a life at risk,” Dr Reti says.

Mr Watts says National’s plan involves urgently implementing a specialist healthcare workforce migration plan.

“We would select the 3000 doctors and nurses out of the expression of interest pool and process them urgently. We would also prioritise and fast-track resident applications for critical healthcare workers, setting aside dedicated MIQ spaces if required.

“National would offer conditional residence class visas upon arrival to specialist, experienced nurses who have the qualifications and experience needed to immediately start working in New Zealand.

“We would also fast-track the building of new hospital wards to increase bed capacity. In Auckland, there are business cases for projects at Waitakere Hospital that could be progressed immediately,” Mr Watts says.

National’s Plan also invests in next generation Covid-19 treatments.

New Zealand is now well behind other countries in approving and ordering exciting new Covid-19 treatments like Ronapreve and Sotrovimab. These monoclonal antibody treatments are used to treat Covid-19 and have shown real promise in clinical trials.

“Ronapreve has been licensed for use in 20 countries and the EU has bought 55,000 doses. Sotrovimab has just been approved for use in Australia, which has bought 7700 doses,” Dr Reti says.

“New Zealand has not bought any doses of either treatment or approved them for use.

“National would establish a ring-fenced and dedicated Covid-19 Treatment fund from within the Covid-19 Response fund, and task Pharmac with negotiating purchase agreements with a variety of manufacturers,” Dr Reti says.

“National wants New Zealanders to enjoy more of the freedoms they have before the pandemic hit. To do this we must make sure our health system is robust enough to both deal with people who may fall ill with Covid-19 and continue day-to-day operations,” Mr Watts says.

New Zealanders can’t travel for fear they won’t be able to get back into the country and very, very few who want to return can. National’s plan allows vaccinated travel:

National’s plan to reopen New Zealand would reunite Kiwi families, allow New Zealanders to travel overseas for business and pleasure, boost tourism and international education, and end the depressing and outrageous human lottery that is the MIQ debacle, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Once New Zealand reaches a milestone of 85 per cent of the aged 12 and above population fully vaccinated, we should start to safely reopen to the world. 85 per cent would give us one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.

“Alongside the public health measures outlined in our plan, a milestone of 85 per cent means we can manage Covid-19 coming through the border.

“National’s reopening plan is based on a traffic light system and prioritises fully vaccinated travellers. Non-citizens and non-permanent residents who are not vaccinated would be banned from travelling to New Zealand.

“The low-risk (green) pathway is for travel from jurisdictions where there is either no or little cases of Covid-19, and where vaccination rates are above 80 per cent.

“Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry. Assuming all tests are negative they would be free to enter New Zealand without any isolation.

“In the first instance we expect this to apply to travellers to and from Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT, the Cook Islands and possibly Taiwan.

“The medium-risk (orange) pathway is travel from jurisdictions where Covid-19 is spreading but under control, and where vaccination rates are above 50 per cent. Judgments would be made by National’s proposed dedicated Covid-19 agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri.

“Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry.

“They would then be required to spend seven days in home isolation and encouraged to take rapid tests which would be provided for free upon arrival. Enforcement would be via spot checks, and the possible use of digital monitoring apps like Singapore’s ‘Homer’ app.

“We expect this to apply to travellers to and from NSW, Victoria, Singapore, the USA, the UK and many European countries.

“People who test positive either at ports of entry or in the community would either be required to isolate at home or in purpose-built quarantine, with assessments made by public health teams.

“Under this plan, Kiwis coming through the green and orange pathways would be able to come home by Christmas.

“Kiwis have done the hard yards, they’ve willingly followed harsh lockdown measures and other restrictions. It’s time they’re offered a vision for the future and a plan for how this hard work has paid off. National’s plan does just that.”

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders can’t come home, immigrants with essential skills can’t get residency and people whose skills we desperately need can’t get MIQ spaces. National’s plan seizes immigration opportunities:

Opening up to the world doesn’t just give Kiwis the opportunity to come home, but it also gives New Zealand opportunities to attract talent from overseas, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“As other countries gradually recover from the effects of Covid-19, a global bidding war for talent has emerged. Almost every advanced economy other than New Zealand has begun deploying aggressive tactics to attract skilled workers.

“Before New Zealand can do the same thing we must fix our broken immigration system.

“We currently have huge delays in processing visas resulting in a years-long backlog of residency applications, and a frozen residency pool is leaving many of our critical workers stuck in immigration limbo. They can’t access KiwiSaver or buy a house, they’re fed up and choosing to leave. It’s clear we’re in a crisis.

“Unlike the Government, National is planning for the future. Immigration will be critical to help resource our health system to deal with any future Covid-19 cases and help our economy bounce back from the effects of the pandemic.”

To resource our health system National would:

  • Instruct immigration officials to urgently reopen the frozen Skilled Migrant Category visa expressions of interest pool and prioritise processing residence applications for critical healthcare workers
  • Offer residence class visas on arrival to specialist nurses with the qualifications, skills and experience to allow them to immediately start working in New Zealand

To help our economy bounce back National would:

  • Create a pathway to residence for those migrants who have stuck with us through the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Reopen the expressions of interest pool and process these applications with urgency
  • Create a fast-tracked, streamlined process for residence applications to quickly clear the backlog
  • Offer conditional residence on arrival for highly-sought skilled workers
  • Implement a traffic light model for people arriving from overseas

Ms Stanford says National understands how important it is we rebuild the reputation of our immigration sector.

“With the world competing for global talent to help their fight against Covid-19 and support their economic recovery, we need to make sure we don’t lose our critical workers to other countries, while at the same time focus on attracting the best talent from overseas.

“If we want the best, we need to be the best. Offering a clear pathway to permanent residency will make sure New Zealand remains an attractive destination for skilled migrants to come and work at time when we need them more than ever.” 

Labour has spent 18 months saying can’t, National’s plan shows what we could do and how we could do it, and do it safely.

National’s Opening UP plan is here.


Government by fear

24/09/2021

Does this frighten you?

New modelling prepared for the Government by Shaun Hendy suggests that New Zealand could see up to 7000 Covid-19 deaths a year even with a high proportion of the population jabbed.

The modelling from Te Pūnaha Matatini suggests that if 80 per cent of those aged five or over were fully vaccinated – around 75 per cent of the entire country – Covid-19 would still cause a serious death toll without other restrictions. 

Hendy projects it could cause just under 60,000 hospitalisations and just under 7000 deaths over a one-year period. . .

The worry wouldn’t just be the deaths but the overloading of the health system which would mean more people would be more seriously ill with other conditions and more would die as a result of delayed treatment.

But there’s no need to be as fearful as the government appears to want us to be if, like Heather du Plessis-Allan, we look at what’s happened elsewhere:

You don’t need a model… you can just look at Singapore.    

Same population size as NZ, vaccination rate over that 80% mark now, not seeing 7000 deaths a year.   

They’ve had 16 in the last month.   

According to Hendy’s model they should’ve recorded 540 in the last month alone.   

I could run you through any number of countries with high vax rates that are not recording anything like the level of deaths that Hendy is predicting.   

in fact, even if you wanted to ignore real life and stick to comparisons between models, take a look at what the models across the Tasman are predicting and you’ll find Hendy an alarmist. 

One is predicting 26 deaths a year across Australia.  

Even the worst-case scenarios I can find come nowhere near the predictions Hendy’s making.  . .

 She isn’t the only one  to question Hendy’s numbers:

. . . Covid-19 modeller Rodney Jones, who has also provided modelling and advice to the Government, said real-world experience in countries with reasonably high vaccination rates showed there was unlikely to be that many deaths and the Government “didn’t need to scare New Zealanders into getting vaccinated”.

The Government released the modelling from Te Pūnaha Matatini on Thursday showing how much various vaccination rates would protect New Zealand.

It suggested that even with a vaccination rate of 80 per cent of those aged 5 or over – 75 per cent of the whole country – New Zealand could still see close to 7000 deaths a year from Covid-19, and an over-loaded healthcare system. 

Jones said this didn’t pass the “plausibility test” when compared to real-world results in other countries.

“That is 140 deaths a week. Singapore has had 11 deaths with just under 80 per cent vaccinated over the last month,” Jones said. (Singapore has a similar population to New Zealand.)

“If you’re going to use this model in this way it should be peer-reviewed by global experts.”

“It’s absolutely unconvincing – it really needs to be reworked.”

Jones said the country didn’t need to be scared into getting vaccinated with talk of high death tolls.

“We need a positive story. The evidence is that negative takes and the use of fear does not get people vaccinated,” Jones said.

“I just think it’s not helpful to put a model out like this at this point. We need to look to 2022 with confidence.”

Jones said a realistic goal of 80 per cent of the total population – about five percentage points higher than the point that Hendy said could cause 7000 deaths – was realistic and “the evidence is we will get fantastic results at that level”. . . 

I don’t watch or listen to the 1pm party political broadcasts sermons from the podium of truth but they attract a very high audience.

How would all those people, many of them still locked up down in Auckland, many already feeling fragile, feel hearing the need for an unrealistically high target of 90% vaccinated and the dire predictions should that not be reached?

Would it prompt anyone who hadn’t had, or booked to have, a vaccine to get vaccinated?

It might have worked for those who just hadn’t got round to it, but what good would piling fear on top of the fears those fearful of the vaccine already have?

The government has been ruling by fear ever since it grabbed hold of the Covid-19 agenda.

That’s not showing the kindness it preaches. It might have worked at first, but using scare tactics like Hendy’s modelling is unnecessary and cruel.

I have been double vaccinated and will get a booster should that be recommended and available. I think that anyone who could be vaccinated should be, but by choice not by coercion or driven by fear.

There are far better ways for the government to get more people to get vaccinated than scaring them into it.

It should also be doing everything it can to fix the multitude of problems which make health services and hospitals  vulnerable, with or without Covid-19.

The Government’s appointment of board members to head up its ill-timed and ideologically-driven health system restructure shows how out of step it is on the chronic issues currently affecting New Zealand’s health system, says National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.

“The Government’s costly distraction with restructuring the health system in the middle of a pandemic may explain why our Intensive Care Units were under-prepared and why Auckland is still in Level 3 lockdown.

“The Government has so far spent $38 million on 78 Wellington bureaucrats and another $4.3 million on 21 Ernst & Young consultants to plan the restructure project. This money could have been used to pay a premium, as other countries did, to get the Pfizer vaccine into New Zealand much more quickly.

“The Government should be focusing on the 62,000 cancelled procedures, including for people with cancer, right now rather than progressing health restructuring during a pandemic. . .

Initiatives that would empower us to look after ourselves should Covid-19 continue to spread, or resurface, in the community would also help lessen the threat of widespread disease and over burdened hospitals.

Ending the government’s ban on self-testing Covid-19 kits that are being used successfully in other countries would be a good start.

But perhaps the government prefers to keep us scared and submissive.


Do vaccines work are they safe?

23/09/2021

Do Covid-19 vaccines work?

ABSTRACT

The global effort to vaccinate people against SARS-CoV-2 in the midst of an ongoing pandemic has raised questions about the nature of vaccine breakthrough infections and the potential for vaccinated individuals to transmit the virus. These questions have become even more urgent as new variants of concern with enhanced transmissibility, such as Delta, continue to emerge. To shed light on how vaccine breakthrough infections compare with infections in immunologically naive individuals, we examined viral dynamics and infectious virus shedding through daily longitudinal sampling in a small cohort of adults infected with SARS-CoV-2 at varying stages of vaccination. The durations of both infectious virus shedding and symptoms were significantly reduced in vaccinated individuals compared with unvaccinated individuals. We also observed that breakthrough infections are associated with strong tissue compartmentalization and are only detectable in saliva in some cases. These data indicate that vaccination shortens the duration of time of high transmission potential, minimizes symptom duration, and may restrict tissue dissemination.

The vaccines do not stop people getting COvid-19, but the vaccianted are less likely to contract the disease and if they do they are less likely to infect others and less likely to become seriously ill.

But are they safe?

Professor Graham Le Gros says they are:

“The way we eliminate this virus is vaccination,” Le Gros said. . . 

This vaccine is the safest vaccine I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Le Gros’ confidence in the vaccine comes from seeing the “rigerous” testing and monitoring it has undergone since being released, he said.

The vaccine is monitored both globally by health authorities who report on it. He says providers also do interior testing while also seeing if there are any effects for numerous demographics including the elderly and those with asthma.

“It drives a scientist like me nuts with how rigorous [testing the vaccine] is,” Le Gros said.

“It doesn’t just stop with looking at the data once, they are forever monitoring in what they call ‘phase four’ of the trial.” . . 

Why do so many people still question the efficacy and safety of the vaccines?

Despite the constant monitoring, Le Gros conceded there is misinformation spreading about the vaccine through numerous channels making it more difficult for New Zealand to hit its vaccination targets.

It’s an issue Dr Vanisi Prescott has been trying to tackle on social media with informative videos on platforms such as Tik Tok, but she told Breakfast it’s an uphill battle.

“It’s heartbreaking seeing our most vulnerable communities being effected by this misinformation,” Prescott said. “There’s so much misinformation out there and it’s difficult to decipher what information to actually listen to.

“The issue with social media is that it doesn’t differentiate truth from rumour and it’s become such an issue that it’s caused a lot of animosity and division as well as anxiety and fear among our people.”

Prescott said she understands people have their reasons if they choose not to get vaccinated but misinformation from social media shouldn’t be one of them.

“Social media masks the fact that there have been a vast majority of studies and medical opinion out there to confirm that this is a safe vaccine and good for all of us.

“Try not to rely on what we see out there but trust in sources or people you trust in like your GP.”

Prescott added she has extra motivation for informing those who are both vulnerable to the virus and misinformation.

“With me being a Tongan GP, I stand firmly in terms of my culture and my values and that is to respect, love and care for my patients – I wouldn’t be standing in front of everyone advocating for a vaccine if we didn’t know it was safe. . .

Charlie Mitchell’s three weeks down the misinformation rabbit hole of dangerous misinformation shows how easy it is to find misinformation and views that foster fears.

There’s lots to be said for not taking everything that comes from official sources as gospel, for questioning and challenging authorities and for doing your own research.

But that doesn’t mean thinking something you find by googling should carry more weight than the data and evidence resulting from scientific rigor by qualified people with experience in the field.


Stop the ‘smorgasbord of abject waste’

22/09/2021

If only Jason Walls was making this up :

As New Zealand faced the brunt of a global pandemic, the Government spent $26,000 commissioning a novel about the collapse of democracy in an association of alpaca breeders.

As people lost jobs in droves, almost $50,000 was given to the Comedy Trust to examine what changes need to be made to better support a more diverse and sustainable comedy industry.

I’m not making this up.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Government has spent $57 billion on New Zealand’s economic recovery.

A lot of this money has been well spent – the wage subsidy scheme prevented what would have likely been an economic collapse.

But amongst the important, well-targeted spending is a smorgasbord of abject waste.

Billions and billions of dollars have been spent on projects that don’t come close to a semblance of sensible spending, let alone meeting the threshold for Covid Recovery.

What makes this waste even worse is that every cent of those billions and billions of dollars is borrowed.

Every cent wasted on these projects is a cent that has to be repaid, with interest.

None of these cents will be available for health, education, infrastructure, police, welfare and other essential public spending for decades.

Take the $18,000 for writing poetry that “explores indigeneity and love in the time of climate change,” for example.

It’s easy to take aim at the Creative NZ funding and to poke holes in what the Government’s decided to fund through its $55m “public interest journalism” fund.

And yes, although $21,800 for the writing music that forms a song-cycle from the suburban labyrinth is a relatively small amount when considering the Government’s mammoth budget, other larger projects are harder to ignore.

Some $26.7 million was spent on cameras on fishing boats, in the name of Covid recovery.

There was also $200m for the construction of a new building at the University of Auckland.

And a whopping $1.22 billion was spent on the jobs for nature scheme – as a little perspective, that’s enough to buy roughly 1000 houses in Auckland.

Are they important projects? Maybe. Should they have been the Government’s focus in these unprecedented times? Absolutely not.

The focus should have been on what was really needed, one, arguably the most urgent, of which even without a pandemic, is the health system.

The currency of politics is opportunity cost – what project has missed out on funding as a result of another getting the nod from the Beehive.

In the case of the Covid-19 Recovery Fund, every cent spent on commissioning podcasts, picture books and poetry is money not spent on New Zealand’s health care system.

Meanwhile, that very system is being stretched to its limits. . . 

Hardly a day goes by that serious problems with health services and for the staff who provide them, don’t feature in the news.

Many of the problems are long running but all have been exacerbated by this government’s policies. These include the failure to grant residency to overseas health professionals who are here, not giving those outside New Zealand priority in MIQ, and wasting millions with a wholesale change to the system that will do nothing to improve services.

The very real threat of overburdening the health system was a major reason for lockdowns. Little if anything has been done to improve its capability and resilience.

But there is some hope.

Tacked at the bottom of a Grant Robertson press release about New Zealand’s “strong economic momentum” was a fairly significant note.

Cabinet’s decided to allocate a further $7 billion to the Covid-19 Recovery Fund.

When added to the $3b that’s left in that fund, ministers have a tidy $10b extra to spend.

Although it’s a sixth the size of the overall Covid fund, it’s not an insignificant amount of money.

It needs to be spent properly, with New Zealand’s health care system at its focus.

That’s more hospital beds – not funding the instrumental arrangement of 10 songs for children, from ideas given by children.

More nurses – not paying for seven large domes in fiberglass for exhibition as exoplanets using satellite imagery.

More money for New Zealand’s hospitals – not funding for obscure and wasteful projects in the name of the ‘Covid Recovery’. 

More money not just for hospitals and their staff but for primary health services too.

The Taxpayers’ Union has been highlighting bizarre funding decisions on Twitter:

Arts are important but the biggest benefit from these grants goes to individuals.

That money would have done so much more for so many more had it been spent on health.

 


How’s it going?

20/09/2021


Bring on the bench

20/09/2021

Sir Ian Taylor wrote an open letter to the PM saying it is time to bring on the bench in the fight against Delta.

. . . Where our opposition initially focused on the health of our people we have seen now that it had a deeper strategy. It would also go after our economy, slowly but surely infecting, and in many cases, destroying the very businesses that will be needed to fund our team in the future.

Which leads me to the bench.

The players on the bench aren’t there to replace the entire run on team, they are there to consolidate what those players have done. To address the strengths and weaknesses that the coach has identified so that we have the best shot at winning. . . 

Now is the time to go to the bench, because we have identified the double game plan that has been unleashed on us. The first is Covid, now in Delta variant mode, has adjusted far faster to the changing playing conditions than we have.

The second is the unseen variant that is slowly but surely working its way through the forward pack, our economic engine. That engine will be desperately needed if we are to stay in the game after the initial opening rounds.

The lockdown system, alongside the MIQ booking platform, are two obvious weaknesses in our current game plan.

The economy simply cannot afford to keep replaying the same level 4 restrictions that played out over the past couple of weeks, nor can businesses expect to operate successfully on the international playing fields with an MIQ system that simply has no rules they can play by. . . 

Sir Ian has written a second open letter, this time suggesting how business can help get ahead of the virus:

. . . This week we had to walk away from a significant, multi-year contract because we could not risk sending our people out to service it without knowing when we could get them home.

It’s the second such contract in the past month, and we aren’t alone.

Businesses are sending people overseas with no idea when they will be coming home.

One business colleague who operates in nine countries around the world is now planning to move his entire family to Europe simply because he cannot guarantee an MIQ space for business trips that he regularly took to keep his business in New Zealand operational.

This is a hi-tech business employing more than 250 people.

These businesses are essential to keeping the export dollars coming that are needed to fund the entire team of five million – and the major road blocks to keeping those dollars flowing, are MIQ and the interpretation of what an essential business is. . . 

Handicapping businesses at the best of time is a mistake, doing it when we’re living on borrowed billions is sabotaging them and the wider economy.

Last week the Covid Response Minister said: “What people don’t understand is that building a points-based (MIQ) booking system is very difficult!”

All sorts of things Ministers and their officials find difficult are not to people whose businesses rely on finding workable solutions and finding them quickly.

The advice from the bench would have been: “No Minister. Sending rockets into space from Mahia – that’s difficult. Delivering real-time graphics to golf tournaments in New York, Prague and Scotland whilst also covering a 10-day yacht race in Keel, Germany, in the same week from an office in Dunedin – that’s difficult! Building a points based booking system? ‘Yeah/nah, not really’.”

We have a tech industry sitting on the bench that could do that in a heartbeat.

And we have a government that won’t use that bench.

Booking a space in MIQ: now that’s difficult!

But there is far more value we can bring from the bench.

We, and others, have operated in some of the most Covid-ravaged countries in the world and we have kept our Kiwi staff Covid-free for more than a year and a half because of the protocols that have been put in place by the businesses we work with. . . 

What we have learned from our experience over the past year and a half is that businesses have a huge interest in keeping their people safe from Covid and they can do it faster than governments because they aren’t having to look after entire countries.

We are only ever sending small numbers away at any time. The 250 staff company I mentioned earlier has a maximum of eight people who ever have to travel abroad. It’s not an Olympic team.

When we look at opportunities, and that’s what this is, we never explore why things might not work. We always ask: “What if we pulled it off?”

So, “what if” businesses didn’t need to take up MIQ spaces. “What if” businesses could apply existing technologies and protocols that would guarantee that none of their teams would have Covid when they returned to Aotearoa from their essential overseas travels. . .

They have a model that’s been working and is continuing to work safely, why can’t they use it?

“What if” the Government could put in place, quickly, the following:

• 1: An accreditation and audit system that approved the processes that individual companies could present for their people who had to travel abroad. To begin with, that would have to be for business reasons only but the option exists to expand it, if it proves successful.

They would also have to be vaccinated.

• 2: Approval for a range of antigen tests already being used successfully so companies could set up their own programmes as part of their accreditation. Ideally you would prioritise Kiwi companies working on these tests because that also creates an enormous export opportunity for them. Approving these tests should be a priority.

• 3: An oversight government agency to work with businesses to implement their strategies quickly. NZTE or Callaghan Innovation spring to mind.

• 4: The same agency would be in charge of the audit process to ensure businesses are meeting the obligations in their accredited protocols. . . 

The government has proved it’s very good at shutting the country down. It doesn’t have the experience and expertise to start opening up again even though the longer we’re closed to the world the greater the economic and human cost will be.

Sir Ian is right – it’s time to bring on the bench to enable businesses to do business, and do it safely.


All essential, many safe

17/09/2021

What’s an essential business?

The issue of which businesses are and aren’t essential during Auckland’s COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown has some frustrated and disheartened as their finances continue to dwindle.

If all goes well and COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop, the Government has announced Auckland could move to level 3 as early as Tuesday.

Until then non-essential businesses around the city are sitting tight and waiting for the storm to pass.

But the question of what constitutes an essential business is increasingly a grey area. Why, for example, can people get a box of donuts and a bottle of gin delivered to their house but not a book or a bunch of flowers? . . 

Any business is essential to the people whose livelihoods depend on it but the government and its bureaucrats base their definition on what looks like arbitrary criteria.

Confectionary manufacturing is regarded as essential, butchers aren’t.

I’ve got a whole mouth full of sweet teeth but am yet to be convinced that lollies are essential.

Nor do I have any difficulty arguing that butchers ought to be considered essential, not just to take pressure off supermarkets but for animal welfare reasons. Butchers kill pigs and if these animals aren’t dispatched as regularly scheduled piggeries will run out of space and possibly food as piglets keep coming and growing.

The more people who are at and going to and from work, the greater the potential for Covid-19 to spread, but the disease is not the only threat.

The longer most businesses are forced to stay closed, the greater the risk to their survival and the financial and emotional wellbeing of their owners and staff; and the the cost to the wider economy.

It’s not just businesses, but most hospital services that aren’t deemed essential:

A cancer patient’s accused the Government of playing with peoples’ lives, as more than 37,000 surgeries are cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. . . 

Cancer Society medical director Kate Gregory said: “If the health services were better resourced we would have more flexibility and perhaps things would be more easier.” . . 

Then there’s the toll on mental health.

Suicide attempts in 10-14 year-olds doubled after last year’s lockdowns.

A study of Ministry of Health data has shown that Covid19 lockdowns significantly increased mental distress in NZ children.

The study, published in the international Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, shows that attempted suicides in NZ children aged 10-14 years increased from a baseline of 40 per month to a peak of 90 per month following the lockdowns in 2020. . . 

If the whole Covid-19 response was better health services, business and lives would be easier.


How did we get from short & sharp to longest lockdown?

15/09/2021

The lockdown was supposed to be short and sharp, Chris Bishop explains why it’s turned into the longest:

Yesterday the Level 4 lockdown in Auckland was extended for another week. The Prime Minister said on August 17 it would be “short and sharp” but after another week, it will be the longest lockdown yet in our battle against COVID-19.

(Note from Chris: Here is an opinion piece which I pitched to Stuff and the NZ Herald. Neither decided it was worth publishing. At a time when the PM commands the airwaves on a daily basis at 1pm, it’s important for the National Opposition voice to be heard and for constructive criticism of the government.)

Lockdowns are incredibly expensive: it has been estimated a countrywide Level 4 lockdown costs the economy around $1.5 billion per week. That’s before you count the social cost: kids not at school, families split apart, the mental health impacts of being cooped up at home for days on end. I think almost everyone thinks we should be doing all we can to avoid them.

Sadly, it’s become clear in the government’s response to the recent delta outbreak that while Kiwis have done all they’ve been asked to do – the government hasn’t been playing its part. The “team of five million” has been let down.

Two things have become clear. First, we had no alternative but to lockdown because of our woefully low vaccination rates. Second, despite claims to the contrary, the government had done very little planning at all around how to respond to a further outbreak, particularly of delta, since the first COVID lockdown last year.

It gives me no pleasure as the Opposition spokesperson for COVID-19 to say that New Zealand’s vaccination rates, by world standards, are hopeless. For most of this year we had the world’s slowest vaccine roll-out. Chris Hipkins said at the end of 2020 we would be “at the front of the queue” but the reality is we are at the back of the pack. This is not the “year of the vaccine” we were promised by the Prime Minister.

The vaccines are safe, they work, and the data is very clear: the higher our vaccination rates, the less need there is of lockdowns. Every single person that goes and gets vaccinated brings us closer to freedom: freedom from lockdowns, and freedom to travel. That’s why the government’s ineptitude over vaccine supply matters. The government simply failed in its most important job: to get a supply of vaccines as early as possible and make sure as many people were vaccinated as possible as early as possible.

The government’s incompetence is astonishing. We were one of the last developed countries to sign contracts with vaccine manufacturers in 2020. We were then slow to approve the Pfizer vaccine. Hundreds of millions of jabs had been given by the time we approved it. We were then slow to actually order our doses, not doing it until January 29 this year. And we didn’t even bother to ask Pfizer if we could pay more to get earlier delivery of the vaccines, as other countries did. Compare the cost of paying a bit more to the cost of lockdowns, and do the maths. It’s a no brainer.

Incredibly, the government has claimed at various points it would be “unethical” or immoral to have a faster vaccine roll-out, because other countries need the vaccines more than we do. Leaving aside the internal inconsistency in this argument (other countries need them now too, but you don’t see the government giving ours up do you?), the New Zealand government’s first responsibility is to the people of New Zealand – and that means rolling out the vaccine as quick as they could. They failed.

The second failure by the government is their failure to plan for delta. The Prime Minister claimed on television this morning that delta only emerged in MIQ in June. That is completely incorrect. The first case of delta turned up in early April in MIQ and it has been raging across the world for most of this year. The government has sat ensconced behind the barriers of Fortress New Zealand and smugly looked at Australia, but they weren’t doing the work behind the scenes to prepare for when delta turned up here.

A smart government would have done an audit of all our MIQ facilities in light of delta to make sure infection control practices were up to scratch. Instead, a public walkway was allowed to share the same air as an exercise yard at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland and there was a vaccination centre right next to the Crowne Plaza. COVID positive people are still allowed to exercise in an underground car park in Wellington. Only now is the government reviewing MIQ facilities in light of delta.

A smart government would have had a plan in place for more quarantine facilities beyond the Jet Park. Instead the government had to scramble to get more quarantine facilities going like the Novotel Ellerslie – and then a COVID positive man escaped from it, putting us all at risk. It has taken over 24 hours to move many people from the community into quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, because the coordination plan between health officials and MIQ wasn’t in place.

Some of our current problems date back to the response to the first outbreak last year. Contract tracing has been an ever-present issue. There have been four expert reviews of contact tracing since April 2020. All have found it wanting but little has been done by the government. In this outbreak, it took six days for the government to second public servants from other departments to start contract tracing. By its own admission the government will fail to meet the contact tracing target metrics designed by Dr Ayesha Verrall, ironically enough now Associate Minister of Health. In this latest outbreak there are still 5000 contacts who have not even had a single phone call from a contact tracer!

A smart government would have had a plan in place around testing. Other countries use saliva tests and rapid antigen tests that return results in 15 minutes. Speed of testing with delta is critical, because the virus moves so far. But the government insists on using expensive and time consuming nasal PCR tests as our main testing technique. The result has been people who are told to get tested waiting 10-12 hours for a test or giving up and going home – or even worse, not even bothering. We should be using saliva testing much more widely – recommended to the government a year ago – as well as rapid antigen tests. Incredibly, these tests are banned in New Zealand.

There’s more I could mention. The failure to use Bluetooth tracing even though we’ve all been told for months to turn it on. The refusal to build purpose-built quarantine. The lack of preparation in our hospitals for a delta outbreak – no new ICU bed spaces have been provisioned over the five months.

The government borrowed $62 billion last year on the COVID Response Fund.  Did they spend this on contact tracing, testing capacity, and extra ICU capacity? That would have been sensible. Instead it was used as a slush fund. Instead the fund was spent on art therapy clinics, cameras on fishing boats, horse racing, public interest journalism, and school lunches. Yes, I’m serious.

Auckland is in lockdown – again – because the government failed to vaccinate quickly enough and the government failed to plan for delta.

A lot of people have found this lockdown harder, one reason for that is that it’s due in large part to government failures. Like Andrea Vance, we know the failings that let Delta loose were foreseeable.

The government didn’t implement recommendations of multiple reports they commissioned, they didn’t plan for Delta, they didn’t learn from mistakes and the fear is they still haven’t.


Numbers show the vaxed are safer

15/09/2021

What’s the point of getting vaccinated?

Unvaccinated New Zealanders are disproportionately represented among new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations in the community outbreak, in a pattern that mirrors trends overseas.

More than 82 percent of the Delta cases found as of Monday have been unvaccinated. An even higher proportion of those in hospital were unvaccinated.

That’s close to double the 42.8 percent of the general population that isn’t vaccinated. Receiving both doses of the vaccine is more effective as well, with just one fully vaccinated person ending up in hospital, alongside 15 people who had received one shot. 

Almost 30 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and 28 percent have had one dose.

On these numbers, an unvaccinated person is 119 times more likely to end up in hospital than a fully vaccinated person and eight times more likely than someone who had received one shot.

But these numbers might not be telling the fully story. Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris says it can take a couple of weeks after the vaccine is administered to reach full efficacy.

“You’ve got to allow time for that injection to take effect. It’s not instantaneous as soon as it’s administered, it takes a period of time for the body to have that immune response,” she said.

“Two weeks after the second dose, you start hitting a peak antibody response.”

On that basis, a full 95.9 percent of those in hospital had been unvaccinated two weeks prior to testing positive. Just four had received a single shot at least two weeks before they were tested and none were fully vaccinated. . . 

Anti vaxers and the vaccine hesitant argue that being vaccinated doesn’t stop you getting Covid-19.

No-one claims that any of the vaccines give 100% protection but these numbers show that partial vaccination provides some protection, and that the fully vaccinated are much less likely to get the disease and that if they do they are much less likely to need hospital treatment.

The internet makes it very easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of misinformation and anti-vaxers are unlikely to be moved by the facts.

But dare we hope that the vaccine hesitant might be convinced and heed the call to get vaccinated. Doing so will help us get enough people protected to lessen the likelihood of future lockdowns or at least reduce their severity with all the impacts on physical and emotional health, and the social and their economic costs.


Rural round-up

10/09/2021

Austrian company given consent to buy 2018ha farm for forestry conversion – Rebecca Ryan:

More farmland is set to be converted into forestry in the Waitaki.

An Austrian company has been given consent to buy a 2018ha sheep and beef farm at Mount Trotter, near Palmerston.

The Overseas Investment Office approved the sale of the farm to 100% Austrian-owned company Cerberus Vermogensverwaltung GmbH, from Peter and Susan Lawson, as trustees of the Lawson Family Trust, for $8.5million.

The consent states the company intends to develop about 1524ha of the land into a commercial forest, principally in pine trees, and has received resource consent to do so. Planting is expected to start next year, and the trees would be harvested in 26 to 32 years. . . 

Flower farmers forced to bin or mulch harvest due to restrictions – Ella Stewart:

Under alert level 4 flower growers aren’t able to sell or distribute their goods. This means months of work and beautiful flowers are going straight into the bin.

On Saturday, Auckland-based flower grower Aila Morgan Guthrie took to her Instagram page to voice her frustration.

“I’ve just finished my harvest for the day and this is only one days’ harvest. It’s going to be the same tomorrow and the same after that and we’ve still got two more weeks of level 4 lockdown and we can’t sell them.

“Is there anyone out there in government or with contacts to government that can help us figure out how we can advocate for flower farmers in level 4. We’re one of the only businesses that have perishable goods that we can’t sell. All meat, fruit, veg – that can all be sold – but as for us, you know well, what do I do with this? This is all just going to go in the compost heap.” . . 

Hope tool can eliminate American Foulbrood –  Shawn McAvinue:

A new technology helping fight against a bee-killing disease is a “massive breakthrough”, an Otago apiarist says.

New Zealand Alpine Honey owner and Project CleanHive chairman Peter Ward, of Hawea, said he ran about 5000 hives across Otago, Southland and the West Coast.

The operation was one of the biggest in the South Island.

He had been beekeeping for nearly 45 years and the highly contagious American Foulbrood disease was a “constant concern”. . . 

Campaign for Wool reveals strategic direction:

Change is on the horizon and the future is bright.

That’s the message from The Campaign for Wool who has this week unveiled a dynamic short-term strategy that aims to help turn the tide on the struggles faced by New Zealand wool growers.

Campaign for Wool Chairman Tom O’Sullivan – himself a fourth-generation sheep farmer – says the strategy heralds a turning point for the wool industry, and growers should take heart. “I believe we’re at an important crossroads for strong wool,” he says. “Globally, consumers are starting to actively seek out natural and renewable products. We’re acting as quickly as we can, putting a short-term strategy in place that effectively triples our investment into the projects and resources required to leverage this sea change.”

The Campaign for Wool NZ Strategy 2021-2022 aims to deliver greater consumer awareness of wool fibre options through an integrated public campaign. “We know that when people are more aware of how wool benefits their lives, they’re more likely to purchase it,” says Tom. “That’s one way demand will grow, so an important focus for us is education and fostering a greater understanding of wool’s many qualities.” . . 

Farmers urged to enable staff to get vaccinations :

Farmers should do all they can to enable and encourage their staff to get their COVID vaccinations, Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“I know dairy farms are flat tack with calving and workforce shortages have never been worse. But there’s nothing more important than your family’s health, and that of your staff and their families.”

It would certainly help if district health boards booked a hall in some smaller towns for well-advertised-in-advance day clinics.

“If it’s possible to combine getting a jab with a trip into town for the next supermarket shop, or to pick up supplies from Farmlands or Wrightsons, try to make it happen. It’s part of being a good boss,” Chris said. . . 

Fall in dairy and forestry demand hits commodity prices :

Weakening demand for dairy and forestry exports saw commodity prices fall in August.

The ANZ Bank’s World Commodity Price Index dropped 1.6 percent last month, as dairy and wood products retreat from the extreme highs these hit earlier this year.

The dairy sub index fell 4 percent month on month, with whole milk powder, a key driver of farmer’s returns, falling 6.5 percent.

Forestry prices fell sharply, down 6.6 percent in August, as high overseas demand for logs started to ease. . . 


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