If 12 weeks is better . . .

05/07/2021

Research from the UK suggests a 12 week gap between the first and second doses of the Covid vaccine is better than a shorter time:

Experience from the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout suggests 12 weeks may be the optimum gap between first and second doses, giving a better immune response than when the doses are closer together. So why are so many New Zealanders being offered their vaccines three weeks apart?

When the British Government launched its vaccination programme, the big gap between first and second doses was more a function of necessity than science.

The strategy was primarily focused on getting one dose in the arm of as many citizens as possible, with the second dose coming later, when supply ramped up.

Isn’t that the scenario here? We don’t have enough vaccines to give enough people, including those deemed to be more vulnerable to Covid-19, the first dose.

That gap between doses mostly ended up being two to three months apart.

But as researchers looked at the results, they found that the delay turned out to have another major benefit. “The bigger the gap you can leave between vaccines the better the immune response”, Cambridge University consultant clinical virologist Dr Chris Smith told RNZ. “Twelve weeks was de rigueur.”

Same message from a June 2021 study from the University of Birmingham and Public Health England: “Antibody response in people aged over 80 is three-and-a-half times greater in those who have the second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine after 12 weeks compared to those who have it at a three-week interval.” . . 

The World Health Organization recently talked about 21 to 28-day intervals between Pfizer doses, but says the second dose can be extended to 12 weeks to gain coverage for high priority populations.

In contrast to the UK, New Zealand has adopted a different strategy, focusing on optimising two doses for our most vulnerable citizens and minimising the gap between doses, in some cases, to as few as three weeks.

The UK research tells us that a more successful rollout strategy for New Zealand should look less like New Zealand in June 2021 (above).

Instead, it should look more like the UK in March 2021 (below) . . .

Is it better to have more people partially vaccinated or around half as many fully vaccinated?

What we do know is that New Zealand is a country with zero-community cases, and as Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett of the University of Newcastle’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy put so clearly: “The improved immunity conferred from waiting longer must be weighed against the risk of contracting Covid in the meantime.”

As there is little to no risk of contracting Covid-19 in New Zealand, it seems logical that New Zealand should focus on improving immunity over the longer term – and that currently suggests a longer gap between doses. . .

If 12 weeks between doses gives better protection than a shorter gap a change in strategy to delay the second dose for most people could provide two benefits.  More people could get the partial protection from a first dose and then get better long term protection from a bigger gap before the second dose is given.

Given we have no community transmission at the moment and a shortage of vaccines, using the supplies scheduled for second doses to give more people a first dose seems to be better than double dosing fewer people sooner.


Rural round-up

04/07/2021

Minimum wage rise no joke – Karen Trebilcock:

In her Dairy 101 column, Karen Trebilcock gave a rundown on wages, asking “are you ready for the minimum wage change?”

Far from being an April Fool’s joke, it was the start of the financial year for many businesses, but not farmers.

If you’re a farm owner with sharemilkers or contract milkers you may think it won’t affect you but it does. The profitability of their business, and so yours, just took a hit.

Back in 2015 the minimum wage was $14.25. That’s about a 40% increase if my maths is right. For farm staff, employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour they work on farm whether they are employed on an hourly rate or on a salary and it can’t be averaged out over a season. If you pay weekly it has to be weekly, if you pay fortnightly it has to be fortnightly but if you pay monthly it still has to be for a fortnight. Two weeks is the most you can average the hours out over. . . 

Wool making a comeback thanks to Covid – Lorraine Mapu:

Once a star export earner, the fortunes of strong wool have hit rock bottom. But could Covid-19 be an unlikely saviour?

The story of New Zealand’s strong wool exports is one of faded fortunes — from the wool boom of the 1950s, when it was our biggest export commodity — to thousands of tonnes of wool now sitting in storage, as world prices hit new lows.

Recent decades have seen the demand for wool decline to the point where shearing sheep now costs more than farmers make from selling their wool. . .

AI alive and kicking in our orchards and paddocks – Andrea Fox:

Somewhere in New Zealand a computer is learning from an expert horticulture pruner the best place to cut a branch. The computer will go on to help a beginner pruner make the right decision.

On a kiwifruit orchard in the Bay of Plenty, researchers are working out how counting and calculating the density of buds and flowers will maximise the harvest.

In that small aircraft above them is a tool to analyse nutrient content and water stress in the foliage, while over the Kaimais in the Waikato, a dairy farmer knows a cow is unwell even though he can’t see her.

Artificial intelligence at work in rural New Zealand. Some of it hasn’t been commercialised yet, and there’s concern New Zealand isn’t investing enough and we risk getting left behind by our agribusiness competitors, but AI is alive and kicking in our orchards and paddocks. . .

ECAN prioritises flood infrastructure – Annette Scott:

Canterbury’s farmers should not expect assistance from Environment Canterbury (ECan) for the recovery of their flood-ravaged farms.

ECan river manager Leigh Griffiths says council is confident that its flood protection infrastructure did its job and that it could not accept allegations of mismanagement or responsibility.

“ECan has a mandate from council to maintain flood protection assets for properties that form a rating district, but does not have the mandate to remove rocks and gravel from any property,” Griffiths said.

Staff may work on private land where this assists in delivering to needs of the rating district, such as where the removal of debris, trees, gravels, forms part of work required to meet the wider flood protection objectives within the rating district. . . 

Johne’s milk test in the offing :

A test to detect Johne’s Disease and pregnancy from a single milk sample in cattle is being developed. Auckland-based biotechnology company Pictor Limited says it has been developing a multiplex bovine test, via a $404,040 grant from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund. The test, which is being created in collaboration with Massey University, will initially aim to detect Johne’s Disease and pregnancy from a single milk sample. . . 

Bayer opens application window for Grants4Ag sustainability focused programme:

Bayer announced today the opening of its application window for the company’s annual Grants4Ag initiative. For more than five years, the agricultural leader has offered researchers both financial and scientific support to develop their ideas for novel solutions to research and development challenges in agriculture. Since its inception in 2015, over 100 grants have been awarded. This year Bayer’s Grants4Ag winning projects will focus on advancing a more sustainable food system. The deadline for submissions is August 31, 2021.

“Our 2020 Grants4Ag program exceeded our expectations in attracting top proposals across a range of R&D activities,” said Phil Taylor, Open Innovation Lead for the Crop Science division at Bayer. “At Bayer, we promote the responsible use of the world’s resources so this year our Grants4Ag program will support those commitments to advance a more sustainable food system by highlighting projects in that area.”

Bayer’s Grants4Ag program does not have any reporting requirements and each applicant retains ownership of any intellectual property developed. Taylor says the company views these grants as an initial investment with the potential to become larger-scale, longer-term collaborations with Bayer. . . 


Rural round-up

01/07/2021

New Aussie farm visas could spell more trouble – Sudesh Kissun:

A new farm work visa proposed by Australia could cause more misery for labour-strapped New Zealand farmers.

By the end of this year, the new visa will be in place, ending a requirement for British backpackers to work on Australian farms for 88 days.

The visa will be extended to 10 ASEAN nations: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

New Zealand’s dairy industry is a popular destinations for Philippine workers but they could soon be heading to Australia. . .

Caring for the rural community – Neal Wallace:

An endless appetite for work is a feature of many young farming couples, but as Neal Wallace discovers, by any measure Southlanders Jono and Kayla Gardyne have shown an exceptional commitment to their futures – albeit in different areas.

The tribe of magpies chose the wrong time to invade the Gardyne property.

A shotgun resting against a wall was evidence Kayla could no longer handle the disruptive noise and activity outside her home office window, as she studied for her medical degree.

The pests progressively came off second best with six magpies dispatched, reinforcing that not only were they unwelcome, but that Kayla needed to focus on her studies. . . 

Grazing support needed for flood-affected Canterbury livestock – Laura Hooper:

Federated Farmers Southland has supported the Ministry for Primary Industries call to Southland for grazing support for more than 5000 livestock as a result of the Canterbury floods.

MPI spokesoman Nick Story said: “Our feed coordinators are currently seeking grazing for more than 5000 sheep from the Canterbury region. The sheep are owned by seven different farmers.”

“There are also six listings of grazing being sought for almost 300 beef cattle.”

The “one in 200-year” weather event has damaged thousands of hectares of Canterbury farmland. . . 

Covid boost kiwifruit demand – Peter Burke:

In a somewhat ironic twist, the global Covid pandemic is helping to drive demand for New Zealand kiwifruit.

This season, Zespri estimates that it will sell a total of 175 million trays to export markets – well up on last season’s 155 million trays.

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson told Rural News the very strong demand for kiwifruit last season has continued this season.

“More consumers have been looking for healthy and nutritious foods and kiwifruit obviously fits in perfectly to that growing trend, which we also saw last year,” he says. . .

Wool campaign pays off :

An additional $78,500 has been raised for the Southland Charity Hospital after 64,000kg of donated wool was processed free of charge for sale by wool scour WoolWorks.

The cash is in addition to the hundreds of bales of wool donated by farmers to insulate the hospital in memory of Southland man and cancer sufferer Blair Vining, who died in 2019 but used his illness to raise awareness about the inequality of treatment.

He also successfully initiated a petition to the Government to create a national cancer agency.

The Bales4Blair appeal was spearheaded by South Otago farmer Amy Blaikie, with the goal of collecting bales to be turned into insulation for the Invercargill hospital; 181 farmers and businesses made donations through 21 wool stores. . . 

2021 and Beyond – the future of agriculture – Stephen Burns:

Where is agriculture at the moment and where is it going?

That is the background to a forum to be held in Temora on July 27, 2021.

With high prices for their commodities and record values being paid for farming land, it would be understandable to assume primary producers are enjoying a ‘purple patch’ of returns which might induce a sense of complacency.

That is the last emotion Craig Pellow, director of agency QPL Rural, Temora, wants to see happen to famers who have survived many years of drought, so he is hosting this forum. . . 


Mixed messages

25/06/2021

The messages in advertisements about Covid-19 are clear: get tested if you have any symptoms; stay home if you have symptoms; self isolate if you’ve been somewhere someone with the disease has been; use the tracer app.

The message from the reaction to the discovery that a Sydney man has the disease after a wandering round Wellington for a weekend isn’t so clear.

People who were at the places the visitor visited have been told to stay home and get tested on day 5 and stay home until the test result comes back.

That’s clear enough but what makes the message appear mixed is the  lack of urgency in alerting people about which places the visitor had visited.

When Hipkins was asked on Wednesday why it had taken 10 hours between being notified of a Covid case in Wellington and telling the public, he responded: “There was a night-time in between’’.

How would they react if ambulance, fire of police services waited 10 hours to respond to a 111 call because there was a night in between? Shouldn’t the response to a potential Covid-19 outbreak be treated with the same urgency with which emergency services respond?

When Bloomfield was asked why business owners were informing the public about locations of interest faster than the Ministry of Health, he responded: “Our preference is to notify businesses or places of interest before the information becomes public.”

Why? The delay meant that people who ought to have stayed home had gone to work, school and other places where they could infect others if they were infected.

When Ardern was asked why the Ministry of Health had used complicated case categories that were meant to have been discarded, she responded: “Ultimately, the most important thing is there’s clear advice for people and what they need to do, and that was there.”

But the use of the complicated case categories meant advice wasn’t clear.

None of these answers pass the public expectation test that information is passed on as quickly as possible and in a way that can be easily interpreted.

The idea that the Ministry of Health doesn’t operate overnight when the country is potentially exposed to a new outbreak is baffling.

Claiming a business needs to be told it’s a location of interest before the people who visited it only makes sense if the working theory is that staff are somehow at greater risk than customers.

Even if that was the case, every applicant for a Covid-Tracer poster has to give email addresses and phone numbers. It shouldn’t take 10 hours to contact them.

In the case of the confusing category names, they were eventually deleted by the Ministry of Health after Bloomfield asked his staff to get rid of them.

But they’d already been released publicly with the first tranche of locations of interest on Wednesday morning, putting some people into a spin about what was required.

Ardern was dismissive when asked by Newsroom why the lessons hadn’t been learnt, saying the action people needed to take was also publicly available.

That assumes everyone is monitoring the Ministry of Health website, when the reality is many New Zealanders rely on word-of-mouth or snippets of news, which often would be limited to just a case category. . . 

Criticism doesn’t stop there.

People faced long delays and queues at testing stations.

. . .But a woman who was at the Jack Hacketts and Four Kings bars between 7pm and 9.30pm on Saturday, said she was turned away from a Lower Hutt testing centre because it was too busy: “We’re all in limbo. We can’t get a test. We can’t even get through to someone to book a test,” she said. . .

If you think this sounds horribly familiar, it’s because there were similar problems in Auckland during the last lockdown there.

I’m not sure which is worse – mixed messages or failure to learn from previous mistakes.

Both undermine confidence in those who are supposed to be in charge and make it less likely people will do as requested.


Better luck than management

24/06/2021

New Zealand’s success in keeping Covid-19 at bay has been due at least as much to good luck as good management.

If that luck continues, the Sydney man who tested positive for the disease after a weekend enjoying some of Wellignton’s delights will have kept it to himself.

If it doesn’t we’re in for some, possibly many, cases here.

Until most of us are vaccinated we’ll need a lot more luck, because good management seems to be lacking in the vaccine roll out.

A friend who lives near a small town told me that the health centre had booked the elderly and vulnerable for vaccinations then had to postpone them after the Ministry told them that they’d get no more vaccines until August.

Meanwhile, other friends who live in a small town not far away from the first one, got a phone call from their GP.

She told them that a vaccination centre had been set up for Maori. It wasn’t  getting many takers and if they popped in, even though neither is 65 and both are in good health, they’d get their first dose.

They took her advice, popped in, were greeted with enthusiasm and vaccinated.

These aren’t the only such cases.

Vulnerable people in Bluff are being told they’ll have to wait until the end of July to get vaccinated  but in Dunedin Te Kaika  pop-up clinic is for Maori, Pasifika, over 65s and the vulnerable, but anyone is welcome to come.

There might be good reasons that Te Kaika is welcoming anyone when people who ought to take priority aren’t getting their shots, but it sends the message that getting vaccinated owes more to better luck than management.


Rural round-up

19/06/2021

How morale among our food producers is flagging in the face of Covid fatigue and Ardern’s regulatory agenda – Point of ORder:

KPMG’s global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot​,  reports morale in  NZ’s farming  industries has slumped over the past year, with industry leaders struggling under the pressure.

“We could sense anger during our conversations, particularly in relation to the labour shortages the sector faces”.

Proudfoot is the  author of  the  KPMG “Agribusiness Agenda” , delivered at a   breakfast session at the opening  day  of  the  Fieldays,   billed  as the  largest agricultural event  in  the  southern  hemisphere.

He  believes  NZ’s role in a global “food renaissance” could be hampered by Covid-19 fatigue and sweeping regulatory changes. . . 

Farmer who’s experienced his own struggles urges others to ‘get talking’ about mental health -:

A farmer of 28 years is encouraging others to talk about their mental health after experiencing his own struggles. 

Marc Gascoigne told Breakfast he had struggled with depression and anxiety on and off for 22 years.

However, he did not seek help until he had a “massive panic attack” six years ago, which he described as a breaking point.

Although he received support through Farmstrong, he did not speak up publicly about his struggles until his nephew, who was also a farmer, took his own life. . .

Auckland cycle bridge at cost of regional roads:

The Government is forging ahead with an ideological vanity project, in the form of a cycle bridge over Waitematā harbour, at the expense of the day-to-day maintenance of local roads and state highways across the country, National’s Transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

New Zealand’s councils are $420 million short of the funding they expected to get from NZTA to maintain roads in our towns and cities around the country. Meanwhile NZTA itself is short $340 million it needs to maintain state highways.

“All up, the Government has short-changed the country $760 million worth of funding that should have gone towards maintaining our roads.

“This isn’t about building new roads, this is just making sure we can drive safely on the ones we’ve got. . . . 

Wanaka A&P Show contributes almost $28.6 million to local economy :

The 2021 Wanaka A&P Show brought $28.6 million worth of direct economic benefits to the area, an independent study has found.

The report, prepared by Research First, looked at the total expenditure by visitors, trade exhibitors, volunteers, spectators and competitors over the two-day event in March.

The amount of total direct spending is up $17.7 million on the previous independent economic impact report, undertaken in 2015 (which found that the Show contributed $10.9m worth of direct economic benefits). No economic multipliers have been applied. . . 

On-farm ‘Intelligent Eye’ provides farmers with real-time health of dairy herd:

A pilot of a new automated on-farm monitoring system designed to provide farmers with an “intelligent eye” over the health of their herd, allowing for early detection of conditions such as lameness, will be launched today at Fieldays 2021.

Created by the makers of the world’s first sheep facial recognition system, Dunedin-based Iris Data Science, the technology is currently being piloted on five dairy farms in the lower South Island with success – and the company hopes to extend this to around 50 farms.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is contributing $40,000 to the project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

“Our pilot farms are already seeing promising results, with farmers saying they are receiving valuable, accurate, and consistent information on the condition of their herds,” says Iris Data Science’s co-founder and managing director Greg Peyroux. . . 

ASB commits $100 Million in low-cost green loans to help farmers tackle environmental impact:

Kiwi farmers wanting to boost their climate resilience and make a positive difference to the environment are set to benefit from ASB’s new Rural Sustainability Loan, which offers a market-leading 2.25% p.a. variable rate for sustainable farming improvements.

ASB rural customers can now tap into discounted lending to take their farm sustainability to the next level, with funding available for conservation and biodiversity restoration, and projects to drive the switch to renewable energy, prevent pollution and waste, cut emissions, and promote healthy soil, ecosystems, waterways and animal welfare.

The new offering follows ASB’s recently announced Back My Build loan, which encourages Kiwis to boost housing supply with a market-leading rate for new builds. Both initiatives make use of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s Funding for Lending scheme, as ASB honours its commitment to use the low-cost funds for productive lending to benefit all Kiwis. . . 


Slack and late

04/06/2021

Oh dear, government rhetoric isn’t matched by performance yet again:

Newshub can reveal just over 60 percent of a group labelled ‘high-risk’ by the Government are yet to receive their first vaccination to protect them against COVID-19. 

They include frontline health workers, those in long-term care, and older Māori and Pacific people. 

And only half of another high-risk group – those who live with border workers or managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) employees – have received their first jab. . .

When it comes to getting vaccinated against the virus, the public messaging has been clear: we’re exceeding Government goals and doing well. When it comes to getting vaccinated against the virus, the public messaging has been clear: we’re exceeding Government goals and doing well. . . 

But Newshub has obtained Ministry of Health data that tells a different story when it comes to some of our highest-risk groups. 

“I think we’ve seen a lot of self-congratulatory talk by the Government,” said Otago University public health professor Nick Wilson.

“We should be really pushing the vaccination programme at a much faster rate.” . . 

The government’s claim to have gone hard and early in its response to Covid-19 was debatable.

The glaring gap between what they say and what’s happening with the vaccination roll-out is even worse – it’s both slack and late.

That poses a health risk to everyone who is unprotected and leaves us all with the threat that, like Taiwan and Victoria, we could be subjected to another lockdown.


Rural round-up

14/05/2021

Global food demand on fraught path – Anna Campbell:

My eldest son is flatting and when he comes to visit, one of the first things he does is open our fridge and moan about the price of cheese. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I remember doing the same to my parents.

What we eat and the quality of what we eat, is correlated with what we earn and this is a global phenomenon. All over the world, as wealth increases, so too does consumption of proteins, particularly meat and milk (and fancy cheeses).

We have seen this in China, as the country’s wealth has increased, so too has their consumption of dairy and meat products.

This has been hugely important for New Zealand’s economy and ongoing standard of living. This year, close to 50% of our meat production has been exported to China — no wonder our exporters shake in their boots when politicians start laying down principles. But that is another matter. . . 

Vet shortage nationa-wide pushing them to breaking point – Hugo Cameron:

Vets say a nationwide shortage of staff, drought and uncertainty due to Covid-19 is pushing them to a breaking point.

Veterinary Association (NZVA) chief officer Helen Beattie said the country is between 50 and 100 vets short, which is affecting the well-being of both people and animals.

“We know there’s a bunch of vets out there that are going well above and beyond and, as we know, that’s for a limited time only for all of us.”

Beattie said NZVA had talked to vets who had stood down temporarily due to work-life imbalance affecting the well-being of them and their families. . .

From MP to farmer politician – Sally Rae:

Mark Patterson has gone from farming to politics to farmer politics.

Mr Patterson, who served one term as a New Zealand First list MP, has been elected president of Federated Farmers Otago, taking over from Simon Davies who stepped down at the recent annual meeting in Tapanui.

With his previous experience in Parliament — which ended after last year’s general election when New Zealand First failed to make the 5% threshold — the Lawrence farmer said he felt an obligation to “give something back”. While not necessarily looking to take over as president, he was asked and agreed to take it on.

Asked what the transition had been like from Parliament to back on the farm, Mr Patterson said it did not take too long “to get back into the rhythm”, given he had been farming for 30 years before becoming an MP. . . 

Farms underway for NEew Zealand’s first solar farms – Business Desk:

A new company says it intends to build New Zealand’s first major industrial-scale solar farms at a cost of $300 million.

The five solar farms across the upper North Island would generate approximately 400 Gigawatt hours (GWh), with more than 500,000 solar panels over 500ha of land.

Lodestone Energy managing director Gary Holden says the development is the most ambitious solar venture in NZ to date, and will provide solar energy to Dargaville, Kaitaia, Whakatāne, Edgecumbe and Whitianga.

The first site planned for development is a 62 GWh solar plant in Kaitaia, it will have up to 80,000 panels and will supply electricity directly to a Top Energy substation. . . 

Demand up for New Zealand wool grease – Sally Murphy:

Global demand for wool grease is seeing big returns for a New Zealand exporter.

The grease which is a by-product of wool scouring is used in cosmetics, skincare and medicines.

New Zealand wool is high in cholesterol which can then be turned into vitamin D. The vitamin is in Covid-19 vaccines which is increasing demand for wool grease.

WoolWorks New Zealand is the only company in the country that produces and exports wool grease. . .

Victorian Rabbit Action Network says community action is key – Rebecca Nadge:

The Victorian Rabbit Action Network says ongoing community led action against rabbit numbers is having an impact, but managing the pest is a shared responsibility.

VRAN mentor Neil Devanny delivers training courses on rabbit control to communities around the state.

He said areas with the most success were communities that had a coordinated approach to control work.

A range of methods were required to tackle populations, he said, which included being aware of how many rabbits there were and ensuring all control work was carried out at the optimum time. . .


From success to shags

14/05/2021

For a while there we were first, or nearly first in the world for our response to Covid-19.

That relatively relatively few people contracted the disease, relatively few died from it is cause for congratulations.

We were also going to be first in the queue for vaccines but the slow roll-out is putting us well down the success-list and there is a human and economic cost to that.

Dr Gorman said without widespread vaccination we remain “isolated”. 

“Yes there is an argument that vaccination has most application in countries with rampant disease, but there’s an equally strong argument we’re like a shag on a rock, and we’ll be a shag on a rock until we’re vaccinated, and our economy suffers. The next GFC, the next earthquake in Christchurch, we can’t buffer it.”

From success to shags because once more the government has shown it’s much better at announcing than delivering.


Only front of signing queue

12/05/2021

Remember being told we’d be at the front of the vaccine queue? Now we’re told that’s not what the government meant:

The Prime Minister’s comments today in Question Time that Chris Hipkins’ promise that New Zealand would be at the “front of the queue” for Covid-19 vaccines actually meant that we would be at the front of the queue in terms of signing contracts are baffling, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Her assertion that ‘distribution is secondary’ demonstrates how woeful the Government’s vaccination programme is. Signing a contract does not protect Kiwis from Covid-19.”

Distribution is secondary?

Tell that to the people who can’t reunite with their families. Tell that to people whose businesses are compromised because they can’t travel or who live in fear of another lockdown. Tell that to people who fear for their health or that of their family and friends.

“When Chris Hipkins told New Zealanders that we were ‘at the front of the queue’ for Covid-19 vaccines, we rightly thought that meant New Zealand would quickly roll-out the Covid-19 vaccines.

Yet again the Prime Minister is moving the goalposts. Faced with a very slow roll-out where New Zealand is the 120th slowest in the world and the second slowest in the OECD, the Prime Minister’s new line is that ‘front of the queue’ just means speed of signing contracts.

Front of the queue for signing contracts? Why would that be cause for celebration? Does she really expect us to believe that?

“Why would the Government celebrate being first in line to sign a contract to ensure slow delivery, and consequential slow roll-out of vaccines? It beggars belief.

“The vaccine roll-out is a mess.”

We’ve received pamphlets in the mail, we’ve seen advertisements in the paper and we keep hearing them on the radio reassuring that the vaccine is safe and that we’ll get it.

What we’re not getting is when we’ll get it nor are we getting confidence in the roll-out. Playing word games trying to get us to believe that front of the queue doesn’t mean now what it meant a few months ago isn’t helping.

Mike Hosking asks, when will we start demanding better from the response?

. . . Vaccinated travellers all over the world are now starting to get on planes and fly and we as of now are missing out. . .

Our issue, according to our esteemed leader who told us a few weeks ago when we asked when the borders would be opening to vaccinated travellers, said that was an open question, which is code for she hasn’t thought about it. . . 

Any mountaineer knows getting to the top of the mountain is only half way.

Other countries who were well behind us in stopping the spread of the disease are already well down the mountain while we still don’t know the plan for the descent.

At some point a level of normality will have returned and places like Britain and the states are seeing their vaccination programmes as being comprehensive enough to be able to do that

Is it really possible the fear instilled in us by a government bereft of a plan beyond a closed border is really going to let the world get back to life and keep us locked up? . . 

As each day passes it becomes clearer where this story is heading. Vaccines work, the quicker you complete your programme, the more normal you can become, the world is clearly more than happy to drop restrictions lower borders and get life on a new track.

We sit here unvaccinated, borders closed, and no decision around what is next how and when.

It seems odd and increasingly criminal we can be recognised for a solid Covid response but because of our own fear and lack of planning cut ourselves out of the joining the rest of the world.

When do we start demanding better?

There’s no doubt the government was good at stopping Covid-19 causing the devastation it did in many other countries.

But repeated mistakes and repeated breaches at the border show that at least some of the success was due more to luck than management.

It will take a lot more good management than luck to make a success of the roll-out and trusting us with the truth, rather than trying to make us believe what was meant wasn’t what was said would be a good start.


Something missing

28/04/2021

A full page advertisement in yesterday’s Otago Daily Times told me how important the Covid-19 vaccine is.

I already knew that.

What I didn’t know was when any of us will be getting the vaccine and I still don’t. The advertisement was silent on that.

It also didn’t mention that rather than being at the front of the queue as was promised last year, New Zealand is well down the rankings of doses administered.

1
United States
215 950 000 11
Italy
16 270 000 21
Bangladesh
7 420 000
2
China
204 190 000 12
Mexico
15 000 000 22
Argentina
6 550 000
3
India
129 650 000 13
Chile
13.54 million 23
Hungary
4 870 000
4
United Kingdom
43 920 000 14
Spain
13 500 000 24
Netherlands
4 580 000
5
Brazil
34 060 000 15
Canada
10 800 000 25
Romania
4 490 000
6
Germany
23 660 000 16
Israel
10 370 000 26
Colombia
3 980 000
7
Turkey
20 480 000 17
United Arab Emirates
9 900 000 27
Belgium
3 200 000
8
France
17 870 000 18
Poland
9 500 000 28
Serbia
3 140 000
9
Indonesia
17 640 000 19
Morocco
8 900 000 29
Portugal
2 780 000
10
Russia
16 820 000 20
Saudi Arabia
7 610 000 30
Greece
2 650 000

 

Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
31
Czechia
2 650 000 41
Nepal
1 700 000 51
Peru
1 310 000
32
Sweden
2 640 000 42
Denmark
1 660 000 52
Ireland
1 240 000
33
Austria
2 620 000 43
Philippines
1 610 000 53
Malaysia
1 210 000
34
Japan
2 350 000 44
Finland
1 570 000 54
Hong Kong
1 170 000
35
Wales
2 330 000 45
Dominican Republic
1 510 000 55
Bahrain
1 140 000
36
Singapore
2 210 000 46
Uruguay
1 480 000 56
Nigeria
1 130 000
37
Switzerland
2 090 000 47
Norway
1 390 000 57
Myanmar
1.040000
38
South Korea
1 960 000 48
Slovakia
1 370 000 58
Sri Lanka
925 242
39
Cambodia
1 780 000 49
Azerbaijan
1 370 000 59
Kazakhstan
893 164
40
Australia
1 720 000 50
Qatar
1 320 000 60
Ghana
842 521

 

Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
61
Lithuania
822 085 71
Kuwait
604 861 81
Albania
372 075
62
Pakistan
800 000 72
Ecuador
601 229 82
Lebanon
365 83
63
Croatia
726 315 73
Bolivia
577 211 83
Rwanda
349 702
64
Costa Rica
698 327 74
Panama
574 212 84
Maldives
342 379
65
Bulgaria
676 501 75
Slovenia
543 708 85
Uzbekistan
335 610
66
Thailand
666 21 76
Ukraine
491 88 86
Zimbabwe
332 996
67
Jordan
665 226 77
Bhutan
479 333 87
Tunisia
300 369
68
Kenya
651 65 78
Ethiopia
430 000 88
South Africa
292 623
69
Mongolia
637 415 79
Senegal
380 665 89
Malta
288 797
70
Iran
621 822 80
Estonia
376 276 90
Malawi
263 931

 

Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
91 Venezuela 250 000 101
Luxembourg
166 724 111
Vietnam
108 897
92 Uganda 245 939 102
Egypt
164 534 112
Northern Cyprus
107 365
93 Angola 245 442 103
Guatemala
160 37 113
Iceland
100 168
94 Latvia 230 848 104
Togo
160 000 114
Sudan
100 01
95 Cyprus 219 654 105
Laos
137 026 115
Moldova
99 639
96 Oman 217 582 106
Jamaica
135 473 116
Cote d’Ivoire
94 818
97 El Salvador 200 000 107
Afghanistan
120 000 117
Paraguay
93 111
98 Iraq 197 914 108
Mauritius
117 323 118
Macao
86 653
99 Palestine 192 315 109
Seychelles
116 957 119
Algeria
75 000
100
New Zealand
183 351 110
Guinea
116 113 120
Guyana
73 600

 

Being down at 100 might not matter so much if we could have confidence that the vaccination roll-out was going as planned, but how can we when we don’t know what the plan is?

We know that border staff and essential workers come first, people aged 65 and older will come next and then the rest of us. Vaccination of the first group is under way but there hasn’t been a word about when those in the next two groups can expect to be immunised.

Does it matter?

Yes, because as the advertisement said:

Our immunity against Covid-10 is incredibly important. Because it brings more possibilities for us all.

Possibilities like keeping our way of life intact; our kids being able to learn without worrying about interruptions; or being able to plan gatherings with whanau, or team trips away, without fear of them being cancelled.

Immunity can bring us all this, as well as more certainty is our jobs, and more confidence in our businesses. With the strength of an immune system made up of all of us, together we can, and will, create more freedom, more options, and more possibilities for everyone. . . 

I have no argument about any of that. But something very important is missing from the advertisement.

Why, if the government is making such an effort to convince us of the importance and benefits of being vaccinated, won’t they tell us when we will be?


From the Covid-19 coalface

26/04/2021

The  New Zealand government was late and lax in its response to Covid-19, shortcomings in MIQ facilities has let the disease through the border too many times and there are still too many unanswered questions about when and how most of us will be vaccinated.

That said, the number of people who contracted the disease and number of deaths was relatively low and, closed border aside, life is back to as close to normal as it could be for most of us with a freedom to move and congregate that few other countries can enjoy.

This has led some people to question how serious Covid-19 is.

The BBC’s stories from doctors and nurses at St George’s Hospital tell just how bad it can be.

From nurses talking about crying when they get home to doctors asking people to stop “bending” the rules because it’s leading to people in their 20s, 30s and 40s dying, these are the staff of St George’s Hospital.

The interviews in the video from the Covid-19 healthcare coalface give first-hand answers to the question of how bad the spread could be.

Anyone who still thinks the disease isn’t serious need only look at the rapid spread and high number of deaths in India,  Brazil, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea which are now on the list of very high risk countries from which travellers can no longer enter New Zealand.

Some have called this racist.

It’s not. The decision had nothing at all to do with race, it is simply and clearly based on the spread of Covid-19 in those countries and the risk travellers from those countries would pose if they came here.


Rural round-up

09/04/2021

Federated Farmers sees MIQ opportunity for agriculture:

Federated Farmers hopes that the Government will take the opportunity of newly available space in MIQ quarantine to bring much-needed workers for the primary industries into New Zealand.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins estimates that the Australian quarantine-free travel bubble will free up 1000 to 1300 beds in MIQ a fortnight.

“MIQ spacing has been continually quoted as a barrier for getting the workers we need. With more beds becoming available it should now allow those with agricultural skills to enter the country,” Federated Farmers Immigration Spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“With continued low unemployment and the majority of available workers remaining in the urban centres, all of the primary industries are crying out for labour.” . . 

Farmers take up resilience planning for future droughts – Hugh Cameron:

While the country may be heading into winter, the impact of another dry summer is fresh on the minds of some farmers. Some hit by drought say there are steps that can be taken to ease the pressure and planning should start now.

Parts of the Far North were once again hit by meteorological drought this summer. While it wasn’t as severe as the previous summer’s big dry that hit much of the country, it was a set-back for farmers, who were hoping to rebuild feed reserves and make a full recovery.

Chairperson of the Northland Rural Support Trust, Chris Neill, believed drought planning would become even more critical in the future. He encouraged farmers to make a risk management plan that gave them options when tough conditions hit again.

“I think there were some lessons learned last year, in fact there were a lot of lessons learned last year, about being prepared for these dry conditions given the predictions around changes in climate,” Neill said. . . 

A wave of cash is about to transform the agri market – Andrew Lamming:

We are in very interesting times right now.

There are some big forces about to play out in the main trading banks operating in New Zealand. We believe this will culminate into a wave of capital that the Agri sector hasn’t seen for the past 5-7 years.

That wave of capital coming to the Agri sector is going to have some interesting effects on asset values, funding costs and decision making. . .

New Zealand Shears – the show finally on the road:

Organisers of the New Zealand Shears are breathing a sigh of relief as they bounce-back from the cancellation of last year’s event to stage the 2021 championships starting in Te Kuiti tomorrow(Thursday).

More than 200 shearers and woolhandlers will compete in the three-day championships, which 12 months ago became one of the early casualties of the 2021 Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown – called-off for the first time since the New Zealand championships were resurrected initially as the new King Country Shears in 1985.

While a Level 2 alert which cancelled this year’s Golden Shears in Masterton at just four days’ notice a month ago sent shivers up the spines of every event organiser in New Zealand, New Zealand Shears president Claire Grainger said her committee was determined to go ahead, including discussing how it could if the alert had remained in place. . . 

Aussie shearers called to help out in UK but pandemic rules still a worry – Chris McLennan:

Australian and New Zealand shearers have now been given a special exemption to travel to the United Kingdom to help solve their shearer crisis.

Shearers are in demand across the world from pandemic bans on international travel.

Australia has a crisis of its own with the ban on New Zealand shearers traveling across the ditch during the pandemic.

Now international sheep shearing contractors have been given a special concession to travel into the UK. . . 

Freehold high country a rare find:

Extensive freehold station properties are a rare find in New Zealand today, and one’s offering multiple income opportunities even rarer.

Glazebrook Station, located 46km up the Waihopai River valley in Marlborough has a hard-won reputation as a superb hunting property offering international standard game hunting opportunities located approximately one hour from Blenheim airport.

Positioned in the river valley with sweeping high country that runs to 1,600m above sea level, the station’s landscape typifies the iconic vistas that are central to the southern psyche.

Bayleys Canterbury salesperson Garry Ottmann says purchase of the 8,877ha freehold property would mark a rare claim in today’s property market. . . 


Does this give you confidence?

08/04/2021

The ODT reports that setting up the southern Covid-19 vaccination system has taken staff away from other immunisation programmes and is using people who might otherwise be contact-tracing.

Covid-19 vaccination centres in Dunedin’s Meridian Mall and in Invercargill began injecting frontline health workers last week, and have also been delivering second doses of the vaccine to port workers.

Public Health nursing and immunisation vaccinators and administration staff were doing much of the work at present, southern vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown said.

This was affecting the Southern District Health Board’s MMR vaccination catch-up campaign, B4 schools check, HPV vaccinations and other school-based programmes.

“This is also using staff who would also support contact-tracing work for Covid-19 cases.” . . 

Does this give you confidence that any of these programmes are being, or will be, done well?

“There have been a few teething problems, as you can imagine with an operation of this scale, but our teams have been able to resolve issues as they have cropped up, and on the whole the clinics have run very smoothly,” Mr Brown said.

However, in a report to be considered by the Southern District Health Board on Thursday, Mr Brown said a national Covid-19 vaccination booking system was at least a month away and southern health officials were relying on electronic diary Outlook calendar in the interim.

“There is currently no robust booking system in place, and the existing hospital booking system does not meet the requirements for the programme.

“An interim booking system…has been put in place to manage the immediate need to book in household contacts for the next few weeks.”

Southern and other DHBs had worked together to find a suitable booking system and discussions were ongoing with a possible provider, Mr Brown said. . . 

We were told months ago that we’d be at the front of the queue for Covid-19 vaccinations. We aren’t, and that has given more time to get the logistics sorted so that the programme runs smoothly.

If there are all these problems this early, when a relatively small number of people are being vaccinated, how confident can we be that they will be solved when mass vaccination is under way, and that other programmes, including annual ‘flu vaccinations, won’t be compromised?

Chris McDowall’s report on the Ministry of Health’s opaque and messy handling of public health data on Covid-19 vaccination progress.

. . .  Without published statistics, media briefings are our only source of truth about how the rollout is progressing.

Slip-ups and an absence of detail detract from public confidence, potentially creating space for anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories.

We will continue to request data about the vaccine rollout from the Government and follow up outstanding questions. We hope the Government will start making this data freely available.

And then there’s this:

Not only is New Zealand second bottom in the OECD for the number of Covid-19 vaccinations but in information leaked to National we are nowhere near where the Government planned for us to be back in January, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Leaked data shows that at this point in the vaccine roll out, a cumulative total of 390,413 vaccine should have been administered, but only 90,286 have been so far, a pathetic 23 per cent.

“After promising New Zealanders we were at the front of the queue for Covid-19 vaccines, nearly every other country in the OECD is now ahead of us, with just Japan behind New Zealand.

“We aren’t at the front of the queue – we are at the back.”

As of yesterday, New Zealand has administered just 1.9 doses per 100 people in our population.

The countries ahead of us include Australia (3.31 per 100 people), Singapore (25.95), the United Kingdom (54.52) and the United States (50).

“Australia has recently been criticised for the slow pace of its vaccine roll out, but New Zealand is even worse and there’s no sign we’re picking up the pace,” Mr Bishop says.

“National is deeply concerned about the vaccine roll out.

“Three of the four necessary IT systems for our roll out aren’t ready, DHBs are contracting their own booking system solutions with disastrous results, the Government refuses to set a target for the percentage of the population to be vaccinated, and we’re still unclear who will be vaccinated when.

“The Government hasn’t even begun a proper communications campaign to educate New Zealanders about the vaccine. New Zealand’s economic and social future is relying on a successful vaccine roll.

“The public should have daily access to how we are progressing in our Covid vaccine roll out, they shouldn’t have to rely on leaked information to Opposition parties.

“As more countries vaccinate their populations New Zealand risks being left behind. They will start opening up trade and travel to each other while we, a country where our prosperity depends on international connections, will lag behind.

“The elimination of Covid-19 in New Zealand should have been an opportunity for us to recover more quickly than the rest of the world. We are at risk of wasting this through a slow and ineffective roll out.”

The government, ministry and DHBs need to urgently improve the logistics of the vaccine roll out, and data releases, to ensure we can all have confidence in what’s being done, that it will be done well, and to provide no space for anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.


Why were we waiting?

07/04/2021

At last we will be able to cross back and forwards across the Tasman without the need to quarantine from April 19th.

Why has it taken so long?

. . . On Tuesday Jacinda Ardern announced the Director-General of Health, Doctor Ashley Bloomfield, deemed the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand is “low and that quarantine-free travel is safe to commence’’.

But on further inquiry from Newsroom, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed he’d been in regular discussions with Bloomfield for six months and the health boss’ “assessment that Australia’s a low-risk country has been consistent for some time’’.

The hold-up was Bloomfield’s advice that “the systems have not been in place to allow for safe green zone travel both ways between both countries’’.

The systems officials have been working on have been focused on airports and how travellers make the trip from one end to the other safely, keeping bubble travellers separate from other incoming flights that may have Covid-positive passengers, and the contact tracing and processes for opening, pausing and in some cases closing the bubble if there were an outbreak in either country.

Talk to airports and they’ll tell you they’ve had their systems ready to go since August last year when health officials gave the all-clear to Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington.

The only advice the Ministry of Health has come back to airports with since then is extra cleaning when the bubble opens up, and other routine measures.

In the case of Wellington Airport, no managed isolation and quarantine flights land directly in the capital from overseas countries, so mitigating risks around mixing up trans-Tasman passengers with those potentially exposed overseas is and always has been non-existent.

And despite the political pressure ramping up from both National and ACT, the Government has been happy to continue with the go-slow citing a “cautious’’ approach in the name of public health and safety.

The reality is other than tourism operators and those whose businesses are directly impacted by tourist arrivals, most other New Zealanders accept it’s worth taking the time to get it right. . . 

In other words the government didn’t want to risk any political capital, preferring to pander to the fearful rather than promoting the low risk of opening a Trans-Tasman bubble.

It put polls before people – the ones separated from family and friends, the ones who couldn’t get to visit ill relatives before they died, the ones who couldn’t go to funerals, the ones who missed celebrations.

And it played on the pandemic paranoia for political gain with no heed for the financial and emotional stress tourism businesses, their owners and staff are under nor for the economic cost to the country of the needless delay.


Is the ‘flu vaccine late?

31/03/2021

Last week I went searching for news on the ‘flu vaccine programme and came across a page with the Ministry of Health policy:

From 2019 the Annual Influenza Immunisation Programme (the Programme) will start from 1 April each year.

This start date differs from previous years when the Programme started as soon as the influenza vaccine became available, generally by early March. The Ministry has considered a range of factors in making this decision including: emerging evidence on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines, influenza surveillance data, the impact of the start date on service delivery and feedback from the sector.

The start date from 1 April will be subject to the vaccine being available for distribution across New Zealand by then. Changes to vaccine strains can result in longer manufacturing lead time and the arrival of vaccines in late rather than early March.

Duration of influenza vaccine protection

New evidence shows that vaccine effectiveness begins to decline after influenza vaccination. Maximum protection from influenza is observed around two weeks after vaccination and starts to decline by about 7 percent every month. . . .

Influenza activity may occur throughout the year with the peak incidence during the winter months. New Zealand’s surveillance data shows that the peak has moved to August in recent years. Influenza surveillance data and the shift in peak influenza activity, in conjunction with declining vaccine effectiveness supports a change in the start date. The programme start date from 1 April ensures better protection against influenza during the peak incidence particularly for our most vulnerable populations.  . .

That all seems reasonable but yesterday I checked the MOH website and found this:

The 2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme will commence on 14 April 2021, with a two-week priority period for people eligible for a free influenza vaccination. These dates are dependent on approval by the regulator. 

We ask vaccinators to focus on immunising those who are eligible for a funded vaccination for the first two weeks of the programme to protect as many of those who are at greatest risk first, well ahead of the influenza season.

The first week of the prioritisation period is only for adults aged 65 and over and there is an additional vaccine this year that is specifically intended for this population.

The second week of the prioritisation period, from 21 April, extends to all those eligible for a funded vaccination.

Vaccination can then be extended to include the general population from 28 April 2021. . . 

April 14 is two weeks later and April 21 three weeks later, than the policy to start the programme on April 1.

That probably won’t matter for the people on the priority list.

But if the general population doesn’t start to get their vaccinations until 28th of April and the vaccine doesn’t reach maximum effectiveness for two weeks, are most people going to be at risk of contracting the disease before they’re protected?

Perhaps I’m being paranoid when there are so few people coming into the country, the risk of ‘flu might be much less than it would have been pre-Covid.

But this is the Ministry that bungled the measles vaccination. It’s also the Ministry that swore black and blue that there was plenty of stock for last year’s ‘flu vaccination rollout while those on the ground who were supposed to be administering them were saying there wasn’t, and they were eventually proved right.

It’s also the Ministry that’s in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, for which we haven’t been told a plan, and for which there is no target:

National is calling on the Government to make a statement of intent about protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19 by setting a target of having at least 70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the OECD that doesn’t have a target for how many adults should be vaccinated. The others are Colombia and Mexico.

“Almost all countries are setting a vaccination target – usually 70 per cent of the adult population – and a date for achieving that target. New Zealand isn’t doing this either.

“The best the Government can say is that it wants all New Zealanders to be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. This isn’t good enough.

“We should be setting an ambitious target and going for it. A target will make sure the health system is focused, and means vaccination progress can be meaningfully tracked.

“Targets exist for the measles and flu vaccines. Not having one for Covid-19 suggests the Government doesn’t want to be held to account on this.

“If KiwiBuild taught us anything, it’s that the Labour Government isn’t great at hitting targets. But that shouldn’t matter. Our Covid-19 vaccine rollout is too important not to have one.

Mr Bishop also criticised the slow pace of the Government’s vaccine rollout to date, and the lack of transparency about how many vaccines are being administered in New Zealand.

“Most countries are doing daily, or near-daily, updates on how many people are being vaccinated. New Zealand has to settle for sporadic updates, randomly announced by Chris Hipkins or Ashley Bloomfield.

“New Zealanders should be getting near-daily announcements, published by the Ministry of Health, so everyone can see how our vaccine rollout is going. This isn’t rocket science – it already happens with testing and tracing.

“New Zealand started slow on vaccinations and we’re falling further behind the rest of the world. The latest available public information shows we have administered just 0.56 vaccines per 100 people, while Australia has administered 1.21 vaccines per 100 people.

“We weren’t at the front of the queue for receiving vaccines, like the Government said we were, and our vaccine rollout started slow because of this. It needs to gather pace.”

Call me cynical if you like, but the government is always keen to tell us the good news.

That it has made no mention of this year’s ‘flu vaccination programme, is being quiet about how many people have received the Covid-19 vaccine, has given only vague details about its roll-out to the general population, and appears to have no plan to set targets feeds the suspicion that it doesn’t have any good news about any of this.

 


Rural round-up

24/03/2021

Govt ‘naivety’ cause of crisis – Peter Burke:

Johnny Appleseed is one of the largest apple growers in New Zealand; director Paul Paynter says the current worker shortage crisis in the sector can be sheeted home to Government naivety.

He says when Covid-19 first hit the country – with many people losing their jobs and overseas workers stopped from coming to NZ – the Government was quick to claim it would provide an opportunity for Kiwis to take up jobs in the ag and hort sectors. However, he says while there has been some uptake, the reality has fallen well short of the enthusiastic expectations.

“It was just naïve optimism on the part of Government,” Paynter told Rural News.

He says people are not coming to the Hawkes Bay to pick apples for a number of reasons, the major one being the lack of accommodation. Paynter says there is a housing crisis in the region.

Drinking (milk) to economic recovery – The Detail:

When the price of milk surged 15 percent on the global dairy market earlier this month, even the boss of Fonterra was shocked.

“It was extraordinary,” says Jarden’s head of dairy derivatives, Mike McIntyre. “I’ve been following these auctions now for the better part of 10 years and I’ve seen it previously, but only in the past where we’ve been constrained.”

That was 2013 when the whole country was in drought and very little milk was being produced.

This time, says McIntyre, it is being driven by China’s thirst for milk.

“Last year, the Chinese government came out and essentially issued a directive to the public to say, to ward off the ill effects of Covid they should be consuming more than a glass of milk a day.” . . 

Covid-19 vaccine: Concerns over future uptake in rural areas – Riley Kennedy;

The government is being encouraged to think outside the box when rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine into rural communities.

Earlier this month, the government announced its plan to deliver the vaccine to the wider public.

From May, priority populations will be able to get the vaccine and from July, the remainder of the population will be able to get it.

There have been concerns from some health professionals that the uptake among people living in rural New Zealand could be slow – given some have to travel a long way to see their GP and therefore don’t always bother. . . 

Investing in consumers’ trust – Neal Wallace:

Meat companies are using the Taste Pure Nature brand alongside their own brands as they target environmentally-conscious foodie consumers.

Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) market development manager Nick Beeby told the organisation’s annual meeting that this demographic cares where their food comes from and are heavily influenced by digital channels such as food websites and bloggers who focus on natural foods.

They are considered a significant opportunity for NZ red meat sales, and Beeby says during the covid-19 pandemic consumers were increasingly discerning with their purchases, which was underpinned by the message associated with the B+LNZ developed taste pure nature brand.

“Consumers chose meat products that are better tasting, nutritious and satisfy environmental concerns,” Beeby said. . . 

A platform for red meat’s story – Neal Wallace:

A new website selling the virtues of red meat and dispelling some of its myths is being launched.

An initiative of Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA), the Making Meat Better website will tell the sector’s story, and provide information and data, while reinforcing the merits of red meat.

The 150 people who attended the B+LNZ annual meeting in Invercargill this week were told the site will provide data and statistics about the red meat sector, sell the virtues of being grass-raised, its nutritional attributes, while also extolling the environmental stewardship of farmers.

Data on the site will provide a balance to some of the criticism about red meat and farming by providing information on farming’s carbon footprint, action being taken on climate change and provide infographic resources that can be used.  . . 

 

Showgirls, rural achievers shine the way for ag :

The bush has a wealth of young talent who are turning their fantastic ideas and aspirations into reality.

You only have to look at the pages in last week’s Land to find young people who are ready to act or are acting on their projects.

And they are motivated – either by issues that some members of older generations might not want to confront such as climate change – or value adding to the great contributions of previous generations.

They are doing this despite the enforced isolation of the last year from the pandemic. . . 


Announcing an announcement again

23/03/2021

This isn’t a parody account.

This is a mainstream news outlet announcing the date of a forthcoming announcement.

Meanwhile families and friends are separated, marriages postponed, and people aren’t able to visit the dying and attend funerals.

Add to the personal cost, the dire state of many tourism businesses which need a firm date so they can work out whether or not they can hold on to staff, or even survive.

We don’t need an announcement of an announcement, we need to know when we can travel across the Tasman without having to endure MIQ on the return trip.

Few question the goal of keeping Covid-19 out of the country, but most Australian states have had no community transmission for longer than New Zealand.

That all the government can give us is an announcement of an announcement of a possible opening of the border and that it is taking so long to allow a travel bubble with Australia is control freakery, incompetence, or both.


Rural round-up

22/03/2021

Major strawberry grower Perrys Berrys calls it quits amid labour shortage – Kate MacNamara:

Francie Perry, a stalwart of New Zealand horticulture and an outspoken critic of the Government’s inflexible Covid-19 border policy for foreign workers, is throwing in the towel after 40 years of strawberry growing.

Perrys Berrys is among the largest berry growers in the country and appears to be the first major operator to fall victim to a harvest season hampered by a shortage of thousands of workers.

Contacted by The Herald, Perry, aged 71, declined to comment. In recent months she has told both customers and suppliers that Perrys Berrys, the strawberry growing company she founded and owns jointly with daughter Katie Perich, will not plant another crop. . .

National answers horticulture sector’s call for help:

Allowing seasonal workers from COVID-free countries to enter New Zealand without quarantine needs to happen fast to plug the yawning gap in our horticulture sector’s workforce, National’s Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett says.

National Leader Judith Collins today called for the Government to expand its safe zone travel arrangements to include quarantine-free travel into New Zealand for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

Doing so would allow for greater numbers to enter via the Recognised Seasonal Workers (RSE) scheme, which would help address the horticulture sector’s labour-force shortfall, which the Agriculture Minister says is up to 13,500 workers, Mr Bennett says.

“New Zealand’s $6 billion horticulture sector is crying out for staff and our Pacific neighbours want the opportunity to come here. . . 

Farmers and government working together — March 2021 – Elbow Deep:

I had a sheep farming friend in Otauau, Southland, who once took me on a tour of his property. It was immaculate, a mixture of flats and gently rolling hills with the steeper areas planted in native bush. As we drove around the farm John outlined his plans for converting the flats to dairy, the value of his land had been swept along with the tide of conversions around him and the banks were very keen to lend him as much as he needed.

John knew exactly where the shed would go, how the paddocks would be subdivided and which areas would remain in sheep to keep his son interested in the farm. When the tour was finished and we were relaxing with a cold beverage, I asked when the conversion was going ahead so I could schedule my move to manage the conversion.

“You know Craig”, he said, “the plan makes perfect financial sense but I’m never going to do it, I just hate mud too much.” . .

Hemp harvest: Waimarama whānau turning over a new leaf – Louise Gould:

Waimarama could become a new hub for hemp after the first successful harvest in the area on Friday.

Innika Broadman from the Waimarama Māori Hemp Collective said the initiative has been set up to get whānau back on their land, sewing their seeds and reaping the benefits.

The collective is working in partnership with Otane-based Kanapu Hempery with the plan to produce hemp seed hearts, hemp oil and eventually hemp milk. . .

 

Rural market consolidates:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 129 more farm sales (+39.2%) for the three months ended February 2021 than for the three months ended February 2020. Overall, there were 458 farm sales in the three months ended February 2021, compared to 517 farm sales for the three months ended January 2021 (-11.4%), and 329 farm sales for the three months ended February 2020.

1,542 farms were sold in the year to February 2021, 23.1% more than were sold in the year to February 2020, with 51.3% more Dairy farms, 3.1% more Grazing farms, 42.9% more Finishing farms and 30.1% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to February 2021 was $25,665 compared to $20,569 recorded for three months ended February 2020 (+24.8%). The median price per hectare decreased 0.8% compared to January 2021. . . .

Ability not gender is everything when it comes to farming – Will Evans:

A few days after our fourth daughter was born, and still with that uniquely joyous spring in my step that comes from having a new baby in a family, I walked into a treatment room to have some work done on my bad back.

“Has it arrived yet?”, the physio asked expectantly. “Yes”, I replied with a beaming smile. “I always said I wanted beautiful girls in my life, and now I have five of them – Branwen was born on Thursday, happy and healthy”.

I don’t know what reply I was expecting, but it wasn’t a look of devout sympathy and “Oh, what a shame for you and your farm”.

I was taken aback at the time, and didn’t know how to respond. But in the five years since then, both my wife and I have received numerous similar comments, usually something along the lines of “You’ll keep going for a boy for the farm, will you?”. It’s something that I encountered again recently. . .

 


AG Minister foot in mouth

20/03/2021

What’s happened to kindness?

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says Covid-19 has taught the tourism industry “not to be so cocky” after a slump in international tourism saw it lose its spot as the top export earner to the dairy industry.

“We have just gone through an amazing 12-month period in our country where we have learnt a lot about ourselves, as people, as a community and as sectors and industries,” O’Connor told an audience of agricultural leaders and politicians at Central Districts Field Days in Feilding on Friday.

“The tourism industry learnt not to be so cocky, that’s not to go around saying how great they are and how big they are, cause it can change,” said O’Connor, who has previously held the role of tourism minister. . . 

Was the industry ever cocky?

And the industry isn’t a single entity, it’s a collection of businesses big and small, many out of the main centers where the jobs it sustained also sustained the communities.

The workers were also volunteers in fire brigades and ambulance services, they bought fuel at the local petrol station and supplies at local shops, their children went to schools which employed teachers.

There were legitimate questions about whether there was too much of a good thing, especially its impact on sensitive natural areas.

But we all got to enjoy the benefits of the export income it earned and the jobs it created.

Many of those tourism businesses, other businesses and services that supplied and supported them and their staff, and whole communities are now under threat because the government shut our borders.

Doing that prevented the widespread devastation that Covid-19 has brought, and is still having, in many other countries.

But the government’s reluctance to safely open borders to countries like Australia is costing jobs and businesses.

The only cockiness is from the government that is basking in international adulation and a minister suffering from a very bad case of foot in mouth disease.


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