Decriminalisation by stealth?

December 12, 2018

The National Party has labelled the medicinal cannabis bill which passed into law yesterday as decriminalisation by stealth.

Health Minister David Clark said until a regime was set up, the legislation would help people ease their suffering with a wider range of medicinal cannabis products becoming available over time.

“We know that some people cannot wait for medicinal products to become more readily available and will want to use illicit cannabis to ease their pain,” he said.

“People nearing the end of their lives should not have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for trying to manage their pain. So as a compassionate measure we are also creating a statutory defence for people eligible to receive palliation so that they can use illicit cannabis without fear of prosecution.”

The bill will introduce a statutory defence – or amnesty – as a stop-gap measure to allow people at the end of their lives to use illicit cannabis while the scheme is still being established. . . 

Serious question: if cannabis is a medicine, why isn’t it treated like all other medicines and prescribed by doctors who consider it the best option for their patients?

However, National leader Simon Bridges came out swinging in Parliament, calling the bill “decriminalisation of cannabis by stealth”.

“What will the police do when they’re outside a school and someone, under this bill, is smoking cannabis? What will they do?

“I don’t reckon they’ll do much at all,” he said.

“Shame on the House for passing this terrible, unsafe, dangerous bill.”

National’s spokesperson for health Shane Reti also labelled the bill as “lazy and dangerous”.

“This government is simply ticking the 100-day box that they were forced to by the Greens and it is permitting the smoking of drugs in our communities.”

Mr Reti said National supported medicinal cannabis regulation but opposed the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public.

“That’s why we did the work and created a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that widened access to medicinal cannabis and provided a framework for licensing high-quality domestic production under sensible and achievable regulations.

“We offered to share our regime with the government but egos got in the way and we were turned down.”

He said experts in the field should be the ones to decide what medical conditions were suitable for medical cannabis.

Exactly – if it’s medicine it should be treated like other medicines.

It’s not all bad though, the law change could provide an alternative income for farmers:

New Zealand cannabis company Zeacann, which is undergoing a $20m capital raising round to grow cannabis and manufacture medicines for domestic and export markets, welcomed the bill.

Co-founder Chris Fowlie said it was big step forward to helping New Zealanders who were suffering.

“The government is finally removing the stigma that cannabis has suffered from for decades,” Mr Fowlie said.

He said it was good to see that a timeframe had been set for a legal framework on making the products available.

Zeacann estimates it will be able to begin growing cannabis in the first half of next year, once it has received a government licence. . . 

I wonder what security will be required to stop thefts?

I visited farms which grow opium poppies in Tasmania where security was tight.

 


Rural round-up

November 22, 2018

Will to live response pleasing -Sally Rae:

“Overwhelming” is how Elle Perriam describes the public response to the rural mental health awareness campaign Will to Live.

Targeting young rural men and women, it was launched following the death of Miss Perriam’s boyfriend, Will Gregory, in December last year.

Her target for a PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign to cover the expenses of a regional Speak Up tour in country pubs next year was $15,000.

But with a bit more than $18,000 raised through that, and more sponsors coming on board, she reckoned the amount  raised was now around $20,000. That meant  the number of events  throughout the country could be extended from 10 to 14. Financial contributions had also been matched by “kind affirmations” about the initiative. . . 

Virtual rural health school plan unaffected by Govt move – Mike Houlahan:

A week-old proposal by the University of Otago and other providers to create a virtual school for rural health remains very much alive despite the Government killing off an alternative school of rural medicine this week.

The lead article in last week’s edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal featured a proposal, driven by the University of Otago, University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology (AUT), for a virtual rural health campus.

On Wednesday, Health Minister David Clark announced the Government would not support a Waikato University initiative — which dated from the term of the previous National-led government — to establish a $300 million school of rural medicine. . . 

Shortage of vets cause of concern for rural and urban areas – Matthew Tso:

A national shortage of vets has New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar rural sector on high alert. 

Rural veterinary practices are finding it tough to fill vacant roles – and MPI says this could have an impact on biosecurity surveillance issues.

Miles Anderson, Federated Farmers meat and wool industry group chair, says the dairy, meat, and wool industries are dependent on healthy herds. . . 

Dunne in style:

It was once jokingly said that the next most-important job after the All Blacks coach is the head of the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Joking aside, there is some truth in this because MPI plays a largely unsung, yet critical, role in the lives of every New Zealander.

With the prospect of a world war unlikely, the next most-serious threat to NZ is in biosecurity, food safety, trade and people’s perception of how the precious land we live on is farmed. . . 

Cavalier eyes anti-plastic trend :

Cavalier Corp says it is well-placed to take advantage of a growing consumer shift away from plastics.

That trend fits well with the carpet maker’s renewed focus on its high-quality wool products, particularly higher-margin, niche opportunities and the potential of major markets like the United States and United Kingdom, chief executive Paul Alston said.

“Investment in research and development and creating ranges that command a premium is a priority and critical for our success,” he said in notes for the company’s annual meeting. . . 

 

Quality over quantity: climate change affects volume, but not quality of aquaculture – Matt Brown:

Dairy farming would appear to have very little in common with farming mussels.

But now, a Netherlands-born Southland dairy farmer is taking the mussel capital by storm with his enthusiasm for the green-shelled bivalve molluscs.

Much like dairy farming, the Havelock-based business focused on their commodity product “with value add”.

Mills Bay Mussels owner Art Blom said their point of difference was the ‘raw-shuck’.. . 

Feds President spearheads delegation to Uruguay and Argentina:

Farmers, dairy product manufacturers and trade representatives in Uruguay and Argentina are hearing a New Zealand take on current agricultural issues this week.

Federated Farmers of NZ President Katie Milne is engaged in a busy schedule of speaking and meeting engagements in Montevideo and Buenos Aires in a programme put together by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and New Zealand’s Ambassador to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, Raylene Liufalani. . . 

Two new faces for Farmlands’ board:

Farmlands’ shareholders have voted two new Shareholder Directors on to the Farmlands Board.

Dawn Sangster and Gray Baldwin join re-elected Director Rob Hewett on the rural supplies and services co-operative’s Board of Directors.

Farmlands Chairman, Lachie Johnstone congratulated the new arrivals to the Board of Directors, as well as thanking the other candidates who put themselves forward for election. . .


Almost spent the lot

June 25, 2018

Nurses and health boards are continuing to negotiate improved pay and conditions in an effort to avoid strikes.

Last-ditch talks between the nurses’ union and district health boards (DHBs) will continue on Monday in a bid to avoid planned strike action.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and DHBs’ negotiating teams attended mediation on Friday after nurses “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest offer on Monday.

The NZNO issued strike notice to the DHBs on Wednesday for July 5, with notice of a second 24-hour strike planned for July 12 likely to be issued next week. . . 

A survey sent to NZNO members on Monday to gauge their priorities for any revised deal had received close to 13,000 responses a day before it closed at 1pm on Thursday.

A message sent to union member’s said their feedback had helped negotiators be “very clear on what your priority issues are and what will be required on order to avert strike action and resolve this dispute”.

The three main priorities were remuneration, safe staffing and pay equity.

However, whether the first nationwide nurses’ strike since 1989 can be averted remains to be seen.

Nurses on Monday “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest collective offer, a $520 million package described by Health Minister David Clark as the best in a decade. . .

A $520 million package sounds generous but there would be $275 million more this year had they not wasted it on free fees for tertiary students, nearly $40 million of which will be spent on students who fail to complete their first year.

It would be difficult to find anyone who thinks spending millions on students who don’t need help is a greater priority than  improving pay and conditions for nurses.

Teachers are lining up for more pay and better conditions too and it would be equally difficult to find anyone who thinks that wouldn’t be a higher priority than fee-free tertiary study.

The free-fee policy is just one of several expensive policies. Another is the winter power payment for beneficiaries, some of which will go to wealthy retirees. These are extravagances that Labour and its coalition partners have put ahead of funding necessities.

Then-National Finance Minister Steven Joyce was laughed at when he said there was a big hole in Labour’s pre-election spending calculations and that they hadn’t factored in pay increases for public servants.

The trouble the government now has finding enough to satisfy nurses shows he was right.

Remember how Michael Cullen boasted they’d spent the lot after his last Budget in 2008?

The current government has almost spent the lot already if it wants to keep to the budgetary constraints it’s imposed upon itself to counter accusations it’s a poor manager of money.

Cullen left power with the new government facing a decade of deficits.

By contrast the current government came to power with forecasts of continuing strong surpluses.

They could have spent wisely, factoring in the need for fair increases to give nurses and teachers much better pay and conditions.

Instead they’ve wasted money on fripperies like the fee-free tertiary study and power payments for wealthy people and left far too little for basics like improved pay and conditions for nurses and teachers.


So bad so soon

June 19, 2018

How did it get so bad so soon?
It’s a mess of ministers
acting like goons.
My goodness how the
mess has grewn.
How did it get so bad so soon?

With apologies to Dr Seuss, how did it get so bad so soon?

Audrey Young writes that Jacinda Ardern will forgive Winston Peters for anything, even the unforgivable.

A National MP joked this week that the Opposition didn’t want things to get so bad under Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave that the country was desperate for her return – they just wanted a medium level of dysfunction.

That threshold was almost reached this week even before the big event, and things got worse as the week wore on.

Ardern’s faith in Winston Peters being able to manage the inevitable bush fires that will flare when she is away must be seriously undermined given that he and his party have caused many of them.

A series of accidental and deliberate mishaps has raised questions about a series of important issues including basic coalition management, ministerial conventions, the application of the “No Surprises” policy, and when a minister is not a minister. .  .

Stacey Kirk calls it a three ring circus with one ringmaster at the centre .

Consensus government in action, or a bloody awful mess? 

It’s difficult to characterise the past week as anything but the latter and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be worried about whether she’ll have a Government to come back to when she returns from maternity leave. . .

Patrick Gower wants the old Kelvin Davis back.

Patrick Gower on The AM Show. Credits: Video – The AM Show; Image – Newshub.

Kelvin Davis is a “wounded man walking” who better watch out, says Newshub national correspondent Patrick Gower.

The Corrections Minister on Wednesday announced plans for a new prison, but appeared to be unaware how many of its inmates would be double-bunked.

Corrections boss Ray Smith interjected after Mr Davis froze, confirming Newshub’s suggestion it would be around half.

“I get nervous before interviews,” was Mr Davis’ explanation, when asked about it on The AM Show. . . 

Duncan Garner describes government MPs as misfit kids.

. . .It’s taken them three minutes to look as shabby, arrogant and as broken-down as a third-term government suffering rampant hubris and pleading to be put out of its misery.  . .

Sue Bradford thinks the Greens are in mortal danger.

The Green’s water bottling decision exposes potentially fatal flaws and complacency at the heart of Green Parliamentary operations 

The Green parliamentary wing seem to be clueless about the mortal danger they face following news this week that their own minister, Eugenie Sage, has signed off on the sale and expansion of a water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs. . . 

Hamish Rutherford writes with Winston Peters in charge everything could be up for grabs.

. . . These are extraordinary times. Suddenly, with a Government already battling to keep business confidence up, with a story that the economy keeps on rocking, it seems as if everything is up for grabs.

We are now being handed lessons that have been coming since Peters walked into the Beehive theatrette on October 20 and announced he was forming a Government with the Left.

A Government so broad that the issues on which there is division become so amplified that they could almost appear to outnumber ones where there is consensus.

Where previous coalitions since the creation of MMP managed to keep together because the centre of power was so obvious, the timing of Peters’ action will be further unsettling. . . 

Health Minister David Clark has been accused of trying to gag a health board chair.

A leaked voicemail message appears to show Health Minister David Clark attempting to gag top health officials over the woeful state of Middlemore Hospital buildings. 

Clark has rejected the accusation, which has stemmed from audio of him telling former Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Rabin Rabindran it was “not helping” that the DHB kept commenting publicly.  

Emails suggest he also attempted to shut down the DHB from answering any questions along the lines of who knew what, and when, about the dilapidated state of Middlemore buildings. . . 

Peter Dunne asks is the coalition starting to unravel?

Almost 20 years ago, New Zealand’s first MMP Coalition Government collapsed. It was not a dramatic implosion on a major point of principle, but was provoked by a comparatively minor issue – a proposal to sell the Government’s shares in Wellington Airport – and came after a series of disagreements between the Coalition partners on various aspects of policy.

There has been speculation this week in the wake of New Zealand First’s hanging out to dry of the Justice Minister over the proposed repeal of the “three strikes” law that the same process might be starting all over again. While it is far too soon to draw conclusive parallels, the 1998 experience does set out some road marks to watch out for. . . 

Michael Reddell writes on how the government is consulting on slashing productivity growth.

 . .  I have never before heard of a government consulting on a proposal to cut the size of the (per capita) economy by anything from 10 to 22 per cent.  And, even on their numbers, those estimates could be an understatement. . . .

Quite breathtaking really.   We will give up –  well, actually, take from New Zealanders –  up to a quarter of what would have been their 2050 incomes, and in doing so we will know those losses will be concentrated disproportionately on people at the bottom.   Sure, they talk about compensation measures . . 

But the operative word there is could.  The track record of governments –  of any stripe –  compensating losers from any structural reforms is pretty weak, and it becomes even less likely when the policy being proposed involves the whole economy being a lot smaller than otherwise, so that there is less for everyone to go around.  The political economy of potential large scale redistribution just does not look particularly attractive or plausible (and higher taxes to do such redistribution would have their own productivity and competitiveness costs). . . 

And the Dominion Post lists mis-steps and mistakes and concludes:

. . .Some of this has been simply amateurish.

Such things are often a sign of a government that has outlived its mandate and begun to implode around the core of its own perceived importance. In its tiredness it can trip over the most obvious hurdles.

This Government is barely nine months old. It needs to find its feet, and quickly.

Has there ever been a government that has attracted this sort of criticism just a few months after gaining power?

How did this government get so bad so soon?


Wrong priorities

May 1, 2018

Labour can’t afford its campaign promise of cheaper GP fees :

. . . Health Minister David Clark said the Government would meet all its promises over the course of the term, but its GP policy would have to be phased in. 

“We are not going to release details of Budget announcements today, but I think the public understands that we do need to prioritise policies. . . 

The government doesn’t need to subsidise GP fees for the wealthy but ensuring primary health care is affordable for lower income people ought to be one of its top priorities.

It not only helps with quality of life it can prevent the development of more serious, and more costly, health conditions.

Having to back-track on this election promise shows it’s got it’s priorities wrong.

What’s more important – fee-free tertiary education for all, $1 billion for projects in the regions which may or may not be worthwhile or more affordable health care for those in most need?


Rural round-up

April 28, 2018

Minister refuses to meet MP to discuss future of rescue helicopter base – Guy Williams:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says Health Minister David Clark has refused to meet him to discuss the fate of Te Anau’s rescue helicopter base.

Te Anau was one of three bases cut from a list of bases in a tender for air rescue services put out by the ACC and Ministry of Health last month.

Taupo and Rotorua’s bases were effectively restored to the list after three North Island mayors met Mr Clark on Monday. . . 

Scientists work on simple way to clean streams – Tony Benny:

Canterbury University scientists have perfected a simple method to reduce sediment load in waterways by up to 70 per cent, part of a project to find solutions to Canterbury’s water woes. Tony Benny reports.

On the Canterbury Plains alone, there are about 17,000km of waterways, many of which carry high levels of nitrogen, phosphate-laden sediment and faecal bacteria and a huge effort is going into ways to reverse this decline in water quality, with local and national government agencies, farm industry bodies, iwi and farmers all joining in.

Adding some science to the mix is the Canterbury Water Rehabilitation Experiment (Carex), a project by the University of Canterbury’s Freshwater Ecology Research Group, funded by the Ashburton-based Mackenzie Charitable Foundation. The Carex team comprises nine scientists including professors, researchers and students. . . .

Gas not grass at farm field day – Richard Rennie:

Ground-breaking research turning a commercial dairy farm into a living lab is starting to reveal some valuable insights for farmers seeking ways to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gases.

Waikato University has, for the first time, thrown back the blanket on its researchers’ cutting-edge equipment and early lessons from that equipment on a Matamata property that has been a core site over the past six years.

In something of a national first, the traditional style Waikato farm discussion day had greenhouse gases rather than growing more grass as the key focus for those attending.

At the heart of the property’s research into better understanding of nitrous oxide release on dairy farms is the university’s $250,000 Quantum Cascade Laser. The high tech kit is helping researchers gain far more accurate analysis what the gas does when released from cow urine patches.  . . 

Hurdles ahead in future irrigation development – Yvonne O’Hara:

Irrigation New Zealand’s (INZ) held its conference in Alexandra earlier this month and the primary focus was on irrigation and its future role.

IrrigationNZ chair Nicky Hyslop said the conference “celebrated the role that irrigation played”.

The future of the Manuherikia Catchment Water Strategy Group’s plan to raise the height of Falls Dam by 6m to irrigate 12,500ha was highlighted following the announcement that the Crown Irrigation Investments (CII) would not be funding any more irrigation projects.

Water strategy group chairman Allan Kane said it had decided, based on pre-feasibility study information, that raising Falls Dam by 6m to irrigate 12,500ha was the best option.

However, the Government’s announcement meant alternative funding options would need to be found to contribute to the group’s final feasibility study. . . 

Bulk milk tests ‘not working’ – Annette Scott:

Frank Peters’ $4 million dairy herd, the result of 55 years of breeding genetics is about to be slaughtered despite being clean in bulk milk testing.

Now he’s worried about 2500 calves he has sold in the four years since Mycoplasma bovis arrived on his 1400-cow farm in stock he bought from Southern Centre Dairies in Southland in autumn 2014.

“That’s four years ago and we have sold 2500 calves in that time that could be anywhere now. . .

Big year for Wallace Family of South Otago – Rob Tipa:

Rob Tipa visits a family that has caught the judges’ eye in a couple of recent competitions.

This year is shaping up as a big one for the Wallace family of Waipahi in South Otago, winning several major southern farming awards in the space of a week.

Logan, Ross and Alexa Wallace won the Beef + Lamb Livestock Award, the Massey University Innovation Award and the supreme award for the Otago region at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Wanaka earlier this month.

Last weekend Logan, 28, added a win in the Otago-Southland regional final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year awards in Winton to his impressive record in the industry. . .

Put wellbeing in business plan:

If the wool industry wants to attract the next generation of shearers it needs to prioritise the wellbeing of its workforce, industry veteran Dion Morrell says.

Dion and his partner Gabriela run a busy, Alexandra-based contracting business employing up to 50 shearers at peak time. 

He’s worked in the industry for over 40 years, starting as a shearer straight out of school, working his way up to elite level competition representing New Zealand and setting four world records along the way.  . . 

Viral American farming sensation on tour in New Zealand

From a family farm in Kansas in the United States, four siblings known as The Peterson Farm Bros have risen to social media fame with their funny parody videos.

Songs names like “Takin’ Care of Livestock” (Taking Care of Business Parody) are sure to put you on the map, and these siblings have racked up over 50 million views on their videos.

However, the world’s most popular farming family are using their fame for the greater good to advocate for agriculture and to correct farming misconceptions. . .


Rural round-up

March 23, 2018

Gore couple win top sharemilking award :

Gore couple Simon and Hilary Vallely have been named share farmers of the year in the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards.
The awards function was held last night at Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill.

Mr and Mrs Vallely, both 31, are 50:50 sharemilking 475 cows on David and Valerie Stafford’s 160ha farm.

They believed strong relationships with all people they dealt with were the key to their successful business. . .

Departing Fonterra chief executive has taken the company forward – Christine McKay:

Fonterra’s departing chief executive Theo Spierings has been a strong leader, Tararua Federated Farmer’s president Neil Filer says.

Mr Filer, who is also the Tararua group’s dairy spokesman, told the Dannevirke News Spierings had moved Fonterra to a value-added space, which was good for dairy farmers.

“He’s done a good job since he began,” Filer said.

Spierings has not named a date for his departure after seven years, but Fonterra board chairman John Wilson said he had made an “extraordinary” contribution while in the job. . . 

Kiwi butchers finish second on world stage:

New Zealand’s butchery team, The Pure South Sharp Blacks, just missed out on being crowned world champions yesterday after finishing runners up at the World Butchers’ Challenge in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Team Ireland, the host nation took the top spot in a tense battle of the butchers with the Aussies – the Australian Steelers – finishing third… to the delight of many this side of the ditch.

Website to find workers praised:

Demand for horticulture workers is higher than the number of people available, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

He applauded the Work The Seasons website launched on Friday by the Ministry of Social Development. It gave growers access to more workers and gave people looking for work the chance to see what great opportunities existed in horticulture, ”not only for seasonal work, but also for permanent work and a lasting career”, Mr Chapman said. . 

 

Telemedicine – keeping Kiwis well closer to home:

Dr Ben Wheeler is running remote diabetes clinics for rural Otago families, saving them the long trip to Dunedin.

Type one diabetes is the second most common chronic condition in children, after asthma. In my region, from South Canterbury to Stewart Island, there are up to 200 children and young people with diabetes. Being a kid with diabetes is no fun. You have to be careful about what you eat, put up with finger prick blood tests and injections every day, and often wear a bulky insulin pump under your clothes. When I first started working here, children with diabetes in Otago had to make the trip to Dunedin every three months, sometimes more often, to see me for their clinic. For some families that meant a round trip of up to nine hours. It meant mum and dad having to take a day off work – sometimes two days, if they had to stay overnight. Often brothers and sisters would need to come too, with everyone missing school – all this for a half-hour consultation. . . 

When the death of a family farm leads to suicide -Corey Kilgannon:

Fred Morgan was already deep in debt from rebuilding his milking barn after a fire when milk prices plunged in 2015, setting off an economic drought that is now entering its fourth year — the worst in recent memory for dairy farmers in New York State.

Mr. Morgan, 50, saw no way to save the dairy farm in central New York State that he took over as a teenager from his ailing father and ran with his wife, Judy, and their son, Cody.

With the farm operating at a loss and facing foreclosure, Mr. Morgan believed his only solution was his $150,000 life insurance policy. He said he planned on killing himself so his family could receive the payout.

“I’d sacrifice my life so my family could keep the farm,” Mr. Morgan said. His wife persuaded him otherwise. . .

Those who work ina cares not hours and those who feed others before themselves . . .thank you. #NationalAgDay


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